Monday 24 June 2019

The Knives of Villalejo is two years old

I've no idea whether the correct term is birthday or anniversary, but The Knives of Villalejo has just turned two. To celebrate, here's the opening poem. The first section of it was originally published as a stand-alone piece in The Rialto.



An ochre dusk through the window,
stewed apples sighing from the hob
and slippers squeaking back and forth
on the lino - Mum’s become Gran,
Son now Dad, but a boy still plays
at the same Formica table.
This kitchen’s hub, its ersatz knots
are giving off a perfect shine,


The empty chair is staring hungrily
while I eat my pasta, each spoonful tracked
by the arching slats and tethered cushion,
by the almost eyes of the almost you,
by trees swaying through your almost torso
and clouds converging with your almost hair.

Sunday 16 June 2019

A reading in Reading

Ok, ok, I admit the title to this post is childish, cheesy and unoriginal, but we all know that little things please little minds, and I've been looking forward to announcing this event for a while now.

The details are as follows: I'm pleased to report that I'll be the guest poet at Poets' Café in Reading on 12th July at the South Street Arts Centre. Many thanks to Claire Dyer for the invite! Doors open at 8 p.m. and the poetry kicks off half and hour later. Entry costs five pounds (four for concessions), and there's also an open mic. I'd be delighted to see you there...

Sunday 9 June 2019

The International WrapperRhyme Challenge

Helena Nelson is first and foremost a poet. As such, she's just published a pamphlet with Red Squirrel Press. It's titled Branded and subtitled Some WrapperRhymes, and I'm very much looking forward to getting my hands on a copy..

However, she's also an editor at HappenStance Press. In that role, she's seeking submissions of WrapperRhymes from all over the world for a projected exhibition/installation at StAnza (Scotland's Poetry Festival) in 2020. You can find out more about WrapperRhymes in general and about this project in particular at the HappenStance website.

Thursday 6 June 2019

Stanley Cook's Form Photograph

If a lot of teachers are poets and a lot of poets are teachers, it's inevitable that there should be a considerable amount of poetry about education. However, of all such poems I've read, one volume stands out: Stanley Cook's Form Photograph (Phoenix/Peterloo, 1971).

Stanley Cook was from Yorkshire. He wrote clear, immediate and humane poetry, often from the perspective of a keen observer, both of society and of individuals, always homing in on the particular and specific. His subject matter was wide, ranging from townscapes to character portraits and the intermingling of people with natural landscapes, but my personal favourites are his poems about education.

Cook's set of thirty pieces about teaching colleagues, Staff Photograph, tells us perhaps more about society at the time than it does about the individuals in question. However, the outstanding Form Photograph, also comprising thirty poems, fleshes out its characters and benefits from the tantalising futures that lay ahead for the pupils in question. Here are three extracts.

From 5...

...He has his expression ready for being tripped up
In the dinner queue and having his gym shorts stolen
The period before a clothing inspection:
But one day his mind will dislocate itself
In his efforts to impersonate the normal."

From 23...

...From infant to junior to grammar school
To university to research he will keep his quiet,
Shedding increasingly the signs of life.

From 27...

An odd-job boy with a face like a boot repair,
His regulation grey school shirts are never crisp
And a right-angled tear is mended in his blazer...

I thoroughly recommend Stanley Cook's undervalued poetry in general. For certain critics, his best work is a long piece, Woods Beyond a Cornfield, which provides the reader with a beautifully layered interwoven series of human, rural and suburban cameos. For me though, the poems that really hit home are the ones about his pupils. Form Photograph is terrific.

Sunday 2 June 2019

Places of Poetry

Places of Poetry is an exceptional new project. It especially resonates with me because I aim to reflect a sense of place whenever I write, while as a reader I tend to enjoy poetry with an anchor in emotional, social and geographical terms. The concept behind Places of Poetry is perhaps best explained via the following quote from their website:

"Places of Poetry is open to all readers and writers. It aims to use creative writing to prompt reflection on national and cultural identities in England and Wales, celebrating the diversity, heritage and personalities of place.
The site is open for writers to pin their poems to places from 31st May to 4 October 2019. It will then be closed for new poems but will remain available for readers. We welcome writers of all ages and backgrounds. We want to gather as many perspectives on the places and histories of England and Wales."
I've posted three of my poems - two that are set in Farnham and one in Chichester. You can post yours by following this link. Just one word of warning: it's probably best not to choose anything that's unpublished, as doing so would count as publication and mean the poem in question couldn't then be submitted to any journal or magazine.