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…

Vermin On The Rise

A couple of stories recently linked very directly to my Vermin Cycle of poems.

The first is the great news that the EU has now banned all new cosmetics with ingredients tested on animals – to me, this seems entirely reasonable. There is a big difference between clinical trails for, say, a cancer treatment and, say, a new waterproof eye-liner. If it came to a decision between a rat and a family member dying, I would choose the family member – but the decision between a rat and some runny make up…? I don’t think it can be argued that is totally necessary.

My Vermin poem ‘An Exact Science’ is in the voice of a rat, one being tested on, and explores the idea of vanity.

The other story was one about the mighty bed bug. Scientists researching these resilient little creatures have discovered various genes which make them resistant to pesticides, and generally seriously tough little bugs.

My favourite Vermin poem, ‘Let Us Bite’, gave voice to the New York bed bug and certainly – I hope – presented it as tough.

You can read these and the other Vermin Cycle poems here.

Vermin On The Ascent!

The Vermin Cycle: Adventures in Self-Publishing

The Vermin Cycle eBook Cover

The Vermin Cycle eBook Cover

It’s a new year, a new Mayan era (allegedly) and very much a new start. So, being as we made it through another apocalypse: for 2013, I’ll be starting a new ‘Free-Range’ professional life and spending as much time as possible writing and getting writing ‘out there’.

So to that end: having been sitting on a completed set of poems (that people seem to like) for a while, I thought I’d venture into the unknown realms of self-publishing…

At the moment, I’ve put up a PDF of the work on http://www.issuu.com – which you have to be a member of to view (drat!):

www.issuu.com – you can search for me as SkylabStories on there.

Or if you’re already an Issuu member, you can hopefully just click through this link:¬†http://issuu.com/skylabstories/docs/the_vermin_cycle_-_caleb_parkin

But I’ll be wrestling with the technicalities (and boy, there are technicalities) of publishing for eBook readers next week. Monday is set aside for a crash course in formatting and HTML. Hold on to your coding-hats, it could be a bumpy ride.

As soon as it’s up, I’ll commence the brazen self-publishing via any means possible. Suggestions gratefully received.

Beautiful Weeds, Cities and Systems

Botanical Time-Teller

At the end of last month, I performed the Vermin Cycle at Green Man Festival – it was a great experience, although it was a very family audience, not all of whom went along with the gothic style of the poems. Ah well! Find your audience, speak to them. There are some picture of the performance in the ‘Listen/Read’ page – and I’m going to refine some recordings of all the Vermin pieces from the Halo Open Mic night.

It’s been rolling around in my head of late that I would like another poetry ‘project’ or sequence to write.¬†Having finished writing the seven Vermin pieces, I realised how much I enjoy a creative system – coupling the seven ‘verminous’ species with the Seven Deadly Sins gave some unexpected results, a fruitful ‘liberating structure’. Perhaps I’m reasonably ordered in my approach to things, but creativity as a completely ‘organic’ or unstructured process doesn’t always end up being rewarding, in my experience. When artists or writers talk about their ‘practice’ – sometimes to others’ chagrin – there’s an implied sense of development and progression, learning from what’s worked before, structuring those things which ‘come to you’ and nurturing what arises (as I think Virginia Woolf said something about – ‘Structure the things that come to you’, or similar).

So, moving on from the idea of Vermin – animals in the ‘wrong place’ and in the ‘wrong numbers’ – I was thinking about weeds. What is a weed? We’re perpetually pulling up Bind-weed (or Devil’s Guts, as it is also known!) from our allotment – it’s a strangling presence, it’s true. But it’s also very beautiful, with its white flute-flowers – and the way it strangles is actually a real wonder. Have a look. I’ve been listening a lot to a group called ‘The Burns Unit’ – who are fantastic, I encourage you to listen too (¬†http://www.theburnsunitband.com/¬†). There’s a gorgeous lyric in one of the songs, ‘A young boy hands his mother / A beautiful weed’.

Many plants we consider weeds are really just ‘plants in the wrong place’ – according to our idea of planned horticulture and propagation. Neither is wrong, it’s just interesting to step outside inherited notions of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ plants and see them all as ‘plants in context. Likewise, in my hippy-lefty-liberal idea of people, more or less all of us could be the right kind of flower – but so often end up mired in some situation that makes us feel like ‘weeds’ – the wrong kind of plant, or the right kind of plant in the wrong conditions. Frequently in our attempts at planned cityscapes, the situation emerges as much more of an ‘organic’ one than any plan or government can realistically cater for everyone who dwells there. (This is where Imposed Buddhist Anarchy comes in, but that’s another post – and yes, it’s a deliberate nonsense!)

