26 April 2012

Pamphlet release

In February 2012, four poets unwittingly embarked upon a challenge: to write 28 sonnets, one every day for the entire month of February. Unfortunately, they forgot that it was a leap year. But, they persevered, and what started out as a strange and exciting odyssey quickly blossomed into something bigger. Better. More shiny.

Last night a pamphlet including all 29 sonnets was launched in Norwich at the Birdcage in Pottersgate. It was a great night, with all four poets performing a selection of their sonnets, in front of a select and appreciative audience.

Released with deadbeat press, the pamphlet is now available to buy and own. Copies of the pamphlet can be purchased now from http://deadbeatpress.bigcartel.com/

29 February 2012


14 discrete lines from Don Juan, rearranged into a sonnet.

This goes out to my three fellow sonneteers, 
and to Luke and his newest baby.

As true as Truth has ever been of late,
If not in Poetry, at least in fact –
For too much truth, at first sight, ne’er attracts;
Perhaps it may be follow’d by the great?
An Art on which the artists greatly vary
Is Poesy, according as the mind glows,
But even this is difficult, Heaven knows,
Unless it were to be a moment merry.
But words are things, and a small drop of ink
And feeling, in a poet, is the source;
But great things spring from little:- Would you think
‘Kiss’ rhymes to ‘Bliss’ in fact as well as verse –
But spoil (I think) a very pretty poem
Just now, – but by and by the Truth will show ‘em…

AB (& LB)

28 February 2012

The Mermaid and the Sailor

We love in stony dwellings on the shore,
By painted fishing boats almost submerged
And broken nets. This is the island’s verge
Where thought is silenced by the ocean’s roar,
The fish are thin and skinny, mostly scales,
The scrounging gulls are made of shingle, salt;
Around a driftwood fire we still exalt,
Although our skin is rough with scars and wales,
We still exalt like creatures of the deep
From underwater caves, there in the gloom
They cling to life where ought to be a tomb.
At night beneath a bloody moon we sleep,
Both wrapped in grubby blankets, damp debris,
Like paper lanterns floating out to sea.


27 February 2012

One-Eyed Witness

Marie Colvin 1956 – 2012. There are two sides to every story...

A rat-faced creature, very often pissed,
Who hacks his way into our private calls
And brings contempt upon our ‘hallowed’ halls:
Perfidious, deceitful columnist;
Untrustworthy and faithless journalist.
The fourth estate has got us by the balls,
As back under his slimy rock he crawls
To itemise the lovers we have kissed.
By motorbike, by stealth, she creeps across
The border, to a place few dare to go.
Until she dies we cannot know our loss -
Nor comprehend the gratitude we owe –
As thousands perish in a foreign land,
The one-eyed witness sleeps beneath the sand.


26 February 2012

The Killing of an Endangered Species Leads to Some very Troubling Questions about Man's Relationship with Animals

That beamish boy, who'd slain the beast,
Was remanded, then, in custody.
(Though there were those that trusted he
Would soon be, from his cell, released.)
The Jabberwock: species deceased.
The activists spoke out disgustedly.
The original tale now viewed mistrustedly
And rumours of foul play increased.
The trial loomed, the boy was fined.
The jury yelped 'Callooh! Callay!'
Animal cruelty lists were signed,
His vorpal sword was wrenched away.
And to this day, no Jabberwock roams
Among the mimsy borogoves.

