Creative Busy – Busy Creative

The last few weeks have been particularly busy and varied on the creative working front:

  • Writing new poems
  • Preparing and delivering 20 minute guest poet set
  • Writing and scripting a new on-line workshop
  • Judging a photography competition
  • Compering a poetry event
  • Leading a bike ride with poetry along the way
  • Board meeting for Rochdale ideas and literature festival

And events over the next week or so include:

  • Writing a book review
  • Judging a poetry competition
  • Slot on radio show
It’s been great fun, a reminder that this stuff matters and that I should keep on keeping on and get these blogs of mine back up off the ground.

Connect2poetry celebration event

Two groups of cyclists, a group,of walkers and lots of people to make up an audience enjoyed the special celebration at Healey Dell on 5th October 2013.

How many other poetry events have 10 attendees arriving by bicycle?

The event held in the Songsmith Solar Marquee saw live music and performances by 13 poets to celebrate the completion of a project which has seen a total of 40 poems installed on the Connect2 network throughout the borough of Rochdale. Enormous thanks to everyone who attended and to all the performers who were;

Sam Fisher, Robin Parker, Norman Warwick, Eileen Earnshaw, myself, Dave Davis, Lorraine Charlseworth, Marilyn, Cath Coward, Joe (Rochdale Ranter), Phil Hulme, John Leach and Yasir.

Thanks also to Andy Wiggins who came on the bike ride and wrote a short piece which I, as compere, had the privilege of reading on his behalf.

The event was organised by Cartwheel Arts and the Connect2Poetry project has been a collaboration between, Catwheel Arts, Rochdale Libraries Maskew Collection and CTC.

The Curse

This poem is about dementia – not a specific condition but the general loss of memory and confusion that afflicts sufferers.

Memories glisten like a million stars
A million memories
She knows every single one
Recalls them at will
Polishes and refines them
A million secrets
Hopes and dreams

Today the panic grows
More fading stars falling
Unique fragile snowflakes
Melting into the ground

And the strange people
Tell her not to worry
She just wants to go home
The strangers tell her
You are home
She doesn’t think so
Not any more

The Dopers Lament

Doping in sport has been around for a long time. In cycling the first death attributable to doping was back in Arthur Linton back in 1896. He was trained by Chopper Warburton from Haslingden (just up the road from here) who trained three champion cyclists all of whom died before 40. The use of performance enhancing drugs wasn’t banned until 1965!

At a time we are looking at the cheating side of drugs in sport I find myself thinking of the harm it has done to some many over the years. It’s not just unfair it is genuinely tragic.

To be legends of dream, heroes
No way to win without the dope
They fuel the myth, recruit the young
The only way, the only hope

From strychnine to amphetamine
EPO, steroids, cortisone
Blood transfusions, needles and pills
HGH human growth hormone

The end of innocence came
Eighteen Ninety Six Linton died
Nineteen seventy’s new rules fell
Too late to turn this drug-fueled tide

As Tommy passed on Ventoux’ slopes
The pirate taken by cocaine
And fit young men died in their sleep
The knew the risks, we saw the pain

Fallen Heroes, battered beaten
Nowhere to go, nowhere to hide
Reputations gone, lives destroyed
The cost of greed the cost of pride

National Poetry Day 2012

Today is National Poetry Day and that serves as a good prompt to get back to my blogs which have been sadly neglected for quite a time. Although not blogging I’ve still been writing so for my first post back I’m posting a group of 5 recent poems.

I was one of seven poets commissioned to write poems inspired by Rochdale’s Connect2 network as part of the Connect2 project. You’ll be able to read more about the project on the Connect2Rochdale blog soon. So for my post tonight here are my five commissioned poems. They relate to the area around Milnrow, Kingsway Business Park through to Broad lane with a reference to Rochdale town centre in the last poem.

