Caring about Radium

Taken by me in Berlin, 2016 @ Museum Der Dinge

It’s only a coincidence if you make the connection, but I think this just about counts.

Last Sunday evening I caught the end of Antiques Roadshow, and one of the participants was looking at a watch that I think belonged to their father that had radium on the dial.

It reminded me of a poem, but I couldn’t remember who had written it. I suspected it was Lavinia Greenlaw, but I was comfortable on the sofa and despite my books being 5 feet away I couldn’t face getting up to check. I turned to Twitter to ask, and very quickly it was confirmed that it was indeed by LG, from her first collection, ‘Night Photograph’.

The poem is called ‘The Innocence of Radium’ and it’s an excellent poem. The likes of which I don’t think Greenlaw writes anymore (this is not to knock her later work – I loved The Built Moment).

However, let’s get to the (TBC) coincidence. As part of the conversation on Twitter, I alluded to a review of LG by Ian McMillan that I had in an old Poetry Review (Think I’ve referenced this edition before), where he describes Night Photograph by paraphrasing John Peel,

“As John Peel once said about an album by Napalm Death, experiencing this is like renting a cottage by the sea.”

As an aside, I would sell a kidney to be in a rented cottage by the sea at the moment.

Anyhoo, moving on. The coincidence starts the next day when I dig out the aforementioned quotation (I wasn’t sure if I remembered it correctly) and while flicking through the rest of the mag I land upon a poem by Mick Imlah called ‘Past Caring’. That looks familiar, I thought.

It was familiar because I’d read it the night before in his collection, ‘The Lost Leader‘.

Mick Imlah, The Lost Leader

The Poetry Review issue came out in 1994, ‘The Lost Leader’ was published in 2008. That’s quite the wait, although I know Imlah was quite slow in his work-rate. Comparing the two versions of the poem I can see that the intervening years saw:

1. The removal of an em dash from the last line of the third stanza

2. A change from upper to a lower case v in valentine in line 3 of the fifth stanza

3. In the fifth stanza, what was ‘ And sniffing the neck I feel suddenly dear to you’ became ‘And sniffing the neck I feel suddenly near to you (which I think works better given the rhyme it offers with the last line of that stanza. It’s like he knew what he was doing.)

4. Two more em dashes are removed from the final stanza in line 4 and the final line.

5. What was ‘The fish out of water that stubbornly stays but the more fish’ became ‘The fish out of water that stubbornly stays all the more fish’.

What does it say about Imlah’s thinking? Probably not a lot more than he wanted to make these changes that were largely niggles. The most significant of them, for me, occurs in the fifth stanza. The change of the rhyme and the lower case valentine making the poem work a lot harder.

Alternatively, they could have been typos in one of these publications, but I don’t think so.

Here’s the final version of the poem.

I can’t claim to be anywhere near as good as Mick Imlah or Lavinia Greenlaw. (Please note I never will claim this), but I can ham-fistedly segue into saying that I finished two poems this week that have taken a long time to finish. One has taken at least a year (I can’t find the notes I made at the start, so may well be a bit older) and another was started in 2017 and is a rare example of something from NAPOWRIMO, especially given I don’t take part in that anymore.

Both poems have gone on quite the journey, turning from small notes to being parts of a sequence and then back to being standalone poems again. It took a lot of cutting to get them done. I was quietly convinced I’d nailed them both at least six months ago, but I was wrong. I still may be wrong now that I think they are actually done, but they’ve gone out as part of a submission this week, and I feel better about them than I have ever done.

It’s meant I can now crack on with a draft of something I made notes on towards the end of last year. It’s a poem inspired by my surprise trip to Berlin in 2016 for my 40th. Inspired by, but not really about…I don’t know what it’s about yet. However, that trip is where the header image for this post comes from. And to get really spooky on you it mentions Radium. *Mind blown gif*

More spookiness, I mentioned Ian McMillan earlier. Tonight is the TS Eliot awards, hosted by one Ian McMillan, and judged by ..doo doo doo doo doo…Lavina Greenlaw, Andrew McMillan (son of..) and Mona Arshi (Her collection, ‘Dear Big Gods’ found itself at the top of my book pile last night).

Good luck to all involved.


59.3k running – Carrying on with the Run Every Day in January thing. My foot is sore, my legs are tired, but all miles are good miles…This week includes my first half marathon run of the year and 4 PBs. Not bad. I feel awful now though.

0 day of 2 x 7-minute workouts, but the above means I don’t feel so bad

66 days of insults between my friend and me on Twitter. He started it.

0 x rejections:

0 x acceptances

3 poems worked on: Out of Office, Phantom Settlements , Berlin

2 poems finished: An Out of Office Message, Phantom Settlements

2 new Submissions: The North

40 poems currently out for submission

57 Published poems*:

45 Poems* finished by unpublished

31 poems* in various states of undress

554 Rejected poems* Eg I’ve decided they are not good enough

1 Reviews* written. 2 still to do though, so must crack on

14 day* without cigarettes..Thumbs aloft!!!

24 days without drinking. Nearly cracked last night.

1 more week that I’m not having an affair with Eva Green

* To date, not this week. Christ!!


Scuttling Skittles
Holy Smokes
Knocked Kneed Cockneys


Mick Imlah: The Lost Leader
Matthew Caley: Apparently
Frank Wood: Racing The Stable Clock
Kae Tempest: On Connection
George Kendrick: When All Is Said And Done

Viagra Boys: Welfare Jazz
Sad Eagle: Demons On Toast Playlist, My Computer is Old Playlist
Emily Wells: Promise
Explosions In The Sky: All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone, Live Bootleg, The Earth is Not A Cold Dead Place, Friday Night Lights (Studio Demos), Friday Night Lights (OST) 
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith: Euclid
Life Without Buildings: The Leftovers
The Turtles: Happy Together 
The Twilight Singers: Dynamite Steps
Miles Davis: Sketches of Spain
Sara Watkins: You In All The Wrong Ways
Satisfaction Unlimited: Think of the Children
Scarce: Deadsexy, Circus Boy
Triptides: Azur
Van Morrison: Moondance
Vetiver: Complete Strangers
Walls: Coracle
The Waterboys: This Is The Sea
Harold Ashby: On the Sunny Side of the Street
Kathy Smith: 2
My Morning Jacket; The Waterfall II, Z
Cassandra Jenkins: Hard Drive (On repeat)
East River Pipe: Goodbye California
Earlimart: Hymn And Her
Dua Lipa: Future Nostalgia
The Wedding Present: Bizarro, Going, Going…
Waxahatchee: Saint Cloud, Out In The Storm
Modern Studies: The Weight of the Sun 
Matt Berninger: Serpentine Prison
Hand Habits: Placeholder

