Wednesday, 23 September 2020

The Not Poetry Circle

As I am too idle to walk all of the way

to my poetry bookshelves,

I shall have to paraphrase Keith Douglas instead:

What the critics fail to realise

is that bad poetry is not poetry at all,


although my agreement with this sentiment

depends on my mood.


And just now, I have read about

the ‘intolerable poetry’ of American poets

(excluding Billy Collins, presumably,

because he wrote the phrase).


Does intolerable poetry inhabit the same space

as bad poetry,

unable to traverse the circular border

which keeps them trapped in the poetry Venn diagram

demarcating the peculiar sub-genre: ‘not poetry’ poetry?


I think of other poemy things

which may share the space

of this odd circle.


Dadaist poetry, which is all very well in principle,

but only occasionally in practice?


An English sestina,

when it’s not written in blank verse,

an abomination borne, I suspect, of that heady mix

of sublime incompetence and infuriating laziness

perfected by so many of us

who claim the title ‘poet’?


Anything villanelle-related (as if that needed saying):

what the critics fail to remember

is that villanelles are not poetry at all?


It could be a never-ending list,

depending on your poetic beliefs:

‘modern’ poetry and imagist poetry

and rhyming poetry and free verse and

slam poetry and experimental poetry

and on and on and on

until we find ourselves saying,

‘all poetry is not poetry at all.’

Tuesday, 15 September 2020

Exit Strategy

Open door.

Walk through door frame.

Close door.

Get in car.




Non Sequitur One

We look inside the mind of God and find

that tax returns are less fun than they sound.

It's Quite Big


It’s / a small world. really, is it?

The Way It Seems

 Laugh, and the whole world laughs with you; weep, and you weep alone.


 The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

The State of It All

 God’s in his heaven and all’s right with the world. is a mess

Long Lane


It’s a long lane that has no turning. = life


               after you’ve been kidnapped and had a

It is always darkest before dawn. bag put over your head

Monday, 14 September 2020

Mistaken Beliefs

The first time I saw stars that were not there…

no, let’s go back a couple of years earlier,

to when I was eight

and, at my first prep school,

had just been made centre-forward and captain

for my year’s one and only football fixture.


Go Team Fergus, right?


This appointment was an unfortunate surprise

based solely on my older brother’s

impressive athletic prowess

and faultlessly competitive attitude.


My classmates were as open-mouthed as I was

at this blundering mistake,

but not as gawpingly gormless as the hapless teacher,

who, had he done a due diligence test,

would have swiftly discovered

that adoptive younger brothers

of athletically able pupils

don’t actually share the all-important sporting genes.


One practice later,

and I was thankfully de-captained

and relegated to the position

which most eventual poets take up on the field of play:

the isolated daydreamer/goalkeeper.


Team not-Fergus lost six nil

and the game went down in sporting history

as the only occasion I ever represented my school

on the playing field.


‘We’ll make a rugby player of you yet!’

I was told at my second prep school,

a while later,

by yet another deranged games teacher.


Quite why this was said –

in a whole school assembly –

I will never be able to say,

for this is the sort of detail

which daydreaming obscures from the historical record.


Kudos to Mr Suter, though,

for articulating this ludicrous thought

in iambic pentameter.


The first time I saw the stars

that were not there

was after I had deliberately

hurled myself to the floor, aged ten,

in the middle of an English lesson

during my first term at my third prep school.


‘Mime scoring a try!’ the teacher had whispered to me,

clearly harbouring the delusion

that this was something I had experience of.


I hurled myself to the wooden floor,

et voila: stars!


Six more years of playing rugby

at an all-boys boarding school later

and that remained the only try

which I had to show

for my spineless endeavours.

 And now, when I hear friends and acquaintances

reminisce about the ball-centred pursuits of their youth,

I am reminded of that old cliché:

‘The older we are,

the better we were.’


You should have heard me sing, though.


Thursday, 3 September 2020


The trouble with writing poetry

on a bus

is not the limited, but distracting, conversation

between two teenage boys

(secretly wondering if they aren’t youths)

on my left.


‘Make an effort, lads,’

I half-want to say to them.

‘You might want to start

by substituting fuck for very

every once in a sentence.

It’s really fucking simple.’


It isn’t the lack of inspiration

which you might associate with a bus journey.

‘Oh, but that’s not very profound,

writing a poem about a bus journey.

Where’s all that poetic angst and suffering

and insight into the human condition?’

because all of that depends on how you read the poem.


It isn’t even the fact

that I’m mildly anxious

about missing my stop

because I have never travelled this route before.

‘Sorry I’m late. I was writing a poem on the bus

and I ended up in the wrong part of town.’


No, the trouble with writing a poem on a bus

is that they don’t provide tables

for me to lean on when I write.

This, and the vehicular movement

conspire to ensure that my poet’s script –

barely legible even when

I’m having one of my rare

‘Look, can we please try and be neat?’ days –


has traversed the bridge

taking it from merely illegible

to hilariously incoherent.


That, and the rather unfortunate confrontation

which is currently taking place

between the bus driver

and a non-paying customer,

from whom I learn

that the seemingly cheerful bus driver is,

in fact, ‘a cunt.’


A neat example of how

the accusations we throw at other people

are often better applied

to ourselves.

Wednesday, 2 September 2020

Training Our Ears to Be Dumb

You might think music these days

all sounds the same.

Identikit noise.

Facepalm melodies.


People who never got past

the skills level

of holding a hair brush

and posing in front of a mirror.


An unintentional rain dance.

Music where you wish

the silence between the notes

would stretch into infinity.


Here’s their latest album:

Teaching Table-Manners to Badgers with TB,

including the hit singles

Where Did Our Shaving Foam Go? and

Duet for Car Keys and a Vague Sense of Anxiety.


None of which is in the mixolydian mode.

Music and lyrics by

Cliché Algorithm Committee Inc.

It's All Ammunition

Ideas are like ammunition:

we have far more than we could possibly need,

but sometimes we miss the target,

although aiming for a tree

instead of an empty beer bottle

might be more a little more novel.


‘I’m just going into my forest

to hunt.'

Oh, really.

What are you hunting?


I am aiming for a flock of birds,

but I shall hit a cloud

and then claim

that this was my intention

all along.

We All Mislead Our Audiences

I spend my whole life

creating this wordy



Words: erase a few,

change a few, add a few,

edit the view.


See how great I am


And you?