Monday, October 15, 2012

Eye Contact Collage

Eye contact collage

Agony Aunt: Otherwise, feeling is inferred, or expressed nonverbally, through eye contact, or an encouraging smile.

Conductor: Making awkward eye contact with musicians while you’re conducting.

Psychologist: They avoid eye contact, or sometimes become tearful and obstinate.

Student: Eye contact with teacher during test. They think I'm cheating.

Rap Artist: Maintaining uncomfy extended eye contact witchu

Comedian: I'm joining this group: Anonymous Alcoholics. We meet at the bar at Applebees and never make eye contact.

Feminist: On National No Bra Day do your best to maintain eye contact with grandmothers.

Author: Yet somehow he seemed to maintain eye contact with me, as though he knew I needed to submit to his personality, as though he sensed I was less easy meat than my brother...

Poet: ...who lived next door to you for years but would never say hi or make eye contact.

Embarrassed: Making eye contact with someone while eating a banana is seriously the most awkward thing.

Someone at one with Nature: Such discipline carries over in the humdrum of daily existence, in walks at the park, in unexpected moments of eye contact between friends and strangers.

Strange person: I need to stop making eye contact with stray animals. I've never even had a serious boyfriend & already my heart has been broken too many times.

Tips for Guys: When she is talking to you don't look around or at your phone...listen to her, make eye contact. Show her you care.

London Underground fake notice: "No eye contact. Penalty £200"

Acknowledgements to the people who tweeted some of these lines, many of which are also found elsewhere on the Net. 

Tuesday, October 09, 2012


I intended this piece for the monthly Flash Frontier blog, where the theme for October was 'flight'.  However, I was only a month too late - somehow my brain had got itself into the notion that you could enter something due for the 1st of October in the middle of that month....

So, rather than lose the piece, which I enjoyed writing, I'm including it here.  There's an earlier flash fiction piece on this blog too, here


I used to pronounce Icarus as Icarusk, the last syllable sounding like that twice-baked bread we gave babies to keep them content, the sticky, gooey mess spreading across the baby’s face. 

I don’t know if Icarus’ mum ever gave him the mythological equivalent of rusks. Those rusks have been lost in the myths of time – as has Icarus’ mum.

She told her inventive husband, Daedalus, and her antic son, Icarus, to ‘take off those silly wax and feathers monstrosities and come in and have your dinner.’  They ignored her. She watched her headstrong son, after initially following in his father’s line of flight, flap up towards the sun, melt his wings and drop into the sea.  


She stood at the top of the cliff, arms crossed, lips tight, head shaking.  Muttered, ‘Typical bloody teenager.’

Went back inside the house, ate her evening meal (put the leftovers in the cool store for the next day) took up her knitting, made woolly vests and sox for Iapyx’s baby.  Just look at him, sucking his mythological rusk. 

Iapyx is a good stay-at-home boy.  Okay, he didn’t get a sea named after him, but a live boy and a live grandchild are better than a flying fool of a son.

Her flying husband, however, seems to have got stuck on the other side of the Icarian Sea.

When she told him to stop mucking about with the wax and feathers she didn’t mean he should never come home again. 

I was going to include a picture chosen from one of the many famous depictions of Icarus falling but there are more than I can count (in a hurry, anyway); the subject has been painted by dozens of artists, including many contemporary ones.  Plainly it's a subject that speaks strongly to artists....

Friday, September 14, 2012

Three Evernote pieces

Lines chosen randomly from my clippings files on Evernote.  Only one of these lines comes from something I originally wrote, but like the rest, it has a rhythm that remained undiscovered until combined with these other lines.  No two lines come from the same article, and where lines appear to run on, this is just something that happened during the sorting process.  

