Thursday, 25 December 2014

Christmas morning
three happy jackdaws tear
at chip wrapping

Monday, 22 December 2014

under the blue bridge
the shortest day's last light
meanders into town

Sunday, 21 December 2014

between white vans
at the service station:
skittering wagtails

Thursday, 18 December 2014

December night
the southerly winds
lift my scarf-ends

Tuesday, 16 December 2014


As somebody mentions 'broadsheet',
I'm cast back almost forty years,
to when I'd pounce like our cat
the moment the 'paper appears
in the porch, and open it out
across the hallway, at the scores
from the previous evening's set
of matches. I'd scan the scorers,
attendances and each report;
the movements in the tables; where
my team, Queens Park Rangers, now sit.
And then pyjama'd Dad appears,
impatient for his turn at the sport;
one of those Guardian-readers
Dave Allen pokes fun at: the sort
who ought to be Prime Minister.

Monday, 15 December 2014

the small huddles
outside the job centre
sparkling starlings

Sunday, 14 December 2014

lost in the maze
of Mother's non-sequiturs...
winter skies

Friday, 12 December 2014

                 evening chill
everyone thinks the man collapsed
                   is a drunk

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

weather bomb
the jeweller manoeuvres a ring
from the window display

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

clouds full of rain
the spiral of midges
moves a few feet

Monday, 8 December 2014

waning moon
I feel the chill of night
only in my toes

Sunday, 7 December 2014

in the cafe window
a man in a Santa hat
chomps a sausage...
the sun goes in and out
with the Advent wind

Saturday, 6 December 2014

ambling over mulch towards the moon a raucous rook

Thursday, 4 December 2014

smoking though
I know I shouldn't...
molehill moon

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

sheep in frost
a red tractor rattles
the cattle-grid

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

from the steepness
of the conifered hill:
long-tailed tits

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Christmas shopping
the ice-eyed unicyclist
juggles knives

Friday, 28 November 2014

still dark down the street I whistle a tune from a Western

Thursday, 27 November 2014

boathouse lights
a tawny owl hoots
from the black ait

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

slipping on leaves...
a rain-mussed jackdaw preens
on Christmas lights

Monday, 24 November 2014

evening meeting:
again I hear myself
spouting cliches

Sunday, 23 November 2014

cold torrents:
I look over my glasses
to see the way

Saturday, 22 November 2014

nursing-home heat
his knife skates the Yorkshire pud
around the plate

Thursday, 20 November 2014

late for work...
starlings shake the ambers
of the cherry leaves

Monday, 17 November 2014

New Networks for Nature

Photographs, taken by the wonderful artist Carry Akroyd, of the annual New Networks for Nature conference are now on the website. The conference was as exhilarating, entertaining, informative and all-round inspiring as ever.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

crows galore
a pylon barely sketched
inside the fog
crows strut the width of the hard shoulder bending into mist

Saturday, 15 November 2014

fog descends...
the bellringers
giving it some
magpies dandering down Blackfriars Street the fog on my face
up the old Great North Road the cyclist's breath

Friday, 14 November 2014

at night the burnished brass in the music-shop window
when it comes
the squat church-tower
takes all the light

Thursday, 13 November 2014

in the grounds of the great house fallow deer graze
the train makes tracks
across the brown flatlands
turning tractors
King's Cross:
the barista's hands
stained by grounds

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

New Networks for Nature

This Friday, I'll be reading a poem, a haibun and some haiku at the annual New Networks for Nature conference in Stamford. John Barlow and I will also read a tribute to Martin Lucas, who read with us at last year's conference and will be sorely missed this year.

Monday, 10 November 2014

waning moon
the day's first traffic
oozes on by

Saturday, 8 November 2014

another dousing...
still the mallow
pokes its head out

Friday, 7 November 2014

legs akimbo,
the leaf-gatherer
faces the wind

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

full moon
a maple leaf spirals
into the dawdling river

Monday, 3 November 2014

Day of the Dead
starlings sketch their presence
through the rain

Friday, 31 October 2014

along the pine-lined lane lopes the lengthening Hallowe'en sun

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

on what would've been
his fifty-second birthday:
a ladybird on the parquet

Saturday, 25 October 2014

with every bite of a thick-crust pizza his tattooed forehead

Friday, 24 October 2014

in the hidden grove
frisky squirrels lope around
the young cherry trees

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

blown along by the hurricane's tail my jelly legs

Sunday, 19 October 2014

pink contrails
the kayaker strokes
towards the night

Saturday, 18 October 2014

southerly balm
the reptile-shop goth
basks on the street

Thursday, 16 October 2014

open plan:
my sneeze resounds
in every section

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

the shops and street lights
in the week's-worth of puddles
swallowing my feet
trigger flashbacks to the '80s,
to a spectrum of nights

