Featured Writers

Jane Lovell


Jane Lovell has been widely published in journals and anthologies. She won the Flambard Prize in 2015 and has been shortlisted for several awards including the Basil Bunting Prize, the Robert Graves Prize and Periplum Book Award. Her pamphlets have been published by Against the Grain Press, Night River Wood and Coast to Coast to Coast. Jane also writes for Elementum Journal.

To buy Metastatic go to Against the Grain Poetry Press here  or order a signed copy from Jane Lovell’s website.  


Crows became symbols those dark months,
appearing like omens each morning in the juniper,
heads tilted to pin him in a world blacker
than hell.

Then came a night of angels, a distant song
from next door’s radio, net curtains blowing
to reveal the thinnest curl of moon, and a word
sent to him:

a message and a word, its syllables a bright shell
pared from a dark sphere.
There was hope. He could take ‘solace’.

He took it, kept it like a talisman,
rolled it around his fingers, whispered its mantra
again and again.

And in that bright room, when it was spelt out for him
so that there was no further question,
it cut away the desperation like a small, curved blade,
left him clear and calm.

Wheeling up and down the canyons of his body,
vertebrae flaring like comets, they had no answer.
Their eyes slid to corners of the room, the space
behind him, refusing to gauge the days left to him.

In that silence, that room of moments,
he found solace in the altered step of time,
a world imaged through the curved eye of a lens,
and held onto his prayer.

He spoke the word, imagined the winds above
holding him until all that remained of the crows
were husks of feathers and bones
blowing in the half-light of some strange eclipse.


Light spills both ways:
silhouetting stands of blackthorn on the lane

and climbing the slow hill, striping the turf,
its grey horse racing a big sky.

Along the line of the fence, a ghost owl flies
while the weasel creeps to her nest.

The weasel creeps to her nest without brushing a leaf,
breathing its pinbone mess of pellet and fur.

Darkling beetles steady at rustle and hiss, wait
for the long yolk falling.

Along the line of the fence, the ghost owl flies to her nest,
early light tracing the edge of her wing in each direction.

Her ears pinpoint sound in delay; last night’s start
and patter, her hunger, buried in the fall of rain.

She disappears from sight, leaving her silence
and a glimmer of wire.

In the hedge, something woven from air and tats of down
is staring, its flyblown carcass stirring as if waking.

Earth resumes its humming; celandine secures the verge.
On the hill, the horse stoops to graze.

Piper’s Beach

He leaves us stranded on black tracts of shingle
hunting rakes of kelp and wrack
for signs of life.

There’s little sound: the whine of spiracles across the bay
funnelling the salt wind down.
Nothing more.

Nothing more than silent sweeps of water dragging
sky, the transience of charcoal, wax and oil, across
the smallest lapse of time.

We comb the rockpools for the living and the dead:
flailing tidal refugees, anemone and shrimp, the moulted
carapace of crab, a tiny weaving thought or glance.

The ocean is behind us, is already drawing us away
to lose each other in the endless, rolling plane of tides.

There is no navigating this; all we have amidst
the tinkering of minerals and diatoms
is chance.

I place three perfect pebbles in a row: a quiet ellipsis
lost in banks of shingle, salt-black channels
etched in sand.


Maggie Mackay

Maggie Mackay is a jazz and whisky loving MA graduate from Manchester Metropolitan University. She has a fascination for family history which informs much of her work online, e.g. Ink,Sweat&TearsAmaryllisAlgebra of Owls and in print at Three Drops Press,The Writers’ Cafe MagazineThe Interpreter’s HouseProleThe CurlewNorthwords NowI am Not a Silent Poet. One of her poems is included in the award-winning #MeToo anthology while others have been nominated for The Forward Prize, Best Single Poem in 2017 and 2018 and for the Pushcart Prize last year. In 2019 she begins a PhD in Poetry at the University of Strathclyde.

Chilli Pepper

Hernan Cortes gasps.

zzzzzzHis tongue vibrates in the liquid’s pulse;

fluted red, pepper slices burst over his mouth.

zzzzzzThe lobes swell, stuffed with gunpowder fury

zzz–their flames scream flamenco swirl

the swell of her hips

zzzzzzzzzzzzon Spanish nights, long ago,

the heave of jasmine and orange…

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzHe explodes. Heat, heat, so deep.

As she stamps, knuckles hit tables in time,

zzzzzzthe rhythm explodes and peaks;

membranes soaked in garlic oil

zzzzzzzzzzzzyield fleshy parts fuelled with rapid-fire

staccato cracks of Palomino whip.

A full circle skirt spins, has him reeling.

Ole! Jaleo!                 Then pedicured fingers strum, strum,

hum, finish him off in the stomach with a punch

zzzzzzfiercer than the peppers of the Caucasus.

Middlemiss Red

You are as rare as pink topaz,
so rare that sunlight creeping in at dawn
can halve your life,
as rare as fire that ignites a thousand hearts
or burns the iciest ocean
or bursts the dark sky with shimmer.
You splinter needles of that rarest pink,
warm the crust of this earth
with your imperial hue.
then fade when you’ve spent
your milliseconds of time,
cast across the universe.

How to Distil a Guid Scotch Malt

Separate the Gross from the Subtle
 Hieronymus BrunschwigWrap yourself in Mum’s dressing gown, its envelope-hug,
pour a dram of uisage beatha, sip peppery Talisker peat.Hear the barley grain grind in the mill, conjure a mash in the steel tun,
a flow into the wash, stroked by hushes and baloo baleerie.Gloamings on salty coastlines, sweet kiln smoke, skin oil grams,
cloud the floor of the tumbler, climb the sides, pull you into the cask.Acids blend with ethanol, transform into esters, fruity and aromatic.
A Hebridean sunset copper-pots your tongue, biscuit-beaches rise in your throat.There’s a nip in the air, a lifetime of goodnights fermenting in a kipper fire.
Her arm entwines in yours. She comes home, full flavoured.

