Words for the Wild

I have a previously unpublished poem on the Words for the Wild Website. It’s a poem about running, ornithology and growing old. You can read it here, and also see some of my photographs taken on pre-marathon training runs.

Clearly as I took lots of photographs it was pretty slow running – I wasn’t exactly a fast runner – indeed, when I completed the London Marathon I was overtaken by two blokes dressed as a camel as I staggered towards the finishing line 🙂

It’s a really nice site, and I am very pleased to have a poem included. Have a good look around whilst you are there.

Three Films

During the first lockdown, I made some very basic poetry films. These were in response to a couple of requests for material for online events.

The three poems are;

The Transmutation of Geese, Metamorphosis in a Copnor Garden & The Domestication of Ghosts

The first and third poems have previously been published, in South and Orbis magazines respectively, and subsequently appear in my first collection, Landings (published by Dempsey & Windle Publishing in 2018). The second poem, (and film), was a direct response to the lockdown itself.

If you are interested in watching them, they can be viewed as one continuous video here;

Don’t worry – I’m only speaking to camera in the second poem – the first and third poems have still images as the visual element. In the first poem ( The Transmutation of Geese) these are photographs I took whilst running around the perimeter of Portsmouth training for marathons, and the final poem (The Domestication of Ghosts) has images selected from Wikimedia Commons under (I believe) the appropriate usage license. Feel free to contact me here if you are the license holder and I have made a mistake in this respect.

If you do watch them, please let me know your thoughts – good or bad. The feedback would be useful- even though I don’t currently plan to create more poetry films – I think I’ll leave it to the professionals! If you want to see the difference that a talented filmmaker can make, see my earlier posts about the films created for my Swordfish and Of Whales and Mermaids poems.

A Sea of Blue

In other circumstances I would be at Wembley today, along with another 50,000+ Portsmouth FC fans, for the final of the Leasing.com Trophy. Blue skies, a beautiful spring day, the stuff of memories (or nightmares depending on the result!). A real shame – though the stadium’s empty silence today is of course of minor consequence compared to what else is happening in the UK and around the world right now.

I’ve been lucky though. If you had told me twenty years ago that I would have seen Pompey at Wembley 6 times already (two FA Cup Finals, two Semi Finals, a Charity Shield and last year’s Checkatrade final – from which the cover photo is from – I wouldn’t have believed you). I feel very sorry for those Liverpool fans waiting at Anfield for 30 years for a league title.

In 2008 Pompey won the FA Cup for the first time since 1939. During the course of the war, the trophy travelled around various safe houses, eventually ending up at the Bird in Hand pub in Lovedean, where it was kept above the bar for three years. In 2009 the trophy went back there for one night of celebration, and I was lucky enough to be in attendance, (there is a photo of me on a hard drive somewhere holding the FA Cup).

The poem that follows is about that evening, and about that sunny spring day in 2008 when the cup was won again after a gap of 69 years. It’s also about my home, this city by the sea and how much it suffered between 1939 and 1945.

It first appeared in South Poetry Magazine, appears in Landings , and can also be found placed on the Places in Poetry map on the Bird in Hand pub in Lovedean, a few miles north of Portsmouth.

Apart from the connection to today’s non-event, I thought it worth posting at this time because of the ending. Whatever happens over the coming weeks, most of us will get through this, and have plenty of future opportunities to live, to celebrate, to enjoy each of our own personal victories over the coming years. Good luck and good health.

Bird in Hand

The FA Cup 1939 – 2008

We drink in the presence of greatness.
A glorious bird of paradise
that fills the room with life.
Wanderers to Portsmouth all roads between,
a coach trip ride through hedge-screened fields.

This monochrome world that we engraved
as so many lives were sliding past.
Waiting for the blackout to end,
as if nothing we did really mattered,
as if watching was all that there was.

So we taped up all the windows,
made do with any small victory,
turned out the lights and kept quiet.
As the radio spat static and crackled,
keeping our hopes in the dark.

And here we are only nine months on,
a country pub where they kept it safe
for five lost years as the city burned,
payloads emptied on a scrap of earth.
Abide with me all flags at half mast.

