Showing posts from 2019


Northampton band King's Gambit have announced a Kickstarter project to raise money for a new album. They need to raise £2,500 before December 17th (I think that's the date). Can anyone help? Clink the link below to see what special rewards different pledges will get you.And know that you will be adding to the general level of beauty in the universe.…/kin…/kings-gambit-studio-album
To whet your appetite, here's a poem I wrote after seeing the band one day last summer.


King’s Gambit are tuning up on stage as we shelter, cow-like, from the lashing rain. We’re under the tarp of a market stall, our coats zipped up. There’s a crowd of us. I’m grumpy. I came to watch the band, not drown. But over Jimmy’s End, some blue appears in the Stygian gloom. So maybe we will have our show. Meanwhile, a New Orleans-style jazz band marches through the deluge playing. The rain soaks through their clothes, but…

Review: Barry Tebb Collected Poems 1964 - 2016

This book represents 52 years of serious work by a poet of great skill and sensibility. Barry Tebb believes in the importance of his art in an age when cynical detachment is the requisite posture for a reputation, at least in the creative alleyways where I’ve made camp (more by accident than design). Elsewhere, it’s enough just to write increasingly insipid imitations of the generation that came before you these days. Maybe the readership no longer believes in poetry as a high and possibly holy work either:

Armitage, I name you, a blackguard and a knave,
Who knows no more of poetry than McGonagall the brave,
Yet tops the list of Faber’s ‘Best Poets of Our Age’.

Barry Tebb ‘James Simmons R.I.P.’

That’s from Barry’s poem ‘James Simmons R.I.P.’ It’s one of the great pieces in this collection, a paean to a poet largely erased from the histories because his style had become unfashionable and his personality difficult. Armitage challenges nobody; his demeanour and his poetry are radio friendly. …

Northampton News: The Bardic Picnic

This year's Bardic Picnic takes place on Sunday 15th September, that's this coming Sunday, on the Racecourse at the Umbrella Fair Pavilion. The Racecourse is a perfect place for the artists of the area to meet and engage in friendly song, dance and poetical competition. The Bardic tradition goes back to medieval times at least. And the Racecourse has been a place of communal activity in Northampton for centuries.

Unofficial race meetings were held there until 1681, at which point they were stopped because of the number of accidents. As much as I disapprove of horse racing, I can imagine the roaring, cheering (and probably at times dangerous) atmosphere at the meetings. The sense of freedom gained by hardworking people as they watched those marvellous wild creatures charge must have been exhilarating.

Between 1778 and 1882, apparently, the area now known as the Racecourse was called Freeman's Common and local freemen grazed their cattle there. That name has resonances in t…

Review: Once Upon a Nervous Breakdown

eBook from

ONCE UPON A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN is a new book of poetry by John Patrick Robbins, boss of Whiskey City Press. It's a strong book. Occasionally it's an outrageous book (for all the right reasons), linked, if not sequentially, then thematically:

     What would I write about if not for women and whisky?

     Who the fuck knows but I doubt you would be reading my work.

      ('We All Got Issues')

Not all of the poems are about women and whisky. Some are about loyalty. Some are about the trials of publishing. But they're all about the poet's responses (or the responses of one of his characters), to what he encounters: a life lived in the raw, retold in the raw.

And it's an interesting quote, the one above, from somebody who founded a poetry site dedicated to 'all things bar-room.' Is John Robbins admitting he's just an entertainer giving the audience what he thinks they want?

No. But he's partly right about reader …

Musicians Against Homelessness

A bunch of really fine musicians are putting this show on for an incredibly important cause. Admission is free but donations are appreciated. If you have a free night that night why not pop along?


I used to handle the rejection of my poetry very badly. I still don't like it; nobody does. But two or three magazines in a month declining my submissions won't make me question my right to call myself a poet anymore.

Once, in the print days, I had a lot of success publishing with Bryn Fortey in his legendary magazine 'Outlaw'. I thought I had cracked it; I thought I knew how to write good poetry and that everything I produced would be loved by everyone.

Then two editors sent my submissions back by return of post. One was brutal. I was so crushed by his demolition of my work I couldn't write for months.

Which is silly, really. I'd never met the man. Nor had I ever read any of his poetry. Why would his opinion matter if I had no measure of his right to offer one?

These days, roughly 50% of my submissions are accepted, or one from 50% of the bundles I submit, to be more precise. That's an average I'm proud of, though I'd like it to be higher. But I&#…

Book Review: 'The Two of Us' by Sheila Hancock

This week I've read The Two of Us. Sheila Hancock's memoir of her life with John Thaw. It was first published 15 years ago, but mylove of the Inspector Morse franchise hadn't consumed me in 2004. I liked the show, just as I had liked The Sweeney when I was a teenager, but it was still just unusually intelligent tv. Television was an intellectual bete-noire for me in those days. I hated the way it was always chattering away in the background at home, forcing what I considered a mentally deadening consensual reality on its audience.