25 February 2012

Lines In Haste, Somewhere In East Anglia

This train will shortly be arriving in…
If this is Thursday, this has got to be…
I’ve no i-fucking-dea – don’t ask me:
I don’t know what I am, or where I’ve been.
I wonder what bizarre or venal sin
That I committed in some drunken spree,
Could warrant this? What penance sets me free?
This carbon-copy carriage-cage I’m in,
The windows mirroring the scene within,
Is branded with the legend: this is b –
the quiet coach, so I can’t scream my plea:
O Fates preserve me from the train to Lynn!
If you could save me, quick, ‘fore we arrive,
I swear that someday soon I’ll learn to drive…


24 February 2012

The Reverend Perkins

A stir of doubt comes halfway through the psalm,
What if it’s all… and then my reading falters,
I shake and tremble, cold with sweaty palms
And look around the church, the nave and altar,
The prayer books, the faces bright or bored,
Old Mrs Higgins snoring in her pew,
The Taylors looking pious. Thank the Lord
The rural congregation is too few
To notice that my preaching’s insincere.
I ought to quit. I envy bolder men
Who change their lives while I just fret and fear;
What if it’s much too late to start again?
I’ll pray, I'll pray, I hope He understands,
For faith to guide me gently by the hand.


23 February 2012

'On the art of writing'

And the ink flowed like tears...

A stream of consciousness flows from my pen
Across the paper’s blank, unyielding stare -
Some flights of fancy take me who-knows-where?
It’s not a question now of ‘If’, but ‘When’
The spirit soars beyond its normal ken,
With all those secret hopes and fears laid bare.
I journey now, above all earthly care –
Composed, serene, within my scribing den.
But then, the faintest sliver of dread doubt
Begins insistent whispering in my ear,
And rises to a raging, throaty, shout
From all those bards and poets down the years,
Who care not if I bend or break their rules:
“Enough! Just write, you poor deluded fool!”


22 February 2012

Shipping Forecast

Try as I may and try as I might
I've never been able to understand
(Being, as I am, a lubber of land)
Those opaque predictions of oceans at night.
I don't know my Dogger or Tyne from my Wight,
My Faeroes from Forties, my Forth from Iceland.
And this backing and veering is quite out of hand!
Can anyone here offer me an insight?
The predictions themselves are so vague and obscure
That to follow the forecast just seems a bit risky.
It can't be both good and occasionally poor!
How long is rain 'for a time' in Fisher and Biscay?
I don't think they'd be more precise if they could,
Make up your minds! Is it moderate or good?



21 February 2012

L.S.E. 1814

I despair at the level of my historical geekery.

The shout goes up: “Napoleon is dead!”
From inn to inn, as fast as news can fly.
The Earth – not overbold – emits a sigh:
Relief and Hope for days of Peace ahead.
And all because a man in green or red
(Depending on the witness and the eye)
Can hype the price of Omnium to buy,
And profit when the country is misled.
A hero’s spurs were broken for this crime,
His banner trampled through Westminster’s doors:
Just one more loud Reformer doing time.
Although he had preserved Britannia’s shores
For years – Le Loup des Mers had won his glories –
His greatest foe turned out to be the Tories.


Things as they have been. Things as they now are.

20 February 2012

Girls Don't Cry

I’m dancing to The Cure in just my pants
In over half the photos from the party.
You scan the album with disgust and tartly
Remark “I’m not sure what it was you drank,
You look the colour of a septic tank,
No, I’m not angry, just annoyed and partly
A little sad. I’m sick of this malarkey.
I want a girl who cares, likes holding hands…”
There’s no replying to that kind of nonsense;
I go downstairs and put the kettle on,
I pour the milk and feel those pangs of conscience,
Remorse and guilt, but then I settle on:
If Robert Smith don’t make you want to strip,
It’s time we ended this relationship.


19 February 2012

The Leaving of Harar

The outlaw death of Arthur Rimbaud

He lies upon a stretcher in the square
With grim men, pistoled, daggered, standing guard:
The leaving of Harar is proving hard,
But harder still to stay under the glare,
Such hatred and contempt. And so from there
By camel, across countless burning yards
Of sand, at last a precious boarding-card
To France, with gold enough to pay the fare.
Then birds take flight around a drunken boat
That cuts the Meuse beneath those voiceless trees,
Where reputation grips him by the throat
And cancer drives him finally to his knees.
The widow brings her devil-son back home
From Marseille, to a grave under the stone.


