Write a Note poetry evening, July: Holly Hearn, Craig Chalmers & Harley Truslove

Write a Note poetry evening, July: Holly Hearn, Craig Chalmers & Harley Truslove

by Anita Foxall.

Write a Note brings monthly poetry and spoken word at the MAST, in the heart of Southampton. In Common poetry editor Anita Foxall runs and comperes the event. In a monthly article she shares highlights of the evening.

July’s Write a Note was a busy evening, filled with talent brought by a very distinct variety of spoken word performers at our open mic.

One of the attending poets, a familiar face on the Southampton spoken word scene, was Holly Hearn, who has been a regular at Write a Note from the Talking Heads times, as well as regular presence in the spoken word scene of this city.


Holly Hearn

Holly describes herself as a poet, essayist, and immigrant who writes about feminism, politics, and Elvis. Her prose has been featured in several Medium publications and she is a co-host of The Art House’s Moving Voices open mic night. You can sign up for her newsletter, Wynter Poetry, to learn more about the nuts and bolts of poetry without the pretentiousness.



I’m crushed, suffocating, but why?
Existence when it isn’t wanted
Sinking beneath such weight, what weight?
Beating, being where it shouldn’t
And really, who cares? Not I.
How heavy is my heart.

When your manager says
It’s so nice when you’re not here
Pouring and pouring, people too polite to say when
You’ve no idea when you’ve said too much
So then it’s better to never start

Where is everyone?
Meetings, parties, where no one shows
Or they have fun where you don’t go
Joy congregates where you aren’t
Cause you’re always the awkward part

What’s wrong with me?
I mean you. What you’d give
To feel you belong to what you’ve long witnessed
What a thrill to be invited! What joy!
Ends in dread cause you fucked up like it’s a form of art

Why, a wondering we’ve pondered for years
You don’t know why you can’t read the room
Why can’t you see the cliff before you fall?
Stomach churning; why did I do that?
Not I. You. Why can’t I tell us apart?

Which hurts less: anonymity or notoriety?
The former means not caring which clothes to wear
Something which both of us desires, I think
Is it better to be pitied or dreaded? Which is which?
I can’t tell. That’s the problem in my heart.


How many times have you offended?
Went too far, showed just how
You can disrupt, upset, oh how I harm
Boggles the mind how so few have rebuked you
Still, in the end, all you’ll have is me.

Who really cares? Not you. Not I.
I’m sorry to those who tolerate me.
Not me. You. Who are you really?
I think I know who dares expose me
This self sabotage does truly smart

I’m crushed, suffocating, but why?
Existence when it isn’t wanted
Sinking beneath such weight, what weight?
Beating, being where it shouldn’t
And really, who cares? Not I.
How heavy is my heart.



I emptied my dorm
You did not
It would take me four years to return
You would be back in only six weeks

We sat, giggling at the gate, breathless, in love
I licked the melted chocolate from the vents of my laptop
Essays all handed in, now Paris awaited
Stress like storm clouds broke
Laden with exchanged gifts and eyes bright
With all that’s promised on our boarding passes
Wholly here and nowhere else
Together, we’re home

The tiny plane boarded all at once
Adventure lay ahead and we had
Neither time nor inclination to acknowledge
The week after next

A restless week in la Ville-Lumière
Sightseeing, bite eating, wine drinking, cresting
Touring galleries and exploring our anatomies
Exhilarating in its ups and downs

Absurd moments, gentle breakdowns, blurry snapshots
Bad French and cigarette butts
We moved from the Place de Clichy
To a palace on the Seine

Ice sculptures glittered outside while we wallowed
In a sea of blankets where this girl learned to be a woman
Planning our reunion, our rising tide, our kids
And whether we’d take them to soccer or football
Lavish breakfast laid out before us at the high water mark
As the wave finally broke and rolled back
Our love washed out to sea
And dashed upon the Dover cliffs

Our roads diverged in a corridor
Abruptly, inevitably, unforeseeable and obvious
The glamour of our forever shattered
Time stopped. We stopped. The bustling murmur did not
Eyes locked, like hearts and thoughts, begging me: stay
This was always going to happen
No amount of pretending could stop us from ending
But just maybe, if we stayed where we were…

I think we both knew our future was false
So we lingered, unwilling to give up our present
I moved first, silent sobbing through security
And just like that, we became the past.

