Archives for posts with tag: England

philip barrington photo
Kensington
by Massimo Soranzio

Do you remember the time,
well before Covid-19,
and before 9/11—
what’s with those figures: 1, 9…
What makes them so ominous?—
Can you still remember when
we could climb the steps to the
Albert Memorial? The Prince
still black, golden times for us,
and we would sit on those steps
and play a board game, I mean,
a real one, with a proper
board, and plastic counters, too,
and we’d pose like the authors
of the game, in the picture
on the back of its fine sleeve,
which looked just like an LP?
One of the things we would do:
play the game right in the place
it was named after, adding
an extra dimension to
our sequence of moves on the
rhombitrihexagonal,
Victorian flowerbed-like
board. And we’d get lost in the game,
because it was just like that:
what other cares could we have,
two naïve 19-year-olds
whose 1 and 9 meant nothing
and whose dreams and hopes were still
in bloom, like the flowerbeds
of old Kensington Gardens.

PHOTO: The Albert Memorial, Kensington Gardens, London, England by Philip Barrington, used by permission.

Soranzio

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I used to spend all my summer, spring and winter holidays in London when I was younger, in the summer often with friends. In the early ’80s, my friend Marino and I used to play board games all the time, and one summer we were all taken by this new game, Kensington, which we bought in London (each one of us still treasures his copy) and decided to play on the steps of The Albert Memorial, one of the most iconic Victorian monuments in town. The Albert Memorial underwent massive restoration in recent years, so today you will see the statue covered in gold leaf, and they restored the original gates around the steps, too, so we would not be able to take a picture there today like we did then.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Albert Memorial was commissioned by Queen Victoria (1819-1901) in memory of her beloved husband and the father of her nine children, Prince Albert, who died at age 42 in 1861. The monument took over 10 years to complete, at a cost of £120,000 (the equivalent of about £15,000,000 in 2020). (Source: Wikipedia.)

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: With my best pal Marino on the steps of The Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens, London, in 1982. I’m the one on the right, with the blue sweater.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Massimo Soranzio is a teacher and translator living on the northern Adriatic coast of Italy. His poems have appeared online and in print in a few anthologies, including Silver Birch Press’s Nancy Drew Anthology. He blogs at reflectionspoetry.wordpress.com, where he wrote mostly about his lockdown for NaPoWriMo, in the month of April 2020.

st. michael's licensed
My Shoes Have Scarred the Walk I’ve Taken
     after John Ashbery
by Jonathan Yungkans

—steps I take again, feeling a stone column’s weight
my one full day alone in England. I went to Coventry

to take in the apocalypse of the place—the cathedral

blitzed into ruin and the new building built alongside,
all brick and long rectangles of stained glass. Only now,

40 years later, can I appreciate the quiet there, as water

taking so long to percolate into a baked soil not unlike
the old building’s floor, a fire-polished mirror. A spire

pointed a Gothic finger to where the Luftwaffe brought

hell, in a war long burnt away. Another struggle roiled
inside me, the lack of words to express it like the town’s

water mains, bomb shattered, as flames spun a vacuum

that sucked away thought and oxygen. An askew cross,
charred beams, graced a heat-bleached altar. Behind it,

the words Father Forgive. I had no idea how to ask it

for myself. And I still don’t. How do you ask yourself
to erase how you were born—blaze and ashes framed

by fissured walls, cracked traceries? It doesn’t fall away,

like the statue of Saint Michael standing over the devil,
spear in hand and wings full spread. It’s another statue,

one of reconciliation, at a corner of the ruin—a man

and woman on their knees, hugging one another tight,
holding for all it’s worth—for all the steps and scars—

PHOTO: The spires and arches of the ruins of St. Michael’s Cathedral in Coventry, United Kingdom by Nicola Pulham, used by permission.

