What is this strange game we play? – NaPoWriMo 16

They’ve each got a handful of hearts,

but so far, he’s only played a diamond,

and her knight has taken his castle.

He went shopping, and he bought

an apple, a balloon, and

a candelabra,

and she’s hiding under the stairs

hoping that he’ll find her soon,

but he can’t do anything

until the music stops,

and she’s staked her

favourite shoes, and

every book she’s ever read,

and that thing that happened

when she was 14,

that she’s never told anyone about,

and he’s raised her

three kids, and a labrador,

and a cottage in the country,

and she can’t find the piece

with his face on it,

and he’s thrown snake-eyes

six times in a row,

and if she gets one more spade

she can build a house on Mayfair,

and he’s already put down three layers

of Lego,

and she loves her love with an “A”

because he’s audacious,

and he’s hiding in the attic

by the water tank,

hoping that she’ll find him soon,

but she can’t do anything

until she’s memorised the contents

of his soul.


For NaPoWriMo Day 16 – a poem about play. This is the prompt:

We have a new craft resource for you today, or maybe an anti-craft resource, in the form of this essay by Michael Bazzett warning against the fetishization of craft. Thinking hard thoughts about word choice, line breaks, sound, and structure can help to make a poem better, but too much emphasis on perfection can breed stale, airless verse. There always has to be room for play, and not just work, in our poems.

In this vein, our (optional, as always) prompt for the day asks you to write a poem that prominently features the idea of play. It could be a poem about a sport or game, a poem about people who play (or are playing a game), or even a poem in the form of the rules for a sport or game that you’ve just made up (sort of like Calvinball).

Happy writing!

NaPoWriMo 14 – the meaning of a dream

Last night I dreamed I held a teacup
full of seagull feathers –
that precise detailing
of dreams – they were so white
and held the scent of sea, and fish-oil
a teacup is a pretty thing,
designed to hold,
and to be held. Man-made
there’s something here about my heritage,
my father’s family, rooted in the clay,
my mother, dainty on a shelf
but stronger than it looks.
That fine bone china
lets the light through.

The feathers seem so different –
there’s nothing wilder, greedier,
uglier, than a herring gull.
Gull snatches, smashes, steals,
a great white cry of “mine!”
but feathers are so beautiful,
and flight is freedom – to head out
unafraid, across the waves, wing tips
touching the white foam, the white sky

the white bird

The third thing is me.
We know our stories: the third
is power, the third wish
is the charm, the third child
wins the prize, the crone takes all.

In this dream, I’m serene,
I’m not surprised to find these feathers
where there should be tea –
I take a breath through kissing lips,
and blow.
white feathers fly, rising around me
like a cloud of cabbage whites,
or foam (again) or snowflakes. I’m engulfed
as if I’m trapped by freedom.

Then they fall, spiralling down,
and for a moment, I’m an angel.




This is for NaPoWriMo. Here’s the prompt, if you’re interested. You may feel the poem stands alone, and you don’t need to do any more reading. 

And now for our prompt (optional, as always). Dream dictionaries have been around as long as people have had dreams. Interestingly, if you consult a few of them, they nearly always tend to have totally different things to say about specific objects or symbols. Dreams, unlike words themselves, don’t seem to be nicely definable! At any rate, today’s prompt is to write entries for an imaginary dream dictionary. Pick one (or more) of the following words, and write about what it means to dream of these things:




Ballet slipper


Wobbly table



Happy writing!

NaPoWriMo 13 – don’t put all your eggs in one basket

The bath is full of turtle eggs.

There’s a wren’s egg nestled
in among the tea-bags, and
there are goldfinches hatching
all along the mantelpiece.

I opened the kitchen cupboard,
and it was full of duck eggs,
palest blue, like a whisper of sky,

and there are snake eggs
heaped by the wood-burning stove.

Tiny jewelled humming-bird eggs
hang in cobweb baskets from each beam,
and there’s a stately, plump
ostrich egg throned on the sofa,

and in the dining room
a hundred thousand butterflies
are laying pin-prick eggs
on the green velvet curtains.

Today NaPoWriMo asks us to play with proverbs, invert them and see what happens. 

Haibun – springtime – NaPoWriMo 12

There was a bright yellow balloon tangled in the hedge, happily bobbing up and down as the cars drove past. It’s hard to believe that it hasn’t been burst – everything is so spiky at the moment – or maybe I’m just more aware of those thorns at the moment because of the way spring is starting to hide them. The blackthorn has long, sharp spikes hidden by soft white blossom. The hawthorn has leaves now – bright, wax crayon green – hiding its thorns, and the gorse is a mass of bright coconut scented gold, in among the spines and prickles. Yet somehow, amongst all this, there is the yellow balloon, glowing in the spring sunshine.

Primroses whisper

Daffodils sing bright and clear,

Spring gold in the green


A haibun for NaPoWriMo – specifically a haibun set in our home surrounds. It’s Day 12 of NaPoWriMo, seems to be flying by. It’s not too late to join in…

The body as a state of union – NaPoWriMo 11

I have to admit, I got nothing from this prompt. However, I was determined to do it, so I turned to the trusty old Villanelle, thinking that some intense structure would help. It did. Now that I’ve done this, I’m wondering if I’ll suddenly get some inspiration for a stunning poem about my body as a nation state. If I do, I’ll let you know. Having said that, I guess inspiration is inspiration, wherever it comes from – even if it ends up being anti-inspiration.

I am an entity within my skin.
How often do I see myself that way?
Where do I end? Where does the world begin?

I’m blood, and flesh, and bones, and soul, built in
To something more than just the living clay:
I am an entity within my skin.

