Tenguhisa the Puppet-maker – by Hilary Hares


He crafts his work from cypress and hemp
turning each limb with the skill of
an ancient chisel handed on by his father.
also known as Tenguhisa the puppet-maker.

When the kabuki curtain lifts the figures spring
to life: the naked feet of the outcast maiko
are walking to Kochi, the eyebrows
of the shõgun are rising in disdain.

Inside each rigid chest the heart-space
is a void. They have no words and yet
we watch in silent tears, their legends
passed on by invisible hands.




kabuki – classical Japanese dance-drama
maiko – dance child (geisha in training)
shõgun – emperor


Hilary Hares has an MA in Creative Writing (Poetry) from Manchester Metropolitan University. She lives in Farnham, Surrey and her poems have found homes online and in print including Ink, Sweat and Tears, The Interpreter’s House and Magma. Her collection, A Butterfly Lands on the Moon is sold on behalf of Phyllis Tuckwell Hospice Care.




A Scattering of Poets

As a bit of fun, I have plugged the geographical location of about 75% of the poets published to date in Algebra of Owls into a map generator to produce a quick visual overview of where our contributors have come from.


Here is a zoomed-in map of the UK (which is pretty crowded on the big map).

small map

The Iceman – by Carol Folsom


In Bolzano, Italy
a 5,000 year old man
preserved by the frozen Alps

now lies in a museum
where the sun showers
pink and gold on the Dolomites

his corpse in a transparent cooler
dried and shrunk
like an overcooked chicken

61 tattoos
on his thigh
back, legs, wrist

tribal loyalty
or rites of initiation
or maybe just to beautify

art everlasting
a canvas of skin
a language
we still speak




Carol is an attorney in Jacksonville, Florida. Her work has appeared in Belle Reve Journal, Talking Writing, On the Veranda, Cradle Songs, Three Minus One, Everyday Fiction, and Flashlight Memories.



Review (ish) – Robeson, Fitzgerald and Other Heroes, Robert Nisbet


We have enjoyed publishing several poems by Robert Nisbetso an immediate purchase of his new pamphlet (winner of the 2017 Prole Pamphlet Competiton) was a no-brainer in this house.

The majority of the poems are written in the past tense, and only a couple are written from a first-person perspective, the latter showing Robert’s maturity as a writer (and, I should guess, as a human being – reading books of resolutely first-person perspective poems can sometimes feel a bit like being coshed over the head). The overriding impression is the fond recollection of a older world, with many of the poems written about children and youths which he emphasises by stating the age of the the well-drawn characters – here fifteen, there ten, the under-twelves training on the pitch, each of them clearly viewed from a distance. There is a constant sense that he is trying to capture a time and place (very Welsh) on the page before the memory of it disappears altogether.

In Halley’s Comet we have an explicit comparison presented to us, of the differing worlds that the comet passed over in 1910 and 1986, and a sense that the poet feels that things have perhaps taken a turn for the worse. With Life Drawing (probably my favourite poem in the book) he presents an old woman posing nude for an art class, delineating her physical and emotional history, contrasted with the drawing students’ ignorance of her secrets. I felt a certain niggle here, with the idea that such history can be ignored and lost. The closing poem A Calendar for 1970 addresses this even more directly, showing how a reader in 2010 can take a book written forty years earlier and through it get a real grasp of the emotional geography of an earlier era when the writer was capturing it on the page. This felt like the poem that explained what the poet was trying to achieve with the whole book.

Throughout, the people and their stories that populate these pages are vivid and authentic, the emotional force cleanly depicted with concrete imagery and language that rarely disappears into abstraction, and therefore holds your attention closely. I read the whole thing in one sitting and never felt bored. Which is as good as it gets, really.

Chickenometry I – by Elisabeth Horan


The color of your legs often =
the color of your eggs, + my carcass:
a hanging weight > than the total
grain portion one hen might consume in her
lifetime, x(2). Fights break out; aggressive
pecking secures water and submissive
order. Some will maim you, deforming you.

