She clasped her arms around her knees
burying her head in the sand of her thighs
eyes closed
listening to the ocean come
again and again to kiss her toes.

OR (revised version, bit twee maybe)

She clasped her arms around her knees,
sunk in sandy thighs.
Eyes closed,
she listened to the ocean come,
in gentle beats to touch her feet
and kiss her twinkle toes.

[pfft ideally needs to be somewhere between the two]

Version 3 [gratitude to Deborah Love]

She gazed beyond her deformed legs,
watching tankers chuff and grumble,

…[bollocks her eyes are meant to be closed. Come back tomorrow]

Version 4

The girl stood on the burning deck,
her hands holding a froggy,
they both jumped overboard to see,
and now they’re both just soggy.

[That’s enough of that. Write it properly tomorrow – Ed.]

Version 5 (sigh)

She clasps her arms around her knees,
eyes closed;
listens to the ocean’s beat,
while waves repeat their cautious reach
up beach to kiss her toes,
then playfully retreat.

[No – Ed.]

Version 6

Arms clasped around her knees,

eyes closed;

listening to the ocean come,

again, again, to kiss her toes.

[you don’t know when you’re beat, do you? – Ed.]

Today is National Hug-A-Poet Day

At the weekend I had to trawl through my old blog posts looking for a particular poem and I wound up reading some of my earlier “opinion” pieces.

What a lot of rot. I think it is fair to say I am simply bewildered and leave it at that. Stick to poetry. Actually, I feel more than bewildered. In my old music festival days I would happy lie in fields for days on end, grinning. Right now, that is what I feel like doing (which is a bit impractical, I know).

Today I emailed the organiser of a new poetry night offering to take one of the open mic slots, and added that because there may be new blood there I “promised to behave”. What I meant was that I wouldn’t do any poems about anal warts or vaginal lubricant. Her response was

“Awwww. You don’t have to behave if you don’t want to”


Is that what it has come to?

Anyway. Someone else I know recently came up with Hug-A-Poet Day as a concept. Someone else thought it was already Hug-A-Poet Day every day. Either way, I’m down for that.

I seem to have written a lot of poems recently and they have been getting more gooey. Getting soft in my old age.


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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