Tag Archives: poetry

Ghosts in the Woods

Barney and Emily run, shrieking through the woodland.
Plimsoled feet through the dry, leafy floor.
Carol sits with her Sony Walkman under the tree
with the initials and dates carved into its stretched sides.
Hugo talks maths puzzles with the two Dads
whilst the two Mums unload the picnic spread onto the blankets.

Thirty years later,
Emily stands in the quiet woods.
The ‘date’ tree still stands
but thirty years bigger.
The scarring of 1957 is,
a canyon in the bark now.
Emily traces the pronounced outline,
of other people’s markings
and hunts for her own.
Clearly her thirteen year old hand
was not firm enough with her knife,
And thirty years growth has heeled
her childhood scratches.

Emily turnes and returns to where,
her husband of two years
has spread out before them,
A feast to enjoy in the woods.

Written at The Lion’s Mouth, Felbrigg, North Norfolk, 26 May 2017, 1.45pm.

We are the same / but I am different

We are the same / but I am different

Silent Voices: A Selection of Poems Written by Those Not Always Heard by Jo Allmond (Editor), Joy Thomas (Editor)

This is quite simply an outstanding anthology of poetry however you look at it. Every poem had me gripping the page and brought to tears. This is a book formed out of the friendship of two amazing people who met at a literary festival and found that they had a message to get across. What they have achieved in just one year is collecting together a set of poems that speak directly to the reader about what it’s like to care for, and be cared for, people of ‘difference’.

This is a book that should be pressed into the hands of every elected individual as to why we need more NHS and more social care. It is as the title says, the voices of the silent – those who are not always heard. Jess Hiles probably puts it the simplest, “We are the same / but I am different.”

Some of the authors included in this slim volume may only have one poem to tell; and some may never have considered that they could tell their tale in this way. This collection proves that everyone has a voice and should be heard and listened to. It is a book that I will be recommending to everyone I know.

Giving Voice to the Silent

On Saturday I took part for the second time, as author and panellist, at the 3rd Hawkesbury Upton Literary Festival. I reprised my role from last year for the talk on Writing About Difference.

Writing About Difference panel 2017, from left: Dan Jefferies, Debbie Young, Thomas Shepherd, Dan Holloway, Joy Thomas, Jo Allmond and Jess Hiles. Photograph by Joanna Penn.

Writing About Difference panel 2017, from left: Dan Jefferies, Debbie Young, Thomas Shepherd, Dan Holloway, Joy Thomas, Jo Allmond and Jess Hiles. Photograph by Joanna Penn.

This is a discussion that, just as at last year’s festival, was something very special, and for my own small part on it is something that I am very proud of being part of. One of the proudest achievments over the last year is meeting Joy Thomas, and Jo Allmond and Jess Hiles. It was because of last year’s festival and the panel discussion that we were all on together that Jo and Joy put together Silent Voices, an anthology of poems written by those who are not always heard.

This is a collection of poems written by authors, some of whom have preferred to remain anonymous who are directly affected by seen or unseen difference, or who are the carers of people with mental or physical disibilities. My only part in this project was to typeset the book for print and ebook, but I gladly gave this time in order that Joy and Jo could have the book ready to launch at this year’s festival – back where it all began a year ago.

The paperback edition is released on 1 May 2007, but you can download Silent Voices to your Kindle now.

Adventures in poetry

Selected Poetry of John Clare by John Clare, edited by Jonathan Bate

It’s been a perrennial ambition of mine to read more poetry. Unlike last year when I fulfilled an aim to read Tolstoy’s War & Peace, poetry is much more of a struggle for me, and that pains me. I wonder whether that my aspergers and the way I ‘read’ things literally causes me an added problem with poetry where it is is, ‘all’ metaphor?

So why this volume of John Clare? And why now? I’ve been reading some nature writing recently, principally Melissa Harrison’s Autumn and found myself exposed to his work. I also work with Simon Kövesi – one of the leading experts on John Clare – an instigator in the biopic, By Ourselves and I have found myself drawn to find out more about the man and his poetry.

This volume, edited by Jonathan Bate, is an excellent primer to one of our finest working class, romantic poets. Obstensivly it’s just a collection of his poetry, but I found it to be so much more than that. In the way that it’s collected together it reads like an autobiography – an autobiography of verse and song. Starting with the innocence of the countryside and the village traditions, it moves through a period of ‘fame’ and into a more political phase, and then, a wayward abandom of directly critiquing society and the ruling classes, to a quiet reflection and introspection.

This is a volume of poetry that makes you realise how much we have lost of our heritage and our ways of doing things. Farming back then, was hard, backbreaking work but we were so more connected with nature and the natural rhythms of the seasons that we have lost by now. This makes me sad. At the same time, some of the most poignant of John Clare’s poetry succeeds in giving optomism for the future.

A Poem A Day

A Poem A Day

It has been a longheld resolution to read more poetry, but it is an ambition for whatever reason I find really hard. In all honesty, whilst I consume novels and stories with a passion, I do find it hard to “get” poetry. Last April, on Shakespeare’s birth/death-day we watched the Shakespeare 400 Live celebrations, and enjoyed listening to some sonnets. Some of the staff and students at work also gave a lunchtime reading of their favourite sonnets. I determined to read more of them – well, let’s be honest – some of them… For my birthday I received the Arden Shakespeare’s Sonnets but I have yet to break into them.

I have however read some poetry over the last year. Melissa Harrison’s seasonal quartet of books – so far I have read Autumn and Winter – includes poetry in amongst it’s prose and nature writing, and some of it has been John Clare. It’s true to say that Clare avoided me during my school and college life, but circumstances have conspired to draw him into my life. On Thursday I listened to BBC Radio 4’s In Our Time in celebration of Clare’s life and work, with my colleague Simon Kövesi, and on Saturday whilst visiting my Mum and Dad we watched the biopic, By Ourselves. I borrowed from the work library, a book of John Clare poetry and I have decided to read at least, and hopefully more, one poem a day.

