A poem of mine, ‘Hands’,  has just gone up on Folia Magazine online – you can read it here.

The poem came out of a workshop a couple of years ago in Leeds, with writer and facilitator Rommi SmithThe starting point was smells – for me, the Vaseline Intensive Care in the first stanza (with the second part leading on from that). 

Folia’s aim is to “foster a deeper appreciation for the poetry of life, death, and medicine” – which was why I submitted this piece. It’s a poem which moves around in time, with a childhood memory of driving in the car with my Mum (and her hand cream), juxtaposed with a later conversation about her going through chemotherapy.

I hope my Mum doesn’t mind this being ‘out there’; in some ways it’s not my experience to write about (though the conversation was, I guess). She dealt with the process of treatment with incredible humour and courage – so I hope the poem evokes this powerful being, who can (and does) deal with whatever life throws at her.

Waterstone’s and Rats

On Tuesday, I’ll be reading alongside other LS13 Anthology writers at Waterstone’s in Leeds city centre, from 7pm. It would be lovely to see you there!

And in publication news: one of my Vermin poems – Vermin the Fifth: An Exact Science – is part of an anthology of work on the theme of ‘Otherworldly Mammals’.

You can read it at the following link:


More news soon…

Processing the Bogle – as Ivor Cutler

Ivor Cutler, January 15, 1923 – March 3, 2006.

For a while now I’ve wanted to write and perform something as – channelling, or in tribute to – Ivor Cutler.

I was introduced to him some years ago and love the slowness, darkness and ambient-intensity of a lot of his poetry – and songs. And how inexplicably hilarious (while worrying) they are.

He and poet Phyllis King jointly appeared in the BBC programme ‘King Cutler’  – where silence (not awkward, more wilful and full of potential) played a vital part in every programme. If you can find them online, listen to them (there’s an instruction, more on them shortly).

A friend recently showed me a poem by W D Cocker – The Bogle and the Bour-Tree – which you can read here, on the Scottish Poetry Library website – a favourite of hers.

Having visited the Manchester Art Gallery’s exhibition ‘do it’ 2013 last week (information here) which is now in its 20th year of artists giving instructions, as art. I decided to write a response to The Bogle, as a set of instructions by, or channelling, Ivor Cutler. They instruct what to do to avoid/overcome/’process’ the Bogle.

To read my tribute, you need to imagine yourself into Cutler’s voice – so I suggest having a listen to this, first (and any other poems you find on YouTube). It’s Cutler giving his insight into bread (and) butter.

What a voice! And now you may read my ‘do it’ style homage, with it in mind…I’ll be performing this at Spoken Weird in Halifax tomorrow night, should you be around…


Processing the Bogle

or, A Response to W D Cocker, Written as Instructions by Ivor Cutler


First, wake up, ‘we wean’:  there are more important things to attend to

than your idiot unconscious and dreams about paper-clips.


Go, if you will, down the stairs – avoiding that third one that creaks.

You should fix that. One weekend. You don’t want him to hear.


Now, approach the kitchen – by the way, don’t switch on

those expensive halogen lights. You don’t want him to see you coming.


Approach the cupboard where you keep the tins – perhaps yours is

chrome and modern. That sounds about right, for you.


Now, rummage – right at the back. The vaults. Don’t put the lights on, like I said.

Grab three cans. An all-day-breakfast. Some fetid kidney beans. Whatever.


Don’t look what they are. Just tear off their labels, leaving them plain silver.

Don’t open them. Not yet. The next part is important – and difficult.


Now: juggle the tins. For at least a minute. You may think it silly.

I know you much prefer ‘juggling’ Excel. But the Bogle can tell, from the smell.


Whether you manage to do this without a major insurance claim to self or property,

is up to you. Open each can. Pour their contents out. The un-fresher, the better.


Not just into anything: make it your finest, fanciest dish. You must have one.

When the Bogle is found, it will judge you on the sound.


Now, clad in whatever you are clad in – even if that is nothing, or if you’ve

passed out in that disgusting tie again – go into the murk, to your local Bour-tree.


