Saturday 30 December 2017


A revised poem this post. thanks to Paul Mortimer for his observations on how the poem should look on the page. You can read the first draft here.


At first I thought you slept,
lost in the self-profiling bed,
amid the necessary machinery
that crowds your room these days.
Can't say how I knew,
something kinetic had gone,
slipped away in that last sigh,
the one I missed, stuck in traffic.

We wait for the duty nurse to sign you off.

Mourning begins,
as if everyday we had not wished you
to be at peace.
And now you are gone,
leaving the four of us
with our individual beliefs of what comes after.
I don't want to talk about the origins of this poem.
I do however want to thank all of you for visiting this blog since it began in May 2011. 
I looked at the stats the other day and was delighted to discover that over 500,000 people have visited the site since then.
Thank you all.
I leave you this week with Laura Marling singing Wild Fire.
Until next time.

Saturday 23 December 2017


 A poem from my imagination this post. I was writing without reflecting. The aim being to fill two sides of paper with a stream of consciousness. The poem arose from this exercise.

Fast car, full stop,
rubber on the road.
Too late hands shake
as adrenalin kicks in,
and you are left with thoughts
of what might have been.

Elsewhere it happened.
There you are dealing with the consequences.
Further along the other way
there was no emergency stop,
no man in a red care telling you
to get your eyes tested and more besides.

You sense all of this,
just as fleetingly it is gone.
Slowly the chemicals in your bloodstream disperse.
If every poem is a unique work then this particular poem mines a familiar seam for me. I have been fascinated by the concept of a multiverse since I read about it in science fiction back in the 1960s.
I have been listening to Kathryn Williams this week. Her last record Greatest Hits, Songs From The Novel. Some friends had sent me a copy of Crown Electric and that had prompted me to buy the new lp when I was in Totnes recently.
Here she is with Laura Barnett taking about their collaboration.
Here she is singing Heart Shaped Stone.
Until next time.

Saturday 16 December 2017


Today's poem arose out of a couple of lines in a Mountain Goats song:

Like someone who's found a small town to escape to
Keeps one eye on his abandoned, former self.

The song is Spent Gladiator 2.
I was thinking what it must be like to be that person. I immediately thought witness protection and it grew from that.

he walks around his car
eyes search for small changes
find none
he drives the dawn streets
to black coffee in a white mug
comforting warmth in chilled hands

this is the only habit he salvaged
from the car crash of his first life
when faced with that choice
he traded loyalty for freedom
and ponders the decision
every waking day and into each night
This is a work in progress. I was imagining you would have to change your habits completely to reduce the possibility of detection. I wondered if you would either be haunted by the deal you had to make or never think of it.
It seems appropriate to leave you with The Mountain Goats.
Until next time.

Friday 8 December 2017


Strangely the "thousands of pounds", by which my MP claims her constituents are better off under the draconian austerity of the Conservative government, has to arrive at my house...
Keen readers will know of my love for Catalunya and the Iberian Peninsula in general. Here are some other Barcelona inspired poems
Today's poem [title-less yet again] mentions The Cafe Zurich, a well known meeting spot and place to watch the world go by.

I'm in the Café Zurich, under the famous clock,
through the windows Barcelona is a festival of brollies
beneath in the February sleet.
The constant rush hour of Plaça de Catalunya
is hardly dented by the fleeting winter weather.

In liminal spaces, the unacknowledged
sell cheap umbrellas to people racing time.
When I was last here in June
the trade was in fake handbags and sunglasses,
laid on a cloth that could be bundled up
if the Guarda Civil walked by.
Each season has its own crop.

You arrive, we kiss, and step outside,
just two stories among many.
As I am writing about Catalunya I have to comment on the high handed manner in which Madrid has dealt with the Catalans. I fear that if Catalunya gained independence they would be in the same limbo as the UK is over Brexit. But come on Madrid! You can't just lock up the whole of the elected government!
Here is Ana Brun from her new LP of covers.
Until next time.

Friday 1 December 2017


Two posts ago I wrote about the death throws of Neoliberalism. It would seem that my MP does not agree. Last week she stated in Parliament that the people of her constituency [that's me and mine] are "thousands of pounds" better off under the Conservatives. My own experience and that of my friends does not confirm this statement. Perhaps we are living in a mirror world, where everything happens the other way.
I do not usually reprint a poem but I am making an exception to celebrate the "thousands of pounds" by which I am better off.


