Friday, 12 September 2014


The poem in this post came from the title which popped into my head last Saturday. The poem itself  took a little perseverance and I have to  thank the Secret Poets for their very helpful input. 

Here is draft number 64:

The Word for Wolf

It is the time to be given names.
The word for wolf has still to be spoken,
and for that, the as yet unnamed creature, is relieved.
In this moment it can be taken for what it is:
sleek; fleet of foot; strong of limb; wise of eye.
So far it has not been linked to acts of violence,
or to the degree of hunger a human might experience.
Fairy tales that hinge on physical descriptions have not been thought of.
There are no allusions to being dressed in the clothes of another.
All such metaphors wait to be uttered into existence.

This will change.
Look, lips shape the sound of the naming.

I didn't have any photographs of wolves to hand so you will have to make do with one of my cat. Not much resemblance I'm afraid.

I have been revising the poem I presented last week. Here is the latest version:

Grace and Danger
blues for the fisherman

Your private life is tragic,
but you've only got yourself to blame.
The drink and the drugs don't help,
save to amplify every bad thought.
Anyway, here you are,
the latest stop on a perpetual tour,
to advertise a record which isn't doing very much.

Then I walk up and in my innocence tell you
that on the back cover of a seven year old lp,
you and your wife look blessed.

What did I know?

You said nothing, your eyes told a story
I would decipher as I grew older.
She'd had enough of you, thrown you out, and
in your head you are writing the break up album.

Here, in Liverpool, someone is envying your life.

Again thanks to the Secret Poets and Juncture 25 for their feedback. very useful.

I am leaving you with a video by the Foreign Slippers.

Friday, 5 September 2014


I seem to be on an autobiographical trajectory at the moment. This week's poem describes a conversation I had back in 1978.
You need a little background if you are not familiar with the work of John Martyn, a singer/songwriter who made his first album in 1968. He was a phenomenal guitarist and a big live draw, this popularity, though, was never translated into chart success. 
In 1970 he was hired to play on a proposed solo album by Beverly Kutner. They married and the album, Stormbringer! was credited to John and Beverley Martyn. It is an excellent record. After a nearly as good second album John returned to playing solo.
In 1977 Island Records released One World, an attempt to introduce John Martyn to a wider audience, though critically praised, it did not achieve the desired break through. By this point their marriage was also in difficulty. It was around that time that they separated. I my opinion One World was the last of the truly great records that he would release. 
I used to see him live every chance I got, catching him as many as four times on the same tour.

John Martyn's Blues

Your private life is tragic,
but you've only got yourself to blame,
the drink and the drugs don't help,
save to amplify every negative thought.
Anyway, here you are,
the latest stop on a perpetual tour,
to advertise a record which isn't doing very much.

Then I walk up and in my innocence tell you
that on the back cover of a seven year old lp,
you and your wife look blessed.

You say nothing, your eyes tell a story
I would decipher as I grew older.
What did I know,
or rather what would I discover later?
She's had enough of you, thrown you out,
in your head you are writing the break up album.

Here, in Liverpool, someone is envying your life.

That's it.
Here he is live from 1978. Enjoy

Tuesday, 2 September 2014


 I've got carried away with the special effects on my camera phone as you can see. I like these photos though you are going to have to ask if you want to know where they were taken.

Friday, 29 August 2014


 Back from another Purbeck. Poemed up and ready with the show and tell photos.
While watching the acts on the open mic now known rather grandly as The Duck Shed Stage, I came up with this poem [I spent the weekend tinkering with it].


In his own circle he plays his heart out.
It's not on his sleeve,
look, it throbs in his hands.
Close by a coterie of followers
i-photo the moment.
Think: wobbly Youtube video.
The next circle is intrigued,
or tired enough to want sit and listen.
The outer circle talks,
it's chatter stains the room.
Caught somewhere between,
I catch the last song and half a life story.

OK. So if you don't know your Dante's Inferno, it's a guide to the different circles of Hell. I thought there is the performer bearing their soul and the further away you get from the stage the less the people listen. I am not sure the analogy bears close scrutiny.

Here is a haiku, also from the duck shed:
they rush the crash cart
he is dying on the stage
they cut the set short
I have to say I thought this year was not one of the best in terms of music. I did not come away raving about some new performer as I have on many occasions in the past. Though I did enjoy Idlewild and Lloyd Cole. 
 Martha Tilstson was wonderful both times she played. 
Lizzie Nunnery and Vidar Norheim were excellent. Lizzie's voice just gets better every time I see her.

On the Sunday Chris Wood played a very relaxed and enjoyable set.
I leave you with Martha.

Friday, 15 August 2014


 This week's poem came to me as good as complete, a rare gift. I actually don't want to talk about the background, I'd rather leave you to work that out for yourselves.


Sometime since the last meeting
he had been replaced by an actor,
similar to be true, but older
and slightly more coarse, who
riffed off his own allusions rather
than answer, your, well meaning questions.
He was angry, that was plain,
manifest in the little jibes
that made you uncomfortable.

His old self was missing in action,
lost in a sequence of interventions
almost as savage as his internal process;
neural pathways are consuming themselves with a reckless abandon,
and uncertain futures hover on his shoulders.

 It feels like autumn has arrived early this year. There is that almost intangible change in the air. Next weekend is the Purbeck Folk Festival and I am gearing up for a weekend of good music.
Here is someone who isn't on - The Mountain Goats. 

