Thursday 25 August 2011


This post is going to be very brief as I am on my way out of the door to the Purbeck Folk Festival, where, as regular readers of this blog will know, I am Festival Poet.

Before going though, I wanted to share a poem with you that I wrote some time ago that is linked to festivals. I had a dream that I was at a festival and watching a parade of clowns, there was something about Charlie Parker-the great Bird, being the only person who could have resolved the saxophone solo. When I woke I jotted down some words, then later after much revision came this:


The big top is burning down.

Nearby we are erecting another tent

That will flame in its turn.

We all want to see the circus,

To somehow be part of the bacchanal

(Secretly we fear the clowns).

Look! The clowns are marching.

Purposeful, oblivious of the smoke,

They blow crazy themes

On cracked instruments.

The tarnished saxophone breathes a solo

That cannot be resolved.

The parade passes us by.

The proud clowns discordant.

We want to walk in the procession,

To weave through a field

Where tents outnumber the stars.

Looking at it now there are a number of things that stand out; I think the poem loses something from the last stanza being only five lines instead of six. Form is more important than some people would have you believe. There is also something unsaid, at the time I remember thinking that as some people die others are born and this became tangled up with the idea of tents, the clowns then become what I tend to refer to as The Big Parade (this is from spending my youth watching old films).The Big parade is an old King Vidor film I saw as a student, essentially it’s a war film, though for me the phrase came to mean the pageant of life, the people walking the streets as you go to the library or shopping or just for a walk, all that flow of humanity. I think this may have been a theme of the film, I can’t remember. Before you say it I know 10,000 Maniacs used it as the title of a song-but that was after I’d seen the film, honest. I am that old.

However, I digress. What does this disclosure lend to the poem? Whatever you want it to. People will respond from their own lives, with their own experience and what it means will be unique to them.

Someone once asked me if I ever wanted to write an autobiography, the thought had never crossed my mind, my life hasn’t been that interesting. Then it occurred to me that every poem is a slice of history, a fractal of biography, and aspiration, to transcend the personal and attempt to speak to all people. I hope this poem makes sense for you; I still like the last two lines, if I was to write it today I suspect they would be the starting point. How times change.

Anyway I must away to Purbeck. Have a good weekend whatever you are up to.

Friday 19 August 2011


I’ll fess up at the start; this is not my strong suit, but the bottom line is how will anyone ever know about your writing let alone read it unless you tell them and get your work out there? It is an essential part of the writing process. At the moment I am being asked for descriptions of my work.

This is what I came up with for my first poetry book:

Paul Tobin was born on the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal in Runcorn, but after being pushed across the Old Bridge in his tripper, grew up in Widnes......he has been writing poetry since he was 12, he now thinks he is getting the hang of it.

For the new book which is being processed by the publishers as I write I thought of this:

Paul Tobin used to work for Social Services, now he writes. To be honest he always wrote poetry, but now he writes full time. He can be found reading where ever anyone will listen to him.

I also have to come up with 50 words describing my graphic novel series.

CO2: imagine being bent out of shape then when are twisted beyond belief, you might just fit into the world of The Church of The Holy Footprint, join the rest of the heretics, the wretched of the earth, the people just like you in CO2.

Ok it says nothing about the series, but you might deduce from those 47 words that you would be amongst the marginal people and you would be right. CO2 is set in a world controlled by a religion obsessed with remaking the world in its image. The graphic novel series is concerned with telling the stories of some of the dispossessed and is the tale of a man who thinks he can make it all better...

More to follow on CO2, though don’t hold your breath, it is still in the drawing stage and is scheduled for release in February 2012. Before this is the Purbeck Folk Festival-next weekend, 26-28 August. I am told there are only 200 tickets left, so get yours quick, if you haven't already.