Monday, 13 October 2014

constant mizzle
the smoking barrister
adjusts his wig

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

full moon
the nonchalant flautist
sways at the knees

Friday, 3 October 2014

sharing a laugh
with the security man
morning sunrays

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

at sunrise
the crows on an oak
tell me how it is

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Michaelmas heat
the ambulance drivers
swap sarcasm

Sunday, 28 September 2014

and my legs are like lead...
autumn sunlight
slants across the asters
already turning to brown

Saturday, 27 September 2014

trapping all the light:
the chalk-white facade
of the Poppy Factory

Thursday, 25 September 2014

hospital visit
a magpie shifts around
the chimney-pot

Monday, 22 September 2014

The Pantry

While Mum unpegs the washing and thinks
I'm upstairs, I ferret in the pantry -
the Hansel-and-Gretel-house biscuit tin:
I scoff: lemon puffs; a Garibaldi;
bourbons; custard creams; stale, cardboardy
strawberry wafers, tasting of ginger nuts;
two digestives to aid digestion. It's
then that my eyes alight on nirvana:
Whitworth's currants and portly sultanas,
handfuls of which I pack within my cheeks,
a hamster bedding down for winter sleep.
Just for luck, I unpeel a banana.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Morning After a Snowstorm on the West Strand

Where the tide ends and the snow begins
is anybody's guess. Three red setters
look confounded. They're not the only ones:
it's as if coconut milk has been poured
from a great height. My boots sink twice:
first, the immaculate crunch into half a finger's
worth of snow; then the sand's softer yield.
This is my route to the port today, to sign on
and receive free slabs of Cheddar from
the EEC Mountain. This is utterly stupendous.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

September heat
a pigeon's peck becomes
the apple core's roll

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

outside the court
the bloke with a suitcase
takes in the sun

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

the slug pulls a feather
across the patio
super moon

Monday, 8 September 2014

Indian summer
my daughter refuses
to sing along with me

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

end of the line
the driver takes a large bite
of a Danish pastry

Sunday, 31 August 2014

The September issue of A Hundred Gourds, which includes my in memoriam piece on Martin Lucas and my review of Glenn Coats's latest haibun collection, plus loads of excellent new haiku, tanka, renga, etc., is now live.
where Bonesgate Stream feeds the Hogsmill River: a fox's stare

Saturday, 30 August 2014

a sunflower pokes its head
above the neighbours' fence...
holiday's end

Friday, 29 August 2014

Te Waewae Bay

Rugby-tackling yellow-eyed penguins
and clasping a hand around their bills
- so they'll regurgitate not over him but
into his sister's special red plastic bucket
for her doctoral research - is sweet as;
affords him some close-season practice:
Stratford envisions every bird as a lanky
tight-head prop of his hometown club's
oldest, bitterest, most gobshite local rivals.
In Queensland's Outback, just days before,
he spent a long yet entertaining fortnight
culling goats, for which the chopper pilot
who collected him handed over a tenner
for each of the three-hundred pairs of ears.
Now Stratford self-describes as a No Worries
Freelance International Fauna and Avifauna
Management Consultant, at your service.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

an apple revolves
on the crest of the river...
summer mizzle

Sunday, 24 August 2014

On Worcester Park Road

See the wayside mallow,
and how it's embraced by
hedge mustard. Look along

the narrow valley, where
out of the purple loosestrife,
for a nanosecond of buzz,

a kingfisher occupies sight:
electricity fizzing your retinas,
torpedoing summer's grey.

Saturday, 23 August 2014


In and out of sunshine, squadrons of azure
rollers target the old stone Pack Horse Bridge, where

flying ants becloud the valley. It's the sort
of balmy day when everyone feels the heat.

The river mutters while it imbibes Bonesgate
Stream - named by the past for the nameless Plague-pit

dead - like a half-cut solitary customer
hailing his partner at a late-night bar.

