Poem a Day #6: “Guilty Pleasures”


“Guilty Pleasures”

See all about it
the photograph tells
a thousand lies
a couple
smiles peroxide shark
eyes that lack
a starry glitter

can you believe it?
do you?

Believe that
they’re a loveheart
carved into a tree
sap-scabbed bark
a permanence
or collagen filler

They are
the carcrash
for your PritStick eyes
She’s in her free bikini
Venus with silicone orbs
paparazzi goddess
bottle brunette
hand held in the fist
of His
a butcher’s knuckle
of a Man

A Man without a Plan
for those sub-heads
tabloid’s favourite nightmare
you save to wrap
the china
you keep for Best.

A Poem a Day #5: On knowing nothing


On knowing nothing
ipse se nihil scire id unum sciat – Cicero

And I said: nothing will come of nothing.
Then I tried to examine my life
through notebooks, pencil sketches, a drawing,
lines scribbled over. I’m supposed to strive
for high ideals
. That poem on the wall,
that creased, yellowed, clichéd observation
half-way up the stairs: a beautiful world.
Stodgy stanzas and then the frustration:
not knowing any “proper” poetry.
Subsistence, to stumble on or to climb
down, or up, to the (multi)verse. Well, try,
be that poet in that tree, on a limb,
watch the day shed in leaves then shade to blue.
There’s still a lot of nothing left to know.

Poem a Day #4: Cut grass


Cut grass

Close enough to wake the dead,
loud as the roadworks,
close buzzcut of grass.
Morning mowing in All Saints Park

and a memory of chlorophyll,
of a green Elsewhere,
when we, summerslow,
cycled to that meadow

balancing instruments
on handles and crossbars.
We piled down on unmown lawns
someone played Wish You Were Here

on a battered Spanish guitar.
The sweet hug of hash
tugged into the lungs,
you tried to dreadlock your thinning hair.

We were two lost souls,
not swimming but drowning
in the buttercups.
You cut your locks that autumn.

I’m less green than I was;
I’ve not seen you for years
you had, and have, a habit
of appearing in the mind.


In the library, glancing down
at the short back and sides
there are daffodils,
drooped heads as if in thought.

Poem a Day #3: This was the bank


This was the bank

where once a line of green
would have edged the Mersey.
King Street, Victorian brick,
a wall with shabby fern,
Maidenhair spleenwort.
On the wall, bumblefoot,
a solitary pigeon with
one melted foot,
a last stand is stood on one scaled leg.
Thick paste of uric acid,
the pink wasted stump.
Eight black beaded eyes,
eight for a wish
or perhaps the bliss of a Columbidae snack.
Watched by the rest of the grey feathered flock,
siblings perched on the place
where you could do paintball,
pellets of colourful chroma
shot fast, nictitating membrane.
Gammy Leg’s primaries already dip-dyed red,
her head bobs, nods to passing cars.
If she could fly, her view
would take in M60 lines,
its odd seashore sound.
Beyond the business park,
over Brinksway,
then on to the Pyramid
all vitrified blue sand, sunglasses reflection.
Cooperative: a name, a navy point
that’s obscured by its own dark, corvid cloud.

Poem a Day #1: The April Fools’ Train to Manchester

_20170401_210350The April Fools’ Train to Manchester

It’s in the pen in the fist
coiled up in a list
or the twist of a fern unfurling.

It’s the sun on the Lune,
an upsidedown moon,
we’ll soon be in Preston (gods willing).

Watch the canal ducks,
drop the bag full of books,
get funny looks off the guard.

With slight passenger freight
speed past Galgate
(with a weight off the mind and the heart).

Follow the silvery line
in the dimming sunshine,
time slow as the trees in the field.

From the fenced hill
see a derelict mill
train still as the points switch back.

With a jolt and a whack
two trains are attached,
between tracks there’s golden gorse.

At Preston it’s busy,
lasses Prosecco fizzy
all dizzy with swearing perfume.

It’s months from Whitsun
but they’re off for some fun,
get spun-out in Manchester.

And so we all flock
to that city of shock
pulling in to the dock of Piccadilly.

Fifth Birthday

Traces and prints; sometimes I wonder if you were ever there.

Inky traces. Sometimes I wonder if you ever were.

Five years ago you were a stone
marbled grey, except your piggy pink toes,
cold to touch.

Seasons shift. Constellations are
the pour of cream in a dark whirlpool.

I brought you leaves every September,
and tucked them up in your unmarked grave,
then sat on that bench as drops of water
magnified red and gold veins.

A sudden shift in the scene; you’re there.
Not stone, nor bone,
the ink is the shadowbut there
black eyes reflect blue-grey.

I saw that you were now corvid,
with wings, with black feathers
all over your body.

You landed on my lap, I bounced you on my knees.
When it was over, you bowed your head.
Then I let you go.

The research rollercoaster – final year of phd

Second year turned out to be a mixture of doubt and epiphany, success and strife. There were many moments of joy; I won a couple of prizes, I’ve run workshops, I’ve developed a bond with the borough of Rochdale, and I feel like I know the shape of my thesis even though I’m struggling at times to find the words.  At the same time there have been moments of family illness, random events, relationship tension, that seasonal sadness that bites in November and will not unclasp its jaws until March.

