Friday 29 August 2014


 Back from another Purbeck. Poemed up and ready with the show and tell photos.
While watching the acts on the open mic now known rather grandly as The Duck Shed Stage, I came up with this poem [I spent the weekend tinkering with it].


In his own circle he plays his heart out.
It's not on his sleeve,
look, it throbs in his hands.
Close by a coterie of followers
i-photo the moment.
Think: wobbly Youtube video.
The next circle is intrigued,
or tired enough to want sit and listen.
The outer circle talks,
it's chatter stains the room.
Caught somewhere between,
I catch the last song and half a life story.

OK. So if you don't know your Dante's Inferno, it's a guide to the different circles of Hell. I thought there is the performer bearing their soul and the further away you get from the stage the less the people listen. I am not sure the analogy bears close scrutiny.

Here is a haiku, also from the duck shed:
they rush the crash cart
he is dying on the stage
they cut the set short
I have to say I thought this year was not one of the best in terms of music. I did not come away raving about some new performer as I have on many occasions in the past. Though I did enjoy Idlewild and Lloyd Cole. 
 Martha Tilstson was wonderful both times she played. 
Lizzie Nunnery and Vidar Norheim were excellent. Lizzie's voice just gets better every time I see her.

On the Sunday Chris Wood played a very relaxed and enjoyable set.
I leave you with Martha.

Friday 15 August 2014


 This week's poem came to me as good as complete, a rare gift. I actually don't want to talk about the background, I'd rather leave you to work that out for yourselves.


Sometime since the last meeting
he had been replaced by an actor,
similar to be true, but older
and slightly more coarse, who
riffed off his own allusions rather
than answer, your, well meaning questions.
He was angry, that was plain,
manifest in the little jibes
that made you uncomfortable.

His old self was missing in action,
lost in a sequence of interventions
almost as savage as his internal process;
neural pathways are consuming themselves with a reckless abandon,
and uncertain futures hover on his shoulders.

 It feels like autumn has arrived early this year. There is that almost intangible change in the air. Next weekend is the Purbeck Folk Festival and I am gearing up for a weekend of good music.
Here is someone who isn't on - The Mountain Goats. 

Friday 8 August 2014


I was looking for a workshop idea for Juncture 25 the other week and went to my usual source for ideas The Guardian - who ran a series of workshops about five years ago. The task that was set was to take a person, a location and an event from a list, then write a poem. 
I took Ringo Starr, the sands of Mars, and has discovered a great secret. Needless to say, I threw half of the ideas out and ran with my own thoughts. What chimed with me was Mars and the idea of isolation. This led to the image of an isolation hospital and the fact that Ringo spent two prolonged periods of his childhood in hospital. The second time with TB. The fact I have been reading the first book in Mark Lewishon's magnum opus on The Beatles probably had something to do with it

Richie Starkey missed his ma,
is as isolated as if by the sands of Mars,
hears the regular tick of the reliable clock,
all this boring afternoon,
as long as a TB hospital corridor
and he'll be here the whole year.
One day there will be screaming fans,
and after having survived fame will sober up.

But for now,
the evening will advance imperceptibly.

This second poem is even more recent. I wrote it the other morning and present it as it is.

the earth sings
a different tune to each of us
from the quiet energy of old trees
to the magpies' cry on the wind
once we would sculpt the landscape
to magnify every note

we have lost our ears 
call it progress
claim we are better than the ancestors

the earth still sings
open your window
give thanks

I leave you with The Beatles Get Back. Even as they fell apart they were magnificent.

Tuesday 5 August 2014


This is the year of the ep. Not only have we had Brooke Sharkey's splendid new ep, and Gaudy Orde's mildly offensive offering, we now have the latest from Lizzie Nunnery and Vidar Norhiem, Songs of Drink & Revolution.

As you would expect from two talented musicians, this is quality stuff. The touchstones for this cd are Leonard Cohen (Closing Time), the life and writing of Dylan Thomas, and the historical and humanity of British Left Wing Socialism, as exemplified by Tony Benn. I have to confess I got the last name check from Vidar and Lizzie's website. 

For me this ep is concerns the lives of ordinary people faced with realities of living in a Britain obsessed with Neo-Liberalist philosophy that places the illusion of individual freedom above a caring society. What our political ruling classes tell us we need is freedom, the reduction of government interference in our lives. What this means in reality is the stripping away of all social welfare structure from our society, which in itself causes a feeding frenzy in the hyper-rich. Just look at how the Royal Mail was sold off at a bargain price and ask yourself just who benefited.

The world that these Neo-Liberals envisage is a world of cheap labour, where the poor pay for everything, either through the sweat of their brows or the squalor and misery that they are forced to live in.

It is in the everyday reality of working people that this ep is set. It captures the conversations people have when they are in the pub, passing an hour or two over a drink. The lyrics have the quiet dignity and honesty of normal people attempting to make a life against a backdrop of hard times. 

