Friday, 22 September 2017


A couple of Saturdays ago I was once again judging the poetry/creative writing competition at Winscombe Michaelmas Fair, as I have for the past seven years or so. Paul Mortimer gave me hand this time, thanks Paul.
As we stood admiring the jam sponges we got to talking about how they are selected. Neither of us knowing anything about the judging of cakes. So we decided that this would be a good subject to write a poem about.
I spent part of the afternoon writing a list of words and phrases which I thought might make it into the poem or at least be a starting point.
The next day I wrote this:

The Song of the Sponge Cake Judge

This morning I ate no breakfast
for the task requires a certain hunger
and must be approached with respect.
Half can be discarded on first glance,
for perfection is exacting.
Never forget this is science not art.
Television has a lot to answer for,
it creates lazy illusions.
If it were that easy,
everyone could do it.
The list of words gave me the voice for the character. I wanted someone who did not subscribe to the idea that cookery is art.
I think the poem could be about there, but it will go away for a couple of months now.
Here is Sufyan Stevens.
I think Carrie and Lowell is a stunning lp.
Until next time.

Friday, 15 September 2017


I awoke the other morning with the idea for this post's poem half formed in my head. It was a memory from childhood.
The second stanza wrote itself as I played about with the idea.

Matter of factly
my mother wraps a strip of bacon around my finger.
Just enough raw meat to encircle,
instructs me to will the wart away,
to hold the flesh to my skin
for the required number of minutes.
Invokes an ancient charm,
as her mother had before.
Time unfolds, slow, fast.
Then I am directed to hang the bacon
on a bush in the yard.

On waking this morning,
for the first time in who knows how long,
that memory returned.
It has no follow up,
no proof of efficacy,
but there is no wart on my finger.
I checked, just now.
I just looked up wart charms and discovered it is quite a common superstition.
As I say I have no memory of the charm working. 
Here is Leonard Cohen.
Until next time.

Friday, 8 September 2017


Here is a memory transformed into a poem.
The story is true.
I just want to clarify a couple of points beforehand.
Bagging room is slang for the tea room. The place where you have your tea and lunch breaks in the factory. It is either Widnesian or Runcornian slang and very specific to a small area of the North West.
Franz Fanon was involved in the Algerian War for Independence. He wrote The Wretched of The Earth, which explores the dehumanising effects of colonisation and offers a path forward for post colonial countries and people.
Marcus Garvey promoted pan-African unity and founded the UNIA-ACL.

I'm late for work, but it doesn't matter
as it's the early 70's
and I'm a member of the labour aristocracy,
top of the pile, an indentured tradesman.
So I stop at the paper shop,
and on a whim, buy the Financial Times.
A thick, pink window on an alien world.

Tea break, in the baggin' room,
the shop steward, a little man,
full to the brim with us and them,
tells me:

This is not our paper,
this is for them with the money.
Why are you, a working man,
buying the bosses paper?

Curiosity, I reply,
just looking beyond the tools
at how other people live.

He shakes his head, tuts.
It is a very loud sound,
turns, walks away
and I am left sat there shamed.

By the end of that decade,
he will have emigrated to South Africa,
claiming that Britain is done for.
That he wants to taste the good life
and bring up his kids somewhere with a future.
I, meanwhile, will be an undergraduate,
reading Franz Fanon and Marcus Garvey.
The poem came pretty much as it is. I have been revising it all week.
Here's the wondrous Ryley Walker with a new song.

Friday, 1 September 2017


I've been toying with an idea for some time now. It began with the title and I have been considering what it means.
This is a very rough draft.

The Significance of Dragons

is woven into our RNA
a souvenir of our oppression
before the liberating asteroid

provoked alternatives
that led old men to decide
who was to be sacrificed

was carved into the prow
of every longship
spreading terror

has shaped this land
sculptured its contours
over long centuries

so give thanks
so give praise
I am sure there is more to say, but this will do for the moment.
I saw Ryley Walker last Saturday. He was wondrous. Here is a video of Roundabout from the gig.
Try to catch him live. He is incredible.

Friday, 18 August 2017


A  poem about endings. Not sure I can explain exactly where it comes from. 
It is danger for any writer is to rely their usual tropes. To write from the default position, so to speak. Each poem needs to be unique, bespoke to the requirements of the concept.

Love Gone Sour

She informed me I'm like that song.
That I know the one,
that I've heard it on the radio.

She expects me to provide her
with the exact analogy
she can use to criticise me, again.

It was one of those points in life
that makes you add up the scores.
The kind that makes you question love.

A brief crystallisation of an awareness
that your life doesn't have to be like this.
Another push towards the door.

You know you will walk.
I am off to see Ryley Walker [again] next weekend. Here he is with the band.

Friday, 11 August 2017


I  was working on the allotment the other day, watering in the polytunnel, and that old blues song about never missing your water until the well runs dry came into my head. Over the rest of the after noon this poem wrote itself.

Something Else

He carried water to the well.
The yoke was heavy,
the water angry enough to slop.
That none had asked him to,
was for him, beside the point.
He may have claimed
it was for the general good,
or Phariseed his pious intention.
There was an unquenched fury
in his every step.

Some people live their whole lives like that.
I think as it formed that I was trying to capture the essence of passive aggression
I tend to write more in my head these days. To get the poem into some shape before I write anything down. I don't think it's a better way of working just different.
Here is Peter Tosh with his version.


I have nothing to say about this poem.
It speaks for itself.

Sheila's Poem

We had hoped for death.
Crash landing
on this unexpected plateau,
where life continues mechanically
and the identical days merge.
Sometimes, across a great distance,
you speak,
words faint
ever more slippage.
There are no dials to turn,
or amplifiers to power up,
that just this once,would grant us 
clear communication.
Until next time.