All posts in Our writing

The Shared Labor of Life

It has come to my attention that I have failed to write anything poetic for some time now, so yesterday I put pen to paper again and came up with this little number. Sorry if it seems a bit plain sailing, I feel a tad rusty.



We never quit pouring sentimental dreams

into modern, robotized hearts

that cease to bleed.

Million depart this interior cold

and look out to our world

of formless souls.

Struck dumb by countless fairy tales

that convince us that

we will not fail

But all the while

we in fact know the truth

that bad things can happen

to those who are good.

So as we sit down

to watch the six ‘o’ clock news

and critique foreign wars and the starving children of two

be wise, and recall lives are governed by laws

that do not exist

At all.


Will books become obsolete?

This is the ongoing question that seems to stump most of us. I for one love books in both their e-book and paper book forms.

But it is obvious that the internet is so deeply entrenched within our culture, that it has become a regular part of our life and identity. We rely on the internet to talk to each other, share videos, edit videos, listen to music, watch movies and, yes, read.

The technology we experience today is an all-encompassing medium that has made things like printed paper seem, well, a tad wasteful. Letter writing has already gone the way of the dinosaur. Music stores have suffered in the age of the internet as well, with people pirating their songs and downloading music for free,  rather than spending £14.99 on a physical copy of their beloved album. The CD is being replaced by iCloud, the map is being replaced by GPS and Sat Nav…

So what about books? Will they get replaced eventually?

The realist in me says yes, unfortunately. After all, what reason is there to buy books when we can store hundreds or even thousands of books on a single iPad or Kindle?  For convenience’s sake alone, it seems logical to purchase our books online.

And yet, there is definitely a romantic and quite poignant appeal that comes with holding a book, for a lot of people. Turning the page is an act which connects us with the world we are reading. It is a gesture which requires our curiosity and attention in the story at hand. With an iPad or a similar device, the temptation to simultaneously browse the web whilst reading is real struggle. I should know. With every word that I don’t quite understand, or with each turn of phrase that doesn’t quite make sense, I find myself opening an internet browser and scrupulously searching for the answers to my impatient questions. But the very act of doing this shatters the escapism one associates with reading a book. I find myself trying to pick up where I left off far too often when I’m reading from a screen!

I also find that the very ethereal existence of our e-books creates a disconnection. Sure, the e-book exists, but we can’t touch an e-book, or smell it, or hold it. Pixels just don’t possess any of the warmth or tangibility of a good hardback. Maybe I’m just a nostalgic idiot, but books also remind me of the past too, like vinyl. Books may go the way of vinyl and become precious collectors items of infinite worth to their owners. Maybe the e-book and the book can coexist harmoniously and the Pixel vs Paper war doesn’t even have to happen! E-books could rid us of cheap, mass market abominations like Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey (sorry Meyer and E.L James fans!) and further people’s admiration for well-produced, high-quality books.

The future of the paperback/hardback is an uncertain one for sure.

We could lose them forever, or have them around forever.

Personally, I can only sit here and hope for the latter option.

Reminiscence-poem by Laura Stephenson


Somber recollections shroud me like a cloud, but not so unpleasantly

Because through the haze, impressions surface perpetually,

warm bubbles in a sea of memories.

Inside on a Rainy Day-poem by Laura Stephenson


Sitting in my sphere of grey
I think of you and what you’d say.
I think of sky and sun and trees.
I think of dancing in the breeze.
I think of you in my cubical
and how you are so beautiful.
I think of fish and frogs and bees
and having grass stains on my knees.
But I am stuck inside instead,
So I make these poems inside my head.
I think of you while I’m away

and all the things that you might say.

Kissing Students – a poem by Bob Beagrie

Bob Beagrie

Kissing Students

by Bob Beagrie

This town celebrates
the fleeting moment
of genuine affection;
youth sheltered

Under an umbrella
they embrace
for a kiss of greeting
or a last, grasped kiss
of farewell

Beneath the clock face
at midnight
they dance through
April coffee stains
in an emptied cup

and, splashing
through puddles,
shake off the past
like giggles, tears,
dirty underwear.

They can hear
a wolf with a new face
growling beyond
the border

“It’s our fate” she says,
“to grow a culture
for others to destroy
in the next invasion
and occupation.”

“It’s our job, ” he says,
“to carry the seeds
for the next decline
of Empire.”

They suspect Tomorrow
is a sequence of  selfies
in foreign costumes;

An exchange of text
messages that say,
our night in Tartu
when we were students
when we kissed in the rain
when you whispered, Tere
and I sighed Hüvasti?”