Afterwards I can track the switch,
exactly where one thing became another,
when suddenly compromised, I seemed to collude.
I picture myself on her website, my smile an endorsement,
a trophy of seized photo op.
She wears her ambition as if it were acceptable.

As I take umbrage, she says:
You don’t know anything about me.

This is both right and wrong.
I know the flag she drapes across her shoulders.
It is as blue as privilege and disdain.  

Apparently she has since claimed that she was highlighting how specific Budget policies are helping working people. 
Can't say they have affected me or mine yet...
Here is the poem I wanted to showcase this post.
It came out of nowhere and I've been revising it for some time now.

he is a big man
and fills the opened door
feel the air
moved by his mass

the argumentative lens of the camera
slung around his neck
points from his chest

slow footed across the public space
he spills on to the sofa

unless his hands holds objects
he raises the camera
begins to look at the world through the tiny screen

a comforting distance

the stutter of the shutter
bounces round the room
Last night I saw Boo Hewerdine in Totnes. As usual he was superb. I am leaving you with Patience of Angels.
Until next time, unless of course I manage to discover the "thousands of pounds" by which I am apparently better off...

Friday 24 November 2017


The idea for this post's poem came in a rush, along with the title. I find titles difficult at the best of times. It is a skill to balance the poem with a title that does not give the game away, or offer a false set of expectations.
Once I had the title/line I let the poem steep in the back of my head for a couple of days. Then I spent about two weeks refining/revising the language.

The Poem's Disdain for the Poet

Above the layers of dream that hang thick over the city,
above the strata of hope that curves convex into the troposphere,
lies the locker room of lost poems.

The one's that die between thought and pen,
those no poet could shepherd on to the page.

It's a bleak affair. Metal lockers,
those thin wooden benches, bolted to the vinyl tiles.

And what an atmosphere - lost anticipation spiked through with regret,
where they mumble, where they grumble.

Oh, the poems disdain for the poet
when she fails to make them fly,
when he gets their words down wrong.

For the promiscuous poet can always follow another set of clues,
while they are written off forever.
I excised a line near the end of the process that I really liked, although it was not a fair description: like a roomful of Pete Best's.
Never having met the man I thought it was too nasty to use. For those younger readers Pete Best was sacked from The Beatles on the eve of them signing to Parlaphone. 
Anna Ternheim has just released a new LP All The Way To Rio [in Sweden at least, it comes out in the UK on the 1st December]. I can't find any videos from it on You Tube so here's a live version of her first hit [in Sweden] Shoreline.
Until next time. I am off to listen to my Swedish copy.

Friday 17 November 2017


We are living in the death throws of Neo-Liberalism.
Austerity has been hitting the UK hard now for nearly ten years. I wonder as to the point of it? It is not as if the country were more solvent than it had been, it is not. The NHS is being slowly starved of funds and opened up to asset stripping vultures in the name of choice. The examples of Tory-misrule are all around us.
Today I read that 15,000 scientists in 184 different countries have signed a Warning to Humanity. We have to change our ways or face extinction.
 The poem this post is about how history is everywhere, ubiquitous yet ignored.
England's Glory was a brand of matches when I was a child. I've actually just done a search and discovered they still exist!

England's Glory

Clock back Sunday morning,
it could be bin day, but it's not,
Mafeking Terrace in the rain,
the silvered pavement a foxed mirror.
Walk down Sabastapol
across Inkerman.
Flashcards for past lives
and history is a word bangle
these streets wear blind.
There was a second stanza but it didn't add anything to the whole.
Here's the first few lines.

The recruiting drum is silent,
the yellowed skin hangs slack,
we no longer follow the flag my boys.
We are individuals isolated by our differences

The danger for me is that I can become determined to make it work then you have to cut your losses.
I have been listening to some old African pop music this last couple of days including an old lp by Devera Ngwena Jazz band. After my depressing post here's something to dance to.
Until next time.

Friday 10 November 2017


This poem wrote itself very quickly. I've no idea where it came from. Sometimes poems spring forth from the subconscious almost complete.
I've reworked it a number of times, but it was essentially whole when it arrived.


