Writings and Witterings

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Submitting to journals: the Jo Bell method

A goodie from Jo Bell circa 2015––sound advice for poets.

The Bell Jar: Jo Bell's blog


[This article is now taught as part of the Open University’s Creative Writing MA, and I’ve had many many messages to tell me that people have increased their publication record, sometimes by 200% in a year. It’s also included in our new book How to Be a Poet]

I’ve spent some time lately with poetry journal editors – and also with the poor beggars who, like me, send off work to them. It’s struck me anew that many people, especially those at the beginning of their writing career, don’t have much idea of how submission works and what time span is realistic for an editor to consider a poem. Also, they’re wondering how to keep tabs on the seventeen different pieces that they’ve sent out, in order to avoid the no-no of simultaneous submission.

What follows is the Jo Bell Method; the method of an immensely, award-winningly disorganised poet who nonetheless has…

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Folk Like Us / Winds Of Change

My poem below is an ekphrastic poem based on a painting by Graham Wilson entitled Saturday Morning, you can see some of Graham’s art by clicking here. The poem was written as part of a project for Droitwich Arts Network for their exhibition in the Long Gallery at Hanbury Hall. It’s a scene in which, when you first see it, all appears to be full of cheer. The family and their neighbours in a terraced street are all out in their back gardens doing their weekend chores. Like most art there is more to be seen ‘beneath the surface’.

And here is a photo of the painting, with many thanks to fab artist Graham Wilson, who has given his permission for me to reproduce the photo here.

Saturday Morning–Graham Wilson

Acknowledgement to Graham Wilson – Artist

Folk Like Us / Winds Of Change

Open waistcoat, tinted glasses,
fat black moustache;
he’s willing the teddy-boy
to mend the bike.
1950’s Middle England,
post-war, pre-PC; transitions,
pop-music is positioned
to take over the world.

The wind streams fragrant smoke
and waves the washing away…
no sooty sheets today.
Broken fences scatter,
they don’t matter
in a jovial terraced scene;
a typical weekend for folk like us.

Mum, pinnied, scarved, lugs the prop,
her girl holds a basket of clothes aloft.
The dog’s on alert,
and look, there’s Bert
tending his pigeons,
braces crossed,
—Bert never goes out without braces—

The baby hears the wind,
sheets flap, prop scrapes, bike engine stutters,
dog barks, and the boy in the shed
fires his cap-gun. ‘BANG’.
It makes baby jump.
Mum—the one with the red hat–
tucks the blankets closer.
The baby’s wrapped up snug,
as the winds of change blow.

Polly Stretton © 2017


The Bone Curse, A Supernatural Medical Thriller, Advance Reader Copy #Giveaway

A new book from Carrie Rubin!

Carrie Rubin

Medicine has no cure for evil…

The Bone Curse by Carrie Rubin

🔹If you got cut by an old bone in the Paris catacombs and your Haitian friend swore it cursed you, would you believe her?

🔹If people close to you succumbed to a grisly illness with no medical cure, would you start to have doubts?

🔹If a practitioner of dark magic hungered for your blood and threatened your family, would you suspend everything you believe to be true and enter an occult world as foreign to you as it is frightening?

In The Bone Curse, if Ben Oris wants to save his loved ones from a deadly illness, that’s exactly what he must do.

With the help of his Haitian friend, this rational, logical, science-minded med student must use Vodou to find a cure. But first, he must battle the mysterious priest who’s bent on vengeance and determined to have Ben’s blood as his…

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Trading On The Silk Road

A recent documentary told of the trade route from East to West, ancient, modern, the wares sold and transported, the towns, villages and people along the way, yet I observed a side of this road not often seen, and rarely televised.

Trading On The Silk Road

At the side of the road,
the great Silk Road:
Goat skulls,
mule skulls,
skeletons of sheep,
ravaged bones of rats;
on the outskirts of vision
a flash of mountain lion,
the whip of a sand snake,
dust rises, coughing;
old age,

Polly Stretton 2017



Merry Christmas

Lovely selection of Christmassy poems from Worcestershire Poet Laureate Nina Lewis 😄

Poet Laureate

merry-christmas-2930882_1920May your holiday season be filled with friends, family, happiness and love. 

Create a quiet moment with a poem. Go on, treat yourself… it is Christmas after all! I have posted some to listen to from Soundcloud for the super busy.


A Child’s Christmas In Wales – Dylan Thomas


Balloons – Sylvia Plath


The Christmas Night – Lucy Maud Montgomery


Christmas Oratio – W.H. Auden


little tree – e.e. cummings

Merry Christmas! 

Peace on Earth. 

Nina Lewis x

Worcestershire Poet Laureate

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He Sits And Waits

I was privileged to be the first headliner at a new spoken word event in Worcester, ‘Dear Listener’, organised by Charley Barnes. I finished my set with ‘He Sits And Waits‘. When the first version of this poem was written, I was thinking about my father, who had Alzheimer’s. I was particularly thinking about how his final two years of life had been for him.
Whilst ‘He Sits And Waits‘ is about my father’s dying days this poem is not only about capturing a moment, it reflects on our wider concerns.
At the time, I was studying form in poetry and wanted to create a Kyrielle.
It was the most commented upon poem in my entire set. Difficult to perform, this rendering made it ‘worth it’.

He Sits And Waits

He sits and waits, he is hungry.
He ponders what he was thinking,
for a moment, a rare inkling.
Do all things end as they begin?

The hanky from the laundry room,
his daughter, bound to be here soon.
His eyes tear up as he reaches.
Do all things end as they begin?

He ponders what he was thinking,
just one moment ago, sinking…
I am hungry, he thinks, then smiles.
Do all things end as they begin?

He waits, he sits, he is hungry,
food appears, it’s here, it’s too soon,
it’s before him, from where, from whom?
Do all things end as they begin?

He blinks, looks for a fork, a spoon.
He peers beneath the platter, croons,
he sees it, a new full blue moon.
Do all things end as they begin?

But arm does not go where he wants,
and hand will not go where he wants,
when he tells it to grip the spoon.
Do all things end as they begin?

He is hungry, sits with repast,
‘Lord have mercy, I could eat fast,
if only I could grip and grasp.’
Do all things end as they begin?

It smells here, he sniffs and snivels.
‘Help Lord, have mercy,’ he dribbles.
Anytime now—surely—to eat.
Do all things end as they begin?

Wet blue glance just reaches once more,
the white handkerchief laundered for…
who was it? A girl. Girl no more.
Do all things end as they begin?

The spoon, is it where it ought’er?
Something about food, his daughter.
The spoon could be up on the moon.
Do all things end as they begin?

Blue eyes mist up with dismay
see the world dimly, far away.
The spoon or the moon or my girl?
Do all things end as they begin?

He sits and waits, he is hungry.
He ponders what he was thinking,
just moments ago, an inkling.
Do all things end as they begin?

Polly Stretton © 2012

First published in ‘Girl’s Got Rhythm’, Black Pear Press, 2012.