De Pfeffelschrift PROLOGUE : Katy Evans-Bush

From Lines by Kenneth Patchen #42

The one we’re really watching is Rishi Sunak,
the finance minister. Boris & Carrie Johnson
have paid their fines but as yet we’ve not heard anything
from Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer.

        The first PM & Chancellor
        To break the law in office:
        When we’re all in it together,
        Is this how you tell who the toff is?

The world is not so big when you think about it.
England is not so small. It’s a non-dom rom-com.

        You know a crook is what you are,
        when you’re grinning at the filling station
        filling someone else’s car,
        evading your taxes in front of the nation.

& here’s a fine pond for his wife to play Go Fishing
for slivers he’s shaved off her taxes and the food banks.

        ‘The guidelines were all followed;
        there was never anything sinister’.
        The one we’re watching now
        is that crooked finance minister.

‘But’ — the equally crooked PM explains,
as he lifts his pen to redact ‘honesty’
and ‘integrity’ from the Ministerial Code —
‘the people have a right to expect better’.

        This government are cons and liars.
        The public is aghast!
        But Boris Johnson, who started the fires,
        has spoken the truth at last.

the lies the greed the lies & not at all
evil in any ultimate sense except

Katy Evans-Bush is the author of two poetry collections with Salt Publishing and a book of essays from Penned in the Margins. Her latest is Broken Cities from Smith|Doorstop. She is a freelance copy-editor and is at work on two more books, in between trying to figure out how to pay the electric.

Postcards From Malthusia CLINICAL TRIAL #3: Emma Simon

Work from the MA Poetry Summer School at Newcastle University

Art Deco Aquarium


On days that it is closed the tiles still gleam

the luminous green of dollar bills.


A sturgeon slowly eddies round his tank

through the brackish waters of a constant present.


Nearby, moon jellyfish drift up and down,

lighting the way for ghosts of paying customers


to visit the coral reef zone. No-one crowds

around the clown fish now, or questions


if sea-horse faces staring through reeds

are nightmares in miniature, or just real.


Outside there might be snowstorms, riots, plagues.

But here are quiet days.  Dark corridors hush


to the splash of waves lapping on shores.

We’re all alone. No-one’s banging on the glass.



Emma Simon has two pamphlets published: The Odds (Smith|Doorstop, 2020) and Dragonish (The Emma Press, 2017). She has been widely published in magazines and has previously won both the Ver Poets and Prole Laureate prizes.  She is currently studying for an MA in Writing Poetry at The Poetry School/ University of Newcastle.

Postcards From Malthusia CLINICAL TRIAL #2: Anne Symons

Work from the MA Poetry Summer School at Newcastle University

Fading Paper, Lasting Impression


To Karina Bondareva, who made a red paper dress

for the #MetGalaChallenge

(May 2020)


2 packs of red paper, faded in the sun

2 rolls of industrial cling film

3 rolls of tape

120 glue sticks


I admire your ingenuity.

Like our grandparents in wartime

we are forced to be resourceful.


I love your pert paper nipples.

Tell me, do they sag if you get damp?

And in the rain will you run red

like blood?




Anne Symons comes from Cornwall and studied at the University of Wales, Swansea. She currently lives in London. After a career teaching deaf children and adults Anne began writing poetry in retirement. Her work has been published in Orbis, Obsessed with Pipework, Ekphrastic Review, Agenda and The Atlanta Review.

Postcards From Malthusia CLINICAL TRIAL #1: Kat Dixon

Work from the MA Poetry Summer School at Newcastle University

As in

after Sakinah Hofler


more calls to helplines, as in two months after celebrating his twenty-first birthday, as in


massively struggled, as in I just wish he’d have held on, as in


access to support services, both online and in person, as in these situations, lots of gay people, families who don’t accept them, as in


44% increase in calls to helplines, we loved and supported him, as in coroner not required to log data on sexual orientation or gender identity, as in


11,000 people have accessed suicide prevention, he had so much ahead of him, as in government officials, as in


we are absolutely committed to supporting everyone’s mental health, especially during this unprecedented period, as in


not counting means the struggle will continue for others, as in


we loved and supported him, I just wish he’d have held on



Kat Dixon is a London-based poet, studying for her MA in Poetry with Newcastle University. She works in innovation in the public sector and has recently let her passion for social justice filter into her poetry. Her poems have appeared in The Rialto, Perverse, Tears in the Fence and other publications.

Postcards From Malthusia CLOSING CHORUS: Bill Herbert and Andy Jackson

Dear folks,

Last Friday we reached 100 posts in our Postcards From Malthusia project, and, although we are still receiving work, decided to bring things to a gently decelerating close. That’s two-and-a-half quarantines-worth of verse, or five quarantinis if you think exclusively in cocktails, and at this stage, who doesn’t?

