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Thursday, 31 March 2011



Nice! Already have a few ideas about this one.

(In case you haven't noticed, I'm just using the Random Word Generator as featured on my 'links' bar)

Teen Angst, part 1

So I've been resurrecting some of my old writing from when I was a teenager. Despite a lot of it being awful, and some of it being unreadable - literally, as my handwriting is terrible - some of it's touching and brings back a few memories, good and bad.

This is something I wrote when I was 14 or 15:

Atlas (The World is Mine)

My friends tell me
I stoop when I walk
As if I have always
Carried the world on my shoulders

No wonder I have become obsessed
With my weight
Scaling back for weeks
And then feasting on dumbells
When I feel weak

I am preparing
For my biggest feat:
I want to make the Earth move
For you

For you move me
To walk head up
Through streets
And not bow down
Under the pressures on my neck

I still sweat
I still quake
But now I am learning
To forget the weight
And walk proudly on

And I know it will stay
But I will be strong
And I won't let it sway me
From standing tall
From standing up

From spinning things around
On their axis
And learning
To see them differently

You move me
To be me
But though our planets may collide
And our thoughts may coincide
You are not my world

And I am not yours

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

The Week


\producing quite a lot of new poems at the moment. I've also found myself occasionally posting direct onto this blog or typing into my phone while I'm on the go.

\been to a few gigs recently and getting a good energy from hearing other poets. Particularly enjoyed being at Keats House last weekend.

\performing at Chill Pill Weds! Looking forward to the relaunch. Am also looking forward to two Farrago dates - one at RADA on Thurs, and the other as part of Poetry Rivals in Peterborough on Saturday


\writing has stalled a little in the past week. I haven't learnt to do fiction on the go in the same way as I can poetry, so it means I need to set aside the time... So looking forward to my two days off this week, and seeing what I can produce.

\reading, on the other hand, is good. After worming through several books this month, I've now started reading Submarine by Joe Dunthorne and The Fifth Figure by Jean 'Binta' Breeze.

\research - I need a few recommends on Black British History and Caribbean Folklore, and particularly Anansi stories.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Midsomer Murdered

Turn your contrast right down
Because the brown in your hue
Means you are not fit
For clubbing tonight

The manicured lawns
And village greens
Are too genteel
For chocolate skins
They will not be muddied
With your type

There will be no axes ground
Above your head
No pillows to smother you goodnight
No abductees
No poisoned teas
Because this is not your territory

They say this is the last bastion
Of English eccentricity
So shut up and live
Those of other ethnicities
You are too dark
To stain these stable doors
With your blood

You must suffer
Long life in your urban terrain
You must stay this side of our stile
And not come within range
Of our strange and unpleasant land
Where neighbours nurse nefarious plans

You may never claim
The dubious acclaim
(Or privilege?)
Of being one of our Midsomer murdered
So please leave our village
And go back to your cities
And watch, and learn
And live

Just having a bit of fun! Something that caught my attention last week... The executive producer of the "quintessentially" English detective programme was caught out saying he would never hire black or Asian actors as it would ruin the "eccentric" "Englishness" of the show. And of course, he later "retired", and of course, a few comments in the papers show support for him, and of course the ratings have since gone up, and of course, the show is a lot of nonsense anyway, BUT of course, it also shows that ignorant minds are still out there.

End of.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Reason(ing)s (Unfinished)


Because my Yr 11 English teacher told us
He'd stopped teaching new pupils 2 decades ago
There are no more than 30 original people in the world

The rest are repeats and deviations
The rest are repeats and

Mergers and hostile takeovers
Interlinking patterns, new tessellations
But no creation just reproduction

I ask him who I am
He answers that I am Tom, Dick and Harry all in one.

I say No, I don't think so
He says that's exactly what Tom would have said.


Because you are beautiful
No matter what they say

The betrayal of the qualifier
Not unnoticed

You are beautiful, I repeat
Circling lines on your face with my fingers
Retracing patterns made by kisses on the glass

I practice lies
By watching my eyes
Distracted, I focus on the tide coming in
Over my widening head

This is how long it has taken, in years
And now I am my father


Because I'm bending my way by bus
To Warren Street
From Town
Annoying kid sings that repetitive song
The words are wrong
And I am sick of repetition
Sick of doing and saying the same things over
Repeating the same mistakes
Laughing at the same jokes
Tripping over the same slabs of pavement
Same same same
Nothing new