The rollers strafe the ants, as if they'd swallow,
like pelicans, buckets of fish in one go.

A red admiral, basking on the warmest plot
of thistledown, billows its wings in and out.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

back-step sunshine
the cat's fascination
with my bare feet

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

the dark-suited man
skateboards to work
summer's end

Monday, 18 August 2014

autumn arrives
with the morning breeze
last night's dream

Saturday, 16 August 2014

blanked by the neighbour I've never liked sunburst

Thursday, 14 August 2014

gathered in
by the quickening currents
summer rain

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

the bat's spin
over the shed
grain moon

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

on the periscope head
of a great-crested grebe:
short, sharp showers

Monday, 11 August 2014

perigee moon
the first hint of autumn
blows my hair around

Sunday, 10 August 2014

at the tail-end of the hurricane: the grey cat's tail-end

Saturday, 9 August 2014

stroke through a pleasure-boat's wake...
the young moorhen's plod

Friday, 8 August 2014

sunlit channel:
a salmon edges sideways
out of the shade

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Lombardy poplars
the few clouds all resemble
bunny rabbits

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

ragwort as tall as me...
enough deep thoughts
for a whole year

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

on the way to work
I take the sunniest route...

Monday, 4 August 2014

evening breeze
a dialogue on the radio
just out of earshot

Sunday, 3 August 2014

In and Out

In and out of sunshine, I follow the cracked path.
A gatekeeper crosses Pack Horse Bridge. It's

the sort of day when everyone smiles hello.
The Hogsmill mumbles as it takes in Bonesgate

Stream - named for the nameless victims
of the Plague - like a drinking partner at an

otherwise deserted late-night bar. As ever,
nettles stick close to the blackberries among

the singular Russian comfrey. I use my left hand
to manoeuvre round to the plumpest fruit.

Like a billows, a red admiral basking on
a bed of thistledown puffs its wings in and out.

Friday, 1 August 2014

no air con
and the meeting room clock
twenty minutes slow...
my mind is always set
on any other business

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Launch of Mir Mahfuz's Ali's collection

At Covent Garden Community Association, aka the Seven Dials Club, last night, Mahfuz launched his debut collection of poems, Midnight, Dhaka, published by Seren. Mahfuz is a brilliant, energetic and passionate reader and so his taut, finely honed poems truly came alive when he read them. I'm really looking forward to reading the book.

throughout the reading
the barman dries up glasses
extra quietly

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Presence 50

Issue 50 of Presence, which Ian Storr and I edited following the deeply sad passing of Martin Lucas, has now been published. It includes a final essay by Martin which should be required reading for anyone new, or fairly new, to haiku.
the woodland ride:
all the bees
at the bell heather

Monday, 28 July 2014

the thwack of arrows...
wood ants collide
along a fallen pine

Sunday, 27 July 2014

morning swim:
an old bloke shows me
how to breathe

Saturday, 26 July 2014

through heathland forest
my son as straightbacked
as a pine

Friday, 25 July 2014

small blue...
a pine leans on another
at forty-five degrees
after a stint
on the bandstand:
the jazzman's sneeze

Thursday, 24 July 2014

fierce heat
the farmer opens his gate
for his tractor

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

all the way
to the lush horizon
the scent of pines
and, beneath them, ferns
sunlit like your smile

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

verandah blues...
the morning sun is sifted
through the pines

Saturday, 19 July 2014

between glugs
lightning flash after flash
chases the dark

Friday, 18 July 2014

hotel night
the storm peters out
across the forecourt

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

teatime heat...
in the stream's few inches
a salmon heads upstream

Monday, 14 July 2014

on this day of flying ants: a lick of toffee ice cream

Saturday, 12 July 2014

evening haze
a busker lays out cigarette papers
on his keyboard

Friday, 11 July 2014

the Polish barber says
he's rooting for Germany—
early hibiscus

Thursday, 10 July 2014

throughout a meeting
of bollockings:
summer rain

Sunday, 6 July 2014


flails drums for The Fuckwitz, a part-time punk band
who tour Europe for a month each year. As he’s fond
of telling us, they’re popular in Switzerland,

which half-explains the incident with the groupies
Olga and Petra – their only ‘babes’, alas –
in Lake Geneva, after playing Caves de Versoix:

skinny-dipping by moonlight, when Cosimo raced
against Trevor, the bassist, and merrily goosed
the babes in the depths, where the moon didn't shine; pissed-

up to the nines on the all-they-could-drink payment
in lieu of cash, an offer that singer Raymond
accepted without a thought. Encore smashed. Vraiment.

