Reviews: Malone, Lauder, Kelly, McCullough

The High Window


Martin Malone’s The Unreturning reviewed by Nick Allen

The Unreturning by Martin Malone. £10. Shoestring Press. ISBN-13: 978-1912524204

When the first part of your collection is called ‘Ghosts of the Vortex’ and the opening poem is called ‘Séance’, in which the writer says that he will ‘sit and reconstruct’ and ‘catch their words’, you have a good idea where this is going and Martin Malone doesn’t disappoint. The Unreturning is an accomplished act of reinserting a chorus of overlooked and forgotten voices into the song of the history of the First World War.

The opening poems have at their heart a sense of waiting but also of being unsure for what it is they are waiting. ‘Mrs. Mounter circa. 1914’ tells of the widow who has been letting the spare room to a variety of “types”, her life reflects England’s in its ‘certainty’, she sits ‘impassive as the teapot’…

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Add comment June 29, 2020 sarahjameswrites

This is a poetry film version of my poem Singing Everyone a Home (poem) published in DOORS anthology in aid of Bromsgrove and Redditch Welcome Refugees in June 2020, available on the BRWR website here.

A longer launch video featuring several poems from the pamphlet can be enjoyed here.

Add comment June 20, 2020 sarahjameswrites

Prize delight, ACE funding & other publication/competition/judging news


April was a cruel month here on the writing front as well as Covid19. On the poetry front at least, May and June have come in delightful contrast.

I was stunned and over the proverbial moon to win the open category of this year’s Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine. Although my poem People Scare Me Because… isn’t directly about my diabetes, it’s about some of the psychological effects of this chronic condition/my diagnosis with this disability.

The 2020 Hippocrates Prize Anthology is available on the Hippocrates Prize website here and a video of me reading the poem below.


I’ve also asked for some of my prize money to fund a limited number of free entries for the Hippocrates Prize for writers on low incomes (one poem each for 10 poets in the Hippocrates Prize Open Category and 10 poets in the Hippocrates Prize Health Professional Category). So please do look out for that when the 2021 prize opens for entries.


Room 38 tope layer

My Hippocrates Prize news also leads indirectly into the fabulous news that I’d been successful in getting Arts Council England funding for a collection-length hypertext multi-media poetry narrative > Room. It’s been a lot of work but also a lot of fun busy working on this, and can your explore the results here.

These poems are particularly close to my heart as living with type one diabetes from the age of six hasn’t been easy – for me, or those around me!

> Room hasn’t long been live but already I’ve had feedback about its accesibility, interactiveness and labyrinthine qualities. It’s early days, but other descriptions have included ‘exciting’, ‘thrilling’, ‘moving’, ‘powerful’, ‘inventive’ and ‘intriguing’. What do you think? If you have a chance to explore it, I’d love to hear how you find > Room.


Holiday Lets commended in The Beach Hut Coastal Writing for Wellness Competition in May 2020;
Stargazing in the Waiting Room highly commended in the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital, Dublin’s Poetry Competition in celebration of Poetry Day Ireland 2020 in April 2020;
Beside the bed selected for PITTOC Volume Two anthology in May 2020. Proceeds from this volume of PITTOC (Poetry in the Time of Conoavirus) are to benefit Doctors Without Borders and Partners In Health. My link is for UK amazon, but it’s also available on


This poetryfilm is also featured, with my poem The lockdown school day, on Bromsgrove council website here, along with poems from other local poets;
The lockdown school day on Pendemic in May 2020;
The day we disappeared (flash with a hypertext twist) published on Ellipsis Zine in May 2020;
In hollowed oak… (art) and Writing Life and More than snapshots (poems) published in Irisi Hope issue in May 2020;
The Changing Landscape (poem) published on Poetry in Public in May 2020;
Along our coastline (poem) on The Beach Hut in May 2020;
Knives and Forks (flash) published on Fragmented Voices in May 2020;
Katherina’s Hair Chronicles (poem) in Abridged 0-19 Eris in May 2020;
Still a chance (drawing) and Altering the light (photo) in Flash Frontier in May 2020;
Churning Perspectives (poem) on The Glow of Emerald Light photo challenge 2 in May 2020;
Strange Orbits (poem) on Atrium in May 2020;
The Rising Sun (poem) published on The Poetry Village in April 2020;
Doing the School Run with Freud (poem) published in About Larkin in April 2020;
Sudden and Not Mercury (poems) published in Unpsychology 6 The Other-Than-Human anthology in April 2020, pages 134 and 135, available here.
Unpsychology 6 v1


Other new advance publication news includes my review of Hush by Majella Kelly (Ignition Press) for The High Window this autumn.

I’m also delighted to have acceptances for:
two poems (on Redditch and Welwyn Garden City) accepted for the Wild Pressed Books ‘New Towns’ anthology, edited by Rob Francis;
five poems for the climate change/eco anthology Earth, We Are Listening (Slice of The Moon Books);
five poems for the mental healthy anthology The Mountains You Cannot See (Slice of The Moon Books);
Clotted Moons (flash) on Fictive Dream on 12 July 2020;


I am delighted to be the poetry judge for this year’s Gloucestershire Writers’ Network 2020 Competition, supported by The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival. The theme is ‘My World’ and the deadline is early July 2020. Full details about the competition and how to enter can be found here. Please do follow the instructions carefully, particularly making sure your entry is anonymous.