Task begun, the heart of the run is now, my middle years of fear and longing.


Angela Topping 

Angela Topping is the author of eight full poetry collections and four pamphlets. Her work has won several prizes and appeared in over 100 anthologies, been included in Poetry Review, The Dark Horse, The North, The Interpreter’s House and many other such magazines. Poems have featured in BBC Radio’s Poetry Please and set on the A level syllabus. She is a former Writer in Residence at Gladstone’s Library. Based in Cheshire, she is a freelance poet and author. Her website is here.

The Five Petals of Elderflower 

With the odd number five strange nature’s laws
Plays many freaks nor once mistakes the cause.
John Clare
Enter through its centre of five petals
past the crown of stamens like matches
slide down the green stem, landing with legs
either side of the junction between stalks.
Now you are surrounded by flowers.
Soak up the hum – you are at one with lace.
Sleep now, as in fresh sheets, soothed
by the sun, head in blossom, a perfumed lullaby,
leaves far below to catch you if you fall.
But you will not fall: the petioles enmesh.
Your cheek is on your mother’s breast,
the flowers are sweet milk. Rock-a-bye.
This tree is elder. It’s safe. With the blossoms
we can make elderflower champagne
with the berries, elderberry wine.
Put your nose into it. Yes, it’s a good scent.
If it smells like cat’s pee, so will your champagne.
So we don’t pick those. This tree is fine.
Hold this bag open while I cut some.
We don’t want to drop any –
see how easily each flower head can come away.
There’s lots of stories about this tree. Some say
it’s Faerie, but your mum knows more about that.
I say it’s very good to use. But we mustn’t
take all the blooms from one tree or there’ll be
no berries, neither for us nor birds.
The smell is buzzing in my head, as we walk
down the night lane, away from the heated air
of the pub where friends spilled onto the car park.
We whisper as we pass sleeping cottages –
can’t even see the elder, just smell it, as the lane
becomes a funnel of scents and fuzzy leaves.
I’m giddy, stumbling; now there is no-one to see
you take my hand. We cannot even see each other.
The flowers smell of sex, of lust, foreign tongues to us.
Too soon the lane opens out into streetlights,
pavements, cars. You drop my hand. The scent
is left behind, pollened on memory.
Elderflowers sing jazz, each petalled phrase
plays another variation on the last.
Its saxophone voice rises above twanged strings
of cello and double bass, holding the melody
as it flies high. Notes dance round our feet:
we wade in sound. It’s a five bar blues,
scrolls of baroque, rising like smoke, tasting champagne.
White is not white, is green and cream and ivory.
And it sings the blues.
By its five textures: the rough underside of leaves
and the smooth front, the strong stem, thinner wands
of stalks, and cobbly lace of blossom like slubbed silk.
By its green taste, its umbrella canopy,
by the cushion of blooms each with five petals.
By these things, I swear to remember you.

Spoken Cartography

What is the riddle of this hill?

It tells of secret graves, of bones.

It sings of granite, rabbits’ homes.

Records of battles are scribbled on grass.

Blood fattens bulbs for spring.

What is the legend of this tree?

The heartwood knows important things.

Its shade is where the lovers sighed;

its branches where thrushes feed their young.

The oak means ships and England’s pride.

What is the codex of the sky?

Its meaning changes by the hour.

Its tongue no-one can understand.

Its daily dialectic tells one truth:

nothing is definite against the dark

Against the Dark
Earth’s little lights flash on and off
and taste the darkness like a draught
of water from the iron trough.
Come saving grace, come holy bough,
come paraclete of flame, that I
may save the glow that warms me now.
This bowl of hills, these singing stones
that circle round about: protect
my midnight hour when I’m alone.
Let me think these lights shine on
– as stars are there by day and night-
after they are snuffed and gone.

divider-1-copy2Stella Wulf

Stella’s poems are widely published both in print and online and appear in several anthologies including, The Very Best of 52, three drops from a cauldron, Clear Poetry, NILVX A Book Of Magic and #MeToo.
She has an MA in creative writing from Lancaster University. Her pamphlet After Eden, was published by 4Word Press in May 2018 and is available from www.4word.org

Alice in the Laundry Asylum

Fallen. We were labelled,

as if we’d snapped,

keeled to earth like rotten trees,

sending shock waves through the forest.

They dragged us off like lumber,

an eye to our limbs which were pliant,

fit for grafting.

As our bodies grew

our worlds shrank.

They stole our ballast

to steady the rocking

of someone else’s crib,

left us hollow as dugouts.

We’d never spoken to time

until they locked us in,

made us haul the sheets

from an ocean of tears,

the ticking of a thousand beds

making and unmaking our years.

Night is a fallen woman paying out

the dark sails of our fears.

How easy it was to fall,

to slip down a hole into the wrong story.

We look through the glass,

see ourselves on the rocks,

shadows searching for lost girls.

After Eden

My birth day came with a fall

of spring snow, those restless flakes,

unable to settle in the pulse

of a nascent earth, a dove

in the flagged yard, fussing

over scattered grain, broadcasting

kernels like myths into the cracks

of legend.

Daughter of Eve, I’m bred

for domesticity, conditioned

to home. Given a ring to distinguish me,

I learned the cramp of being woman,

lofty mother, builder of nests.

Sometimes, I fancy I’ve never known

this lumbering frame, its slavish attraction

to earthiness. My impulse throbs

in the bloom of the dove’s breast,

yet it seems, no matter how wholesome

the flesh, there’s always a grubby

worm that eats away at the core.

‘Whore,’ they call me, if I strut my stuff,

puff out my breasts, sing too loudly,

so I mapped the skies,

navigated the small lives of men,

through the compass of her eye,

the homeliness of her nature.

