Poems & Publications

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Below is my winning poem of the 2017 Poetry Society Stanza Competition on the theme of 'Walls', judged by Andy Croft

Dr Mirabilis and the Brass Wall That Will Save England

“How,” she muses, “do we keep them out?”
“Mirabilis will know,” pipes up the fool,
a mop-head jokester swamped in crumpled clothes,
“he’s as wizardly in truth as in trickery.”
“Go fetch,” she charges, crossing leathered legs.
Forth he bumbles, north to distant shires,
home to freckled Vikings
and offspring of the Commonwealth,
finds the alchemist hard at work
transforming foaming pottles into piss.
 
Brought before her, the magician marvels,
the automaton he has dreamed of making.
Off come his spectacles, the rhetoric rises,
“May a storming Brexit thunder from its cave,
and dim fair Europe to a dark eclipse.”
He smiles the way daredevil Drake once did
when busting Spain, or cloaking puddles for his Queen.
“Even if ten Boneys reigned in Brussels,
with all the power they command,
they shall not touch a grass of English ground
for I will circle England round with brass,
a shinning wall sprung from your mouth,
command and it shall ring the English strand,
bolder than the slabs that sliced Berlin,
the barricade that stays the Latin tide,
encircling like the mighty ring of Jove
from Dover to the market-place of Rye.”

Then speaks The Head, “Sovereignty” it says.
“Et nunc et semper, amen,” an owlish friar drones
(while taking selfies for his instagram).
A flash of lightning, Big Ben wakes and booms,
a witch swoops in with a frozen leg of lamb,
“This meat is not for turning,” she declares,
and brings it down hard upon The Head – the wall is dead.

Roger Bacon, popularly known as Doctor Mirabilis, was a thirteenth century English philosopher, alchemist and friar; he believed that he could create a magical, mechanical brass head that could conjure up a brass wall that would encircle England and protect her from European influence and incursion. Elizabethan playwright Richard Greene wrote a comedy about Roger Bacon and his brass head – ‘Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay’. Text from Greene’s play is the basis of the poem.    

Judge’s Comments

Dr Mirabilis and the Brass Wall That Will Save England is an enjoyably original take on Brexit, somewhat improbably via Roger Bacon. It’s a poem about illusions (‘wizardly’, ‘magician’, ‘marvels’, ‘dreamed’), theatrical gestures (‘cloaking puddles’), boastful nonsense (‘the mighty ring of Jove’) and self-defeating contradictions (the spell designed to stem the ‘Latin tide’ is in Latin, while the ‘England’ that must be defended is of course already home to ‘freckled Vikings’ and ‘the offspring of the Commonwealth’). The combination of nightmare and slapstick, Middle English (‘pottle’) and twenty-first century English (‘taking selfies for his instagram’), reduces the characters in the poem to a cast of
implausible fools and stage-devils in an Elizabethan comedy – Johnson (‘a mop-headed jokester’), May (‘crossing her leathered legs’), Rudd (‘Rye’), Thatcher (‘a witch’) and Rees-Mogg (‘an owlish friar’). A talking head made of ‘brass’ suggests something loud, hollow and brazen (as well as money spent). Meanwhile, the character of Dr Mirabilis (who talks like a tabloid leader-writer) is ‘hard at work’ turning everything he touches to ‘piss’.

Genesis of Dr Mirabilis and the Brass Wall That Will Save England

First idea for the poem came from listening to a radio programme about 13th century English philosopher and necromancer, Roger Bacon, his ambition to build an automaton which could conjure a brass wall around England to protect it from European incursion, So, a wall and an early Brexiter – the grit and itch. Next I discover Elizabethan playwright Richard Greene’s play, Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay, a freewheeling comedy about Bacon’s automaton. On the afternoon of the competition deadline, I write the poem, a satire about the ghastly Brexiteers, freely based on Greene; staunch Remainer, I revel in the mockery, the poem flows, and off it goes.

 

For further information about the poem and to view the video of the poem visit the Poetry Society.
 

Recently published poems

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The London Grip: Spring 2021
 

Her Voice

To one she said she’d come back in her dreams,
to the second in her music, to the third, as a voice -
she sounded so certain, propped up against
hospital pillows, talking between teaspoons
of yogurt she later threw up.
As a boy, he once made a crystal set – plywood,
wire, foil, summoned voices from thin air talking
in foreign tongues. Now, through the static whine
of tinnitus, he listens for her voice, a message from
a foreign station, a distant star.

 

Note on Her Voice:

A poem created from a real event. My mother really did tell her children she would return to them after death in different ways.


Can be read online here.

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Perverse Magazine: 2020
 

Uprising

Harsh blast of birdsong, amplified warbling from artificial trees
outside a shopping mall on Canton Road.
Next morning, under the trees, claws up, beaks gaping,
lungs scorched with last night’s dioxin – dead starlings.

 

Note on Uprising:

I was in Hong Kong November 2019 during widespread street protests against a proposed extradition bill. Teargas, containing poisonous dioxin, was widely used against protestors – mornings after a protest, gassed birds could be seen on the pavements. I matched the dead birds with hyperreal birdsong I heard coming from artificial trees near a shopping mall to create a poem that evokes the unsettling atmosphere of the city at that time.

