Monday, September 14, 2009

It's all a bit fucky really...

So. Today my daughters have both been a bit sweary. Ruby (2 and a half) has coined a new swear word that I think can hold it's own with the big boys. I innocently got a her pink coat down from the peg and offered it to her before we set off for playgroup. She refused saying "no I don't like that one, it's fucky"... there would normally have been a battle of wills but me and Dan were too busy finding the newly coined expletive cripplingly funny. Of course we tricked her into saying it a couple more times before I finally said... "Do you mean yucky?" I got a different coat down and we went to playgroup.

Swearing incident number two came as we were shifting a sofa into Maya's room. I stumbled a little bit and was about to swear but stopped myself. Maya instantly piped up "Mummy was going to say fucking hell"... When she was 3, any incidences of bad language were just a bunch of syllables so if she overheard me saying fucking hell under my breath (usually at Jesmond mums driving round in tanks) she would say what she thought she heard - (fugging heck). Now she's in year one and spends breaks in the big playground with some of the older kids, I'm sure the odd swear word will float around so she might be more familiar with them... It's not that I swear that much... honest.

Monday, September 7, 2009


Well. I'm feeling very nervous about the readings at Live tomorrow. I know I shouldn't be as I've managed to assemble a fantastic team of directors and actors but it's turned into a bit of a major project (rather than the quiet readings I'd envisaged at the beginning of the summer) and I don't want to fuck it up... I'll still have to go into work the next day and face the rest of the new writing department (even though technically that would just be one other person).

I'm sure it'll be fine. I've put loads of work in, the actors and directors are giving it their all and it's going to go on in front of a (hopefully) friendly audience who are there to support new writing... not look out for excuses to laugh at me. This time tomorrow I'll know if it's going to be a big pile of poo or a resounding success that will lead to a new route into theatre for local writers, actors and directors... here's hoping it's the latter.

I might post an update tomorrow evening but it depends on how drunk I am... either commiserating or celebrating.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Listen Up North

A couple of weeks ago I recorded some of my poetry for Rachel Cochrane's new spoken word website Listen Up North - you can find out more about the recording and her progress as she sets up this fantastic new venture at her blog (which she updates much more frequently than I do here!)

Friday, July 3, 2009

Diamond Twig and Pink Lane Poetry

I've been lucky enough to have one of my poems published on the Diamond Twig website. You can read it by clicking on the link below. It's a poem inspired by Julia Darling, both in subject matter and in form.

I'll also be reading at Pink Lane Poetry at the Jazz Cafe in Newcastle on Thursday 9th July. It's the first reading I've sorted out for myself. Most of the others have come about through taking part in workshops and masterclasses so I'm pleased that I've finally got my act together to sort something out. I still need to find someone to stay in with Daniel though. I'm not sure that he'll be able to stay in with the girls on his own just yet as he's still not able to lift heavy objects... and toddlers are heavy.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Carnival - one minute writer

Shuggy Boat

It's just you and me.
We don't get a chance
to sit opposite each other
and laugh and laugh
at how ridiculous
this is.

You are just five,
I'm thirty years older
and the shuggy boat
makes me scream louder
than you.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson made me burn my lunch

Well, not him. But news of his death when a facebook message made me realise that the reason there was a special on 5 this evening was that he was dead, not just a teaser in the run up to his tour. So as we've been writing poems about the news I wrote a poem about this news... sort of two but the first was just what I said when I heard.

Gut reaction





This isn’t right.

This is wrong, yes?

The Questions

Who do I remember?

You then, when you were still young

beautiful, untainted?

Or then, when your transformation

didn’t shock but intrigued?

Or then. When you’d gone too far

disfigured, body dysmorphic?

What do I remember?

The 1986 letter I never sent

saying maybe, one day, we could marry?

Or the music that filled childhood afternoons

classics that filled dancefloors?

Or the twisted media obsession

old skeletons that wouldn’t lie down?

What should I remember?

Maybe just the music

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Write a Poem About the News Day

The rather marvellous Kate Fox has incited loads of people to write a poem inspired by the news. I don't know if Write a Poem About the News Day is an annual thing but I'd be quite up for it if it is. I've been finding it tricky to write at the moment so any excuse to get something started and finished quickly is helping to keep me ticking over.

