‘Chainmail’ Poetry School Project – Pamphlet Goes Live!

Our Poetry School Microcommission, Chainmail (for Nicky Morgan) is now in a wonderful PDF flicky book on their website – you can read it here.

It’s been an interesting process and the publication is intriguing and eclectic. We hope you enjoy it!

Please pass on the link to your STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Arts and Maths) contacts…

NaPoWriMo 2.6: Enceladus Street


Enceladus. Not enchiladas.

Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt is to use what’s outside your window to make a list or toolbox of nouns, colours and verbs to play with in creating a poem.

It wasn’t quite happening, so I had a look through the day’s news for further inspiration and came across this story about Enceladus, one of Saturn’s moons (not the popular Mexican food, although it does sound similar). Scientists have confirmed that there is likely to be a large body of water which might – a big might – contain some form of life…

So I used the word bank I generated (looking out of a cafe window earlier) and tried to apply them to a poem about Enceladus…This is a useful technique sometimes, to force new or different ways of expressing things. You can, for example, list verbs to do with a job (butchery, or athletics, or ironmongery) and then use those verbs on an entirely unrelated subject matter – so you could get ‘welding’ in a poem about food. (This is something Margret Geraghty describes in her book ‘The Five-Minute Writer’). It’s a nice way to get verbs ‘working harder’.

As ever – it’s work in progress and I have no idea if the word-transposing thing worked here, but it’s something to try eh?

And I am now up to date with my poems! And so to bed, with thoughts of space…


Enceladus Street

or, Piece of String Territory


A billioned reddened weather vanes

turn to face the galvanized grey

of its vents. The idea of blue

looms in over our sensors:

aqua-marines, royals, magentas.


Away from the safety-

yellow of the street-light Sun,

the indecipherable graffiti

of Earth. Our drifting CCTV

taxis, like an echo in this dark

car park, never paying

or displaying.


Could this be just


the ticket?

A prime location to


make it?

The Rules of Twister or, Meaning of Whirl

One of the recent, unusual, French funnels.

Recently, there have been tornadoes in both the USA and in France (!), where they are much less common an occurrence and, mercifully for the French, much less powerful.

So in a bid to capture something of their violence and swirling destruction, I put to use the Lazarus Corporation Text Mixing Desk in conjunction with Google Translate, the internet, and my brain.

Essentially, I put the rules of Twister and definitions of tornadoes through the Mixing Desk (I’m really not sure how it works, apart from removing expletives, or swear words, and generally cutting up the text you put in).

I then alternated (ish) a line from each (the rules and the definition) and – in honour of the recent French ‘tornades’ – put this through Google Translate from English, to French, to (one of their former colonies and because it’s a symbol language), Vietnamese – then back and forth until the language got confused.

At each point, I saved the intermediary translation, then chose the ones I liked at the end and tinkered with it (to give it something of a vortex-form, too – dot dot dot…).

Sometimes when the ideas aren’t a-flowing, you’ve got to prime them. It’s a fun experiment – and perhaps captures something of a whirl of meaning and confusion in the language, as twisters/tornadoes/tornades/cơn lốc xoáy (that’s the Vietnamese) actually cause in real life…

I also like that ‘the Referee’ came up as a figure with the agency: whether that’s the Weather itself, or a God (if you’re so inclined), or Chance, is up to you…


The Rules of Twister

or, Meaning of Whirl


…the Referee can call, may, may call out:

appearance, emergence of a funnel-shaped cloud.

The colouring arrow – pointing, advancing

large progress. Great examples

power the steering wheel. Then

the Referee spins the spinner, then…


…someone or something turns violent

or mobile: devastating, devastating spiral

calls out to the part of the body

of winds turned violent, rotating

with action and passion. Then

the Referee must turn again

a different colour, then…


Going Viral: The Edge of Life

Coronavirus – which probably doesn’t infect textiles, like the virus in my poem

I’ve been having a bit of a recovery period post-NaPoWriMo. Well, I did write 31 poems during April; so a little pause is not unreasonable…

Just spotted this story about the new and potentially-pandemical (it’s a word now), coronavirus. The name sounds quite pretty – like a crown, or the corona of the sun. But sadly its symptoms – possible respiratory and kidney failure – are far from pretty. Here’s hoping it does not become any more than the threat of a pandemic.

And while we wait to see if this lurgy heralds the apocalypse-proper: here’s a piece I wrote some time ago about a (possibly) more benign viral pandemic, the source of which is a fusty academic (hey – that rhymed)…


The Edge of Life


Though to others it seemed

he had been quarantined

for some years now

in his collegiate room,

his conjectural womb

and perma-furrowed brow:

something had been transmitted.


He noted it first

with the patches

he had fitted

to his elbows,

the latches

of the arms

to his seat;

the spine

turning pages

a day

at a week

at a year

at a time.


They relapsed

from leather

to tweed,

and then so

did his seat.

In one dark-bound tome

spreading up the walls

he sought acute definition,

(an unambiguous home

in his first edition)

for the current

and developing



It stated:

A virus

is an infectious agent

which replicates within a host,

composed of RNA or DNA,

a protein coat,

an organism

at the edge of life.


But not, it seemed now,

at the edge of fashion;

not an agent

in exclusive ration.

An organism

with ample hosts,

in trousers, shirts,

blouses and coats,

a coarse-woollen contagion

of replicant ghosts.


Although no-one could don

this material as he could

they unwittingly would

as the symptoms upon

their attire began.


No fabric was immune:

polyester perished,

silk succumbed,

denim died, and

cotton went to meet

its Tailor.


He saw the pandemic

progress across campus

and county and country

from his leather-patch window;

the edge of life,

the tattered hem,

the volume’s fraying sheets.