Having become more involved in Aro Buddhism over the last year, there was a course recently on Embracing Emotions as the Path. There’s some more information about the idea here:


It’s a useful system for understanding how we deal with the world, our reactions and distortions. I’m presently doing some more research into weeds – and would like to write something which ‘weaves together’ some characters with the properties of both people and weeds, as well as flickering between those qualities listed to do with the elements, into a space which is at once urban and organic – where we attempt to order our ‘patch’, but find it growing in ways we couldn’t have expected.¬†When I’ve something more of this to show, then I’ll post it up.

I’ve also got a Murder Mystery to write – I’ll post up about that once it’s further progressed.

For now, I really should go and water the actual allotment, rather than typing about the idea of plants!


I was just reminded of this lovely site, where you can enter a body of text and it creates a beautiful word cloud image…

So I created my Vermin Cycle, as a Wordle image – a Verdle, surely. Sounds pleasingly Germanic.

It’s lovely to see ‘Vermin’ writ so large, as well as ‘bite’, ‘faces’ and all the other scurrilous language therein, swarming around the word Vermin. What a beautiful tool it is.

You should be able to view mine here:


And you can create your own here:


BCFM – Vermin, Part Two

Just to say that part two of the Vermin Cycle, which I recorded for lovely Dave’s BCFM programme ‘A Cup of Tea and a Piece of Cake’, will be broadcast on Monday.

The link to the programme is here :


For anyone who’s coming to Green Man – this is a preview of the pieces I’ll be performing there. I believe this week will be Vermin(s) V – VII: bedbug/gluttony (one of my favourites); cockroach/envy (the costume for this is exciting); and finally, the slothful fox…

Also on the programme is Nuala Honan, who I’ve seen perform before and is a very accomplished and powerful musician/performer. Her MySpace is here – have a listen, she’s really very talented:


BioBlitz, Tyntesfield, and Stokes Croft Street Fest

Performing 'Cull (After Hitchcock)' at BioBlitz (c) BioBlitz

Performing 'To His Coy Hen' at BioBlitz (c) BioBlitz

I was lucky enough to be part of the BioBlitz event at Tyntesfield yesterday (dubbed the ‘BioBlitz Bard’) – the event logged record 779 species on the site!

As part of the afternoon, I performed some Vermin poetry for the assembled biodiversity-hunters. There are some pictures and loads more information about the event here:


I joined in on one of the bug walks – in my Vermin ‘biohazard’ Tyvek suit – with the excellent Pete the Bug Man. He loves bugs and is amazing at extolling their fascinating lives to the public. His website is here – if you want someone to come and inspire kids about biodiversity, bugs and ecology – book him!:


Performing 'Let Us Bite' gluttonous bedbug at BioBlitz (c) BioBlitz

Being a glutton for Verminous punishment,  later I performed the pieces in their entirety at the PRSC courtyard as part of Stokes Croft Street Fest 2011 . The MC/Compere was the most amazing and engrossing juggler and performer Ben Рwhose full details I shall post later as he is worthy of a grand mention! He kept a big crowd very entertained Рin lieu of some other performers turning up Рfor a very long time, with admirable wit and good-hunour. Bravo Ben!

Despite the efforts of a vocal (and doubtless narcotically-amplified in the extreme) heckler minority (!) Vermin went down well with the folks who listened, as well as those who drifted by the courtyard entrance. Hopefully the newly-completed costume acts as something of an invitation to those who might not otherwise stop and listen…And if I can perform them at Street Fest, I’m looking forward to Green Man / Einstein’s Garden – which will no doubt be equally energetic, if a little less rowdy…

A Cup of Tea

The first installment of the recorded Vermin poems (1-3)¬†can be heard here, on lovely Dave Miles’ BCFM show ‘A Cup of Tea’:


Do have a listen – they’re about 38mins in. The recording appears alongside performances by the excellent Jemima Surrender, whose voice sounds incredible recorded (as well as live – I first saw her at Folk Tales). You can find out more about her at: