February • Those ruby slippers

And as meteorological spring begins with St David’s Day, I will be baking Welshcakes as usual. One has to preserve these little traditions after all!

February is a strange little creature. It’s short and not always sweet but it has always been an important month for me — not just because it brings an increase in light from 5 – 6 pm or because of the first flowers that bring so much cheer or Chinese New Year, Valentine’s Day, Pancake Day but because of past significant events.

When I was a child it was the month of the Feis and when I was in Wales preparations for the Eisteddfod on St David’s Day. I always liked those events.

It was on the 3rd of February 39 years ago that I left N Ireland and my family behind to take up my first teaching post in Cardiff. Events do not come much bigger than that first time out in the world on your own, looking for a place to live, living in a new city, not a soul you know! Well I had already met Noel the previous year and so I looked him up. He’d written to me in the meantime so I thought it would be all right and one thing led to another. I wasn’t alone any more. There’s a poem I started way back then which eventually ended up in Three Pounds of Cells after many revisions. That is the way I tend to write.

This is who I was then…
South Wales Echo

Mary’s voice was audible above the city traffic noise.
She was a constant.
many layered,
a bag, a shopping arcade, a history.

I was all high hopes with half a bed-sit.

Her atonal notes,
expressed the urban opera;
a dissonance within the crowd.
Stout hand weathered with grime
permanently cupped for change,
she never begged.

I never gave.

One day I offered her a meal
in a café.
She looked at me aghast,
shuffled away.
I drew my smug conclusions
as her diva voice
faded between the shops:
one single, long, passionate outpouring.

When Mary died
‘The South Wales Echo’ carried the news.
A voice was silenced in the Land of Song.

I hear her still sometimes
shrill down the years.

“South Wales Echo” is a local newspaper.

It was in also February 25 years ago that Noel started work in Northumberland. To do that he had to leave me behind in Wales. It wasn’t an easy time but it was logical since his prospects were better than mine. One partner should never have to limit their prospects because of the other. It wasn’t a foregone conclusion, but a joint decision. I could teach anywhere.

I had a contract to work out and he had one to start so it was the only way and we had a house to sell and so I had to pack everything we owned. It was a time of leave-taking. It was also a leap year and on the leap day one of our close friends Ernie Caddy, died. I phoned Noel to tell him. It wasn’t until the middle of April that I upped sticks for the second time and came to join him.

But it sometimes does you good to have a break from each other — makes you appreciate what you’ve got. The school of nursing provided us with a very nice house rent free for 18 months in the grounds of the mental hospital (good place for me many would agree). Red squirrels in the back garden. I remember watching them scamper up these tall tress. Red squirrels are very endangered now. I haven’t seen one for a few years 😦 The house is gone too. It was bulldozed along with the rest of St Mary’s though the main reception building is now a pub.

So this spring marks our quarter century in Northumberland. It was like starting all over again at the time but we are happy we did it.

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And this February? I seem to have been in bit of a flux as usual. Maybe I’ll sort myself out a bit in March…or April. But there’s this…

A friend asked me recently — so where’s home? Ireland? Wales? Northumberland?

If I click my ruby slippers where do I end up? And I thought: There’s no such place as home. There’s no such place as home. There’s no such place as home. Because that is the truth of my life. And I replied:

Home is where Noel is.

Happy Pancake Day

January 2017 • How it Flu!

I haven’t been strutting much of my stuff recently — been hibernating. I don’t like January! Don’t like strutting much to be honest either. And then the other week I decided to get out and about — bit of s strutt, you know and guess what? I got flu — despite the flu jab I get every Autumn, I got flu. Now, Flu is not nice — not nice one bit! Stops you mid-strutt — straight off to bed with you my lass, and oh — here’s some really nasty dreams and painy stuff to keep you busy.  Flu is a BULLY! If you are in any doubt here is how flu is!

I’m lying on an iron grid
with a vice around my head
and someone’s just lit burners
and it’s glowing hot and red.

In my joints tiny explosives
primed, shoot off random pains.
They’re drilling holes into my skull
to suck my coddled brains.

I never knew that memory foam
could feel so much like stone.
My kidneys are both poached hard
but I’m ice through to the bone.

Hey, where did that lake come from
in the corner of the room?
I cry out ‘Why?’ But there’s no reply.
Must be a mute swan.

He turns his tail and swims away,
I’m drenched! My eyeballs twitch.
My knuckles hurt. My molars hurt.
But I can’t tell which are which.

I’m a pitiful heap of twisting bones.
That’s what you get for being a poet.
I’m a clammy mass of infected flesh.
Being a poet is being a witch.

