Author Archives: barleybooks

About barleybooks

Poet and book-artist

Next Meeting March 6th

Our February meeting was well-attended despite the absence of our guest poet Moira Andrew, who, I’m happy to report, has made a good recovery.
We welcomed three new-to-us poets, Lee, Jim Scott and Agata Palmer, all of whom shared excellent work, and we welcomed back Chris Scully after a long absence.

Our next meeting will be on Monday 6th March at 7pm, upstairs in the King’s Head in Wells High Street. The guest poet will be Hannah Linden. I heard her reading on Zoom a little while ago. She was terrific. Please remember to bring some cash! You will want to buy Hannah’s book!
Hannah is from a Northern working class background but has been based for many years in Devon, where she lives with her two (adult and adult-cusp) children. She is published widely eg in Acumen, Lighthouse, Magma, New Welsh Review, Shearsman, Stand, Tears in the Fence, Under the Radar etc. With Gram Joel Davies, she won the Cheltenham Festival Compound Poetry Competition in 2015 and she was Highly Commended in the Prole Poet Laureate Prize in the same year. Her most recent awards are 1st prize in the Cafe Writers Open Poetry Competition 2021 and Highly Commended in the Wales Poetry Award 2021. Her debut pamphlet, The Beautiful Open Sky was published by V. Press in September 2022 and sold out its first print run within 4 days. She is working towards her first full collection. Twitter: @hannahl1n

In other news, the Cinnamon Press pamphlet competition closes at the end of March, Teignmouth Poetry Festival runs from 31st March to 2nd April, and here’s an online workshop with Mary Jean Chan on 24th April, “Writing a Poetry Collection“.

Our own dear Bard, Michelle Diaz, is the latest addition to The Bard Window.

If you want to have any chance of occasionally writing something with genuine radiance, you have to leave your ego at the door. Which is still exactly as hard as it sounds. – Dave Bonta


Teignmouth Poetry Festival Competition


Closes midnight 31st January 2023.

For rules click here
For postal entry click here
For online entry click here

The 2023 Competition is open to all poets, UK and international.
Entries from writers with Devon postcodes will automatically and additionally be entered for the Graham Burchell Award for Devon Poets.Open Poetry Competition
Prizes: 1st – £600 2nd – £300 3rd – £200
Judge: Fiona Benson

Graham Burchell Award – Devon residents only
Prizes: 1st – £200 2nd – £100 3rd – £50
Judge: Sue Proffitt


Fiona Benson’s third collection, Ephemeron, has recently been published by Jonathan Cape. This follows Vertigo & Ghost (Cape, 2019), which won both the Roehampton Poetry Prize and the Forward Poetry Prize, while her first collection, Bright Travellers (Cape, 2014) won the Seamus Heaney Prize and the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize. Fiona was the first author selected for the Faber New Poets pamphlet series, and in 2021 was one of the three judges for the National Poetry Competition and lives in Cornwall. 


Sue Proffitt lives by the coast in South Devon. Having won this award in 2022 and previously been placed 1st and 2nd in the Teignmouth Poetry Festival Open Competition, she is ideally qualified to be our judge in 2023. Her poetry has been published in many magazines and journals, as well as two collections. Her first, Open After Dark (Oversteps, 2017) was followed by The Lock-Picker (Palewell Press), written during her month on a Hawthornden Fellowship. 
She has an M.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Bath Spa and is currently working on her third collection.

Teignmouth Poetry Festival takes place over the weekend 31 March to 2 April.

Everything is going to be all right

What a lovely, informal and intimate meeting of seven minds at the King’s Head last night!

It was an evening of many birds: sanderlings from Martin, buzzards and crows from David G, starlings and a rooster from Ama. David N read his lovely poem about slow-worms. We walked the South West Coast Path (39,000 steps) and encountered a sinister house in Prague with David G. We crossed borders and listened to an evening raga with Ama. We heard a playful New Year’s resolution, as well as many cheering or consoling poems from The Poetry Pharmacy, from Judy, and a gloriously grim account of a fictional Christmas Day from David N. We heard true stories and fables from Beth, both the Davids, and Martin. Donna read several of her late father Ewan MacPherson’s poems. Beth delighted us with a dramatic reading of Jabberwocky. Judy and David N provided thoughtful and astonishingly relevant readings from Rumi and Hafez. We talked of birthdays and foxes and slugs and honeymoons and elves and Haiku and much else besides. This post’s title is the title of a poem by Derek Mahon, read by Judy.