Imagine the blank page as a quagmire.
Conflicting currents of quick sand
lie beneath the smooth white surface,
over which you must lay word after word.
The right ones for this poem will snap into place.
There is a temporary refuge in such words
[and let's face it you do like order,
the comfort of a sheaf of sorted poems,
firm in your hand when you stand to read],
not this pit of snake letters,
that writhes in your cupped hands.
And has led you into this swamp.
Whatever. You are here now,
so wizard word your way to solid ground.
Writing about the act of creation is nothing new, though every time we create it is different. I suppose it's like that old saying that you can never walk into the same river twice.
Thanks to Paul Mortimer for his constructive feedback in putting on a final sheen.
Here's The Nits from a long time ago.
Until next time.

Friday 3 November 2017


I was listening to the weather forecast getting it wrong the other Saturday which led to this.

Last Saturday

The weather forecast bullied them into carrying umbrellas,
arthritic question marks they waved at the blue sky,
while muttering that it is better to be safe than sorry,
17% of which will be forgotten on trams and in bookshops.
A typical Saturday really.
Discussions with Paul Mortimer concerning amoeba led me to revise this poem.

A Small Step for a Man

As usual the Americans were busy,
semi-secretly murdering monkeys,
no say, one way passengers,
locked into war surplus V2 rockets.
It kept the newly naturalised Nazis happy,
hidden out of the way at White Sands, Arizona.
Still the Soviets top trumped them,
proudly sending a stray dog into space to die.

There was no stopping either of them after that.
It was like Noah's Ark in reverse.
How many animals could they send to their deaths?
So let's not forget the monkeys,
the rabbit, the rats, all the fruit flies
and not forgetting forgetting the amoeba,
who came to realise
that a small step was a step too far.
Here's the Mountain Goats with one of my favourite tracks off Goths.
Until next time.

Friday 27 October 2017


No preamble today. Straight into the poem.


At first I thought you slept,
lost in the self-profiling bed,
amid the necessary machinery
that crowds your room these days.
I can't say how I knew,
something kinetic had gone,
slipped away in that last sigh,
the one I missed, stuck in traffic.

We wait for the duty nurse to sign you off.

Mourning begins,
as if everyday we had not wished
you to be at peace
and now you are gone,
leaving the four of us
with our individual beliefs of what comes after.
Here's REM with Half a World Away from BBC Two's Late Show.
Until next time.

Friday 20 October 2017


I've mentioned the Operation Paperclip before. It was a top secret strategy to bring into the USA and the UK useful Nazi scientists of dubious virtue. Among those so sanitised were Wernher von Braun and his V2 rocket engineers. The fact that they had used slave labour to build the V2 was glossed over.
Once in America they were sent to White Sands. The OSE was simply relieved that the Soviets had not managed to capture them.
They spent the end of the 1940s testing V2 rockets with monkeys locked inside them. The Soviets were doing similar things.
Neil Armstrong, when he first set foot on the moon, said it was a small step for a man.
This weeks poem is about of all this.
A Small Step for a Man

As usual the Americans were busy,
semi-secretly murdering monkeys,
no say, one way passengers,
locked into war surplus V2 rockets.
It kept the newly naturalised Nazis happy,
hidden out of the way at White Sands, Arizona.
Still the Soviets top trumped them,
proudly sending a stray dog into space to die.

There was no stopping either of them after that.
It was like Noah's Ark in reverse.
How many animals could they send to their deaths?
So let's not forget the monkeys,
the rabbit, the rats, all the fruit flies
and the amoeba,
who came to realise
that small step was far too steep.
I have been working on this poem for some time. It has benefited from being left in a drawer for a couple of months. When I came to look at it again I could see the flaws.
The photographs were taken at a reclamation yard in Somerset that used to have an old missile amongst its stock.
Here is the wondrous Annabelle Chvostek. Any chance of a tour of the UK?
Until next time.

Friday 13 October 2017


I wrote today's poem over the course of a day, returning to add and alter lines as the day unfolded. 
The inspiration came from being stopped by a traffic accident. As I reflected on the time I spent in the traffic queue looking out of the window I made my thoughts into this poem.

