THE GREEN DEVIL: three carbon-neutral poems by Noah Birksted-Breen

The Green Devil

                        three carbon-neutral poems by Noah Birksted-Breen


Listen: Running commentary 

(performance poetry)

I run around Hackney Marshes

on 19th October 2020

reading Arne Naess’ “Life and Reason in a Deeper World”



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I always like to do what I cannot do.


Trees do not talk.

Rivers do not talk.

Stones do not talk.


I always like to do what I cannot Tree.


Do do not talk.

Rivers do not do.

Stones do do talk.


I always like to do what Rivers cannot Tree.


Do do I talk.

I do not do.

Stones do do I.


Stones always like to do what Rivers cannot Tree.




The Green Devil



     We need a walkable human,

     walkable settlements.


     From Space,

     Mineral aquamarines and ochres.


     Tailings ponds,

     “Maybe a small nuclear reactor would be best?”


     “Roses will bloom.”


     Indium, neodymium, lithium,

     Steel, silver, copper.


     Oily coined term: “climate change,

     solution, solution, solution, solution,



     Rare-earth, a

     “high-capacity” dying empire,

     black hole, no light,

     “planet-spanning stuff”,

     Decade Zero.


     Death villages will fruit cancer.


     Superstition was insisting upon

     a “radical Revolution”.


     In pursuit of a lifeless, weatherless sky,

     “Lop off one head of the hydra”.


     Face another.



(Found text from Jasper Berne’s ‘Between the Devil and the Green New Deal’




Noah is an environmental researcher. In 2019, he co-founded the Oxford Flyingless Group @oxford_policy, while also working on research about reducing academic flying at the School of Geography and the Environment (University of Oxford). He is now helping to organise the Carbon Neutrality Summit in Oxford, Milan and Berlin, 8-10 September 2021. Noah is currently completing the MA in Creative Writing at Birkbeck. In 2019, he was the Hackney Winner of Spread the Word’s City of Stories competition. His creative non-fiction piece, Beef, was published by in 2020. He is Artistic Director of @sputniktheatre

FISSURE by Val Whitlock

Val Whitlock reading Fissure




by Val Whitlock            


If you could slit the black, sucked-in skin,

you’d find her there, alone in a chasmic closet.

On such a winter’s day it’s full of all the leaves.

They are red and yellow and green and brown

and titian and bronze and ochre and peach

and amber and olive and ecru and fawn

and copper and gold and chocolate and beige

and sorrel and henna and hazel and rust

and auburn and ginger and russet and tan

and tawny and nut and umber and orange

and desolate blue




She’s a Matryoshka Prune-Shaped Tardis doll.

Who would risk it?

Turning the tops, pulling them off

one by one by one by one by one by one by one by one by one by one by one by

The fear of finding never-ending


too hard to bear

Yours or mine?





It’s a fat-suit, Klomp-hard, and she’s crammed inside.                     

No give. No flex. No blooming space.

‘Let me out’, she screams in the bleak

‘Can’t you see me in here?’

But after all these years, she’s virtually invisible.






Matryoshka. ‘Little matron’. Mater. Mother.

A fertility doll.

And all the dolls are her children. Holding hands across kin and clans.

Keep holding tight, my love.






All those Matryoshka tops

Peeling peeling peeling peeling

But even so, who can ever really







When she steps outside the Prune-Shaped Tardis she’s like a colander.

And sticking a finger in a hole in a dyke won’t stop it caving in.  


Try to fill the titanic void. Plug up unpluggable holes.







Why don’t you get this?

feels like

why don’t you get this?



A prune is what’s left.

A handy thing to call upon. For the odd occasion when you need that quick remedy.

Though never a sugar plum fairy.

No comfit.

For her. The dried out. The withered.

The absence of flourish.






Prune. Never sugar coats it. Speaks its mind.

The yearn to expunge. And to cleanse.






But you can’t put new wine in old wineskins

And the ache to shed a skin. To step outside of it all and start over




and inside the Prune-Shaped Tardis, she wonders if she really exists



Slice the shrivelled Prune-Shaped Tardis skin

interior            spherical          photo-backdrop white

lightless    weightless    erstwhile      

and centre-slapped

a slopped scribble

a mooning human doodle

she’s not really this screwed up

she’s just drawn that way




Oval Matryoshka

Ova-less Prune-shaped Tardis





Where are you all, you figurine family?







