written and posted by members of Lancashire Dead Good Poets' Society

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

The 'Sleeping' Poet

The poet exists in two states: awake and ‘asleep’, and these two conditions are influenced/ determined by a singular act, or rather the lack of it.  If a poet is not writing is she still a poet?  Is a difference present; is she different when she is writing to when she is not?

I don’t think I could live without it.  It’s like water or bread or something absolutely essential to me.  I find myself absolutely fulfilled when I have written a poem, when I am writing one...  Having written one, well then, you fall away very rapidly from having been a poet to becoming a sort of poet in rest.
(From an interview with Sylvia Plath)
On a grammatical level, the difference is caused by the verb usage: the poet is writing a poem or the poet has written a poem.  The latter utterance, with its past tense transitive verb, does not comment upon a current activity, but rather an activity that has since lapsed.  However, to state that one is ‘writing’ would mean that the present participle is in application, and thus is very much active.  Therefore, the poet fluctuates from past to present, ‘sleeping’ to awake, and it is writing that stirs her into full consciousness. 
However, fullness is lost when the pen slips from her grip – a semi half-life envelops her and her finger is pierced by a needle; the same sharpness and severity as that found upon the spinning wheel – sending her hand into a motionless sleep.  The poet is no longer directly engaged in writing, her present has fallen suddenly and sadly into the past – and she wonders, will she stay there?  Questioning if she will ever find writing again, or whether she will merely remember the poems she once wrote.
In some respects, when she is not writing, she becomes a victim of the past; a Sleeping Beauty trapped and devalued by the singular past tense form of the verb to be.  And during these moments there is no third person singular present tense, no knight on white horse, no ‘magic’ that sees words transposing themselves upon paper, and no complete self.  She was a poet, but what or who is she now?  An empty bottle that had its purpose drained by fear...  If there is no poet there is no poem, and what becomes of the poem’s identity?  A transparent bottle smashed – void of contents and form...  And without the poem there is no poet.  Each relies upon the other; the poet and poem must co-exist, and the loss of one is a wound which will markedly impact on what remains.
She makes a prediction with a negative modal auxiliary and foresees that she won’t be a poet; her future won’t be poetry and the slumbering figure will never wake onto yellow paper – ever again.  But she has not died, she is merely ‘sleeping’, and in the dreams and nightmares of her mind ideas still formulate, thinking still deviates and manipulates, and she hears a pen weeping for its owner.  Thus, the mind of a poet still remains...

*          *          *

Self-doubt is the apple and perfectionism its poison.  She cannot be a poet because she cannot believe it, and she cannot write poetry (again) because it will never be what the previous poem was.  There is a voice whose tones drone with improbability, and spit with impossible conclusions...
However, she probably would not alter the day – a distant, long ago time in her childhood – when an apple pip was planted and which eventually became a tree that bore one poisoned apple.  There were times when she had wished that she could chop the tree down, and send the solitary apple falling from the branches like the giant from the beanstalk.  But would she be the same person without it?  Perhaps she would not have needed writing, and even if they had still found each other the poem would inevitably be unrecognisable.

And your doubt can become a good quality if you train it.  It must become knowing, it must become criticism.  Ask it, whenever it wants to spoil something for you, why something is ugly, demand proof from it, test it, and you will find it perhaps bewildered and embarrassed, perhaps also protesting.  But don’t give in, insist on arguments, and act in this way, attentive and persistent, every single time, and the day will come when, instead of being a destroyer, it will become one of your best workers – perhaps the most intelligent of all the ones that are building your life.  (Letters to A Young Poet, R. M.Rilke)

If I didn’t write I would always be ‘asleep’ –
                                                       never knowing what it means, or is like, to be awake

Thank you for reading,

Monday, 27 February 2012

If I didn't write

Who would. 

That is the simple question I want everyone to have a think about today- the physical act of writing. The act that means transcribing emotions onto pages, of typing up reports on computers, of making notes on a rizla paper for jogging memories later. In writing things down we commit them- for better or worse- to the world. Whether they are lost or found, read and forgotten or never read again and burnt- for a while, those words existed. Once things exist, they cannot un-exist, can they. There is a knock on- a thought somewhere in the back of your mind that makes you act in a way surprising to yourself at a given moment. This stuff drives me whappy.

I love books, that is my confession. I love blank notebooks, scrawled on notebooks, tatty bits of paper in notebooks, notes in paperback books, poetry books, annotated books, picture books, coffee table books… you get the point. I just love them, that is my vice to which I will eternally pump money into. The question is, why do people write in the first place?

If I didn’t write I would have a busier social life. If I didn’t write I would probably be single. If I didn’t write I would probably go mad and become something of a complicated character. I write to balance things out. I write for therapy. I write just to see the cursor stroke away at a line of such drivel, my smug finger pressed on the backspace key. Writing is my way of putting thoughts down and maybe evaluating things for a second. Writing is also a place that drives me insane in other ways.

If I didn’t write I might have the dreaded block. If I didn’t write I probably wouldn’t care about things as much. If I didn’t write, maybe nobody else would- they could be as fed up as me, probably more so. The thinking is, if nobody bothered writing- who would tell the kids what is going on, who would argue the everyday issues in the papers, who would make readers pause to consider. I write a lot. If I didn’t write, a lot of other people might not write for it would have to be something pretty dramatic to quash it. But the block, the bloody block can drive you up the wall in just the same way.

I want to write all the time really. I have trade unionism poems stacked up in my head from my father. I have family memories, personal journeys and real life events itching to get out but there are days when, no matter how many times you ‘free write’ or  try and force the buggers out, they won’t come. Regular readers of this blog will know I try and write poems most days- at least in some way, shape or form. The days when it won’t come though… Well, I promised you guys a poem so see for yourself. The words weren’t there for me this week. I have the poems just itching to come out but, try as I might, they just won’t sit on a page and do as I tell them. I’ll persevere with them- but to be honest, I’ve been way too busy (births, birthdays, work, attendance essential family gatherings etc.)

