Monday, December 31, 2007


Continuing in our efforts to amuse ourselves by exposing horrible misuse of English wherever we find it, we present the following:

"As an ex-footballer, you won't be surprised to learn that I'm interested in helping people stay fit." (Back of a cereal box I read this morning, attributed to Ian Wright.)

"Always wash your hands after addressing personal hygiene issues." (Health & Safety sign at work.)

A couple of people have asked me what's wrong with the first one. But take a closer look at it. The way it is constructed the sentence actually says that you, the reader, are the ex-footballer. Which some of you may be, but I would imagine the majority aren't.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Where's The Damn Poet?

I haven't written a poem for three or four weeks now, but the mood is there for a return any time soon (the whole world will be relieved to hear)(I can imagine the news quelling riots in Pakistan as we speak).

So anybody who knows me as POET and has been waiting for submissions, correspondence, intelligent comment, on matters poetic, please continue to be patient (or indifferent), and maybe Bard Bruce will come back to life shortly.

My annual Christmas depression tends to get in the way of creative thought. I become more like a really miserable plant with browning leaves drooping towards the carpet in timid sunlight.

This coming year I have to make a few changes. People always say that but I really do. Maybe I'll even do a splake and post my resolutions so that any mid-year retreat from them exposes me for the self-deceiving windbag I may well be.

Christmas Cards And Fate

Coming through town I have just seen loads of people buying Christmas cards for next year in the sales. Am I a pessimist? Or is that presuming a little too much?

I have this suspicion that if I allowed myself to believe I was going to be around next year and surrendered to the cheapskate impulse to save some money by buying my cards now, I'd get hit by a truck two minutes after I stepped out of the shop.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas Is Over. Hooray!

I woke up yesterday feeling quite pleased that Christmas was over with for another year. I don't like the season at all. Had you guessed? I spin into terrible depression as it approaches because somehow all the forced jollity makes me feel weird and lonely and alienated. I have my friends, but still, Christmas attacks me in that way. I feel I am failing in some subtle but catastrophic way. That I have a stench of something desperate about me which everyone can pick up.

And once it's gone? Back to normal, immediately. Or what passes for normal. I have had an ear infection for most of the Christmas season, so I'm still doing quite a bit of lying around on my bed feeling sorry for myself; it just isn't attached to Norad tracking Santa and beautiful girls at work in pink Father Christmas hats anymore. Now it's just the stabbing pain in my ear that's making me wish I were somebody else.

I bet you're glad you started reading this blog post, aren't you? Any remnants of cheer you had should be well and truly gone by now. And I'm glad. If I have to suffer I want everybody else to suffer as well. Especially you.

Friday, December 21, 2007

It's Beginning To Feel A Lot Like Christmas, Unfortunately

It's nearly Christmas. Wa-hoo. "Four more sleeps to go," as Nicky Campbell said, with I hope a touch of irony on the radio this morning.

We had our Secret Santa thing at work yesterday. Everybody gathered in one room around the Christmas tree exchanging cards and giving presents "from Father Christmas". And most of the people there were really enjoying themselves, or at least they seemed to be. I sat at the back of the room on the floor wishing I were drunk.

I want to be able to feel the "Christmas spirit". To suspend my curmudgeonliness or my reserve or my alienation or whatever the hell it is and join in with the party but I can't. I watch others working themselves up into the traditional festive lather and I just get bugged and depressed.

I thought it might be my age. The Grumpy Old Man thing. The only other person I spoke to yesterday who disliked the Christmas build-up as much as I do is twenty years older than me. But as I recall I always felt the same, except in my pre-teen years when it was all exciting and the wait for Christmas Day to arrive was torture.

Christmas has always made me want to run and hide. Pull a blanket over my head and wait for all this shopping and false cheer to pass.

It's probably, on reflection, down to love. Even in the middle of my last relationship, which creaked on for four years, we never spent Christmas Day together. That had to be spent twenty miles away, or whatever, with the husband and the kids. And all my other relationships have started after one Christmas and ended before the next one. I'm just a hard man to live with. And the women I attract aren't much easier.

This Christmas it's no different. No woman to share my Christmas bed. I'm beginning, actually, to be seen as a rather pathetic and forlorn specimen by the people I know--which I absolutely hate.

But I'm going to use this one differently. I've been knocking my head against the Buddhist mysteries for a long time now. This year I plan to use the seclusion I've brought on myself with my terrible karma to meditate intensively and really try to figure things out.

It may not work, but who knows. I've been a victim of the wayward bull (in more ways than one) of my mind for too long now. I want to stop it bucking and teach it how to walk sweetly through the grass. And then it will disappear.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Stop-Searched On The Street

My post header tells the truth. I was stop-searched by the police at 6.30 this morning just up the road from my house in Earls Barton. Had to give this copper my name and address and telephone number, then submit to a frisk. He felt a bump of something or other in my pocket and made me turn it out. You should have seen his face when I pulled out a cheap mobile phone and a book of Beat poetry.

And all this happened out in the street, with nobody around but me, the copper and a few early morning blackbirds hopping around in the frosty grass. Great way to start your birthday. Seems somebody robbed a warehouse on the industrial estate in the village last night and I fitted the description.

But I don't think I fitted the profile. Would you really go on the rob in a village and then catch a bus home?

When I told my friends about the experience afterwards, they all said, to a man (or woman), "Well, you do look a bit dodgy, Bruce." They're right, I do. And on some level of my personality that remains completely bourgeois, that pleases me much more than it should.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


I've thtopped. Haven't been able to write any poetry for days. Haven't wanted to write any poetry either, though I've read a bit (got an old T'ang Dynasty compilation I dip into from time to time). When I get home from the money job I'm reading Tony Benn's diaries and a biography of Vivian Stanshall. Washing clothes. Trying to keep the mould from creeping over everything upstairs. Doing the dishes occasionally. Burning incense. Meditating when I feel like it. Masturbating when I feel like IT. Listening to Willie Nelson, Indian ragas, football on the radio. Dreaming about work when I'd rather be dreaming about Tracey Emin. Having the odd bottle of beer, sleeping afterwards, waking up after ten minutes to piss. I eat chocolate bars at one o'clock in the morning. I text my friends but never call them because at least with a text they have the option of not answering. I am experiencing what you would call your basic emotional downturn and poetry at the moment just seems as ludicrous as epaulettes on shirts.

Monday, December 10, 2007


I haven't had access to tv since last March, other than for watching dvds. Initially this lack of access was forced on me by the situation I was in, but now I wouldn't have it any other way.

I sat down for a while in front of someone's tv yesterday and within about five minutes I was restless and irritated. There were other people in the room sitting around in the dark watching "The BBC Sports Personality Of The Year". No one was saying anything. No one was even moving. They just sat in their places, inert and pointed towards the glowing box in the corner. It looked like they'd all been gassed by something coming in through the air conditioning.

And what was the purpose of the activity itself, if you can call something an activity when it involves no participation or even movement?

I really don't know. I could feel my mind becoming more and more narcotised and inoperable the longer I sat. Eventually (after five minutes) I had to get up and go for a walk in the garden in the rain to remind myself I was alive.

Television turns its viewers into dribbling fools who can be robbed and deceived in any way imaginable because their minds no longer work.


For reasons too complicated to explain here, I believe language is the scaffold around which a civilised society is built.

So what happens to society when language decays?

That's what worries me when I see "Please turn off tap's" and "I just brought an item from Ebay" (local police advertisement displayed all over Northampton), and "Your co-operation would be appreciated by refraining from smoking in the bus station" (Health & Safety sign in Greyfriars Bus Station). I mean, other than the fact that it's just stupid and ugly.

I'm not even sure of my own English anymore. There just aren't enough good examples of the proper use of language around to keep a person in good habits.

No wonder we're heading around the moral u-bend.

I'd better dig out some A.A.Milne or Graham Greene later on. Remind myself how it's done when it's done well.

Saturday, December 08, 2007


I went to Milton Keynes yesterday. First time in a year. And the last time was the first time ever, I think; but then I only saw the rail station.

This time I had the unmitigated joy of seeing the rest of the town. And I can report without any equivocation that the critics are right. It's the most ghastly place I've ever been.

As Jim Morrison once said about some town or other in America, "It's a 1950s idea of twenty years in the future." All soul-destroying glass and metal architecture. No colour. Not even any apparent difference between buildings on different streets. I walked for nearly an hour through the town in the freezing cold and every street I went through looked exactly like every other street. Only the changing names of the large homogenising American-import chain stores gave an indication that we had made progress and hadn't, actually, been walking around in circles.

I needed a trip out of the county yesterday, but I do wish I hadn't gone there. Just makes you realise what a vain and unimaginative idiot man is.

Dante's supplemental circle of Hell, Milton Keynes is, created with modern textiles rather than flame and burning rock.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Wednesday Was Strange.

Wednesday was strange. Awake half the night with wind howling through the trees and disturbed birds singing. Paranoid and fractious the whole day afterwards. Feeling malice and betrayal from friends. Seeing everything differently from how I'd presumed it to be only the day before. Like the nervous collapse of '04 only concentrated, a million times more immediate and dense. The storm is over now but the sense of everything having changed is still with me. I am a hundred years older than I was before.

Thursday, December 06, 2007


I posted some poems at MySpace the other day, as I tend to, then found myself getting really unreasonably vexed with another poet who gave me a "1" rating (maximum is "2") for the poems, even though everybody else had given me a "2" (when half the time, people don't even bother to rate them). I thought, "Who does that fucker think he is? I go over to his and give him "2" ratings all the time! Does he think he's better than me?" et. etc. etc.

I HAD had a bad day at work and was in a fractious mood anyway, but there's no excuse. AND I knew it. So I wrote a quick post saying I wasn't going to post any poetry today because I was bored of my own mind (something like that), and I went home.

Poets. Fragile egotists who want the whole world to lock their genitals in a permanent act of fellatio.

I am sick of myself half the time. I also find I'm pretty sick of the whole scene. Everybody seeming to think they are so special and so important, even if they are giving the world something it has no use for whatever.