Night slips into dawn,
Russian blues to greys.
Each brake light neon red,
a stilled steel wave
stopped on the crest of the hill.

Most solo driven,
lonely bubbles of plastic and glass,
whose digital clocks countdown
until, at some point, we move,
to crawl past the cones.

I try not to see the trembling woman
but glimpse her new complication,
a wrecked car,
yellow metal skin ripped open.

In two seconds I have passed by.
The day is light,
the open road leads me
back into the details of my life.
As usual there is no title. Perhaps I should be one of those poets who simply number their work. It would be easier.
I am not sure if it is complete. I intend to put it away for a couple of weeks then see what it looks like.
Here is 13 minutes of superb music from Brooke Sharkey.
Until next time.

Friday 6 October 2017


I've been working on this post's poem for some time. Ever since the election in fact. Again it's based on real life experiences.
I just want to say that I really respect the people who work as care staff. Without their committed, conscientious and kind work this country would grind to a halt. They deserve to be recognised and paid a decent wage for the long, unsocial hours they are expected to work. This poem is not about those people.
Sunday Before the Election

I need the toilet
is how you greet me
two staff take you

the other inmates stare
thousand yard - no one at home stares
at the screen which dominates the day room
with its Songs of Praise rerun

you return
I need the toilet

Are you sure? You've just been

staff cover annoyance
take you
the hymns continue

you return
I need the toilet

You've just been I saw with my own eyes

I need the toilet

I ask the staff

somehow the tv has changed to rolling 24 hour news
Theresa May is telling me I need to tighten my belt

you return
two minutes sitting
with me trying to tell you about the family and
I need the toilet
they take you again
mouths flat lines

I watch the screen

you return
and tell me you need to go to the toilet
I have run out of words to talk at you
I have run out of any stray detail of my life
or of my children's lives
that could possibly hook you
and draw you back to us

from the screen Theresa points her finger

I kiss your head
and leave
I have been listening to Tanita Tikaram again this week. 
Here she is with probably her most famous song.
Until next time.

Friday 29 September 2017


Thanks must go to the Secret Poets for their help with revising this poem. 
You can read the original here.
I was unhappy with the final line and when we were discussing the poem as a whole Fanon's book The Wretched of The Earth nominated itself as a better ending.
Thanks chaps.


I'm late for work, but it doesn't matter
as it's the early 70's
and I'm a member of the labour aristocracy,
top of the pile, an indentured tradesman.
So I stop at the paper shop,
and on a whim, buy the Financial Times.
A thick, pink window on an alien world.

Tea break, in the baggin' room,
the shop steward,
full to the brim with us and them,
tells me:

This is not our paper,
this is for them with the money.
Why are you, a working man,
buying the bosses paper?

Curiosity, I reply.
Just looking beyond the tools
at how other people live.

He shakes his head, tuts.
A very public sound
-turns, walks away.

By the end of that decade,
he will have emigrated to South Africa,
claiming that Britain is done for.
He wants to taste the good life,
to bring up his kids somewhere with a future.
I will be an undergraduate,
reading The Wretched of The Earth
Those of you who follow this blog will know of my championing of Ryley Walker.
Here is a short film about him.
Here he is live.
Until next time.

Friday 22 September 2017


A couple of Saturdays ago I was once again judging the poetry/creative writing competition at Winscombe Michaelmas Fair, as I have for the past seven years or so. Paul Mortimer gave me hand this time, thanks Paul.
As we stood admiring the jam sponges we got to talking about how they are selected. Neither of us knowing anything about the judging of cakes. So we decided that this would be a good subject to write a poem about.
I spent part of the afternoon writing a list of words and phrases which I thought might make it into the poem or at least be a starting point.
The next day I wrote this:

The Song of the Sponge Cake Judge

This morning I ate no breakfast
for the task requires a certain hunger
and must be approached with respect.
Half can be discarded on first glance,
for perfection is exacting.
Never forget this is science not art.
Television has a lot to answer for,
it creates lazy illusions.
If it were that easy,
everyone could do it.
The list of words gave me the voice for the character. I wanted someone who did not subscribe to the idea that cookery is art.
I think the poem could be about there, but it will go away for a couple of months now.
Here is Sufyan Stevens.
I think Carrie and Lowell is a stunning lp.
Until next time.