‘Lore’—flowers, poison, and so much more

Charley Barnes’s debut poetry collection ‘Lore: Flowers, Folklore, and Footnotes’ was launched on Valentine’s Day 2021 on Zoom.

Charley read some of her favourite pieces from the collection, and sent a link to her fascinating article about the book, which includes the information shown below:

‘At the launch yesterday, while I continue to ferret around in the back-end of plantlore and folklore to find interesting tidbits, I realised that the book isn’t really about flowers at all. 

‘It’s about the type of poisons used by tribesmen who are hunting. It’s about the suicide tree and how many suspected homicides it may have been responsible for. It’s about consent. It’s about the ocean. It’s about about witchcraft and feminism and loneliness and even, a teenie-tiny bit, about love.

‘When flowers have been used, there is a footnote attached to explain an entirely different narrative. This is usually about a myth; or an explorer; or a wild historical event. Sometimes it’s about folklore and medicine—or should that be “medicine”—that used to make the world work (or at least keep it going). In many ways, ‘Lore’ isn’t only a collection of narratives, it’s a collection of sub-narratives; stories that have slipped down the cracks, and maybe a few that never even found air.’ 

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Charley Barnes is already well known for her fiction,
publishing as C.S. Barnes. Writing, performing and
hosting spoken word events as Charley Barnes, she is
also very active in the West Midlands poetry scene. This
is her first poetry collection and celebrates her year as
Worcestershire Poet Laureate (2019-2020). She has a
BA (Hons) in English & English Language, and a
masters (Distinction) and doctorate in Creative Writing.
She lectures in Creative Writing at a number of West
Midlands universities.

‘In these pages, Barnes has shouted Boo at me, and I
am mute. Well, almost. These poems have the tender
touch of Naruder’s Love Songs and the bristling brutal
barb of Anne Sexton. In Lore, she guides us through a
veritable Pre-Raphaelite landscape—as deadly and
murky as it is full of life-giving sensuality. Ephemeral
folktales and folklore are grounded by the historical and
the place-specific, both aspects weaved together with
deft precision. These poems come in the form of howling
riptides and gentle splashes.’
R. M. Francis

‘Pack of Lies’ Review by LitFest Director Martin Driscoll

Roz Levens writes with a light touch but produces such heavy content!
In her latest novel ‘Pack of Lies’ she creates an entwined ensemble of believable but wildly diverse characters, all linked by one man known to them all but with seemingly no ties to each other.
The way Roz carefully, deviously, cleverly and forensically lays out her plot lines is a sheer delight.
It is a darkly humorously novel with twists and turns and great plot devices, the way she drops the crime bombs into each person and their families is breath taking.
At its heart is a seemingly simple plot of a man slipping slowly into deep trouble but the ripples and the tentacles of organised crime quickly affect so many women unknowingly linked, innocent to the horrors that unfold so rapidly and so completely.
A MUST READ story, full stop!

Martin Driscoll
Director · The Worcestershire Literary Festival & Fringe

Click here for more about ‘Pack of Lies’

2020 Anthologies

So good to have news about the Worcestershire LitFest and Black Pear Press anthologies for this year—both the Flash Fiction and the Young Writer anthologies are now available for pre-order, please click on the links below for details.

The launch for the Flash Fiction anthology ‘Her Final Goodbye’ is at 4pm Sunday 29 November.

The Young Writer ‘Which Choice’ anthology launch is at 4pm Sunday 6 December.

Both events will be on Zoom and will be promoted via Facebook. If you would like the Zoom invitation and link then please email office@blackpear.net with details of the launch or launches you’d like to attend.

My World—Gloucestershire Writers’ Network Competition Anthology 2020

As featured at The Cheltenham Literature Festival 2020, the 2020 Competition Winners’ Anthology on the theme of ‘My World’ is available. This wonderful anthology takes you from a reflection on the world‐view of an Anglo‐Saxon wanderer to the anxieties of a new mother trapped in a high‐rise flat; from the streets of an Italian city, empty because of Covid, to a woman looking back on her life of weaving and fish guttng in a Scottish village.


You will find poems and stories from some of the best writers in Gloucestershire and South Gloucestershire, chosen by judges Sarah James/Leavesley and Tyler Keevil, a selection of whose work is also featured.

