Tuesday, 10 February 2015


I took the idea of using stanzas of different form within the same poem from Christina Rossetti, whose poems I greatly enjoyed reading a couple of years ago. There is also a pattern of internal rhymes which bind the outer stanzas to each other and ditto the internal stanzas. I found this idea in the poems of Jack Clemo, an interesting Cornish poet who died some years ago. For good measure I find I also used assonance in lines one and three of the outer stanzas.


Helping in 1981
Sift many hundred poems for
A competition won with lordly ease
By Tony Harrison, dismayed,
I waded through a swamp of raw
Ill-written doggerel untouched by sun;
But, oh, the black emotions thus                                          
Revealed: love-struck, self-hating, stark-afraid!

In flat free verse or badly-rhymed
Unstable stanzas, these poor “rude                                     
Mechanicals” – housewives or silly salesmen –
Poured out inchoate griefs which chimed                              
Brokenly like the toys of children;
Their subjects were those of an Aeschylus
Or Shakespeare, timeless if misviewed –
Love’s lack or its spurning, old age,
Loneliness, illness and the worm of death,
Longing for loved ones scribbled from the page.

By contrast, the “professionals”,
Penning cool ironies, discreet
And small, worried deflectedly at woes –
Money and lust, confessionals
Of status, failed affairs and blows
Suffered for art by its elite, pilous
And informal. At paltry heat
Their verse barely bubbled, content
To ignore all major themes, like the breath
Of God, and lean like reeds as others leant.

Bemusingly, the amateurs
Had told the truth; their horrified
Tugging at facts like burrs – that cruel disease
Kills and balked love deranges souls –
Shamed the ironists. Those who chide
Their lack of skill, buffing their miniatures
Of taste, know not the body’s pus
Nor honest telling which alone consoles.

© June 2013

Friday, 6 February 2015


In March 2012 I decided to write a sequence of twelve poems about the months - all the poems to be in the same form and each written in the month, each based on a close observation of the natural phenomena around me. All went well until June 2012 when the weather was so atypical I gave up for a couple of months, resuming the sequence in August and finishing in February 2013. Subsequently, the poems for June and July were written in June and July 2013.
   I now gather the poems together as a single sequence in the order in which they are meant to be read, i.e. from March to February.
   Why March? Before the introduction of the Gregorian calendar in England, Wales and Ireland in 1752 the new year began in March which is also the month of the Annunciation by the Archangel Gabriel to our Blessed Lady. What finer point to begin a series of poems about the observed world?
   For the record, the poems were originally posted individually as follows: the poems for March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December, January and February were posted on 24 February 2014, 21 March, 20 April, 24 May, 20 June, 29 July, 29 August, 27 September, 25 October, 24 November, 30 December 2014 and 24 January 2015.



The ache, the ache of existence: winter’s
Stupor irresistibly shaken, old bones
Groan, dry boughs stretch, splitting bark, shedding splinters:
Fecundity ignites in roots and cones.

Dawn light prises sullen sleep; tits and finches
Call greedily, bullying the early growth,
Ignoring winter’s shrunk fodder which pinches
The gut. Lichen bulks up like simmering broth.

Oh, but sinews are stiff, flesh grey, its sap
Barely moistening this slow cold body, galled
By the tug of procreation yet, hands in lap,
Stranded by lethargy, coffined and palled.

The air is lethal, unlocking its grip,
Swelling in warmth to bamboozle the fox
To break cover, the shambling hedgehog to slip
From the kerb, its blood stippling the road like pox.

Reversals are abrupt and perishing;
Viscous fog plasters the sun, throttles crisp shoots;
Puce morning winds curdle the sky, punishing
Shaven cheeks, wan fingers and thought of fruits.

Regardless, the brawn of being explodes;
Every night lithe stems and tendrils seize ground;
Stubborn leaves unwind from a tangle of woads;
Forsythia leaps at the low clouds like yellow sound.

Remorselessly, blood thickens: hide-scarred men
In anguish must forage, fight and build. Again.