Issue 28


This issue has an all-female panel of guest editors.

The three writers who edit DC 28 bring varied gifts to this task: surrealist poet, visual artist and life-long York resident Helen Burke, who writes with a sense of fun and the occasional jab of poignancy; sharp, clever London novelist AL Michael who has two novels, including one exploring what it means to be 20-something, underemployed and with student debt; and American-born PhD student Christina Thatcher, based in Cardiff, who writes well-crafted beautiful poems. The one rule: if an editor really wanted to include a certain piece, even if the other two disagreed, in it went: thus each editor has added her own specific brand on the issue. Most pieces were selected unanimously. This suggests DC 28 will appeal to a broad range of tastes. Including mine! As one who has lived and worked in the Caribbean, one story especially touched my heart.

The featured artist Amrik Varkalis arrives via Ails McGee, thus continuing Dream Catcher’spartnership with Greg and Ails of According to McGee, the vibrant art gallery in York City Centre. Amrik is deeply interested in Yorkshire landscapes, saying, “When creating a composition based on local scenes, I feel intimately connected to each Yorkshire landscape and its people.” The lush blues of Below the Reservoir, this issue’s cover, speak of winter: curling up under the fleece throw, with a warm drink and a good book.

The power and presence in the artwork chosen to be featured was found throughout the gallery show on display  at According to McGee, (Feb 1 to March 1 2014). Although all the artists whose works were shown are female, Ails was mindful to avoid clichés, saying, “There’s not a butterfly in sight. Seriously though, it’s a strange limitation to put on women artists that they’re only allowed to be intuitive and instinctive.”

Few short stories or poems were selected because they were written by female authors or specifically about women. One theme that runs through this collection might be youth: its joys; its loss; or younger peoples’ lack of jobs, money, experience, but with presumably years ahead of them. In several pieces, there is the theme of marginalisation (Up in Smoke); or of danger: the wolf at the door, the unescapable wolf, perhaps a malignant partner (The Flood; The Invisible Woman Discovers Body Glitter). If there is a theme, it’s not a feminist theme per se, but one that celebrates women and men, the life cycle, getting on with it, and that friends can be our dearest treasures.

The book reviews celebrate the work of a range of writers: celebrated Yorkshire poet Pat Borthwick, edgy, brave and honest Kate Tempest, and then a selection of pamphlets: the egalitarian way to enjoy poems in measured doses. A review of Paul Sutherland’s latest collection rounds out the reviews.

The Aunties

They were, above all else, women of their time
Neat perms, smart costumes and court shoes
Crisp blouses, cigarettes in holders
Each with a heart shaped locket at her throat
Love unspoken, never mentioned.

They both had jobs in busy offices in ‘town’
Shared a flat in Harrow on the Hill
Did the crossword on the daily underground,
My mother’s younger sisters never married
Lived together all their lives.

With the unheeding heartlessness of childhood
I said I loved Aunt Agnes best, I laughed with her
Sitting on a stool in Boots, felt glamorous
While she tried lipsticks, perfume on her wrist,
And Kath, her sister watched us patiently.

When they retired they bought a bungalow in Worthing
Agnes made a garden, colourful and neat.
Kath joined the Women’s Institute, made cakes.
So blameless lives continued year on year,
Then Agnes took an interest in books.

One day she asked me where she ought to start
To read her way through English Literature.
Unhesitating I suggested Chaucer, steering her
Away from Beowulf, Othere, mighty Norsemen
I know now she would have taken in her stride.

The aunts grew old, and later when I saw them
Kath had fallen prey to nerves
Abandoned cakes and socialising
Sat silent in an armchair by the gas fire
While Agnes read aloud to her.

By then she had reached Congreve, loved him
‘I’ve found some words I recognise’ she said,
‘I sang them, set by Handel, many years ago
At the school leavers’ concert 1928’.
And then she stood and sang the song for me

‘Where e’er you walk
Cool gales shall fan the glade
Trees where you sit
Shall crowd into a shade’

And I saw my aunties as I never knew them
Young, hopeful, exuberant and pretty
Their lives laid out before them to be lived.
Kath looked up alert and listening
Smiling gently while her sister sang.

Elizabeth Hare