That's my number
The song I shuffle my heaphones to play
So now the sounds of the surrounding people are waves
And I am standing away from the seashell
Far from the shore
And fingers firmly fixed on the replay button

Can't listen to nothing new now
All sounds the same
Remixed and packaged
And repackaged


And my teacher used to say there are just 30 people in the world
Or was it 20 or so?
The rest
Just offspring and variation
A tweak here and there, a slight modification

Me = my father, part 2
You = probably
Your grandparents part 3
And me?
I am just a part of recyclable history

Part of the repetition
Love, war, religion, politician
With only 45 minutes before the weapons of mass destruction


Of March
We march
Through the same streets
Malet Street to Parliament Square
Where protests fizzle into the past

We were here for Iraq
I tread the same track
With a pre-written placard I've plucked from the side
I trip over the chant
And the same piece of kerb
I just missed
The last time

The last time
They said there were WMD
They gave solid numbers
45 minutes
Sounds more sure
Than a rough 3/4 of an hour
Or a vague quest for power
Or oil
Or the need for foreign soil


And he sings into the megaphone
A witty ditty of a comparison:
"Mr David Cameron
Margaret Thatcher's evil son!"

Draws laughs from crowds
Who then intone
The same chants against cuts
They sang before

And no one talks of history being made
Just of repeating
Eating into its own self-referential archives
And making a few devious

Just so we can tag a number to it

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Spring Cleaning (#1)

Folding back the years
Feels like the diary you wrote
And soaked in soapy water
Words you could never erase
Pages stuck to pulpy pages
Love buried somewhere inside

Now you are too big to hide behind sofas
Too lazy to lay out the tablecloth
Dealing out placemats like a stack of incomplete cards

Today you sweep between the gaps
Spaces where places and faces once filled
You shrug them off
Tidy them up
Replace them with vague feelings
And seal them

If the past is a palace
There were some rooms you were never meant
To ruminate in
The attics where fights and scratches
Take up their throne
And bitter arguments echo

But you are tempted:
So you dig through the dirt
In the trunks of your mind
Like old vinyls they skip
Over the nightmares
Replaying the gossip of bushes
Where you hide and seek

And then there are more diaries
Like the one that earned you a ride in the car at dawn
And Post-Its pushed under doors
For weeks to come

Now, these are things that make you smile

It is good to turn over these memories
Wipe them
Write them down
Iron out gaps
And pick at their corners

If you can just pass over the vacuum
If you can tread the memories over
Without leaving your own present-day stamp
If you can hold your sneezes
While dusty memories rise in your head
Then you won't damage the blossoming future
With these cobwebbed pasts

Thursday, 17 March 2011

In Search of Poetry Lost, part 2

Here's how this goes: It's early October, 2010. I'm in a hotel in Jersey (the country, not the US state) on a poetry trip, with John Paul O'Neill and Deanna Rodger. It's our last night and we've been leading workshops all day; my head's all over the place. I've got a hotel-issued Gideon's bible on my lap - and I'm just flicking through - and Deanna suggests we co-write a poem. My fingers stop at Job 23, "bible-dip" style, and I read it aloud then write a few lines in my notebook. I hand the notebook to her. We go back and forth until we've filled about 6 or 7 pages. It's emotional, if not a little dramatic. But it has been inspired by Job, so that's allowed.

By the time we stop writing, there's a tremendous buzz in the air. We read it through once before I fall asleep and then I read it again the following morning. I lose the book the next afternoon.

I've started to read through the book of Job and the whole thing impresses me as a very poetic meditation on misfortune and anguish. It's impossible not to think of mass disasters, particularly Japan, and to question the nature of suffering, and the aptness of the term "natural disaster".

I got to Job 23 today and decided, rather than try to recall what we wrote, I'd get some of the essence down here by thinking about what it is to suffer. 

Then Job replied:

The sadness I have drunk
Stains my breath
Repels my lovers
Thickens my tongue

It is strong coffee on my teeth
It blackens my soul
Wherever I swing my compass
I lose control
And I try to shift loose
But the noose tightens its choking grip

My body dangles
My spirit slips
My heart skips
My faith shakes

Tectonic plates collide

In my mind
The friction produces a "why?"
And I am condemned
To a lifetime
Of unanswered questions
And chewed-up prayers
Deaf ears
Or muted replies
Breathless sighs:
It's all the same

I have overdosed on misery.
I look up to the skies
With an open jaw
And a dried-out mouth

My words are smoke
Thinning in the air

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Feeling Orange

I used to play this song to get ready for work in the morning... an appropriate start to the day? I dunno, but when the instrumentation stops and she starts riffing over the drums, that's panic-dress time. Replay the song and you're late!

