I have written a poem …

… it is sitting on my desktop, but it is not this one:

postcard

Postcard From Beyond The Looking Glass

I said goodbye to sanity one Thursday late in June.
I kissed it fondly on the cheek and gave it a balloon.
It soared into the clear blue sky under a gibbous moon.
I shed a melancholic tear and sang a mournful tune.

I parted from reality, after a pipe or two,
And surfed across dimensions on a wave of Irish stew,
The recipe for which was told me by an old gnu,
In transit on a scooter to romantic rendezvous.

The first postcard I sent en route to Lunacy was dear,
I bought it in a Kasbah in a back street in Tangier,
From five performing oysters with a taste for Yorkshire beer,
And all with accents from the county of North Lanarkshire.

They demonstrated how to knit spaghetti whilst asleep;
A skill that’s underrated by the chaps who stick to sheep.
But though I practised, soon I found the learning curve too steep,
And sadly was not able to achieve that quantum leap.

In Marrakech, engaged upon a deadly game of chance
With exiled semi-house trained right wing cobblers from France,
I rolled the dice to win and leave the boot merchants askance,
As with a flirty cheese plant in a tango off I danced.

The last postcard was sent just as the cheese plant let me down;
She left me for some big shot from the richer part of town.
And at the time I thought that in self-pity I would drown,
But found salvation hiding underneath an eiderdown.

It’s hard to unicycle with a duvet on your back,
And so I hopped the last bit quoting Proust, Poe and Balzac.
And with my fellow wanderers, met down a cul-de-sac,
Where we were told strife, woe and angst could all soon be unpacked.

The terminal provided for the weary and confused,
Was furnished quite eclectically to calm and keep amused
The screw deficient travellers, who wandered and perused
The waiting room in search of comfy chairs on which to snooze.

My life now is anomalous, with chaos everywhere,
But I’ve made most uncommon friends, and what we have we share.
I spend my time with Baxter, an eccentric white March hare,
And I am happy here beyond the looking glass somewhere …

wish you were here!

 

 

21

 

Published in My Camel’s Name Is Brian (TMB Books 2015)

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It’s official: I’ve run out …

Last night at Verbalise (the spoken word event which comes around on the last Saturday of each month at The Warehouse Cafe in The Brewery Arts Centre), I read the last two previously unperformed poems in my collection of serious stuff and now I have nothing else left. The end of the school term (a manic race to fit in an impossible number of tasks in an ever-decreasing period of time) affects how much I can devote to writing poetry, but there are a number of competitions I’d like to enter with new poems, if only to support organisations I feel would benefit from my £5/£10 entry fee (and to generate that thrill/blind faith/gambler’s addiction of ‘will it/won’t it win’ etc.). So, when I’ve finished blethering on here, this afternoon I intend to lock myself away and do something about it …

I enjoyed listening to Pauline Yarwood last night. She read from Image Junkie (and I believe there were other poems from other sources), wonderful stuff, one of which I found particularly harrowing concerning a father figure (I’m unsure whose father, but the last line elicited an audible gasp and generated a sadness which then made it difficult to concentrate for the rest of the evening … success, I’d say, from the poet’s point of view).

My own stuff (on the open-mic) pales in comparison, but I gave them the Samaria poem, and two new ones: Yew and Leaky Tap (both out for consideration as soon as the ink was dry on the paper, and so it would probably be unwise to stick them up here for the moment, just in case some kind editor likes them … ). 🙂

Swings and Swirly Things

This has happened before, this poetical déjà vu thing, where one bit of submission news (either good or bad) is almost immediately followed by a further bit of submission news of the opposite hue (either bad or good). About ten minutes after finding out that Strix had passed over a poem, I receive another e-mail telling me that Handstand Press are going to use Coming Home in their Cumbrian poetry anthology This Place I Know in October 2018.

The trick is to get the news in the right order, which in this case happened … 🙂

cunswick2

Coming Home

I wonder if, like me, the winter skies at Cunswick,
swathed in low cloud, above old scars of crag
and frozen garlands of brown bracken,
anticipate the welcome return of African visitors;

if underfoot, limestone bones ache for warmth,
dark fissured slabs buried beneath grass paths,
quietly longing for early May’s trick of light,
tired bodies aloft after months of migration.

Do these hazels shiver with the birch and gorse,
recalling dog days, the fall and rise of darts feeding,
the speed of mameluke sabres cutting air curves
with absurd precision over woods in full leaf?

And below, flowing through Kendal’s grey canvas,
does the Kent reflect colours of summer expectation,
thoughts of days spent bird watching with you,
on the long return alone to a Cumbrian terrace?

