Teithio /Journeys by Matthew M.C. Smith

Matthew’s “Underland”

IceFloe Press

Cefnwlad / Hinterland

He stands at dusk in tyre tracks, sump-destroying ruts; the lane between the terraced houses of Welsh stone leading to waste ground. Grass is hip-high and dandelion seeds lift off, take flight freely. He walks among the wreckage of abandoned cars.

The cool of evening envelops him. A day of scratches, scrams and stings. Bramble cuts raise staple marks on bare skin, on his ripped stained shorts, new maps of blackberry and grass in towelling. The haze of a bonfire permeates long gardens, drifting to shrouded trees; thickets of unclaimed land. Birds pipe down; rooks, crows and blackbirds settle on coiled boughs.

Evening’s pink blush engraves the sky with electric-orange. Shinning up onto the rainbow-rusted car bonnet, he turns to the sun; it bleeds out battery acid over the pulsing artery of the low west highway. From the distant hills above Nazareth chapel, the lights of villages…

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. march 2020 news.

sonja is outstanding

sonja benskin mesher

:: the year moves forward ::

Welsh Enterprise Award

Nominated again for 2020

Honoured to be  awarded Best Abstract Landscape Artist 2019.



Y Plas, Machynlleth

.littled open secondary studio space.

come see.

message me.


..joan of arc..


The Studio. Llanelltyd.

Visual, text , installations and international mail art work continues…

. hand made in wales.


..small drawing..

A Book about Death. The Phenomena. The News.

~ten years~

10th Anniversary (and possibly final) Edition of ABAD Exhibition on Long Island, NY in 2019. The Islip Art Museum in East Islip, NY

Work also included in Michael Rose exhibition in Japan at The New Art Museum in December 2019.



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Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Chrissie Gittins

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.

The usual ground is covered about motivation, daily routines and work ethic, but some surprises too. Some of these poets you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.

Chrissie Gittins’

poetry collections are Armature (Arc, 2003), I’ll Dress One Night as You (Salt, 2009) and Sharp Hills (Indigo Dreams, 2019). Her pamphlets are A Path of Rice (Dagger Press, 1997), Pilot (Dagger Press, 2001) and Professor Heger’s Daughter (Paekakriki Press, 2013).

Of her five children’s poetry collections three were Choices for the Poetry Book Society Children’s Poetry Bookshelf and two were shortlisted for the CLiPPA Poetry Award. Her new and collected children’s poems Stars in Jars (Bloomsbury, 2014) is a Scottish Poetry Library Recommendation. In 2014 she was a finalist in the first Manchester Children’s Literature Prize with a portfolio of new poems. She appeared on BBC Countryfile with her fifth children’s poetry collection Adder, Bluebell, Lobster (Otter-Barry Books, 2016) which was also longlisted for the North Somerset Teachers’ Book Award.

Chrissie’s four plays broadcast on BBC R4 starred Patricia Routledge, Jan Ravens and Bernard Cribbins. Her second short story collection Between Here and Knitwear (Unthank Books) was shortlisted for the Saboteur Awards. Helen Dunmore chose it as one of her top two collections of 2015.

Chrissie has received two Arts Council Grants for the Arts and an Authors’ Foundation Award. She is represented in the British Council Writers’ Directory and is a Hawthornden Fellow. She also features on the Poetry Archive and is a National Poetry Day Ambassador.


The Interview

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

My mother gave me a love of language and story. She was a great raconteur and would spin stories over school holiday dinner times from a whisp of memory. We weren’t a bookish household so I haunted my local library. My memory of poetry at primary school is reading John Keats’ ‘Meg Merrilies’. At secondary school we would be set poem-writing homework. Our wonderful English teacher – Mrs Marshall – read out to the class any poems we’d written which she liked. It was a very proud moment if she read your poem. The school magazine published poems so that was also an incentive. It’s where my first published poem appeared.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

My English teachers at school. We would spend a whole lesson dismantling a poem then putting it back together. I began to appreciate that those small blocks of text could be packed with intensity, wonder and surprise.

