Time to Vote – July/August Readers’ Choice

In July and August these were the four poems that generated the most “buzz” with readers and are shortlisted for the bi-monthly mug prize. Please vote and make a poet happy today.


The poll will close with the announcement of the winning poem on 6th September.



Liwuli : Upon discovering a mauled bird – by Ken Cumberlidge


Act swiftly.
If the ground is soft, place the head on a firm, flat surface.
Find a heavy stone. Aim well; strike hard; leave no room for doubt.

Compassion has no use
for the squeamish
or faint of heart.

Will equal mercy
be afforded you?



[Note: The South-East Asian three-stanza “Liwuli” form, obeys the following convention:
31 syllables over any number of lines, entirely in the imperative
14 syllables over 3 lines, freestyle
10 syllables over 2 lines, framed as a question or set of questions]


Birkenhead-born Ken Cumberlidge is based in Norwich, but can be lured out by decent beer and an open mic. Recent work can be found variously online (Algebra of Owls / Allegro / Ink Sweat & Tears / Message In A Bottle / The Open Mouse / Picaroon / Pulsar / Rat’s Ass Review / Strange Poetry / Snakeskin). https://soundcloud.com/ken_cumberlidge_poetry

On a shingle beach – by Helen Freeman


Here’s a little bullet, dark as a bruise
and here’s a white one almost edible
like a Tree Swallow’s egg.

This one’s a translucent heart, cold as snow
and tender too. Above the water-mark
I find lichen clinging

to a flat one. I stoop to finger off
the snags and skim it into the water.
It pirouettes across

centre stage, then curtseys and disappears.
Applause ripples round in circles. Here’s one
so sharp it could fly out

of a sling and embed in some giant
skull. This one’s scabrous so I throw it back
and here’s a scarred one, cleft

by some dreadful rip-tide. Ah, more keepers:
ringed in cat-like shades of grey, pin-striped, smart
enough to hoard missives

on the Queen’s desk; varicose-veined with streaks
of quartz, all angle, layer and secret
depth, crying out to stack

and balance, to adorn a sacred spot,
to perch between the claws of a stone sphinx
or Mandela’s carved head.

This little yellow one stands for rubbing
shoulders, it’s so smooth I want to hold it
forever, and this one

has an ancient voice as if it’s sitting
under a Bonsai soul-searching. It drops
into the sea, puts on

a silk waistcoat and a dragonfly suit
as water numbs my toes and I must go,
my pockets cobbled full.




Helen Freeman loves reading and writing poems and has been published in several online sites such as Ink, Sweat and Tears, Clear Poetry, Algebra of Owls, Corbel Stone Press, Sukoon, Open Mouse and Ground Poetry. She lives in two polar opposite cities – Riyadh and Edinburgh.

The great clod – by Jose L. Regojo

Poems June 2018


Jose L. Regojo (Venezuela, 1958) lives in Barcelona, Spain. English teacher, translator of Gary Snyder’s prose and poetry into Spanish and Catalan (in Varasek ed., Kriller71 ed., Tushita ed.), poet and writer. His most recent published book is Max and his Shadow (a children’s album). Editorial board of Poémame and on the web: https://regeye.blogspot.com.es/

Afterwards – by Carole Bromley


Make a fist for me, she says.
Now, push your heel against my hand.
Now pull my fingers towards you

How is it I forgot this
when I remembered the words,
Do you know where you are?

She tells me it’s so she can compare.
Afterwards. I had not thought,
really thought of afterwards

only of an end to the pain,
the way the ward is blurred,
the endless, endless nausea.

So matter of fact. Afterwards.
It isn’t logical but I want to say
My brain is a long way from my feet.




Carole Bromley lives in York where she is the Poetry Society’s Stanza rep. She has three collections with Smith/Doorstop, A Guided Tour of the Ice House, The Stonegate Devil and Blast Off! (for children aged 7-10). Carole runs poetry surgeries and recently became an Arvon tutor. This poem is about her experience of brain surgery earlier this year.

Ophelia’s Dreaming – by Bethany Rivers


She has, what we imagine is, peace
on her lips, sperm on her leg,
the river washing, baptising her,
lapping away all sinfulness.

Ophelia’s dreaming with too much
sunlight, too much lipstick on their faces:
every dead woman is a portrait of
stillness the robin sings to.