Add comment June 14, 2020 sarahjameswrites

Black Lives Matter: What Can I Do As a Writer?

via Black Lives Matter: What Can I Do As a Writer?

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Strange Orbits – Sarah James/Leavesley

Strange Orbits

Another alien sky. Wrapped in mist,
the pale sun turns to ghostly moon.
Five months, four weeks, two days and still
everything is strange: sleep rains
nightmares; his face and 100-watt shadows
orbit the long waking hours.

My non-stop mind churns white noise.
The radio headline that crackles through
is a fire at Chester Zoo…animals missing.
Missing, miss him. Words spin
like his anti-crease shirts playing
at white clouds in our tumble drier.

Meanwhile, me, driving, and more driving –
a thick-windowed metal beast charging
the road’s jolting hum and jumbled horizons.
Avoiding home. My thoughts flock
like sheep rushing an upturned trough.
His silhouette dominates every skyline.

“Let me write it down in case.” Last words
are stones skimmed across an endless lake,
the tarmac’s unrelenting grey, the deep
emptiness inside me, my heavy bones,
these restless limbs. When the phrase sinks,
and memories rise, I feel…

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Add comment May 29, 2020 sarahjameswrites

Knives and Forks by Sarah Leavesley

Fragmented Voices

Red_in_the_Morning Red in the Morning by Stela Brix, 2018

“There’s no milk!” Luke slams our fridge door closed, then tips his bran flakes back into the packet as noisily as feet stomping on shattered glass. “Didn’t you sort the shopping?”

“Oscar had two bowls of Cheerios this morning. I thought I’d get some on my way back with the kids, as I’m dropping and picking up again!” I try not to shout but my tone is unmistakably barbed. These days whenever we talk about money, work and chores, simple sounds, letters and gestures are suddenly as sharp as knives, pierce like forks.

Luke growls, then clunks two slices of bread into the toaster, clangs the cutlery drawer open and loudly pulls out a knife for the margarine. The kids have finished that too, I think. Though neither happening is my fault, that doesn’t stop the sliver of guilt, as I gulp…

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Add comment May 22, 2020 sarahjameswrites

COMMENDED ~ Sarah James

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Sarah James

The Poetry Village

The Rising Sun

Each year new smiles skim the water’s surface,
as light composes selfies in pools of shallow stillness.

Children race kites across the beach, chase balls,
or launch their bodies from rocks – in hope
of lifting skyward, though shadows tie their feet.

Skipping footprints leave a trail that can’t outlast
the tide, all traces wiped clear. In every scoured shell,
the squawk of swooping seagulls.

Rarely, on dawn’s shorelines: the drift and loop,
loop and drift, of an Icarus feather spun loose.

Sarah James is an award-winning poet, fiction writer, journalist and photographer. Her latest full collection is plenty-fish (Nine Arches Press) and she has a poem in Maytree Press’s  The Cotton Grass Appreciation Society inspired by the South Pennines. Her website is at

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Add comment April 30, 2020 sarahjameswrites

Two Poems by Sarah James

Good Dadhood

The Nook and the Knack

Once my dad would have
looked out at my back garden,
sighed and grabbed his tools:
mowing, weeding, pruning,
smoothing rough edges.

The ivy’s spread started
with my shed. A light touch,
at first. One leaf, and then another,
until the string of hearts grew
clasping, clinging, binding.

Its hold rotted the timber,
collapsing the felt roof,
but the structure remained intact.
A green patchwork
created its own shelter.

Decades later, it’s still growing,
still homing woodlice, beetles and spiders:
sturdy against the rain,
glistening with sunlight
and entwining new flowers.

This year, an ivy heart
has reached the nook in our fir tree,
where I sit snug between sunlit
russet branches, nursing
my troubled thoughts.

The wrinkled bark reminds me
of Dad’s weathered skin,
the crook between his thumb and finger,
his firm grasp planting a sapling
or steadying a nail for his hammer.

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Add comment April 5, 2020 sarahjameswrites

At White Lake


by S.A. Leavesley

White is not innocence. It is christening gowns wet with sweaty handprints as the crying baby is passed around like a fairground curiosity. It’s wedding dresses ripped by teetering backwards or stained red by broken glass and spilt wine. It’s snow hiding heaven knows what beneath — flattened grass, litter, dog shit. Even the moon knows better than to hope for smooth pureness, bears its shadows and craters, wraps itself in cloud.

On Bones, the flesh-eating maggots are whiter than the corpses’ skulls. Forensic anthropologist Tempy copes well with being “different”. Unlike me, or my six-year-old niece, Phoebe. Every week, my sister Janice sports another blue bruise and deeper-shadowed eyes. I wonder how long it will be before my brother-in-law turns his anger at Phoebe’s condition directly onto her. I’ve been asking Jan to leave Tom for two years now. Two years she’s been refusing, excusing…

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Add comment April 3, 2020 sarahjameswrites

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