Winter Solstice Anthology

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The Shortest Day
by Jean Atkin

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Winter Solstice
by Mandy Macdonald

the year fades to black
dying sun’s bloodied fingers
stripe the forest floor
siskin & sacred wren are silent
a thin wind slices
chill between flinching birches
the traveller walks faster


Lunar Eclipse, 2010
by Mandy Macdonald

That year
the moon’s eclipse came
just at the winter solstice:
fleeing the dawn
blushing it became
its own beautiful shadow

Ages back, they’d have
gazed at this stately heaven-sarabande
with holy dread, danced themselves
a frozen mirror,

danced away the strange

You and i, though,
spectated on a garden seat

absurdly, among snow
with downies and a thermos


Winter Solstice at Newgrange
by Ruthie Starling

Frozen waterflow channelled

on stones hauled from riverbed.

Land raised to brow the skyline,
curled as ammonite dragon
around this hilltop
at the bend of the Boyne.

Wake us, goddess, incise us with wise wounds.
The shrill singing birds of Aengus
describe wondering circles of eternity
around these newly-brightening island skies.

We crawl through the wait of darkness
to the chamber of rebirth
a weight of quartz
hand spanned to measure timeless time
stilled
hold breath holdbreath
stay breathing
till her scalpel of sunshaft
slices through trepanned roof-light.

Midwinter solstice
delivers icebright insight
sharp as the break of womb
enlightens the rebirth of souls, lives and lands.


Arctic Solstice
by Susan Castillo

My ribs glitter.
My skull glows blue.
My limbs transparent
as cold penetrates my marrow.

White moon rising over pines
in soft indigo sky. Down by the lake,
wolves howl. Their keening
makes me shiver, whips me around

to face the dark full on,
stripped down, bare.
But then a flash of bright:

the hinge of Solstice swings,
opens forward, brings us back
newborns blinking toward the light.


The Shortest Day
by Carole Bromley

3.50 and already I’m closing out
the dark and the huge snow-flakes
that fall like ripped-up paper
on the parked cars, the rockery,
Mrs Next Door’s red umbrella.
Two children pass with a sledge-
soundless and yet I can hear
the squeak of boots on packed snow.
Their dog, crazier than ever,
runs in circles barking at
the suddenness of it.
The half-closed curtain is rough
and warm to my touch. All colour
has gone in this darkened room;
the world has shrunk to a full moon,
snow under a street lamp,
that red umbrella. Years ago
we walked up a snowy hill
to a white front door and closed it
softly behind us. The room was cold
and the blue vase of narcissi
and the books and a little gold
Christmas tree watched us.

First published in A Guided Tour of the Ice House (Smith/Doorstop 2012)


Winter Solstice
by Geraldine Ward

Winter willow.
Solstice, skimming

like water fowl
on wet limp grass.

The bus stops.
Doors buzz closed.

Cerebral chatter
despite the brain chill.

Flakes of true temperate talk.
Glimmering through the window,

the winter solstice willow.
Bus announces Farnborough Park.

Old boy’s apology, he squeezes by.
A parent with child speaks of accident,

where child chucks hot chocolate all over her.
Festive cheer all the way here, fun, frolics.

Winter solstice, willow weeping.
Wide awake on the shortest day.


Snow Fox
by Geraldine Ward

Your snowdrop face, like a wet kiss
on the roadside where you hurtled

to your death. Dear snow fox,
you were not even born

arctic. Town beast.
Ice creamed with shock.

You might as well have been
a legend, but, alas!

Lost loves, cast aside
now and forever,

Solstice sacrifice.


Just Let Me Sleep
by Steve Harrison

On dark days like these, just let me sleep.
Duveyed under down or leaves and country counterpanes.
Don’t be fooled by confused buds or mistimed flowers
..seduced by heat and diverted streams.
..Observe the lack of light.
Leave a notelet written in frost on the wicker door
…………‘Knocker up not needed.’
Don’t let me uncurl, stretch and yawn
leave me one of three bears
..wrapped by Green Man and Osiris.
Don’t open shutters mid-way, leave blinds half-mast,
gently pull away the straw
…………from the nest wherever I’ve hidden.

If false seasons trigger the Springed Alarm
handle me with garden gauntlets
keep spares in the glove box and boot in case I wander
…………disorientated after sleeping, unused to early mornings.
…………Don’t fence me in, I’ll need to follow the lanes and hedgerows.
Leave those hobo Huckleberry holes in fences.
While Atlantic Weather Fronts line up
dead Ash trees scaffolded with Severn Cormorants
…………and landing lights are needed in the morning,
On dark days like this
…………just let me sleep.

 First published in the Three Drops from a Cauldron Mid-Winter  Solstice Anthology.


This Winter
by Mark Connors

Although the day seems like any other
made up of the same old diurnal shit:
a cabinet minister gets the old heave-ho,
a car ploughs into commuters in Melbourne,
days will get no shorter than this;
there’ll be a little more light – there always is,
despite terror, governments, Brexit.

Although they’re not around to confirm,
I think my mum and dad got married
sixty years ago today. It wasn’t planned –
they had no time for The Winter Solstice
but on the day I finally leave the family home
to start a new life somewhere else
and stop smoking for the thousandth time,
it just seems oddly fitting.

