Optimistic Disasters

In a rare example of being organised, I wrote this post last week, I didn’t know what was coming down the line…how the world was going to manage to become an even greater shit show in almost every way. I can add nothing of any value to the debate.

I also didn’t know when I chose the two poems below that my wife would literally be sleeping “deeply through the afternoon”.

Front cover of Joshua Mehigan's Accepting The Disaster. Title in black font. White/grey background.
Joshua Mehigan, Accepting The Disaster

I finished this book a couple of weeks ago now. I’m pretty sure it was either a mention by Matthew Stewart or Ben Wilkinson online that led me to the book, but either way I got to it, and I raced though it. It’s a deceptively easy read that doesn’t make for easy thinking. The long title poem is a tour de force in my opinion, and his work has made me want to go back to look at how to engage with rhyme again. I stopped writing end rhymes because it felt obvious as a route, but I realise it was also a kind of laziness. I stopped when I was (and it feels weird saying this) attempting to get to grips with meter and form, so rhyme was an added complication. Good rhymes are fucking hard work…perhaps they should be, but Mehigan seems to handle them deftly. They never feel forced…and he doesn’t use them all of the time.

There’s a poem of his that does the rounds on the social medias called Down In The Valley—go, look it up, so when I thought about posting one of the poems from this book I briefly considered that one, and then The News, and then Psalm. And then I ended up deciding to put both in…

The News – Joshua Mehigan, Accepting The Disaster

What happened to today? Where did it go?
The raindrops dot the window and roll down.
One taps the glass, another, three at a time,
warping the view of black tree limbs and sky.
Long hush, quick crescendo. Wind leans on the sash.
Behind me in the shadows sleep two cats.
Nearby, like something small deposited
tenderly by a big wind on the bed,
my wife sleeps deeply through the afternoon.
The sky is gray. What color is the sky?
Rhinoceros? Volcanic dune? Moon dust?
Breast of a mourning dove? Gray butterfly?
Blank newsprint. There’s no news, no news at all,
and will be none,
until, at long last, in the other room,
one light comes on, and then another one.


Grant me, Lord, the wretchedness
to attribute each success
wrung from air with strength and skill
to your paranormal will

and to credit grief, disease,
poverty, catastrophes,
shortfall, pain, and death alone
to some failing of my own.

I’m going to get his first collection, The Optimist—I assume it’s named after the Turin Brakes album, but I commend his essays on his website to you, especially this one for managing to get a reference in to Rowlf from The Muppets. Apparently it says other stuff too.

NB Deep In The Valley feels especially relevant now in light of the removal of women’s constitutional rights to an abortion run the US, but it feels wrong to have a male poet quoted, so I’m adding a bonus poem from Sarah Maguire. It’s the title poem from her debut collection, Spilt Milk. While it’s not ostensibly about this subject, the line I am drawn to here is the italicised line ” The adulterous woman / lost her nose; the man was fined.”

The line is written based on Maguire’s (or the protagonist’s)research “studying women of nine hundred years past.” and yet, here were are at least a further 30-years on from when Maguire wrote the poem and sweet fuck all has changed. The woman suffers immeasurably. The man was fine(d).

SPILT MILK, Sarah Maguire
Two soluble aspirins spore in this glass, their mycelia
fruiting the water, which I twist into milkiness.
The whole world seems to slide into the drain by my window.

It has rained and rained since you left, the streets black
and muscled with water. Out of pain and exhaustion you came
into my mouth, covering my tongue with your good and
bitter milk.

Now I find you have cashed that cheque. I imagine you
slipping the paper under steel and glass. I sit here in a circle
of lamplight, studying women of nine hundred years past.

My hand moves into darkness as I write, The adulterous woman
lost her nose and ears; the man was fined
. I drain the glass.
I still want to return to that hotel room by the station

to hear all night the goods trains coming and leaving.

A shameless sales pitch

I have long described myself in my poetry bio as the “poet in residence for ITV, but that they don’t know about it”. It’s sort of true. I am a poet, I work at ITV and I am in residence there twice a week. Hell, sometimes I even write poems there (at lunch time, obvs), but I have never successfully managed a residency anywhere. I mean, yes, I could try applying, but y’know…

I have also never been commissioned to write a poem, other than a couple for our team Xmas lunch. Those poems we will never speak of. However, I did find myself touting for a commission last week. I thought why not when I saw an email from a company called Yarmouth Oilskins. I am not the most fashion forward of folks, but they do make some lovely things..they are Norfolk based and well, just look at the stuff. I was hoping I could visit their workshop, read their history, etc and create something from that. I had a villanelle in mind as they use a lot of old patterns, bringing them back and using up to date fabrics… Anyhoo, the email showed this suit (again, I’m not a natural suit wearer…I only really wear one for funerals these days…)

Hang on, have they already nabbed Rob Selby? (Have you ordered your copy of The Kentish Rebellion?

It’s a lovely bit of schmutter, but I’m going to struggle to rustle up a spare £300+ to obtain one, so I asked via their Instagram feed if they’d swap a poem for a suit. I may have to rethink my prices, and settle for a pair of socks for the time being.

They did at least “like” the post (find me here), but I suspect I am being overly optimistic. I’ll have to start putting spare change in a jar, and perhaps I can get one for my book launch next year…Perhaps I should just finish writing the thing before I start thinking about my outfit.

I might go dressed as this poppy from our garden

2 poppies in flower and one poppy seed pod.
If you think I’ve posted this just to have a nice header photo, I’d say you are a cynical person. And you’re right.
Smashing Pumpkins, Rhinoceros. I pray the poem I wrote called Rhinoceros in response to this song never sees the light of day. At least not while I am still breathing


36K running including 16k today. I’m ramping up again.
0 trips to central London for work
0 massive hangovers
1 week of taking a hard look at myself
0ish (at least) journeys to dance lessons and back for Flo
1 rejections: 3 poems declined while one sits on the shortlist
0 new poem finished:
2 poems worked on: Settling, Dewars
0 poems published:
0 submissions: I’m pausing on this while I edit stuff.
1 acceptance: Well, one shortlisting…
12 poems are currently out for submission.
5 poems left to submit beyond makeweights
75 Published poems
37 Poems* finished by unpublished
25 poems* in various states of undress
554 Rejected poems* Eg I’ve decided they are not good enough
0 reviews finished:
2 reviews to write: How the fuck did that happen…I keep finishing them and then they keep coming.
17 days without cigarettes…I was doing so well, Oh well, back to it. As in giving up, not back to smoking.
22 Days since drinking
0 sleepless nights:
1 more week that I’m not having an affair with Eva Green

* To date, not this week. Christ!!

Watching Radio
Arcane Fire


Orbis #199
Orbis #200
Raymond Antrobus: The Perserverance


Jenny Owen Youngs: An Unwavering Band of Light, Batten The Hatches
Lost In The Trees: All Alone in an Empty House, A Church That Fits Our Needs
The Archers
Andrew Wasylyk: Fugitive Light & Themes of Consolation, Balgay Way
The Pale Fountains: …From Across The Kitchen Table, Longshot For Your Love
Shack: Zilch, Waterpistol, HMS Fable, …Here’s Tom With The Weather
St Paul & The Broken Bones: The Alien Coast
Roy Buchanan: That’s What I Am Here For
Harry Styles: Harry’s House
Eric Chenaux: Say Laura
Hem: Rabbit Songs, Funnel Cloud, Home Again, Eveningland, Departures & Farewells
Harkin: Honeymoon Suite
Love: Forever Changes, Four Sail, Da Capo, False Start
Lowell Folsom: Tramp, Soul
Lowgold: Just Backward of Square, Welcome To Winners
Akira Kosemura: One Day, Grasslands, In The Dark Woods
Patti Smith; Horses
Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbot: What Have We Become
Pelican: City of Echoes
Poltergeist: Your Mind Is A Box (Let Us Fill It With Wonder)
Pixies: Live @. Brixton 5th June 2004
Harold Ashby: On The Sunny Side of the Street
Heartless Bastards: A Beautiful Life, Restless Ones
Laura Veirs: Carbon Glacier, July Flame, My Echo, The Lookout
Julian Cope: Cunts Can Fuck Off
Wolf Alice: Blue Flower, My Love Is Cool, Visions of Life
David Holmes: This Film’s Crap, Let’s Slash The Seats
Brian Jonestown Massacre: Fire Doesn’t Grow on Trees
Emily Scott Robinson: American SirenMakaya McCraven: In The Moment

Star Wars:Attack of the Clones
Love Island
Obi Wan Kenobi
Batman Begins

Richie McCaffery Summer/ Break
A shirt

Richie McCaffery
Poetry London Summer 22

**Slaps Forehead**Remembers about Finished Creatures #6

I pressed publish last week, walked away from my desk— in my head it looked something like this

It was almost certainly more like this…

Almost as soon as shut my laptop down I realised that rather than the gibberish I wrote about fluorescent lights, etc I should have just written about how happy I was that my copy of Finished Creatures #6 had arrived in the gap between the post before the last post (eg before last week).

I felt especially daft as this week saw the launch of said magazine via the medium of Zoom. Here I am demonstrating how ace the mag looks…

Image shows Mat holding up a copy of Finished Creatures Issue 6. Cover shows a green photo of a mountain range
Model & Own Copy

Jan always makes each issue look and feel glorious. Getting a copy in the post is always a joy. The envelopes they come in are lovely things with a string tie on the back. The addresses are handwritten, and if you’re getting a contributor’s copy then your page is bookmarked for you.

