#29 – ‘quelea’


At the Malawi/Tanzania border
I stepped out of the bus
and saw dark wisps
moving across the sky.

They were birds, sparrow-sized,
and each wisp was hundreds
or thousands. As each wisp left,
another appeared, and another
and another and another.

While we were there, I thought
perhaps 500 000 birds
flew over us, give or take
a hundred thousand.

Red-billed Quelea.
Not many species
can be identified
by numbers alone.

When I tried to interest my friends
in one of nature

  • Post category:Napowrimo

#28 – no title (dawnlight)

| dawnlight shines on the webwet | a fur of globes – pricked with shimmer — cold to the sole – as the shade slips back to itself | throaty effervescence of blackbird – orange and black — agape | darkness marks the walked on | a contrail ghosts the thinblue – spreads to air | stilled nymphs — unflying – a damsel clings the lilybud |

  • Post category:Napowrimo

possible poem for tomorrow

in case I forget

I cut a slice through my fingernail a few days (a week?) ago, while cooking. It’s nearly grown out. I read once that the moon retreats from the earth at about the same speed our fingernails grow. I can see that growth happening. I feel there’s a poem in it somewhere.

  • Post category:Me

#26 – ‘Poetry in Motion’

Poetry in Motion

but poetry is too slow to catch
the moment when a striker
sprints onto a pass, looks one way
to fake the goalie
and slides the ball
into the other corner of the net;
or when a batsman sees
the bouncer coming,
leans back, and lifts his hands
to crack the ball for six.

How odd, that combination
of adrenalin and calm;
Hector must have been like that
when, in the noise of battle,
he turned, and with a graceful sweep,
crashed his sword into the neck
of Patroclus.

  • Post category:Napowrimo

#24 – ‘bathyscaphe’

‘bathyscaphe’ (provisional title)

Slowly, a bathyscaphe begins to sink
into a world where everything is blue,
a gradual darkening from thrush egg through
cornflower, sapphire, gentian and squid ink;
and there in the blackness, indistinct
and fleeting, blobs of light come into view,
drifting across their sight as though the crew
had looked into a candle-flame and blinked.
The lights are being trailed by tunicates,
iridescent things of gauze and whiskers.
At depths no normal submarine could dive –
where water has become so dense and viscous
the hull would cave – they are so delicate
they offer no resistance, and survive.

  • Post category:Napowrimo

#23 – ‘Trafalgar’


Tourists always, smiling stiffly, their backs to Nelson –
200 years this year, of course;
the barge with a lead-lined coffin up the Thames,
the mourners in top coats – and 60 since VE Day;
grainy black-and-white people, uniforms and lipstick,
frozen mid-kiss, dancing, climbing on the lions –
the England fans, after the rugby,
Jonny looking embarrassed, Tindall like a prat –
and when Korea beat Italy, the sudden bloom of red shirts,
flag-waving and Korean chanting round the fountains –
pedestrianised now – the pigeons are back though,
cooing and clattering; even Ken can

  • Post category:Napowrimo

#22 – ‘Bibliomancy’


And I will bring upon that land all my words which I have pronounced against it, even that which is written in this book, which Jeremiah hath prophesied against all nations. The sons of Benjamin; Bela, and Becher, and Jediael, three. Therefore say thou unto them, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Turn ye unto me, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will turn unto you, saith the LORD of hosts. Wherefore it shall come unto pass, if ye hearken to these judgements, and keep, and do them, that the LORD thy God shall keep unto thee the covenant and the mercy which he sware unto thy fathers: and he will love thee, and bless thee, and multiply thee: he will also bless the fruit of thy womb, and the fruit of thy land, thy corn, and thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep, in the land which he sware unto thy fathers to give to thee. There for thus saith the LORD; I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies: my house shall be built in it, saith the LORD of hosts, and a line shall be stretched forth upon Jerusalem. And the Philistines were gathered together in a troop, where was a piece of ground full of lentils: and the people fled from the Philistines. And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac; (for the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) it was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.

Words have thou saith. Hearken unto thy womb, and give the troop lentils. Our God was younger. Bring all three, turn to the fathers. Land kine to line. Philistines fled not evil, but land. Against them I pass judgements and multiply; he returned a piece from children that serve.

And which of the saith judgements, covenant thee, corn, to house Jerusalem. ground Rebecca born, might the
that sons saith you, these the bless thy fathers my upon of when yet election serve
And is Bela hosts hosts them sware bless sheep LORD hosts was not the to The
that The them, will if God and womb, in the LORD Philistines and conceived having works

Bela Becher Jediael saith saith saith sware kine sware saith saith calleth


  • Post category:Napowrimo

theory and poetry

I started thinking about this (again) because Emily Lloyd (poesy galore) commented on the commonly-suggested idea that form is oppressive and patriarchal.

