About Ben

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So far Ben has created 9 blog entries.



What can I tell my son to help him sleep?
The narratives of grief are still unripe:
a song of hammers in the pale dark.
I could tell him how the pine trees work to bear
their cones, to write the book of their ancestors
among sharp needles: the strange-looking fists

and fistulas that the slow green sap feeds.
I could tell him the shade is saner than the light,
despite what they tell us about ‘gloom’.
The darkness is more honest. It listens harder, too.
He knows that, he feels that, in August’s airless room
when all the world is changed by dulled

night-vision and the sparkling in his owl-ears.
I could tell him that the nascent cones break
out in the pine limbs as though sorrow
could take on form. Or is it only that I see
grief everywhere? I open the window.
Outside, the parched trees creak with the weight

of stories that are slowly losing sense.
How to be a tree without rain?
How to climb a mountain if a mountain isn’t there?
He can’t sleep until the story ends, he says.
Outside, the hammer keeps pounding the nail.
But what are we building, if it’s not a future?

I can’t tell him what I see with my eyes closed –
the many mouths pushing up against
a dry earth, as though they were fish at the edge
of a pond, and they cannot breathe.
What they say, I can’t hear, relentlessly –
the membrane between us will not yield.

My son asks if it’s a door banging in the wind.
He says he sees a figure standing by his bed.
I could tell him we live in a porous world
and that the door is never closed.
But we still must sleep, I say. I know you’re afraid.
What ripens the cone if it is not hope?

Jemma Borg trained as an evolutionary geneticist. Her first collection, ‘The illuminated world’, was published by Eyewear in 2014 and won the inaugural Fledgling Award. She won the Rialto/RSPB Nature and Place Competition in 2017.




Pepsi – it was the brand he grew
up with – the sweet memory of it,
the familiar tang of aluminium.
Each night cradled in a cot of cans,
suckled on bottles, sleeping on a
seabed scattered with plastic toys,
tops spinning on the floor. Every
one of them Pepsi. He dressed up
in armour – it became a habit
(with a Pepsi logo) – hung out with
a pile of drifters, washed up types
who didn’t even look fine on the
surface. They all drank Pepsi. He
got a tattoo – festooned in red and
blue, he became a brand
ambassador – the extravagant
fandangle spangled on a hand. But
he threw it all away. Bottled it.
Abandoned, he washed up on a
beach – that’s where I found him.
Junked, with only a Pepsi filigree.
Even his mother sent him

Julian Bishop is a former television journalist living in North London who won this year’s Lamb Festival Poetry Prize and had a poem accepted by the Museum of London for its Fatberg exhibition. He attends poetry classes at the City Lit Institute and is a member of several Stanza groups.




Bluefin; barrel of salt; a barb
hooked to its gape; mouthful

of krill swilled between cheeks,
pooled on the tongue; last feed.

Last of its shoal, which once
blitzed through tides; a force

of tanks, in their element,
each armoured with a skirt

of yellow darts; fins, drawn
to a point like arrowheads.

Silver keg, punctured, drained;
shy organs hauled from flesh,

swollen and scored, the rings
of a fingerprint. Then sea,

the colour of tin; then sky.
Then the whole world tin.

Ella Duffy is a London-based poet. Publications include Pan MacMillan’s Off the Shelf: A Celebration of Bookshops in Verse and the forthcoming issues of The Rialto and The Poetry Salzburg Review. She is currently studying for an MA in Creative & Life Writing at Goldsmiths, University of London.


Species Interactions for Tanvi


In AP Environmental Science, my best friend speaks
about sky & age & forests. Shows me a photograph on
her computer of a bird she chased for an hour before
finally getting close enough to touch or shoot or love.
Look, the photo’s too blurry, she tells me, points out the fuzz
around the edges of the bird’s wings. I think it’s beautiful,
I say, & she tells me to shut up, & this is our love language,
this is our ecosystem dreaming into being. Today we’re
learning about solid waste & it’s so easy to lose myself in
hopeless, hearing about trash compactors & landfill seepage
& all these methods of coming closer to the end, but the
teacher passes around a wallet made of Capri-Sun wrappers,
tells us how green taxes are becoming more effective & that
our school just installed new solar panels on the roof, &
everything feels a little quieter. We watch a documentary
about air pollution. My friend fusses over her photograph
& I want to say shh, I want to say it’s perfect, but instead I
crumple up the empty soda can on my desk, throw it into
the recycling bin & not the trash. Outside the window
it’s monsoon season. The sky relearns the language of
eutrophication. The rain sings over everything, divides us
into individual parts. The birds sleep like saints, soundless
& infinite, like they trust the storm will pass soon,
like they don’t realise how it has only just begun.

Topaz Winters was born in 1999, studies literature and film at Princeton University, and serves as the creative director at Half Mystic Press. She resides in Singapore and at topazwinters.com.

