River of Life

John Ganshaw

Born into the stream of life with no set course, winding our way from one point to another. Flowing and trying not to drown, lay back and float with our feet up, relaxed on a river running its course. The rapids come every now and then, a waterfall here and there, but most of the time we just gently move so slightly. We wake each day and follow our path of existence, working, spending time with loved ones, and most of our time sleeping, dreaming of what could be. We seek comfort and for most, that means succumbing to what is safe and not seeking the adventure we long for, the pursuit of our dreams, in other words, to be protected by what we know. Life is meant to take risks, to not seek an end of one and the beginning of another but to embrace the entirety. To piece together the nuances of our existence. We look for the waterfalls and the rapids for it is there where the stories lie, where our mundane lives become adventures to share. Those moments when our hearts beat faster and lose our breath, caution is tossed to the wind, and seek the excitement of what lives in the shadows, out of the light. If we are truly lucky, so much adventure takes place that there is never an end, but a series of hidden paths and tributaries meant to explore, each one with its own story to be written.

Life is extremely short, with many forks for us to decide which way to go. We should choose the adventurous path, we may get bruised but we will have fulfilled our dreams.

The prompt provided a new journey to explore.  

After 31 years in banking, it was time for John Ganshaw to retire. New experiences enabled him to see the world through a different lens.

Poetry is the true art of getting better

Leanne Drain

Birds flee from cages; light restores energy, and darkness can be interpreted differently. But Poetry, somehow, always finds a way back out.

Poetry is therapeutic. It relies on consciousness and releases beautiful, thought-provoking ideas. It can be found in the darkest places but regained when the sun sets against the sky.

When does human life begin to end? Is it when poetry becomes a friend? For all we know, opposites attract, and poetry is a gift from the gods. 

Long live poetry! And life will end on that final note.

Inspiration is key, the eye of the beholder thought. Provoking memories came flooding through.

Leanne Drain enjoys writing with all her heart. She is currently studying creative writing at University East London.

The Person End of the Poem’s Beginning

Mark Goodwin

Descartes was poorly. He haunted Himself as a ghost in a bowl – a ‘cogito’ cut-off from his own body and the place-world healthy bodies entwine with. Descartes contorted his personhood into a spook carried in a skull by a vehicle of fallacious flesh. He believed his abstracted holy soul to be his corpse’s driver.

But body is all, just as life-world is all. World & body are equiprimordial. Body is part of world, made of the same actual flesh as world … and world is only felt and moved through by animated/animating body. They do not happen at the same time, they happen as the same time.

A body is a place of sorts, and is (through movement) crossed over and through with world’s places – as ‘chiasm’. The experience of this nexus of life can be called ‘mind’. Mind is the place place & body play … out/in …

So, all a body’s actions are as thought, because thought is as the flesh of world/body’s movement. And place is what we move through/with … with/through emotion. Place is all around and all through, and is that which places us.

Phenomenon-focused poets put feeling selves in actively imagined virtual places … places felt as poems. ‘Stanza’ means room and is a particular kind of spatialness, or roominess. In a moved-through house each room may embrace a person’s body and each room can be held in a person’s memories. It is through

the places that stanzas are that we can re member (our)selves

The lantern-like question Where does the person end and the poem begin? opened a door for me … allowing me to condense – through poetic compression – some of my reading-journeys across phenomenologies of embodied-mind & place

Mark Goodwin is a walker, balancer, climber, stroller … and … negotiator of places. He has published a number of poetry books & chapbooks. Find him on Twitter (@kramawoodgin) and Bandcamp.

The DNA of Poetry

Ilias Tsagas

Years ago, I woke to a poem revealed in my dream: the chaos of subconscious, the palace and bunker this is, with the infinite number of rooms, had dictated a poem in my sleep and I woke up glad I had a new piece of work acquired effortlessly.

But the dream that revealed the poem had a dark side. The plot was about someone who achieves extraordinary things in his sleep but loses them each time he wakes up. The catastrophe was irreversible and before I could write the idea down on paper I was so much immersed in the poem that I felt the need to sleep to preserve it. For a while, the line between my idea, the dream and the poem was blurred. 

