Friday, 15 September 2017


I awoke the other morning with the idea for this post's poem half formed in my head. It was a memory from childhood.
The second stanza wrote itself as I played about with the idea.

Matter of factly
my mother wraps a strip of bacon around my finger.
Just enough raw meat to encircle,
instructs me to will the wart away,
to hold the flesh to my skin
for the required number of minutes.
Invokes an ancient charm,
as her mother had before.
Time unfolds, slow, fast.
Then I am directed to hang the bacon
on a bush in the yard.

On waking this morning,
for the first time in who knows how long,
that memory returned.
It has no follow up,
no proof of efficacy,
but there is no wart on my finger.
I checked, just now.
I just looked up wart charms and discovered it is quite a common superstition.
As I say I have no memory of the charm working. 
Here is Leonard Cohen.
Until next time.

Friday, 8 September 2017


Here is a memory transformed into a poem.
The story is true.
I just want to clarify a couple of points beforehand.
Bagging room is slang for the tea room. The place where you have your tea and lunch breaks in the factory. It is either Widnesian or Runcornian slang and very specific to a small area of the North West.
Franz Fanon was involved in the Algerian War for Independence. He wrote The Wretched of The Earth, which explores the dehumanising effects of colonisation and offers a path forward for post colonial countries and people.
Marcus Garvey promoted pan-African unity and founded the UNIA-ACL.

I'm late for work, but it doesn't matter
as it's the early 70's
and I'm a member of the labour aristocracy,
top of the pile, an indentured tradesman.
So I stop at the paper shop,
and on a whim, buy the Financial Times.
A thick, pink window on an alien world.

Tea break, in the baggin' room,
the shop steward, a little man,
full to the brim with us and them,
tells me:

This is not our paper,
this is for them with the money.
Why are you, a working man,
buying the bosses paper?

Curiosity, I reply,
just looking beyond the tools
at how other people live.

He shakes his head, tuts.
It is a very loud sound,
turns, walks away
and I am left sat there shamed.

By the end of that decade,
he will have emigrated to South Africa,
claiming that Britain is done for.
That he wants to taste the good life
and bring up his kids somewhere with a future.
I, meanwhile, will be an undergraduate,
reading Franz Fanon and Marcus Garvey.
The poem came pretty much as it is. I have been revising it all week.
Here's the wondrous Ryley Walker with a new song.

Friday, 1 September 2017


I've been toying with an idea for some time now. It began with the title and I have been considering what it means.
This is a very rough draft.

The Significance of Dragons

is woven into our RNA
a souvenir of our oppression
before the liberating asteroid

provoked alternatives
that led old men to decide
who was to be sacrificed

was carved into the prow
of every longship
spreading terror

has shaped this land
sculptured its contours
over long centuries

so give thanks
so give praise
I am sure there is more to say, but this will do for the moment.
I saw Ryley Walker last Saturday. He was wondrous. Here is a video of Roundabout from the gig.
Try to catch him live. He is incredible.

Friday, 18 August 2017


A  poem about endings. Not sure I can explain exactly where it comes from. 
It is danger for any writer is to rely their usual tropes. To write from the default position, so to speak. Each poem needs to be unique, bespoke to the requirements of the concept.

Love Gone Sour

She informed me I'm like that song.
That I know the one,
that I've heard it on the radio.

She expects me to provide her
with the exact analogy
she can use to criticise me, again.

It was one of those points in life
that makes you add up the scores.
The kind that makes you question love.

A brief crystallisation of an awareness
that your life doesn't have to be like this.
Another push towards the door.

You know you will walk.
I am off to see Ryley Walker [again] next weekend. Here he is with the band.

Friday, 11 August 2017


I  was working on the allotment the other day, watering in the polytunnel, and that old blues song about never missing your water until the well runs dry came into my head. Over the rest of the after noon this poem wrote itself.

Something Else

He carried water to the well.
The yoke was heavy,
the water angry enough to slop.
That none had asked him to,
was for him, beside the point.
He may have claimed
it was for the general good,
or Phariseed his pious intention.
There was an unquenched fury
in his every step.

Some people live their whole lives like that.
I think as it formed that I was trying to capture the essence of passive aggression
I tend to write more in my head these days. To get the poem into some shape before I write anything down. I don't think it's a better way of working just different.
Here is Peter Tosh with his version.


I have nothing to say about this poem.
It speaks for itself.

Sheila's Poem

We had hoped for death.
Crash landing
on this unexpected plateau,
where life continues mechanically
and the identical days merge.
Sometimes, across a great distance,
you speak,
words faint
ever more slippage.
There are no dials to turn,
or amplifiers to power up,
that just this once,would grant us 
clear communication.
Until next time.

Friday, 4 August 2017


I was just reminded of a Little Feat song, Two Trains, which must have subconsciously influenced this post's poem.
Things like this happen all the time. We draw inspiration from all that is around us.

