Monday, 29 August 2011

I meet myself

There is someone else in the wood. Someone like me. Sleeping in a bag.

They have made a camp not far from mine. Bending leafy branches to hide it but I know that way too well. It had all the signs of a newly purchased house to me. Almost a car on the driveway thanks to the way they have driven their feet through the glass. They overlooked that.

I slipped into the bag under the leaves. It smellt of liquorice. That won't last long. I wanted to lie there a long time. It is so much dryer than mine. I could have slept there. I think I did. For a moment.

I woke in confusion to the smell of a child's sweets. And twigs cracking. Had they seen me there?

But a grown fawn from that summer stumbled away as I slithered out the way I came in.

Nobody was there.

That was a dream. Days later I found the bag sodden and the branches bowed with rain. It was a one night stand.

They never came back.

Watching the sparrowhawk

It was an evening before the rain came last week. In the wood I had been lying down watching a thyme bush and its visitors. Bumble bees mainly. The thick black flies were out in force but not unkind. No sting. It was the end of a long day. I had been at work and then retreated to my base here in the wood. And in the open. This was before the rain.

I had got so still and small that birds had started clamouring about in the edge of an old hedge that backed into the enclosure where I lay. Early blackbirds on the rowan territorial but no doubt in movement themselves as soon as the berries would be torn from the tree.

Then the sparrowhawk came.

Not for them mind you but the blackbirds left quickly. Its attention was focussed on the outgrown stump of hedge. Perhaps an old gate had once been here and the hedge, small trees by now, was growing out, where the tractor couldn't trim down for the pole.

The sparrowhawk missed that first time. But it sat on top of the lollipop shape of hawthorn. Its sinewy feet gripping the twisted much sheared branches of the hawthorn. It did that thing reaching down into the bush where several small birds were. The birds were out of reach. I breathed out. But those claw toes, long and seemingly to grow longer reached into the net of hawthorn where the birds were entrapped.

The sparrowhawk probed gently like a surgeon. It was not aware of me in my low greenery. Its glance was clear and straight. It reached into the cavity but this time found nothing.

The sparrowhawk changed the weather.

Scrambling down and around the face of the overgrown hawthorn head, not committing itself into the greenery because the birds it craved would fly but simply running and shaking its surface. The birds inside could be glimpsed tossed and turned by its agile runs and feints. A blue tit briefly visible, chaffinches mostly they rode out the storm.

Adult male Eurasian Sparrowhawk perching on branch

The sparrowhawk sat. And levitated. A quick dart to where the birds were. Dark and canny, in their vessel of hawthorn they moved from side to side refusing to fly. Flight meant no escape. They knew.

The sparrowhawk sat. And I sat as trapped as the birds. How long could this go on? Before a bird broke for a brief freedom. The sparrowhawk appearing now like the ghost of itself at all sides of the bush at once, the thin talons wraiths and longer than ever reaching.

And then a dog barked from the farm a long way down the hill. The sparrowhawk flew. A short time later the small birds fed again.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Peter Bennet tweet poetry

"a most original, erudite and human collection of poems placed in Bennet's familiar and alchemical Northumbrian home landscape - a worthy Poetry Book Society Choice."

Peter Bennet lives in rural Northumberland near the Wild Hills o'Wanney, a strangely accoustical landscape which inspired the ballad-writer James Armstrong, and gave the young Kathleen Raine her first sense of another, more essential world. The Glass Swarm the collection from which this Tweet poetry is taken unites skilful random rhyme and lightly handled traditional forms with characteristic imaginative power and dark humour. The poems combine an unusually broad range of reference with surprising intimacy, not least in the intricate sequence ‘Folly Wood’, which takes as a starting point the Twelve Gates of the English alchemist George Ripley. 

This is an extract from the poem The Doll a poem both intimate and sickening in sonnet form.