I noticed that most of the poems seemed to rhyme so I thought I'd give it a bash too (I couldn't quite combine humour and rhyme though... I'm taking baby steps). So I settled on a villanelle - not exactly the easy option but I found the challenge of sticking to such a rigid form helped to focus on a broad subject.

A Beautiful World

There’s old news and new news, laden with doom
headlines scream out a recurring nightmare;
paint a beautiful world in colours of gloom.

Articles comment on the downside of boom,
highlight the illusion of fiscal flair.
There’s old news and new news, laden with doom.

A Labour party with need of new broom
can’t rescue us from this mire of despair,
paint a beautiful world in colours of gloom.

Threatened injunctions might make racists fume
but a sense of futility hangs in the air,
there’s old news and new news, laden with doom.

A remembered young woman in a garden tomb
her living smile counters the killers stare.
Paint a beautiful world in colours of gloom.

And finally... good news pushed out, there’s just no room,
It’s no longer the point to inform but to scare.
There’s old news and new news, laden with doom
paint a beautiful world in colours of gloom.

Monday, June 22, 2009


I didn’t think you would be here.
So I’m lying next to you and listening
to the sound of the click
that used to come from your chest.
The absence of it.

I’ll rouse slowly, bring myself round
and head upstairs to count off your drugs
one by one into my palm.

The One-Minute Writer: Today's Writing Prompt: Bed

Sunday, June 21, 2009

A poem for Fathers' Day

At one stage I didn't think that Daniel would still be alive for Father's Day so I decided to use an idea from the Caroline Bird workshop on the BBC Poetry Season website to write a poem for Fathers' Day. I asked Maya and Ruby what their favourite things were, what made them feel happy and used their words to create a poem that would show Daniel how happy they (and I) were that he was home with us - safe. Alive.

Once I made a note of all the elements of the poem I jigged it about a bit to come up with the order but all the words are their own. I asked Maya what the poem should be called when it was finished and she came up with...

The Superfantastic Word Gallery

Like going to Coraline, playgroup or France!

Or to the swimming baths in a pink bikini.

Squirty cream and strawberries,

chocolate buttons and chocolate fudge.

Charlie and Lola,

Boomerang and Scooby Doo.

Spooky ghost trains, fun time,

playing Trash! and tickling.

Ready brek or raspberries,

prawn sushi with soy sauce.

Pulling crackers at Christmas time,

and happy birthday for Ruby.

Eating ice-cream on really hot, summer days,

bees flying in the garden.

Art books and Studio Ghibli animations,

drawing on weekend mornings.

Black and white and pink and red,

playing at Grandpa and Grannies house.

Daddy is; cuddles, love, music.

Friday, June 19, 2009

How've you been?

I was at the Cumberland Arms last night for the BBC poetry slam. I (sort of) really enjoyed the night but found it a little difficult to really get into the vibe. If I hadn't gone on my own - as I usually do to these things - it might have been a little easier. The main problem was how to answer the question "So, how've you been?" or what to say when someone says "You're looking really well" when the last three weeks have been hell and you're looking at weeks, months before you start to feel safe again. Does anyone really want to hear anything other than "great"? I decided to stay in my seat for the second interval.

The poets that really stuck in my mind were Scott Tyrrell (of course), Radikal Queen, Alfie Crow and Ross Sutherland... I'm very tempted to try my own univocalic poem though I'm not sure that it would be quite as accomplished as Ross' first round poem. Radikal Queen's style reminded me of Jill Scott, rhythmic, soulful. I was impressed by her delivery and slightly jealous of the fact that she seems to be the sort of spoken word artist I'd like to be... but my identity as a Black Briton has always been at odds with the perceived notion of black cultural identity, I'd feel like a fake if I attempted it. I thought Alfie's decisions to go with a gutsy, subversive use of nursery rhyme forms to create a jarring, disturbing view of "broken Britain" probably cost him the competition but in my view he deserved to be in the top two.

