I’m sure life is unbeatable
research’s holy, dancing uplifting
for an animal like me
a beast rocking around
a feast with implacable sound
a cascade of tongues, licking my noise
rainforest of frogs, a sweaty magnolia
the wardrobe is open: go lash out
I am sure, hysteria
I’ll meet you again some point
during the shift
My grandma's sandy skin
like chopped pecans delight me
stands for comfort and bitter sorties
the dysfunction and re-joining
the colossal, quasi-expressionistic soul
hidden behind despair
a husband who tried to bury you alive
we crossed disquieting silences
and productive scowls, you would get my temper
teetering on the blink of a slap
you would assure me with a pair of eyes
and I, gasping with delight
would ask you for a hug
yet passion is so much stauncher
when doesn't stride out from the chest
when it keeps quiet and invest
the beauty of a kiss
embroidered in your throat
so I keep on kissing you
and you never get enough
and I shall never pass
on feeling your son, through your daughter's act
a replica of a miracle
I loved you for so long
that I no longer remember
the sparse sprinkles of your smile
left on the breakfast table
the stealthy appearances
in my worst nightmares
sucking off your boredom
by punching my face
and I would thwack the pillow
and it would vomit back
a bunch of brand new fears
it was only yesteryear
You were my father
a secret I’d never share
if it wasn’t for life
giving us roles
too big to handle
too heavy to fit
so we stick with deliveries
clumsy attempts, theatrical moves
worried so much we’ll get
very little in return
I forgive you now
that I’ve crossed the embryo of your eyes
when I saw you crying hard
because you had failed me
before I was even born
I touched your shoulders to remind you
that we unfold over ungrounded skins
we never really get in
and when we get the chance
to squeeze a pulsing heart
the sun hatches its grin
to tickle our arrogance straight to its lungs
to tell us how insignificant
fighting over pride can be
if I unintentionally see
you would go ahead an rehave me
discarding the sperm that didn’t win
to be me
Bio: Aldo Quagliotti is an Italian poet living in London, UK. He's the author of Japanese Tosa (London Poetry Books), Confessions Of A Pregnant Man (AllienBuddha Press) and Incubi&Succubi.
His poems have been rewarded in Italy, Brazil, USA, Canada, Ireland and in the United Kingdom. He has been selected for important anthologies such as Paper therapy,Yawp!, The Essential anthology, Murmurations, Poetical Word, Poetry in the Time of Coronavirus. Several webzines and magazines have published his work, such as INNSÆI, U-rights, Credo espoir, Parouisia , Poetica Review and many more.He has been chosen to represent the Poetry Corner at the London Chelsea + Kesington Art Week. 2020,2021 and 2022 editions
Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?
Sarra: I’ve always written short stories and poems. My mother’s garage in Wembley is choc-full to the rafters with old notebooks and scribbles on scrap paper, going right back to primary school. She is quite the hoarder. I started submitting pieces for publishing in the last two or three years. One of the best things about writing is that you can dip in and out, as infrequently as you like, at any level and at any age.
As a child I loved Dahl, Enid Blyton and The Worst Witch. Lots of the stories and poems I wrote as a child in those old scrap books feature an element of the absurd, mythological, and surreal, which has followed me through to how I write today. Later on, I became a little obsessed with Sylvia Plath and I still see some structural similarities emerging in my poems from time to time.
Q2: Who are your influences today?
Sarra: I’m an English and Media teacher, so it’s often very hard not to be influenced by what I’m teaching at the time! When I’m teaching three different Shakespeare plays simultaneously, sometimes I spontaneously write quotes or paraphrases of them into my WIPs. Right now, I love Kate Clanchy’s work and in using her teaching resources for poetry I have tidied up many of my own poems. For my hybrid prose poems featured in Fevers of the Mind, I experimented with a similar structure to Inua Ellams’ The Actual, as I wanted to emphasise a more fluid, stream-of-consciousness feel to the narratives. I’ve read recently, Elena Ferrante, Zoe Glibert, Alison Bechdel, and Bernadine Evaristo novels – each one resonated with me, and I’m struck by how many of us are telling similar stories from different approaches and perspectives.
Q3: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing? Have any travels influenced your work/describe?
