A lot of my day job is spent measuring stuff.

For example, where are we regarding brand metrics? Have we hit our KPIs? How big was the audience for x last night? How many coffees can I get away with before I start seeing into the future?

A commercial industry like the TV industry is in constant need of measurement and metrics, it’s how we trade TV advertising. If you’re not sure of the mechanics or are would like to know more then I recommend a visit to Thinkbox. They are TV’s marketing body and are all brilliant people. I’d also suggest a visit to the BARB website. Both sites are full of insights and honest research about how the TV world is changing, and it is changing: the internet has come along and enhanced as well as challenged the TV world, but it has meant that we can measure lots more things.

I don’t want this to become a blog about TV and online measurement, but what I did start to wonder is that in the days where we have measurement currencies like BARB for TV, UKOM for Online, Route for Outdoor media, JICREG for Regional Press (I’ll always have a soft spot for regional newspapers, having started my research career with Newsquest *cough* years ago. Weirdly, my first boss is friends with Robin Houghton.), etc, should we have a way of reporting the audience figures for poetry magazines, webzines, blogs, etc.

What is the reach of a poem if it’s featured in a magazine? Would we report monthly?  Should we base our submissions on the potential audience of a mag or webzine, etc versus the cache of being in magazine y or blog z?  I guess not, given we’ve been submitting for years, but with so many available now and other factors like submission windows, feedback delays, etc I wonder if it might be a consideration.

There’s lots to consider, as with the world of BARB and project Dovetail, for example, assuming some folks read both, what’s the unique audience for a magazine with a website? Would it lead to a league table? Is it all about audience size?

I don’t think it is, there are opportunities and reasons to be in all sorts of different mags, etc.

I don’t know this answer to this at all, I’m thinking out loud more than anything, but would it make a difference?  It’s not all about a spot in I’m A Celebrity, there are lots of reasons why you might buy spots in smaller shows.

What do you think? Good idea or bad idea? Should mags that take advertising publish their audiences figures? Is it ok for mags to be more like Netflix and not have to publish anything if they don’t want to?

The week in stats:

45K ran – Including a 18k this morning, a 10K PB on Friday night and 5K on Saturday and a post-run kebab on Tuesday.

Several poems worked on: Lighters, Goliath, Fish Story, Captain’s Pond, Under Copyright, Bingo

3 x submissions: 2 print mags and 1 web magazine

4 times – Flo has played Taylor Swift’s 1989 this weekend. I am very much fine with this.

1 game of Exploding Kittens

0 Clue as to how to play Exploding Kittens

21 weeks – Poems still with one magazine. Do I give up?

1 birthday for the magnificent Edward Geller

1 curry made on Saturday night

1 x pint of Jam Doughnut beer

1 x appearance in the background of an Instagram story by someone in TOWIE.





Rhubarb and notes

I tend to work on a few poems at a time as I can’t concentrate on too many things simultaneously—who can? However,  given the number of drafts things go through it means that the other stuff backs up.

By my last count there’s 43 poems in various stages of undress + the seven I’m working on. It’s quite daunting…

There’s a line in the introduction to Margaret Atwood’s Poems 1965 – 1975 (A gift from Jenny Frew when we were 18) about poet’s gazing out of the window and scribbling on the backs of envelopes. She also says “There’s a lot of burnt toast in the lives of poets”. This may be true  but I’m more concerned with the envelopes bit for now.




NB: There’s lots more to unpack in this page around the art of criticism, the act of writing, the challenge of balancing life and writing, the randomness of creativity and drafting. It’s quite the first page.

This weekend was a rare chance to try and stem the tide of the backs of envelopes as well as work on some new drafts of things.

I managed to go through some notes and scratch out tentative first drafts of four poems, but it’s a drop in the ocean when I consider the other poems waiting to be written.

If I look at the boxes of saved articles, phone notes, scraps of paper, backs of envelopes, saved articles in RSS feeds*, and this is before I get to my physical note book, then I get quite scared and exhilarated by what’s still to be written.

I guess that’s why we keep doing it.

I’d be really keen to hear your stats.

How many poems do you have have on the go at a time?
How do you keep track of ideas?

*I’m pretty sure I’ve still got a Delicious feed from years ago with stuff saved, but I doubt I could remember what triggered the desire to save the article in the first place -assuming I could remember how to log in, or if I can log in.

