Exertion Headache

Going early this week as it’s my mum’s 70th birthday celebrations this weekend and I’m also manning the phones in true Telethon style for Soccer Aid on Sunday night. Get your dialling fingers ready.

Not been the finest week for productivity. I was hit by what I’m told was an Exertion headache on Wednesday whilst attempting to run the Crystal Palace Dino Dash. It’s sucking massive eggs – to still be feeling it 48 hours later (at the time of typing). My heart goes out to anyone that puts up with this and worse on a daily basis.

On the plus side the copy of Firth that I sent to South Korea has landed, —hopefully the picture will come over soon.

Apart from that…

This sums it up


  1. The Devil’s Avocado
  2. Gold Dust Variations
  3. Auto Recovery File
  4. Exertion Headache

The week in stats:

1K run – The running has not been good this week

1 poem worked on – Slarver

2 poems put in the rejects bin. You know when you literally can’t be arsed to make them better – that’s a sign.

1 pamphlet comp – not successful. Good luck to all those that won the Poetry Business comps.

Read, seen, etc

Read: Nothing, not had the energy

Watched: Mainly Love Island, Back To Life and Killing Eve

Listened to: Inventions Inventions, The National I Am Easy To Find, The Archers


It was there on the tip of my mind…

I went to sleep with a brilliant blog idea on Friday night. I’m kicking myself now for not writing it down.

Christ knows what it was though…

Not much happening this week writing-wise due to work, the only thing I’ve really managed is a look back at an old draft. This came out of nowhere. Well, not nowhere, but I was listening to Armitage read his poem Evening as part of a meeting with the Queen and while the poem I’ve been working on had no relationship to this, it sort of popped into my head and got me thinking about it again. It had previously found its way to the reject pile. I may write more on it when it’s finished off. I just hope you can hold on until that day.

Please note that I don’t follow the Royal Family on Twitter

Oh yes, managed a draft of something about a black and white telly after starting David Clarke’s The Europeans on the train. I also read David’s interview on The Wombwell site this week and it was interesting to hear another poet talking about the way work and a demanding job can make writing difficult. Not that my job is especially demanding —I’m not saving lives here, it’s only research about Telly. I’m certainly not complaining about my job or finding time to write, just that it’s always helpful/reassuring to find other folks in the same boat.

There have been a couple of slightly odd but pleasing crossovers between work and poems this week.

1. Leaving my copy of Firth in reception at work. The idea of that being sat there among media magazines, etc is quite weird, but also enjoyable.

2. Following a run home from work on Friday night, I was sat in my local posh booze* emporium, The Three Hounds and my friend Nick came in. We don’t know each other that well, but he’s a lovely guy. We know each other through parents at Flo’s former primary school. Anyhoo, somehow I said something about working in Market Research and he said, “Oh, I thought you were a poet”.

Can you imagine the mix of pride, embarrassment, confusion and joy?

*Purveyors of Middle Class White Lightning (™) Neil Mortensen


  1. Peeling The Finch
  2. Hip Gardener
  3. Three Square Meals
  4. Metro Gnomic
  5. Suds Law

The week in stats:

41K run – Including 16k today and 15K on Friday

1 poem revisited – Slarver

1 poem drafted – Mentioned above, no title yet

2 nights out. 3 if you count the post-running drinks on Friday. I’m knackered now. †

Read, seen, etc

Read: Started David Clarke’s The Europeans. Utterly hooked from the first poem onwards. Poetry London came in the post and I’ve made a start on it.

Watched: Not a lot, but mainly Love Island and Back To Life

Listened to: The Meters’ Trick Bag, The Archers, The 13th Floor Elevators’ Easter Everywhere, Cherry Ghost’s Thirst for Romance, Jimi Goodwin’s Odludek, Jake Xerxes Russell’s Out of Sight, Aldous Harding’s Party, Peppermint Rainbow – Will You Be Staying After Sunday

Half Term Report

We went camping at the start of the half-term week and spent 6 hours on motorways on our way to Devon. The weather was a mixed bag of cold, wet and occasional patches of sunshine. So much so that we came back a day early—we’re not the hardy campers we thought we were.

I managed to finish Sarah Maguire’s The Florist at Midnight under the light of my head torch, but didn’t get much editing done while I was away. However, our early return meant a day spare and I used it to work on two poems – one that’s been through the drafts (NINETEEN!!), had a spell in the rejects pile and then come back again. I think it’s finished now and I’m pleased it came back from the dead to live again.

