Sunday, 25 March 2012



(to be cut out and enclosed with donations to charities)


My bank will verify that I exist,
but please don't add me to your mailing list;
the circulars I get on every question
have made me spin with mental indigestion.


No mailings, please. It don't seem right,
whatever cause it's for,
that you should spend the widow's mite
on asking her for more.

For the charity which rang people chosen at random from the phone-book to ask for help with door-to-door collections during its Week, the money to be paid in at local banks

From the Cyrenians, maybe,
how resonantly it would speak,
this asking strangers such as me
to go the extra mile one week!
From others, though, whether or not you like it,
the cheek is what strikes most, and here I strike it.

For any charity dealing with homelessness, prison, physical or mental illness, or senile decay

It's not a gift. If my life's hit,
it's all I could afford --
I hope you will remember it,
and treat me as insured.

The above set of verses dates from the summer of 1988. From the card index, I seem to have got my money's worth out of it. It's appeared in Streetwise 63, 2006, p.22; Streetwise's predecessor St Matthew's parish magazine May-June 1988; and the book Loose change, ed. Ian Walton (Peterborough: Poetry Now, 1994). So it might as well get another outing now.

And, having blogged something I wrote nearly a quarter of a century ago, I'm eager to report the success of a new poem. And I can. 'A hand at reading' got final tinkerings before breakfast last New Year's Eve, the deadline for entry in the English Association Dickens bicentenary competition. It won third prize! Announcement here. I will blog the poem when it's had its appearance in the Association's journal English.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Poems in Orbis

These poems are about to appear in Orbis 158. They have had the benefit, as Orbis poems tend to do, of editorial suggestions by Carole Baldock.

'By degrees' was my entry in the 2008 Keats-Shelley competition, whose theme that year, I seem to recall, was the word 'lost'. Keats-Shelley has a way of giving its entrants one-word themes that are very stimulating. 'A sentence' was written in 2011, probably for the Rhyme and Reason competition on the theme of 'time'.

The competition pattern re-asserts itself!


Soon it will be a twelvemonth since you lost,
whether by jump or push, your livelihood,
and ran to earth your heat in online post,
recycled Booker, climate science booed.
I lack much science, but, ad hominem,
am consoled, although saddened, when I see
your posts, the different ways of signing them:
two of them, a matter of geography.
For readers living in the USA,
you sign as ‘Dr’ at your new address;
for audiences here in the UK,
who know you, you still sign doctorateless.
Is this the old tradition of the prophet
honoured abroad, at home less well regarded?
Well-meaning, earnest? Other readings of it
spring up like Jack, and will not be discarded.
I cannot say what method’s best to measure
the profit of this title that you use,
not money, true, but cachet, psychic pleasure,
against what, as it’s false, you stand to lose.

The phrase ‘a prisoner doing time’,
tautologous, suggests the hand
of a sub-editor – ‘prisoner’
taking the place of ‘pervert’ (banned)?

I have no proof. Editing good,
censorship bad, I know. What time
changing ‘pervert’ to ‘prisoner’ took
was at worst a minute’s waste, no crime;

if hours, a background process, not
the trial months, the years of jail,
the decades from his bullying
strictness to this shock. And those measures pale

against the time he’s doing time for
against the lives he’s doing life for
against the time against the lives
against against against the lives
against against against against

against against against against