The blockade I feel is self-imposed.

Writing poems vexes me
Or maybe angers, not annoys-
Too clumsy, sounds so childish.

The pen is down in minutes then
Original thought takes a running jump,
Runs scared, runs out, makes like a tree.

The cat is out of the bag again
My stolen simile, long since dead.
And, as I said before, I’m vexed
So the pen is down in minutes.


Whilst I was reading the local newspaper earlier, a customer started asking me the very same question I was hoping to put straight here. Why do I write? She had noticed the article on a poetry book launch (us, this Friday) and didn’t even know I wrote. She has a wartime journal and has been considering ways to pass on her own personal memories to her family. I just smiled quietly, hoping for her sake that she can get the words out.

Thanks for reading folks. Speak soon.



Sunday, 26 February 2012

Palliser's Theory

by Ian Marchant

My friend Charles Palliser, a fine literary novelist who has sold books on a commercial scale (notably his masterful ‘Quincunx’) once told me his theory about a sliding scale of writers, with fame at one end, and riches at the other.

‘Think of the most famous writers in the world, those that everyone has heard of; Joyce, Beckett, Yeats etc. Never earned a penny in their lifetimes, not really. Contrast them with the writers you’ve never heard of who sell millions. The trick is to be about halfway in-between.’

I was reminded of the force of Palliser’s Theory last weekend when James Patterson was the subject of the Q&A feature in the Guardian Weekend mag. Who he? He the world’s best selling novelist. I’ve never read a word, but I doubt very much that he’s a great writer. In fact, I bet you that I’m a ‘better’ writer than him.

On what evidence do I base this bold claim? Because I have ‘literary’pretentions, by which I mean I’m attempting to justify every word I write. This ‘and’ is here, that semi-colon is there for a reason. It doesn’t, it can’t, always work. Perfectionism is the enemy of art, and although poets might come closer, a prose writer is pretty much always going to miss the target. But a ‘literary’ writer is at least having a go at getting it right. Patterson, I strongly suspect, isn’t even trying because he doesn’t have enough time, but I don’t think that matters, because his stuff has narrative vim. He is spinning yarns, very profitably, and bloody good luck to him. Trust me, if I could knock out a unit shifting thriller, I’d start today.

For the giants of literature, there never was a split between literary and commercial. Truly great writers like Austen or Dickens or Orwell sweated to get their manuscripts ‘right’; and then sold high numbers because they were also wonderful story-tellers. This artificial distinction grew as a consequence of high Modernism. Virginia Woolf hated the idea of writing for money, just as much as she hated the idea of universal education. She and her circle objected to a literate hoi polloi, because that meant that the ‘white slugs’ (as Mrs Woolf called the working class) might feel that they could understand minds as refined as those of the Bloomsburies, which was not on. Universal education was levelling, and for Mrs Woolf, that was an unbearable thought. Her especial ire was reserved for Arnold Bennett, because he sold so many books that he could afford a steam yacht. She saw what she did as ‘art’, as ‘literature’, and that was something that could only be achieved by the very best quality people.

‘Literature’ is a genre, a sub-set of writing, and admission to the genre is controlled by a small self-selected coterie of critics. The study of English Literature in universities is roughly coterminous with the rise of Modernism. Only critics and academics hold the keys to the doors of ‘literature’. Despite my fretting about getting my books ‘right’, I doubt that I’ll be admitted to the canon, because working class people still aren’t really expected to write. My concerns are not theirs; my voice is common, vulgar, no matter how much I might work on my texts so that I can bear them to be read. Patterson and Brown, however much people might like reading their books in the bath, on holiday, at the end of a long day, could never get through the gates of literature in a billion years. Only time can decide if a writer is truly great, but I suspect that those who make it will be loved by the critics, and sell shed loads of books too. Getting that particular double is just as hard now as it has ever been.

Literature by Ian Marchant:
Something of the Night
The Longest Crawl
Parallel Lines: Or, Journeys on the Railway of Dreams

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Gold or Glory

By Ashley Lister

From an author’s perspective I think the distinction between literary and commercial fiction is often seen as a dispute between those who write to say something important and those who write to earn money. A colleague once summed it up for me with the following quote from the bible:

For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?

Matthew 16:26

Call me mercenary but I think the clue here is in the question. If a man gains the whole world but loses his soul, he has gained the whole world. Which would I rather have? A whole world or a soul? I think I’d like to have a whole world. From what I’ve heard about souls (from those people who claim to have them and know about them) souls don’t pay bills.

I don’t see many people staying warm through the winter because they’ve kept a good hold on their souls. I don’t see many people enjoying a surfeit of food, drink or wealth because they have souls. If it comes to profit or soul I’m going to pick profit every time. It’s far more useful for settling debts and putting food on the table.

I’ve been writing for money for the best part of two decades now. It’s never as much money as I’d hope. And there have been many times when I’ve had to compromise artistic integrity for the commercial benefits of coin.

For example, I once wrote a book in the form of a fairy tale. It was a very adult fairy tale with bonking and other narrative developments a person is unlikely to find in a traditional fairy tale. Nevertheless, it was a strong book and I was proud of the finished product. The editor I was working with at that time said he’d take it at the usual rate. But he wanted me to cut the opening line of, ‘Once upon a time…’ and also lose the ‘happily ever after’ line at the end. He also suggested we should cut ‘…all the other Hans Christian Anderson shit.

To my mind, these changes destroyed the instant identification of the story as being constructed in the fashion of a fairytale.

However, I accepted the editor’s suggested revisions. It was a simple choice. I could either say no, and keep the story as an integral whole that remained consistent with my original artistic vision. Or I could say yes and pay the mortgage that month.

Does this mean I’m a whore? Yes. Do I care that I’m a whore? Not really.