Spiral S8 E7-10
Call My Agent: S1E1
New Girl S2 E21-23

Zooms, etc

The Archers

Eavan Boland: The Historians
Arun Jeetoo: I want to be the one you think about at night


A short song from Napalm Death
A bonus song as the last one is so short

Gravy Reservoir

Firstly, and not to be all Yogurt-weavery and Instagram-grateful about things, but two small things to be grateful for.

1.Today was the day that my wife said to me that she has seen smarter looking tramps. (NB Today was also the day I spontaneously decided to reach for the beard clippers- Spooky!)

2. I finally remembered to make a note of the way my daughter will without fail always pour gravy into the hole at the top of her Yorkshire pudding to create some sort of gravy reservoir. It’s the little things.

Anyhoo, how the actual living chuff is it Sunday already? The next thing I know it will be Monday and then where will we be? (Yes, I know the answer is where we usually are on a Monday – either at home or at work)

This year seems to be taking it’s toll on me more than all of last year did. I don’t know why, although I suspect I could hazard a few guesses. All of them would be different and all of them would likely be correct (I suspect insider trading).

I am certainly losing track of the days as I could have sworn today was the TS Eliot prizegiving. It isn’t – I think it’s next week. I guess as long as the poets, the judges, and Ian McMillan all know, then the rest is irrelevant. That said, I do enjoy following along on Twitter, although one year I’d like to actually go. Maybe next year.

I think I’d got my wires all crossed about dates as I finished J.O. Morgan’s ‘A Martian’s Regress‘ this week. It’s the only one of the books on the list for this year that I’ve read. I will eventually remedy this, and while I loved it I can’t say whether I want it to win or not because I have nothing to balance it against. I’ve read poems by most of the authors on the list and enjoyed them, so come join me on the fence; it’s comfy.

However, this poem from The Martian’s Regress has struck a chord with me this week.

J. O. Morgan – From ‘The Martian’s Regress’. Cape Poetry

I can’t quite nail why this poem feels apt. It just does. That will do. Good luck to all poets in the TS Eliot hat. Good luck all poets. Good luck everyone.


46.29k running – Carrying on with the Run Every Day in January thing. My foot is sore, my legs are tired, but all miles are good miles…And this is before the proper training starts…eek

0 day of 2 x 7-minute workouts, but the above means I don’t feel so bad

59 days of insults between my friend and I on Twitter. He started it.

2 x rejections: Smoke & Spectator

0 x acceptances

3 poems worked on: Out of Office, Railings, Phantom Settlements.

1 poems finished: Railings (Title and posible clarification aside)

2 new Submissions: Agenda & Acumen

32 poems currently out for submission

57 Published poems*:

43 Poems* finished by unpublished

32 poems* in various states of undress

554 Rejected poems* Eg I’ve decided they are not good enough

0 Reviews* written and submitted. 2 still to do though, so must crack on

17 day* without cigarettes..Thumbs aloft!!!

1 more week that I’m not having an affair with Eva Green

* To date, not this week. Christ!!


Marked Safe
Heavy knitwear
Myths aren’t male moths, now do the maths
Up to my oxters in an ox blood oxbow lake.


Mick Imlah: The Loss Leader
JO.Morgan: The Martian’s Regress

Julian Cope: Presents The Unruly Imagination, My nation Underground, Paranormal In The West Country, Peggy Suicide, Psychedelic Revolution, Revolutionary Suicide, Rome Wasn’t Burned In A Day, Saint Julian, Self Civil War, Skellington 1, Skellington 2, Skellington 3, World Shut your Mouth, You Gotta A Problem With Me, 20 Mothers

Epic45: We Were Never Here

The Senseless Things: Empire Of The Senseless, The First of Too Many, Postcard CV

Shady: World

David Bowie: Blackstar, Alladdin Sane, Diamond Dogs, Earthling, Heroes, hours…, Hunky Dory, Let’s Dance, Live Nassau Coliseum ’76, Lodger, Low, The Man Who Sold The World, Never Let Me Down

Fana Hues: Hues

British Sea Power: the Decline & Fall of BSP, Do You Like Rock Music?, Let The Dancer’s Inherit The Party, Machineries of Joy, Happiness

Gabriels: Love & Hate In A Different Time

Wilco: Summerteeth, A Ghost is Born

Spiral S8E5-6
Fear The Walking Dead S5E7-11
Glow S1E1-3
Ted Lasso E1
Staged S1E3-6
Winter Walks x 3.

Zooms, etc

The Archers

New TV Remote
Leung Rachel Ka Yin: Chengyu Chinoiserie
Vasiliki Albedo: Fire In The Oubliette
Poetry Salzburg 36

Katherine Horrex: Growlery
A new coat
A new TV remote

Look, it mentions Mars. My teenage self loved this (my 44-year-old self still does too) and it seems an accurate reflection of the inside of my head

A Coincidence of Oranges

It’s not going to let up, is it? Does it feel like there’s more news because I’m at home more? Probably not, but it does seem to be getting more momentous as the days go by.

Arguably, it’s always politics, all of the time, but as Matthew Paul rightly points out here, it’s almost impossible to ignore the sheer amount of politics going on. However, I’m aware he mentions me in his post and I don’t want this to be a circlejerk, so I’m going to move on. I don’t think there’s anything that I can add to the weight of discourse around current events beyond relief that there appears to be grown-ups on the way in in the US (for all the faults of Biden and Harris, they are at least stringing sentences together and not calling for mass insurrection) and positive news about the vaccines (for all the uselessness of our own government in organising the rollout).