Did I mention I know this artist woman who told me creative people are "thoroughbreds"? I'm no thoroughbred. I'm more like a wounded old carthorse who spends all day in the barn trying to convince itself it likes the smell of horseshit. And I suspect there are a few more out there who're the same.

There are thoroughbreds in every walk of life. And thorough idiots in every walk of life. I have spoken.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


Sometimes things happen. Well, things happen all the time, obviously, unless you're in suspended animation. But sometimes good things happen. Interesting things. Like, a shop has just opened underneath my flat in Earls Barton. Now, I was wondering what kind of shop it would be because we were going to have to use the same door to get in and out (how I have fallen from my days in semi-detached suburbia!)So, the day they are bringing in all their stock and setting up, I wait until after they've gone, go downstairs and have a peep at what's in there, and the shop is full of Buddhas, Tibetan prayer flags, incense, colourful clothing, pictures of the Dalai Lama.

I just stood there and laughed. Could anything have been more perfect? They've called it NAMASTE HOUSE and they're really nice people. From over Suffolk way too. "Everything happens for a reason," the woman who runs the place said to me when I spoke to her about it the next day. I wonder what the reason for all this might be?

Monday, December 03, 2007


Has anybody been following this story about the English teacher in Sudan jailed for allowing her pupils to name a teddy bear Mohammed?

15 days in jail, she got, for inadvertently insulting the Prophet, from a government that has presided over the death of 200,000 people in Darfur (I think that's how you spell it).

Consensus seems to be that this is an excuse on the part of the Sudanese government (who weren't democratically elected, remember), to promote anti-Western feeling and therefore help drive out aid workers etc. trying to ease the conditions created by the genocide.

I wrote a poem yesterday (posted at MySpace), asking why there seemed to be so little enthusiasm for helping prevent Bush and Brown mount a bombing campaign against Iran.

You can see how in unsophisticated Western minds our efforts to support Muslims across the world might be viewed with suspicion. Not that these medieval Sudanese thugs bear the vaguest resemblance to any of the Muslims I know.

Friday, November 30, 2007


Somebody called me interesting the other day. "Bruce," he said, "you're an interesting man." The assessment made me quite uncomfortable. I felt as if he were looking for a polite way to say that I am fucked up. Which I am. But I don't want anybody else to know that. I prefer for them to think that I might be underneath the appearance of normality.

You know?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

MySpace As A Home For Poets (Revisited)

I had a further thought on the proposition a few poets have raised about MySpace not being the right place for serious writers because the reaction to your poetry isn't critical enough.

Who cares? What kind of masochistic trip is this if people are in it so that other people can tell them they are shit? I get it quite often, in different ways (if only in indifference), and that doesn't make you a better writer. I just makes you bitter and cynical and hard around the edges. It can also discourage you to the point where you lose your desire to communicate with other people altogether. Most creative people have a tenuous grip on their own self-image. If you beat them too much with criticism, their sense of self-worth goes through the floor.

You can come on all tough at this and tell me sarcastically that you weep for them and their mummies are warming their milk on the stove at home, but it's true. So if a poet can get a few people in the neighbourhood to tell him he's fantastic, why shouldn't he enjoy it?

Musicians are allowed to enjoy it. They don't set up MySpace sites so that people can slag them off. They just want to sell you stuff. And be loved.

And isn't that what we're all looking for, in the end?


Today I was talking to a bloke in a band. The conversation had an interlude that went like this:

"So, you have your own home, right?"

"Well, yeah. A flat."

"And when you're there you just sit around writing poems."

"Pretty much, yeah."

"And drinking red wine."


"And that's your life when you're not at work."

"Oh, I also have a few friends I can bother."

"Your life sounds pretty damn good."

"It is, come to think of it. It is pretty good."

Monday, November 26, 2007

Technical Question

Does anybody out there know how to stop a damn pc automatically aligning everything to the left, even when I cut and paste something that ISN'T aligned left? I have a bunch of fantastic poems that I want to publish at THE BEATNIK and I can't do it because the computer keeps wiping out the poets' choice of spacing on the page.

Anyone who comes up with a solution that works gets a No-Prize.

Thursday, November 22, 2007



Someday somebody's gonna have to do a proper study of splake's work. Just to see how it all fits together and where it stands in relation to all the other stuff people have been doing on the quiet for the last twenty years without anybody overground in the mainstream of literature having a clue what's going on.

I think a study of splake's work would be interesting, just like a study of Mark Weber's work would be interesting. Or Todd Moore. He's a fucking treasure of contemporary literary life, in my prejudiced book, and "CONNECTIONS" provides further evidence that he needs to be given due appreciation.

It's another epistolary work. It's about a poet called t.kilgore splake. But it's deep and it's sweet and his language is effortlessly brilliant: when he blows he blows like a master jazz musician who doesn't seem to be doing anything and yet his sound could belong to no one else. splake's so much in command of his talents these days he doesn't even have to fake cynicism to make himself look good. He can be romantic and sentimental and forgive life for the blows it has laid on him and STILL seem ahead of the crowd.

I don't know if "CONNECTIONS" is out yet, but do yourselves a favour, go over to the Vertin site and see if you can get hold of a copy. It'd be especially nice to have one in those quiet moments over Christmas, when even the hardest heart has a touch of romance about it.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Kerouac Book: Further Thoughts

Forgive me for returning to the Kerouac book for a moment. But just a couple of things. Rob Zoschke has kindly pointed out that a) I spelled Anne Waldman wrong (oops!) and b) I neglected to mention a significant contribution to the book by Gerald Nicosia. And on checking I found out he was right.

What a twat. (Me, not him.) But listen, proof reading was never a great skill of mine. My magazine "Blue Frederick" was so full of errors--at least, the first issue was--I spent a small fortune writing letters of apology after the mistakes were brought to my attention. And the carelessness of my wayward mind isn't much helped by the fact that I write this blog in an internet cafe in the middle of Northampton because I haven't got an internet connection at home these days (I refuse to pay for the installation of a telephone line when I'm renting).

But anyway. Suffice it to say that ANNE Waldman makes a fantastic contribution to the Kerouac book. I've been half in love with her ever since I saw her in "Renaldo & Clara" (that was you wasn't it Anne?) And Gerald Nicosia is a powerhouse on the post-Beat scene whose support of my own endeavours has given me far more credibility than I deserve.

There's LOADS of great writers in the Kerouac book actually, not just the ones I mentioned. But the ones I mentioned were the ones whose names I could remember without the book in front of me. I love you all equally. Really!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


I just received my copy of "Jack Kerouac: Reflections Upon The Fiftieth Anniversary Of 'On The Road'" (ed. Ron Whitehead and Robert Zoschke, Published In Heaven Books 2007). The title explains the contents pretty accurately. Now, there are a million and one books about Kerouac, but this one--he said a tad snobbishly--is assembled by poets and written by poets, so it's a little different. And get the list of contributors: Anne Waldman, t.kilgore splake, Norbert Blei, Gerald Nicosia, Dave Church, Steve Dalachinsky, the actor Michael Madsen, Hersh Silvermann, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Ron Whitehead, the force of nature that is Robert Zoschke. And many more. That's a pretty impressive line-up, don't you think?

Oh, and I'm in it too. A little essay I knocked up called "On The Road and Jack: A Meditation On The Run." Self-promoting blog entries are really boring, I know. And I bet they never increased a poet's sales by more than one or two. The main reason I'm mentioning this here is that I'm absurdly pleased with myself to be in the book. (Let's be honest.) Sitting in there alongside such august names I feel weirdly humbled, as if I'm gonna get found out and excised from the second edition.

For more information about the book, go to the splendidly-named

Saturday, November 17, 2007

City Lights

Here's one for the biography. Robert Zoschke informs me that Lawrence Ferlinghetti is buying 25 copies of the Kerouac book I have an essay in for sale in City Lights, San Fran. How about that? Whatever the reality of the place today--and I don't know, I've never been there--City Lights is a place of dreams to people who grew up on the Beats as I did.

I still have to go back to work at the care job tomorrow though.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

christmas turkey haiku
ten million deaths
to celebrate one birth--
the man upstairs harrumphs

Monday, November 12, 2007


An article in yesterday's Observer reckons that one-fifth of British employers now check Facebook or MySpace before taking on new employees to see if they have sites with anything insalubrious on them. Like songs about the glories of the trade union movement or something.

You'd think, wouldn't you, that a person was free to do what they bloody well pleased in their private time. You'd think. Sadly, we don't live in that kind of world anymore. Employers don't just have the right to judge your employment history when they're thinking of taking you on. Seems they have assumed the right to judge your politics and your moral character as well.

My own field of money work, "social care", as it's delightfully called, even issues you with a code of conduct that says you are a representative of your company at all times, even when you're not at work. We debated it at a training session once and I was the only one in the group who could see anything wrong with that.

Let me tell you most assuredly, whoever might be looking on, I represent only me when I leave work and start the long bus ride home. If you don't like that let's discuss it in the public arena so that everybody can see what presumptuous usurping wolves you have become. Then we might have a chance of restoring a little sanity in the employment world.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

norman mailer
one more roaring voice
is quiet.
the shits are winning
don't deny it.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Doing Something About It

People get trapped in dualistic thinking. Them Buddhists'll tell you it's a Western disease.

In these paranoid and simplistic times let me reassure you. Just because I say we should do something about the materialistic trap we're in here in the good old United Kingdom of America, nobody should assume I'm advocating terrorism or some kind of return to Communism. I hate fundamentalist Muslims as much as I hate fundamentalist Christians (they're really two sides of the same obnoxious and dangerous coin anyhoo). And it's the Communists who are putting fucking plastic panda waste bins or whatever it is all over the Delly Lama's palace in Lhasa. A pox on those evil bastards! (Somebody I know with a few brains says the Chinese Commies aren't really Commies anymore because they're realising the virchues of capitalism. Which they kind of are in Hong Kong etc. But if I were writing this in Beijing my computer wouldn't even let me, 'cos of the Government insisting Microsoft create programmes that censor blogs with political commentary.) (Let them free Tibet first, I say, then we'll talk about how much progress they've made.)

