Peter J. King – Cornish Choughs

(to be imagined sung by Flanders & Swann)

It was one July or August when
I took my yearly break.
I had had quite enough of the clerical stuff,
And I yearned for a forest or lake.

So I packed some clothes and camping gear,
And on my way I went;
I was happy to stay where I’d reach in a day —
whether hotel or guest house or tent.

I was sick of the constant chattering,
Of the siren and burglar alarm;
Fed up with the city’s clattering,
I fled to the countryside’s calm.

On the first night I slept comfily —
A classy B&B;
In a room with en suite, and a breakfast complete:
Mushrooms, eggs, toast, tomatoes, and tea.

(Flanders, spoken: And a pot of some very nice home-made marmalade
— thick cut, the way I like it.)

On the second night I found an inn
That hadn’t yet been spoiled
By the nouvelle cuisine of the posh magazine,
And I staggered to bed nicely oiled.

But I couldn’t find a place to stay
On evening number three,
So I set up my gaff by the side of a path
And I settled myself in to sleep.

As I snuggled down I heard the sound
Of snuffling in the night,
Then a neighbouring cow made a hell of a row,
And some owls got into a fight.

So I spent the next few hellish hours
Serenaded with the hoots
Of a myriad fowls, and the grunts and the howls
Of a zoo-full of nocturnal brutes.

When I finally got off to sleep –
At seven, near enough –
It was no time at all ere I woke to the call
Of a chatter of Cornish choughs.

I could cope with the constant battering
Of my ears by the mallard and ruff,
And the ruff’s wife, the reeve’s endless nattering
Was a pain, but I’m made pretty tough.

I could even put up with the shattering
Of my sleep by a cock, but enough!
I cannot contend with the clattering
Of chough after chough after chough.

So I packed up all my camping gear,
And left to find a train,
And before you could croak “Ah, the peace of the smoke!”
I was heading for London again.

I could even put up with the shattering
Of my sleep by a cock, but enough!
I cannot contend with the clattering
Of chough after chough after chough.

(Sullivan: Kyaa kyaa kyaa!)


Brian Ings – Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint, revisited by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Should you ask me whence these stories,
Whence these profligate perversions,
Saying ‘Who was Sophy Ginsky?
Tell us of this Sophy Ginsky!’
I should answer: ‘Read this rude book,
Crude book written by her bonditt,
By her lewd son, sad meschugge!
Stay and read these rude descriptions,
Read these gripes of Portnoy-Rotha,
Blessed with flame-haired, yiddische momma,
Blessed with mule-stooled, long-schlonged poppa,
From which schlong there flowed whole rivers ;
He the son, frustrated sinner,
Sex-life jinxed by Sophie Ginsky,
Bread-knife-wielding Sophy Ginsky,
Loser, failure, slow beginner,
Not allowed to be a winner,
Upped and bonked the family dinner!


  1. Read modern, current verse

Byron, Blake, Burns in the bin.
Ancients out, Motion in.

  1. Subscribe to two or three good quality small press magazines.

What dreams may come? But here’s the rub:
they will not print poems in exchange for your sub.

  1. Join a Writers’ Group

Consult the Poetry Society to see if there is one in your area.
If there is none, it is scary. If there is one, it is scarier.

  1. If you use traditional forms, do it in a new way.

For several hundred years the sonnet has stayed much the same because 
few poets dared change it. So?
Rearrange it.

  1. Create an audience for your work.

Practise reading poems aloud.
Invite friends round. Dispense drink. Read to the assembled crowd.
Retire upstairs to your study, unbowed
but bloody-minded.

  1. Win the National Poetry Competition.

If you’re hesitating whether to win or wait,
win. Don’t hesitate.

  1. Write your name and address on every sheet submitted; but not © Dai

The former is professional & subtly revealing.
The latter suggests you are pompous & regard your poems as worth stealing.

  1. Do not submit poems with a eulogistic letter citing previous publications.

If your work has Merit, the rest is history.
(How so much garbage is printed every month while yours is returned is a mystery).

Previously published in Unsuitable Poems, the first publication from HappenStance 
Press, 2005.

