Reading Room

The ‘Reading Room’ features the work of our own writers and other Cornwall-based writers we’ve met whilst on our travels or via submissions, covering the genres of poetry, short fiction and short non-fiction pieces, including articles and books reviews. Please use our contact form if you want to be included in a future edition.

Featured poet: Ian Craft

Ian has been writing poetry for many years. For a period he was a teacher who loved to encourage students to express themselves through the written word. Having moved a long way from his own solitary scribblings in his teenage bedroom, it’s relatively recently that he’s attempted to share his writing more widely. This has led to involvement in a couple of Arts Council funded projects where in one he wrote poetry to accompany dance as well as another based on words & music – involving him in performances in Devon & Cornwall. He is a member of Liskeard Poets with whom he has given readings at festivals such as Port Eliot and Looe and other venues. Ian was short-listed for the poetry prize in the Mere Literary Festival. He has also been published in Clutter poetry magazine.

Excavating Memory

(“The archaeology of grief is not ordered. It is more like earth under a spade, turning up things you’d forgotten.” Helen Macdonald)

Shallow under the skin
or deep in the marrow’s tunnel
we find our memories.

Echoes in a dream,
stirred by a song, a voice over the years,
time crumbling before our eyes.

Always there. Sometimes
we find them by chance,
a shard revealed unawares.

Or, digging deep, we choose to find
what was hidden,
flint-sharp and cutting.

Then becomes now.
We lay out our past
to pore over once again.

Some are buried back deep,
too raw and dangerous
to take from the depths.

All lives are like that
– a burying and a finding,
a burying and a finding –
leaving maybe a faint pattern on the surface.


Improvisation in Cornwall

I write poetry because
Stephen Spender spoke to me
from a page in a school library
when I should have been reading Wordsworth.
Henri, McGough and Patten
made me want to be Liverpudlian.
made me want to be American
and ride in Kennedy’s train,
but I couldn’t manage the accent
and, anyway, I was never cool.
I tried to use their voices
and failed.
I write poetry because
I need to hear my own voice.
I write poetry because
in a teenage room
no-one could hear me scream.
I write poetry because
one evening, walking home from Lorraine’s,
I saw a single star in a clear sky
and to simply say “That’s Venus” just wasn’t enough.
Only be willing to search for poetry
and there will be poetry,
the old man said.
I write poetry because
I am in awe.
And when the gap
between the thought and the page
is a near impossible chasm
I still write poetry.
I write poetry because
prose can’t do the job.
I write poetry in the belief that
it will cause women to fall at my feet and beg me for favours.
I write poetry because they don’t.
I write poetry because
talking to myself is what I do.
I write poetry
because somewhere there is a word that refuses to speak and I am looking for it.
I write poetry
because I have things that need to be said.
I write poetry
because I write.
And when I can no longer write
there will still be poetry.

(after Allen Ginsberg’s ‘Improvisation in Beijing’)


Moorland Trees

Those moorland trees,
formed from the elements
that buffet and torment,
still holding on.

Not the frost-heavy birches
that bend to the ground
and spring back.
Nor the clever evergreens
that, covered with snow,
simply shrug and return.
Or those fringed interlopers
who take refuge by the sea.

These are formed from fight,
winter winds,
soaking storms,
constant in their struggles,
with thin soil and rock,
their stories clear to see.
Steadfast oak dripping lichen
clinging to clefts,
stunted and strong.
Tortured blackthorn,
holding fast,
snow in the spring hedge.
The quickthorn
shedding its blood
on the land.
Surviving in spite of it all.


Midnight Moon

It is midnight cold.
The sharp white moon
is cutting through the darkness,
shining snow onto the slates.
The blind windows
of the sleeping houses
can’t see me here
watching the world for life.
But there is none.
The empty cold outside
seeps into me –
I should step away from my window
but I am held
empty and cold inside.
I know
that in the morning
there will be life
and no snow
but for now I am held
at midnight
cold and dark.




Featured poet: Clare Dwyer

Clare Dwyer lives with her husband in South-East Cornwall and is an active member of Liskeard Poetry Group. Her debut collection ‘If Wishes Were Horses’ (2019) was published by Scryfa. She was also runner-up in an environmental poetry competition run by the Literary Platform. Recently, she graduated from Plymouth University with an M.A. in Creative Writing. She has three children and a gaggle of grandchildren whom she considers to be her greatest achievement. We published her wonderful collection, ‘Murmurations’, last year and is performing this July as part of an inaugural festival aboard the Lady Daphne, Charlestown.

We’re thrilled to share a beautiful new poem with you.


Dictionary Definitions


A little bit longer than my hand,
as wide and deep as my palm,
a concise pocket ocean
waiting for word divers.


Names of birds and wildflowers
Treecreeper, Wren, Pippet,
Hen’s Bane, Cuckoo Pint, Cranesbill,
no longer included, implying a greater absence.


Between your blue/black covers
lie the infinite shades of language
wherein we find the texture
to name all we encounter.


Perhaps words have parties
to while away the time,
where nouns keep to themselves
hanging out in the kitchen
as verbs and adjectives
boogie on down together.