So what am I advocating when I talk about "doing something about it"? Read between the lines, dear people. Get someone to buy you a Gary Snyder or an Edward Abbey book for Christmas. Join a union. Turn off the television. Throw away your KSwiss trainers and go buy footwear from Shoezone. This will be a start.

Friday, November 09, 2007

All Good?

Readers may have noticed a slightly negative drift here in the last few posts. Well, that's life. A young friend of mine always hits you with the mantra "It's all good" whenever you're feeling down, but sometimes it ain't all good. I've watched a fair few friends of mine get royally screwed by life and the system this year, and fighting back side by side with them as they have fought side by side with me tends to wear you out and make the bile rise in your throat. They really do have us by the nuts, you know. But until enough of us are ready to do something about it nothing is going to change.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Life In England

The scales of justice are tipped only by coin.
The old lady herself has poor vision easily obscured by the glare from gold rings and Rolex watches.
This is the legacy of Margaret Thatcher.
In England, the wealthy will always win.
The company will always beat the worker.
Don't believe me? When was the last time you went out?

Saturday, October 27, 2007


In a just society (which ours isn't), all workplaces would be unionised as a matter of law. And the power of bosses and unions would be mediated by some kind of outside agency.

In post-Thatcher Britain the power has swung back so far in favour of the bosses, we're close to replicating the insanity of Victorian workplaces, where the employee was more or less owned by the company, a commodity to be used and abused as the company saw fit.

And what do people do about it? Meet in the kitchen or by the water fountain at work and agree how unfair everything is. Then insert their tongue into the manager's rectal passage the moment he or she or it walks in.


Because they are scared.

Because they feel the odds are stacked against them (which they are).

Because they have a puritanical addiction to suffering.

Because they have been rendered too fucking stupid by the education system to understand exactly what's going on or how to fix it.

Education needs to go back to philosophy--psychology--sociology--religious studies--the literary classics--language!--and eschew all this vocational bollocks. You can't send the man out into the world before you have made the man.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

New Stuff at Da Beatnik

BEATNIK has some good new stuff on it for you to view, should you be inclined in the literary direction. New poems by t.kilgore splake, Rob Plath and Mark Witucke, and an essay by Mark Witucke called "Toward A Method of Composition". Sound dry? Stop watching so many films with explosions and superheroes and turning your brains to oatmeal listening to shitty music on your ipod, then.

(Oops, where did that come from?)

Sunday, October 21, 2007

new one: MRS HEMMINGS 1973

mrs. hemmings 1973

stopping suddenly
at the bottom of the road
to chide one straggling
hemmings boy
thick black-rimmed glasses
black back-combed hair
like thelma in "the likely lads"
on tv
but much scarier
as usual cross
as usual late for something
in six months she'd be dead

Saturday, October 20, 2007

New One: LUCKY

New Poem: Lucky
I wrote this poem this morning. I thought, when I'd finished it, how funny it would be if I posted it on the internet, then stepped outside and got hit by a truck. But maybe my sense of humour is a little weird.


It occurs to me today that I am lucky.
Lucky to have cold winter mornings
to wake into with aching back and neck.
Lucky opening the curtains
seeing condensation on my bedroom window,
the giant sheriff's car outside choking
as the skinny English owner tries to start it.
Lucky I can have a morning shit,
some people can't, and how I'd miss
that spring-cleaned feeling in my bowels
just before I pull my trousers up.
I'm lucky.
Lucky somebody invented instant coffee.
Lucky Monica Dickens wrote "One Pair of Feet"
in 1942, I'm reading it engrossed
back underneath my duvet.
Lucky I have friends,
people I can call or email later
whose eccentricities I can wonder at.
Lucky, even, that I have a job to go to,
the streets are damn cold this time of year.
I'm lucky, yeah,
outside I hear a paramedic's siren,
some poor bastard's time is up for sure.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Words From The Father/ Words For The Father

Allow me this. Indulge me this.

I've had praise and I've had criticism. These days, at last, they seem to be arriving in fairly equal measure. The brickbats are no longer winning.

But the best praise I've ever had came today from my father, a writer of considerable ability himself, who told me in an email that he respected me for not giving up, despite all the failures and the setbacks associated with this poet's game.

He's right, I did get stubborn perseverance from him. And whatever small gift I might have, though he hasn't laid claim to that one.

Cheers, Pop. I know the sentimentality of this post will probably make you gag, but there you go.

You're a geezer. And I'll email back next time I'm at the pc.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Ted Hughes & The Meaning Of Poetry

I heard on the radio the other night that Ted Hughes thought he'd got cancer because writing too much prose instead of poetry had lowered his resistance to illness. He thought poetry had this protective, even healing power that transformed those who practise it and those who are exposed to it.

It's partly, by all accounts, why he took the Laureateship. He thought he might be able to contribute to the healing of poor old England.

Who knows. Some might think it's a demented idea. Others might admire it as an expression of a romance in his nature that didn't always come over in his writing. But at the least you have to admire his commitment to his craft. To believe that he would actually get a terminal illness because he didn't practise it as dedicatedly as he should have done! How many of us believe in poetry to that extent?

My own view is probably closer to Allen Ginsberg's, when, discussing the significance of poetry as a means of effecting social change, he said, "In the long term, it may have an ameliorating effect on the spirit." Which is really enough in this sad, sick world.

The Mail Strike

The posties went back to work today. I know because I got a First Direct statement through my door. (Can anybody tell me, by the way, whether it's normal for a bank to take £10 out of your account for "bank charges"? What the hell are they? I've never really looked closely at a bank statement before.)

Anyway, back to the posties. I heard on the radio that Britain's business had been "thrown into chaos" or some such, by the action of the postal workers. Very possibly. I was inconvenienced too. Had a job application form winging its way to me and it still hasn't made it, though the closing date passed at the weekend.

But at the risk of sounding like a man of principle, God forbid, can I remind you all whose lives have really been inconvenienced by the strike?

Yeah, the postal workers. And their families. These people don't get paid very much anyway, and while they've been on strike they've been paid nothing. The way the media and the politicians and the average right-wing jerk-off in the street talk about it, you'd think the strike was an act of whimsy by old Lefties who just wanted to make life difficult for Gordon Brown and all those poor businessmen sitting in coffee houses at eleven a.m. eating expensive glazed pastries and drinking coffee with ice cream on top.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Lost Phone

Well, I have taken my recent penchant for losing things to new heights this weekend by losing my mobile phone. Which is fine in a way, because as I've written here before, mobiles are a nuisance, especially to those of us who remember life before them (old fart). Who wants to be contactible at all times, day and night, by anybody who feels like reaching into your life and pulling out your carefully constructed peace? But I have to have a mobile for the day job. And I have a few friends, deep and modest, who I don't see very often and rely on electronic means to contact them. Now I've lost my phone I don't even have their number to call them to give them MY new number.

Perhaps this will encourage me to develop a few friendships in real living human fleshy time rather than three times removed by distance and technology? We'll see.

Anyway, my apologies to anyone who's trying to contact me. You're probably going to reach whatever spotty, glue-sniffing, knuckle-dragging, white-trackie-bottomed, baseball-cap-wearing, scooter-riding illiterate picked the phone up, at least until Vodafone get the email I just sent and bar my SIM. Say hello for me.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

wellingborough flash

my buddy jimbo
doing his tough walk
on the way
to percy browns,
a hundred years
ago before life
destroyed him.
fifteen, cool as fuck

an explanation

if you say cheers
then i say thank you.
if you say thank you,
i say cheers.
i'm just a lonely old curmudgeon.
i've been the same
for years and years.

The Break-Up

I watched the Jennifer Aniston/ Vince Vaughan movie "The Break-Up" last night. I have had a thing for Jen ever since her chubby days in "Friends", but I have to say, this ain't one of her better films. She acts wonderfully and is as charming as always, but the film is so cliched and so badly written, I couldn't help feeling that the three pounds I spent renting it would have served me better with a cheap bottle of wine. I still love you, Jen, but you can do way better than that. You already proved it with "The Good Girl".

Thursday, October 04, 2007

New Poems

Two new poems by yours truly, ergo me, as well as a new one by Rob Plath at The Beatnik today.

Incidentally, here's an interesting question: Rob Plath studied poetry with Allen Ginsberg. He now writes fantastic poetry. Are there any other poets Allen taught who can write worth two shits in a cheap bucket?

I love old Ginzy, but in the interests of serious investigative literary journalism I have to ask.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


At t.k. splake's blog ( ), he recently presented his "Doomsday Book List". That is, the books he would preserve at world's end if he could only carry one sturdy rucksack with him into whatever existence waited on the other side of Armageddon (or however you spell that). It's only a parlour game--sort of like Desert Island Discs for those with bleaker minds--but in the absence of anything approximating poetic inspiration today, I thought I would pilfer the idea and present my list to you.

The first draft I made of my Doomsday List featured a lot of books that made me look very clever. When I took those out and inserted books for which I have a deep and abiding love, the list--and possibly the impression it made--was significantly different. Now we have a kind of mental autobiography of yours truly, for what that is worth, containing my loftier ambitions AND my sentimental corners.

What would you take with you in your Doomsday rucksack?

I wonder if there are any books that make it onto everybody's list?


"Visions of Cody" ~ Jack Kerouac
"Let Us Now Praise Famous Men" ~ James Agee
"In Watermelon Sugar" ~ Richard Brautigan
"Desert Solitaire" ~ Edward Abbey
"The Second Novel" ~ Norbert Blei
"A Draft Of XXX Cantos" ~ Ezra Pound
"Memoirs Of A Buccaneer" ~ Louis Le Golif
"Me Again: The Uncollected Writings Of" ~ Stevie Smith
"Keep The Aspidistra Flying" ~ George Orwell
"Puttering About In A Small Land" ~ Philip K. Dick
"Pilgrims Of The Wild" ~ Grey Owl
"Children Of Albion" ~ ed. Michael Horovitz
"Spontaneous Mind: Selected Interviews" ~ Allen Ginsberg

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Maher Weighs In At The Beatnik

Now this is interesting: over at The Beatnik "Kerouac scholar" (that's how he refers to himself) and friend of the Estate Paul Maher Jr. weighs in with a rather weird attempt at discrediting the only Kerouac biographer recognised in the literary community, Gerald Nicosia. I say weird because Mr. Maher deleted three of his own comments before leaving only a link to some other site. I don't know what's over there, but I can imagine. Now, apparently, he's going around town telling people I'm publishing him as well as Nicosia. Well, no, Paul. I think the friends of the Kerouac Estate have enough of the media rising up on its hind legs like a dog hungry for biscuits, don't you? The problem with a blog page is that ANYBODY can comment. I must figure out a way around that.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Robert Zoschke Reply Published

Robert Zoschke's response to my essay WHICH ONE OF YOU BASTARDS KILLED MY SEXY LAMB? appears today at my other site THE BEATNIK (see link).