Reconciliation_by_Vasconcellos,_Coventry

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I visited Coventry Cathedral during a month-long trip as an undergraduate. I had been intrigued by the wartime history of the place—it was leveled during the Battle of Britain—along with new sanctuary built alongside it and the site’s rebirth as a symbol of hope and reconciliation. There was a lot going on inside myself, as well. Shy and awkward, I felt isolated from most of the group. I was also going through a number of emotional ups and downs, the reason for which I learned only many years later. Writing this poem, I weighed carefully the question, “Did the physical landmark in some way represent a landmark in your life?” In retrospect, I really think it was. At the time, it was something more sensed than realized. It took walking back through the place mentally, placing myself inside its space, to put words to its import for me. ¶ The John Ashbery line that titles this piece (from the poem “Token Resistance” in his collection And the Stars Were Shining) also helped me focus this piece more narrowly. As for the statues mentioned, “St. Michael’s Victory over the Devil” by Jacob Epstein is on the wall of the porch that connects the old and new cathedral structures. “Reconciliation” by Josefina de Vasconsellos was originally titled “Reunion” and was presented to the University of Bradford. Bronze copies were cast to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the end of World War II. One copy sits in the old cathedral ruins. Another is in the Hiroshima Peace Park in Japan.

PHOTO: “Reconciliation,” sculpture by Josefina de Vasconcellos (1977); photo by Martinvl, used by permission.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jonathan Yungkans is a Los Angeles-based writer and photographer with an MFA from California State University, Long Beach. His work has appeared in Panoply, Synkroniciti, West Texas Literary Review, and other publications. His second poetry chapbook, Beneath a Glazed Shimmer, won the 2019 Clockwise Chapbook Prize and is slated for release by Tebor Bach Publishing in 2020.

Eltham Palace licensed
On the tourist trail into England’s past
by Rose Mary Boehm

The entry looks forbidding and dark,
waiting for the bridge to be drawn.

We walk through intimate spaces
that were once peopled by family and children.
Gaping at bathrooms whose walls
are covered in flaking blue, the baths
adorned with fake gold taps.
There are badly made beds,
and in Art Nouveau wardrobes
dressing up clothes in various sizes
for those of us who want to play ghost.
Several real furs to drape over
silk-clad shoulders.
We catch glimpses of our tourist faces
in mirrors framed by twisting shapes
of dark wood.

The old telephone with letters and numbers,
a white marble portrait of the love
of his live in the large window,
it says so in the catalogue we peruse
on our way to the knightly hall
displaying the colours of princely houses
who once furnished kings.
Henry VIII vos ‘ere.

English tea and scones on the green lawns
of this green land, weeping willows,
fat carp in a muddy pond.
A grey cat waits at its border.

PHOTO: Eltham Palace in springtime by Truecapture, used by permission.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The place is Eltham Palace, in the Royal Borough of Greenwich, in South East London, England. The house consists of the medieval great hall to which an Art Deco extension was added in the 1930s, as well as absolutely gorgeous gardens. I try to see my children once a year (this year I couldn’t travel, of course), and in the summer of 2015 we visited this amazing place. I couldn’t resist a poem.

PHOTO: Eltham Palace, Art Deco bathroom by Chris Moncrieff, used by permission.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A German-born UK national, Rose Mary Boehm lives and works in Lima, Peru. Author of two novels and three poetry collections, her work has been widely published in US poetry journals. Her latest full-length poetry manuscript, The Rain Girl, was accepted for publication in June 2020 by Chaffinch Press. Visit her at rosemaryboehm.weebly.com.

Castlerigg Stone Circle
Castlerigg Stone Circle
by Frances Daggar Roberts

There was a spirit of excitement and of fear
as we climbed to the ancient site.
I was the first to crest the hill
and stood transfixed
by the 360-degree view across the fells
through golden and green light.
Threads of pink and white striped the sky
above bright grass and huge and ancient
glowering standing stones.
Captured by magic
even our youngsters stared in silence
as though bewitched.
There was no one to rescue us it seemed,
as if the old ones were alive again
inside our breath,
under our feet…
There was no sound at all
but within the huge stone circle
we could see a slender shine of water.
We stood there together
like figures in an ancient play
4,500 years ago.
It seemed we could neither go nor stay
until, carrying the baby, we began to walk the circle
through a time beyond meaning in this ancient space.
One arm and the face of our five-year-old daughter
was just visible, like a spirit child,
behind the furthermost standing stone on the left.
The clouds had begun to move above us
both with us and beyond us
in our small drizzle of earthly time.

PHOTO: Castlerigg Stone Circle Kewsick looking towards Helvellyn by Graham Moore, used by permission. The stone circle at Castlerigg is situated near Keswick in Cumbria, North West England. One of around 1,300 stone circles in the British Isles and Brittany, it was constructed as a part of a megalithic tradition that lasted from 3,300 to 900 BC, during the Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Ages. Learn more at english-heritage.org.uk.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My encounter with the Castlerigg Stone Circle made a huge impact on me as a result of the way it swept the truly ancient world into my understanding of human existence. Time itself acquired a different meaning because of the presence of my young family and the beautiful reality of the ancient place on which we stood. It was truly an encounter with a “landmark.”