And yet, it feels like me, this scribbling pen,
Noting down all those words I wish to say –
Where do I end? Where does the world begin?

I guess it all depends on my instinct-
What’s me, what is kept close or pushed away –
I am an entity within my skin

Yet something physical is the linchpin,
My parts consider, conference, convey
Where my self ends, and where the world begins.

I’m not a team that’s setting out to win,
I’m like a  cast, that improvised a play,
Am I an entity within my skin?
Where do I end? Where does the world begin?

The Red-haired girl – NaPoWriMo 10

Bobby Sands died. That’s how old I am.
Bobby Sands died, and the red haired girl died too,
two days apart – so now, when I discuss
the hunger strikers, I still feel
that gush of anger, that someone could just die.

We’d been in a school play together, her and I,
the Redhead. As if her hair defined her.
Perhaps it did. I think now, that hair might have been
her mother’s first loss, the first thing
she mourned.

Somebody had dropped out, so we
both moved up a notch, theatrically.
I became the mother, and she became
the governess. A comic part. I wanted to play
tragedy back then.

The father was a guy called Tim.
He wore white jeans. Went off and joined the Met.
The Metropolitan Police – so that maybe
when I was down in London, doing all that
student stuff, making my way in party clothes
at daybreak through the empty city streets,
and knowing this was how my life would always be,
if I’d been picked up for some minor crime,
or been the victim of an unprovoked attack,
so guileless in my tawdry party clothes –
it could have been him that I dealt with.

And maybe he was at Orgreave. So while I was
layering on my eyeliner and putting change
into the miner’s tin, he was up there,
sticking in his boot. So far apart
we drift, just spiders, really, riding threads.

When my hairdresser shaved my head, she cried, and
an old lady sitting next to me reached over –
“You look just like that Irish girl” she said,
and we all laughed, smiling and crying. That was my
first loss, but nothing like her mother’s –
that great cloud of Titian red, those curls,
she must have sighed and cursed that hair so many times,
and then wept at the losing of it.



Bobby Sands was an Irish hunger striker who starved himself to death. Orgreave was the site of a violent confrontation between the police and the striking miners in 1984 (such an appropriate date). NaPoWriMo asks us to write a poem where lots of things happen at the same time. I’m not sure I’ve quite done that, but I went with the poem, which turned out to be a collection of shards of memories. 

Big love small love – NaPoWriMo 9

He’s a pixel-smith
building worlds out of
ones and zeros
yes and no
black and white
on and off
weaving binary into complexity

“Everything’s made of everything”
he says – he whispers
quantum to me,
until I’m only space
strung onto emptiness

we are matter
turning into energy
turning into matter
turning into energy
turning into matter

“Everything’s made of everything” –
we are all small stars
burning to expire,
inhaling galaxies
exhaling the void

“Everything’s made of nothing.”



NaPoWriMo asks us to write about something big meeting something small. This is a poem of geek love. 

I think there might be mermaids – NaPoWriMo 8

There’s a pool here that is always still.

If you look in, you’ll see your face
framed in gold green seaweed.

I’ve been alone down here –
it’s not a busy beach,
the path too steep and stony
to attract too many families;
outside of summer I often
find it empty –

and heard a sound, a call,
that’s not a herring gull,
and not the swirl of water.

Sometimes, I’ve caught
a silver glimmer
from the corner of my eye,
moving swiftly out of sight

and once I saw a shape
that could have been a seal,
but there are no seals here,
not for miles. I checked.

On my shelf at home,
I have a little fishbone comb.
I found it by the mirror pool.

None of this is proof
of anything, of course.



And let’s all give a sigh of relief, because NaPoWriMo has given us a prompt that doesn’t require too much brain twisting. We are asked to write about the mysterious, the fantastical, the unexplained, and offered a dose of Shelley to  help us on our way. 

Both of us

Look at you,
head so full of words
you can hardly speak,
hunting down those details,
spearing them delicately
with your sharpened pen.

Look at you,
words spilling, rolling, coiling,
so full of words
you can’t be silent,
slippery, shimmering words
that slide away into
deep water.

There you are again,
carrying those words,
great armfuls of them,
gathered and gleaned

and then releasing them
in a great cloud
of syllables and phrases


always balancing


The NaPoWriMo prompt today is to consider an powerful and powerless aspect of ourselves and bring them into dialogue. My world is full of words – my own and others. I gather up the words of others and try to make them into something coherent. I pour out words, trying to make sense of my world. Which of those roles is powerful, which powerless? I’m not entirely sure. 


River – NaPoWriMo 6

I’m not sure I could take you to the source

I pick the river up there, where it goes through the woods,

where the banks are steep.

From there, it runs through the valley,

below the spruce trees,

on past the mill,

under the bridge with the awkward bend,

and then meanders through meadows.

The cows stand belly deep in summer grass.

The path follows the river –

coming closer, moving away,

a weaving dance of water and tarmac,

and if you look closely, if you hover somewhere in the air above,

you will see two girls in endless adolescent conversation,

strong limbs moving them over the iron bridge,

laughter rising above the yellow gorse.

They are walking to town.

They will cross the river again,

walk down the quay, where there might be boats

from faraway places with faraway names,

setting them dreaming of future adventures;

past the square where the kids without purpose

hang out on drizzly evenings;

past the shop that sells everything except happiness.

At the steps, they’ll step into the boat,

the narrow boat, hardly a boat at all

and they’ll row themselves onward,

following the river,

moving with the river,

carried by the river

towards the sea.


It’s all about lines today – a line as a moment, intact in itself. I’ve a tendency to chop at lines, so this was a good – if uncomfortable – exercise for me. It’s also come out really long. I guess the point of this is to be pushed, and to experiment, not necessarily to produce a work of staggering genius.