Abide with me and a sea of blue.
Wembley stadium and Kanu scores,
forty-something men so close to tears,
my daughters and I in our Pompey shirts.
The final whistle on a perfect day.

And here we are on the journey home,
brilliant colours will fade to none,
as the flags we carry are furled away.
Like Tommy Rowe at ninety-two
leaving all thoughts in the dark.

So drink to the presence of greatness,
for everything you do really matters.
Enjoy all of your victories.
Turn on the lights and sing out,
for living is all that there is.

* Wanderers were the first winners of the FA Cup. Tommy Rowe was the last member of the ’39 team to die. Abide with Me is sung at the start of every FA Cup Final, and often at remembrance day services.

Places of Poetry – Film Poems

A very quick post to share a tweet with the first of three poetry films created as a result of the Places of Poetry project. Hope the link works !

This City By the Sea and All That You Need

On Monday 18th February I interviewed Margaret Jennings at an event hosted by T’Articulation as part of this year’s Portsmouth Bookfest. The interview seemed to go down well (it was my first attempt at interviewing someone!), and I have subsequently found out that it was recorded and will be played on Portsmouth’s QA Hospital Radio sometime soon. I’ll post the link when it is available.

The event, which happened at 113 Art House Coffee (which I’ve not been to before and can highly recommend – excellent service, and the chocolate mint cake is to die for! ), also had really varied and enjoyable readings by a wide range of other poets, plus plenty more, all for £3 a ticket. If you are looking for something to do next Monday, then there is another T’Articulation event at Hunter Gatherer in Southsea – Tales of Woe and Wonder – follow the link for further details. https://www.facebook.com/events/1214127698797650/

Then on Sunday March 1st, I will be attempting to read a memorised poem in the bar of the Theatre Royal – this Wild Geese by Mary Oliver. I am really nervous about this, as I haven’t had the time to completely nail it yet. I guess we will see how it goes! Details here: https://www.facebook.com/events/574654726713237/

It’s not as if I have a quiet week or so ahead – as things stand I am out every evening until the 1st with one exception – Portsmouth may have a reputation for being a rough old town, but a huge amount has changed over the past few years. It’s a very different place to what it was when I used to stay with my grandparents in the 1970s, and has a large and growing cultural scene. It’s well worth exploring!

The photograph at the top of this post is of the Lipstick Tower at Gunwharf Quays. It was one of a series of photos I took whilst training for various marathons and half-marathons (before my joints gave in!). Gunwharf Quays was one of the first major parts of the regeneration of Portsmouth to go ahead, and whilst primarily retail / leisure focussed, it has been pretty influential as a starting point for the changing perception of the city. Obviously the Spinnaker Tower has been a significant part of this development.

Anyway, this leads on to a poem. It appears in Landings, and also is on the Places of Poetry website, and is a paean to my home, this city by the sea.

The Next Station Is

Portsmouth and Southsea then Fratton and Hilsea,
clattering over the creek to the points at Cosham
west to Southampton, Salisbury and Cardiff,
east to Brighton, north to Waterloo.

And you will catch your breath in her reflection,
watching the world from a window seat,
as seasons concertina in ripening fields.
Commuter belt villages and old market towns,
reels of film on a cutting room floor;
are the scenes we keep the ones we’d choose?

And she will be returning here in your arms,
like yawning workers on the stopping train
memories slurring as carriages sway,
past Bowlplex, Vue and the lipstick tower.

Morning always loops home to this place.
dawn into day into dusk into night.
A circle aching still to be filled
with children’s laughter like marker pens.
Love and hope in permanent ink;
this city by the sea and all that you need.

Pictures From an Exhibition

Whilst this website will mainly be poetry based, I will post my own photographs here as well. As a starting point, here is a small selection of pictures, some of which appeared in an exhibition in 2017.

Some of these photographs were taken on an old iPhone whilst training for marathons. I have used basic editing techniques to enhance the grainy effect caused by using such low grade equipment in challenging light conditions, which I quite like in these images. Hope you do too!