Karen Dennison

Poet and artist


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Two more poems from Still Born

In my previous post I shared the first two poems from Still Born, the collaboration of response poems by Valerie Morton and me. Valerie and I each had a poem ‘in waiting’ – here is the poem I gave to Valerie and her response. For each copy that we sell we are giving £5 to Sands, the still birth and neonatal death charity. You can buy a print or pdf copy at Still Born by Valerie Morton and Karen Dennison.

Rosemary for Remembrance by Karen DennisonRosemary

Rub this rosemary between finger and thumb
to escape the walled garden where you walk
the same path. Do not cling like dead roots
to these crumbling bricks. There is more
than one sun. Listen. The river is calling,
rocking the empty boat. There is more
than one heart. I know you’re lost in the lyrics
of don’t be cruel, that each verse for you
is a windowless room. But there is more
than one song. Remember the girl setting out
in the dark, how the moon was an oyster
to be shucked, how each day slid down
your throat. There is more. There is more.

Lost by Valerie Morton

That girl has been lost for too long – singing
the same song, brushing the same path,
wearing out shoes on gravel that crunches
with the memory of feet that will never return.

Today she’ll pluck the last stem of rosemary,
suffocating amongst ground elder, crush it
between her palms, and leave behind that garden
strangled by neglect. I’ll dig deep, pull her out, drag her

along the river path, following the sun, my pace
quickening at new horizons. When I can bear
to let her go, I’ll not look back to where she sits –
but forward, where each turn in the river is a new song.


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Poetry Competition 2019 – What’s the judge looking for?

Against the Grain Poetry Press

Sarah James or Leavesley colourWe are really lucky to have the very talented poet, short story writer and editor, Sarah James, judging this year’s competition. Check out details of entering HERE.

We want to pass on some top tips to help you on your way for entering our competition and any others you fancy this year. We posed a few questions to Sarah to find out what a judge wants from a poem and also what the poet can do to ensure their poem gets further and further up the shortlist pile.

What do you look for in a poem?

I try to come to poems openly and with as few expectations or pre-conceptions as possible, particularly as a competition judge. In terms of what I’ll be looking for in this competition, I’m only really going to be able to answer that afterwards. Things that I might anticipate finding in a poem I’ll love include striking imagery and…

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