Friday, 30 January 2015


Do not expect the photographs to mirror the content. Such connections are beyond me. 
Here is a new poem that came out of a conversation in which the word bridges chimed with me for some reason. I had an old poem that I could never satisfactorily write. I took the idea of bridges and joined it to the kernel of this existing attempt. 

I used to listen for the sound of the 'copters,
rotors thumping the compliant air,
engine noise gradually growing...
There were times when a bad B-movie rescue
would have more than suited me.
I was choosing to forget that after the credits roll,
the actors resume their own problems.
Now, I want bridges as a means to get from here to there.
Perhaps I'm just older, more realistic,
I know I have lost my faith in film.
I suppose I should clarify the end. In my youth, in the days before video recorders were affordable for everyone and we could watch any film we wanted to at any time, it was a case of catch the film when it came out or miss it. Plymouth, where I was a student, had a number of venues to watch films. On a Saturday I could watch a double bill of old films in the afternoon [at the Athenaeum], eat at the Arts Centre [which in those days did excellent vegetarian food] then watch their latest film and make it back to my rooms to catch a foreign film on BBC2. 
I can't do that any more, nor, in all honesty do I want to.
These days I just can't connect to film these days. I'd rather read. How about you?
[the song of the reluctant fitter's mate]

When we was skint, proper boracic,
we had this plan see.
Wait until the pig's are delivered,
at least one load a day to the abattoir,
us slaughter men were on piece time.
We'd let a pig escape,
run it through the nearest shop,
thieving what we could as we went.
It was a good little earner,
but the new owner wasn't slow to cotton on.
He'd fitted cameras.
I got fined and fired.

This poem has changed greatly. 
When I discussed it with the Secret Poets the general opinion was that it was two poems and that the shop lifting event was not clear. 
It seemed easier to put aside the character sketch and go with a heist narrative. 

It seems only fitting to end with Elis Regina singing Travessia [Bridges]. It was written by Milton Nascimento. This isn't the best version, but seeing Elis live makes up for it.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015


My colleagues, The Fire River Poets, are holding an open poetry competition. The closing date is 20th February so you haven't got long to enter.
This year the judge is Lawrence Sail. He is an excellent poet and an experienced and sensitive judge.
So what's stopping you? 
Here are all the entry details:

Easy to enter notes:  mail your poems and details to entry (and that is…) We prefer poems as separate file attachments – as Word document(s) – in any case, please ensure each poem is on a separate page. List the poem title(s), along with your name, home address, e-mail address and telephone number in the body of the e-mail.  Please don’t put your name or other details on attached file(s) – we have to give the judge an anonymous printout. There’s no need to quote your PayPal receipt. (And unless it’s vital to the form of your poem, please don’t double-line-space longer poems; we prefer single-sheet printouts. Thank you!)

So go for it and get your work out to a larger audience.

Friday, 23 January 2015


This is my broken record: You need to revise your work. Possibly it is never complete. Always leave it for a couple of weeks then revise it again.
Today's poem is a case in point. I originally posted it a couple of weeks ago. At the time I said it was not finished, though I could not see a path forward. Well thanks to the Secret Poets [one of the two groups I belong to] it is.
Broken record two: Join a group, get used to offering and receiving constructive feedback. Your work will benefit from this immensely.
Case in point:


Today would have been your birthday.
It's early morning, the house is quiet,
I savour a silent cup of tea. You would have been 96
interrupting text flash;
My midwife daughter is asking the ether
if she is only one awake.
I call, delighting in the sound of her voice.
She tells me of the birth of a boy,
so eager to be in this world,
that he is three quarters out with the first contraction.

You used to say it's better to be early than late.
That last visit you came by train,
the emphysema was closing it's grip.
We had to be at the station half an hour early,
I felt you relax only once on the platform.

Will this new boy live a life like yours?
There are many worse examples.
your generation gave us so much,
just to let us live this life.
This poem benefits from discussion and the perspective of three other poets, without which it would not have been this complete. 
So what are you waiting for? 
Get out there and form your own group.
Here is Jamie Freeman and the wondrous Annabelle Chvostek playing This Machine at Totnes early last year. You can see me on the front row [I'm the one with the pint near me].

