My tribute during lockdown…

;ockdown wave

If not, then what?

I wish there was another word,
a word not so much
devalued. A word to escape the
tarnish of celebrity, the
stain of idolatry, the
banality 0f Saturday sport.

If I could only find a better word, more
able to embrace the
stubborn resolution,
a word to enshrine the valour.
A word to harness the
fathomless grit
of the few.

The few who care, who dare, who
embrace the fear of the many.
Those few, who nurse, who diagnose, who
stop what they are doing to
hold a hand.

Those who deliver, who collect, who
serve, distribute, drive, make, invent,
smile and wave, whose names
we’ll never know, who hold
at bay the virus, this
plague of our time.

Hero, tired, timeworn,
both word and worker
but they do not deserve each other.
Hero does not speak to
the majesty
of their gift.


Thank you to all of our visible and invisible, known and unkown essential workers





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Word Less

I used to be a poet –
words would arrive unbidden
(not one for the funny side
though occasionally funny)
now the world of grim
has caught me in
what seems
a frantic, who knows how long, game of chase.
Time past wasn’t always…even often
kind though I knew it was a possibility, now
when I’m aware of tremendous acts of charity
and kindness, expected and unexpected
now when I turn to words to thank,
to care,
to share,
even to warn
in the face of something terrifyingly
unthinking, unreasoning,strong, virile…and
seemingly inevitable…
…now when I see poetry all around
in Spring, doing its thing
in people going beyond and above
on the radio each day to uplift
am empty and bow to word less
power of Covid.
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New starts…

via New starts…

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National Poetry Day + 1

For the first time in years National Poetry Day passed and I found myself bereft of words.

As is often the case lacking words of my own sends me scurrying to shelves of poetry books and yet still inspiration proved elusive.

My last experiment in writing was to toy with the guiding principles of the ‘Language Poetry’ movement, if it can be called that…though it seemingly failed to gain purchase on the UK poetry scene.

I found the whole idea of no structure, even no meaning, daunting and could only embrace the idea of borrowing from existing writing yet drilling down to only the words which called out to me as I read.

I returned to an old favourite, Gerard Manley Hopkins and sought inspiration from a letter he wrote to R Bridges in 1871…

…the intelliGent artisan
the too intelligEnt artisan
most inefficacious – stRenuous
heAven protestations
secular statesmAn
bat-light and shoot-at veNture
in the midst of pLenty
wrEck and burn
nothing but Harm
the spOils
cannot be exPected to care
and deservedly black-wrIte
                                            No more
no more Summer between


The title which best expresses what I felt as I was working was either – As it was, so it is – which is hardly original. Accordingly I have decided on Summer of 2017 instead


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Planning a Paradox for a Paragram Prize

Many of you have already written and at least drafted your entry for the Paragram Paradox Prize however, for those who are still thinking and wondering this blog may be just the nudge you need. The…

Source: Planning a Paradox for a Paragram Prize

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The Young Yew

PicMonkey CollageIn benign spring sunshine the field waits, as all fields are waiting, for the burst of bud and spurt of blade to finally wake after the long winter. Dotted about are signs of scattered feed for vanished ponies. An abandoned bucket, its garish pink foreign in the muted landscape, steals the eye. The silence of the field is profound, the thud of pounding hoofs, joyful snicker as winter coats are removed, soft whinny to greet open palms offering apple cores a mournful echo.

Behind the fence at the field’s margin the tree stretches its barely formed, darkly needled branches, as a cat might stretch to greet the unexpected warmth of the sun. The scar on the young yew trunk seeps sweet sap as it rises to greet the call of the season. The sapling is ignorant of the deadliness of its wound.

Hanging in the air are the anguished screams of the girl whose pony sinks to the ground with a sigh. Rendered ungainly in death by the poison in its blood it stumbles, rolls, stops. She falls to the ground by its side, burrows against the fading warmth of its belly. Night’s peace rent by sorrow, harrowed faces leaping by torchlight as the field is cleared of companion ponies. The shadow that remains of the girl almost the last to leave.

Revealed in the scant light of dawn a shape, muffled, beneath grey tarpaulin…and at the extremity of the field the scratchy design of the young, condemned, yew.

The field waits in the Spring sunshine for it knows not what…maybe forgiveness for sparse growth, for not yielding sweet scent strong enough to mask the invitation of rising sap which tempted the horse to nibble poisonous bark.

I wait for time to blunt the screams that woke me in the night, the sight of the dead horse in the field beside my garden which was revealed as the light bled into day.

The yew waits, probably to die from its necklace of exposed core.




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4th March 2016…Oh what a night!

The room was packed and there was a buzz of excitement and not all of it was because of the wine. The Paragram Chapbook Challenge winner and ‘Spotlights’ poets were gathered at the Poet…

Source: 4th March 2016…Oh what a night!

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Paragram Launch event…and great news for 2016 challenge

Source: Paragram Launch event…and great news for 2016 challenge

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A Tête-à-Tête under a pearl sky

tete a tete (2)

In the words of Shelley: “The cold earth slept below; Above the cold sky shone…”

… and flowering long before its time, this little narcissus. Damp and bedraggled it may be but light from its petals shines out. Crouched beneath a bare, leafless shrub affording little shelter I found this little fellow today, the first cold day I’ve noticed this winter and the first time I was glad of the scruffy gloves stuffed in my pockets as I wandered around the garden.

The sky, stripes of pearl pink and glinting silver, high, high above the scribbled branches of the naked cherry tree. Birdsong, such birdsong for January, crisp in the chill air. Notes like needles follow tits and finches as they sweep and dart from and to the feeders. Fat pigeons waddle on the sidelines, wishing we would all get a move on and go back inside and leave them to feed on fallen husks.

With glowing cheeks and tingling ears I follow the dogs on their accustomed path between the dozing flower beds noticing a peek of green here and there as slumbering perennials shoot tentative spears into the winter air. Wondering…as I am…whether the worst of the winter weather is yet to come and wishing it would just get on with it!



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The Backend

These days between Christmas and the new year, especially as someone who does not ‘do’ shopping, feel a little unusual to me this year.

This year, with its higher than average temperature, has not even felt much like midwinter. My thoughts turn to those battling with flood and devastation in the north of the country but somehow even that feels remote. As always when watching other people’s disasters I am left with a sense of helplessness and powerlessness all of which feeds in to this dull, end-of-year glumness.

As a child I knew these late December as the backend, which of course made me giggle as it seemed like a rude name. In those far off days my only concern, school not being a happy place most of the time, was when term would begin. and so every day at home was a gift.

Thinking on ‘the backend’ now it seems oddly apt. It is an awkward expression, a blunt instrument. Time was when I would be able to put all this into a poem and be done with it, but words too seem like coshes in my hand rather than things of beauty and expression.

As usual I have been leafing through my poetry books to find someone else’s words to match my mood and at last I have found expression of something like my feelings today.

As happens more and more often it is in Emily Dickinson’s poetry that I discover something close to my own feelings:

The Sky is Low, the Clouds are Mean
The sky is low, the clouds are mean,
A travelling flake of snow
Across a barn or through a rut
Debates if it will go.

A narrow wind complains all day
How some one treated him;
Nature, like us, is sometimes caught
Without her diadem.

December 2015 , though showing no signs of snow, has certainly lost its diadem. However, what is lost can be found and that is the message I hold in my thoughts for the people who have lost so much in the storms and floods.

Image copyright Andrew Whittaker

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