Your pain and my regret hang heavy on my heart
Like your old lever lock still hangs on my keyring
I should never have flown back to Atlanta
When Berwick was waiting for me


The Claire’s Conundrum


Ever wonder the difference between getting
Your ears pierced at Claire’s and getting
Your ears pierced at a proper parlour?
It’s all in the needles, you see
Hollow, or not

Hollow needles pierce clean and neat
Remove the flesh and
No attempt to stitch wounds still fresh
No hanging chads no organic cat flaps

Space to fill with precious metals
Bits of glass, gems, whatever settles

Meanwhile mall kiosk punters with piercing guns
Loaded with studs for fashion on the run
Nothing cut away, just shoved forcefully aside with
Stainless steel but still you feel
Something trying to heal

I never had my ears properly pierced
In fact, one ear was pierced with a fist
No hollow needles, no clean cut holes
Blunt instruments no technical sentiment
Not holes but flaps, all hanging chads
Blunt force trauma, punch!

And this was my mistake, you see
People can be pierced, too
In the same ways: hollow, or blunt
I’ve been pierced so many times
And I’m not talking about my ears

I’m talking about my soul
Over time, riddled with holes
As other things were shoved inside
Decoration, distraction, just another way to hide

When I was roughly 23
I lost an earring mom gave to me
Made of milky glass, clear and white
Lost while swimming, to on the concrete lie
Expensive replacements made me decide
To give up on wearing them out of spite

Now I’m in recovery
From expectations of society
Exhuming and examining
All these wounds, these scars, these holes
I’ve lost my studs, you see

I spend my time trying to fill
Holes in me I’m convinced won’t heal
With dates in my calendar and plants on my windowsill
Seeking desperately to plug myself with steel
Before everyone discovers how hollow I am still

I’ve tried travel and cigarettes, fashion and whisky
Letting people complete me and getting a little frisky
But it wasn’t until I sat in the audience one night
Wishing he was sat beside me and wondering how I might
Learn to love living alone

That I realised to my great surprise
I was never here alone after all
Because I was here with…you.
With all of you because you’re all of me.

And then I felt a warm itch
That familiar feeling of a fleshy stitch
Body being its own snitch
Time to investigate this switch

I dug around, rooted inside
Pulled out all the vapid adornments I’d used
To incompletely fill these holes, punched

All along I thought life had taken my soul to a parlour
That the punches I rolled with were made with hollow needles
As with everything that mattered I truly cheaped out
Claire’s blunt needles visited upon my person

So please excuse this extended metaphor
Overstretched and exhausted in true millennial fashion
What I really wanted to say is that
I’m not incomplete; just wounded.
There are no irreplaceable gaps in my fabric
I don’t need anyone or anything to complete me
I just need to give my piercings time to mend.


Craig Chalmers

Craig Chalmers joined us as well for the second time, and engaged us and all made us all smile. A genuinely talented poet and enchanting performer.

Craig is a poet, actor and theatre maker hailing from Bournemouth and now living in Winchester. Winning through the Solent regionals he was overjoyed to compete in The Hammer & Tongue Poetry Slam Grand Final at The Royal Albert Hall last Summer. In addition he played last year’s All In The Mind festival and tries to write and perform locally as much as possible. Way back in 2016 he took debut one-man show The Craig Chalmers Experience to the Edinburgh fringe festival and a year later promptly embarrassed himself in four performances of the expanded version at the Theatre Royal Winchester. 