The week in stats:

28K ran – Including a half-marathon distance this morning.

2 different versions of Arsenal – Appalling play on Thursday, wonderful stuff today

2 days off sick – I hate being ill, but there was something quite pleasing about sitting on the sofa doing nothing. I’ve finally made a start on catching up on Endeavour.

4 redrafts: A Fish Story, Captain’s Pond, Broken, Shed Door

4 1st drafts: Fishing Exercise, 4.33 at 4.33, In Flight and Tiny Sorries
All titles subject to change

1 Amazing gig by The Hold Steady – Friday night in Camden at The Electric Ballroom. That was a truly stunning gig.

15 inches of pizza eaten on the way home.

Umpteen wishes that I was at Stanza Festival

1 conversation about the sound of Rhubarb growing

Birds and whales

The more I write these blog posts the more I notice the subject each week is suggested by tiny coincidences – things coalesce into an idea as the week progresses. I hope this continues to happen for quite some time, otherwise I’ll actually have to start planning stuff.

This week’s set of coincidences that lead to a blog post are as follows:

Sharing poems
I saw Helen Ivory talking about an interesting approach to subs on her Facebook page. Someone had actually suggested that they would remove poems from their blog and Facebook if Helen published them on the wonderful Ink Sweat and Tears (One of the first places I was published and so I’m biased, but I don’t care).

This strikes me as a little odd, surely if you’ve submitted a poem somewhere then you actually want them to publish it? I think that’s how it works. It’s certainly how it’s meant to.I assume this is a classic case of not reading the guidelines. We all know how important that is. Along with read, read, read it’s the most important poetry rule.

Incidentally, it’s totally worth reading this guide by  Angela Carr for a reminder of the submission rules.

I received the latest newsletter from Lev Parikian this week and it contained a link to this video.

<p><a href=”″>Preserving One Square Inch of Silence</a> from <a href=””>Great Big Story</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

This prompted me to do something I didn’t think I’d ever do and that’s to send a poem to someone unsolicited. Before I stopped to wonder if it would make me seem unhinged, I sent Lev a poem I’d written about someone putting the noises into the shells on the beaches of the world. I can’t share it here as I hope to get it into a magazine at some point. However, Lev was kind enough to reply and be complimentary about the poem, so I’m very happy.

Having utterly devoured Why Do Birds… on holiday last year, I highly recommend signing up to his newsletter and to buying his latest book, Why Do Birds Suddenly Disappear? and also to contributing to his latest project, The Long & The Short of It.

I wish I was better at identifying birds, but Lev’s passion for this subject has made me want to try.

I saw this story reported on Twitter about a whale that washed up in the Amazon – I forget who it was that I saw mention it, but it made me think of another poem I’d written.

That I can share, as it’s already been published by the lovely Carole Baldock at Orbis.

Beached Whale That Got Blown Up‘
The blast blasted blubbers beyond all believable bounds’
Paul Linnman, TV News Reporter, 12 Nov 1970

I left my pod at sea without their say;
no permission to come aboard. I sent
myself aground, my number shouted loud,
their call to come home ignored with intent.

I’m proud. I stand alone and say as much.
Here’s my stranding, the finest ever breach,
an honest signal based on sound advice
I heard and took in good faith. I stay beached

unlike my fellow, found amongst the trees,
rendered breathless and left pivoting there
to swing unfathomed, blind, in brutal light,
jaw unhinged, struggling to swallow raw air.

Up to this point, I’ve held my tongue and clicks,
kept these human ideals under thick breath.
I see in colour now, reflecting how
you do so little of depth with your breadth.

They pack my leeward side with twenty cases
of gelignite, offering me no grounds
to stay. This boom is my last surfacing.
I’ll reach beyond believable bounds.

Honest Signals

The week in stats:

240 miles driven between London and Norfolk – back home to visit some very dear friends, one of whom is very sick and it’s breaking my heart on a daily basis.

Approximately 60 million drinks drunk yesterday – as part of the above visit

16k ran – bad week, legs feeling rubbish, but I did get to run past my old high school and get as close to the route we used to do for Cross Country 25 years ago. Eek!!