Three Evernote pieces


a blur of toxic, squirming bullshit
a lengthy pizzicato section that's all at odds 
a once-prized jewel in the crown that’s been mangled
many unannotated games and a record of his playing

a writer's style is determined by one sentence
any hole you dig is the hole you'll have to climb out of
help the plot function and jazz it up a bit
recruit words like postillion or tardigrades to get an idea across


take fortuitous resemblances among us to be actual likeness
thrash out problems and hunt for oversights 
we fail more than once in spite of experience or skill

the initial deluge of messages was evenly divided
lean forward and dunk a biscuit in them 
life can be sublime amid the charitable endeavours 

my attention deficit disorder medicates itself
no nation can succeed without at least one thriving urban anchor 

old-school publishing houses will almost certainly endure 
oblivious to the hype machine and the cycle of endless promo, 
seemingly pdfs are supposed to be indexed


crucifixion seems like a losing strategy
it was plain, at whim: not to teach, not to criticize
isn’t quite ubiquitous yet but there are plenty of browsers

the ones lost are known in our church families
upon truth, and not in the quicksand of opinion
the painful demonstration of truth in the midst of untruth

those bald facts are five years of internecine warfare
the hammer of war drums beating in a jungle
prefiguring its devolution into bobby-socks

teach them about gravity without getting mean-spirited about it
the greatest result of this geographical proximity 
slumped earthward, believing his inheritance had gone up in acrid smoke a blur 

Three Older Poems

Three poems that have been around for a good while: the first two date back two or three decades; the last is a little younger. 

Dali-Magritte - poem written on the back of my will
 If you have ears…then listen.
There was a cat in the corner:
I know - I saw its tail twitch.

A mouse slid across the floor:
don't tell me it's only leaf shadows
flaying at windows.

Three dogs sit outside the café
drinking lattes -
I don't care if you can't see them.

A horse marches into the traffic:
why shouldn't drivers blare their horns?

Hermaphrodite elephants
impregnate each other,
struggling worms under the soil -
have you no ears?

If bottom-dwelling slugs
walked, or shrugged their shoulders,
men would cry out:
"Mountains fall on us!"
You walk as though the
moon never woke.

I know some person
dreams my dreams -
am I not in them?
will he wake?

We need poems when we...
a blind man point his white stick at a magazine stand,
an old lady walk against the lights while five cars grumble;

the mention of worms in the ears of fish,
an empty building's bellow when a hammer drops four floors;

a week-dead fish in the refrigerator,
a hessian-skirted church tower,
a dead tree in a public square's brick planter;

an icecream in the mind of a child,
sharp-cornered knee-height coffee tables,
two minds at one table unaware,
space between a pillar and a window where no child can squeeze;

an untouched swinging lightbulb-cord,
toilets beneath the street down bleach-cleaned steps,
a boy concealed in clothes three sizes too big;

literacy is for the spiritually-impaired.

learn our inability to walk in another man's shoes,
taste another man's wife's cooking,
wait for a blind date who doesn't show,
thrust too many oranges into a paper bag,
know the inability of the human hand to encompass a banana,
wear black clothes without a funeral,
find concrete block motels with orange plastic cups and tasselled bedspreads.

Lying still

Lying still,
winding down from making love,
I heard the room - for the first time - 
And realised it was not
cold, insensate,
knew it knew me
knew me naked,                                                                     
in intimacy:
in getting up and dressing,
ferreting in the dark for underpants,
slipping trousers on,
undressing, lying down,
swapping shoes for slippers,
lying buff in summer,
in winter pyjama-ed.

All walls have ears, eyes –
this room smells me, is tender towards
me, feels me in itself where
love is most hard to make
and simplest. 

Opening a morning window
it sings me to the world. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Gresham Church

Gresham Church – reminder from a photograph

So thick-sturdy is the tower that a thousand years from its building
I could pluck a stone from its thousand stones without it crumbling.

The church attached belongs to a much later time, while the
porch and the chancel have much in common with each other,

and they plainly aren’t kin to the church, which is not, as is
common in these parts, built of pebbles from Sheringham beach.

The church proper is something that’s replaced a forebear – who knows when? 
The porch and the chancel are pebbled with beach stones, as though the

waves had washed up against the building and left their mark in a
stonewall offensive; the stones in the tower are altogether different:

dragged perhaps to the site by the Normans, in carts, and then formed into a
round tower, rounder somehow in diameter at the bottom than at the

top.  And of course on the top is that typical castle turret – you expect
flags to be flying, or archers hiding in waiting (though they’d have to be

dwarves to hide up there).  The roof of the church is slate, while the
chancel is tile.  God alone knows what’s on the roof of the tower.