January is always a challenge
for those who choose not to hibernate.
It’s lighter but darker no matter what anyone says
And there’s the long haul to the next payday.
But once February is put to bed,
the year will seem less daunting.
For now, the sun will burn out early
but tonight will last forever..


Edges
by Cath Campbell

Fog-minded, hidden at back of day on day,
common chores, or eight hour concentrations,
where beautiful fades behind industrial walls,
you don’t think to question what or why,

but on dead mole paths, sharp fox’s snap,
made-ways forged uneven and tripwired,
where thorny root traps uncertain feet,
or nettles, high as sixteen hands, threaten,

on those edges, on the clean wild borders,
where winter solstice stag roars loch Leven
half-glimpsed truths be fresh remembered.


Solstice 
by Ruth Aylett

Diesel freezes in the buses,
compacted ice lays its shabby grey hide
across slippy pavements
blotched yellow with dog piss,
orange-patched with sand.

To stay upright you need boots with spikes,
A&E is full of broken wrists,
the power browns-out as dusk falls.
Indoors, forever mopping,
the whole world is one dirty floor.

At last the rains come
with a sound like tomorrow,
melt all our stoic
resistance into the pain
of hoping for better.

First published with The Writers’ Cafe Magazine ISSUE 4 “Ice and Snow


Solstice 2017
by Peter Clive

We collected our ancestors remains from the cairn.
Bundles of bones were wrapped with reverential hush,
and conveyed with all due ceremony
and we gathered at the standing stones
to watch the dwindling of days.

The sunrise came later, the sunset earlier than before,
and the gap between them grew more narrow
as the sagging arc traced by the limpening sun
sank further past the darkening world’s edge
and we wondered: will the light continue to wane
until we are deprived of it entirely?

Will the pattern our ancestors saw
reliably enough to raise these stones
as a record of the seasons of their days
save us and restore the light? If not,
how can we begin to repair the heavens?
Should we adjust stones that have stood
for one hundred generations,
to avert the end of days?

Having received no promise that we could understand,
we rejoiced with no sense of hope or redemption
when some celestial mystery delivered the sun
a little earlier one morning than the day before.
We saw sunrise retreat from the extreme on the skyline,
the mark on the world’s rim it reached every year
among the silhouette of the trees’ cold bare scaffold
of the next year’s seasons,
just as we had prayed for, and come to expect.

We still feared one day it would not find its way
back to us from the depths of winter.
The darkness remained, as a threat,
a prototype of evil, arbitrary, evasive, unpredictable,
prowling around the sparse plots of light
our campfires placed within the deeper night,
destructive and inscrutable, unamenable to any bargain,
consuming worlds not out of hunger,
but out of boredom and caprice
in an age before the invention of the devil to take the blame.
Nothing happened for any reason
of the kind we subsequently came to understand.

The palpitation of the seasons was ensnared at last.
Within the shaman’s feverish delirium.
At the back of the cave, from his trance,
the first truths were received,
truths we could hold and share and use
to attenuate and curtail the terror of the dark.
Insights extracted from his ravings, narratives,
teased like thread from the simultaneous experience
tangled up in his hypoxic convulsions in the sacred smoke
became our campfire tales. Zodiacal heroes
endowed with superhuman strength, bearing divine gifts,
prevailed in elaborate contests set by whimsical gods,
won victories over champion monstrosities
whelped in a cave by the mother of monsters,
and so we began to feel reassured,
and slept the first human sleep,
enjoying, at last, the depths of slumber unknown to any animal
still nervous and tormented by the constant threat
which we had now eluded and begun to forget.

Within the safety afforded to the precincts of our dreams
we built shining cities, cascades of glass, tumbling down,
hurtling through the sparkling cataracts of empire,
falling over the precipice of history, and rising again
behind the hooves of each departing barbarian horde,

and in the glistening procession of millennia
some among us, at last, discerned the workings of the world.
Truth swung so low in her orbit
her necklace of planets hung within the astronomer’s grasp,
and observations were plucked and strung like pearls
along the logical sinews of their lines of reasoning.
Musicians sought solitude in the forest.
They found that truth strayed so tame across the forest tracks,
lingered so long within earshot
without being startled by their presence
that her song was overheard and learned by heart.

The dark, at last, was shrunk to fit the sleeve of science.
Our fear of it softened to a surly scowl
glimpsed between the pillars of light
within which it was confined.

But the dark was not defeated.
Within our marrow, the memory of that fear lingered,
and now a different kind of solstice comes.

The fulfillment of expectation has grown so tedious
that any other sequence of events is inconceivable,
but the light continues to spiral down night’s dark drain
past the level from which we are accustomed to see it rise again.
Generations of certainty suddenly seem naive and idealistic.
The natural order is suspended. The solstice swells and swirls
and becomes an irresistible pole to which we are pulled
to be devoured by the world’s strident new solipsisms.