In an attempt to distract myself, I’m going to focus, for now, on the small coincidences of oranges and a poem.

1. I was tidying our fridge earlier and removed two oranges to put them in our fruit bowl. Honestly, the fun never ends in our house.

2. As I did this I remembered that earlier this week I’d seen the poet Clare Best post a picture on Instagram of a few jars of marmalade that she had made. Not sure I can embed it, but it’s here

3. This had reminded me of her excellent poem in her recent collection

Clare Best, Taken From ‘Each Other, published by Waterloo Press

I’ve said plenty about this poem and the rest of Clare’s book here, so if you get rind* to it you can read it

4. I’d sort of forgotten about points one to three happening (all that fun will do that to you), but then it occurred to me again earlier when my wife came back from the shops and mentioned how empty the fruit and veg aisle was. We hoped it wasn’t the knock-on impact of Brexit or Covid, but it’s almost certainly a combination of the impact of both. And, in the words of Ben Elton**, “A liddle bit of politics there, ladies and gentlemen that brings us back round to where we came in***

I must also say a massive thank you to Jeremy Noel-Tod for sending me a copy of ‘Market Lunch: Poems of Norwich’ by Ron Nevett. See here for details, but the book is raising funds for an excellent charity, New Routes, which supports refugees, asylum seekers and isolated migrants, and promotes cross-cultural integration and community awareness in Norwich.

I’ve seen Jeremy posting Ron’s work as it’s been published in the Norwich Evening News, and it’s lovely to see them finally collected together. The market in Norwich is somewhere I spent a lot of time as a young man—especially the stall for bootleg live tapes. I still have the Wedding Present one from Norwich Waterfront where I can be heard shouting for My Favourite Dress. If only I’d known back then that they’d stopped playing it at that time.

How to buy/donate

However, I did sort of manage to balls up my promotion of it earlier in the week. The tweet below was meant to come across as me being self-deprecating and not having a go at Ron. Ooops, sorry Ron.

Time to stop, my laptop battery is on 2%, the charger is all the way upstairs and I have an urgent appointment with an orange.

*Sorry, not sorry as the young folks say
** I may be unshaven****, but I’m not wearing a spangly suit
*** After a fashion
****Unshaven is pushing it. I think I ended up looking like a Russian Submarine commander earlier today.

Taken earlier, pre-family walk, post-orange organisation and post-orange discussion


43.1k running – Carrying on with the Run Every Day in January thing. My foot is sore, so next week may see some shorter runs, but all miles are good miles…

0 day of 2 x 7-minute workouts, but the above means I don’t feel so bad

1 day Wilbur (our cat) spent the whole day sleeping on my desk while I worked

52 days of insults between my friend and I on Twitter. He started it.

0 x rejections: All good.

0 x acceptances

5 poems worked on: Berlin 2016, Giving Up on NYE, Out of Office, Railings, Spider That Bit Peter Parker. Getting back into the daily writing, slowly. As in slowly getting back into it, not writing slowly—although that too

0 poems finished:

0 Submissions:

0 Reviews written and submitted. 1 still to do though, so must crack on

10 day without cigarettes..Thumbs aloft!!!

1 more week that I’m not having an affair with Eva Green


Projective Techniques
The potential cat among the actual pigeons
Time is flying…But you are a pilot
The Blackpool Ruminations
The Small Coincidences of Oranges


Poetry Wales 56.2
J.O Morgan: The Martian’s Regress

Pixies: Live From Brixton Academy 05.06.04 (I WAS THERE AND IT WAS A MAGICAL EVENING)
Efterklang & The Happy Hopeless Orchestra: Leaves – The Colour of Falling
J Mascis: Elastic Days, Tied To A Star
Matthew Halsall: Salute To The Sun
Paul McCartney: McCartney III
Four let: 871
Eels: Then Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett
Kevin Morby: Sundowner
REM: Fables of The Reconstruction, Green, Life’s Rich Pageant, Murmur, MTV Unplugged, New Adventures In HiFi, Out of Time, Up
El Vy: Return To The Moon
Lanterns On The Lake: Beings
Hiroshi Yoshimura: Green
Craig Finn : All These Perfect Crosses
Grant-Lee Phillips: Lightning, Show us Your Stuff
Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit: Reunions
The Jayhawks: Back Roads And Abandoned Motels
Jenny Lewis: Acid Tongue, On The Line, The Voyageur
Julian Cope: An Audience With The Cope, Autogeddon, Black Sheep, Beautiful Love EP, Charlotte Anne & B Sides, Christ Vs Warhol, Citizen Cain’d, Dark Orgasm, Droolian, Drinking Songs, Due To Lack of Interest Tomorrow Has Been Cancelled, Fried, Intepreter, The Jehovahcaot Demos, Jehovahkill, John Balance Enters Valhalla

The Expanse S4 & 5 – various episodes
New Girl S2 E1-12
Spiral S8 E3&4
Fear The Walking Dead S5 E6
Zooms, etc

Not even The Archers

Market Lunch – Ron Nevett

Zoe Brigley-Thompson: Aubade After A French Movie
Eaven Boland: The Historians

And/Or Again vs BMFA

I’m not as green as I am cabbage looking, I know that I won’t wake up tomorrow and everything will be somehow different or better (I’d settle for different). I know that it will be another day of putting one foot in front of another.

I’m not 100% convinced I’ll keep up the same schedule as this year for posts (like, who cares, man?), but it has been a good discipline, so who knows.

However, I do know that I’m grateful to anyone that has read any of this bilge this year, read any of my poems and/or reviews, and/or published any of my poems and/or reviews.

And that you should really read this post by Nell Nelson for a bit more positivity.

Happy New Year


60ishk running – In the last two weeks. I’ve now hit and then some) my secondary target of 1000 miles for the year

0 day of 2 x 7-minute workouts, but the above means I don’t feel so bad

0 x rejections: All good.

0 x acceptances

3 poems worked on.