Friday, 4 July 2014

morning heat
I run my hand through

Thursday, 3 July 2014

The Utility Man

As he skips through his range of warm-up tricks
on the much-maligned artificial pitch –
the best one an over-the-shoulder flip
condescendingly ensnared by his nape –
you wouldn’t suppose that fifteen minutes
before, Sheffield-sharp in a three-piece suit
at Huckleberry’s counter, he ordered
a cheeseburger deal to go, and nodded
towards some fans, with a toss of his wedge,
a wordless greeting-of-sorts as he went.

He’s fed up of not being pigeon-holed;
of being called Mr Versatile:
no position he can claim as his own,
except the bench, from where he’s often thrown      
to be a makeshift forward or outside right;
even called upon between the uprights
one Boxing Day. As the Senior Pro,
he gets his UEFA badges; in due
course becomes the new Gaffer’s right-hand man;
‘completely respected’ by everyone;

the butt of pranks by YTS trainees.
He can’t sustain his pace for long, so he’s
only used in cameos, when his bold,
old-fashioned wing-play – arms out, head down – would
salvage a point. On hanging up his boots,
he fills various roles: lower-league scout;
leftfield purveyor of droll punditry
for local radio; brusque licensee
of a pub known for being welcoming
to all, including old folk, kids and dogs.

Note: a previous version of this appeared at Football Poets a few years ago, but I've recently revised it and as there's no World Cup games today I thought I'd fill the interlude...
a day ahead of myself...
the sun around the oak
encompasses me

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

beach rounders:
the bat, not the ball,
arcs on the breeze

Monday, 30 June 2014

just enough river
to tickle their feet:
preening swans

Sunday, 29 June 2014

cafe rain
a starling takes
Parma ham in one

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Magma 59 launch

Last night saw the launch of Magma 59 at the London Review Bookshop in sunny Bloomsbury. Some fabulous poets reading their work included Abegail Morley, Susannah Hart, Carole Bromley, Fiona Moore and special guests Lorraine Mariner and Colette Bryce; so I was delighted to have been invited by co-editors Roberta James and Alex Pryce to read too. As my poem in Magma 59, 'Half Board at the Alum Sands Hotel', is set on the South Coast, I thought I'd read another coastal poem, 'The Boating Lake', first. The wine flowed and it was a thoroughly magical evening. As someone eloquently put it, "Oh my gawwwwd". There will be a second launch event, in Leicester on 17th July, which will, I'm sure, be wonderful too.
midsummer light...
the three-legged greyhound
romps down the road

Thursday, 26 June 2014

up summer's backstreets the couple on a tandem gossip

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

a shades-wearing binman
stamps down rubbish
within the wheelie-bin...
swifts race midsummer
over the tennis-courts

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

jumbled thoughts...
a silverfish makes another
darting foray

Monday, 23 June 2014

the chugger's persistence
a pinch of stormlight
within the heat

Sunday, 22 June 2014

street party
once again the swingball
gets caught up

Saturday, 21 June 2014

swishing across
the whitewashed wall:
black cat-tails

Thursday, 19 June 2014

long meeting:
throughout the discussion
sounds of the dustcart

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

almost midsummer
the goslings tread water
in all directions

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

with every note
the penny whistler's eyes
from side to side

after Martin Lucas

Monday, 16 June 2014

a swan in half a foot of river swims into wade mode

Sunday, 15 June 2014

early summer
the rapid pace of a woman
carrying Prosecco

Saturday, 14 June 2014

the languid strokes
of double scullers
this June evening...
a pen and her cygnets
preen in unison

Friday, 13 June 2014

sticky night
vinegar seeps to the bottom
of the chip bag

Thursday, 12 June 2014

on a blackboard
outside the closed-down pub:
its last menu

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

at intervals through
the freshly-strimmed patch:
a wagtail's frippery

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

just for the hell of it...
swifts tear up
the whole blue sky

Monday, 9 June 2014

the limpid millstream
bears a number of goslings
already reduced

Sunday, 8 June 2014

a heron creeps along the river thinned to a trickle
festival dusk
the bassline strangles
every corpuscle