I’ve already mentioned that there was some back and forth on my poem that went in the mag. Jan was very helpful and very understanding, and while I’m happy with the version we ended up with, the poem is one that I’ve worked on and tweaked since it was accepted.

So it was a bit strange to be reading the published version on Wednesday evening as part of the online launch. It’s obviously a bit weird to be reading in a “room” full of the kinds of poets in this mag. I mean look at this lot…sadly not every one could make it.

I was disappointed not to hear Arji Manuelpillai read any of his poems as one of his is after mine in the mag, but I did get to hear Alex Josephy read hers, and that’s the one that precedes mine. I also got to hear Rebecca Gethin, Amlan Goswami, Hilary Hares, Joanna Inham, Simon Madrell, Caleb Parkin, Sarah Salway,Penelope Shuttle, Paul Stephenson and Elżbieta Wójcik-Leese read. I was in a break out group with Anthony Mair and Julian Bishop, but sadly we didn’t get to hear their poems —FYI both are excellent.

A couple of the poets that couldn’t make it also had their work read out, one of which was me reading James McDermott‘s excellent ‘Wild Flowers’. I prefaced it by suggesting using the names of flowers in poems is cheating as it’s guaranteed to sound great, but I love this poem. There’s a lot going on in there around belonging and survival. I hope he and Jan don’t mind me sharing it below.

Spookily (you know me, etc) I’ve just seen that James is a writer on Eastenders, among many other things, and last night I shared this article about that very show and the wider impact of soaps with a colleague at work…because they work on soaps; I’m not a monster.

Wild flowers – James McDermott, Finished Creatures #6

Hoary Plantain Corky Fruited Dropwort
Purple Loosestrife Night Flowering Catchfly

you plants in the wrong place I pick you up

unwanted in nature’s man made spaces
farm fields playing fields backyards public parks
I want you I take you in my basket

how are your shades of green deemed unsightly
Mantis Crocodile Islamic Jungle
Neon Hooker’s
I press you between hard covers

I don’t label you weeds I name you
Hedge Bedstraw Oxeye Daisy Corncockle
Bladder Campion Forget Me Not Vetch

I preserve you you wild flowers who thrive
in nature where you survive all seasons
each bud punching through mud to unclench tiny fists

to bloom eternally long after man
who said you don’t belong Tansy Scented Mayweed
Cocksfoot Timothy Upright Shepherd’s Purse

Go and buy a copy of Finished Creatures here

It was a bumper week for Zoom launches as I got to spend some of last night watching the launch of Holly Singlehurst’s excellent Rialto Pamphlet, The Sea Turned Thick Like Honey (Reviewed here by some knobhead)

Cover of Holly Singlehurst's Rialto Pamphlet..>Depicts a beach scene with white clouds and the sea rolling in. Title in white writing reads The Sea Turned Thick As Honey

From now on I intend to only attend gigs from the comfort of a hammock…

Right, I’m out of here…After a week where I got another no from North magazine (WHAT DO I HAVE TO DO!!!! Oh yeah, write a better poem, fit the issues themes and offer enough sacrifices to the gods. **Note to self, more sacrifices next time), there is just time to point you towards this thread of handy hints for dealing with poetic rejection. Go and have a look, you might find something to help you.

The sun has just gone in after being scorchio…and it’s a song from Paul McCartney who turns 80 today…And it’s a bonus track from Flower’s In the Dirt..Wild Flowers, yeah!!!


c17K running so far. 12 today, there should be 5 more tomorrow
2 trips to central London for work
0 massive hangover
1 week of taking a hard look at myself
2 journeys to dance lessons and back for Flo
1 rejections: North
0 new poem finished:
5 poems worked on: Cycle, Kiddie Rides, Swan Song, Buttered Dogs, and a draft of something new called In The Freezer (at the moment. It’s little more than notes for now, but y’know..acorns, oak trees, etc)
0 poems published:
0 submissions: I’m pausing on this while I edit stuff.
0 acceptance:
16 poems are currently out for submission. Starting to think I’ve really pissed off the folks at Poetry Oxford.
5 poems left to submit beyond makeweights
75 Published poems
37 Poems* finished by unpublished
25 poems* in various states of undress
554 Rejected poems* Eg I’ve decided they are not good enough
0 reviews finished:
2 reviews to write: How the fuck did that happen…I keep finishing them and then they keep coming.
8 days without cigarettes…
15 Days since drinking
0 sleepless nights:
1 more week that I’m not having an affair with Eva Green

* To date, not this week. Christ!!

Nothing to offer this week


Dark Horse 45
Alex MacDonald: delicious all day
Jack Underwood: A Year In The Life
Poetry London Spring 22

Finished Creatures #6 launch
Holly Singlehurst Launch

Grachan Moncur III: Evolution
Jacqueline Du Pré & Herbert Downes: Music For Cello & Viola
Horsegirl: Versions of Modern Performance
Sam Lee: Old Wow
Andrew Bird: Armchair Apocrypha
SG Goodman: Teeth Marks
Deep Throat Choir: 3am
Sharon Van Etten: We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong
Superchunk; Wild Loneliness
Jeremy Cunningham: The Weather Up Here
Caspian: The Four Trees
Echo & The Bunnymen: Porcupine
Explosions In The Sky: Live
Greg Dulli: Random Desire
Four Tet: 16 Oceans
Inxs: Shabooh Shoobah
The Innocence Mission: My Room In The Trees
Grant Lee-Phillips: Lightning, Do Your Stuff
Beth Orton: Trailer Park
Sufjan Stevens: Carrie & Lowell
Inventions: Maze of Woods
Tonic Ensemble: Snapshots
Prefab Sprout: Andromeda Heights
J Mascis: Tied To A Star
David Kilgour & The Heavy Eights: End Times Undone, Left By Sort
Therapy?: Troublegum
The New Mendicants: Into The Line
Clem Snide: We Only Leave Ashes
Teenage Fanclub: Endless Arcade
Kacey Johansing: The Hiding
Paul McCartney: Ram
Jessie Buckley & Bernard Butler: For All Our Days That Tear Our Heart

Love Island
Elf Lyons: A Work in Progress Comedy show called ‘Raven’ at the Three Hounds


Orbis #200

I covered myself in fluorescent orange ink earlier. It was the highlight of my day*

Look, I was going to do this last week (which would, I think, have maintained the bi-weekly approach), but there was what could be described as the mother of all hangovers last week. For someone that couldn’t give two shits about #plattyjubes, I certainly lent into the celebrations…and not even in my own street. Look, we’ve all done it, so just let it go…move on…nothing to see here.

It’s sort of annoying though, as I’d already planned out what I was going to write. That doesn’t happen often. I was, and will now, going to write about/link to this article from the excellent Tedium newsletter.

Much like the Boring Conference (and I won’t go on about them again, although I note the Interesting Conference is back this year…For those not aware TBC was a reaction to TIC being cancelled a few years ago), Tedium describes itself as having ” existed to answer a simple question: Can boring things be made interesting? Can we uncover the history of things that usually don’t have histories written about them? And can a voice be given to areas of life that generally aren’t thought about that much? It took us a while to get there, but the answer is yes. We think.”

The article in question is about the origins of neon signs, fluorescent lights** and day-go colours. It ends with the excellent line: “More importantly, fluorescent and neon remind us we’re nowhere near done exploring light.” and that in itself could be a poem, but (and you’ll have to forgive the rather route one link here) I was reminded while reading the article of this poem by Rishi Dastidar. Taken from his first collection with Nine Arches Press, Ticker-tape

The last neon sign maker in Hong Kong

His hands flutter by the five tongues of flame,
joints articulating at 800 degrees Celsius,
lips blowing commercial wishes down glass tubes,
speaking of honest scripts for certain characters:
light-heads, bending, swirling, inflating.

Thousand layer paper slides in to protect
the messages, before chicken intestines
shake hands with neon breath and iron hearts
for a brighter light: “without displays of prosperity
my city is a ghost town.”

If you’re feeling blue
the answer is argon, he says, but best
is daylight red. A door above an air con
unit glows rainbow ready, the past slipping out.
He inhales the urban gas one last time.

Having just had to lay that poem out in WordPress, I now have an even deeper undying respect for editors of poetry journals, and this isn’t even an especially complex lay out.

(Postscript on 13th June…That layout totally didn’t work. Please imagine stanza 1 and 3 are indented. I’ll work out the lay out.)

I’m always glad to share (and read) poems by Rishi, and was glad to mention another of his poems from Ticker-tape earlier this week to Hilary Menos. She was on the look out for poems with a link to economics, and his poem, Diagnosis: Londonism absolutely filled the brief.

Having heard them at readings in the last year or so, I hope to be linking to new poems of his from book three in the future, but knowing I’d already planned to link to one poem of his, meant that the second was a lovely little coincidence— you know how I love such a thing.

And there was a further little coincidence that made me happy this week. About ten days ago Instagram suggested to me I should follow Daniel Bennett. Having written a review of his excellent collection from The High Window Press, West South North North South East a couple of years ago for London Grip, it seemed like a good idea, so I did.