Water lily pads fringe dark deep water
The heron stands
By the tall bulrushes
Statue still
A knife blade splash
Languid ripples radiate
Slow wing-beats loft high
And the motorway rumbles
The long grass rustles
And the songbirds break through
High hedges hide the secret places
Between nature and men’s meddling
Quiet places beside
Ivy clad cottages
Leading to
Victorian terraces and
Batch-built estates
And a present-day traveller
Traces history’s footsteps
Weavers’ cottages and
Ellenroad’s tall smoking stack
Overlook the hidden entrance
As walkers, cyclists and horses
Pass under fast traffic
Frequent frustrated queues
Heading North, South, East and West
The motorway rumbles
The long grass rustles
And the songbirds break through
The Larks
Skylarks soar their vertical columns
Echoing chimneys long gone
Yellow machines move earth
Tall cranes lower preformed concrete
And industry is reborn
In a northern town
Seat of a co-operative revolution
And the motorway rumbles
The long grass rustles
And the songbirds always break through
Seven Guardians
White turbines churning, lazy
On dark Peninne hills
While seven sisters guard the valley
Where weavers in 1844
Pioneered equity
Now East and West bound
Traffic doesn’t see
The motorway rumbles
The long grass still rustles
And the songbirds break through


I Live in a broken world
Where men never were equal
Where wealth never was shared
Where hunger never will end

Where politicians’ promises
Are not kept
Where lies are denied
Where money doesn’t just talk
It argues
It persuades
It rules
Generating wealth
Or generating greed

We no longer live
We consume
We no longer need
We want
While costs soar
And values fall
Where real lives
Real problems
Real pain
And real poverty
Are zero-rated
For interest

Where celebrity equals credibility
Where rich men feel poorer
As house prices fall
Though their roof
Still keeps the rain out

Where a man’s worth
Is defined
By possessions
Where a man’s words
Outweigh his actions
Where impressions
Supersede reality

Yes I live in a broken world
And if I let it
It would suck me in
And I’d be broken too

I am of this world
A cog, integral
A part
But this part
Is not broken
Mens’ spirits are hard to break

Some are impossible

A far cry

This is a poem I wrote some time ago when the campaign to ban foxhunting was underway. Although the campaign was successful it isn’t necessarily permanent as another tory government would probably reverse the ban. I often used to see foxes whilst walking my dogs early in the morning or late at night and yes I really did smell them and watch their young play etc. These are impressive wild animals and have more right to be there than we do.

It’s a far cry
A far cry from nature
From humanity
From civilization

I know, ‘cause I smelled the foxes
In the cold morning breeze
‘Cause I watched them grow
‘Cause I saw them play
‘Cause I heard their cry
Far in the distance

And the foxhunters? They
Watched them die

The hunters
Caring, caring for the countryside
Caring for nature, caring with their hatred
Their seething anger, their aching lust
For blood, for fear, for power
And yes, their lust for death

All their fancy jackets
Expensive tweeds and shiny boots
Sitting high and mighty, toasting their success
With blood-red wine on a pedigree horse
A pedigree horse groomed by stable hands
Delivered by Range Rovers
Polished and paid for by the working classes

Charging through the countryside
Like some long lost cavalry
Red coats bright, bugle calls shrill
But these brave toy soldiers
They won’t see battle, they won’t feel fear
Or wonder when their final moment comes
They won’t lie forgotten
In some God-forsaken foreign desert

No! the hunters
Defending their privilege their “Way of life”
Looking after the peasants and paying a pittance
To keep them in their place
To keep up traditions
To keep flaunting their power

To race through your back yard, or mine
Hounds baying for blood
The blood of a fox, or a family pet
Who cares? “Stand aside! we’re coming through”

The hunters days are numbered
But they still can’t see the truth
That there never was a god-given right
To hunt the fox, to ride roughshod over our land
Over the working classes and over our laws
But they still can’t see

Because they never smelled the foxes
In the cold morning breeze
All they smell
Is diesel fumes, polished leather
Warm wine and horses and dogs
The pungent sweat, the sickly-sweet scent of blood
The sharp reek of fear and the stench of death

And all they hear is
Snorting horses, yelping hounds
Tearing flesh, breaking bones
A vixen’s cry and her last breath

I know, ‘cause I smelled the foxes
In the still night air

And the hunters? They
Watched them die

The Bottom of the Cup

This is a poem about the way some people can be lost in their thoughts. I saw a man sat with his drink, he looked so thoughtful and peaceful and as I thought about that afterwards I wrote this poem.