3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?

The First World War poets and Gerald Manley Hopkins made an early, but not a dominating, impression. I studied English Literature as part of my degree but it was only after I’d completed a second first degree in Fine Art that I began to take writing seriously. I sought out courses with writers I admire at City Lit and with the Arvon Foundation, with tutors such as Carol Ann Duffy, Kit Wright, Alison Fell, Philip Gross and Liz Lochhead. So they were a supportive presence.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

On home-based days I work in the morning, whether it’s first drafts, editing or research. This often stretches into afternoons.

5. What motivates you to write?
A word or a phrase or an idea which won’t go away, a desire to shape my experience of the world into words.

6. What is your work ethic?

Pretty strong. I’ve been freelance for over 20 years.

7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?

They can reverberate through my writing. I have a poem in my recent collection – ‘Loquats for the South Circular’ – which echoes Tony Harrison’s ‘A Kumquat for John Keats’, which in turn replies to Keats’ ‘Ode to Melancholy’. For my children’s poetry I still look to Spike Milligan, Charles Causley, Ted Hughes and Christina Rossetti.

8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?

I recently read Jane Clarke’s collection ‘When the Tree Falls’ which I liked very much and is full of compassion, delicacy, dignity and grace. I’m also very fond of Sinead Morrissey’s poems with their formal ingenuity and taut imagery. Also Paul Durcan for his robust storytelling and hilarity, Moniza Alvi for her tenderness and surrealism, and Jean Atkin for her ability to walk us vividly through historic and contemporary landscapes. As I write poetry for children as well as adults I’m also interested in poets who do the same.

9. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”

I’d say read as much as you can – poetry, fiction, non-fiction, newspapers – you never know where your next idea will come from. Go to museums, see plays and films – oil your creative joints. I find notebooks useful. It takes time to find your voice and to hone your craft, be prepared for the long haul.

11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.

I’m promoting my latest adult collection ‘Sharp Hills’, putting together a children’s poetry collection, and writing more poems and short stories.

Hate Has No Restricted Zone – A Sonnet, Video & Statement by Kristin Garth with a drawing by Cathy Daley

IceFloe Press

Hate Has No Restricted Zone

Coffeeshop in which you write is across
the street from where, so many nights, five years
you unbutton a white Oxford and toss
it on a backlit stage. Five years of cheers
escaping father’s rage necessitates
you enter through a parking lot that hurts

post twenty years of pleated skirts. Law states
strip clubs cannot open where there’s a church.
Converse is not true, so these Christians rent

a building to scream at you, “Burn in hell.
Whore. Jezebel.” Epithets your parents

used for a body they abused you sell

to lock it safe inside a home your own.
Hate in this town has no restricted zone.


I had a poem brewing in my brain that dealt with geography as an aggressive state.  When I was stripping, which I did at first to escape abuse, a church rented the property across the street from…

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The Wombwell Rainbow Book Interviews: Kate Garrett’s “To Feed My Woodland Bones [ A Changeling’s Tale ]

Kate Garrett To Feed My Woodland Bones

Kate Garrett

is a writer, editor, mama, sometime drummer, and folklore obsessive who often haunts 465-year-old houses (as a history and heritage volunteer). Her work is widely published online and in print, and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, four times for Best of the Net, and longlisted for a Saboteur Award. She has also performed at events and festivals around the UK since 2011. She is the author of several pamphlets, most recently To Feed My Woodland Bones (Animal Heart Press, 2019), and her first full-length collection The saint of milk and flames was published in 2019 by Rhythm & Bones Press. Her next pamphlet, A View from the Phantasmagoria, will be published by Rhythm & Bones Press in October 2020. Born and raised in rural southern Ohio, Kate moved to England in 1999, where she still lives halfway up a hillside in Sheffield. kategarrettwrites.co.uk

Link to her 2018 interview with The Wombwell Rainbow:


