Anthology – Issue 5 now available


Issue 5 of the Algebra of Owls anthology is now available, featuring some of the poems that appeared on the site in the five months between June and October 2017. As usual, it will be distributed free at events around Yorkshire, or available by post for a nominal fee (see here for details).

The featured poets are Jean Atkin, Mary Buchinger, Amy Bunker, Brett Busang, Louisa Campbell, Susan Castillo Street, Kitty Coles, Gareth Culshaw, K. Eltinaé, Alicia Fernández, Carol Folsom, Moira Garland, Ian Glass, Karen Greenbaum-Maya, Sheila Hamilton, Chris Hardy, John Hawkhead, Ceinwen Haydon, Glenn Hubbard, Emilio Iasiello, S.A. Leavesley, Jack Little, Kirsten Luckins, J.C. Mari, Ted Mc Carthy, Ray Miller, Kate Noakes, Stuart Pickford, Drew Pisarra, Emma Power, Clifton Redmond, Laura Solomon, Kathleen Strafford, Grant Tarbard, Lee Thompson, Andrew Turner, Louise Warren and Robert West.


Bristol Zoo – by John Hawkhead


She had a place near the zoo.
At night you could hear the animals
calling and shrieking guttural into night
and back then we drank like deserts, fucked like weasels;
when we lay back you could hear lions
roaring against their cages.
Do you remember that, babe,
as you wash the dishes
and I cut the lawn?





John Hawkhead is a writer and illustrator from the South West of England. His book of haiku/senryu is available from Alba Publishing.

The Griffon’s Impulse – by Sergio Ortiz


I was not born to lose
            or win.
My life is in nostalgia gone out of style.

Like a friend said
when he got beaten by the police:
This is fucked up.
The world ain’t worth shit.
Better I stay stoned.

The least I could do
 is blame it on the energy shortage
                         the speed of time
                                      or the objective eye of the world
but I know
it is my negligence
                        that opens and closes the doors
                                     until I surrender
                                                  to every




I get tired
of the idiotic pride in being a man.

Wolves can tell the most
magnificent stories about perverse lambs.

Lizards do not know
they live in the Third World,

and pigs
can’t invent bombs.





Sergio A. Ortiz is a gay poet, a two-time Pushcart nominee, a four-time Best of the Web nominee, and 2016 Best of the Net nominee. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Valparaiso Poetry Review, Loch Raven Review, Drunk Monkeys, Algebra Of Owls, Free State Review, and The Paragon Journal.

Editorial – Ego & Poetry

This summer I had the great pleasure of seeing Kei Miller perform locally (he is outstanding seen live) and the experience sent me running to re-read something I recall that he wrote for The Poetry Review.

“Poetry, at its best, does not speak on behalf of the self… it speaks the self only in so far as the self is part of something larger. Any school of thought, any teacher, any poet that repeats that lazy dictum – that poetry is a form of ‘self-expression’ – they do a great disservice to poetry. They rob it of its greatest potential.”


“And I get it. At some point in the history of poetry, the poet was invented… Poetry existed before the poet. Poetry existed even before writing…folk songs that told histories or that were used in rituals or that gave the simplest musical delight… There was a woman or man behind these poems, someone who had a facility with words and with composition. But once composed, those poems did not demand attribution or ownership. There was no competition, no literary rivalries, no prizes to be won. Then the poet was invented, which was perhaps inevitable given the ways of man, our relentless need to possess whatever can be possessed. Poetry became a space where the poet could show himself off…”

In the upcoming issue 31 of Poetry Salzburg, Keith Hutson uses the editorial to set out his own manifesto for what he is looking for in submitted poems (a fine piece in a fine journal). His closing remark is….

“I would love to see more poems…that say ‘look at that’ rather than ‘look at me’.”

Damn right to all that. If I had my way, all budding poets would be locked in a room and forced to write nothing but poems in the third person for six months before being let loose on the world (and editors). And maybe then start to work in the first person. The best poetry always places the poet firmly in the background and not the foreground. It is a dialogue and not a monologue. The best performance poetry, for example, is invitational in style (see Steve Pottinger), because loud proclamations of what a poet thinks and feels simply create a barrier between them and the reader/listener, and it isn’t pretty.

There needs to be a separation of poet from poem. At AoO we consider, always, poems for publication. Never poets. We pay no attention to who wrote them. The co-editors review the poems anonymously in any case. We have never accepted or rejected any poet, only the poems that they have written.

I once commented that I love poetry but hate Poetry. Let’s be clear about what I mean by that – the former is the expression of thought and emotion on a page or stage, and it is fabulous. The latter is loosely an amalgam of activity that seeks to elevate the Poet to a position where their identity is more important/relevant than what has been written. In a recent brief Facebook discussion re self-promotional activities, one respondent offered that any sense of unease about such things was primarily because it isn’t British. No, that has fuck all to do with it. It is to do with the correct balance between identity and encapsulation in poetry.

