Friday, 15 July 2016


More poems from my recent trip to Oregon.
There is some worth in capturing your impressions of a place as quickly as you can. I keep a notebook with me at all times and often just jot down lines, or ideas that I can work on later.
This first poem came from two such entries made a couple of hours apart that upon rereading wrote the poem.


The big white wooden letters of the sign on my motel room wall orders me to RELAX.

Through the wall, I hear a couple talk too loudly.

They argue at a pitch they do not believe will carry.

Perhaps the sign in their room commands them to BICKER.
 The second I wrote in a restaurant and I hope it captures the essence of the subject.


He has the obligatory tatts
and shorts that show a Tiki,
as bees swarm around his calf;
a goatee; is bald.
And on his nearest bicep
the hint of Karloff's Frankenstein.
I simply wanted to capture the impression of a person in passing, to sketch out half the outline in the hope that it will tell all.
Here's a video of Anna Ternheim singing Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely, a hit originally for the Back Street Boys I believe.

Friday, 8 July 2016


I am just back from a trip to Portland in Oregon, a place I have wanted to visit for a long time. This post consists of a sequence of poems I wrote while over there.

First impressions Portland

On his head a Hydra hat,
metallic, chrome green sheen.
The seven snakes bob
as he twirls on his right heel,
paper barista coffee cup,
in his left hand.
He fills the sidewalk,
that's the pavement to me,
just off the plane and taking it all in.
Perspective may come tomorrow.

after colluding with the weather app the rain outsmarts me

however as I am not made of salt or sugar I will not melt

nor be in anyway diluted by the rain dripping off my nose

The man on the checkout
of the cooperative, organic food store,
nails my accent in one,
then narrates his two year drama degree
in London,
in somewhat non-committal terms.
Then to Hollywood
where he was up against electricians from Bradford,
guys from Ipswich, who really fancied their chances.
Every English wannabe!
Our transaction is completed
before I can listen to the next instalment.

Nearly 8am, looks like rain, a couple are packing their lives in to a suitcase, they cross the road to cross the square, I notice a book in her hand entitled Hope.
I do not want to make these poems into some sort of journal of my time in Portland. They are simply impressions. 
I leave you with The Decemberists.
Until next time.

Friday, 1 July 2016


 Another couple of revised poems this post.
The first was written last year after I watched a firework display for free.
I have changed the layout, it now has a line break that I think allows the poem to breathe. It is always worth spending time trying different layouts.

Gracie & Harry's Poem
5.11.15 Deal

it draws you outdoors
echoes across the houses
this is how dolphins navigate
in sonic sketches

we are drawn to a street corner
with other humans
to watch fireworks for free
to evaluate each blossom against our memories
it is over too soon
This second poem has had the lines moved around and I think it works better. If you find yourself with a poem that is not quite working move some of the lines about and see if that helps or hinders. That is the beauty of using a computer. A word of warning- keep all the different drafts.


made in russia
my analogue watch
much repaired
by chance
this once
mirrors the digital time projected on to the wall
it will not last
gears and entropy
will do for it and for me
Entropy is a common theme for me. It probably comes from growing up in the 1960's and reading too much science fiction about the heat death of the universe. I blame Michael Moorcock myself!
I leave you with Lizzie Nunnery and Vidar Norheim singing Company of Ghosts in 2015 in Glossop. Any chance of a new album chaps?

Friday, 24 June 2016


 I have an unfortunate tendency, when writing about topics that are significant to me, to hector the reader. I do not show and let the reader draw their own conclusions. No, I bludgeon them over the head and the opportunity vanishes.
I have lost count of the number of drafts I have written, there are too many, and therein lies a danger. You can overwork an idea and that just won't do. I always keep each draft, in fact, I write each in longhand and keep the checking with the original to ensure I'm still on beam.
This poem went from journal to computer and back again. You can read the last draft here.
Since then the Secret Poets have struggled heroically to help me give it the shape and sense I most desperately want the poem to have. Thank you, as always.
There are two reasons for my passion. The model itself, photographs of which litter this post, and the simple fact that I am passionate about the history of the educational institute. Suffice to say I would not be the person I am if I had not spent four years as a student and then president of the Student Union.

He is hoovering the architectural model of the old college,
it was made before the move to Plymouth,
before the college became a university,
before most of today's students were born.
The hoover sits on his back,
like a shiny black, jet pack,
from some cheap 1960's science fiction film.
He is hunched over,
this is difficult work given the lack of space,
he stretches to vacuum green, felt grass.

And standing there I wonder what his struggles
must look like from a window in one of those buildings,
say Hudson or Stanley House,
would I have run in terror, to hide in a basement?
Or sought a top floor view, my phone out, video on,
reaching for my moment of fame on the tv news?
The giant nozzle is sucking up boulders of dust,
as if the Kraken had woken to steal the world from us.
I know I would walk through those deserted gardens
and photograph the dust laden trees, too difficult to clean,
and wonder at this lost world.

Later, I move the barriers
then crouch in my turn to photograph the model,
its nine square, to scale, meters are abandoned.
Forlorn, half under the stairs, out of sight.
It is clear the present management have no time for the past,
except as a tag line on the corporate logo.
So it sits here, accumulating disinterest,
awaiting archaeology.
I'd be interested in your thoughts and I leave you with Mr Cohen singing a slightly different version of So Long Marianne.
The first time I saw him, back in 1975, at the Liverpool Empire, he began the concert with this song. 

