Monday, 31 December 2012

Lungs

Very December:
the distant tree-line
silhouetted from behind:
the branches splayed
like a diagram of lungs.

Two ahead of me,
a marbled pigeon
takes the steps up
to the footbridge
one at a time.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

coxless fours
the quick river narrows
after the ait

Saturday, 29 December 2012

year's end the house sways with the night winds

Friday, 28 December 2012

mid-downpour
a robin cocks its head
on a terracotta pot

Thursday, 27 December 2012

through the skylight
onto the bathroom floor
the oak moon's square

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

The Yucatán Mirror

A blackbird sings from the sundial.
At the edge of eye-field, a chisel

bashes and dents. Somewhere within:
Doncaster Rovers 1, Rochdale 1...

The workmen concentrate on shifting
a mirror upstairs; the stairs vanishing

with it, leaving behind a game of pool:
the double-kiss between ball and ball.

Blackbird becomes a grackle. One should,
to be attentive now, see the world

through an earthworm’s eyes, inching
forward in the twilight, until the linchpin

fireworks cascade in a lightstorm of pause.

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Christmas squall
the bay's leaves shake
like billy-o

Monday, 24 December 2012

from the tarn
near the start of my run:
soaring ducks

Sunday, 23 December 2012

between bell-peals
the brownness of ditch-water
splashed by a bus

Saturday, 22 December 2012

beyond me
my thighs push up the hill
of faded bracken

The Next Big Thing


A few weeks ago, wonderful poet, prose-writer and publisher Adele Ward kindly ‘tagged’ me as part of The Next Big Thing. What is supposed to happen is this: each Wednesday, invited writers answer a set of questions about the project(s) they are currently engaged in. They then invite five more writers to continue the discussion the following week, providing a short biography by way of introduction.

Being the slacker I am, I didn't quite get it together to answer the questions the week after Adele had handed the baton on. Despite my best efforts, I also didn't manage to get five writers to whom I could hand the baton. If anyone reading this has a writing blog and would like me to pass the Next Big Thing baton on to them, please send me an email.

Meanwhile, here’s my answers to the 10 questions.

1. What is the working title of your next book?

There are two: The Lammas Lands, which is the title of my next haiku collection; and Ex, my ever-evolving first collection of (non-haiku) poetry.

2. Where did the idea for the book come from?

The Lammas Lands is pretty much all the best – in my and my publisher John Barlow’s opinion – haiku that I had published in mags, online journals and other places between 2005 and 2011 or so. It’s arranged by seasons, starting at the beginning of spring and ending at winter’s end. I think it’s a more layered collection than my first collection, The Regulars, and has a higher proportion of haiku that tend to be slow-burners rather than being in-yer-face. Like The Regulars, though, it’s a very English book.

I’ve been trying to amass a decent body of ‘mainstream’ poems for a few years now. Although I’ve written a good number that I like, I suspect some may be an acquired taste. Many of them are memory poems from the ’70s and ’80s, and as such the cultural references, especially the football and cricket related ones, may be too obscure for some readers. It’s tricky to find a balance between making the poems as open as possible and not throwing out too much in the way of detail that I (but maybe not everyone) would enjoy. With luck, though, some folk will like them. You never know. I didn't hold out much hope of finding a home for the three poems I recently had published in Nth Position, but lo and behold…

3. What genre does your book fall under?

Re The Lammas Lands: there has been a long and wearisome debate in the English-language haiku world as to whether haiku is a genre, a sub-genre or a completely different entity from poetry. Personally, I incline to the view that if you have a reasonably extensive knowledge of where haiku came from, its original sensibility and spirit, and how it has developed within the West, then the debate is immaterial: you instinctively know what haiku is and how rewarding it can be.

Re Ex: it’s simply a collection of poems with a common thread of a consistent, wryly objective viewpoint, much like that of my haiku but with, of course, much more in the way of story-telling and detail.

4. What actors would you chose to play the part of your characters in a movie version?

Since neither of my books are prose books, I probably shouldn’t answer this. That said, Stan Laurel would no doubt feature in my answer if I did.