Early on our temporary parallel path
she gifted the key to understanding.

It was nothing special,
a pressured, bad decision
with domino consequences falling.

She had hers.
I had mine.

Two trains travelling in opposite lines,
alternate endings wait in the wings.

The difference was this:
I kept my own counsel. 
She saw nothing remarkable in me.

I sped away onwards towards today.
I have to confess I had to look up, just now, if it was onwards or onward- Paul and Jinny I need your grammar skills now!
Here is Little Feat with said song.
And here they are in all their live glory.
Superb stuff.

Monday, 31 July 2017


Two weekends ago I was invited to the Tropical Pressure Festival to run a poetry workshop. What a lovely little festival it was!
Firstly thanks to Nikki, Marcel, Mike, Alison, Luke, Mark, Sarah and Mike for attending said workshop and putting so much effort into the exercises. 
Here's the poem [in a rough draft] that I wrote in the workshop.


Miles Davis on his t-shirt,
he's got his mojo back,
is coolness in human form
and now the world is music.

Christine makes the yeast rise.
He holds her in the night,
warm, safe, unaware
of how little time they have left.

The situation is fluid,
but Bernard is married to his bricks and their mortar,
he will sink in the flood that is to come.
His son mirrors his certitude,
fights a rear guard action.

On a beach I will return to in my mind,
I can still see you.
It is still too oblique to really work on a universal level yet, but it is worth persevering with.
Here's a video of me reading London Conversation. Thanks to Alison for the video. You can read the poem here.
I leave you this post with Judee Sill.
Here's a documentary about her. It's well worth a listen.

Friday, 14 July 2017


This poem arose from the notion that a person from the past that we conjure into existence inside our heads could have conscious thought. That they could narrate the scene/memory from a different perspective to the individual thinking them.

inside the head of the man who sold us all down the river

Here I am, however briefly, in his thoughts,
ordered by a steward to stand on this spot,
given appropriate clothing
[nothing I would have chosen for myself],
and told exactly what to say,
some badly written supporting dialogue,
[not the words I spoke at the time,
or even a rough approximation].

I have been thought into existence before,
not very often, usually when he needs
to illustrate his marvellous achievements,
and the nobility of his actions to some new acquaintance.

I step forward to speak my lines,
words of gratitude,
how I could only ever have respect for the man.
I stand in his consciousness,
one of many phantoms,
who bow and scrape and thank him
[the opposite of what happened in real life].

As I said this sort of event doesn't happen often,
usually the likes of me never enter his head,
not even for a second.
I was reading at 2000 Trees Festival last weekend and had an excellent time.
It is my third year there and it keeps getting better. Thanks to Rob for the invite.
Here's a video from Will Varley who was a highlight for me.
Until next time.

Saturday, 10 June 2017


I recently was in Lisbon and I visited the statue of Christ on the opposite bank of the river. I have to confess I have no head for heights and I waited at the bottom while my friends went up to take in the views.
While I was waiting I wrote this.

I'm standing at the feet of Christ
who towers a hundred metres above me,
his arms outstretched to love the world,
but this is not the second coming,
this is not even Rio.
This concrete white man
is a celebration of Portugal's
divine neutrality in World War Two,
and I don't want to ride the lift
up to the views and the gift shop at the top.
I'm stood here at the bottom in the scrub land,
thinking about Jesus.
I leave you with a Ryley Walker live. Stunning stuff.

Friday, 26 May 2017


A revised poem, now with a different title.
Thanks to the Secrets for their constructive assessment.
Supermodel with Cat

Even the ripped upholstery is displayed with taste.
Artful entropy, tres shabby chic.
Take in the blond waterfall of her perfect hair.
She sprawls at ease,
mirrors the cat on her lap.

The first Saturday of the next month,
separated as we are by the Pennines,
we will both glance at the magazine's cover,
then you will read the letters page,
while I file away the gardening tips.
Less is almost always more. 
Here is Natalie Merchant with Motherland.
Until next time.

Friday, 5 May 2017


This first poem arose out of a conversation concerning the changing role of mechanics, the trend towards the use of diagnostic computers and the consequent narrowing of human skill bases.

this time around he is a mechanic who cannot fix cars
who spends his days changing units as directed by the diagnostic computer

he has always worked with his hands
made the best bows in his tribe back on the wind scoured step

twice crafted watches in France
pewter chargers in Barcelona

metal speaks to him
steel iron bronze flint and stone as well

now he does as he is told
his eternal self wonders if that is the lesson of this life
As usual there is no title. I was drawn to the idea of an eternal soul gaining satisfaction from the act of creating objects with their hands.
Here is last post's poem revised.

Lisbon: 16.4.17

She shades her head
with the poly-pocketed paper
that proclaims her - tour guide




The hot and bothered tour group that inspired this poem as they wilted in the heat were climbing up the street but the poem works better on the page if they are descending.
There is a new Mountain Goats album due this month Goths. Here's a sneak preview.