The stones in the tower aren’t round; they’re rough stones somehow
formed to roundness.  The stones on the porch and the chancel are

roundly round, as the pebbles from Sheringham always are:
big, fat, hard under the feet pebbles, that chock and chuckle against each

other when the waves come and try, day by day, to shift them.  Only a
storm such as old fishermen know will shift them; the young men have only

heard of such storms, have only seen in the Museum the lifeguard boats that
risked every fisherman’s life for the sake of one single fisherman.  The tower is

far from the pebbles, the stones, the beach, the fishermen, the
rescues.  Such storms as it’s known it’s survived for a thousand years while its

brethren, the porch and the chancel and the newish church have been added and
contracted and remodeled and removed and are even now in yet another process of

renovation.   What has stood a thousand years deserves such generous attention,
even when the congregation, or the parish, or the diocese, or the whole of the

Anglican world can’t afford it, paying as it is for a thousand other such
churches, each with changes and improvements and histories of a dozen

different ages soaked into their walls.  Out in the green sward – what else can it be
called? – are gravestones, some managing to keep their hold on the vertical, but only

just; some precarious at an angle that threatens toppling at any moment, though toppling
isn’t what these stones do in public; some flattened by time, and becoming

themselves buried beneath the grass, until it becomes a regular nightmare for the
mower to mow his way safely amongst them.  Once it was a concern that a grave might be

disturbed.  Now the only disturbance is a fine wind cutting through the ancient trees, a
once-in-a-blue-moon stone falling from its place in the tower, a gravestone flatlining, and

some new person, newly dead, fitting themselves in amongst those who have long since
sighed their last sigh. Barbara, Edna, Geofrey George – Gresham is your earthly home,

though a place much more homely is yours in some measure eternal that

can’t be fathomed this side of the midwinter, bright, and piercing sky. 

My wife in front of Gresham Church in 2007.  Her parents, George and Edna, have been buried there for some years, and in 2012, the ashes of the younger of her two older sisters were interred there. Various other Goodson ancestors are also buried in this churchyard.


'To be a Zwischenmensch is to feel at home everywhere and nowhere simultaneously.' Chaim Potok

I’m between persons just now.
I’m a Zwischenmensch.
To be honest, I’m not sure if I’m
between or betwixt; I’m just
swishing that way and this, which is
why I mention it. 

I’m a between-person, a
Zwischenmensch.  I don’t know if
I belong there or here, if I’m part of
that culture or this, hot or cool or
not so much of any school. Still, I
have to mention it. 

To be honest, I’m not sure if I’m
being between or between a being, or
even if I’ve been between;
Zwischenmensch gets you like that. 
It leaves you kind of
flat, as if that was your natural
state, which is why I mention it.

Not to be or to be: like
Hamlet I don’t really have a choice. 
Dazwischen und wischen, I’m wishing
I could be fishing in a place no one
knows; trailing, like the line, my
toes in the water, a fine occupation for
one of my kind, a Fischermensch between
fishes, swishing this way and that.

I have to mention it.  

Friday, August 03, 2012

Evernote Collage 2

It's intrigued me for a while how putting two unrelated lines together can result in there seeming to be something more behind the words than their original meaning.  In the light of this, I've just edited (rather than written) a number of lines extracted from various articles on my Evernote file.  The editing aspect consisted of picking up the various lines in the first place, sorting them into some sort of order, and (occasionally) making them run a little more smoothly.  Other than that, each line (not each couplet) is as it was in the original article.  Each line now joins another to form - well, you can decide what they form....and do all the lines running together form a whole?

Evernote Collage 2*

Your face has become deranged trying to adjust,
you may not falsify your contact information

women are so distracted by their competitive sparring -
without that belief the world doesn't make sense

with the faintly wary, studied self-control of a hard man,
we have four churches in considerable strife

using a combination of both types of system
they can be accessed securely when you’re offline

their reputations seem unharmed, thanks to friends in high places
taking the taproot history of the period seriously

so perhaps there is no first encounter:
so much for being the party of grass-roots activism

sleeping well doesn't always lead to your best work:
she feels it undercuts the line about parents being kidnapped

planting their brand in the ever-expanding suburbs
people love seeing their words repeated and passed on

a passionate memoir of colonial India:
my father and I were separated from the time I was three

a link between Christian sacrifice and the wrestler’s endurance -
keep your eye on this one!