The essay has also prompted an interesting discussion over on my MySpace page, with some stellar names on the contemporary poetry scene weighing in with their point of view. Was Bukowski, as one correspondent contends, "a lightweight"? Go over and tell us what you think.

Ronald Baatz comments, in an email, that as a writer I seem to be "blossoming and exploding" at the same time. Quite a feat, don't you think?

I just wish I could finish the damn essay about myself I'm trying to write for BARTON TODAY. The money work over the past few days has turned my head inside out and backwards so many times I actually managed to lock myself in to my own flat the other morning. Ended up being an hour and a half late for work because I couldn't find my keys.

Know where they were when they turned up the next day? In my jeans pocket. For a genius I manage to be quite an idiot at times.

Monday, September 24, 2007


OUTSIDER WRITERS have just published an essay of mine called "Which One Of You Bastards Killed My Sexy Lamb?" It's an investigation of contemporary poetics in the Underground and what I and Ginsberg call "the Academies"~ which is to say, I think, the Establishment~ and it's already causing quite a stir. Got a fabulous email from writer Rob Zoschke expressing a contrary opinion: I'm seeking his permission now to publish it on THE BEATNIK.

But I'm not going to do what all chickenshit commentators do when something causes controversy and claim I only wrote it to stimulate debate. The essay really expresses what I think. Go and have a look, then come back and tell me I'm an idiot.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Poetry and My Shallow, Shallow Mind

Sometimes I worry that I might have nothing to say. When I look at the works of other poets they seem to have so much that they want to share with you. Such profound observations on life and love and loss. Some can make a meditation on something marvellously heavy out of a glimpse of a spider's web on an autumn morning. Others are bursting with joy because of the sunset or the dewy grass at dawn. I saw a thousand poetic things while I was walking home from work this morning, but for some reason, most of what I try to translate into poetry when I work from these perceptions comes over as incredibly trivial and boring. Maybe what I see as poetic just isn't. Maybe I should be a photographer instead. Or a graffiti artist. Maybe, for somebody who likes to think of himself as really deep and serious, I'm just too superficial to have the thoughts a person needs to have to write poetry that engages other people. I do skate along on the surface of reality quite a lot. Most of my pain happened a long time ago, and not only have I realised that it was largely of my own making, I don't want it back. But I can fake a deep poem every now and then. Chuck in a bit of remembered existential angst, or borrow a meaningful scenario from television. The poetry goes over pretty well when I do that.

My girlfriend, as was, before our relationship fizzled out like a firework on a wet night in an empty garden, once said I had "hidden shallows". Most of the stuff sitting on my writing desk at home brings those shallows out of hiding.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Gerald Nicosia @ The Beatnik

Outstanding new material at the Beatnik ( today: Gerald Nicosia, still the best Kerouac biographer, whose honesty and lack of ass-kissing corporate finesse (which you would've thought an asset in the Beat universe), has earned him the eternal contumely of just about everyone with an investment in the mouldering bodies of Jack and Allen, has kindly allowed me to reproduce the press conference speech he gave in June of this year after discovering that his name was being written out of Beat histories by the powers that, regrettably, be. Read it. It's explosive.

Global Tapestry Journal

The best of the British counter-cultural/ post-Beat/ bohemian print magazines, "Global Tapestry Journal", returns this week for issue 30. And I'm in it, with two rather ravishing photos taken a couple of years ago when I didn't have a big grey beard--I shaved it again recently, but grew it back again straight away-- and my hair was sort of attractively curly (I was having sex intermittently then: it gives you confidence). There's also a long cranky piece I wrote in defence of one of my favourite scribblers Hunter S. Thompson, after some ass wrote an attention-seeking character assassination of the good Doc in the previous issue.

But my appearance in the magazine isn't the only delight. For your money you also get poetry by Bryn Fortey, Chris Torrance, Eddie Harriman, Bill Wyatt, Barry Edgar Pilcher, Dave Church and George Dowden. You also get an article about Chris Challis and a review by Jim Burns. Pretty good f****** value, I'd say. Go find it, if you know what's good for you.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

New Book by t.kilgore splake.

Yesterday I received t.kilgore splake's new book "A Celebration of Samantha" in the mail, and I read it in one sitting. It's an epistolary chapbook about a greybeard poet called splake (wonder where t. got the idea for that?) beginning a new love affair with a younger woman, waitress Elizabeth, who has a beguiling young daughter Samantha. Of course, this story, told gently, without phoney plot contrivances to keep you hooked, provides a framework for meditations on the past and what it means to be an older man pursuing an individualist vision--his "left bank" dreams--in a world that has no time for variety. So, familiar splake territory. But if you like splake, your appetite for his very definitive style and content probably can't be sated anyway. And if you don't, you can always do something else. Like try to write better than he does, eh? Comes fantastically presented with a set of evocative black-&-white photos.

Contact the Vertin Press for details.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


Well, I've just learned that I'm going to be featured as "Poet of the Week" sometime soon at the OUTSIDER WRITERS website. I'm also going to be featured in my local magazine BARTON TODAY, after writing to the editor Colin and telling him, somewhat bumptiously, that they had a bona fide poet in their midst. Faint heart never won fair maiden, right? It's the right time for these things to happen because I've recently found a renewed focus and energy in my writing and my sense of myself as a poet, so maybe these developments will help that new vigour and self-confidence to continue for a while.

The other interesting development is that I've just received a lot of new material from Kerouac biographer Gerald Nicosia about his latest adventures in the strange and internecine world of the Beat Estates. These will shortly be appearing on the resurrected BEATNIK site (

For now, however, I'm not accepting any other submissions to Beatnik. Got so much from Nicosia to work through I want to focus my limited time at the computer on that.

Gerry reports that he is planning a biography of Ntozake Shange. A fantastic idea, I think. Anyone else agree that it's time her story was told?

Monday, September 10, 2007


In the mail today I received the new chapbook by Bryn Fortey. It's called "LYRICS BY...The Unrecorded Works of Bryn Fortey" and it's a selection, minus musical charts, of some of the best songs he has written over the years, with a succession of songwriting partners, including his late son Jim. Bryn, for those of you who don't know him, is famously self-effacing, and the self-penned introduction suggests his songwriting has been little more than the hobby of a man without talent; but it's not true. Like many an artist, perhaps, he didn't catch the breaks. But what I've read so far impresses me. I don't want to print his home address all over the internet but if anybody's interested in getting hold of a copy of the book, leave me a message and I'll email you how. It'll only set you back £3.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Post at the Beatnik

I posted my first little thing at the Beatnik in several months this morning. Just a little throwaway four-liner, but while I figure out how to get the site going again with the limited amount of time I have, it'll do. Go over and refresh your memory about what's happening there, if you have a few spare minutes today. It used to be something pretty interesting, before my house move and other calamities derailed it.

Friday, September 07, 2007


I don't know if you are familiar with the poetry of Ronald Baatz. He's one of my favourite American poets, if not at times my very favourite, having written a few poems that could stand alongside the best of anything by the poets Don Hall anthologised in his sainted volume of modern American verse. Well, now he's got a new chapbook out (relatively new). It's on Mark Weber's Zerx imprint (see links) and it's split with Mark: one half of the book features lighter poems on a range of themes by Weber, then you turn it over and the other half is a poem cycle by Ronald about his father's battle with Alzheimers. Tremendously moving it is too, without once descending into mawkishness or self-pity. He's just telling you his story, not asking you to feel sorry for him OR his dad. And it's stylistically a little different too, presented more like ordinary speech, without the illuminated images we associate with Ronald's short or longer writing. Good! It would have been a little creepy, writing something so personal with that kind of sophisticated polish. Shows Ronald is a poet of great range, as if we didn't know that already.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

An Offer

Since my poetry appeared in OTHER VOICES some interesting things have been happening. Today I read an email request to submit to a book celebrating the 50th anniversary of ON THE ROAD. Unfortunately I came to the email too late and have already missed the deadline. But it's thrilling to be asked. Shows that after all this time, all these years hacking away in journals and on the computer in bedrooms and at bus stops, I may finally have made a small dent in the literary scene.

The Beatnik Wants To Show His Face Again

I've been thinking just lately that it would be nice to reanimate the dormant BEATNIK. We were going great guns there for a while, attracting high quality poets and writers to the page. Then my move came and disrupted normal internet service. I am, for reasons detailed in earlier posts, typing these entries from libraries and internet cafes and I may have to be doing that for some time yet. So obviously I only have a limited amount of time at the computer. If I were a rich man I could sit at the computer all day. But I don't have a lot of money and I have to spend half my time working to acquire the money I've got. And some of the submissions I was playing with--well, all of them--presented difficulties when it came to the cut-and-paste process that only long and patient labour would have surmounted. You know how it is if you've tried it. You paste a well-spaced poem and it reproduces on the new page as one long sentence that you have to arduously chop up again.

And there was the small problem that I lost several quality submissions that were sitting in my email inbox when I changed internet providers (well, when I ditched the one I had to save money).

But the urge to put Blue Fred to work in some way remains. Anybody know how I can kill those cut-and-paste deveils so the process of posting a poet's submissions doesn't take longer than a beleaguered editor can afford?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

How You Keep It Going

I'm currently watching, to keep the creative juices flowing, the 1967 version of "The Taming of the Shrew" with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. Ah, wonderful stuff! Liz reminds me of my mother, in looks if not in temperament; and probably in that as well.


