Friday, 25 April 2014


Last night I was discussing the ethics of poetry. Is it ethical use family and friend's experiences as raw material? I would tend to say yes it is. We write about what we know. Experience gives authenticity to our work, however dressed up and camouflaged the event may by the time it reaches the page/screen.

Let me say that I do not believe that ethics are set in stone. They are not a set of rules I adopted when I was young that I have rigidly stuck to. I think our ethical position changes, we need to be constantly checking out what we believe and what we feel to be right. Where do you stand? 

Anyway here is a poem that is largely autobiographical. It happened as described. I'd like to thank the Secret Poets for their generous assistance in knocking it into shape. As I have said many times before, every writer can benefit from the constructive feedback of people they respect.

As I am here, now, I am asked to
look at a dead man's brewing paraphernalia.
I make my own beer, so this qualifies me
to sift through another's boxes and tubes.

There is much here he put to one side
for a day that has yet to arrive,
crystallised yeast nutrient
and more wine finings that wine.
This cheers me – I never use the stuff.

I am told on family holidays to Norway,
he was ready to claim that
This is not beer (not yet).
He was never challenged.

The unmade kits accuse;
all processes are halted.
There is a ritual here,
the precise movements of a careful man,
reflected in clean equipment.

I sort and judge and do as I am bid.
Strangely sober we rejoin the party.

[Technical note: wine finings are used to clear wine]

Natalie Merchant has a new album coming out. Here is the first video.

And if I am lining up music I have to end with my favourite Natalie videos. Here she is from with Michael Stipe and Billy Bragg in Glasgow, 1990. Enjoy.

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