Bert’s Workshops

The Stoke Stanza is always pleased to promote poetry and writing workshops across the region. Here’s some news about some in Newcastle-under-Lyme by former Staffordshire Poet Laureate, Bert Flitcroft.

Bert is running three poetry/creative writing workshops in Newcastle-under-Lyme as part of a residency with Trent Art.

The Gallery is hosting a prestigious exhibition, with The Royal Society of British Artists (RBA), under the title ‘A Road Less Travelled’(Sounds familiar!). The workshops will be ‘Responding to Art’ (eckphrasis, if you’re into that sort of thing) and the groups shall be using works in the exhibition as inspiration.

They will be suitable for all abilities and interests. The cost will be £5, and as numbers are limited please ensure your places by booking promptly in advance with Trent Art by ringing 01782 610588 or e-mail at

The workshops will be : Saturday September 8th – 10.30 -12.30
Wednesday September 12th – 10.30 -12.30
Tuesday September 18th – 10.30 – 12.30

The next Stoke Stanza will be at The Duke William pub, Burslem (please note, not The Leopard Hotel) at 7.30pm on Tuesday 18th September.

PLEASE NOTE: Emily Rose Galvin, the current Staffordshire Poet Laureate will now be joining us on October 16th not September 18th as previously announced.

Emily Rose Galvin Staffordshire Poet Laureate

Emily Rose Galvin

So the next Stoke Stanza session will be our usual read-around and discussion. All welcome. Please bring 15 copies of a poem to share and discuss or feel free to listen and join in with the conversation.

To whet your appetite, here are two poems shared at the last Stoke Stanza by Lyn Leech.


Jackson’s Marsh

The waterlogged alder woodland behind you is home
Mellow, flute like and musical
may flowers, mayblobs, mollyblobs
kingcups, meadow routs,
Upstream the flower marsh is bright
Golden saxifrage,
ragged robin
sings sad reflective phrases
bog bean and southern marsh marigold,
curious mounds of tussock sedge.
Marsh warbler weaves its aural fabric
Among the sweet reed grass.

From a notice board at Jackson’s Coppice put up by Staffordshire Wildlife Trust and a website on birdsong here.


Something always needs doing:
There isn’t time
In a lifetime
For something else
To be done
You make time.
Are timeless
I want some
Time to do them
Sometime or other
Instead of all the things that have to be done

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New Venue

It’s a case of a new venue for the Stoke Stanza at 7.30pm on Tuesday 18th September.

The meeting will be upstairs in the restaurant area of The Duke William pub – 2 St John’s Square, Stoke-on-Trent ST6 3AJ.

Emily Rose Galvin the Staffordshire Poet Laureate will be with us. All welcome.

The Leopard Hotel no longer opens on Tuesdays, so we’re moving to this friendly and historic pub a 100 yards or so away. New name? New masthead? Watch this space … will we or won’t we?

Whatever the case, we hope to see you at the next Stoke Stanza. All welcome. Please bring up to 15 copies of a poem or short story you would like to discuss or simply enjoy the craic (or The Potteries equivalent).

Meanwhile, here are some poems from the last session on 21st August, again at the Duke William.

We start with two Williamses – unrelated ones. Neither dukes nor relatives. John Williams and Phil Williams set each the task of writing a poem about an incident they observed the previous week: John’s wife Val selling her mother’s bike.

Here’s John’s take.


Sold to strangers long ago for shopping trips,
our two-inch bike ad draws a teatime call.
Someone’s coming up. Our words have worked.
Among the ads for digi-clocks and phones,
‘Pink bike. Trad squeaks. Quick sale.’
Our buyer rings our doorbell hard,
and glad we’re in, straight checks the gears.
Aged twenty, he listens to the hub,
feels the chain and offers fifty quid.

The young consign us with a put-down
to the old folks’ home and think we’re out of it.
We want ten more and point to pumped-up tyres,
the flower logo grandma liked
he’ll scrap and exchange for skulls.
We push the bar to sixty and then shake.
He ridss a moment out into the jam,
imagining the Lonely Planet Guide to swift escapes
and swank hotels where helicopters land.

