Couples – by Sally Michaelson


Abramovic and Ulay
divorced in the middle
after walking the Great Wall
from opposite ends.

John and Yoko
stayed in bed for a week
to make love not war
a performance of sorts.

Pietragalla and Derouault
danced love with their bodies,
more reliable than words
on stage and off.

Beauvoir had lovers in her room
overlooking Notre Dame,
Sartre met her later
au Café de Flore.

I wonder what couple we’d be
if you didn’t pull out of me
into your clothes
when the afternoon alarm rings?




Sally Michaelson is a conference interpreter in Brussels and her poems have been published in Lighthouse and Ink, Sweat and Tears.

A Good Executioner – by Gill Lambert


I think about you. Your little neck,
bloodless cheeks, the guilt
of your Motherhood,
a small ‘goodbye’ at dawn.

He was silent, barefoot,
bewildering. So you
never knew which side
he took you from.

I wonder about you. My hand
on your leg, mouth watering
at the thought of you.
The way you made me wait.




Gill Lambert is a teacher and poet from Yorkshire. She has been widely published online and in print and her pamphlet Uninvited Guests was published last year by Indigo Dreams. She runs the poetry night ‘Shaken in Sheeptown’ in Skipton.

Number Crunching, News & Mark Connors

We have completed the selection process for the last batch of poems, and I would once again like to thank Mark Connors for standing in as a guest co-editor while we firmed up a new permanent addition to the team. We are in the process of sending out all the responses as I write. The first new work will be posted this Friday 13th July, and it will be business as usual from then on.

We believe in transparency in the editorial process, and I thought I would publish some statistics for the period from 1st January 2017 up to 30th June 2018 (which obviously includes the brief period when the magazine was dormant).

Submissions received: 951
Poems received: 2,481

Number of submissions accepted: 136 (14.3% of those received)
Number of poems accepted: 147 (5.93% of those received)

Radio Show


Today on the Word Club Sunday Sessions radio show I join Mark Connors and Gill Lambert to talk about Algebra Of Owls, read some poetry from past contributors (including by new co-editor Alicia Fernández) and poetry stuff in general. I even read one of my own poems which happens about as often as hell freezes over. Some music, too  

Word Club Sunday Sessions – Paul Vaughan and Algebra of Owls

The Love and Loss of Poetry

It is a truism that all poetry is ultimately about love and loss, simply expressed in a myriad ways. And don’t I know it. Every month the Algebra of Owls inbox slowly fills with love and loss, spilling out from the screen, across the floor and down the stairs. I see it flow. It can seem heartless to send a rejection email in response to a poem about loss.

The book The Examined Life (How We Lose and Find Ourselves) by Stephen Grosz is a collection of anonymous vignettes about the patients of a psychotherapist, which slowly illuminates the many facets of loss and how in many ways we are all defined by it, one way or another.

I find this to be true. My own experience of psychotherapy many years ago was exactly that, the recognition of a loss that at the time I had no idea had even occurred, and my subsequent failure to grieve for it, or even know I needed to. How to do it. Without grief, as troubled as it is, we cannot forgive and remain haunted.

And so we write, in part. It’s hard. Harder than the algebra of owls. 


I’m on a bit of a roll with posting favourite poems…. Charles Bukowski gets a lot of stick, mainly for his habit of publishing far too many collections so his gems were often lost in a sea of mediocrity. Selected Works is the way to go with him. The other week I was inspired to dig out  For Jane: With All The Love I Had, Which Was Not Enough on my ‘phone for a friend as it remains one of (in my opinion) the best poems about grief ever written.

But here I am going to post up a better known poem (if you read American poetry). It is one close to my heart that I once scrawled in chalk in foot high letters in Sheaf Square, Sheffield outside the train station at 2 a.m. when quite drunk and having a bad day.



there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too tough for him,
I say, stay in there, I’m not going
to let anybody see
there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I pour whiskey on him and inhale
cigarette smoke
and the whores and the bartenders
and the grocery clerks
never know that
in there.

there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too tough for him,
I say,
stay down, do you want to mess
me up?
you want to screw up the
you want to blow my book sales in
there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too clever, I only let him out
at night sometimes
when everybody’s asleep.
I say, I know that you’re there,
so don’t be
then I put him back,
but he’s singing a little
in there, I haven’t quite let him
and we sleep together like
with our
secret pact
and it’s nice enough to
make a man
weep, but I don’t
weep, do

Collapsing Poem – Kim Addonizio

During the AoO Radio Show that will be going out on air on Sunday, I briefly discussed with Mark Connors certain things I like or dislike in poetry. In truth, there are no rules in poetry. Almost anything can work if it is executed deftly, as it is the execution that matters.

The trick of writing autobiographically in the third person came up, and sometimes even that can be a winner. Kim Addonizio plays with it beautifully here.


Collapsing Poem

The woman stands on the front steps, sobbing.
The man stays just inside the house,
leaning against the doorjamb. It’s late, a wet
fog has left a sheer film over the windows
of cars along the street. The woman is drunk.
She begs the man, but he won’t let her in.
Say it matters what happened between them;
say you can’t judge whose fault this all is,
given the lack of context, given your own failures
with those you meant most to love.
Or maybe you don’t care about them yet.
Maybe you need some way
to put yourself in the scene, some minor detail
that will make them seem so real you try to enter
this page to keep them from doing
to each other what you’ve done to someone,
somewhere: think about that for a minute,
while she keeps crying, and he speaks
in a voice so measured and calm he might be
talking to a child frightened by something
perfectly usual: darkness, thunder,
the coldness of the human heart.
But she’s not listening, because now
she’s hitting him, beating her fists against the chest
she laid her head on so many nights.
And by now, if you’ve been moved, it’s because
you’re thinking with regret of the person
this poem set out to remind you of,
and what you want more than anything is what
the man in the poem wants: for her to shut up.
And if you could only drive down that street
and emerge from the fog, maybe you
could get her to stop, but I can’t do it.
All I can do is stand at that open door
making things worse. That’s my talent,
that’s why this poem won’t get finished unless
you drag me from it, away from that man;
for Christ’s sake, hurry up, just pull up and keep
the motor running and take me wherever you’re going.