March 10, 2007

Spring Tanka

More short stuff, an english ‘tanka’ this time.

Tanka O Kiru

Snowflakes are alright
to look at. Just so long as
you’re only looking.
But then count yourself lucky
if you find any in March.

The title is a transliterated pun; literally ‘clearing the tanka’, originally the phrase described the act of pushing the guard of a sword up in its scabbard so that the blade might then be drawn in a single, swift motion – obviously an extremely confrontational gesture akin to cocking a gun. According to Wikipedia, in which I trust absolutely, “This expression has become widely used in Japan in the sense of ‘getting ready to begin something’ or ‘getting ready to speak’, usually with an aggressive connotation”.

March 09, 2007


Noticed that there are rather too many iambics on this blog. Just a couple of little glib things to redress the imbalance: an attempt at the tricky little ‘englyn’ form, and a seven line seven syllable thingy I am going to all a Heptain, because I can. They’re short, like me, and we’re not at all compensating for that by using big words like ‘Heptarchy’.


Gave mere graft, myrrh,
more roads, grist and rage.

Grey moats the sky, greets
migrants. Mist goads
glared mirth. Myths and graves.
Moors; the sleet mints groats.

God grant us meet minds,
manner grief. Give. Save.

The Dark Ages (revised thoughts)

The Heptarchy has widely
been discredited, it seems
- justly sent to Coventry.
This must come as some relief
to several minor chiefs
who have found their remains
in the wrong category.

March 04, 2007

Sunday Papers

Sunday Papers
after Mr. Eliot

the saprotroph is at the gates;
word-play reforms the acumen
where vim and visa now conflate.

Where vim and visa now conflate
with calls for foreign bursaries,
importuning the Nanny State
to privatise the nursery,

the family at breakfast sit
and over cornflakes, all agree
that every prisoner is fit
for one vocational degree.

The primus inter pares Dad
expostulates hate’s paradigm,
his face obscured in broadsheet text
and news of the insurgent times.

This week, we read, a major brawl
on where to put the fire escape
in Christ’s Sepulchre. The sun, hung low
tests ecumenical restraint.

Nonplussed, his girl updates her blog
with recipes for rum “cocktails”.
The discreet clinic will re-stock
its termination chemicals.

Filial loathing, son to son,
descends, while Mrs Hamilcar
pours tea – her friends look kindly on
her faux-imported samovar.

The bigot marks obitured Lords,
condemns the pun in “new arms race”,
passes the toast with condign words
and shuns the consequent embrace.

Wrecking a poem

I ought to be writing an essay on the Wreck of the Deutschland. Instead I'm making wrecks of my own.

Writing a good poem is not easy. So how about re-writing one that already exists? It turns outs out this isn't easy either. Alright then, how about purposefully trying to wreck it?

For my wreck I took T.S. Eliot's Mr Eliot's Sunday Morning Service ( This came after reading an article about the tensions between the six different denominations that share the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, and my own sense as a member of Britain's fearful, confused and frequently hypocritical middle class  (oh no, I've gone all political). I've tried to retain a sense of the allusion-packed wordiness of the original, but in the context of today's secular media.

March 02, 2007

Back, and with Long Eared Bats

Right. Blogging, blogging, blogging. Quite frankly I’ve failed to do any since November, which is pathetic. But this does give me the chance to make a glorious and unexpected return. So here is another ‘nature’ poem for “The Forage Cap”. It’s yer basic Elizabethan english sonnet, complete with rhyming couplet at the end for that here’s-the-punchline feeling. For a better poem on bats, check out and look for Les Murray’s ‘Bat’s Ultrasound’.

Long Eared Bats

Saturday night, the bridges become weirs
and thunder shakes the telegraph mast’s wreath
of incongruous ivy. We can hear
the dead low drawn heart-noise above drawn breath
that must seem to your ears like wind shrieking.
We trace our foetal pulses through the wall
of weather, beacon our whispers, seeking
each other through radio-scrambling squall
and rain-static. This code-talking is fine -
and terse as Morse. We cannot share what stirs
in the polyglot hedgerow, the rapine
of the casual fox, expatriate birds
with rough accents and more – what we crave – song!
Who wants to mime the whirlwind for so long?

November 25, 2006

Poetry, as threatened

Here’s the first salvo. These ‘animal’ poems may end up as a sequence under the working title of ‘The Forage Cap’. They may be released from captivity by animal rights activists.

Please tear them to shreds. The poems, that is. Not the activists.


Call a harsh ‘chack’; song is a scratchy warble
catching my origins in a thicket of oak.
My passerine tact a mystery to the hawk.
A week in my wingspan is idle flit and hack;
my back’s bitter blood-bolt, the terse use of my beak
to keep my barbed-wire larder of corpses in stock.
No carrion-charmer, no falcon or red kite
I, peregrine, I pious in thought and act
am shriven in my little blood, my butcher’s reek.
In the wrack of my nest, in its bone-scree of voles and shrews
I am called to the questing retch of my home choir,
their eyrie-cry my kyrie eleison.


A jackdaw sweet, this half-sucked cherry lollipop
is the exact size and shape of the Black Prince’s Ruby;
a tumbled garnet from the garnet mouth of a lover
set in its claw-mount of silver-black tarmac.
Craving the tacky circumstance of rapture,
jackdaws dream, love-nesting the Crown of State.
They search for their eye-metal. I mistake this for lust.
Whatever angel knew about satisfaction
clearly flew through the car parks in jackdaw form
before we were born, to teach other birds how to spit.

November 24, 2006

Opening Lines

Art begins, apparently, with resistance. This blog begins with resistance to work. Having finished yet another essay, I just can’t bring myself to proof read it. The delights of sitcom repeats on ABC and E4 for once do not appeal, and Earlsdon is experiencing ‘typical’ weather conditions. Shall I turn my hand to the washing up? Shall I mount an expedition to rediscover my bedroom floor, or identify that worrysome green substance near the base of the sink? Shall I say sod the weather and just go to the pub anyway?
No. I’ll start a blog, because there aren’t nearly enough students detailing exactly the same experiences already. Well, I’m committed now, so it would be impolite not to give a few words of introduction. My name is James. I’m a second year English Lit & Creative Writing student. Amongst other things I write, read and review poetry.This blog will be an unashamed piece of self-indulgence and self-publication. If this foreword and forewarning hasn’t caused you to groan inwardly (or groan outwardly, or retch a little), then read on and please call again. There is a great deal of proof reading out there to be avoided; my regular posting will probably reflect this.

October 2023

Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa Su
Sep |  Today  |
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31               

Search this blog

Blog archive

RSS2.0 Atom

Alan Johnston banner

Not signed in
Sign in

Powered by BlogBuilder