Wednesday, 30 April 2014

The Kidderminster Slam

The inaugural Kidderminster Creatives' Poetry Slam, this Sunday, May 4th, 7.30 pm. £50 first prize and a free poetry book to each poet. A splendid time is guaranteed for all. Thanks to Coz for the properly awesome poster!

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

apple story

shy genius
breaks codes
saves lives
wins war
invents computer
where knighthood?
where recognition?
where gratitude?
shy genius
gay genius
gay code-breaker
gay life-saver
gay war-winner
gay computer-inventor
chemically castrated
humiliated genius
suicidal genius
poisons apple
takes bite
dead genius
decades later
computer company
uses bitten
rainbow-coloured apple
for logo

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Introducing Melon

Whilst reading Michio Kaku’s “Physics of the Impossible” Melon suddenly realizes that he might not be Melon; he might be the pivotal construct of a belief system which embraces genocide, slavery, racial superiority and other infantile and endlessly dangerous notions.

This makes Melon experience self-doubt. He finds himself unable to answer the question “Does Melon exist?”

He asks himself “What are the main chemical elements of Melon?” Perhaps Melon is made out of unicorn molecules; maybe Melon is an alloy of copper and tin.

Melon suspects he might be made out of the fevered imaginings of long-dead misogynists and racists, conjured up from the alarming thoughts of men of excessive and unnecessary violence.

But he is not allowed to say this.

“Saying we get our morality from the Bible is a bit like saying that we get our sense of rhythm from disco music,” says Melon, by way of compensation. 

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Candidates for the Role of Manager for Manchester United (Yana’ed, Yana’ed, Yana’ed, etc.) Made Vacant by the Sudden and Dramatic Departure of David Moyes, Record Breaker Extraordinaire and Man Whose Surname Most Rhymes with ‘Destroys’ (as in Football Clubs, not the “Vanquishing of One’s Opponents”)

Mother Theresa
   She may be dead but according to the church (Roman Catholic, is there any other?) she can perform miracles.

   Henry, not Roberto.

A Plank of Wood
   With a felt-tip face and a sign around its neck reading “Manija”.

A Picture of David Moyes.
   Needs no further explanation.

A Nuclear Bomb
   The thought of the manager exploding at half-time would surely motivate at least some of the players.

Pineau de Re
   You need a proven winner, and which winner is more proven than this year’s Grand National winner?

Mark Wahlberg
   It was either him or Dolly Parton.

A Lawnmower
   Seriously, if they can run the country they can run a football blub. Seriously.

A Particle of Light
   This is an idea which I have shamelessly stolen from Ash Dickinson. Buy his book, or God will be angry. Again.

An Ant
   The bottom line is that you have to be better than David Moyes, and who better fits that bill than an ant?

The Concept of Right-Wing Politics
   Wouldn’t shirk from taking the tough decisions. Or the wrong decisions.

The Phrase “And then things got ugly…”
   For its ironic resonance alone.

The Memory of a Half-Forgotten Song
   Quite a controversial choice and not a favourite with the bookies, but who knows?

My Little Pony (with removable appendage)
   Which footballer wouldn’t want to be managed by My Little Pony? There would surely be a mile-long queue of players desperate to play for Man U, despite the absence of European football or anyone having a clue about what they are doing.

The Queen
   Would anyone dare beat a team managed by Her Majestiness? Treason, etc.

Gordon Ramsay
   He’s Scottish and he swears, which takes care of 80% of the job description of being a successful manager.

Little Bo Peep
   She may have lost her sheep but has she also lost her desire to manage at the top level?

Marilyn Monroe
   Obviously she’s dead but given recent results that’s no reason to discriminate, surely? Would boost sales of memorabilia (although she was, in fact, a Millwall fan).

Stephen Fry
   Knows more than everybody about anything including, presumably, how to manage Manchester United football team.

18 miniature bronze statues of Sir Alex Ferguson
   The bronze from the statue of David Moyes which will now never be made will go instead to make 18 miniature bronze statues of Sir Alex Ferguson.