 

Can be read online here

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The High Window: Spring 2021

The Alexandrian

Round spectacles, dapper suit and tie,

portfolio tucked primly underarm,
from Rue Lepsius he makes his way,
past brothel, church and hospital,
a clerk en route to his ministry,
the Water Board, his satrapy,
Third Circle of Irrigation,
British colonial administration,
the daily grind, the Archimedean screw,
and in return, his monthly due.
At night he cruises Boulevard Ramelah,
pick ups in the Souk Al-Attarine,
hook ups at The Café al Salam,
payment in Egyptian pounds,
sex with sailors, waiters, stevadores,
muscled torsos, alabaster,
ideal bodies, olive skin,
mechanic’s grease, sweet jasmine,
salt tasting kisses, aniseed,
fulfilling deep dark secret needs.
Careless of fame and publication,
ducking censure and tradition,
without fuss, shame, inhibition,
abandons English, convention, rhyme,
writes free iambic, classic, demotic,
Hellenic, syllabic, homoerotic,
passes, to a few discerning friends,
hand-written poems fastened with a pin,
history made flesh, memory revived,
a marble korus opens living eyes.
Rich with all he’s gained along the way,
a line of burnt out candles in his wake,
cancer grabs him by the throat,
on the same day he was born, he dies,
leaves the body, and the work,
reminding us, and all who follow,
to make our journey brave and long,
full of passion and instruction,
free of guilt and inner demons,
undeterred by angry Poseidon.

Note on The Alexandrian:

This is a biographical poem about the life and work of the great Greek poet Constantine Cavafy, 1863-1933. Cavafy lived for most of his life in Alexandrian, Egypt. He loved that city and thought of himself as an Alexandrian rather than an Egyptian or a Greek. I also have an essay about Cavafy in the same issue of The High Window that you can read online here.

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Tentacular: 2019
 

Grindr Monologue (1)
 

(2.26 a.m.)
 

They say staying invisible increases your chance of being desired.


Sad. But you’re different! Because while everyone else is a degraded version of the self they’ve created on here, your profile says that you are aware of exactly what’s going on, like you go into a 50’s themed diner and you know the 50’s themed diner is better than the ones they had in the 1950’s, see what I’m saying?
 

(2.35 a.m.) Hello?

 

(2.38 a.m.) Hello?


Grindr Dialogue (1)
 

I use this traditional three-step model as a relationship template
 

a) We have sex
 

b) We meet in person, see if we like each other
 

c) We get married
 

Isn’t it physically impossible to have A before B?
 

Not the way I do it.

Grindr Dialogue (2)

 

Gr8 hair
 

Thanks! Hey, what you into?
 

Cuddling, love it! Hopeless romantic.
 

Cuddling? How is cuddling going to get these BEES OUT OF MY FRIGGIN TEETH!!!!?

Grindr Dialogue (3)

 

I’m in town for the night, all alone in my hotel room.
 

Is there any ice?
 

Ice maker down the corridor.
 

Can you stick your dick in a bucket of ice and then fuck me so that it’s like being fucked by a vampire?
 

Sure. Come on over. Comfort Inn, Edgware Road.
 

Notes on Grindr Dialogues & Monologue:

A poem created from the sometimes weird and hilarious pickup lines that men use on Grindr, a gay hook up app.

 

Can be read online here

Mediterranean Poetry: Summer 2021

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Dormition

Gently lowering his hands

she floats suspended
between earth and sky,
a conjuror’s assistant,

a lifetime of
clinging to the shore,
over.

Stunned by the mid-August sun,
weak from fasting,
she lets him coax her in

right up to her breasts,
tilt her gently sideways
off her feet,

rests her horizontal
on his fingertips.

Glittering sea pup,
the son dives under her,
looks up at the keel of her back,

arms open like wings,
down at the rippling crucifix
Of her shadow.

Eyes closed, face framed
by a blinding halo,
she is ready.

From the shore drifts
a pulsing chant of cicadas,
the fragrant scent of pine.

 

Note on Dormition:

In Greek Orthodoxy, The Dormition of the Theotokos, August 15th celebrates the ‘falling asleep’ of the Virgin Mary and her bodily resurrection before being taken up to heaven. In this poem I turn my mother, a lifer long non-swimmer, into the Virgin Mary on the day she ascends to heaven.

Can be read online here.

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The High Window: Summer 2021
 

Bin Life
 

Enthroned on a glistening black bag on
a street corner rubbish cart, paws folded,
she observes me with imperial indifference –
biped in baggy shorts, battered panama,
circumventing the sun-ripe stink of garbage.
A ginger face juts up, glares, fearful I’ll dive in,
devour all the savoury scraps, gristle and bones.
By the bin wheels, a litter of scruffy kittens –
spikey toilet brushes.

 

Note on Bin Life:

All poets have to write at least one poem about cats. This is my poem about the stray cats that live around the municipal bins here in Porto Heli, Greece