Remembered on a train

January 31, 2011

That train I was on
with my father
coming home from
I’m not sure
falling asleep and
missing the windmill
he promised me
or later told me
that I’d missed
I’m not sure
starting to cry
then when we got off the train
starting to scream
and hanging off his arm
like a dead doll
legs limp and
dragging down the street
until the police
approached us
Is this your child?
and my father saying
yes, she’s mine
and his eyes
not sure.

All Stars

January 30, 2011

All stars are filling up my mind
All stars are visible on a clear night
All stars burn brightest at the end
All stars / and then the light / went.

This is just a post about Tuesday. Next Tuesday, Feb 1st. I’m going to performing at Lakeside Art Centre, Nottingham as part of the Poet in the City and Apples and Snakes All Stars Tour.

I’m not sure why I haven’t blogged about this before now. I guess I’ve been quite busy juggling a few things since ‘The Venus Papers’ in December. Anyway, it’s the weekend before and I’m fresh from a rehearsal around at Corey Mwamba’s place and feeling pretty excited.

The ‘Poet in the City: All Stars Tour’ is a touring showcase of poets, that began last Summer at the Latitude festival and has been touring across the country since. I’ve been invited to join the Nottingham leg of the journey, at Lakeside, and as above am really excited about being part it.

As much as anything I’m looking forward to hearing the other poets – Kat Francois, the world slam champion, El Crisis, Oneness and MulletProofPoet.

I’ve been aware of their work for a while, having seen Kat perform live, many years ago and having heard extracts of all their work online. But seeing a youtube clip is never the same as being there. I think in the latter case you experience a kind of intensity, that can never fully translate onto a recording.

When I watch a clip on the internet, I’m usually in the middle of doing a number of other things – and I don’t have any of the live context – from the ritual of having travelled to the venue, to what’s happened on stage just before that performer’s gone on. Being there is entirely different. The experience of being in a dark theatre and listening to a performer’s voice break the silence – the experience of being part of an audience and listening collectively – for me, all that stuff is incredible and irreplaceable.

Anyway, I digress. This evening I’ve been thinking about a) the set I’m going to be doing for it and b) the live interview that’s going to be on stage after it.

A) Today I went round Corey Mwamba’s (the composer for The Venus Papers) and ran through a rehearsal for Lakeside. Very generously, Corey played a load of different pieces, for me to read under the poems I’d be doing with Jason Yarde (the musician composing and performing for the Al Stars Tour). The rational here was the idea that best kind of rehearsal, was rehearsing adaptability.

We also went over an adapted version of The Venus Papers. I’ll be doing a section of these poems as part of my set and having decided – sensibly – that the full leotarded up Venus outfit my not be quite right for this gig – I need to have a short set that can work without costumes, movement or film visuals.

Corey invented, on the spot, a brand new piece of music to go with a poem not yet in the show. ‘Venus get a job as a glamour model’ is born. We will not use titles. We will not use films. We will use a microphone. It will really work.

Coming from Corey’s and going over to Jean’s (Venus’ director) and thinking it through more myself, I’ve settled on a final set and am feeling happy.

I’m sitting up late listening to David Sylvian and feeling positive glowy.

I’m at ‘imagining someone hoovering’ point.


I went to see Matthew Welton (the Professor from Nottingham University, formally of Bolton, who will be interviewing us) at a reading in Nottingham last night. After doing so I found myself experiencing some kind of epiphany.

Matthew Welton, the professor from Nottingham, knew all his poems off by heart and experimented live with sound loops. His poems were the most wonderful things I’d heard since listening to Toon Tellegan (the God of Dutch, animist, fable poetry) read at a festival last Autumn. Matthew Welton was amazing. I was speechless.

After the gig I went up and said hello to him. I really wish he was performing a set of his own with us on Tuesday. Even though he isn’t though, the prospect of him just being there is making the gig even more exciting. I bought a couple of his books and the writing’s incredible. The good thing about him chairing a debate will be us being able to ask him questions and hear what he thinks about poetry too.

Right, it’s late. I need to make a list of everything I’m going to do tomorrow and go to sleep:

Tax return, Apple shop, hair cut, poetry, rehearse, poetry…

More Info…

Venus Envy

January 29, 2011

He paints pictures of me
beautiful pictures
like sea green scallops
pink sunsets descending
eyes like boleros, orange lakes
around my knees
He puts me on the wall
my skin a film of oily cream
my stomach spread with inky butter
my elbows knives
hair like silt
And my heart’s a breath
of Venus Envy
I look at it, and look at it
Wishing endlessly
I was me.


