The poem is so inspiring and makes me feel empowered

As another voter put it: ‘This poem takes you by surprise…’ The title points you in one direction and then you follow it through to a completely different destination. It is for this reason, then, as well as the poem’s beauty and connection to the natural world that Gurpreet Bharya’s ‘Imagining myself as a bitter, old woman’ is the Pick of the Month for April 2022.

Gurpreet is a poet and copywriter and lives in Berkshire. Her writing often references the natural world and has been published in Visual Verse. She is currently working on her first collection of poetry on the theme of divorce.

 

Imagining myself as a bitter, old woman 

Here I am
as old as
you said I would grow

altogether alone

drinking tea curled up with
a gossip of stars and
the milky thaw of the moon –

the thrum of the air still thrums in me
as the flowers fold in their shelves
and as the last fly of pollen turns in my nose
I drift away in eggshells

you will notice

I am not as I once was
I won’t bore you with the details

among other things

the broken bow of my frown
was too unwanted to fit me again,
so I took it outside and set it down
in the low branch of an aspen –

now the chaffinch lays its button eggs
along its narrow cleft

look

I’ve started lifting with the clouds
the sun chasing at my feet, and
as I’ve let go of lonely parts
like autumn trees let go of leaves

the earth rolls over in winter treacle

you may have heard

I raise oranges from the soil now, and
the summer blood of my polka-dot parade
is the heat and dance that flowers and melts
into my cut of morning marmalade

and when the season is over
and each freckled blossom falls home
I tell the stars about their dance
gathered

altogether alone.

 

 

Other voters’ comments included:

The imagery of this poem is beautiful. I also love its fragmented appearance on the page yet the rhymes create a sense of togetherness. I really enjoyed reading it.

It is a piece rich in imagery, beautifully crafted and wonderfully imagined. It struck my heart from the first line.

It’s by far the most provoking poem in this month’s collection – superficially abstract yet powerfully emotive.

As I can imagine old age 

The poem takes you by surprise, which is inspiring. We start off by feeling sorry for the lady but in the end realise that she’s quite content  

A really insightful poem with a powerful ending. Really interesting way of writing as well. Loved it. 

This is so empowering! I really like how the meaning of ‘altogether alone’ shifts from beginning as a focus in her loneliness to ending as someone who is very much together and content. 

I felt so connected to this poet and what she went through during her divorce. 

Such a moving and personal piece. I can feel deep personal emotion from it. Wow. 

Beautiful form, so many layers 

It’s beautiful and haunting! 

It made me think about perspective

Loved the connection to the natural world reflecting her feelings

Relatable 

Such a difficult and emotional theme to write about 

Simply because I was moved almost to tears by both the beauty and sadness of the words 

Brilliant poem, very thought provoking. Makes me want to read more of her work.

Lots of great lines and imagery…the gossip of stars…the broken bow of my frown, 

It is such a clever use of seasons and nature to describe age. I always find Gurpreeet’s work so textured and rich with meaning. 

You can feel the emotional journey she has been through when reading her piece. The poem itself is powerful and brings to life her true feelings. 

Some light in a dark place 

I liked the poem, a lonely person turns to nature to soothe their hurt, the nature only cradles you with it’s beauty to assure you that life is beautiful you only need to learn to embrace it again. Lovely heart warming poem by Gurpreet really well written. You feel less sorrow and more warmth.

 

*********

 

THE REST OF THE APRIL 2022 SHORTLIST

The birds are spies, they report to the trees by Sam J Grudgings

The birds don’t grant the day without sacrifice. We feed them gold bullion in place of corn. We are starving. We gift them an audience to our momentary. Tomorrow has gone, so we offer air burials as a replacement. Pull shrouds close round our necks & panic emulating the messages we have long tried to augur. Chaffinches with horizon throats debate our dedication. The crow ambassadors have found ways through the red tape but are disinclined to offer their support. Songbirds prefer frozen peas & suet to the chagrin we offer, waxwings have learned to sing fire alarms, nests pillaged with mail merged p45s & the copy & paste apologies we won’t survive ransacked from our absent desks.

We have pooled together our resources to offer carrion- all that we have to give these days – hoping they will trade their flight for our decay. We place it on fine China between cracked patios & await the flock. We are silent. Cautious. Unkempt. We are parking lots & burnt-out drive thru churches, devoid of worship. We are temporary, the only way we know how to be. The meat rots in driveways & no one disturbs the raw offerings of our bodies.