Our ancestors remains are scattered. We revere instead
those who are briefly notorious and quickly forgotten.
Indolence becomes our tutor and scorn his lesson.
“Darkness is good,” advisers tell the powerful.
Their project is to stall the solstice. The point
around which the year is slung back out of shadow,
the celestial citadel where the year is rescued,
where the drama of the seasons is performed,
is captured. The sun is taken hostage. Darkness reigns.
Time becomes indefinite, adrift. The solstice continues
well past any familiar reckoning. Darkness persists.
Long forgotten fears stiffen us again with sudden paralysis
in the extended contemporary solstice of the mind.

Accuracy is irrelevant. Tribe matters.
Information is discarded or disregarded.
The confirmation of any conspiracy is preferred,
and if you can claim to have seen through it long ago
your reward is a place around the totems that have replaced truth.
We no longer rely on such effete, decadent contrivances as reason.
We grow strong in the dark, unseen. We do not need to be consistent.
We do not find fascination in truth, only in darkness.
Alliances are temporary expedients rather than alignments of ideas.
Allies are discarded as soon as they cease to be useful.
Statements resemble rather than convey knowledge.
We use them as a way of belonging rather than knowing.
We do not need to describe the world, only our place in it,
with Shibboleths, passwords, noises like the call of an animal.
Conspiracy replaces truth as a totem we can gather round,
and if this is the only purpose our words serve
they are truth-proof, for they lose none of their force
no matter how often they are contradicted.
We distill the world into competing visions,
and discard the evidence for any of them,
and this is how we will be redeemed.

Now we gather around our own isolated campfires,
warming our hands against the books burning,
telling tales of how the sun was just a trick,
a ploy our enemies used to enslave us long ago,
and how the darkness has set us free,
and will endure for a thousand years
or whatever the highest number is
that anyone can still count to
before being cast out as one of those despised experts
while our enemies sit around their own fires
telling the same tale. Huddled around fires
we whisper rumours of distant wars,
unimaginable evils stacked up
and propped against each other
on the endless shelves of imagined history
where we condemn each other,
until our accusations embrace
like exhausted boxers,
while in the dark,
beyond the light of the campfire,
beyond the flickering familiarities
to which we cling in its unreliable light,
the solstice prowls in the dark once more,
its sable pelt velvet and invisible,
unknowable,
waiting to consume us.


The Shortest Day
by J.A. Sutheland

They say that absence
makes the heart grow fonder…

I tried to fool the shortest day of the year
by travelling 500 miles south
to where the light lasts longer.

I rose at dawn to a day as dull
as Auld Dunedin’s dreich,
desperate for Sunshine on Leith.

My mistake
to walk 500 miles away from you and make
the longing stronger.


Holly & Oak
by Charley Reay

The nights are dark, the weather’s dire
On solstice night we light a fire
Now comes light, in darkest night
Now comes warmth to soothe winter’s bite.
The fattened boar meets ritual knife
Both midwinter feast and sacrifice.

Fire and Ice engage in battle
Oak is weakened, Holly risen
Holding sway for now but Oak
Is waiting to bring back tradition

Wait it out, the wheel keeps turning
A glacial shift, but winter’s melting
Drop by drop, a glacial shift
Night is king, but days are swift
Light the fires, worship the dawn
Soon this winter will be gone.


Cracked Sky
by Pat Edwards

Clouds are split by daggers of sharp sun
as broken blue feels fleeting warmth.
Everything has an edge. Nothing soft
gains permission from the year end.

Clouds are thrown like disused towels
in damp heaps after the shower’s spitting
tantrum. No-one gathers them up. Nothing
is hung to dry, or to refresh in warm air.

This the uncertain end of unwritten story,
cracked sky breaking boughs, fretting
in the waiting room before the diagnosis.
We learn nothing gets here before its time.


Dark Winter Waiting 
by Pat Edwards

When the light drops from the sky
like colour leaching from cloth,
and the temperature turns blue;
when shivering leaves can’t hold
their branches, and birds steal clots
of wrinkled berries like thieves,

then it is winter.

When crystal frost powders ground
as if to claim each acre, every fold,
to mark the contours of grey clay;
when blurring mist conducts her
trance upon the air, removes all
solid forms confounds outlines,

then it is winter.

When flocks push up against bark,
steam breath into the fading light
and birdsong dims into still silence;
when all that creeps and burrows,
flies or flutters, finds cold rest
in purple-black, bruised hibernation,

then it is winter – when pace is slow,
preservation at a premium and every
living soul lies in dark winter waiting.


Solstice
by Judi Sutherland

In these northern latitudes, the light is sparse
and winter bares its white and weathered fist
against the fastnesses of night.

We decorate the darkness, cannot stand
its plain finality. Daub it with tinsel
dress it in baubles, switch on season’s greetings
in the streets. Perhaps God is dead;
perhaps the shortest day
will dwindle into black.

The brilliant gift-wrapped sacrifice
is not far away now. Pause a while.
Let your eyes become accustomed
to these dark skies; perhaps they hold the light
of a billion stars.

Previously published in Acumen.


Brú na Bóinne (New Grange)
by Rona Fitzgerald

Mist clings to parched grass
grainy grey light conceals the mounds,
no creature joins our pilgrimage.

Walking on my toes, I stumble
conscious of bones under the soil.
The valiant song thrush who heralded

many dawns and sweetly closed dusk.
Families of rabbits who gathered
to wonder at this new edifice.

