Sunday, 29 May 2011

Another sexual health poem.

“I just want you to tell me how it works,
A woman’s tuppy. You know what I mean
What’s in there, and how does she keep it clean?
What hidden danger in the hoo-hah lurks?

I’ve always wondered, and I’ll never know
Because I’m pretty certain that I’m gay.
And you’re a married lesbian, so hey!
You’ll know about a lady’s down-below

How can it stretch to let a baby out?
Why is it only some of them are hairy?
And are they all the same, or do they vary?
I don’t want to be left in any doubt.”

From this young scholar all of us should take
Our cue: Seek knowledge for its own sweet sake.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

A Sonnet

Just a change of pace from all the sestinas...
Based on an anecdote I heard from a sexual health outreach worker.

The lad comes in. He’s got a worried frown.
“This girl: I’ve not been with her all that long
I know what breasts should look like, hers are wrong.
They go all floppy when she’s lying down!

She says I’m being daft. And now she’s got
The face on. Thinks she dun’t give me the horn.
She’s fitter than the girls I watch in porn
But if their boobs are normal, hers are not.”

I’m trying not to laugh. I reassure
Him that his girlfriend’s absolutely fine
And that perhaps this panic is a sign
That he needs to get out a little more.

And though those porno girls are really foxy
They shouldn’t cause low self esteem by proxy!

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

My (least) Favourite Words

Old one, this. I'm sure I've put this out there before, but I can't find it. So in response to a twitter question about favourite words from Oliver (@inkwrite), voila!

3: Verbal Abuse
I’m what is often called a Linguaphile
Delicious words - like that one - make me smile
Their schwas and plosives music to my ears
Their haunting diphthongs moving me to tears
Festoon, Contagion, Trenchant, Stalagmite
The meaning’s meaningless. They just sound… right
But there are also words that I abhor
Incentivise, Hydrangea, Slate, Galore.

My hatred is irrational, unjust
So overcome my bigotry I must!
It’s never pleasant to discriminate
I’ll try to curb and overcome my hate.

But there’s no help for such a hopeless case
If only it were gender, age, or race
Oh, find a self-help group for me to join
And help me learn to love Abode and Groin!

Alas, it’s far too late for me to change
I can’t accept Indebted, Awkward, Mange,
So now I say it, loud and with impunity:
My poetry’s not equal opportunity.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Strange DreamPoem

I dreamt this, some of it word for word. I'm quite odd.

A trip to the zoo?
What a treat!
How 'bout you?
You can come too – stay all day.
The sun's shining,
We walk on the grey
Gravelled paths and we Keep Off The Grass
Where, last time, we heard mallards laughing.
But today there's a pall,
A bad taste in my mouth.
Bitter air going into my lungs
And the animals' eyes
Are all following me,
Open wide and alarmed
As I pass by their cages.
It's changed.
There are fear and betrayal
That weren't here before
In those eyes.
And there's fewer here now than there were:
Many cages are empty.
The zookeepers, why are they smiling?
Greasy faces, complacent, replete,
They are grinning and licking their lips
As the animals cringe.

The keepers are eating the beasts.
Every day they take more,
Cook them up
And then feast.
Rare creatures are going extinct
Served up rare with fine wine.
The marmosets have been reduced, clarified to their essence
and drizzled on fried polar bear.
But it takes such a lot of the things
To make so little juice, such a waste.
But the flavour's incomparable,
say the zookeepers, licking their lips.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

New Home

My sestinas have a home of their own!

Please visit them at my new blog
to see my latest efforts.



Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Sestina Day Sixteen: Flying

A whimsical one, inspired by the title of Adele Geraghty's collection of poems 'Skywriting in the Minor Key: Words, Women, Wings.'
Sheffielders: Adele will be our featured poet at Speak Easy, the spoken word open mic night at A-Pod, The Hubs, Sheffield. It's tonight! (29/03/11) Free entry, starts 7:30. Come on down!
Plug over.