Phil’s version:


When she wheels it out front,
Val feels the back tyre sag.
She knows she has no time
to pump it proud before
the neighbour comes to check
its provenance against
the price. Cool Ninety Five.
Val pitches high, beyond
all offers, knowing she
will have to brake, apply
the pads and draw up near
the price kerb with a jolt.
Seventy five? Her mother
liked the shopping basket
a figure-head beyond
the bars, the tinkling bell
and the three gears handy
within reach. Handsome bike.
Seventy now perhaps
with the tyre slurping flat
as Val props it by the wall.
He offers fifty. Sixty?

We aren’t setting up a poll to see whose poem gets most votes but we always like to hear from you. Feel free to comment or get in touch with the ‘comment’ facility. Even better, you’d be more than welcome at the next Stanza on 18th September.

Mary King offers some social comment in traditional ballad form.


He stepped from his Mercedes and
His eye was strangely bright,
‘You seem to be a common man,
Please listen to my plight.’
I would have gone away then, but
He had my elbow tight.

‘Now treat me kindly, little man,
I was a city banker.
I thought I’d got away with it,
Till the papers pulled a flanker.

My granddad was a barrow boy
And never sold bad fruit,
My father dealt in fine used cars
Sold everyone to suit.
And they’re revolving in their graves
Since I’ve been such a brute.

Do not condemn me, little man,
I was a city banker,
I loved the institution and
I’m sorry that I sank her.’

Repentant sobs then shook his frame,
His chest began to heave,
He wiped a salty tear away
Upon a cashmere sleeve
And so my heart went out to him,
To see him sorely grieve.

‘Have pity on me, little man,
I was a city banker.
You can’t lay all the blame on me,
The system has a canker.’

But for the grace of God, I thought,
As I heard these soulful sounds.
He said he would resign tout de suite,
He felt there were good grounds,
And let me glimpse his severance cheque
For twenty million pounds.

His chauffeur brought the Merc around –
Sleek, long as an oil tanker –
I heard the sound of champagne corks.
What rhymes with city banker?

Malcolm McMinn was on rhyming form in his response to Ezra Pound.


My criticism might well be unsound
Of this distinguished man of letters.
Though we are told ‘Respect your betters’
I’m in for a penny, in for a Pound.

It should have been a truly wondrous day
When first I lit upon the Cantos;
The Goods, not like my silly centos,
Penned by the master of the modern way.

But sad to say there was no sense of wonder,
I just felt baffled, quite bemused,
Dispirited and unamused.
I think this work of Pound’s a massive blunder.

A mighty tome of vague philosophy;
Had he not died where would it end,
A work that few can comprehend
But great for fans of lexicography?

His flights of fancy are so swift and nimble;
Cantos march past in their battalions,
But why write two just for Italians?
And can the British read those Chinese symbols?

He uses obscure terms like ‘ell-square pitkin’,
Together with proscribed inversions,
Archaisms and like perversions.
Was his intention simply to outwit

The common man, not like our Hughes or Larkin?
A simple theme proved quite chimeric,
Was ever verse more esoteric?
A genius, yes, but rightly judged as barkin’.

Oliver Leech reminisced about his father’s Staffordshire way with words.


I’d got ten out of ten, scored a hat trick,
made a dovetail joint so smooth
you couldn’t feel the join.
Back home, shirt buttons bursting with pride,
I waited:
‘Not bad,’ he’d say, my dad.
or, just as terse, ‘seen worse.’

I’d mended my sister’s bike,
weeded the rose bed,
built a Spitfire from a kit,
found an orchid so rare,
so delicate, grown men wept.
Back home, chuffed as a champion,
I waited:
‘Not bad,’ he’d say, my dad
or just as terse, ‘seen worse.’

Later I’d bought a house,
brought home a wife
then a grandchild to dandle on his knee
and another and another.
‘Not bad,’ he’d say, my dad
or, just as terse, ‘seen worse.’

