Posts Tagged ‘shirley bell poetry’

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Submissions always wanted of poetry and articles.

Dave Kavanagh and I are working on making this one of the best magazines for poetry and articles about poetry and we are running an exciting chapbook contest –

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Second Light – Poem of the Month
Round 9, Month 6: This month’s judge is Ruth O’Callaghan. Her winning poet is Angela Croft with her poem Dancing with Chagall. Her 4 commended poems are by Shirley Bell, Jill Munro, Marg Roberts and Sue Wood.

I was also very pleased to receive five copies of this – my poem The Clones of Tithonus  is included.
And Gemma Baker,  who is a fellow member of Lincoln Creative Writers, and very active in the poetry scene in Lincoln through Mouth Piece Poets, is also one of the finalists and has a poem in the book!

poetry rivals 15

I have had a positive time just lately as my news for the next Second Light newsletter shows! You can also tell there is a very very strict word count allowed! Actually I have not got all of the poems in yet – but there will be a Word doc soon with all my published poetry from 1982 to 2016. I wanted to finish it in time for my operation on Monday as I do not know how I will be afterwards, but I don’t know if I can manage it. (Well I can’t!)

“All of Shirley Bell’s poetry is now in the Special Collection Archive, University of Lincoln. A poem is in Poetry Rivals 2015 The Finalists. She is in the final of the Stamford Poet Laureate competition. Her poem, Igloo, made the shortlist in the Five Words competition and will be published in Five Words Vol IX.  She also reached the shortlist of 2016 Blackwater Poetry Group Competition.”




Very excited to have reached the final  – on 20th April in Stamford Arts Centre Cellar Bar at 8pm.




At last I have a bit of free time so my poor neglected blog is being updated.

The most exciting thing that has happened lately is that my poetry is going in the University of Lincoln Archive.

I recorded some of my work on Thursday 3rd of March after Claire Arrand  took me, the poet Paul Sutherland, and Mark, the engaging sound recordist, on an engrossing tour of the . I even saw some medieval graffiti, and Margaret Thatcher’s Latin/English dictionary. The illuminated manuscripts are incredible. The library is a warren and Claire has got a monumental job!

I am trying to get all my published poetry from 1982 to the present in a Word document so that it will be available on-line as part of the archive but I’ve found that scanning in with an optical reader gets the text but not the formatting – I keep putting it off because it is so time-consuming. It is almost finished but I slink off and do other things instead.. mainly painting.. but I think one or two more sessions will see it done. It is a strange experience to go back in time through my poetry to when I was a young mother with 3 children desperately trying to find the time to write; it is a diary really. Lately the poetry is dealing with illness and dementia instead.

My poem The Scarecrow Christ is being featured this month It’s timely with Easter almost here. Is it a religious poem? I am outside the sweet shop looking in and wondering, but I don’t open the door.

The Scarecrow Christ

The fields are flat and brown, it’s hard to think
they’ll ever stand high with corn, flare with rape
again this summer. For now the scarecrows lurch
at crazy angles. They trail old coats and rags.
Polythene bags flap around the suggestions of
their shoulders. And yet the wind lifts
their shoddy clothes and they are touched with
magic; they always seem about to fly.

It’s Sunday and I’ve taken you to Chapel.
Everything is grey and earnest. There’s no
incense here, though  a sense of well-meaning
sifts gently through the air. I don’t think I belong.
It’s Lent and the sermon is all about temptation.
I feel I would not pass those tests. Now I see
distraction in the corner of my eyes; a painting.
When I can, I take a picture on my phone.

It shows me strips of cloth, snarled around
an empty cross, a tenuous fabric
lifting in air currents, tangled with light.
Something. Nothing. Faith, elusive as a sigh.
A scarecrow pinned to a stick.
Leaning forwards, with the wind stirring its tatters.
And always on the point of alteration,
by some sudden unexpected angle of the sun.


The poem was in behind the glass,  the pamphlet I had to create as part of my MA in Creative Writing at Lincoln 2012/13.  Such a good year!  It motivated me to write again and right now I have so many poems in progress. They are kind of germinating so I am leaving them alone! Finally I’ve been short listed for some competitions and the poems will be in anthologies  so that’s also  good news.

Now I have such good intentions for keeping this up to date…

‘Fairy control’ to halt tiny doors in Somerset woods

So sad! Children are children for such a short time.

When I went to see my son and his wife in Ann Arbor we spotted these, so they went in my MA dissertation pamphlet behind the glass.

little doors
The Fairy Doors of Ann Arbor,  MI*

The tiny doors are just the height
for the scurried pitter patter
of people, mouse-size,
disappearing into a mystery
of blind interiors. Of course
they are a kindly joke.

Yet who can blame the children
for their bright attentions.
They still hold their glittering
imaginings and can turn them
to and fro, look in and through
them to a place that cannot be.

So they place their tributes on
the steps, sweets, toys,
incantations on paper folded
to the size of secrets.
Offerings to the world.
Reality can wait a little longer.

*The Fairy Doors of Ann Arbor, MI are a series of small doors that are a type of installation art found in Ann Arbor, MI,_MI

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Issue 52 is now out and contains one of my poems. It is so good to see one of my orphans in a good home!


This marks the end, I hope, of the worst case of writer’s block imaginable. It coincided with lots of family and work problems, and the longer it went on for the worse it became.

I did not stop writing, because I  was commissioned to write and illustrate gardening books. My husband and I have had a plant nursery since 1977, and the books came out of this. Those were happy times, including  lots of travel to exotic places to photograph plants and gardens together.

Then our lovely daughter, Imogen, suggested that I take an MA in Creative Writing.  And  I wondered why, when I  was a writer with every fibre of me,  I wasn’t writing. So I took her advice. And, during the inspirational year of my MA at the University of Lincoln, with great tutors and great fellow students, I somehow gave myself permission to write again.

bandaging hurt_edited-1


 Dieffenbachia or Dumb Cane

A bold foliage plant, though biting any part prevents speech –

I ate something I shouldn’t and gagged
on it.  Turned my language to a
stutter and my tongue lay still.
Then my head was bound and blind,
bandaging some hurt so tightly
that it died and tied me in.

So the years have been my clinic.
Somewhere to shut the world up
in a hushed place, where  nurses’ feet
shush on the vinyl. A womb, as quiet as
velour, and me in its dark plush,
paralysed. Until something pushed me

out to this space where my sounds
are new and awkward in my mouth.
And yet my story’s begging to be told.
My tongue – untied – begins to shape it
syllable by syllable. How I’d have
died, had words not called me back.