A line of cocaine
   A line of cocaine would be enough to get most footballers into that winning mindset.

An Impossible Dream
   If an impossible dream can become manager of Man U, then anyone can.

Epitaph on a Football Dream
Bye, bye, Man U,
You were too good,
To be true.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Dogs Smarter than Cats

Neighbour says,
‘Cats smarter than dogs.’
I raise eyebrow.
Neighbour places
bowl cat food/bowl dog food
on one side garden gate.
Cat jumps over gate,
eats food.
Dog whines.
Neighbour says,
‘Cats smarter than dogs.’
I raise both eyebrows,

I say,
‘Dogs smarter than cats.’
Neighbour laughs.
I place
bowl cat food/bowl dog food
on one side garden gate.
Cat jumps over gate,
on land mine.
Dog stares at sign on gate:
Do not enter – minefield.
‘Cats can jump,’
I say,
‘but dogs can read.’

Monday, 21 April 2014

On the Importance of the Observation of Rituals

for Conor and Myles

two continental footballers
take to field of play
at same time
as substitutes
from opposing teams
touch turf
with respective right hands
kiss said hands
do mini signing of cross
look heavenwards
in affectation of pious humility
for their mums
simultaneously jump for same ball
clash heads
stretchered off to hospital
for brain scans
results of which:

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

An Explanation of British Post-War Architecture

(after reading too much Luke Kennard)

young thrusting architect
v dynamic v clev
takes time from design
dog biscuit factory
to do PhD dissert
on An Expl of Brit
Post-W Archit
why so shit?
what happened?
who to blame?
young thrust v clev etc archit also
a young thrust etc
quantum physicist
builds time machine
t mach set to 1966
town planning meeting (Birmingh.)
young etc notices clothes of
chief town planner
flared brown polyester trousers?
shirt collar size of small table?
purple paisley kipper tie?
who gave him the keys to the kingdom?
etc sets t mach to 1974
town plan meet (Middlesb.)
sees chief t planner
tie tucked into trousers?
sideburns as large as medium-sized cat?
hair by Vidal Baboon?
what sort of town did we
think he would build?
explains everything
young thrusting architect
publishes findings in much lauded PhD
recycles time machine
as kitchen appliances:
microwave oven kettle
chronologically-challenged toaster

People Who Listen to Johnny Marr

for all of my brothers and sisters in Johnny Marr-ness

People who listen to Johnny Marr
while driving
are three times more likely to
cede right of way
acknowledge thanks
stay awake on tedious journeys

People who listen to Johnny Marr
while gardening
are seven times less likely to
be stung by a wasp
cut a worm in half
decapitate daffodils
ignore the hosepipe ban
kidnap the next-door-neighbour’s cat
People who listen to Johnny Marr
while planning the end of the world
are almost certain to
experience an epiphany during track 6
pick up a guitar
fail to work out the guitar part for track 6
forget what they were doing
establish lasting world peace instead 

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

What Next? Parts I and II

But your career as a groundbreaking poet fails to get any further than line six of your latest innovation.

The Things We Saw

A house of cards, an ancient apple tree,
A place where you could hang your hat.
A hive of wasps, the colour of the sea,
The picture of a stalking cat.
The sound of getting home in time for tea.


The National Express coach exhorts you to Love What’s Inside, but you are not sure that you are capable of loving power sockets, toilets, and loads of leg-room.


An hour of conversation with your oldest friend passes before either of you notice that all you have been saying to each other is band names from the 1980s. You feel that you have to draw the line at Haysi Fantayzee. “Echo and the Bunnymen?” you suggest by way of compromise, but he replies with “Heaven 17,” much to your dismay.


If you were a cat (but you’re not).


Recently deceased ex-smoker (“finally found a way to quit!”) seeks.


Your signature dish is Fried Mars. How hilarious is that?


You raise your eyebrows in mild consternation as she raves about her latest hobby: raving about her latest hobby.


There is no happiness to be had after all.


But your career as a poet is cruelly cut short by lack of talent.

