Wednesday 27 November 2013


Hats off to John Wilson at good old BBC Radio 4. His Mastertapes programmes have been excellent over three series but this week he has scaled the heights, Natalie Merchant, one of my favourite singers and songwriters was the guest. The programme focussed on her first solo lp, Tigerlilly released in 1995. Was it really that long ago?

As you would expect from such an erudite interviewer the discussion was fascinating, and Natalie as usual was both funny and disarmingly honest. She sang a number of songs form Tigarlilly and talked about the circumstances in which it was produced. 

But there was more than this, the second part of the show included questions from the audience and Natalie singing Verdi Cries... radio does not get any better. How lucky we are to have Radio 4.

I could go on at length about how wonderful this programme was, thankfully I am not going to. Listen to it yourself and find out. You can even down load it! What more could you ask for?

Here's Natalie giving a Ted Talk about her last album.

There are so many amazing Natalie Merchant songs out there. I shall leave you with her singing Motherland

Thank you Radio4.

Friday 22 November 2013


I guess you know this is a fear of poetry. I suspect if you read this blog on anything like a regular basis you are not afflicted by such a fear.

A number of poems about the moon today. I have had the first line of this one knocking around my head for some time. 

6am searchlight moon
illuminates the rooftops
early morning yawn
spark the car to more life than me
drive into the dawn

the atmospheric lens of night
magnifies the rising red moon
nearer – further
we play motorway tag
until the street lights drown the stars

I think it is a work in progress, what do you think?

This next one is a companion piece and wrote itself quite quickly.

washed out white disc
already worn away
shaving of soap
in the basin of the stars

I thought of distilling it onto a haiku but I rather like the way it sits on the page.

The last poem is rather different, a little sombre and definitely not complete. I feel that it needs to go somewhere. There is time for it to fully form itself.

we are in trouble
but there will be no rescue
we only have each other
so throw away the ideology
twentieth century thinking won’t save us
the problem is nearer than the next election
deeper than the budget deficit
we cannot go on like this

There is a fine line between describing a situation and hectoring people. 

I am going to leave you with some music. This is Pentangle live. 

Friday 15 November 2013


I’ve struggled with this poem and I’m not sure it’s finished now. It is poetry as reportage. The driver who collected us from the airport did tap the roadside seller with the car, perhaps I make more of it than what there was? I think this is what I have been struggling with, how to convey that action. I’ll be interested to know what you make of it.

Welcome to India.

A plastic airplane with sky blue engines,
So similar to the one I’ve just spent eight hours on,
Is in his right hand, the left taps the window.
We wait to be allowed to move forward.
This is their one chance,
a regular, repeated opportunity to make money,
The driver waves him away.
I have two sons, fine boys sir, to make a man proud.
Outside there is a sale, crumpled brown notes
Come out of a lowered window,
 the boxed toy disappears inside.
One is still at school sir, but he will be a lawyer.
The lights change as 
the scatterlings conclude their transaction.
The drivers hand is heavy on the horn, again.
My eldest he is studying for a BSc.
Outside the seller is slow, the car a bruising blow,
His hand is up, the car impatiently stops.
A BSc sir, he will be an electronics engineer
Making it to the central reservation,
he watches us slide past, his eyes say everything.
Engineer is a good job sir, much respect.

I think there is always a fine line between prose and a narrative poem.

Here’s another one though not from India, from Portugal about ten years ago. I was at a Saturday market in Alantejo and there was a blanket covered with old black and white photographs.
photographs on a blanket

cut adrift from their history
yellowing edges
sepia people stare at me
serious faces
in their best clothes or uniforms
in a Portuguese Saturday market
I sift through lives
too self conscious to buy
too ensnared not to look

I had some difficulty with the punctuation with this one-what do you think? I felt like a voyeur but could not help but look through them trying to sense the story of each old photograph.

I have been waiting for the new Midlake lp since seeing them at the End of the Road Festival a few years back. It came out this week but as of yet it hasn’t chimed with me. On the first few listenings it seems to lack the grandeur of the last two albums.