I find that particular idea somewhat bizarre. I can entirely understand that someone would take the aesthetic decision not to write formal poetry because of its cultural associations; by writing in metre, you are writing ‘in the tradition’ in a very obvious way. And ‘the tradition’ is just shorthand for ‘huge amounts of cultural baggage’. But relecting form because of its cultural associations is a very different thing to rejecting it because of some intrinsic quality of the technique. And I can’t see how language arranged into patterns is oppressive.

But that wasn’t really what I was going to say. It’s not just feminist rejection of form – all pronouncements about poetry, by everyone from Aristotle to Coleridge to me, are partial, narrow, one-sided and oversimplistic.

But today, I’m not seeing this as a bad thing. Probably because the sun is shining. Whatever gives someone the impetus to write is a good thing. Whether you choose to reject form for its pivotal role in the phallogocentric military-industrial-literary complex, or you write formal poetry in order to subvert the tradition, or just write formal poetry because you like the sound – it’s all good. The quality of the resulting poetry doesn’t seem to be dependent on the coherency of the theory. At least if someone is motivated by some intellectual or political agenda, their work may gain some energy and focus from it.

I just had an ice-cream in the park.

  • Post category:Culture

#21 – no title (london flower)

yet another without a title. Ho hum.

Londoners, voting for a county flower, picked:
the bluebell.
What crap. Let the bumpkin counties have
the nightingale, the bluebell and the mincing faun.

We should celebrate ragwort,
sodium yellow and full of hybrid vigour;
or rosebay willowherb, with its taste for ash,
which grew in clouds of pink across the gaps left by the Blitz.
Or how about the London plane, whose leathery leaves
and flaking bark have let it thrive in smoky air
to add some grandeur to our parks and squares
(and, for centuries of schoolchildren,
the seeds are itching powder).

But my choice is the immigrant buddleia,
which throws out gaudy flower spikes in any space it can

  • Post category:Napowrimo

#20 – no title (window)

‘no title’

A garden spotlight shines
into the night;
insects fly through it
as bright spirals.
A woman watches
through a motel window
streaked with sand.
She pulls down the blind,
and turns.

  • Post category:Napowrimo

Josh Corey makes a funny

This made me laugh:

‘we are forced to rely on extra-poetic determining factors like affiliation or manifestos or statements of poetics to reliably recognize the avant-garde’

Still, full marks for honesty.

  • Post category:Culture

#19 – ‘double dactyl’

‘double dactyl’

William Williams
liked to use ‘Carlos’ as
part of his name,

slaved at his epic but
plums and a wheelbarrow
won him his fame.

  • Post category:Napowrimo

#18 – ‘reflections’ [provisional title]


The world is surfaces
reflecting one another –
a row of whisky bottles
held in a tangle of light.

A girl looks at the light
her face reflects
onto the mirror
and spreads chemicals
onto her skin
to tint and blur it.

If the image in the glass
reflect the images
she sees in magazines
which show her
what they think she wants to see,
perhaps she can affect
the way the world
reflects herself at her.

  • Post category:Napowrimo

#17 – ‘Eleven Ways of Looking at a Blackbird Killed by your Cat’

‘Eleven Ways of Looking at a Blackbird Killed by your Cat’


When a cat chews the skull of a mouse,
it makes the eyes pop out.


As Boris crouches down to stalk
the birds on the lawn,
he calls to them, low and inquiring.
Is he excited? playful?
Perhaps he hopes to talk them into his mouth.


A broken dragonfly
clattering on the floor
makes an excellent toy.


Delilah prances in, chirruping
through a mouthful of starling.
How pretty it is, in its spring plumage,
glossed with green and purple.
The little darts of white
are like a cartoon convict uniform.


This is the thirteenth young dead rat
in the last three days.
To the rat’s nest, Boris must seem
like a wrathful god.


If I was a cat, I wouldn’t be so quick
to stick my paw into dark holes
just to see what’s in them.


A furry thing underfoot;
cat toy, or dead mouse?


Posy, you have a spider leg
stuck on the side of your mouth.


If you

  • Post category:Napowrimo

#16 – ‘This poem is so bad / it makes me sad’

‘This poem is so bad / it makes me sad’

O! my muse has gone away.
I can’t write a poem today.