Then a couple of days ago a work colleague of mine messaged me to ask me how I knew Daniel Bennett. I explained that I don’t really, but that I’d reviewed…etc and how do you know him. They replied that he was/is marrying a friend of theirs. Does that make it a small world? Does it matter?

Either way, it gives me an excuse to post another poem. And to make another small connection as my friend Steve Pringle has a book out now about The Fall. It’s called You Must Get Them All and you should buy a copy. Why do I mention this…read on, old fruit…read on.

Back with the Boys

That was the city of dirty cardboard
where we all knew an ex-member of The Fall.
Lilacs sprouted beneath our doorsteps
and Italians students slept inside our airing cupboards.
They were days when we needed nothing
but mixtapes, red wine and crap films,
when we theorised about conspiracies by postcard.
Ah, those were good days let me tell you,
when two men named Tim fought for supremacy
of the underground clubs of Stoke Newington
and the loser became known as Australian Tim,
when a friend had been working for years
on the index to his history of the Templars
and none of us would actually read it
but voiced encouragement about The Project.
These were days before restaurateurs ruled Soho,
when the shops sold Bakelite radios and peacock feathers
and women called to you, trapped in their booths.
Everyone avoided the docks and the reservoir
unless they didn’t and you heard about it endlessly
as the subject of monologues or outsider performances,
and we listened to Colombian instrumentalists
and danced The Scratch and The Fundamentalist
during gigs by Queasy Saint and Aryan Zoo.
One time, someone befriended an old woman
late at night, on the way back from the tube station,
and we dragged her along to The Cuckoo Inn
and propped her at the bar and fed her gin and almonds
until she began to cry and pointed back outside,
warning us that time is circular and space an illusion
and everything is lost, even as you experience it.

Now, just to make things nice and circular, as you will know, the Tedium article makes reference to tomatoes. Yesterday, I planted my tomato plants. Bit late, but I hope to get a reasonable crop. This week I have been working on a new version of a poem that used to be called Photosynthesis and was about me talking to my tomato crop.

It was/is a poem that I hope will be in my pamphlet. After some excellent feedback on it (and the other poems on the longest) from a very kind, generous and patient friend, I think I may have revised the poem to its final state. Part of this is changing the title to….well, that’s TBC.

One final, final closing of the loop. Based on this post that I saw earlier in the week, I’m starting to think that Eva Green is reading these posts.

** This is one of my favourite jokes…I think it’s one of my “jokes” as well.

The Fall, Paintwork


c70K running. 25K this week, including 15k yesterday. I’m ramping up again.
8 trips to central London for work
1 massive hangover
1 week of taking a hard look at myself
8ish (at least) journeys to dance lessons and back for Flo
1 rejections: Poetry Wales, An official rejection from Crannog
0 new poem finished:
14 poems worked on: Arecibo Message, Cycle, A Foley Artist, Dropsonde, Tomato Pants, Goliath, A Short Survey, Longleat, Fishing Exercise, Slipping Away, Clearing Dad’s Shed, Captain’s Pond, Summer Job, Working With My Dad
0 poems published:
0 submissions: I’m pausing on this while I edit stuff.
0 acceptance:
22 poems are currently out for submission.
5 poems left to submit beyond makeweights
75 Published poems
37 Poems* finished by unpublished
25 poems* in various states of undress
554 Rejected poems* Eg I’ve decided they are not good enough
1 review finished: Tom Sastry
2 reviews to write: How the fuck did that happen…I keep finishing them and then they keep coming.
2 day without cigarettes…I was doing so well, Oh well, back to it. As in giving up, not back to smoking.
8 Days since drinking
0 sleepless nights:
1 more week that I’m not having an affair with Eva Green

* To date, not this week. Christ!!

A Starter for 9.99 recurring
Arranging Ducks In A Linear Fashion
Any Portcullis in a storm
My battery farm runs like clockwork


Joshua Mehigan: Accepting The Disaster
Graham Mort: A Night On The Lash
Finished Creatures #6
Poetry London #100
The Dark Horse #45


Tess Parks & Anton Newcombe: ST
The Oh Sees: Levitation Sessions II
The Darling Buds: Pop Said
Craig Finn: A Legacy of Rentals
Vangelis: The Dragon
The Fatima Mansions: Viva Dead Ponies, Valhalla Avenue
Microdisney: And The Clock Comes Down The Stairs
Explosions In The Sky: All of A Sudden I Miss Everybody
The Cure: Anniversary
Catrin Finch & Seckou Keita: Soar, Echo
Teenage Fanclub: Shadows, Songs From Northern Britain
Aztec Camera: Knife
Crowded House: Together Alone
Doves: Kingdom of Rust
The Durutti Column: Time Was Gigantic
The Charlatans: Up At the Lake, Different Days
Mono: My Story—The Buraku Story
Jeff Buckley: Live At Sin-e, Grace
Helpful People: broken Blossom Threats
Valentin Silvestrov: Silent Songs
HAAI: Baby, We’re Ascending
The Cure: Wish
Planet Poetry: Caleb Parkin
Grandbag’s Funeral: Big Willie
Analogue: I Was Not Sleeping
Stanley Turrentine: Salt Song, Jubilee Shout!!
Portion Portion Lopez: Ice Cream Soufi
Gold Panda: Your Good Times Are Just beginning
Frank Sinatra: Watertown
The National: Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers, The Virginian EP, ST, Boxer, High Violet
Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band: Dear Scott
Erland Cooper: Music For Growing Plants
Andrew Bird: Inside Problems
The Cure: Entreat
SG Goodman: Teethmarks
Stanley Turrentine: Joyride
Stars: Under Capelton Hill
Just Mustard: Heart Under
The Archers
Spiritualized: Everything Was Beautiful
Andrew Bird: Are You Serious?
Bobby Hutcherson: Components
The Cure: Faith
Steve Wynn: Here Come The MiraclesMy Morning Jacket: Live Vol1 – 2015
Pearl Jam – Live 2016 New York Nights 1 & 2
The Dream Syndicate: Ultraviolet Battle Hymns and True Confessions
Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band: Adios Señor Pussycat
Erland Cooper: Solan Goose, Sule Skerry, Hether Blether, Never Pass Into Nothingness
Ron Carter: Pastels
Sharon Van Etten: We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong, Remind Me Tomorrow, Tramp

Grey’s Anatomy
Everybody Here Wants You: Jeff Buckley Documentary
Champions League Final
Stranger Things S4
Love Island

Charlotte Schevchenko Knight: Ways of Healing
Screen protectors
iPhone case
Poetry Birmingham Journal #8

Finished Creatures #6
Charlotte Schevchenko Knight: Ways of Healing
Screen protectors
iPhone case

A martian nicks a Space Pen from the stationery cupboard to write a postcard home

NB: There will be no further references to Craig Raine in this post. Aside from the one I’ve just made.

I’ve been slowly retuning to office life in the last few months, commuting in two days a week to ITV’s offices at either Waterhouse Square or Gray’s Inn Road. Waterhouse Square was the replacement office for our “iconic” office down on the Southbank, The Tower, but much like the way Chelsea subbed the sub in last week’s FA Cup final, we’ve now subbed the replacement. Waterhouse Square has closed (from our POV), having only just got back in there after two years away due to the Covids.

The point, if there is such a thing, to this is that I am now commuting an extra 30 minutes to our new office at White City, and this is giving me more time to catch up on podcasts and the like. I’m hoping it will give me more time for reading, but the journey is such that every time I start to settle into it; I have to change trains, and this doesn’t lend itself to reading.

However, it has meant I can pick up on my podcast listening. (Aside, as my friend Simon said yesterday, “podcasts are just radio you can listen to whenever you want”). Working from home a lot sort of put the moccers on my podcast listening as I can’t concentrate on them and work at the same time, but I’ve started working my way through episodes of The Verb and Robin Houghton/Peter Kenny’s Planet Poetry.

Recent episodes that stand out are The Verb’s episode about pens with Naush Sabah and Gerry Cambridge talking about , among other things, their mutual love of fountain pens. I love a fountain pen, and use one most of the time, even at work, but I am enjoying writing with the Fisher Space Pen* my friend Mike got me for my birthday.

It’s a lovely thing that makes me think of an alien spaceship, and reminds me that I once started a poem about development of the space pen. It was based on the premise of the millions of dollars invested in the Space Pen and it’s ability to work in space, but that the Russians solved the issue by taking a pencil. A great apocryphal tale, that sadly, isn’t true. Does it need to be? Maybe I’ll go back to the notes at some (ball) point. I don’t think the “poem” ever really got beyond the idea stage, but who knows what might come of it**.

* I’ve been sing a bastardised version of the Babylon Zoo song every time I used the pen.
**Almost certainly fuck all

Now, as I’ve documented before, I love a spurious connection between events, and so here goes with another one.

1. I’ve just moved offices.
2. My review of Christopher Horton’s excellent pamphlet, ‘Perfect Timing‘ has not long gone up at Sphinx. NB I have since found out it’s the first review of the book!!
3. The launch for Christopher’s pamphlet was at the Rugby Tavern. Annoyingly it was before I found out about the book (and indeed, Christopher), but The Rugby Tavern is not only where we held the first Rogue Strands Poetry night, and where I’ve read with Neil Elder, it is also just round the corner from the Grey’s Inn Road office of ITV…(tenuous enough for you???)
4. There’s a poem in the pamphlet called ‘Returning To The Office in the Year 2500.
5. It would be rude not to make this connection, especially given how much I like the poem and that I didn’t get the chance to mention it in my review.

