'Pavement Cafe' by Anna Ghislena is Write Out Loud's Poem of the Week

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Write Out Loud’s new Poem of the Week is Pavement Cafe, by Anna Ghislena, a vignette of impressions seen through the eyes of a beggar. In her answers to Write Out Loud’s questions Anna reveals herself as a big fan of John Betjeman, and of the northern punk poet Joolz as well. She believes in simple and “plain-speaking” language in poetry, takes some of her material from the music scene, and is still plucking up the courage to perform in public.


How long has poetry been an important part of your life and can you remember why it become so?

My first introduction to poetry was when I was quite young and I sat listening to Sir John Betjeman’s Banana Blush with my granny.  Perhaps it was because the album is musically accompanied by the amazing compositions of Jim Parker, but my mind worked overtime in listening to the ghostly tale of Captain Webb the Dawley man and it’s still my favourite to this day.  All the poems on that album are stunning snapshots of people’s lives, from the business women soaking in their steaming bathtubs in Camden Town to the sunkissed row boat of Clemency, the general’s daughter and to the children’s party where the excited notion of lemon curd and Christmas cake is laced with the innocence of first attraction and a childhood sweetheart.

From there I moved on to become besotted with the crimson-haired, pagan punk poet Joolz.  I spent my teens listening to her, stunned by tales of her world and of modern life in the north - it was a bitter world apart compared to my home life in Hertfordshire!

So, I consider poetry to be like a camera.  I don’t think you need to be an outstanding wordsmith to write it; conjuring the simplest vocabulary captures a moment, just like a photograph would.  A fleeting thought; a chance observation; a moment of revelation; anyone can write down words to express their encounter.  It is a beautiful, seductive and compact form of expression whoever you are and whatever you write.


What kind of poetry do you write?  What motivates you?

A light-hearted touch is important to me, even on serious topics.  I believe that lines should be simple and contain plain-speaking language that tells you how it is. I enjoy approaching different styles of writing and I admit to being a bit of a rhyming fiend occasionally, but not always.  I write about observations that have touched me, have alerted my senses or have  just humoured me.  I am also a big fan of live music and the culture embedded in that scene so I glean much of my material from there too.  As a busy working mum I turn to writing as "me" time motivated by the way it helps me to rediscover and retain my identity and thought processes.


If you could only have one poet's work to read, which one would you choose?

Sir John Betjeman, I love his writing style, subject matter and sense of humour.  Perfect picture postcards in words!


Do you perform your work?

I would love to be able to perform my poetry, but either nerves or lack of time always get the better of me.  Cowardly courage - that's what I have and I should make more use of it!


You are cast away on a desert island.  What is your luxury?

Well, apart from a bottle of Factor 50 sun screen, my luxury would be pens and paper.  With writing you are never alone, you will always have someone to "talk" to and something to keep the mind active - imagine if you came up with a really great poem or story and couldn't write it down!  That would be desert island hell on earth!



by Anna Ghislena



I’ve been sitting here awhile 

My cup is empty 

No matter, I like watching human traffic

Foreign students chatter by

Her!  She passes every day

Fresh long hair, a breezy skirt, so beautiful

The picture of my love when I promised her the universe

Now there’s a young man with determination in his stride

His tie flapping across his chest; his briefcase full of ambition

I remember those days

A fretful girl struggles with her double pram

Are my children all grown up now?

As the world turns a dog sniffs my shoe

Clink.  Silver hits my cup.  I salute you.



◄ 'No one knew he could sing!': John Cooper Clarke takes on Macarthur Park and other pop classics

Write Out Loud Wigan at the Old Courts tonight ►


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Linda Cosgriff

Fri 14th Oct 2016 11:47

For me, it's 'My cup is empty' which breaks my heart, with the connotation of a glass half-empty/half-full: he has no hope at all.

Also, it evokes the contrast of a cup overflowing - some have so much when he has nothing.

Excellent poem!

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Martin Elder

Thu 13th Oct 2016 18:11

A simply brilliant poem Anna and a well deserved POTW. I agree with Julian and Graham that a part of it's richness lays in its brevity. Congrats.

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Laura Taylor

Thu 13th Oct 2016 13:46

Ah yes, I loved this when I read it. Well done Anna, it is a wonderfully succinct poem, with some killer lines.

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steve pottinger

Thu 13th Oct 2016 10:46

That's a great poem, Anna. As has already been said, sometimes it's what *isn't* put in a poem which makes it so powerful. Well done!

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dorinda macdowell

Thu 13th Oct 2016 09:49

Anna, your poem is brilliant - well done - and I share your love of John Betjeman's work...... Keep writing!

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Anna Ghislena

Thu 13th Oct 2016 09:20

Thank you for your kind comments everyone. I am touched that the poem has made such an impression. Thank you for taking the time to relay your thoughts, gratefully appreciated. Anna.

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Julian (Admin)

Wed 12th Oct 2016 09:46

I agree with Graham's comments and want to reiterate his congratulations on its brevity, its succintness. Less is definitely more. Well done, and thank you for this important piece of work.

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suki spangles

Tue 11th Oct 2016 16:04

Anna, I think Graham has summed it up better than I could. Congratulations on winning POTW.

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Graham Sherwood

Mon 10th Oct 2016 09:55

I'm glad this poem isn't too long. It is its brevity and lack of depth that makes it so cutting and correct.
Watching people from the vantage point of a beggar, short-lived images, snapshots, instant character assessments, watermark the poem.

I love the potential of a briefcase full of ambition, and the daily anticipation of seeing the pretty girl.

But it is the woefully aching "are my children all grown up now" that catches one's throat.

Once again a VERY worthy winner of POTW

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