BIG NEWS. Astronaut Zine issue 4 will hopefully be crowdfunded. This is where you come in. Please, please pledge whatever you can to help me make my dream a reality. Shares will help as will pledging (obviously). Please, please help!



BIG NEWS. Astronaut Zine<issue 4 will hopefully be crowdfunded. This is where you come in. Please, please pledge whatever you can to help me make my dream a reality. Shares will help as will pledging (obviously). Please, please help!

River Hands by Greta Bellamacina

This river was not intended to grow and grow

                 it is an unfinished worldplace, don’t take it away, never.                  Always further vaguely a river.


Hand me your kiss, and don’t be driven by just dialogue.

This is the river and the sedan chair has its own conquest, in the delusions of a man, in the delusions of a good man- this is silent love.

          But in faithful waves, the roses have stopped.


Hand me the river, many dots, many hands.

Raft towards my face, towards this scene

this may not be what you promised

but I will be all forceps open blind.


Fraction, I know. Fraction minus all limits, to let, to let,

the fly, fly over, and let reach.

Caramel come, river hands, visionary trees have grown

and not let whisper like possibilities taken. 

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Conflagration by Emily Hasler

You’ve got to be pretty cold or pretty sure
you want rid of something to burn it. To light
the match that becomes a flame that takes

as much as you can give it. And yet, in towns
everywhere, on Sundays when some get round,

finally, to hoovering out the car, or weeding,
or reading that novel, some, many, at least one

will have a bonfire. And some will walk out
in to town, to pick up something for tea,

and will know, someone is having a bonfire;
there’s that smell, infer the smoke, the blaze.

Later, back home, you’re implicated; your hair, your clothes.

City Waves by Anna Percy

On my way to work block out bus rumbling

I listen to songs of sea longing

the doodles I make at my desk

are perfect waves

calm undulations, a memory

of a lack of tension, the way

coarse sand supports a foot

shocked such banality exists by the sea

I can hear seagulls over the intercom

 and whether I am confusing waves

With static I can’t say.

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Flippers by Bobby Parker

If you are like me and you want to write

a poem but you can’t because your heart

is a farmer kicking mud off his boots,

send me a photo of your mother’s hands.

If you are like me and you want to paint

something you can sell but you can’t because

your arms are cartoon arms, they change colour,

glue your empty purse to your right buttock.

If you are like me and you want to post

Meh… as a comment to everything your

Facebook friends think is cool or important,

cut off your hair, blow it out the window.

If you are like me and you want to sing

a blinder that makes your friends forget your

disgusting body, your disgusting face,

leave her laughing in the cold cinema.

If you are like me and you want to write

a poem but you can’t write a poem

so you begin a poem with the words

”If you are like me and you want to write”

If you pull the skin back and tell yourself:

This hole is not full of old messages.

This hole is not full of other poets.

This hole is not the pain of leaving home –

If you are like me and you have to write

poetry because you’re too scared to sleep

too scared to stay awake watching telly

too scared to tell her the truth about sex

we should flip a coin to decide which one

of us is going to stop breathing first.

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KEATS Meets… James Brookes

KEATS Meets … James Brookes

In our live link, KEATS, the Astronaut Zine on-board droid talks to James Brookes, Dylan Thomas Prize nominee and English teacher at his old school in Surrey.

We still haven’t fixed the fault, The man came to fix KEATS, but couldn’t find anything wrong. It seems to be intermitted. But the satellite window was booked so we pressed ahead.

Hello, James. Welcome to the live link. I am KEATS the Astronaut Zine on-board android. I will be conducting your interview today.



If you had to write a “how to use this book,” for Sins of the Leopard, what would you say?


As a sort of ultra-cheesy pun on the title, I did have in mind Giacomo Leopardi’s ‘zibaldone’ and the idea of commonplace books. The thought of trying to make a cipher key or technical manual for this agglomeration of ideas brings back the memories of trying to write brief notes to the end of my Pighog pamphlet ‘The English Sweats’ back in 2009. I wanted to be very helpful and I ended up with about 6 pages of sub-York Notes nonsense. I made a conscious decision not to put notes into ‘Sins of the Leopard’. If a reader wants to go digging further at passing mentions of ideas or events or figures then that’s wonderful; those things have a presence in the poems (if I’ve done something properly) because they’ve moved me. I suppose not telling people how to use things could be seen as wilfully unhelpful, but frankly the book is my own attempt to get at a feeling of what it means to be living now in amongst the presence of things past and things struggling to get born. That’s probably a cop out, and not a new one. I remember reading, when I was just starting to write poems, Michael Hoffman’s introduction to the Faber Robert Lowell Selected Poems in which he scoffs at the idea of a “useful poem”; what on earth would that be?