The cover of 'The Glass Swarm'

More on Peter Bennet and this title here:

Buy The Glass Swarm (recommended course of action) at any good bookshop or send a cheque to Flambard Press, Holy Jesus Hospital, City Road, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 2AS. Or go browse Flambard's other offerings.

And gosh why did I remember this book as being red? I had to look for it for ages. The cover of course is orange but the poems are red.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Western Australia Poetry Festival August 2011

Lots of good stuff until the end of August and beyond with poets including Janet Jackson, Michelle Cahill, Geoff Lemon, Jennifer Compton, Jane Spiro—UK and Andrew Burke...

If I go to one session, it will be Caves, Monuments and the Mobile-Phone - literature and the imagination today with John Mateer with Tony Hughes d'Aeth on the 23rd August at 7pm - that is today, man! Why didn't they tell me about this a bit earlier...

More information here, a bit scary that it still says draft

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Mixed grazing 1st October Ballinderreen, Co. Galway, Ireland

The best-named event of the year to date. It runs from midday until three in the afternoon which sounds delightfully precise.

  • Colm Brady; fiction.

  • Mike and Sue Fahy; music. 

  • Eleanor Tiernan; comedy. 

  • Anthony Daly; theatre. 

This event is not weather permitting. Refreshments served and it is free.

For directions, look here and contact Miceál Kearney.

Thank you to Abdullah Geelah for the use of this image.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Poetry from the Gutter Edinburgh, Scotland 25th August 2011

A preponderance of events from Scotland as it is festival (and rainy) season. (Hope the roofers get here in time...)

Edinburgh’s Fruitmarket Gallery plays host to the gorgeous Jim Carruth, winner of the James McCash competition. And the much loved editor of Sure 2b Braw: An Easterhouse Anthology, Jim Ferguson. Not to mention Colin Herd, Andrew F Giles, and Graham Fulton while Full Scottish Breakfast is due this year from Red Squirrel Press. Not usually short of women reader's too...

If you have never been to Scotland, this might be the month.

More information here on:

Call for poetry, reviews and essays...Issue 3 Winter 2012

Call for poetry (4 poems or less), images and reviews (literary and technical) for Issue 3 Winter 2012 of online magazine. Deadline for copy is November 30th 2011.

You can view Issue 1 (and shortly 2) at

Essays, by prior discussion with the Editors only, send an outline of your ideas on poetryplace and/or informatics marked FAO Bridget Khursheed. Please note that editorial policy values the experimental, fresh and thoughtful in language and form; don't send us an ode to your i-pod. Having said that we love poets who surprise us with their use of traditional form and welcome dialect poems and translations.

Contact for submissions and all other enquiries is poetandgeek at

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Salt Modern Voices - U.K. Tour

As one of the current crop of Salt Modern Voices pamphleteers I am engaged in helping to organise a series of UK wide readings this autumn and on into next year.

So far there are definite dates in London ( Compass Islington ) Warwick, Manchester and hopefully more to follow in Nottingham , Brighton and Southampton.

The series includes poets and so far one short story writer.

Here a blog set up to promote the tour

also all information on SMV publications and purchase are on Salt main website here:

If anybody has a spare reading venue and or suggestions please contact us we more than willing to try and accomodate. Maybe this time next year we could do Edinburgh book festival :-)

shaun belcher (SMV6)

Saturday, 13 August 2011

3D chant

Imagine painting poetry? And no, I don't mean a line from a poem on your back or shoulder in the form of a tattoo. Or the name of your mother.

But a picture that records history and self that works in the context of a poem; the pictorial equivalent of the troubadour's lyre. Or a mediaeval map.

Not that unthinkable. In oral culture, cave painting to sand patterns kicked up with the feet in dance serve as a metre for the words sung or chanted.

Aboriginal people did not record their lives through writing, instead they sung their land in ceremonial events comprising singing, storytelling, and dance. Telling of ancestors, topography of the country, its landmarks, laws and customs.

Don't forget as you walk down the street and turn the corner on your way to work. 