If I’d painted the Sistine Chapel,
outsainted Mandela,
outpunched Mohammed Ali,
I’d know just what he’d say.
‘Not bad,’ that’s all, my dad
or, just as terse, ‘seen worse.’

Charmers and smarmers, showbizzers,
even grandmas and teachers who try too hard
call you the tops, say you’re A-star rated.
I prefer my dad: more stark, more understated.

Geoff Sutton, or should it be geoff sutton? brought along an intriguing poem about a harbour in North East Scotland in extended haiku style.


oh its so nice to
go travellin but its so much
nicer to come home

tongue in sutherland
only a northerner could
call this place the south

a tongue and a tongue
where the long caol of sea licks
the short ard of land

tongue is where the heart
is the only place to be
home in a heat wave

arthur tongue is home
after three months on the rigs
home on the longest

day what time is the
next high tide slitherin in
he s tongue tied in tongue

jenny scrubs floors at
the tongue hotel says to her
english boss NO SWEAT


doesn t talk like them
she s from nova scotia or
east kilbride you can

never tell whom you re
talking to with a ribbon
in her bonnie hair

she waits fro the black
freighter with a skull
at the masthead to enter

skullomie harbour
that’s where arthur s moored his craft
in bladder wrack with

empty fish boxes
oh we knew starvation here
forced passage to

canada from tongue
from slettel and from blandy
even coldbackie

why do you never
see jenny with arthur or
arthur with jenny

one morphs into the
other together they make
tiresias tongue

she foresees pentland
snakes hump power from the firth
comin yet for aw that

from the cosmodrome
at durness arthur predicts
probes spunk past the moon

shining down on six
aluminium pot lids nailed
on pine trunk fence posts
to keep out the rot

It’s nice to go trav’ling Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn.

Pirate Jenny (Seeräuber Jenny) Bertolt Brecht. English lyrics by Marc Blitzstein.

We hope you enjoyed these poems. There are many more where they came from. Poetry’s happening right across The Potteries.

Why not come along and find out more? You don’t have to be a member of The Poetry Society to attend a Stanza. You will get free entry though, to The Poetry Society’s latest Stanza poetry competition on the theme of ‘Tradition’. More details here.

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Quel Fromage

After a short break in another hostelry while The Leopard Hotel was undergoing refurbishment (many thanks to the Duke William for their hospitality on 15th July), the Stoke Stanza returns to its former haunts at 7.30pm on Tuesday 21st August. All welcome. Please bring 15 copies of a poem or short story to share or else simply enjoy a drink and listen.

There are some decidedly non-cheesy poems from The Leopard this month …

First up an ‘hommage’ with some ‘fromage’ to John Ashbery from Stanza regular, Paul Freeman.

in memory of John Ashbery

Ignoring all the sentences creates
its own restaurant/restroom.
July, the people with voices dissembled
less on the beaches than in the observatories,
we and they addressing northern cousins,
or so we honked.

Coast to coast, toucans play at his game
as scarlet dreambirds flock patternfully,
for a time, long enough to be noticed as such,
disappear into the electric trees disappear.

Let’s pull over to the pull-overs
and see how the dandies dress this fall/winter.
Slacks a little tight around the balls
these days but that shouldn’t stop our appreciation
of them or ourselves.
Still orchestrations of imaginable complications remoan,
even when we hold hands. A particularly pleasant place always seems
so far away and beyond our transportation, but at least
we’re sailing and the weather’s out.

And the wretched president sleeved me aside,
addressing me by half. What – you’ve
resigned from the earth summit?
Just when we’d made a breakthrough
in automated doubt management? Those evening illocution lessons?
You probably don’t mean that,
so neither do I. Hey, Capitan Blasé,
I didn’t mean it first!

Or should we just dangle foot-loose
in the fluvial grooves
or who should do the hand-wringing?

But with the setting on ‘miraculous’
why peck at words that spin like a cockatoo’s mirror, returning our eyes
to our own, oh, friendlier misfortune?
Take what you can
and make we joy with the rest.

Back beside the blacktop,
our hero pants
in his going-away pants.