It’s the need of my flesh that keeps me

returning to my niche. Released,

I’d beat my angel wings,

let the restless feathers fall,

watch them settle like snow on the garden,

vaned messages of a spirit set free.

In support of The Women’s March 2017

Cold War

A blustering wind presides over the house,

storming up walls, battering sidings,

bluffing and huffing at trees, tearing strips

from roofs, bellowing down chimneys.

She floats her white sheets, letting them settle

like feathers over beds, tucking in edges,

making pillows of box hedge,

an eiderdown of puckered earth.

She likes the steady fall of a still night,

to spread herself on the rise of hills,

to lie in limbs of trees, enfold roofs,

melt in the chimney’s breathy whisper.

She favours gentle persuasion,

the irresistible pull of a full moon,

a frosting of stars to anneal her gravitation.

Her cold war is a quiet gathering,

an accretion, flocking streets,

rounding corners, a swelling drift,

silently laying down its law,

majestic, primordial, transfiguring.

Tomorrow, waking to a dazzling world,

children will revel in her presence,

impress her with angels,

men will curse her, sweep her aside.

In this cold war she will harden her resolve,

fold the world in her wings, bide her time,

until the hollow wind

blows out.


Wendy Pratt

Wendy Pratt is a full time poet, freelance writer and workshop facilitator working on the glorious North Yorkshire coast, just outside Filey.  Her poetry has been published widely in magazines and journals and she is the winner of several prestigious awards. She is poetry correspondent for Northern Soul and the coastal columnist for Yorkshire Life Magazine. Her latest collection, Gifts the Mole Gave Me, is available from Valley Press. Find out more about Wendy, her work and upcoming courses and events on her website: https://wendyprattpoetry.wordpress.com

Macey Draws

She uses stencils to draw rounds

tucks sounds into these pictures,

lays pencil borders round and about.


Her world is one where fire is flat, a roundabout;

a circle with a centre. Flowers turn in rounds

over and over, the same design. Her pictures


are bird seed on her path. Those pictures;

one day I’ll try and show her what it is about,

how fire takes hold in the soul, does the rounds,


half burns you away, curling the edges of pictures.

Danse Macabre

You wear your death like dance slippers,

taking them out of their coffin-box

at the barre. You arabesqueand plié,

allegrolightly round the room, touch the mirror,

turn, feel your feet bleed into the blocks,

assembleon your own edge, bitter

and full of remorse. The dance becomes a quick-step,

a flamenco, a stream of soft tap, a fox-trot.

The slippers lead. But you are no black swan.

Someone needs to stop you, pull you back, help,

step quicker.

Picking Mushrooms

Crows take flight, sliding onto the dawn

in a rasp. They are the loose shale of the woods.

There are three miles of trees and dry stone walls

that bristle in the grass,and at my hip: Bay bolete,

Birch polypore, Field blewit, Chanterelle,

Horse fungusLifted gently,fingers hooked

beneath their gentle heads,touching the secret skin

of their gills, I pickand pickagain. I am a reaper

and I lay them out on my cool kitchen marble,

counting their pale limbs into my red pan.


Daphne Gloag



Daphne Gloag worked for most of her career as a medical journalist and editor, though she had previously read Classics and philosophy at university. She has had a longstanding interest in the sciences, especially cosmology, which she built on in her long poem Beginnings (in her second collection).  As well as the many poems published in magazines and anthologies (with several prizes and commendations) she has had three full collections published, two by Cinnamon Press. Most recently Cinnamon has published a sequence of poems on time in a pamphlet entitled  How Long Is Not Long? Extracts from this were commended in the last Artemis long poem competition.

Orbiting the Sun   


And there it was hanging in the dark

as I opened the door, lighting the years

of its journey round the sun, lighting

the years carved from time.

What happens, he said once, when a comet

passes the sun? Might it disintegrate,

or else vanish into darkness? Lose

   the possibility of light?

Now when I open the door, interrogating

the dark he’s become a part of, I ask questions

of my comet. Does it show signs of dimming,

or does it shine strongly

on years full of circumstance, full of shapes

captured from time? How many orbits will it make,

coaxing moments from darkness, before it loses

the possibilities of time?

But now it is still making a difference to the dark.

The Giant Sequoia


It was a kind of pilgrimage we made

together, to meet a giant sequoia standing

at the top of a hill like a climax. Over three millennia

it had grown towards the sky. I said, It is not

years of a tree we’re celebrating here,

it is the years of time. We stood inside

the trunk as if it were a house, we stood

in awe of time. But he said, The more

the years pile up the nearer it comes to the end

of time, its time. We were quiet, feeling the fear

of that great trunk no longer making inroads

on the sky but lying across the road

of time, feeling too the fear for ourselves

of what would fall across our time, the road

blocked by a stop sign.


Julie-ann Rowell

Julie-ann Rowell’s first pamphlet collection, Convergence, published by Brodie Press won a Poetry Book Society Award. Her first full collection, Letters North, was nominated for the Michael Murphy Poetry Prize for Best First Collection in Britain and Ireland in 2011. Her latest collection, Voices in the Garden, is a sequence about the life of Joan of Arc, published in 2017 by Lapwing Publications, Belfast. She has been teaching poetry and mentoring in Bristol for ten years and has an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University. She’s won several awards including first prize in the Frogmore Poetry Prize and the New Writer Poetry Competition Short Collection prize, and was a runner-up in the Bridport Prize, and in the Mslexia Poetry Competition (three times).  She has recently been short-listed in the Strokestown Poetry Competition.

Jeanne recounts the apparition of St Michael

He was all fire

defying ground

I shielded my eyes

I’d looked for a heaven

I could recognise

His words

gilded my body

There was nothing

I could do

but be his work of art

He breathed sun

into my lungs,


His words

poured sparks of iron

to drift through

my thoughts

caught in my throat

like a fish hook

Objets sacrés

Five swords

four plain, one of great artistry

recovered from Sainte-Catherine-de-Fierbois

on your instructions. You once smote a whore

on the back with it and the king was displeased:

‘The sword is anointed as you are.’