I have also assisted a number of blind and visually impaired persons -
if anybody knows the original document in which he said this

handguns are forbidden absolutely -
he knows to whom he is speaking

I felt I was being showered by light - some golden, overpowering light:
the faster-than-light drama is far from over

far above, the slack dry sponges
expose the impact of discrimination on Muslims

being neither conservative or anarchist,
blacklist certain words or ban offensive users.

*The previous collage of Evernote lines appears on this blog under the title Zen Poem.

Thursday, August 02, 2012


Childhood took ten minutes
stretched maybe to a quarter hour;
being a teenager, for what it was worth,
was over in five.

Waiting for my wife to
turn up in my life was
a bit of a haul:
all of thirty seconds.

We had children,
one two three four five
in a flash: grown, gone.

I lie dying.
I wonder.
How come life took
less than half an hour?  


The following is a piece of nonsense mixing English and German, the result of Leif Hendrik of Nordic Mountain suggesting to me that I write something on the German word Nestbeschmutzer.  (This was after he'd read my previous piece of English/German nonsense: Backpfeifengesicht.)  Lief had written: How about 'Nestbeschmutzer', which means 'nestbefouler', used among the Germans to describe someone who is his own worst enemy. It's a great term which can be applied to so many situations in life.


Schmoozing is an art I don’t indulge in:
wheeling-dealing’s not my scene,

persuading those who need persuading,
grovelling over dinner tables -

none of this appeals to me, because I’ve
nothing schmoozable to offer. 

I’m schmoozeless, even in the bedroom,
where such an art might make a difference;

though schmoozeless means I won’t besmirch
the friendship closest to mein Herz, will

keep it smirchless and quite Herzstück,
will avoid the Nestbeschmutzer

syndrome, the befouling of the nest where,
my own worst enemy I’d be.  And when

nest-befouling children leave the nest (en-
forcing empty-nested syndrome) they’ll

leave, I hope, bewegliches Eigentum
still in place, and all the endless/endlos

tidying-up behind them will cease to be. 
No longer each and every item a

movable feast of where the heck did
that go? And who moved that?

If something moves now, I know it’ll
be the fault of my own worst enemy:

that nestbefowling traitor, Me.

The phrase bewegliches Eigentum can mean goods and chattels, moveable property. 

Graphic from Idealog

Thursday, July 26, 2012

One of those pretty awful poems

On Summer mornings the house can breathe
And though when we open windows wide
The flies arrive and drive their buzzing bodies
Hither thither helter skelter, the house still takes in
Gulps of air, as though in prescience aware of
Long-closed windows come Winter. 
                        The breathing river flows from front to
Back, and cleans the slate of all the un-Spring-cleaned
Detritus.  At least in my mind’s eye that’s how it goes.
A little breeze can sometimes blow and slam the doors,
Rattle windows, fling the curtains, push a toothbrush off the
Sill, drop it into baths (or toilet bowls).

For some reason this poem (written a few years ago) was listed in my files as 'One of those pretty awful poems.'   I'm not sure I entirely agree with myself.  

Saturday, July 14, 2012

A poet's life

An interesting quote from Matsuo Bashō, on the life of a poet:

In this mortal frame of mine, which is made of a hundred bones and nine orifices, there is something, and this something is called a wind-swept spirit, for lack of a better name, for it is much like a thin drapery that is torn and swept away at the slightest stir of the wind. This something in me took to writing poetry years ago, merely to amuse itself at first, but finally making it its lifelong business. It must be admitted, however, that there were times when it sank into such dejection that it was almost ready to drop its pursuit, or again times when it was so puffed up with pride that it exulted in vain victories over others. Indeed, ever since it began to write poetry, it has never found peace with itself, always wavering between doubts of one kind and another. At one time it wanted to gain security by entering the service of a court, and at another it wished to measure the depth of its ignorance by trying to be a scholar, but it was prevented from either because of its unquenchable love of poetry. The fact is, it knows no other art than the art of writing poetry, and therefore, it hangs on to it more or less blindly.

The extract comes from Journal of a Travel-Worn Satchel (translated by Nobuyuki Yuasa) and quoted in the opening of Jane Hirschfield's book, The Heart of Haiku. 

I perhaps should be grateful that I don't feel that writing poetry is my 'lifelong business', nevertheless I understand Bashō's comments. 

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Remix Mashup poems

Two 'exercise' poems...making poems using the 'rules' from the 'Remix Mashup' in The Exercise Book, edited by Bill Manhire and others. 


