the Poetry kit

Poems 2000

Leo Aylen Anjana Basu Jim Bennett Ted Burford Brian Docherty Steve Duffy Katherine Gallagher Jesse Glasse W N Herbert Brian Johnstone Roddy Lumsden Stazja McFadyen Kevin MacNeil Rochelle Mass William Oxley Fiona Robyn Michael Rothenberg Donald Ryburn Ernest Slyman Ken Smith

Poems from 1999

Poems from 1998

Leo Aylen


While he was lost, it was an ordinary wood.
It only became enchanted once he had
Found his way out, reached home, showered, and put
Logs on the fire, food on the stove, laid mats
On the table, uncorked the wine ...Candles
And firelight ...till stories appear to grow
Like plants through paving-stones or cracks in walls.
Then, thinking of the day's walk, some sorrow
Out of his past, mixed with today's panic,
Paints monsters for him in the fire's flame caves...
Glad that his sense of ghostly mystery
Has not entirely atrophied, he'll pick
The day's terrors like herbs with which to chafe
The tired limbs of his midnight lethargy.

Anjana Basu

Paris Autumn

In Paris I lived in a typewriter big as a house,
Bigger than two houses,
I slept between the gs and the qs
Hitting a high c every time I slipped.
It was summer when you went away.
I wrote your name in the bars
And slept under the bridges on the Left Bank of the Seine.
Champagne asked for you, wondering why you ever went.
Autumn rolled across a blue goblet sky
Bright as a brandy snifter.
The leaves fell between the typewriter keys:
It was a hard time for a journalist
Pretending to write poetry with leaves.
When winter came, I shut the typewriter into its box
And set it back to the office.
Hitching a ride on a passing cloud, I flew south
raining letters.

Jim Bennett interview

Somewhere in Liverpool

(for David Bateman)

We were poets, we were scousers
and it was the summer of love
now as I write this
its the end of the century
thirty years on
from the days when
the long haired rough spoken poets
wandered into
O'Conners and screamed their poems
above the bar noise

Now academics look back
on our fondly remembered
lunacy,  see the shadows
left in books, but can never grasp
what it was really all about

But they still
tell us what we felt
why we felt it
tell us we don't matter
we were never a movement
tell us we were never relevant
we were just just
performance poets
cafe and barroom entertainers

As if that is something less important
than book published  poetry
read quietly, self consciously,
to yourself on a bus to Speke
or studied under
anglepoise, in a musty prep room

Our poetry was different
it came alive
when the lights went off

They tell us we are second rate
and we were stoned
on psychedelic hallucinogens

(some things you just can't argue with)

But poetry was the new in-thing
It gave us a voice

In Leece Street there was a club
Monday night
Poetry read at your own risk
You could get up and read
whatever you wanted
and in the reading of poetry
we wrote the manifesto for a new world
I suppose we must have had
brain damage

The poems where good,
the poets where better
Roger, Clive, Adrian
the three Johns the two Daves
the two Brians
And all the other name-forgotten faces
who's nasal voices echo through the streets

And how we all loved words
real words to be used
portmanteau words like "scaffolddills"
new metaphors and simile
that slopped round the walls
like jelly sticking to us forever
and when we found a word it was
treasure to be hoarded,
and I still have my book of gems
my vocabulary of dissent
my own often read  little red book
and every word
has a subtext texture
that echoes with the moment it was first
said aloud
in a smoky room or bar corner
somewhere in Liverpool

somewhere in Liverpool
where we are poets
and we are scousers
and it's still
the Summer of Love


3 a.m.
and out of my
I ripped my pants on a nail
in the alley behind the Irish Club

it happened, the rusty nail may still be there.

rusting, till its all gone
drowning in current
and becoming a poem

the purpose of talking about poetry
is to talk about poetry is to poetry and talk
and talk about talk,
which is odd because what we don't do is talk,
we make statements and poetry
electronic words sentences
sentencing us to wait for a reply.
I have no idea what it is about
or what it is about except poetry and talk
or talk and poetry.
I don't know, wish I did,
there is an answer I am sure
but I haven't found it yet,
perhaps the answer lies
in defining the indefinable
understanding the unknowable
accepting that some things just are,
or are not, or may be

rusting on the picket lines in Speke
speaking dead language poems
that  inform on white boned  miners
as black rock dust paints clouds over picket lines,
or years later at Liverpool docks
waiting to be turned into myth
entropic rusting like a nail
poems speak to the contradictions.