A white harness

each piece perfectly moulded to your body,

the greaves, knee plates, hauberk and cuirass,

spaulders and the gauntlets,

the polished breastplate fitted with an arret de cuirasse.

A gambeson of horsehair.

The spurs you never required.

Two silver rings.

One from your mother inscribed Jesu Maria.

Both confiscated by the English

and most likely melted down.

A white embroidered banner of boucassin

fringed with silk,

worked by careful women in Tours

who kissed every stitch.


A wooden spoon and bowl you scraped

food from, frugally, burned on the pyre

with your shoes.

The bascinet you wore into battle,

behind glass in a museum in New York City.


The plain cross in your tent

though you needed no reminding of God

who lived in the light of the fire

that so happily consumed you.

What the fire said to Jeanne

I have come to lick you goodbye

to melt your heart and blind you,

seal up your mouth, test your bones,

flicker where no man has been

with their ever greedy cocks.

I have access to all parts of you,

the intimacy you wouldn’t allow.

Even your breasts are mine

to turn to cinder and your bold

hands will wither. I am not kind.

I’ll scorch the innards

that only God has seen, your bowels

and your liver. All I will deliver intact

to the executioner are your teeth.

He will smash them on rocks by the Seine.


Reuben Woolley

Reuben Woolley has been published in Tears in the Fence, The Lighthouse Literary Journal, The Interpreter’s House and Ink Sweat and Tears among others. Published Books: the king is dead, 2014, Oneiros Books; dying notes, 2015, Erbacce Press; a short collection on the refugee crisis, skins, 2016, Hesterglock Press; broken stories, 2017, 20/20 Vision Media Publishing. Forthcoming, some time we are heroes, The Corrupt Press.  Runner-up: Overton Poetry Pamphlet competition and the Erbacce Prize, both in 2015. Editor of the online poetry magazines, I am not a silent poet and The Curly Mind.

broken stories was originally a pamphlet manuscript which won the 2nd prize in the Overton Poetry Pamphlet Competition in 2015. Since then he has worked at length on it, editing the original poems, eliminating some and adding quite a few more. He finally decided it should be taken away  and it was kindly accepted for publication by Rhys Jones of 20/20 Vision Publishing.

ISBN: 978-1-907449-03-1
£9.50 + p&p
20/20 Vision Media Publishing
email: rhysjones@twentytwentyvisionmedia.com

He was also runner-up in the Erbacce Prize, 2015 with the corresponding chapbook now published by Erbacce Press, called dying notes: http://www.erbacce-press.com/#/reuben-woolley/4590077522

& all that jazz

i’m wrapped in night
wired & stretched out
to flow in steel & brass
the air blow strong

i wail in layers
break in tides
i play a moon




oh give me an honest word
haven’t got a glad man’s shoes
no fancy steps just the old
sweet shuffle

let that horn play
down the street

is no splinterman
to hinder us

the breath beats

of rolling chords
we go in time

a liquid tone
there’s nothing new
i don’t remember.just
blow that horn for now and now

the blue violin
            (for Caroline Mitchell)

playing a blue
for frayed strings
& old violin

the air vibrates
just so slightly
off key

this is how i play
it is my business
to be dangerous
i do it in crescendo


listen                the silent notes

the long lines

like kestrels


do they play


in your heaven

the heat


where bird flies


& do we die here

all together

the needle


the notes they didn’t play


John Foggin

John Foggin has been a teacher, lecturer and LEA English/Drama Adviser. He lives in West Yorkshire where he jointly organises Puzzle Poets Live in Calderdale, and writes a weekly poetry blog, the great fogginzo’s cobwebHis work has appeared in The North, The New Writer, Prole, and The Interpreter’s House, among others.

His poems have won first prizes in competitions including The Plough [2013,2014], and The Mclellan [2015] He has authored four pamphlets : Running out of space , Backtracks, Larach[Ward Wood Publishing 2014], and his latest is Outlaws and fallen Angels [Calder valley Poetry 2016]

John was one of the winners of the 2015 /16 Poetry Business Book and Pamphlet Competition with his pamphlet ‘Much Possessed’.


Because there were three grandparents I never knew,

because of that, because all I have is photographs,

nothing with heft or texture but one five shilling piece,

because of that I need the tags and rags of stories.

How Grandma Ethel drowned. How Grandfather Alfred,

the  journeyman housepainter, died of Hodgkinsons

lymphona before he could join his comrades at The Front.

How Granddad John disliked his children

bringing people in the house, how he would lock the door

at ten each night; whoever was not in by then stayed out

till morning. I can live with that.

But my father who I lived with, ate with, who watched

boxing every Friday night, who took photographs,

who knew the names of birds, of flowers, grasses,

who did not like my mother very much at all, who sang

tenor in the chapel choir, who owned binoculars, him

I never knew. He never told me anything about his life.

Not one for stories. I don’t know the houses he grew up in,

nothing of his brothers, sisters, and him the eldest of six.

I don’t know what he hoped for, if he dreamed.

I’ve met men who told me

he’d catch trains to London most weekends,

that he liked a bet, knew a thing or two

about the horses.

This man I washed

as he lay dying, who I shaved,

whose hand I held,

who never said a thing,

who never once let on.

And why did I not ask.

Maybe I take after him. Maybe that’s it.


pinioned in a parchment sky,

his mind a kite-string ravel,

he stares at distressing

white comets’ tails of feathers,

down at his dwindling son.

He knows so much.

The structure of a bird’s wing,

the melting point of wax.

He can navigate

the fibonacci spirals of a conch

with thread, an ant, and honey.

