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

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

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

The Society For the Preservation of Workings Out

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I can’t wait to read the final book.


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

The week in stats:

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

4 pints to rehydrate

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

One out of office on

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

2 mates with interviews at ITV

Read, seen, etc

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

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

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

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

Receiving and broadcasting

I’ve been catching up on some radio shows I’ve downloaded this week

The first one was Paul Farley’s Here Be Dragons

A programme about our interest in maps. It includes Ciaran Carson and Zoe Skoulding among others. It was a fascinating programme, but my ears pricked up the most when Paul mentioned “Trap Streets”.

I’ve had a poem on the go for about 18 months now that mentions them among other things, and in the last week I’ve gone back to the drafts to turn it all into a sequence. To date, I’ve written now written 5 parts of the sequence and was due to start on the Trap Street part on the day that I played this particular show.

I can’t tell if hearing this is the cosmos telling me to keep going or give up. I’m hoping it’s the former.

From the Radio 4 website

Worth a listen to this audio map from the show as well.

Here Be Dragons
The map of the show as drawn by Chris Riddell

The second show was Kim Moore’s Psalm for the Scaffolder.

Currently it has 26 days left to listen to it and I encourage you to do so. It’s a fascinating look at how Kim came to be the person she is – covering her family background, her training, her work and the life she has led to become the poet she is now (A clue here is that she’s an excellent poet).

I was listening to this one last night on my journey home and by the time I got back to the house, I had a rough draft of an outline of an idea floating about my head.

Cover of the programme

Kim’s first collection was ‘The Art of Falling” and I loved it when I read it. I’m very much looking forward to seeing her new collection – I think her recent poem, I Let a Man will be included. I recommend a read of Chris Edgoose’s blog post on the recent events that followed it.

Long story short, Kim wrote this wonderful poem and then a complete bellend thought it would be responsible for destroying all men.

The other aural treat from this week was Rishi Dastidar on Better Known. This show has been a recent discovery that I’ve been meaning to get round to playing, but Rish being on it has forced my hand/ears.

It’s a very simple concept: list six things you believe should be better known, kind of like a reverse Room 101.

Just scanning the listings on the website has introduced me to a thousand things to capture my imagination.

Rishi’s selection opened my eyes, my ears, my mind and my stomach to a range of treasures. That’s not a bad 25 minutes of listening.

And of course, now I’m thinking of what my six things would be. I started compiling a Desert Island Discs list recently and it’s currently 2.1 days long – I’d best hope the call from Lauren Laverne doesn’t come in yet. It is Lauren that makes the call, right? We do share a birthday, so it would be right and proper.

You can find the link here.
NB it’s a bit “guitars” at present, but I’m working on adding in other stuff as I think of it.


  1. Sticklebricks and Sticklemortar
  2. Collaborative Salad Making
  3. More Dynamite for your Dollar
  4. A Smattering Tragedy*
  5. Hand-reared
  6. Arranging Aquatic Birds in a Linear Fashion
  7. Pulled Muscle Cars
  8. Poem Written as an Instrumental
  9. Nicky, Louder
  10. Mesopotamian Lullabies**
  11. Christmas Card Lust***

*- HT to Euan MacKay and Andrew Tenzer for this one
** – Thanks to Atlas Obscura for this one
*** – HT to me for email typo

The week in stats:

1 – rejection from a Pamphlet call, but with a very nice email to soften the blow

1 rejection from an online magazine – Thanks High Window

1 review published at OPOI

1 review submitted

1 new poem started (as mentioned above) – Work Experience/Tea Break and 1 poem worked on – Does it count as one poem if it’s a sequence?

1 Submission

Several friends’ birthdays

43 years up on the clock

1 meeting with the lovely Robin Houghton and 3 pints

34.6 K run. I didn’t know I had a target, but have been talking with a friend about upping the mileage again. Now I need to do 35K each week.

Also, huge shout to Euan for 121 consecutive days of running so far.

2 more Half Marathons signed up for

A Palm Reading Sampler

So here is a wee sampler of Palm Reading…It’s nearly ready to be published via Lulu…just a couple more things to iron out…..Please do let me know if you are interested in a copy.

This is a link to the same as below, but on Scribd if you like that sort of thing.

Scribd link for Palm Reading


Softly, softly catchee monkey, my arse.
Who’s got time for that these days, I ask you?
I was put out to grass,
but I swear I will out last you.

Like a sleeping tiger,
you’ve kept half an eye
on exactly which side
your bread’s buttered on;
and maintained your stance in the eye of the storm
and kept more than a glance
in which directions the cookie crumbled.
You’ve always asked who’s batting or bowling
and from where the thunder rumbled;
taken note of what’s good for the goose,
and seen what’s preferred by the gander.
You observed and calculated
the sweet spot of your dander,
and exactly how it’s raised.
Lord be praised!
You’ve chanced upon something.

I’ll Eat My Hat

The bed I am laying in
has been made.
It’s not a case of the cap fitting;
this being no fashion parade.
My ears are not whiskers
for the gauging of breadth and width.
If it’s stretched and tugged,
and pulled over lugs, it will fit.
In spite of the danger of tearing it,
the cap is on.
And I’m bloody well wearing it.