I’m naïve enough to believe that there is literary merit to be found in commercial fiction, and I’m naïve enough to believe that there will be eventual commercial success for all deserving literary work.

The Brontës’ first collection of poetry sold only two copies. Frank Herbert’s acclaimed science fiction fantasy novel, Dune, was rejected by more than two dozen publishers who couldn’t perceive its worth. Even the diary of Anne Frank was rejected by a publisher who said, “The girl doesn't […] have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the 'curiosity' level.

There are many similar fables of talent being overlooked by the writing industry.

Ultimately, the sheep will still buy whatever Oprah or Richard and Judy tell them regardless of the literary or commercial merit on the pages. The sheep don’t have the brains to pick books for themselves. It has always been this way and it will never change. But eventually, over time, literature is usually recognised and lauded appropriately.

All of which leads to the inevitable question: do I aspire to one day achieve literary success? The answer is: I guess it would be cool. But I don’t intend to go hungry waiting.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Ding ding, round two.

09:57:00 Posted by Lindsay 5 comments

I’m not sure I can write anything which hasn’t been covered this week on the subject. I agree with Shaun, that commercialism dominates the bookshelves in shops. I also with Lara in that I despise ghost-written autobiographies by Z list celebrities who have neither contributed anything constructive to society nor lived a life interesting enough to read about. I have felt the literary pride when reading something ‘worthy’ in public, like Steve, and hidden something away in my bag when scared of being judged on my reading palate.  Vicky used a great metaphor of blue cheese to describe how many of us ingest literary fiction. It can be hard work, but in some cases this pays off massively, and sometimes we want something more easy-going and comfortable to slip into after a hard day. But why the divide in the first place? Because there’s a chart, and that chart views the quality of a book based on its sales, which is ridiculous.

I’m working on a project to create a picture book with students studying a publishing MA, and their priorities are so far from mine I feel overwhelmed. To them, their decisions are just common sense, and I agree but it doesn’t half bugger up my creative process.  It also brings massive restrictions on what I can and can’t write about and what characters I can have. If the story isn’t suitable for an international audience, it’s not being published.  No rhyme, no wordplay, no fun. It doesn’t translate you see.  Publishers cannot afford to take on work which will not sell; it’s a huge financial risk. There are a huge amount of outgoings for a book to be created, and publishers do not get a great cut. Those who do are the retailers; the internet stores, bookshops and supermarkets who will not agree to stock titles unless they negotiate a massive cut of the book sale. Some retailers take as much as 65% of the book’s retail price. The distributor takes a cut too.  This leaves 45% for the printing costs, illustrator, publisher, agents and of course the writer.   Like the farming industry the supermarkets have publishers by the dangly bits. Those 3 for 2 in bookshops? That comes out of the publishers’ pockets as they have to give away the books for free, and this is expected by the retailer as part of the agreement to stock the title. So the publishing industry has to give the massive giants exactly what they want, either literary fiction guaranteed to sell to a certain market or the opposite which is bubble gum for the brain.

Humans like to polarise things.  The literary and commercial are polarised to gain large sales for each end, and naturally the bubble gum wins, like in the music industry. Pound shops shift millions of pounds worth of stock to huge swathes of customers but it doesn’t mean that it’s good quality. But there are many people who don’t read much, and when they do they don’t want to work at it. So Jordan prevails. They are books for people who don’t read, to extract cash from a market that don’t usually buy books. It makes sense.   Don’t even get me started on the X Factor, number ones gained by spoon feeding people ‘music’ on Saturday night telly.  They are creating a need then fulfilling it. In response to this the real readers are buying what they think should be read anyway, if not more regularly.  All this i making someone with too much control over what customers can choose from a hell of a lot of cash. All the decent stuff in the middle gets missed while these two fight it out. There’s not a whole lot we can do about it really, which is depressing. Thank you, capitalism, you fat greedy ****.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Fromage by any other name would smell as feet

00:12:00 Posted by Damp incendiary device , 6 comments

That's right, I'm reaching for the food analogy. It has absolutely nothing to do with my stomach. Nor is it related to the fact that there is a piece of Stilton waming up in the kitchen as I type. Surely my train of thought is not so transparent? I'll side-step the lovely image of a transparent train as well as the observation that last week in a supermarket, walking behind a woman with a limp, I uttered the words: "Ooh, that reminds me, I found a really cool walking stick on Ebay..." Damn. Not so much a train of thought as a wild horse. Now. Where did I put the track. Oh yes...

Literary fiction is Stinking Bishop. It is Roquefort. It is Saint Agur. It is a little bit scary and is a taste which is to be acquired. Aptly, my approaches to blue cheese and literary fiction are rather similar. When I first discovered Danish Blue, while waiting tables at at hotel at the innocent age of 14, I found that just the smell of it would turn my stomach. If it was out of the fridge my nose knew it before my eyes. For some, this experience would have deterred them from the veined, festering dairy product. Not me. Instead I was obsessed by the stuff. I would force myself to smell the cheese whenever I thought I could get away with it and maintain my dignity. I knew there must be something good about that cheese. Only a spectacular taste would compel others to pass it under their noses and into their mouths. So, eventually I tasted the cheese. It was disgusting. I tried it again. It was still disgusting. I tried it again. And I began to find it less disgusting and found the tingling sensation, as my tongue became slightly swollen, rather intriguing.

These days it's hard to come by a blue cheese that will cause my mouth to itch in horror but I keep looking. And literary fiction moves in the same mysterious way. It's a little bit scary at first. Approaching it is greatly helped by word of mouth and the support of a reading group or education, so - like blue cheese - it is best enjoyed in company when the ripeness of the language can be properly shared and mulled over. Literary fiction, like blue cheese, works best when supported by the right accompaniment; Wikipedia works well, as do numerous forums on which you can explore the finer details of a character's flaws to your heart's content.