Do not use Google Maps for this; however much you adore your iPhone 8.

The Bogle disapproves. You will know the tree, when you see it, by the shape.


This is best, by the way, not at dawn, but just before.

The Bogle, it is little known, is crepuscular.


Approach the tree confidently, yet calmly. Treat it like your weekly Wednesday meeting.

Hold the dish outstretched. Now, utter these words under your breath:


I am no wee wean. I have nae dreid.

This offering I put upon the Bogle’s heed.

I am no blin’ and I will no rin,

Beneath this Bour-Tree’s bowers – ever agin’!


Then, deposit the contents of the dish over your head, smash it on the ground

and stamp around the tree three times, repeating the rhyme.


Repeat this process weekly, as a matter of routine

and you’ll find you can enjoy your walk to work once again.

Notes on the Pedal Post-Mortem


This poem’s been rattling around my head for a while, so I made myself get on with it for a bike zine (on the theme of ‘wheels’) which is being produced tomorrow for the Juliana’s Bike Festival – hosted by the great Culture Vulture blog.

A month or so ago, I took my bike in to the Pedallar’s Arms (an amazing place always staffed by wonderful volunteers) as the pedal (appropriately) was making an alarming screeching noise. Several hours later, with a functioning pedal, realised how complex and surgical the process of fixing a pedal is…And that’s what inspired this (perhaps a bit e e cummings-like) poem…(It may or may not end up in the zine! Depends on space and time, as does everything…)

Notes on the Pedal Post-Mortem

or, The Wheels are the Feet


the wheels are the feet

are the pedals are the feet

are the wheels are the


ache in my treads screech

each orbit when feet meet

rubber of skin / tarmac of air


joints of the race break

red-pink fractured link

mechanical ankle / bone machine


the hands are the grip

are the brakes are the grip

are the hands are


the workshop crank of surgery

momentum from metallurgy

tweezered bearings / threaded limbs


ring-road of recovery

stitched white line a cut between

cycling the city / the city in me


the wheels are the feet

are the pedals are the feet

are the wheels are

Love The Words on ELFM

I went along to ELFM Towers yesterday for a chat with the ever-gracious Peter Spafford on his monthly extravaganza of all things wordy, Love The Words.

You can hear our conversation and my poems (on topics ranging from red kites to exam invigilating and pirate-spiders) by clicking on this link. I hope you enjoy it, or some of it, or even just click on it to find out…

You can also hear an interview on the same programme with excellent Leeds writer Rommi Smith about her residency at the NHS, which is well worth a listen.

LS13 Anthology and Upcoming Gigs

A quick update also that – GOOD NEWS – I’m going to be one of the poets featured in the LS13 Leeds Writers anthology, about which more information here. It’ll be launched next Friday June 7th as part of the Leeds Big Book End weekend.

Also, I’ll be performing at a couple of upcoming nights:

Firstly at Spoken Weird in Halifax on Thursday June 13th at the Sportsman Pub – full details here. The May event was a real pleasure – a room full of attentive poetry-lovers, sharing their joy in words. Looking forward to doing a fifteen-minute set for the occasion…

And on June 26th I’ll be doing another fifteen-minuter at the Poetry by HEART event at the Headingley Enterprise and Arts Centre – hopefully you can click through to more information here.

Looking forward to all of the above and would be lovely to see anyone who fancies it there 🙂

Cycle Geo for Leeds Bike Fest

Exciting news!

Alongside artist Paul Hurley, I shall be running workshops for East Street Arts‘ city-wide bike fest event – our CycloGeographic rides will be on 20th and 21st of July.

Watch this space – the event is called Juliana’s Bike – for more information about our deranged derives. More information should appear on that site soon!

NaPoWriMo 24: Dust Across the Beam

Hyde Park Picture House: 100 in 2014!

As you may have noticed, things have been a bit cinematic on my blog during NaPoWriMo.

