Review – Prole Issue 22 – by Hannah Stone

Algebra of Owls does *not* print reviews, but when my co-editor Hannah Stone volunteered to write a review of Prole magazine I was more than happy to accommodate it, as it is a journal for which I have a lot of respect.


Review of Prole, Poetry and Prose, Issue 22

“According to the rubric for its Pamphlet Competition, Prole ‘always seeks to publish work that challenges, engages and entertains.’ Issue 22 meets the brief with energy. I did not equally enjoy every piece that I read, but the standard of writing was high. The variety of content, the care with which the items are ordered, and the production values are all to be commended. The image used for the front cover draws you in to a meaty collection of writing, split roughly equally between prose and poetry. In addition, there are results and adjudication comments of the Prole Laureate Poetry Competition, and advertisements for the forthcoming Pamphlet Competition and a couple of publications, including the editor’s own debut pamphlet. Taken as a whole, this is evidence of a (successful) bid to make a serious contribution to the community of printed contemporary writing. That is not to say that the contents are always serious. There is dark humour in Rebecca Sandeman’s fantasy dystopia, and wry smiles in the beautifully pitched reinterpretation of ‘family’ in the multiracial world delineated by Dave Wakely.

Over 40 poems, most of them sole offerings of particular poets, allow for considerable diversity. A ‘house style’ is however evident, in the dominance of free verse. Much of the poetry speaks very immediately; some requires – or invites– re-reading. In particular I enjoyed Robert Nisbet’s ‘In a Strange Land’, which uses four brief but shapely stanzas to delineate the dynamic between alienation and belonging, showing how experience is, literally, translated. Tom Moody’s ‘Taboo’ asks difficult questions, again with apparent economy of effort. Margaret Beston’s ‘Commodity’ reworks the imagery of sheep-shearing in a first person account of a village girl whose poverty drives her to sell the ‘crop’ of her hair. The prompts to the poems include perennials such as love, death and losses both literal and metaphorical; there’s also ekphrastic response in Jo Colley’s ‘My dress hangs there’, and urgent re-evaluations of political posturing: Nick Lovell’s ‘All for some not some for all’ and John Hawkhead’s ‘A Cook’s Hand’ speak with authority on the imbecility of war. Male poets predominate in this issue; this is just how it pans out sometimes. I was certainly engaged and entertained and at times challenged; congratulations to all who contributed to Issue 22, and to the production team and editors.”

Hannah Stone

ECT – by Clare McCotter


Back then they thought your head was cut.
Hurtling across the globe
one end’s errand
to see a bird barely bigger than a fly.
And yes, you did
crouched starry eyed in leaf litter
you saw it.
Day breaking over the hills
behind Cárdenas when it first appeared.
Zunzuncito, the bee hummingbird
shimmery and suspended in a bivalve of air.

Later on they knew your head was cut.
How could they not
it was written all over your arms
and breasts and thighs
body turned travelogue
its hieroglyphics deepening
with each chapter.
You got the works: Citalopram
Fluoxetine, Amitriptyline, Mirtazapine.
ECT finally doing the trick.

Electrical storms cooled now to fog
softening the edges
of sodium light, impulses and knives
but not the smell
of sweat on a greasy vest
not the taste
of roll ups on an old man’s breath.
Some things are sharper
in this fog you know will never lift
some, like the bright blue wing of a tiny bird
gone for good.




Clare McCotter’s poetry has appeared in Abridged, Boyne Berries, The Cannon’s Mouth, Crannóg, Cyphers, Decanto, Envoi, The Galway Review, The Honest Ulsterman, Iota, Irish Feminist Review, The Leaf Book Anthology, The Linnet’s Wings, The Moth Magazine, A New Ulster, Panning For Poems, The Poetry Bus (forthcoming), PoetHead, Poetry24, Reflexion, Revival, The SHOp, The Stinging Fly and The Stony Thursday Book. Home is Kilrea, County Derry.

Poem Beginning with a Line from an Abandoned Translation – by Robert West


Le travail mène à la richesse – Apollinaire


“The way to wealth is through hard work”?
That’s hard to say without a smirk.
Work does bring wealth, but here’s the hitch:
it’s not the workers getting rich.





Robert’s poems have recently appeared in Algebra of Owls, Alabama Literary Review, The Gravity of the Thing, Light, Lighten Up Online, Snakeskin, and Still: The Journal. Co-editor of Succinct: The Broadstone Anthology of Short Poems (Broadstone Books, 2013), he teaches at Mississippi State University.

The Theology of the Anderson Shelter – by Jean Atkin


We went there to escape the rain in northern summers,
took a torch. Took a tartan tin of broken biscuits,
the kind bought by the pound in paper bags.
We even took our macs – the planks were slimy
on their milk crates and behind our backs
green water wept on Accrington brick.
Even the Catholics cheated at cards
and there were slugs.