Saturday, 7 June 2014

the day's slow fade...
a cat on the flat felt roof
turns its back

Friday, 6 June 2014

June sunshine
piles of beach towels
in the store window

Thursday, 5 June 2014

spits of rain
the goose family
bathes en masse

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

the same old steamboat
plying the river

Monday, 2 June 2014

clearing a path
through my parents' garden
the snag of thorns

Saturday, 31 May 2014

A Hundred Gourds and Haibun Today

The latest issues of A Hundred Gourds and Haibun Today have both been published. The 'Expositions' section of the former features a review by Lorin Ford and two reviews by me, of a haibun collection by Peter Butler and a haiku collection by Graham High. Haibun Today has a piece by me: Umberto at Large.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

on the packed bus
a couple eat slices
of plain brown bread

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

May mizzle
the fluffed-up goslings
stick close together

Monday, 26 May 2014

Obsolete Treasure: some notes on Jean Sprackland’s ‘Sleeping Keys’

Sleeping Keys

Printed with old roses or tartan and thistle,
there’s a biscuit tin like this in every house.
Prise off the lid and catch the flinty scent
of old keys, decommissioned and sleeping.

Like unspent francs, deutschmarks and drachmas
they accumulate here, inert and futureless,
though each in its time was powerful:
precision-cut on a wheel of sparks.

Tip them out on the table in the empty kitchen
and rake through them one last time.
The mortice for the first front door,
the yale for the porch, replaced ten years ago
(never a good copy, it balked at the turn).

These antiques were for internal doors,
this one perhaps the old bathroom where
he knocked softly, and you stepped out of the bath
and printed the bare boards with your feet
as you hurried to unlock and let him in.

Padlock keys for sheds and bikes, and a set
with a jaunty tag for the house next door, though
the people are different now and you can’t imagine
popping round and watering the plants.

Count out their obsolete treasure on the table,
puzzling as your grandmother’s brooches and hatpins
and with the same residual gravity –
the shiny, the worn, the ones threaded
on string or paperclips, or marked with Tipp-Ex,
the miniatures for medicine cabinets and pianos –

then scoop the lot into the bin, because
not one will ever spring a lock again
to let him into your space, or you to his.
No more the easy click of the blade engaging
and nudging the bolt aside, or his grin as he entered
the room of steam, already slipping off his shirt.

(from Sleeping Keys, 2013)

This, the title-poem from her third full collection, exemplifies Jean Sprackland's lucid, well-honed and almost conversational narrative style, similar in tone to that of her near-contemporaries Sarah Maguire and Paul Farley and her exact contemporary Kathleen Jamie, about whom I've written previously.  Like those fine poets, Sprackland has the ability to find poetry in unexpected places; and, in her 2012 book Strands, a journal of a year of finding miscellany on Ainsdale sands, joined the ranks of Jamie and Farley as poets who also write brilliant prose. Happily, though, poetry remains her first and foremost gift.

Sprackland cleverly builds this poem through a near-forensic look at its titular items, which act metaphorically to remember, but simultaneously move on from, a loving relationship which has ended. The opening couplet overtly alerts the reader to the (particularly British) universality of her theme: ‘there’s a biscuit tin like this in every house’. The next then draws the reader in further through subtle deployment of the imperative – ‘Prise off the lid and catch the flinty scent’ – and the absolutely spot-on choice of the adjective ‘flinty’, before Sprackland leaves us in no doubt that what will be threaded through the poem is a sense of superfluity. The word ‘decommissioned’, with its industrial connotations of mines or nuclear reactors being closed down, is such an especially well-chosen one here. The simile in the second stanza continues that theme of redundancy and adds to the ‘flinty’, metallic smell, like that left by coins which have nestled in the palm of your hand. As ever with Sprackland, each of her words – noun, verb and adjective – does its job; that ‘precision-cut’ alliterating beautifully with the preceding ‘Printed’ and ‘Prise’.

Stanza 3 employs the imperative again, engaging the reader as if s/he is doing the tipping-out and sorting. At this point, ‘one last time’ unambiguously indicates that the action within the poem represents a clean break with the past and, more precisely, with a long-lasting cohabitative relationship. The faults in that relationship are retrospectively pointed out through that telling phrase ‘it balked at the turn’, as if the early excitement had, over time, faded and been replaced by the imperfections to which lovers can for so long be blinded until the point that they start to matter.

