Merry Christmas…

…to all our readers and contributors, and a big thank you to everyone who has been a part of Algebra of Owls in whatever way. That includes my co-editors, past and present, who put a lot of hours into this project.

Without all that, I would just be a bloke sat in front of a computer muttering to himself.

We have one more poem to publish in 2018, on Boxing Day, then a week off before we start publishing poems again in January – with a Readers’ poll due and the Editor’s Choice Poem of Ian Harker to look forward to.

Finally, a quick reminder that the current submission window is slightly longer than usual and ends on 15th January… for poems we anticipate publishing in March next year.

May your season be joyful.


Guest Editor November/December – Ian Harker

The Editor’s Choice poem for November/December will be selected by Ian Harker.

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Ian’s debut collection Rules of Survival was published by Templar Poetry in 2017. Most recently he’s been poet in residence at the Henry Moore Institute and runner-up in the BBC Proms Poetry Competition. He’s co-editor of Strix magazine, which was shortlisted for a 2018 Saboteur Award.

Editorial – Submission Windows

Our current submission window closes on 30th November, for poetry that we expect to publish on the site in January 2019.

Our next window will be slightly longer, running from 1st December to 15th January, for poetry we intend to publish in March 2019. This is because we are giving ourselves a month off actually publishing anything in February 2019….

The submission window for poetry to publish in April 2019 will run from 16th January to 28th February.

Winners! September/October Monthly Awards

Delighted to announce that the winner of the September/October poll for the Readers’ Choice Award is Michelle Diaz. A prize mug of infinite joy will be on its way to her shortly. That may be hyperbole but I’ve been at the wine.

My Mother Came Back as a Pigeon  – by Michelle Diaz

The Editor’s Choice Poem is:

Memory is held by water – by Jackie Biggs

selected by Clare Shaw who said:

“This was no easy task – a wonderful bunch of poems with many strong contenders! I narrowed it down to five and could go no further for a while – should I choose the passionate, powerful, urgent imagery of “The Function of Emotions” (Olivia Tuck), the concise and precise strength of “Bishops’ Hearts” (Matthew Stewart) with its devastating final line; or the ache and punch of “Instructions for My Husband When My World Comes Undone” (Michelle McMillan-Holifield), with its fractured imagery? Or the perfect portrait of “Hospital Night Wardress” (Natalie Scott), oozing with darkness and sensuality?

All wonderful poems, and plenty more besides. In the end, I chose “Memory is held by water” by Jackie Biggs with its painful, chilling insights and its stunning restraint. This takes the story of one man in one place, and through the voice of the river, offers us something universal – as disturbing and heartbreaking as the subject demands. In its strangely calm and impersonal sense of compulsion, completion and comfort, it speaks for the people it depicts – with tenderness and respect. A great poem.

Time to Vote – Sept/Oct Readers’ Choice Poem

In September and October these were the five poems that generated the most engagement/reaction with readers over multiple media platforms, 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 10th November.


Editorial – Statistics

Since June 2016 we have published 466 poems on Algebra of Owls, written by 316 different poets. That is a wide spread, caused mainly by the fact that we have a strict policy of reviewing all of our submissions objectively, which has for the most part involved blind reading by the co-editors.

It is also partly influenced by the fact that some poets, once published by a journal, do not re-submit to it – which is obviously outside of our control. However, many would attest that an acceptance of a poem by us is no guarantee that future submissions will not be rejected because in the end, it is all just down to the poems. Nor do repeated rejections mean that an acceptance won’t suddenly be forthcoming. I have sometimes heard it said that once you have had a poem accepted by a journal, the likelihood of having another accepted by them increases. While there is some sense to this (because on some level an acceptance may demonstrate that the editors like your style of poetry) our experience is that this maxim does not hold that true. With us it’s always down to which specific poems have been submitted on the day.

Some journals have a policy of needing to limit people to certain elapse of time between submissions, to avoid any impression of a cliquey stable of regular contributors. We have never had to do that, and are happy for people to send us a submission every month if they wish.

I have quickly totted up some of the numbers and:

Poets with a single poem here – 201
Poets with two poems here – 91
Poets with three poems here – 14
Poets with four poems here – 9
Poets with five poems here – 1

In case you were wondering, the person with five poems published in AoO is Kathleen Strafford.


Guest Editor Sept/October – Clare Shaw

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The Editor’s Choice poem for September/October will be chosen by Clare Shaw.

She has three poetry collections from Bloodaxe: Straight Ahead (2006), Head On (2012) and Flood (2018).

She’s a regular tutor with a range of literary organisations – including the Poetry School, the Wordsworth Trust and the Arvon Foundation – delivering creative writing courses, workshops and mentoring sessions in a variety of different settings, with individuals at all levels of ability, confidence and experience. She works with the Royal Literary Fund and the Writing Project, supporting the development of writing skills in academic settings and workplaces. She is also involved in a range of innovative projects with artists and practitioners in other disciplines, including psychology, visual arts and music, and is also a mental health educator. All her work is underpinned by a deep faith in language: words have the power to harm and help us, and powerful language can transform us as individuals, communities and societies.

Prole Laureate Competition 2019

Here at Algebra of Owls, we like Prole magazine. The poetry we publish has some differences but there is an overlap of ethos, and definitely an overlap of contributors.

We heartily recommend their annual Prole Laureate Poetry Competition. which opened for entries on 1st October, the deadline being 31st January 2019. This year’s judge is Stuart Paterson, who we rather like too even though the miserable fucker has never submitted to us. We won’t hold it against him.

Full competition details can be found at the following link.

Prole Laureate Competition 2019 – Details


Anthology – Issue 6 Coming Soon



Issue 6 of the Algebra of Owls anthology will shortly be available, featuring some of the poems that appeared on the site in the period from November 2017 to August 2018. As usual, it will initially be distributed free at events around Yorkshire.

I’ll let you know when it is available by post for the usual nominal fee.

The featured poets are Ed Aust, Devon Balwit, Elya Braden, Melanie Branton, Carole Bromley, Richard Carpenter, Sarah Clayville, Maureen Curran, Stephen Daniels, Julian Dobson, Ian Harker, Ceinwen Haydon, David Jibson, Gill Lambert, Laurinda Lind, Marilyn Longstaff, Beth McDonough, Clint Margrave, Sally Michaelson, Katerina Neocleous, Robert Nisbet, Stuart Pickford, Bethany Rivers, Jane Salmons, Jasmine Shahbandi, M. Stone, Olivia Tuck, Lynda Turbet, Giles Turnbull, Richard Weaver, Julia Webb, Roddy Williams and Peter Wyton.