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Frances Daggar Roberts is an Australian poet who grew up in a remote area where she began to write poetry to capture the love she felt for plants, animals, and landscape.  She now lives in a bushland setting close to Sydney and works as a psychologist treating significant anxiety and depression. Compassion for those who struggle with such issues has led to the frequent exploration in her more recent poetry of human need, sorrow, and resilience.

1600px-Aldermaston_Manor malcolm gould 2009
The Greatest Generation
by Alan Walowitz

      Thousands of protesters from the
      Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (C.N.D.)

      converged on the Berkshire village of Aldermaston yesterday to
      commemorate the birth of Britain’s anti-nuclear movement.

My father didn’t need to go anywhere
since he’d done the continent all-expenses-paid—
they even gave him grenade and gun.
But why not visit Aldermaston, son?
and see the castle there–
this a place he’d spent a week or so
before being tossed in the fog,
through France, Belgium, and on to Remagen,
then deeper in the dark, where,
having being trapped so long,
he hoped I might see
any place he’d actually been.

I took a shot with my Canon
through the ornate iron gates,
which masked the steel supports behind
sunk meters deep
and reinforced up top with ribbons of razor wire.
Then a man in uniform emerged from the manor
marching smartly in my direction.
He figured I was CND
and out to case the joint,
or start a riot then and there
and get my mug in the dailies.

He said he’d hold the camera
but I should feel free to walk the grounds–
outside the perimeter–
and notify the sentry when I was done.
An hour later, the camera was returned, but film gone,
and, at the only pub in town, I bought
a fine picture postcard of the castle,
taken from inside the gates one fine May day–
with lays of lilies aground,
festive balloons in air
and battlements festooned with flags of all nations.

When I returned, I offered that postcard
with the pride of a man
who has accomplished much
in the face of great adversity.
Dad studied and agreed, That’s the place.
I told him, The picture’s for you to keep.
He tossed it back as if
it had been brought by a dangerous stranger,
and exploded in my hands with a—
What would I want with that?

Originally appeared in the D-Day 70th Anniversary Anthology (mgv2>publishing).

PHOTO: “Aldermaston Manor” by Malcolm Gould (2009), used by permission.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Like my father before me, I’m not much of a traveler. I wasn’t one even before the pandemic. When I visited England in the mid 1970s, however, my father seemed pleased that I’d visit the “castle” in the village of Aldermaston, where he had been stationed during World War II. He didn’t know that in the years since the end of the war, the village—and the castle, itself—had become a center for nuclear development in England, and was the focus of many anti-nuclear protests. PHOTO: The author’s passport photo (1974).

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Alan Walowitz is finally retired from his second career as a professor of education. He’s a Contributing Editor at Verse-Virtual, an Online Community Journal of Poetry.  His books are Exactly Like Love (Osedax Press) and The Story of the Milkman and Other Poems (Truth Serum Press). A forthcoming chapbook, In the Muddle of the Night, co-written with Betsy Mars, will be published by Arroyo Seco Press.

Front door KWH
Front Doors
by Kim Whysall-Hammond

I met so many people
painting our first front door
but it wasn’t just painting
it never is.
First chipping away rotten wood
and then an artful working of filler
to recreate the simple mouldings
a grey undercoat that smooths
before, finally
a loving coat of shiny navy blue.

It took all of a long day
on a very busy street
first the postman gave advice
then the guy delivering newspapers
to the shop three doors away
commented on how few women
paint front doors
our roofer stopped to say hello
and discuss the precarious roof
a new neighbour introduced themselves
complimented my work
offered friendship
finally my parents arrived
unexpectedly
and made tea.

