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Our host, Polly Stretton, launched a new collection in 2020, ‘The Alchemy of 42’.
‘The Alchemy of 42’ is dark, speculative, and sometimes bizarre—these are Polly’s lenses and through them we view scenes that comfort and distress, thrill and mesmerise.
Written to 42Worcester prompts, there are, fittingly, 42 poems included. ‘The Alchemy of 42’ is written for fans of gothic, horror, sci-fi and fantasy—described as omni-directional, dark and lyrical, ‘these poems ambush the senses’. You can get your copy by clicking here.
Who knows, in due course perhaps there will be more, maybe collection #2 or even an anthology, a book comprising work by the many poets and fiction writers from 42Worcester. It would be good to see you at 42Worcester where you can enjoy uniquely delicious poetry and prose.
Chatterton is available as an eBook click here!
‘Chatterton’ was performed by writers at 42 Worcester 30th April 2014, at Coach House Writers 1st May 2014 and by writers from Worcester Writers’ Circle 12th June 2014.
Award winning novelist Carrie Rubin said, ‘I finished Chatterton… really wonderful, and I enjoyed learning about this tragic lad. The poem by “The Mother” about broke my heart… only Polly could get me to read a collection of themed poems. And I’m so glad I did!’
You’ve heard some of Andrew’s short stories at 42 Worcester and other venues. This fine first collection includes your favourites and many new stories.
`Three poems on the werewolf theme from Catherine Gardner, the first is influenced by the work of Angela Carter, who wrote a twist on the ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ tale, John Landis’ classic 80’s horror ‘An American Werewolf in London’, who also directed Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ video.
Catherine Gardner © 2013
Hark hark the wolves do bark
The children of the night
Razor claws and slavering jaws
In the nebulous murk a wolf does lurk
He’s not like other guys
The worst offender, a false befriender
Wolves can hide in any guise
Never stray from the path hewn, beware the moon
And eyebrows that join together
Those most scary, inside are hairy
A dressed to kill beguiler
A plan he’ll hatch, raise the latch
“The door’s open, come in!”
With hunger pangs and sharpest fangs
He’ll have your chinny, chin, chin
Slam, bam, the ‘Slaughtered Lamb’
A pentangle on the wall
Silver bullets and monkshood
For when the werewolf comes to call
In 1589 Peter Stumpp, a farmer from the town of Bedburg in Germany, was put on trial and executed for his alleged crimes as a werewolf…
The Werewolf of Bedburg
Catherine Gardner © 2013
Little Bo Peep has found her sheep
torn from limb to limb
A werewolf’s to blame
Peter Stumpp by name
Dragging their entrails behind him
A wolf’s pelt, from a magic belt,
To him the devil bestowed
He gorged on children, women and men
Their flesh he had swallowed
And on he went, his lust not spent
To continue with this slaughter
His thirst for blood in this rural neighbourhood
Abetted by his daughter
Then, in 1589 this wolfman of the Rhein
the town did apprehend
The crimes he confessed, by torture and inquest
Were brought to a brutal end
Hey Diddle Diddle
Catherine Gardner © 2013
Hey diddle diddle
The cat and the fiddle
The wolfman howled at the moon
The villagers ran to see such a beast
And everywhere bodies were strewn
Girl’s Got Rhythm takes us on an urban journey with Morning Town Ride. Feel the emotional directness of Illumined.
He Sits and Waits highlights the sadness of dementia. See the homeless in Spilt Milk. The Silence of Emptiness expresses lovelorn loss.
Chill to the vampirical He Drinks Blood. Lamb and Hollyhock Noir revel in things of beauty.
A four-year-old speaks of injustice in not sorry yet.
There is humour, honesty, sunshine and sadness in this, Polly’s first collection of poetry.
Gary Longdon said, ‘Polly Stretton is a luminary of the Worcester literary community and her writing, whether prose, or poetry, is always worth listening to. Her poem of a tube ride on a sticky day with its onomatopoeia driven structure is very satisfying, whilst Across the Timeless River, “Five past six, light bright evening across the wrinkled river” does for the River Severn what Waterloo Sunset did for the Thames.’ Gary Longden (https://garylongden.wordpress.com)
Girl’s Got Rhythm is available directly from the publishers: Black Pear Press
We were delighted to receive the following article from Jackie Summers in which she tells us how she became involved with 42Worcester and how the idea for Ripples came about.
