Sue Wood – ‘Birth’ and ‘Land’s End’

Charlotte Lindsay: 'How Babies were Born'
Charlotte Lindsay: ‘How Babies were Born’


Sue Wood’s two poems ‘Becoming Sand’ and ‘Postcard: Salt Marsh with Cows’ appear in our anthology Lines Underwater. We loved the gorgeous imagery in these poems, and the sense of a visceral yearning for the absent sea in ‘Postcard’.  You can read these two poems by picking up a copy of Lines Underwater: ‘a beautiful, mesmeric piece of work’ according to a recent review. Sue has also donated two further poems, ‘Birth’, and ‘Land’s End’ to our website, take a look at the downloadable pdf:


Land’s End and Birth – Sue Wood


Sue Wood explains,
“My writing has to fit round a life that is always busy with running creative writing projects, gardening, being a grandmother and running a guest house. So it occurs in fits and starts: when I have a theme or poem on the go  I seem to make more time for writing. I find attending Poetry School courses or going on an Arvon course gives me useful deadlines, and it is a treat to be a participant and not the leader of a writing group. I wrote ‘Becoming Sand’ in a writing workshop about travel – it is almost unaltered apart from the ending that I’m still not sure about. ‘Postcard: Salt Marsh with Cows’  came from a workshop led by Penny Shuttle. We were each given a landscape postcard and this one intrigued me by its absence of actual cows. The idea of shifting realities governs the poem, as well as my memories of the Norfolk fen country, its huge emptiness.


“‘Birth’ is one of several poems written close to the births of grandchildren and not only have I been moved by the way (given modern science) we come to know unborn children through  early scans, but the sense that we all pass from  a comforting, solitary, enclosed, watery world in the womb to the discomforts of our survival within human society. I had been reading Darwin at this time so evolution was in my mind.


“‘Land’s End’  is a memory of  a walk I did with my husband several years ago in early evening out on the Cornish peninsular.  I have always been attracted  to the ‘edges’ of land – where  the world we know and perhaps take for granted ends and becomes abruptly different, alien and disconcerting.  This is an experience that makes us know our own  human limitations, re-assess what and who we are, where we sit in the universe, why ‘love’ binds us to each other.”
Sue Wood works as a creative writer in various health care situations. She is widely published in anthologies and journals, including the Forward Poetry Anthology, 2010. Her first collection Imagine yourself as water won a Cinnamon Press Award for Poetry.

‘Recessional’ – Bernd Sauermann

Bernd Sauermann has contributed an excellent poem, ‘The Give and Take’, to Lines Underwater. Here, you can read another of his poems, ‘Recessional’. He explains,

“My writing process is, for the most part, mysterious to me. My poems often begin with random lines presenting themselves to me. If a given line catches my attention, I just sort of flap in the breeze behind it in the composition process, often not fully realizing what the poem is going to be about until the poem’s rough draft is fairly complete. Then, in the revision process, I tighten things up, paying close attention to the nuances of words’ sounds and meanings in the context of the poem’s dramatic situation. I’ve been drawn to prose poems lately, partly because the form (or lack of) I think forces readers to focus more exclusively on content and idea, vs. focusing on content and idea as a part of a “poem,” though I guess a “prose” poem is still, ultimately, just another “form” of poetry.”


I float on the warmth of fingers through warm hair.  A

future is strung like Spanish moss in the trees, and the

bayou rises to meet the laughter of a woman. Later, a

truce is drawn: I gather moss, and a laughing girl

watches the rain wet my hair. She describes the rain

to me in glances, and I take in her glistening syllables,

someone who used to wallow in a dry heat, the glare

of a red sun setting on a highway receding in the

cracked rearview mirror.

Bernd Sauermann teaches at Hopkinsville Community College in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, and is also the poetry editor at Whole Beast Rag, an online (and sometimes print) journal of art, ideas, and literature. He has poems, stories and photographs published in The McSweeney’s Book of Poets Picking Poets, Southern Indiana Review, New Orleans Review, Nimrod, Poet Lore, The Kansas Quarterly Review of Literature, Leveler, Mad Hat Review, ežRatio, Vinyl Poetry, and many other publications, a chapbook titled Diesel Generator from Horse Less Pressand his first full-length collection, Seven Notes of a Dead Man’s Song, will be published in the coming year by Mad Hat Press.