Craig still doesn’t have a proper website, or a blog or YouTube channel and barely updates his Facebook page, but nonetheless you can find it here:  https://www.facebook.com/TheCraigChalmersExperience

This article will be the most he’s been published anywhere online so he hopes you enjoy what you read! Craig does have a debut collection in his back pocket, but so far it’s been rejected at every turn! Must try harder. And, for a taste of what he’s like live check out the following videos:

All In The Mind Festival 2021, 11:50-33:30 All In The Mind Festival (aitmfestival.com)


Hammer & Tongue Solent Regional Final 2019 rounds one and two:


The Frauds of Facebook

I posted to say 1000,


And came here for a thumbs up,


Or a heart or a tear for validation.



And I hate and love this world in equal measure.

And I hate and love myself.



And for all this work created,


What do I have to show for it?





An echo in the void.





None is more a fraud to me than myself.




My sister used to whisper

The words of books,

Muttering incantations line by line

Under her breath.


Absorbing the text voraciously 

And thumbing the nub of her ear,

Her pages of spells

Were just the trick


To send a little boy to sleep.



Meeting Friends

Meeting friends 

Like spinning plates,

Some are dirty, some

Sparkle, some are used

Unwashed or badly treated,

Food dried on hard, 

Bruised or discoloured,

Some are chipped chipped and chipped again

But still spin.

Some revolve better, ascend

Flying unhappy happy independent,

Attend them less, 

Though they mean more.

Some are on ill fitting sticks

And wobble like flying saucers

On puppet programmes past.

Some still haven’t eaten,

A full meal turns with them overcommitted,

Some have further plates still

Revolving around them, tiny saucers

Dipping bowls measuring cups

All kept afloat aloft.

Some need you the most,

Heavy misshapen,

Hard to get going to a whirling waltzer.



Meeting friends like spinning plates.

We try our best.

I try my best.

The broken China is up to my chest.




Seeking Shade

Seeking shade in February 

Cowering from the air

That feels like morning Summer

And some are in shorts already,


Are cloying at the neck. 

Wonderful warming pushes

Us to smile.

But warming warning,

It’s too soon.

Much too soon.


Much too soon.




This beauty.

Will kill us.



Write A Note? Okay!

In summary,

The floors squeak

With every bend of rubber shoe,

The soul of your soles

Moan and cries as you walk.


In summary,

The toilets smell of Haribo

(The sweets not the poet)

So I go there often (with the squeaks!).


In summary, 

It’s short but feels long,

I’ll be home before time

And happy for it,

The words are strong,

Performers all.


In summary

It’s another step and a bad poem 

From me to end the night,

See my fright when asked 

“Where can I find you?”

And this the very reason I came,

Self-validation through microphones,

Reasons to try harder.


In summary,

Write a note,

So I did

And so I will, again.


(Thank you for this poem, Craig! I feel very humbled)


Harley Truslove

This month we had a poet guest who magnificently captured us all in their words and swept us up with their performance.

I had the privilege of meeting Harley when we both performed at Tongue Fu at the MAST in March this year. We were both the local guest poets at the event, and we were both equally nervous not knowing what to expect. Harley mesmerised everybody and took us all to another universe, their universe of magnificent words.

After meeting them at another poetry event, where we both performed at the open mic, I was convinced that the Write a Note regulars would absolutely love them, and I was not wrong. What an astonishing performer.


Harley describes themself as a nonbinary poet based in Southampton who can often be found skirting around the fringe of local open mic nights, awkwardly hoping their set lands well. They graduated from the University of Winchester with a Masters in Critical and Creative writing just enough years ago to make them feel really really old, but they’re glad to finally be getting a use out of that degree.

Harley writes poetry about identity, the body, and things they want to complain about. And that’s quite a lot of things. When they aren’t standing in front of an audience you can find them playing Dungeons and Dragons with their friends – so if you’re looking for an extra player, let them know.