I can’t find a rhyme
in time

the metre’s broken
and I ain’t jokin’

so this poem’s not great
and it’s half an hour late

as well.


I can only hope that this will represent the low point of the whole month.

  • Post category:Napowrimo

chipotle, goat’s cheese and red onion pizza

It’s a pizza with chipotle, goat’s cheese and red onion.

I simmered down a tin of tomatoes with three chopped chipotles for the sauce, and topped the pizza with a mix of mozzarella and goat’s cheese, some sliced red onion, and dried thyme. Yummy.

And while I’m here – I made ‘spotted rooster’ the other day, which is a Costa Rican rice and beans dish, and Madhur Jaffrey mentioned that in CR it would be serve with some kind of hot sauce, possibly a tamarind-based one. So I mixed up tamarind oncentrate with West Indian hot pepper sauce, and it was delicious. About two parts tamarind to one part chilli sauce.

  • Post category:Other

#15 – ‘In Honour of Doctor Johnson’

In Honour of Doctor Johnson, and the Anniversary of the Publication of his Famous and Much-Admired Dictionary, a Poem Composed Entirely of such Words as Cannot be Found* in that Celebrated Volume

chipotle hamburger shemale Messerschmitt
tartrazine Tanzania underclass
skyscraper reggae bicarb retrofit
ufologist Joycean supergrass

*Probably. No copies of Johnson’s dictionary were consulted in the making of this poem.


A day late posting because Freezope was down again. Yesterday was the 250th anniversary of the publication of Johnson’s dictionary.

  • Post category:Napowrimo

#14 – “Sexy Estuarians’ (unfinal title)

‘An Essex Pome’

Most poets lie, then claim that their ‘poetic truth’
subsumes the normal kind.

Not me. When I write that I stabbed a frog
so I could watch it die,
or that my father had a special belt
for punishment,
or that I paid my way through university
with blow-jobs,

every word is true. Even the little things,
the jays on the front of the house,
or the dolphin I saw in the Thames,
are true.

So when I tell you that I am the long-lost King
of Essex, you can know it is the truth.

I understand you’re sceptical,
so come and see the brown-stained vellum
with an Anglo-Saxon script
proclaiming Edwin Ruðe fford
the king of the East Saxons.
I have the family tattoo, as well,
the three entwisted eels of Essex.

My aims are modest; I don’t want to run
everything from Theydon Bois to Harwich.
I just want the ancient rights granted by the charter:
my weight in apples on All-Hallows Day,
first dibs on any whale or sturgeon stranded on the coast,
the right to drive a herd of sheep through Chigwell.

  • Post category:Napowrimo

#13 – ‘Jays’


Jays are building their nest on the front of the house.
They are stucco-pink and chatter to each other.
Their wings have a flash of lucid blue.
Each time one swoops to or from the chestnut tree, the kitchen darkens.
Last time they built here, the fledgling fell from the nest.
It hopped around for three days before it was pecked to death by crows.

  • Post category:Napowrimo

#12 – ‘The Knight with the Sorrowful Face’

The Knight with the Sorrowful Face

A forest near Seville.


    How slight a bauble is the intellect,
    to crack so easily. But soft, he comes,
    his antic mood still on him.

Enter QUIXOTE, mad, wearing a barber’s basin


                                  Rocks and stones
    and trees and grass and streams, oh hear the tale
    of piteous Don Quixote, scorned in love!


    I will approach him now. Art thou then he?
    Art thou the great and noble Don Quixote?

Cardenio, Act 4, Scene 2

The old man was a nutter,
sure enough, with his talk of Roland and Amadís.
But he was a good man with it.
Before he lost his marbles
he often helped us,
when mildew spoiled the grapes
on the vines, or the rains failed
and the wheat-fields dried to dust.
That was why I joined him, not for fevered promises
of islands and earldoms, but because
he needed me. When, in the night,
he shook and cried out in his sleep,
I was the one to calm him,
use a wet rag to cool his face.
But that dick Cervantes
made me into a credulous oaf,
and now this windbag Shakespeare
has cut me from the story altogether.
It tears my heart to see Señor Quijote
made into a comic turn
for the drunken stinking London crowd.
A pox on writers.

  • Post category:Napowrimo

#11 – ‘thoughts’

I really need to spend more time on the titles.


I light the gas and wonder
how many specks of prehistoric life
died so I could fry
some bacon for my sarnie?

And if I died at sea
and was enfolded in the silt,
would there be enough of me
to boil the water
for a cup of tea?

  • Post category:Napowrimo