I’m used to blurred lines now. Growing older means all the more puzzling about remnants of memory and what resurfaces it. My looking into new things mixes with shards of the past triggered in random ways. Remember that poem I read a few days ago? My interpretation of it has entered my poetry today, and my writing will no doubt find a corner in the readers’ palaces and bunkers. Readers, writers and poems are doing no more, no less than adding new pieces into the ancient DNA of poetry that will keep evolving with us and without us for as long as there is time.

Poetry has a long history and its DNA keeps evolving. My micro-essay aims to vibrate your e-book device and trigger you to think of this history and add into it.  

Ilias Tsagas is a Greek poet writing in English and in Greek. He works in the energy policy sector as a journalist and an academic. 

The Moment

Halle George

When blood
becomes ink
and the skin over the tattoo has healed

When the police report
becomes a story you tell at cocktail parties
with just the right pauses to sound light and tinkly as the glasses you sip from

When nobody is looking for you anymore
When you have ceased to be a beating heart
When you are only a statistic kept in a file cabinet no one ever bothers to clean

When you realize
feeling the pain of the needle
having to tell your own story
being the last one who remembers
Makes you one of the lucky ones

I interpreted “essay” loosely; There’s no set process that turns life into art, it’s a thousand little moments.

Halle George has previously been published in Midsummer’s Eve and shortlisted for the Briefly Write Poetry Prize. She lives in Los Angeles but still has a Boston accent.


Debra Williams

I am Ouroboros – my end is in my beginning and my beginning begets my end. The page’s linear structure cannot reflect the intertwinedness of thought and experience, scoured into the body, carded in the mind, spun onto the page; or how meaning struggles to be voiced, pulsing against unseen, unyielding bars – the mind’s cage alert for any transgressions, any shows of self – searching for a space to shimmer through. To roll and flow and glow on the page, to share – not too much, just enough, don’t let them see the real you; to reach out for what: Acknowledgement? Approval? Achievement? Acceptance?

But the reaching is circular not linear; in the end – and in the beginning – all that can be known is the self. The lines that stretch down the page finish; the eyes that scan them move on. And I, Ouroboros, suck on my tail, flex my unshed scales for the transmigration to come, and begin again.

Considering the prompt, ‘ouroboros’ flashed into my mind and words flowed from graphite in a fever-dream of inspiration. The wool-making metaphor also arose naturally – I just fact-checked when editing. A strange but satisfying departure from my usual style.

Debra Williams is a published writer (e.g. Free Flash Fiction) who also enjoys telling her work in a storytelling group. She blogs about Merseyside’s natural world.

Can you catch the setting sun?

Ian Ledward

The person ends when they are smitten with what is wrongly thought of as an illness. Just as someone might be described as love sick without actually being ill, another person might be described as word sick.

The state of poetry is born out of the development of the condition known as Poetas Morbos, or the Poet’s Malady. This self-induced chronic condition, rooted in the central nervous system of some human beings, can manifest itself at any time during an individual’s life. It can develop in early childhood through and might continue into old age. Symptoms of euphoria or even profound melancholy can sometimes result. For example, the boy poet, Thomas Chatterton committed suicide, dying in poverty and in despair in 1770 at the age of seventeen. For some, this state can continue over lengthy periods, sometimes decades.

There is no permanent cure for this poet’s malady although temporary cessation is possible if the secondary condition, Scriptoris Obstructionum, Writer’s Block, occurs. This may develop as a result of irregular synaptic transmissions caused by the overworking of a tired brain and an emptied mind. Not normally associated with any physical pain, some sufferers have described sensations of internal burning and silent screaming when words will not even form, while teardrops of frustration fall across an empty page.

Neither Poetas Morbos nor Scriptoris Obstructionum have been observed in other primates, though some research suggests that it may exist in whales.

There is something that drives us in this business of writing; poetry in particular. It has much to do with the processes of aging, medication and the how the mind responds to these.

Ian Ledward is a professional artist and published writer living in Fife. He is a member of Fife Writes and the Open University Poetry Society.

On Beginnings: Person and Poem

Jayant Kashyap

The question: Where does the person end and the poem begin? The answer: It’s elementary, really! In the simplest terms, a poem lives long, longer than a person does. Longer than any person who reads or writes a poem does. When it comes to it, a poem begins with the person that first writes it, but as soon as the writing is done, or the poem has begun taking a certain shape and structure, or course, let’s say – and with someone else reading the poem – the person ends or, simply, leaves. The poem has now attained a freedom for itself, one unlike anything. It can now identify itself as an individual entity, one that – although will often be attributed to the person that wrote it – doesn’t need a “creator”/“mother”/“god” to exist and to be understood anymore, the latter being the sole purpose of existence for most of us.