There is something not being said
in all of Ophelia’s dreaming, an oracle
unspoken, but talks in bubbles,
only the fish understand how Death
crafted her a thousand thousand times.

It wasn’t peace, wasn’t sperm, but the sting
of truth on her lips, truth leaking down her legs.




Bethany Rivers’ pamphlet, ‘Off the wall’, published by Indigo Dreams.  Previous publications include: Envoi, Obsessed with Pipework, The Ofi Press, Picaroon, Bare Fiction, and Tears in the Fence. She mentors the writing of memoir, novels and poetry: www.writingyourvoice.org.uk

The Ice Cream Man – by Adrian Slonaker


The ice cream man
was a beloved guru
from Grace to Main
from Sunset to View,
his boxy white vehicle
with the tinkling tune
proving that Pavlov’s theories
work well on the young;
his sliver of a salary sucked,
but his tips were the yearning yelps
of customers clutching coins
plucked from purses or penny jars
in exchange for Drumsticks and Dreamsicles.
No one knew
that he couldn’t whistle and
had asthma and impotence or that his
mom, preferring Pilsener to parenting,
had slugged him every chance she got,
that he crashed on his cousin’s couch,
collecting occasional cash as a mystery shopper
once the kids crept back to school
or scurried in from the cold.
The ice cream man was a malcontent,
and if the community ever casually
caught wind of his crafty combinations of curse words,
it’d never let its babies near him,
but when he sank behind the wheel
onto a slick of arse-sweat on sultry mornings,
he became a hero with a reason to live.



Adrian Slonaker works as a copywriter and copy editor in Urbandale, Iowa, USA. Adrian’s work has appeared in The Bohemyth, Queen Mob’s Tea House, Pangolin Review, Picaroon Poetry, Runcible Spoon, and others.  

Purple – by Ceinwen Haydon


Purple capes me in womanhood, like the maxi-coat I bought, aged eighteen. It gave me buttons to open, one by one, watched by another in my tiny bedsitter. Purple pressed me, girl to woman.

A purple orchid grows in the grass, next to my head. My legs spread, spliced for you. Inspiration, no doubt, for purple prose when you dip your nib in ink for literary purposes, when we are finished. Your book will sell well, and I will cry, hidden by purple drapes – the safety curtain of the theatre.

Purple tunics, shoes, sheets and pillows, all threaded through with blues and patched with reds. Happy purple, plaintive purple, perhaps purple, depending on the day, the night. Today, purple thins to mauve.




Ceinwen lives in Newcastle upon Tyne and writes short stories and poetry. She has been widely published in online magazines and in print anthologies. She graduated with an MA in Creative Writing from Newcastle University in 2017.


Muse – by Jane Salmons


Evening in the café des deux Magots.
A girl with searing blue eyes drives
the blade of a small pocket knife between
splayed fingers. She’s fierce in her art,
bleeds carmine beads amongst the roses
embroidered on her black lace gloves.
Light and shade cross her heavy brows.
Chiaroscuro. She should turn around:
see the famous painter – crumpled collar,
worn-out suit, twice her age. Seduced
by danger, he prizes girl, knife, bloodied
gloves. Like a matador, he gores
her with his stare, lures her to sacrifice.
In the dusk the café walls turn dust-red.





Jane Salmons is a teacher from Stourbridge in the West Midlands. She has had poems published, or forthcoming, in online magazines including Algebra of Owls, Ink, Sweat and Tears, The Ekphrastic Review, The Lake, Amaryllis and Three Drops from the Cauldron. In addition to writing poetry, and when time permits, she enjoys creating handmade photomontage collage.

Editorial – Thanks!

Despite the occasional grumpy Facebook outburst, Editors (all Editors) know that their magazines would be nothing but empty pages or screens without our contributors. Poets ready to trust us with their work, which is always a pleasure to read.

Since the re-launch of Algebra of Owls we have had a tremendous response from poets all around the world, and in the end we received another bumper crop of poems to consider in July which we are currently in the process of reviewing. It may take a few days longer than normal to get the responses out, so please don’t chase us before 15th August.

So a big thank you to all our submitters and readers for making Algebra of Owls what it is. Editors are just the patsies in the middle.