And the builders
………………………………….building a place
of celebration
…………………………..community, marvel.

Rejoicing at the return of the light
to this small island on the edge
of oceans and continents.


Solstice, Early 21st Century
by Gillian Mellor

She is the bride with the shortest dress.
They say she is lucky to have snow
though autumn’s mud still dirties the edges
of clean soles and the slates of white sandals.

There is uncertainty as to timings.
She googles how to be exact.
Search engines cannot be trusted.
Buses are unpredictable as babies

while moons are tracked only by payslips
cratered with overdrafts. She prefers
the sun though she barely sees him.
Too late now. She smooths her dress flat

over summer’s pregnant bills, smiles
for wedding selfies. Transport out of here:
the No.9 for wedding breakfast in a bucket
while the sun slips under the hemline of sky.


Stone Circle
by Alwyn Marriage

The days are lengthening,
shadows of the stones at midday
shrinking to a pool.

Enigmatic and immovable, a well
of theories and wild suppositions
taunts our search for certainty:

moon time, sun time, sacrifice,
almanac for planting, feast and frenzied
orgy at each solstice celebration.

Through the ages hands have stroked
the surface of these megaliths, and fingers poked
into every dark inviting crevice;

but still the stones
turn their backs on idle gaze
to hide their meaning.

Even on the shortest night
mystery dances in the moonlight;
no hint, not even remnants of a rune

to indicate whether our prehistoric ancestors
celebrated late December or high June
as the pivot of the ever-turning year.

1st published in ‘festo: Celebrating winter and Christmas’ Oversteps Books 2012


Tipping
by Finola Scott

tipping

….later tiny bits later
….the geese skein slip
….past to night-roost
….taking turns always.. to share
….the load
….we hoard those short minutes
….of brighter tonight

granny in far north Aberdeen
sighs and closes curtains
at 3pm
the nights are fair drawin in
she seals the dark outside
puts it.. in its place

the lochen shivers…..silver
moonlight is ….drawn deep
moths feel …..the balance
shift
mavis sing louder…. and longer
my garden lighter
earlier……….. tiny bits earlier
…………………………………………………………………………..tilting


Stream
by Susan Taylor

Every star over the moors was a trouble,
before it was speaking in light, the way stars do.

Every journey was meaningless dust, until
that moment the feet touched water and tingled.

Granite beneath us is restless in its core;
cooling and heating, repeating patterns of flux.

The Dartmoor saying is true, now
gorse is in flower and kissing’s in season,

while the stream closest to home
is singing the song of songs.


Winterborn
by Richard Skinner

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Solstice
by Catherine Ayres

I have my plans these winter nights,
when the spent candle stumbles, gone.
I’ll leave before the swallows dip,
drive through June’s shallow dark,
skim its half-closed eye, a spool of miles,
and reach the Top Road just as morning splits.
Perhaps I’ll find you in the valley’s bruise,
the jolt of your eyes in a seam of light;
I have my plans these winter nights
when the spent candle stumbles, gone,
the world a flicker against white,
strange as a deer in the summer dawn.

First published in Under the Radar.


Out Of The Woods
by Barry Fentiman-Hall

Slight days of pale egg sun
Saps my uncertain legs
Such light as I possess
Leaves me and lessens
The heat in this machine

Shivered by its long goodbye
I shall throw the shadows far
Seeking grace in my reflection
Some evidence that an ounce
Of blood still mists the mirror

My love lies in other dreams
Parted in the morphing hour,
Eyes bright somewhere deep
Beyond the sleeping trees
Sighs within the longest night

I am not out of the woods yet
Found underfoot, ice cracks
As I pad the snow still path
Cat soft I meet the solstice
With a kiss and no regrets


Midwinter
by Martin Malone

Sun’s pale wick
slants a glim
into the cairn’s
stone gut,
gleans
lost moment
from its nameless
priest-king,
is slaked
by the hill-line
black
over
Hoy,
skimps
a last
from
the year’s
yielding
and
drops;
drops
below
world’s
end
time’s
end,
shifts
then
slow
to
the
onset.


Nocturne
21st December, 2017

by Kathleen Jones

I am paying attention to the wind
very late, in an old house.

It is my life tearing at the window
scratching its fingernails along the roof.

The river’s a silver fish
at the end of the garden.

I can hear the air breaking
over the trees, threshing the leaves

across the grass. It is like a song
or an ocean; the darkness and the storm.

My fear is threaded through
the narrative of wood and stone

that holds me here; the river travelling,
going on without me, like the wind.


Solstice
Capezzano Monte, Italy

by Kathleen Jones

The sea is like frost and the sun
already dipping
beneath the line
of the horizon for the last time
before the planet turns
towards summer.

Another year going down –
one less of mine.

The land is smoky with wood fires
and drifts of evening fog,
the sky a dome of glass
and one expanding jet-trail
stretches across the blue
like the vertebrae of some
prehistoric bird.

The twilight zone is orange,
purple, green, and the dark
spine of Corsica looms
out of the sea fog tipped
by solar light.

The winter solstice
stitches my life back to back,
year to year, around the sun,
while the universe whirls,
tipsy and infinite
over my head.