I wonder if karma was at work during the evening... Ross Sutherland was denied the second place spot by (I think) 0.1 of a point. During the first interval there was a queue at the bar, I waited patiently to get my two Fentiman's (a ginger beer and a victorian lemonade) and just before I got to the front said poet swaggered in front, seemingly oblivious to the queue, and got promptly served... Of course, I said nothing... to be honest I couldn't be bothered to be bothered.

When I got home I peered through a gap in the curtain to watch Daniel before I went in. He was sitting in his chair smiling and looking to his left talking to his "Dannysitter" Gayle. He looked almost the same as before in the sitting room light. Like nothing had ever happened and this was any night.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Dual parenting again... sort of.

So we're in the sitting room. Together. The girls are happy to have him home and we're adjusting to the fact that he's weaker, for now. He looks the same, only thinner and he hasn't been pottering around tidying up after me and the girls. And the memory that he might not have made it home at all is surreal enough for me to almost have a smile on my face when I talk about what we've been through.

It's good to see him home even if he's still not comfortable in this temporary state. After we arrived home Daniel shaved off his four-week-old hospital beard, it had started to make him look like a lost member of King's of Leon but he wanted to feel more human so off it went - and despite the loss of weight he still looks great... his American superhero jawline is still intact.

I'm just checking in really. I couldn't blog about what was going on as it happened but now that Daniel's beginning to recover I think I can just about bear to blog what's going on with me. Some of the detail of what happened will creep in over time but the main purpose is to document each day so that if we start to lose heart I'll be able to see how far we've come.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The one-minute writer


I don’t run.
So I can’t see what you’re getting at.
"It’s just a way of letting off steam,
running things over"
you say. But
I don’t see it -
dirt gets in your lungs.
Why not just stay in?
with me.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

John Hegley thinks I'm okay, so I might just start to think so too...

This is probably going to be brief. I attended a Hyperlexic/Apples and Snakes workshop in North Shields today and had a fantastic time as the person running the workshop was John Hegley... well, he was a bit late so Claire Morgan held the fort brilliantly until he arrived. It was a fantastic workshop with some excellent elements (that I might just steal for my Live Writers Group).

Anyway, the reason for this post is that there was an event (which the workshop was tied into) this evening; so not only did I get to see a John Hegley gig for free but I also got to perform on the same stage as him!!!!!! I know excessive use of exclamation marks is technically grounds for having someone committed but these ones aren't excessive. First off, I read a kind of manifesto that arose from the workshop entitled beliefs and bananas and then I got to perform Julia Darling's Indelible, Miraculous in the Dead Poets Slam. Now I really wish, along with everyone else who was lucky enough to know Julia, that I wasn't able to include this poem in this particular section of the night but I'm glad that I was able to share her work and repay her encouragement and influence in a small way. It's a wonderful poem and I just felt so priveleged to read it.

There were loads of other great poets on that night and I really enjoyed Simma and Scott Tyrrell immensely... particularly Coitus Interuptus which rang all too true. I'm just stoked really to have been involved in such a fantastic event, I hadn't gone along with the intention of reading but I did, twice! AND, John Hegley, AND Kate Fox both said that my performance was good... and I'm not going to do what I normally do and say to myself... Oh, but they were just being polite, and they just didn't want me to feel bad because why would they bother? If I was totally shit surely they wouldn't have to say anything at all... they could have just said thanks for coming... ee, I'm learning. I'm really happy tonight and the main reason is that my fantastic, gorgeous husband Daniel got to see me perform and he said I was good too... so it's official.

Here's the (first draft) of the poem I read:

beliefs and bananas
I believe that bananas have a limited time frame for eating.
I believe that green bananas are not the same as plantains.
I believe that people should cherish differences.
Especially the difference between
green bananas and plantains.
I believe that cooking is essential to tranquil family life.
I don't cook as much as I should.
I believe that it doesn't matter if you're not picked first.
I believe that everyone in this room
(well, not this room, but the one earlier)
feels as nervous/apprehensive/shy
as I did before I walked in the room.
I believe that if a person wants to write
they should write.
If they want to sing
they should sing.
I believe that everyone should write a manifesto
at least once in their life.

Well, it turned out to be not so brief after all...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


A handful of photographs,

all I have to link to my past.