Luciana Francis – ‘Canto Para Sereias’ and ‘Memoria’

Luciana Francis’ beautiful song Canto Para Sereias appears in Lines Underwater. The song is based on a poem she wrote in her native Portugese, and translated especially for us. Have a listen:


Under the waves they roam
Sea, galloping, horses
Rafts slide by unnoticed
Where mermaids pay their visits

And I know that they call
Out for you, and I know that they
Sing to enchant you

Their hair bares curls like waves
Starfish are ever so daring
Alluring sailors to the deep
Promising their invisible kingdom

And I know that they call
Out for you, and I know that they
Sing to enchant you.

Luciana also writes novels and short stories. Below, you can download one of her short stories, Memoria, which, like Phoebe Power’s poem Stella’s Body in our anthology, links a siren-theme with Marian devotion.

Memoria by Luciana Francis

Luciana Francis was born Luciana Saldanha in Sao Paulo, Brazil. She moved to London in 1998, where she still resides. She graduated in Anthropology & Media at Goldsmiths College and is currently writing a novella in her native Portuguese.

‘Writ in Water’ – Polly Atkin

Polly Atkin’s poem ‘Lake Fever’ appears for the first time in Lines Underwater – an anthology of new art work and writing re-envisioning mermaids in the twenty first century. Here, you can read four more water-themed poems by Polly, as well as her great piece ‘Writ on Water’ in which she explains how water inspires her poetry.

Polly Atkin – Three Poems


Writ in Water

“I was born and brought up in Nottinghamshire, one of the most landlocked counties in Britain, by two parents who love the sea.

“This is how I came to spend the first weeks of my life by or on water. My arrival four weeks ahead of schedule interrupted the family holiday by the sea in Devon. Instead of changing plans, they accommodated the extra person and carried on. The overwhelming atmosphere of my first weeks was salt air and sand; waves and sea breezes; unsteady footing. The medium of being was water. I spent most of that summer floating on an estuary, neither one place nor another.

“It is this, in my mind, which explains my intense and particular love of water. My need for water. When I don’t swim regularly I dream of it. When I find myself flying in dreams I am really swimming through the thin water of the air. As a child I came to think my very slightly webbed fingers and toes marked me out as the descendant of Selkies – those seal-women who put off their skins for a chance to walk, and love, as a human, and too often find themselves stranded, beached in human form, when their skin is taken from them. It seemed the worst cruelty in the world – not to be able to return to the ocean. I became determined to live by the sea. My best friend and I developed a way to soar underwater we called Mermaid Stroke. I became convinced of my paradoxical nature. I saw myself as a peculiar monster – a big cat happiest in her skin when her fur is scaled.

“For me, a hot day is wasted if it does not include a swim. On land I am clumsy. I trip over my own limbs. I fall off the solid ground. I stumble. My joints are too loosely strung together. When I run I rattle. In the water I am faster, smoother: a completed creature. Comfortable in my body in a way I find rarely, dry.

“At 10 I discovered the wonders of lake-swimming. All that pellucid freshwater; the mountains inverted in the lake surface as you propelled your sleek shape through them. My ideal landscape shifted: there now must be mountains and lakes running down to the permanent sea. I found this in many ways when I moved to the Lake District 2006 to start my phD. I’ve come to think of the Lake District as underpinned, culturally and structurally, not by rock, but by water. It is, as Samuel Baker calls is, essentially ‘a maritime region’. In his Cumbrian poetry, Norman Nicholson conceptualised the fells as constantly tumbling into the ‘sea to the west’.

“This vision – this need for water – to be on it, in it, around it – underpins all my thinking. It appears and reappears in my writing from my earliest childish adventure stories to my latest poems and even my academic work.

