Friday, 15 June 2018

Junk days

Junk at Castle Peak,
Hong Kong c. 1961

I knew my first publication had been at secondary school. One of my schools - there were four between the ages of 11 and 18 - was the British Army run school, St. George's, in colonial Hong Kong, 1961-64, in my early teens. Thanks to social media, and John Sings, who had a copy of the relevant Georgian Chronicles, I now have my own copies of the two pieces that were accepted into the school magazine.

Below is the first one, written when I was 14 or 15. My imagination obviously went back to the days I had spent in UK winters, though I have no recollection at all of writing it.  I suspect it was written in response to press reports of the 1962-3 harsh UK winter ...

... and reads almost like a traditional fairy tale.  Enjoy!

Friday, 20 October 2017

railway maps and alcohol

Sentimentality is one I always try to avoid so trusting that I've done that in this poem published by Algebra of Owls today. Originally saw the light of day in a version I shared on the Poetry School Campus forum for NaPoWriMo 2017 - a lively and supportive space to share your own poetry, and comment on others brave enough to share.


Languishing in my digital attic are a lot of poetic cartons. Conscious that no one else will rummage around I've recently started to sort them, throw lines (even chunks!) out and rescue others. Once I've exposed them to daylight some have kindly been taken up and published. 

Smith/Doorstop, the publication arm of the Poetry Business are launching One for the Road anthology in various places and is available in selected Waterstones. A very varied selection of poems on the pubs theme.  Delighted to report my The Cardigan Arms is amongst them.

Saturday, 29 April 2017


A couple of days when I didn't 
manage to post for NaPoWriMo but today's prompt was very interesting: to take a line out of each of the 28 days' poems and re-make into a new poem. This, apparently, is a cento. A really good way to review what has been done, but quite a task to re-create, involving printing out all the poems into one document, then pencilling numbers on to lines, and lastly considering the order.  Phew! 
Here's the first stanza of the end result:

Please do tell me what you think.
I am looking for the whys and wherefores
how our bodies were not our own
smiling eyes and all,
like the others who are that way disposed,
it is a lie that the angels are going to surrender...

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Dead set

If you haven't realised from reading this, the Poetry School prompt 
was to use the same word at the end of every line.  I dived straight 
into this and hacked away at it ...


Where I live it’s not considered polite to talk about the dead
in a way that disparages them or mention that they weren’t dead
good at being neighbourly. When the battery is dead
on your phone you do talk about it, that awful dead
silence means you lose any communication, rather like the dead
of night when you seem to be the only one awake, you are in the dead
centre of a vacuum and there’s nothing you are dead
sure about except...

Later on in the poem I mention a collection I've recently been re-reading, shown in the photo above, published by Cinnamon Press.  I like all the poems in Talking with the Dead  (one review here) but my two favourites have to be Ghandi visits Cafe Nero, Boar Lane, Leeds - one I wish I could have written - and Angel, an ekphrastic poem on the very noticeable and fantastic metal sculpture 'The Angel of the North', by Antony Gormley, in the North East of England. I love his work, including the Angel, but also 'Another Place' at Crosby Beach near Liverpool.  I have not yet managed to actually visit this but, inspired by it, I have written a poem, Digging and Diving, which won a competition back in December 2015. Details here on my blog.

Monday, 24 April 2017


Richard II watches Wat Tyler's death and
addresses the peasants in the background:
taken from the Gruuthuse manuscript
of Froissart's Chroniques (c. 1475).
Wat Tyler was the leader of
the English Peasants revolt, 1381.
A surprise ending is today's prompt from the Poetry School. This doesn't really conform to a surprise, more that it draws up the threads of what has gone before, on the last line.

I suppose it might be called a sonnet as it has 14 lines.  The first five are shown below.


Then we learnt about processing photos, and
leaving fear behind, from the women at Grunwick.
How our bodies were not our own
before the 1967 Act. What was black
and white from twenty-seven years ...

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Garden sounds

I couldn't faithfully follow the Poetry School prompt today, to go for a walk and compose something in your head. I wasn't up to going beyond the garden and my short term memory wouldn't allow much in my head. 
So this is the start of the garden poem:

Of course the great and blue tits
teacher and bicycle wheel beyond,
seeking a squeeze in the trees.

Jesse, Jesse, come here, the dog
walker gets desperate below
the railway footbridge under ...

Saturday, 22 April 2017

This coyness lady were no crime

Aubretia from
the garden
Day 22 and the Poetry School
prompt: take a line from a poem
by another poet.  Used each of the
words to end each of your lines.
So I set myself a tricky task here
but couldn't resist a line from
Marvell's To His Coy Mistress,
which I studied at school,
really liked the words and rhythm,
and never forgot.

Here is the start:

The edges of the neat grass in this
geologic garden checked the coyness
of aubretia the mustard of ladies ...

Friday, 21 April 2017

Pigeons, nuthatches and drunkards

Wood pigeon
With apologies to anyone expecting
me to post a poem today. I have written a pantun, which was explained here on April 15th 2013. Later I may decide to submit it somewhere so I'm keeping it out of public sight for the moment. It's about pigeons, and nuthatches, and drunkards, amongst other things.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

The angels are going to surrender

You might have noticed that I have not posted a poem from Day 19 because a Poetry school prompt I followed was to write a bad poem. Which I duly did. But you surely don't expect me to post that publicly?!

Prompted today by Snapdragon journal’s theme this month of Surrender, the Poetry School prompt today of writing a poem in one sentence, and a prompt to write a poem where the first line is the same as the last line (but I've forgotten where I saw it!).

The angels are going to surrender

The angels are going to surrender, they shout, but
they are not always right, those who shout
and shout, and anyway just putting up
a banner with this slogan doesn’t make it
happen unless they happen to own all
the banners in the world, take control
of the whole sky ...

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

The glorious future I might have had

Bar-headed goose,
Golden Acre Park, north Leeds
From a fragment I had written in a class some while back, and then I built on it.
So this is Day 18 of NaPoWriMo. I didn't follow a prompt given for today.

The glorious future I might have had

Above the Himalayas I pilot a slanting glider.
At Seville I visit the lacy curves of the Alhambra.
Floating along the Venice canals
I watch the gondolier as she
propels golden twins of pleasure and adventure.

I easily recognise a congregation
of skylarks by their wild hymns.
All the bee sounds and bird calls are named.
Trains’ rush and clatter is packed up
into ears and sold for the price of gold.

Silk-patterned stones lie louche ...