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The Alchemy of 42

‘The Alchemy of 42’ by Polly Stretton is dark, speculative, and sometimes bizarre—these are her lenses and through them we view scenes that comfort and distress, thrill and mesmerise.

Written to 42Worcester prompts, there are, fittingly, 42 poems included. What is 42Worcester? It is the only alternative genre spoken word event in Worcestershire. ‘The Alchemy of 42’ is written for fans of gothic, horror, sci-fi and fantasy—described as omni-directional, dark and lyrical, ‘these poems ambush the senses’.

Front cover snapshot final

Available from Black Pear Press – £7 +P&P:

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“Celebrating 42Worcester with a collection is a thrill,” Polly said, “I’m planning to collate an anthology of poems from the 42Worcester poets and writers next year and have another of my own collections ‘Growing Places’ scheduled for next March.”

Eminent poet, reviewer and University lecturer, Michael W. Thomas, said, “Here, we share afresh the terrors of Le Fanu’s Maud. There, we witness a sentinel-crone at the junction of this world and the next as she prepares a treat for a spectral trio. A ‘circus of chaos’ offers not the joy of parti-coloured distraction but an insupportable sense of loneliness. Faerie folk ‘suck on columbine, nectar, blood’ as they caper and madden in the corner of our eye. Circe of the many-hued hands delights equally in fragrant herbal beds and the torment of libidinous sailors. More happily, in the dusk of a carpet museum, revenant lovers unite, as they never could in harsh, uncaring life.”

Call and Response with Worcester Cathedral

A project run by Worcester Cathedral Poet-in-Residence Amanda Bonnick called for poems about the Cathedral and this pamphlet shows the response by Worcestershire poets.

Call and Response - front cover

Poets featured in this pamphlet include: Amanda Bonnick, Michael W. Thomas, Mike Alma, David Pamment, Kevin Brooke, Steve Quick, Tim Cranmore, Leena Batchelor, Mark Kilburn, Brian Comber, Roz Levens, Charley Barnes, Anne Hodnette, Ade Couper, Siân Mitchell, Nina Lewis and Polly Stretton.

Available from Black Pear Press – £5 +P&P:

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Pack of Lies—Roz Levens

Roz Levens’ debut novel ‘Pack of Lies’ was launched via Zoom in June 2020. Roz featured a quiz at her launch, a treat for her readers.

Roz Levens with Pack of Lies

Graham has taken one risk too many. Now he owes a lot of money to the wrong people, and he is running for his life. Will the women he has duped unite to save him? Is he even worth saving?

Pack of Lies - Front Cover

“Roz Levens’ work is vicious, in the best way! She has a marvellous tendency to combine crime and comedy with brilliant results and she blends this with wonderfully distinct characters too…There is something unique about the way Levens puts a story together and she always manages to introduce the unexpected in her plots —and at exactly the right time.”

Dr Charley Barnes
Writer in Residence at The Swan Theatre
Worcestershire Poet Laureate 2019-2020
Managing Director | Sabotage Reviews

“Sara, Martha, Jude. Their one common link is Graham Parker…but they don’t know it. Then the letters arrive, the photographs, the documents, dropping through their letterboxes into wire baskets, onto doormats. Yes, that’s him…but who’s that with him, whose is that name alongside his? And who is Micaela? Is she just a bit-player in this mystery…or does she know more? Does she know all of them? How? Is she the one gradually drawing them together and, if so, to what end?

“In this skilfully constructed tale, Roz Levens deftly reveals the many lives of Graham Parker: lives invented, juggled or plain thrown away. But such casualness can come at a price…and that price can mean real danger. …we learn that Graham was a whizz at English: ‘His teacher said he had the most wonderful imagination…she’d never met a child with such a grasp of the importance of a plot.’ Now, it seems, he is learning that plots backfire. Truly, he needs help. But one question looms ever larger throughout this assured page-turner—will those he’s discarded be willing to give it?”

Michael W. Thomas, author of The Girl from Midfoxfields, The Portswick Imp: Collected Stories 2001-2016 and The Stations of the Day.

Available from Black Pear Press – £8 +P&P – order your copy now:

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Roz’s Quiz—winner: Kathy Haynes, runner-up Ellie Myers, third place, and so many other correct answers that Roz put the recipe prize up on Facebook.

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