No photographic army of relatives

no reminders of a

or connection to the generations

that came before my parents.

No thick, brown, spiral bound family albums

losing their stickiness,

photos slipping out from

behind their protective film.

No anecdotal stories

of my parents’ childhoods.

No tales of what their parents did.

No pictures of the places they lived

or the holidays they took.

As if they appeared

Parents - Ready Made.

With no life, no existence

before we arrived.

No boxes of family photographs

linking me to my past.

No one who looks just like me,

staring blankly out from

creased, faded photographs.

No one reaching out

to show me how I got here.

Only half remembered photos

in the front rooms of relatives

I’ve long since stopped visiting -

whose names I can’t remember.

Where are they?

The photographs, the people.

If I knew they would just be

So many nameless faces

for the many faceless names.


Wintersun through the kitchen window,

it feels like spring.

The heat presses against her,

holds her close as she listens to

the tinitus whine of the fridge;

the grumble of the bypass;

the birds she can’t name who live to shit on her sheets.

The sun highlights remnants from last night’s snowfall.

Alone in the morning darkness of the backstreet,

she harvests the snow from her husband’s car.

Leaving pock marks over the once perfect surface,

her hand like a starfish,

fingertips barely touching the brittle crust.

Then grasping, eating mouthfuls of clean, pure snow.

It melts as it hits the warmth of her mouth.

Enough to satisfy – at least for now.


These words

don't want to come out yet.

Hiding behind quiet tears

that don't want to be seen.

My head fizzes gently as

they float around

Looking for a safe way out.

I won't imprison them too long;

They'll make sense soon enough.

But I'll keep these words

Hold on.

Until they can be changed.


My Father

With a voice softer than

the stirring of a sleeping child

and words gentle rain at dusk.

With the hope of a grandfather’s

stories of love and desire, wanting

to share more than just the hard times.

Fear and anxiety hide beneath his smile.

his forgotten childhood half-remembered

in softly spoken conversations.

His voice has a smile when the pain lets up.

The voice I strain to hear

at the end of a distant phone line.


There is something different in this hot yellow school summer. The heat and sweatiness of friends distorts in the intense August light that still fills the living room. An album cover balances delicately between my skinny brown fingers. Against the white background two figures. A man. A woman. Each half naked, his torso/her belly, rump and thighs. Outside, their shoulders, legs and arms bare, friends play in the dust of the estate.

Wearing a Groove

How often I walk this route,

wearing a groove into the hard concrete

of Newcastle’s pavements.

I see the same views

the same people

as I walk from home

to nursery to work and back.

Exercise the same muscle groups

over and again until

I just want to stop.

But then I think -

how trim my bum is becoming.

This Love

Her alarm call of “mamma” sounds through the night.

Tiredness clings to my body as I work

out how to convince her it’s too early for play.

I avoid the gaze of the clock; ignore how soon til morning,

In the half darkness I wonder how long to leave

before going in with a gentle “shhh, my love”.

There’s no time to shower before breakfast. I’d love

to take five minute’s - instead I clear last night’s

left overs and somehow plan the time left

in the day to tackle the mountain of housework,

when all I want is to sleepwalk through the morning;

and all she wants is to play.

As she sleeps I slip the earphones into place and press play.

I sink down and down and listen to the songs you love

and suddenly the soundtrack to my morning

brings you home to me. The smell of last night’s

sex fills the air. Clings to my body. A sleepy tryst worked

into a schedule when there is often no time left.

On Wednesdays she cries when I leave

her . She’s in good hands, she’s in good hands - guilt plays

on my mind as I close the door behind me. I go to work

dismiss the stay at home alternative where love

alone can’t carry me through until the night

and the same old begins again the next morning.

But there is no sense mourning

the independence and freedom I willingly left

behind, when each night

chemical euphoria would play

with perception and loved up masquerading as loved...

was never going to work.

It’s my breathing space, work,

not my reason to get up every morning

It isn’t the job I love

but the slight return to my old self. By the time I leave

it almost feels like play

I arrive home refreshed, ready for the night’s

work to begin. Thoughts of tomorrow left

until morning. Time to enjoy now and play.

This love keeps us safe at the end of each night.