1 rejection from Stand – Boo, but to be expected

2 poems worked on – Shed Door and A Fish Story

1 submission to the Poetry Business Pamphlet competition – Fingers crossed

1 x trip to Camden for a marketing away day – Mainly to hear trains go by

1 x ticket for the Boring Conference purchased – my fourth year on the trot.

1 x resolution to get better with WordPress

1 x fit of hysterics on the escalator at Blackfriars while listening to Athletico Mince










Turning rouge at rogue strands

There aren’t enough rogues in my life.

There was a Rogue Trooper as a kid.I’m pretty sure the keyboard player in Pete Best’s (an actual Beatle, albeit for about five minutes)  band was called Rogue. He was Pete’s son if I recall. I met them both at the opening of a bar in Liverpool called The Jacaranda.

I’ve knew an assortment of rogues growing up on the mean streets of Worstead, but there’s been a distinct absence of rogues, but now I can say that itch has been scratched again this week when I got a mention on the ever wonderful Rogue Strands website. Who am I kidding, it’s not a mention; it’s an entire post.

I know I’ve got my work cut out for me if I want to take a berth on his much-coveted end of year list, but I’m honoured to be mentioned and very pleased with the kind words from Matthew. He’s a poet that is immensely generous with his praise, his time and his guidance in the poetry “scene” – all the more amazing given he lives in deepest, darkest Spain and works full-time.

I will now have to think of more coherent things to say on a regular basis, but that won’t be today. It’s been a long weekend for one reason or another and I have nothing intelligent to say—some would say much like last week/every week.

I proved that on Friday by missing a crucial word (written) out of the first version of this tweet/awful joke. Also, two hours later I should have said that I was worried that I was struggling to write a poem using only spondees…, still first drafts are still drafts.

The week in stats:

1 trip to emergency care with my father in law – He’s ok, just dehydrated

1 dance performance from my wife and child as part of their end of year performance – Very proud of both of them

1st set of speed intervals – I’m not sure I know what I did, but I did 12 of them

1 personal best for 5K – Go me

1 x run at about 6.30am- Very tiring, but provided me with this photo in Beckenham Place Park

3 x poems worked on: Shed Door, Goldfish poem, Captain’s Pond.  3.5 if you count the UN Supermarket poem written in conjunction with Messrs. Dastidar and Owen

3 x feedback that they need lots more work

1 x poem submitted to a competition

OODA do you think you are?

Sometimes things just fall in your lap, or maybe the ether offers up things at the right time—I don’t know, but if feels like things fell right this week. I saw these two blogs on the same day and somehow I saw a connection between Robin Houghton’s Work poems post and John Wilshere’s post about not writing books.

They both set me thinking.

Robin’s post resonated because it mentions writing poems about the work environment, workplace culture and career-path politics. I know Robin has written about this are herself in her excellent last collection, All The Relevant Gods. There’s also Robin (I see a theme here) Vaughn-Williams’ The Manager, Neil Elder’s Codes of Conduct, Being Present and The Space Between Us, as well as individual poems by the likes of Roethke’s Dolor, Betjeman’s Executive, Alison Brackenbury’s Bookkeeping*

It chimed with me because I’ve been encouraged to write more poems about work, to use the language of the environment I find myself in on a daily basis and to a degree that’s happening. I think the language of marketing is rich and ripe for use in poetry.

To date I’ve managed:

  1. An experiment with the language of online advertising
  2. A draft of a poem called A Manifesto for Big – written after a discussion about the strategy for a particular advertising campaign. It never made it beyond the meeting room, but these two did and I think they’re both brilliant – Patriach & The Guv’nor
  3. A poem in the style of  questionnaire types
  4. And one about the Gartner Hype Cycle1-3 are all sat in the drafts or rejects folder. 4 is out for submission now and I hope it finds a home eventually. I remain unconvinced that it will be accepted by the current mag that I’ve sent it to…Watch this space…or one very much like it.
On the same day, I read John Willshire’s On Not Writing Books. John’s one of those  annoying people you meet in your career. Clever, articulate, devilishly handsome and also bloody nice. I hate him**

His blog piece led me to the content of OODA Loops

Diagram of an OODA link






You can read Wikipedia as well as I can, but essentially OODA Loops (aside from sounding like a character in the shit trilogy of Star Wars films – you know the ones I mean) are a military idea based around the concept of observe–orient–decide–act.