Sarra: I grew up in Wembley, North London. In the 80’s and 90s, it was a very special place. I feel incredibly privileged to have experienced a completely cocooned, melting-pot bubble of normalised multiculturalism as a child. My best friends were Polish-Venezuelan and Scottish-Philippino, and West Indian-Welsh. Every family on our street and in our schools was of some mixed heritage or another, including ours. All the kids were a varying shade of tan, and only our hair texture might give a clue as to which continents may be in our DNA. I feel like London has always been this way – the Romans founded it after all. It’s not even a British city – it’s Italian! So, it’s exactly where we belonged, and actually we could never really belong anywhere else. I remember visiting our ‘white’ cousins in Hampshire and feeling “I could never belong here unless I pretended to be an English Rose”, but I never felt that way in London. So many race poets lament a dislocated self, displacement, and prejudice. Wembley was a safe, secure, wonderful place to grow-up as a mixed-race person, so much so, that when I left London as an adult it was a saddening shock. I’ve written many times in gratitude.
My father is Irish, and he dutifully imparted plenty of Heaney, folklore and myth on to us, and of course, plenty of rants about the Colonial injustices of the British Empire! Ties to the land, and descriptions of landscapes, manifesting in giants and selkies and banshees, reoccur as motifs in much of my writing. My mother is Persian, which is a culture seeped in poetry – the tombs of their poets are enormous tourist attractions. I remember her stories about how they would travel miles just to touch the shrines of Hafez or Saadi. I have internalised many of the humanist teachings of the Persian poets, and sometimes I realise their messages at the core of my own work. The Zoroastrian mythology from Ferdowsi’s Shanameh never fails to enthral me; the ancient rock reliefs depicting its heroes are breath-taking and are the inspiration for my work in progress.
Q4: Which of your work is most meaningful to you to date?
Sarra: I am most sentimental about my novella, Machina Ex Deus. At the time I wrote it, I was teaching my A Level class about Afrofurturism as a subgenre of Sci-Fi, reading about the abominations carried out in America’s ICE centres, and listening to Climate-Fiction podcasts from Alternative Stories. Together in my mind, these came to form Taima City – a post-apocalyptic Abu Dhabi one hundred years from now. The overall theme is of mother-child attachments, which is something of a recurring topic for me.
Q5: Was there a pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?
Sarra: A few years ago, I attended That’s What She Said, in Manchester, hosted by the formidable Jane Bradley. I’d been to poetry nights before, but this one is captivating. Jane’s kind encouragement meant I signed up for a five-minute slot and later started submitting work to publishers. Lockdown gave me time and focus, so that I could do this in earnest for the first time.
Sarra: Lockdown suited me very nicely… reading, cooking, sewing, painting, nature walks, music, yoga, yoga and more yoga! In more sociable times, I sometimes sing in an Irish band.
Q7: Do you have any recent or forthcoming projects you’d like to promote?
Sarra: My first book is out in November 2021, entitled Bonds: A Short Story Collection, with Caab Publishing. The book includes three short stories and a novella, exploring universal ties, cords, and attachments, examining what it means to be bonded as parent to child. I’ve often heard the advice ‘write what you want to read’. I’ve never found the important theme of infant/maternal bonding to be represented enough in my favourite genres, I hope I have filled a hole.
Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?
(insta handles for the following heroes) Jane Bradley @janeclairebradley from That’s What She Said, AndyN Poet @andynpoet from Speak Easy, Chris Gregory @stories.alt from Alternative Stories and Fake Realities, and of course, the marvellous David O’Nan @DavidLONan1 from @FeversOf As a teacher, I realise your encouragement and belief in a writers’ words, is the catalyst to them sharing it.
Bio: Sarra Culleno is a British BAME poet, mother and English teacher who performs her writing at events across the UK. She writes about children’s rights, motherhood, identity, gender, age, technology, the environment, politics, modern monogamy and education. Sarra is widely published. She has written fiction and poetry for publication, performance, print, audiodramas, podcasts and radio. Sarra was longlisted for the Cinnamon Press Pamphlet Prize, for Nightingale and Sparrow’s Full Collections 2020, and nominated for Best of the Net 2020 by iambapoet. Sarra co-hosts Write Out Loud at Waterside Arts, and performs as guest and featured poet at numerous literary festivals. Youtube.com/user/sarra1978 – YouTube @sarracullenopoetry – Instagram @sarra1978 – Twitter Sarra1978@hotmail.com – Email facebook.com/sarracullenopoetry – FaceBook
Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?