Writing continues at an uncharacteristic pace, and some of it is good, though since discovering a certain caution in exposing these things to the light of public critique I'm finding it hard to "declare nada mas", as splake would say, and let them go their way into the world.

Well, maybe that's no bad thing, since for a poet of decent (though regrettably not towering) abilities I have a rejection record longer than a tall man's arm.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Not much to post here because I've been writing for the OUTSIDERS website these last few days. I haven't been submitting for a while, but now I think I might get into it again, see if the discipline of knowing an editor will have to critique my work helps to sharpen it up for me.

I've also been theorising with getting a video uploaded, since a visual element to your work helps raise awareness of who you are, fix an image of you in the public imagination. Look at the success splake has had with that, though he's a born myth-maker anyway. (In fact, watching him in THE CLIFFS and LE METROP and A DAY IN THE LIFE is what has got me thinking in this direction.) But no definite plans yet; and like so many of my plans it may fall by the way as the course of my energy changes.

Anyway, the poems will be presented here once they've either been a) published, or b) spat on, by those delightful people at OUTSIDER WRITERS. In the meantime, do you want to talk about football?

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Another *Ahem* Success (How Soon The Fall Must Come)

I'm going to start boasting about my poetry successes now, just so you all know what a big cheese you're dealing with here (ha ha).

Latest one is placing a poem with those inestimable men and women at OUTSIDER WRITERS. Don't know when it will appear, but should be soon.

Are you familiar with the OUTSIDERS? They're the cream of what used to be the ULA, which fragmented after some kind of internal dispute. Among their numbers they boast Pat King and J.D. Nelson and Marissa Ranello. I like 'em. Always did, actually, but I especially like 'em now they're publishing my poem.

Follow the link on the right and have a look at what they're doing.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

After Hearing About The Latest Kid Being Killed On Our Streets

I was listening to an "expert" on the radio this morning, and mulling over Tory leader David Cameron's claim yesterday that the streets of Britain had been lost to lawlessness and youth violence, and in a blue fit, drinking strong black coffee, I wrote this in my journal. Thought I'd share.

*"Facilities" & "things to do" wd. stop kids from stabbing & shooting each other on the streets? BULLSHIT! Stop taking all the classical spiritual-philosophical-existential elements out of education & replacing them w/ vocational courses. The man is MORE than what he does or will do for a living. Wd. you drive a car over the river before you'd built the bridge? The anti-intellectual attitude of mainstream adult society, from government down, is causing kids to hate everything in them that is vulnerable & tender & compassionate & imaginative & creative. It allows them nothing except the aspiration to be bigger & better than their contemporaries--because competition & elevating yr. ego while doing down yr. neighbour is all capitalism really has to offer. (Which is why it is so unsatisfying to people of intelligence.) & if the kids don't have any prospect of elevating their egos w/ money, they'll do it w/ violence because violence is the reductio ad absurdum of competition*

I had to take a piss break at that point, so I couldn't continue. But I'd like to add, a few hours later, that this paranoia about the younger generation and the level of violence in the streets is probably bullshit anyway. I know a lot of younger people and they actually see things with greater clarity than most of us crusty old folk. They watch what people of my age are doing and wonder how on earth we could get so lost, so cynical, so compromised.

At the bus stop the other night with kids swarming everywhere, shouting, swearing, laughing at passers-by I suddenly heard this beautiful music coming from somewhere. Lazy rhythmic strings in the darkness. I peered around to see where it was coming from and there's a long-haired kid sitting on a fence a few feet away playing a fucking dobro while another kid recounts an ecstatic experience at a concert a few nights before. While a scarlet-faced old man looks on with his face contorted by violent disapproval.

Nothing is the way it seems, ever. But if Tory politicians and the newspapers are telling you Britain is on a fast road to Hell it almost HAS to be a lie.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Counselling With My Best Friend

she said, we were discussing how
i could get to know more women, she said,
my best friend, wear longer t-shirts,
they will cover up your fat belly. and
i'll introduce you to dave, my other mate,
he's got ten or fifteen on the go.
it's how you talk to us. he'll teach you,
if you keep the lager flowing, and he's
not good looking either, so it works.

by the time she'd finished helping
me, i was ready for a high bridge,
and sure that if i jumped off, i'd survive.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Well, I've tried manfully to convince myelf I don't care, but today I held the Cross+Roads Press anthology OTHER VOICES in my hands today and I'm so proud to be in it I am close to wetting myself. Haven't read anything else in it yet except the poetry of my old buddy Ralph Murre, which is predictably intelligent, mature, wise and technically adept. There are a lot of writers, but I keep going back and looking at my own pages, marvelling at the fact that that guy called "Bruce Hodder" is me. In my journal this morning, after texting everyone I knew to say I had the book, I wrote triumphantly, "I have finally fucked Death in the gall bladder. But the Fear will come back tomorrow." Which pretty much sums it up.

If anybody wants to know how to get the book, drop me a line.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

charles bukowski would have hated me

every time i have sex--
which isn't often these days--
i get anxious. i worry
i haven't measured up.

i fall asleep sometime between
the third beer and the fourth,
and i feel rotten when
i wake up in the morning.

i don't smoke. i'm scared
of cancer, and i don't
understand the act:
set fire to a leaf, and
suck it? why on earth?

i've only ever hit
one man. a lucky shot.
i hate violence of
any kind, it's stupid.
i'd like to see all guns
melted down; their metal
could make beds
for the homeless!

or cheap cars to ferry
all the children on the streets
to school. i'm a fan
of schools, and learning.

all a kid learns
on the streets
is how to shout, and spit.
that's my opinion.

charles bukowski
would have hated me.
but eliot, now there's
a man i could have
gone to tea with!

Friday, August 17, 2007

New Add To Links

Sharon Auberle's blog "Mimi's Golightly Cafe". I've been meaning to add this to my links list for months. But I never seem to get around to anything that is actually worth doing.

Sharon's a fine poet and a great visual artist. Something in her vision as expressed in both mediums warms and encourages me, not only as a poet but also as a human being. Maybe a few of you will have the same reaction, if you don't know her work already. Have a look.

progress report

after so many years, still a crusty old beat,
not believing in the phantasms
of money, power, success.
despite all these adventures,
all these voices that urge me:
join a gym! cut your beard!
get a recognised vocational qualification!
coming out in the morning
with a secondhand Dante's "Paradise",
and a notebook for poetry,
entering haiku of pigeons, rain,
sunlight through veined leaves
of trees at the bus stop.
surprised and delighted
to find myself still me,
despite all of the years, despite
my jellyfish spine,
one constant in a maelstrom of change.


I am a hypocrite. ("NO!" you all shout in unison.) Last night a friend told me that a mutal acquaintance of ours opined that I was "scruffy". Which I am. And I was so offended I said I would deck this bloke the next time I saw him. (Which I wouldn't.) But in the middle of this seizure of righteous indignation, I forgot I had referred to the same man, in conversations with other people, as educationally sub-normal and a knob.

Who is being the more insulting? Well, neither of us, actually, since mine was also an accurate description.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

What The Hell Are We Becoming, People?

I was walking along Abington Street in Northampton this morning--it's the pedestrianised main shopping street in the centre of town, for those of you who haven't had the good fortune to visit--and suddenly I heard a disembodied voice, appearing to come from all around me at the same time, announce: "It is an offence to drop litter in the street. Those who drop litter will be prosecuted.There are twelve public bins provided along Abington Street. Please use them to enhance everybody's experience of shopping in the town centre."

It was something like that anyway. The message had no doubt been transmitted through invisible loud speakers from Puritanical Busybody Central where impotent middle-aged men sat eagerly in front of closed circuit tv cameras eating pre-packaged lettuce and tomato sandwiches and watching for transgressors.

Just think: a couple of hundred years ago they used to race bulls along Abington Street. Now you can't even flip a cigarette butt while thinking of your girlfriend's ass as she pulled her jeans on in the morning light.

(By the way, the loud speaker warning wasn't directed at me. I'd like you to think it was, but no. I'm not one for overt displays of rebellion against the established order.)



I could be working long hours in great shoes.
I could be eating in a Chinese restaurant
served by some harried Chinese girl
I'll proposition after one more beer.
I could be walking with my ipod on,
or getting compliments on my Hugo Boss.
I could be reading a sunday paper,
waiting for the football on tv.
I could be watching Man United
with dark rings underneath my eyes,
up half the night at the casino losing.
I could be discussing Paris Hilton
with bimbo blondes and ageing beauties,
impressing with my new blue jeans.
There's so much I could be doing, so much,
instead of sitting in this golden light
with fat gut meditating on my empty mind.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Vices

The Vices

A couple of people have very kindly invited me to join them at the local gym recently. Unfortunately when they did I very unkindly laughed in their faces. To one I said, "I'm devoted to ruining my body, not building it." She looked rather concerned at that, as if it were a public admission of some private pain. A cry for help.

No. I am just a passionate believer in the vices. As Hunter Thompson said, more or less, "I don't mean to advocate alcohol, drugs, insanity and violence, but they've always worked for me."

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Phones, Again.

I turned off my phone four days ago and only just switched it on again this morning. You ought to try it sometime.

Remember those great golden days when if you wanted to make a phone call when you were out somewhere you had to drive around until you could find a working phone booth? Remember that feeling of being joyously, unreachably disconnected from the world that grinds us all into dust each day with its meaningless tasks and absurd pressures?

Remember those days when people smoked on buses, but nobody would sit and moronically run through each of their phone's ringtones, grinning like a simpleton at the ones that sounded funny, completely unaware of anything around them except the pretty music?

I saw someone doing that the other day. Reminded me of a baby in its crib watching coloured light play through a plastic mobile near an open window.

Monday, July 30, 2007

New Poem. Called, Ingeniously, "POEM".

it is hoped that readers will forgive the uncharacteristic honesty of the following poem. i won't let it happen again. honestly.