The other one was relatively shorter drafts-wise – just the seven, and has achieved my fastest ever acceptance. I sent it out with three other poems on the 30th May, and it was accepted today by The Poetry Shed. It’s due out on 13th July and I’m very happy to have been accepted.

It’s a wonderful bookend to the week, as it started with my poem, Settling, going up on London Grip. And in the middle, my copies of Firth arrived. They look lovely. My copy is being read after I finish this, a copy is in my bag to go to Work and another copy has been dispatched to South Korea (the package also contained 21 Mars bars), so hopefully there will be a photo of that soon.

Not a bad week really.

Firth, Issue 3


  1. The Search For Martian Fettucine*
  2. No Rushes
  3. Dunking Biscuits
  4. Who Wants To See My Arse?
  5. Ankle Knack
    * Taken from the Guild of Scientific Troubadours website

The week in stats:

40K run – Including 18k yesterday

2 poem finished (You Should Believe the Awesome Power of Ad Blockers), & Goliath

1 poem worked on. Well one small sequence called Phantom Settlements

1 ankle twisted climbing over a fence last night to rescue ping pong balls. Drink may have been taken.

Read, seen, etc

Read: Finished reading Oliver Comins’ Oak Fish Island, Sarah Maguire’s The Florist’s at Midnight, Isabel Galleymore’s Significant Other

Watched: Arsenal be utter shite vs Chelsea, Chernobyl ep4, an episode of Schitts Creek and Liverpool Vs Spurs. Nice result Liverpool. We can’t have Spurs winning anything

Listened to: Here Come The Cherokees – The Cherokees, Cabbage Alley – The Meters, I Love My Friends – Stephen Duffy, Time And Place – Lee Moses & The Archers x 3

Backer Laureate

Not a lot of headspace this week, so not a lot to put here. It’s been a week at work this week, although to be fair it always is.

We’ve got our Laureate in place now. Once Imitiaz Dharker said no it was always going to be Simon Armitage. Dharker would have been brilliant, but I think Armitage will be too. He’s accessible enough for everyone, he’s clever enough for those interested in that side of things. He wears his learning and insights lightly, but there’s plenty of it/them.

I’ve been listening to his Oxford lectures when I have time, and I’ve just finished his Elizabeth Bishop one. I’m going to have read Bishop now, although to be fair, I’ve been meaning to for a while. Her collected work is sat on the TBR pile by my bed, but keeps getting pushed down when new books arrive. I’ve not ordered Armitage’s new one yet, but I suspect it won’t sell out immediately, or more likely there will be enough printed.

Armitage’s Kid was one of the first poetry books I bought. I bought it in Norwich Waterstones – the one in the Arcade. It was Kid with this cover


Having heard him on late night radio shows with Mark Radcliffe, I sort of knew what to expect. I remember hearing him read Wintering Out, Ice and possibly The Metaphor Now Standing on Platform 8 on those shows.

Ice struck a chord with me because of the subtle Wedding Present reference at the start of the second stanza. I was, and still am, a massive fan of TWP, but I was most surprised see a poet making reference to Brassneck in the poem of the same name when I started reading Kid. The subject matter of pickpockets, the swearing, the class references, the usage of football as a backdrop was unheard of to me at the time, so it certainly changed my idea about what poems could be.

I even named one of the first poems I wrote after reading it Armitage Shanks as a sort of tribute. It’s basically all his fault.

And it was this edition of Poetry Review, again bought in Norwich Waterstones that introduced me to poems of his that would go on to feature in Dead Sea Poems. And loads of other amazing poets, including Lavinia Greenlaw, Don Paterson, Jamie McKendrick, Sarah Maguire, Mick Imlah, Kathleen Jamie and some woman called Carol Ann something or other…

I’m not going to go through all of his work as he’s still going strong and I didn’t intend to write that much. Also, I don’t have it all. I’ve not got Xanadu, Twilight Readings, Stanza Stones, Pearl, Still or Black Roses – that said, I’ve got a download of the radio transmission of that last one. Flit is sat on the TBR pile too. So, who next him or Bishop?

