London Poetry

London’s cultural and ethnic diversity amongst its visitors and inhabitants make the city fascinating and a great inspiration for writing especially poetry. South Bank Poetry loves London and has since its first issue published in 2008 published numerous high quality poems about London, its people and their stories.

We publish the best new voices in poetry, and many of the poets we have published have gone onto win highly respected prizes and carved out careers as poets, for instance we were the first publication to publish Mona Arshi who went on to win the Forward Prize for best first collection. Her poem My Mother’s Hair featuring in our Autumn 2010 issue went on to be part of her award winning collection Small Hands.

Below are just some of the poems that were featured in South Bank Poetry Magazine.

My Mother’s Hair

My mother’s thin salwar gives her away.
Her plait snakes across her back, and turns
to whispers at the ends.

Can we touch it? They ask in the icy playground.
She shyly places the dark coil in their hands.

After bathing, it is transformed, rope
released from its binding fibres and falls
into a heavy curtain onto her shoulders.

Steaming by the old radiator, she sits,
with her pan of dried pulses,
discarding tiny masquerading stones,
she leaves a trail of whispers on the floor.

 Mona Arshi

Cleopatra’s Needle


180 tons of granite quarried
millennia before Christ weighs down
13th September 1878, keeping
the time capsule in place –

while this new day is weighed down
by every day that came before,
so that is in danger
of feeling more like the model

of the obelisk buried at the foot
of the original along with hair pins,
tobacco pipes, shilling razors,
plans on vellum.

Helen Farish


I heard that the Chinese call this moon –
huge and beaming orange, on the line
that scissors out the fringe of South London –
an evil moon. I clamber at the scene,
fail to catch it with my camera,
the light so rare and fragile, so I glean
whatever dodgy frames of memory
can last within my cortical hard drive,
all locked up in my neural armoury.

Its dead glare lets me know that I’m alive.

Niall O’Sullivan

The Barred List at The Half Moon, Herne Hill

Right, you lot, before you get pissed
Commit to memory this fucking list
This lot are barred.

Mickey Two Suits, Dick with the shoes
That prick that I caught shooting up in the loos
Flat cap coke fiend, wants his teeth cleaned
Better still, quarantined
He’s one of those predators
Threatening the regulars
Julia Tant, since she pissed in that plant
Dead fucking ringer for a comic-strip minger
And that Angus, drunken ginger
They’re barred, they are.

Staring pervert, stares and pervs
Helmet-wearing ale drinker, gets on me nerves
One-armed Keith, the fruit machine thief
That blonde bitch and her mate Rich
She talks funny, he walks funny
And neither of the fuckers spends enough money
Adam the deaf guy – punched Daz in the left eye
Danny Partridge – he’s back and he’s fat
And you know that ex-con chav twat?
He’s barred, he is.

That South African cadging scammer
Tried to smash up the bar with an ‘ammer
Bad goatee and a pony tail
Belongs behind bars but he’s out on bail
The Glaswegian, the Norwegian
Crazy Linda, loopy Lucinda
She caused that ruck on Coldharbour Lane
Don’t let her come in here again
Spilt her beer on Stan’s new Vans
I’m telling you, she’s fucking banned.

Vitriolic queen – you know the one I mean
Waltzed in this place, saying Hoxton with an aitch
Tall, chavvy fighting idiot of old
Usually nice bloke who’s going bald
Tightwad only ever drinks tap water
Cracked on to the landlord’s daughter
Never leaves at closing time
Likes his tipple with ice and lime
Fuck that.
He’s barred, he is.

Rob Roe and his bro
Gus and his mate Mark – loan shark
Bullied me at school, cheating tosser cheats at pool
That psycho Miller who drank Polyfilla
For a bet. Bloke’s a fucking loser
Don’t let him in this boozer
Fat Paul, Jason Small, Dawn and Shaun
He thinks I didn’t notice him
Sunday when he snuck back in.
But I did. And he’s barred, he is.

I don’t care how hard he is.
He’s fucking barred, he is.

Janine Booth, London E8
Commended in the London Poems Competition

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