Iamb is a poet’s word -
reminds me of I Am:
a God Word.

I am is a phrase I might duck
even though those who know me would say
‘It’ll be good for you,’
going to the height
going to the moment
going to the desire.

If I AM, that McCahon painterly phrase,
is swapped for poetical iamb,
what enclavier will I introduce into the
waddle and monitor of time?

Field Marshal Edmund Henry Hynman Allenby
introduced an enclavier for T H Lawrence,
helped him find himself the man of the
hour, though Allenby unenjoyed that
introduction, that momenting in time.
Did Lawrence repair Allenby?
Book him into the I-Am-bic mystery?

Typing this I think of Lawrence’s
typewriter – the photo’s onFlickr, that
irritatingly misspelt word. 

That I AM word
misspells me.
Iamb is a poet’s word. Reminds me of I Am.
Iamb looks like lamb.


Crawl, walk, drop.
And spell.

When you tell me you
can’t have an opinion
I tell you that’s
blather.  So jump!

Crawl, walk, drop.
And spell.

No, not spell like in the
dictionary.  I thought you were
Are you barking mad?
Have you an unmercifully
cluttered mind?
Is your brain in the proximity of
your shoes?

Your consciousness of shoes makes you
Slurp and scoot. 
How smart is that?

Crawl, walk, drop.
And spell.
Scoot the hell out of here. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Melodramatic Sestina

You never quite know where the Sestina form will take you.  The following over-the-top example shows what happens when you let it take the lead.  

Melodramatic Sestina

First glance she sent him with a sigh,
responded he with cheerful gleam,
she flicked an olive in his lap,
pretended she was sipping wine,
and fluttered lashes black and false
while he blushed high, with pounding heart.

He faniced he had won her heart
with little more than groan and sigh;
he failed to note that she was false
to her table mate, whose eyes a-gleam,
was more than sloshed on mid-priced wine,
while food was dropping in his lap.

Taking the olive from his lap
our hero ate, stared at her false
grey eyes with longing, but like whines
from the throat of a slaughtered goat, his sighs
stopped in their tracks at the sudden gleam
in the lady’s eyes as her table mate’s fals-

etto voice exposed his lady’s false-
hoods (brushing food from off his lap);
they’d dull of any man his gleam,
they’d break of any man his heart
and with a deep and painful sigh
in her face he splashed his dregs of wine.

The lady screamed, began to whine
in notes that diners round knew false.
The two men rose, with each a sigh
(dropping their napkins from their laps)
plunged a steak knife in the heart
of the other; blood soon dulled the gleam

of the steel.  Out of their eyes, the gleam
soon went while plates, forks, chairs, wine
toppled; unfamiliar fear gripped the heart
of the lady, whose wanton, false
deceptive acts fell in her lap.
Appalled, she crumpled with a sigh. 

Don’t diminish the gleam in living the false,
spilling Life’s wine in Fate’s shallow lap;
to splinter the heart, start with a sigh.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Novelists fear primarily

This 'found' poem started out as an exercise using groups of three words: noun, verb, adjective, in each case.  I played around with another form and then came on the approach I've used here.  The repetitions add to the rhythm and the energy, and even give the piece a hint of drama (!)  The words are in the order as first 'found', though occasional grammar improvements and punctuation have been added.  

Novelists fear primarily
Fear primarily alphabet
Primarily alphabet tests
Alphabet tests private

Tests private media
Private media asks
Media asks, addictive?
Asks addictive?, calm

Addictive; calm suggests
Calm suggests important
Suggests important priority
Important priority manages

Priority manages notice
Manages notice campaign
Notice campaign thinks
Campaign thinks financial

Thinks financial life
Financial life invents
Life invents growing
Invents growing writer

Growing writer speaks
Writer speaks – unruly! -
Speaks, unruly weekend
Unruly weekend source

Weekend source knows
Source knows paragraph
Knows paragraph input
Paragraph input distrust

Input distrusts conference
Distrusts conference easily
Conference easily swollen
Easily swollen novelists. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Playing with a Pantoum again

I took a number of lines from Tweets (on Twitter - Tweeters can be surprisingly poetic) and shuffled them around into a Pantoum until I was (fairly) happy.  And then just for fun used the same lines in a slightly more extended poem. 