Jackie is a good friend to 42 Worcester, supporting us with her marvellous stories and poems sent by email from USA.
We hand over now to Jackie, or Cat, to tell her own story.
Andy asked me to write something for the 42 website, and how I became involved with 42. He especially wanted me to tell the story of how it came to be that some of the 42 contributors found their way into the Ripples anthology.
Some of you know me as Jackie Summers. My real name is Cathleen, my friends call me Cat. The “Summers” name is something I came up with when I was searching for a pen name. (Unfortunately still naive about writing and the net, if I had googled it first, I may have not chosen it. If you have your google preferences turned up high you may never find it, but if you don’t… I am not the Jackie Summers who does porn, nor am I the guy who looks nothing like me, the most obvious… I’m not male.) There was another author who once used the same name (Jackie Summers) as her pen name, but she has gone back to using her real name. So I’m not that famous author either. Jackie Summers was derived from my sister’s given name and our summer’s together.
Before I even owned a computer, at least one that was up to date and had internet access, I was possessed to write the story of my sister Jacquelyn’s life. I was bereft upon her untimely death. I had flown to Washington State to spend the last remaining days of her life with her, while she lay in a coma. While I was in Washington, it came to light that there were some mysterious events that surrounded the way the paramedics had found her. She had placed the call herself, but because she was in a remote area, it took over an hour before they could find her. When they arrived, she was already gone. The paramedics managed to revive her, yet she continued to go into cardiac arrest leaving her brain dead. I’ve yet to finish the story and will revisit it, but this is how I came to find myself in need of a new computer and access to the net.
I got my first laptop, but I was a total neophyte. I think I returned three windows operating systems and I was constantly in touch with HP because I didn’t know what in the hell I was doing… I’ve come “a long way baby” since then. Before I knew it, I found myself on Facebook under the repeated requests from my mother to join. I only wish I had done it sooner. To think of all the missed opportunities, the things I could have shared with my sister, had I not been so stubborn about electronic gadgets.
Once on Facebook, I found my way into a game suggested by a friend of a friend. It was through this game I fell into the company of Math Jones and a few other friends who shared their poetry on their Facebook pages. Of course like most of us on Facebook, friending people became easier as I found people I enjoyed reading. That led me one day to write a poem of my own. Several poems later I shared one or two, but never felt sure of them and would hide them in my notes out of embarrassment. Then one day
I shared my poem The Bouquet, which Glenn James came across. This poem was my first introduction to 42, and I was asked to be a guest contributor.
Once my work was read on my behalf by Fergus McGonigal at the 42 Worcester venue and was mentioned in the Box Zine, regarding my work as emotional and soft, it gave me the encouragement to continue with my poetry. Something worth mentioning here: my work had never been read before an audience and only after it was read in absentia, did I seek venues in my area. The reviews I received were all the encouragement I needed.
By this time, I already had a vision of creating a book that showcased the many talented authors that you now see in the Ripples anthology. It was also a respite from writing my sister’s story and led me toward the revelation that I’ve still a lot to learn about writing. In the interim I started taking online courses with Calum Kerr. I found that you can gain a lot of experience learning the art of Flash Fiction.
I wondered how to put the anthology together. I now had more friends in my arsenal, and the more of their works I read, the more I knew, the more determined I became that this book had to be put together.
When I first asked those to share their work for the book, I don’t think they took it seriously, or perhaps didn’t think I was serious. I never gave up on the dream. It took me a year to get the courage up to ask again, but I believe it was during this time I was able to show others that I was serious about my writing and had walked the gauntlet that others had walked before me. People at venues enjoyed my poetry and I had gained confidence in it as well.
The next thing I had to do was share in my dream. But I didn’t want to make money off my friends. All I really wanted to do was see them together in one book, because I felt they deserved to be together. Once I approached them with the idea of creating a charity and said I wasn’t looking to make a dime off it, I was excited to see them all jump on board. (My only selfishness was getting them under one cover … for me that was worth millions.)