A little girl looks at the Sky
Through the high classroom window. She's writing
An essay. Except all these minor
Distractions are blocking the words.
She is dreaming of glamourous women
Who fly down and fit her with wings

And she floats on her butterfly wings
Through the window and into the sky
And she's one of the magical women
Who thrill the whole world with their writing
And suddenly all of the words
Tumble out of her mouth in a minor

Key. Now she is singing, B minor
A dirge for a beetle whose wings
Were pulled off, and her heartrending words
Buzz and flutter up into the sky
She is laughing and singing and writing
Her dad always told her that women

Were just, after all, bloody women
And could only be trusted with minor
Tasks: cooking, and cleaning. Not writing.
Never mind spreading her wings:
If she kept gawping up at the sky
Then no man would want her, mark his words.

As she soars, she remembers his words
And she falters, descends, but the women
All hoist her up into the sky
And she smiles, disregards him. a minor
Impediment. Glides on her wings
She is laughing and singing and writing

She's back, and she cannot stop writing
Her paper is crowded with words
About cruelty and beetles and wings
And beautiful, bright, flying women.
The essay was 'being a miner'
But she wants to aim for the sky

The girl found her wings, and kept writing.
Joined the women who reach for the sky
Saw her words become major, not minor.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Sestina Day 15: Dear Japanese Power Companies

I feel awful about Japan. So sad, so worried for all those people. But also I feel unadulterated rage at those who thought nuclear power plants with dodgy safety records were a good idea at all, let alone on fault lines.

The sestina thing seems to have me swinging between goth and ranty zealot. Guess which today's is...

I have some basic groundrules for survival:
Don't wrap yourself in tinfoil on a mountain
During a thunderstorm. Do not drop acid
While you have access to a 10th floor window
Avoid spoiled food, but really, most important
Don't build nuclear power plants on faultlines

Don't build nuclear power plants on faultlines
If you care anything about survival.
I cannot stress enough just how important
This rule is. I will shout it from the mountain
Tops. I'll scream it from the window
It's burned into my brain as if with acid.

And radiation burns you worse than acid.
Don't build nuclear power plants on faultlines
You wouldn't throw a bomb through your own window.
Why would you sabotage your own survival?
It's like throwing your body from a mountain
Except considerably more important.

Because while you are not all that important
By which I am not trying to be acid:
It's really true! It's not you up that mountain
(Don't build nuclear power plants on faultlines.)
It's everyone. It's everyone's survival.
That you're proposing throwing out the window.

I realise I've kind of missed my window.
For warning you, but really, it's important.
I hope it's not too late for our survival.
But really are you idiots on acid?
Don't build nuclear power plants on faultlines!
I'm going to be a hermit on a mountain

I won't be too much safer up a mountain
As I look fearfully out of the window
“Don't build nuclear power plants on faultlines”
I'll shout, please listen. This is so important.
“I know I look like I took too much acid.
But listen, or you've no hope of survival.”

I see the faultlines clear as any mountain.
I guess survival isn't that important.
Open that window. Let me take this acid.

Sestina Day 14: Oyster Rights!

I have been challenged to write a sestina about yesterday's protests in London. That's not come out right, yet.
In the meantime, I offer you a different protest manifesto: That of the oysters fighting oppression by the Walrus & the Carpenter.
Just a bit of Lewis Carrol themed fun.

You should never trust a walrus
Or believe a carpenter
For both will lead you down the sand
To talk of kings and cabbages
And though youll find it rather odd,
You will not know you're to be eaten

Many oysters have been eaten
By the carpenter and walrus
Anyone caught acting odd-
Ly, looking like a carpenter
And Telling you of cabbages
And kings while walking on the sand

Should be reported, for the sand
Is where most oysters have been eaten
Vinegar and cabbages
Are danger signs, as is a walrus
With a dodgy carpenter
Whose words and actions seem quite odd,

Do not assume that these 2 odd-
Ball characters are kind. Like sand
They're shifty. watch the carpenter
Especially or you'll be eaten.
He's the greedy one. The walrus,
Though he'll talk of cabbages,

likes oysters more than cabbages
Which, we admit, is scarcely odd
An ocean carnivore, the walrus
Is the terror of the sands
And all he's ever done is eaten
Decent oysters. Carpenter:

Go home! Oh leave us, carpenter!
Go back to eating cabbages!
We oysters don't want to be eaten
And anyway we taste quite odd.
The carpenter must leave our sands -
And he can take his friend the walrus!

We'll stay uneaten, carpenter!
Go, Feed the walrus cabbages!
Leave us: the oddballs of the sand!