18 February 2012

Olympic Gold

I just wasn't classed as a sporty kid.
Bats, balls and rackets have never thrilled me,
Running for the bus might well have killed me,
And I couldn't catch – no matter what I did.
But I've been training hard for Twenty Twelve.
Found I'm no good at squash or archery.
In order to win (and I think you'll agree)
Sports like running and football should be shelved.
We ought to revive traditional games.
Hundred metre sack dash, egg and spoon race.
I'd win so much gold, put the others to shame!
In the three-legged run, no one would keep pace.
Obstacle racing, I'd blast all competition.
Excuse me, I'm off now to start a petition.



17 February 2012

Not Alone In The Dark

They snuff the streetlights early ‘round this way;
Illumination’s rationed to those routes –
The widened ones, the easy ones, the clay
So trampled by a million deadened boots,
Who pass, downcast, at break and end of day,
From A to B with obdurate commutes,
For those who wander may be led astray,
To grope and fumble to new, dark pursuits.
For me, the unknown darkness holds no fear –
I seek it out, investigate, and peer
Into intriguing corners as I wend,
With certainty I’ll always find a friend,
For I have stellar company to guide me:
The lanternarii of old beside me.


16 February 2012

Date With A Journalist

Your choice of wine, it shows such splendid taste.
And what’s my job? I help to solve the crimes
You fear alone at night, expose the grime
That lurks behind the innocent and chaste,
Bring shame to those who ought to be disgraced;
A voice against this nation’s sad decline.
Perhaps you’d like another glass of wine?
Don’t look at me with such a scornful face,
So what if I have hacked a phone or two
Or gave the bumbling cops a cheeky bribe?
It’s rather crude to take a moral stand,
You’re much too pretty for that point of view,
You see, I’m simply freedom’s humble scribe,
Now close your eyes and…


15 February 2012

The Day That Love Was Banned

All watched over by machines of less-than-loving grace

The day that love was banned I packed my things,
That debris of my life, into a case
And headed for the coast – some other place
To hide all hope and joy under the wings
Of hawks. Whilst handsaws sliced the souls of kings
In half, machines of less-than-loving grace
Disfigured poetry and brought the face
Of beauty deep beneath, where no bird sings.
But birdsong broke then far along the beach:
Her footsteps, muffled by the surf and sand,
Still boomed like drumbeats just within the reach
Of outstretched arms. She stopped, and took my hand,
Then climbed the cliffs and sat us down to teach
Our hearts to soar, the day that love was banned.


14 February 2012

Take Me Out

After all these beautiful, cerebral poems, I thought it my duty to lower the tone. So here is a sonnet about the popular ITV game show/ Blind Date rip-off: Take Me Out. Happy Valentine's Day!

Love child of Fifteen to One and Blind Date.
Posh frocks and heels; teeth and tans shining brightly
And peacocking boys in blue jeans cut so tightly.
The girls crowd like vultures. Decide one man's fate.
Lined up like cattle for choosing, they wait.
Feminism's come far! No likely no lighty!
What biscuit you'd be is no measure of psyche.
All desperately single, all longing for dates.
And, though I know that it's tawdry and trashy,
I still cried when Lucy – at last – got a man.
Cheap TV format draped with lighting so flashy
And these days, you've got to find love where you can.
I've tried going cold turkey, I can't break the habit
It's so bad it's good! So let the dog see the rabbit!


13 February 2012

Damnatio Memoriae

For anyone Occupying anywhere.

A man, who long ago, had craved acclaim,
Was executed by the rich King Croesus,
For burning down his Wonder at Ephesus –
A bid for immortality by flame.
So, to deny this arsonist his fame,
The King – who built that Temple from gold pieces –
To raze this felon’s every trace, decrees this:
It would be death to all who spoke his name.
And yet we know it: Herostratus, he!
Immutable, amidst the fading smoke;
Enkindled on the scroll of History,
Still cracking his iconoclastic joke:
A name, however black, can shine through mist,
‘Tho Church and State agree it can’t exist. 