With exquisite timing, the fourth stanza introduces the reality of that excitement; the sensual and sexual intimacy of ‘the old bathroom where / he knocked softly, and you stepped out of the bath / and printed the bare boards with your feet / as you hurried to unlock and let him in’, the jinks of the incident recalled with a yearning freshness, hinting at what might have been had the lovers managed to sustain that headiness throughout their relationship. The relaxed but regretful, happy/sad voice is maintained in the next stanza, with a succession of ‘p’ words, and which culminates in a wider sense of time having passed one by: ‘the people are different now and you can’t imagine / popping round and watering the plants’. Time moves ever onwards, the poem implies, and one has to move forward with it.

A further steady accumulation of detailed focus on the oxymoronic ‘obsolete treasure’ draws the poem towards its close: the harking back to ‘your grandmother’s brooches and hatpins’ which contain ‘the same residual gravity’. Sprackland’s use of ‘gravity’ – with its various meanings of attraction, seriousness, weightiness and importance – is characteristically precise and excellent, and leads wonderfully to the exactitude that follows: ‘the shiny, the worn, the ones threaded / on string or paperclips, or marked with Tipp-Ex, / the miniatures for medicine cabinets and pianos’. The just-so-ness of that list, the pleasure taken in describing old items with a nostalgic delight that the Japanese would call wabi sabi, would resonate in many households in Britain, and no doubt beyond.

And so the last exhorting imperative of the poem, ‘scoop the lot into the bin’, arrives with a finality that seemingly dispels any sense of sentimental longing for the relationship that has ended – ‘not one will ever spring a lock again / to let him into your space, or you to his’ – before being undercut by the double-edged pleasurable pathos of the word-perfect tercet that closes this tremendous poem.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

polling day
two kayakers manoeuvre
into the sunwaves

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

before the shoppers
sunshine takes a dander
down the high street

Sunday, 18 May 2014

dipping terns...
the river ferry
makes the crossing last

Saturday, 17 May 2014

behind the gate
of the old convent
a security dog pants

Friday, 16 May 2014

spring heat
the swan's neck flexes
into the shallows

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

on every flower
of the yellow iris:
last night's rain

Monday, 12 May 2014

ruffling geese feet the tributary gushes to its end

Saturday, 10 May 2014

half a rainbow
taking a short cut
through the May fair

Thursday, 8 May 2014

how long I've hankered
for the rain-fed southerlies
to bring back the swifts...
with every plummet
my heart dives too

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

because she can:
a young girl whistling
along the cul-de-sac

Monday, 5 May 2014

peacock butterfly my daughter coveting cupcakes

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Trans Pennine Express

Manchester Piccadilly to Cleethorpes:
the hillsides steep with sheep and dry stone walls.
After the solemn funeral mass,
I take the Trans Pennine Express
through unlit tunnels blasted by navvies;
meet Martin Fry, Phil Oakey and Jarvis.
The hillsides steep with sheep and dry stone walls.
Manchester Piccadilly to Cleethorpes.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Martin Lucas

I had the pleasure and privilege of knowing Martin for about 20 years. From the outset of his involvement in the British Haiku Society, Martin was a naturally gifted haiku (and tanka) poet; then essayist, and, from 1996 when he founded Presence, the most generous and gifted of editors. I was - and will remain - in awe of his ability to notice the small things in life, to see beauty in the unlikeliest of places and to see the best in people. His body of work will, I am certain, be fully assessed in time as an achievement that is as rich and varied as any in the Anglophone haiku world.

But Martin always said that 'haiku', as we English-speakers know it, can never replicate the content of Japanese haiku because our cultural context is so different. Nevertheless, Martin's quietly beautiful poems, in which he always made every word count, are, arguably, as close to the spirit of Japanese haiku as anyone among us has managed.

Yet Martin had a profoundly English/British outlook on life: a Northerner by birth, schooled in London, university-educated in Canterbury, Lancaster and Cardiff, a supporter of his unfashionable hometown football club (Middlesbrough), brilliant birder, resident of Preston, with friends throughout England, the rest of the UK as a whole, and way beyond these shores.

What a wonderful, talented man Martin was. Rest in peace.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

sweeping the blossom
from my parents' path...

