March session at The Leopard

James Sheard

James Sheard Guest Poet

The next Stoke Stanza at The Leopard pub, Burslem is at 7.30pm on Tuesday March 18th when James Sheard will be our guest poet. James lectures in Creative Writing at Keele University and his work has been recommended for prestigious prizes. His first pamphlet, Hotel Mastbosch won the Ictus Prize in 2003 and went on to become the Poetry Book Society’s Pamphlet Choice that year.

His first full collection Scattering Eva was published by Cape in 2005 and was shortlisted for both the Forward Prize for Best First Collection and the Glen Dimplex Award for Poetry.
Dammtor by James Sheard
His second collection Dammtor was published by Cape in September 2010 and was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation.

James will be with us at The Leopard to read his own work, answer questions and join in with the lively and trenchant feedback of one another’s work that is such a strong feature of the Stanza sessions. Admission free. Bring a poem or two or simply come to listen.

More news: Regular Stanza participant and Leopard blogger Phil Williams won third prize and had another poem commended in the Sentinel Poetry Competition. Here are the results and a trenchant critique by the judge Roger Elkin.

Meanwhile, here are some of the very rich and varied poems read and discussed at the February Stanza:


Bo CrowderI joined some old salts who went sailing the Solent
We cast off the lines and the anchor was weighed
Sailing the Solent we all shared our supper
These were my thoughts as we rocked and we swayed
Grandad  Aleksander

Crossed the Kattegat in a skiff
Crewed on a clipper and ran up ratlines
Jumped ship in Montevideo
In search of gold gold gold gold
And starved to death on the street (almost)
Stoked a steamer from
Buenos Aries to Bristol
Coasted around the country carried coal
And landed in Liverpool.
Uncle Harald
Crossed the line a hundred times
Caught kingfish off the barrier reef
Bummed a banana boat to Barbados
Sited the Horn in a dead calm
Rode a tanker breaking its back in a storm (almost)
Took a tender across Yokohama bay
In a twenty foot swell to have
A fishhook ripped from his thumb
Domo arigato


Mined in the North Sea within sight
Of his home on the Humber and posted K.I.A
When ar kid walked up the garden path a week later
He scared his mother to death (almost)
Served on Ark Royal and flew
In a Swordfish higher than ever
His heart in his mouth and
Returned to a speck in the ocean
No medal no cross no crown.

These were my thoughts as I shared my supper
As I shared my supper… with the Solent that day.

SMALL REPAIRS | John Williams

DSCF1279Maybe somewhere on a microchip
our previous selves are stored,
as clothes, before they die, retain our shape
or come back from the tailor, fitting perfectly.
We want to kill the fat man in ourselves,
drop a size and lose our laundry sacks
along with mono discs and kipper ties
and take up mobile phones and click on apps.
At Small Repairs, surveillance cameras
watch how well I bring my two-piece suit,
baggy, tight and ripped.
A new seam, zip and penny of steel
can make me heaven to dance with.

BARBED WIRE | Jenny Hammond

Picture of Jenny HammondStapled to fence posts it’s a space for herding,
a strong restrainer, a safe container,
where sheep ruminate reasons for mint
and cows group to crop, cluster its edges,
snag coarse bristles on spikes.

Its hostile bonds imprison Princetown.
Lunatic strands encircle Broadmoor’s madness.
We heed its Keep Out warning.
Industrial thorns send threats to back away,
before threads pull, fabric rips,
skin tears, scratches ooze blood.


Paul Freeman

Picture of Paul FreemanKnowing that everyone suffers to different degrees
it’s just how we respond to the suffering that marks
out our difference is of scant consolation as we stand

before these felled oak trees in the fields where we played
as children – and that learning is now telling me to stop
writing about this bereavement of trees and don’t even

mention that cloud of meadow browns scattering above
the meadow grass we partly flattened walking here
is also unconsoling but I seem to have reached a stage

where learning has me against the wall a knife to my
throat and that any feeling I considered my own as much
as my ribs, tongue, the gut’s peristalsis, is shown to have

been installed as part of an older programme a quick
upgrade will fix if you just click here which leaves me
only to watch my hands crack apart this black scab of

oak skin as if they didn’t belong to me but someone else who
had out-thought or out-bid me for the right to my own hands
and how learning colours the trees as though filtered through

the representation of clouds which acts as a filter but also
reality and without which I wouldn’t be able to see things
as they are, or at least, as I see things as they are, and were,

and will progress, at this time when we want to go on living
in the same way only better when the wildly gesticulating days
can no longer regain their old composure. STOP. And even though

no-one remembers agreeing to or signing up to these terms,
but seems content enough to live by them year after financial
year, it seems consent demands that in order to progress

we must do so according to those terms, and, lacking the resources
financial, moral or intellectual to make much if any impact
on a macro-scale, I’m conscious of how futile are any attempts to

offset the effects of intensive agriculture’s most diseased
production targets through transferring numbers – here,
have some numbers – to charitable / not-for-profit organisations,

so feel little-to-no choice but to buy my way back into the world,
to sense the pleasurable simplicity of stabbing the cursor at product-
shaped holes in my insatiable consolation which once filled pulls

itself apart into newly-shaped product holes I find I’m unable to fill
with books printed so many container tanker miles away on paper
not approved by the Forest Stewardship Council, or a new Brazilian

mahogany veneer bookcase not from a sustainable forest and that
from a store employing workers on zero-hour contracts and maybe
employing sub-contractors employing child labour. STOP. And maybe

it was that that made me admit to you the sudden desire to have
children to ensure someone remains to deal with these insoluble
issues that grow only the more insoluble the more there is more,

including children, and just when I thought I’d got away with
all this, learning spins me round to tell me to stop writing about
learning in such an abstract way and why don’t you concentrate

on things, before adding that to the scrolling tickertape version
of everything that passes verbless across screens of remotest
suffering that demand our knowing so repeatedly they defeat it.

VILLANELLE | Geoff Sutton

For Sebastian James Kelsall b. 5 February 2014

Twenty fourteen is a far from ordinary year
No frost no ice catkins and snowdrops everywhere
We’ve all been waiting for you and now you’re here

Geese honk overhead and fly in a v to the mere
Wish my dad could have seen his great-grandson’s heir
Twenty fourteen is a far from ordinary year

Clouds have blown away and the full moon is clear
Your cries echo in the midnight air
We’ve all been waiting for you and now you’re here

Hope you’ll never know the anger the fear
The floods the fallen trees won’t make you stare
Twenty fourteen is a far from ordinary year

People to love and protect you are somewhere near
They’ve had plenty of time to anticipate and prepare
We’ve all been waiting for you and now you’re here

So let’s uncork the champagne open a beer
In an hour or two I know I won’t really care
Twenty fourteen is a far from ordinary year
We’ve all been waiting for you and now you’re here

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About theleopard66

I am a member of the Stoke Stanza of The Poetry Society and run a bi-monthly Poems & Pints event in Alsager.
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