We Made a Solstice
by Rob Walton

we hatched a plan to climb a tor
a hill of bright invention
then bathed in icy streams of lore
and brooked no dark dissension

the light was coming, we told each other
wearing furs so bloody so tight
we called up missing sister, brother
and held them to the light

we opened up the winter border
pushed shadows over the hill
offered slivers of light made to order
because what we want we will


Sun Pots
by Marie Lightman

We huddle inside the sacred hill,
wait for the sun to set.

She obeys our wishes and shoots down the tunnel
lights up our children’s yellow hair.

Capture the sun in clay beakers to store
all the light needed for the rest of the year.

Leave quietly so as not to disturb the giant
that is said to reside here.

Outside it has started to snow, there is a still,
gather around the village pot.

Eat rabbit stew, drink honey brew,
make wishes on fire sticks for a prosperous year.


Cusp
by Rebecca Gethin

Darkness gnaws the edges of day,
whittles minute from minute.

A buzzard tilts on a blade of wind,
tips of feather flex on the slipstream.

Cold grinds air into hoar frost,
flays trees to sinew. River water

steams between icy rocks like breath
rising from a cow’s wet muzzle.

On hilltops, late sun burnishes
spent bracken to fox pelt;

in the valley, dusk percolates blue shadows,
grass blades bend under rime.

Everything withdraws into its own marrow,
as if distilled.  Long nights

are not punctuated by questions.
Now there are only endings,
no beginnings interrupt the dark.


Dec 21st 2017
by Rebecca Gethin

Robins sing a few notes in the twilight
blackbirds cluck.  A dark
silhouette flies to the tree and swivels
its head from side to side. In the distance
a pheasant chirks as Venus slips out
from behind a dark cloud.

We don’t know what there is
to know, nor who is safe
and who isn’t. Behind us
the door of the year has just closed
and the keyhole of the new moon
is too far to reach.


The New Crone
by Lytisha Tunbridge

Her mid-winter had reached its zenith
She thought not of looking back at the autumn she had lived.
Instead, in her wisdom, she focussed on the fingers of light
stretching out ahead to catch something new.
On every dusk retreating further into the night.

The season change was not to be feared
but anticipated and welcomed with windows wide
and dragon’s blood toasts.
Her sisters join her as seasons roll on.
The coven welcomes them in.


Why
by Ingrid Casey

talk about your kitchen
so much? I’m in there alot.

Today there’s a spot on the
wall on the celery salt green

wall it’s lit up by winter sliver
was it like this in the tombs in

the passages, my space here is
a galley style it’s a corridor so

the sun falls on the dining wall
on the moss wall so I roll my mind

…………………………………………………………….around the vowels of it I roll my eye

closer to the window to the light there

will not be much more darkness, in
November crypts were light smooth

and sand, Césaire was there, palms
under porticos and floating gold. What is

this black floored ordinary set of tiles and
cupboards but a lesson in immensity, in

cities and how to grow healthier moulds.


Natural Born Producer
by Ingrid Casey

You cannot shame the winter politico
he cares not for Loach or tins of beans

or snow or hair falling out in clumps he
is heart, darkened. Instead let us shine

light onto ourselves, let us gather the anger
and the power and hold it up to him in

ritual in film in online petition this is where
we live now let us amass our

faith in change it will take long days of
patience and labour and phonecalls and

meetings and requests and locations and
stunning favours, it will take several

stumbles and cries but hold this bird this
frail thing it is singing look, the buds are

already rolled ready, be obstinate and grumpy
as a season, predictable and miraculous enough

to effect to effect to effect drop like hail, sting,
sing and unfurl soon, soon green will come back,

be autochthonous be brave always, look at the sky.


Yuletide
by Alison Lock

Yuletide. You are the shadow
of the moon, a trace
of night, of day; we tiptoe
through the twilight stars.

Yuletide. You are the souls
leaning in the solar tide
on rafts of hearth-lit pyres,
waiting for the turn from ebb to glow.

Yuletide. You are the ale
we drink, wassailing;
we follow the snow-laced trail
where all roads lead to dusk.


Up Dale
by Anthony Mellors

So early dark &
much remains lost at night
before the year turns over

prostrate junipers on the scar
overblown sheep
& worm cysts like baubles

stone dump field banks
far out from the isolated stack
knowing oak & its off-spring

the stumbling pilgrimage
from earthwork to earthwork
ring cairns bared by ling burn

across to the Harkerside pear
where rain came on & the drift ran
back to Lemon Gill hearth

spent veins under snow
the spoil breeding
its own community

its low-key attractions
carved from waste greys
slag alpines

oak leaves among coals
corpse avoiding settlement
ferried in a wicker cist

each side of the solstice
holly shall burn
the dead’s cattle doled

Part of a sequence of poems and images with Chris Moss for the Swaledale Festival.


An Invitation to Light
by Lesley Quayle

Come back to the dale,
keep the tryst of seasons,
the promise of light,
turn the fells, the cold, drowned
earth, to green and gold,
let buds unwrap their blossom
and the small, wild bees recall
a hankering for nectar.
Comfort the labouring ewes
with laden udders, hardy
lambs to pucker teats, long
meadows, tart with wildflowers.