What words come into your head each time you shimmy round the postbox and over the lip of the zebra crossing, examine the changing tree, chimney, window lights and people?

Is that memory chant brought to life?

Monday, 8 August 2011 Issue 2 Autumn 2011 coming soon

Thank you to all the contributors who have sent poems, images and essays to the magazine of poetry, place and informatics. We will be letting you know shortly if your work has been accepted.

Keep the contributions coming for the next issue (and for the blog too).

Enjoying books that have been sent for review to
c/o Mary Morrison
Tower Mill
Hawick TD9 0AE

Reviews will be appearing in Issue 2 but books for review are always welcome.

Issue 1 can be found here

Qinghai Lake Poetry Festival China August 2011

The Third International festival is celebrated from August 8th to 11th. Qinghai Lake, in the city of Xining, capital of Qinghai Province,  is the original source of Yangtze and has a symbolic connection to poetry. It is the biggest inland salt lake in china.

Poets and poetry lovers from 55 countries and regions were there to attend the biennial festival sponsored by Qinghai's provincial government, the Poetry Institute of China, and the Chinese Minority Writers' Society.

The festival, which will last four days, will hold poetry readings and concerts, and also award the winner of the Golden Tibetan Antelope Award, Lithuanian poet Tomas Venclova.

More information here and here and here (if you want to know about this part of China).

Prudencia Hart is back!

The Strange undoing of Prudencia Hart is back. This time as part of the Edinburgh festival in Scotland during August.

Devised by David Greig and Wils Wilson, this is a modern play about the ballad form. Some characters claim that Prudencia Hart's study of the ballad makes her old-fashioned but they themselves speak in rhyme.

The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart

And that is before she meets the devil in a B and B in Kelso in the Scottish Borders.

More information, here The play is also in a pub. And you get to make snow amongst other things... Get a ticket to Edinburgh and go and see for yourself: you won't regret it.


Saturday, 6 August 2011

Lord Byron tweet poetry

George Gordon Lord Byron (1788-1824) wrote this poem on or shortly before his 36th birthday. He died that same year in Greece. 

On this day I completed my thirty-sixth year

T'is time the heart should be unmoved,
Since others it hath ceased to move:
Yet, though I cannot be beloved,
Still let me love!

My days are in the yellow leaf;
The flowers and fruits of love are gone;
The worm, the canker, and the grief
Are mine alone!

The fire that on my bosom preys
Is lone as some volcanic isle;
No torch is kindled at its blaze--
A funeral pile.

The hope, the fear, the jealous care,
The exalted portion of the pain
And power of love, I cannot share,
But wear the chain.

But 'tis not thus--and 'tis not here--
Such thoughts should shake my soul nor now,
Where glory decks the hero's bier,
Or binds his brow.

The sword, the banner, and the field,
Glory and Greece, around me see!
The Spartan, borne upon his shield,
Was not more free.

Awake! (not Greece--she is awake!)
Awake, my spirit! Think through whom
Thy life-blood tracks its parent lake,
And then strike home!

Tread those reviving passions down,
Unworthy manhood!--unto thee
Indifferent should the smile or frown
Of beauty be.

If thou regrett'st thy youth, why live?
The land of honourable death
Is here:--up to the field, and give
Away thy breath!

Seek out--less often sought than found--
A soldier's grave, for thee the best;
Then look around, and choose thy ground,
And take thy rest.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Formatting as form

You are writing a poem.
And then you find
you split up all the words
like this.

I think if I wrote a macro that divided lines like this, it would account for a large tranche of recently written English language poetry. I don't know how much play word processors have on poetic form but some of the things that bug me about them include:

  • the insistence on capitalization at the beginning of a line
  • dislike of fragments
  • disturbing questions about that and which in clause structure
  • American spelling as a default
  • insistence on spelling
  • space between lines

I am not sure how much writing by word processor affects what I write but I do find it encourages me to veer towards a standard line length. And that ain't good.

It's twisting my melon, man (manchester slide beat follows...without capitalization)