0 poems finished:

1 Submission:

2 Reviews written and submitted. 1 to do though, so must crack on

1 day without cigarettes..I was doing ok, but fuck it…Back to it tomorrow

1 more week that I’m not having an affair with Eva Green


Will be back in the new year


Daniel Bennett: West South North North South East
Martin Stannard: The Review
Samuel Tongue: Sacrifice Zones
Poetry Wales #57

Leila: Like Weather
VA: Visions of Darkness (In Iranian Contemporary Music)Liela Moss: My Name Is SafeIn Your Mouth
My Morning Jacket: Evil Urges
Lift To Experience: Peel Sessions, Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads
The Lemonheads: Come On Feel The Lemonheads
Lou Bond: ST
SG Goodman: Old Time Feeling
Slow Club: One Day All of This Won’t Matter Anymore
Steve Adams: House Music, Keep It Light, Old Magick
Four Set: Parallel
The Ibrahim Khalil Shihab Quintet: Spring
Joanna Newsome: Have One On Me
Martha Wainwright: ST
Matthew Halsall & The Gondwana Orchestra: Into Forever
Matthew Halsall: Colour Yes
This playlist by Neil Mortensen

BSG S4E9-23
Bridgerton E1-2 (I gave up, but R& F continued)
Die Hard
Santa Claus: The MovieVarious eps of the ExpanseArthur Christmas
The Masked Singer
Early Doors S1 +2

Zooms, etc
Grandbag’s Xmas party on Boxing Day. Very drunk and included almost one hour of laughter at one joke.

The Archers

A book from my mate Mike
New running trainers

New running trainers

This the positive contribution
While this is about MW’s dad, I dedicate it to 2020

Off The Charts

Running out of steam sure takes it out of you.

Jury service came to an end this week, and it was hard work…It’s not a case I want to discuss now that it’s over, but suffice to say it wasn’t a very pleasant one. I think we, the jury, made the right decision in the end, and my conscience is clear, but even so.

I’m writing this with some sort of jet lag running through my veins. I thought I was ok after yesterday’s Tier 4 announcements, but I can’t have been as I couldn’t sleep last night, so I am somehow functioning (as best as I can) with about 2 hours sleep under my belt.

I am very pleased I am now off work until the new year; I feel like the cumulative effects of the stresses and strains of this tear and then my time in court have utterly wrung me out, and that a long break is what’s needed. The Xmas shopping has been done, 99.9% of it wrapped and ready. Just one thing to arrive and wrap and it’s all done.

Despite me actually getting cards from a couple of people that I never get cards from, I’ve not sent cards this year – perhaps we should have, but it just didn’t seem important.

Charts n grafs ( a nod to Grandaddy)

I’ve seen a few ends of year posts floating about this week, and some debates about the idea of increased submissions, aiming for the magic 100 rejections etc. I think if you want to go down that road that’s fine, but it’s not for me. It was discussed well and far more intelligently on Robin Houghton & Peter Kenny’s podcast, Planet Poetry, and so I’d urge you to listen to that, but then I’d urge you to listen to it anyway. I’ve not played the latest one yet, but that’s tomorrow’s job…

However, I did start doing its last year, so I’m carrying on now. An acceptance last week means I have now equalled my acceptances for 2019, which had been a record year, so I think that counts as a good. I’d like to think in some way this post is also tempting the gods and that the remaining subs (30 poems across 7 locations) will come in with acceptances now just to mess up my charts *Prays*.

What’s interesting (to me) is that it’s the same number of acceptances with a significantly lower number of poems sent out and to fewer places (36 vs 47, uncharted), but the success rate has increased from 9% to 12%…

I’d like to say this has something to do with me boxing clever about my subs and the quality of my poems increasing, and I hope that’s true, but I can’t say that as it’s not for me to say. I think I’ve certainly aimed at some places I didn’t think I’d get in, and on most occasions I was correct, but there were a few where it was a hit and hope and I “connected”. More of that in 2021 please, but I suspect it will only get harder.


39.2k running – I’ve re-adjusted my annual target, so I can’t ease off. 52K more to do between now and the end of the year to hit 1000 miles.

0 day of 2 x 7-minute workouts, but the above means I don’t feel so bad

0 x rejections: All good.

0 x acceptance

0 poems worked on.

0 poems finished:

0 Submissions:

0 Reviews written and submitted. 3 to do though, so must crack on

1 month and 6 days without cigarettes…I think. If we discount last week, and let’s do that

1 more week that I’m not having an affair with Eva Green


Wrapping Paper
Tinsel Your Soul


Nothing…absolutely nothing

Dezron Douglas & Brandee Younger: Force Mature
Late Night Final: A Wonderful Hope
Paul McCartney: McCartney I, McCartney II, Memory Almost Full
The Idle Race: The Birthday Party
Laura Veirs: My Echo, Warp & Weft, Carbon Glacier, Year Of Meteors, The Lookout, July Flame

BSG S4 E7-8
Queen’s Gambit E5-7
Battlestar Galactica S4 E6-8
Fear of Walking Dead S5 E1-5

Zooms, etc
The North #64+65 launch
Laura Viers Patreon Gig

The Archers

A record for Flo
My mate Mike’s Xmas Present
Kostya Tsolakis – Ephebos

A record for Flo
My mate Mike’s Xmas Present

(T)weedy Posts

A swift post this week…A week of being on jury service has somewhat spannered me, and also left me with almost no idea what’s going on around me.

Luckily, before the flurry of publications last week, I’d seen this article from Jeff Tweedy (He of Jeff Tweedy – solo performer, Wilco, Uncle Tupelo, etc fame*)

I think it’s definitely worth reading the whole article. It’s a five minute read, tops, but I very much like this section on Craft vs Inspiration.

Let’s talk more about what we call “inspiration”. It’s overrated. I believe that you have to invite inspiration in. I’ve found that most people who have a fulfilling life in art are, like me, the people who work at it every day and put the tools of creation in their hands frequently, who not only invite inspiration in but also do it on a regular basis. Instead of waiting to be “struck” by inspiration, they put themselves directly in its path. Pick up a guitar, and you’re much more likely to write a song. Pick up a pencil … etc.