There’s concertina music
screaming in the breeze
four and twenty blackbirds baked
duvet alaska wheeze.

It’s cold, so cold this fire.
They’re freezing me to death.
Cough, cough. Ouch. Cough!
I sit up quick and try to catch my breath.

I need to…no I can’t just now
My will lies down to shiver.
Where’d that swan go? I need to ask
him questions about forever

like am I going to live or die
and will this torture cease?
‘Do you need some paracetamols?’
I whimper a low ‘Yes please.’

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I had plans…Anyway my sole submission this month has been: Bosnian Woman

I like February. February will be a nice little month. See you there.

Review of 2016

All in all 2016 has been a very good year for me. I am ignoring the badder bits! There were a few!

My first book of poems Three Pounds of Cells was published in 2016!cells1

and one of the poems from it featured on the first ever poetry postcard produced by The National Trust!

gondola-cardBeautiful isn’t it? I am so proud!
Then in October I got to go back to Coniston to be filmed reading that poem in a special poetry video featuring lots of other lovely poets. I loved that!! Everyone had written superb poems about this gorgeous boat and they were all so lovely.

What a day.
img_8719and here I am on You Tube — Oonah the VIDEO

Three Pounds of Cells ended the year as Poetry Kit’s Book of the Month and I’d call that a darned good ending!

Now: Here’s a little smorgasbord of writing from 2016. Enjoy.

Liberation by Oonah V Joslin

Another Launch

The Day Joe In Accounting Said To Hell With It!

Gyroscope Review TWO poems

A double triolet about how Shakespeare lost it: Shakespeare’s Skull

The Green and the Grey
Money Can’t Buy me I am very fond of this trio of poems in A NEW ULSTER 44
So Natural

Highly Commended TORONTO GIRL

Behind Lines

Even a Myth Needs Love.

My poem Northumberlandia was published in The Fat Damsel 10 Writing in a Woman’s Voice: To Dust, and Kermit in the Kardomah A New Ulster 47 and in Postcard Poems and Prose. 

I made lots of live appearances in 2016 – many more than was comfortable for me and I even took part in a radio show! I’d joined the local Morpeth Poetry Recital Group for readings throughout the year and did 17 poems for the Newgate Street Festival in September. In August I appeared at THE STANZA for the first time and it was an amazing night of poetry! and at BAR LOCO.

I launched Three Pounds of Cells at The Sour Grapes in October. The late and lovely Mark Potts 15621671_556327111225278_4286986087311631458_n introduced me at Worlds Within Words. I have the video to remember you by, friend. Mark was such a force of nature. He will be missed.

I was with Simma Singer and some wonderful guests at Cumberland Arms’ Mostly Words and Launched ‘CELLS’ at The Stanza in November. Mark was there! My sister came to the first launch and my friend and editor Kath flew 3000 miles for the second. There are lots of pics to look back on with pleasure in this blog and lots of good memories to look back on this year.

So I thank you 2016 for all the ups and the downs, we walked through time together and that is as much as we can ever ask of a year.

November • Of the Stanza and Thanksgiving

Sometimes friends exceed expectations and so it was this year when my friend Kathleen Mickelson not only took great pains to edit Three Pounds of Cells but then took a long flight all the way from Minnesota to Northumberland to read with me at The Stanza on 17th November. And I will never be able to thank her enough for her complete support because if I have little faith in myself, I know Kathleen  never bullshits me! In this she provides a much needed touchstone of reality. If Kath says it’s good — it’s good. If it’s not good she’d tell me! Kath got back home just in time for Thanksgiving and Jim coped with a poorly dachshund and the shopping and work so thanks to Jim too and to my husband for being so supportive.

15073329_10207849178123106_6215204103710419585_nMusician Peter Lagan was wonderful on the night providing some set and some improvised music upon the lute to accompany my reading. Peter knew the poems well having had a proof copy to work from and he took only a book when he could have asked for payment for his work. stanzab

Mandy Maxwell and Harry Gallagher provided the venue Beldon’s Cafe at The Exchange, North Shields, Bob Beagrie, Jane Burns and Cath Campbell kindly read and said some nice things about me and Steve Pottinger, a remarkable and very funny poet whom I’d never met before, was very lovely in his FB comment to me after the event. Two of my Unique Boutique friends Sean and Hannah came and they really enjoyed the evening and meeting my husband who doesn’t go to many dress shops as a rule 😉 15027730_10207834904926285_1524306528382672095_nAnd of course there’s Marie Fitzpatrick manager of The Linnet’s Wings, whose idea the whole book was and who couldn’t join us but we managed a skype chat which was lovely and Kath and I have plans to meet up with her next year.