Over the windowed skyline
wonders the flamboyant rose.
A city streams. Hello, Metro.

And the green man is flashing,
quel fromage.

Malcolm McMinn stretches to Australia and the Dreamtime.


The earth and sky create a fiery brew
Created by the setting sun at Uluru,
A massive ochre coloured monolith
So crucial to dreamtime’s creative myth.
At last the blazing disc slips out of sight,
The sun now giving way to moonlit night.
The Milky Way, with countless stars aglow,
Illuminates its own nocturnal show.
As if on cue the flies all disappear;
This is the time for ice cold beer
While taking in the dreamtime atmosphere.
And now across the burning, arid sand
Is heard the deep bass notes and haunting sound
Of didgeridoos, primitive and raw,
The instrument of ancient myth and lore.
It’s clear that here we have a special place,
Beloved and priceless to the native race.
Songlines converge and dreamtime comes alive:
The tribes respect, observe the law, survive.
On walkabout men sing their sacred song,
Record each tree and hill and billabong.
This is a law the native won’t defy:
If not obeyed the land will fade and die.
He knows which life he may not kill nor maim
And to this new born land he lays his claim.
In the beginning was the sacred song
And from the song all lands were then created,
Then from the land sprang all the living things:
The book of Genesis, Australian style.

Geoff Sutton appears to have been in a different pub, The Bullet Makers Arms.

Or was he?

in the bullet makers arms

on a field tent was
near a footpath orange bright
so conspicuous
unoccupied now
no beauty spot too close to
a sheer metal fence
where armed guards patrol

she breathes WE JUST SELL
her mouth tastes sweet juniper

next day charred circle
of sick wounded grass
plastic melt billy can black
no orange at all
only scattered pegs
to recycle from the endless
mystery of scorched earth

We hope to see you at a Stanza session soon!

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‘Turns us back to zero with a click.’

The next Stoke Stanza at The Leopard Hotel, Market Place, Burslem, Stoke on Trent, is at 7.30pm on Tuesday May 15th. All welcome, admission free. We meet upstairs to read and discuss our work, whether poetry or prose. Please bring 15 copies if you’d like some feedback or feel free to listen or join in the discussions.

Stanza regular Kate Roberts was among those local writers shortlisted for the role of Stoke Poet Laureate. Congratulations to Kate for getting so far! Kate would like to thank Stanza regulars for their feedback and support.

Two of Kate’s poems recently appeared in Acumen. Here is one of them.


Ads for Aldi

flash across the screen,

appeal to our pockets

between the recollections

of a good woman

whose work with the street

children of Columbia

puts my small sorrows

to shame.


Images of

cut-price chickens,

pulled pork,

bubbling pizza,

sparkling wine

vie with old-eyed children,

weeping women, drug barons,

crack addicts and talking dogs

selling insurance.


On the News

refugees flee

war-torn, blitzed

cities, sink or swim

to dubious safety

and razor wire fences

as we watch, remotely,

from our armchairs

and wait for the X-Factor.


You can find out more about Acumen on the journal’s website.

Here are some poems from the last Stanza session. First up, tooting up to the kerb, is John Williams with his fine poem, Next Cab.


Out in the jam we turn to bleeps and winks,
a cab that frees the night in different honks,
warning, rage and lust. We flow past grid steam,
early doors in clubland and billboard ads
as rain explodes its rainbows on the glass.
Fuel burns to ghosts among reversing lights.
The driver’s voucher free from Pizza World’s
clipped overhead, his chitty’s gone to blur.
The radio’s excited all the time,
turns squeaks to cries and distance into hiss.
Time shrivels to a digit on the dash
and adds the fare. He chats, screws this and that
so overshoots my turnoff and comes back.
My porch light stops him and the meter glows.
His next fare’s on the bleep he stops to check
and turns us back to zero in a click.