Commercial fiction, on the other hand, is a good, reliable cheddar. You can toast it, slice it and grate it safe in the knowledge that it won't do funny things to your poo. You can chuck it into most dishes and it'll add cheesy, fatty goodness without destroying the underlying flavours. Obviously, as with commercial fiction, not all cheddars are alike. Some are blocks of tasteless rubber which fester at the back of the fridge (bookshelf) until they finally make their way, fluffy and grey, to the bin (charity shop). But there are some damned fine cheddars out there. When I'm down and I need comfort I reach for the cheddar because I know it will fill a hole pleasantly. It will cheer me up and transport me to a world of cheesy freedom where nobody challenges my assumptions and I don't have to look up long words. A warm summer's afternoon in the garden with a good piece of cheddar, a sliced Cox's apple and a copy of I Shall Wear Midnight is as close to content as I get.

In summary. Cheddar is popular, fictional escapism. Because humans like comfort. Blue cheese is challenging literary endeavours. Because sometimes we need earthquakes too.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

How I Feel About the "Novels" of Katie Price...

Jordan and her ghostwriter Rebecca Farnworth

This week’s theme, ‘literary fiction vs commercial fiction’, has the potential to be dangerous. It has the potential to evoke great mists of anger. And, contained within these mists are small glass orbs of sulphuric acid, suspended by nothing more than strings of self-restraint...

One word is capable of making me run for the scissors. One name makes me want to cut the strings, cause the fragile orbs to fall and allow the acid to burn massive holes through titles such as Angel,  Crystal and Sapphire. These are not the writings of a spiritual hippie on a path of enlightenment – if they were, I would probably hate them a little less – but rather they are (just a few of) the “novels” “by” Katie (aka Jordan) Price.

*The presence of scare quotes around both ‘novels’ and ‘by’ is deliberate and completely justified. I refuse to state, acknowledge or use the literal meaning of these two words when placed in the same context as said page three model for the following reasons:

1) A ‘novel’ is generally thought to mean: an invented prose narrative that is usually long and complex – and I don’t believe for one minute that Jordan is capable of writing anything longer or more complex than a shopping list. (Please make sure that all hate mail uses correct grammar and punctuation. Thank you.)

2) The preposition ‘by’ can be employed to indentify the agent performing the action, e.g. a novel  [written] by Tolstoy. Therefore, given that Jordan has a ghostwriter, I would argue that it is not correct to write: a novel written by Katie Price, given that she hasn’t actually engaged in the act of writing (her ghostwriter has).

 However, despite this fact, I will continue to allow her to be the object of my disdain...

...Because it’s difficult to make voodoo dolls of the unknown, spectre –like, Rebecca Farnworth.

...Because publishers accept a name before they accept a manuscript.

...Because our celebrity obsessed society insists on buying a name rather than a novel.

...Because we value fame over talent.

...Because bookshops merely roll over and indulge immature palates.

...Because I walked into Tesco in 2009*, and saw Sapphire “by” Katie Price placed at number one in the book charts – and despaired.

*It was also on this same night, in Tesco, that I decided to rewrite the charts. Removing all of Jordan’s “books” and replacing them with Ian McEwan’s On Chisel Beach (which was number fifteen in the charts).

For me, the literary verse commercial fiction battle will only ever result in one winner. Literary fiction is literature that has the ability to last – to be read, enjoyed and sought years, decades, even centuries after the author has died. I very much doubt that the “novels” of Jordan will survive the test of time, and if they do then maybe society really is doomed.

But for now, the “novels” “by” Katie Price will remain as a pet hate; they are that one thing that I really wish I could throw into the Room 101.

Thank you for reading,

Monday, 20 February 2012

UK best sellers. We're all doomed.

If I was going to put a new book out, I might consider finding a celebrity endorsement for it, a snappy picture or a cluster of key words to bring it to the attention of google. I might make the cover yellow, I might make it something gritty, something an audience can relate to- a tale of childhood and abuse (true to life, obviously), neglect or perhaps even abduction.

I won’t be doing any of these things.

I doubt I will ever be a best-selling author. If I wrote something and decided to publish it, I would hope it would be done on merit and not on the sheer need to sell someone some drivel with a ‘look at me, I was beaten’ slant to it. Sadly, I think this pretty much counts me out of the bestselling book market. I’ll point out here that if Blackpool’s branch of Waterstones closed, the residents of this town would be left to choose their books primarily from the shelves of ASDA and TESCO- the future doesn’t look great, I must admit.

The blog theme this week is a slightly contentious one, I’m afraid- we’re going with “Literary vs Commercial Fiction”. I have an opinion on this, as do all of you readers I am sure. Is it my place to tell someone what to read? Is it my place to tell someone to put the bloody ‘based on true events’ book down and read something valuable? Is it even my place to rant on about the lack of appealing fiction on the shelves and my sense of despair in passing an oversized ‘Biography/Autobiography/Celebrity Fiction/’Based on a true story’ section.  Readers of this stuff- you have your opinions. I’ll agree to hate you for them.

In terms of poetry, I am not quite sure where this theme points me. For a long time I’ve been harping on about what is probably deemed ‘commercial’ as opposed to ‘literary’ stuff. Performance poets are snappy, direct and deliver passion that is hard to deny but, on the page, it often doesn’t work. Go the other way and have a look at more ‘page’ poets and perhaps they are held back by a lack of performability. It is hard to attract an audience with these poems and yet, they are often the poets we cling on to the most. As with the fiction, I think being current helps. There are trends to follow and whilst right now books about being beaten and battered in foster homes romances ending with disease are great, I suspect lots of them will fall by the wayside when you look back over the years, do we want our poems doing this.