Dublin you have been warned!

November rolled out the sunshine for Kath and we went back in time to 1913 in Beamish and had a pint in The Sun Inn (well I had three third pints) (and a half). You have to sample the past properly 🙂 We ate coconut haystacks and sweeties and then visited the dentist. We were so glad to be alive in the 21st C. Alnwick’s famous bookshop and a visit to Grannies (cafe), a stroll at Newbiggin, at Belsay and at Wallington where Kath met my Aspen from the poem ‘My Aspen at Wallington’ in ‘Cells’ 15095052_10207841780658174_8850453653149247064_nI never said it was warm! Just sunny — and with some very impressive leaves. Alas my camera is broken and I had to ‘borrow’ all these photos. I am hoping Santa will do something about that! 15036591_10207841780978182_8699333788644565938_nAnd I won’t even tell you what I cooked up for Kath’s visit — because your mouth would water… and some of you might want to visit me immediately and now is the time when prickly customers like me like to hide behind leaves and such and hibernate until the first snowdrops peek through. But you know there’s lots of good reading for you over Christmas from The Linnet’s Wings and they all make good presents so buy a book or a mag from us this year. They are gorgeous! Go to:

The Linnet’s Wings

canzonet16the perfect Christmas gift.

And as my friend Margaret Kerswell says: “And now I must sleep”

Three Pounds of Cells • Launch

My thanks goes to Mayor Andrew Tebbutt and Barbara Ross for opening and hosting the launch of Three Pounds of Cells on 18th Oct and to The Sour Grapes Wine Bar for an excellent meal for those of us who ate there and snacks for those who attended.

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Also to Catherine Ayres

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Pippa Little

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Harry Gallagher

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for reading with me and the wonderful Philip Stuckey for making the music real

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It was brillant to see so many friends there. 14794180_1976057239287742_900141918_n

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You all made the evening memorable and happy. Thanks also to the Morpeth Poetry Group for the lovely bouquet you sent 14519668_1975921892634610_3653863241406744670_n and to Noel for supporting all this poeting 14657492_1975921825967950_7583127637329633709_n

Three Pounds of Cells is AVAILABLE TO BUY HERE

and our next outing is at The Cumberland Arms, Newcastle, 28th October 7:30

Mostly Words

Three Pounds of Cells escapes

My book escaped to Cumbria before the official event and launched itself on The Steam Yacht Gondola. This was a happy coincidence and a much needed break. The National Trust wanted poets to read their work to promote their lovely boat ,just when I wanted to promote my book and have a nice trip and the two came together last week at Coniston. It was very fitting that was the first place I read from Three Pounds of Cells — Almost on Brantwood Jetty — which was in response to an exercise writing outdoors at Geraldine Green’s and Pippa Little’s course last October at Brantwood House.

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Noel by Coniston Water

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Gondola Poets

Gondola Poets — Geraldine second left

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Old Man Coniston — that’s what this mountain is called

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Almost on Brantwood Jetty and that’s Ruskin’s house where Geraldine has been poet in residence this year.

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Skipper Jack gave us a lesson in steering her

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WHOOHOO!

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Reading my poem to camera

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Captain Jack’s Blog

That was a launch that was! Thanks Jo Houghton of the National Trust for allowing us all this wonderful opportunity. It’s a day to remember always!

And here’s what Geraldine has to say about

Three Pounds of Cells, by Oonah V. Joslin

Dreams aren’t real are they – or do all our experiences contribute to personal reality – even our nightmares?” asks Oonah V. Joslin in the introduction to her collection Three Pounds of Cells.

The very first poem in this ambitious collection sets the scene for the courageous and delicate, yet probing, enquiries this poet displays in her exploration of the world; her world, yet one that is one of connections.

A sense of playfulness embraces the reader as s/he steps into the poem. It opens up possibilities through the use of white space; a sense of a journey beginning in fragments in ‘Parameters of a Perambulator’ and ending in this beauty of a line – which I feels is a reach into darkness with the optimism of light – in this fine poet’s final poem ‘Same Place as the Music’

I want the light and music to be real.”

And in between? When darkness becomes too real and escape is as necessary as bird to sky, as fish to water, as light to music, as in these lines of innocence, longing and beauty:

under innocent skies and yellow sun


where kindness and imagination meet and dance

to silence, as when Earth was young.”