Malcolm McMinn submitted this thoughtful piece:


The soon to be mum sat down close to us,
Relieving the weight of her bump.
She and her boss were discussing due dates,
Breaking waters and similar topics.
At once my wife picked up the scent
And quickly the two became three,
An exclusive, all female, cabal.
“The breathing exercises work,
Folic acid is great and don’t smoke”
Were to be heard by all in the bar;
Good advice freely given and gladly received.
Other women looked up, wisely nodding,
But I sat in silence, feeling rather superfluous.
So far so good,
But difficult labour and painful contractions
Then took their toll on me
And I pushed the chips to one side.
I learnt of insensitive, invasive tests
That men “Know nothing about.”
I thought, but of course didn’t say,
Not a prostate between the lot of you!
But now they are off in world of their own,
A female, parallel universe,
A place, it seems, of bloodshed and pain,
“But I’d happily do it again and again –
Except for the last ten minutes!”
The stitching quite rightly was skipped over lightly
And at last it was over and not before time;
I’m not as tough as you women.
With my nerves all aquiver my head began spinnin’;
Well, you can tell, I’ve reverted to rhyme.
You might think that I’m weak, with a broad yellow streak,
And consider it quaint that I’m likely to faint,
Yet I felt so damn rough, I’d had more than enough,
But you girls are made of much sterner stuff,
And heroic, and female, I ain’t.

Geoff Sutton offers some intriguing poems:

no gloves

she scraped a varnished
forefinger nail
across my naked palm

she whispered

friday I ran cold
water into a bath
i dumped her in

see through dress
she took it off
my clothes were wet

i did the same
her hair smelled of iron
filings in a magnets field

we were gazing at
one hundred billion galaxies
at least seventy sextillion stars

who do you think you are

a citizen of
the world of nowhere at all
hah don’t make me laugh

i can make you great
again i will so I will
and there is no doubt

let down the ladder
there is room in the lifeboat
yes for everyone

there is no such thing
as society i know
believe me me me

i can make a deal
another and another
on and on on and

bye bye


an inn where the gruel
is smooth each shepherd wears a
basin on his head

like a helmet its
a joke but not one of them
has read Cervantes

not even in school
twice a year they drive the sheep
and the goats through

Puerta del Sol up
Highgate across the green at
Rodeo or Masham

its a human thing
same as it ever was just
like the very first time

We hope to see you at a Stanza session soon!

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Loping on

As 2018 lopes on and gets into its stride, here’s some more poetry from The Potteries.

The next Stoke Stanza session at The Leopard Hotel, Burslem, is on Tuesday March 20th at 7.30pm. All welcome. Join us upstairs for the kind of chat, close-reading and analysis that has made us such a distinctive group for nearly a decade.

Bring 15 copies of a poem to share and discuss, or simply sit back and listen.

Meanwhile, here are some poems from the previous Stanza meetings – and one of Geoff Sutton’s that goes back further than that.

First up, it’s John Williams.

Every Bite Is Joy

Fry guy wipes the range down, scoop,
pan and splattered fat from last night’s batch.
Bag man flicks the packs apart
and counts clunky hisses in the drinks machine.
EBIJ as ventilators whirr:
new batch fuss, peel and chop,
no-salt order holds production up.
Runner steps out of the steam,
creates your order, shakes it dry
and scoops your bag along the trough.
As McJob infiltrates the lexicon,
Trash man tuts at Washer up
and someone counts the cash.

Geoff Sutton is in allusive mood:

oh grand-daughter missing so much and so much

did not see smoke of books burning ashes
from planes on fire all at a safe distance
done by a small man with a small moustache
what you felt was of little consequence

you did not smell the bonfires of witches
heretics plotters toasted bones torched hair
you were not at home during the blitzes
the rest of your family perished there

mute protester sadly with a conscience
never one of the Greenham Common throng
born uncomfortable with that one sense
not to support a country right or wrong

that’s why she walks through the fields wearing gloves
protects her fingers from the blood of doves

If any one knows Frances Cornford’s To A Fat Lady Seen From A Train, 1910
this is whose grand-daughter she is.

You can read the poem that inspired it here.

Geoff hopes the poem stands on its own too.