Friday, 21 April 2017


I'm just back from Lisbon. 
I haven't visited the city for about eight years. You can look at the poem my previous visit provoked here.
Actually I jotted down a number of ideas but have only worked this into something like a presentable form.

Lisbon: 16.4.17

she shades her head
with the poly-pocketed
piece of paper
that proclaims her
tour guide status


resumes its progress
up the steep street
It's good practice to try and capture a scene quickly. You can work on the form later. Initially you simply want to get down those first impressions.
What I did notice this time was the influx of tourists from cruise ships. You have the same phenomenon in Barcelona.
Here is another rough draft. I literally spoke this into my phone as I walked to the supermarket today.

this time around he is a mechanic
who cannot fix cars
and spends his days changing units
as directed by the diagnostic computer

he has always worked with his hands
made the best bows in his tribe
back on the wind scoured step
was twice a watchmaker in France

he has scraped a making table optically flat
metal speaks to him
steel iron bronze
flint and stone as well

now he does as he is told
his eternal self wonders
if this is the lesson of this life
I am not sure I have got an impression of the depth of reincarnation.
Watch this space for updates.
By the way I am posting every two weeks at the moment.
I leave you with Brooke Sharkey. I saw her again a couple of weeks ago and she was stunning.
Here is Bottletop Blues.
And here she is singing Your Tomorrow.
Until next time.

Friday, 7 April 2017


I think that each of us has a set of archetypes that we mine repeatedly to explain the world around us.
Here is another poem involving Yuri Gagarin and for once it has a title.

Last Word

A terrible loneliness
was how Yuri described
being the first human in space,
up where no one can hear you...
Scream, shout,
or gasp
because you are unable to take in the panoply?

Space is noisy though,
it crackles with hard radiations
and murmurs the echo of the Big Bang.
Wired up wrong, cloth eared,
we just don't pick any of it up
too used to sonic waves in fat atmosphere.

But I don't want to go to space any more,
as I did when I was young.
even as it falls to pieces around me,
I like this place too much,
to ride a controlled explosion
far beyond all that is familiar.

Yuri said that from up there
the world looked so beautiful,
and pleaded we should preserve that beauty.
Down here you can't hear the planet scream,
so we go on killing it.
One day it will speak in a language we all understand.
I do worry that in the developed world we are ignoring climate change at our peril. How many instances of freak weather do we need before we wake up?
On a lighter note Paul Mortimer set the pair of us a task the other day to write a poem using two randomly chosen prompt cards.
Mine read ripped upholstery and a supermodel holding a cat. This is what I wrote.

Artful Entropy

Even the ripped upholstery is displayed with taste.
Tres shabby chic.
Take in the blond waterfall of perfect hair.
She sprawls at ease,
mirrors the cat on her lap.
The fashion edition photo shoot.

The first Saturday of the next month,
sperated as we are by the Pennines,
we will both glance at the magazine's cover,
then you will read the letters page,
while I file away the gardening tips
for a time when they might prove useful.
No idea where it came from. We set ourselves ten minutes for the task. Sometimes a very tight deadline can inspire in unexpected ways.
I leave you with Nature's Way by Spirit.
Thanks Randy, we miss you.
Until next time.

Friday, 24 March 2017


This Wednesday I had a surfeit of poetry. I spent the afternoon with the Secret Poets offering and receiving constructive feedback and, although I had forgotten he was coming, the evening with Paul Mortimer doing more of the same. 
With due thanks to everyone I offer you a poem about my grandmother. It was inspired by a photograph I found in a pile of papers and which have managed to mislay again.
That's consistency for you.

Grandma Hanley

She sits black and white,
as stern as history,
centre of the photograph.
Square black shoes.
Polished of course.
At her waist the deaf aid
that whistled it's way through my childhood.

About my age now,
after a life so much harder then mine,
she faced the lens.
Photography must have been
a more serious business back then,
I can't align this image with my memories of her.
Perhaps it was a 1950s type of day,
when the past sat heavy on her shoulders,
with a weight that was too much.

She shrank as I grew,
her mind slowly left her body behind,
to wind down in its own time.

These two photographs capture her better.
Me and Paul were talking about slang and looking through some slang dictionaries. He delighted in the phrase: "hotter than a two dollar pistol" but I'm ashamed to say I have beaten him to the draw in using it.

We are talking about Jim Thompson,
how he's hotter than a two dollar pistol,
and just as valued by the literary elite.
Then I go upstairs to find his book to lend you.
I've always tended to leave
whatever I used to mark my place inside the book,
and out of its pages flutter two thick, blue tickets:
David Bowie, Cardiff Arms Park.
So that's the memento and this is the memory:
it was a Sunday in June thirty years ago,
I went with Christine, before we had the kids.
She'd never seen him and oh, how we danced. 
And that was how it happened, and here are the tickets.
I suppose I should end with a Bowie song so here is Let's Dance.
Until next time.