The voice of Frank O'Hara
is talking in my head tonight
as I sit lonely by my
window watching the
women in the street.
Couples very much in love
cross beneath the window
heading for the restaurant
next door to my flat, where
they will sit, drink wine,
and love each other in the
muted light. O Frank, I want
to be one of them again.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

On The Job Again: New Poems

Sunday Morning Haiku

condensation covers
half the attic window:
the life within

men emerging from their houses
in slacks and rubber shoes:
gone to fetch the paper

pigeon on a lamppost
preens fussily this morning:
last night it rained for hours

underneath the tree
a gnome smokes a cigarette:
the heavy shower

he kissed her
but her eyes were cool:
parting sunday morning

Friday, July 27, 2007

Notes From The Lookout

MySpace was the new Blogger. Now we hear Facebook is the new MySpace. It's so hard to stay fashionable in the world of the internet. Good thing I don't give a shit.

Have you noticed that there's a certain appealing quaintness about the sight of someone reading a book in a bus station or a rail station? There is where I live, at least. Now the majority of people spend their waiting time staring at their mobile phone. I know some are listening to music or watching videos; and you can see when somebody is texting because of the motion of their thumb across the keypad. But what are the rest of them doing? Reading old text messages? Scrolling through their contacts list in a completely absent-minded way, delighting in the fact that they know so many people?
I sat next to one girl a few days ago who spent fifteen minutes doggedly deleting one text message after another in her inbox while she waited for the bus from Northampton to Kettering. This may be the communication age, but as with deregulation of television services many years ago, an increase in the many ways a person can communicate seems to have drastically diminished the quality of the communication being made.

We learn that a relatively unknown fellow called Fred Thompson may get the Republican nomination for the presidential election in the US when that sainted day comes and George Bush finally leaves the White House. Apparently Thompson is an actor in some kind of television show and has very few political accomplishments to his name.
That probably doesn't matter. I feel uncomfortable as a fervent liberal (if such a thing exists) predicting it, but I can't see Clinton OR Obama being able to seize the presidency, however suited both of them might be, and however deeply-rooted dissatisfaction with the occupation of Iraq might be. They just don't feel like potential presidents in this confused and conservative age of ours.
I hope I'm wrong, though.

Next post, POETRY. Yes, I have finally written some. And all it took to set the stage for the return of my better, bardic self was three months of constant rain, pleurisy, depression, alcoholism, loneliness, and some good reading.
Who'd be an artist.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

My Country Right Or Wrong

Why is it that standard company self-appraisal forms--you know, the ones you have to fill in before formal appraisal by your manager-- link loyalty and integrity in one tick box? Aren't they very different things sometimes? Can't they, actually, on occasion, be mutually opposing? An employee who is loyal to his company might wind up doing a disservice to it by overlooking aspects of its behaviour that are unworthy of its higher values. Bad deals, corruption, intimidation.

And that holds true for one's country as well. We Americans and Englishmen who stand against the occupation of Iraq aren't unpatriotic; we aren't "running down our country," as Merle Haggard would say. Actually we're trying to save our country by holding in check those in government who would dump its nobler aspirations and traditions in the name of profiteering imperialism. George Bush is the real enemy of American values. As was Tony Blair, though at least his domestic political programme was positive and progressive.

My country right or wrong? No thank you.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Holiday Notes And Doggerel


Off to ----------- we will go
A dull and dreary army.
-------- drunk and ----- loud
And ------- fake and smarmy.

We're going for to make some noise
And throw stones in the ocean,
And hang about like ancient thugs
In loads of suntan lotion.

People have said, "Let me come with you on your walks." But I don't want anybody to come with me. Let them find their own path through the woods.

The two main requirements for success in modern life are low intelligence and instinctive subservience. If you have both you will never go hungry. If you have neither you may end up like me, standing alone on a clifftop in the rain shouting revolutionary slogans at the seagulls.

One yesterday described me as "set in my ways". Yes, if that means unable to pretend I like bingo, and wouldn't rather be stabbed in the eye with a rusty nail than endure another cheesy cabaret singer.

By the time you hit 40, if you've had sex and been in love and watched somebody die there's nothing left to learn from other people.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Computerus Interruptus

Computerus Interruptus
Ahh, this new thing of having to rent computer time to post here is really getting on my nerves. Been working earlies all week, so by the time I leave work I'm too tired to hike down to the library in town and be creative. Or halfway interesting. And next week I'm heading off to Bournemouth again, but I'm hoping to locate a library or an internet cafe I can use around there for posting. Not that I fancy my chances. That part of the country is rather like the Land of the Nearly Dead. Full of old people hobbling in and out of swanky retirement villas waiting for the End. Still, one should try. I owe it to my public.

The way to get my own personal computer access back is clear. Either I a) swallow my pride, and apologise to my landlady for telling her to shove up her arse her demand for half the money to install a phone line so I have internet access, or b) I move house. Now, the former is never going to happen in a million years. The latter? I need about a grand that I haven't got. It's funny I persist in thinking of myself as an intellectual giant when even a drooling idiot doesn't get themselves into situations like these...

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


An anonymous correspondent poses the interesting question: "Whatever happened to you?" (Meaning me.) Apparently this page, or my mind (or something), used to be more interesting.

Since when? As far as I'm concerned I've always been a huge pedantic arrogant solipsistic little creep, and if somebody's trying to tell me otherwise I'm going to be immensely disappointed.

Of course, even when I'm hectoring the world unreasonably, I still have the courage to put a name to all my statements. But there you go.

Riding On The Bus

into town this morning I noticed that all the young men look so designed, as if they had stepped into our (allegedly) three-dimensional world from out of the pages of a style magazine.

No matter how much money you spend on me I still look like an earth tremor in a poor man's wardrobe.

Monday, June 25, 2007


On the television last night somebody was drinking blood. Pig's blood. Some pale, tending-to-corpulent chat show host and a self-satisfied, pock-marked tv chef.

I don't normally watch television, not having one at home, but here I was at work at the end of a shift with three of my work colleagues all ranged around the room in varying states of exhaustion, watching the big set in the corner and waiting to go home. And the overpaid oafs on tv are drinking the blood of a recently murdered pig and commenting on what a fine taste it has. The scene is supposed to be sophisticated somehow--this is one of those shows for a crowd that considers itself to be "upmarket", better than the folks who like all the other tv chefs.

And Lewis, who considers himself a "foodie", watched it play out on the tv with a sudden animation, something like glee shining in his eyes. He reminded me of a teenager lighting his first cigarette in public, only he was even more bumptiously confident. Five years ago the "animal rights brigade" still held enough sway with the media--and had won enough of the old argument--to make this gruesome spectacle something you probably wouldn't have to look at on mainstream tv. Now nobody could do anything to stop it, and watching it unfold was like an orgiastic fuck-you to all those fevered lunatics who had once curtailed your freedom.

The freedom to drink the blood of an animal as an ostentatious, and curious, proof of your dominance over all animals, including the ones who lived in council houses, used buses, ate generic greasy chicken wings in burger bars.

I got up from the sofa seat next to Esme, in a leather coat, with a feeling of nausea rising into what Western heroes used to call their craw. "I'm not watching any more of these murdering bastards, " I said, and I stalked from the room.

The others carried on talking and tv-watching as if I'd never been in there with them. Bruce? Who the hell is Bruce? So it was these days with anyone who believes in rights for animals.

Monday, June 18, 2007

two new ones to celebrate my return from bournemouth

poem: who am i?

i am the buddha
who drinks wine
to excess
and falls down
on his hairy ass

poem: your alba

wake up, turn tv on loud,
lay a long time half-asleep
as presenters with white teeth
spout the showbiz gossip,
crawl under shower with
only five minutes left,
tie up your hair stumbling
bleary-eyed across the camp to work.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

What Happened To The Counter-Culture?

They're too busy getting stoned, and fucking, to develop a serious critique of contemporary life, like past generations of outsiders have done. Since the cowardly conservatism of punk rock, thinking has been unhip.

How your leaders must be loving that. The only time the bastards who run and ruin your lives have to worry is when people start talking politics on street corners, and in pubs.

Snort, brother. Find a fat vein. Get fucked on nice little tablets while Iraq burns and China murders Tibetans and Egypt jails her bloggers and the unions are dismantled and the minimum wage stays at a level that wouldn't support anybody and the education system turns out another generation of inarticulate, knuckle-dragging zombies in white baseball caps. It's all good, man, and what can a poor boy do anyway, right?

"Stick a fork in their ass and turn 'em over, they're done," as Lou Reed's painter friend Donald would say.


While expensive perfume fills my nostrils I can't smell the dead.


Happy in our new cotton underwear while the world goes to Hell.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

I'm Off On My Holiday Soon

On Saturday I have to trek off on another of those work holidays, like the one that kept me from the computer for a week in late summer last year. This time Bruce and his gang of wild individualists are heading off to Bournemouth. Yippee.

This, of course, means another reduction in posting is likely. I should get back to the computer before we set off, but consider this advance warning (or is that "advanced" warning? I never know). If I can't find an internet cafe or a library when we get there, my journal will have to be the repository of all my wit and wisdom that week.

I have been out today and bought six paperbacks in anticipation of the trip. Good traditional holiday reading: Graham Greene, Kinky Friedman, Jack London, Charles Schulz. I do not expect to spend large amounts of time trooping around Bournemouth bars with twentysomething co-workers--though once I'm there, the lure of alcohol may prove too strong (as it has so many times in the past).

When I get back I'll say something here about how it went. But accounts may have to be edited. One or two of my work colleagues do visit the page, from time to time..!

Three Nurses

I saw three nurses sitting on a step in the sun outside the Weston Favell Health Centre this afternoon smoking cigarettes. A fantastic image. Made me wish I had a camera with me, or enough juice in my poetry engine to write a decent haiku about it.

Thank God there's still a couple of weeks to go before the smoking ban, which is not only a triumph of corporatism over individual soul and mind, but also another victory for the puritans who are gradually claiming every corner of our world.

Shopping List For A Better World

So much has got to go to create a world we all deserve. But can we start with people saying "You're welcome!" every time you say thank you to them? It used to be something we laughed at when watching American television, and now it's penetrated almost every corner of modern British life. And it's annoying. Annoying, and silly. People say it so automatically the sentiment completely disappears.