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

The Lammas Lands: a collection of haiku featuring close engagement with the byways of England, urban, suburban and sometimes rural. (Blimey, that makes it sound dull. Note to self: better get someone else to write my blurb…)

Ex: I’d like to think that it’s a collection of poems that often appear fairly light-hearted at first glance but have an underlying seriousness to which folk can relate. (Lordy, my blurb isn't getting any better.)

6. Will your book be published or represented by an agent?

The Lammas Lands will be published by John Barlow’s Snapshot Press some time, hopefully, but not necessarily, in 2013.

As for Ex, who knows? I need to get more poems published in mags first. Onward and upward!

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft?

The Lammas Lands: three or four years. It then went through a good few versions before John and I called a halt to any additions/omissions, etc.

Ex: If I said “a lifetime” I’d sound like a right pompous wassock, but it’s pretty much true, in that I’ve been writing poems on and off since I was about 16, but with systematic dedication only in the last five years or so.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Neither of my books has a model – although there are, of course, many collections of haiku and poetry that I love. Reading a collection, and savouring the poems both individually and collectively, is one of my greatest delights. We’ve run out of shelf-space though.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

The Lammas Lands: first and foremost, the wonderful variety of sensory experiences available in England in the 21st century (there I go again on the pomposity front, but it’s true).

Ex: more than anything, growing up in the ’70s and ’80s and how that’s reflected in subsequent experience; but that only tells half the story really. It’s an amalgam of many years’ experiences, some of which are more fictionalised than others.

10. What else about the book might pique the reader´s interest?

The Lammas Lands: the title, I hope. It may be fairly obscure unless you live in Walthamstow or in the English countryside, but it’s symptomatic of the book’s concerns.

Ex: again, the title; which has lots of meanings within the context of the collection. There is a poem of that name, but I also realised that there were more than a handful of poems relating to death or demise. The rest of the book is cheery though. Honest.

Friday, 21 December 2012

shortest day
the sewage works stench
paints the town

Thursday, 20 December 2012

robin song
all the empties
in next door's recycling

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Christmas shopping
the goateed sales assistant
lost in thought

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

tickling feathers
of the swan's folded wing:
whispery wind

Monday, 17 December 2012

crescent moon
a nun unlocks the gate
to the cloistered garden

Sunday, 16 December 2012

on the churned-up bridleway a flash of parakeet

Saturday, 15 December 2012

unseasonal warmth
my daughter recites her lines
from Much Ado

Friday, 14 December 2012

burst banks
always the raucous crows
presage something

Thursday, 13 December 2012

iced-up lily pond
the statues of nymphs
reach toward the sky

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

light snow falls
from freezing fog
the lumbering bus

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

on the corner house
which was once a shop:
a coat of green

Monday, 10 December 2012

cold night
the milestone's mileage
illegible

Sunday, 9 December 2012

I have three poems at nth position.
mewling cat—
half asleep, I step out
into sleet

