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What is Left of England? – A poem from Richard Stephenson

What is Left of England?

What is left of England?
January 878. Chippenham, midwinter.
The king has fled.
The people have no king.
The people have no country.

What is left of England?
But a dream of what used to be.

February 878. Somerset Marshes, winter,
The king is hiding.
The people are lost,
And the Vikings hold the country.

What is left of England,
cannot be found.

What is left of England?
April 878. Athney, early spring.
The king is plotting.
The people are stirring.
But the Viking holds the country.

What is left of England?
But an idea of what could be.

Whitsuntide 878. Egburt’s Stone.
The king returns to the people.
The people return to the king.
But the Vikings hold the country
Will the country fight the Viking?

What is left of England?
A dream a hope a belief.

May 878. Edington. Spring.
The people fight for the king.
The king fights for the people.
The Vikings flee the country.

What remains of England,
Is stronger than the sword.


Richard Stephenson runs the Dreading Poetry Slam under the name The Legend that is Richard Stephenson.
He took up poetry shortly after moving to Reading towards the end of the 20th century.
He works in London as an engineer and important middle manager.

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Kate Behrens introduces three poems from her latest collection ‘Transitional Spaces’

Several poems in ʽTransitional Spacesʼ were written during lockdowns.

ʽBreakdownʼ arose from trying to support a friend during that time. The physical terrain in the poem is chalk, with all the implications of that. I wanted the ʽyewsʼ to be ambiguous when the poem is read out loud: mental collapse can involve the disintegration of ideas about who we/you are. The ʽCycladic headʼ came from the real finding of a flint that had elements of those tiny Neolithic Aegean sculptures, ones that reduce the human form to its most essential and enduring components: things of beauty with all unnecessary detail lost. It had felt like some kind of talisman.

ʽNarcissi on Valentineʼs Dayʼ started off as a poem about my late twin: the red-tinged trumpets trembling in the wind had triggered a memory of her when asleep, but I hadnʼt registered that I was writing it on the 14th February. It then turned into a more traditional love poem.

ʽThe Look of Transitionʼ began after I stood by the North Sea in Aldeburgh at night watching the hypnotic monochrome patterns of waves breaking, and the next day, a flatter, dun-coloured and less reflective surface. It was just after a series of deaths of friends and family members, including two brothers, and all within a few months of each other, a time of sharpening perceptions, as so often happens. The rhythms of nature were a comfort, and seemed the only certainty.



You stab at birdsong with disavowals,
muffled as a doped-up dreamer.

Bonelessly writing himself on blue,
a crow seems to spell it out
in the guiltless act of flying.

I offer a flint ‘Cycladic head’
found in a quiet swollen by yews.

It passes through unsteady hands like water.


The slope is thick with spokes and frozen
arms. Silence is a gravitational force

holding the chalk in place,
allowing in one bird whose

single note, tremulous,
stretches through unexplored spaces,

searches like a parched tongue.
The answer’s almost inaudible,

but it comes.


Narcissi on Valentine’s Day

The body’s long-ingested springs
spring in the veins,

though quietened
re-spark darkened blood,

as trumpets of lighter red lift
and suggest

the lilt and tilt of a loved one’s mouth
shifting in dream.


The Look of Transition


This dun unrolling doesn’t reflect us.
Seagulls rest secretive
eyes under hollow bones.
A cut-out boat is tissue-thin,
horizon’s a bent

It waits to ping now
into then.


Night’s waves shelve silvers for blacks,

in rhythms not ours,
and ours.

Alien heartbeats the hours

in failing bodies
(now flashed with graces
darks allow)


Each wave sheds silvers
for blacks,



The pendulum’s swung:
rooks flung over
the pine, back again,

pattern a raucous conversation,
leave a ghost-looping
where questions


Transitional Spaces book coverKate Behrens’ most recent collection is Transitional Spaces, published by Two Rivers Press in April 2022. It follows on from her first collection, The Beholder (2012), Man with Bombe Alaska (2016) and Penumbra (2019). Other poems have appeared in MslexiaBlackbox ManifoldStandThe High Window, Reading Universityʼs Creative Arts Anthologies, Poetry Salzburg ReviewWild CourtNoonThe Arts of Peace (Two Rivers Press) and as Oxford Brookesʼ Poem of the Week.

Read more about Kate’s poetry here.

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Tasting blackberries – a poem from Carla Scarano D’Antonio

Tasting blackberries

‘The best ones grow in shadow’
Margaret Atwood, Blackberries


Cycling to Heather Farm
I see blackberries gleaming in the sun
black spots and red spots
among avid spines,
the biggest and ripest ones recede in the deepest undergrowth –
they will feed blackbirds and sparrows
or melt in the mud.

I have no plastic bag or bowl
so I gather them in my surgical face mask,
collect quite a few
gobble up some,
their wild taste bursts black under my fingers.
I feel satiated by the little sweetness,
treasure their blackness
that absorbs the late summer sun.

I make off with my bundle of pitch-dark garnets –
furtive as I go.
Back home I simmer them in a pan with lemon juice and sugar
seal the jam in jars
with the label Gratefulness.


Carla Scarano D’Antonio lives in Surrey with her family. She obtained her Master of Arts in Creative Writing at Lancaster University and has published her creative work in various magazines and reviews. Her short collection Negotiating Caponata was published in July 2020 by Dempsey & Windle. She completed her PhD degree on Margaret Atwood’s work at the University of Reading and graduated in April 2021.

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Jacksons – a poem by Victoria Pugh


So many hat boxes, stacked on the shelves by the door;
full of flat caps, trilbies, bowlers, top hats – or nothing?
Terraces of wooden trays beneath a glass counter;
striped ties, driving gloves, grey socks, lying sideways.

Behind the counter, rows of closed compartments,
goods to be viewed, only on request; each vest or shirt
taken one at a time, unfolded, viewed, folded away.
Asking to be shown anything is an act of bravery.

I ask you. You take your life from the nearest drawer
and lay it out with its perfect stitching, brown edging,
leather buttons; its Harris tweed, fully-lined in fawn.
This is not what I asked for. Look in the deepest drawer.

Let me see what you showed me once, rough blanket
stitches on fraying borders, the red twisted satin cord
that coils around inside you; your fine gold embroidery,
the watered silk lining you made from your tears.

The hat boxes, those cabinets and containers remain
unopened, and then there’s the stockroom, at the back
of the shop, or maybe in the attic, full of things that have
never seen the light of day. But Jacksons is closed now.


This poem was originally published (in a slightly different form) on a local blog called The Whitley Pump.

Victoria Pugh has lived in Reading for over thirty years and taught at Reading College. Her collection of poetry, Mrs Marvellous, was published by Two Rivers Press in 2008.

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Better Messages in Analogue – a poem from Alex Saynor

Better Messages in Analogue

Streams of dissatisfaction, a tremor in the hand.
The torpor of Emmbrook’s electric blue
summer water under intermittent arbours
winding through empty industrial land
is the solace under leaden footfalls
with a siskin moving from shade to shade,
a jay on the path by unkempt verges,
while on the other side of the field
a major traffic artery could be, of course,
white noise of the sea if you close your eyes
hoping lungs will open up against the odds
their better messages in analogue
against the virtual, but as you walk
across the reeds a beige structure
upholds the rush, a contraflow above
incongruities of soft play and sculpted paths.

Alex Saynor studied English Literature at UEA. He lives in Wokingham, and is Head of English at a local secondary school. He has previously had poems published by Stroud Football Poets.