Anyway, just found this song again last night. Ledisi's a mad vocalist live. But, more than anything, it's the sentiment of the chorus that's stuck in my mind:

"Feeling orange again, orange again/ But blue sometimes..."

I sometimes get asked, what are your poems about? And I find it hard to answer properly... personal stuff? love? politics? I don't know and I don't think that's for me to say, really. What I do know is I don't spend much time musing about Nature. But if I did, I couldn't go far wrong with a line like that to describe the Spring mood. There's an optimism taking over again, but it's not fully secured in place. Now we have light, warmth and sun, even though winter's reminders are still with us...

Monday, 7 March 2011



Hmm! This could go quite a few different ways.

Snippet... (In Search of Poetry Lost, part 1)

I'm too loose to be taught
Too cheap to be bought
Too broke for a fix
Too single-minded to mix

I'm too much, but not enough for you
That's why we duel with our tongues
And lock steel-sharp eyes

You're too much
And so our destinies crash
We repel
We rebel
...and something else

(Something I wrote, more or less, in September... got lost in my old notebook... Can't remember how I finished the poem - if I ever did - but this was the gist of how I started it.)

Take Courage

He does not (I repeat) pick fights
He searches for celestial lights
At the back of his blackout eyelids

This is not violence
This is the tale of a marooned pirate
Tattoed in violet bruises
Sea-legged and belly-full with shanty verses

These words are not curses
These are not half-empty glasses
These are all navigational tools
Which he uses to rouse his crew

He is not staggering, just drifting ashore
And the chair leg is but a poor
Substitute for an oar
And he tugs and pulls
And punches and bites

But this is not a fight
He is making waves again

Vomit stains will be washed by the rain
As he's thrown overboard onto the pavement
(Although that statement is false
Because of course
This is not a pavement but an ocean)

He can feel the heaving motion
As it leads him away
And pulls him under

And he is drowning
Not drinking
Not waving
He is not misbehaving
Just misadventured

They call him a shipwrecked soul
His helm of a head spinning out of control
Maybe they are right

Maybe he is picking fights
And his bucanneer brain just can't resist
The clashing of fists
And the smashing of bones

But this is home

They call him washed up
But these are the shores
Which have always moored him
Without anchor
Or hope

This is the land
Where he can't stand prowed
Where he can't discern between stern looks
And glossed over eyes
A place which has knocked the wind out of his sails
A place where no steady future is mapped out clearly
And all he can infer
Through the blur of the ale
Is thus:
There is no treasure on this island for him

But he digs
He kicks ribs and spits teeth
And he digs
So deep they say he's sunk too low
To be deserving of sympathies
But, no!
He's just persevering
Doesn't want to give in

He is not picking fights
He's just on a journey
Re-visiting chartered territory
But making it his own

And I don't know
Where he's going
But neither does he
Because I'm steering my own way
Around the Globe

Sunday, 6 March 2011

This week in POETRY

Been writing more lately, so my soul feels good.
Lost my notebook back in October, probably in Jersey (if you have it please give it back!!) with plenty new stuff in, and I didn't think I could ever write again. Dramatic, I know, but yeah, serious...

It's also difficult when you do a lot of performance poetry and start relying on "greatest hits". So then you think, I'll never write another poem like... [fill in blank] or [fill in next blank]. And sometimes it's crippling.

So it's good to be writing.
Having said that, a lot of what's coming out is angry. And a couple of things I've written over the past few days have shocked me, and I don't think I'll share... At least I don't think it's a good idea. Yet.

But angry is sometimes good. I work in places where I'm meant to be on some kind of high-ground, clinical schools with one-size-fits-all rules. I push pens. I don't push limits (although, I'm no pushover).

So sometimes I feel the pull of the macabre, the irrevent and the violent.
Sometimes I think I want to write something that will make me go mad. Or cry until I drown.

There's something I heard/overhead/misheard probably yesterday (Friday) night from a friend who was quoting someone else who said a good writer should run right to the edge of the cliff called Crazy and needs to take you there, hold you right over the edge, make you feel the drop but not jump. Really crazy people jump, writers are too concerned with surviving so they can get all of that down on paper...

Anyway, I'm sure I could find that quote on Google, but it's all too easy and neat.

