Friday, 29 March 2013


I have been looking through old discs of photographs today. I have two reasons for do this. Firstly someone told me that home burned cds deteriorate over time, so I thought I’d better transfer them to my hard drive before they lose too much information as most of them are over ten years old. It was also a chance to look back and see how things have changed.

Here is a poem about my youngest daughter and how when she was younger she would bring her photo album to me and ask who all the people were.

My daughter brings her photo album,
It houses the dead within its pages.
“Tell me who these people are.”
We view our family at different ages.
An out of focus Aunty Eileen,
Always so clear in life.
“Here’s the first photo of you – just born,”
And one of my dear, dead wife.

These people will age no more,
Forever they will remain
And captured ourselves in turn
Will always be the same.

It’s a little clichéd but it was in my first collection Burning Music.

This brief poem came out of my desire to include the word molecule in a poem. Again, if I am honest, it needs to be part of something else. I have a box of lines that I have had to take from poems, even though I love them, to make the poem work. Do you ever do that?

to your cellophane smile
no molecule can cling or residue stain
as you sidestep damage again and again

In fact it did become the beginning of a poem, again from my first collection. I think like the other poem it’s too obvious.

To your cellophane smile
No molecule can cling or residue stain
As you side-step damage again and again.

In your harbouring hands
All facts may be transformed to aid your glory,
Interpretations given to any story.

Your body language swears
The stance is always man on a mission.
I cry out “Beware this man is a politician.”

Keen eyed readers of this blog will have clocked that I recently used the body language swears trope in a poem.

My latest orphan lines arrived this week due to my car breaking down in four lanes of rush hour traffic. When I got home I couldn’t get beyond this couplet.

Suddenly static in rush hour traffic,
I start to panic at potential havoc.

I still have to make it into a poem.

Today’s title comes from an old song by the late Jim Croce.

I am going to post on Tuesday this coming week, I want to put up more photographs.  Have a good weekend. 

Friday, 22 March 2013


Spring is here-though you would not think so from these photographs I took last Saturday. My Grandmother used to say that the month of March Comes in like a lion, leaves like a lamb.  Or if it was sunny at the start of the month she would reverse the saying. This year March has been a lion.

I have been collaborating with Alison Wilson for a while now on a number of different projects that combine poetry with her amazing art work. Here are a couple of Haiku’s she asked me to write about leaves. Her aim was to produce some postcards for an art fair that had prints of leaves on them.

enlightenment is
constantly in front of you
but you must see it

this leaf translates light
be it wave or particle

silent witnesses
tree of life, tree of knowledge
quiet energy

theirs is beauty from
before brain or language
grew inside our heads

celebrate today
for it is all we can have
this eternal now

laugh, jump, sing, run, kiss
swim, hug, climb, play, touch, smile, love
celebrate this day

OK, there are more than a couple. Recently Alison has been in Mexico working and sending me some images and once more asking for words, this time related to Mexico

I had been reading around the subject and I came across a story of the time before the Mexica-as the Aztecs called themselves, dominated Central America. When they were mercenaries for the city states that succeeded the Toltec Empire, so the story goes, the leader of the Mexica asked the lord of one of the Toltec city states for his daughter in marriage.  He agrees and the woman is sent to the Mexica.

Three days later the lord goes to celebrate the marriage of his daughter with the Mexica, but she is not there. Odd thinks the lord, then a priest appears wearing her skin. This was apparently viewed by the Mexica as an honour.  Needless to say the lord was horrified and drove the Mexica away.

This is a disturbing, horrific image. I made me reflect on the Spanish conquest of Central America and all of the terrible things that were committed over the centuries. It seemed to me that the indigenous peoples had to wear the veneer, the skin if you like, of the coloniser in order to survive. That all expressions of their own culture would have to be covert; carried out behind the veil of the imposed culture.

That is the genesis of this poem. It has not title.

he wore her skin
the day her father called
there would be no celebration of marriage
just this priest
draped in his daughters flayed flesh

button on repeat
there would be other skins
survival camouflage that enabled them
to craft Christ’s imbued
with the full horror of their wounds

none of this is what it seems

I would like your thoughts on this poem.