It seems to us that the initial phase of Lockdown and indeed the post-Lockdown phase of What the Hell Do We Call This? are now over, and we have entered into a new phase called Remains of a Ruined Summer Shot Through with Forebodings of the Autumn and Winter Yet to Come. We’re not sure that a poem a day is going to help with that, but we’ll continue to publish Clinical Trials to find out. The first of these will begin shortly, and we plan to take things forward ever so tentatively from there on out. But first, our traditional New Boots closing chorus of a repurposed Ian Dury song – on this occasion, ‘Billericay Dickie’ (if you’re not familiar with the song, click here to see Mr Dury give a masterclass in modern Music Hall). Do join in at the back there!


Cyrus Virus

Good evening; I’m from Wuhan
So all the scientists tell
My secret name is Cyrus
AKA Coronavirus
And I’ll be taking you…to Hell

I had a date with Priti
I met her up the city
I sang this little ditty
At a Commons Subcommittee
I said Now come on Priti
Let’s get to the nitty gritty
But she preferred Chris Whitty
Which wasn’t ‘alf a pity

You ask Dot and Iris
Who’s their favourite virus
My given name is Cyrus
I’m called Coronavirus
And I’m taking you…to Hell

I met with Mr Cumming
A man known for his cunning
I asked about his plumbing
But he was not forthcoming
I thought he muttered some’ing
He said he was just humming
He hadn’t time for chumming
Cos he’d left his engine running

Well, you ask Matt and BoJo
Which miasma has the mojo
I ‘appen to be tireless
I’m Psychoronavirus
And I’ll be sending them…to Hell

I had a fling with Rishi
I found him rather dishy
His mandate was all squishy
Which seemed a little fishy
His face was rather twitchy
Which left me feeling itchy
And I don’t mean to be bitchy
But his mask was proper titchy.

Well, you ask Pence and Trumpo
Why their polls are on the slumpo
I’m afraid they cannot fire us
Cos I’m a bleedin’ virus
And I’ll be sending them…to Hell

You should always mask your face, yeah?
If you don’t know where I’ve been
You’ll need a tester and a tracer
For your public ‘ealth regime

I met Michael and his doggy
Down where the Thames was boggy
His rhetoric was soggy
And rather demagogue-y
We got all dialogue-y
About Jacob Rees’s moggy
But his memory was foggy
So I left him feeling groggy

Oh golly, oh gosh
come and dally in the dell
With a nice bit of posh
from Clerkenwell
My given name is Cyrus
But I’m called Coronavirus
And I’ll make you…quite unwell

We may be just a virus
But you can’t help but admire us
My secret name is Cyrus
And if you are desirous
Let’s all go…straight to Hell.

So if you want to hire us
Just sign this small papyrus
My friends know me as Cyrus
Though I’m called Coronavirus
And I’m taking you to Hell

You ask Dot and Iris
Who their favourite squire is
They’ll tell you that it’s Cyrus
That smart coronavirus
Who is taking them…to Hell…

Postcards From Malthusia DAY ONE HUNDRED – Stephanie Green

Desire Paths

(Craighouse, Edinburgh, June 2020)


Few people used to come here – the grounds

of the former lunatic asylum:  joggers, the elderly

but they kept to the tarmac round the edge.


But now, as May turns into June, buttercups

like a bright lake darken with currents,  trails

criss-crossing the expanse of unmown grass.


Let out for their allotted hour, small kids burst

into the open space –  whooping and screaming,

running wild – their parents indulgent.


We tread our separate desires: the lonely,

longing for touch, keeping their distance as they pound

their griefs into the grass to the soil beneath


or let the eyes relax at the long views,

a respite from crouching over screens,

to the views of Arthur’s Mound or the Firth of Forth


where we cannot go, or even on the distant horizon,

when the haze clears, to the triangle of Berwick’s Law

where I have never desired to go, until now.



Stephanie Green is half Irish and half English and has lived in Edinburgh since 2000. Her pamphlet Flout (HappenStance, 2015) is inspired by Shetlandic landscape, folklore and music.  Recently Berlin Umbrella her poetry/sound collaboration with Sonja Heyer, launched in Berlin in 2018 and appeared at StAnza, 2020.

Postcards From Malthusia DAY NINETY-NINE – Tom Phillips

TV Prospectus, Sofia


They’re fucking on the balcony.
Or might be. I can’t tell.
Our whole block’s become
a soap opera, locked in
to these lockdown stories.

If they put a camera
on the crane that tos and fros
above the new apartment building,
they might have a hit
on their lathered hands.

Bats, pigeons, magpies
assume fly-in roles
like characters on the fringe
of a Tolstoyan epic –
they’re hardly unmoved.