Besides,  there really was no Inspector Morse franchise in 2004. The Morse spin-off Lewis wouldn't begin for another two years, and I didn't even see that until 2010, having jettisoned my tv between house moves at some point along the line. Finally I did see it, and I thought it was wonderful, almost as good as the original (I was too loyal to allow for anything else). By the time the Morse prequel Endeavour began in 2012 I was deeply im…

Guest Writer: Ed Markowski

Homage To Thompson
On January 20, 2017 at 12:00 pm the citizens of the world bid farewell to the Obama Nation and bore witness to the dawn of America's Abomination. In New York Harbor the inscription was amended to read . . . Give me your tired your poor your huddled masses yearning to breath fear when we arrived a one-hundred and ten story hotel and casino constructed entirely of Mount Rushmore granite had erased the faces by law dictionaries phone booksnews papers, magazines short stories bibles encyclopedias letters coupons and conversations could no longer exceed two-hundred and eighty characters regardless of faith race denominationand purpose kneeling on Sundays became a federal crime on July 16, 2018 in honor of the president millions of men women boys and girls had their hair dyed pale orange from Moscow to Minsk his last assault on Obama's legacy was the release of a previously classified National Inquirer that proved Hillary Clinton was the mastermind responsible for …

Tibet National Uprising Day

Today marks the 60th anniversary of the Tibetan National Uprising. The Parliament-in-Exile makes an official statement about the history and the current status of Tibet under occupation here.

References to the anniversary on British media, however, appear to be non-existent at the moment. Interest in the matter on the part of our political parties is equally hard to detect.

I had Sky News' Sunrise programme on in the background for an hour this morning and it didn't get a mention. I had Sophy Ridge on Sunday on for at least half an hour; most of that was taken up by an interview with Dominic Raab, in which he talked about Brexit, the 'Marxist' agenda of Labour under Corbyn and the 'good story' that the Conservative Party has to tell the electorate. He also coyly denied (looking all the time like an arrogant young murder suspect on Inspector Morse) that he had any immediate ambition to become prime minister.

I have The Andrew Marr Show on now. A newspaper revie…


While book hunting the other day I found this little treasure. It's 'Job Morbid's Pilgrimage', a collection of poetry from 1857, a first edition if I'm not mistaken, by a poet who calls himself or herself 'D.R.M.' Now, I have a reasonable knowledge of English literature. But I'd never heard of a D.R.M. before. I was, naturally, intrigued.

I bought the book and when I got home, looked up D.R.M. on the internet. Perhaps I don't know where to look, but I found nothing. Only multiple copies of 'Job Morbid' on different Amazon sites around the world, some listing the author as D.R.M., some listing him/ her as R.M.D., and one that said 'author unknown'. Unfortunately, none of them have Amazon's 'Look Inside' facility. If they did I might be able to satisfy my curiosity by reading some work of diligent scholarship in an introduction.

A Twitter friend consulted the Bodleian digital library for me and found another book by the sa…


Yesterday was the anniversary of the suicide of Hunter S. Thompson, who has been one of my favourite writers since I first came across his work in Rolling Stone in 1985. I remember the magazine and the year with an unusual (for me) accuracy because the article, a ten-year-old account of the fall of Saigon, made the sort of impression on me that readers only experience once or twice in their lifetime. His prose was remarkable. He used song lyrics as epigraphs. He slipped occasionally into bizarre flights of fancy. And behind all the showmanship there was an intellectual and philosophical depth I had only expected, up to that point, from poets and folk singers.

After that first article I read both Fear and Loathing books and The Great Shark Hunt. Shark Hunt collected then-contemporary as well as much older journalism by Hunter. It was a proper history of the previous twenty years in America from a perspective that became increasingly skewed as the author grew into his mature style. And…

The Artist and the Work

Can the artist and the work ever be separated? I have been having this discussion with other poets and a painter friend lately. I love the poetry of Ezra Pound. But Pound was an anti-Semite. Does enjoying his work make me an anti-Semite too? I love the poetry of Ted Hughes. Does that mean I approve of men having multiple relationships simultaneously? And are the achievements of either poet, or any of the other great poets, writers, painters and musicians of history to be nullified by our disapproval of the lives of their creators?

I can't really disapprove of Ted Hughes. I once slept with a woman knowing she was married, and I didn't give a moment's thought to her husband; she excited me, and I wanted her. But I do believe someone gets hurt when a trusted partner starts thinking it's all right to sleep with other people. It might not always be the person you expect, but it will happen. Ted Hughes lost a wife and a partner to suicide. He was unquestionably attracted to e…

The Churchill Question

Boris Johnson tweets that Winston Churchill 'saved this country from a barbaric fascist and racist tyranny'. Sorry, mate, but Winston wasn't up in Lancaster bombers risking his neck night after night like my old history teacher Bill Lanning. Winston wasn't held in a German POW camp like Michelle's dad Bernard. Winston didn't lose his mind while being tortured in a Japanese POW camp like my great uncle Sonny. Winston didn't crack the Enigma code like Alan Turing, who our great country persecuted to death because of his sexuality. Winston didn't lose his country and then join the Allies like those Polish pilots who flew during the Blitz. But it was Winston who excluded them from the post-war victory parade because they weren't British. He played his part. But it is ordinary people who win wars and ordinary people who suffer and grieve because they're fought.