In the opening song One Day I Want to Get Straight Lizzie sings: 

One day I want to get straight
I am not asking for riches or an over flowing plate 
But one day I want to get straight

She is not asking for anything other than the chance to get even, to loose the worries that keep her awake in the night. Lizzie has always had the ability to present people and their stories, economically and effectively, what she does in this first song is to tell the story of a woman simply trying to achieve an equal share in an unequal world.

In Smile and a Knife we are presented with a narrator who knows her true value, she is feather-light. There are echoes of the Merchant of Venice in the lines:

The price of me in black and red,
I'm feather light, I'm deficit.

and later:

But you'll comfort me,
With a smile and knife.

The last verse is a list of personal memories that, we are told, will mean nothing to us. In fact the effect is to make the narrator become even more real and her plight all the more tragic. I have to praise Vidar at this point, his arrangements and production is excellent. It is small wonder that in 2011 he was named as Norway's most promising song writing talent, this guy is the real deal. He has the ability to add depth and colour to the songs that enhance their beauty. 

The lyrics to Drunk in a Midnight Choir are chilling (the title is drawn from Bird on a Wire- no points for guessing that.) The narrator and her group of friends are sat drinking and putting the world to rights. They are powerless:

They are singing in this choir,
we are drinking as the water gets higher,

The song ends with the line:

And we sing in our chains like the sea.

Here we have an example of what Fanon called the wretched of the earth, the dispossessed, who are self medicating in the face of their own powerlessness. The people who turn their frustration and anger inwards. They are wind stripped trees, naked in the hurricane of Neo-Liberal exploitation.

The lyrics to These Chains of Mine were co-written with Martin Heslop. Lizzie sings:

I see nitroglyceric hunger, semiotic bleed
Acrobatic dialogue and metaphoric feed
But greed is still the first thing, moral’s the last
And freedom is the gruel they feed the mass

Rightly identifying that the real motivation to scrap the welfare system and worker's rights is greed. This is a call to arms.

Lizzie and Martin's lyric is excellent. There is the deft touch of the poet here, I especially like nitroglyceric and in the nautical twilight the boats undress - beautiful.

The last song Two Revolutionaries is a love song, that ends poignantly:

People like you are a bolt from the blue
I saw you leaving before you entered the room
And I will raise you up
And I will drink you in
And I will give my whole heart
And take it back in the morning time

Stunning stuff.

I have to also mention the other musician's who play on the album, their contributions enhance the record and fill out the sound. I thought that trumpeter Martin Smith was excellent. 

Look, don't take my word for how good this is. You can download it here and find out for yourself. Me, I'm looking forward to their appearance at this year's Purbeck Festival.

Friday 1 August 2014


I recently watched a documentary on the investigation that followed the discovery of a bog body in Ireland. Apparently there are now protocols in place for when a body is discovered in a peat bog, and it is not an uncommon event. The programme stated that over 300 humans have been found in bogs across Northern Europe. There is no consensus as to what happened to the people.
The programme outlined  a new theory regarding the phenomena in Ireland. It proposed that such deaths are ritual sacrifices to appease the Gods at times of famine following climate change. The fact that the individual has been hit on the head, straggled and had their throat cut fits with the ancient concept of the threefold death. There are Irish records relating to kings being killed in this manner.

Seamus Heaney wrote about the bog bodies in his collection North [1975] and did a better job than I could ever hope to do. Here, however, is my take.

The Threefold Death of Kings

Place this foot in front of the other.
One step nearer.
Feel the wet marsh,
the cold water,
dirt on your feet.
Taste the air, dry mouthed.
Eyes telescope,
fix on inconsequential detail.
Place your next foot down,
take it all in:
the wet, grey marsh,
the grey, lightening sky,
the bronze sword,
always the bronze sword.
This is the longest walk of your life,
this is the last walk of your life.
I am a dead man.
Memory cascades.

It would be no consolation to tell you
that your death will inspire better poets than me,
or that after sleeping the centuries,
we shall know so much about you,
save your name.

The bronze sword cuts the flesh
of the arm you meant not to raise.
Then on your knees, airway ligatured,
you choke at the bottom of an ocean of atmosphere,
are struck on the head and are cast into the bog.

The changing weather pattern
requires desperate action.

The tribe is starving,

who knows their future.

As usual, I wonder if it is complete and offer it as a work in progress.
Here is something far lighter. I was attempting to capture a fleeting memory from the 70's.

back in the day
when pubs closed at two o'clock
every Sunday
I was buying cigarettes and Rizzlas
a dead give away
don't get too stoned the barmaid advised
I didn't know what to say
it's a different world now
I've swapped smoking for tea making
if you get my drift

For the uninitiated Rizzla's are a make of cigarette papers. In those days I preferred Job papers myself.
I am ending with Hurray For The Riff Raff singing I Know It's Wrong.