He understands everything

about a body’s hinges,levers,

fulcrums, the way it works.

He has traced the ridges

of a human brain, the whorls

of fingertips, and dreamed

of labyrinths.

He can calculate velocities;

knows how a falcon slices

through blue spaces

and why a boy can not, and how

the lucid air turns  loud and brutal

and why the cross-hatched sea

becomes a butcher’s block;

he is learning

it’s the sleep of the heart

breeds monsters.

He could mend a broken clock.

Under the skin 

[for Polly Morgan: artist and taxidermist]


She keeps mynah birds and fledgling sparrows

in the freezer. Knows just how feathers lie

in a wing, the small fine down of the breast,

the jewel scales of thin reptilian feet,

the pitch of muscle, all its give and stretch.

She knows about incisions, scalpels, cuts,

how skin can tear, how to tease it from the skull

like a latex glove from a surgeon’s white hand;

translucent films and also oysterish flesh,

the strength of tendons, elasticicities,.

She is comfortable with the smell of alcohol,

the sweetness of decay and thaw, the sharpness

of formaldehyde. She is deft with waddings,

patient re-clothings, fine stitching, the smoothing

of plumes, and the way a beak must sit, just so.

Sometimes she looks at the backs of her hands,

imagines the bones she has never seen; imagines

the spongy maze of her lungs, the ruby kidneys,

the packed grey intestinal coil, the lens of her eye;

she thinks of her plump-muscled heart.

Picture this.

If there was a photograph, I’d show you.

I’m sitting on a suitcase. There are long queues

at the barriers. Everyone has a suitcase.

Everyone. The air is loud with whistles,

hiss, doors; blurry with steam, coal smoke.

The sky is a huge dark arch. Picture me.

I wear a raincoat too big for me. Sandals.

Everyone is grey. A man in a hat says: smile.

He points a big black camera. Come on,

he says. Smile. But I don’t. I get off

the suitcase, find my mother. If there was

a photograph, I’d show you. You’d see

a small thin boy on a suitcase. Grey queues.

You’d have to guess the noise, the smell,

the dark arches. You might tell yourself

a story. You know the one of a small boy

in a too-big cap, wideeyed, hands raised

in surrender, the grey soldiers, their guns.

The one of a man in a well-cut suit

begging for bread thrown from a tank.

You know the one of a fighter on a hill

under a white sky, falling backwards,

arms flung back, rifle spinning away.

Every picture tells a story.

You see a small thin boy, a suitcase.

You’d know exactly what was going on,

wouldn’t you.


Denise McSheehy

Denise McSheehy’s, prize winning first collection Salt was published by the Poetry Can. She received an Arts Council bursary for the development of work in progress & her poems have appeared in many magazines and been successful in major poetry competitions.

Two recent important anthologies, Her Wings of Glass and The Book of Love & Loss, included her work. She was awarded an Author’s Foundation Grant (from The Society of Authors) towards her second collection. She currently lives in Devon.



after Ladysmith Black Mambazo

They begin with the body


what it can do

unafraid of its

intimate noises, spasm of nerve

gut and flesh.

Use the shape of the throat

make sound grainy

and dark.

Release it slowly

in murmurings, soft-pedal sighs.


from a hundred different points

with little whinnies

hiccups and trills.

Trawlers in sound

erudite in the vocabulary

of inflexion, they explore meaning

with a sweet

adjustment of mouth and tongue.

Their narrative – the human heart.


He is quite still.

Such a little breath, a little flutter, a little

spring of the arms.

Head like an Easter egg

the one blue eye that opens and shuts once

to take me in.

Now I stroke with a finger only.

He sleeps and will not feed

his skin tinged yellow.

And my heart

that I have not always recognised

squeezes and swells.

I watch her watching

him unfold

take her rounded brown arm

between my hands to keep her safe

and guard my thoughts.

And guard my thoughts.


The spare

cleanness of this


like bleached bone

No tools

only wanting to be still

letting the coming back

the exact certain repeat

hone shape

where you thought

there might be none

Now, simply

light in my head

this slim haul of breath

my familiar


Susan Jordan

Susan Jordan moved to Devon from London a few years ago and enjoys being close to Dartmoor and the sea. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University and writes both poetry and prose. Before joining Jo Bell’s online poetry group ’52’ in 2014 she saw herself mainly as a prose writer, but since then poetry has played a greater part in her writing life. She has had poems published in a number of print and online magazines and is an active member of the South Devon poetry group Moor Poets. Her website, The Belated Writer, is here.

Her debut collection, A House of Empty Rooms, was published recently by Indigo Dreams and you can see it here 


i.m. C.F.J.

Memories of you are not quiet:

how you slung your keys over your shoulder

as you sprinted off, turquoise shirt chiming

with the smile in your eyes, to do your job quicker

and better than anyone else;

how you flung the door back when you came in,

your long spoon grinding sugar into coffee

thick with condensed milk; how you clicked

the lock of your secret cupboard and scuffled

through your notes and diagrams;

how your radio aerial snagged under the table

spoiling Mozart and Rachmaninov;

how your laugh always made me laugh;

how your camera snatched the small moments

you could never bear to lose.

You knew I’d let you down, understood

what I couldn’t – I was too young then.

That last night beside me, your skin

cooling, you still gave me warmth.

In the long dark I heard your snores

sink into acceptance. Next day

you let your hands lie idle, surrendering

before the final silence. At the end

I wasn’t there. You said to me once,

‘I can forgive you anything, buddy,

even being you.’


I remember how my daughter learnt to sew, the way the seams

got twisted out of true or a bias-cut inset wouldn’t lie at ease;

how she’d bring home a goldfinch captured in a cage, keep it

beating against its house arrest until I let it free.

Nature is all my work. When I found out the earth is made

to travel round the sun, I had to say it. That was my nature.

The truth I knew hung in my body straight as a plumb-line.