sell our newspaper in the street
take pennies from passing strangers
so children can eat
the days fade away
the docks
families at the docks
turning them to poems and myths

as if they never where
just words and poems,
poems and words

poetry is structured talking or something
just words stung together
hung together redefined in metaphor
strung up, hung up
written by strung up hung up poets
tyrants turning life into an art.
so they can beat us with words

performance poets
performing performances of
words and poetry
poetic words
bring a black art back into life.
but it's what it's about
it's steel and coal and lives
steal or rusty steel
it rips at
and at 3am
in the alley
behind the Irish club
in Liverpool

you finally get the point.


I came to visit a tree
I had last seen thirty years ago
when sweat stained and tired
I made my way into this valley
between the
white sloped mountains.

I had captured it in a photo,
in  the picture
the tree still stands alone
a perfect Christmas-tree
decorated with hanging  ice
and snow that never melts
as limbless twig digits
spread out against a grey sky

Today, near Christmas,
the sun is shining
and there's no snow,
it's warm in the sunlight
and I have to check the picture
just to be sure it's the right tree.

Around it now small trees
jostle for space
weeds graze the soil
winding through exposed roots.

and whole branches
ripped off in blistering winds
lay rotting with the weight of memory
in the mulch of years

Ted Burford interview

Notes for a long unwritten dreampoem

Some seated watchers

Victorian, and other old facades

A bald and dry progression nears his place
The rat comes out for him

The Sunday morning mirror reflects his blue eye
The white's turned overnight blood-red

In a secondhand bookshop he peers at soiled titles

His favourite name is erased

He rises aloft. They look on unimpressed
He navigates sideways also
He floats at a moderate height
observing a meteor-shower

Steep iron stairs. He dare not descend

He walks in dark streets
God's hand, behind the sky, rearranges a constellation
He'll not walk further in that direction

The crystal splits to a new surface

Deep in the water is the bright parcelled mercury
He dives

He digs in the dry silt of a drained lake
Clear water upswells

Arabs (filmy dark eyes, calligraph charms in satchels)
trek over dunes towards bulbul flocks
to the damp concentration

The girl floats in the blue. Her head is gone
her leg is plaster, her arm is a wooden shaft
Only her central oasis is unimpaired

A mirror in the early morning reflects a clear blue eye

Some seated watchers.


Today, as I strolled in a brandnew precinct,
I saw a man resembling my father- who
doesn't now care tuppence about identity.

My father, who blocked in a pseudonym
 for thirty winters of Littlewoods' coupons,
"In case", he'd say, "of a Klondike strike."
- never extracting more than a fiver.

I can't for my very life recall
that lost and fruitless alias
for a smallish, sallow Old Contemptible,
with a pay-day veer towards drunkenness,
whom I wouldn't now claim that I ever knew.

Steve Duffy


*** Commands available for level: PARANOID ***

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tell         emote        bug          check        echo
goback       listen       prompt       desc         when
shutup       public       private      letmein      invite
topic        who          home         news         read
write        search       review       help         status
version      eavesdr      pry          bluff        from
whatime      examine      why          who          passwd
wake         again        gothru       request      where
dblcheck     no           note         retell       compare

Type '.help ' for specific help on a command.

Jesse Glasse


Vlaminck--you were right.
Impasto is best, the heavy
reds, blues, greens, trowled
on with the knife after a day of
bicycle racing, the sweat abead
on the end of the nose, the head
lathered with sweat.  Vlaminck, boxing
is best, too, the crushing blow,
knuckles bare in moonlight,
and rounds that last till the dozing
time-keeper is awakened by the
first shift whistle.  We do not
paint the tug, we throw it on
the canvas; the eye has
nothing to do with transferring the
stormy field onto the canvas,
but the eye in tandem with
the gymnast's muscles and the
stallion's tireless loins.  Vla-
minck, racing is good too.  Think
of Barney Oldfield breaking the
land speed record.  We must
be able to paint the body withstanding
the extreme speed of 60 M.P.H.,
as well as the body at rest in
the grass with a nude woman gazing
blandly on.  Come, let's do some
deep knee bends before the easle.  Let's
strangle the sky with our bare hands
and impale it on a church steeple
of eye-lacerating green.  We
paint water as if it were lava,
passionate water, and passionate bathers
ready to swim the Atlantic to ease their
20th century angst.  Indeed, the world is
angular, abrupt, screaming,
hisses steam through its joints,
and raps out messages with a
single iron fist.  The governor of the
 heart is stuck wide open, Vlaminck, and we must
stab the canvas with the brush,
infuse it with the colors
of a car crash, of a bruised face,
of an army marching together
into a cloud of mustard gas,
as they roar the old songs
of the future
at dead dawn.