And that, my friends, is how I became associated with 42 and why you should all go out and buy Ripples. There’s a lot of talented people in it, and some you may already know. And if that’s not enough, all royalties are going to a wonderful charity that was collectively agreed upon by the contributors of Ripples. It is their book as much as it is mine … I had a dream, but they made it happen.
This venture with 42Worcester, gave to me a gift … the gift of sharing with other writers. It also formed many wonderful friendships.
~ Jackie x
Dust to Dust
Tansy sat watching the dusty, scabby eccentric guy tinkering with a dirty old computer.
He kept muttering, ‘ All that’s left.’
Tansy, through the mists of a headache, thought he must be mad. How could he know what was left? He was old. Very, very old. She focused her fading eyes on him; concentrating until the image solidified. He looked at least 200, his puckered, peeling skin like burnt paper at the edges, his smell reminding her of spent matches. Her lungs tingled and her mouth was parched; every breath scorched her throat; her head hurt.
‘Garam,’ she croaked, oblivious that she had been repeating the name periodically for more than 48 hours. Nothing.
The ventowave said Europe and America had declared peace, its pocket-sized chassis pitted and scored by acidic dust that blew across the River Thames from time to time as if some great god were sighing over remnants. Nothing left of the Eastern Bloc. All desert, they said, little water. The world now half the size…She’d fought for the ventowave, clawing beneath rubble a foot deep, breaking fingernails, grazing knuckles, she’d even poked someone in the eye to get at the grey plastic radio first—they’d disappeared into thin air, there one minute gone the next.
‘Garam,’ she croaked again.
‘Stop bawling, girl,’ said the eccentric, ‘can’t you see I’m busy? Why don’t you help or go and look for your Garam?’
She glared at him, seeing that the tool he used on the computer wreck was a metal nail file.
‘Have you no proper tools?’ she asked, feeling her lips crack and bleed with the effort.
‘I have this,’ he said holding the file up, ‘And this,’ he gestured toward the computer.
‘What’s happening?’ Tansy asked. ‘D’you think it’s stopped or will it get worse, the dust and…?’
‘It’s stopped for now,’ he said, more kindly given that he had other things on his mind than she expected, ‘I just need to make one small connection and then we can find out what’s ha—’ he was interrupted by the crackle of the ventowave.
‘Turn it up, girl,’ he said, taking a step towards her. She shrank back. ‘Turn it up so I can hear it.’
The disembodied voice proclaimed, ‘This is the World Service, 11 August 2389. Reports are coming in…shsssshsssh…,’ crackling, nothing.
‘We’ll have to wait for the next one,’ she whispered, ‘I’m Tansy. Who are you?’
‘Eric. Eric Hawsley. Pleased to meet you Tansy,’ he held out a charred, crazed hand. She looked at it for a moment before taking it in her own.
‘Have you seen Garam?’ she asked.
‘What’s he like?’ Eric returned to his computer. She wanted to say: tall and dark, but that would be as good as no description and who was to say what he’d look like now? She was different; she looked at her hands, like a crackle glaze, just like a raku crackle glaze, just like Eric’s.
‘Have you spoken to any of the Reptilators?’ Eric asked.
‘You’re the first being I’ve spoken to since—’
‘You know they’re claiming power?’ he interrupted.
‘They’re saying—’ he cursed as the metal file snapped, the sharp end flying up and gouging his cheek. ‘Damn,’ he brushed slimy pink blood from his face. ‘They’re saying they planned the whole thing, that they made peace with America. If we support them we live, if we don’t—’ he continued to fidget with valves and coax.
‘But it’s not them on the airwaves,’ protested Tansy, ‘people in power always take control of the airwaves first.’
‘How many ventowaves do you think there are, Tansy?’ asked Eric, his cynical grin emphasising the grotesque mask of a face. ‘The only information comes from others before they—’ he didn’t finish the sentence as the computer buzzed into life. ‘Ah-ha!’ scales of skin fell from his face. He tapped commands on the keyboard. The wound on his face continued to drip pink viscous pus-like fluid. Tansy couldn’t help herself, she moved further away, pain shooting through her legs as she rose.
‘Are you going for food?’ Eric asked, intent on the screen.
‘I will. There’s plenty about.’