It did not compromise the God I know, who is never a liar.

Unlike me. They made me swear their truth, a sad affair

of fusty books and hand-me-down ideas, was what was true.

Their God, small enough to fit into their lists of calumny,

knows only what they know. No one is beyond their power.

They let me have my work. Here I am no more unhappy

than my daughter in her convent. My clipped wings reach

no further than my cage. Nature has not been forbidden me,

only the one truth I have sold to them in return for nothing.

One day it will not be hidden. Their God, misshapen no longer,

will let us reveal all we dare to know. For now I do what I can,

an old man whose crooked back can never straighten again.

Silenced though I have been, I still repeat: eppur si muove.




My mum wouldn’t eat bacon. God said

you weren’t supposed to, so my dad

wrote it backwards on the shopping list.

That way the Jewish neighbours wouldn’t know

we bought the things they bought backwards too.

I liked it crisp, reddened, the fat browned

so you could crunch it, the rind a dark chewy

stripe, a mordant smear of mustard that stung

my mouth, with ketchup globs, sliced cucumber

– crisp green, sweet red – a tomato fried black

at the edges, butter-soaked white toast.

God said you mustn’t have meat with milky things

but bacon wasn’t kosher so it didn’t matter.

When you had crunched, it had an undertaste,

animal, unclean, our foreign English breakfast:

God telling us we shouldn’t be eating pigs.

divider-1-copy2Rose Cook 

Rose Cook is a well-known South West poet who performs regularly at festivals and poetry events. Rose co-founded the popular Devon poetry and performance forum One Night Stanza, as well as poetry performance group Dangerous Cardigans.

Hearth is her fourth book of poetry.


And here are three poems from Hearth 


When his mother died, Seamus Heaney

wrote a poem about folding a sheet with her.

So many days I have lifted sheets

from the line with my own mother.

She taught me the way of folding.

Together we would dance to and fro,

handing the cloth to her as she made

the final fold, a pat and sigh,

that slight smile to meet my eye,

then on to the next.

I never wanted it to end.

After the Fall

He was alone

and it was dark when he fell,

pitched down to stone steps, unnoticed.

Asleep, I am as far away as is possible to be,

until the call comes, its shrill scream

shatters unconscious diving.

I break the surface, gasp for air.

I can’t catch my breath,

can hardly hold up my neck.

He fell, flew for a time,

but it is me, me, who is drowning.

July rolls into August, combines busy in fields,

the muted space station of ICU.

We are quietened by the restriction placed upon us.

When we get home, draw comfort around, watch him

keenly as a baby, the wound winds around

from a lung, right up to his wing bones, arcs.

He fell, flew for a time,

but it is me who is drowning.

He has to learn again how to love the air,

how to hold the word suspended in the cave of his chest,

feel the heave of his ribcage.

He stands by a window, so light falls on his back,

(my beauty, my son). Though he heals,

breath catches in my chest.

He fell, flew for a time,

but it is me who is drowning.

At the Boathouse


We are talking about death,

the quick shutter of it,

the here then not-hereness of it.

Of the dead. Our dead.

That they are not here.

How it is frightening, but perhaps it needn’t be.

We may just leave

as we once left school,

left a job, a house.

Moved on.

Over your shoulder, I can see a bird,

a young crow, taking a bath in the leat.

Backlit by sun, it leaps into the runnel, splashes,

opens its wings then hops out to the side.

After a shake, it jumps back, bathes, wings wide.

Again and again, the mud banks golden with sun,

boats leant at odd angles, red buoys sitting in a line,

the black bird leaps into fire water,

flurries his feathers, flies straight up to a tree,

then away.


Anna Kisby Compton

Anna Kisby is a Devon-based poet. After growing up in London she studied Literature and Film at the universities of East Anglia, Sussex and Paris-Sorbonne, taught English in Prague and sold cowboy boots in Massachusetts, then trained as an archivist and worked with women’s history collections. Her poems are widely published in magazines including MagmaMslexia and Poetry News and anthologies including 154: contemporary poets respond to Shakespeare’s sonnets and Campaign in Poetry. In 2017 she was part of the collaborative poetry performance Somme Suite – a First World War commemoration. She won the BBC Proms Poetry competition 2016, the Havant Poetry Competition 2016 and was commended in the Faber New Poets Scheme 2015-16. 

Her book, All the Naked Daughters,  can be found here and below are some poems from the collection.

Grandmother was a Showgirl                       

She wore a skirt like a staircase so he climbed it, pawed at the cabinet of her bosom

when she twirled him.

He flicked her with his tiny tongue as they spun, slid down the bannister

of her hip and thigh.

Her gold court shoes were piano pedals going oompah oompah! She wore the boy

like an ankle-strap o-me-o-my!

Any moment she might high-kick him into a sky where some big hand

was chalking aeroplane lines.

He could hear the two Marys over the fence and the notes jumping pah pah pah

out the open back door, washing falling off the line.

His whole life he will never dance like this again with any other dame,

never so held or so high.

When she sets him down two magpies, slick-suited, hop to him and enquire

May we too come to the ball?

The fuchsias jingle fleur-de-lis fleur-de-la! and the world won’t stop


Just Like A Woman

Of course I’d been to Paris

before, but not without supervision.

And if Dylan ever had a dry patch

this was it, which meant the club

was intimate, tickets cheap

and the young among us shoved

upfront, thrilled, skin on skin.

Electric guitar, him in a lurex suit

tootling at the piano a while. So close

my fingers could’ve been crushed

by his white patent rock-star brogues

stamping a beat. And what I know is

at the first strums of my favourite song

(which would lose its shine when

I got fired up about misogyny

but that was later, not then) as he filled

his lungs to sing Nobody feels any pain

he looked directly at me –

with Dylan I was living the phrase

we locked eyes at which point

in the story my husband always replies

Yeah right. But he was late on the scene

the one I married and green-eyed

over the Legend who saw me first:

nineteen, alone in Paris,

singing my heart out without

the slightest inkling of ache or break.