Recently added to the Bardwindow poetry podcast, here’s an interesting ekphrastic poem from Martin. Ama has a couple of poems in the latest Wildfire Words anthology, and a bilingual poem at One Sentence Poems.

Our next meeting will be at the King’s Head at 7pm on Monday February 6th. Unfortunately our guest poet Moira Andrew has just come out of hospital, so this will be an open-mic session. We hope to book Moira for later in the year.

In March we have Hannah Linden, in April, Deborah Harvey, in May Rachael Clyne, in June Rosie Jackson, and in September Alyson Hallett.

Good poetry is transcendent. Bad poetry is a bore. – Bill Amatneek

Three Wise Dimensions

We had a most enjoyable meeting on 5th December, with supper beforehand for those who came early.
Our guest was Isabel White, a remarkably good performer whose meticulous and playful use of words is illustrated in this post’s title, taken from her poem Making sense of Miss Babs (Barbara Hepworth). Her readings covered a wide spectrum of styles and subjects. How many of us knew that Robert Burns had intended to emigrate to Jamaica? Isabel made this the subject of a poem in a mixture of Scots and Jamaican patois. Dazzling!

Isabel is the latest subject of the Bard Window podcast. You can also read some of her poems there. Do have a look at this excellent resource for poets. Membership is free.

Contributions in the two open mic sessions were well-wrought, thought-provoking and in some cases rather dark – I’m thinking of Beth’s Confession, Fiona’s My Deathday, David G’s Mortal Memories and Pamela’s Separation, which I read in memory of her – see below. David N and I read ekphrastic poems written during a recent Poetry and Art workshop in Wells Library. Steve picked up the word-play theme with Jack (part 1), prompted by a jackfruit curry. I’m looking forward to Part 2!

I am sad to report that Pamela Coate, who used to come regularly to our meetings and entertain and enlighten us with her light-hearted/serious poems, died at the end of November. She would have been 91 on Christmas Eve. She was creative in so many ways, a poet, painter, ceramic artist, musician and prolific knitter of unique and colourful garments and animals. She was also a very dear friend who will be badly missed.

Our next meeting will be on Monday January 2nd at 7pm, upstairs in The King’s Head in Wells High Street, conveniently close to the Union Street car park. There will be no guest poet, so come prepared to read a couple of poems, your own or anyone else’s, seasonal or otherwise.

Separation        by Pamela Coate

He said it was here in the woods
that he let the squirrels out
didn’t she recall how
they used to raid the swallows’ nests
became real pests

She sat there in the car
remembering those times
saddened at the thought
of all the lost squirrels
searching for their families

And what must it be like
for people to be separated
after sixty years together
taken into different homes
confused and alone

Now she hears from her friends
it is illegal to transport
squirrels to new habitats
better to shoot them
no law against it

Writing is a never-ending apprenticeship … it’s an addiction – Ian Gouge 

Something Fishy

We enjoyed plenty of variety in an evening of open-mic poetry upstairs at the King’s Head in Wells High Street on November 7th. From laugh-out-loud to wipe-away-a-tear! Both Andrew and Beth read rather fishy poems …
And it was good to welcome back David Cloke from East Coker Poetry. Their next meeting will be on Tuesday November 29th, with Annie Fisher and Anthony Watts, both of them excellent performers from Fire River Poets.

Our next meeting will be on Monday December 5th in the same venue. We’ll start at 7pm, but do come early if you’d like to join us for supper at 6.30. The menu is here.
Our featured poet in December will be Isabel White, director of Alarms and Excursions. Isabel founded Alarms & Excursions in 2009, and has been director of the company ever since, involved with every project of the Collective, which is her real passion. Isabel is a prize winning, published poet, and leads on the artistic agenda of the company, spearheading the majority of projects. Performing across the UK, in Paris and Rotterdam, Isabel has worked with a host of performance poets, actors and musicians, including John Hegley, Michael Horowitz, Elvis McGonagall, Daljit Nagra, Benjamin Till… She hosted Wash House Poets in the City of London, and curated the poetry for the hugely successful Up The Line remembrance events between 2009 and 2013. Isabel was a finalist in the 2013 and 2017 BBC Radio 3 Proms competitions, Adlestrop and Guernsey International Competitions, Pendle War Poem competition (3rd place), was twice commended for the Elmbridge Literary Prize, shortlisted for the Bridport Prize (2016) and Vernal Equinox (2018) Competition. She has served six years on the Governing Council of the Poetry Society and founded and ran its Chichester Stanza for 3 years. Her work is much anthologised and she has three full collections and a pamphlet published to date. Her next collection is due about now.