Come back to the river,
appease the south-west wind
plundering the water, threshing
the sky loose with its storm,
cast your glints and glimmers
on the spine of a southerly breeze,
tiptoe under the sipping willow,
summon the damsel-fly, refresh
the murmuring pools, glossing
brown trout, the hot faces
of children swinging out
across the ford on knotted ropes.

Come back.
Bring your hat,
your shades,
your butter-yellow,
honey gold,
crack the flags,
shine on the righteous,
blaze.
Just come.


Standing at the Gate of the Year
by Lesley Quayle

still anchored to December’s tasselled tail,
but what was once a dancing kite,
bobbing, soaring, rainbowing,
begins to pull away, to shrink,
a speck in this ship-in-a-bottle sky,
its tasselled tail unwinding,
caught in the long dark,
streaming heavenward to be
piled up among stars.

And I look back, this slice
of day is thin and grey,
pared down to almost nothing,
a promise on the threshold
like a note beneath the door,
New light shivers,
glossy as a fresh trout,
warming its hands
stamping its feet.


Solstice
by Pippa Little

The shortest day:
dusk falls like a stone to earth.

Yellow, with greenness of lemons in it.
Carpet of snow the long night,

a lopped pelt, dog or wolf.
Yet, light in unexpected places.

“I have come through.”

My house, a traveller returned,
baring the small, lit window of its heart.

In-gathering of holly, conifer,
red berries for birds’ beaks.

Mistletoe and kindling,
incense of forests,

these mists, floating among us.

From Overwintering, Carcanet 2012


The Sky at its Lowest
by Jane Burn

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Biographies

Mandy Macdonald is an Australian writer and musician living in Aberdeen. Her poems appear in the anthologies Outlook Variable, Extraordinary Forms, and Songs for the Unsung (Grey Hen, 2016 and 2017), Aiblins: New Sottish political poetry (Luath, 2016), A Bee’s Breakfast (Beautiful Dragons, 2016), and in numerous other places in print and online, most recently in The Curlew, Three Drops from a Cauldron, Coast to Coast to Coast, and Riggwelter. When not writing, she sings.

Charley Reay is a Newcastle based writer from the Lincolnshire Fens.  Her poems are published by Obsessed With Pipework, Ink, Sweat & Tears, and Three Drops Press among others.  She also performs on the North East spoken word scene.You can find her on Twitter @charleyreay

Barry Fentiman-Hall  is a writer of place. He has been published in anthologies Stories from Songs, City without a head, An Assemblance of Judicious Heretics, and Icon Theatre’s 23 Submarines, and magazines including: Anti-Heroin Chic, PoetryPulse, The Blue Nib and Picaroon. His pamphlet The Unbearable Sheerness of Being is available from Wordsmithery.

Rebecca Gethin lives on Dartmoor.  In 2017 two pamphlets were published: A Sprig of Rowan by Three Drops Press and All the Time in the World  by Cinnamon Press who also published an earlier collection and two novels.  Poems appear in UK magazines and anthologies.  She runs a Poetry School seminar in Plymouth.  www.rebeccagethin.wordpress.com

Susan Castillo has published three collections of poems, The Candlewoman’s Trade (2003), Abiding Chemistry,  (2015), and Constellations (2016. Her poetry has appeared in Southern Quarterly, Prole, The High Window, Ink Sweat & Tears, Messages in a Bottle, The Missing Slate, Clear Poetry, Prole, Three Drops from a Cauldron, Foliate Oak, The Lake, Algebra of Owls,The Yellow Chair Review, Poetry Shed, and other journals and anthologies.

Lytisha Tunbridge is a Nottingham based writer specialising in poetry and short stories. Her poetry pamphlet, Every Last Biscuit, was published at the end of 2017 by Green Feather Books and is available through Five Leaves Bookshop, or via Lytishapoet.wordpress.com. Poems have also been published in Monster Anthology and Black Balloon (Both Launderette Press), We Shall Overcome Anthology, Best of DIY poets, Visual Verse and more.

Peter Clive lives on the southside of Glasgow, Scotland with his wife and three children. He is a scientist in the renewable energy sector. As well as poetry, he enjoys composing music for piano and spending time in the Isle of Lewis.

Rob Walton is from Scunthorpe.  His poems, short stories and flash fictions have appeared in various anthologies and magazines.  In 2018 some will be published by Popshot, the Emma Press, Atrium, Bloomsbury, Arachne, Paper Swans and Verve.

Mark Connors is an award-winning writer from Leeds, UK. His poetry has appeared in many anthologies, alongside acclaimed poets such as Simon Armitage, Andrew Motion, Antony Dunn and Kate Fox. He’s also had over 100 poems published in a variety of magazines and literary journals both in the UK and overseas, including Envoi, Prole, The Interpreter’s House, Dream Catcher and a number of Indigo Dreams imprints.

Ruth Aylett lives in Edinburgh where she teaches and researches university-level computing. She was joint author with Beth McDonough of the pamphlet Handfast, published in 2016. One of four authors of the online epic Granite University, she performed with Sarah the Poetic Robot at the 2012 Edinburgh Free Fringe. She has been published by The North, Prole, Antiphon, Interpreter’s House, New Writing Scotland, South Bank Poetry, Envoi, Bloodaxe Books, Red Squirrel Press, Doire Press and others. See www.macs.hw.ac.uk/~ruth/writing.html for more.