There’s little doubt in my mind that because I do so much of that planned, methodical thinking in which I put the tools of inspiration in my own hands – a guitar, a pencil, a computer – I’ve trained my subconscious to always be working a little bit. Because I’ve already cleared the pathway and tended that pathway, kept it open and remained receptive to it, by practice.

But beyond that, once you get started, how much is inspiration and how much is craft?”

Hopefully I can put myself back in the path after next week.

* I note he’s also released a book of poetry called Adult Head, but musicians and books of poetry don’t tend to make comfortable bedfellows, so I’m not going to attempt to read it.


51.3k running – Sorted and gone beyiond weekly target, sorted and gone beyond annual target. December half marathion sorted. Now to rest for a couple of days..

0 day of 2 x 7-minute workouts, but the above means I don’t feel so bad

0 x rejections: All good.

0 x acceptance

0 poems worked on.

0 poems finished:

0 Submissions:

0 Reviews written and submitted. 3 to do though, so must crack on

1 month and 6 days without cigarettes…I think. If we discount one blip, and let’s do that

1 more week that I’m not having an affair with Eva Green


Astral Turf


Daniel Bennett: West South North North South East

Booker T & The M.Gs: McLemore Avenue
Trembling Blue Stars; Broken by WhispersEITS Live
Sir Lord Baltimore: Kingdom ComeLee Fields & The Expressions: Big Crown Vaults Vol.1
Laura Veirs: My EchoJessica Pratt: On Your Own Love Again
Wilco: Ode To Joy

The Undoing E2-6
Fear The Walking Dead – S5E1
The Queen’s Gambit E1-3

Zooms, etc
ITV Audiences Xmas Party
Finished Creatures Issue 3 & 4 launch (assuming it goes ahead as I’m writing this—such as it is— a day early)

Planet Poetry #2+4

Orbis 193-194
Mike Barlow x 4
Box of Beer from the lovely folks at Research Bods
Part of R’s Xmas present
Flo’s Xmas Present

Mike Barlow x 3
Kostya Tsolakis: Ephebos
Flo’s Xmas present
Gift for R

It’s (almost) the End of the (working)Year (as I know it) and I feel finest

Leonard Bernstein!!!

Last week was something of a busy week, I have almost no idea what happened in the world outside at all…something about vaccines and Brexit. A combination of impending Jury Service in Croydon next week (who is being sentenced here??) and the need to use up holiday days at work meant that the Friday just gone was technically my last day at work for this year. This meant a “mega-fuckload”* of work needed doing in order to get things wrapped up. I think I’ve done most of it, and I will still need to be checking in on things in between sentencing old ladies to the death penalty for minor traffic offences**.

It feels very odd to be done for the year with three weeks to go, but I guess I’m not. I’ve still got to go to court, etc, but after the last 9 months at home and the breakneck pace of work since then, I’m quite looking forward to having to actually get up and go somewhere, even if it is Croydon***.

The manicness of it all has meant that I was thoroughly remiss in not mentioning that the lovely Ben Banyard was kind enough to invite me to send him a poem for his new series/feature on his blog called Finest. The idea being a poet sends in what they think to be a great piece of work, or something they feel has been overlooked.

I went with something more akin to the latter. Ben, as I’m sure you know, used to run Clear Poetry, and Clear was one of the places that first accepted my work. One of the poems Clear accepted was a poem called Slarver (Norfolk for talking a load of old shite, and nearly the title for this site, fact fans). The story behind why I chose to give Ben Slarver again is on the site, so get yourself over there. Do read the others, there are some fascinating and heartbreaking stories. Also, keep your eyes peeled for his latest collection, Hi-Vis which should be out next year.

The manicness also meant that my plans/routine/lockdown ritual/whatever of writing for 30+ minutes before work also went out of the window this week, so while I’ve not so much as looked at a poem this week it has been a good week for publications.

The lovely ladies, (Holly and Claire – wonderful poets in their own right) at Atrium published my poem Sparklers at the start of the week. Sparklers is a poem that has been hanging around in notebooks in one form or another for about 20 years. It took the chance seeing of a work colleague on a train station platform (they were standing on a platform going one way, I was behind the glass of a train going the other way) to jumpstart what eventually became this version.

I sent this to Atrium last year and it came back with a note saying how much they liked it, but it felt like it needed to be published in December and they were full for December 2019. I sat, patiently and waited until earlier this year to send it, and some others, in again. This time they were powerless to resist, and I am very grateful. Not least because they publish so many great poems – the Angela Readman poem before mine is awesome, but also because it gives me a chance to use this picture.

Spud, you like?

Later in the week the publishing gods kept on giving, as the Winter issue of The High Window was published, featuring two poems of mine: ‘Selling The Trampoline’, and ‘A Short Survey’. I’m still working my way through it at present, but there are some wonderful poets surrounding me. Simon Richey is one – I have his collection ‘Naming The Tree’ on my shelves, and there’s a poem of his that caused me to buy it. I wish I could remember what it was, but I loved it and it wasn’t in the book, so I hope he gets a new collection out so I can hopefully be reminded.

Both of the poems of mine are ones I really like, Trampoline feels like more of a summer poem to me, but A Short Survey is one I wanted to get right, somehow combining the day job with my writing. I think it’s a vein to explore further, but I’m not going to force it. Both these poems took several drafts and rethinkings to get to this stage.

As ever, come for my poems and stay for the others.

The final gift from the poetry gods this week has been what I think is the fastest ever move from a first draft to final draft to acceptance. I finished the second draft of a poem last week, and after running it by a voice I trust, I sent it off yesterday for consideration towards a chapbook/anthology. I woke up to the acceptance email this morning. While the idea for the poem came in the middle of this summer, I didn’t write anything until two weeks ago, so that’s positively sprinter-level stuff for me.

In a week (if you squint and don’t look at the date of Ben publishing ‘Slarver’) where two places I’ve been published before have taken poems, it’s worth noting that another of the first places to take my work has reached a milestone.

