About sarahsouthwest

I'm now in my early 50s. I started writing again as a way of exploring the world, and feel that over the last 2 years I have really grown as a writer. By day I work with children and young people with mental health difficulties. I juggle my own two children, my work, my writing practice, generally managing to keep all the balls up in the air.

What is good?

I went out one day to look for Good,
found a red vixen, killing
to feed her cub, a magpie
mourning a dead fledgeling; the sky
heavy with rainclouds, spilling
life on the parched ground where I stood.

A sestain again – I’m trying to make this form and rhyme scheme an instinctive way of thinking. This is a second one for dVerse, where our theme is Good and Evil.

Grey

Everything changes: the Good Queen
becomes the Wicked Witch. The grey wolf
gobbles up the moon, the moon
destroys the wolf. Take one step sideways
and the monster is a frightened child.
We, who are dazzled by the sun,
are scared of shadows. We forgive
ourselves, condemn ourselves,
spiralling round the truth, walking
the labyrinth, flickering between
light and dark. Nothing is distinct –
stars sparkle in the night, and clouds
cast shadows on the corn field.

For dVerse

September haibun

New Year doesn’t make sense to me. It’s the middle of winter – I want to hibernate, not make resolutions about eating kale and cutting down on cake.

For me, September is the new year. A time to pick myself up after a lazy summer. A time for new shoes, new notebooks,new agendas. A time for walking briskly. That slight edge in the mornings wakes me up, energises me. I’m ready to sharpen my pencils and get to work.

autumn scents
wood smoke, apples, leaves,
pencil shavings

A haibun for dVerse, where our theme is September. Thank you to Xenia for this lovely prompt.

When she cooks

Alone in her saffron coloured kitchen
she mixes up sugary dreams for us all:
ginger-bread horses with lemony manes,
cinnamon soldiers with peppermint canes.
and the sweet sticky scents roll out, down the hall,
and we smile at the smell of her witching.

A spicy poem for dVerse tonight, where Merril is hosting. I’m having fun with this sestain form at the moment.

The wedding

“My wife and I”, he said,
and everybody cheered.
After, we gathered round them –
“You’re punching, mate”
somebody said, “You’re punching”

and, smiling
he acknowledge it,
accepted it. Embraced it –

and she moved closer, nestling
in his circling arms, bird to his bear:
a small boat resting
in safe harbour.

a quadrille for dVerse – 44 words including tonight’s word: punch

Doves

This is something like redemption – this bright
shattering and shimmering. Each bird
is something like an angel, and together
they are light carved into feather,
light made into storm, or wind-caught wave. Light stirred,
made into something solid. Living light.

An ekphrastic poem inspired by this wonderful image by Lee Madgwick. I’m hosting at dVerse tonight, and there are more images and links to poems to inspire you there.

Watching

On the screen, tiny people walk to and fro along winding paths. A girl in pink pauses by the lake. A dog runs after a ball.

I’d like to be there. I’d like to sit under the cherry tree; to dig my fingers into the rich earth. I’d like, too, to plant the sweet alyssum that smells like honey and peace; to pick the roses that smell of home; hear a robin singing.

I can’t, of course. I can only watch. The simulation’s different every time. Tomorrow the girl in pink may bring a kite. A child may place a toy boat on the pond. A different dog may sniff a tree trunk. I watch every day, remembering the time when we took all this for granted – grass, flowers, the sound of birds, the smell of alyssum. The time before we lost it all.

A piece of prosery for Sanaa at dVerse: 144 words of flash fiction, incorporating a quotation from a poem. Tonight Sanaa’s given us a line by Katherine Reigel: I’d like, too, to plant the sweet alyssum that smells like honey and peace

How I wrote the poem: Welsh poet Matthew M. C. Smith on his poem ‘Abyss’

Welcome to a brand new feature. I’m fascinated by how people write, and so I decided to ask them, starting with Matt Smith, who is sharing the background to his poem Abyss. Over to Matt:

Sarah, thank you for this opportunity to discuss a poem that will be in my second collection of poetry and prose, The Keeper of Aeons, to be published by Broken Spine Arts. I’m going to take this opportunity to discuss a poem called ‘Abyss’, which was originally published by Anti-Heroin Chic in 2021 (thanks James Diaz – poetry editor).

When I started to write ‘Abyss’, I imagined a human figure positioned in a cathedral-like structure, suspended in space. No earth below, no cloudy or blue sky around, just an open cathedral, surrounded by stars far, far away. The human figure holds a flickering flame in the draughty vault of the cathedral. They realise that any way they face is infinite and sense the tremendous speed of light bursting through the darkness of space. At the end of the poem, they ascend to the altar and unexpectedly dive through the cathedral window, plunging with the shattered glass like a dolphin.

