Senses – NaPoWriMo 26

We won’t get that scent of you again –
that’s gone for good. Nowhere
on this earth will that particular mixture
of Dove soap, and skin, and biscuits
be smelled again.

that’s part of the strangeness of death.
That lizard squatting in the middle
of our monkey brains, tasting the air,
frowns in confusion. Eyes see – the face,
the hair, the hands – we know them
like we know our own, better maybe –
but there’s no smell. Or what smell
there is is cold, carrying the bitter
echo of the undertaker. All wrong.

Death tastes bland. We salt it up –
ham rolls, and gala pie – but still,
it strips flavour out of everything.
It’s bright lights and dark corners,
and too much noise. Cars keep on driving,
someone sounds a horn, a child is talking,
there’s a sudden splash of rhythm from
an open window.

We are set apart
in formal clothes, uncomfortable shoes,
some of us too warm, some of us too cold.
We’re not dressed for the weather,
the real weather, but for something
outside of weather, normal life suspended,
we in this bubble of mourning, looking inwards.

It won’t last long.

But then, sometime in the way ahead,
I’ll smell that smell, no, not that smell,
just something that is close to it
and suddenly I’ll see you,
hear your chuckle, or catch a glimpse
of your hands, slim and capable,
and you’ll be there, and gone again
before I recognise you.



Day 26 of NaPoWriMo, and this might be the last I get to do this year. That’s a shame, but sometimes life gets in the way. I’m not usually a miserablist, but we are in the middle of bereavement, and that is surprisingly time consuming – as well as consuming thought and energy and all that other stuff. I’m aware that I’ve been writing about this, on and off, at some level for a while. That’s OK. We work with what we have. Anyhow, here’s the prompt. It’s about using our senses:

And now for our prompt (optional as always). Taking our cue from today’s craft resource, we’d like to challenge you to write a poem that includes images that engage all five senses. Try to be as concrete and exact as possible with the “feel” of what the poem invites the reader to see, smell, touch, taste and hear.

Happy writing!



Warning NaPoWriMo 25

Warning: this substance is highly volatile

Do not expose to right wing propaganda, poor grammar or incorrectly attributed quotations.

Warning: this animal is a lexivore

Do not let off the lead in bookshops or libraries.

Warning: if you find an unattended poet, please alert the relevant authorities. Do not leave your poet unattended or they may be removed and destroyed in a controlled explosion.

The management accepts no responsibility.

For anything. 

The management cannot accept responsibility. She is too busy stalking rare words and unexpected turns of phrase through the undergrowth of the bookstore.

The management is on a camping trip in the deep desert. She has pitched her tent by a waterhole, and is building a fire of obsolete poetic forms under a verb spangled sky.

Warning: poetry under construction.

Warning: wet words.

Warning: slippery concepts.

Warning: may contain nuts, gluten and adjectives.

Handle with care.

Feathers NaPoWriMo 24

I have my grandad’s eyes –
“They’re angel’s eyes”, my daughter says –
Those golden flakes, like feathers,
Falling soft against a clear blue sky.

A funny kind of angel, then, my grandad,
Cough sweets, and Errol Flynn moustache. A sweeter soul.

Here’s how it is:
Things drift away, I’ve lost so many things,
Life is a constant sloughing off,
Those golden flakes, like feathers,
Falling soft against a clear blue sky.

I don’t have much of his
To pass on down. His handiwork
All broken up and burned,
His memories blurred to stories,
Then to myth, carved fragments
Almost lost on wind worn stones,
Those golden flakes, like feathers
Falling soft against a clear blue sky.

But still, I’ve passed these on,
These angel eyes. I’ve seen them
Looking from my daughter’s face –
The only part of her I recognise.
That stubborn DNA, hanging on in there,
Stronger than human memory,long lived,
scrawling its signature across our lives,
Those golden flakes, like feathers,
Falling soft against a clear blue sky.

NaPoWriMo suggests an elegy that contains a little bit of hope. I hope this fits the bill. I’m also linking it to dVerse, where Kim asks us to  write about heredity, specifically body parts we’ve inherited. 

Talking for England – NaPoWriMo 23

That woman could talk for England.
She can talk. Her mouth opens and shuts,
sounds tumble out, tinkling, crashing
to the floor. You can’t stop them.
Press your hands against her lips,
they’ll just keep moving. She talks
and talks, saying nothing, just words,
just jabberish, just gibber-gabbling,
like a blackbird sings –

danger danger danger danger

or a wren calls

stranger stranger stranger

her words fall in soft piles around her,
making it hard to walk, they amass
accumulating dust and gathering
fragments of unswept memories,
old tears, fluff balls of one-liners,
scraps of mashed up vowels,
ripped consonants, and here and there
a single sentence glimmering like gold.

She’s talking just because she is afraid,
she keeps you here, pinned by her tongue,
her moving lips, her greedy slobbering
of words words words words words words,
afraid that you will leave and she
will be alone with all these words inside her head,

or worse.

What if she spills them out when she’s alone,
the mad woman, muttering in the carpark,
mumbling in the queue for fruit,
chewing her words over and over, swallowing
regurgitating, masticating, pulping
the words that used to mean so much
and now mean nothing? That’s the fear.

Danger. Danger. Danger. Danger.