I will finish here by just giving you readers a point to consider. Last year 35% of books that graced the fiction chart were published before 2010, meaning we are actually re-reading the older stuff, the stuff that has been hanging around, loved and recommended. Movie books, celebrity chefs and tales from the pens of cultural ‘icons’ will keep regenerating, of course, but with the likes of Dickens and Jane Austen proving ever more popular amongst readers, maybe the trick is to buy the books that can stand the test of time, not just shout for a week or two. I caught a reading by Lynton Kwesi Johnson earlier this year- a poet I have admired since studying his work some years ago- and afterwards was left thinking something was missing. There was no delivery, no punch to it and, after years of Black rights not being a massive issue in the UK media, I felt the poems were almost left behind with the time. These are good poems that rely heavily on delivery and if I have learnt anything for my own writing from the experience, it is that I never want to be a performance poet past his peak, much rather a page poet trying to find his feet. I hope to have a new poem up for next week, until then, keep writing. 

Thanks for reading, S.  

Sunday, 19 February 2012


13:43:00 Posted by Damp incendiary device , , , , 2 comments
by Martin Chapman

I started writing poetry about 2 years ago when I found out I had heart failure and had to take things easy. I have written many different poems about my life and things that have happened around me, and some completely separate.


Romance comes from the heart,
Romance is a tale of two people,
Romance is doing things for the one you love,
Romance is filled with flowers,
Romance is a joining of hands,
The bonding of two people,
Romance is sweet & kind,
Romance is a tale of many nice things to come.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

I Love Yous

07:22:00 Posted by Ashley Lister 4 comments

By Ashley Lister

I was looking through my opus recently and I realised a lot of my poetry could be described as love poems.

Admittedly, these aren’t conventional love poems. There’s a poem about a man who loves a blow-up doll. There’s a poem about a man who loves a woman whom he denigrates for being overweight. And the other week there was that poem about the couple who fall in love on Jeremy Kyle’s show. There are others too and they follow a similar theme of lampooning the dysfunctional often through the narrative of a subverted traditional romance.

None of these ‘love poems’ discuss love in a conventional fashion. But a good number of them are led by a persona driven solely by a motive of love.

If I was sufficiently self-obsessed I could discuss the author’s reluctance to tackle the subject of love with any measure of seriousness. I could perhaps suggest there is some sort of cognitive dissonance apparent within this writer’s need to write about love yet to avoid dealing with its serious connotations.

But I believe I used my ‘bore-the-piss-out-of-the-reader’ ticket last week. And I dearly hope that such tickets are seldom going to stretch to more than a single use for each blogger on here.

So below is my attempt at a serious love poem. Fingers crossed that I can do it properly this time.

I Love Yous

I love yous in the open air

I love yous in the grass

I love yous without a care

I love yous - yous has class.

I love the way yous teaches me things

I love yous more than yous can guess

And I love the way the wise folk say

I should spell YOUS: EE – DOUBLE YOU – EE – ESS.

Ashley Lister

Friday, 17 February 2012

The smell of nappies overwhelms the scent of roses

20:45:00 Posted by Lindsay 3 comments

May I begin with apologising for my late posting. The children are on half term holidays from school, and we took them out for the day to an animal park. Yes jokes were made about leaving them there, their resemblance to the primates, and how they smelled like them. But we had a great time, and they thanked us profusely which was refreshing. But romance, what can I say about romance? I have three children. Which makes romance difficult.  It’s difficult to get close with a toddler in the bed. It’s difficult to watch a movie without someone having a nightmare or needing a drink, wetting the bed or finding a spider. Being a parent can be like being a referee. A calm ambience can be broken in a split second by a wail or an argument breaking out.  Toddlers in my household will drink nail polish remover, so because I cannot fit shelves 6 feet from the floor and they master the art of escape at around 18 months they need watching, constantly.  A 2 minute lapse of concentration has had him wearing make-up, another had him rubbing expensive foundation in his hair which took a lot of scrubbing to remove.  Once he joined the chickens in their chicken house as the back door was left unlocked.  The front door has to be kept locked or he’d be off to nursery himself. This constant state of agitation is not romantic. Stair-gates only go up to a certain height, and like a little chimp he takes them in his stride, they all did.

So, romance tends to be little gestures of kindness which makes each of our lives easier. A lie in at the weekend for each other, we take turns. That’s romance for me. A night’s unbroken sleep when he gets up with the wakened child is the kindest and most loving thing he can do for me, and he does sometimes. I appreciate it.  I need my sleep. He watches them when I go out to the Dead Good Poetry nights, and carries off the kids to wrangle at home.  He’s not particularly well either, he has a lot of pain, he can be quite ill at times but he still helps me when I am about to throw the computer out of the window, and fixes it for me. He pops to the shop when I want something stupid. He tolerates my constant changing of hobbies, and me buying all the associated paraphernalia until I get bored.  He supports me studying, and most important of all, he takes my dreams seriously and believes that I can do it, even if I don’t.  He thinks I can make it, he thinks I’m good at what I do. In a world where people compete and put each other down and ignore each others’ efforts, he is proud of me and wants me to succeed. For me that’s better than romance, it’s pretty priceless.

Plus when the kids are older we can bond over regaling their girlfriends/boyfriends with these tales of their embarrassing escapades. And photos. what's not to like?

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Turbulence, Truces and Truth

00:19:00 Posted by Damp incendiary device , 6 comments

Photography by Linzi Cason


An ocean at their unprepared feet
Milky foam like galaxies tossed
Across a latte misnomer
Intention that tires too soon
Dissipates on concrete steps
A million miniature water nymphs flee
Shear stress: pretty dance

She is lost in the detail, as usual,
He drifts out
Tries to spot the pattern in the chaos
Make sense of the waves:
Whales beyond
Great, dark, hulking mammals
Rush at the shore

Kamikaze trajectory


The sea pushes:
Intuitive occupation
The land withstands:
Reasonable resistance

Lovers across a bed

Buildings to jetsam
Seas to poison





Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Love, Toast and the Little Things

I used to hate Valentine’s day. I think shy geeky girls with glasses and braces, who spend break times in the library, usually do. Because it is one of those days that, rather than affirming that someone loves you, actually confirms that you are in fact unpopular, uncool and definitely not sweet enough to warrant an overpriced card complete with a crappy hallmark poem.

