Milestone Poetry Competition

I was very pleased to learn the other day that a poem I’d written and then subsequently entered in a competition had been shortlisted out of something like 500 entries.

Of course, the rules forbid further edits once the submit button has been pressed, but this didn’t prevent me working on it afterwards and a slightly different version now exists. The original poem didn’t win (the actual winner, John Baylis’s entry “Track”, was brilliant and thoroughly deserved to scoop the prize) but I’ve decided to share the updated version later under an adapted title just to tie things off in my mind.

JH 🙂





Look closely and you’ll see I am not here. Listen to these convincing noises.
Observe my empathetic nodding. Engaged without listening, I am here,
and yet I am not. Behind these eyes, I am in a dusty album between
old pages of black sugar paper. See how I am grey and balding,
but my hair is long and ginger. I appear serious, but I am
smiling through a pair of round NHS spectacles,
wearing denim on a spring day in Bradford,
with someone you have never met.
No, I am not here. And in
truth, I have not
been for

Published August 2017 Obsessed With Pipework

Cover Design by Graham Higgins

A Day At Northern Towers …

Having finished a poem about swifts, with which I am very pleased (and in which I believe I’ve borrowed the sort of extended metaphor often associated with conceits written by Elizabethan chaps like John Donne … or not, as the case may be), I’m sitting here wondering what to do with it …

Options:  Sit on it for a while; rush it off to an online publication I’ve been trying to break into for ages; enter it into a competition run by a poet I admire (but for which it’s probably not suited) or save it up to submit with several others via snailmail for a magazine that takes ages to get a response from. Please feel free to offer other choices in the space marked “Comments” below.

Meanwhile, by the letterbox, there is a spot on the floor where at any moment there may be a dull thud when my contributer’s copy of Obsessed With Pipework proves that Newton was almost right in his theories about gravity.

Off to make a cup of coffee … 🙂

Write Out Loud


This last week, I uploaded “Incoming” to my blog at Write Out Loud and was very pleasantly surprised with the interest it generated for the anthology “Curlew Calling” (edited by Karen Lloyd and available HERE). In addition, the poem was chosen as WOL’s poem of the week, which is a lovely accolade and one which I feel very honoured to have. Greg Freeman of WOL got in touch on Saturday with a set of questions that go alongside the POTW spot, and because this is the second occasion I’ve been lucky enough to be asked, a different angle in the Q&A was used. Greg asked what my views were on the teaching of poetry in schools. I’m afraid to say the question triggered a response, of which anyone who knows me would be aware, and I went off on one, ranting about the way successive governments have meddled and fiddled with the way teachers teach …

I am sorry about this, because the focus should have been more about the plight of these lovely birds and not about some grizzled old git, jumping on his soapbox to moan about stuff that would be better placed in a different forum. Needless to say, subsequent fallout has ensued and I’ve spent a couple of days corresponding with various individuals on the matter … which, of course, I have nobody to blame but myself.

So, “thank you, Write Out Loud” for the honour, for highlighting my poem and the cause of curlew, and I promise to restrict my outbursts to the Guardian education pages in the future … 🙂

Return To Mardale …

Excellent news from Atrium Poetry: ‘Return To Mardale’ and ‘On Good Days’ are to be published early next year. The Mardale poem came about as a result of a ‘Drowned Villages’ poetry competition in three regions (Wales, Cumbria and Scotland) where villages in the early part of the twentieth century suffered the same fate, i.e. relocation of families and the destruction of communities in order to build reservoirs to supply water to large urban connurbations. My good friend, Simon Sylvester deservedly won the Cumbrian competition with his excellent ‘Coffin Routes’.

The first version of the poem I wrote is based on a ghost revisiting the valley years after the event. Where today you’d find Haweswater reservoir in the Lake District, there was once the village of Mardale Green. Back in the 1920s, an Act of Parliament was passed allowing Manchester Corporation to build the reservoir to supply water for the urban areas of the north-west of England. Buildings in the Mardale valley were demolished, families were relocated and by 1935 the new reservoir was established. Occasionally, in periods of drought, the old dry stone walls and bridge make a ghostly reappearance, only to be submerged once water levels rise again.

To give you a flavour, here’s a song collaboration between the wonderful Nic Evennett and myself, based on the old poem version and from which the current poem was adapted:


Picture credit: Rawnsley, Hardwicke Drummond, 1851-1920 Wordsworth Collection, from a book  Past and Present at the English Lakes published in 1916 by J. MacLehose and sons, Glasgow

Red Pencil

DSCF4714 (2).JPG

I am six years old, my pencil breaks
mid-word in Mrs Foster’s class.

So I turn to my friend Martin, show him
the pencil and whisper,

‘Martin, Martin, my pencil has broke.’
‘Use this,’ he says and passes

a substitute, secretly under the desk.
‘But it’s a red pencil, Martin,’ I say.

He smiles a smile. It is an ‘it’ll all be ok’
sort of smile and so I carry on,

copying lines of words I cannot read,
but which I try my very hardest

to replicate, as neat and true to the
original as I am able, at six, to do.

At the finish, I look down at my page of
writing; my teacher’s lines above,

with mine in red below and I wonder
about the words I have written.

I am happy with the result of my effort;
especially the esses which are

smooth and curvy and flowing and lovely.
They are the best I have ever done.

So, I walk twenty paces to Mrs Foster’s desk,
clutching my paper with an infant pride,

and return twenty paces with a slapped arse,
my work in shreds in Mrs Foster’s waste basket,

having a brand new perspective on the way of things
and on the reliability of my friend Martin.


If I Wanted To

If I wanted to remember you, I wouldn’t use
this picture; faded and mildewed through
years of neglect.

If I wanted to find you, I wouldn’t start from
this place; confused by thirty years of one
way streets and dead ends.

If I wanted to walk to where you are, I
wouldn’t want this baggage; collected
mindlessly, as if purpose hadn’t come into it.

If I wanted to talk with you, I wouldn’t want
these words; stale, borrowed, re-used from
someone else’s thoughts.

And if I wanted you to be who you were,
how could I accept what I am now; this
stranger you’d just passed in the street.

Published February 2017 Obsessed With Pipework