Saturday, 8 December 2012

December dusk—
a wood pigeon squats
on every chimney-pot

Friday, 7 December 2012

the pastel colours
of the listed houses...
winter sun

Thursday, 6 December 2012

after-school club:
a boy plays table tennis
against himself

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

at angles in the parking space chuntering crows

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

frozen night
the re-named boozer
now serving tapas

Monday, 3 December 2012

by Clattern Bridge
a wedge of swans lands
in the Hogsmill's mouth

Sunday, 2 December 2012

perched heron
the morning sun licks
frozen duckweed

Saturday, 1 December 2012

frosty meadow
the grey snorts steam
into the bend

Friday, 30 November 2012

committee meeting
the maverick decides
to talk some sense

Thursday, 29 November 2012

along the impassable road the whirr of a duck's wings

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

in the grim flow
embankment lights pick out
a coot's bill

Monday, 26 November 2012

bulked-up squirrel
the swollen river has
extra gurgle

Sunday, 25 November 2012

in the smoking area
the air is rich with
loose talk

Saturday, 24 November 2012

taking every rat-run,
the cabbie berates
a shock-jock

Friday, 23 November 2012

a goose's husky honks
from a barge's bow...
autumn sun

Thursday, 22 November 2012

the shadows thrown
by a picket fence...
evening's end

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

leaf-piles
the street-cleaner lights
another roll-up

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

a legless man trumpets
When the Saints Go Marching in...
blustery rain

Monday, 19 November 2012

photocopier jam:
the engineer concludes
it's possessed

Sunday, 18 November 2012

through plane-leaves
the kids and I pass
in triangles

Saturday, 17 November 2012

between platforms 1 and 2
a black cat pads across
the duckboards

Friday, 16 November 2012

after conjecture
the silence while
the judge thinks

Thursday, 15 November 2012

along the arrish furrows a crow's measured chack

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

the undertaker
locks up for the day
with a deep sigh

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

so much to do...
the through-train shakes leaves
into mud

Monday, 12 November 2012

a ship's-length
from the explorer's grave:
sun through a Celtic cross

Sunday, 11 November 2012

the eleventh hour:
canoeists lay their paddles
on their laps

Saturday, 10 November 2012

the heron's stance...
I endure another game
without a win

Friday, 9 November 2012

between grand houses
sunrise sketches in black
the fire-escape's zigzag

Thursday, 8 November 2012

the rain-heavy clouds
bring nothing more than
a sprinkling of glass

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

autumn night
in a neon-lit window
pig carcasses

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

on a bus that goes
around the houses:
an oddbod's cough

Monday, 5 November 2012

bracket fungus
she refracts the father's childhood
onto her son's

Sunday, 4 November 2012

tumbling from plane-trees:
the individual voices
of twilit crows

Saturday, 3 November 2012

straddling the valley,
half a rainbow shimmers
for a few blinks

Friday, 2 November 2012

Brazil Mill Wood...
the river once again
takes two routes through

Thursday, 1 November 2012

in Donkey Wood
I don't have the gumption
to leap the brook

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

torrents...
the JWs at the door
get short shrift

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

in between people
his bike-brakes creak
like a pheasant

Monday, 29 October 2012

rainswept steps—
with proper yearning
a busker yells Jolene

Sunday, 28 October 2012

copse-tilting winds
the red deer and fallow
herd together

Saturday, 27 October 2012

summer time's end
the harbour master embarks
by the old meridian

Friday, 26 October 2012

outside the school
parakeets on the cherry tree
rock with the wind

Thursday, 25 October 2012

through the fog
the sign says Freezing Hill Lane
is closed

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

there she is again:
the auburn-haired woman
feeding the squirrels

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

dank afternoon
a one-legged crow
crosses the road

Monday, 22 October 2012

on the tin shack
painted high with scripture:
heavier rain

Sunday, 21 October 2012

returning crows—
the fisherman bogarts
a tiddly spliff

Saturday, 20 October 2012

headspace...
a cattle trough filled
with unkempt lavender

Friday, 19 October 2012

sidestreets...
the roadside Bible-case
blackened by rain

Thursday, 18 October 2012

juggling packets
the postman galumphs
in cowboy boots

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

in the teeth of the wind
a puffed-up pigeon
coos and woos

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

through the skylight
into the classroom:
showers of leaves

Monday, 15 October 2012

down cobbles
the saturated contents
furl from a binbag

Sunday, 14 October 2012

cul-de-sac
a woodpigeon gorges on
the guelder rose

Saturday, 13 October 2012

a jay's short flight
the overtaken runner
runs his own run

Friday, 12 October 2012

cloudbreak
an incoming airbus
shadows the pavement

Thursday, 11 October 2012

the pigeon-flock
takes a circular flight
again and again...
my head's crammed full
with strategic options

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

in Oxfam three customers
recall the King's Road's heyday
when they were faces,
the beautiful people,
in beautiful clothes
noon light
the length of Bear Lane
deep excavations