But that was Upper school and that, thankfully, is like a distant planet; still orbiting my memory but no longer a place I inhabit.  Things change . You realise that life isn’t going to pan out like an animated Disney picture, and that love is about more than chocolate and expensive gifts. When you’re younger, being loved on Valentine’s day seems like the most important thing in the world, but when you get older you learn that being loved day after day is far more essential and special. For me, it’s not the big and grand gestures that say a lot, but rather the little and everyday ones.

When he brings me coffee in bed and we start the day with a proper conversation. When he holds my hand. When he sends me a thoughtful text message or tweet. When he leaves me a note. When he writes me a poem on the fridge. When he makes me toast, just as I like it. When he wipes my tears and says he still believes in me. When we read poetry to each other. When he surprises me with flowers.

These aren’t Valentine’s day gestures, they are just everyday moments that make me feel special and loved. They are moments that make me realise just how lucky I am.

I’ve found that person that you just ‘click with’. Who loves your bad bits just as much as your good bits. Who inspires you, gives you reason to smile and generally just makes you a better person.

Shaun probably doesn’t realise that he inspires me, makes me a better person and a better poet – because I’ve never taken the time to tell him. Because I get caught up in the mundane things – being annoyed about the mess he’s made, the pile of unwashed dishes, the mountain of laundry – and I sometimes forget to thank him, to acknowledge the things he has done. He really has helped to make me a better poet; my world was small, closed off and a little dark before I met Shaun, and as a consequence my poetry reflected my environment. But Shaun changed my world, turned it upside-down, added a few torches and flares and knocked down a couple of walls. He reminded me how to have fun, and most importantly taught me how to love again.

And suddenly there was so much more to write about...

I’m going to finish today’s post with a poem, a love poem that I wrote a few months ago, and which was inspired by my very wonderful Shaun.


When he makes me toast
he turns the toaster down
from his ‘5’ to my ‘3’

Leaves it to cool
before spreading with butter
(scraping  the excess back onto the knife)

Cuts it into four irregular triangles –
just as my mother did when I was small.

Thank you for reading,

Monday, 13 February 2012

Love poems for Valentine’s Day

For anyone that hasn’t visited a shop this month, for anyone who happens to have a penis and for anyone who just hasn’t got around to anything yet- consider this my gentle nudge- tomorrow is Valentine’s Day.
Fittingly, the blog theme this week will be romance. Romance and poetry go together like, well, any emotion and poetry. They fit.

It seems only yesterday that I was drafting and redrafting one of the best poems I have ever written- and romance ticked it all over. Summer 2010 and I was perched outside a coffee shop practically goose-stepping with my pen. Look at me, I’m being a poet was a great look for me at the time and something worked because that very same poem that I gave to Lara continues to be an important part of my life. I’m not posting it. I don’t even have a copy myself. I have drafts and scraps but I think the only copy of it is tucked away with her somewhere and, as sentiment goes, I think that is a pretty nice one. The poem was probably crap. It was presented nicely though. It had been drafted and worked at. The message and the pitch had been tightened up from a fairly shabby starting point and, after a decent few afternoons of scratching away, we can fast forward to now- still together as we approach Valentine’s Day. 

If you think you might have one of those women in your life that would appreciate a poem for Feb 14th, why not give it a go. There are plenty of sites to help you along the way and if you have a look through the archives, plenty of ‘How to write’ (for want of a better phrase) posts on here. She will appreciate the thought but perhaps don’t shirk out of present buying duties on my part (unless you’ve already done the no-gift deal, as I have, magnificently). Just a heads up really. 

As regular readers may note, I keep promising poems. I keep writing them and not having them to fit, I’m not just being lazy. I have had a few on my mind though and, as I may or may not be writing something for tomorrow, there isn’t going to be a new one today either I’m afraid. What I have put together is a list of some lovely romantic poems that you lazy buggers can copy, paste and print out for your other half- should you be getting all soppy…

Should you be wallowing home alone tomorrow, Braga v Besiktas is on ESPN and I have no doubts in saying that Bridget Jones is on offer somewhere near you (as is pizza and ice cream I’ll bet). Have a read of some of these- they might even cheer you up.

Thanks for reading, S.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Knocking Down the Walls

10:16:00 Posted by Damp incendiary device , , , , , , , , , , , 15 comments
by Jessica Bell

Today I’m supposed to be discussing the difference between narrative and lyric poetry. You know, I could do that. I could tell you that “lyric” comes from the ancient Greek instrument, the lyre, and that the Greeks used to always sing their poetry to its accompaniment. I could also tell you that lyric poems resemble songs in three distinct ways: they are shorter than epic (narrative) poetry, they usually express the thoughts of the poet, and they often give you the feeling they can be sung.

On that note, I’d also mention that epic (narrative) poetry stems from Greek too. From the word “epos,” which means to speak or to tell a tale. Homer’s Iliad is and example of an epic poem. So is the Odyssey. Epic poems are supposed to enhance the reader’s sense of good and evil, by focusing on the heroism of a certain individual that is a symbol of strength, virtue, courage … really I could go on and on telling you what these forms of poetry are and bore the crikeyness out of you. So let me tell you a little something about myself …

I hate rules. I love to learn them, however, and I love to know that I know them. But rarely do I utilize them, and rarely do I label poetry as this, that, and the other. Poetry, to me, is art. There are no limits to art. You can’t pigeon hole it. This is another reason why I don’t much like ‘genres’ in fiction. But that’s a completely different discussion.

The ‘type’ or style of poem, ultimately has no significant meaning. They’re there for scholars to refer to in their lectures and print in their theses, so … Narrative or Lyric? Who cares! Does your poem evoke emotion? Yes? Then you’re good to go in my book. Does your poem keep me engaged? Does it make me want to read more of it? Does it use vocabulary creatively, avoid cliché, kick me in the gut and make me want to write like you? Does it make me email all my friends and tell them to check out this new and upcoming genius? Does it make me read the same poem over and over and over and find new meaning in it with every reading? Yes? Brilliant. Then keep doing what you’re doing.

