WILD NATURE POETRY AWARD competition now open.



138 x 216mm


34 pages


£6.00 + P&P UK


PUB: 25/03/2021










First Memories


Golden curtains

swaying in the breeze.


Sunlight, warmth,

the window beyond.


The rails of the cot,

an obstacle to my want.


Hypotheses, methods,

wriggling through my mind.


Limbs full of energy,

a talent for escape,


Mum and Dad asleep in bed,

surprised, though pleased, to see me.





Death, now bored of its toy,

left the dolls in pieces, scattered,

some shut tight, permanently locked in grief,

others ripped apart, heads rolling

at their feet.


The littlest doll found herself rattling around

in the wrong size body,

suddenly bulky with responsibilities

and listening to echoes.

To all eyes an adult, within, a child.



An Early Lesson in Fake News


One paper said that my mother, The Venus of Vodka,

was blonde;

another that The Russian Doll

was a sexy redhead.

A third was certain that the nude model,

From Russia With Love,

was brunette.


She planned world domination

by luring her art students – lucky Eton boys

behind the Iron Curtain.


I was never mentioned,

except as a side note:

Mrs Smits lives in Windsor

with her husband and two daughters.

How fortunate for mousy-haired me.

Russian Doll


I am heavy with the hopes

of my younger selves – the ones

who dreamt of all I could be.


They call to me, disappointed,

as my once-bright dress

begins to dull, as I thin


and am worn smooth by little hands

that dismantle me daily.

I answer with excuses and apologies.


Life intrudes, I explain;

takes us apart

and rebuilds us askew.



Making Heartroom

Inspired by How Mothers Love by Naomi Stadlen


This mother’s womb grows day by day,

but so too does her heart.

She homes the house guest come to stay

within her womb, which grows each day;

and though her child will soon away

there’ll be no sorrow when they part.

This mother’s womb grows day by day,

but so too does her heart.



The Swimming Lesson


We take it in turns to show interest

in the swimming lesson,

to wave at our children

when they pause,

panting from their exertions,

to seek our approval.

We direct remarks at each other:

“Isn’t it hot?”

“They need to get some air in here.”


I watch my daughter,

part mermaid, part astronaut,

glide and then kick

her way through the water;

and I long to join her –

to escape the heat,

the small talk and screens,

the gravity that binds me

to this sticky plastic seat.

T Bellamy amend 978-1-912876-49-5

Russian Doll


Teika Marija Smits




The poems of Russian Doll tell a story of metamorphosis and becoming. Charting the ever-shifting terrain of selfhood, they speak of the joys and challenges of being both daughter and mother; schoolgirl and middle-aged woman; and detail the many ways in which the stories of our lives are as multicoloured and multilayered as a Russian doll.




“This moving collection is alive with vivid characters and the longing, living and learning of love, belonging, and sometimes loss – in family, friendship, life. Here, Smits’s Russian doll is mother and child, fake news and Death’s toy, all contained within poems as layered and expansive as a set of matryoshka dolls, slowly revealing their secrets.”

Sarah James


Russian Doll is a sensory collection: full of light, heat, colour. The poems are layered, fragmented and connected; like the nest of wooden dolls: shining dolls, shamed dolls, sad dolls; big dolls, sick dolls, baby dolls. They chart the complexity of human relations and shine with intelligence and care; craft and curiosity. This is a collection to be savoured, to be shared and to be read again.”

Dr Rachel Bower


Teika Marija Smits is a writer, freelance editor and mother-of-two. Her poems have been widely published.


Teika was formerly the managing editor of Mother’s Milk Books and is now an Editor-at-Large at Valley Press alongside running The Book Stewards – a writers’ support site that she manages with her husband.


In her spare moments she likes to doodle, draw and paint.

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