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Last night I went to the launch of Heather Taylor Johnson’s new collection of poems, Meanwhile, the Oak, at The Mockingbird Lounge.  This is Heather’s fourth book of poetry, this time published by Five Islands Press, with the cover photo by Rachael Mead.

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The collection was launched by Alison Flett, another brilliant local poet, who spoke about some of the themes in these poems; family, pets and most noticeably the belly, a symbol of health and fertility.

Heather stepped up to share just two poems – ‘They said’ and ‘This old house’ – the first for her three children who did an excellent job of bookselling and the other for her husband, whose home brew proved very popular.

‘They said’ is an expertly crafted braided poem, weaving Heather’s thoughts with those of her children to give us a snapshot of their lives:

‘Crawling beside me, a tiny question mark

in uncertain darkness says

There was someone in a box

It was raining

It was in my dream

And then later, to reinforce the parent/child dynamic:

‘Because I hold fear in my teeth like old fillings, I listen when they say

It’s scary at night, so dark.

I wish the moon would sleep with me

‘This old house’ is essentially a love poem, but the kind that has thorns as well as the flower to really make you feel.  It’s bursting with passion, movement and heat:

‘In the living room / let’s rub together like carpet and shag.

Let’s read each other in the study.

On the woodpile / let’s aim for splinters.’

And the final lines are simply stunning:

‘On the veranda / let’s be stars and go oooo and ahhh as we shoot off in

every direction.’

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Heather’s work always draws a big crowd because it’s visceral, gritty, absorbing. Imagine gorging on a piece of fruit, the juices running down your chin, the tang in your mouth, the colours in your head.  For me, this is Heather’s poetry; in the moment, unabashed, full of life, sharing the very essence of herself and what it means to be human.

I was thrilled to find out a couple of months ago that two of my poems were selected for inclusion in Driftfish.

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This is a Zoomorphic anthology of poetry, prose and pictures about marine life – to celebrate it in all its fantastical forms and to commiserate it in its dwindling numbers. Hundreds of submissions were received from around the world and I was lucky enough to be one of its international contributors, thanks to poetry editor Susan Richardson.

Driftfish is Zoomorphic’s first print anthology in which they aim to convey the magazine’s core principle: “to defend non-human species, we must reconnect our imaginations to them.”

The launch was yesterday at ONCA in Brighton, UK as part of its current exhibition Do you speak seagull? and I was one of four to Skype in to read. This was a first for me and unfortunately, no doubt due to our temperamental connection, I wasn’t able to hear them and had to go by visual prompts to begin reading! The main thing however, was that they could hear me perfectly, and I was shown around the room to claps and waves afterwards thanks to Ellie, ONCA’s tech guru.

A copy of the anthology is swimming its way to me as we speak, so if you’re interested in the stunning life the oceans hold, grab a copy and dive in!