Boy, some people can be annoying. Usually by being right.

Following my recent self-indignant outburst of distilled curmudgeon on Monday, Deborah Love refused to let me get away with it, prompting my admittance that I may well still have the capacity to behave like a complete fool. Pffft.

But she gets 10/10 for knowing how to deal with stubborn, grumpy men.


Some questions focus the mind.

On Friday an exceptionally drunk friend enquired whether or not I ‘fancied’ a mutual acquaintance. I didn’t answer, and the question itself unsettled me no end.

The up-side is that it made something very clear to me (not that it needed much clarification). In my own head I do not want a ‘relationship’. I am terrible at them. No-one has ever put up with me in the long-term and rightly so. Why on earth would I want to subject myself to all that again? Watching someone you care about become steadily and terminally disillusioned with you is a poor do for everyone involved.

Keep the dosage low (I’m OK in small chunks) and value your friendships. Want a drink or a meal? Trip to the cinema? Sure. And I can cook a damn fine breakfast. At least I’m honest about it.

As Kim Addonizio said…



You turn away. I remember again
the first time you turned toward me,
knocking over your glass.
We sat at a table, getting drunk.

The first time you turned toward me
I knew this moment would come:
two people getting drunk at a table,
getting it over with. And though

I knew this moment would come
I couldn’t help kissing you,
getting it over with, although
we might have stayed friends, otherwise;

but I couldn’t help kissing you,
starting things up—the hasty undressing, the love
we might have kept as friends, if we were wise.
Now, stupidly, we’ve come to the end.

Starting things up was hasty, love.
Knocking over your glass
I stare stupidly. We’ve come to the end.
You turn away. I remember again.

On the behaviour of poets

I love my contributors at Algebra of Owls. Well, most of them.

The guy I love the most is the one who, after I emailed him to say I had not picked his poems to post emailed me straight back…

“Your ass is history. Don’t give me your fucking attitude”

I am glad to report that he was wrong. My ass is very much alive and well in the present day, and shows every sign of persisting far in the future, in all its flabby pink glory.

Previously, I have discussed on here my suspicions about the behaviour of Duotrope subscribers (see here). Specifically, I worried that acceptance percentages for magazines might all be too high because poets might be more inclined to report acceptances rather than their rejections.

First, this is a bit true. It is hard to link specific Duotrope activity to specific contributors, but sometimes the timing of events makes certain things clear. I know that one person who sent me 6 poems over two submissions, reported just the one that got accepted and not the five that were not.

The good news is that I have learned that Duotrope is wise to this sort of thing and excludes outliers from publication statistics. So if someone seems to have 98% of their submissions accepted, they get ignored for statistical purposes because it’s bleedin’ obvious they aren’t playing it straight.

The bad news is that sort of behaviour – only reporting acceptances – affects only one thing. The poet’s own acceptance percentage on Duotrope. A statistic which only one person will ever look at – the poet – because frankly no-one else cares. So I am sure that their ego will be mightily soothed as they stare in isolation at a number on a screen that they know full well is wrong and no-one else will ever see. It’s like cheating at solitaire.

Today I saw another corker. I rejected another submission (one of the poems I ummed and arred over but eventually there were other poems I liked better than it). Twelve hours later they sent me an email…

“Sadly I wish to withdraw the submission of my poems for a re-write”

I’d already said no…but they still wanted to claim some sort of moral high ground by sending me a withdrawal? The mind boggles.

Call and Response / Bark and Byte: The Writer on Mental Health

An excellent piece by Daniel Roy Connelly about depression and writing.

Rumination and Publication

3173248481_557163af3b_o Photo by author, Shanghai 2008

Call and Response / Bark and Byte: The Writer on Mental Health

Here I record thoughts about my increasing interest in creative responses to mental health and the fragmented WWII poem that brought them to bitter-sweet discord in my head. Calling on epiphanies with William Styron and Keith Douglas, my writing timeline can claim moot expertise over only one of the three authors I discuss below.

I have suffered depressive episodes as long as I can remember. By episodes, I mean certain chunks of time when a canvas bag has been thrown over my head from behind. It is wet, pitch black and immobilising. Summer’s a bummer. By ‘as long as I can remember’, we could be talking yesterday. By ‘depressive’, I mean irrationally numb, overcome, there are many adjectives to employ and varied stresses to endure. Let me be clear at the beginning that…

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A Poem for Hillsborough

This year saw the conclusion of the enquiry into the deaths of 96 Liverpool fans at Hillsborough. The families had waited 27 years for this. It found that they had been ‘unlawfully killed’ and did not in any way contribute to their own deaths – I wrote a poem about it.

At the heart of the matter was class discrimination, the idea that the establishment could tell as many lies as they wanted about football fans and scousers, that it didn’t matter – that such people would not and could not be heard or believed when weighed against the forces and vested interests of the rich and powerful.

I showed the poem to a friend who thought it was great, and that if I had been quicker off the mark it could have been a Social Media hit. I performed it a couple of times at open mics. At one, it was a ghastly ‘tumbleweed’ response. At the other, it went down better, yet someone commented to me afterwards that it was ‘controversial’. Really? Why? How could solidarity with those subjected to an appalling abuse of power be controversial?

Perhaps part of the problem is that the poem is tangential. It does not actually mention Hillsborough at all, except in the title. It requires a degree of trust in the poet, and performed live it needs the audience to be awake and listening from the start rather than worrying about whether they have left the gas cooker on – only to be startled somewhere mid-flow when I start talking about wankers. By that stage it is difficult to actually fathom the poem’s subject or meaning. It also requires an understanding and recollection of the facts of the Marchioness disaster, so is likely a very British poem in terms of its frame of reference. I suppose at worst it could be read as me criticising the victims of that separate tragedy, but you would have to be an enormously dozy (and lazy) bugger to think that, frankly.

I tried submitting it to a few likely places for publication but it was not well received. It holds the record for my fastest ever rejection. A poetry mag over in Liverpool itself emailed back a ‘no’ five minutes after I had sent it to them. I had mostly given up hope with it and had decided that if it got bounced again by the place looking at it now, I would file it away as a failed experiment. I was therefore delighted when today they replied with an authoritative Yes. The poem will appear at The Stare’s Nest next Thursday 18th August.

With hindsight, I wonder if the enquiry outcome was significant in broader ways. The whole matter of Hillsborough and the eventual triumph of justice for the families was iconic. A symbol of how the disadvantaged are abused, and how they can, in fact, prevail. Has this fed belief in the supporters of the Labour movement that actually, yes, you can win, that you don’t just have to accept the routine abuse of power? That Corbyn and a genuinely socialist agenda are, in fact, possible?