Friday 25 November 2016


I was fortunate to attend a writing workshop with Harry Parker this week. It was excellent and I would recommend his book Anatomy of a Soldier. It is beautifully written and thought provoking.
One of the exercises based around memories prompted this.

I remember mercury puddles on the mezzanine, mirrored, like water with attitude, that ran down a slope faster than a raindrop, splitting into hundreds of molten ball bearings that left a smear on the metal plates. 
I've been revising this poem. You can read the first draft here

it was one of those days

an i'm living in a novel type of day
that brought the realisation
he was a minor character
whose only function
was to be bumped off
by a more interesting protagonist
an act that would illuminate
a particular facet of his killer's personality
such days are not good

his head rests on the cold window pane
it is 4:13am not yet light

he will wander through today's chapter
carrying a sharp sliver of sleeplessness
Essentially I've changed the layout, I was not happy with the one long line. I think this version allows the poem to breathe and it is easier on the eye of the reader.
Tomorrow sees the launch of Palooka 5's first ep. I leave you with them playing La Mancha. They have to be one of the best live bands around at the minute.

Saturday 19 November 2016


From the opening track Your Tomorrow you can tell this is a special album. The space, the soundscape and Brooke's peerless voice captivate. This is Brooke's second album and it is possibly the best thing I've heard this year. 
Lyrically Brooke continues to develop, we are presented with images that are enhanced by the music. There is a dream feeling to this album that spills over to the cover photograph.
There is a feel of the liminal, Brooke sings from the borderlands, the threshold of something other. She is:

living out of boxes..holding both hands out for rain...

There are no straight lines:

Now I cannot seek you out
Cos you still owe me that kiss
On my peach lower lip
In the morning you were gone


I wanted to beat each and every boundary
And dig the surface of eternity,
But when I returned, I felt the cold

Brooke has such an individual vision, the lyrics repay reflection. I am still unravelling the songs.
The sound palette has broadened since One Dress. There is an organic feel to the arrangements, nothing present is not necessary, no note is superfluous. This is about as good as it gets.
Adam Beattie stands out for both his bass and guitar playing. Jez Houghton's French Horn is just perfect, and Brooke sings like no one else you've ever heard, slipping effortlessly between English and French. 
You can buy the CD here, and this is the link to Brooke's website. If you only buy one CD this year let it be this one, you will not be disappointed.
Here, to whet your appetite, is Brooke and Adam.

Friday 18 November 2016


I was depressed to read yesterday that here in the UK universities employ up to three quarters of their teaching staff on zero hour contracts. Organisations using such shoddy strategies should be ashamed of themselves but in this present state of affairs they appear to regard it as a good business model. It is not. Humans deserve better.
Since the crisis of 2008 employers are expecting their staff to do more work for less money. Trans National Corporations pay pitifully little tax and contribute even less to the common good. Such a situation is not sustainable.
This poem was forming in my head before I read the latest shameful statics.


Today, as every other,
it's the 6:30 am hurtle,
50 in the 30 zone.

Zero contracted,
a quart of tasks pours
into his pintpot of hours

He juggles rent and food,
fuel and debit,
hand to mouth.

There is no trickle down,
there is no end,
it will get worse.
Bleak, is it not?
But bleaker still is an article in Science that reports a study into the 94 ecological processes that are the basis of healthy marine, freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems. Unfortunately 80% are already showing signs of distress and response to climate change. You can read about it for yourself here.
We appear incapable of treating members of our own species fairly let alone of curtailing our destructive behaviours. There will be a price to pay for our actions.
he swapped his wife for the radio
by acrimony not by choice

and here he is in the night
twisting in memory soaked sheets

balancing recrimination
against sleep

the pressure of the night
compress the voice on the World Service

dream switch

to a grandstand view
of his hopes falling at the first hurdle

then dead horse heavy
he is trapped beneath

it will take years to get free
I have revised this poem. You can read the first draft here. Discussing it with the Secret Poets led me led me to expand the middle stanza. Hopefully this makes it clearer.
Bob Marley came to mind as I wrote this post. The lines: think your in heaven, when your living in hell seem to me to sum up the perspective of those with the power. 
Peace, love and unity. Until the next time.

Saturday 12 November 2016


I was as surprised as anyone to hear that Leonard Cohen had died. 
I never met the man but I owed him a great deal.
I was 12 or 13 when I first heard him. The second album had just come out and I was sold. The lyrics, the music and the implied lifestyle seemed so attractive. I made the decision that I too would be a poet. I have never looked back.
He was inspirational in many ways. The dedication to his art; his willingness to spend years distilling a piece into perfection; his celebration of God; his humour and humanity. 
Leonard was always never less than excellent live and at times he was transcendent.The 1979 tour and the first 2 performances of his comeback in 2008 in Manchester spring to mind.
I would like to extend my condolences to his children Adam and Lorca. Our thoughts are with them at this time.
Thank you Leonard. You will be greatly missed.

Friday 4 November 2016


Here's a poem that I have tried on more than one occasion to make work.
I was too close to see that I was attempting to do too many things in the one long poem. The mixed messages confused and cluttered.
This is the latest attempt:

He is hovering the architectural model,
in cramped space, stooped,
the vacuum on his back
a sleek black jet pack.
There's me with new eyes,
seeing this for the first time,
wanting to be in that building,
looking down as the nozzle
sucks dust from the green baize grass.
I'd think the Kraken has woken
to steal the globe from us.

Then I'd wander through those gardens
in the strange settled silence
of a world swept clean.
I thought I saw an old friends face in a glass door the other day. It was only magical thinking. It led me to write this:

a cosmic ray
a magic thought

in the glass
a face is caught

double take
my mistake

their uniqueness reasserts

It isn't anything special but I believe we must keep our poetry chops in order by writing. In a way it doesn't matter what you are writing - write then sift through it, search for the leads, the potential gems among the dreck.

Here's another example. I lent a friend a Brian Patten collection, Armada, the other day. As he opened it an old photograph so discoloured it resembled a negative fell out.
I have no idea who the people are. It was amongst my grandmother's possessions and my sister cannot identify the men in the photograph, I am destined never to know.
Reflecting on the event I wrote this.

it slips from the book
cellulose acetate
a blackening ghost
this paper negative
cut loose from all context
dimly shows two men in sailor suits
who smile and pose

I am left with questions
for people who are dead
Here's Brooke Sharkey. She was wondrous last Friday night. You can get her new album here.
Next post is a review of it.