Shazza, Lazza and The Duffer (by a Macca)

Whilst stumbling through some analysis of Robert Frost’s poetry (his use of loose iambics, a mixture of underlying iambic feet with an occasional anapaestic foot, which I only mention in an attempt to impress the easily impressed) I misread the following: “And when Frosty (sic), in the stanza’s third line, represses this counter-idea…”

It is at this point that I sense an answer to the age-old conundrum Why is sport so much more popular than poetry? namely, Because sport gives user-friendly nicknames to the successfully sporty. Working on this theory (and not the theory that says sport is more popular than poetry because people know where they are with sport while poetry just makes them ill, or the other theory which would have it that sport is more popular than poetry because it’s easier to watch people, for example, swimming in a pool than it is to analyse Robert Frosty Frost’s use of loose iambics), I decide to give a few poets some much needed sports nicknames, just to get the ball rolling.

Shakespeare – Shazza (for the more formal amongst you, William Shakespeare translates as Wizza Shazza)

Robert Frost – Frosty! (omitting the exclamation mark when discussing his use of loose iambics)

Philip Larkin – Lazza

Carol Ann Duffy – The Duffer

WH Auden – Denny

Luke Kennard – Wolf! (award yourself an extra point if you get this without having to Google it)

Any poet with a Mc or Mac in their name – Macca

Back to sport, and I contemplate the irony of Tiger Woods’ nickname not being Woody (his given nickname being “Shagger”, a reference to his forename “Tiger”, also a nickname, presumably).

Post Scriptum I deliberately miss Keats out of my list of poets as I aim to finish this blog with my favourite, and only, poetry joke:

I walked into Waterstone’s and asked if they had any Keats.
“What’s a Keat?” replied the callow youth by the till.

(If anyone has the answer, please let me know.)

Saturday, 12 April 2014

The Truth About Love

For Luke and Clare (via WH Auden)

Some say that love is all you need,
   And some say it’s a drug,
Some say that love’s a dirty deed,
   And some say it’s a bug,
 But when I started looking for it,
   And coyly asked around,
Most people told me to ignore it,
   Or said, “It can’t found!”

Does it hide in the dark like a virus?
   Which mutates far too fast for a cure?
Is it written on ancient papyrus?
   Is it too much for us to endure?
Does it torture the souls of all madmen?
   Is it sent from below or above?
Is it sold by unscrupulous admen?
   Just what is the truth about love?

I’ve read about it many times,
   In florid prose and verse,
I’ve heard about its torrid crimes,
   I’ve heard that it’s a curse.
It seems to me, it’s everywhere,
   But largely undiscovered,
I’ve heard that when it brings despair,
   Your soul can’t be recovered.

Does it wear too much make up or blusher?
   Is its hair done by Vidal Sassoon?
Has it ever set foot inside Russia?
   Does it like to stare up at the moon?
Does it stand around nervously waiting?
   Does it need an encouraging shove?
Does it have an opinion on dating?
   Just what is the truth about love?

I searched beneath the kitchen sink,
   I peered above the loo,
I sat and had a good old think,
   But didn’t have a clue.
I glanced across towards the door,
   I peeped upon a shelf,
Then sat upon the bedroom floor,
   And looked inside myself.

Does it like to behave like a moron?
   Can it ever admit when it’s wrong?
Does it cry when it knows there’s a war on?
   Is its nose just a little too long?
Has its future been told by a gypsy,
   Who was wearing a singular glove?
When it drinks, does it drink to get tipsy?
   Just what is the truth about love?

Now, just before I turn and go,
   There’s something I should say,
This ‘love’ is something that I know;
   I’ve led you all astray.
I know that love’s no abstract word,
   Elusive, never found,
To say so would be quite absurd,
   For love is all around.

It’s the son who has slept on my shoulder,
   It’s the hug which I give to a friend,
It’s the, “Hey, look! We’re twenty years older!”
   It’s the walking with you to the end.
It’s the story we’ll never stop writing,
   It’s the sadness our time’s not enough,
And it’s you, ‘cos you’re bloody exciting,
   There you have it: the truth about love.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

A Catalogue of Errors

The Catalogue of Errors which I have ordered lands on the doormat. It is not a slender volume, resembling in its dimensions The New Princeton Encyclopaedia of Poetry and Poetics, which, as we all know from our bedtime reading, makes The Bible look like a leaflet.

