Friday 2 November 2012


Taken in my sisters garden last Saturday

I was at a poetry read round last night, and once again I was struck by the web of connections that is all around us. As the different poets read their work certain themes became clear, the moon featured in a number of poems, as did Autumn (though you could argue that was a given as it is Autumn), there was also a thread of writing about illness, well cancer and recovery. There was even multiple mentions of magpies-not started by me for once.

Stourhead, Wiltshire, last Autumn.

I have noticed this web of connection before at poetry meetings and at other times when people get together to discuss experiences. For years, when I worked as a social worker, I was involved in the professional supervision process. I was at one point facilitating staff to develop their supervision skills, but that is another life time ago. What always struck me when I was  facilitating group supervision was the interlinked nature of our experience, how the situation one person presented illuminated another's situation.

I have to say that the organisation I worked for had no real understanding of the supervision process, they paid lip service to the concept, with a tick chart mentality. They tried to "simplify" it into a series of questions that the supervisor could ask, mechanistic supervision, or if you like supervision by numbers. Consequently most of the people involved in supervision viewed the process as superfluous. I suggested using a robot, or a computer. As you can imagine that did not go down well.

I'm not sure if I am rambling, what I wanted to talk about today was an idea that is central to both read rounds and supervision. Constructive feedback, I prefer this as a title to anything with the word critical in. I find the whole critical malarkey thing to be far too negative, rather like the idea of being able to find wisdom with a set of fixed questions.

This week I assisted one of the poets in the anthology that is being helmed by Mr Sparrow, to record her contribution for the accompanying talking book. She is an excellent poet and the quality of work that she has in the anthology is of a very high standard. I am her fan. Yet as she read the poems out into the microphone, she was nervous. As she said to me, it is like standing there naked. I know that feeling, I experience it to a lesser or greater extent every time I read to others.

This is where empathy comes into the frame. We have to be authentic, we do ourselves and others a disservice if we are anything other than authentic in our response. But we need to be respectful when we offer feedback, and it needs to be constructive. I suppose that is the changing line we all walk.

I am ending today with a couple of poems inspired by the group I was part of when I was studying for my Diploma in Supervision.


It was all there to be seen,
That last group supervision.
I had laid out the stones
To represent the situation.
Some solar system
That slowly moved apart.
And I was a piece of drift glass,
Round and green and nearly transparent,
In the Ort cloud,
At the periphery.

And what did it tell me?

And what did I see?

And where was the gravity?

A few explanations. One creative method of presenting a situation in supervision is to lay it out using objects to represent people, locations, whatever. In this poem I was using sea worn stones to represent the people and the relationships, a a piece of drift glass for me. This creative approach to supervision was at loggerheads with an organisation that wanted to reduce the process to a series of set questions. The Ort Cloud is a hypothetical sphere a light year out from the sun where comets hang out.


When the incompetent are the experts,
And tell you what to do.
When spin masters substance,
And lies are sold as truth.
When the high and mighty
Simply cover their backs,
Then the Mission Statement
Morphs into "I'm alright Jack."

When the ticking of the boxes
Becomes all we know,
Then statistics assume an importance,
And words are just for show.
If you feel cheated
As the clowns win by stealth,
Then develop stress related symptoms
And await Occupational Health.


So we gather in a cut rate room,
I cannot vote with my feet,
My tongue tastes the gloom
Of this cardboard cut-out consultation.
So we jump through the hoops
With shambling resignation,
Keep to our appointed groups
As every word we write is measured,
Against some secret plan.
Their outcome is assured
For this day is a total sham.


Uncomfortable silence,
Not knowing what to say,
Twenty four years of employment
Should not end this way.
So we shuffle round the buffet
And wait for each other to start.
My wet managers words
Prove oratory is an art.

What strikes me now, over four years since I wrote these poems, is the sense of powerlessness that they have. That is what you get for working in large organisations I suppose.

To end on a more positive note, today I received a royalty check from Amazon for a story I put on there ages ago. I suppose this makes me a real writer now. This weekend I am staffing the Corvus Press stall at the Cardiff Comic Expo and I am appearing on one of the panels. I suppose I am doing something right. have a good weekend.


  1. Hi Paul!

    I agree. If it's not constructive, it doesn't need to be mentioned. Every writer is passionate about their own work and each one deserves respect.

    That is so cool how connected the poems were without even trying. Life is like that, I think. Sometimes we feel so separated, yet we really are all linked in more ways than we realize.

  2. Thanks PK, I agree we are all connected. Though at times we loose sight of this.

  3. Powerful bunch of poems there Paul. Love the leaving do!

    1. Thanks Brendun. Life throws us the material we use it as we will.

  4. These are true poems of true life as it is lived in the boos and booze of bureaucratic stumbling. I love leaving do and also the title "The exciting changes..." That is pure dead-pan knife attack poetry. Great news about the royalty cheque. I guess you'll be heading for ASDA and that pack of own brand lager. Also - just love Stourhead and the folk of Mere. They are pure sexy poets in their night carnival pagan souls.