However I also read the Anna Terheim is back in the studio. I leave you with her singing The Longer The Sweeter The Kiss waiting from her last lp The Night Visitor.

Sunday 10 November 2013


Last week I had the privilege of participating in a science lesson for student teachers. I really enjoyed it. We undertook scientific investigation of a balloon filled with frozen water. Needless to say this activity sparked a poem:

Science Lesson

Straight out the fridge,
frozen three days solid,
dappled moisture on stretched skin.
What could it contain?
Don’t touch – use your eyes…
We are adults, ahead of the game,
it’s an ice balloon. A lob sided sphere.
Eager hands strip the plastic membrane,
static air pockets litter the depths,
picked out in the diffused flashlight.
Before being told I am photographing this world,
deciding which filter best suits.
Now sprinkle the salt, slowly…
and that sound as bubbles crack.
The curve flattens, the salt pulls it down,

too soon we are hurried on to the next session.

I am not sure that I have quite caught the dynamic of event, and the wonder of the torchlight illuminating the ice globe. What do you think?

I have also been revising a poem:

In the big blue bowl lie blackcurrants,
it is between us,
the place to fix my eye,
as reluctantly I listen.

Your hands comb these cobbles,
collect stalk and leaf.
We walk around your puzzlement,
you talk to make it sense.
The arguments…the silence…

You hold a large blackcurrant,
I imagine it an ivory ball,
You have placed your bet
the wheel spins,
don’t you know the house always wins?

Can you spot the difference? Silences has become silence and the last line in the first stanza has been removed. It was saying the same thing as the fourth line so for me the poem works without the line, so the line goes.

I think that my writing methods have changed recently. I usually get an idea and write it down there and then, returning to it to shape it over a period of time. But lately I have been carrying the idea, the kernel of the poem, around in my head and trying to look at it form a number of different directions before I write anything down. This isn’t a conscious decision it just seems right for the poems I am working on at the moment-time will tell.

I leave you this week with footage of Terry Allen singing Emergency Blood Courier- from his latest album. Enjoy.

Sunday 3 November 2013


Yesterday, as the first event of the Taunton Literature Festival, Juncture 25 launched their first anthology of poetry, Going On, with a reading.

It was, for a poetry event, well attended and all the poets read well.
Regular readers of the blog will know that I am part of Juncture 25. Today I want to celebrate the launch of the anthology. Thanks go to both Gram for editing the book and to David at Corvus Press for the cover design and the printing. Thanks also go to each of the group for allowing their poems to be used.

Going On is only £5.00 and is available from Brendon Books in Taunton. The ebook will be out in the near future.

Friday 1 November 2013


Yesterday I attended a poetry workshop ran by Philip Gross. It was organised as part of the PlymouthLiterature Festival. I have to say I enjoyed the afternoon and the way Philip ran the session.

As part of the workshop we looked at Wallace Stevens 13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird. Philip then invited us to write our own series of poems about anything we wanted to.

We then shared it with another person and we were asked to contribute a poem to each other’s sequence. I was working with a talented poet from Cornwall Helen Jagger. 


I am told it can slow light
-especially if the pane is dirty.
This jigsaw
cannot be
once the ball
has kissed it.
Hard enough to protect your eyes
so you can get the job done,
free from the fear of flying swarf. 
Safety Tip
if you have built your house
from this material
do not throw a single stone
Heckles white light
Until it sees red
Through to violet
Our lives are too brief to see it flow

Net curtains work well
But do not
Put on the light
Craft Idea 1

wrap those coloured fragments
that are lying around the place in lead
to mosaic that hole in your wall
Scousers called their cleaners Sinbad,
as they never cleaned the corners,
Having learned their trade on portholes. 
Helen offered:
Are you honest?
Is what you show me
What really is there?
You are fickle:
Tell lies in changing rooms,
Bitter truths at home.

Have you guessed yet? I was writing about glass.

Tomorrow sees the launch of Juncture 25’s first anthology. The event opens the Taunton Literature Festival. Perhaps I’ll see you there?