Iona: I was an avid reader and I went to the library most weekends with my parents. My favourite book was ‘Frog, Duck, and Rabbit’ by Susanna Gretz. I took it out of the library so many times that they let me keep it! I loved the Puddle Lane series as a child. I read a lot of Enid Blighton—I adored The Faraway Tree. I was also obsessed with Harry Potter and I went to the midnight book launch for The Deathly Hallows. My parents were big influences on my writing—they read me stories every night before bed. Some nights my dad would make up stories; my favourite was Super Baby—a baby who would save the day by solving minor inconveniences!
I started writing for a young age. When I was seven, me and my best friend Hannah sat in the playground and wrote stories whilst people watching! I filled notebook after notebook with stories, one which sticks out to me is a story about twins who had to roll a dice to find out whether they would live with their mum or dad. The twins ended up being split up without contact and had to try to find each other again. I drew out all of the characters and wrote profiles on them. I entered my first story writing competition when I was 11 and I wrote a story about a haunted attic.
Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?
Iona: Today my biggest influence is Sylvia Plath. When I read The Bell Jar at seventeen it reignited my desire to be a writer, as it showed me that I could write about mental health rather than keeping it a secret. Plath’s work helped me to see that I didn’t have to be ashamed for struggling with my mental health, and helped me channel my feelings into art. The precision in her writing style and her powerful metaphors inspire me. Every Plath poem and prose has what I call a ‘killer line’—a line which is so powerful it takes your breath away. I always strive to have my own ‘killer line’ in the pieces I write.
Q3: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing?
Iona: I grew up in London, and at six I moved to Hastings. Moving at such a young age influenced my writing as I try to incorporate the rawness I felt having to move and start over again, leaving behind the life I once knew. Living in by the sea in Hastings influenced my writing, as I like to use motifs of waves to signify change and cleansing, as it captures how it felt to leave my life in London and start afresh by the sea.
Q4: Have any travels away from home influenced your work/describe?
Iona: I’ve moved around quite a few times as I’ve been to three different universities! These moves have influenced my writing as each new town gave me new experiences and mark different point in my life. My poem ‘The Eighth Move’ in Re-Side Zine explores every single time I’ve moved house and the new period it marked in my life. I’m currently working on a novel which, among other things, recounts experiences from my trips to Amsterdam, Copenhagen, and Boston. Travel is important to me as it opens your eyes to the person you are without the pressures of your every day routine. https://www.re-sidezine.com/issue02
Q5: Any pivotal moment in which you knew you wanted to be a writer?
Iona: After I decided I no longer wanted to be a Postman at four years old, I decided I wanted to be a writer because I loved stories. At ‘dress up as your dream job’ day at school, I came as a writer. When I was eleven we had to write practise CVs for our dream job, and again I chose author. I’ve wanted to be an author for as long as I can remember, it was never a question of ‘if’ but ‘when.’
Q6: Favorite activities to relax?
Iona: I love creative activities, so even when I’m not writing I like to make some kind of art! I love playing the piano and I find it really relaxing. My main hobbies are jewellery making; I run a charity project called beads4beat where I make bracelets for the UKs leading eating disorder charity Beat. I love making my own earrings—I’ve done some really unique designs like turning lip balm and children’s toys into earrings. If I can find a way to make something into earrings, I will!
Q7: Any recent or forthcoming projects you’d like to promote?
I have a piece coming out in The Bitchin’ Kitsch collection All My Relations
Q8: What is a favorite line in one of your poems/writings?
Iona: One of my favourite line I’ve written is from The Fruit Tree: Joy Edition—“The hazy summer day starts to slip from your hands, the sun’s shining but in the distance the heat waves are blurring, you feel it fading but it’s beyond your control”
Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?
Iona: My friends and family who’ve supported me by reading my work and giving me feedback. Their kindness makes me want to continue writing. The people who have loved me unconditionally through difficult periods in my life give me the motivation to turn my life experiences into art