Saturday, 19 April 2014

I try to describe
the way your shoulders shook
when you laughed...
the white wisteria creeps
across the shaded facade

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

pink moon
the streetsweeper's broom
falls off its handle

i.m. Martin

Sunday, 13 April 2014

their smiles...
song of the splendid sunbird
all round the birdhouse

Saturday, 12 April 2014

a blackbird sings
from the towpath garlic—
single scullers

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Presence 50

In Martin's absence, Ian Storr and I have amended the submission details for Presence 50: subscribers are requested to make their email submissions, until Martin returns, to either Ian or me, but not both. And if you have already had work accepted by Martin, we would be grateful if you could forward Martin’s email reply to either one of us, but, again, not both. Thanks very much.
last magnolia blooms
the tennis coach demonstrates
how to do backhand

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

all over the funfair trucks spring morning light

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

from its midstream stone
the grey wagtail snaps up
even more midges
on the absent aristo's land: a fanfare of cowslips

Sunday, 6 April 2014

slugging up the avenue:
a snail that looks

Saturday, 5 April 2014

at either end
of the twelve-carriage platform:
spring mist

Friday, 4 April 2014

flotsam from the spring tide
dries on Church Lane

Thursday, 3 April 2014

morning reverie—
back and forth
to the bill of its mate,
a coot carries nest matter
over the millstream

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Martin Lucas

Lancashire Police have updated their website with a renewed appeal for help.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

we can but wait—
a coot makes headway
against the current

Saturday, 22 March 2014

over the thunder
of the barrelling Tube train:
sign language

Thursday, 20 March 2014

street of cafes:
cherry blossom gusts
across the tables

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

on Westminster Bridge:
my grin within
the tourist's selfie

Monday, 17 March 2014

brimstones among daffodils magnolia light

Saturday, 15 March 2014

The Golden Howdah

            From the golden howdah,
she has a bird’s-eye view of the town;
the avenues splayed towards the waterfront,
            where goods arrive from all over.

            Up and down she goes
with Jambo’s every, slow-motion lope.
It’s a most beautiful sight and everyone
            coos unconditional delight.

            Up there, she sees
all manner of maladjusted malarkey:
the birds and the bees, petty thievery,
            the birds and the last of the bees.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

my feet ease
into new socks

Thursday, 6 March 2014

spring sun
the tree surgeon
works from within

Monday, 3 March 2014

sneezing into the wind
a beagle relinquishes
its big stick

Saturday, 1 March 2014

orange towels
taut on the line
spring sun
The March issue of A Hundred Gourds is now online. It includes a tribute to John Carley, a terrific essay by Thomas Powell and some fine reviews.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

magpie morning
already magnolia buds
look set to burst

Sunday, 23 February 2014

February dusk—
an eastward flight of ducks
wheels over Kew,
and my son is one day
into his adulthood

Saturday, 22 February 2014

The Cusp

The day you were born,
snow flurried like thoughts.
Aged six or seven,
you drew upon foolscap
a map of the world
as you wanted it to be:
all the borders fudged,
ridges smoothed over,
faultlines filled in. Now
you’re on the cusp
of tracing it for real.

for CJM-P

Friday, 21 February 2014

my morning shadow
stretches much further than
the eucalypt is tall—
a slater has one foot on earth,
one on the second rung

Thursday, 20 February 2014

reading a paper
the cabbie drapes an arm
out the window,
two fingers tapering down
to his cigarette's glow

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Round the Block

We reckon the gravel track
we're walking on is Tudor.
A collared dove concurs.
But I don't know if Dad
is plodding round at my pace
or I'm keeping step with him.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

waning gibbous moon...
the slow train runs fast
to make up time

Monday, 17 February 2014

we hear it loud:
the river's gush around
a sunken boat

Saturday, 15 February 2014

on the river wind:
a spectrum of ducks
and all weathers

Friday, 14 February 2014

like scattering tacks:
the forecast record rainfall
on the bus's roof

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

blown sideways
           more rain teems
into the bloated Thames

Monday, 10 February 2014

for seconds between
flood rains: the sunny colours
of market mangoes

Sunday, 9 February 2014

The Cut of Your Jib

When the pain from a broken rib
deepens like loss, they sympathise
with both ears, and puppy-dog eyes:
they all love the cut of your jib.