Happy 25th anniversary to Snakeskin Poetry. I think George was the first to take a proper poem of mine back in 2013, my poem about a Knife Thrower’s Assistant. (I’ve subsequently re-written this poem, but having just looked at it again I can see it needs more work before sharing it). He’s also taken another poem in the last couple of years about a person that can’t stop growing…

What an achievement staying open for 25 years is, so congratulations to Snakeskin, and may they continue to keep shedding skins and growing.

Finally, I’d like to draw your attention to the annual tradition of Matthew Stewart’s list of top poetry blogs for 2020 (in his opinion). I’m very honoured to be included for the second year running, but I think the bit I always look out for is the new additions, and Matthew’s highlighted a couple I think I will be reading for a long time.

Have a look over here for the full list. It’s not in order of importance, but I’m saying I won it.

* Technical term
** Obvs, I won’t. Just life sentences
***Just joking, as much as I dislike driving through**** Croydon I don’t mind the place.
**** I like driving back out even more


22k running – Didn’t make my weekly target, but felt the need to sleep in today. 35K to go to hit my entirely arbitrary goal of 1500 Km for the year.

1 day of 2 x 7-minute workouts, but the above means I don’t feel so bad

0 x rejections: All good.

1 x acceptance – 1 poem

0 poems worked on.

0 poems finished:

3 Submissions: Spelt and Dreich

1 Review written and submitted. 2 to do though, so must crack on

29 days without cigarettes (and one blip on Friday night)

1 more week that I’m not having an affair with Eva Green


Klaus Gnomic
Avant-Garden Centre
Fly-Tipping By JR Hartley


Daniel Bennett: West South North North South East

Matthew Halsall: Sending my Love, Oneness
Taylor Swift: Folklore-The Long Pond Sessions
Grandaddy: The Sophtware Slump, Sumday, Under The Western Freeway, Just like The Family Cat, Last Place
Cafe Racer: Shadow Talk
Explosions In The Sky: Live, The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place, How Strange, Innocence
Great Lake Swimmers: ST
Greg Dulli: Random Desire
Hop Along: Painted Shut
Hurray For the Riff Raff: The Navigator
Ian Broudie: Tales Told
J Mascis: Elastic Days
James Iha: Be Strong Now
Josh T Pearson: Last of The Country Gentlemen
The Orielles: Silver Dollar Moment
The Beatles: Abbey Road, The Beatles, Beatles For Sale, A Hard Day’s Night, Help, Let It be, Magical Mystery Tour, Non Album Singles, Please Please Me, Revolver, Rubber Soul, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Yellow Submarine
The National: Alligator, Boxer
Postal Service: Everything Will Change
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith: Mosaic of Transformation
Jeremy Cunningham : The Weather Up Here
British Sea Power: Open Season
Sae Higashi: Klangfarben

The Boys: S2E8
The Undoing E1
The Christmas Prince (NB Flo’s choice, utter bobbins)

Zooms, etc
PBLJ #5 Launch

The Archers
Planet Poetry #1 and 2

A running hat

Finished Creatures #4
Orbis 194
Mona Arshi: Dear Big Gods
Poetry Wales #57
A running hat

Darth’s Grandbag

I woke up this morning(for the second time*) to the sad news of Dave Prowse’s death. Yes, Darth Vader (and the Green Cross Code man) has left us, having looked upon us with his own eyes one last time.

I know his own voice wasn’t used in Star Wars, and instead, we got the wonderful deep tones of James Earl Jones, but Vader (and therefore Prowse) has been a part of my life for a long time—pretty much since I was born.

As an aside, my friend reminded me of this work of over-dubbing genius earlier.

I’m not particularly big on cinema. I don’t really know what I’m talking about and wouldn’t claim to be well-watched by any stretch of the imagination. I watched a lot of films as a youth, but nothing particularly highbrow. We had a VHS player my uncle had given us (he’s bet his boots on LaserDiscs being the format winner) and that came with 20 tapes…One of which was Return Of The Jedi, but there was also Kelly’s Heroes, Where Eagles Dare, Midnight Express and Poltergeist. I didn’t understand Midnight Express at all (I was about 10), but the other three I loved and they have stayed with me. Two of my oldest friends did fall for cinema in a big way and became obsessed, but I stuck with music and books.

It was interesting to see, then, this week this post by Jess Mookherjee about the crossover between poetry and cinema, and in this case between Interstellar and Dylan Thomas. We’ll skip over the representation of poets in films and also films about poets.

It’s also giving me the chance to do a little bit of self-promotion for a podcast I’m part of with my friends Simon and Jon (mentioned earlier). The podcast is called Grandbag’s Funeral, and the idea is we link films together in a sort of six degrees of Kevin Bacon way, and, while in this latest episode we did feature Kevin Bacon, we won’t use him as a link because that’s kind of cheating.

Other Platforms are available

The latest episode sees us discussing Tremors, Big Trouble In Little China and Robert Altman’s Short Cuts. All three are excellent films in their own ways. It was a joy to discuss them, it’s not always the case with these discussions—for example, the episode where we discussed Dune was a “joy”. Short Cuts feels especially pertinent at the moment, a city in lockdown because of an unseen menace, tensions boiling over within families, etc…

However, the reason for bringing it up, beyond the self-promotion (and please note as the non-cinephile, I am there largely to play the idiot to Jon and Simon’s much considered and experienced voices) is that Short Cuts is based on the writings of Raymond Carver and draws from his poem, Lemonade. I don’t know much about Carver’s work, and even less about his poems, but I know his poem ‘Late Fragment’ and that seems like enough of a reason to keep digging.

Despite it being over 3 hours long (and I genuinely believe there should be a law against that) I highly recommend this film (and the others as well). And that you read Jess’ article. Oh yeah, and listen to all of the eps of Grandbag’s Funeral.

To make things a bit more cinematic, one of the poems I’ve been working on this week is based on/inspired by a scene from Blade Runner.


35k running – Made my weekly target…and 57K to go to hit my entirely arbitrary goal of 1500 Km for the year.

0 day of 2 x 7-minute workouts, but the above means I don’t feel so bad

0 x rejections: All good.