Species Interactions for Tanvi2019-04-30T16:44:20+01:00

wild causalities


if our thoughts are no more us than water is

if words have weight and weightlessness at once

if deep time stretches forward as well as back
and the names of future ages are already known

if stopping to look at a birch leaf in the rain,
and then keep looking, is a political act

if the cobweb woven in the wind
between clumps of heather
thrumming with minute sonorities
is an extension of the spider’s mind

if deer are to mountain as waves are to sea

if we’re stalked by the land as a robin by a cat,
as the mantis stalks the moth on the flower head

then our souls would be forest
with earth of roots and worms, wood ants,
mycelia, the filaments and cilia
of an unmeasurable whole

then in libraries there would be bats to stitch
the dark together with the dark

then stocks and buddleia would slowly
tease apart our walls
until the stones returned to earth
and earth was once again compacted into stone

then gardening would be dissidence

then we’d walk the echoing rooms
of our imaginations
feeling for bark and moss

then every microbe in the gut and in the grave
would be precious

then the tiny, patient hammers of the world
would ring out in us, through us, all around

Garry MacKenzie is the author of Scotland: A Literary Guide for Travellers, and has won the Wigtown Poetry Competition and a Scottish New Writer Award. Find him online at garrymackenzie.com.

wild causalities2019-04-30T16:44:47+01:00

An Argument with the Town Clerk


My allotment has offended the town clerk.
He sees what I cannot see.

Here is a carpet frayed, against a broken fence and
here are blackberries, blackened, frosted, unpicked
and hanging stiffly, little beautiful deaths.

He says, rats live under the carpet, and I say, no, there are no rats,
only a slow worm there since last March, and I lift the corner
of the carpet to show him the pewter spiral, slow in this cold air
but he spins away, unwilling to see the marvellous snake
I have magicked up, the rat-eater.

He finds the apple tree too high, the grass too long;
the edges of my paths offend him, they are wobbly, indistinct.

So I tell him about the juice of the apples, how
they are an unknown late variety, how they hang in the tree
till November, how the flesh is very dry and white
the skin turning to a buttery paleness like the sun,
flecked with pink and gold
and the juice is a sweet froth on my lips.

He says, I hate these allotments.
The noise of the road never ends.

I see the sound of his words sinking
into the black earth, the long black mounds,
the soft rows of beds. I want to say come, lie down
here in this soft bed and I will cover you
with the yellow leaves from the plum,
red leaves from the vine; you will smell the strawberries,
you will see how blue the sky can be.

I can no longer hear him, I can no longer
make out what it is he wants me to do.
I gather the last fruit into a pile, one marrow split with waiting,
dark kale, bright parsley, ripe beans,
and it’s then I see the bee, dozy,
falling out of a dying mallow and I think I’ll tell him
about the bees, how they are lost because
we have taken away their safe passage
between one place and the next.

Sally St Clair is a writer, biographical counsellor, mother to three and grandmother to two. Her work has been published in Stand, Panurge and Wasafiri, among others.

An Argument with the Town Clerk2019-04-30T16:46:03+01:00

Night Shifts in the Nature Factory


We make birds here. Crows, ducks, owls,
gulls: feathers glued to papier mâché wings,
legs fashioned with matchsticks. We carve
seeds from plastic, beat metal until it turns
to trees. We cast fossils. We tint skies with
water-colour and stoke the smoke of clouds.
We add salt to vats of sea, and stir. We forge
rats, foxes, cows, wolves, worms – winding
the cogs of their mechanisms tightly, for luck.
We bake summers in a kiln and chill winters
inside a walk-in fridge. We can synthesise
night with the flick of a switch. Close your
eyes, spread out your hands like stars:
and look, we have hammered you a moon.

Sarah Doyle is co-author of Dreaming Spheres (PS Publishing, 2014), and is the Pre-Raphaelite Society’s Poet-in-Residence. She holds a Creative Writing MA from UL Royal Holloway, has been widely placed and published, and was highly commended in the Best Single Poem category of the Forward Prizes for Poetry 2018.

Night Shifts in the Nature Factory2019-04-30T17:14:50+01:00

The Blackbird’s Egg


He reached in and with an abracadabra
brought out the egg. Cushioned in his palm
it looked so fragile that a whisper
might shatter it. The sprinkling of gold
on the turquoise shell turned it into treasure.

I didn’t know then that it was a crime
but how could taking something so precious
be right? Breaking off a hawthorn twig
he poked a hole at either end, blew out
a clear yolk with a ribbon of scarlet.

Forty years on, in this small paved space,
the best I could do for a garden round here,
I can still feel the stickiness of the shell
as I look at holes I’ve sheared in the privet
hoping that something might come and nest here.

Andrew Forster has published three collections of poetry, most recently Homecoming (Smith Doorstop 2014). He is currently completing a PhD in Poetry and Environmentalism at Manchester Metropolitan University.

The Blackbird’s Egg2019-04-30T16:48:55+01:00

The tall, gaping mouth of the redwood


is burnt-edged with tar
where the drooling sap was cooked in the forest fire
and yet the sequoia still lives, the fire
animating the tree’s seeds – there, at its roots,
the miniature giants begin un-
winding their three thousand years –
and the fire has split the tree’s base with this
dark vertical tear
in the seemingly impossible
girth, in the russet-red, roped wood
and there is a secret rekindling
of ants and wood-beetles
in its dark auditorium full
of within-earth sounds, the agendas of insects
and a merriment of carcasses remade –
the forest’s logic rewriting the living floor
with spores and saplings,
even within the sequoia’s aromatic, hollow trunk
that still sucks up
the deep groundwater (as the snows melt early now)
into its head of green clouds – above, rising,
the redwood-empire of overseeing
that, unseen, is thinning out
and this old mammoth, this red-vowel sequoia
among the congregation
with a black word in its mouth,
which might be thirst – the dry word of it, full of needles,
that fire loves
and that we are still learning

Jemma Borg trained as an evolutionary geneticist. Her first collection, The illuminated world, was published by Eyewear in 2014 and won the inaugural Fledgling Award. She won the Rialto/RSPB Nature and Place Competition in 2017.

The tall, gaping mouth of the redwood2019-04-30T16:49:29+01:00