Other news: Literally Shepton is a celebration of words on 18-19 November. There’s a Found Poetry workshop on the 19th. All events are free but do need to be booked. Check out the website here. And Mark reminded us that there is a poetry meeting in Glastonbury every Monday morning at 10.45 in St John’s Church.

Poetry is a sort of homecoming – Paul Celan.

Tone down the strangeness

Our very first, and long-postponed, Festival Fringe event was a huge success. Our featured poets Michelle Diaz and Graeme Ryan gave dazzling and moving performances.

Michelle is a long-standing member of the Fountain Poets. Earlier this year she was elected the Chaired Bard of Glastonbury, a role she has embraced with gusto. There is both suffering and joy in Michelle’s 2019 pamphlet from Against the Grain, The Dancing Boy, which ‘combines painful honesty with a sense of hopefulness’. Above all, these are poems of love, understanding and acceptance. They tell painful stories but never bear grudges. They reveal a generous spirit and a lively sense of humour. Michelle had come hot-foot from her role that afternoon as a short-list selector for the Wells Young Poets Competition.

Graeme’s full collection, Valley of the Kings, was published earlier this year by Coverstory Books. It is an excavation of family history and of contemporary life, revealing the voices and worlds always present under this one, more real. It is a blend of scholarship, close observation, devotion to the natural world and breathtaking imagination. It is an inexhaustible treasure-house. Every poem reveals more on a second, third or fourth reading.

The meeting was well-attended and there were some very strong readers during the open-mic session, with a handful of particularly hard-hitting social-comment poems. I read out Linda Saunders’s prizewinning poem Two Wood Pigeons (Highly Commended AND People’s Choice) from the aftenoon Wells Festival prizegiving. This poem would still be a joy if it were nothing more than a meticulous observation of the birds preening themselves. But it’s more than that; there’s gentle humour and the poem opens out into a reflection on the work of a poet. I think all of us went home feeling energised and inspired. This post’s title comes from a poem read by Tristram Fane Saunders, judge of the Wells Festival Open Poetry Competition. He has a new book coming out next summer and has expressed interest in coming to us as a guest reader.

We next meet at 7pm on Monday 7th November, upstairs at The King’s Head in Wells High Street, conveniently close to the Union Street Car Park. No guest poet; plenty of open-mic opportunities.

“How do you know if what you’re revising out of a piece isn’t the very thing that made the piece interesting to someone else? What is the difference between thinking about “the reader” and pandering to “the reader”? How do you know if you’re thinking too much about “the reader” or not enough? What if you never think about “the reader”? Do you risk writing poems that are just you mumbling to yourself? What if there is no “reader”? Ever? Is the thing you made still a poem?” This is from a recent blog-post by Marilyn McCabe. The whole is well worth reading here.

The Fringe Binge

Our next meeting is on 17th October starting at 5.30  in the Kings Head, Wells High Street (after the Wells Litfest Poetry Competition prizegiving and readings 2-5pm in Cedars Hall) we’ll have Its the long-postponed Festival Fringe Binge, with open-mic followed by two guest readers, Fountain poet Michelle Diaz, the Chaired Bard of Glastonbury, and Fire River Poet Graeme Ryan, whose stunning collection ‘Valley of the Kings’ was published earlier this year by Coverstory Books.

Theseus and the Minotaur

  • 20th October 2022

Dramatic tales of daring and darkness told by Beth Webb and woven through with music by Jenny Bliss Bennett, at The Bishop’s Palace.

Join story-teller Beth Webb and musician Jenny Bliss Bennett as you venture back to the ancient world with tales of daring, mystery and adventure.

Theseus and the Minotaur is aimed at an adult audience and is recommended for 14+.

You are welcome to bring your own refreshments to enjoy throughout the evening.Doors open: 6.30pm

Performance starts: 7.00pm (approximately 120 minutes including intermission)

You can buy tickets here. Adults £15, under 16 £10

Silver Street Poets to meet again!

Deborah Harvey writes:

We shall be gathering on Friday 30th September, from 12.30 – 2.00pm, at St Stephen’s Church, 21 St Stephen’s St, Bristol BS1 1EQ, when our sacrificial guest reader will be Deborah, reading from her most recent collection, Learning Finity, and dipping her toe in the waters of Silver Street viability. There will also be two open mic sessions, at which attendees are invited to share one poem (no longer than one side of A4). This can be either their own work, or by a poet they admire. 

A contribution of £4 is suggested, or whatever you can afford, to cover room hire costs and the guest poet’s expenses. 