Returning to the Office in the Year 2500

They enter the Human Resources Department
just as it was left. It’s the antiquities research team
that first files in, decked-out
in regulation space suits.

All they can hear is the crackle
then cutting-up of radio transmission,
slow breathing amplified
within their steamed-up helmets.

The photocopier is labelled Out of Order.
The shredder was detached mid-shred.
A bundle of A4 paper has yellowed
like all those manuscripts left by the ancients.

If they were to load the paper,
the printer shelf would fall apart
in their heavy hands, its rusty springs
landing on a top-surface of mites and motes.

They wouldn’t know how to load it anyway.
Paper is no longer a thing.
The football mug on Brian’s name-tagged desk
has fungi growing out of it.

The piece will now be assigned
to the Museum of The Distant Past,
where it can be kept in the rare mug section.
It is of archaeological interest.

They scan the curious motif
of a team called Lincoln City.
Football no longer exists,
neither do mugs. Tea is still a thing.

In the stationery cupboard,
a line of staplers and hole punchers
sit aligned on the shelf,
suggesting these were valuable tools.

The office system is perfectly preserved.
There can be no confusion
when finding the folders and laminates.
Almost everything denotes a culture

of mundane endeavour and routine
but, fleetingly, fun may have occurred.
Above the cupboard door,
someone wrote Brian 4Sarah.

This passed for humour once.
The specialist team take a photo
to age-test back at the lab
then wheel the most significant findings

through the reception area,
onto the empty parking lot,
finally giving the demolition team
the all clear.

(c) Christopher Horton, Perfect Timing, Tall-Lighthouse Press

I love the way Horton deploys the throw forward to look at the world we are in now, and the hopeful suggestion of the poem (despite what may have happened to the world in the mean time) that we may not be working in offices anymore. It feels very pertinent this week given the recent ludicrous push from the government to try and get people back into the office full time. I’m not against going in, and very aware that a lot of people either don’t have the choice (for whatever reason) or prefer being in (for whatever reason), but the idea we need to be in full time is surely one that is not one that we need to entertain for much longer.

Now, earlier on I mentioned listening to the Planet Poetry podcast. The most recent episode at the time of writing is the episode with J.O. Morgan, discussing his collection ‘The Martian’s Regress’. The conversation with Morgan was very interesting, especially his points about weaving in as many possible interpretations of each poem as possible, and that he is very comfortable with these multiple readings of this work—I may be over-simplifying here.

However, one of the poems that was read out from TMR was the poem below.

The Martian Visits the Museum

With hardly a glance the martian passed on
through the well-trodden halls of industrial science
Devotional monuments to a numerical god
such an obsession with heavy metals
A cumbersome religiosity.
He dragged his feet down corridors of warring paraphernalia
Each tiresome avenue showing
Ever more complicated ways in which to do
Something altogether straightforward.
But he lingered at the taxidermy cabinets
Marvelling at the balding scalps, the sunken cheeks
The joints reinforced with plaster and gauze
The dry and lustreless furs.

Leaning in he read each small blue plastic plaque
A common name above an etched extinction date.
He opened up the enclosures and set to work.

When he was finished
Several stiff-limbed impala were tangled
Through the wheels of a steam locomotive
While small varnished fish lay on their sides
Spaced evenly along the buffered tracks.
Above this numerous sun-dried insects
Their pins still sticking out
Had been glued to the green and yellow underside
Of a nine-foot gravity bomb.

A reticulated python had the barrel of a Lewis gun
Half-lodged down its gullet
The tip of its tail curled round and posted
Through the trigger guard.

Mismatched farm animals gleefully lowered each other
Into a nuclear reactor
Their trotters and teats glowing red.
A goggle-eyed Kodak bear
Its hair on end its forepaws held aloft
Sat in the seat of the first lunar rover
Teetering on the brink of a high balcony.
While in the museum’s central atrium
A resin-skinned sperm whale held in its prised-wide jaws
A kidney dialysis machine
Hard rubber hoses and bare-ended wires
Trailing from its teeth.

Heading on out past the front desk the martian
Reached up and tore off a season ticket.
There was still a great deal of work to be done
And he was sure to discover more stock in the museum’s vaults.
He’d come back in a month or so to see
How things were progressing.

(c) J.O Morgan, The Martian’s Regress, Cape Poetry

This poem feels like an extension of what comes after the year 2500 of Horton’s poem. I love the sense of the martian’s disdain for our history, the aloofness and the tinkering.

I’ve gone on for too long now, and at the time of writing I need Norwich to score at least three goals against Spurs to help get Arsenal qualified for the Champion’s League next season…truly we are in the realms of sci-fi and the unimaginable.

I will add that in terms of the book not much has moved on after the initial flurry of excitement. It was always going be thus. Nothing has moved on from a writing POV either, but this meme from the excellent Twitter feed of Angel Dominguez has tickled me, as have many of the others.


c40K running. 16K this week, including 10k this morning round the hills of High Elms country park.A relative down week after the last few weeks of ramping up.
4 trips to central London for work
1 patio cleaned
1 late night after the FA Cup
10 actual Cds burned for a friend and finally posted. It’s only taken about a year.
1 gig – the magnificent The Oh Sees
0 massive hangovers, but I did try hard on Thursday evening
1 kitten neutered
4ish (at least) journeys to dance lessons and back for Flo
1 rejections: TLS after five months
1 poems finished: Nature Abhors a Vacuum
0 poems worked on:
0 poems published:
0 submissions:
0 acceptance:
25 poems are currently out for submission.
5 poems left to submit beyond makeweights
75 Published poems
37 Poems* finished by unpublished
25 poems* in various states of undress
554 Rejected poems* Eg I’ve decided they are not good enough
1 review finished: Christopher Horton
3 reviews to write: How the fuck did that happen…I keep finishing them and then they keep coming.
2 day without cigarettes…I was doing so well, Oh well, back to it. As in giving up, not back to smoking.
4 Days since drinking
0 sleepless nights:
1 more week that I’m not having an affair with Eva Green

* To date, not this week. Christ!!

An Ode to old sheep: Mutton addressed as iambs
Tying myself in knots explaining string theory


Joshua Megihan: Accepting The Disaster
Tom Sastry: No Normal Country To Return To
Clare Crossman: The Mulberry Tree


Margaret Glaspy: Emotions and Math
Wilco: Star Wars
Will Sergeant: Things Inside
Planet Poetry Podcast: J. O. Morgan
The Archers
Various Playlists made for a friend
Warpaint: Radiate Like This
Luke Howard: All of Us
Henri Texier; AmirKeith Jarrett: The Survivor’s SuiteJohn Scofield: ST
The Smile: A Light For Attracting Attention
Kevin Morby: This Is A Photograph
Explosions In the Sky: The Earth is Not A Cold Dead Place, Live
James Iha: Be Strong Now, Look To The Sky
Smashing Pumpkins: Gish
Supergrass: Diamond Hoo Ha Man, I Should Coco
The Oh Sees: Levitation Sessions, The Master’s Bedroom is Worth Spending a Night In
Metallica: Kill ‘em All
Kendrick Lamar: good kid, M.A.A.d city
Nightports: ST With Tom Herbert
Kamasi Washington: The Proclamation
Sharon Van Etten: We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong
Alabaster DePlume: To Cy & Lee: Instrumentals Vol1
Let’s Eat Grandma: Two Ribbons
The Glove: Blue Sunshine
Martin Carr: Flames/Strange Journey
The Verb : Margaret Atwood, Books & Pens
The Archers
Andrew Tuttle: A Cassowary Apart
Dolphin Midwives: Body of Water
Heron Oblivion: ST
Count Ossie & The Mystic Revelation of Rastafari: Takes of Mozambique
M24: Drip N Drill
Black Sabbath: Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
Travis: The Invisible Band, The Man Who…, The Boy With No Name, Everything At Once, 10 Songs
William Tyler: Impossible Truth
Kevin Morby: This Is Not A Photograph
Case/Lang/Veirs: ST
Ryley Walker: Primrose Green
Sharon Van Eaten: We’ve Been Going About This The Wrong Way
Five Live: Liverpool Vs Wolves

The Staircase
The Art That Made Us
Spurs/Arsenal (Boo!!)
Derry Girls


The latest Dark Horse

Faith No More: Woodpecker From Mars

The work starts here…

When I first started posting here more regularly – roughly three years ago, one of the things I wanted to document was the process of pulling together a pamphlet. I can’t guarantee it will be heavy on the insight. I suspect it will be more a case of following the usual rules (I think Roy Marshall has outlined the main ones here), but I think I’m on the edge of finding out for definite.

When I first got the news from Sheila at Red Squirrel Press that she would like to publish my work I was overjoyed (I still am), but 2023 seemed like light-years away at the time. Now it appears to be hurtling towards us.

With that in mind, I sat down in the garden this afternoon to begin the process.

I have been through the published and unpublished poems I have that I think constitute being “finished”. I’ve separated out the ones that don’t feel strong enough and then made a list of the likely candidates. The act of separating the weaker ones out has been strange as there are several in that pile that at one point felt like they would have been first names on the old metaphorical teamsheet, but now— while I have a fondness for them because of things like first print publication, first major acceptance, etc, they just don’t seem strong enough to warrant inclusion.