Friday, 8 August 2014


I was looking for a workshop idea for Juncture 25 the other week and went to my usual source for ideas The Guardian - who ran a series of workshops about five years ago. The task that was set was to take a person, a location and an event from a list, then write a poem. 
I took Ringo Starr, the sands of Mars, and has discovered a great secret. Needless to say, I threw half of the ideas out and ran with my own thoughts. What chimed with me was Mars and the idea of isolation. This led to the image of an isolation hospital and the fact that Ringo spent two prolonged periods of his childhood in hospital. The second time with TB. The fact I have been reading the first book in Mark Lewishon's magnum opus on The Beatles probably had something to do with it

Richie Starkey missed his ma,
is as isolated as if by the sands of Mars,
hears the regular tick of the reliable clock,
all this boring afternoon,
as long as a TB hospital corridor
and he'll be here the whole year.
One day there will be screaming fans,
and after having survived fame will sober up.

But for now,
the evening will advance imperceptibly.

This second poem is even more recent. I wrote it the other morning and present it as it is.

the earth sings
a different tune to each of us
from the quiet energy of old trees
to the magpies' cry on the wind
once we would sculpt the landscape
to magnify every note

we have lost our ears 
call it progress
claim we are better than the ancestors

the earth still sings
open your window
give thanks

I leave you with The Beatles Get Back. Even as they fell apart they were magnificent.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014


This is the year of the ep. Not only have we had Brooke Sharkey's splendid new ep, and Gaudy Orde's mildly offensive offering, we now have the latest from Lizzie Nunnery and Vidar Norhiem, Songs of Drink & Revolution.

As you would expect from two talented musicians, this is quality stuff. The touchstones for this cd are Leonard Cohen (Closing Time), the life and writing of Dylan Thomas, and the historical and humanity of British Left Wing Socialism, as exemplified by Tony Benn. I have to confess I got the last name check from Vidar and Lizzie's website. 

For me this ep is concerns the lives of ordinary people faced with realities of living in a Britain obsessed with Neo-Liberalist philosophy that places the illusion of individual freedom above a caring society. What our political ruling classes tell us we need is freedom, the reduction of government interference in our lives. What this means in reality is the stripping away of all social welfare structure from our society, which in itself causes a feeding frenzy in the hyper-rich. Just look at how the Royal Mail was sold off at a bargain price and ask yourself just who benefited.

The world that these Neo-Liberals envisage is a world of cheap labour, where the poor pay for everything, either through the sweat of their brows or the squalor and misery that they are forced to live in.

It is in the everyday reality of working people that this ep is set. It captures the conversations people have when they are in the pub, passing an hour or two over a drink. The lyrics have the quiet dignity and honesty of normal people attempting to make a life against a backdrop of hard times. 

In the opening song One Day I Want to Get Straight Lizzie sings: 

One day I want to get straight
I am not asking for riches or an over flowing plate 
But one day I want to get straight

She is not asking for anything other than the chance to get even, to loose the worries that keep her awake in the night. Lizzie has always had the ability to present people and their stories, economically and effectively, what she does in this first song is to tell the story of a woman simply trying to achieve an equal share in an unequal world.

In Smile and a Knife we are presented with a narrator who knows her true value, she is feather-light. There are echoes of the Merchant of Venice in the lines:

The price of me in black and red,
I'm feather light, I'm deficit.

and later:

But you'll comfort me,
With a smile and knife.

The last verse is a list of personal memories that, we are told, will mean nothing to us. In fact the effect is to make the narrator become even more real and her plight all the more tragic. I have to praise Vidar at this point, his arrangements and production is excellent. It is small wonder that in 2011 he was named as Norway's most promising song writing talent, this guy is the real deal. He has the ability to add depth and colour to the songs that enhance their beauty. 

The lyrics to Drunk in a Midnight Choir are chilling (the title is drawn from Bird on a Wire- no points for guessing that.) The narrator and her group of friends are sat drinking and putting the world to rights. They are powerless:

They are singing in this choir,
we are drinking as the water gets higher,

The song ends with the line:

And we sing in our chains like the sea.

Here we have an example of what Fanon called the wretched of the earth, the dispossessed, who are self medicating in the face of their own powerlessness. The people who turn their frustration and anger inwards. They are wind stripped trees, naked in the hurricane of Neo-Liberal exploitation.

The lyrics to These Chains of Mine were co-written with Martin Heslop. Lizzie sings:

I see nitroglyceric hunger, semiotic bleed
Acrobatic dialogue and metaphoric feed
But greed is still the first thing, moral’s the last
And freedom is the gruel they feed the mass

Rightly identifying that the real motivation to scrap the welfare system and worker's rights is greed. This is a call to arms.

Lizzie and Martin's lyric is excellent. There is the deft touch of the poet here, I especially like nitroglyceric and in the nautical twilight the boats undress - beautiful.

The last song Two Revolutionaries is a love song, that ends poignantly:

People like you are a bolt from the blue
I saw you leaving before you entered the room
And I will raise you up
And I will drink you in
And I will give my whole heart
And take it back in the morning time

Stunning stuff.

I have to also mention the other musician's who play on the album, their contributions enhance the record and fill out the sound. I thought that trumpeter Martin Smith was excellent. 

Look, don't take my word for how good this is. You can download it here and find out for yourself. Me, I'm looking forward to their appearance at this year's Purbeck Festival.