Now incorporating The Sudbury Hill Harrow and Wherever End Times

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Review: Magpie's Nest by Clare Starling

Clare Starling

The first thing to say is that this is no eclectic bundle of poems about this, that or the other. The 27 poems in this hefty pamphlet could almost be presented as one epic poem in 27 numbered parts. They are all poetic emanations from the maelstrom of events and emotions surrounding family life in the light of the wonders, adventures and sometime challenges of living with an autistic child. 

You may find yourself returning to this chapbook many times, and depending on your mood, you might laugh at Pokémon in the Cemetery or sympathise with the passerby carrying a bunch of flowers.

At the Soyer Tomb
Grade II Listed by English Heritage
You evolved your Woobat
into a Swoobat

There are many humorous touches but it's never just one thing and it's never prosaic, every poem is heightened with sensual evocation, metaphor and other tricks of the poetic trade, but never losing a pleasing lightness of touch. This is poetry with a purpose but it's in no way perfunctory. Each poem seems to have blossomed up completely out of the blue. At another time, you might dip into a Hampstead pond, as in Effortful Swimming.

You dropped into the cold
eager as a dog

There are poems with a complex structure, such as the side-by-side feelings of "In the Dark" or the dense imagery and oddness of "Escape Room". There's frustration in "Waiting for CAMHS" and relief of a sort in "On the Threshold". There is strangeness in plenty throughout.

But the last of the feelings I would like to mention, from the myriad I could choose from if time allowed, is one I'm not sure how to describe. It comes in the poem that has its name in the second line of the last stanza.

you were so proud of me
you called me The Bee Saver
I think it was the honour of my life

"Magpie's Nest" (Wildfire Words, 2023) by Clare Starling is available for pre-order post-free within the U.K. and with reduced postage to addresses overseas.

Friday, September 01, 2023

Short Story of the Month, September 2023

"Frisch weht der Wind / Der Heimat zu, / Mein Irisch Kind". Is this what billows my sails? Is it anything to do with Prigozhin? No, it's the joy of reading a marvellous story about people and places and the lives lived today, in all their complex history and entanglements. (Ed.)

The Willesden Herald Story of the Month

September 2023: Fresh Blows the Wind Homeward by Jaki McCarrick

Emily stood at the window and looked down at the illuminated town. It was Saturday night and she could hear sirens.
“What is it?” Jo said.
“Police, I think. In the distance. Something must have happened.”
“Exactly,” Jo said, “in the distance. Come to bed.”

She looked eastwards, away from the passing police cars, and to where she could make out a cargo ship, inching its way across the Irish Sea. …

Jaki McCarrick is an award-winning writer of plays, poetry and fiction. Winner of the Papatango Prize for New Writing for her play Leopoldville, Jaki’s play Belfast Girls was developed at the National Theatre Studio, London and has been staged many times internationally. Shortlisted for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and the BBC Tony Doyle Award, Belfast Girls made its New York premiere at the Irish Repertory Theatre in 2022, and opens in Buffalo, NY, in 2023. Her play The Naturalists premiered in New York in 2018.

Jaki McCarrick. Photo © Bobbie Hanvey

Jaki’s plays have been published by Samuel French, Routledge and Aurora Metro and have been translated into Swedish and French.

Her debut fiction collection The Scattering was shortlisted for the 2014 Edge Hill Prize and includes the Wasafiri Prize-winning story, “The Visit”. In 2020 Jaki was shortlisted for the An Post Book Awards Short Story of the Year Award (Ireland) for her short story ”The Emperor of Russia”. Jaki was Writer in Residence at the Centre Cultural Irlandais in Paris in 2013 and at the University of Leuven, Belgium, in 2022. She has written critical pieces for the Times Literary Supplement, The Irish Examiner, Poetry Ireland Review and other publications.

Longlisted in 2014 for the inaugural Irish Fiction Laureate, Jaki is currently working on a novel, a second collection of short stories and the screenplay of Belfast Girls.

Saturday, August 12, 2023

Short Story of the Month, August 2023

A fascinating insight into the process behind producing calm, unbiased, understated, yet admirably generous text online concerning topics that make your blood boil and steam come out of your ears. (Ed.)

The Willesden Herald Story of the Month

August 2023: Notes on a ‘Masterpiece’ by Ian Critchley

“… despite the fact that I’ve long dabbled in song-writing, it’s rare I discuss music. Today, though, I’m going to make an exception for Whistling in the Dark, the new album by indie flavour of the month Christ’s Cavalcade.”

[I could say more about my song-writing, I suppose, though probably nobody’s interested]

Ian Critchley
Ian Critchley is a freelance editor and journalist. His fiction has been published in several journals and anthologies, including Neonlit: Time Out Book of New Writing, Volume 2, The Mechanics Institute Review #15, Structo, Lighthouse, Litro and Storgy. He has won both the Hammond House International Literary Prize and the HISSAC Short Story Prize, and been shortlisted for the Exeter, H.G. Wells, and Plaza short story competitions. His journalism has appeared in the Sunday Times, Times Literary Supplement and Literary Review. He can be found on Twitter @iancritchley4, and his website is

Wednesday, August 09, 2023

Submissions open for Willesden Herald Story of the Month

Photo: Anton Chekhov reading The Seagull to the Moscow Art Theatre company c.1898

Occasional feature. Want to get your name into the list of contributors? You have come to the right place. Note the new reduced word count, 500 to 2000. Still no reading fee. Still the same reward, a copy of one of our past anthologies. Guidelines

Friday, August 04, 2023

Jack Sheppard in Willesden (18th century)

Many of the deeds and adventures of notorious highwayman and amazing escapologist, Jack Sheppard, were set in Willesden as this copiously illustrated account by The Gentle Author recounts.

featured post

Short Story of the Month, September 2023

"Frisch weht der Wind / Der Heimat zu, / Mein Irisch Kind". Is this what billows my sails? Is it anything to do with Prigozhin? No...