Silent, almost motionless,
Static as a statue,
Long, straggly grey hair,
Mirrored by a shaggy beard,
With blue striped suit, brown brogues,
A character from Joyce’s Dublin,
Perhaps a little out of place,
In Rochdale’s cold glass clad malls,
He looked, well stared, intently,
At what? The bottom of his,
Empty coffee cup,
Fifteen minutes passed,
In home-time haste,
His gaze, steady and calm,
Neither fades, nor shifts
Not one sliver of a fractured inch
A few more minutes passed,
I sneaked a look,
But all I saw,
Was the bottom of his empty coffee cup,
An empty, used receptacle,
I went back and looked again,
I saw no more than drying coffee dregs,
I wondered what his gaze could see,
But couldn’t bring myself to ask,
He looked so calm, at peace,
A peace my uninvited voice mustn’t break,
Instead I asked myself,
What can he see?
Has he practiced through the years?
Has he perfected the art of seeing?
Can he see beyond mere eyes?
Did he break the chains in which we live?
The cast-iron shackles of the everyday
Was his mind flying free?
Looking down on the ordinary
In the bottom of his cup
Had it flown to
Another place, or another time
An unlived future yet to be revealed
A past lived then and lived again
An unseen present exposed just for him
No need for diaries
Or photos
Or fancy DVDs
Sitting with his memories
Perhaps his hopes
His dreams
His life beyond my eyes
I watched him as I walked away,
And wondered, could I learn to see?
To really see!
Like he can see,

In the bottom of a coffee cup

Only in my dreams

Another poem I wrote a few years ago. This is about a place that has always been special to me but it is also about the way that the human race has always messed with nature and continues to do so.

A peat bog in Ireland’s West,
I travelled here every year,
Often more than once,

Sat there beside brackish pools,
Breathing that cool clear air,
I dreamed my dreams,
Deep in thought,
Totally at peace,
Light grey mist swirled in wispy veils,
And in the distance the curlew called,

Here once was a primeval forest,
Here there lived great trees,
Fearsome insect eating plants,
Early mammals and birds,
Long, long ago,
The forest died,

For thousands of years,
Below the surface,
The ancient forest remained,
Preserved in the peaty mass,

New life came to Carrabeg once more,
Frogs, newts, water dwelling beetles,
Butterflies flitting from flower to flower,
Dragonflies patrolled the ditches,
Horsetail grass that ancient survivor,
And the cotton-wool flax waved in the breeze,
Early men, hunter-gatherers lived nearby,

This was a mystical, magical place,
The earth shook under my footsteps,
Ancient tree trunks, bleached by the years,
Broke through the surface,
Like great white skeletons, long forgotten,
The Will-o-the-wisp,
Glowing eerily across the bog,
For thousands of years man and nature,
Shared this place, side by side,

Not now!
Those times are gone,

A plantation,
Man made!
Un-natural lines,
Of un-natural trees,
Men chose the trees,
Men drained the water,
Men killed off the frogs,
The dragonfly, the sundew,
And the cotton-wool flax,

We’ve thrown away our past,
Lost our link to those few, early hunter-gatherers,
We took away the mystery and magic,
Those beautiful plants,
And birds,
And animals,

That history!
That journey of a million lives,
Lies buried,
Lost, beneath the firs!

I still see the Will-o-the-Wisp,
I still smell the brackish pools,
I still taste the sweet, clear air,
I still feel the spongy earth beneath my feet,
I still hear the curlew call,
But only in my dreams

On the Edge

I wrote this poem a few years ago on the day my cousin Chris O’Grady died. I was out walking around Blackstone Edge above Rochdale and the poem almost wrote itself when I got home.