Your poems have a great love of language. What is your favourite way of exploring and finding [new] words when you are writing?

I read everything I can, really. There’s nothing more to it than that. Outdated dictionaries are good. So are old encyclopaedias (the more specific the better). I’m lucky that the shelves I grew up with were full of that surrounded by that kind of thing; Sir Charles Oman’s The Art of War in the Middle Ages, Henri Lachouque’s The Anatomy of Glory, Diseases of the Inner Ear (a good one for tone-deaf poet!) …  it’s easier than ever to pick such stuff up for cheap, if you’re so inclined.

How do your teaching and writing interact?

It doesn’t keep me honest exactly but its does keep me on the receiving end of good, awkward questions. My favourite scourge, which the sceptic pupil always has ready, is that old classic “but did the poet really mean to do that? Aren’t we just reading too much into it?”  To which the proper answer is, of course, “I don’t know, go away”.

*(“&£”The poor dogs had been starved&^”£

Truth’s a dog that must to kennel,

the dogs go on with their doggy life. A dog’s obeyed in office.

the dog crying out all night behind the corpse house.


I imagine you writing in a sort of trance … is that right or how do you go about it?

Less a trance, more of a sustained fidget… and it’s mainly fits and starts, late at night, in red Sylvine Memo Books. I often get up, sit down again, wander upstairs, walk into the bathroom and wonder why the hell I’m there, then think “oh shit I had a great line there and now all I can think is Harpic cleans right round the bend“.

Quite a few of your poems – perhaps most – are set in the past or inspired by past events or people. What is it that fascinates you about history vis a vis poetry?

Family is probably is the best way to an answer. I grew up with many great storytellers, but my grandparents especially would maintain certain careful silences about their own experiences of WWII, for instance. And there’s this huge gulf between their young realities and mine. My mother’s mother was the daughter of a Battersea publican who would periodically lose all his furniture after a bad day at the races. My father’s father was a Cheshire farmboy who flew supply planes over Burma in the war. One great-grandfather was a pit boy and a blackleg in the 1926 General Strike. Trying to find a way to reconcile that silence, that gap between those selves and me, the public school Southron poet, is something I’ve been doing since I was a teen. To this day I probably read more history than poetry, but I can’t write history – not in the modern sense. I like that early sense with which Aristotle and Euripides used ἱστορία to mean intellectual enquiry of any kind; that’s as much what I’m trying to as ποίησις. I think my sense of dealing with history as it’s more commonly understood is pretty broadly Herodotan: I’ll write “so that neither what has come to be from man in time might become faded, nor that great and wondrous things … might be without their glory”, stolen or specious or wholly bogus though that glory may be.

Which comes first, sound or meaning?


Or “sound is meaning; one kind of meaning, along with the shape of the letters and where they sit on a page and the other words with which they’re sitting and whether”.

Or “the word ‘hedgehog’ isn’t necessarily any more or less meaningful than Igel or hérisson or ёж or ἐχῖνος. & the fox in the adage can know all the things he likes about hedgehog/Igel/ hérisson/ ёж/ ἐχῖνος, but what about the one big thing hiding under all those spiky phonemes?

Or “I don’t know, go away.”

&£”I can’t walk in high-heeled shoes.*^”£

Can’t help you there kid. If you want to talk poise, balance and lethal potential, you should talk to Charlotte Newman. I’m a loafer; she’s a stiletto.

You mention the fact that you were brought up close to Shelley’s home and you write about Elizabeth Lavender, the hanged killer of her own child. What does your home area mean to you and how does it influence your work?

The influence is the importance of family again, really. Horsham, where I’ve lived for most the years Elizabeth had on this earth, is much more famous for other executions: it was the last place in Britain that a woman was burned at the stake for the ‘petty treason’ of killing her husband; the last place a man was crushed to death under the practice of peine forte et dure for refusing to plead either guilt or innocence; the last place that two men were hanged for sharing a sexual relationship. Elizabeth is an obscure historical footnote; hers was the desperate, not uncommon act of a woman in extreme poverty who could not hope to feed her child. The child, that lost future, has means more to me than the Horsham connection.  The poems in ‘Sins of the Leopard’ that follow histories of lost- and almost-children are, for me, the most autobiographical things I’ve written.

So yeah, it’s fair to say that my poetry is deeply rooted in my home area (probably rooted in the Australian slang sense, too). & Its landscape, flora, fauna, the works. I’ve lived there nearly all my life and I love it in the intense difficult way you love family. So it doesn’t stop me  sometimes sympathising that the young Shelley got the fuck out of there as soon as he could.