Friday 12 August 2011


For to light a festival fire, that was my desire,
Then like Argent, I’d dance in the smoke,
As flames licked the wood then rose higher.
I do love a good blaze and I’m no liar,
Round the fire pit I’d caper, dad-dancing like any bloke,
For to light a festival fire, that was my desire.
It would be joyous glow, no funeral pyre,
I would only use timber, no coal or coke,
As the flames licked the wood then rose higher.
This fuel I’d bring with me to ensure it was drier,
And avoid smoke as I don’t want to choke,
For to light a festival fire that was my desire,
See, of flickering flames I never tire,
And those blazing embers I surely would stoke,
Such a conflagration would I sire,
Then skank a fire dance, though me rhythm is dire,
I’d groove in the smoke, it’s true, not a joke
For to light a festival fire, that was my desire
As flames licked the wood then rose higher.
After posting up some poetical tips the one but last entry I thought I should put my poetical money where my poetical mouth was and as I’d been urging you all to try out various standard forms of verse I should show you my attempt at a Villanelle .
You can get more information on the Villanelle here:
Basically though, a Villanelle has two rhymes and is 19 lines long, the rhyming scheme is a,b,a – for the first five verses then a quatrain with the first and third lines forming the final couplet, that’s abaa. The first line is repeated as lines 6, 12 and 18. The third line is repeated as 9 and 19.
Ok it sounds complex, but you have to play with it. In the past, when attempting a Villanelle as homework I have written the individual lines on paper then cut then out and arranged them but I found that destroyed the flow. This time I wrote out the rhymes I wanted to use and then spent some time trying to make it read well. I’m not sure it’s quite there yet.
And why this topic of festival fires? Those of you who read this blog regularly will know that I am the Festival Poet of the Purbeck Festival and yes, there will be an organised fire pit over the weekend. I am looking forward to dancing in the smoke (how many of you remember that song from Argent’s first lp?). There were amazing bonfires at the first Purbeck Festival and this year looks like being the best yet. You can look at the line up here:
Organiser Paul has suggested a Wild West theme for the festival so we can all dress up as cow people. There are still tickets on sale and for three days of quality music and four nights camping in the beautiful Dorset countryside they are a steal at £65.
If you do try your hand at a Villanelle, please send me the results and I’ll post them on Magpie Bridge.

Tuesday 2 August 2011


Followers of this blog will know that last Saturday I ran a poetry workshop at the Cock & Bull Festival. I would like to begin by thanking the organiser for inviting me, thanks Henry, then I would like to thank those people who attended the workshop, a big thank you to all of you for your hard work and beautiful poems.

During the workshop we composed a group poem, no mean feat under any circumstances and all the more remarkable given we were meeting in a withy bower that formed the through way from the camping field to the stages.

We looked at haikus and this is possibly my best efforts of the day:

The sun will break through

Shadows litter everywhere

Sometimes beauty

Withy sided room

I sit on a bale of straw

Write words in a book

Here is our joint effort:

Love is more than just Marmite.

Love is like a power ball;

Someone I don’t understand but want to,

Non-threatening intensity cause this is how it was meant to be.

Love is like swarms of happy bees loaded with pollen returning home,

Not bland or cloying or teeth rottingly sweet,

It should be written about less and experienced more.

Your hand slipping into mine is the end of all danger all fear.

I think this captures something and the juxtaposing images add to its uniqueness. Thank you all.

A quick word about the festival in general; the location was well chosen, all the support staff were very friendly, there were no queues for food or drinks and only small ones for the loos. Now to the music, firstly the djs played some quality sounds between acts and in the stone barn. Highlights for me were Kasi Masi, I am a sucker for highlife and they played like angels. Amber States at the Fire Pit, Joe Driscoll, especially when he got the Badger Samba Band on stage and the Marthas & Arthurs. I liked Benin City’s last poem, that was spell binding, and Peter the Temp was both funny and thought provoking.

If you were there I am sure you had your own highlights and if you missed it then you’ll have to wait for the one next year.