I’m working on the premise of circa 25 poems will make it in. The current list is at 27, with four more backups. There is so much to do, each one will need its tyres kicking to make sure it’s as strong as it could be, even the more recent ones where I think my writing has improved.

They’ve all got to earn their place, so after (or is it before) the above there’s the process of seeing how they talk to each other. Do I want sections? It’s sort of loosely fallen into 3 sections so far, but are they something to be called out? It seems like overkill in a pamphlet to me, but who knows if that will change? Do I need a theme? No, I don’t think so as yet. Not least because that probably means more poems need to be written and at the current rate of knots I wouldn’t be ready for 3023, let alone next year. Also, as much as I love a themed collection, it can get a bit samey. I don’t have a theme as yet, so it would be forced.

I’ve just reviewed a debut pamphlet by someone where the work seems to either have been written circa 2008ish (at least when it was first published somewhere) or more recently during lockdown, etc (based on the themes of the poems). I can’t tell which poems fell between those dates, but it feels like an old-fashioned debut of the best poems you have available in the best order and that is just absolutely dandy with me.

There will be loads more prevarications, changes, questions, pacing up and down, heavy drinking (not essential, but I like it) and the like to come, but this feels like day one, a marker in the sand, etc.

A poem

In recent weeks things have started to blur…ok in recent years things have started to blur, but certainly my old more productive routines have fallen away in a rush of work, house stuff and general whatnot-ery, but reading this poem recently, and having attempted to get back into the writing groove this weekend by clearly banning myself from doing any DIY, gardening or chores, means I have started to recover a sense of stopping to smell the roses (my dreadful sense of smell aside) and to take joy in the littler things.

I adore this poem and the first line of the second stanza is worth the entry fee alone.

Against MonotonyVona Groarke, taken from ‘Double Negative’, The Gallery Press

Today, a two-hundred mile drive and nothing
at the end of it but a glass of Merlot
and a radio fugue for voice and clarinet
which is a lot, when you think about it.

Oh, the squirrelling away of a snick of day
to come upon, unwontedly,
when the drive is polished concrete
and the playing fields, pure quartz:

that, right there, is a trick worth playing,
the kind of dark-blue, offhand trick
to be played maybe the once, and gently,
so you get away with it.


c50K running. 31K this week, including 10 miles this morning that were slow, but felt good.
4 trips to central London for work
1 birthday for me
5 Focus groups for work
8 actual Cds burned for a friend. How very old school.
0 massive hangovers, but I did try hard on Thursday evening
1 kitten still awaiting neutering
15ish (at least) journeys to dance lessons and back for Flo
0 rejections:
0 poems finished:
2 poems worked on: Nature Abhors a Vacuum
0 poems published:
3 submissions: Poetry Review, 192, Acumen
1 acceptance: Bad Lillies
25 poems are currently out for submission. No poems left to submit beyond makeweights
75 Published poems
37 Poems* finished by unpublished
25 poems* in various states of undress
554 Rejected poems* Eg I’ve decided they are not good enough
0 reviews finished:
3 reviews to write: How the fuck did that happen…I keep finishing them and then they keep coming.
2 day without cigarettes…I was doing so well, Oh well, back to it. As in giving up, not back to smoking.
0 Days since drinking
0 sleepless nights:
1 more week that I’m not having an affair with Eva Green

* To date, not this week. Christ!!

The Home for Retired Running Shoes
Not My Pablum
The Office of Official Fish Fingers


Stand: 19.3
Eavan Boland: The Historians


One Dove: Morning One Dove
Typhoon: Hunger & Thirst
Hatchie: Giving The World Away
Daniel Rossen: You Belong There
Thom Yorke: 4.17/That’s Just How Horses Are
The Appleseed Cast: Two Conversations
Agitation Free: Last
Sea Power: Everything Is Forever
The Brian Jonestown Massacre: Don’t Get Lost
Creedence Clearwater Revival: Green River, Pendulum, Wily and the Poor Boys
The Sundowners: Pulling Back The Night
Oren Ambachi: Ghosted
Matthew Halsall: Salute To The Sun Live
Elbow: Flying Dream 1
Guided By Voices: It’s Not them. It Couldn’t Be Them. It Is Them.
Symposium: One Day At A Time
Superchunk: Majesty Shredding
Melody’s Echo Chamber: Emotional Eternal
Charles Watson: Yes
The Cure: Concert
Mogwai: Come On Die Young
Keith Jarrett: Eyes of the Heart
HTRK: Over The Rainbow
Ben Ottewell: Shapes & Shadows
Ian McCulloch; Mysterio, Candleland, Slideling
Portron Portron Lopez: De Coléré Et D’Envie
Cranes: Loved
Margo Price: That’s How Rumours get Started
Sharon Van Etten: We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong
Albaster Deplume: Gold
Charlotte Cornfield: Highs In The Minuses
The Archers
Five Live: Arsenal Vs Leeds

Grace S2
Inside No.9 S6.E1 and 2
Slow Horses
Derry Girls

New running trainers
Sarah Mnatzaganian: Lemonade In The Armenian Quarter

New running trainers
Sarah Mnatzaganian: Lemonade In The Armenian Quarter

Inspiral Carpets – Dragging Me Down

(Inspiring) Carpets

I’ve almost totally abandoned the plan to do this every week now, given it’s been three weeks (again) since the last check in, and even that was more of a placeholder. Perhaps that’s fine, I think it probably is.

We went to the Peak District for half term, we had a lovely time in among the snow, the wind, the rain (as a Twilight Singers fan I’m now duty bound to link to Feathers, even if I am slightly misquoting the lyrics), but the weather sort of curtailed our outings. This did give me time to complete and submit my review of Stewart Carswell’s first collection, Earthworks, for London Grip. My thanks, as ever, to Michael for taking it and being so quick to publish it.

I really have to start saying no to reviews, but some how I still have 4 to do. I did start another while I was away. It’s only 350 words, and I got half way through and now I think I have to start again. Get on with it, Riches.!!

I woke up to some ace news yesterday, a mag that I have admired for a while have agreed to take one of my poems (pending acceptance of edit suggestions). I am working through their totally sensible suggestions at present, and hopefully it will all be good. I’ve gone from rarely getting editorial feedback to having a fair bit (albeit not massive) of late. I like it, I think. More news on this soon, I hope. No chickens are being counted in the making of this paragraph.

I also had the chance to catch up on some* reading while I was off. I say some, it was nowhere near enough. Every time I finish a magazine, a new one arrives, and that seems to take the place of reading the books that are piling up. It’s not exactly the end of the world though, is it?

In doing that reading I came across this poem in Stand 19.3. I can’t quite put my finger on why I like it, but I love it. Perhaps it’s a recognition of the “Illiad-long, bottom of the stairs phone conversation”, either way, here it is. It’s by Jonathan Tulloch, who appears to be better known as a novelist, but I note his bio here at Acumen suggests he’s only just turned to poetry. BACK THE FUCK OFF, TULLOCH…!!*

More and More Northern English Carpets of the 1970s

are being lost every day. Soon there’ll be none left.
Their too-vivid electric colors quenched in landfill,
their unrealistic hothouse flowers rotting seedlessly
by the fly-tipped farmer’s gate. Some happy few might
be recycled, their surprisingly soft teddy-bear innards
hardened into plant pots, wheel trims, washing machine
parts. But what kind of life is that for those who
bore the hopes and dreams and moccasins and fake fur
Lu ease mule slippers of a generation? Perhaps

it’s even worse for those carpets rolled up and forgotten
in lofts, watching the dust fall and waiting in vain for
sweepers and early electric wasp-nest bag hoovers,
unable to explain grandparent coal fires, horn rimmed
glasses, space hoppers and Eddie Waring, to the boxes of glib,
still-in-use Christmas decs, current suitcases and tents.

And what happened to the lifelong friends of all those
disappearing, yet unmagic carpets? The standard lamps
and half-supped mugs. The lanky telephone tables, (keepers
of the lost art of the Illiad-long, bottom-of-the stairs phone
conversation). The random hearthrugs. The button separated
forever from the blue Woolworth’s ladybird dressing gown?
All the dust of the hooverers’ countless day dreams?

Where now does Nannie’s clothes horse graze?

* I’m joking, please keep going


c.35K running. The mojo isn’t there, but I can feel it coming back. A conversation with a mate who is training for the London Marathon has kick started things. This week has seen 25K, with 13 coming today, so I feel like I am on my way back
6 hour drive to Derbyshire
1 x trip to Bakewell
1 trip to Eyam
1 x trip to Buxton
22 cats on the farm
4 horses
A host of golden daffodils
0 massive hangovers
1 kitten had “the op”, 1 to go soon
2 x drilling to fit bathroom fixtures
2 weekends of solid graft in the garden
15ish (at least) journeys to dance lessons and back for Flo
Many LFTs
1 rejections: The Stinging Fly
0 poems finished:
2 poems worked on: Nature Abhors a Vacuum, Trajectory, The Summer Job
0 poems published:
1 submissions: Poetry Wales
1 acceptance: Can’t say yet
17 poems currently out for submission.
74 Published poems
38 Poems* finished by unpublished
25 poems* in various states of undress
554 Rejected poems* Eg I’ve decided they are not good enough
0 reviews finished:
4 reviews to write: How the fuck did that happen…I keep finishing them and then they keep coming.
2 day without cigarettes…I was doing so well, Oh well, back to it. As in giving up, not back to smoking.
0 Days since drinking
0 sleepless nights:
1 more week that I’m not having an affair with Eva Green

* To date, not this week. Christ!!

