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 ...

Monday, 17 April 2017

The Storm

Day 17.
My late older brother, in his younger
days, with his beloved Riley car
Aphorisms is the Poetry School
prompt, which I thought I'd ignore
until I went back to some poetry notes
from my Hebden Bridge class and
found the Hurakami one we'd been
given by our tutor and poet, Sally Baker.

Here is the first stanza:


“When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in.”
Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

While his chest is becoming railway maps of love
I collect booklets of knowledge and information
adding to what I already know and keep
re-arranging what I know.  He knows
what is coming.  We all know about bones
and flesh, and the time they take...

The Riley shown in the picture has a vivid memory for me.  He drove me from Yorkshire down to Brighton, where he was then living.  It took eight hours, the weather wasn't very warm and there was no heating in this car.  But we were young, and it was fun!
The poem, however, does not relate to this episode, but to the time when he was diagnosed with terminal mesothelioma, a cancer brought on by asbestos exposure.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

The spark of Genius

Astrantia. My mum continued
to tend her garden into her late 80s.

My family seem to be sneaking into my
NaPoWriMo poems a lot.
A Guardian article provoked me
into a rant of a poem, which is a
tribute to my mum's experience,
and other women of her generation
who lived through the 1950s and
beyond, when a wife's unpaid
work would not be considered a
'contribution' to a marriage when
divorce and division of the spoils
came up.

The Spark of Genius

She wipes away the baby shit,
wraps him in freshly laundered nappy.
Feeds him, gives her chance to sit.
He’ll look a perfect picture for his daddy.
            Her husband has the spark of genius.

Four hourly feeds right through the night.
Up at six when baby wakes.
Shiver till the fire’s alight.
Cook the breakfast. Bake some cake.
           Her husband has the spark of genius ...

Saturday, 15 April 2017


A sonnet on the theme of technology today.


You’ve now used up all your data.
If you need to get in touch please call.
We will send a reminder later.
How would you rate us overall? 
To track your delivery use this link ...

And it goes on to bemoan this kind of language.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Half way through

Yes it's day 14 of NaPoWriMo.
A reworking of a poem that you can find here. I've allowed the beast to escape again but the form is different.

If the jaguar escaped the museum

One, two, three and so on the stitches are popping
open as though suddenly snipped, ripping and breaking,
till out falls the stuffing, and the glass is smashing.
I could be a rug if it were not for the racing
of heart, lungs and wild red blood charging

down the M1, there’s St. Pancras appearing ...

...hoping not to be over-repetitive with the theme :)

Thursday, 13 April 2017

So she waits

A steaming fumarole
in the Azores
So she waits to hear what I will say

So she waits to hear what I will say
that yellow dress
that arm clutching those figs so dark
and I see it all.
See nothing, just  my questions one after the other.

Pearls grasping my neck, her black hair
held ...

A bit late tackling the prompt today, an ekphrastic poem - one that is prompted by a work from a different art genre e.g. painting, photo etc.  A poem that was published in a WEA (Workers Educational Association) collection from the Hebden Bridge (UK) class that I attend fairly regularly, and which had limited distribution. The photo (above) I took was also chosen as the cover for the collection. 
If I could properly find my way through my paper files then I'd have mentioned and/or shown the painting that prompted it!  But for the moment the poem must stand on its own merits.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Naked as an uncarved headstone

Today I'm posting a whole poem, only because I don't (yet) know what it means and cannot envisage it as a complete and polished piece.
The Poetry School prompt was to write ten words as they came into your mind, based on this list: fountain, berry, surprise, dust, temperature, America, book, tortoise, cyclone, security.
And my response words are in bold. The result is some gothic inclined images which I might purloin for future re-working ...

Naked as an uncarved headstone
as black as marble
he is a straw in the breeze
a dragon’s red character
turning to cold unreason
sinking feather-like across the deepest canyon.

The page gathers up the wedding dress tatters
as skin fragments fly up the tower
they wind round and round.
A snow blanket sits on the ground.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Where will you be?

Exhibition Square, York

Today's prompt, from the Poetry School once more, is to write in the style of Anglo-Saxon poetry, alliterative, punchy.  And, as my first line, I have taken a line from Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, as interpreted by Simon Armitage.
This poem, the first half shown here, is a (mainly) river-themed geographical autobiography:

Where will you be? Where’s your abode?
You deserted the Mersey, perched on the Pearl,
were corralled in Cheshire, debauched in York ...

Monday, 10 April 2017

Letter to Hong Kong

Queen's birthday parade,
Kowloon, early 1960s

Letter to Hong Kong
after Letter to N.Y., Elizabeth Bishop                                    

In your next letter I wish you’d stay                  
just as you were, easygoing;
the hills, the beaches, the Malay
curries, growing and unknowing,

sophisticated taxis in glittering light,
downing a Coke float, the bowling ball
striking straight, travelling yards and yards.
No one would ever grow old.

Rows of flame of the forest trees so green,
musical drone on a stave,
and suddenly you’re in a different place
where everything seems to be scathed

by leaving, riots and firecrackers
banned, a price to be paid...

Day 10 of the NaPWriMo challenge, and I'm attempting to chart my views about Hong Kong from my teenage years living there, then the years following when I came across challenges to the dominant colonial political views.