And if you’ve mixed and matched various forms of poetry to create your own, then you deserve a standing ovation. Because seriously, rules can suck the life out of art … they can also enhance it, but again, that’s another discussion, and maybe Vicky can invite me back one day to tell you what I think about that. So I’ll just leave you with this:

Don’t ever listen to people who begin a sentence with, “You can’t do that because … .”

You can do that. Do it. And show everybody how it’s done.

Jessica Bell Online:

String Bridge (a novel)
Retreat & workshop
Vine Leaves Journal

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Narrative or Lyric

07:12:00 Posted by Ashley Lister 7 comments

By Ashley Lister

No. It can’t be narrative OR lyric – both elements are equally important. It has to be narrative AND lyric. They support each other.

Without the contextualisation of narrative structure, the poignancy of lyricism can be greatly diminished or lost. The finality of a setting sun might be beautiful in lyrical terms but without the context of some narrative cohesion it will only be as poignant as a Polaroid. However, if a setting sun is the closing scene at the end of a bildungsroman, its beauty is combined with the metaphorical relationship between the day’s end and the conclusion of a life/life cycle/dramatic period within the narrative.

I do think the lyrical quality is essential to help create a resonance of physicality between the reader and the text. Without a vivid lyrical quality the text can be perceived as hollow and the narrative structure can come across as contrived (or so unappealing it fails to grip the reader).

Therefore, for me, it needs to be a combination of narrative and lyric. Neither is superior to the other as each plays an equal measure for the entertainment of the reader and an equal measure in the writer’s intention of expressing himself or herself with the utmost appropriate clarity.

I’ve read that back five times now and – whilst it says exactly what I want it to say – it still reads like the most boring entry I’ve ever posted to this blog. If you’re still with me this far down the page, thank you for your persistence.

I think you and I should sneak away quietly now so as not to wake the others.

Friday, 10 February 2012

You wanna fight?

10:30:00 Posted by Lindsay 6 comments

Narrative or Lyric. It’s a controversial subject. Canon or Nikon? PC or Mac? Spit or swallow? Each of these will have vehement preachers of the worth of each. One is called functional and the other pretentious and shallow. It causes arguments at dinner parties, between friends and enemies alike. It can turn best friends against each other. Each of them feel that they are right, and enduces an attitude of smuggery (Yes I made that up).

Narrative: it’s the spine of the writing. It has to be there otherwise what’s the point of reading it? Anything else is a case of the emperor’s new clothes. The writing has to carry the story along, not navel gaze throughout. I’d rather read a story where something HAPPENS, not the thought’s of a narcissistic self absorbed author who tries to be clever and just alienates people. Half of the people who claim to prefer literary fiction don’t have a clue anyway and are just pretentious sheep.

Lyric: It’s the abstract within the text. Why does there have to be a plot? People and situations can be artful and fascinating. We shouldn’t have to follow a formula in writing. Beautiful metaphor and use of language is as skilful as plot building, if not more. A vivid image can stay with you far longer than a plot which has been done over and over. They do say after all that there are only 7 different plots in writing.

Like each of these arguments, the answer is they are as good as each other. It depends on what you want out of your writing or what you read. Both have qualities the other doesn’t. You choose what you want out of it and choose what’s better for you. Or what the purpose of your writing is. The bonus of being a writer is that we don't have to invest huge amounts of cash and then justify our use of one or the other. We can play around with both, and use what we feel is right for our current work. We can pick up a piece of literary fiction or lyrical poem and if we have the inclination read that, or go for something which has a great story.

I personally prefer Canon, PC and Narrative. I like a bit of lyric too, when it’s vivid and appropriate, the perfect book for me is a balance between skilful imagery and writing and great plotting. Crap writing is just annoying no matter how great the story is and gives me rage. Likewise 400 pages of the thoughts of a man enduring a mid life crisis would have to have something to keep me reading other than how he 'finds' himself spiritually.  
 I'm not giving the answer to the other one.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Lyra's Shadows

00:00:00 Posted by Damp incendiary device , 5 comments
I'm going to come right out and say it... I'm a narrative girl and I'll tell you for why. It's the same reason I'm not a huge fan of landscape poetry. I want humanity in my art. That's my raisin. It's the same with paintings or sculpture. Abstract form has its place and I like to wrangle with something conceptual as much as the next mentalist but if there's a glimpse of a person and a story in there then I'm more likely to connect with it.

I'd like to compare lyric and narrative poetry to two pieces of art. Tracy Emin's 'My Bed' is comparable to lyric poetry. It portrays emotions in an abstract way. There is no character present but we get a fair idea of some aspects of a character from the traces they leave behind. I like to wonder about the bed, compare it to my own.

Now, take Paula Rego's Pillow man. There is character and story. This is a narrative piece. I'm not just wondering what the characters are like, I can see them and I know what they are doing. I can wonder why they are smiling or frowning or sleeping. I can wonder where they have been. But I have a lot more to work with.

Lyric poems are glimpses, narrative poems are the full picture. Perhaps I am being greedy but whilst a look through a keyhole is tempting as it implies that I am being given a glimpse of something secret or hidden, 9 times out of 10 I'd much rather see what's behind the door. I crave the action that narrative poetry entails. And with that, why not mosey on over to Robert Frost's Out, Out and see what I mean.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Happy Birthday Mr. Dickens

08:46:00 Posted by Lara Clayton , , , , 4 comments
Firstly, I'd like to apologise for the lack of a blog post yesterday, and the measly attempt at a post today. Shaun and I have both been unwell; this is a house of sniffles, sneezes, snot, coughs, temperatures and shivers.

Secondly, I'd like to apologise for not sticking to this week's theme: Narrative or Lyric. My mind is a mushy pulp and even just trying to form a sentence feels like quantum physics.