Boating under the Northern Lights

 for Sara from Nunavut

The way she tells it, the sky is a peeled nectarine.

We wear bear leather, row an umiak of stretched skin

smelling of the tar that holds it together, make ripples

like salmon on the lake.

I think she is the seagull husband and I the goddess Nerrivick

whose fallen fingers turn to whale, seal and caribou –

as she talks her eyes slice through the walls of the rented room

in King’s Cross. All day we waitress; each night our hair streaks

the sink enamel with the dirt of London’s heatwave.

The northern lights are the colour of kumquat,

she says, its enough to make the world blush

with pleasure. I remember her foot against mine cold as ice

cream, rippled through and through with frozen berries.

divider-1-copy2Robbie Burton

Robbie Burton lives in a small village in Flintshire where she stares out of windows. As stanza rep for Cross Border Poets, the Poetry Society’s North East Wales stanza, she runs workshops, arranges poetry events and stares at a long stretch of the Clwydian Range out of a Clwyd Theatr Cymru window. Her poems have appeared in several magazines including Poetry Wales, The North and Magma, and in anthologies A Speaking Silence and The Book Of Love And Loss. Her debut poetry pamphlet, Someone Else’s Street, is available from HappenStance Press.

Liszt’s Mephisto Waltz

bubbled through Welsh washdays

like hot tarmac in Bad Piano Street.

No, that’s not right. Steam

and the quarry-tiled kitchen are true

but any jangly discords or whiffs

of envy were mine.

Damn, but my cousin could play. Passion

flew out of the iron-framed piano, shot

through two doorways and found

a route in.

For years I felt it

softening me up for love.

I didn’t know iron had flowed in too

waiting for the day.

Love Poem

They asked me to write you into a love poem.

I said I couldn’t do it, not knowing enough

about the bend and stretch of your sinews

and why a single hair grew in the middle

of your chest. I wasn’t prepared to tell them

about your irises going fuzzy

or the way your face changed shape that time

you were trapped inside a room with strangers

turning you into someone I’d never met.

With you inside a love poem, I said,

music would blast through the words letting out

bus engine rumble and the thud-thud-thud of boats.

Surely they could see that a love poem with you in it

would really be about me.


From the other side of the hedge

a sh-shh rustling. It stops

when we stop. Starts

when we start. Hawthorns

grow darker and taller.

Soon there’s nothing

but our urgent feet

and that soft insistent rustling.

On her side of the hedge

the cow tugs at long grasses.

She hears nothing

but the sh-shh rustle of supper.

She doesn’t see fear

place stones in our hands.

Image result for dividers and separators clip artCheryl Pearson

Cheryl Pearson lives and writes in Manchester in the North West of England. Her poems have appeared in publications including The Guardian, Southword, The High Window, Under The Radar, Poetry NorthWest, Crannog and Envoi. She won first prize in the High Sheriff’s Cheshire Prize for Literature 2016, and third prize in Bare Fiction Magazine’s national poetry competition in the same year. She has been shortlisted for the York Literature Festival Prize and the Princemere Poetry Prize, and was nominated for a 2017 Pushcart Prize. Her first full poetry collection, “Oysterlight”, is available now from Pindrop Press.

Long Grove

 Note: Between 1944 and 1992, at least forty-three female typhoid carrierswere kept in a secure isolation unit at Long Grove Hospital in Surrey.  Despite having recovered from the disease, the women were deemed a public health risk as they still hosted the bacteria, and were kept incarcerated on this basis.

Imagine if you’d known in that first flush of fever

the time you’d endure in centimetres. The geological age

between Christmases. How sick would become monochromatic.

White. All white. Except for the scratched brass, and the green

that rises when they say Make a fist. And the blue eyes

above the white masks. You tell yourself

you cannot lose what you can still name, say yellow in earnest,

yellow, yellow. Later, daughter, into your pillow.

Your body – they repeat this – is now a bomb. You must keep

to paper slippers, a single room. They are afraid of bacteria.

You only of tedium. Once, you found a spider crouched in the sink,

and cried for the exquisite joy of something new.

Sometimes, you think you cannot bear

the weight of one stopped minute more. One single hour.

But then you do. And then you do.

Lluvia de Peces

 You’ll speak of it for years:

the day the fish fell, like stars or prayers,

a finned rain filling the sky with silver.

You’ll say phenomenon. Say miracle. Say

fish out of water, which is how you felt

with your two feet sharing the same firmament.

Rainbows carving the air.

You never knew how many plates

held skydrowned bones that night,

could only guess from the smell

that swam through empty streets –

fat and seaspit greased with butter, dressed

with twists of lemon, salt – as though

each asphalt-dented swimmer

had risen from insult on a tide of steam

to breast again that current up

to cloud and star. Glutted with light.

Gravel-scarred. And in the air,

a hundred wakes as bright as comet-tails.

And on your hands, a scattering of scales.

The Water Dowser

Running through generations like a river, alongside

the gene for red hair, and the family name: this gift

of summoning the earth’s weather. A humming


in the wrists, is how he describes it. I picture his hands,

like knuckles of ginger, thrumming with bees: tiny harbingers

browsing his tributaries, raising the alarm

in the hand/arm hinge. In the old days, they called it

witching the water; walked their switch of hazel, switch of willow,

waiting for the dip and twitch that meant they’d struck gold,

and clear-running cold would follow. Years ago, a palmist

on a seaside pier winnowed a future from the forks of my hands.

I believed in magic. Now, I stand in a dry field watching

a man draw water like doves from his sleeves.

He tells me, Some people don’t trust this, spits, then grins.

I think of moons. Salt lines in the sand. My blood

ccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccgoing out,

xxxxxxcoming in.