Jane Burn is a North East based artist and writer originally from South Yorkshire. Her poems have been featured in magazines such as The Rialto, Under The Radar, Butcher’s Dog, Iota Poetry, And Other Poems, The Black Light Engine Room and many more, as well as anthologies from the Emma Press, Beautiful Dragons, Poetry Box, Emergency Poet and Kind of a Hurricane Press. Her pamphlets include Fat Around the Middle, published by Talking Pen and Tongues of Fire published by the BLER Press. Her first full collection, nothing more to it than bubbles has been published by Indigo Dreams. She also established the poetry site The Fat Damsel. She was longlisted in the 2014 & 2016 National Poetry Competition, commended and highly commended in the Yorkmix 2014 & 2015, came second in the Welsh International Poetry Competition 2017 and won the inaugural Northern Writes Poetry Competition in 2017.

Pat Edwards is a writer, teacher and performer living in Mid Wales. Her work has appeared in a number of publications including Prole, Picaroon, Amaryllis, Fat Damsel, Ink Sweat and Tears, The Curlew and others. Pat runs Verbatim monthly poetry open mic nights and curates Welshpool Poetry Festival.tilting.

Ruthie Starling is a Shropshire-based writer and artist. She writes of nature, family life and mental health issues, with understanding gathered from her work as a psychotherapist. Her poetry has been published most recently by Emma Press, FairAcre Press and Lonesome Lit 3 Drops from a Cauldron zine. She is currently working on a novel, on illustrating  a children’s book and on her first pamphlet.

Geraldine Ward is a writer, poet, author and mother to an eight year old boy.
She lives in Kent. She has had works published recently in ‘I am not a silent
poet,’ edited by Reuben Woolley and ‘Writers Cafe Magazine Issue One: Frights
and Bites’ edited by Marie Lightman.

Jean Atkin has published ‘Not Lost Since Last Time’ (Oversteps Books) also five poetry pamphlets and a novel.  Her recent work appears in Magma, Agenda, Ambit, Poetry Salzburg, The North, Earthlines and The Moth.  She has held residencies in both England and Scotland, and works as a poet in education and community projects.  www.jeanatkin.com  @wordsparks

Richard Skinner is a writer working across fiction, life writing, essays, non-fiction and poetry. He has published three novels with Faber & Faber and three books of non-fiction. His poetry has appeared in the Faber anthology First Pressings (1998) and in anthologies for William Blake, John Berger and Médicines Sans Frontières. He has published three books of poems with Smokestack: ‘the light user scheme’ (2013), ‘Terrace’ (2015) & ‘The Malvern Aviator’ (2018). Richard is Director of the Fiction Programme at Faber Academy.

Martin Malone lives in Scotland. He has published two poetry collections: The Waiting Hillside (Templar, 2011) and Cur (Shoestring, 2015). His Great War-related third collection, The Unreturning is forthcoming. An Honorary Research Fellow in Creative Writing at Aberdeen University, he has recently completed a PhD in poetry at Sheffield University and edits The Interpreter’s House poetry journal.

Steve Harrison was born in Yorkshire and now lives in Shropshire just off the M54 or in the shadow of The Wrekin on his poetic days. His work has appeared in Emergency Poet collections, Wenlock Festival, The Physic Garden, Pop Shot, Mid-Winter Solstice, The Curlew, Poets’ Republic, Riggwelter and Wetherspoons  News. He regularly performs across the Midlands and won the Ledbury Poetry Festival Slam in 2014.

Mark Connors is an award-winning writer from Leeds, UK. His poetry has appeared in many anthologies, alongside acclaimed poets such as Simon Armitage, Andrew Motion, Antony Dunn and Kate Fox. He’s also had over 100 poems published in a variety of magazines and literary journals both in the UK and overseas, including Envoi, Prole, The Interpreter’s House, Dream Catcher and a number of Indigo Dreams imprints.

Cath Campbell is a self-taught poet from Northumberland. She began making poetry quite unexpectedly two years ago after the accidental joining of an on-line poetry group. Her work has been published in Erbacce, Obsessed With Pipework, and I Am Not a Silent Poet. She says that she enjoys the practice of poetry, and when the fun stops so will she.
So far it has been a blast.’

J. A. Sutherland is a writer and performer based in Edinburgh, widely published in pamphlets and online, producing work in a variety of forms such as art-books, exhibitions, theatre, spoken-word performance, and on a blog, throughtheturretwindow@blogspot.com A further poem from The Imaginary Menagerie sequence can be found here on The Open Mouse. https://theopenmouse.wordpress.com/2014/05/27/j-a-sutherland/

Finola Scott is published in The Ofi Press, Obsessed with Pipework , And Other Poems and  Clear Poetry among other places. Mentored by Liz Lochhead on Scotland’s Clydebuilt Scheme, she recently read at The Edinburgh Book Festival.