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

our busy lives...
a yellow tint
to the rose-leaves
on the ladder
starlings wizoo
from every rung

Sunday, 7 October 2012

a cormorant dives
into the river-lock's gush—
balsam scent

Saturday, 6 October 2012

burnt toast—
last night's rain
steams off the garden wall

Friday, 5 October 2012

on the platform-roof
morning light inheres within
the greenness of moss

Thursday, 4 October 2012

as much in the brickwork
of Edwardian villas:
the autumn sun

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

the lime-trees say
the storm's about to break
rummaging winds

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

from the circular byway a bitter red blackberry

Monday, 1 October 2012

on a balmy wind
surfing the stubble field
crow voice

Sunday, 30 September 2012

cess path
the ginger cat sprawls
in her sun-trap

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Michaelmas sun
the old chapel makes way
for new homes

Friday, 28 September 2012

the rainbow turning red...
a fox double-takes
in my direction

Thursday, 27 September 2012

full moon
your sleepy head
heavier on my chest

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

after two days of rain
the russet apple shades
of the plane-tree's bark

Monday, 24 September 2012

on the deep-puddled path
a toffee-brown pear
rots into itself

Sunday, 23 September 2012

locking horns along
the sun-drenched alley:
stag beetles

Friday, 21 September 2012

haphazardly
in and around the classroom's frame
a sortie of parakeets

Thursday, 20 September 2012

nip in the air
a spider hangs from
my glasses' frame

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

first frost...
who would fly a kite
at this time of the morning?

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

on a house that's painted
the colour of the sea
September sun

Monday, 17 September 2012

across the bridge
to the willowed ait
three men wheel a fridge

Sunday, 16 September 2012

she asks him if
he's the tree-climbing sort—
sun silvers ferns

Monday, 10 September 2012

on the walk to school
she lifts her son onto
the low brick wall

Saturday, 8 September 2012

above the churchyard wall
the sunshine within
each orange rose

Sunday, 2 September 2012

to hollyhocks
drooping across the path
my deepest bow

Monday, 27 August 2012

pulling bindweed
out of the bramble bush—
my mind alight

Haiku in Lithuanian

A haiku of mine is included in the Lithuanian weekly magazine, Literatūra ir menas ('Literature and Art'), kindly translated by Artūras Šilanskas. The original is:

my train delayed
by a suicide—
Easter drizzle

Sunday, 26 August 2012

summer mizzle
the old busker croons
Lady in Red

Thursday, 23 August 2012

sharing a bench
with someone half my age...
riverside heat

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Five Haiku from Dorset

herring gulls...
the Town Bridge halves
click back into place


in and out of brackish water the bobbing heads of ringed plovers


my ears full of sand
the Red Arrows eke out
an ampersand


the lagoon entering the sea exiting the manmade harbour


through your echo
bouncing off the fort
house martins twist

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

in my colleague's cupboard
a book entitled
Beating Anger

Sunday, 5 August 2012

The Ostrich House

gets its name from the saucer magnolia
which dominates the front,
and the blooming of which
for a few short weeks each April
is similar, albeit inversely,
to the plumage of a flock at a waterhole
in an otherwise dry savannah.

When the owners, after years of trying
finally become expectant,
the mother-to-be takes her eye off the bump
for the briefest time,
but that suffices for an ancient adage –
that any aversion of the ostrich’s gaze
would result in addling – to come true.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

out running . . .
my reflection disappears
with a dustcart

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Creamery Lane

If you lean for a while on the wooden fence,
the cow parsley in bloom, the sky as blue as Wedgwood,
first one Friesian – slinging its tail, like a bathroom light cord,
at plumes of gnats, which swallows scoop
as whales gulp krill – will saunter over
and check you out with a face that’s completely
unreadable. Do cattle smile? Do they laugh?
And then more: the whole herd buffets like dodgems
to get a good look at you, as if they’ve cornered
the runtiest kid in the playground. You gaze from cow to cow,
size up their eyes’ resemblance to dark chocolate truffles.
But just as you bathe in that communing-with-creatures glow,
the cattle silently turn tail, with no hint of a signal
from any one of them. And then, as if by appointment,
you spy an upturned bike, one wheel still spinning,
less and less quickly, more and more slowly,
until it’s halted by your index finger’s touch.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