Our eyes often take the brunt of it all.
We are just tweaked beaks all vying to be-
come proportionally more edible;
whilst becoming proportionally
less fatty. Just imagine the end run!
Wrap your head around this economic
meat equation. Breasts on sale: $4.99 per lb.



Elisabeth Horan is a poet mother student lover of kind people and animals, homesteading in Vermont with her tolerant partner and two young sons. She writes to survive and survives to write – We are all battling something. Let’s support each other. She teaches at River Valley Community College in New Hampshire.  @ehoranpoet.



Tricot Trick or Treat – by Ann Gibson


The lavender gentleladies gather, heads huddled
swapping gossip over clicking bamboo.

Flying fingers turn heels with sleight of hand,
pass slipped stitches into Shetland lace,

twine Fair Isle kaleidoscopes, harlequin intarsia,
snake Aran ropes and cables,

grow rows of basket, garter, stocking, moss,
diamonds and blackberries.

Working off-piste, without pattern,
their edgy craft eschews baby bonnets and booties;

conjures tiered wedding cakes, emoji peas,
magics minster gargoyles, mermaid tails.

Charmed creations are gifted with graceful smiles
– and mostly blessed with benevolence –

but beware of snags and spells, purls cast with curses
occult stitches dropped, ready to run, unravel.



Ann Gibson spent her childhood in Dublin and now lives in North Yorkshire. She has published poetry in Acumen, Prole, Orbis and Ariadne’s Thread magazines as well as online in Lighten Up Online, Snakeskin, Pulsar and Ofi Press. She has an MA in Literature Studies from York St John University.

Castles – by Melanie Branton


I’m at a workshop at a poetry festival and we’re supposed to be
writing down our thoughts, but the only thoughts in my mind right now
are how the knob of butter in a baked potato looks a bit like a vagina
and how I spoke too quietly when the featured poet asked my name
and now he’s signed my book, “To Melamine”,

and there’s a little boy here with a dad with a hipster beard
and a mum carrying The Guardian and wearing lots of artisan-crafted jewellery.
He’s called Alfred or Arthur or Horatio, or one of those names,
he’s not been backwards about coming forwards all session
and when we’re asked who would like to share their work,
he strides towards the microphone like it is his birthright.

And I know it’s shameful that I’m angry at his “cockiness”, I know
that rosebuds should not be kept tightly shut,
they should be allowed to bloom,
but I’m broken that he assumes by six
what my father could not believe by eighty-six:
that his voice is entitled to be heard.

My father thought that poems had to rhyme. It was the rule.
He liked the kind of poems that get sneered at at your open mics
and he would have hated this one. He was very quiet.
So, sneer if you like, but know his life was measured out in rigid metre,
a regular pattern that he could not break, like a b a b,
like bricks cemented in English bond, a pattern of cheap jeans,
of chequered shirts from Millets, of sandwiches wrapped in greaseproof paper,
of wheelbarrows and hods, of scaffolding poles and cycle rides home and Swarfega,
of weekly manilla pay packets with not enough in them, then allotments and the dole.

His syntax was twisted to fit the scheme someone else had chosen,
he was stuck in a place that didn’t suit him, like a forced rhyme.
In shit jobs, initiative isn’t welcome – you do what you are told –
and you, with your book clubs and your networking events and your therapists
and your artistic free expression workshops for fucking toddlers,
will never understand how scared he was, every single second
of his eighty-six years, of saying the wrong thing.

We have no castles, we have no historic names,
we have no family crests, we have no ancestral lands.
We have no mangoes, no cardamom pods, no plantains, no patois.
We have no colourful backstories
that people with hipster beards and artisan-crafted jewellery will pay ten quid
to culturally appropriate. We have only scuffed melamine tabletops,
battered bus shelters, blank, unending, broken pavements.

And people with hipster beards and artisan-crafted jewellery
will only ever pay ten quid to see us battered and blank and broken
and being very quiet.




Melanie Branton is a spoken word artist and poet from North Somerset. In the summer of 2017, she performed at WOMAD, Bristol Harbour Festival and the Edinburgh Fringe. Her debut pamphlet, My Cloth-Eared Heart, is published by Oversteps Books.