‘Look out for Reptilators,’ he warned, ‘they move so quietly they’ll be on you before you know, and those fire-guns are lethal, burn you to a crisp before you even hear them.’
She left the ventowave with him—more as a guarantee she’d be back than anything—turned and slowly picked her way through the debris away from Trafalgar Square. It was a gentle irony, she grimaced, that Napoleon, having usurped Nelson for the past two centuries peering over the French colony of London, should now be lying, tricorne smashed, as much a broken man as he was after Waterloo.
The boulevard seemed deserted. Whirling, searing dust-ridden air clogged her failing vision. Tansy could sense rather than see movements in the shadows. Makeshift tents were formed from chequered blankets thrown over upturned bins and dissected lampposts. There were no dead. Where were the dead? A hint of a suspicion nudged at her. She pushed it to the back of her mind. The dust was cloying, making each breath painful, the ash biting and cold, nipping, pinching at her face and arms. She coughed. It got everywhere, eyes, ears, skin, mouth, throat, lungs. She shuffled past the colonial buildings and the windows peered back at her blindly, no movement within.
Inside a store a scraping alerted her to another presence. Fear stopped her. One of the Reptilators? She flattened against a half-raided container.
‘Come out of there! Whoever you are!’ growled a ratchety voice. She didn’t move. ‘Come out or get incinerated.’
She couldn’t see, tried to focus, made out the nozzle of a fire-gun edging toward her. Moving excruciatingly slowly, arms painfully raised, she eased around the corner to confront the holder of the fire-gun.
‘Garam!’ A finger of steel strapped itself around her head and squeezed. She was almost horrified to see him alive. With her nerves at screaming point she sobbed ‘Oh, Garam, you’re alive.’
‘Tansy!’ He looked as bad as she’d feared, even so she moved slowly into his outstretched arms and covered his flaking face with a multitude of kisses, ignoring the stench off his flesh and the weakness in her legs.
‘What are you doing with a fire-gun?’ she asked, ‘Where have you been? Where were you when it happened?’
‘Hey, hey, one at a time,’ he smiled and, as with Eric, the movement caused great wadges of skin to break free. ‘Come on. Let’s get out of here before …’
‘I’ve got to take food to Eric,’ Tansy explained about Eric and the computer he’d got working. Garam watched her collect what she needed, saw the agony in her face as she struggled to carry the bag, and took it from her. They set off back to Eric. Garam slowed his pace so that she could keep up with him.
‘Where are the bodies?’ she asked. He didn’t reply, so she asked him again.
‘There are none,’ he finally said. They were almost back at Trafalgar Square. Tansy heard the computer. She placed a delicate, peeling hand on Garam’s arm, stopping him in his tracks.
‘Where are they?’ she said and the suspicion she’d had earlier took shape. ‘Are they the dust? The ash and dust?’ Tears caught in her face.
‘They are, Tansy,’ Garam said gently, ‘They’re blowing over the Thames.’ She turned away sickened; the dull sulphurous dust, all that was left, dust to dust. Another gust of searing wind brought with it a hail of bitter burning particles. Tansy held her head as more pain gripped her. Garam, his arm around her heaving shoulders, guided her to where Eric was staring fixedly at the screen.
‘There are Eurobod’s left in hiding,’ said Eric without preamble, ‘they have the airwaves. They’re saved but stuck miles away in the country. They’ve no hope of running the continent from there. There aren’t enough ventowaves working to let people know they’re alive and the Reptilators have seized power with help from—’ Eric looked upwards.
‘If some ministers are left, someone to oppose them…’ Garam said hopefully.
‘Too late my boy,’ said Eric shaking his head, hair and scales floating from him like petals from a cherry tree. ‘Too late. The Reptilators have got to the city first. They have control because they’ve taken it. They’re here.’ He sat down heavily no longer staring at the screen. Drawn to the screen, Garam and Tansy could make the word ‘DELETE’ stamped across it in huge green capital letters. Garam stiffened, Tansy fluttered down beside Eric, weeping silently.
‘All’s lost,’ her frail voice tremored fading to an echo, ‘ost…ost…ost…’ as she dustily drifted across the River Thames.
Polly Stretton © 2012
First published in 2012 in ‘Fusion’ by Drew Wagar and various authors by Fantastic Books Publishing