His Arms Were a Graphic Novel

It wasn’t the person from Porlock; it was my aunt

Who got on the bus, brought my poem to an end.

My notebook slumped on my lap as she told me

The long sad story of a friend.





When she got off I had my chance but this young bloke

Sat next to me, iPod blaring, hair swooped back.

It was the White Stripes live from Splendour.

How could I not listen ? It was Meg and Jack.





But then a cross-eyed biker got on, hair in a rat’s tail,

Skin graffitied with tatts. How could I not look?

His arms a graphic novel. Then a woman got on

Shouting into her mobile, angry as ‘The Angry Book’.





The sad sack on the other end was out for the count.

Luckily Coleridge didn’t board this bus

while he was dreaming ‘Kubla Khan’. He wouldn’t

have written a word. The poem would be dust.





  • picture courtesy of Pinterest by TheTatt

Forrest Gander

If I were to change my name

I would change it to something

light and leafy like Forrest Gander,

the name of the poet whose poem ‘Pastoral’

I am reading now: ‘swarms of midges

bobbed up and down like balled hairnets

in the breeze’; nothing blunt and earthy,

like his nearest namesake, Forrest Gump

would write; but ethereal; I see he has a degree

in ecology and was born in the Mojave Desert,

all part of the grand design; his photo

portrays him, smiling, upstanding, arms outspread

as if ready to take off on another flight of whimsy.

photo courtesy of Ulle

Where Celebrities Grew Up

Reading an article by David Remnick,

editor of ‘The New Yorker’

since 1998

I discovered

he was born in Paterson, New Jersey

the same place as Philip Roth,

the novelist whose biography Remnick was profiling,

as was Ginsberg,

the man who wrote “Howl’

that poem that still echoes down the decades.

the same place too

as William Carlos Williams,

the man who wrote ‘the red wheelbarrow’

and wait for it,

Lou Costello,

the comedic partner of Bud Abbot

whose films split our sides

in the fun house of the fifties;

what do they have in the water of Paterson, New Jersey,

that so many famous people

grew up there;

it must be quite a place

Prickly

I wasn’t going to wear it. ‘A hoodie is not a cardigan’, I said.

‘Anything that does up at the front is a cardigan’, he insisted.

‘A flack jacket does up at the front; is that a cardigan?’ I said.





We were off and running like the cabbie who couldn’t get us

to the venue fast enough. And then he started on my silver hammer,

why I used the word ‘silver’ when the important word was ‘hammer’.





I could have hit him over the head. And then he said I was embellishing

the tale. ‘I’m a writer’ I pronounced from the saddle of my high horse.

‘It’s the writer’s prerogative to embellish,’





‘You call yourself a writer,’ he said. ‘Your poetry doesn’t even rhyme.’

Now I admit calling him a ‘Neanderthal’ didn’t help matters.

But it’s not just writers who are prickly.

Come Closer and Listen

I reckon if someone calls a book, ‘Come Closer and Listen’ they ought to have something to say.

Something vital, urgent, new. Provocative.

I leaned real close and listened. I wanted to be shocked out of my stodginess.

Take something away, to share with my mates at the pub Friday night.

Something revelatory.

But there was nothing.

Admittedly the poems are well crafted, And there are a few good ones

and even one stand-out poem but that’s it in 60 + pages.

But really it’s the same old stuff as in the previous 10 books.

God help us, we;re all in danger of repeating ourselves and if I do I pray someone

calls me out.

But it’s like I said of the Seinfeld book.

You coulda done better, Charles. You coulda done better.

On the Nose

You don’t see many poems celebrating the sense of smell.

Sight rules the roost, cock-a-doodles its pre-eminence

on every page; the nose rarely gets a look-in.

An anthology of ‘Smell’ poems would be very thin indeed

and would be ‘on the nose’ for most readers.

I haven’t had a whiff of a good smell poem for years.





  • I can’t think of a single poem celebrating the sense of smell, can you?
  • have you written a short poem, perhaps a funny one, on smells you could put in the comments column for the delight of readers?
  • have you a vivid memory of a particular smell?

That’s the Stuff You’re Keeping out of Your Poems

That’s the stuff you’re keeping out of your poems,

Ted Hughes said to his dismantling wife,

smashing the mahogany tabletop, the high stool,

during one of their periods of interminable strife

and I thought of the things each of us omits

when we sit down and write our little poems,

our peccadilloes, annoying habits, the times

we’ve ghosted or been  ghosted on our phones,

whether at times we’ve kicked the dog or cat

or when someone’s needed us we didn’t give a rats.

Little things we’d rather not disclose

like walking around in our poems without clothes

the Red Wheelbarrow & Frankenstein

It’s the little things I love

Like watching

 ‘Paterson’, the movie

About the bus driver

Who wrote his little epiphanies in his note book

like William Carlos Williams

the doctor who wrote

the red wheelbarrow

And finding out

That’s where Lou Costello grew up,

Paterson, New Jersey

There’s even a park named after him,

Lou Costello the chubby comedian who played alongside Bud Abbot,

The straight guy.

I used to watch those guys in the funhouse

Of the fifties,

Frolicking with Frankenstein and The Wolf man.

But it was Lou Costello

I loved

The funny little fat guy

And that’s where he came from,

Paterson, New Jersey.

Fragile Dennis

400px-Zipper

I think of fragile Dennis when someone needles me,

and toughen up.

He let the jibes get to him;

He closed down the fun house of his world view,

changed his clown shoes for cement boots.

He was heavy as Hamlet,

became prickly

& wouldn’t read his wonderfully quirky poems out any more

because people were telling him,

they were weak.

They were a little childish but

they weren’t weak.

Poets are supposed to care for each other.

I wish some people would close up like zippers.

Say What You Like

cropped-istockphoto-507272482-612x612.jpg

No one reads poetry any more, my editor said.

Not even poets — unless it is their own work,

He added with a wry smile. Say what you like.

So I did, but I was mostly gentle anyway

Ribbing Ted for his niggardliness, Angus

For his habit of laughing at his own jokes,

Even when they’re bad; Milton for his grandiose

Turns of phrase, peppering my poems with names

Of friends, rellies, family. All turned up at the Launch.

The book sold well. I introduced it with

a wry smile picked up from my editor:

‘Dedicated to the Ones I Love’.