No birds show. The skies are vacant of their burden. They have reported their findings to the trees. We call it diplomacy because we daren’t call them spies. The forest. The forest has voted to entrap us in oxbow lakes of stagnant conversation. Flocks, free from the hostile architecture of our homes, delegate the task to the parliament of roads. The highway is frenzied in its touch. Too close. Too much. Too cloying. We do not know of any polite way to ask that it ceases circling us. We have protested, too long the horizon, now it is denied us. Survival is an intimate discovery. By now we know what journeys end feels like. The bureaucracy of denying our space on the gallows we build in the name of betterment. We beg a second chance of the day, but the sun sings the same song the birds do & leaves us.

 

Sam J Grudgings is a queer poet from Bristol shortlisted for the Outspoken Poetry Prize 2020. His work explores rehabilitation, addiction & loss via the lens of horror. His collection The Bible II is available from Verve Poetry Press

*

 

Queertopia (Working Title) by Caleb Parkin

i dreamt it once     but i dream a lot
of things     not all of them
printable     but this was
some kind of culty shit
well      no        the good bits
of a cult     if you can say
cults have    redeeming features

i probably based the dream on
Rajneeshpuram    that fleeting city in Oregan
from Netflix series Wild Wild Country    but we all know
how that ended    (unless you haven’t seen it
in which case exit now)   it ended with toxified ideals
and toxins in watermains and a fallen guru skulking
away in one of six Rollers     i am putting off

telling you about my dream     the one where we wore
pristine tunics     and seemed always to be stood
holding hands     on a green horizon   (because
dreams are basically 80s pop videos   right
quick to wipe away     like eye bogies   manifestos)

i am still skirting the utopia issue   saying
look over there     just past where we can actually see
out to no-place   where the idea isn’t tarnished
by the grotty reality of being together
in a bigger together that only wants us
together for our purchasing power

in my dream    the lighting was excellent
and there were all manner of filters
and we held hands until they were so
sweaty the lens filled up
like a porthole on a lilting ship
and wouldn’t it be perfect
if i had woken up crying

 

Caleb Parkin is Bristol City Poet, widely published in journals and commissions. He tutors for Poetry Society, Poetry School, Arvon and holds an MSc in Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes. Wasted Rainbow (tall-lighthouse), This Fruiting Body (Nine Arches).

*

 

Jed of the Dodgems by Ilse Pedler

My brother said you can’t make a mountain out of a sow’s arse
and at sixteen he ran away to join the fair;

changed his name from Gordon to Jed of the Dodgems,
grew his hair, slicked it back with Brylcreem

perfected the art of rolling a fag with just one hand
and kept a set of knuckledusters in his back pocket.

He had a girl in every town and tattooed most of them
on his arms with a pot of blue ink and a bent pin;

gained a reputation for cheating at cards,
short changed the punters pocketing the profits,

lied to his boss, swore it was the other guy,
got kicked out and made a million selling windscreens.

He brought his kids up with a loud voice and a quick hand,
taught them – honesty’s not always the best policy.

 

Ilse Pedler lives and works as a veterinary surgeon in Kendal, her first collection Auscultation was published by Seren in 2021 www.ilsepedler.com

*

 

Hyperhidrosis by Kate Rigby

ephemeral tides
of a faulty sweat-tap
bits of rubbish
wastepaper

with lives of their own
to form
a gallery

accidental sculptures
accidental
shapes escape
plop and drop
to land
celebrating moisture

drop from crevices
or fall flightless

where moisture and
matter
work together

witches or ghosts
or even a dancing
jesus

we can dispute
telling a tale

or archetypes

making me smile
to his drumbeat
and jesus dance
to his tune

celebrate
their ephemeral
mayfly lives

cast-off words falling to the ground.

Kate Rigby is widely published and has been writing for over four decades. She writes mainly gritty or retro novels, but also non-fiction, short stories and poetry. She recently co-edited a hard-hitting poetry book on disability assessments.

 

*

Kenwood Chef by Gareth Writer-Davies

I blow dust (an epidermis of powdered sugar)
from the plastic body

and think of what Mother
conjured

from spatula
whip and grinder (each task with its own attachment)

never tiring helping hands
that saved time

for the hundred and one other chores
the anxious house demanded

recipes that bound us together
as the dough rose and the batter thickened

I twist the chunky dial
the motor splutters like a humming dervish

and the blade starts to toil
as the sticky mess bubbles and blisters into crumbs and ashes

I shroud the machine like a vulture in a cage
hide the corpus delicti in the attic

 

Gareth Writer-Davies is from Brecon, Wales. Shortlisted Bridport Prize (2014 and 2017) Commended Prole Laureate Competition (2015) Prole Laureate for 2017. Commended Welsh Poetry Competition (2015) Highly Commended in 2017 . Pamphlets: Bodies (2015) Cry Baby (2017) Indigo Dreams. Collection The Lover’s Pinch ( 2018) and pamphlet The End (2019) Arenig Press