In the index
sit abbreviations,
LOL a recent introduction.
I thought it meant
‘lots of love’
and so used it


Dip in,
try the words
on your tongue,
roll them round your mouth
and listen,
listen to them.


Expanding and contracting
in continuous evolution
pumping oxygen into
the lungs of vocabulary.


Not dry, dull, boring,
you are the cosmos of language,
letters are your quarks,
contained in word atoms,
building molecules of sentences.


Laborious lists
of dictionary definitions
for homework.
Be grateful now
for the richness
of your vocabulary.


Helpliss flowndering
in a dicshunary
is dredful for
a dixlecsik.


Not having a dictionary
whilst writing
is like navigating
without a map.


English has pitfalls
at every corner,
wind is a current of air,
wind, twists and turns.
Then string a bow
in the bow of a boat.
A Brown Bear
bears a weight.
Affect, influences,
effect, a direct result,
the dictionary directs.


Frayed covers,
worn corners,
ah – I feel it too,
reprinted in 1953
I’m a year older than you.



Featured author: Emily Charlotte Ould

Emily Charlotte Ould is a freelance writer and editor based in Cornwall, published in print, online and broadcast radio. She has an MA in Writing for Young People from Bath Spa University, where she specialised in children’s and young adult literature, and a BA Honours degree in Creative Writing from Falmouth University. When she’s not writing, she can be found anywhere near the sea on the Cornish coast, reading books, finding ideas for new stories, and listening to country music. Her writing has been long-listed for Bath Children’s Novel Award, Exeter Novel Prize, and shortlisted in the Searchlight Writing for Children Award. Her short stories can be found in Cornwall: Secret and Hidden and Cornwall: Misfits, Curiosities and Legends. She is also proud to be a founder of PaperBound Magazine, an online publication dedicated to celebrating children’s and young adult literature. Follow her on Twitter: @emilyocharlotte and Instagram: @emilycharlotteeditorial

We’re delighted to share a beautiful short story with you. We think you’ll enjoy it as much as we do!

Winter Sprout

We found it one night just before the sky got dark.

Beneath the evergreen trees in the forest at twilight. The trees reached so tall, like they always do all year round, but on the ground the baby looked so small, half buried in the snow.

‘Watch it!’ Clem barked. My shoe almost went right over it. ‘There’s something alive. Down there.’

We gasped. Peering out at us, frost covering its fingernails, was a baby, all bonnie blue with cold. It looked up at us, and we looked back.

I reached down and let it grip my little finger.

‘What do we do with it?’ I asked, frowning.

Clem and me looked at each other. We both shrugged.

‘Can’t leave it alone,’ Clem said and arched his back forward to pick the baby up. Snow fell off the cradle it lay in with the movement. A blanket of crushed white snow covered the curved edges and I shook a clump of it off the handles. Like baking powder, it scattered away as it blew in the sharp winter wind.

‘We gotta take it home,’ Clem said, defiant.

‘You know Mama don’t need another mouth to feed,’ I said.

I frowned at the baby. But Clem didn’t say a word, just shrugged, like he always does. As the twilight hour played tag with the sun, I looked on at the baby. It didn’t cry, nor stir to be in someone’s arms. Just stared. It stared at me. Watching.

In my heart, I felt a pang that reached up and pricked the back of my eyes. The scrap of fabric covering it up was the only thing that lay between its small body and the rest of the world.

‘We gotta do something,’ Clem decided.

‘But, Clem –’

‘No, Bree. We can’t leave it here. It’s gotta have a home.’

I sighed. Christmas had gone, and the season for goodwill had passed. Far as I was concerned, this baby wasn’t any business of ours. What if nature intended it to be this way, to grow up in the forest, guided by the faeries and spirits of the woods? But one look at those frost covered fingernails, thinking about that beating heart that thudded beneath its chest, and those clear cut blue eyes, and I was done in. Clem was right.

‘C’mon, let’s get home. Hurry.’

I followed Clem all the way back, trying to match him stride for stride. My boots got half buried in the snowdrifts. But, like the baby, they got pulled free.

Mama almost fainted when we brought it back home. Said Pa would never stand for it if he weren’t called away to the front right this second. But the light in her smile told me she was lying. She was happy to have a baby back in the house. Quicker than anything, she lit a fire and placed the baby near it, tempted it with warm milk and enough blankets to heat a whole family of bears through winter. Eventually, the baby gurgled and smiled at Mama; she smiled back, her eyes like two candle wicks guiding it out of darkness.

Come bedtime, we left her alone with it swaddled up in her arms. I don’t think she slept one wink ‘til dawn. In the middle of the night, when I got up to take a whizz, I peeked round the door. She was rocking it in her arms, just like she used to do with the neighbourhood babies, the ones she nursed before we moved out here in the middle of snowy nowhere. But as I turned away and hit out the lights in my room, I heard her sad, lowly cries that shook the house, and my soul, to its core.

I drifted off to sleep, the way the snowdrifts up high up on the mountains fall, and dreamed of faeries carrying me off to the darkest parts of the forest with sharp teeth and prodding fingers. When I woke, the house was still.

