Coming out in Material Magazine this week…




the man on the train says

‘for asking, but

are you a writer?

I’m a writer.

Sci-fi fantasy.

I don’t believe in happy

endings, such a cliché.

In my book, everybody dies

after three

thousand pages.’



sorry to disturb you

I’ve been

writing my book for ten years

since I was sixteen.


I’m off to work, insurance

for my sins.’


I ask him when he writes

and he says he hasn’t written anything

for five years.

His eyes roll

little wet pebbles

his eyes gape

little fish pleading

with me not to say the bleeding

obvious –

if you haven’t written for five years

you’re not a writer.



he says

‘I’ll let you get on’

He watches me make notes

for five minutes, and says

‘that seems like a lot

of work

for a poem.’


This is a re-worked version of a NaPoWriMo 2013 poem, I’m trying to get it ready to submit for publication somewhere, so all comments and feedback are especially welcome. The original version is here, if you’re interested…

The mall is full of dugong,

Basking gently in the atrium of filtered light,

This temperate zone, these grazing pastures.

Flippers on the handlebars of grand-nippers,

At whom they smile, bewildered, but kind,

Floating tenderness to the youngest

Of the Family Dugongidae.


Dugong spend much of their time alone,

Great, grey, chamois-soft, slump-shouldered bulks

Navigating zeppelin-slow through the aisles

Of the twenty-four hour Asda,

Pondering the mysteries of couscous,

Considering treats for little visitors.


Dugong spend much of their time in pairs,

Rootling with their bristled, sensitive snouts

For nice cups of tea and a scone,

Though they are sometimes seen

Gathered in large herds,

To do taichi at the community centre.

A synchronised dugang,

Fluked tails moving patiently

Through Needle On The Bottom Of The Sea.


Dugong dugon of the family Dugongidae!

Come and pass your undemanding eye

Over the paintings from the Gray Collection,

Here at our local gallery.

I know you will pause

At the Victorian child, pink muslin and ringlets,

Her giant St Bernard dog, its head huge on her lap.

I know in your great, grey, chamois-soft heart you understand,

The restful weight of trust,

The touch of small-fingered hands.



Collage – first draft

Summerlight flicks, the edges of London,

Sparks on glass-blades, city spires,

Smithereens of past, shards of future,

Gilt crust, glamourdusk , quick flash-fires.

Greenwich, we say. Thick in the waterbeds,

Maidenhair sinewaves, mechanized wash;

Old man river rolling shingle on a blue tongue,

Popping candy, lost slang, memories, tosh.

The pub we sit in, burnished planking,

Orchestrated mismatch, pristine scuff;

Raise a glass to owning it, scotch eggs a fiver,

Nowadays a feast is as good as enough.

Niggardly futons, in the flats of longago,

Fistholes in plaster, scrag-end of lust,

Bargain-bin fabric pinned against windows,

Rose light, clementines, fag ends, dust.

Envy – A Rant

I try to keep my envy as a pet, sometimes a lapdog and sometimes a brass-clawed basilisk the size of a bendy-bus, but always a snarler. I try to keep it on a leash, but it often tugs me sideways when it catches the spoor of someone else’s success. I find myself hurtling along in its wake, until we both sink panting onto our rumps and concede that it is a futile chase. Better to console each other picking fleas – I am too old, too lazy, too busy, too ordinary anyway to ever catch the tail of that other person’s achievement.

Because it’s all about the other person, isn’t it? Where would envy be without comparisons? There is the shining example of what could be, and there is the brutal judgment of the self by the self. These are outward- and the inward-looking faces of Envy, the gatekeeper god. Not a pet at all, but maybe a guide. Don’t believe me? Ask yourself – whose success do I envy the most? When does it turn into the flaming hulk blocking out the sun? When someone else gets a novel published, or receives a 4-star review, or starts their own imprint? Whatever it is, that is the aim you should be working towards for yourself, that’s the gateway to self-knowledge that Envy is signposting for you.

Note – working towards, not receiving without effort as your due for being alive. Note – for yourself, not for the chance of standing room on the bandwagon.  Not sure where your double-headed Envy is really looking? Have you become so habituated to feeling envious that any accomplishment by anybody can rouse a niggle? I wouldn’t blame you – we’re all products of an educational paradigm that quantifies and rewards success in terms of comparison to others.

My lovely best friend Georgina is passionate about educating her children in Steiner schools. One of the reasons for this is that the Steiner pedagogy does not believe in using praise, which is thought to turn children away from their inner authenticity and outwards towards external sources of esteem. Have a quick read of this short link and see if you agree.

Do you think that substituting encouragement for praise may help us transform envy? One of the extraordinary things about taking a show to Edinburgh recently was the plethora of opportunities for feeling envious. We poets were offering them to one another like hoops to poodles – how is your show? How many people, how much money in the bucket, how many reviews, how many stars, how many re-Tweets?

My only stated aim was to survive a week without either forgetting my words or suffering an eczema flare, both of which I managed.  But still a week after my return, I watched my disappearance from the Twitter feed with a sinking heart; a month later and I wonder if I should just check to see if someone did review my show unbeknownst to me….oops, is that a tug on the lead? Or a god clearing its throats?