W N Herbert interview

A Dog on the Metro

For us itís Jesmond to Monument,
to her itís static but it shakes,
a box that whines as though itís afraid
so that she must retreat
further back in the seat, and lean
into her nonchalant master.

She is onion-eyed, slime-jawed; sheís
swing-teated, club-pawed; sheís chained
to him and beating in
her brown-black short-haired hide
like a beach infected with oil.

Darkness whips the outside
even though she knows
itís day, and the strangers have
too many smells which change
each time this big box claps
its sideways lids.

Even though she canít tell where
she will climb out to, nor why
itís not the place where she climbed in,
she reads his language of readiness as
the light becomes outside again,

keen to lead him away
from his waiting under earth
towards that scent that does for home.

The Guernica Duck

The Guernica duck is shouting on the table
but nobody is listening to him.
His body is lit up like a Gurkha knife
but nobody is noticing.

Women fall and flail and thrust
but they do not throttle.
They wail and the bull wails too,
even though he is a porcelain figurine:
his tail is a fumerole,
his anus an Etna of indignation.

The horse fires cordite neighs across
the room/square: he is a newspaper blown
across your dying face. But the women
do not throttle, they do not pluck
and they do not cook
the Guernica duck.

The women have children to mourn,
husbands to lament Ė even the lightbulb has
a desperate sun, a bomb-burst to impersonate.
Only the duck is overlooked,
too stupid to realise that even
the bereaved must eat tomorrow.

Only the Guernica duck is shouting,
"Look at me: Iím frightened too!"
Only to him has it occurred
that he will never be forgotten.

Some things found in sharks

(Found in Lineaweaver and Backusís
Natural History of Sharks)

A raincoat, three overcoats
and a car licence plate,

a goat, a turtle, a large tom-cat,
three birds, four fish-heads

and a six-foot shark,
six hens and a rooster,

twenty bottles of Vichy Water
bound together with a wire hoop,

a nearly whole reindeer
and a shipís scraper,

six horseshoe crabs, three bottles
of beer and a blue penguin,

a piece of bark from an oak tree
and parts of porpoises,

a 100lb loggerhead turtle,
a handbag containing three shillings

a powderpuff and a wristwatch,
stingrays, a full-grown spaniel,

seaweed, a Galapagos seal pup,
orange peel and squids,

a 25lb lump of whale blubber
and seven strands of whalebone,

paper cups and
a yellow-billed cuckoo.


Go my song
and bite their legs off.

Variation on a Parrot

I dreamed I wrote another manís novel:
my parrot wasnít stuffed, but a survival,
centenarian, uttering banalities in
provincial French, that may just have
been the mutterings of Gustave.

My scholar had been driven insane,
sharing one room in an industrial town,
hoping for rinds of wisdom, chewings
of identifiable quotes, eventually
hearing new fragments entirely.

My version reminded me of the parrot
found in South America, whose argot
was the last words of an Indian tongue:
how do we know this? Do we believe
another manís language is that distinctive?

     "Even as in a description of rain,
     Falling on Rouen and the surrounding hills,
     Flaubert flattens out every image,
     Removes every salient word,
     Docks every "original" idea,
     Until what is left is what anybody
     Might have said about the scene
     -- Though nobody, of course, but Flaubert
     Could have said it!"

Then there was the response of neighbours
towards two parrots kept in an aviary
in the garden of a friend of ours.
They were quiet birds, long-married,
sheíd smuggled from Brazil ten years before.

One drunken Sunday these folk broke through
her fence, tore open the cage door
and strangled the male parrot.
They bit the ownerís partner when
he tried to intervene.

Reactions to this story were divided:
men laughed, while women were livid,
as outraged as at a rape.
I was confronted by the absurd
enigma of this widowed bird:

here was the parrot of my dream.
Further research seemed to be in order.

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