Meaning?  Up to you, the reader...

Twitter Pantoum 

Kids today are less moronic
Not all heroes enjoy the role
Once the term is activated                                                
Kind words can be short and easy.

Not all heroes enjoy the role
He can only be taken away if he wants to be stolen
Kind words can be short and easy
Buying an island he does it with style.

He can only be taken away if he wants to be stolen
Would someone mind slowing down the world?
Buying an island he does it with style
The roadmap reveals new handsets.

Would someone mind slowing down the world?
Night store heater stores heat overnight
The roadmap reveals new handsets
More fun than you can shake a false eyelash at.

Night store heater stores heat overnight
More fun than you can shake a false eyelash at
Watching pretty little liars like myself.

The bridesmaids’ dresses are equally ugly
Kind words can be short and easy
Watching pretty little liars like myself
Kids today are less moronic.

And another approach, not in the Pantoum style:

Kids today are less moronic
From the time they’re embryonic
Once the term is activated                                                
Fires of life initiated
They can only be taken away if they want to be stolen.

Not all heroes enjoy the role
Some prefer being on the dole,
Kind words can be short and easy
Some kind words are sick and queasy
More fun than you can shake a false eyelash at.

Night store heater stores heat overnight
If they don’t we’ve a morning cold fright
The roadmap reveals new handsets
The broadband reveals new bandwidths
Would someone mind slowing down the world?

Buying an island he does it with style
Buying islands bores after a while,
The bridesmaids’ dresses are equally ugly
The bride, however, is very snugly
Watching pretty little liars like myself
It’s not surprising I’ve been left on the shelf.  

For another example of 'found' phrases check here. 

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Flash Fiction

Running and Waiting

The rhododendron, paler than white, leans in the heat towards the path which is sunk below the road. The glistening heat has melted the rhododendron petals off the branches; they settle as browning water lilies in the grass. But the grass doesn’t pour down towards the path because it isn’t water.
The path is a deep dip, so that a child can race with her dog down one side and make it up the other before running out of puff.
The child runs down the path, her knots of knees pumping past faster than the eye can grasp. There is a splash, but this isn’t water. The dog pulls on the lead and drags the child, strains to move forward. The child’s grazed knees bleed in rivulets. She pushes herself upwards, stands, sobs for a moment.
Calls to the dog. Calls the dog names.The dog sits on the hot pavement, indifferent. English is not his first language.
The girl dabs at her knees with a tissue: the heat of the sun is already drying the rivulets of blood. The dog waits, as dogs do. The pavement is warm. Waiting isn’t difficult. Boredom is not in his experience, or vocabulary.
The grazes sting in the heat. The child brushes the stings aside in her mind. Self-pity is not in her experience, or vocabulary.
This story first appeared online in the February 2012 Flash Frontier anthology: Heat

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Not avoiding the I

The following poem (which may yet go through some further revisions) is based around the idea of starting each line with the letter that the previous line ended with...I've only cheated once, I think, in the second half. (To my surprise, the poem neatly sorted itself out into two halves of twenty lines each.) 

It also alludes to the idea of limiting yourself to a single vowel, but that's beyond me at this stage of my career. However, two writers who've done work in this way, Georges Perec, and Christian Bök, both get a look in [that's Bök in the photo].  Christian Bök was apparently named, as a newborn, 'Christian Book,' but altered the spelling of his surname to avoid 'unseemly confusion with the Bible.' 

Not avoiding the I

‘You forbid yourself use of a vowel,
legislatively avoiding every I -
if possible.’ However, this poem
makes no attempt to avoid that letter,
rapidly realising that too many words
solidly take their place only because
each one has an I in it.  And
don’t let it imply that I’m referring
generatively to the first person pronoun;
no, I definitely mean the letter itself,
furnishing space for definitely or
realising, words that without those
eyes (as they sound) would come straight
to a halt. Definitely would sound
dismal as though missing the
echoing roof of the mouth, or
realising would struggle to be
even a fragment of itself, the mutter of
fatheads incapable of voicing the
exalted English language. 