My offering for Day 23 of NaPoWriMo, where we are asked to write a poem that springboards from something overheard:

And now for today’s (optional) prompt! Kate Greenstreet’s poetry is spare, but gives a very palpable sense of being spoken aloud – it reads like spoken language sounds. In our interview with her, she underscores this, stating that “when you hear it, you write it down.” Today, we challenge you to honor this idea with a poem based in sound. The poem, for example, could incorporate overheard language. Perhaps it could incorporate a song lyric in some way, or language from something often heard spoken aloud (a prayer, a pledge, the Girl Scout motto). Or you could use a regional or local phrase from your hometown that you don’t hear elsewhere, e.g. “that boy won’t amount to a pinch.”

Happy writing!

Square Circle – NaPoWriMo 22

Let’s get it straight, the world is round, round as a ball bounced by a red-headed boy in a grubby sweater, and love is eternal and round as a ring, and a round peg might fit in a square hole if you shape it and shave it and carve it enough, and have you got quite enough on your plate? Let’s get it straight, a penny is round, and you flip it up high and it lands on its side and goes rolling off down the street, and all you can do is watch it roll or go running along with the sun on your back to try all you can to fetch it back, or to pick it up with a bit of luck and a round peg will always fit in a square hole if you mold it and shape it and press it and squeeze it, and a frisbee is round, and you fling it and watch as it curves in the sunlight, and all you can do is leap in the air like a curving salmon and reach out your hand with those fine hairs catching the light as you catch the frisbee and land and stand to throw it again in a single movement, and let’s get it straight, the disc is round, and back in the day when we wanted to play we opened the square of the album cover and took out the vinyl and watched it spin round and let’s get it straight a circle is perfect with nowhere to hide you’re out there in the open, and let’s get it straight your iris is round like the world, flecked with blue and with green like a planet that hangs in the great void of space and circles the sun which is round as a ball that is bounced by a girl in t-shirt and shorts and let’s face it a circle can’t have any angles, so let’s get it right.


This is the 22nd day of NaPoWriMo and we are asked to take a leap from an impossible starting point. I’ve chosen a circle with corners. This was supposed to be a perfect square, but I can’t get WordPress to format it quite as nicely as I’d hoped. Here is the original prompt from NaPoWriMo:

And now for our daily prompt (optional as always). I’ve found this one rather useful in trying to ‘surprise’ myself into writing something I wouldn’t have come up with otherwise. Today, I’d like you to take one of the following statements of something impossible, and then write a poem in which the impossible thing happens:

The sun can’t rise in the west.

A circle can’t have corners.

Pigs can’t fly.

The clock can’t strike thirteen.

The stars cannot rearrange themselves in the sky.

A mouse can’t eat an elephant.

Happy writing!

Rebellion NaPoWriMo 20

Each poem is a rebellion

Each poem is a rebel lion

leaping over the man with the whip and out of the cage

Each poem is a re bell ion

the sound smashing the window pain and raising the (t)roof

Each poem is a reb(h)ellion

running through the back streets creating chaos

The poet Keats died of consumption and we are dying too passive consumption is destroying us but we are guerilla gorilla Godzilla poets and each poem is an act of creativity is an act of revolution 

So chant your poems in the pub

Use your digit(al) s to grasp a pen or pound a keyboard

Scrawl them on scraps of paper

Post them online or through the letterboxes of strangers

Hold that thought

Then let it fly

A rebellious poem for NaPoWriMo 20

Going past – NaPoWriMo 19

Up past the owls
down past the trees
and on to the end.

Sharp stop.
L  O  N  G    S  T  R  E  T  C  H.
Nar/row – cut in half.

Join the river, along the river,
here between you and the water

turn again, past the light

the waste.

For NaPoWriMo day 19, where the prompt is this: 

Our (optional) prompt for the day takes it cue from Brady’s suggestion that erasure/word banks can allow for compelling repetitive effects. Today we challenge you to write a paragraph that briefly recounts a story, describes the scene outside your window, or even gives directions from your house to the grocery store. Now try erasing words from this paragraph to create a poem or, alternatively, use the words of your paragraph to build a new poem.

I wrote a paragraph about my drive to work. I think I’ve kept the sense of a journey in this poem. It was tricky to write a paragraph knowing that I would be pulling words from it, (and tempting to put in words that would be useful in a poem), but I tried to keep it very factual and to the point. There are owls there, we often see them. I feel no guilt about putting them in.

Twisting and turning – NaPoWriMo 18

Scribbled out, redacted, replaced,
love creeps and creeps, desire is all wrong,
and this shell holds words and worlds
and sudden amnesia, and slow loss,
and reflections – shattered, shimmering
in rivers, oceans, and the moon’s interpretation
of the sun. I’m trying to remember
the words I threw away,
I work at it, knowing I haven’t caught it,
the sun on my skin, and the movement of water –
is this right? is this right?
I make a mist of my breath, and cloud the surface.
Smell is the oldest sense. It knows it all,
melting with the passing of time,
moving over the water, the moving water.


My contribution to NaPoWriMo for today. It’s a complex prompt, basing a poem on another poem, preferably one you don’t know. I chose Coda: Lost Poem by Rachel Boast, which I found in The Forward Book of Poetry 2018I can’t find the poem online, but you can see more of Rachel’s work here:

We were asked to take a poem we don’t know, and start from the bottom, taking each line individually and in isolation, and writing a line in a response to it. The new, response lines, form the new poem.

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!