For the Urinal:

Please forgive me

I did not mean to startle you at the urinal by exiting the stall in the men’s loos,

It was just I had my airpods in

And was listening to a Dungeons and Dragons podcast

While cleaning some sick off of the wall,

And you had no reason to believe I was there,

So when I sprung upon you we first made eye contact

While you were mid stream.




New to estrogen,

She stands in front of the mirror, babe-naked,

stares at her developing breasts.

She must be a b-cup now.

So this is second puberty, she thinks, poking at the bumps on her chest.

It is so much more joyous than the first time round.

The feminisation of her voice, softer and sweeter.

The shape of her jaw. Maybe she’ll need it shaved to get the desired look.

The thing hanging between her legs that she now calls her clit.

She smiles at herself, and it’s a smile she can finally stand to look at.



A drag queen laughs a chocolatey laugh and says,

“Call me mother.”

She opens her arms to the lost ones.

The ones who need a wing to nestle under,

Who were thrown to the curb as fledglings.

The strays and the vagabonds.

The ones who can’t quite apply their makeup right yet,

because they’re so used to doing it by lamplight to avoid being seen.

The ones who were caught in the wrong clothes and discarded as broken.

The ones who didn’t get fixed at the therapy camps.

She takes them in and her nest is full of chicks.



An older, “catty” gay man, the stereotype.

The one with a cigarette clutched in the claw of his hand.

He sits on his porch and complains about it all:

The before and the now. The things he understands and doesn’t.

But he has a reason.

He has lost too,

Back in the days when they called it GRID

And victims were left to wither in hospital beds,

Dying in their partner’s arms.

And now you can Rent their stories for entertainment.


The Universe


The universe, they say, is about 93 billion light years big.

That’s 28 billion parsecs.

Each parsec is about 19 trillion miles. 

When I tried to get my google to work out what that number of miles would be, it told me:


5.32e + 23



I’m not maths enough to understand what that really means,

But it’s big.



The universe is 13.7 billion years old.

Our ancestors started popping up on two legs between five and seven million years ago,

And made a habit of being humans about 300,000 years ago.


Or 2000 if you’re into the god sort of thing.



The universe is made up of hydrogen,

Or at least that’s its most common element,

Followed by helium,

And then all the other bits and bobs that make up us and our little lives.

But that’s only 5% of it all.


25% of it is dark matter, particles that don’t absorb, reflect, or admit light. 

invisible to us.



And that last 70% is dark energy.

That’s the force that causes the universe’s expansion to accelerate over time rather than slow down.

It makes the Big Bang keep getting bigger.



You got all that?



We are infinitesimally small compared to the universe.

The earth is about – jesus Christ – 

0.0000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000003 %

of the universe.



On April 3rd, 2019, Neil deGrasse Tyson sat down at his computer and tweeted:

The Universe is blind to our sorrows and indifferent to our pains. Have a nice day!



Great, thanks Neil.

That’s one way to look at existence.


But it is easy, right?

It’s easy to think nothing matters,

Our actions have no consequences.

That it’s futile to hope for innate utilitarianism in the universe

Because in the end our suffering means nought.



But we are the metric by which the universe cares.



Maybe we are zero point zero zero zero – god I’m not saying that number again,

Maybe we nanoscopic

But we’re not nothing.



As we use energy

We radiate out heat to cool up the area around us.

Meaning, if we were floating in space, naked,

We would be trying to warm up the rest of universe 

With our sand-grain speck of human bodies.

Because we want it to be as warm as we are.



I read once, on facebook or tumblr or twitter,

Or some other site I waste my life scrolling through,

If you put on a t-shirt inside out, everything in the universe is wearing it except you.



Come on, universe.

I’ll share my shirt with you.

And we can care about each other. 



Though I usually just share a few poems by a few of the performing poets, there are a few extra this month, which I think it’s only reasonable seeing that Write a Note is having break over the month of August. In the meantime, enjoy these poems, write your own and come share them with us, as we will be back at the MAST on the 26th of September.


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