It’s wild up here, properly wild,
Surrounded by earth, rocks and sky,
Windy, always, even on the stillest days,
Rocks carved, smoothed by the elements,
But touch them with an un-gloved hand,
They’re sharp, rough; they’ll tear your skin,

An unforgiving piece of wilderness,
Not nature as a soft and comfy friend,
But powerful, strong and hard as nails,
Small loose stones that twist unwary ankles,
And should you fall the grit-stone rocks,
Will bruise your body, break your bones,

Here nature forms a wild frontier,
A watershed of life and death,
You’ll find your soul in a place like this,
I’m here today, seeking peace and inspiration
But memories, emotions flood my mind,
And I share them with nature, my old trusted friend,

Almost fourty years ago,
With my cherished childhood friend,
I played in rocky fields,
Ancient warriors roaming where they choose,
Raced across wide open places,
Prospectors seeking Klondike gold,

Built shelter of sticks and fronds,
Desert nomads hiding from the searing sun,
Watched our ships of twigs and leaves,
Rafts braving the wild Orinoco’s falls,
Hunted frogs among the rushes,
Pharaohs stalking crocodile beside the Nile,

Searching out eggs,
In the depths of King Solomon’s mines,
Jumping out from the ditches,
“Your money or your life!”,
“All for one and one for all”,
Culmore’s own small band of Musketeers,
Standing high on the wall,
Hilary and Tensing on top of the world,

Early today she died ….. we knew she would,
If not today then someday soon,
We all knew it was ….. “for the best”,
That’s what we like to say,

Emotions and body sheltered in our home, I heard the sad news,
We’re all grown up now, so I mustn’t cry,
Stood here on the moors, with my old trusted friend,
Like nature’s child, my heart unfettered, my mind runs free,
I mourn her loss, question, curse and finally I weep,
My dear cousin, my childhood friend, left our world today,

But for an hour this afternoon, Chris O’Grady is here with me,
Running and playing, hiding behind the ditches,
Hair blowing in the wind, around that freckled smile,
Here we stand, as we always will,
Facing West, on the Edge, drinking in the essence of life,
Its wild up here, properly wild

Nowhere and back again

This poem talks about the journey into and then back out of depression. I’ve been there, read the book, got the T-shirt, cried the tears. Oh Yes – I know the way to nowhere and I’ve had to learn the way back.

Anxiety skulks in
Through the chinks of normality
Lurking un-noticed
Hiding in corners of the mind
Gaining strength
Feeding on itself
Undermining reason
Just a small spark
Fuelled by uncertainty
Consuming belief
Doubting even doubt itself
The spark ignites a fuse
Bonfires in the soul
A dark rocket bursts
Showering its shards of despair
A nebulous crescendo
Of pain, of fear
Of nothing, of nowhere
A blinding flash
Of darkness
Leads you into
The void
A place of nothingness
Not even fear
Just darkness
A living death
With no way back
Imprisoned in oneself
Nowhere going nowhere
One day hope steals back
Seeping through the pores of despair
A silent blossoming
A faint whiff
A ghost of a scent
A little healing
A little light
Almost lost against the enormity of hurt
Given time, lots of time
The scent of hope pervades
Settling in corners of the mind
Gaining strength
Feeding on itself
Undermining nothingness
An exit
A way forward
Something grows
A vision
A future
It will come
And maybe
Just maybe
It might linger


Another poem for Maggie. Don’t need to say anything more. 

There’s something about your eyes, 
the way they move, 
the way they smile, 
something about the way they look at me.
There’s something about your voice, 
the way you talk, 
the way you laugh, 
something about the things you say. 
There’s something about your hands, 
the way they hold mine. 
Something about your hair,
catching the light, 
catching my eye. 
There’s something about the way you walk, 
the way you stand, 
Something about the things you do, 
and there’s something about …. 
Something about, 
the who you are, 
the who I am, 
the who we’ll be. 
And all the somethings, 
about everything, 
about anything. 
All the somethings, 
they all add up, 
add up, 
to everything, 
And that’s what I love about you.