It’s insights like these that keep you coming back…


  1. The Court Might Be Yours, And There May Be A Ball In It, But It’s My Ball And I’m Taking It Home
  2. A Chicken And Egg Situation
  3. The Finished Schematics For A Chicken And An Egg
  4. If I Had To Chose
  5. Poem With Backing Vocals

The week in stats:

1 journey to Birmingham and back for work purposes, which afforded me the chance to work on

1 review written for London Grip. Not sure when it will be out, if at all

2 runs, low kilometrage due to a)journey to Brum b) lacking the requisite arsedness c) ongoing lung knack. d) I’m assuming I actually get up and run tomorrow to make the second run an actual thing.

2 scraps of ideas noted down in emails to myself

1 trip to Wembley to watch Leyton Orient with two mates and their dad. Missed you, Geller-son.*

* Also not happened yet at time of writing, but I will miss Geller. I’m writing this early as I may well be in my cups by the time I get in tomorrow.

Sadly, there isn’t a decent video of Armitage’s work with TWP – England, although there is this one. So we’ll have to make do with this. Or should I have gone with a Scaremongers tune?


Having felt largely out of sorts about writing in the last few days, I was enormously buoyed up midweek by the arrival of the proofs for Firth.

The wonderful Beth McDonough accepted my poem, Stir Crazy, for inclusion in issue 3

From their Facebook page

Firth is a new print magazine of poetry, with the added impetus of an unexpected current. In Scots of course a firth is an estuary, a place of tidal exchange between river and sea. Despite a known predilection for the Firth of Tay, Firth is open to submissions from any shores and from far inland in any land. 

It’s a relatively new mag – I guess it being issue 3 is the giveaway here. (Christ, nothing escapes you does it, Riches?) But that is by the by. Having seen the cover and the list of poets that will be in this issue, I am very pleased to have made it in.

One of the things I like most about Firth is that as a contributor you get given two copies. One for you as the writer, and another to give away as you see fit.

This presents an interesting challenge. I know my mum would bite my arm off for this to add to her personal library of magazines I’ve been in, to leave them laying about on the living room coffee table for a visitor to glance at (and then never come back!!). However, I suspect this would limit the reach of the magazine.

I reckon the plan this time is to leave this copy in the reception at work. I like the idea of it being in the reception at ITV and a bit of poetry nestling in among the various media industry mags.

The proofing process was easy, nothing wrong with my page and one small typo on the biog page – I’ll never get over the joy of seeing my name on a biog page.

I deliberately haven’t read the other poems/poets as I want to read it from the final version when it arrives. I can’t wait. As this tweet said recently

Stir Crazy is a poem I hoped would find a home, even though the other two I submitted alongside it were, I thought, stronger and more likely to be accepted.

That said, one of those other two has been knocked back a lot. I may have to start taking that as a sign, even though I really like it as it is.

Stir Crazy took five attempts, but this other one is currently out for it’s sixth attempt. I suspect it will get one more go before I have a think again.

In other news, I was introduced to Pop Sonnets this week, via the excellent Arspoetica newsletter. Arspoetica is a “twice-weekly newsletter delivering poetry by a range of writers to your inbox.” and has never yet disappointed me in what they send.

My favourite so far as I scan back is this version of the Taylor Swift classic, Shake It Off


  1. Torreador of Uncertainty
  2. Who Wants to Win The League anyway
  3. Hitchcock’s Hatchback
  4. Florida Keycutter
  5. When Your Pilot is a Juggalo

The week in stats:

1 lovely email back after a pamphlet rejection

1 rejection from Frogmore

24K run this week. Bit short due to an attack of lung-knack midweek.

1 Poet Laureate named. Very happy for Simon Armitage. Kid was one of the first poetry books I bought, so obviously it’s all down to me.

1 football season over – Apart from the Europa Cup final – who cares about the other one?


A relatively quiet week on the writing-front, although I did manage to get a draft of something out, but I suspect that when I go to read it back, I will find that it’s 99.9999999999999% utter dog-tod. *

Someone starts to mull it all over

Sometimes it’s good to have these sort of weeks…the weeks where you’ve not committed anything to paper, either at all or that will ever amount to anything. It doesn’t mean that nothing is happening.

For example, I spent yesterday at the Boring Conference and it was wonderful to hear a wide range of topics being talked about, from James Ward’s reasons for disliking Tomato Ketchup to a talk about miniature books, via a session about the olfactory science behind soap powder, and a look at Box Certificates.