To end on a more joyous note here is Astrud Gilberto and Stan Getz playing It Might as Well Be Spring

I cannot flag up Brazilian music without mentioning the late great Elis Regina, one of the best singers I have ever heard. Here she is singing The Waters of March with Tom Jobim. Enjoy.

Have a good week.

Friday, 15 March 2013


I am at present absorbed in writing the sequel to my first novel The Jowler. I hope to have it finished by the end of this year. I never cease to be amazed at how the story writes itself. What do I mean by this you ask?

Well, over the last couple of years I have worked out in my head, in broad brushstrokes, the tale I want to tell. I have a collection of images/scenes, I have written a vague timeline, and to some extent I know the main characters.  The knack is joining all this up in a credible narrative. The metaphor I used in a previous post was that writing is like stringing pearls together into a necklace.

I still think this is a good metaphor. I am amazed as I write how the string of words seems to unroll from the keyboard and set each scene in its place. At how dialogue and incident suggest themselves to carry the narrative forward. It is a fascinating process and one that I cannot easily describe.

I would be really interested to know how you write. Do you let the characters walk where they will or do is their every move choreographed to meet your identified goal? As you can see I am a bit of both.

Here are a couple of poems. Not recent ones, I have a number under construction at the moment but am not satisfied with their shape.

Instead here is one about Sutton Hoo. I always thought it was interesting that the ship burial was found just before the Second World War broke out. As a child I would ask about the “war”, in the 1960’s in Britain everybody knew which war you meant.


1.         Sunday 3 September 1939

They do say: “Everyone
Remembers the day”
But the dead.

My mother at twenty-one,
 Works outing, charabanc
Stopped to refresh,
Those words for war rippled
Silence spreading outward.

“The only way I could hope
To holiday then, son.”
T.A. private, awaiting call up,
The Manchester Ship Canal
He would guard in the phoney war.

And the news from Sutton Hoo
Finally reached George the Sixth;
Basil Brown has found a ship burial,
We think the first English king;
Shuffling through the morning dispatches
Thinking: “Am I to be the last?”

A ship beached in pre-history,
Scuttled before the countless yesterdays
That we in our vanity choose to call measured time.
These times before time.
The acid sand sea changing.
Basil Brown found the result,
A dark shadow of crumbled wood,
Enigmatic, hidden from our history,
Until that hot summer of 1939.

Uncle Mick in the Channel cold,
They say his hair turned white,
In the water up to his chest, waiting,
Waiting for his ship to come,
All that unimaginably long night.
My father saw all of it,
Took six years of his life without asking.
Those years of chaos made these
Strong, silent men yearn for normality,
The calm life of quiet industry.

The sleeping men of Sutton Hoo
Retain their secrets too.
Dark shadows they remain,
The creatures of some long forgotten dream.
To lie amid the corroding iron,
Guarding the last traces of privacy.
Some supposed immortality?

Can the beginning only be revealed
As the last reel unwinds?
We find our origin as we lose
Our culminative identity?
This object of transient beauty,
The beached ship so patiently uncovered,
Describes a vanished world.
As the flames of total war
Would illuminate the atom race
And redefine reality once more.


I am presenting it here as I wrote and then refined it fourteen years ago. I think I would alter it now but that wouldn’t feel right. I think it is the start of all those poems I have written about my family, some of which you can find in other posts.

I’d be interested in what you make of it.

Not sure about this one either.

To your cellophane smile
No molecule can cling or residue stain
As you side-step damage again and again.

In your harbouring hands
All facts may be transformed to aid your glory,
Interpretations given to any story.

Your body language swears
The stance is always man on a mission.
I cry out “Beware this man is a politician.”

Again it’s from the late 1990’s. I think the poem gets steadily weaker as it progresses. In the final stanza you can see I took the idea of body language swearing from a Dylan song.

I would be interested in your thoughts.

Friday, 8 March 2013


You could argue all poetry is prompted/provoked by something else, by something beyond the poem. Everything must have a stimulus, the grain of grit that irritates until the pearl encloses it. Well, everything since the Big Bang, who can tell what prompted that?

So some poems and their origins. Read and tell what made you write.

This first one I started last year when I was driving to the Fishguard Festival. When my children were young we holidayed around South Wales a number of times. Pembrokeshire is one of the most beautiful areas of this island.