When can fans see you in the flesh?

If there really are persons who want to see my fleshy self, I’ll be in the Swansea area the week of 3rd November, reading with other shortlisted writers for the Dylan Thomas Prize. And I’m up in London on 23rd November at the beloved Betsey Trotwood with the fantastic Annexe Press for their latest ‘Interrobang!’ escapade. If you’re into serious planning ahead, I’ll likely be in reading in Paris in February of next year. It’d be a pleasure to see any of youse.

James Brookes

For FEB, chained to the gate of Buckingham Palace

The world cannot be otherwise

than as it is; nor can it be

made otherwise by force of wish,

or deed, or inactivity:

it draws these cooling certainties

from each of us. Magnetic north

allows the compass. Rules are rules;

there’s nothing else to rail against.

Remanded into such a state

We put trust in the tensile strength

that policy has coalesced

in something human, something made

to be impassive, maybe just.

The measured world meanwhile is full

of everything that we allow,

of law and bylaw, bar and gate.

Between the upright parallels,

it may be that you see a face

working its way from rage to hope,

a world that is not finished yet

of rightful silence, of held breath.

The blush that’s iron in the flesh

troops its colour. With no release,

from core out to capillary,

each cell has pled its own small case,

the iron rising unappeased,

defendant of an inward grace,

restrained, impossible to police.


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Meshes of the Afternoon by Sian S. Rathore

Take me to that place where they do the burgers.
Describe to me your dreams about houses.
Are they empty? Because that means something.
Detract then delight farther than the pampered you. 
Remember me assuring you I honoured your ideas?
People keep their eyes on us, watch our steps.
I’m going to retweet you again. I’m going to worry
About your mind based on how your feed reads. 
Create an award just for me and get the trophy made. 
Sext me. Send me a dick pic. Miss my breasts more
Than anything in this world. Remortgage the home you
Built deep in my aorta. Loneliness rejects me like an
Irritating stepchild, made itself known with an 
“I HATE YOU” on the walls. Every night alone has been
An objection to concern. I am spilled out over this bar
Tonight. I am reserved and packaged for you again.
I’m slowing and speeding. I am a silver, that is a 
Blind heart; I once saw it snow in April. Come on baby,
Run the ruins with me. Sir, you’re damn suspicious now.
Greatly hearted as you drift beside the yellow walls
It’s Summer now, so make the weather last for me.
Arrive as if carrying a very crooked ask. Explode
With me at midnight and respond to all my texts. 
Quietly repeat us and don’t think of what comes next.

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today by Andrew McMillan

you will mistake the gulls

for the screaming of a girl

and run out of your flat

to an empty landing

the wind will come up

from the Mersey   to the satisfaction

of all but the ice-cream sellers

huddled along the docks

there will be more people than pavement

people will spend all day singing

other people’s songs   and people will throw

coins into the wishingwells of their instrument cases

today   you will break the life of someone

or you’ll break yourself apart from them

and   having dressed themselves in you for months

they will be naked and half in shadow as you close the door

today   the light will fall

the breeze will drop    the streets

will empty   the man who stands outside

The Entertainer with the bubble machine

will go home and tell his wife    it was a bad one 

 the wind kept getting under and scattering them 

 they went everywhere    I lost control    it was like dropping

 a bag of marbles in space   it was bedlam

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Guide to Being A Twenty-First Century Gentleman by Rowena Knight

Attend gentlemen’s clubs, not strip clubs,
staffed by lap dancers who are empowered women
expressing their sexuality. 
Visit only when strictly necessary; that is to say, 
as part of a vital business deal 
or best friend’s birthday.
Upon encountering an attractive woman 
on the Tube, write a poem or song about her.
Slowly describe her juddering breasts 
and trembling thighs to an audience.
Do not tell your friends about her “fantastic tits” – 
that would be inappropriate. 

Respect feminists. Many do not expect you 
to open doors or pay for dinner
(this is true equality). Keep an eye out
for those who do not wear bras
and are politely hairless. Beware those
who use the term “patriarchy”.
Watching porn is completely acceptable
but you must feign embarrassment 
when your girlfriend asks if you do.
Invite her to join you – 
many couples find this a romantic activity.
Let her have first pick of film.
Treat the object of your affection like a princess. 
Do little favours for her – carry her bag 
or do her dry cleaning. Eventually 
she’ll be obliged to date you, and if she won’t comply
fill her with drinks until she realises
what a nice guy you are.
Once you have achieved the above,
celebrate your newfound status
with an effeminate cocktail
(the 21st century gentleman
laughs in the face of gender norms).
You’re so enlightened you’re unstoppable.
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