While I'm at it, by the way, if anybody out there is in a position to grant these things, how about removing, also, the trend for young white boys to wear baseball caps? And English people answering their mobiles by saying, "Whassup dog?" It just doesn't work, even if you're black.

Okay. We'll get onto the million and one other forms of dumbness, cowardice and conformity that preponder (I don't know if that's a real word, but it should be), at a later date.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Cave Of Winds

Watching old footage of Bob Dylan's press conferences, I'm reminded of this guy I know. He too is full of evasions and obfuscations and surreal wit whenever you talk to him. Is this guy hiding something precious from a callow world? Was Bob Dylan's mind just a "cave of winds"?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Tom Cruise Never Did This

I used to be a great admirer of Johnny Depp. In a world that seemed to have lost its bearings altogether, post-Sixties, he was--I thought--the one man who had hung on. He knew. He was right. But these days I'm not so sure. Something seems terribly wrong when the guy who refused to parlay his Hollywood looks into a lucrative big money career making obvious, brain-dead movies racks up three versions of a blockbuster film based on a ride at Disneyworld. Even Tom Cruise never did that.

The first "Pirates" film was all right, albeit rather dumb and predictable. The second one was so boring I fell asleep about twenty minutes in, and didn't wake up until twenty minutes before the end. And when I went back to review the parts I'd missed (about seventeen hours of sword fights, monsters, racist caricatures and Johnny Depp twitching and ticking cutely), I realised the dream I'd been having while it played out in front of my closed lids the first time around had been much more entertaining.

I celebrated the release of the third in the franchise by going out and buying "Five Easy Pieces" on dvd.

A film, you see. With writing .And acting. And no giant squids.

At what point along my time line did adults start watching films that would previously have only satisfied children, while mocking those this failed to satisfy as people with no sense of humour?

Saturday, May 26, 2007


Northampton is a strange town. Caught half way between wicker-man-style inbred country wierdness and cosmopolitan pretentiousness, with a bohemian underbelly that sings beautiful folk music if you tickle it the right way.

Yesterday I was in Sainsbury's and who did I walk past but Alan Moore, creator of the graphic novels that spawned movies like "From Hell" and "V For Vendetta" (which I thought was a lot better than Moore allowed). You can't mistake Alan, though I know somebody who did. He's large, extremely hairy, and he has the world's most lugubrious face.

Well, I kind of wanted to say hello to him, just hello you understand...I'd feel the urge to say hello to Stan Lee if I saw him in Sainsbury's too (and if I'd met a living Jack Kirby I would have wet my pants). But I didn't. I don't want people saying hello to me when I'm just out trying to get my peanut butter and my wine, unless the person saying hello is a good looking woman who's going to invite me back to hers for coffee. (And you know how often that happens!)

Meeting famous people is usually disappointing anyway. I've noticed it as a magazine editor. Every poet with a half way large reputation turns into an opera diva when you give him or her too much time and attention. As if they're the only ones who ever wrote an immortal line or two (when most of 'em haven't written one).

I favour the attitude of the Chink in "Even Cowgirls Get The Blues" when the Clock People come to him looking for him to be their leader:

"Shove it up your butts," he says." I have taught you nothing."

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


There's been no poetry coming through this addled brain for a while now, other than in certain isolated sentences in my private journals. It's tough to find the time to think like a poet sometimes when your life forces you to do so many other things as well: as part of my money job I'm having to do a management qualification now, and 90% of that has to be done when I'm at home.

This, you could say, is the trap. Well, yes, but what are you gonna do? Quit work? I'm half a paycheck away from selling The Big Issue; quitting work isn't a realistic option (if I survive this ailment that's making my chest stick every time I breathe). And it's funny, because all the while I pursue this capitalist life of work and responsibility--albeit with the greatest reluctance--I'm permanently broke. I am not doing well out of this. Nobody I know is.

Sometimes, also, I worry about the poetry scene. Are we really doing anything worthwhile? Are we creating enduring works? Or is it just some kind of boy's club where if you scratch the right ego, you'll become a "name"? I see very little around me that looks like it will achieve permanence...

Hammond On Record

I have found one of those rare flea-market-book-stall treasures, "John Hammond On Record," the autobiography of the man who discovered Billie Holiday, Count Basie, Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen. It came out on Penguin in 1977.

I've been reading it for the last two days, despite feeling rough thanks to some oppressive ailment of the chest I've picked up in that time. We've all heard about Hammond through the Dylan stories, but this gives you a chance to peer inside his mind; and it's a literate, thoughtful and highly moral mind at that.

I can't write much that's inspired right now because the medication I'm on is shutting down the flow of my thoughts.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Tesco Has Left Me

My Tesco internet account appears to be dead now. I cancelled it a while ago in an effort to cut down outgoings. But they shut it down before I had transferred all my emails to the new address. So if you've sent anything there in the last month or so and I haven't replied, my apologies. They're lost in the air somewhere now, I'm afraid.

As are submissions to the Beatnik. Well, I don't have time to run the thing now anyway. Or, I won't until I get back into a home where I have regular access to the internet and don't have to rent computers at the Library. And the way my funds are going, I'm not going to be able to afford to move out of the Flat From Hades any time soon. In fact, I'm still in debt from putting myself there.

But you understand, out there on the fringes of the glorious world of poetry, right? You want your writing with an edge. You want your poetry to matter. Your magazines to hurt with the pain pangs of real experience. You don't want your art to be delivered to you from a comfortable tower in a university somewhere. This is real life. And it's tough and unpredictable sometimes.

But we'll work out the kinks eventually and get the Beatnik rolling again.

A fat cheque from one of you million and one poetry admirers would help.

My Worst Regret

Lost love, death, all those wasted years trying to write a poem that never came. But my worst regret is that I never had a decent haircut.

A Tragedy

I gave up the love that was destined for me and spent four years chasing a woman I never caught.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

What This Country Needs

What this country needs is less emphasis on handwashing before during and after every task you perform throughout the day, and more reading intelligent books.

Less moisturising and more sitting in the warm dirt under trees talking to squirrels.

Less identification with peers and more identification with one's own inner voice.

The kids on the street corners shouting "fuck" at the elderly aren't alienated from anything; they're actually too chickenshit to think with their own minds.

What A Drag

The cigarette ban coming into force in England on July 1st is enough to make you want to take up smoking. Damn puritans are penetrating every corner of modern life.

I sometimes characterise myself as an old leftist, but I hate it when government starts telling people how to live their lives.

Won't be long before alcohol is banned in pubs as well and we'll all have to sit there drinking sparkling water. While eating a nice healthy salad.

At which time my already-severe separation from contemporary life will be complete.

Go back and resurrect Sam Peckinpah, I say. Make him World President with Kris Kristofferson deputy and Willie Nelson in charge of religious and cultural affairs.

Drive these middle-management drones back into the river from which they sprang.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Falling Towards England, And To Me.

Reading the second volume of Clive James' "Unreliable Memoirs", Falling Towards England, I keep thinking how entertaining a memoir of my own would be to those who've never kept the kind of company I keep, who've never done the things I did. I have seen some things, as Raymond Carver would say.

But then I start to wonder...Did any of the things I think happened actually happen? And as for the ones that investigation proves to have happened, did they happen in the way I remember them happening? Was person a. really the person I presumed him to be? Did he act for the reasons I assumed?

I have developed conditioned responses to all the situations that occur in my life on the basis of presumptions about things that have already happened to me. But maybe my presumptions were wrong.

The only thing about my life until now (and beyond) that I'm fairly sure of is that the common denominator in all of my experiences was a bit of an arse.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Goodbye Tony. Goodbye Britain.

Tony Blair's announcement that he will be leaving office soon has been greeted with relief all across the country, more by traditional Labour supporters and those of a generally progressive mind than by Conservatives, who have always had a sneaking admiration for him.

Blair has become, thanks to the disaster in Iraq, the Margaret Thatcher or the Richard Nixon of this generation. The embodiment of everything that right-thinking people oppose. But to me that's rather unfair.

Iraq was a disaster. And it was, at least in part, Blair's Messianic tendencies that got us there. He was a man with high principles. A man with a calling. And a man (or woman) with a calling is a dangerous one to leave with his finger on the button.

But England is better for the New Labour project, which Tony Blair drove with Gordon Brown. The concept of social justice was almost unknown in the 1980s, characterised by poet Basil Bunting as "a terrible decade to have lived through". And it will vanish from the face of our society again if we let the Conservatives back in because Tony Blair, in our minds, has tainted the Labour Party forever.

Remember the Eighties, kids? Destruction of the industrial base, violent dismantling of the trade unions, persecution of gays and hippies, general dumbness and superficiality everywhere?

David Cameron is stealing Tony Blair's clothes, as Blair in his time stole Margaret Thatcher's, to pretend that he is not what we fear him to be. But what Blair was hiding from a callous public was his goodness, the positive nature of his programme. Cameron is claiming a positive programme to hide his Toryism.

I might say be conned by him at your own risk. But if you are you'll take me and the unions and the poor and the homosexuals and the immigrants and everybody else down with you. So don't be so hopelessly naive, eh?

Crude Red Boat

Sometimes the right things happen to the right people in the poetry world. Evidence: Ralph Murre's first collection of poetry "Crude Red Boat" (Cross+Roads Press). It's out now and it's marvellous, full of poise, grace, humour, wisdom. I recommend it highly to anyone with an interest in these things.

It says in the "author information" section that Ralph's only been writing poetry since 1999. In which case he has no right to be this good! I've been plugging away at this intermittently since 1983, you swine!

Visit the links on the right to Ralph's own page or Cross+Roads boss Norbert Blei for more information.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

OOOO Lovely!!!

I'd rather listen to Ivor Cutler being tickled by his obliging fairy than expose myself to one minute of the r & b various friends of mine have on the tv all day long.