I had not been back around there since my first wife died and as I drove memories came forward as I recognised the roads. I reflected on how different my life is now. I can recognise who I was then but I wondered if that past me could have comprehended what he would become?

You entered the car just after Haverfordwest, the signage evoking memories, now your ghost is with me. The further I travel forward the more the past superimposes itself on the landscape. What would that past self make of me? The kids are grown, I am a poet, driving to a gig, in love with another woman. You are all around me.

possibly the wrong season for the haiku

Haiku for winter sun

Now sun splashed red brick
The branches and birds casting
Flickering shadows

the church near my house has put up wooden doors to enclose the dry areas where people had been sleeping
                                        it is true the doors things of beauty the carpenters joy in his work echoes the skills of the church builders                                                           
                                                                                                    i know i would think differently if i needed a dry place to sleep
                                                                                               this is not the first time when i was a social worker at county hall they did the same thing to a space by the hot air vents

I expect there is a whole process in both cases that I know nothing about. It does not matter this is my reaction to the parts of the stories I do know.

This last poem’s origin was a photograph of a robin blue bowl, hand crafted with an irregular rim, that was white as bone on the inside. We were given the task of describing it in a workshop sometime ago and this was my response.


Sinbad did not lie, he told his truth honestly,
Rode that big bird across the ocean,
Carried far beyond reality, into fantasy,
A story to beguile that murdering Persian.
The egg is real; I see its shell,
Blue, speckled black, bone white inside,
How large it is I cannot tell,
The photograph says much, but hides
Dimensions from my questing gaze.
I sense that this is the point in time
To grasp the thread, to leave the maze,
To embrace the world as if it were mine.
It always is what we hope it will be
Holy, beautiful and wrapped with mystery

What do you think of it? Could you see the bowl? I think we are blessed if we can see the mystery, for that surely is the beauty of life.

Friday, 1 March 2013


I feel that I should begin with a warning-you may find this post politically naïve. I want to admit this at the start. I am not a political animal. My views may be simplistic and to you, wrong  headed, but I feel the need to express my distress.

Last Friday, a week ago today, the Brewhouse, Taunton’s theatre, arts centre and lately independent cinema was closed and the official receivers brought in. They had run out of money and could no longer continue to trade. 

For the past ten years or more the grant it received from the County Council had been reduced. Death by a series of small un-newsworthy cuts. Then came the crisis, the recession, call it what you will, and in came the Conservatives, by stealth nationally under the guise of a coalition with the Liberal Democrats, and outright in Somerset.

People, myself included, were tired and disgusted by New Labour. I still shake my head and wonder how the party of the working person got hijacked in the 1990’s by a group of callous, manipulative career politicians with an eye on the main chance. But it did. Perhaps it was because after Thatcher the world had moved on. I had not.

 What happens, it seems to me, when the Conservatives get into power is that the rights and options of the ordinary person are eroded. It happens every time. I have seen it. It is always claimed that we cannot afford to continue the way we are, that the books must be balanced.

We are told that the National Health Service, still the jewel in this nations rather tarnished crown, is either not efficient or needs to be opened up to choice. What this means is that there is an opportunity to asset strip another publically owned resource. Like my local theatre the NHS will not work if it is starved of cash and made to jump through ideological hoops.

But some things are conspicuous by their absence in this debate. We never discuss Trident. Do we need a nuclear deterrent in this day and age? (Did we ever need one, save to prop up an outdated image of the UK’s position in the world? There is nothing sadder than an ex-colonial power attempting to drape itself in past glories.) Do we need to build more nuclear reactors save as a means of producing plutonium?

I will agree that as a society we do need to make changes, changes towards a sustainable way of life that is inclusive of all people not just those who through an accident of birth happen to have received their education at Eton.

The local elections are coming up. On 2nd May, we have the choice to cast our vote. The Liberal Democrats are already proclaiming that a vote for Labour will be a wasted vote, as Labour can never win in Somerset. The Liberal Democrats tell us only they can beat the Conservatives, yet at the last election they climbed into bed with them.

I would vote Green but I fear that to get a seat at the table they too would coalesce with the Conservatives. At this point I do not know who I shall be voting for, I only know it shall not be for the Conservatives or the Liberal Democrats.