In the right week, we took woody pears off the tree
which loomed over the shelter and must
have known the world before the wars.
We ate its fruits and pieced together sex
from Woman’s Own. We argued
about the afterlife, its steps from Purgatory
to God, and whether, unbaptised,
my brother and I
might merit Limbo.




Jean Atkin’s collection ‘Not Lost Since Last Time’ is published by Oversteps Books and she has also published five poetry pamphlets and a children’s novel. Her poems have won various prizes and recent work appears in Magma, Envoi, The North, Earthlines and The Moth. She has held many residencies in both England and Scotland, and works in education and community projects.  and Twitter @wordsparks

Interior with nude – by Sue Norton

after Harold Gilman



She perches on the edge of the bed clasping her right knee
smiling, leaning forward, but he’s thinking about Walter Sickert,
new ways with colour to make the bed sheets dance, stroking them
with stripes: blue, mauve, green and pink. That strong glow
from the red curtains behind her and the dark plums of the sofa
warm everything up, even her flesh, saggy and past its best;
see, yellow highlights make it sing, and light settles on her
rounded shoulders like a mantle. A sponge floats
in a red-rimmed bowl of water; dark finger-marks dent it
like skull sockets, but this is a lively scene with a cheery lady.
Put your brush down, deary; time yet for a bit of fun.



Sue Norton has had poems published in various magazines. She lives in York.

We don’t know what to do with the dead things – by Louisa Campbell




Skin them, chop them, stuff them in a pie.
Boil them up with vegetables. Put them on to fry.

Take them to a taxidermist; pose them in glass cases.
Use their hides for furry hats (but don’t look at their faces).

Dress them up in pretty clothes and lay them down in boxes.
Bury them deep underground to save them from the foxes.

Stick their heads on wooden poles, outside the city gate.
Add some coloured circles and display them in the Tate.

Drop them in the deepest sea, in a lead-lined coffin.
Donate them to the lab to be dissected by a boffin.

Seal them up in pyramids with hoards of golden treasure.
Put them in a carriage, drawn by horses wearing feathers.

Stand them up in catacombs. Sing a hymn of sorrow.
Chuck them in the freezer now and work it out tomorrow.




Louisa Campbell hangs around English spa towns. A psychiatric nurse in the past, she now has a bizarre illness, so she writes, and adopts stray dogs. She has realised that life is silly, but important, and she is very happy about that.


Guest Editor for June – Jane Kite

Delighted to announce that Jane Kite will be selecting our June Editor’s Choice Poem of the Month.

Jane Kite lives in Otley. Her poems have appeared in various magazines, in anthologies from Frogmore Press and Paper Swans and in various other places. She is frequently shortlisted and commended in competitions and has won minor prizes. She reads regularly at events around West Yorkshire and sometimes further afield. Her verse play Bad Jenny has been performed three times and a version of it can be found at this link ChapelFM Radio. Her collection Distaff was published this yearWith two other poets, she runs Half Moon Books, a small publisher of poetry (

Galvanized – by Ian Glass


This old bucket has hunkered
upside down in the garden
since your house was yours.
It is a good bucket, protected
by philadelphus and sacrificial zinc
and still functional though rust
edges into its seams and rivets.
Tap the side; listen to the void.
Pick it up, turn it over;
feel it start to fill with rain.



Ian Glass grew up in Northumberland and lives in Worcestershire. He trained as an engineer, works as a computer programmer and writes most of his poetry when he should be doing something else.

Vole Clock – by Lynda Turbet


Archaeologists can date a site by examining the jaw bones of voles and the marks on their teeth enamel.


In layered earth
grooved teeth, chipped bone
measure silent years
tell uncountable time.
The cautious trowel
scrapes, probes
discloses buried fragments
to expert scrutiny.

This mark – a hundred thousand years.

A scurry of ghost voles through the grass –
one, caught by hawk or owl
or dead from cold
leaves its frail footprint on the world
numbers our selfish time
no more than breath
and death an exhalation
a second’s tick in vastness
too huge to comprehend.




After decades teaching in the north of England and Scotland, Lynda Turbet now observes the world from rural Norfolk, and tries to make sense of it all through writing.

Emily as Dumb Luck – by Darren Demaree


I was drunk
all of the time
& I still ended

up with her.
I’m resisting
the urge to

change that
story. I will
some day.





Darren currently lives and writes in Columbus, Ohio and his poems have appeared, or are scheduled to appear in numerous magazines/journals, including the South Dakota Review, Meridian, New Letters, Diagram, and the Colorado Review.

His most recent collection Many Full Hands Applauding Inelegantly was published by 8th House Publishing. He is also the Managing Editor of the Best of the Net Anthology and Ovenbird Poetry.