What Today is All About

Today is like a misheard
conversational nugget
shouted sideways through
the inwards-and-upwards-slanted
open window on the top deck
of a number 65 bus
to an old friend on the other side
of a similarly open window
on a bus snailing along
in the opposite direction.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

where the cuckoo calls
at the top of Northward Hill:
courting meadow browns

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

The Windowed Jay

Outside the hour-long meeting of primary school headteachers
sitting through a presentation on the new school funding formula,

a jay repeatedly preens within a wide arc of sunshine diffusing
through a London plane-tree’s fruit and leaves, sporadically flashing

its Liquorice Allsort blue; and always it’s the avian version of
the okapi or a mule: half-magpie, half-not-so-little-brown-job.

Monday, 11 June 2012

There are three haiku of mine in Shamrock #22.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

leaving Burscough
the West Lancs Line two-car train
improvises
a slicker drum rhythm,
springs lapwing from the fields

Sunday, 3 June 2012

The Transit of Venus

On the morning of the D-day when you’ll wed,
as milkmen start their rounds while you’re a-bed,
that’s just about when Venus, the goddess of love,
will – if you, too, rise early to look above
the lanes of Lancs. – be making her merry way
across the sun. This once-in-a-lifetime day
will be as warm and lovely as home-baked bread,
on the morning of the D-day when you’ll wed.


for John & Wendy, 6th June 2012
I have two haiku in the latest edition of The Heron's Nest.

Thursday, 31 May 2012

How Happiness Tastes

You let a slice of cucumber
settle, sit, full square on your tongue;
intuit with each receptor
the ring of hardness surrounding
its moist flesh. You can’t tell how long
it’s poised; or why you feel on-song.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

The Crowstream

Pouring along in their thousands,
at many times the pace of the rush-hour traffic
tailing back from temporary lights,

the crows against the blush December sky
caw east above the Roman road
– the Via Trinobantes –

from the heath to the riverside,
like a streamer flailing from a wedding-car
in the slipstream of a single-decker bus.

Friday, 25 May 2012

things looking up...
in each pane of the Shard
the May sky's blue

Friday, 4 May 2012

High Wire

I have a poem included in an online anthology of Poems from Art on the Tate Modern website.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

umbrella blues
a small boy laughs at
his sister’s tantrum

Sunday, 22 April 2012

I have a tanka among the 25 selected, by Rodney Williams, for the Snipe Rising from a Marsh bird tanka feature on M. Kei's Atlas Poetica website.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

in the steel-grey cloud
a slice of rainbow
comes and goes

Sunday, 1 April 2012

late night
the clunk of snooker balls
from the fire station

Sunday, 25 March 2012

spring viewing
the owner lets the agent
do the hard sell

Saturday, 17 March 2012

in my face
this mid-March morning
the fog's moisture
out without a coat
for the first time this year -
sparkling frogspawn

Saturday, 10 March 2012

protruding
from her fingerless gloves:
new red nails

Sunday, 4 March 2012

the woody's refrain...
all day the rain slides
down the skylight

Sunday, 26 February 2012

first spring day
a tracksuited drinker
trips over his pug

Friday, 24 February 2012

late-winter rain
I shelter beneath
the undertakers' awning

Friday, 17 February 2012

carving darkness, the Red Moon Anthology of English-Language Haiku 2011, for which I am the UK & Ireland contributing editor, is available from the Red Moon Press website.
bone-rattling wind
the taste of painkillers
colours my world
I have another poem at the Football Poets site.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

showering the tops
of the Thames-ait heronry:
Candlemas sunbeams

Thursday, 26 January 2012

I have a new poem at Football Poets.

Friday, 6 January 2012

the moon all but full I plump for the slow train