Nothing to offer, sorry


Frogmore Papers: 97
Stand: 19.3
Christopher Horton: Perfect Timing
Sarah Westcott: Bloom
Poetry Wales #57.3

Recording the latest Grandbags Funeral

The Dead Tongues: Dust
Akira Kosemura/Hisaki Kato: One Day You Will Reach The Sea
Florence & The Machine: High As hope, How Big…
Fleetwood Mac: Bare Trees
Fontaines DC: Dogrel, A Hero’s Death
Christian Lee Hutson: Quitters
Unwed Sailor: Truth or Consequences
Akira Kosemura: One Day, Jackjeane OST
The Soft Pack: ST, Strapped
The Prisoners: A Taste OF Pink, The Last Fourfathers
Windrush Radio: Riverside Rhythms
Massacre Massacre: Bunkaa 1
The Solarflares: Psychedelic Tantrum
Exposions In The Sky: Live, Earth Not Cold Dead Place
Sun’s Signature: Golden Air
Van Morrison: Veedon Fleece
Superchunk: Wild Loneliness
Jane Weaver: Flock
The Sea and the Cake: One Day
Richard Hawley: Coles Corner
Wilco: kicking Television
Aldous Harding: Warm Chris
Angel Olsen: All Mirrors
Cassandra Jenkins: A Phenomenal Overview
Courtney Barnett: Things Take Time
Hiss Golden Messenger: Terms of Surrender
Laura Gibson: La Grande
Wet Leg: ST
Band of Horses: Things Are Great
Grizzly Bear: Veckatimest, Shields
Beth Orton: Comfort Of Strangers, Daybreaker
Pearl Jam: Riot Act
John Coltrane: The Definitive Coltrane
Echo & The Bunnymen: Ocean Rain, Siberia, Meteorites
Krystal Clear: Connected EP
Nightports & Matthew Bourne: ST
Sault: Air
The Cure: Anniversary
Jefrey Cantu-Delesma: On The Echoing Green
Ride: This Is Not A Safe Place
Sea Power: Sea of Brass
The Feminine Complex: Hide and Seek
David Christian & The Pinecone Orchestra: For Those We Met On The Way
Bright Eyes: I’m Wide Awake
Spiritualized: Everything Was Beautiful
The Cure; 4.13 Dream, Wish, Show, Entreat
Yo La Tengo: I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One
The Archers
Five Live: Arsenal Vs Man U

Criminal Minds
The Walking Dead
Saturday Night Takeaway
In For A Penny
SAS: Who Dares Wins
Married At First Sight:Australia
Liverpool vs Man City FA Cup Semi-final
Storyville: Truffle Hunters


Poetry Review
Poetry Wales
Kim Moore: All The Men
Lizzie Parker: In Her Shambles
Poetry Scotland

Inspiral Carpets – Dragging Me Down

Second Guessing The Cabbage Owl

Catching myself and going in circles

(NB I started writing this 27th March, but ran out of road…)

Earlier in the week I was sent the proofs of a poem I have coming up soon. It’s in a mag that I am very happy to be in. This mag is a lovely thing to look at, is, I think, quite prestigious, and the list of poets that have been through its “doors” is very strong. I have been in there before, and I am honoured to have been included this time.

I was looking at the proof and I caught what I think was a line that could be construed as being ableist.

The original line was:
“Headphones had made me deaf, a lack
of lights hid me,…”

And it was only last week, three years after having written the first draft of that line, that I wondered if I had written a bad line (the rest of the poetic considerations and concerns aside**). Was I using a shorthand that was inconsiderate in order to fit a syllable count? Is it ok for me to say ‘had made me deaf’ given I am neither d/Deaf or hearing-impaired in anyway.? The magazine editor agreed with me, and this was after we had already had some back on forth on the overall form of the poem.

After several more drafts I’ve settled on the below:
“Headphones distracted me, a lack of lights,
left me unaware…”

I can’t be 100% sure that I wasn’t over-thinking it, that the original word wasn’t ok, but I’m happy with what I’ve ended up with. The new line is an improvement, IMHO. I was happy with the changes in form, but we’ve ultimately ended up back where I started. It’s now a case of waiting to see the poem in the wild alongside what I’m sure is going to be a dazzling array of other poets.

Regarding poetic considerations, etc we watched Dead Poet’s Society with Flo last weekend after a conversation midweek where she was talking about studying poetry. It reminded me of the film and its introduction to the “Prichard Scale“. I’ve not seen the film or thought about it in years, so it was something of a surprise to then see another reference to it on the Facebook page of my fellow Red Squirrel poet, Andrew Jackson, about ten minutes after the film had ended. He made reference to this coffee and I knew I had to have some. It’s available via Ovenbird Coffee in Glasgow. I already have a reputation at work as a coffee ponce for having a cafetière at work, but this should send that reputation stratospheric

Ordered from Walt Whittards**

*Obvs not…

A further (very tenuous) coincidences (if you like a hoot).

Last week I saw quarter of a cabbage sat on our worktop. It was after cooking and before I’d finished clearing up, FYI…It made me think of an owl. I may have made it a little more owl-like.

The greater lesser spotted Cabbage Owl

I’ve been a bit out of sorts of late, so haven’t been reading much…I’ve barely touched a book or magazine in the last couple of weeks, and so haven’t found many poems to share. So I was most grateful when the following dropped into my inbox a couple of hours ago (3rd April). Again, thanks to the Pome newsletter

Haiku by Kobayashi Issa (trans. Robert Hass)

O owl!
make some other face.
This is spring rain.

It also seems fitting after a weekend that has seen sun, rain and snow.

Right, so many things to read and catch up on…I’m looking forward to this Daniel Bennett essay about Rob Selby especially.


c.45K running. The mojo isn’t there, but I can feel it coming back
0 massive hangovers
1 belated Xmas do that involved one cocktail called a Banana Sazarac
40ish (at least) journeys to dance lessons and back for Flo
Many LFTs
1 rejections: Butcher’s Dog
0 poems finished:
2 poems worked on: Nature Abhors a Vacuum, Trajectory
0 poems published:
1 submissions: North
0 acceptance:
21 poems currently out for submission.
74 Published poems
38 Poems* finished by unpublished
25 poems* in various states of undress
554 Rejected poems* Eg I’ve decided they are not good enough
0 reviews finished:
5 reviews to write: How the fuck did that happen…I keep finishing them and then they keep coming.
1 day without cigarettes…I was doing so well, Oh well, back to it. As in giving up, not back to smoking.
0 Days since drinking
0 sleepless nights:
1 more week that I’m not having an affair with Eva Green

* To date, not this week. Christ!!

Finial Demand
Kitten Bereft
Spare prick at a hedgehog’s wedding


Stewart Carswell: Earthworks
Rebecca Watson: Little Scratch


King Hannah: I’m Not Sorry, I was Just Being Me
Pictish Trail: Island Family
LCD Soundsystem: ST
Sinead O’Connor: The Lion & The Cobra
Sierra Ferrell: Long Time Coming
Trembling Bells: The Sovereign Self, The Marble Downs, Dungeness
Van Morrison: A Period of Transition
The Chemical Brothers: No Geography
The Lee Konitz Octet: ST
Lift To Experience: Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads
Electribe 101: Electrical Soul
Simone White: Silver Silver
The Lemonheads: Car Button Cloth
Fritz Pauer: Live At The Berlin
The Pretenders: Learning To Crawl
The Reds, The Pinks, The Purples: Summer At Land’s End
I Break Horses: Warnings
Michael Nesmith: Infinite Ride on the Big Dogma
Molly Sarlé: Karaoke Angel
The National: Alligator, Boxer, Sonic Juicy Magic
Beth Orton: Comfort of Strangers
REM: Life’s Rich Pageant
The Oh Sees: Floating Coffin, Drop
Tall Ships: Impressions
The Sundays: Static & Silence
The Wedding Present: George Best
Steve Reich: Different Trains/Electric Counterpoint
The Trashcan Sinatras: Cake
Mull Historical Society: Loss
Superchunk: Wild Loneliness
Self Esteem: Prioritise Pleasure
Explosions In The Sky: Big Bend
The National: I Am Easy To Find

Criminal Minds
Walking The Dead
This Is Going Too Hurt
The Ipcress File
Slow Horses


Tom Sastry: You Have No Normal Country To Return To

Not sure why YouTube stops things embedding these days, but it’s REM – Second Guessing


Long time coming…(and it’s still not here)

Well, perhaps the cadence should be bi-weekly…(hang on, is that every two weeks or twice a week? I think I’ve proved I can’t manage the latter at present.)

At least while I appear to be slowing down, I can see Matt Merritt is ramping up again on his blog. I hope this is a prelude to more work from him..

Nothing new this week, or last week, beyond a rejection I was expecting, so this is a placeholder just to keep the muscles moving and the metaphors mixed.

I have just finished a new draft of a poem I’ve been working on, despite the assistance of the fluffy thing below. I feel like I’m emerging from a bit of a doldrums in terms of getting my act together, but I don’t want to poke that particular beast/tempt fate in case fate gives in (to paraphrase Mr McGough).