Friday, May 04, 2007


Riding on the bus this morning through the open country, here's a stretch of ground where four horses are pulling at a hay bale, or just sitting, pondering the big metaphysical questions as horses do, in the morning cold. "I feel sorry for them stuck out there," says a girl in the seat in front of me, through her slicked-down hair, in her anonymous white blouse and plain black trousers, with a heavy briefcase on her knees, travelling to another eight hours at the office.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007


Tom Blessing is a good man. Good man, good poet. And a good editor too, it seems. Received my copy yesterday of his "Quickzine" Going to Georgia (put out by his own Tandava Poetry Press, who you can reach via ), and it is extremely good. You might think I'm saying that because I'm in it, but trust me, I usually hate my own poetry when I see it in print. What I like about the magazine is that Tom's editorial selections incline to the contemporary, but with a lyrical/ musical edge--that is, the effect of the words on your ear is important as well as the message (and to me, that's poetry). Of course, that doesn't completely capture what Tom's about. The moment you say anything it becomes a lie. But it's a good starting point for anyone who wants to attempt a critical analysis. Ron Androla, Pris Campbell, Mark Hartenbach, Didi Menendez, Justin Hyde and Zach Blessing, among several others, do the honours poetically, and the drawings are wonderful. A really refreshing, intelligent read.

Saturday, April 28, 2007


I have a review of POESY XXXIV at Todd and Theron Moore's "St Vitus" site. Follow the link on the right side of the page to read my words (if you haven't had enough of them here, you masochists).

New Email Address

I have a new email address. Anyone who wants to discuss, debate, offer payment for literary activity, arrange a sexual liaison, should now contact me at:

I await your fine barbs and words of wisdom.


All you want to be is a loudmouth on the same streetcorner for the rest of your life. How unimaginative. How unambitious. How obliging you are in the service of the cause of your oppressor, you damn fool.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

new poem (of sorts)

I wrote this while high on Oust. Rimbaud never foresaw so much.

for robin easton, who knows

standing for a while
blowing on the wet socks
i'd hung over my door
to get them dry

i realised i was getting high
inhaling the oust i'd sprayed
everywhere to cover up the smell
of whatever smelled so bad

great lungfuls of it going down
preparing for the big blows
that would deliver me my socks.

in an hour i'd be at work.

Monday, April 23, 2007

CROW INK by Sharon Auberle

"Crow Ink" is Sharon Auberle's first book. And the fact that it's her first book shows what a lottery publication is in the poetry game, since she's really an extremely good, interesting, sensual, funny, intelligent, technically deft poet (and some with no talent at all infest the poetry magazines like cockroaches or summer flies).

I say forget the summer flies and beetle in her direction. I have been very remiss in not adding a link to her brilliant blog "Mimi's Golightly Cafe" and right now with only ten minutes left on the computer I can't remember the URL to help you get there (how great is MY journalism?) But if you follow Ralph Murre's link you'll find it. Then you can ask Sharon directly how to get hold of her book. There are no publication details nor any price listed on the book, at least that I can find, so you'll have to do it that way. And you should.

Avail yourself of her grace and wisdom.

The book's cover also has a lovely illustration by Ralph.

The Poem And The Pound

Worked a twelve hour shift at the day job yesterday. Retired to bed at 10pm not even in the mood to watch Chelsea on tv throwing away the best opportunity they've had all year to overhaul Manchester United in the Premiership title race. Every impartial observer in the country wants Man United to win because they play more attractive football. But last night I couldn't have cared less. And poetry was even further down the list.

It's hard trying to be a great literary figure and make a living in a tough job in one of the most expensive countries in the world. But I suppose I'm not alone in that, much as I would like to think I am. Sometimes your mind just isn't in that poetry space, and nothing you can do is going to put it there. So go home when you can, take off your shoes, open your first bottle and wait...

Saturday, April 21, 2007


Well, thanks for the response to my query about readers, all. I note great poets, great photographers and a master journalist among you, so I'm sincerely flattered.

In case you haven't visited the other site lately, there's a new poem of mine called "mid-life" up there today, and a review I wrote at the beginning of the week of tom splake's new dvd "a day in the life". I know a few of you out there are splake admirers or even literary friends already, but if you haven't seen the film you should (as the young folk say) "check it out". You can track it down by clicking on the link here to splake at the Vertin website, and asking tks or his co-conspirator Jikiwe for purchase details.

Also received in the mail lately--I now have the princely luxury of a letterbox, though my mailman (who is either a poet, a drunk, or a fool--or like me, all three at once) posts my letters through every door in the village--but anyway, also received are books by Cornwall's Paul Tristram, and "Crow Ink" by the wonderful Sharon Auberle. I'll be saying more about both in the next posting here.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Has It Really Been Three Weeks?

God, I can't believe it's been so long since I posted here! Doesn't time fly, as the great wits of England say, when you're enjoying yourself?

But I'm a whore really, all claims to personal integrity aside. I tend to devote my limited time to the MySpace site because it has more readers. Judging by the feedback I get here, I have a glorious total of about four! (There have been more, but for some reason snuffling around in my murky little bog of a mind doesn't hold the attention of most people for very long.)

SUFFOLK PUNCH is my baby, though. It was my first internet site and it's the only one that's been namechecked in a printed book, as far as I know ( tom splake's beautiful "Artists of the Keweenaw", which I'll review when I find it). So I think I owe this page more loyalty than I've shown it lately.

Expect posts imminently. And if you enjoy the page--or if you hate it, but feel inexplicably compelled to come back and read it anyway--let me know. I'm interested to know who's out there.

Thursday, March 29, 2007


Sometimes regular trawling through cheap and secondhand bookshops pays off. Yesterday I found John Mulligan's "Shopping Cart Soldiers", an autobiographical novel about Vietnam and the subsequent ordeal faced by the author on his return to America. The first 40 or so pages I have read are so harrowing, the word "harrowing" is inadequate to describe them. It's more like a fierce and unexpected punch in the gut followed by a hammerblow to the head. I sat in the benjo this morning reading his account of the moment where he kills his best friend to honour a pact they made to spare each other the horrors of dying slowly, and I actually almost wept--which is something I really don't make a habit of doing. The description is so vivid and so emotionally charged it reminded me of watching my own mother die, ten years ago, from cancer--probably a more tortured and undignified death than going with a bullet.

Any work of art that transforms your own emotions so dramatically is a great work, as far as I'm concerned. But don't look for this book if, as Dylan says, you "like (your) sugar sweet." This is bitter as a drink of warm poisoned water in Hell. Which is where John Mulligan was, and what he survived. An example to all of us who think we've got it tough.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Quote of the Day

Heard a great one today: "May you be in Heaven half an hour before the Devil knows you're dead."

Monday, March 26, 2007

An Explanation

My recent travails have begun almost to amuse me. I've sorted out my internet access problem with regular visits to the library, but now, for some reason, I can't access my email. Which means I can't deal with submissions to "The Beatnik". I could go and ask one of the library staff for technical assistance, but the last time I did that, the person at the help desk knew even less about computers than I did.

So if you know me and you're waiting on a reply to an email, forgive me. It will be forthcoming. Eventually. In the meantime I'll just continue noodling here and on my MySpace page. They are the real pleasures of all this internet business anyway.

In The Mail

Les Merton's latest "POETRY CORNWALL" (number eighteen). The usual eclectic mix of poets, with standout big and little poems by George Wallace, Martha Street and Paul Tristram, among a large list of contributors. You may not like all of it because Les casts his editorial net so widely; but you will like it. You can get it for £3.50, which is a pretty reasonable price given the smartness of the magazine, from Palores Publications, 11a Penryn Street, Redruth, Cornwall, TR15 2SP.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Clive James

My recent conversion to writers identified with the Establishment continues to baffle me and assault my credibility as an underground hero. Currently I'm reading Clive James' "MAY WEEK WAS IN JUNE" and I'm loving it. He's such a great wit and prose stylist; and there are moments of surpassing beauty nestled among the jokes and plangent observations that any Beat hero would be proud of.

Am I growing up? Am I opening my mind? Am I just selling out? Or am I, as I suspect, just reading?

I dunno. But James, in particular, can't be dismissed as simply "Establishment", if anybody can (I suspect they can't, things being a lot deeper and more complex than we usually like to think, in the world of archetypes that rebellious souls inhabit). He's too much of an individualist. And he excites a very special memory for me, which links him--albeit somewhat tenuously--to my beginnings as a writer, back in the mists of time when everything was in black and white and dinosaurs walked the earth.

When I was at school, my English teacher Patrick Norman tried to connect with us, his bored and unruly pupils, by offering examples of literature and journalism that were crisp, funny, contemporary. He once read the first two chapters of "Catcher In The Rye", which wasn't on the syllabus, in a ridiculous American accent. The mild swear words and cynical humour, not to mention the grotesque and disrespectful portrait of Holden's ageing and sickly teacher, amazed a class full of kids who had been led to believe that literature was all stuffy Victorian noodling or incomprehensible Shakespearean verse.

The other writer Mr Norman liked to read was Clive James. He had an Observer tv column back then, and Norman--"Nutty" Norman as we amusingly called him--would read from it periodically, standing at the front of the class giggling girlishly, his face turning beetroot red as he progressed. I don't remember whether I got the jokes as I sat there listening, but I definitely enjoyed the fact that while my teacher was indulging himself we weren't having to read Charles Dickens.

The memory of those classroom Clive James sessions charms me now as I sit with his book next to the keyboard, writing. Especially since Mr. Norman is no longer with us, having died, I believe, of a heart attack several years ago.

James, in a sense--along with J.D. Salinger--was where I began. To dismiss him would be like declaring myself better than my hometown of Ipswich, and I would never do that.

Alan Moore

In Northampton, stories about Alan Moore abound. He's the one living legend in the area that everybody (or almost everybody) has heard about. The other day a taxi driver told me he had some original artwork by Moore. And then a woman I know told me Moore made a pass at her in the Fish Inn in town (about 500 yards from where I am now). She didn't know who he was, bless her, and reported to her boyfriend that she had just been propositioned by a hairy tramp. Moore, of course, is infamously hirsuite. Her boyfriend, who had seen the incomplete pass take place while on his way back from the toilet, told her that her failed suitor was the famous comics writer responsible for "From Hell" and "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen". As a boy, of course, he'd know.

I've never seen Moore myself, and therefore doubt his existence.