January 23, 2011

I’ve got an old photo
in a camera
that has since deceased:
Police galloping
on white stallions
their tails tied up
in plastic bands
like the wiry necks
of old geese.
I’ve got an old photo
it only exists in my head
it’s the rainbow slide of a retina
like the oil on a puddle
or the afterglow
of a sunset.
They came on a Saturday
the council closed the city centre down
I remember the way the glass shattered
in the window of a pub
I remember the lines of fluorescent gowns.
I’ve got an old photo
of everyone running
and something thrown like a firework
I’ve got an old photo
of them fastening their helmets
and lowering their visors
and the clouds bunching
armouring the sun.
Were you the woman congratulating
the man with the skinhead.
Were you the skinhead trying to walk away
Were you the bald man
not a fascist, just a bald man
Were you one of us
or one of them
Were you the family
confined to the suburbs.
Were you walking in the centre
carved up with the cordons.
scared to watch
but couldn’t look away
The next day there were ribbons
yawning in the morning
gleaming in the rays.
I’ve got an old photo:
a window shattering
horses and visors
and green ribbons
running through the city
running in stitches
rivers of green
no scarlet
no carman
no ruby
There was a peace festival
in the square, just up from Sainsburys
I’ve got an old photo in a camera
that has since deceased
I left it in a taxi
somewhere off of Narborough Road
or Fosse Way
or somewhere further
out of the city.

New edit of Dirty Old Town

January 20, 2011

Dirty Old Town

Spreads out it’s streets like mechano

Train station, subway, shoe store, car

Dirty Old Town

Drinks in a bar

Swims through it’s dreams

Like chlorine and emeralds

Dirty Old Town

Watches TV

Dirty Old Town

Coffee and tea

Dirty Old Town

Sits on a bench

Bottles in bags

Giros for rent

Dirty Old Town

Considers a move

Doesn’t have the money

Doesn’t know the rules

Dirty Old Town

Sleeps with the moon

Gives money to charity

Buys the Big Issue

And Dirty Old Town

Gets out of a bus

Walks with the police

Sits with the bum

Dirty Old Town

Wants to throw up

But it sleeps and it wakes

And it dreams and it loves

And Dirty Old Town

Stands on the street

Smokes in the dark

In it’s skirt and it’s heels

Dirty Old town

Face like a mask

Dirty Old Town

Crawls in a car

And it sits in a house

And it counts out an ounce

It weighs and it sells

And it buys and it rants

But it rolls out it’s parks

It’s rivers and banks

It scatters it’s birds

Holds out it’s hands

But Dirty Old Town’s
Library’s closed down

Dirty Old Town’s
All Poundshops and brown

Dirty Old Town’s
Lost but it’s found:

A woman in love
A man with a dog

A guy with a saxophone
Playing in gloves

Lock me in

Till the milk man comes

Till they empty the bins

Till the trains leave home

Lock me in

Till the lorries have been

Till the windows are clean

And the rubbish is burnt

And it sleeps on it’s own

And it kisses it’s love

And the stars in the sky

And the moon up above

And the gasworks wall
And the old canal

It dreams a dream
Of a Dirty Old Town.

My Uncle

January 16, 2011

My uncle is not a four wheel drive

with leather seats and brand new chase.

My uncle is not the glossy cover of

Hello, Time Out or Heat.
My uncle is not
a metrosexual pair of skinny jeans

and not, most definitely

a potential applicant for Dancing on Ice

even though
he is more limber

than a big cat

that has become adept

at roller skating. My uncle

built his own bike so he could cycle

23 miles to work,
there and back, every day –
up at 6, back at 7.30

My uncle got himself a law degree

and handled his own divorce

My uncle got himself a history degree

so he could understand

the way our relatives were moved

eating grass on trains in Germany.
My uncle has a degree in philosophy

and is philosophical about the state of

class structure and what can you do

about the selfish gene. My uncle

is the kindest man I’ve ever met

but despite his warmth

has also in the past

been colder than a bailiff’s greeting

My uncle is not an empty hand or

turned away body

My uncle is half Hungarian

and speaks it fluently

My uncle has a lover from Nigeria 

who he has seen clandestinely

for more than 15 years

and my uncle meditates

quietly in conservatories

cross legged on floors

his own in Kilburn

my parents’, in their bungalow

I watched him at Christmas

when he wasn’t looking
slippers by the camp bed
glasses by the window.

My uncle, lends money

to friends and relatives

and never makes a fuss

My uncle was raised by Carmelite nuns

and to this day is scathing

about their kind of Catholicism. Listen

you’ve got to understand

that 2 plus 2 is 4

and 36 x 110 is 3960
but this does not equal

all of the books in my uncle’s library

in which he works, quietly

diligently, as head librarian

and he has probably read

every single one

My uncle is not a copy of the

Times Literary Supplement

but he digests it, carefully

every month

My uncle can make an intelligent remark

about the state of British Art

or neo-liberalism

or anything -
I’ve got to tell you:

my uncle fed his dying dog chicken

that he boiled each day

on the stove in his kitchen

even though he was and is a vegetarian

but once, when my cousin was 12

didn’t talk to her or her mum for 2 weeks

just because they’d had an argument

even though my cousin cried

and her mother begged him


My uncle is not unscathed

or perfected in the art

of always doing the right thing

My uncle is the kindest man I’ve ever met

but if you saw him in the street

you wouldn’t know him.