Friday 30 September 2011


Do you ever actually switch off? Decide that while you are here, wherever here maybe, you will not write? I have to say I do not. I tend to be stimulated by new surroundings and different situations. I have an ongoing series of poems that I call Road Poems and that I add to when we travel.
For example these two were written in Barcelona on two different visits in 2009. The first concerns an incident we observed on the Metro, the woman sitting opposite us was fiddling with her wedding ring and as she did it dropped to the floor of the carriage. It was retrieved by the man sitting next to her, who had, to my eye, no connection with her. I spent the rest of the journey thinking about this and if on a psychodynamic level there was an ulterior to her action. Anyway the next day I wrote this:
5. Road Poem
Barcelona 2009
Ring around a finger,
Circle, turn, slide up,
Fall through frantic air,
Bounces on the carriage floor.
The man in the next seat
Smiles, retrieves it,
The gold glints
Between finger and thumb.
Sat opposite I invent reasons,
Possible divorce, Infidelity?
Anger or secret regret?
I ask what it means:
“Sometimes there is no meaning”
You tell me: “Stuff happens”
This is our stop,
We exit the Metro.
I think there is an ulterior here myself, what do you think? This second poem was written later that year, we were again in the Metro and observed a young couple, the man got on the train and the woman looked longingly after him.
6. Road Poem
They kiss,
He boards the train.
Does not look back
At her expectant face,
An almost sigh.
Split second space,
Then she walks,
You tell me:
“We are observing a failed romance
They will not last”
We walk the platform,
I hope she does not speak English.
I honestly hoped that the woman could not understand our conversation. We had glimpsed her dream and being older and more jaded could see it was not going to go anywhere. Perhaps experience makes us less hopeful, perhaps we have all been there, perhaps in time the woman in the second poem could have become the woman in the first. What do you think?
All this is a roundabout way of justifying to myself while I am here in Barcelona I am writing my blog. I shall stop now, it is festival time here, La Merce, the time that giants walk the streets and dragons breathe fire. Who knows there may even be a poem waiting for me.

Monday 19 September 2011


This is a special post and relates, once again, to Purbeck. Over the weekend I kept bumping into a group of men on a stag weekend. It’s easy to meet people at small festivals as the atmosphere is so different to the large ones where the audience’s role is reduce to that of consumer, at small festivals there is much more interaction between the artists and the audience and between the people who make up the audience. Purbeck is just the right size for this. As I say we kept meeting and at one point Dave showed me a henna tattoo he had done of his father, save the tattooist had not managed to capture his father’s features as he had no photograph of him. This was not the funny part- the tattoo had “Mother” under it. It made me laugh.

After the first poetry workshop that I ran I was sitting by our van while the paella was cooking on the fire pit and the bones of the poem came to me. On the Sunday evening the stag boys filmed me reading Elvis and a rough draft of the tattoo blues. Here then for your delectation is the revised poem:
Dave’s Henna Tattoo Blues
I asked the lady, the lady tattooist,
To please draw my father, my sainted old father,
Outline him in henna, right here on my arm.
I said to the lady, the lady tattooist,
You don’t need no picture, just let your mind wander,
Then sketch in his features, imbue them with charm.
I cried to the lady, the lady tattooist,
This ain’t my father, you just drew me older,
Added more creases and the odd line.
I cried to the lady, the lady tattooist,
This ain’t my father, it’s me looking older
And the way you’ve done it I look slightly malign.
I did a deal with the lady, the lady tattooist,
She painted this portrait of my imaginary father,
Slapped it here on my arm, but entitled it
“Mother” to cause maximum mind alarm!
Now that the words are complete I have to work on turning it into a blues to sing with Alex on the Open Mic stage next year.
Also if you want to see The Stray Birds I’ve posted two videos on Youtube, here are the urls:
Off to Barcelona tomorrow until the 30th to soak up some sun.

Friday 16 September 2011


I have just had to capture a bird that my daft cat brought into the house. Nollie, my witless, slightly psychopathic feline, had entered through the cat flap, making much noise. As he raced past me I realised he had a bird, a sparrow in his mouth, I caught up with him as he dropped it in the hallway, and I thought it was dead but when I bent to pick it up the corpse took wing. Much shock and surprise on my part, it flew into our work room and hid. After stalking the terrified bird I managed to throw a waste paper bin over it and after sliding a piece of card under, I carried the bird out and released it away from the house. Thankfully it flew away. Let us hope that they do not meet again.
This post though does concern birds, albeit in a roundabout manner, the birds in question are The Stray Birds, (this is their website: ) I mentioned them in my last post.
(For The Stray Birds)
Willow fingers, shapes on strings,
This old tradition they renew,
With all the gifts such moments bring.
In the Long barn their notes take wing,
An ancient song is born anew,
Willow fingers, shapes on strings.
Every word gains life as they sing,
Each breathing line so true,
With all the gifts such moments bring.
Connected now the past a living thing,
Their own experience the song imbued,
Willow fingers, shapes on strings.
An unknown author’s work they sing,
Each note and word connects us too,
With all the gifts such moments bring.
Their voices round this space ring,
For us who listen, time stops as we view
Willow fingers, shapes on strings
With all the gifts such moments bring.
I cannot say that this poem rattled out easily as some do, but having salvaged the first and third lines from a haiku I thought it was worth working on. What do you think?
The next post will be a special one, I have also been working on a blues about a tattoo, again this relates to Purbeck, and you can read it later this weekend.

Friday 9 September 2011


As readers to this blog will know, I have been struggling with the Purbeck group poem, the struggle has been: how to respect the participants work while shaping the poem into a form I am happy with. OK you could simply say it is what is is and leave it at that. Such would have been my response for many years, these days though I feel that form is important. To that end I would ask you a question: Should we make our work as accessible as possible?

My answer would be: Yes our work should be accessible. Therefore form is important. I would be interested in your opinions about form.

I have rewritten the group poem and now it reads:

Arcade Game

My heart beats quicker

My skin awakens

At last release from boredom

They all thought it so easy

Yet it holds my attention

Each second is an age

I wish time to move faster

As I can’t keep still

My face flushes with anticipation

I want it all, I always have

Then, I shake my head in awe

I’ve got to the planet

Is this version any better? It’s different. I have made it first person. And what for me was a stumbling block, namely the other person getting to the planet they have always wanted to I have made fit by giving the poem a title. A title usually prepares us for the poem to come and this title makes it easier to accept the fantastic. Please let me know what you think of these three versions.

While on the topic of revisions, I have been working on a villanelle about the Purbeck Folk Festival and the connection that we have with tradition when listening to or playing a traditional song. I got stuck on the second line thinking I could not have the words old tradition as by definition all traditions must be old to a greater or lesser extent. I was thinking old tradition was a tautology but discussing it with a friend this afternoon I was assured that it worked. So here for the first time is the opening stanza:

Willow fingers, shapes on strings,

This old tradition they renew,

With all the gifts such moments bring.

The rest of the poem should be ready soon. Oh, the blog title is from Ducks On A Pond by The Incredible String Band, but you all knew that! Keep writing!