12 February 2012


It’s always Tuesday morning, nearly ten,
When you arrive, at least that’s what I’d guess,
You burst into the shop with great finesse
And smiling buy some raspberry jam and when
You do I want to shout “My name is Glen!
Your little dimples make my heart a mess
I’d really like to watch when you undress.”
You must get told that every now and then.
But thankfully my mouth is tightly shut
Because I don’t want you to think I’m weird
Or that my mind is full of silly smut
Like visions of your perfect breasts all smeared
With raspberry jam. Maybe you’d like to snog?
I hope you read this on my sonnet blog.


11 February 2012

So pale she was, so pale

S├ęgou, Mali, 1993

She floats above the river like a shade
Of summer in her yellow cotton dress,
As pale and perfect as the moon’s caress;
With blood-red fingers slicing down the blade,
Then tracing tracks across the roughly-made
Old linen of those maps, which only guess
At crimes the conquerors dare not confess.
She hesitates: for now she is afraid
I want her. But, in truth, we never met -
Just some conceit that I may know her need,
While empires rise and empires fall - and yet
The hope remains that we may still be freed
From fear, to lay a perfume on our sweat,
To have, to hold, to love until we bleed.


10 February 2012


'From formative tastes – I was barely two –
How I deplored you, foul cousin of jam!
You're not even real food, I'm on to your scam!
You're nowt but the waste left after beer's brewed!
Claim that it's healthy? I'm going to sue!
Alleging it's harmless! O! What a sham!
I'd rather give head to Jean Claude Van Damme
Than eat up that muck. Force me and I'll spew!
I hear that it's made from extract of yeast,
And also from tears that lost children cry.
If you leave the lid off, out crawls a beast.
We've got to destroy it! At least we should try!'
To the market he stormed under cover of night.
Found in aisle six the next day: death by Marmite.

09 February 2012

England in 2012

Percy Shelley wrote a wonderful sonnet called England in 1819.

You should read that first. It's here.

An old, sad, bored, ignored, and dying Queen,
A Parliament that rules when it should serve.
The bankers – cankers of their race – convene
And buy those laws which will, perforce, preserve
The status quo, and bonuses obscene.
Religion claims respect it won’t deserve
And can’t deserve – despite its hollow fame –
When scandal, strife, and greed its face begrimes.
A Fourth Estate of bigotry and shame,
Complicit with Police. Yet the crimes
Of tyrants who, with shameless smile, proclaim
That we, the people, must share cost and blame,
Can’t drown the sound, so rich in austere times,
Of Hope I find preserved in Shelley’s rhymes.

Sadly, Percy died before the change he dreamed of came about.


08 February 2012

Strong Men Also Cry

The day we split was really great for me;
Now I don’t have to waste my time with dates
I’ve started doing sit-ups, lifting weights,
Wearing a sweat-soaked vest; a fitness spree
Of jogging to work, drinking herbal tea,
No longer listing all my old mistakes
I’m now a man who works out and creates
The body of a Spartan devotee.
If once again there is a time we meet
I hope you’re awed and dearly wish you could
Undo, unsay and not make me your ex.
You might go home and post a wistful tweet
And think your boyfriend’s really not that good
As by a mirror I sob and flex.


07 February 2012

I'm on the side of the angels but the devil is my best friend

For all the Ranters in the audience...

I went out on the piss with Satan’s mates,
Cruising up and down the Old Kent Road;
Searching for the Goddamned motherlode,
A box of hope, a perfect twist of fate,
Jerusalem – now Lucifer’s estate
That flourishes through streets where Blake once strode,
Where angels longed to tread, where beauty flowed -
Some fucked-up paradise of fear and hate.
But then, outside the World Turned Upside Down,
We met a bunch of loved-up seraphim,
Who spread the spirit of the dove around -
Big fish, little fish, shiraz, dope and gin -
Whilst shouting at uncomprehending crowds:
"You may only ever know the Lord through sin!"