It doesn’t really.

I’m exaggerating.

It doesn’t make The Bible look like anything, unless you compare the two front covers: purple, blue, yellow, black and white versus black, in which case it makes The Bible look hip, goth, emo, and slimmer than it would do in a bright summer dress.

I remove the Catalogue of Errors from its Amazon package and notice that I only had to pay £0.01 for it. Plus £17.98 for postage and packaging.

Booksellers must be wishing they were Royal Mail shareholders.

I open the Catalogue of Errors to cast my eye down the Contents page and see various chapter headings: Major Life Errors, Musical Taste Errors, Fashion Errors, Errors Which You Don’t Know You’re Making, Hair Errors, The Phil Collins Chapter, and an addendum explaining the controversy surrounding George Michael’s Beard.

There is also an Errata slip which mentions every error in the catalogue, written in Carolingian Miniscule, the only way they could fit all of the errors in.

I repackage the catalogue, print up the return barcode, and take the package to the Post Office in order for me to send it back to the bookseller.

p. 987 from the chapter “Book Purchase Errors”

“Buying this book is an error. If you want to know about all of the errors in this world, maybe pay a bit more attention to the News section of the BBC website and less time trolling the Dalai Lama’s twitter-feed.” 

The Ironic Mugger

The ironic mugger mugs me, ironically.

“Don’t give me your wallet and bag, then, pfff!”

I ask if he is being sarcastic.

“Der, no – I was being ironic?

Ah, such a fine line.

I venture to express the opinion that a funeral is hardly the time or the place for such pursuits.

“It’s the most ironic place to be an ironic mugger – one person loses their life, another person loses their possessions. It doesn’t get more ironic than that.”

The ironic mugger goes on to explain that he is hoping to win Most Original Newcomer at this year’s British Petty Crime Awards, his main opponent being a method cat burglar who ingratiates himself with his intended victims by being taken into their home as a stray cat before cleaning them out.

I express surprise that anyone could carry off such a feat, considering the relative sizes of moggy and human.

“He is a dwarf with dwarf-dwarfism,” he says.

As I hand over my wallet and bag, I wish the ironic mugger the best of luck with this year’s British Petty Crime Awards, before launching into the first verse of The King of Love My Saviour Is.

Lines on an Unfinished Philip Larkin Cento Or, “Ah, Diddums!”

I open up my note book at random
and see/half-read an unfamiliar line:
Despite the artful tensions of the calendar…
Another line begins Inaccuracy…
Then something prods the memory – a cento
from Philip Larkin’s lines, left incomplete:

They fuck you up, your mum and dad
By being stupid or weak.
It used to make me throw up.

Not quite the order he intended – but –
far better capturing, I think, the whining
self-pity he so nearly perfected.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Over-exposed, Like an X-Ray

A “Birthday Letters” Cento

They simply came and kept on coming…

Suddenly, I read all this,
Suddenly, Lucas engineered it, suddenly you
In the flat house asked, suddenly…

They simply came and kept on coming…

And suddenly everybody knew everything
In a gilded theatre, suddenly empty
Suddenly out of water, easy as oil

They simply came and kept on coming…

Suddenly, it swooped up, splaying its pinions,
When she suddenly rounded her eyeballs.
And was stilled. Or was suddenly aflame.

They simply came and kept on coming…

Suddenly, something gave, the sweat burst out
I felt things had become real. Suddenly, mother,
Suddenly, “What’s that? Who’s that?”
Suddenly, plainly, it was a bat.

(Which, being Ted Hughes, he probably shot)

(All lines taken from different poems from "The Birthday Letters"... apart from the parting shot, ho-ho.)


We never count the seconds, though they race
ahead and pull us in their wake. We face
the clock, reflections mirrored in its glass.
We never count the seconds as they pass.