Such restriction inhibits stiffly;
you amplify, in individual lines, utility,
intensifying I increasingly until as
sky far as the I can see a diatribe of that
third vowel swimmingly impinges, and
dismisses different vowels, so that
the I who’s hardly there in ‘in’ sees
some of what you’re up to, grows boastful,
latterly insists on an univocalic spirit.
This is soon declined by vowels impartial,
leniently none reminding I of Perec’s
singular E-voided novel,
La Disparition, or the Perec
counterparting work Les revenentes where
E appears alone.  And lonely.
Yet think, too, you vowels, of Christian
- nee Book (too close to biblical) - Bök
kindly offering his univocalic
cinque-chaptered Eunoia, where
each holy vowel receives pre-eminent place.

Note, though Eunoia is supposedly the shortest word in the language containing all the vowels, (it means beautiful thinking), it's (possibly) been superseded by Iouea, not only a shorter word, but one that still manages to have four syllables.  There's a delightful article about the word, which relates to a fossil sponge, and has a New Zealand connection.  The word was invented by M. W. de Laubenfels, but the name for the particular sponge may have been replaced by a newer name.  

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Zen Poem

Playing again with found/collage lines to form a poem.  Here the lines came (mostly ready-made) from a variety of cuttings I have on file, including several poems.  In a few instances I've dropped a word or changed the tense or a pronoun.  I've called it a Zen Poem because it's somewhat reminiscent of that Zen approach in which a non sequiter often seems to follow a straightforward question.  However, the 'wisdom' that appears here may not be quite on a par with the tradition of Zen.  And it's possible some responses could be shifted to answer a different question....

Zen Poem

Why are you washing and smearing windows?
Sometimes you catch your face in a mirror.

What happens if we bring all the little pieces together?
The dawning awareness of the thinness of disembodied life.

Where was easily the most exciting game you ever played?
In the online ecosystem I’m inhabiting.

When is the placebo helpful, and when is it not?
Always in the supermarket, and out and about.

What are the usual superficial divisions between Right and Left?
A team snaps out of its streak and wins a bunch of games.

Why won’t attempts at control be abandoned?
The subjectivity of others is confirmed by a failure to point.

Why do you court silence as prayer?
Everything I do is instantly news.

What if you were patient and could spare the time?
I view relationships as based on utility and exchange.

Would you self-impose a moratorium?
Nothing so conclusively proves one’s ability to lead.

What if change was discontinuous with the past?
The depression years take up large chunks of my story.

Have you been reduced to doling out slops to pigs?
What I really want is someone rolling around in the text.

What is the sweet heat made from two bodies in the bed?
Despair, a side of mutton, roaming the slaughterhouse.

What if you became a hunch-backed old man?
I accept that we just have to live with sandflies.

What if I asked: what is it like to drown?
Vigilante tactics, smashing illegal stills, flogging drunks.

What is it about correlation and causation?
You can’t tell the story of rage in soccer without talking about managers.

Is solving for motivation the wrong solution?
In dreams of reason you may drink of life’s streams.

Are you going to die having missed nearly everything?
You can still get out of jail free.

The body returns...

The body returns to gravity
after lying deep in a
long hot bath

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Twitter Collage Poem

In the past I've written found or collage poems, with varying degrees of success.  However, it occurred to me that Twitter provides a fruitful place for picking up interesting 'found' lines (rather like the abbreviated messages on postcards).  The following is one possibility formed in couplets that may or may not have connections.  And thanks to all the Twitters who inadvertently gave me lines to work with...I've acknowledged those I could retrace below. 

Twitter Collage Poem

He gets to the sandwiches at the lock-up first
fruitlessly to find meaning in spilled coffee grounds.

Sing out if you want to spend a bit of time -
in my youth my patience is limited.

Shivers of unendurable glee
brutally encased in formaldehyde.

It ain’t just the Aussies who produce dire pop songs;
feel free to send info on must do’s in Israel.

Off to drink Sangria in the park, then I’m off to the zoo -
they’ve been given an order and are openly insubordinate.

Everybody already has their lines prepared and it’s
these carry me along on a stream of sporadic notes.

Vaguely shaped like a rack of ribs: if I’m not interested in
something anymore then no one else should be interested either.


Sunday, May 20, 2012


This is an older poem that first appeared online here.  I've altered a couple of words.  (Please note, the first part is tongue-in-cheek, something that wasn't recognised when it was first published.)

Grandparents are best kept in separate houses.
Each pair thinks their mutual grandchild is theirs
And theirs alone. 