I remember this, as I hide behind
another front door in another house.
We wipe its UPVC surface with alcohol
to remove virus, and
don’t touch the mail until it’s a day old
no live virus on it then.
This front door isn’t elderly wood
but hidden steel within shiny white
when we lock it, nine bolts
shoot from its interior
into the strengthened frame.
In its centre a double glazed
stained glass window
made from a drawing of mine
a Red Kite wheeling in sky
looking for the windpath
my bird of prey guarding me.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I am in isolation, as my eldest son came home with the unwelcome present of coronavirus. Our front door is now both our guard and, at times, a symbol of imprisonment. In writing this poem, I thought about the other doors I have lived behind. I have told of the two that I have made my own.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kim Whysall-Hammond is a Londoner who has been published by Total Eclipse,  Fourth and Sycamore, Ink, Sweat and Tears, Three Drops from a Cauldron, Amaryllis, London Grip New Poetry and Crannóg. An expert in obsolete telecommunications arcana, Kim believes, against all evidence, that she is a good dancer.  She shares poetry on her blog, thecheesesellerswife.wordpress.com.

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My Front Door
by Clive Collins

          The opening and closing of the front door at my childhood home ushered us through our lives. Our house was small, the last one in a nineteenth-century jerry-built terrace – two rooms and a kitchen downstairs, two rooms and a box room up. There was no hallway; the front door in the front room opened directly on the street.
          We seldom used that room or its door. The post came through its letterbox three times a day when I was young, the envelopes falling onto the doormat like heavy leaves in a repetitive autumn. Late in the afternoon, later than the day’s last post, the local newspaper arrived, half its rolled-up bulk pushing sinisterly against the door curtain like the barrel of an assassin’s pistol. When people passed in and out of the door there was always a sense of occasion. My father opened it for his eldest daughter to go from the house to her wedding. He was the one to close it each August when we set off for our fortnight by the sea. It was the door for high days, holidays – and funerals. When my father died he was taken out through that door, returned through it in his coffin, a parcel in a wooden box instead of brown paper, and taken out through it again for burying.
          My mother then was the door’s custodian. She opened it to let me go a-wandering. And opened it to let me back in when I came home, but not at my last returning. On the day of her funeral she was not brought home. Times change. The door stood open, but she lay in the purring hearse outside, seemingly impatient for her final ride. I shut the front door then, and never opened it again.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Doors, especially front doors, have always fascinated me.  They open to the future; they close upon the past.  The Romans were right to leave the care of them in the hands of a god.  They deserve no less.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Born in Leicester, England, Clive Collins has spent the greater part of his life working as a teacher in Ireland, Sierra Leone, and Japan. He is the author of two novels, The Foreign Husband (Marion Boyars) and Sachiko’s Wedding (Marion Boyars/ Penguin Books). Misunderstandings, a collection of short stories, was joint-winner of the Macmillan Silver PEN Award in 1994. More recently his work has appeared in online journals such as Penny, Cecile’s Writers, The Story Shack and terrain.org. He was a short-listed finalist in the 2009 Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction.  Carried Away and Other Stories is available from Red Bird Chap Books.

cotton mill manchester
Edge Lane Mill
by Annette Skade

The handrail yanks me up in a torrent of clogs,
hobnail boots, steel toe-caps
that wore down this mighty stone spiral,
sagged it like shoulders after a long shift.

Up three flights into yards of bare boards,
built for power looms and baskets of shoddy.
Engines on turntables spin and spool tubes,
wide polyester for leggings and maxi-skirts.

Behind a glass partition on the shop floor I index,
stamp and tot, try not to lower my school-girl eyes
when the women nudge and link out to the toilets,
patting overall pockets, “Fag break!” tossed to the rafters.

PHOTO: A young cotton weaver working on a Jacquard loom producing towels (Manchester, England, 1965).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My first job was in one of the old cotton mills in Manchester, England, a stone’s throw from where I lived, which was then weaving polyester in an attempt to keep up with the times. I was a filing clerk there for a few weeks in the 70s, putting index cards into small wooden drawers and was paid £20 a week, a sum my mother was disgusted by, saying she wouldn’t let me work for that for any length of time. I stood in awe of the strong women who worked on the shop floor. I little thought I was witness to the end of an era.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Annette Skade is currently pursuing a PhD on the work of Canadian poet Anne Carson at Dublin City University. Her first collection Thimblerig was published following her receipt of the Cork Review Literary Manuscript prize in 2012. She has been published in various magazines in Ireland, the U.K. , and the U.S. and has won and been placed in several international poetry competitions. Visit her at annetteskade.com.

tim-plowman
Summer in London, 1980
by Massimo Soranzio

My first long London summer,
so cold and showery at first—
sounds were strange: H’s were dropped,
T’s vanished, and A’s were I’s—
and I’d have tea.