Milking Horses

The mother was too exhausted to help,
everyone got her to her feet.
You milked her while a bottle was found;
someone tried to rustle up a teat.

You remember the hungry tongue,
and the strength required to hold on.
The unconditional love in his eyes
made you think of your own young

and my time in the incubator;
a yellow tinge to my skin,
and the uneasiness of the first time mother
as someone else helps your offspring.

After the un-tethering of the umbilical cord,
as the vet patched up the mare,
you were witness to the first punch-drunk steps;
the still slick tail and the mother’s glare.
Each awkward hoof going sideways,
each leg wanting to see different places
in the barn, slipping on straw
as someone cracked a gag about sadness and long faces.

Love Poem

Let us not talk of the places
I would not return from.
I am already train-ward bound back
just to hold you,
to smooth over hair and try to hold back tears
like Canute’s daughter.
There is no ocean I would not cross
by hand and foot, or by boat to be here.
No burning coal I would not dance over,
or map wide enough to prevent
feeling you push me away
and hear you say
that you are fine.

Kizelbel, September 2004

For R.

Last night was all too perfect.
The only noise was the local crickets’
nightly jam session in the hills.
All conversation was of insect music,
as one lone virtuoso near our balcony
sang his own exquisite love songs.

The midges massed to our left
like a Luftwaffe wave;
ready to dive-bomb us back inside.
Moths were taking off and landing
like burning paper scraps
against a bonfire sun.

Figs fell from the trees
at exactly the same time as the Muezzin’s siren call began,
punctuated by the click of a microphone.
Modern life beat a path inland
as you beat me at backgammon.

A Few Words about Caution

Don’t enter the coop with a calculator
or abacus
until you are certain
you hear the tapping of beak on albumen.

Knife Throwers’ Assistant

I hand myself to him on a plate
twice a day, night after night.
I am not one for tempting fate;
luck gets taken for no ride, or a fool.
is a steadfast, rock-solid rule.

Don’t talk to me of faith.
I have to remember the knives are thrown around me
and never at or against.
I have grown to see this:
His aim is his word, and it is true.
I freely take part in this tryst.

Trust being the currency here,
we spend it wisely.
We don’t talk after work or come near.
I need no holds over him, or he over me.
For obvious reason we keep the other
precisely where we want them to be.

Arms at five past and five to,
feet at twenty five to and past;
then a whoosh as the blade is passing through:
Six in as many seconds as balloons burst.
Even if he were to hit me
the show must always come first.

When I started people came here
to be entertained, or cheaply thrilled
It’s getting harder to keep the audiences’ attention;
sometimes I suspect blood needs to be spilled.

With thanks to http://www.painproofrubbergirls.com


In here no one hears trees falling, or do they?
I have listened and lost interest and the will;
being too caught up in the noises of blood in my ears
and the ferrety noises of insects and animals.

I no-longer sweat,
or can no-longer be sure it is me.
It could be moisture, or
what’s left of my clothes transforming the heat.

I have learnt to be comfortable pissing myself,
like a deep sea diver.
It’s all I can feel now,
reminds me I am still alive.

Insects pass by to inspect
what I suspect will become theirs.
It is not the casual rabbit
or idling hare that I fear.

I had always doubted the industry of ants,
of stag beetles or the point of centipedes.
I am in no doubt.
Now I believe.

How did I get here?
You may well ask.

Family Secrets

It was Him who breezed through here;
opened a hospital not long after opening hours,
posing for pictures, signings and souvenirs.
He shook more than hands it would seem;
or so they say, by the looks of things
and from what I have seen.

Each trip home from the unaffordable college
would yield new information,
some new piece of knowledge.
I was done with working out fact or fiction;
the beans needed to be spilt.
I wanted the origins of my cut glass diction.

Looks from people in corners of locals and from behind
tiny shop counters began to add up,
whispers and close encounters of the sir kind
put the courage to my convictions.
You were strangely quieter, anthems were never sung.
Fault lines appeared through the friction.

News travels, and I intend to follow it.
Take it from me, mark my every word,
the bait has been dangled; I will not swallow it.
This has been bungled, soft-soaped, mis-handled.
Seen and not heard, is all I was expected to do.
I am up off of my knees now; think of the scandal.


They call me the “Mynah Bird”.
It’s a little trick of mine,
I will become a tiny bit of you when we talk;
your inflections slip to me over time.

In a heart pulse, or a blink of an eye
my accent changes on a sixpence.
It’s not an echo, or Doppler Effect.
I am no siren, though I draw you in close.

You will feel nothing when everything you have
becomes my weapon of choice.
All I have to work with is pulled
from your shows and tells; your very own voice.

We’re kith and kin now,
cut from a cloth and of the same kidney.
You’ve sold yourself short,
now what have you left to give me?

It’s been a while, but I think this is finished


You will not give in;
artificial light keeps you here after dark.
You can see the end;
this hull has become your Ark.

Catalysts and gel coats are setting
in dry dock, you’re land locked in boat sheds.
Roves, nails, fibre glass and resins
have finished off marine trims and hood ends.

Paint on the waterline, anti-foul
and then offer up your thanks.
You’ve made it this far,
now bring on the whiskey plank.