The Interview

1. How did you come upon the marvellous idea of portraying otherness through elfness?

The first poem I wrote in this sequence was ‘Changeling’ – it came to me years before the others, in about 2012, when I was still working on my BA in creative writing at Sheffield Hallam. I’d been thinking a lot about my childhood for various reasons, and I’d felt like a changeling for a long time by then. People have always said ‘you look like an elf/faery/pixie/etc’ to me and this idea of being switched at birth with an otherworldly creature and being rejected by the human parents really resonated with me for all sorts of reasons: surviving a troubled childhood, being autistic, being queer. In 2018 I wrote ‘An elf in awe of her human lover’ which is a love poem to my husband for accepting everything about me, all of the otherness, inside and out. Then I just ran with the idea of exploring largely unexplored parts of my life through a story of a changeling growing up and slowly becoming more human

1.1. And becoming more human you ask indirectly what makes us human?

Yes, I suppose that’s true. And I think being neurodivergent and an abuse survivor with c-ptsd makes a person think even more about what it means to be human – because people with these kinds of conditions are forever trying to make it all work with our neurological differences and/or our heightened anxieties. There are a lot of things that qualify as human, and it’s certainly not just social niceties and fitting in, but things like love, joy, grief, wonder, anger – all the experiences and emotions that make up our lives. Those are all the important bits, and the changeling discovers these things are what matter the most in her own life.

1.2. Accepting her elfness too? You seem to be saying otherness is always magical.

She’s definitely accepting of herself as she is – the elf side as well as the human side. She finds a way to successfully be both, and she’s much more content with that synthesis. And no, I don’t really think of otherness as being particularly magical, as in, a superpower or something – it’s just different. I think the world of faeries or elves would be something we don’t quite understand, and to us the legends and lore about these beings all certainly seem magical, but to them it would all be very mundane, wouldn’t it? I think it’s about the perspective on what is ‘average’ or ‘normal’ or ‘standard’ – it’s a sliding scale!

2. A stranger in a strange land that gradually becomes familiar. Motherhood is also explored delicately, as seeing children as different from their parents. Growing up as the difference between parent and child becoming more pronounced.

That’s definitely part of it. Throughout my own childhood I was often not treated as an individual, a person with my own thoughts and feelings. As a mother, I have always encouraged my kids to be themselves, think for themselves, have their own interests… it seems to be working out fine. The changeling in the poems becomes a better mother through understanding how difficult it was to be someone’s child.

3. Also hints the idea of an immigrant or refugee finding a home in a foreign land.

That’s also definitely me! I was born in Ohio but moved to the UK at 19, and have been here ever since – over 20 years now. But strangely enough that didn’t really occur to me when I was writing this book. I wish I could say it had, because that also makes sense in some ways – but the cultural change between Ohio and England felt natural and right, where all the other adjusting I’ve done in my life has been more difficult.

4. Your poems don’t rhyme.

Well, they don’t rhyme on the ends of lines (and some are prose poems that don’t have typical “lines” at all)… they do rhyme internally, however, or else they have sound patterns running through them, like half rhymes or alliteration. Sound is a very important aspect of poetry for me, I work with it very deliberately.

4.1. Like a sound sculpture?

That’s a great way of putting it – especially since my writing process usually involves carving something decent out of the initial formless splodge of ideas and words…

5. The title is “To Feed My Woodland Bones”, but you live in a city. Is this a tale of a move from woodland to an urbanised environment?

Well, I live in a city with a lot of trees, but all the same, I haven’t always lived in a city – and certainly didn’t when the events in the poem ‘An elf turns inside out for the dragon’ (where the title line is found) transpired. I grew up in a rural area, and the more pleasant memories from my childhood involve trees and woods – you couldn’t keep me away from them! The title is less about a move from one place to another, and more about a certain type of place being part of who I am (down to my bones, you could say), and that’s true wherever I am.