I’d sip my hot tea with milk—
initially mistaken for coffee—
with pink wafers, ginger nuts,
and Garibaldis, of course,
all new to me.

I saw the Empire strike back
at the Odeon that year,
by Marble Arch—still open,
not even converted yet,
with its big screen—

and Jesus Christ, in his last
Superstar season at the
Palace Theatre—followed
by a visit to Foyles, a
book-buying spree.

I felt London was all mine,
in my teens, hopping on and
off an open bus at red
traffic lights, absorbing all
there was to see.

Everything was exciting,
even Fiat mural ads
for little One-Two-Sevens,
or learning how to call home
with fifty p.

Though of all the things I saw
and did, one I would treasure
above all, that Saturday
in July, forever fixed in
my memory:

twenty days to seventeen,
standing at Centre Court, I
knew that my one-pound banknote
was giving me cheap access
to history.

NOTE ON THE PICTURE: I am still trying to recover most of my old London photographs, buried as they are in some hidden drawer or old cardboard box. But I have found this picture by Tim Plowman online showing Fiat’s macaronic-Italian ad for the 127 model, which you would see anywhere in London in the summer of 1980.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The summer of 1980 was my first long holiday on my own, and in London! It was a memorable summer for a number of reasons, one in particular: 20 days before my seventeenth birthday I got up at dawn and—I can’t remember how—I reached Wimbledon and started queuing. I had been studying my steps for a week, so as I got to the turnstiles I bought my access to the courts for £1 and rushed to Centre Court, finding a good standing place, where I would wait till three p.m. for THE match to begin. Today you would have to spend the whole night in the queue, and I don’t think any form of free access to Centre Court is possible anymore, especially on the last day (which is no longer a Saturday, by the way, but a Sunday). Seeing Bjorn Borg win his fifth (and last) Wimbledon against an equally wonderful John McEnroe was definitely the experience of a lifetime.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Massimo Soranzio writes on the northern Adriatic coast of Italy, about 20 miles from Trieste. He teaches English as a foreign language and English literature in a high school, and has been a journalist, a translator, and a freelance lecturer on Modernist literature and literary translation. He took part in the Found Poetry Review‘s National Poetry Month challenges Oulipost (2014) and PoMoSco (2015), and in a virtual tour around the world with an international group of poets on the Found Poetry Frontiers project between 2015 and 2016. His work appeared in two anthologies in 2016, including Silver Birch Press’s Nancy Drew Anthology.

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Old life adieu
by Mark Andrew Heathcote

When I was 9 yrs old, we moved house, upped sticks
Leaving the city for the countryside
I was brought along like the candlesticks
Unwanted baggage, I was petrified.

With nervous excitement I said goodbye —
“Old life” and welcomed a new beginning.
I’m going to climb huge oak trees and pry —
Into nests, my insides were now grinning.

With heart pumping, jumping out of my vest
I’ll chase brown butterflies and dragonflies
And like Huckleberry Finn I’ll digest
The stars the streams the forest as it sighs.

Wasn’t this going to be an Adventure—?
On arrival, it was my dreams come true
No parents or dumb teachers could censor
Old life adieu — off to the fields I flew.

IMAGE: “Dew Drenched Forest [England]” by John Everett Millais (1890).

HEATHCOTE

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR/
FIRST-PERSON BIO: 

Well, I was born in Withington, Manchester, one of three children; I was the eldest and the only boy. We lived in a three-bed terrace house with no bathroom or indoor toilet. I lived there until the age of nine and was a quiet and unhappy child, but that changed when the family moved to the countryside, where I then had the freedom to explore nature at first-hand. I spent much of my free time climbing trees and swimming in lakes and rivers, making rope swings, stuff like that. I was looked on as a kind of Tarzan figure, that’s how all other kids saw me. I was never academic and was years behind all the other children at school. I struggled badly in high school and didn’t learn a great deal. I left school at age 16, taking dead-end jobs on local farms and then in factories. I left home at age 17 —  by then, there had been a messy divorce and relationships weren’t good all round and haven’t improved all that much since. So I moved back to Manchester, where I’m still residing now and have done ever since. I’m a father of five and for the past 14 years I’ve be employed as a learning disability support worker. I write a lot of poetry in my free time and enjoy music and gardening.