‘Lake Fever’ was written during 10 months of self-imposed exile in 2010 as I wrote up my thesis back in Nottingham. It came directly out of a link I made in my academic work between Calenture – a tropical disease believed in Wordsworth’s time to make infected Sailors throw themselves into the waves in an effort to return to their distant homes –  and Wordsworth’s descriptions of the inland waters of the Lake District. Alan Bewell describes the Calenture as a kind of pathological homesickness. I began to see in Wordsworth’s work a kind of cold-climate Calenture, a Lake Fever. Then, of course, I diagnosed it in myself.”

Polly Atkin lives in Cumbria. Her poetry has been published widely, recently in Pilot Pocket Book, MagmaRialto, and 1110. Her debut pamphlet bone song (Clitheroe: Aussteiger, 2008) was shortlisted for the 2009 Michael Marks Pamphlet Award. Her second pamphletShadow Dispatches (Bridgend: Seren, 2013) won the Mslexia Pamphlet Prize 2012. She is happiest in or by water, with the sun on her face.

Phoebe Power – ‘Stella’s Body’ and ‘Clarsach’

Phoebe Power’s poem ‘Stella’s Body’ appears in Lines Underwater – get yourself a copy to read it! Here, she explains her inspiration behind the poem, and also lets us read another one of her poems, ‘Clarsach’.

“‘Stella’s Body’ is inspired by the phrase ‘Stella Maris’ meaning ‘Star of the Sea’, an epithet of the Virgin Mary. This beautiful image encouraged me to try to write something that combined the mermaid of folklore with the icon of Mary. For my poem I imagined a woman dense with stars, like a goddess-giant stretched across the ocean.

The Star of the Sea

The Star of the Sea

“A 14th century lyric in English and Latin begins with the phrase ‘of one that is so fair and bright, / Velut maris stella [as the star of the sea]’ (this is set beautifully to music by Benjamin Britten – listen here I don’t speak Latin, but love those words associated with Mary which appear in medieval texts, like integra, effecta, electa, salutis. Even the sound of these words is pure, star-like, almost icy, washed, salty and marine.

“Several of my poems start with a single word or group of words in mind and try to explore the possibilities of their symbolism, sound and feel. This poem takes the word ‘clarsach’, the name of a type of small metal-stringed harp, and gives it a female persona perhaps also obliquely related to an idea of Mary.”


They lift the girl-harp in a hammock

of silver wire not to touch the ground or snap

a clavicle. Her feet are blades

not pedals. They change the key in naturals

and sharps. On the lawn, she tingles

her clitoris, and notes sprinkle with the grass-seed in the air.

Phoebe Power was an Eric Gregory Award winner in 2012 and a Foyle Young Poet in 2009. Her poems have appeared in Magma, Cadaverine and Orbis.

William Kherbek – Four poems

Mermaid Haikus

She half-expected
and he half expected her
to kiss like a woman.

Porno tableau: pink
hair mermaid cries pearl tears.
Hunger leaves a stain.

Vision: stoned fish tank
glow, her face pokes out just past
the plastic castle.

What Happens on Tour/Generational Spokes-Mermaid Haibun

I still live in those cold unknowing journeys, eternally half-asleep but
with the deepest recess of my brain violently awake. Everything is passing
unreal when you can’t read road signs or advertising, or even the syntax of
the visual clues a culture leaves for itself. In total night I was walking
through some barely real town, my head barely fastened on. I looked up at
the light bulb areolae as they set the face of a young German
spokes-mermaid gleaming. In the end, I managed to wrestle something about
broadband from it. I slept that night next to the train station because it
was lighter there than anywhere else.

In the station moon-
light, everything is possible
even this mermaid.

William Kherbek is the visual art critic for Port Magazine, his weekly reviews can be found Fridays at His writing has also appeared in several publications produced by the London gallery Arcadia Missa including in the forthcoming edition of How to Sleep Faster. For more

Order a copy of Lines Underwater if you’d like to read three new poems by William!

Katie Hale – How to Kill a Mermaid

How to Kill a Mermaid

To split her tail, you take her fins and pull.

(There is no blood, but the smell

of rotting fish, and saltwater stinging

in the wound.)