A sleepiness of weather

We started last Monday’s meeting with half an hour of open-mic. Beth was first. “I’m going to read some short poems about weather,” she said, and immediately a thunderstorm began!
Morag read from the first chapter of her newly-published memoir, which begins with these memorable words: I was born on a fault line.
Andrew’s poem put into words what many of us are feeling about the political situation.
Paul sang his new version of a sea shanty (to the tune of The Leaving of Liverpool) all about the problems of finding a place to park in Bristol!
Isabel performed her poem about the Hindenberg and Steve read his narrative poem about Jan van Klamm from Rotterdam.

Then our guest Annie Fisher entertained us with a selection of poems on subjects ranging from our new PM’s attempts to revive the entente cordiale, to Pablo Picasso and his pet owl. We even sang a two-part round in praise of a song-thrush. This post’s title is taken from her poem Naming this Place.

After the break we had poems from Martin, David, Judy and me (Ama), before Annie’s very enjoyable second set.

Our next meeting on Monday 3rd October will be an open-mic, chaired in my absence by David Niven. Same place (The King’s Head in Wells High Street) same time (7pm).

One day while studying a Yeats poem I decided to write poetry the rest of my life … I recognised that a single short poem has room for history, music, psychology, religious thought, mood, occult speculation, character, and events of ones life. I still feel surprised that such various substances can find shelter and nourishment in a poem. – Robert Bly

Other news:

Thursday 6th October – Phantastic Ekphrastic. Isabel White is putting on a free evening of poetry with illustrations, from her latest collection, Scallywag. It’s at The Clevedon Distillery, 23 Old Street, at 7pm.

Monday 17th October at The King’s Head from 5.30pm (immediately after the prizegiving and readings for Wells Litfest) the Fountain Poets’ Fringe Binge, with open-mic and two featured poets – “our” Michelle Diaz, the current Bard of Glastonbury, and Graeme Ryan from Fire River Poets with his fabulous new publication Valley of the Kings.

And finally, two big competitions …

The National Poetry Competition 2022 is now open for entries from all poets worldwide aged 18+, deadline 31 October 2022 – enter here.

The competition is judged by Greta Stoddart, Jason Allen-Paisant and Michael Symmons Roberts. 

troubadour international poetry prize 2022

judged by joshua bennett & victoria kennefick

  • first prize £2,000
  • second prize £1,000
  • third prize £500
  • plus 20 commendeds
  • plus – winners read with judges at 2022 prize-night celebration on mon 5 dec

submit via email by mon 26 sep 2022

(Check out winners, winning poems & judges’ reports, 2021 & prior, on our previous-winners’-poems page.)


  • Victoria Kennefick lives in County Kerry, studied at University College Cork, then at Emory University, & Georgia College & State University as part of a Fulbright Scholarship, co-hosts the Unlaunched Books Podcast & is a Listowel Writers Week committee-member. Her 2021 collection Eat or We Both Starve (Carcanet) was a ‘best poetry book of the year’ in both Telegraph & Irish Times, in addition to being shortlisted for the 2021 TS Eliot Prize.
  • Joshua Bennett has read at the White House at the invitation of President Barack Obama, is Professor of English & Creative Writing at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, & author of Being Property Once Myself: Blackness and the End of Man (Harvard, 2020) & Spoken Word: A Cultural History (forthcoming from Knopf). His poetry collections are The Sobbing School (2016, a National Poetry Series Selection & NAACP Image Award finalist), Owed (2020) & The Study of Human Life (publ. Sep 2022), all from Penguin.

judges read all poems submitted


  • Poems: Poems may be submitted from any country & must be in English, must each be no longer than 45 lines, must show title & poem only, must not show poet’s name, must be the original work of the entrant (no translations) & must not have been previously published; no text alterations accepted after submission; no limit on number of poems or number of subsequent submissions.
  • Submission: Email only, no postal entries: email your poems as attachments (.doc, .docx, .pdf, .rtf only) to; include in email: Poet’s Name & Address, Phone Number, List of Titles, Number of Poems, Total Fees, & PayPal Receipt Number.
  • Fees: £5/€6/$7 per poem (Sterling/Euro/US-Dollars only); pay online at (PayPal account not required).
  • Timeline: Submit by midnight (your local time) on Mon 26 Sep 2022; prize-winners will be contacted in week commencing Mon 21 Nov 2022.
  • Acknowledgement/Results: Submissions acknowledged within 14 days of receipt; results posted on website after our Mon 5 Dec 2022 prize-night event; judges’ decision is final; no correspondence entered into.
  • Email Address: By including email address you agree to receiving emails regarding annual Troubadour International Poetry Prize.