Pratibha Castle

Pratibha Castle’s award-winning pamphlet A Triptych of Birds and A Few Loose Feathers (Hedgehog Poetry Press) launches 28 February, 2022. Born in Dublin, Pratibha Castle lives in West Sussex. She had childhood successes as a writer – won a national Cadbury’s essay competition at the age of nine; wrote, directed, and took part in a play presented at her current school. But her confidence was shattered by an incident with her father who made her rip up a school essay revealing her parents’ employment as live-in cook and butler. It was only on her mother’s death that she returned to writing at the age of almost sixty, studying on a BA in English and Creative Writing at the University of Chichester. In 2011 she graduated with a first-class honours degree.

Early on, she had a passing love-affair with poetry through the works of T. S. Eliot, poets of WW1 and E. E. Cummings. She rediscovered poetry while studying on the BA, although at that point, and on a subsequent Creative Writing MA, her priority was prose (a novel set in 1960s Notting Hill and India). It was 2019 before Mary Oliver’s passing redirected her gaze towards poetry, both the reading and the writing of it.

Music, dance, writing, art, drama, crafts, cooking, gardening. Throughout her life, Castle has been involved in creativity of one sort or another. Her work as an holistic therapist and facilitator of meditation and healing retreats for women sensitised her to both her own and others’ emotional lives, a quality resonant in poetry described as being ‘of the heart’. A love of music – she played piano, guitar, auto-harp, trained as a classical singer at the now defunct Trinity College of Music – informs her love of rhythm and sound.

Joint winner of the Hedgehog Press Competition Nicely Folded Paper 2019, her work appears in Agenda, Dreich, HU, Raceme, London Grip, Saraswati, Reach, Dawn Treader, Blue Nib, Panoply, amongst others. Winner of the NADFAS poetry competition 2009 (age range 13 – 17), long-listed in The Bridport, and Brian Dempsey Memorial Prize 2021, and the Gloucestershire Poetry Society Competition, she received special mention in both Welsh Poetry and Binsted Arts Competitions, and was Highly Commended in Sentinel Literary Journal and Storytown 2019 Poetry Competitions, short-listed in Hedgehog Poetry Press Postcards from the Hedge: A Bestiary of the Night. A regular reader on Wilts Radio, The Poetry Place, her poems appear in a number of anthologies. Castle is currently completing a second pamphlet, and working on a full collection. She wonders, will she ever finish the novel?

She loves period dramas, spicy food, long walks in nature, the ocean. Sweetly scented blossom. Tchaikovsky, Joni Mitchell, Crosby Stills and Nash. She also loves to converse with animals and birds, but has a hard time with the heron who swoops out of the dawn, hopeful for a snack of carp. Most of all, she loves poetry.

A Celtic Spell

He kept watch outside the back door 

from a skeleton forsythia choked 

past hope by an alpha jasmine. 

Buffed his beak on a knuckley twig, 

flounced his tail, bounced down

onto the terrace for a wary recce. 

 

Gran told tales of Celtic lore, of a blackbird’s

luck, how they augured weather, 

death. In a clutch of days, he 

wheedled a cranny in my heart. His 

mystic whistles wooed me, swelled 

my chest with an ache to shout out secrets. 

 

When I hipped a basket 

to the carousel, he flustered 

back into the bush. I pegged out 

socks, a tea towel, baby vest. His 

onyx eyes, kohled with gold, reminded me 

of you. Discovering

 

his taste for mealy worms, I bought 

a tub, ripped off cardboard, bubble 

wrap, prised open the lid, scattered 

desiccated corpses. He scrutinised 

my every move, his tail flick 

the black fan flirt of a señorita. 

 

He fluttered to the worms, bobbed 

his head from side to side as if 

negotiating traffic, gobbled. 

A sparrow came. The blackbird 

chased him off. The sparrow’s hen 

risked a peck and scarpered. So did a wren. 

 

He greets me now with a chuckle, 

and a whirr of wings. When I 

dribble out his feast, he quivers 

on a flower pot, trumpets 

a salute, swoops in to dine. 

 

The forsythia is showing shoots. 

I miss the wren.

Drowning

Waves suck in, 

spit out, yank you 

off your feet, pummel 

empty of breath, thresh you 

into the shingle. 

 

From your mouth, 

a bubbling plea, 

heart-pound shout 

gobbled by the swell. 

Brighton pier-posts 

sway, watery smear, crab 

fluxes into sand, 

bathers a jungle 

of blurry legs, 

blasted-speaker 

mumbles, squeals. 

 

Breath wrung out 

of you the way your 

mother’s tough love 

wrung out the sheet she 

scrubbed rinsed scoured 

till her hands were scalded red 

with washing soda, effort. Puddles 

on the draining board, the floor; 

faded pink and gold flamingos 

on her apron, soaked through 

to the quill from all that 

splish splash sluice to 

erase a stain stubborn 

as sin coaxing and 

crooning, the salt tears she 

wept throughout, parching her 

to a whip of winter skirmished kelp, 

did little to appease. And the blight 

of that day lingered. A haunt 

in her eyes you puzzled 

over, like the blood on 

what you’d thought 

a blameless sheet. 

Forest Eulogy

I choose a druid oak 

to oversee your journey, 

rest my back against 

its gravelled spine, 

sense its heartbeat

syncopate with mine.

 

A winter past 

we savoured wine 

sparkled to rubies 

by adder tongue 

flickers in the grate, 

crackling bark, guzzling; 

 

the relics, bone chips 

of log, and ash silky 

as the apple blossom 

talc you loved. 

 

Next day, 

you watched me 

fork the log’s dregs 

beneath your favourite 

David Austin. 

 

Your last choice 

patience, you rest now

beside the grate 

in a copper urn. 

 

Dawn sweeps away the night

as I gather ash 

and chips 

in a shovel 

arthritic with rust, 

cradle your pot, 

pad a Gretel trail 

of golden dapple 

to your guardian tree, 

sprinkle ash 

about its knuckley roots, 

lift my head 

to the echo 

in a blackbird’s eulogy 

of your song. 

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