This was my 4th visit to the Boring Conference and I always come away with a wealth of utterly useless, but thoroughly fascinating information.

One day, some of it may percolate through into a poem, but it doesn’t matter. Not everything has to. It’s only bloody poetry, after all.

*I can’t imagine why the word tod as a reference to excretion has sprung to mind around the time of the Oxford Professor of Poetry nominations.


  1. Kiss My Device Graph
  2. Spoilers
  3. A Gottle of Geer
  4. Pelf on the Shelf
  5. Erotic Cake-Dancing

The week in stats:

2 rejections – A lovely one from the lovely folks at Atrium and a formal one. Didn’t get into the Poetry Business’s Running Anthology.

40K ran

1 phone dropped in the loo by Flo. Her phone.

1 review published at Happenstance

1 glaring typo noticed in the collection I’m reading.


Quick one this week due to an imminent camping trip. Thankfully, this blog was inspired by the tweet above. It’s the first time I’ve seen a reference to Srinivasa Ramanujan since I was researching my poem The Society For The Preservation of Workings Out.

I was convinced there was something in the idea of marginalia, doodles, etc and workings out that may go up a blind alley. I figured that not all parts of the route to a blind alley are wrong and started searching for examples of notebooks, etc with great ideas. The poem only really started to make sense when I found the Ramanujan stuff.

I was lucky enough to have the poem accepted by the brilliant Poetry Salzburg a while ago, and as the next issue is on the way, I don’t think I’m doing any harm by posting it here.

The Society For the Preservation of Workings Out

“Failure is not failure nor waste wasted if it sweeps away illusion and lights the road to a plan” H.G. Wells, The New Machiavelli

Come in, leave your textbooks by the doors.
You can set them aside while we fathom
the workings out of left-behind thinking.

Ramanujan’s papers, for example,
are thick with notions proven to be right.
Sometimes we must wait on the world to catch up.

Best to start your digging down among
the deep backlogs on shelves, root through backlots,
unpick threads and off-chances that’ve gone begging.

Stick with crate-digs, strip-mine all our notes
and search hard for sidetracked ideas;
the easily missed, mis-read, crossed out plans.

Centre yourself, look for ways to fine
comb through half-done, never-finished workings
that lost their minds down cul-de-sacs. Listen.

Help us match up schema on the backs
of fag packets, join dots together
and salvage second goes, unmask hidden

calculations, marginal jots among
palimpsests. Clear the blue sky of close calls.
Retrace these steps, find us something to save a life.

I’m sure we all have false starts and the poetic equivalent of construction lines floating about in notebooks, on the backs of envelopes, note apps, emails, etc. Sometimes it’s good to go back to them and see what can be salvaged.

I did this week while working on another idea. Something I’d previously rejected came to mind when working on something else and while it may not quite be setting the world alight at present, it’s certainly sent the poem in a new direction.

Finally, I note the runners and riders have been announced for the Poetry Business Running Anthology. I’m amazed to learn Mick Imlah is in there. I love Mick Imlah, but I’m amazed a man that’s been dead for ten years still had a better submission. (Subs to insert laughter emoji).

I can’t wait to read the final book.


  1. Sandwich Fillings You Never Expected
  2. Nest of Wankers
  3. Sideways Looks
  4. Stunner
  5. Sweet Jesus, That’s Ridiculous…And I Like It

The week in stats:

22K run – Including last night’s run home. It nearly killed me – too hot, no water. Thankfully a pub leaped out at us after 13K

4 pints to rehydrate

1 poem worked on, two drafts this week. First poem in a couple of weeks that I’ve even looked at

One out of office on

1 tent to put up, 3 inflatable beds to blow up

2 mates with interviews at ITV

Read, seen, etc

Read: Oliver Comins’ Oak Fish Island, and finished off reading the excellent Finished Creatures Issue 1

Watched: 30 Rock (I think I’m only 15 years behind the rest of the world now), Ep 3 of Chernobyl, What The Durrells Did Next and Schitts Creek

Listened to: The Archers x 4 & Minor Poet, Gia Margaret, my Absolute Tunes Playlist, The National and The Abyssinians

Loved this single and album, I remember an excellent gig above a pub on a Camden Crawl several years ago.