Those elusive words, sliding along the tracks, their sounds captured in the clouds.

Those elusive words, sliding along the tracks, their sounds captured in the clouds.

And this summer too has been a bit of a rollercoaster. Not a smooth rollercoaster, more like a Blackpool rollercoaster; sometimes fun, sometimes whiplash inducing painful.  It’s been hard to summon up the “WOO!” at times. And often I feel like I’m falling or failing, the lap bar barely keeping me secure.

Negotiating the metal tangle: materials that endure, some have been there before and will remain long after.

Negotiating the metal tangle: materials that endure, some have been there before and will remain long after, all will be ephemeral.

The research rollercoaster is an intriguing ride – possibly white knuckle – but ultimately the aim is to not only improve my own skills (I love learning, a little unsure as to whether I’m any good at it but I love it) but also to add to an argument, to try, in my own small way, to make a positive difference. It seems that there is a common assertion, or assumption, that a PhD is an isolated experience. It’s really not. Yes you are becoming a specialist in your own niche of a niche, but you do so in collaboration. If it were not for the encouragement of Dr David Cooper and the rest of my fantastic supervisory team (Doctors: Rachel Dickinson, Julie Armstrong, Kirsty Bunting and Jane Turner) I think I may have given up, accepted defeat. And I owe it to a borough – messy, weird, wonderful, challenging, complex – and the people within it who have been so generous with their time. And I owe it to my friends, all those loved ones. The shoulders of many, many giants giving me that boost and view (and what a view). Yes, a PhD represents your hard work, your figuring out, but no: you are not alone.

OK final year, I’m ready for you. Bring it.

*Clanking up the lift hill, arms in the air, ready for the drop*

Clanking up the lift hill, arms in the air, ready for the drop.

Read & Feed: research meets real life

Over August I’ve been involved in Smallbridge Library’s Read & Feed project. As it pertains to Rochdale there’s more about this on the Writing Rochdale blog. It’s not strictly PhD related – although I will be reflecting upon all work I’ve been doing over the last two and a bit years in the borough – I thought I’d mention it here too! It’s been an absolute privilege to share my practice and learn from the young people of Smallbridge.

First blog: reading, writing, social justice and sandwiches.owlSecond blog: Don’t call me Miss.

Dragon graphic novel

The final blog will up be after the celebration event on the 2nd Sept so keep an eye out!

Sunday Funday!

Click the picture to go to the MCBF website.

Click the picture to go to the MCBF website.

“Louder!” shouted the King of the Sea, “LOUDER!”. So Sadko plucked the strings of his gusli as hard as he could. Then the sea creatures joined in the party: the crabs started to pinch in time with their claws, the swordfish span and become a huge swirl of silver, clams cracked and snapped their calcified lips together. “Faster!” demanded the King of the Sea, “FASTER!” So Sadko played faster, and the creatures danced wildly. Suddenly, Volga Matushka shouted,”Stop! Stop! Sadko, can’t you see that the music is making a giant whirlpool and all the ships sailing across the world are caught in it? If you don’t stop they will surely be pulled down to the bottom of the ocean.”

In action: Sadko is seasick! Storytelling in the cosy Manchester Children's Book Festival Story Tent. Picture taken by Kaye Tew of MCBF. 17th April 2016.

In action: Sadko is seasick! Storytelling in the cosy Manchester Children’s Book Festival Story Tent. Picture taken by Kaye Tew of MCBF. 17th April 2016.

On Sunday, I told a tale based on a traditional Russian ballad of Sadko the musician and his unrequited love for Volga Matushka – the mightiest river of Russia, the longest river in Europe, one of the most beautiful of all rivers AND the daughter of the party-loving King of the Sea!  I was so chuffed to be invited by Manchester Metropolitan University’s Manchester Children’s Book Festival Team to share this story and sing songs with the children (and their mums and dads).

We had some good sea sick wobbling, loud partying, banging of musical instruments by the audience as we all tried to make sure that the King of the Sea was obeyed!  Pinguino, the penguin from Antarctica, got a few hugs as well.  (He’s quite a daredevil penguin and told me in secret that he loved the cuddles from the girls and boys and their parents. So, shhhh, don’t tell anyone I told you…)

What a lovely day and such a fab audience!  The event was well organised and I’m looking forward to popping into the next ones as a punter and will bring at least one of my army of nieces along :-)

This event is one of many leading up to an absolutely marvellous and magical looking Children’s Book Festival for June.  The Children’s Book Festival Fun Day on Saturday 25th June looks absolutely super!

Look what I found drifting in the waters of the Volga...

Look what I found drifting in the waters of the Volga…

Huge thanks to James and Amy for being the river Volga and to Stu from Hobgoblin Music Manchester who fixed up Sadko’s gusli!  There are a few versions of this story and mine was a combination of the story retold by Aaron Shepard and snippets from Baba Yaga stories (in my story – it is the Baba Yaga who curses the King of the Sea).  The lyrics and the song I sang were based on ‘The River Flows’ by Coope, Boyes, and Simpson.