But, I would like to mention that today would have been Charles Dickens' 200th birthday and - on a blog that is all about poetry, prose and writing - to not mention it would seem rude. Everyone loves a little bit of Dickens: be it a novel, a BBC adaptation, or the Muppets dashing through A Christmas Carol.

In the Guardian yesterday, the 'poem of the week' was specifically chosen for its Dickensian theme - and I definitely think it is worth the read: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/feb/06/poem-of-the-week-charles-dickens?newsfeed=true

So I hope you enjoy, and hopefully I'll be back with a slightly better and more-on-topic post next week.

Thank you for reading,

Sunday, 5 February 2012

The Fish has a Gun

08:38:00 Posted by Damp incendiary device , , , , , , , 4 comments
by Raven Finn

I've been told to do a post about a desert island.
I find this pretty much impossible.
But desert islands are next to water.
And water has fish.
Fish are cute aren't they?
They just go '...o...o..o'
Well obviously slightly different to that but thats the shape their mouths make.
Turtles are cute too.
Awkward turtles aren't as cute though, more awkward then cute.
But some have eyes like Nicki Minaj in her new song.
That's just terrifying.
Imagine scuba diving and suddenly 'WOAH WHAT'S NICKI MINAJ DOING HERE WEARING NEXT TO NOTHING LIKE USUA- oh it's a fish.'
That would probably make the news.
Although most things make the news these days.
I saw a story on the news about a kitten with 10 toes on one paw.
Not exactly 9/11 is it?
Fish can't live on sand can they?
It would be strange if you just landed on a desert island inhabited by goldfish like 'Oh hi there, we ownz dis town, innit.'
I don't know why it's a gangsta it just seems appropriate.
Imagine if they had guns.
Well I'm never buying a fish now.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42

07:34:00 Posted by Ashley Lister , , , , , 3 comments

By Ashley Lister


I could do it. I could do the desert island thing. And I wouldn’t need those eight records that everyone else wants to take to a desert island. I would just need the following:

1) Broadband. How the hell am I expected to blog each week without a broadband connection? I don’t mind if I have to lose my mobile. If I’ve got my mobile logic dictates I’d feel obligated to phone the emergency services and say, ‘Help, I’m stranded on a desert island.’ But, if I have a PC with a broadband connection and an active email address I don’t think I’d feel that need to call for assistance.

2) Microsoft Word. I’m a writer. This is one of the essential things a writer needs.

3) Alcohol. I’m a writer. This is one of the essential things a writer needs.

4) Chocolate. I’m a writer. This is one of the essential things a writer needs.

5) The companionship of the writers of the TV series Lost – so I could maybe eat them when the food ran out.

I mention the writers of the TV series Lost because that was one piece of fiction that I thought was brilliant – right up to the crushing disappointment of the final episode.

The episodes were beautifully written and well-acted and the scenery was to die for. The lovely Barbara Thomas (a previous guest blogger here) introduced me to Lost. She and her husband Jim discussed the myriad possibilities of the Lost-universe and encouraged me to venture my own theory as to what was happening.

I said I thought it was a metaphor for purgatory. The characters were waiting to move onto heaven or hell, depending on where they belonged.

I was assured by several knowledgeable people that variations on my theory had been suggested on many online forums, where it had been dismissed as being too clichéd. Particle Physics was more heavily favoured. Multiverse theories were bandied around and strongly supported. Adam McCance (another previous guest blogger here) said it was all Hurley’s dream.

Guess what happened in the final episode. Can you guess? I’ll give you a clue: I was right. I’d been right since the first f***ing episode.

So, because I was lured into watching six seasons of this series to suffer the disappointment of an unsatisfactory ending, I’d want to take the writers of Lost with me. However, in retrospect, I might not eat them. I’d be worried it would leave a nasty taste in my mouth.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Desert Islands? Really? Who came up with that one?

13:47:00 Posted by Lindsay 1 comment

 I sometimes would quite like to live on a desert island actually. Think about it, no more politics, no more facebook. No more worrying about the bills. No more listen to people MOAN. No more irritating arseholes with judgemental opinions. No more nightmare family members. No more adverts for ‘Go Compare’. No more Jedward. No more Arsing on Ice. No more people wanting to talk to me about what happened to a character in a fecking soap opera I don’t watch. No more religion. No Cbeebies.

Of course there would be things I’d miss, like hiding Clive’s walking stick, and the NHS. My kids when they aren’t using toys as an arsenal. Tea. Having food.  But I think it would be well worth it. I’d get a fair bit of quiet for a change.

OR I could just send all those things I hate to a desert island instead, and bomb it. Yes, I think that would be the best option all round. Now where’s that stick?

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Dessert Island

¿Donde está La Isla Dulce?

Pastry limpets predict the future from silvery concave faces,
every spoon a remembrance in flour and fat.
Scratched cutlery sculpting tomorrow from yesterday’s waste:
predictions of mild disillusionment, disgust,

diarrhoea. Covertly, I return to the sticky back counter.
Rummage in the trough. Fat digits wriggle like eager
piglets between cool metal shafts but every face is scarred,

pasted. Bamboo-like, in a haze
of Zen do I bend; acquiesce to the inevitability of


Followed back to our table by the promise of pudding.
Metal garden chair squeaks on sticky linoleum as I sit.
Complicit in the shabby shite façade, the chipped
bowl’s just one letter away from the brown

brick road to the entrails city. As Lolita sashays into grime
we swap fish faces. Gawp at an ocean of lukewarm jaundice.
Thinking that the crumble was wasted on spoornamentation,
That only custard

remains. But you, courageous explorer, will not
settle for this explanation. Cook’s inquisitive, sea-faring spirit
thrusts a stained stainless scoop into the depths, on a mission to
crumb. How you do move me, Earth Shaker, when you raise
La Isla Dulce from an ocean of disappointment.

fortes fortuna adiuva