In lieu of anything further that is useful to say I will just offer these two photos and bow out.

I sat down to write and young Dusty here has had other ideas…I wouldn’t look too closely at the draft, it’s a long way off from being any good.
I found this earlier while preparing lunch. I couldn’t bring myself to peel it.

A poem…

I haven’t really had time to find a poem this week, so I’m cheating (apologies) and lifting this from the excellent Ars Poetica email. This poem arrived in my inbox this week and it felt like a little beacon of hope in a week that felt like it wouldn’t end (or end well), but it’s taken on extra significance today. I finished redecorating our bathroom earlier and the child found me just sat in there staring at the walls. We’ve had the bathroom retiled and it take a lot longer than we thought, and so when I did my bit (eg painting) this weekend I was pleased it was over and the last lines of the poem below took on extra (albeit it quite surface level) significance.

(Arsenic, FYI, although not actual Farrow and Ball paint.)

You, Reading This, Be Ready
William Stafford

Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?

Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?

When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. This interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life—

What can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?



c.30K running. The mojo isn’t there, but I can feel it coming back
1 massive hangover
16 (at least) journeys to dance lessons and back for Flo
Many LFTs
1 rejections: Anthropocene
0 poems finished:
1 poems worked on: Nature Abhors a Vacuum
0 poems published:
0 submissions:
0 acceptance:
18 poems currently out for submission.
74 Published poems
38 Poems* finished by unpublished
25 poems* in various states of undress
554 Rejected poems* Eg I’ve decided they are not good enough
0 reviews finished:
2 reviews to write:
1 day without cigarettes…I was doing so well, Oh well, back to it. As in giving up, not back to smoking.
0 Days since drinking
0 sleepless nights:
1 more week that I’m not having an affair with Eva Green

* To date, not this week. Christ!!

Like a swan on an iceberg it’s all been happening beneath the surface


Stewart Carswell: Earthworks
Poetry Review
Rebecca Watson: Little Scratch


Mark Eitzel: The Invisible Man
LCD Soundsystem: American Dream, Sound of Silver, This is Happening, ST
The Weather Station: How Is It That I Should Look At The Stars
Mono: Scarlet Holiday
The Afghan Whigs: Absolution Live 1994
The Duke Spirit: Cuts Across The Land, Bruiser
Correatown: Embrace The Fuzzy Unknown
REM: Fables of the Reconstruction, Life’s Rich Pageant, Document
Sea Power: Everything is Forever
El Ten Eleven: New Year’s Eve
My Morning Jacket: ST, Okonokos
Daughter of Swords: Dawnbreaker
Phoebe Bridgers: Punisher, Stranger In The Alps
Scarce: Deadsexy
Kamasi Washington: The Epic, Heaven & Earth
Churches: Screen Violence
Pharaoh Sanders: Thembi
A House: Greatness & Ignorance
Buffalo Tom: Skins
Caribou: Start Breaking my Heart
Chvrches: Every Open Eye
Hurray For The Riff Riff: ST
Cathal Coughlan: Grand Necropolitan
REM: Live Dublin, Murmur
The Monochrome Set: Allhallowtide
Better Oblivion Community Centre:ST
Tara Clerkin Trio: ST
Sylvan Esso: With
Pearl Jam: Deep 2003
Teenage Fanclub: Howdy
Steve Gunn: Other You
Lightships: Electric Cables
Superchunk: Wild Loneliness
The National: Trouble Will Find Me
The Archers
Poetry Planet: Jeremy Page

Criminal Minds
The Promise
Bonnie & Clyde

Andy Jackson books x 2
Kamasi Washington Tickets

Andy Jackson books x 2
Ben Wilkinson: Same Difference
Frogmore Papers #99
Orbis #199

Not sure why YouTube stops things embedding these days, but it’s The Twilight Singers – I’m Ready

Clearing The Decks

Long time coming…

….right, where was I?

Well, that’s the whole weekly post thing well and truly kicked in the knackers then… I had every intention of keeping it going, but the world just sort of threw itself in the way every time I pondered doing something here. I think I just want to move here

I was going to write something about how Flo had finally picked a poetry book up off my bookshelves. It was the collected work of Dannie Abse. However, it turns out she wanted something to help her with a sore back while she stretched out on the floor. Still, he was a doctor, so there’s that.

I was going write something about how it’s possible to construct a fairly helpful poetry writing/performance tutorial from the lyrics of American Music Club’s song, Johnny Mathis’ Feet. (check the song out. Mark Eitzel is an amazing songwriter).

But I didn’t, and now I probably never will.

So much has happened in the last few weeks, the world is all at once a different place to the one we inhabited a month ago. It’s also entirely the same (and that is both good and bad). There’s nothing I can add to the news coming out of the Ukraine (other than solidarity with the people of Ukraine and condemnation of President Putin for his actions) without it sounding like sub-GCSE-level politics, so I’ll spare you that.

I will point you to the work of Charlotte Shevchenko Knight. She is a British-Ukranian poet. I was lucky enough to read on the same bill as her at a Resonance poetry evening, and really enjoyed her work. I will also point you at the evening of Poetry for Ukraine fundraiser she is part of next week. Go, sign up. Donate.

Things that have happened poetry-wise for me in the last month

My review of Jeremy Page’s ‘The Naming’ was published at London Grip. I had a lovely message back from Jeremy to thank me for the review. It’s wonderful when that happens.

My review of Holly Singlehurst’s pamphlet, The Sea Turned Thick As Honey was published at The Friday poem.

I’ve had my first two acceptances of the year. Honest Ulsterman have taken my poem ‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not Better‘. I hope to sit and read it in among the other poets as soon as I finish this.

The other acceptance I can’t mention yet, but I’m excited. I will say it’s somewhere I’ve been in before, but it’s a new themed issue this time and it’s a wonderful mag. The poem is called ‘Trajectory’ and I’m very happy. The editor had to suggest losing some lines to make it fit the page. In the ned I managed to make the cuts work by changing it from a set of 9 x three-line stanzas to 3 x 9 line stanzas. It works better now, so I’m very happy.

It’s good to have a digital and a print publication under my belt for Q1 2022. And in keeping with the digital/analogue note, I had a reading of each kind in the last month.

There was the much delayed launch of Corvids & Others (available via the publisher or Bookseller Crow) to support The Bookseller Crow in Crystal Palace. A fine evening on the Zooms organised by Susan Watson. It meant I got to read with the likes of Suzannah Fitzpatrick, Matthew Caley, Kate Miller, Rebecca Farmer and many others.

And then last week, I was reading in person again at Resonance, the evening run at my local craft beer shop. The evening was headlined by Nicki Heinen who read from her recently book. There May Not Be A Reason Why but there were a host of others, including a lady reading with for the first time. I didn’t catch her name, but ‘It’s a Bakesale, Bitch’ will stay with me for a while. I tried out some stuff I’ve not read before, and it seemed to go down well.

I’ve managed to finish one more review, so just two to go now.
I think I managed a bit more work on a poem, and I have an idea of whereI want it to go now, so there’s more work to be done.

Earn I add it up it doesn’t look so bad. It’s mainly all stuff from other times coming to fruition, but coupling a really busy time at work with running the Brighton Half Marathon last week/training for that before it seems quite good. I will avoid beating myself up (as well as continuing to do just that).

Oh yes, there was something else…

14th Feb saw the arrival of these things. We are besotted. They are chaos in fur form.

Dusty at the back, Margot at the front

The last band I saw before lockdown kicked in was The Hold Steady, and—if we ignore a trip to see Bicep last year when things had opened up briefly— the first band I’ve seen as things open up again was The Hold Steady on Friday night.

I seems apt to quote from their song Entitlement Crew, “Thanks for listening, thanks for understanding”.
(Yes, the next line is “now I know how it feels to be abandoned”, but we’ll gloss over that with some selective quotation work)

A poem…

I wasn’t going to post a poem this week, but a quick flick through my Collected Dannie Abse (thanks Flo) later and my eyes settled on this. I’m not a religious man at all, far from it, but this section from poem ‘The Abandoned’ caught my eye. Time to go stroke some kittens, I think.


Dear God in the end you had to go.
Dismissing you, your absence made us sane.
We keep the bread and wine for show.

The white horse galloped across the snow,
melted, leaving no hoofmarks in the rain.
Dear God, in the end, you had to go.

The winds of war and derelictions blow,
howling across the radioactive plain.
We keep the bread and wine for show.

Sometimes what we do not know we know
in Armageddon town they write your name
dear God. In the end you had to go.

Yet boarding the last ship out we’d sorrow
that grape is but grape and grain is grain.
We keep the bread and wine for show.