The more I read of John’s post the more I thought it made me think about the act of writing. There’s a bigger post to be written on this one day – perhaps when I retire or can find the time and money to go back in to Academia***

In the post, John writes about Boyd (the creator of the OODA Loop) and how he tried to avoid writing things down as final, never settling on the definitive version of something. This resonated with me on a couple of levels.


As artists or writers (God, did I just write that? Don’t worry, I’ll probably end on a knobgag to balance things out) we’re meant to observe the world around us,  orient ourselves by filtering these observations through cultural trends, our experiences, etc, before deciding how best to represent this and acting upon this by writing it down, painting, singing, etc.

It also occurs to me that these loops work in terms of revision and editing of our work. For example, bands may go back to re-record songs to either regain the rights to them (though this is a recent development), because they’re better musicians now or because they’ve played it live a lot and have changed the arrangement, etc. That said, I’m not sure how many examples there are of this working out for the best. I mean, have you heard the last Bunnymen album?
However, there are loads of reasons behind this revisiting and revising, and I suspect this all true of poets too. We change things because they bug us, a better idea comes along, language changes and so a poem’s intention must adapt.
A poem can begin as an observation on the world, but over time and version be oriented in a new direction through drafting or even time. It can take on new meanings as you go, but it can also be applied to poems previously considered finished. I often read about poems being revised by their author years after being published – usually in the front of a Selected Poems, but it’s also covered in the latest issue of The Dark Horse**** in an article by Anne Stevenson called ‘On Revision’. Stevenson talks about revision as “version(s) of an early poem that a poet at a more advanced believes corrects or improves it” and goes on to look at the work of Marianne Moore (* Makes notes to look at the work of Marianne Moore*) and also her own work. It begs the question (and I’m saying nowt new here) is a piece ever finished?

I hope so. Especially as it’s in, it’s bloody in. The running poem has been submitted and everything. In the spirit of revision, the title got changed and a line cut at the last minute. Hopefully there won’t be more.


But I’m sat at home warming down, attached to an oxygen mask and somehow enjoying a delicious chocolate milkshake from my local cafe. *****


This seems have become a Sunday ritual—without the oxygen mask. That said, tomorrow ******, I’ll be tucking into some delicious booze and running the Wimbledon Craft Half and so may need the oxygen mask.


*Yes, I am listing some of the poems in The Misery of Manilla Folders:Work section from Scanning The Century – Currently available for 1p from Am*zon.
** I don’t
***Yeah, right Mat. You spent university either pissed or working in a pub, that’s not academia
**** We won’t mention the other discussions around the latest The Dark Horse.
**** *Drinking poncey ales and claiming it’s a way of warming up for tomorrow.

******At the time of writing

The week in stats:

1 reviews published – Thanks to Mike at London Grip and Mike Barlow for writing an excellent pamphlet – Some Kind of Ghost

2 poems worked on: The running one, and Clearing My Dad’s Shed

1 submission arrived in magazine form – Thanks to Poetry Salzburg for taking two poems





2 mags arrived to readOrbis and Lighthouse Journal

1 PB – Best 10K time (54 mins)

1st ever Tempo Runs


I’ll be very pleased when this running poem is finished. It means I can stop being one of those people that talks about nothing else, on here at least. That said, today I ran 21.1 of your actual earth Kilometres. In a row.

All it takes is one week of being busy and this stuff, this poetry lark, just seems to fall away. Next week will be different, I guess.

The week in stats:

2 reviews published – Thanks to Happenstance

1 draft review written – 
It’s getting there.

1 book started – Roy McFarlane’s amazing The Healing Next Time

1 poem worked on – in increments: Routes



“Sometimes these words just don’t have to be said”

And so sang David Gedge in My Favourite Dress.

Not a lot of movement on the writing this week, stuff gets in the way. I mentioned to Neil Elder on Twitter this week that “it’s only poetry” in reference to writing moving slowly.

And it is, only poetry, I mean. The world won’t end.

The week in stats:

2 children waited for in Bromley – Apparently I sit in shopping centres while my daughter shops with a friend

1 magazine finished reading – My first copy of The Dark Horse

2 poems worked on – in increments: Settling, Routes

1 wallet left in a pub in Bromley leading to

2 cards cancelled leading to

A lot of hassle this week