All watches count; the minutes quickly turn
around their circles. As they do, we learn
we are impatient – minutes leave our lives
the minute that they enter. Thus arrives

the hour: a small, well-tended plot. We mark
our hours with bells and listen to their stark,
repeated question: Do I toll for you?
The midnight hour will bring to us a new

substantial day, and days can be like friends:
we name them, live for them, and each day lends
some meaning to our lives. We count the days,
but only when we wish we could erase

them. Weeks arise from ashes left behind
by seven days of living. They remind
us that the months are on their way, and soon
we find we have no need of clocks; the moon

can mark the passing time. Full-moon appears
twelve nights and now we count aloud in years.
On years, those heavyweights of time, we thrive:
the more we have, the more we are alive.

Grand National – Fun Facts and Crazy Controversies

The first Grand National was held in Queen Victoria’s living room and was won by Prince Albert, a three-year-old rocking horse.

The winner of the 1898 Grand National, All the Queen’s Arses, was later disqualified for being a mechanical horse.

In an effort to boost troop morale, the 1915 Grand National was held on the battlefields of Flanders. Seven of the horses had to be shot for desertion, two received posthumous VCs, and the race itself was won by the little fancied outsider, A German Field Ambulance.

In 1919, when there was a shortage of horses after World War I, trainers were allowed to race any animal of their choice, as long as it was disguised as a horse. The National that year was won by a “lightning quick” badger, descended from King Henry VIII’s legendary, and fictitious, stable of racing badgers.

The 1976 Grand National was the one and only time that motorbikes were allowed to the enter The Grand National. The winner was Kawasaki 972, ridden by Evil Knievel; unfortunately, it had to be shot after suffering a flat tyre.

Next year will be the first hands-free Grand National.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Music for Pleasure


1 Concerto for Wasps in a Handbag (feat. wasps in a handbag).

2 Duet for Guitar and Underfloor Heating, conducted by Paul McCartney’s hat.

INTERVAL of 20 minutes (trad., arr. G.Barlow/B.Manilow)

3 Year 2 Recorders Ensemble “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, accompanied by Marcel Marceau on air banjo.

4 Symphony for Industrial Machine Parts (feat. the unemployed)

Encore “Fuck da Police” (feat. Michael Gove on Wham Rap)

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

The Lamp Said

A TS Eliot cento

Let us go then, you and I
The lamp said,
To report the behaviour of the sea monster,
Miss Nancy Ellicott,
Queen of Heaven.

And I think, again, of this place
Of cracked cornets
Of faint stale smells of beer
Of sunless dry geraniums
And bats with baby faces in the violet light
And even the Abstract Entities
And other heroes of that kidney.

I smile, of course,
And I say, Cousin Harriet, here is the Boston Evening Transcript
Stirring the water in his bath
With the sword in one hand and the trowel in the other.

Talking of trivial things
The lamp said,
Jellicle cats and dogs all must
Like a dancing bear
With seaweed in its hair.

It is impossible to say just what I mean
With words and meanings. The poetry does not matter.
I sometimes wonder if that is what Krishna meant.

(Featuring too many TS Eliot poems to mention)

Oh, Can You Tell the Time Mr TS Eliot?

A TS Eliot cento

Talking of Michelangelo
Six o’clock
Twelve o’clock
Half-past one
Half-past two
Half-past three
Four o’clock
The wind sprang at four o’clock
At four and five and six o’clock
At five o’clock in the morning

(Featuring: The Love Song of Alfred J Prufrock; Preludes I and IV; Rhapsody on a Windy Night; The wind sprang up at four o’clock; The Hollow Men.)

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

The Existential Bicycle Finds Hope Among the Disorientation

The existential bicycle is more
than lost: he doesn’t even know the road
he took to get there. There, wherever that
might be. He searches for a road to take
him back. Remembering that old phrase All
roads lead to Rome, he wonders if the same
applies to All roads lead back home. He takes
the nearest road and travels, more in hope
than expectation, as a thought reminds
him that he either has no home or does
not know its whereabouts. But off he pedals.