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Margins of Reading – a poem by Alex Saynor for Peter Robinson

Retrieved Attachments CoverAlex Saynor writes: I have been inspired by Peter Robinson’s poems for several years now; the starting point for me was The Returning Sky, and I’ve loved all publications since, up to, and very much including, the recent Retrieved Attachments. I started teacher training at Reading School in 2007, and therefore feel an affinity and familiarity with many of the locations referred to in the poetry. When Buried Music was published, I sent ‘Inland Seagulls’ (referred to here) to the longstanding Head of English at the school, as it is set directly next to the school – he was really struck by the mention of Baudelaire’s albatross in the context of local imagery and wondered how the boys would react! There are references to other poems as well (including the amazing Locks and Moorings) and I have been very inspired by the syntactical style too. The encounter with Iain Sinclair refers to the hour or so before delivery of the Finzi lecture at London Road a few years ago now. In that connection, The Constitutionals was another book I found fascinating, especially as an avid reader of both Iain Sinclair and the late W.G. Sebald, both acknowledged in the book, whom I was fortunate to be taught by for one semester prior to his untimely death in October 2001.


Margins of Reading
For Peter Robinson

With all that brickwork, a shed ablaze
and also, through intersecting lines,
the sky at the far horizon,
there’s a gift for the burning bush
observed through rain-smudged glass,
in writings on negotiated walls
or in the voices of students on their way to class.

I once overheard you and Iain Sinclair
among porticoes on London Road.
It was something about the architecture of hospitals.
Do places retain a memory of pain?
In building anew, what do we remove?
Your eyes roam through famous and common land,
find what makes a town distinct

on the margins: gasometers, factories,
an odd inland gull, people on unique trajectories,
made new or strange by weather, politics,
light catching off glass by the Oracle offices
as though fire radiates across the valley
from a business park and cobbled together
nature reserve or gesture by Sonning.

Then the pause, the interregnum:
thoughts of Liverpool and stations in-between,
a life transplanted and re-planted
as a now quite utterly unique breed
in a Thames Valley influenced by the Far East
seen through a lens of past industry
with modern trade on credit seen for what it is

and mainstream media interests
less significant than the cracks on the road,
geese proliferating by Kennetside
road ends, salvaging moments
against the currents of memory
in fleeting cloud glimpses and aphorisms
converging in time and halting,
as you said, but only for now,
in the grounds of abbey ruins.

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Powers of the Air – A poem from Geoff Sawers

Powers of the Air

spirits of blood and vapour
clay wings
paper hearts
clockwork nightingales in drenched thorn scrub
belting silver showers of granite and grain

pike-toothed paths
comet-ice-hair and
so you step up but your body trails behind you
hooked to the shadow of a second to come

where there’s a flame
in your fingers
‘Hush’ on the jukebox
and all the poems you’ll never write because you won’t
drift curling like tender sparks into the night

I feel it
if only sometimes
furred on the inside
you don’t stop to listen that’s a fault but you
face forward to mirror the future your eyes are fins

from Sulhamstead at dusk
to Sheffield Lock
herons stiffen their spines
and all the books that you won’t start although you’ll live them
lie open in the grass for the stars to write

Geoff Sawers

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Meadow with flares – a poem by Rodney Wood



A cappuccino at the old coffee house,

Caffè Florian in St. Marks Square,

even if it’s extravagant but there are

three musicians playing light classical,

the kitchen is ten minute walk away,

the art and décor are an experience

and waiters are at peace and professional.


This past year it’s not been possible

to get away, unless you’re a celebrity,

so I’ve been pretending I’m on holiday

when really I’m walking to the end

of the garden to leave banana skins

and coffee grounds in the compost bin.

It’s cheap, I don’t need a passport

and no heavy suitcases to lug around.


With an easing of the rules it’s almost

a return to old times on the Great Western

seated with cell phones and masked bank robbers

passing new extensions, different clothes

on washing lines, air that carries a new sort

of promise and not mutations of the virus.


At Reading station I have a flat white,

walk over Christchurch Bridge to Caversham,

find a bench and eat a ham sandwich.

Swifts wheel over the rowing club roof,

a falcon sits like a Buddha on a sycamore

on the other bank, geese make some noise,

four young women put on jumpers and share

a picnic on a tartan cloth, some older

folk on collapsible chairs drink glasses

of wine, one man is under a banner that reads

‘World Record Sitting Attempt’, a girl passes

with black flares and a camera, while dogs

seem generally puzzled at all the action.

My almost Homeric journey over I join

my neighbours who have decided to meet

and share cups of coffee and conversation.

A radio plays ‘Do What You Can’ by Bon Jovi

while Shelly nods her red hair and explains

to me how in 2020 the song raised over

$6 million in a benefit for his home town.

Peter, from across the road, takes pictures


‘To remind me of the flesh and gold of life

because maybe I won’t get another chance.’



Rodney Wood currently lives in Farnborough. He worked in Reading in the ’70s, his son currently lives there and he is a regular attendee of the monthly open mics at South Street.


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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.