For me, there is the implication of choosing not to stay at that central point in the darkness of that cathedral but to break out, to travel through infinity, to submit to it and to reach for freedom. This poem could suggest many things but, ultimately, this is down to reader-response. It is a poem that strives to be strange, uncanny, full of mystery.

I am interested in cosmic surrealism – playing around with cosmology in a poetic sense, with strange imaginative leaps. I have a lot of dreams and nightmares about scenarios like this and often wake up exhausted.  

In my forthcoming collection, The Keeper of Aeons, I take the reader to the Space Station to look back at Earth; also to interstellar space to convey the minuteness, yet wonder, of our own existence as human beings and as a living planet. It’s an unsettling collection full of existential, dark moments but I hope readers will also get that sense of awe – the feeling of vastness of space and time, which we can never quite grasp. There are also more prosaic, nostalgic pieces – memories of childhood and my love of Sci Fi films which show I became interested in the Universe and why I am preoccupied by this subject as a writer.

Thanks for this opportunity, Sarah – I hope that readers connect with this poem and feel its strangeness; also hope take the leap of faith and get the book. It’s wild, weird, trippy. An experience!

Abyss

Light a taper, listen to a note’s
echo through the vault.

The draught will shake the flame,
at the end of a wave, silence.

Stand with black all around you
and feel anything there may be.

Anyway you turn is infinity,
as light sears the void.

At the altar, stand before a window
of celestial light.

Dive through, dolphin-dark,
plunge through shattered glass.

into abyss.

Matthew M. C. Smith is a writer from Swansea, Wales. His second collection, The Keeper of Aeons, is forthcoming with Broken Spine Arts, following Origin: 21 Poems in 2018. He is ‘Best of the Net’-nominated three times and his work can be read in Poetry Wales, iamba poet, The Lonely Crowd, Arachne Press, Barren Magazine, Icefloe Press, Atrium Poetry, The Storms and Fevers of the Mind. Matthew is the editor of Black Bough Poetry, The Silver Branch Project and MC of weekly global poetry weekly event on Twitter @TopTweetTuesday

Matthew collects signed poetry books, vintage Star Wars and gets the kids out of the house as much as possible, usually with a Rugby ball.

Twitter: @MatthewMCSmith @blackboughpoetry

Insta: smithmattpoet Also on FB. 

http://www.blackboughpoetry.com

Review: A Landscape with Birds by Beth Brooke

This collection of poems by Beth Brooke is perfectly named. Yes, birds flutter through its pages, but for me the key aspect of the collection is the sense of place. These poems are rooted in the landscape. On an emotional level, these poems examine freedom and release; the intensity of parenting, and the poignancy of what remains once change has happened.

Beth knows her birds: they are beautifully depicted. A jackdaw is a “Parisian punk”, geese fly like “a plough turning the soil”. In one of my favourite poems, she depicts a robin – “martial, disputatious” – but when we share Beth’s tender gaze, we also see the vulnerability of a small bird in a world where “night is always cat-shadow black”.

Beth takes us to many places: an attic room “the right size to be comforting”, a garden in Marrakesh, a ruined chapel in the woods. She notices details – remnants, she creates fantastic images: a power station is “a scab on the horizon”, ravens are “black plastic scraps”. Suddenly we see things slightly differently.

Many of these poems meditate on freedom and release. A son leaves home, a trapped bird longs for “the sky and clean rain”, ashes are set free. There are losses here, but the sense of release makes them beautiful. One poem is explicitly titled _Ploughing, April 2020_ – written in those months of lockdown. I wondered how much lockdown had added to that yearning for release.

Some of the most powerful poems centre on the intense emotions that come with parenting. In _Finding the Wing_, she soothes an “anxious little fist”, at the same time noting the loss of innocence and infancy, and in _Influenza Epidemic 1919_ she writes of parents “preferring their dreams of the lost children” to life itself.

This is a skilled collection of tender poems, full of imagery, rooted in reality. I think you should read it.

A Landscape with Birds by Beth Brooke is available from Beth @BethBrooke8 or from https://www.hedgehogpress.co.uk/product/a-landscape-with-birds-beth-brooke-print-edition/

Ice and flame

By the time the moon rose, its clear light
freezing, like a veil of ice, in that moment, our
passion was the only warm thing there. It burned.
At our first touch, the world itself flared, turned
its gaze on us – seeking out that fierce, hot power
blossoming between us, wild and brave and bright.

For Laura at dVerse, who invites us to take a line from a “kissing” poem, place it vertically, and make a poem from it. She also invited us to use a form – I’ve gone with a sestain, with a rhyme scheme ABCCBA, just because I like it. I chose the line “by freezing passion at its blossoming” from Neil Carpathios’ poem “The Kiss”. If this doesn’t make sense, check out Laura’s explanation over at dVerse.