There they all are. Lined up in a row.

And here we go again. Pulling off tops.

Nothing inside

Nothing inside

Nothing inside

Nothing inside

Nothing inside

Two pills


Do you do it?

Or pin your hope on that last, tiny doll.






Lucky seven

or seven ages

end to end


this tender night

give me a child  

until she is seven


tiny and exquisitely chiselled

and each one that follows

is fashioned around it precisely


the same apart from its greater

size and outward embellishment

as if with the finest

of brush strokes

Sunday’s Child

on Wednesday







she is lumber, shelved

she gazes out from paint-glazed eyes  

gathers herself for the cursory feather dusting.                                 


‘I am all hollow,’

her dark insides yowl.

‘Knock would you                  

knock on my temple block

random rhythmic blurts  

make me reel                                                                                     


drill will you

drill fine deep holes

in my ocarina head

blow blow you winter gale

fill me, balloon me, smithereen me

make me feel

very very

breathe me some euphony                                                                           

from these cinders’






she puts on her uniform

ornate and vividly patterned,

glossy, jaunty,

people meet her in the crowd

jovial, smiling

and have no clue






Once it was so vast inside it was stacked with possibilities.

Prospects. Options.

Rocket Boots.



Val Whitlock is a writer, counsellor and musician. She has an MA in Creative Writing with Distinction from the University of Birmingham, where she is currently a PhD candidate with a university doctoral scholarship. Her research involves writing a hybrid book which blurs boundaries between poetry, prose, fragments, and other forms. She is also the co-author of five internationally bestselling children’s books on singing, published by Boosey & Hawkes. She gets excited about guitars, books, Stephen Sondheim, and books. She can often be spotted loitering with her greyhound Casper.


Lewis Buxton reading Boy in Various Poses


A Boy Runs 


                 out of his lungs like they are a coat held by a parent at a school gate. The world around him is closing, the shops pulling down shutters as he turns into a cemetery where his heels push the dead further into their graves. He feels his weight on the ankle that crumpled beneath him months ago. He didn’t listen to the physio or do the exercises she gave him. He hoped he would heal himself, that in deepening the wound he would make it more heroic, grow back into the bruised ligaments till his breathing is a spooked horse again. Spittle rattles from his cheeks, the bit between his teeth worn away by worrying, the whip of a hundred fathers keeping him going, going, going.



Boy in Various Poses


The boy is an orange, an apple, a banana, a portrait by one of the Dutch masters, his armpit, a water lily, his dick, the sunflowers. He tries not to move so his twitch won’t break someone’s line. His back is arched so he won’t look so fat, so the light won’t catch his acne scars. They asked him to keep his shoes on, black leather boots beneath a body scuffed by living. He can’t see the sketches but feels the paint slipping down the stretch-marked canvas like beads of sweat from his temple. He feels himself up on the easel, cross legged & naked, his spit turned to acrylic, his peach soft skin, arsehole pink & dark as the pip.



A Boy Does a Magic Trick


            appears in a black suit & striped collared shirt, a new tie & shows the crowd his empty palms. There are doves in his pockets and aces up his sleeves. A rabbit quivers inside the hat of his heart. Boys know sleight of hand so people are always looking somewhere else as their houses of cards fall apart: pick a card, any card this boy says, vanishing into his own head, folding his fingers together like iron rings failing to escape the box he has locked himself in, and being dumped into the Thames. He is gasping but is so magic that no one comes to help him.



Born in 1993, Lewis Buxton is a poet, performer and arts producer. In 2020 he won the Winchester Poetry Prize. His first collection Boy in Various Poses will be published by Nine Arches Press in 2021. He lives in Norfolk.

A WEEK IN A DAY by Anna Kirwin

A week in a day

by Anna Kirwin


Promise explodes from her gossamer wings as she crosses the threshold. Under the gaze of none but the cockroaches, clicking and clacking across the torn lino, she releases a commonplace flutter of ordinary plans for a future unconsidered. In this unsullied opportunity for such a hollow vessel, unblemished by thinking and weighty with confidence, she knows to stay light. Beyond our demands for beauty, little is asked and less performed. Her wings flutter unhindered, still transparent, still unreachable, and we gaze, transfixed by symmetrical hypnosis.