1 x acceptance – 2 poems. (Fingers crossed, I won’t know for definite until the mag is published), This brings me to 14 accepted poems for the year, but I won’t make the charts yet…

3 poems worked on. Family Secrets, Fishing Exercise and the Blade Runner one. Title TBC on that one

2 poems finished: Family Secrets and Fishing Exercise

2 Submissions: TLS and New Statesman

0 Reviews written and submitted. 3 to do though, so must crack on

24 days without cigarettes…I think. Certainly haven’t this week. Weird, barely even thought of it. Maybe, just maybe this is the time…

1 more week that I’m not having an affair with Eva Green


Astral Turf


Poetry Birmingham Literary Journal #5
Under The Radar #26

Pixies: Live At Brixton 2.06.04
P.g. Lost – Oscillate
Phoebe Bridgers: Copycat Killer
Ride: Nowhere
The Elgins: The Motown Anthology
Howlin Rain: The Alligator Bride, Magnificent Fiend, Mansion Songs, The Russian Wilds
Luke Abbott: Translate
The New Pornographers: Whiteout Conditions, Twin Cinema
Brett Anderson: Black Rainbow, Slow Attack
Jeff Tweedy: Love Is the King, Showbiz Kids (OST), Together At Last, Warm, Warmer
Jessica Pratt: Quieter Signs
Jim Ghedi & Toby Hay: The Hawksworth Grove Sessions
The Hold Steady: Heaven Is Whenever
Kiasmos: ST
Matthew Halsall: Salute To The Sun, Colour Yes
Jacqueline Du Pre & Dame Janet Baker: Elgar Sea Pictures Op.37
VA – If I Had A Pair Of Wings: Jamaican Doo Wop Vol.3
Grateful Dead: From The Mars Hotel, Aoxomoaoa

The Boys S2E2-4
Battlestar Galactica S4E5
New Girl: S1 E12-15

Zooms, etc
A day long course on Advanced Semiotics

The Archers

An end cap for Flo’s curtain rail
Stand 18.3


A tangentially linked song this week. Vangelis was in Aphrodite’s Child and he wrote the theme music for Blade Runner, but this is an epic bit of kit

Interested Parties

For the last couple of months, I’ve been carving out a minimum of half every weekday morning to work on my poems. I’ve enjoyed the time to focus (albeit initially with a slight annoyance that it took me 6 months of lockdown to get into this rhythm, but I’m over that now) and to a degree, I’m reaping some of the benefits in the sense of having written at least 5 poems I’d say are among my best (so far) and have revisited some older ones to improve them. One of the newer ones, while declined by a big mag (and editor/poet I have long been a fan of), came very close to publication.

Adding to that a lovely day yesterday and today celebrating my wife’s birthday, and coupling all of that with getting two of the five reviews I have to write out of the door this week has meant that a stressful and mentally demanding week has, on balance, been a good week.

However, it was when Rachael came upstairs to my little office midweek that the best bit of the week happened. She saw me writing a draft of a poem I’ve had floating about for years. I thought it was done but I went back to it to see if I could get it ready in time to submit to a web journal that had a limited submissions window. I didn’t manage to finish it in time, and the poems I did send were declined this week too, but that’s by the by.

Rach came up, placed a cup of tea by my notepad and saw the handwritten draft with my near illegible to anyone other than me handwriting on. When I draft I use stress (/) and unstressed (\) symbols to make sure I’m on the right track. It helps keep track of syllable counts (other methods are available and perfectly valid, of course). She looked at the scratches and scribbles, the crossings out and the symbols and declared in her most-matter-of-fact-way, “You just make marks on the page”.

I guess because the act of writing itself is very unglamorous, all that staring and then scribbling, then crossing out and staring some more, all that “burnt toast as Margret Atwood has it in the intro to one of her Selected Poems ( I have posted about it before, but can’t find it the noo), etc make it hard for a people to get a sense of what’s going on when we’re writing.

I know Rach is a cheerleader for my work and is pleased when I have any kind of success, but beyond that, she’s very hands-off. And I don’t for one second believe she (Rach, not Peggy Atwood) was being dismissive of my work, although for a second it sounded that way, however it did get me wondering how other people’s significant others see their work and/or process.

Do they take an interest, do they walk in while you’re working, do they leave you be to do it?


28k running – Slower week, but needed after last week’s excesses…

0 day of 2 x 7-minute workouts, but the above means I don’t feel so bad

2 x rejections: All good.

3 poems worked on. Family Secrets

0 poems finished: See above

0 Submissions:

3 rejections: AOP, Spectator and Frogmore

2 Reviews written and submitted. One published

17 days without cigarettes…I think. Certainly haven’t this week. Weird, barely even thought of it. Maybe, just maybe this is the time…

1 Podcast Published The latest ep of Grandbag’s Funeral. It’s a good one where we talk about Short Cuts, Tremors and Big Trouble In Little China

1 more week that I’m not having an affair with Eva Green


It’s Fabuluesday
We’ve All Been Ether
An Explosion In A Diary Factory


Maria Taylor: Dressing For The Afterlife
Matthew Stewart’s review of Maria Taylor’s Dressing For The Afterlife
Declan Ryan: Fighters, Losers
Ambit #241

Brian Eno: Film Music
Pearl Jam: Backspacer, Binaural, Big Fish OST, Gigaton, Lightning Bolt, Merkinball, No Code, ST, Riot Act, Singles OST, Ten, Vitalogy, Yield, Live in New York 01.05.16
The Kandinsky Effect: ST
Mazzy Star: She Hangs Brightly
This Is the Kit: Off Off On
Kitchens of Distinction: Folly
Jonny Greenwood & VA: inherent Vice OST
Rahsaan Roland Kirk: The Case of the Three-Sided Dream In Audio Colour
Lucinda Williams: Happy Woman Blues
Doves: The Universal Want
Phoebe Bridgers: Punisher
El Ten Eleven: Tautology 2
Margo Price: That’s How Rumors Get Started
Erland Cooper: Hether Blether
Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit: Reunions
Lou Rawls: Silk & Soul
R.E.M: Monster
Mary Lattimore: Silver Ladders
Lake: RoundelayNadia Reid: Out Of My Province
Taylor Swift: Folklore
Sons of Kemet: Lest We Forget What We Came Here To Do
EOB: Earth

The Boys S1 E5-8, S2E1
Battlestar Galactica S4E 4-5

Zooms, etc
Grandbag’s Funeral

The Archers

R’s birthday presents
Under The Radar

A part to fix Flo’s curtain rail

Theme From Magnetto

My closest friend is always rebuking me for forgetting or misremembering stuff. I’m talking to him later on and I fully expect to be reminded of some detail from our shared past I’ve not remembered.