‘Clem?’ I called out, but opened my eyes to find him right beside me, shaking the covers off my feet.

‘C’mon, get up!’ he shouted, ‘don’t you wanna see how the baby is doing?’

Nothing was ever the same after that. By some miracle, the baby lived. It chose us. It was ours.

Sprout. That’s what we called it. Because it just popped out of the ground one night, sprouting like a peppercorn leaf, or bushel of potatoes. And, against the odds, it didn’t die.

I think you have to admire that in some way. Babies might be small, but they can be hellish resilient when they wanna be.

Now, every winter, I watch where I step when I walk through winter snow, because you never know where one might be. Sprouting up, heart beating, eyes blue as a frozen lake, waiting for you to come.

Come listen.

Come save it.

And come give it the breath of something new.



Featured poet: Mike Rockliffe-King

Mike has been writing for 75 years, having won an essay competition when he was six.  That was when the writing bug bit him. There has been copywriting; press releases; magazine editing; excursions in nearly every form – but poetry is his favourite medium.  After half a business life in advertising, he completed a Theatre Degree at Dartington.  He then taught drama, and directed youth theatre, until he retired.

He’s lived on Bodmin Moor for forty years of his Cornish existence. That, together with the fact that his grandchildren live nearby, means that he has every possible stimulus as a writer.

We’re delighted to share three beautiful poems with you, taken from two collections on which he is working.



When my Mother died
I went to tell the Mourning Bees.
They danced in solemn circles
then flew to spread the word.


Now, little Tawny Mining Bee,
no wonder I couldn’t find you hidden in my lawn!
You’ve changed your name.
Armata, not Fulva.  I should have known.


The bee-suited Uncle
adjusted veil and sleeves,
lit brown paper for the puffer
then carefully,
and comically,
knelt on an angry victim.


To dismiss all bee-sounds as mere buzzing
denies their sonic range.
The humble Bumble throbs in flight
like a massive threatening Dornier.
But Andrena Armata
strikes a lighter drone.


Of all the emblems
an Emperor self-elect could take,
Napoleon seized the best.
The honey bee.
Ideal encapsulation of a small being
with ceaseless work
and sharpest reaction to any threat.


At the World’s ending
I will know my awful fate.
The Bee,
in blissful ignorance,
flies on to her final sunset time.


Winnie the Pooh
just how to deal with swarms.
His idea was warm.
A quiet and aerial approach
masked by reassuring song.


A shadow crossed the sun
as bees swarmed
towards their newly scouted nest.


I should be able to wax lyrical
about the Bee Centre.
They aught to be so buzzingly busy,
swarmed with visitors,
But, the Cornish black and gold
sported by their patriotic bees,
seems to warn the unadventurous away.


Berberis Linearifolia,
outrageous Orange King
draws the acapella hums
of myriad different bees.


A pollen-loaded honey bee,
no longer flight-worthy,
stumbles doggedly
towards the hive she will never reach.


I know nothing of structural engineering.
But the bee
produces endless and perfect examples
of geometric efficiency.


Aspects of the bees are multiple and manifold –
from the desert food of John the Baptist
to Roald Dahl’s horrific Royal Jelly;
from affirming pollinator’s hum
to the fatal final sting.


Thirteen ways of looking at Japan.


In Peace Park at Ground Zero One,
under the skeletal dome,
the only moving thing is my tear.


The countryside,
through the whistling windows of the Hokkaido Bullet,
passes with cartoon rapidity.


Flying over Tokyo roofs,
the elevated motorway chicanes unexpectedly –
not presuming to trespass on Temple airspace.


Bowing nervously, clumsily, to my host
I stopped accidentally
after just the right set of iterations.


Promised an outing to a national sport
I expected Sumo
and got Baseball.


Honouring the blossoms
I found the reality
a sensory overload.


Not the peaceful people
meditatively practising.
Rather a war-like tribe in waiting.


Salarymen strive from dawn to dusk,
from birth to death.
Their children innovate.


Sikki Nishimoto, the Grandfather,
raked rhythmically
until his chant was violently sneeze-stopped.


The calligraphic beauty of shodo
works less well
with the ubiquitous felt-tip.


Chrysanthemum rules run culture-deep.
Yellow for the imperial.  Red for love,
whilst white is strictly funereal.


Kobe full of surprises.  Beef better than Wagyu.
Holsteins for milk.
I enjoyed the cream of Honshu farming.


Two thousand islands
scattered round the Inland Sea
like a giant jewelled jigsaw.


Don’t Ask

(Concerning the definition of ‘a bore’)

Don’t ask how I am.
Don’t run the risk of questioning my health
as a state registered bore,
I will tell you –
in detail and at great length.
I will list my fascinating medication.
I will recall, fully and completely,
every appointment,
every consultation,
every specimen of every possible bodily fluid.
All X-rays, CT and MRI scans, will be remembered.
Each aging joint, creaking tendon,
fading muscle and osteoarthritic pressure point
will be graphically enumerated.
And, because you are polite and kind
you will stand, frozen and listen
with vague distaste
as I infest your imagination with
unwanted and
unpleasant images.
It could be worse.
You might make the bigger mistake
of asking about my age!