A whole structure
of feeling casts about
for a single, simple point
to focus on –
the arrangement of dustbins

or a taxi driver checking
his wing-mirror’s flexibility.
And all the students
have been unleashed
onto the world –

graduating into fabrications
that aren’t of their own making.
I have wished them health,
happiness and success,
as if it was their birthday,

knowing full well
that it’s not.
At best, the light falls
Everything’s aslant

and even the trams
are sluggish.
Along those lines,
there’s no way back
beyond the boulevards

where, tonight, as again,
the tents are out
and the mafia bosses
rest against their shore,
in love with it all –

their tightly held places
like populist retreats
where everyone
offers not much more
than catastrophe agreements.

Tom Phillips lives in Sofia, Bulgaria, where he works as a writer, translator and teacher. His poetry collections include Unknown Translations (Scalino, 2016), Recreation Ground (Two Rivers Press, 2012) and Burning Omaha (Firewater, 2003).

Postcards From Malthusia DAY NINETY-EIGHT: Jean Atkin

Mid-June Selfie in the Hills


Wind bends the nettles and I

turn the phone cam on myself

to watch rain gutter off my hood

and down my nose


hair drenched to points

sticks to one cheek

I look in my eyes to see

doubt, of course


while cracked earth gulps all

the droplets sky

shakes loose and a wet bee

crawls in the cave of a foxglove


I breathe wet soil, wet

grass and also, faintly

something dead.   A sign

handwritten, badly spelt


on the farmyard gate, to ask me

not to walk the path just now

seems deeply lonely.  Rain

while I’m outside, is company.




Jean Atkin‘s new collection is How Time is in Fields (IDP, May 2019).  Her poetry has featured on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Ramblings’ with Claire Balding, and recent work appears in The Rialto, Magma, The Moth, Lighthouse and Agenda.  In 2019 she was Troubadour of the Hills for Ledbury Poetry Festival, and BBC National Poetry Day Poet for Shropshire.  

Postcards From Malthusia DAY NINETY-SEVEN – Niall McDevitt

To the Statue of Baroness Thatcher


what’s a statue of Thatcher made to incarnate but stasis? (as in

status quo) this iron lady, upgraded to bronze, stands for closure:

closed shops, closed pits, closed minds with a d, closed books,

closed doors for the grocery world she came from; only trapdoors

flew open. her grey aureole brainwashed voters to reject the red,

setting them to play on boards of snakes and ladders, ascending

one or two rungs then slithering into a fiscal abysm, exchanging

mass-Marxist struggle for a mass-Murdochian cop-out. Rupert

shares her pedestal (whose rhino hide would snap any chisel).

when there are so few carved, curved forms of historic females

it seems a shame that from her stone paps the only milk on offer

is militancy and mediocrity. oh goddess of the monetarists

who on her unjust scales weighed up every grain of Bobby Sands,

inside a larger-than-life coiffure the grey matter calculates on

at the Members’ Lobby, levying Elysium’s posthumous taxes


a decade in Pluto is more than ten years

where her shade thunders, cool as ice ages



 Niall McDevitt is the author of three collections of poetry, b/w (Waterloo Press, 2010), Porterloo (International Times, 2013) and Firing Slits Jerusalem Colportage (New River Press, 2016). He read at Yoko Ono’s Meltdown in 2012, and has performed in Iraq at the Babylon Festival.  He blogs at


Post-It Notes From Malthusia DAY NINETY-SIX – Day of the Squibs

A selection of shorter poems for your delectation



Juliet Antill

The Shift


Darling at Arms;

darling at arm’s length,

homme bien aimé, mal armé

who treads the ammonia’d wards.

Darling – come home.

The crowned one runs amok.

Your amphora of care runs dry,

your hands are raw.

Ambrosia grows hard to come by.

Jo Colley

Haiku #7


A loner. Yes, true,

I like my own company

or at least I did.


David Mitchell

Dimming Down


Once truths are waning moons

that light the brittle page;

darkness always falls,

and lasts an age.



Juliet Antill lives on the Isle of Mull where, in normal times, she teaches mindfulness. Her poems have appeared in Magma, The North, Antiphon and New Writing Scotland.


Jo Colley is a UX designer and poet, with an interest in the digital presentation of text. She also makes poetry films and artefacts, blogs about clothes and produces podcasts, and is the co-director of Blueprint Poetry Press. She has three pamphlets and three full collections of poetry, the latest of which, Sleeper, was published by Smokestack in February 2020. Twitter @jocolley Insta: #jocolley


David Rudd-Mitchell is an occasional poet and writer; his work has appeared in magazines including Allegro, BLERThe Projectionists Playground, Simply Haiku and Zen Space. His work also appeared in chapbooks including The Black Light Engine Room’s Co-Incidental 05 and anthologies including Poems From a Green and Blue Planet edited by Sabrina Mahfouz.