6. A psychological place.

Sort of. I did mean a type of physical environment – in this case specifically the woodlands, forests, trees, wherever they might be (the British ones of my adult life or the American ones of my childhood) have helped make me who I am. Other natural settings have too – bodies of water, mostly, which comes up in this book and other things I’ve written. But most of us have deep relationships with the landscapes in our lives whether we are aware of it or not, so I guess that translates as psychological, too. And what it represents would depend on the type of environment and what it means to us.

7. Repetition of lines is used to great effect especially in the really positive final poem “Pixie-led”, the line “in the bottom of the glass” as if you are writing poems as spells.

Thank you – ‘Pixie-led’ was definitely supposed to be spell-like, disorienting, and enchanting, because to be ‘pixie led’ is to lose your way on the moors (this legend originates specifically from Dartmoor in the southwest of England, I believe) and of course that’s meant to be confusion caused by faery folk. The last poem is inspired by getting engaged to my now-husband, so again the changeling is disoriented and enchanted by the human – I invert the lore a lot in this way throughout the sequence. And as for poetry as a spell, I do think as an art form it is working a practical sort of magic, whoever the poet is – we have to pull images seemingly out of the air, get the ideas and feelings across in just-so ways. Art is magic and vice versa.

walk sedately through the forest, a poem … and your next Wednesday Writing Prompt

Jamie Dedes' THE POET BY DAY Webzine

Courtesy of David Everett Strickler, Unsplash

“The sequoias belong to the silences of the milleniums. Many of them have seen a hundred human generations rise, give off their little clamors and perish. They seem indeed to be forms of immortality standing here among the transitory shapes of time.”  American poet Edwin Markham (1852-1940)

walk sedately through the forest, ignore any storms and praise
these grave dignified giants, these meditative trees, such bliss
to walk their deep rich earth where sun stands sentry by day
and by night the moon, the stars gift their brightest smiles here
if not their warmth, sequoiadendron giganteum grow wise and vigilant
on their circles of history, the primeval years, the years of conflict
the matristic tribes, the patriarchal colonizers, the activists today

© 2020, Jamie Dedes


Nature is always watching, always baring witness to the human compulsion. Perhaps at times it reflects…

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Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: V. B. Borjen

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.

The usual ground is covered about motivation, daily routines and work ethic, but some surprises too. Some of these poets you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.

V. B. Borjen

is an author and visual artist currently based in the Czech Republic. His first poetry collection in Bosnian, Priručnik za levitiranje (en. Levitation manual), won the 2012 Mak Dizdar Award for the best first manuscript by a young poet. His work in English and his recent visual art have appeared in AZURE, Hypothetical: A Review of Everything Imaginable, The Esthetic Apostle, Not Your Mother’s Breast Milk, Chaleur Magazine and Honey & Lime.

Twitter: @Borjen

Instagram: samoniklo

The Interview

1. What inspired you  to write poetry?

It goes a long way back, but I am not sure I would call it inspiration. I was eleven and I suddenly started writing poems. I have a vague memory of finding my father’s poem ‘Melancholy’ in one of the cabinets (he had perished some seven years before, during the Bosnian War). Perhaps that was what made me think I could write too? I don’t think he was ever serious about it though, I mean as I am.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

Beyond that memory, I don’t remember poetry having much importance in my nearest surroundings in those early days. Nobody at home encouraged me to write, or discouraged me for that matter. My interests have always been many and quite various, so it must have been hard to see any one activity as worthwhile some significant engagement from my mother’s side. But as far as encouragement outside of home is concerned, I had a great teacher of Bosnian in the 5th grade of primary school, Murisa Jukan, and she would always end her lessons by saying: OK, and now Beganović will read us one of his poems. What she saw in those ridiculous little things, I cannot say. But it was the first encouragement from a person of some literary authority. So I kept at it.

3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?

