Oh Captain, my Captain Barnacles…

No, you were too hungover to think about posting last week.

We’ll glide on past that particular moment in time, and just get straight to the poem for the week. I started reading this book about a week ago, and many poems grabbed me (big shout out to Electric Blue, And Leave To Dry and &), but this one stood out more for some reason. Interestingly, there’s a water-based motif to the three mentioned above and this poem. It could be the ecological message it conveys, it could be the arresting image of the first stanza, it could be the slightly hopeful note it ends on (and I want to think it’s hopeful), it could be that it made me think of ‘Wilson’ in the Tom Hanks film, Castaway.

Wilson, the true star of Castaway

Most likely, it could just be that it works as a whole. Either way, I’m grateful to John McCullough for his permission to share this poem. And I’m especially grateful for the line ‘It was like stroking knowledge / the accumulations of a head that had sailed / inside itself for years..’.

Old Ocean’s Bauble

They scooped it from the Channel:
an NBA basketball with a thick beard
of goose barnacles, long and smooth.

To gaze at it was to reach and caress it
underneath, fingers wakening the rich clatter
of shells. It was like stroking knowledge,

the accumulations of a head that had sailed
inside itself for years, saying nothing, veering
anywhere, spiralled by eddies and gyres.

They knew there was no alternative
but to put it back, let it take up again
a looping voyage with no destination.

They understood that others could need
this prophecy, might stare into its eyeless,
mouthless face, construe the terrible warning.

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

Taken from Panic Response, Penned In The Margins Press, 2022. Published with the author’s permission.
Apologies to John..I’m still working out how to do the indentations on each second line, so here is the poem as an image.

John has been a fairly relentless source of inspiration and motivation for folks in the poetry world, and as far as I can tell always has time to stop and chat to provide advice to aspiring poets. His Twitter feed is a constant source of wonderful poems, so get on that forthwith…I’ve not read his first collection, Frost Fairs, yet—to be resolved ASAP, but the two collections that preceded Panic Response were both excellent. Do yourself a favour and order them, and then listen to this Planet Poetry interview. The actual order of consumption doesn’t matter as long as you do both.

One of the downsides to last week’s hangover was that I didn’t get to say thank you to Robin Houghton (of Robin Houghton and/or Planet Poetry fame) for her call back to my last post about writing workshops. I was very happy to see Robin refer to this as “a writer’s blog”. I get very uncomfortable about saying I’m a writer, but just as I’m learning to stand up straight and tall to help with my knee injury, I’m learning to stand up straight and call myself a writer/poet. Robin’s words came at the right time and were/are still a welcome boost.

I think the standing tall and accepting of what I/we do as writing has been on my mind forever, but it was catalysed while listening to the audiobook of You Could Make This Place Beautiful by the American poet, Maggie Smith. The book has loosely been called a ‘Divorce Memoir’, and it is, but to me it’s also a meditation about roles, ownership and permissions. As you will no doubt be aware, Smith gained some prominence in early 2020 with her poem, Good Bones. How many poets get their work read out in dramas (this was read in an episode of Madam President?) And whatever you may think of the poem (I like it), it’s another landmark achievement for poetry.

However, the blessings also became a curse. As Smith was growing in popularity, and in demand, it had a severe impact on her marriage. Her husband began resenting her travels and for not being around to perform the unpaid labour of parenting. He is unnamed in the book, and doesn’t come across well at all (and Smith doesn’t spare herself either), but the book raises question and revived guilts I find myself feeling when I take time away from my family to write.

I’m certainly not comparing my situation to that of Smith, but should I be more involved, do more…there are always chores to be done, etc…Sometimes the dishes can just fucking wait!!! Sometimes the dishes are a way to out off the hard work of writing, and it is hard work. I will, however, urge you to read YCMTPB. And to sign up to her newsletter? I’m working my way though Goldenrod at present and finding lots to love.

Things worth reading:

Chris Edgoose’s post about the discussion between Gboyega Odubanjo and Don Paterson in the latest Poetry Review (Wayne Holloway-Smith’s first issue as editor). I’ve not read the article yet, my order is in to Poetry Review. Note to self, time to renew your Poetry Soc membership. Further note to self…do you really need to renew your Poetry Soc membership?