Bob Beagrie is a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at Teesside University. Bob recently travelled to Estonia on a research trip. He writes: ‘The poem was written in the main square of Tartu, Estonia, a city renowned for its University. The key public sculpture in the square is not a venerated literary figure or statesman, rather it is of two young people in a fleeting embrace, called ‘The Kissing Students’ and for me, while I was sitting drinking coffee and thinking about the successive waves of invasion Estonia has experienced, (“we have been here for 5000 years” a young man told me the evening before) and the manner in which the Estonian people rebuild their culture after each wave of occupation, I was suddenly struck by the conceptual beauty of the sculpture, the ephemeral nature of the young couple’s youth, their relationship, their lives together. It was particularly striking given the clear tensions many of the Estonians had expressed regarding the situation in Ukraine and the concern that Russia had an eye to re-occupy Estonia. They have a National Day of Mourning (14 June) when they remember the 30,000 people the Soviets deported to Siberia and/or slaughtered.’

A tanka by Steve Jones

How To Avoid Sunburn


The light from the sun

takes eight minutes to reach us

and is very hot.

Light from Alpha Centauri

takes four years and arrives cold.

Radiation burns,

nodular melanoma,

melted ice-lollies.

Not much good comes from sunshine.

Do the math. Sunbathe at night.

Steve is a student on our BA English Studies with Creative Writing.

A poem by Maureen Walls

Iron Clad Angel

She hauls the Hurrier’s tub.

Her wings rubbed by a worn leather harness,

Curved tips ready to enfold the muscled Hewer.

Suddenly, pushed up from mined seams;

She is released from dark depths.

She bathes in glimpsed sunlight and stretches her metal plumage;

She prepares to soar; to leave the ripped, burst earth once more;

But she is bound to this desolate place,

Once black gleaming rock resounded with a clarion call,

Now tinny tannoys compel in the cavernous consumer hell.

And the iron clad angel now stacks supermarket shelves.

Her oversized wings unfurled,

Curved tips ready to embrace desperate shoppers.

Tethered for a hundred years; this foundry seraph longs to take flight.

Her wings strain seeking out warm currents to rise;

Above these dark skies.

 But she is anchored to solid rock.

Transitioning from ship and pit to

Call centre and shopping mall;

Fallen angel marks the grave,

Of the blood stained glories of the industrial age.

When the fierce winds of climate change,

Free the iron clad angel from earthly chains.

What will mark post-industrial remembrance?

Maureen is a graduate of our BA in English Studies and is now a student on our MA in Creative Writing. 

Rob Francis reads ‘The Insect Songs’ No.1 – No.5

Rob is a student on our MA in Creative Writing.

Two poems by Rob Francis

Now and again or

Now is a stone’s throw. Records are here.
The slow turning of the trees
learn at last the bitter thought.
Pushed into pavement pockets,
sucked colour from keepsakes,
the all dried up spices of years.

Now is here.
It’s been drenched through with last night’s washing up.
Coagulated ketchup sits on damp leaves –
a couple of roll-up butts
pin cushion pricked yesterday.
Flick it clean with stiff bills.
The taxman can just send us a red one.
Somewhere is my last treat to myself:
A surprise to the morning.

So, now is here again:
the creased, cracked concrete
fruitfully holds all the bird food waste.
It speaks with the same messages
as its sister – the scorched out sofa.
The bird food leans in the same language as litter.
The seagulls of the suburb
have never seen the soft shores.
They’re frantic in their pluck
as they peck away at the crisscrossing,
marking out their station on the scaffolding.
Our neighbour bawls out.
She is in her room too much.

All the kids monitor
from behind glass and cotton.
Lines of red bricks sit
baiting the breeze,
back on, back to
and still breeding.

Now is a stone’s throw.
It cracks and it ages
all through the quarters.


Battered Awake

There’s your foot in my door again
blocking the bar set up for secrets
which with frequent breath you bowl over with light.
Talons tapping their usual message,
dotting to dampen and dashing to drown
until I am on the end of your boot again,
and struck to sleep the second your sole stomp stops.
I’m stuck still inside the constant beginning,
to loose myself in the pit stops and restarts
and refashioning: the dumbwaiters service
with snake hisses and squeaks of the pulley,
caterwauling customers that claw at me
with their pursed lips: the fat porter,
the smoking pan and the boil blisters,
the fire escape blinking at itself
and sealed but waiting for you and I
to be breeding into mess.
I know I can’t move towards the ending
By stirring up another stuffing –
To steam again in the crack of the door –
Each taste tenderly force fed;
And now that you’ve got your toe in the rusty
hinge of the gate, squealing by my pew
which sounds like alarm clock fuzz
or strangers teeth grinding themselves
to prove at last they will not sleep;
Now that you’ve seen the sheet roll back
blocking the bar set up for secrets again,
the stranger sight of my phony sleep,
I’m struck to the start, hemmed again by
your breath bowling over with light.
Along time now here in the beginning.

Rob Francis is currently a student on the MA in Creative Writing at Teesside University.