And I shall read those sonnets, and I shall make a habit of consuming poetry. What is it they say about doing something everyday for 21 days and then it becomes second nature. Can reading poetry become second nature?

The Friendship of Lady Ros Letellier

Tonight, Emma and I went to celebrate Ros’ 40th birthday. Ros (and Nick) are good friends who I wish that I had known for a lot longer than I have. They had a memory book for us all to write in, and me being me, I decided to write a poem. It’s not the finest of works, but it’s literally a first draft, honest, from the heart, and true. I’ll let these words do the talking as to why Ros means what she does, and why so many of her friends turned out on a freezing cold January night to celebrate with her.

There once was a lady called Ros
We met when when we went to a musical about Oz
We were friends at Blackwell—
back before those Wiley days.
We partied at The Bod
and our friendship has been For Good.
You were the only girl on my stag boat
We can go for months without seeing  each other
—but everytime we do, its like it was yesterday.
Thank you fro being the best of frinds
Lady Ros.

Composed on the bus


Disengagement (of the modern world)

Scroll down
Swipe left
Swipe right.

Scroll down
and back.
Missed announcement,
Not even a like,
or a comment.
Friends’ news?
Did you really,
even read it?

Scroll down
wry smile
if we’re lucky.
Most likely, blank face
—a disinterested gaze.

Journies end,
and batteries drained
Knowledge learned,
engagement given.

There once was a chicken called Wiggy


You were not our first hen,
but you were
our oldest lady.
One of the girls.

Your eggs
they were not the biggest
Indeed, they were the smallest
of the small.
Perfect blue,
with the creamiest
tastiest eggs of any.

You may not have been
the smartest chicken in the coop.
And you used to make an awful
racket in the morning.
But we loved you still.

Your soft, feathery wig
made your character.
Your feathers were proper
dappled browns
and mousey greys.

You will always be
Our Wiggy.



Lucy and Luke’s wedding

Lucy and Luke's wedding

Emma and I have just got back from a very nice day at Cogges Manor Farm, celebrating the wedding of two very good friends, Lucy and Luke. From the detailed, hand-illustrated, invitations we always knew that the day was going to somewhat different. Probably the best way of describing it is to record here a copy of the poem that I was inspired to write for their memory box. I know that neither would mind me including it here…

Congratulations Lucy, and Luke!

Lucy and Luke: a farm wedding

and the farm gate opens
Lucy arrives, on her Dad’s arm
to walk the lines of family and friends
to greet her Luke.
The wedding begins.

Prosecco and canapes on the lawn.
The bride and groom mingle
with friends and family
Pigmy goates, Indian runner ducks,
and Shetland ponies.
It’s important to watch your step
if you wander too far
across cobbles, and grass, and yard.

At the barn,
issued with kazoos, and instructions
and find our seats on straw bales.
We are taught our parts
and Lucy processes in
the wedding march
on kazoo.
It was going to be a wedding
so different, so unique
so Lucy; so Luke.
The readings, read
you wrote.
So different, so funny
so Luke; so Lucy.
The rings were delivered, or not
from the wings of a barn owl.
Wind In The Willows,
I want to re-read it now.
Harp and voice,
beautiful accompaniment
to a beautiful, talented couple.

What next?
You walk out, man and wife
to a kazoo orchestra—
the Great Escape.

Photographs on the lawn,
with friends, and family,
owls and goats.
Lucy and Luke
you do things different.

A special day,
a special couple.


The Occasional Poet

The Occasional Poet

Whenever I start a new notebook to jot down my writing notes there comes first a period where I have to transcribe bits and pieces across from the old to the new. I have quite a collection of truly interesting story ideas building up now, but I also found some poems I needed to copy to my small book of poems.

One of these poems was one that I began on hearing of my great auntie Kathleen’s death earlier this year At the time I left it because I didn’t know how to complete it, but actually, re-reading it now I find it to be a fitting tribute.

Auntie Kathleen

You saved our Cristmas cake
When we let it cookfor double
the time it should have

I had a question about ham
and you sent me your little book
to help me.

You came all the way
to the foot of Snowdon
When I got married.

You blew bubbles like a pro
You were kind and caring,
with I think, a slightly wicked
Sense of humour.

You gave me five songs for my
wedding, to remember you by
Five songs, and the reasons behind them.
Thank you for the whole host of memories

On the twelfth day of advent: Avebury in winter

On the twelfth day of advent: Avebury in winter

The Ring In Winter

Birds circle, overhead
Calling, cawing
A cold, grey mist lingers
over mound and ditch.

Stones loom over me
For age after age, they have
stood in this place.
Seasons have passed seasons by
The distant future for those
that placed these stones
Is our long-forgotten past.

What secrets do these stones know?
What stories of lives betrayed,
of loves lost, of rites enacted
can this circle of stones report to us?

After four and thousand years
can we only guess as to their purpose.
This ring,
That stands in the cold, misty winter.


On National Poetry Day

On National Poetry Day

A Day for Poetry

There is a time
and a place
a thought; a feeling; an emotion
when there is no other way to say it.

It can be for
sorrow and grief
joy and exultation
when politics angers you
or life confounds you.
When talking is done,
friends are parted,
or arguments left unresolved.
There is one voice, remaining
that can reconcile you.

It is the time
and the place, where
thoughts, feelings, emotions,
can only be expressed and heard
in a few short lines
or a volume of stanzas.
And a poem is the
only way to say it.