 Put her on the land

and make her dance, shedding scales

and stumbling, undressing her skin:

raw and pink and shining like a burn.

Hear her wailing like a curlew,

fingers wrinkled into fists against her eyes,

and tie her wrists

  (it will not hurt) –

then push the girl away, and watch her

hobble back towards the sea and drown.

Born in Cumbria, Katie Hale is the founder of poetry project ‘[insert text here]’ (sic). Her work has been published in Poetry Review, The Frogmore Papers and Cadaverine, among others. She is currently studying for an MLitt in Creative Writing at the University of St Andrews, and working on her debut pamphlet. More at:

Katie has written another mermaid-related poem, Siren Song, which you can read soon! She said of it:

My writing process various from poem to poem. Where the raw idea originates is nearly always a mystery to me, but the finished piece usually ends up a couple of steps removed from that initial thought anyway. This particular piece presented its own challenges because of the rhyme. In some ways, this limited what I could say, but it was also a generative process: if there’s something you want to say that won’t fit the rhyme scheme, you either have to find a different way to express it, or say something different. This element of rhyme was key to the creation of this poem, and is something I’m being drawn to more and more – it forces me not only to think outside the box, but to examine the box from every angle as well.

Six poems – Agnes Marton

Agnes Marton has contributed a wonderful poem to the anthology, which is currently available to pre-order. In addition, she has allowed us to show you some more of her poetry, along with accompanying art works by Midori McCabe and Malgorzata Lazarek.

Agnes Marton: poetry

Agnes Marton is a Hungarian-born poet, editor, linguist. She also takes part in international art projects. Most recent publications include the award-winning ‘Estuary: a Confluence of Art and Poetry’ (USA; editor and contributor); ‘Penning Perfumes’, ‘Binders Full of Women’, ‘Catechism: Poems for Pussy Riot’ (UK); ‘Gateway’ (USA); ‘For Rhino in the Shrinking World’ (South Africa).

We’re also posting today about another collaboration between Agnes and Midori – take a look!


Two mermaid poems – Christopher Mulrooney

One of the contributors to the book, Christopher Mulrooney, has written a lot of mermaid poems. As well as those that you can read in the anthology, have a look at another two of his poems – short, restrained and lower-case.

Two Poems – Cheri Allcock

Here are two wonderful water-themed poems by one of the contributors to the anthology, Cheri Allcock:

La Piscine…

The pool is my palace, the pool is my place, safe place, haven place. Loved up place, love locked down place. Desert park place, the river heart place. Never mind place, muck about place. NO DIVING, NO RUNNING, NO BOMBING, NO JUMPING

No frolicking, no frolicking, no frolicking, no frolicking, no frolicking…

The Swimming Pool


I can see, that quickly there have appeared a maze of walls to start at defeating us, and water barriers to keep us from the world, sheltering us in artificial cover. I give you moss, you give me moss, and we feed like peasants.  There is fencing everywhere ‘for the people’, but maybe there is shrubbery too, somewhere, greenery and fields full of food. Flood the gates! Imaginary landscapes! So far, I can only recall the concrete ships,  factories and stones that skip and stop too early at the doom of a day up too soon, in the cold, severely unhappy. But you know more than me. Can you see the aqua in my eyes? Can you see the leaves? Can you see the fishies?In conflict, in apathy, with mild traces of greenery… we say it to ourselves, daily (in meditation) ‘we must begin to live,  w e   m u s t   learn how to live.’
On the tongue is another night of medicinal fodder, a damp awakening on a half camp, a fake rural setting, with a tormented wind swept ambition; to get up and go, to make a meal of it, to make a master of oneself.


Cheri Allcock graduated with a bachelors degree in Art History & Fine Art from Goldsmiths College in London, she now lives and works in Cairo.
She says that her writing process is often quite ‘free flow’ and usually stems  from some visual stimulus which then develops and (she says) writes itself in words.  The pieces exist aurally as brief moments destined to pass. Repeating, pausing and falling they are almost always intended to be ‘said and not read’.
You can read two more of Cheri’s poems in the anthology