I don’t know about Eugene (He’s not called Eugene, by the way), but I pretty certain I’m missing a gene that allows me to remember things. I struggle to recall e.g. the scores of football matches from ten years ago (eg Ah, yeah that game where Eddie McGoldrick scored a glancing header in the 94th minute to clinch the game, etc*), or, for that matter, what I was going to say when is started this post. Did I come in here for my slippers? I don’t have slippers, so why would I do that?

I also struggle to remember poems or lines of poetry. I’d be dreadful if ever asked what’s your favourite poem, etc. I’m not saying the work of people that I’ve read is not memorable, I absolutely love it when I’m reading it and the sense of what I’m reading stays with me, but the actual lines are trickier. Even my own work is often a blur (and that’s possibly for the best). Is this the internet and the like making my short term memory rubbish? Who knows, but I’m pretty sure it was shocking before the internet became mainstream.

(Yes, I am old enough to remember this time…Flo is incredulous about this when I tell her. It wasn’t around when I was school or University for that matter, but I can remember using it for book orders after that when I worked at Bertram’s. Better stop with the brackets now)

Anyhoo, imagine my surprise this week when a poem came straight to mind, albeit not the actual lines immediately, but let’s not quibble.

I decided to start Tuesday off nicely, R had woken up in a bad mood and so I headed out to fetch us both a “fancy coffee from that new place” (NB, if you’re in Beckenham check out Shotsmiths). On the way there, I had Radio 4 on the car stereo and caught the start of a series called Nature Bang. Yes, it was me being lazy to drive there, but I was thinking about getting the coffee back while it was still warm.

Anyhoo, the episode was called Dog Poo and the Challenge of Navigation. I was nearly put off, not by the title, but the relentless cheeriness of the two presenters (Becky Ripley and Emma Knight). Not to cast aspersions on them, I’m sure they are lovely, but it was a bit much at that time of the day. However, I kept going and early doors the conversation was steered towards Sun compasses, Magnetoreception, and the way dung beetles can navigate by starlight.

And my tiny little mind went

Not only was I reminded that I was convinced I did something similar when I used to get myself home from our village pub after a lock-in (or Friday as we liked to call it), but an actual poem leapt into my mind. And not just a poem, but a whole bloomin’ book.

See if you can guess how I made this amazing leap.

Image taken from the Cinnamon Press Website

I’m pretty sure I bought this book on a whim at a Poetry Book Fair a few years (5??) back, but I was reminded immediately of the wonderful first (and subsequent lines) line of the title poem.

Look at that for a first line. The last three syllables are all strong, but the iambics of “I track my treasure home on star beams, hide” (my italics) are lovely. However, what I love about this poem the most is the ending, not just the what is said, but also the what is said of being grateful for what we find, for what might turn up.

As far as I can tell, Sarah Watkinson hasn’t got any other collections or pamphlets out there, but I’m grateful for this one. Also, her website has what I assume is new work on there that I’m looking forward to working through.

It’s also worth noting the radio show mentioned homing pigeons and that Maggi Hambling has been in the news this week. Just sayin’.

Not sure what, but I’m just sayin’ it anyway.

*NB I can’t be sure Eddie McGoldrick ever scored a glancing header or in the 94th minute to win a game, but just be pleased I remember Eddie McGoldrick.


60k running – Solid increase on last week thanks to a half marathon run yesterday and for remembering I can actually run during daylight this week, so some 10ks at lunchtime.

1 day of 2x 7-minute workouts, but the above means I don’t feel so bad

0 x rejections: All good.

3 poems worked on. Lucky Foot, Shipping Container, Masks

3 poems finished: See above

2 Submissions: And Other Poems (It’s ace to see this back) and The Telegraph Poetry Comp.

10 days without cigarettes…I think. Certainly haven’t this week. Weird, barely even thought of it. Maybe, just maybe this is the time…

1 Podcast recorded (Although at the time of writing it hasn’t been, but in theory the latest ep of Grandbag’s Funeral is happening tonight)

1 more week that I’m not having an affair with Eva Green


Power Supplies


His Name Is Alive: Patterns of Light
Jonathon Wilson: Dixie Blur
Eels: Earth To Dora, Blinking Lights And Other Revelations
The Fall: Imperial Wax Solvent
Pearl Jam: Yield
The Stranglers: The Raven
Gazelle Twin: Pastoral
Second Hand Poet: An Avenue of Honest News
Caspian: Live At Larcom, On Circles, Live At Old South Church, Dust & Disquiet, The Four Trees, Hymn For The Greatest Generation
The Luxembourg Signal: The Long Now
Laura Benanti: ST
Adrianne Lenker: Instrumentals
VA: Can’t You hear Me? 70’s African Nuggets and Garage Rock from Nigeria, Zambia and Zimbabwe
Gwennifer Raymond: Strange Lights Over Garth Mountain
Katy J Pearson: Return
Mono: You Are There, Nowhere Now Here, One More Step And You Die
National: Alligator, I Am Easy To Find
Ana Roxanne: Because of a Flower
The Flamingos: Flamingo Serenade
The Felice Brothers: Tonight At The Arizona

The Boys S1,E3
BSG S4E1-4
Short Cuts
Big Trouble In Little China

Zooms, etc
Grandbag’s Funeral

The Archers
Nature Bang

Mum’s Xmas present
Rach’s Birthday presents

Mum’s Xmas present
Arch’s Birthday presents

Maria Taylor: Dressing For The Afterlife
Robert Tombs: The English & Their History
Benjamin Cusden: Cut The Black Rabbit
Cathy O’Neil: Weapon Math Destruction

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