Will world be leased to vulture and the crow?
Small lights upon the shore begin to wane.
Dear God in the end you had to go,
we keep the bread and wine for show.


c.110K running. This month, including Brighton Half. (1.52.09, quite pleased, although I totally bonked at 16k and had to walk for 500m which slowed me down…)
2 hangovers (impromptu trip to the pub and then post gig
1 gig by The Hold Steady. Excellent as ever.
16 (at least) journeys to dance lessons and back for Flo
Many LFTs
2 rejections: PBLJ, Crannog
0 poems finished:
2 poems worked on: Nature Abhors a Vacuum, Trajectory
1 poems published:
2 submissions: Anthropocene, Bad Lillies
2 acceptance: Honest Ulsterman, An Other
18 poems currently out for submission.
74 Published poems
38 Poems* finished by unpublished
25 poems* in various states of undress
554 Rejected poems* Eg I’ve decided they are not good enough
1 reviews finished: Naush Sabah: Litanies
2 reviews to write:
1 day without cigarettes…I was doing so well, Oh well, back to it. As in giving up, not back to smoking.
1 Days since drinking
0 sleepless nights:
1 more week that I’m not having an affair with Eva Green

* To date, not this week. Christ!!

Torrid Afar
A Hierarchy of Mugs
Changing The Names Too Protect The Millicents


Naush Sabah: Litanies,
Poetry Wales Winter 21,
Poetry Review Winter 21,
Rebecca Watson: Little Scratch

Simon Armitage & Glyn Maxwell in Conversation At The Poetry School
Nine Pens Sunday with Rory Waterman, etc
Stephen Payne Wax Argument HappenStance Launch
Corvids & others Launch for Bookseller Crow (Read at)

Black Country, New Road: Ants From Up Here
Blueboy: Clearer Singles
Grandbag’s Funeral Podcast: Orville & Gruey’s Hollywood Rubover
Frank Black: Frank Black Francis
The Reds, Pinks & Purples: Summer At Land’s End
Pylon: Gyrate
Dropsonde Playlist
The Archers
The Foxhole Companion: Xmas Party Podcast
David Grubbs & Ryle Walker: A Rub On The Shoulder
The High Llamas: Retrospective
Dinosaur Jr: I Bet on Sky
Joni Mitchell: Turbulent Indigo
Galaxie 500: Today
Alela Diane: About Farewell
Faith No More:Album Of The Year
The Delines: The Sea DriftEddie Vedder:Earthling
Richard Hawley: Further
Mark Lanegan Band: Gargoyle
Do Make say Think: Goodbye Enemy Airship
Dinosaur Jr. Green Mind
Screaming Trees: Sweet Oblivion
Andy Bell:Flicker
Cate Le Bon: Reward
Beat Happening: ST
Frightened Rabbit: Sing The Greys
Johann Johansson: Englaborn
The National: Trouble Will Find Me, Sonic Juicy Magic, Sleep Well Beast
Caspian: Live At Larcom, The Four Trees
The Archers
The Monkees: Headquarters
Julian Cope: Peggy Suicide
Elastica: ST
The Bangles: Essential Bangles
Will Stratton: Gray Lodge Wisdom
Big Thief: Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You
Sea Power: Everything Was Forever
Tim Buckley: Dream Letter
The Wedding Present: Take Fountain
Laura Gibson: Goners
The Walkmen: A Hundred Miles Off, Lisbon, You And Me
The Sadies: Northern Passage
The Magnetic Fields: The Charm of the Highway Strip, Distortion
Painted Shrines: Heaven & Holy
Mark Lanegan: Whiskey For The Holy Ghost, The Winding Sheet, Phantom Radio, Straight Songs of Sorrow, Bubblegum
The Gutter Twins: Adorata, Saturnalia
The Green Pajamas: To The End Of The Sea, Death By Misadventure
Greg Dulli: Random Desire
Half Man Half Biscuit: The Voltarol Years
Heavenly: Operation Heavenly
Superchunk: Wild Loneliness
King Hannah: I’m Not Sorry, I Was Being Myself
Melt Yourself Down: Pray For Me I Don’t Fit In
The Bangles: Doll Revolution Caroline: ST
Fujiya & Miyagi: Flashbacks, Different Blades From The Same Pair of Scissors
The Reds, Pinks & Purples: Slow Torture of an Hourly Wage, I’d Rather Astral Project
Hurry For The Riff Raff: Life on Earth
Simon Felice: All The Bright Coins
Lloyd Cole & The Commotions: Rattlesnakes
Lo-Fidelity Allstars: Northern Stomp
The Flaming Lips: Oh My Gawd…The Flaming Lips
Butcher Boy: Profit In your Poetry
Caitlin Rose: Own Side Now, The Stand-In
The Hold Steady: Open Door Policy, Boys And Girls In America, Separation Sunday, Teeth Dreams, Thrashing Thru The Passion, Stay Positive
El Ten Eleven: New Year’s Eve
The Cure: Three Imaginary Boys
Cat Power: Moon Pix
Band Of Horses: Things Are Great

The Good Fight
Criminal Minds
The Book of Boba Fett

A jumper
Ben Wilkinson: Same Difference

A jumper
2 Kittens

Just because I love it, and it has the word cat in the title

Quarrying Paving Slabs and Querying Chickens

Long time coming…

Not much to report or write about this week. It’s been a breakneck week from start to finish where the Riches household hasn’t had time to draw breath. The only poetry-relevant thing this week was the arrival of the latest issue of The Seventh Quarry. The lovely folks there took two poems of mine for which I am immensely grateful. However, this is an example of just how slow things can move in poetry world (and I say this purely as an observation).

I submitted these two poems (alongside others) on 13th March last year and got a reply on the 15th March last year. So far, so good. Not a record for sub to acceptance/rejection by any stretch, but still pretty good. And then the wait began. 11 months from sub to print is a pretty good one. Has anyone waited longer?

Anyhoo, it’s here and my running poem and my poem about a broken shoelace have found a home among some other great work from around the world. I’m looking forward to reading it all later today.

A new obsession

I am sharing this song as I have become marginally obsessed with it this weekend. The title was basically catnip to me and I was powerless to resist after that. How can I resist something called ‘The Words Biggest Paving Slab’? I’m sort of annoyed that they’ve taken it as I’m sure I could have got some poetic mileage from such a thing.

A poem

Finally, a poem for this week from Nia Davies’ ‘Çekoslovakyalılaştıramadıklarımızdanmısınız or Long Words‘. I chose this for two reasons.

1. It was the first book I saw on my shelves when I went to find a poem to put here
2. There was a nice link to the review of Jeremy Page’s ‘The Naming’ that I’ve just finished. It has a section devoted to poetic interpretations of words in different languages that don’t have a direct English translation.

It’s one of those poems where I can’t say I know fully what is happening, but it feels right. And in a week when we really haven’t had to wonder what bullshit is it’s nice to see some innocent wondering…

a dusty place where chickens usually groom themselves* by Nia Davies
* pinagpinamamagaspasan (Tagalog)

i have a very important observation to report
it is something to do with poetry
it is something to do with place, i think
i move through place, i think
every part of that place i move through is a place
but that does not mean i am that place or
my poem is either
this was a place i wanted to move through but by the
time i found the way to say this place
it was no longer a place for chickens
now it is probably a place to park cars
or leave cars when they are broken
and beyond all repair
and the scrap people have not got round to putting them in the crusher
(first of all you take out the engine)
usually the chickens are not there
which supposes that sometimes they are there, grooming,
too stupid to move away from oncoming vehicles
like in dramatic moments on television
when a character wants to be in the way of oncoming transportation
it’s just these chickens are not suicidal
they are just incredibly stupid
this has something to do with poetry:
all poems have places in them,
especially poems about home, kith,
(incredibly stupid?)
about or being inside or about taking a sideways look at
for a tangible , touchable reality, embodied
I sometimes wonder what bullshit really is
because it really is embodied,
coming as it does from a bull’s body
warm for a period of time
then disembodied,
that is one place you could be inside of,
warm and welcoming even,
then there are the poets who don’t like to reveal themselves in poems


37K running. My first run into work in two years was a success if we ignore the mild getting lost at Elephant & Castle and then getting briefly locked in the shower at work.
0 hangovers
4 journeys to dance lessons and back for Flo
1 recording of the Grandbag’s Podcast
Many LFTs
1 rejections: Poetry Wales. It was a boilerplate one, but what a lovely boilerplate
0 poems finished:
0 poems worked on: Nature Abhors a Vacuum
0 poems published:
0 submissions:
0 acceptance:
26 poems currently out for submission.
72 Published poems
40 Poems* finished by unpublished
25 poems* in various states of undress
554 Rejected poems* Eg I’ve decided they are not good enough
1 reviews finished: Jeremy Page: The Naming
4 reviews to write: Fuck, how did that happen, I’ve gone from 1 to do to having more…Hmmm
2 day without cigarettes…I was doing so well, Oh well, back to it. As in giving up, not back to smoking.
0 Days since drinking
0 sleepless nights:
1 more week that I’m not having an affair with Eva Green

* To date, not this week. Christ!!

The Lost Art of Spotting A Strawman
Throwing Shapes


Louis De Berniere: Señor Vivo & The Coca Lord, The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman

Chad Vangaalen: World’s Most Stressed Out Gardener
The Reds, Pinks and Purples: Uncommon Weather, You Might Be Happy Someday, Summer At Land’s End
Pixies: Beyond The Eryie
Frank Black & The Catholics: Show Me Your Tears
Modern Nature:Island of Noise
Dropsonde Playlist
Frank Black: The Cult of Ray
Underworld: Dubnobnasswithmyheadman
Cassandra Jenkins: An Overview on Phenomenal Nature, Play Till You Win
English Teacher: various Singles

The Rescue

Seventh Quarry #35

Close as I could get to a lemon song that wasn’t ver Zep or U2. This is better anyway.