 

Publication pending: This Place I Know (Handstand Press October 2018)

I See A Day …

swiftI see a day when looking out of windows,
anticipating the return of familiar visitors,
longed for with remembered summers,
will become a yearly torment;

when the sky as host to speed and screams
of audacious arrows, mameluke sabred wings
cutting curves through air with ridiculous precision,
does not rest easily in quiet recollection;

when the joy at May’s impossible trick of light,
tiny bodies aloft after months and miles of migration
and the perfect circling rise and fall of darts feeding
on a cobalt canvas, is just a half-remembered feeling;

when finally our pendulum comes to rest,
and recurring thoughts of days spent watching with you,
living through the improbability of a swift homecoming,
the long upward swoop back to an Edwardian terrace,

will have to be endured alone.

 

Picture credit: Joseph Smit (wikicommons)

Andrew Motion

motion

It’s 10 pm and I am just back from an evening at The Brewery Arts Centre where I have been listening to Andrew Motion read excerpts from Essex Clay, published this year by Faber & Faber.

I walked into town and arrived half an hour early so that I could have a pint at the end of quite a hot day. Sitting outside in the beer garden, I read through a few poems from a selection of his works (bought for my birthday by my daughter) and indulged myself with a very cold Guinness. Then a few poetry friends arrived (who hadn’t seen me since the demise of the beard) and we had a pleasant chat about how incredibly young and handsome I now look …

In the theatre, I counted fifty people, mainly my age or above, and finished my Guinness to the not unpleasant strains of jazz piano over the PA system. Then the auditorium hushed as a disembodied voice announced Motion’s imminent arrival on the stage.

He walked on and put everyone at ease with his own relaxed and understated presence, telling an anecdote/joke about a meeting between Philip Larkin and Richard Murphy, before explaining the reasons behind the new work and the way in which he had organised its layout on the page. I don’t intend to carry out (nor could I do justice to) a dissection or analysis of the poem, which addresses a life-changing incident when he was 17 years old and an unexpected reverberation forty years later in a meeting at St. Pancras station. Suffice to say, the work is bloody marvellous and I was rapt all the way through (buy this book!).

An hour passed in seconds and we were at the end. He invited questions from the audience, and after a short embarrassed silence, someone broke the ice. Motion talked about his time as Poet Laureate (graciously) and I wondered (aloud) if I could ask a question about Larkin’s attitude/feelings towards the role he’d refused (or let it be known he didn’t want). I also managed to get confirmation from Sir Andrew (which I’d always assumed to be correct) that the railway line from Hull through Goole to Doncaster was in fact the one referred to in The Whitsun Weddings …

… it was; I went home a very happy poet.

 

Post Script: Just found this advice from A.M.

Four years out of date, but still relevant 🙂

Caterpillar Poetry Prize 2018

catThose lovely people at The Caterpillar Magazine announced the winner of this year’s Caterpillar Poetry Prize. Coral Rumble (great name) came first with a marvellous children’s poem called Mustafa’s Jumper, which you will be able to read in the summer issue of that excellent magazine (if you would like a sneaky peak, nip over to the Irish Times here >>> The Irish Times ).

The competition was judged by Chrissie Gittins who writes adult poetry, radio plays and short stories as well as poems for children. I’m very happy to say that my own effort (Bill The Bad) was among eleven commended poems from such esteemable company as Carole Bromley, Marie Carmichael, Nikki Cookson, Sam Cummings, Matt Goodfellow, Nicolette Gunn, Mary Green, Louise Greig, Jenny Lamothe and Kate O’Neil. This, as you will imagine, makes me very happy indeed and feels like a bit of a threshold in terms of the poetry I write for children.

I would love to put the whole poem up here, but it’ll be out in the Caterpillar later on in the year and so you’ll have to make do with a snippet to give you a flavour of what it’s about …

 

smee

 

Bill the Bad

I am a pirate’s parrot,
with an owner fierce and bold.
We’ve sailed across the seven seas
in search of jewels and gold.

My pirate’s known as Bill the Bad
who has a bushy beard.
Bill scares all other pirates and
around the world he’s feared.

He wears a leather eye patch
and is covered in tattoos,
with tales of his adventures
featured in the ‘Pirate News’.

The crew all quake when Bill’s about,
because he looks so grim;
but sometimes reputations hide
the truth that lies within …

… and so it goes on.

Congratulations Coral on a very well deserved prize 🙂

On The Road To Samaria

Published in Ink Sweat & Tears (June 2018)

On The Road To Samaria

In these shoes,
I negotiate life in the third person;
toes swathed in top quality calfskin,
safe from random shit and shards,
where neither grass nor paved path
can sully these soft arches and soles.

I wear these suits;
an actor avoiding the fourth wall,
costumed and painted with lines learnt,
senses fenced off with silk and cashmere,
any truthful light blocked by scenery.

I drive these cars;
cosseted in high-end second skin caskets,
hermetically sealed and sheltered from rain,
all shocks absorbed and sins absolved,
reality suspended for the duration.

In front of these screens,
I casually exploit worlds lived separately,
salving conscience with painless gestures,
shifting small sums with gift aided texts,
untouched by the sweat of first person lives;

always remembering to give openly,
while keeping a record for tax purposes.