Oral memory is kind of undervalued right now
That's why performance poetry is SO needed.

Case in point
Went to World Book Night event at the Southbank Centre tonight, and it was good... BUT, as expected, crowds began to drift off when the poets came on (and these are GREAT poets, I'm talking Raymond Antrobus, Simon Mole, Jasmine Cooray, and a girl I'd never seen before who had some very touching pieces that had me straining to hang on to her words). It - mostly - sounded better than the writers reading chunks of their prose because they'd written poems to be read aloud. And the words tend to stick with you more. Unlike the crowd!

Having said that
a) I imagine most of the audience had come to see the big names before that part of the evening - Margaret Atwood and Mark Haddon have written legendary books... so fair dos
b) It was getting late... so fair dos

The whole point of WBN, I thought, was to introduce people to a world of words that they wouldn't otherwise experience. So it was kind of a shame that the poets came on towards the end (followed by a very funny comedienne who had a very worn-out crowd to work up before we were chucked out).

It's a shame performance poetry still hasn't got the kind of platform in this country that I think it could have. I'll leave it at that as I've just deleted a chunk of possibly controversial drivel moaning about the divided demographic you tend to get at certain poetry nights.... Shaky ground and needs a well thought-out and well-argued argument before I even go there. There's ranting and then there's bleating for a beating.

Anyway, back to the main thread, I've been writing a few pieces - the ones I've written this month on here, I've pretty much written them directly onto the blog straight from my head, which has been interesting... Later this month, I'll think about edits, and I'll also add on some more poems from my new notebook. Yay!

This week in PROSE

Heard this a few times, but of the sound advice I've gleaned from other writers, one gem has stuck out recently, and here is my summary: "If you're not enjoying it, maybe you're writing the wrong thing/ maybe that draft should go straight in the the bin".

Looking at the novel, I think my main struggle has been trying to fathom how to present this voice which is both very personal - almost autobiographical in many senses - and also very alien to me. I've felt so much responsibility (to friends? family? I dunno...) for something that hasn't even yet been written, plus I have so many unworked-out ideas floating about in my head that of course they all got bottlenecked somewhere in my brain and came out jumbled in various Word documents and email drafts.

Starting again feels good but, me being me, I haven't started again again, I've been "converting" some of my old material and adding the new. I think this works for me, but time will tell. The most majorest thing is spending time actually writing; not talking about writing, or berating the fact that I don't have time to write, but just getting down and dirty with the raw material. And re-learning how to enjoy it, which means staying up late, sadly. Plenty of caffeine and bags under the eyes, because late at night seems to be what works. My headspace is fully in it and there's nothing else to bother me (and the TV's mostly crap at 1.30 in the morning).

Anyway, all this to say that it's a beautiful thing to be inspired to write, but also a frustrating and, mostly, lonely thing. So, IMHO, there's nothing worse than doing a lonely, frustrating task and not actually enjoy it, unless it's your job and you're being paid handsomely (even still!)

So I'm just glad I can have a lay-in tomorrow! Going to edit some work now and stay up as late as my eyelids and ideas permit.

M.O.T. S.O.S. (Man On Tube, Same Ol' Shit)

I want your voice to get smaller and smaller
So my headphones are getting bigger
My musical tastes are acquiring new levels
Like strong cheese
Their notes puncture the air
I can feel that from the stares I get
From the other passengers
Cross looks and cut eyes
No nudges though today

Today is a good day.

You’re like an amoeba in my brain now
Or maybe a small clot
Feasting on my insides slowly
But just a dot
A small forgettable punctuation
Mark my words
I still want your voice to go completely away
Your accusatory cadences
And half-finished sentences
And all that nonsensical reasoning

Go away go away go away

I tell myself today is a good day
I tell myself to focus
On the eclectic mix in my ears
But you have ways of sinking in between beelines
Ways of adding paranoid heart taps to each track
On the back of a hi-hat
And the tail of a riff
I tell myself to drift
Tell myself to make my mind shift
And I shift in my seat uncomfortably

I need to get off now
Need to get off

And now it’s said
I can hear you in my head
With your audible grin
Doing that thing you always do

“STOP”, I say

The people staring now look away
The man next to me has walked to the end of the carriage
There’s a marriage of eye-avoidance and curiosity

And this is London, dear
So I’m just another mad man shouting
Someone else to be ignored
And they don’t understand
That all I want is for it to stop.

I need to get off this train.
Today was meant to be a good day
Now it’s not