(Voluntary Exile)

This is a collection to turn and return to when one is in need of solace. Erudite, yet playful, poignant, filled with a yearning to understand what breathes between the interstices, this poet’s light shines through with the music. Once you finish reading you too step into the mystery. These poems will haunt me long after I’ve finished reading them.

Geraldine Green

It’s a BOOK • and it’s HERE • and it’s MINE

John Stocks Poetry Editor Bewildering Stories

Having been intimate with Oonah’s poetry for many years, and feeling, from the start,  an instinctive kinship and empathy with her word-craft and vision, I approached this collection with eager anticipation. Oonah writes poetry that trips the reader’s consciousness from the mundane to the magical. She has a shamanistic ability to escape the nutshell of every day experience and describe an infinite, timeless space-whether capturing the, ‘dissonance within a crowd’ in ‘South Wales Echo’ or the rapture of listening to jazz in Minneapolis. In ‘Pipestone’ she floats effortlessly between intricate ‘of the moment’ observation and reveration of ancient resonance, providing an almost overwhelming sense of genius loci for a place I have never visited.

Oonah consistently demonstrates the skills of a master craftsperson. She deploys her command of language with consummate professionalism. Whether describing the weather, ‘a pitter of rain on glass’ or something sublime such as the ‘gold spooned moonlight’ of a summer’s evening, her use of onomatopoeia and assonance slip discreetly into the lyrical flow.

Although a seasoned traveller, with the ‘wisdom to kindle,’ at times her poetry has the freshness of a child experiencing something exceptional for the first time. In ‘Pipestone’-possibly my favourite poem in the collection, she finds herself attuned to a world vision and a humility that could be her own.

‘take only what I teach you from this place’

In ‘Better than half’ she expresses her love for her husband Noel with words that are more beautiful for being precisely measured.

‘And I am safe as long

as you remember me in all the times

and places of our life.’

An absolute pleasure in all respects-I strongly recommend.

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It’s a BOOK • Three Pounds of Cells

We each select what matters to us in our lives don’t we —
or do we?

It’s October (my favourite month and who can tell the reason?) and this is my first book. And she’s a beauty thanks to careful editing by Kathleen Cassen Mickelson of Gyroscope Review and painstaking design by Marie Lynam Fitzpatrick of The Linnet’s Wings Press.
Congratulations. It's a BOOK :)
 Delivered on 5th October. Ten years to the very month after leaving teaching and tentatively taking up writing (though I have always written) and after editing and publishing what must now be upwards of 3000 poems by other people, this collection of 45 poems in 5 sections (I tend to be compulsive like that) is about to take its place in, what has to be said is the welter of modern published books.

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So why should you buy this one? Why Three pounds of Cells? Okay there are three weeks before the first launch which will be a local one — in Morpeth, Northumberland on 18th October at The Sour Grapes, Newgate Street, so I’ll try to supply three reasons by then.

This first from Pippa Little, (Eric Gregory Award, The Andrew Waterhouse Prize, The Biscuit International Poetry Prize and The Norman MacCaig Centenary Poetry Prize.)

The poet’s delight in her multi-faceted, mysterious world is infectious: this collection shimmers and sparkles with a quick, wide-ranging intelligence.

Come taste my salt again’, she says, and we do, returning to enjoy her love of word play, humour and the sheer richness of language in poems which share CS Lewis’s celebration of the notion of looking along things rather than at them directly. Whether the poems are about falling in love with the New World or ‘thoughts of loved ones gone’, they offer a panorama of ‘things that have spoken uniquely’ to this poet over her lifetime, a record and testimony of ‘three pounds of cells/in a dark bone box’.

The snapshots (mostly) by me on the cover and inside reflect the theme of the poetry — how our brains act as cinematographer, perhaps even the director of our lives. I am looking along that journey and trying to determine what is really real from my first memory to things I have forgotten and all the in-betweens of flawed memories and sudden insights — meetings brief, yet unforgettable in their impact, Wojtek Jacobson, a vagrant called Mary in Cardiff, a myna bird in Swansea, rain in Manhattan, rocks and islands, light and music and the sea, the sea, the sea!

In this book I invite you to explore with me that miracle of moments on which the brain chooses to focus!

Available from Linnet’s Wings Press from 17th Oct 2016.

 Our Autumn Poetry Chapbook There’s Magic in the Pictures is now out. The Linnet’s Wings full colour Autumn Issue will be available mid to late October and once again this year we will be offering you A Christmas Canzonet which makes an absolutely LOVELY prezzie! Poems for everyone.

Whatever Happened • to August? it’s September!