A final thought…. I once heard someone express the idea that at a poetry event, whether they would engage or listen to someone hinged around what they felt toward that person… that if they did not connect with someone personally, they would be unlikely to be interested in anything they had to say…. well, that presupposes that poetry is about what someone has to say in the first place. It would also rule out finding anything meaningful in the poetry of the dearly departed. I consider poetry to be about something being said rather than the someone saying it. Billy Collins has it that his poems improved dramatically when he no longer had anything to say. Maybe he was really talking about the loss of any need to tell people what he had to say. He may well be right.








On the seriousness of bananas – by Mark Farley


I enjoy the way my rabbit eats
a banana slice with frantic mouth
open, hunched over his prize, paws wrapped
around the fruit, nose wriggling, eyes dark
with concentration.

As a baby he took his water,
sometimes milk, reclining in my hand.
Now he runs in circles around me
for shits and giggles. But mostly he
wants the bananas.



Mark Farley has been highly commended for the Bridport Prize.

Book Lover Haiku – by Emma Power


People think it’s odd
when you lurk in libraries
sniffing the book spines.




Emma Power loves reading and writing poetry from her home in Manchester, England and has a little obsession with writing ‘Tweetlits’ on Twitter, which can be found on @epower05. She has many poems published online, under E Power, on,,,, and

my fan – by J.C. Mari


every so often
she asks to see what I’ve written
and i’ll send her one or two.

i don’t try to imagine
her face while she reads them and
i don’t ask if she reads them naked in bed

or maybe in her kitchen
tank top and underwear.

i do imagine she probably takes
puffs out of a joint
and drinks beer while she reads.

Maybe she is in bed and the lights are dim
just enough to read.

every so often
she asks to see what’ i’ve written
and the same thing always comes to mind
like a recurring infection
or a stubborn gnat:

she told me once she wants
for someone to read aloud to her
from “Tropic of Capricorn” while she lays in bed

wants to fall sleep that way.

I don’t try to imagine
if she’s naked in bed or
maybe in her kitchen smoking a joint
wearing tank top and underwear
when her lover comes home.

Mind busy with its beartraps
i give her what she wants from me:

typed-on paper.





J.C. Mari is a Floridian who ekes out his living in occupations unrelated to poesy or the arts. He is occasionally published here and there. Like everyone else he does his best to achieve/maintain some degree of functionality.

The Journey – by Moira Garland

i.m. my brother Kerry 1944-2006


When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in – Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore


While his chest becomes railway maps of love
I collect booklets of knowledge.
I re-arrange what I know. He knows
what is coming. We all know about bones
and flesh, the time they take.

Each morning cascades of silver tears
on journeys to work turn to double yellow
lines on black tarmac.

I still have the same white Fiat.
The mock leather seats are cracking with age
looking like they’re about to give up.
I won’t let them.





Moira arrived in Leeds via Liverpool, Warrington, Hong Kong, Cheshire, York and Huddersfield. Prior to poetry taking hold she worked as a bottle-packer, graph sorter-outer, medical secretary and lecturer, accompanied by a few fun things: melodeon playing, knitting and a son.

Eight – by Mary Gustafson


We were in it together.


Me. And him.

You were Eight!

I wasn’t supposed to cross the dam my parents told me.

He was at least twenty years older than you!

I should not have been there in the first place.

You were the victim.

I should have run.

You didn’t know.

I could have fought.

You were EIGHT.


After the woods, I follow orders, muddy little kid feet in stirrups. Thick rubber fingers prod metal spreads.

A ceiling blob is a kitten. I decide: exposure is death.

I cut my cheeks with razor blades burn diary pages in my parent’s powder blue bathroom kiss big boys the French way in fourth grade diet, screw myself small, and lock the manhole cover. Never let insides out again!

My privates shimmy down round playground poles.

I liked some of it.

That’s normal.

I want that feeling back I kiss bigger and bigger boys. When I am ten, I feel old.

I was eight.




Mary Gustafson is the author of My Wish, The Story of a Man who brought Happiness to America, a writing coach, copywriter and blogger. She describes herself as an author with a long childhood, which has been transformed into productive fodder with therapy, mindful practices and time.  You can find Mary at, on Facebook and on Twitter.

Expatriate in Rome – by Emilio Iasiello


starving there, sitting around the cafes
at night, passing wine
with another vagabondo,
the smell of Rome
cast up in arcs of fresh pasta
and grilled veal

I suddenly think how lire
goes farther than dollars
if you know how to spend them
the way being lost
in a city
is the only way to become its native
without speaking the language
but knowing its streets
knowing where to bum
a drink or bed
that two blocks away from the pantheon
is a bar where Angelo feeds you
if you just mention the words
new york
and I remember the time
(short on cash)
I found a package
wrapped in newspaper
written in english
and uncovered a treasure
of bread and cheese,
a warm can of beer,
and ate in the intimacy of an alley
thinking life would be perfect
if I only had
the racing form
or funny pages.



Emilio has written two books: a collection of short stories, Why People do What They Do, and a nonfiction narrative, Chasing the Green. He has also written for the stage and screen and has had numerous works produced in New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and London, UK. His film credits can be found here