So, in essence, a poem begins long before itself and not with the inevitable tercets, quatrains, and whatnots. Its inception comes with the occurrence of an event – or a series of events, fortunate or otherwise – in someone’s life, after which the said “someone”, or, if not themselves, an acquaintance of theirs, becomes merely a medium between the poem and the world that is to perceive it –and, sometimes, even before all of that, before the little moments of the perceived event. That is when a poem begins, and all else happens thereafter. A poem, however, never obliviates, and is never forgotten.

Most of this essay is the idea that comes at the beginning of writing (in this case, the idea that poetry is forever in motion and never transient, that it isn’t limited to the boundaries that a poet creates but jumps those quite often) and the rest is presentation – to choose what to put, and where, while maintaining the integrity of the thought

Jayant Kashyap, a poet, essayist, translator and artist, has published two pamphlets and a zine. His work appears in POETRYMagmaPoetry Wales and elsewhere.

Writers Making Space

Lawrence Bradby

Have you ever stayed in a house where written instructions are attached to every tap and switch and key and kitchen drawer?


                HOT WATER BOOSTER (turn off after)

                    PLASTIC BAGS ONLY

You’re cat-sitting, or popping in daily to water the plants, or in fact your friend is only out for the evening but they can’t imagine how you, or any other visitor, will cope without advice at every point. 

The lyric poem is a dwelling place. It is made so that the reader’s memories and emotions can enter, move round, settle in. This poem-dwelling is rich with details that are personal and warm, like a chair from which someone has just stood up. The poet placed these details to bear the weight of what the reader brings. The poet does not label every detail or remind the reader what they’re for. The poet has already stepped back, allowing the poem to begin, to come to life. Author Michael Schmidt calls this ‘the withdrawal of the self’, leaving space for the reader to ‘fill out and create’.

Promoting the poet as the definitive reader of their own work can stop the poem from letting in its readers. When The Poetry Archive, for example, offers free access to ‘recordings of significant poets reading their work aloud’ there is a price. The price we pay, as readers, is that the poet doesn’t step away, doesn’t find the line between themselves and their poem, doesn’t run their knife along that line. 

Writing my piece, I thought about how a poem is like a new word: no matter who created it, it belongs more to the field of language than to the particularities of the author’s life

Since October 2020, Lawrence Bradby has lived in Portugal. He writes a blog about the challenges and surprises of finding a way to belong. 

Fire & Heat

Sarang Bhand

I would like to humbly disagree with the idea of a person/poet and poem being separate in the first place. Borrowing an analogy from Vedanta’s teaching of ancient seers, I would like to state that ‘As one cannot separate clay from the earthen pot, one cannot separate a poem from the person/poet.’

A person is the sum total of their ego which is limited to their experiences in life. It is these experiences of life that nourish thoughts and these thoughts in turn act as the catalyst that germinates a poem. Whether it is melancholy or joy, the degree of it is unique to the person experiencing these and the person/poet expresses these emotions in their unique voice in the form of a poem.

Maybe there is an element of commonality in the themes of experiences experienced by different persons and there is a commonality of emotions that we all experience as humans. Maybe that’s why we perceive a piece of poetry to transcend beyond the person/poet when it gets related by others. But the language used, the selection of words to craft that poem, and the intended meaning conceived within the poem still belongs to the person/poet who chose to express them under specific circumstances of their life experiences. And thus, in my humble opinion, a poem cannot be separated from the person who crafted it. A person/poet and the poem are inseparable as fire & heat. A poem cannot begin where the person ends.

It was an interesting prompt and almost instinctively I chose to respond on how I felt about the statement. I wanted to have an objective approach to support my instinct and thus I attempted to deduce the relation between a person/poet and their poetry. Keeping it brief was a bit challenging but then brevity is the sharpest arrow in a poet’s quiver.

Sarang Bhand is an entrepreneur working in the clean-tech space. When he is not troubleshooting projects, he likes to explore writing, photography & painting. See his bio here and writings here.