Wednesday, 21 January 2015


"When we dream anything is possible..." so says Catalan artist Juame Plensa. The sharp eyed amongst you will remember when I posted some photographs of his work in Bordeaux. 
At that time I mentioned that he had been commissioned to create a memorial to the St. Helens miners. Just before Christmas I finally got round to visiting it.  
It is superb.
You arrive at the back of the head after walking along a pleasant path. The whole are ahas been turned into a park, half wild, and the views are excellent.
The sheer size of the work astonishes. It is a true memorial to the many men that worked below ground for many generations. Apparently there is still a workable seam of coal under the ground. Another victory for ideology over common sense. Thanks Thatcher and the tory hatchet men.
Enough politics. If you are ever in the St. Helens area then Dream should be top of your sight seeing list. 

Friday, 16 January 2015


I am just back from a trip to Dubai and Oman. It was too brief a time. Oman was amazing. While I was there we went on a dolphin spotting trip. Afterwards I wrote this poem.
Dolphin Watching in Oman

The sound of two hands clapping,
It will, I am told, draw the dolphins.
Possibly one hundred people,
in six boats, mill around the bay.
The large hands slap again.
Engines idle, the man maintains his rhythm.
There is applause as the mammals surface.
We chase them or they follow us, it is difficult to tell.
Do they care that an industry has developed around them?
They left the land to us a long time ago,
returned to the water.
Now we search for them as if they had some of the answers.
I have to end this post with Fred Neil's song The Dolphins. Here's Tim Buckley's cover.

Friday, 9 January 2015


A memory again this post. It came about one morning when I was quickly dressing in a cold bedroom and suddenly all the constricting rules that superstition can chain us in came flooding back.

I have told you some of this before,
how we were required to touch our collars
should we see an ambulance or hearse.
This was the early 1960's and there was more:
when pulling on your clothes in the dark cold bedroom,
as quickly as you could, naturally,
should you find your jumper was back to front,
you could not take it off.
Bad luck would stalk your day.
Taking arms out of sleeves and turning it,
was acceptable - just.
And if it was inside out- then you wore it like that.
All who saw would understand.
This was Widnes after all,
a town conjured into existence
so someone else could make money,
and that was running out.
Round the corner was Thatcher and globalisation.
Let's face it we needed all the help we could get.
I can't say how universal this belief was. It certainly held sway on my street and the Simms Cross area. Have you any similar memories?
Here's Stevie Wonder and Superstition.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015


Here is a poem that I've been struggling to find an ending for. My original flash of creativity only ran as far as describing the event, beyond that was a blank. Over the past couple of weeks I have been trying out different endings, unsure of exactly what it is I want to say. But knowing that the central image is very powerful.

The Wednesday Pig

It took the new owner some time to discern a pattern:
always a Wednesday, day before pay day,
but never more than once every four weeks
and when it did happen, it was over so fast.
That's when the recently acquired cctv came into its own,
turn the big dial, slow the picture down
and see the slaughter man,
who liked to be called the butcher's assistant,
stuffing fags inside his bloody overalls,
as his cohorts chase a terrified pig out of the shop.
Press the blue button watch it go into reverse,
caught forever in grainy black and white.

The Police were delighted, an easy result.
The plucked him off the killing floor,
noting the smile on his face as he cut a pigs throat.
The abattoir was in the process of being taken over by a multi-national.
He was told not to bother coming back,
then fined an amount he paid piece meal.
He was most upset they would not let him keep the knives.

I met him a couple of years later,
he was carrying the tools,
a Fitter's Mate at Castners,
always had a whetstone and a wicked thin knife.
First impressions that he
was not a man you could ever warm to,
were confirmed when he told you about his hi-jinks,
rhapsodising on the sounds a pig can make
as you first stick your knife in.

What do you make of it?
I feel I need to leave you with something more inspiring. Here is Bob Marley and the Wailers live in Santa Barbara. Enjoy, it's a cracking concert.