Jacqueline Saphra – Cool

I’ve lived on cigarettes and chips
I’ve hung out with the wild and hip
I’ve often nearly pierced my lip
and nipple, been on mind-expanding trips
to la-la land and back. Call me a fool
but when will I be cool?

I’ve worn my jeans below my waist
I’ve done cocaine and brownies laced
with weed and but then I’ve never chased
the dragon. Does that mean that I’m two-faced?
I think I once bunked off PE at school.
When will I be cool?

I’ve learned to swear in Afrikaans
I’ve even given peace a chance
I’ve memorised some Buddhist chants
like OM. I download hip-hop, garage, trance
and Billy Bragg, but oh your love is cruel.
When will I be cool?

I’ve slept on beaches, shaved my head
I’ve tried to lead and not be led
I’ve often asked you to my bed
in fact. I hope that proves I’m not well-bred
or square. Make me your mistress of misrule.
When will I be cool?

I’ll try your line, I’ll share your squat
I’ll show you mine, it’s really hot.
I’ll be your bitch although I’m not
accustomed – and I’ll give it all I’ve got.
I’m just a crazy groovy lovesick fool;
I’m only trying to be cool
…………………………….for you.
……………………………………….Please say
…………………………………………………….I’m cool.

Jacqueline Saphra has won several awards including first prize in the Ledbury Poetry Competition. Her pamphlet, Rock’n’Roll Mamma was published by Flarestack and her first full collection, The Kitchen of Lovely Contraptions (flipped eye) was developed with funding from Arts Council England and nominated for The Aldeburgh First Collection Prize. A book of illustrated prose poems, If I Lay on my Back I saw Nothing but Naked Women, was published by The Emma Press in November 2014. She is a tutor at The Poetry School.

Takooba – Spring Blooms

Nubby flowers
hatched from onions
pale, feeble,
under milquetoast sun.

Toe-height quakers
staggering like a
soused cow
tilt and tremble
in nobbut a breeze.

Crazy crocuses,
loopy trumpets
gaping baby bird mouths
drooling saffron
under grey,
powder skies.

Wobbling snowdrops
wonky sprogs
ovine flockers
dumbly sucking
on green, buck teeth.

Daffs weakly nodding
daft as a crumpet.
Cartoon lions with
no roar – no smell!

Hyacinths squat like
your nanna’s bath hat:
Nasty things
oddly squatting
leaning, leaking
on the window sill.

Of spring flowers
only the cherry
gives my heart ease:
orchards of bubble gum
cloud-banked town.

Would I forfeit
the whole long summer
for just one cherry
on each city corner
betrothing us
with her confetti showers?

Brian Ings – Camping in the Arctic Circle

Tent-sites, as we try to kip,
Are rent by the sounds of zip-zip-zip!
Morning, afternoon, or soir,
Zip-zip-zip!’s our orchestra!

Other sounds are not so cute
Next tent snoring; coughing brute
At Arctic dawning; kids ‘at play’;
Sea-birds squawking in the day,

Topped by the trump of breaking wind
In manner most undisciplined –
Wildly, gently, trumpeted proud,
Mildly, tensely, well-endowed;

But what sets campers’ teeth on edge
Are twig-snaps coming from the hedge!
Cowering from hack! and … rip-rip-rip!
We breathe again at zip-zip-zip!

Michael Horwood – The Soul Bares All

It´s not easy being a soul.
We can´t enjoy the best things in life
at all. We´re always on the rack,
dealing with the big issues
like right and wrong, eternity,
stuff like that. We never get a chance
to relax. Forget lying in the sun
or soaking in a hot bath.

Food and drink are not for us. We´re strangers
to the slither of oysters over tongues
or chilled Chablis; the bubbles in Champagne,
that´s us. We´re so abstract some people
think we shouldn´t even be in poems.
Worst of all – get this – there´s no sex.

We sit around a lot, mainly
at God´s right hand,
                                     where time
                                    and games are not allowed.

No wonder we´re thrilled to be told
we can have a body for a while.
When I get mine, never mind what it´s like,
I´m gonna drive it into the ground.
To get that life, I´d sell my soul
for a body any day.