Geoff isn’t fond of notes to accompany poems, but he breaks with tradition to supply us with some for this next poem.

waterlogged in the garbage of language

flotsam plastic jetsam plastic plastic
floats aswirling in the Pacific
Sundance Owen could turn out fantastic
DeBris’ fashion dresses look terrific

like plastic language poisons in decay
babble or clam up either way we die
true or false does it matter anyway
even presidents cannot tell a lie

from a fact purify intensity
a dead albatross washed up on the sand
spewed out by the vortex’s immensity
bloated exclamation marks colons and

thrown overboard by some damn Rockefeller
three stereoptic two-handled umbrellas

In the Horse Latitudes floats the North Pacific Gyre, a vast swirl of decomposing polystyrene. It is so large no-one can measure it. It accounts for perhaps 1%, perhaps even 8% of the ocean surface.

Richard Sundance Owen formed the Environment Cleanup Coalition in 2008.
Marina DeBris, born Detroit, makes fashion clothes out of the stuff.

Also breaking with tradition is Malcolm McMinn who supplies a non-rhyming poem, but one which is as well-observed as his regular rhyming offerings.

Motorway Services

We have Harthill, Sandbach and Norton Canes,
Or Keele perhaps, then Hilton Park,
Oases on our arid motorways
Where cars pull in and drivers dash
To pay a welcome visit to the loo.
They might pick up some sort of snack;
A ham baguette at four pounds sixty five?
Bizarrely, no one seems to mind.

Some seem to have a quite poetic ring;
Maidstone and Medway, Michaelwood,
Yet are prosaic like all the rest,
All brash and bright and overpriced.
Outside the ladies’ loo men hang about
For wives who always have to queue,
The atmosphere there nervously frenetic;
Not a place you’d choose to loiter long.

Pease Pottage, Taunton Dean and Clacket Lane
Are all quite soulless, lacking charm
Despite romantic, classy sounding names,
Which don’t excuse their petrol prices.
It hardly matters then which one you pick,
They serve a function and that’s it;
Pee, tea, coffee, cake, hit the road again.
Repeat every one hundred miles.

For more Poems from The Potteries and avid discussion, join us at the next Stoke Stanza on 20th March.

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Happy New Year from The Leopard

As the Stoke Stanza group at The Leopard Hotel, Burslem ambles into its 9th year, we kick off with a poem about The Immortals.

THE IMMORTALS | John Williams

Glad to have a nose and genitals back
the old gods haven’t abandoned us
but love to appear in fashion magazines,
heavy haulage ads, the big man on the block
booting in doors and squeezing off a round.
In their last world they turned to rubble
waiting for the phone and lightbulb to arrive.
Experts trace them back to the caves,
foragers with bellies like laundry sacks.
What’s left of them in alphabets and glyphs,
jailed or divorced, becomes attack scuds
hammered out of steel.
Goddesses of needlework, love and beds
take the domesday ride on a motorbike.

John chairs the Stanza and you’d all be very welcome at our next session on Tuesday 20th February at 7.30pm. Bring 15 copies of a poem to share and discuss or feel free to listen and enjoy a drink.

Stanza regular Malcolm McMinn bemoans The Poet’s Lot

THE POET’S LOT | Malcolm McMinn

The poet’s lot has ups and downs,
Eclectic mix of smiles and frowns.
You write from youth until the hearse
But prosody won’t fill your purse
Though verse may well hold you spellbound.

In golden tones your verse resounds,
——-Or dismal shades of greys and brown,
Which makes you curse, it’s so perverse,
The poet’s lot.

The muse may mock your choice of noun;
You might say “frock” but she says “gown”;
The pitfalls are diverse, immense,
Frustration makes you terse and tense
When metres fail and rhymes confound
The poet’s lot.

Phil Williams, in the meantime, is feeling somewhat seismic as his Suburban Sinkhole opened in the Autumn 2017 edition of Orbis magazine.


One afternoon, a sudden give and sag,
our pavement gapes to cold, black earth.
Neighbours gather beside the crusted edge,
taking selfies; text; fetch children early
out of school. Stand back while men in high-vis vests,
stretch yellow tape, and begin to probe each lawn.