Sharing is a no-no, and the thought that others have
Input on a grandparent level is
Disturbing, to say the least.

It’s a strange thing that we two grandparents
Can give our whole hearts to our grandchildren
And yet, four other sets of grandparents
Have also given their whole hearts away.
Why aren’t the grandchildren
Swamped with all that love? 
Wouldn’t you think that the parents’ love,
And the paternal grandparents’ love,
And the maternal grandparents’ love,
And, in at least one case,
The great-grandparent’s love
Would be like a huge enveloping balloon,
A blimp full of love that made it hard to breathe?
Apparently not.
With childlike ease the grandchildren
Absorb it all and have room for more.

Phew!  Love like a whole world.
Phew!  Love like the universe expanding.
Phew!  Love as broad as eternity.

It’s just as well for grandparents to stay
Otherwise the rest of the world might begin to
Soak up all that love and set itself alight.

Thursday, May 03, 2012


I came across this wonderful German word yesterday, and its even more wonderful meaning.  It's pronounced - if my long-distant German lessons serve me right - Bark fie fen gay zicked.  (Please note, this is extremely approximate!)


English speakers have no word for
a face that badly needs a punch.

The German compound word is

Which could easily seem to mean
a face like a smelly drain

Though transliterally it’s close to
a back-pipe face, which isn’t

Complementary.  And
on the face of it, the word looks like

Bagpipes make me sick¸ though
since I have a friend who’s learning

To play the bagpipes, using

In a pretended translation
seems likely to bring me to a

Place where I might well have
a face that badly needs a punch. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Two poems waiting for a home

Weather Report

Never mind that Waiouru's
frozen, iced and brutal,
or that Kaitaia, which is in the tropics anyway,
is constantly fine
and has no excuse to be otherwise;
or that Auckland rains flood in all seasons,
or that Wellington's swept off the map
with gusts and winds whose rate of knots
exceed the speed of light,
or the Garden City's smog smudges
homes, faces, windscreens
with a grey and pernicious smuttiness...

Always, always, in the Deep South
according to the (fair)-weathermen and -women
ensconced behind the Bombay Wall of Hills,
preferably down to 200 metres.

The Luddite Dreams

The Internet is down – for good.
Bookshops come back into their own;
Google has gone; librarians once again
Are the source of all knowledge. 
Everything you wanted to know in a hurry
You have to wait for, just as you did in the past.
You can’t order online, or pay online,
You have to communicate face to face,
With real faces, real voices, and discover
They are, for the most part, worth communicating with.
No more poker games online, no more
Pornography available at the touch of a key.
Life slows down, immeasurably, and
Millions of people find employment again.  

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A parallelogram of light

Things have been a little quiet on the poetry front because of the amount of work being done on the musical I've written: Grimhilda!  However, here's a small offering to keep my fans from fretting...

A parallelogram of
out of the
corner of my sight,
on a white
inner wall 
by a window.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Pantoum: The Princess and the Frog

The Princess and the Toad

Toads are less popular than frogs.
Ostriches bury their heads in sand.
The upright abhors toadying
When winter’s hibernation ends.

Ostriches bury their heads in sand.
The archetypical dwell in halls
When winter’s hibernation ends.
The eponymous hero promises.

The archetypical dwell in halls,
Endearing and obnoxious.
The eponymous hero promises.
The princess marries the prince.

Endearing and obnoxious,
His eyes look abnormally large.
The princess marries the prince.
The conceited ass never learns.

His eyes look abnormally large.
There are more to toads than meet the eye.
The conceited ass never learns.
Beauty’s ambivalence drives.

There are more to toads than meet the eye.
The upright abhors toadying.
Beauty’s ambivalence drives.
Toads are less popular than frogs.

If you're not familiar with the pantoum format, it consists (in English) of four lines in which the 2nd and 4th are repeated as the 1st and 3rd in the next verse, and so on.  When you're ready to come to an end, the original 1st and 3rd lines are placed as the 2nd and 4th of the last stanza.  There's a tendency for the pantoum to drum its way along at a fairly stolid pace (although that may depend on the poet) because of the repetitions.  However, the repetitions, coming as they do against new lines, tend to take on new meanings.  
This particular one is based on phrases and lines and words from this morning's Wordways (John Hale) in the ODT: The Ambivalent Amphibian.