Not at all for many years. I guess the first serious brush with other people’s poetry was in the secondary school and then later at university. Was there “anxiety of influence”, to quote Harold Bloom? I don’t think so. Early twenties are characterised by a strange, oblivious sense of unwarranted entitlement. This is not unusual, but as one gets to late twenties/early thirties one realises how strong a sway the past and tradition hold over us after all. It’s a humbling experience.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I used to get up really early, at five or so, and write till 7 or 8. Now with the full-time job, the part-time jobs and the PhD dissertation pending, it is a bit hard to keep to a strict writing routine. But I am trying to get back to this regime. I’m at my best very early in the day. But I write whenever I can find the time.

5. What motivates you to write?

With me it’s a need. Kafka said it well: “A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity.”

6. What is your work ethic?

Work is one of the most rewarding things, both for my physical and mental well-being. But it has to be meaningful. Like reading, writing, or painting. The corporate job is rather numbing and draining because I see no purpose in it, other than that it pays the bills. Could I transplant Dr Angelou’s title here and say I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings? I must.

7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?

The books I read in my childhood and all the books I’ve loved since are very much alive inside me. They are like a protective circle of good friends. I do not find them threatening, I do not think I’ve outgrown any of them. I’ve learned to appreciate that all the books have their greatest meaning in their own time, which comes for each of us individually. It would be ideal if they could come to us always exactly when we need them, but even if I read Winnie the Pooh or Moominvalley in November only now when I am 33 it does not matter; they speak to the child in me and so are timeless.

8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?

From among the writers, I need Dubravka Ugrešić (for the beauty of her prose and the timely calibration of my moral compass), the late Toni Morrison and Ursula K. Le Guin for the same, then Jeanette Winterson, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Zadie Smith…

As far as the poets are concerned, I love the work of Heather Derr Smith, Ferida Duraković, Julia Beach, Senka Marić, Anita Pajević, Todd Smith, Monika Herceg, Šima Majić, Mathew Yates, Lee Potts, Moira J. Saucer, Lidija Deduš, Kyla Houbolt… This is such an exciting time for poetry. The digital age has reinvigorated it.

9. Why do you write, as opposed to doing anything else?

To share the experience of being alive and out of the need to understand, everything and anything, or at least to try to. All writing is, among other things, an attempt at understanding.

10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”

If they must ask that, I would tell them: don’t bother. People write for different reasons, but I do not think this is a kind of work that should be done lightly, or because it seems cool. I mean, everyone is welcome to do it, but if one cares deeply about literature, one has also this sense of responsibility. If one is supposed to be the continuation of the great voices of the past then think of the responsibility. I would not want to publish something now that 10 years on I would be ashamed of.

11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.

I am currently working on a poetry collection in English. My first collection in Bosnian, Priručnik za levitiranje (2013, en. Levitation Manual) won the Mak Dizdar, an important award in the region of former Yugoslavia. The second collection in Bosnian, Odjezd (roughly, Riding Out) is still waiting for a publisher. So this English collection is my third. I have another project going on, a hybrid of prose and poetry which could be published as a chapbook once it’s done. Meanwhile, I keep submitting, as most of us do, and talking literature and sharing my paintings with our inspiring literary community on Twitter. It’s a great time to be a poet.

Cabo da Roca, Portugal – Poem, Image & A Reading by V. B. Borjen

IceFloe Press

Cabo da Roca, Portugal

The end of one continent
is the end of them all.
Europe ends with Carpobrotus edulis,
an invasive species
which steals the ground, the sunlight and the air
from all the other species
— fitting, won’t you say?

Yellow-green, radiant against the white-blue
and the dabs of brown, red and black
— in the end, too, was a word
and the word was — colour.
(Europeans know an awful lot about that.)

‘Sit on a train and go to the end of the world,’
my friend Edina said.
But what does a poet write
and send from this here cape
to his friend or mother?

There is beauty here, even Carpobrotus edulis hurls
a most saturated hue
against the blue of the ocean.
Nature has no part in the blame
for what great waters

some of its species crossed
covering other grounds
stealing the air…

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