Friday 26 February 2021



I offer you a redrafted poem this post, with thanks, as usual to The Secret Poets for their invaluable help. I know I am fortunate to be part of such a supportive group of poets, and for that I give thanks.

You can read the first draft here.

Best Foot Forward

Sat at the back of the lecture

he decides to invest in his future

scrolls down the screen

but which colour?


selects the green

up the front a woman talks

sketching maps to a happy future.

To take advantage of the unique offer

he must pay for his trainers now.

He will continue to do so

for the rest of his life.

So what's different?

The layout for a start. Moving the second stanza to the right hand side of  the page distances the actions of the lecturer from the focus of the poem, the youth buying trainers. It is always worth playing about with the layout of a poem.

I was not happy with the final two lines, making them a separate sentence highlights the cost of his actions. Also losing a line the third stanza makes it tighter. Thank you Secrets.

Here's a piece of psychedelia from 1971. Hotel Room by the Edgar Broughton Band.

Until next time.

Tuesday 23 February 2021



I am so pleased to have the opportunity to share with you a new book about John Keats on the anniversary of his death. The wondrous Suzie Grogan just published this amazing book of her journey in his footsteps and influence of the landscape on his work. Over to you Suzie.

John Keats has been with me for many years, since my teens in fact, as a poet, as a man of letters and as a wise companion – his letters are full of the most wonderful insights into matters both worldly and personal. He has taken me on a journey with poetry that has given me a love of the art and an appreciation of what makes a poem a ‘good’ one. I have studied him in depth, but my appreciation is not just academic. Following in his footsteps has taken me into landscapes both historical and contemporary, with poets famous, and less well known. I would always advise even the most cynical person to find a poet who speaks to them as Keats does to me. As I say in my book, John Keats: Poetry, Life & Landscapes, ‘poetry distils the very essence of what it means to be human and to experience the joy, pain and occasionally sheer routine of being alive.’ It is not mere dreaming. It comes from somewhere deep within us.

Keats is not known as a poet of ‘place’ as Wordsworth is for example but walking with him it soon became clear that he was as influenced by landscape as any poet. The ‘landscape’ of London for example – both central and outer limits (he was born in Moorgate, trained at Guy’s Hospital and is best known for living in Hampstead) and of the home counties – Oxford, Chichester, Winchester, The Isle of Wight. In 1818 on a walking tour of the Lake District and Scotland he wrote no ‘classic’ great poetry, but images he absorbed on that journey are crucial to his development as a poet and appear in work he wrote the next year. ‘I never forgot my stature so completely;’ he wrote: ‘I live in the eye, and my imagination, surpassed, is at rest.’

 As impressed as he may have been by a view, however, he was still influenced by daily events of personal, local and national importance, as many poets are.

When we are at school, we are often required to read poetry out of context and without knowing much about the poet, their motivation or biography. This doesn’t always matter – poetry can speak to us on such a deep personal level that it is almost as if we had written it ourselves - but it is why so many still think of Keats as a poet ‘out of this world’, alive only as he reads the classics and dreams of the past. His place as a poet of landscape and of history, affected as much by contemporary events as his peers, like Shelley, has been the focus of the most recent scholarly work and has established Keats as a robust and pugnacious man, a loyal friend, a keen traveller and a poet of place. It is time we dispelled forever the myth of the consumptive youth, lying limp on a sofa in Hampstead and being nursed in Rome until his death from TB aged just 25.  

Thanks Suzie. It is interesting how people are parceled up into simple ciphers that can easily be sold to the public. 

You can read reviews of her book [and purchase a copy] here. It is an excellent read, treat yourself.

Until next time.

Friday 19 February 2021



In this endless lockdown I am finding it increasingly more difficult to write. I draw much of my inspiration from the outside world and that necessarily has contracted to what is local, within walking distance and I know I am luckier than most. I have beaches and parks within minutes of my house. I give thanks for that.

All of this is the lead up to this post's poem which is about sleeping or rather dreams.

the night in five segments


hypnagogic patterns

or people endlessly morphing

projected on the cave wall of my skull

always I wonder if I’ve seen them before

weigh their significance

fall into the black


but for not as long

as you might expect

just one hour or two

hydrangeas flood the house with the smell of winter

the night is still


so I don’t look at my hands

though there is something I must do

this buzzing internal puzzle

I walk through that door and

am under the ocean


awake at three or four

this house a dreamscape

the floor boards in the bathroom

wooden warm smooth

the tree dances in the street light


this final waking in

the winter's miserly light

a rich day waits

ritual begins

at the kitchen table

I recall the hectic night

I have been working on this poem for the last couple of weeks and I hope it conveys that dreamlike world we experience waking in the night. I shall put it away until the summer now. As I have said many times before, time grants us distance to see the flaws in our work.

Here's Ryley Walker. He has a new album out in April. This is a taster.

Until next time.

Friday 12 February 2021



Sadly I attended the funeral of my mother in law last Friday. It was, like all these Covid times, unlike anything I had ever experienced before.

I shall miss her. She was a good woman. She was a strong woman. She was part of that generation that came of age in the Second World War. She did not have it easy. She made a good life for herself and her family. She welcomed me into that family. I shall miss her.

double masked

eleven people in a chapel

the clock is running


on our fifteen minute slot

if I had though about it

and I had not

I would not have imagined it this way


with flashes of every sad ceremony

I had ever attended

If this poem is anything, it is therapy. Sometimes we have to write to make sense of life, meaning only becomes clear when words are on the page.

You can read another poem about my mother in law here.

Annabelle Chvostek has a new album out in March. Here is the second single.

Until next time.

Friday 5 February 2021



This is based on a real incident. As it happened in the 1980s I think I am safe to tell about a friend who camped for a summer on one of the flat roofs of the university we attended. He maintained that no one looked up and anyway his tent was well concealed. The quote is from John Milton.

the hungry sheep do not look up- Milton

Clive climbed that wall

shinned up the side of A Block

kept a tent on the flat roof

and lived up there the whole summer

confident he would not be discovered

as if he had worked out an equation

the rest of us had missed

I had the idea for the poem as I was falling asleep one night but wrote it down a day or two later. I like to let the ideas percolate these days.

This second poem was written in the summer.

unbeknown to you

this patch of grass

has razor sharp reflexes

and as you absently

place down your glass

they conspire to tip it over

and feast on the spilled red wine

The poem is what it is, a brief observation, though the stalks of grass did appear to be on springs, pushing upwards as the glass tumbled over.

Joy Crookes is recording her first album at the moment. Here's a reminder of just how good she is.

Until next time.