Anthony Mellors was born in the fen country and educated at the universities of Sussex and Oxford. He is an historian of modernism and a founding editor of fragmente: a magazine of contemporary poetics. Recent poetry includes The Lewknor Turn (Shearsman Books), Sylphs (Five Seasons Press), and Confessional Sonnets (Aquifer Press), and earlier work has been anthologized in Britain, Austria, and the United States. He has been working with poetry, music, and dance collective Ghost Jam in Wales and London, and is presently completing a book-length project based on Schubert’s Winterreise, parts of which were performed at the University of Kent in October 2017. By popular demand, he is also writing a third and final homage to the kitsch American poet Rod McKuen; this new sequence follows The Christmas Album (vErIsImIlItUdE, 2015). ‘Up Dale’ forms part of a collaboration with artist Christopher Moss for the 2018 Swaledale Festival.

Catherine Ayres is a teacher living in Northumberland. Her debut collection, Amazon, is published by Indigo Dreams.

Lesley Quayle is a widely published, prize-winning poet and a folk/blues singer, currently living in Dorset.

Susan Taylor lives on Dartmoor. As an ex-farmer, she finds the natural rhythms of life in the countryside inspirational. Her latest poetry collection is Temporal Bones from Oversteps Books. A new work, The Weather House, written with poet Simon Williams, appeared recently from Indigo Dreams. Watch out for The Weather House poetry show in 2018! http://www.susantaylor.co.uk

Gillian Mellor lives in southern Scotland and is confident the sun will be back.

Ingrid Casey is a poet and short fiction writer. Her work has been shortlisted for literary prizes such as the Doolin festival, the Francis Ledwidge Memorial prize, the Ghost Story Supernatural Fiction competition, and the iyeats competition. She has been awarded a John Hewitt bursary and read at events such as the University of Kent’s LGBT festival, in conjunction with Canterbury’s Free Range series, and Cork’s O’Bhéal event. Most recently she has read at Angora poets in Paris. Current poetry and prose can be found in the winter edition of The Lonely Crowd, and a debut poetry collection is forthcoming in 2018 from The Onslaught Press.

Pippa Little is a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Newcastle University. Her first collection Overwintering (from which the poem ‘Solstice’ is taken) was shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Centre prize; her second, Twist, was shortlisted for The Saltire Society’s Poetry 2017 Book of the Year Award.

Rona Fitzgerald was born in Dublin and now lives in Glasgow. Her most recent publications are Aiblins: New Scottish Political Poetry, Oxford Poetry XVI.iii Winter 2016-17. Ten poems in Resurrection of a Sunflower, Pski’s Porch 2017, two poems in Ramingo’s Porch Winter 2017. Forthcoming poems in Dark Bones a Grenfell anthology 2018, #MeToo a woman’s poetry anthology, Fair Acre Press 2018.

Alison Lock is a poet and writer of short fiction whose work has appeared in anthologies and journals in the UK and internationally. She finds inspiration in the moorlands and the natural environment of the South Pennines and this is often reflected in her writing. Her third collection of poetry, Revealing the Odour of Earth (2017), is published by Calder Valley Poetry. Her second collection of short stories, A Witness of Waxwings (2017), Cultured Llama Publishing, has also recently been published. She is the author of a fantasy novella, Maysun and the Wingfish, (2016), Mothers’ Milk Books.

Carole Bromley lives in York where she is the Stanza rep and runs Poetry surgeries for the Poetry Society. Winner of a number of prizes, including the Bridport, she has three collections with Smith/Doorstop, the most recent being Blast Off! a collection for children.

Kathleen Jones’ books include: The Rainmaker’s Wife, Indigo Dreams Publishing and Mapping Emily, Templar Poetry. http://www.kathleenjones.co.uk  http://www.kathleenjonesauthor.blogspot.com

Marie Lightman is a poet and writer. With poems appearing in I am not a silent Poet, The Fat Damsel and The Linnet’s Wings and has been published in The Rat’s Ass Review’s Love & Ensuing Madness, StepAway Magazine, Ofi Press and Lonesome October Lit.  Her debut pamphlet is due out with Indigo Dreams Press Publishing in 2018. She runs the Newcastle based The Writers’ Cafe, running drop-in creative writing workshops. In 2015 she published Writers for Calais Refugees and Writers Against Prejudice in 2016. She is editor of The Writers’ Cafe Magazine. She is also three times British Othello Champion and has recently started gigging stand-up comedy.

Judi Sutherland is a poet living in Barnard Castle, County Durham. Her first pamphlet “The Ship Owner’s House’ will be published in Spring 2018 by Vane Women Press.

Alwyn Marriage’s ten books include poetry, non-fiction and a novel (‘Rapeseed’). She’s widely represented in magazines, anthologies and on-line and gives readings internationally. Formerly a university philosophy lecturer, Director of two international NGOs and a Rockefeller Scholar, she’s currently Managing Editor of Oversteps Books and a research fellow at Surrey University.  www.marriages.me.uk/alwyn>


In 2017 as the sun set on the shortest day there was an outpouring of poetry being shared by friends. Freshly composed words hanging like icicles off rooftops catching the dying sun. The Winter Solstice Anthology is a collection of poems written about the winter solstice and co-edited into this anthology by Marie Lightman and Richard Skinner.

With thanks to all our contributors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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