Friday, 17 June 2016


I have been revising poems with an eye to publishing a fourth collection. As Dennis Grieg pointed out in a recent guest post, the amount of poetry sold is minuscule. It is thanks to such intrepid souls as Dennis that there are avenues available to poets at all. Thank you Dennis.
The first poem this post has benefited from being left fallow for over a year. When I came to look at it once more I could see clearly where it wasn't working. I had not been satisfied with the overall poem which is why it went back into the drawer, but now I think it works.

Shakespeare was right, the old bastard.
He knew a thing or two about people.
Problem was I could never cut through those words
until it was too late.

When I did him at school, too briefly,
meaning was an eel
slipping through green fronds in murky water.
Even A-level left me unmoved- so your man has left you,
there are plenty more, just go out and find one.

All this time I was stoking the fires of my own downfall,
not that I saw it like that.

These days I can read the plays,
make sense of that language,
feel for the predicaments the people find themselves in,
all much to late for such insight to be of any use to me.
This is the original version.
I have played about with the line breaks as well as line endings. These I found to be a little random in the first draft giving the poem a staccato feel. 
OK, the photograph is of Vincent rather that Bill The Shake but this blog has never mastered the art of relating image to content.
In this second revised poem I have, I hope, managed to clarify the narrative.
You can read the original here.


An improvised library lesson.
Old books, a random collection,
grown over more time than my life.
Yellow postcard, typed questions,
the e lower then the other letters.
All the facts we were told are in this room

I couldn't find what I was looking for,
it was the books that were dumb,
I knew the answer as soon as I saw the question.
I walked up to Mr. Farr, all tweed and fag ash,
pointed in the direction of the nature books
and told him a bee dies when it stings.

I gambled on his laziness,
but not him stopping the class,
and announcing no one had ever found
that fact in these books before.
It was fair, he said, to give credit
where credit was due.

This was the start of my career as a liar.
I leave you with a live set from Hurray For The Riff Raff.

Sunday, 12 June 2016


Dear Reader,

Forgive this unsolicited ‘promotional’ email. I’m attempting to promote poetry and Lapwing Poetry in particular on-line because of a declining bricks & mortar (bookshops) marketplace especially for poetry in our general society. On-line publication and reselling may have reached a degree of levelling out in some countries and growth in others, poetry has its own little niche in most societies. The contemporary problem is one of getting poetry to people interested in poetry wheresoever they may be and to penetrate the dominant popular fiction and mass media market. Notice the use of verse in several recent television advertising campaigns in the UK!

To go beyond conventional outlets for poetry we make the following offer, get to read and keep forever, five different PDF titles for a donation of £5.0.

From our on-line listing at, chose any 5 titles in PDF format and email your choice to

These PDF copies are printable, either as single pages or in their entirety, they are permanently in the your possession. In this way, the reader has easy access to new poetry and even short prose such as Martin Domleo’s ‘The Rest is Silence: the making of Shakespeare’s book’ or Gerry McDonnell’s bildungsroman ‘Martin Incidentally’.
It is a good way to ‘sample’ new writing before opting to buy a hard copy at some future date.
How it works: having made your choice from the Lapwing listing and emailed your list of the five titles chosen to, they will then be sent by return email to you as PDF attachments followed by a PayPal Request for the donation.

The simple fact is that poetry publication is non-commercial and very few poetry books get into the shops. There are now around only 900 bookshops in the UK and Ireland and declining, down from around 4000 a few years back, this includes the book-chainstores – Waterstones etc., and independents like Jaffa & Neale.

Some of these shops are ‘survivors’, some are specialists, some a mix of newsagents, stationers and confectioners. Poetry just doesn’t feature in most customers’ buying patterns and it is a slow seller, an important
decision making element in any shopkeeper’s offering to the public.

Poetry publication is about 0.01% of the UK and Irish publishing industry with an uptake of only about 20% of that hundredth of 1% per cent.

Obviously, a computer screen hasn’t the same ‘feel’ as a paper book yet poetry in whatever shape or form is essential to our cultural health and well-being as well as to our cultural identities. It is essential for those and other reasons that we do all we can to provide the poetry reading public with contemporary poetry and fine literature. Poetry reading is in many ways a secular spiritual activity.

Inevitably the poets’ presentation and even interpretation of their own literary, socio-political, cultural, philosophical and spiritual experiences in poetry are a shared part of their intimate being. That is something
which, as readers, we often cherish and can find in poetry, echoes of our own and often unheard ‘small voice’.

If you can, do pass on this plea for poetry to your own ‘community of interest’.
Yours sincerely,
Dennis Greig
Lapwing Publications

Friday, 10 June 2016


Thanks to Paul Mortimer for inviting me to read at the Tiverton Poetry Cafe last night. This post is one of the poems I read there.
It is an autobiographical poem and I wrote it last autumn. Since then I have been moving the lines around to get the right feel to the piece.
One time, in Italy, did I ever tell you this?
It was the holiday when the car engine blew up
and we had to get the train home.
Well, before all of that, we were stopped at the lights,
opposite this man in a car wash,
as bold as you please,
all soaped up, having a shower.

This is the third retelling
since you arrived three days ago.
I think this latest recounting,
has been sparked by the men hand washing cars
just now, as I filled up at the petrol station.
You watched their red, chapped hands
dip into buckets of cold water.

The cutting November wind heralds more than the coming winter.
I am leaving you with Billy Bragg and Joe Henry singing The Midnight Special off their forthcoming LP.