She is not the sum of two halves, but a half repeated. In this demi-world of possibility, she thrives, twice of the half that she is. But a controlled half is far from a dangerous thing, they think, and let her fly free. Young for the old guard, she is welcomed by the admirals and with their desire, not to mould her in the vision of themselves, but to follow and nod and follow and nod, so she flies just like a child: unrestricted, unrestrained, unreliable. She feigns experience and expertise, keen to prove a point about herself.  Unaware of the pitfalls of the pack, the turbulence of the ripples of air which push randomly across her path trouble her.  She only thinks she has the sense of age. Her wings heave.

Up, she ascends, surrounded by the troupe, at heights too lofty for her to breathe. Birds circle, but the threat comes to nothing. Beauty encourages confidence over competence. She copies the frogs. She mimics the spiders. But repetition doesn’t build empires.

The flutter can’t flutter together forever. Pandemonium reigns in the chaos of nature. First one, then another disappears. It’s easy to be beautiful when you’re the only one left.

Change has come to her now too. As she transforms, her wings recede, just tiny little secrets, tucked in, hidden. Her features collapse into discs which collapse into caterpillar soup. Retracting her skin, reducing her food, she tips over on her twig and, shedding the leaves upon which she had feasted to plump herself strong, she rolls herself back into her silky cocoon, folds back into the egg and shrinks into a larva.


Anna Kirwin is a writer and artist, living in London, but dreaming of the Arctic. Her last published piece explored the strange glow of European cities by night, but more generally, her recent work deals with language, thought and time. She sees light in the darkness.


THREE POEMS by Michelle Penn

Three poems by Michelle Penn



after Dorothea Tanning



birds haunt the train tracks


                        and the doors beyond doors


urban birds, a necklace worn by trees that haven’t yet been slashed back,

while the ones that have stand sheepishly, apologising

for all that sky exposed


                           spray-painted on a wall in red: FRESH


                           spray-painted on a wall in green: EAT DA RICH


the twitter-birds and big storks know how to tease


a door opens to a book, you wear a paper dress, stare into a mirror

               that’s a sunflower

                                       a frenzy

                                                   a frame of rage 


                           something thin pushes into morning


faith creeping from its field, leaking its words in scraps



newsreader \ sibyl


hands \ hands \ my hands \ slashing

air to symbol \ shuddering invisible words \

the gods \ riding my lips \ as river \


how do you dress \ a vessel \ i wear

no scent \ carry \ the stink \ of prophecy \

wrap myself \ in stolen cloth \ the stammers \

of a savage \


people \ dip their eyes \ pass in fear \

in awe \ as though this messenger \ makes

her message \ as though flowers \ don’t

revolt me \ with decay \


someday \ every memory \ will be drowned \

this place \ will be my sole name \ i will sleep \

while priests \ read my riddles \ the gods \

work up \ new and more terrible \ thirsts




the gift


the ladder-god hands me a cherry

says it’s an apple

assures me it’s been an apple

all along


all signs

point cherry

the swollen bulb of it

dark heart

planet in my palm


the ladder-god says, apple


rungs hover in air


I bite through the cherry

to prove I’m right

my chin drips with juice


the ladder-god says, apple


the garden turns to pulp


Michelle Penn’s debut pamphlet, Self-portrait as a diviner, failing (2018), won the Paper Swans Prize. Recent poetry has appeared in The Rialto, Nimrod, B O D Y, 192 and Poetry Birmingham. New work is forthcoming in Perverse, Stand and the visual poetry anthology, The Mouth of a Lion. Michelle plans innovative poetry/art/music events in London as part of Corrupted Poetry. She’s also a member of Malika’s Poetry Kitchen.

CUPID’S CHAPTER by Lucy Cundill


Lucy Cundill is a poet and prose fiction writer from Chesterfield, now living in Norwich, where she studies English Literature and Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia. She has been published in The Writers’ Café Magazine, Full House Literary Magazine, Concrete, the Life Lines zine, and the UEA Undergraduate Creative Writing Anthology. Her work can be found @ futile.devicez on Instagram.