Do I need to renew my Poetry Society Membership? Discuss!!

Matthew Stewart’s lovely post praising and marking the end of Sphinx Reviews. As a reviewer for Sphinx, I feel remiss for not having done something similar. Sphinx and Nell got me on the path to reviewing and has introduced me to so many poets as a reader (and as a reviewer). Sphinx will be missed.

Sadly, we’ve also had to say farewell to Raceme magazine this month. It’s always sad to say goodbye to a journal, but on a personal note I am sad as it’s not been long since I became aware of them…And they were kind enough to take three of my poems a few issues (issue 11) ago.

You’ll have read Bad Lilies’ latest issue, yeah. And know that their subs window is open.

Oh yeah, and miracles of miracles…I wrote a draft of a poem yesterday. Careful, don’t make a noise, you’ll spook it.

Finally, and just because someone mentioned the phrase “maybe tomorrow” just now, I am reminded of this Nick Motown gag. (

Please note I am not remembering it correctly, but it goes something like…

I went into my local Video Hire shop and asked when the boxset of The Littlest Hobo would be in. The person behind the counter said, ‘Maybe tomorrow’. Nice.

A Song that is in some vague way linked to something

Laura Stevenson, Barnacles


20ishK running. My knee is improving now I’ve started trying to stretch my hamstrings. This week has seen 3 actual runs and almost no pain This is encouraging. I am very out of breath. This is not so much.
0 day without cigarettes…This is encouraging
0 days since drinking. **Pours another gin**

1 funeral
2 massive hangovers
1 blood donation
1 birthday (me)
1 fry up

0 loose ideas/articles gathered (this allows me to kid myself I am writing all the time)
x poems finished: Several for the book
1 poems worked on: TBC
1 submissions:
0 withdrawal:
0 acceptances:
0 Longlisting:
0 readings:
0 rejections:
11 poems are currently out for submission. No simultaneous subs
83 Published poems

0 review finished:
0 reviews started:
0 review submitted:
23 review to write:

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

* To date, not this week. Christ!!


Music r= Radio, A = Audiobook, P=Podcast. The rest is music
Worriers: Warm Blanket
Ultramarine: Every Man And Woman Is A Star
Buzzcocks: Trade Test Transmissions
Emahoy Tsege Mariam Gebru: Jerusalem
Maggie Smith: You Could Make This Place Beautiful (A)
Maggie Smith: You Could Make This Place Beautiful (A)
Planet Poetry: Liz Berry (P)
The Verb: Something New (P)
Do Make Say Think: You You’re A History In Rust
Rachel’s: Selenography
Julian Cope: Twenty Mothers, You Gotta Problem With Me, Interpreter
The Hold Steady: Live In LA 9/9/22
Dropsonde Playlist
The Archers
Craig Finn : Bill Hader
Wayne Shorter: Night Dreamer
MondayWayne Shorter: The All Seeing Eye
Lael Neale: Star Eaters Delight
Fruit Bats: A River Running Through Your Heart
William Tyler & the Impossible Truth: Secret Stratosphere
Laura Veirs: Year of Meteors
The Archers
Explosions In The Sky: All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone, Big Bend, Those Who tell the Truth…, Take Care x 3, Friday Night Lights Soundtrack
Dropsonde Playlist
The National: The Last Two Pages of Frankenstein
Pearl Jam: Deep Touring Band 2023
Mighty Baby; ST
A Certain Ratio: 1982
Nabihah Iqbal: Dreamer
The Stairs: Mexican Rn’B
McCoy Tyner: Same Layuca
Pearl Jam: Give Way
Margaret Glassy: Devotion
The Mountain Goats: Getting Into Knives

John McCullough: Panic Response
Poetry Scotland 103
Raceme 14
Maggie Smith: Goldenrod

Interior Design Masters
Ted Lasso
The Diplomat
Fear The Walking Dead

Art supplies for Flo
Under The Radar: Food
Poetry Review

Art supplies for Flo
Poetry Scotland
Birthday cards and gifts
Luke Samuel Yates: Dynamo



One thought on “Oh Captain, my Captain Barnacles…

  1. Pingback: Poetry Blog Digest 2023, Week 17 – Via Negativa

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