06 February 2012

The Chameleon

If you asked me about the best reptile
the Chameleon's the coolest by far.
His tongue is long, thin and projectile,
he can lick the crevasses of a jam jar.
He sees his prey (which is chiefly insectile)
with swivelling eyes that look somewhat bizarre.
His tail is almost fully prehensile,
he can hear well without needing sonar.
He sways as he walks like a drunk man
and uses colour to signal his mood,
just beware if he turns a bright cyan,
it means he's being terribly rude.
The chameleon is the best lizard you'll meet;
struggles to buy shoes with zygodactylous feet.


'Shit! Where will I buy my Chelsea Boots now?'

05 February 2012

Desire Lines

A desire line is a path developed by erosion caused by footfall. 
The width and amount of erosion of the line represents 
the amount of demand.

Ah, the Trochee! With impulsive foot, he
Wheels and dances through the poem’s meter,
Like the hashtag to the constant tweeter.
Rolling down his rambling, unstressed route, we
Follow, ev’ry line. He’s never snooty –
Never smug like often other feet are.
(Plus, I find trochaic verse the sweeter,
When I crave my poems somewhat fruity).
If, now and then, the Iamb comes along,
And stamps his feet all over Trochee’s song,
With marching like a legion from its camp,
To crush resistance to his martial tramp,
Trochee bides his time, still undiminished:
Dancing one more twist before he’s finished.

04 February 2012

Bleary Morning

The sleepwalker is plodding, soft, unsteady
A slow dawn-dance along the cold thin shore,
Mumbling a rhythm faintly and already
While we all lay in bed and dream and snore
The first lean light is glowing in the sky.
The sleepwalker has plucked wet plums and drops
A trail of stones across the sand whereby
A way back home is maybe found. The shops
Are beginning to open, owls have fled.
My bedside clock clanks. I awaken with a
slumberous simper and a need to pee,
I smell of beer and I can feel my liver.
As I gaze out the window’s frost I see
The sleepwalker returning home to bed.


03 February 2012

The Prevention of Literature

After an essay by George Orwell

The glories that we find in fourteen lines
May justify those wars and battles fought,
Or timeless conflicts of another sort,
With portents, miracles and wondrous signs.
For there is power in a crafted rhyme
And beauty in a gleaming frozen thought,
But power, craft and beauty may be bought,
Then set to service in some evil time.
A time when we should heed the clarion call
And steel ourselves to face the common foe:
Though literature and journalism fall,
Yet poetry shall be the last to go;
Till jackboots echo, endless, down the halls,
As Orwell whispers “See, I told you so...”


02 February 2012

Night Circus

A Spenserian sonnet about that most sinister of professions..

Night Circus

I was still but young when the Night Circus came.
The performers appeared in uniforms red.
Their faces were painted, they all looked the same.
Sinister, grim, rictus grins of the dead.
Huge boots advanced slowly; the villagers fled.
Those left to fate were consumed where they fell.
At my mother's wild eyes, my heart thrilled with dread:
The night we'd been warned of, the coming of hell.
She ran for her life, yet I was compelled
To linger for longer, my interest now piqued.
'I won't let you join them!' My mother had yelled.
They crowded like vultures, my outlook seemed bleak.
Still, it's not all that bad, becoming a clown.
Though I take off the grease paint when mum comes round.


01 February 2012


Since my favourite sonnet is Ozymandias
I'm starting with an Egyptology theme.

Like archaeologists in tombs of old
And long dead kings, I search the dark –
A Raider seeking out his fabled Ark.
But nothing here awaits me: no untold
And hidden riches, nor no pots of gold:
Just dust and fluff and little worth remark.
I cry with stymied anguish, clear and stark:
“O Hoover Bag! What secrets do you hold?”
With voice of fuzz and lint, the Bag replies:
“You’re really pretty witless for a poet –
You think you’re Howard Carter, but you’re not.
My guts hold nothing for you, no surprise;
Admit the reason why you’re here – you know it!
You’re here because you think I ate your pot”.