The other week, I was helping out Culture Matters at the Poetry Book Fair, hosting a reading with the wonderful Fran Lock and Nadia Drews, both of whom have upcoming collections with the press. Mike Quille and I shared the space with Andy Croft of Smokestack Books, and Isabelle Kenyon of the relatively new press, ‘Fly on the Wall Poetry’. Isabelle has been a tour-de-force on the poetry scene recently, first of all editing the mental health anthology, ‘Please Hear What I am Not Saying’, in support of the charity MIND. It was awarded ‘Runner Up for Best Anthology’ at the prestigious Saboteur Awards this May and to date, it has raised £500.
Now Isabelle has turned her social and politically motivated energy to another anthology, ‘Persona Non-Grata’, highlighting two pressing issues, homelessness and the refugee crisis globally. All profits from the book will be donated to Shelter and Crisis Aid UK. Isabelle hopes that with the support of her readers, and the 45 poets involved in the anthology, she will raise an incredible amount for charity, providing support and advice for anyone who finds themselves homeless.
Below is a poem from the anthology, ‘The Refugees’ by Jennie E. Owen (pictured), and you can support this initiative by buying the anthology here.
Jennie E. Owen’s writing has won competitions and has been widely published online, in literary journals and anthologies. She is a Lecturer of Creative Writing and lives in Mawdesley, Lancashire with her husband and three children @Jenola101
By Jennie E. Owen
The flood water rises steadily
and out they come. Sleeking grim
confused creatures from the tide, from the mire.
Eyes flicker copper wire, up at the black beach,
reflect the bottle of the seaside streetlights.
A flash of scale. Of ivory. Feather and fur
In flight. Closer they come. As much strangers
to freedom as they are to the peeking
audience; for fingers are twitching at the curtains now.
These refugees are unaware in their hoof and claw otherness,
that they have not left their obliterated cages,
their sunken ark,
for good, just yet.
For the watchers are waiting now, steady handed,
all their ducks in a row.
The big game hunters, the children with spud
guns. Their mothers calling them out, hauling
rocks eye to hand at increasing speed.
Closer they come in biblical procession. Up the narrow streets,
past the cobbled stones, the chippie, pubs and churches. Past
shop fronts selling rock and candy floss in bloated bags.
Some take a darker route, the back roads and byways;
the sewers and sulphurous factories.
When the bloody dawn breaks,
the mystery slackens, pop-pop-pop.
The invaders are too faded,
too exhausted, heavy-limbed from fighting the sea.
Eyes roll, pop-pop-pop.
Tongues loll, pop-pop-pop.
They fall, don’t surrender pop-pop-pop.
They cheer hollow and howl and clap
one another on the back.
Beat their chests in slow motion over the mud bogged,
water logged, sagging
shag skinned mess of parts.
It was us or them. Was it?
It was them or us.
Whilst somewhere distant, a lone pale tiger,
the black and white kick of tomorrow’s news,
purrs in a basement and licks its rusty paws.