When your interjected ad lib
cracks up the room, someone reports
they’ve heard you tell that joke before:
most folk like the cut of your jib.

When there’s no more ink in your nib
and your narrative’s all dried up,
some rum bugger’s sold you a pup:
no-one ♥s the cut of your jib.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

almost spring
outside the embassy
plaque polishing

Friday, 7 February 2014


stooping to drink
from the lay-by:
the water goes
right up his nose

Thursday, 6 February 2014

crossing the bridge everyone's hair blows skywards

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

winter rain
the stallholder trims a cauli
with a craft-knife

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

closed celandines
the racing river
eddies as he goes

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Candlemas sunshine clicks along a white picket fence

Friday, 31 January 2014

long run the river far more fluent than I am

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

around the feet
of students eating pizza
out of boxes:
the town starlings' glossiness
after heavy slanting rain

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Constable Country

Sunday lunchtime in the King’s Arms: the Zapata-moustached landlord
spits, Well done for keeping the entire village awake last night. We’d
certainly tried our best. After lagers and tequilas down the Greyhound,

we’d upped the ante at Harry’s because his folks and siblings were away.
I’d guzzled a litre of 100-proof Southern Comfort in the time it took Harry
and his mates to cane his old man’s collection of double-distilled whiskey.

The night was warm so we’d played cricket in the field behind the garden,
with china that Harry’s mum was saving for charity: the crack of Willow on
willow cheered; a six scored for every direct hit on his sister’s rabbit run...

When I board the Smoke-bound coach at Colchester, I get my head down for
a kip near the back, only to be roused by a sick-breath, psychobilly greaser
who sparks up the skinniest roll-up and makes his opening gambit in my ear:

Alright? I’ve just come from Norwich – nicest nick I’ve ever been in. Lester
Piggott was on my wing. ’Scuse me for a sec, mate, but I gotta do an Eartha.
Which, while whistling, he noisily does; by the emergency exit, on the floor.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

how bright the years in
the Georgian palace brickwork
this lukewarm winter

Friday, 24 January 2014

before the rain
you take a slow loop around
the Quaker burial ground

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

my head dead-still—
how my five-year-old self
wriggled and flinched
from the indigo coldness
of the barber's tools

Monday, 20 January 2014

January sun
the arm-linked couple's sticks
prod the pavement as one

Saturday, 18 January 2014

yellow moon
a glimpse of a porpoise
easing upstream

Thursday, 16 January 2014

brackish skies
the sound of four swans
heading over town

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Sunflower Bay

The high midsummer sun
pinpoints the blush collared dove's cushioned flight,
in a sky as blue as the pools that punctuate
the terracotta townscape shelving down
upon the Mediterranean.

After a fine and fun
alfresco lunch, we paddle out of sight;
our torsos ferried, as though we’ve no girth or weight,
by the gift of effortless propulsion –
tournesols, girasols, sonnenblumen...

Monday, 13 January 2014

rush-hour rain I talk to myself on the bus again

Sunday, 12 January 2014

the way the crows alight
on every tussock
within the curtilage
of the sugar maples

Thursday, 9 January 2014

the rain desists in the juniors' playground wagtails skip

Wednesday, 8 January 2014


You make them early,
between Boxing Day and NYE:
next year will be the big one –
in which you will meet The One.

Yes, you will ooze positivity,
like a fully-charged phone.

You will be irresistible; cease all moping;
and re-engineer your clapped-out mojo.

Your face will beam beneficence
like a rainbow over the flood plain.

You will find your love.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

the stop before mine:
how each person alighting
approaches the puddle

Monday, 6 January 2014

a wiry fellow
follows his ferret
down an alley...
nowhere to walk but
straight through puddles

Sunday, 5 January 2014

at Hampton Court
the river rises
to medieval levels...
the slow-motion beats
of a swan into flight

Saturday, 4 January 2014

New Year blues
the scaffolding covers billow
from the Market House

Thursday, 2 January 2014

the river streaks pell-mell
on either side of Eel Pie Island
two pied wagtails

Wednesday, 1 January 2014


On a nether morning between
Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve, when

rain and gales lambast the house
with expletives and the light dims

to pumice-grey (but you won’t switch
the lights on as that would be much

too much like giving in), the doors trill
in their frames, old sash windows roll

and jig, and you have to hunker down,
make soup, then love, all afternoon.