Sunday, 9 April 2017


Hmm. Getting a poem down today, Day 9 of NaPorWriMo, was more of a struggle. The Poetry School prompt is: a response poem - argue against, agree with, re-write, or converse with someone else’s poem.
I have been inspired by a poem by Becky Cherriman, amongst other things a poet and writer, who lives in the same northern English city as me.  The poem is called All Princes were Monsters Once, and is in her pamphlet Echolocation, published by Mother’s Milk Books. Having roughly followed the original pattern/form I then cut most of it, used part of what was left, and added something to the end.
I’ve enjoyed posting my complete poems on the Campus part of the Poetry School site, making and receiving comments there.


Another year, now
he’s more than my size, measures
up, way beyond me in Maths.

I have grown older 
like a trunk lop-sided...

Saturday, 8 April 2017

How easy it is

Day 8 of the national poetry writing month - though it is international.  The Poetry School prompt today is anaphora, repetition.  This was dashed off quite quickly. As ever, it is only the first part of the poem. In this case about half.

How easy it is to love the dead tree: first line of The Dead Tree, in The Art of Falling by Kim Moore

How easy it is to love the dead tree
How easy it is to forget that friends die

How easy it is to cut brambles with protective gloves
How easy it is to concentrate just on your lust ...

Friday, 7 April 2017


Hohner Lilliput - beauthiful
to look at, to play
and a full, round sound

As I posted yesterday's today, here is today's NaPoWriMo offering, Day 7
as well, so your buy one get one free, or bogof ... 
The Poetry School Campus, which is a forum you can join for free, has prompted with an ode. So here is the start of one, to the instrument I learnt later in life, and which I love to play and listen to.

Morris melodeon

Pushed and pulled
air in, air out
keep the music going
shoulder passions
pearled, tan wood
cut-out or gold filigreed,
three-rowed or two, many
voiced, or single-minded, ...

Just one cigarette

Mum, not smoking, in the tropical
heat of Hong Kong, looking
towards HK island from the
roof of the YMCA c. 1961
Just one Cigarette

Just one cigarette after lunch
for years, at the wooden table
in Grand Court. The midday heat ...

This is the start of a short poem,
prompted by the Poetry School - a ritual.
Though I wrote it yesterday only
had time to post it today.
For years my mum smoked just 
this one.  I did sneak one or two in 
my early teens.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

From protest to memory

Day 5 NaPoWriMo


i.m. Tim Garland 1955-1979

The morning you spent on deck with the crew
then came running to tell us we’d be having
flying fish that night for dinner and Dad
said they were only being kind to you because
it was your sixth birthday.

The morning you didn’t believe me I said
there had been an earth-quake. The picture on the wall
had tilted in its frame. In the night ...

Tim and buffalo calf
Clearwater Bay, Hong Kong
c. 1961
There's both more work to be done on this, and there is more of the poem I haven't posted here.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Shake your chains
Maxine Peake, actor, has inspired a clerihew, a form suggested, for Day 4 of NaPoWriMo, by the Poetry School:

I listen to her, Maxine Peake,
What ideological physique!
Shakes her chains to earth like dew,
Lippy Lancashire words so true.

Shake your chains to earth like dew are words taken from The Masque of Anarchy by Percy Bysshe Shelley, written to commemorate the people slaughtered at the Peterloo Massacre, Manchester in August 1819, when cavalrymen charged into peaceful protesters killing at least 15, injuring 600-800 others - the first being a 2-year old.  In July 2013 Maxine recited the whole poem at a gathering close to the site, in remembrance.  Details here.  And poet Adam Riordan had something to say about the resonance for today’s governments.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Day 3 NaPoWriMo 2017
Working initially from a prompt at the Poetry School, starting with list poems, this strange creature then took on other guises and emerged as this short poem. I'm still trying to figure out what it means ...


These cute little pieces of glass
staying put in the screen even when
the small saloon car’s bonnet stares
back on itself, and she sits there
with only a streak of blood coming from
her nose, shocked but not broken.
She doesn’t smile, doesn't repeat, 
‘You cute little windowkins’. 

Sunday, 2 April 2017

The washing machine

Judders sideways much as a giant crab
might submerge itself in a salty pool
elbowed in by Robin Hood’s Bay rocks washed
by North Sea storms.

Its own storms show a rotting rubber rim,
and a rust Rorschach fronting like an iron lichen.
The washing machine doctor cured it of 

My NaPoWriMo effort for today, inspired by a prompt from Paper Swans Press on FB: Write a poem about a kitchen appliance. This, again, is just the first half.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017

Lion Rock, Kowloon, early 1960s
my view from the Chemistry lab in school

Here we go again!
Today I've used NaPoWriMo as my prompt where they provided a link to a Kay Ryan poem which I have used.  This is the beginning of my draft poem:

School lessons

Dragons come into it
somewhere. Scales sharp,
flames arc from red flesh
just as her tail sinks
down as she shrinks to
become a mere lizard
creeping around the sweaty ...

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

The Forgotten and the Fantastical 3

In my previous posting on 8th September 2016 I was waiting to hear about a fairy tale/fantasy submission. Delighted to say the story, The Daughter with Indigo Eyes is to be published by Mothers Milk Books and the launch of this collection, with its "dark and fantastical tales", is this coming Saturday evening, March 18th, in Nottingham. All being well (that is, my being well) I shall be reading an excerpt, along with other fantastical authors.
A great cover, by Georgie St Clair.
If you're quick you can get £2 off a pre-order here!