I’m reading a few poems (including my poem about the Invisible Cinema walking tour, from earlier in the month) on Sunday morning at an event to mark the centenary of Hyde Park Picture House. And here is a piece I wrote based on an earlier prompt from Canal Laureate Jo Bell, which was to write a poem of Welcome.

So, to celebrate the Picture House’s centenary, I wrote a welcome for its next 100 years – and here it is:


Twenty-One Thirteen

or, Dust Across the Beam


Welcome, twenty-one thirteen:

may your bright skies usher in

the twenty-first century’s pigeons –

their future-coos upon the roof’s tiles

(not nesting in seats, feathering aisles).


Welcome, twenty-one thirteen:

the elaborate plaster flowers which grow

from the walls are the germinating magic bean

of all the cinemas to which we can no longer go.

A furrow of many bulbs (and most no longer glow).


Welcome, twenty-one thirteen:

may the red curtains of each romance

open and close, close and open

on the clumsy ill-fated dance

of faltering fake yawns

and thousands of missed chances.


Welcome, twenty-one thirteen:

may never the popcorn of cinema dreams

be trodden under giant flat-screen feet

confining chorus gasp, behind-you screams

to closed-curtain houses on sparse streets.


Welcome, twenty-one thirteen

and all the seconds in between:

may the 26-flicker of each second’s cell

combine with the terabytes of files, to tell

stories as many as dust across the beam.

For stories are light and light is the spell.


So welcome, twenty-one thirteen:

may all your future screens,

even in desperate certificate eighteens

times contain only some scenes

of the mildest peril.

NaPoWriMo 21: White Violin or, Lord Raby’s Massive Silver Wine Cooler

Lord Raby’s Massive Silver Wine Cooler – as so described on the signs in Temple Newsam House!

Filling in an earlier gap from NaPoWriMo: I started writing this a while back based on a trip to Temple Newsam House, just outside Leeds. It’s an amazing house – no doubt about it – and it’s great that it’s now in public ownership, with gorgeous grounds to walk or cycle round.

While I was there, there was a concert of Early Music – a series of concerts, in fact – and I sat down to listen to some violin music and then got chatting with the musician (Gina Le Faux, about whom you can find out more here) about her violin (which you can hear in the SoundCloud widget above!).

And that conversation informed the following poem, which I’ve only just finished – and still needs tinkering. But the central idea was this: what do we preserve and what do we dispose of? And, more vitally, who do we preserve and who do we forget?

While it’s a great thing that the house is in public ownership, it also made me wonder why we are still so fixated on the aristocracy of old: I wonder what the people of future centuries will look upon as ‘worth preserving’ – for that preservation starts now.

Oh and ‘Lord Raby’s Massive Silver Wine Cooler’ (pictured above) was called just that on the signs in the House. There was something undeniably impressive about it. And a little bit ridiculous. And more than a little smug. (Oh – we own it now, too, by the way).

Anyway, here’s the poem:


White Violin

or, Lord Raby’s Massive Silver Wine Cooler (at Temple Newsam House)


Sat, courtly, beneath the gleaming shadow of

Lord Raby’s Massive Silver Wine Cooler

the early music begins: notes overflow

from a Thomas Tilley (Real) violin.


(To me, just a violin, but

as I chat with the musician

about the instrument she’d played

we strip away its ancestry,

how this violin was made:


Picked up from a dealer, who noted

that it actually dates back to 1776;

an uncouth previous owner had coated

it in Vegas-white emulsion Dulux.)


In each room, a day-tripper to aristocracy,

I strip back the varnished gentility. Imagine

what the laminated guide would be for

mine, or any other family. What would we

retain of our ignoble genealogy? Will our IKEA

wallpaper, our B&Q garden furniture,

draw in paying crowds to see?


The centrepiece of my 70s-built living room

was the Orange Plastic Pernod Ice Bucket.

That, Lord Raby, was our bulbous,

spirited, pop-heirloom; or

as close to one as we’d get.


The historic wallpaper’s birds may be pretty

but their songs – territorial, shrill – are rotten:

silver families are laminated, remembered;

Dulux families are all but forgotten.