Later, a helicopter’s blur, filming
for the Evening News. The shadow flits,
bulges across twin car drives, house fronts,
like a child’s flick-book. It drops fathoms down, engulfing
sub-soil, bitumen; broken
breeze-blocks, half-bricks, exposed cables.

When darkness comes, houses either side
empty to relatives, friends, hotel rooms.
Residents watch themselves on wall-wide screens.
Surprised? Of course – it’s not what you expect –
relieved no-one was hurt. We’ll welcome them
home when everything’s safe. Always like that here.

Redundant timers pause on DVDs;
fridges defrost and click. Hollow houses
fill with arc-light glare. Instruments chirrup,
beep, tick; hum with back garden geophys.
The foreman feels it first, rippling across
his plastic mug – the tremor, lurch and spill.

So why not feel the quake and feel the vibe at the next Stanza session? All welcome, admission free.
Upstairs at The Leopard pub, Market Street, Burslem, Stoke on Trent ST6 3AA.

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Stanza Dates for 2018

Here are the dates you’ve all been waiting for!

The Stoke Stanza sessions upstairs at The Leopard Hotel, Burslem.

All on Tuesdays at 7.30pm.

January 16th
February 20th
20th March
10th April
15th May
19th June
17th July
21st August
18th September
16th October
20th November



Admission free. Please bring 15 copies of a poem you’d like to read and discuss, the feedback is second-to-none. Feel free to sit and listen or join in the discussions. We hope to see you in the New Year!

If you’re looking for a poetic stocking-filler this Christmas, then check out the results of the Nantwich Words & Music Festival competition organised by Stanza member, Phil Williams here – and order your copy of the anniversary anthology, Petrol & Matches. It’s a bargain at just £5 and includes winning entries from 5 years of the competition plus reflections and lyrics by singer-songwriters and Festival impresarios Thea Gilmore and Nigel Stonier. There are also poems by judges and writers connected with the Festival including Kim Moore, Elisabeth Sennit Clough and John Lindley.

You can order your copy from Phil Williams tel: 01270 882060, email

As we’re running out of road for 2017 here’s a road poem by John Williams.


‘Old copies of novels are being used to help prolong the life of the UK’s motorways

Over 2,500,000 books were acquired during the construction of the M6. The novels were used in the the preparation of the top layer of the motorway, according to a spokesman from Tarmac.’ – BBC News

Woes that get to print help the traffic flow
laid in the roadbed of the motorway:
A verdict on the books by Tarmac Co.
now every page can transport us away,
best seller or chick lit, each with a spine
of asphalt binding them all together.
Big rigs and car carriers smelling of grime
welcome non-skid reading in wet weather
and ride on strong emotions after all.
This unexpected upturn for the page
runs under fragmentary greenbelt and tall
cities of the Silicon Valley Age.
Quick reads to escape. Slow for love misled:
literature put to work, and put to bed.

PHYSICALITY | John Williams

Perhaps physics was simpler in those times.
They hacked stone free, truckers carried the ore
and metal shot from the fire in straight lines,
thundering into sand to make the armour.
Then poking the charwood for nubs of gold,
they battled for breath in the sulphur smoke,
beat dents out of blades once the mould was cold
and sliced hairs in half at a single stroke.
The other science to come out of the caves
with measuring sticks had questions to ask:
why the sun shines, melts frost and sends heat waves
and why we speak much clearer in a mask.
The dull old gods, torn out of the phone book,
were trumped by the sunbed’s new bronze-tan look.


i.m. Jeff Buckley d.29 May 1997

you said once you were ‘rootless trailer trash’
though back in Orange County you had roots
surely you weren’t totally out of cash
when you drowned in Memphis harbour with your boots

on but sing was all you did what a voice
Italian-Irish tenor from your dad
Indios from your Zonian mom some choice
but rootless roots were all you ever had

After you’d sung Leonard’s Hallelujah
‘goodbye. I love you all’ was what you said
trouble was he never really knew yer
a very short time later you were dead

the Mississipi river runs so deep
the current gives me bad dreams when I sleep

Leopard santa sig

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