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One of my Newgate Street poems in the window of the fabulous dress shop Unique Boutique who will be doing a display of clothes poems 🙂 readings Tuesday at 2

and it’s all happening! I have been busy! We all have here in Morpeth. I have written 17 poems for The Newgate Street Festival taking place here in Morpeth this week and some other members of the poetry group have at least matched that number.

The traders have been most enthusiastic about our group’s poems and they are being displayed in the windows of businesses this week. Poetry is alive and kicking in Morpeth and we hope that Newgate Street will benefit from a well deserved boost ‘cos it’s a great street and our high streets are vital to the survival of market towns! We went into those shops! We talked to the traders. And this — an excerpt from ‘STRIPES’ is the result of one conversation:
And Susan has a philosophy
and it’s one with which we should all agree
that the high street is the place to be
especially for the elderly
or those who just want company
a friendly chat, a place that’s cheery
an easy place to stroll to daily
call in the shops and have a chat
that human contact that no internet
seller can provide. The world we create
is up to us and creativity isn’t
some luxury we can live without.
So this poet took very little persuading
to buy the big blue butterfly
necklace with plastic rings
as a little treat.
So poetry and commerce meet
in a happy alliance on Newgate Street.

So you see — this is important stuff we’re engaged in and I hope you will support us too!

So where and when can you come to hear our poems?

Monday: Opening — Town Square 10am/ The Cube 10:30/ The Wheatsheaf 2pm/The Sour Grapes 7:30

Tuesday: Cafe des Amis 10:30/ Unique Boutique 2pm/ The Black and Grey 7:30

Wednesday: Packhorse Yard 10:30/ Cafe Vault 2 pm/ The Peppermint Tearooms 7pm

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Packhorse Yard is so beautiful!!! Come and see for yourselves.

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Thursday: The Ice Bar 7:30

Sunday 11th: The White Swan 7:30 — and I am hoping for some audience participation 🙂

Here’s a funny one to wet your appetite. It’s a true tale!

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Give us a Butcher’s (for Martin’s)Give us a butcher’s…

In Martin’s they’re always so helpful I find
they’ll chop up and cut off and roll up and grind,
suggest the best cut or sell bones for the mutt.
But I just hadn’t made up my mind!

Every woman likes a big beefy men
and that day there were three of them.
One slicing ham, one sawing bone through
and one who said pleasantly, What can I get you?

I stood in a quandary a moment or two;
did I want steak to fry? Did I want lamb to stew?
At last — and I looked the man straight in the eye;
Can I have a look at your brisket? says I.

And the one sawing bone nearly went through his own
and the one at the slicer was doubled with laughter
and taking my cue to make things even worse
I said – Oh, not ‘your’ brisket! And then dropped my purse.

With coins and composure all over the floor
it was quite a few weeks ’til I went back for more
and I practised first carefully outside for ages
how I should ask for their excellent sausages.

Oonah V Joslin 2016
I also so wrote for:

Fin and Feather (a shop now gone)

Proudlocks (which still has — a presence on Newgate)

Bakehouse Cafe (Bakehouse Yard – shop right of the cafe used to be a reflexologist’s)

The Oriental Pearl (Takeaway)

Elizabeth Ayres (Podiatrist C4 & Fawcetts Yard)

Appleby’s (sadly now a dead bookshop)

Unique Boutique (my favourite clothes shop!) who are also putting on a display of clothes poems by me!

Lateral Art (new to Packhorse Yard)

The Price is Right (Prices’ Groceries)

Ice Bar (YUM)

Perris Antiques (Packhorse Yard)

Decxorative Delights byNicola (Packhorse Yard)

STRIPES (which does all manner of bling)

Reason to Love (Peppermint Tearooms)

How It Must Have Been – Morpeth 1898

What did the Normans ever do for us? (about William de Merlay – the Norman who founded the town)

In August I appeared at THE STANZA for the first time and it was an amazing night of poetry! and at BAR LOCO. My poem Northumberlandia was published in The Fat Damsel 10 Writing in a Woman’s Voice: To Dust, and Kermit in the Kardomah A New Ulster 47 and in Postcard Poems and Prose, and I even took part in a radio show! MINT 🙂

I have been proof reading my forthcoming book THREE POUNDS OF CELLS, designed by Marie Fitzpatrick and edited by Kathleen Cassen Mickelson who will be reading at the 17th November launch at The Stanza. There wioll be a launch in Morpeth too of course — Of which more soon!

In short a good poetry month and I hope I’ll see some friends as we read this week in Morpeth. Please support our lovely town and thanks Barbara Ross for all your hard work in organising this event.