Terrified of Poetry

Drive-by Poetry

I was a victim of drive-by poetry

assaulted with Rudyard Kipling

by two rude boys in a souped-up coupé

flashing past me up Broadway

speeding puddles

on to drainpipe trousers

later they shocked an elderly couple

with shouted snatches of T.S.Eliot

haring around a blind spot

then up George

blaring Blake from blacked-out windows

a police spokesman yesterday

played down the incidents

as nothing new

people have been terrified of poetry for years

he said

To mark National Poetry Day, I’ve reproduced a poem by the brilliant performance poet and serial slam champion, Ash Dickinson. I met Ash about 18 months ago when he came to run a poetry workshop at the school where I work. The kids were all transfixed by his witty raps and rhymes delivered with rhythm, movement and a lot of humour. His collection  “Slinky Espadrilles” (2012 Burning Eye Books) comprises over 40 poems looking at such diverse subjects as vanity, cybersex, Edinburgh Festival, visiting the dentist and, of course, love. It’s one of the best poetry books I’ve bought in a long time, and sits nicely alongside my volume by the Liverpool poets.


haikubes 007I got these for Christmas; 63 cubes with a word written on each of five of the sides, the sixth side being blank. Two of the cubes are slightly different; together they make a phrase such as “a reflection on my future” “a desire for my work life” “a regret about my childhood”. The idea is to roll these two cubes to give you a theme or direction, then roll all the other cubes and make up a haiku from what presents itself. It is not as easy as it sounds.

This evening I gave it a try and these are my first efforts:

haikubes 006008004Thanks Lorna and James – great gift!


The Vassal and the Fool

Great entertainment from The King’s Will and Jack Dean

I spotted the ad for the show way back in the summer, bought my ticket and waited patiently. Yesterday it was finally the day; the day I’d been so excited about; The King’s Will were performing at my local theatre. Billed as “electrifying drum and bass, soulful singing and powerful poetry” it sounded like an essential performance. I love a bit of poetry, though my own efforts at writing leave a lot to be desired, and it’s been over a year since I saw any performed live; that was the legendary John Cooper Clarke who appeared at the George Hotel in South Molton in a great, great show. Yes, there is more to North Devon than surfing, folks!

Due to some last minute hitches, the performance space was changed to the bar area, where a glossy grand piano stood, but this added to the intimate atmosphere.

Jack Dean

A small but very friendly and enthusiastic crowd was gathering and there was a palpable buzz of anticipation in the air. First up was Jack Dean, a local lad, very young but immensely talented. He gave a twenty minute performance of hip hop poetry which had us all in stitches, interspersed with the odd singalong. We were transported from the schoolroom to the psychoanalyst’s couch with several other interludes, punctuated with plenty of laughter. It was a brilliant and hugely confident piece which showed off Jack’s acting skills as well as his rhyming. This is definitely someone to look out for in the future. Here’s a link to his website where you can see some video clips and more.

Musa and Giles

After a short break it was time for The King’s Will. We were to have the acoustic show which would be Musa (The Fool) who is the poet and the voice, and Giles (The Vassal) the pianist. After spending the previous half hour in the audience and giving probably the most vocal support of us all to Jack Dean, these two tall and very charismatic men took their places behind mic and piano and gave us a performance of great passion, power, insight and a healthy serving of  humour. Giles’ wonderful and lyrical playing was the perfect foil to Musa’s vocals which ranged from a softly melodic delivery to an almost Shakespearean monologue, with all the furious power of a King Lear. Musa told us how he’d worked in the city as a lawyer for some years, and had one day decided it was all wrong and chucked it in to be a poet. The opening number “Pig City” is about the moral degeneration of our society; a rather dark and sinister nursery rhyme depicting the often obscured murkier side of life in the digital age. Other poems were about Musa’s experience of civil war in Uganda, his country of birth, family betrayal, his younger sister and memories of his father. The lyrics were often of a very personal nature and I for one felt privileged to have been allowed to share in this very emotional out-pouring.

Click on this link for an interview with The Kings Will by Lisa Jenkins, and this link to the group’s website.

I bought a CD for £5 at the end of the evening. Entitled “Acoustic” it includes most of the set from the show:-

1.Pig City


3.Human After All


5.So Leopard



Tracks can be downloaded from the website (click on link above).

National Poetry Day

brian_pattenTo mark National Poetry Day, I am posting my favourite ever poem which is by Brian Patten who, along with Roger McGough and Adrian Henri, was one of a collective known as the Beat Poets or Liverpool Poets in the 1960s and 70s.

It’s a poem full of hope and optimism and has often lifted my spirits in times of gloom.


   The Stolen Orange

When I left I stole an orange
I kept it in my pocket
It felt like a warm planet

Everywhere I went smelt of oranges
Whenever I got into an awkward situation
I’d take out the orange and smell it

And immediately on even dead branches I saw
The lovely and fierce orange blossom
That smells so much of joy

When I went out I stole an orange
It was a safeguard against imagining
There was nothing bright or special in the world