Image result for dividers and separators clip art

Emma Simon

Emma writes:

‘Dragonish is my first publication — the pamphlet is published by The Emma Press (it was published in March this year).

I’ve returned rather later to writing – but kickstarted things by going on an Arvon course for my 40th birthday. It was an amazing experience. I was also lucky get selected for the Jerwood/Arvon mentoring scheme for 2015/16 – where I was mentored by the enthusiastic and endless energetic Caroline Bird. It was a fantastic year – and really helped me focus on my writing.

I was also part of Jo Bell’s 52 – another formative poetry experience. Quite a few of the poems in Dragonish did start life there.

I’m interested in writing about myths and stories – and how these filter everyday experiences. I also have a bit of a soft-spot for dramatic monologues – so there are a few of them in Dragonish.

I live on the outskirts of London. I juggle writing with working part-time as a copywriter and freelance journalist. I’ve two kids, a husband and a large and demanding cat.

I wish I had some interesting hobbies — like keeping bees or restoring vintage motorbikes. But my time seems to be filled with all of the above. When I get a chance I like walking or cycling in Epping Forest which is nearby.

I’ve been published in various magazines and anthology – most recently I’ve been in the Writing Motherhood anthology by Seren, and have had poems in The Rialto, Under The Radar and The Interpreter’s House (I think it was at their launch there I met you Becky! At Albion Bookshop – you were telling me about the Hawthornden Fellowship).

I’ve also won the Prole Laureate Competition (2013), was second in Cannon Poet’s Sonnet or Not Competition (2014) and was commended in the Battered Moons competition (2015).’

Here’s link to pamphlet online: https://theemmapress.com/books/the-emma-press-poetry-pamphlets/dragonish/)


It was a double-page colour spread:

the man, the rock, the penknife

used in the desert to sever his own arm.

I worried at phrases:

‘torn edge’, ‘widening wound’

like a tongue prodding an ulcer.

He had to break the bone before he could

slice through. I rolled this fact

around my mouth for hours.

At that point I didn’t know which way

I would be split: hip to hip or vaginal tearing,

both unimaginable

unlike the man and his bluntish penknife,

the Utah sun, a body heat of rock,

sick smell of seeping cactus,

the yellow marrow cradling the bone,

the sand rust red, the scree, the sweat, the dust

and hour after hour after hour, sawing.

London Plane


“Being a non-native hybrid there is no mythology or folklore associated with the London Plane…

despite being the capitals most common tree.” The Woodland Trust

They grow in dark spaces between street lights,

root through concrete, creating heart-stress egg cracks

that unsettle suburban homes. Camouflage bark,

it peels like banknotes, mulch for bluebells

blooming in the shade amid the dogshit.

When the pollen count’s thirteen and a sickle moon

pokes through the clouds of diesel fumes

dryads emerge, hesitant at first, dizzy

as Blitz-bombed housewives or wayward clubbers,

shaking out limbs that ache from holding.

They tiptoe past statues stood at park gates

to dance havoc in streets drained of the day’s worries.

Some nights you’ll hear their laugh: gurgle

of sap rising, riot of leaves

calling beneath the traffic drone, like dreams

of elsewhere you can’t quite shift next morning.

The slow-worm to work. Look up! Look up!

Finger-tipped avenues are closing above.

The End Of The End Of The Pier Show

Call it the Titanic Spirit: tonight

we have a show to end all shows,

kicked off by our teenage xylophonist

performing ‘Flight of the Bumblebee’ blindfold.

Be dazzled as El Niño, East Anglia’s premier

flamenco troop, perform their showstopper routine —

testament to our unshaken belief

in Victorian riveting, balustrades and glitter balls.

Yes, we have stood by, watched struts

that held up Yarmouth’s ice-cream shops erode,

waved goodbye to penny-slot telescopes

sloshed away in last year’s high spring tide.

But your tears are now no longer enough

to resalinate the oceans — so tonight

let’s raise the roof of the Cromer Pavillon:

Resist the Great Storm Surge!

It may be too late for the Andaman Islands,

but money raised from ticket sales

will help those forced to flee bungalows

on the English Riviera.

And if we become unmoored midway,

drift out on this boardwalk ark to darker seas,

don’t panic, ladies & gentlemen,

our Michael Barrymore tribute act is first aid trained.

Enjoy our award-winning stage hypnotist.

The house band — the King Canuters —

will play loud and long into the night,

as we sail on, towards uncertain morning.

The Parts Of Ourselves We Leave With Former Lovers

Hush, hush my little sunflower, such noise
at such an hour, I thought — well, never mind
now what I thought — be soothed. The other ladies
of the house are sleeping, you do not want them
trampling down here in their bare faces before noon.
But what’s this package at your feet, the one that seeps
like oil? An ear! There, there, it is a shock I know,
but not the worst we’ve seen. You give them locks of hair,
the illusion of desire, but some, perhaps those who cannot
pay in full — or see the world through strange shadows —
have this urge to give much more. Severine received a finger
once. The fat signet ring attached like a tourniquet.
The smeared gold, we said, reminded us of summer sunsets
over Arles. And Babette, she swears she could string
charm bracelets from hearts proffered on plates. Then Marie,
remember the English gentleman, the one with the cane,
the shriek she gave when she found his —
But look, you are upset again. Let’s wrap it back up
in the cloth — carefully — not to disturb the perfect whorl,
or pattern of the blood stippled on the lobe.
Look at the raggedness of this edge. It’s not just eyes
that let us peep into the thoughts of men. Take it upstairs
to the cabinet — the Wunderkammer  —
that is beside my bed. We keep such trinkets
in the drawers. It was moved from Claudine’s room —
the sound of souls tapping against the wood,
like palsied bluebottles she said, kept her awake
and disturbed the night-time callers.




48 Responses to Featured Writers

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