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Sestina Day 13: Big Bad Wolf

Day 13, even if it's not a Friday, seems an appropriate day to do a really dark poem, (which was kinda going to happen anyway with keywords from @NecroNeil - check out his awesome horror zine necronomicon)
This sestina turned out even darker than I thought, and I owe debts of inspiration to Angela Carter and Francesca Lia Block for the Red Riding Hood theme.

Big Bad Wolf

I never thought there would be so much blood.
Your face, my hands, the bedroom floor are dark
With it. I pause and look out at the woods
Outside the window. Maybe under dirt
And fallen leaves i'll hide your corpse, my love.
And then I'll wash the bloodstains from my hands.

You thought my fate lay in your pretty hands.
Because my love for you raged in my blood
Like a disease. My desperate, fevered love
Made every day away from you seem dark.
You used to look at me like I was dirt
You'd trodden in while walking in the woods.

I used to watch you walking through the woods,
Red hood pulled up, a basket in your hands,
Daintily stepping through the leaves and dirt
I'd watch you, and I'd feel that rush of blood
Course through me, crouching silent in the dark.
A mix of lust and rage and hate and love.

And so I followed you, my little love,
Until I knew your movements through the woods
To this old house you'd tiptoe through the dark.
To visit granny, kiss her wrinkled hands.
I watched you, smelt you, and it set my blood
To boiling in my veins. I'm low as dirt.

And you are pure and clean. But from this dirt
There grew the deadly roses of my love.
I longed to taste you: lick your sweat, your blood,
So I came to the cottage in the woods
And throttled the old bitch with my bare hands
And waited for your footsteps in the dark.

Your skin so pure and white, your eyes so dark,
Even your shoes were free of forest dirt,
I hardly dared to touch you with my hands
to quench my hate and consummate my love.
Nobody heard you screaming in the woods
Your hood lies on the floor, red as your blood.

I kiss your hands, and stare into the dark.
There's so much blood. I'll hide it in the dirt.
Red hooded love, I'll leave you in the woods.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Sestina Day 12: Feminist Diatribe

So, this was interesting. Sitawa Wafula, a lovely women I met on Twitter, suggested some keywords for me that were bound to lead to quite a political, feminist poem. I'm usually quite comfortable writing poetry about my politics, but it's rarely what you could term earnest or sincere.
These keywords, combined with the form, forced me to be just that, which felt very unnatural for me. Also, unlike with other sestinas I've done, I just wasn't willing to let the structure take over and dictate how it turned out. So I was fighting the structure every step of the way to write this feminist poem. Ooh! There's a metaphor in that!
One of the ideas of this project was to challenge myself - bring me out of my comfort zone of cutesy-pootsey rhymes. That's certainly happening.
Actually this may be a sestina, but I don't think it's a poem. It's just kind of a rant. In sestina form.

Sometimes I work myself into a state
Of apoplexy when I see how  women
Are shunned and disrespected by my culture.
We make up over half the population,
And yet for equal rights we must take action,
For patriarchy makes us vulnerable

But really, why should we be vulnerable?
We're not in some pathetic, weakened state.
We're physically strong, we can take action,
Support ourselves as well as other women,
A vibrant, worldwide female population:
Why are we so restricted by our culture?

It's said that I am from a liberal culture:
To sexism I'm not as vulnerable
As many in the female population
Who find their freedom crushed by fascist state
by  quaint traditions" that devalue women
Or by religious bigotry in action.

And yet it's frowned upon when I take action
To challenge sexism within my culture
Dismissed and mocked by men, attacked by women
When I point out that we're still vulnerable
To ridicule and judgement when I state
Respect's due to the female population

Within, of course, the wider population.
It would be lovely if more men took action
To challenge sexism within the state
Or worked towards a far more equal culture.
Both men and women can be vulnerable
Or strong. But sometimes women

Do not defend the rights of other women
That's how half of the human population
Though not outnumbered, are still vulnerable
Because we're told that we cannot take action
We mock the ones who want to change the culture
So feminism's in a dreadful state!

We are not vulnerable unless, as women
We don't take action to improve our state.
Our population can reclaim our culture.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Sestina Day 11: Twisted Verse

Weird one today, folks. Not your average sestina.
Two sets of keywords, one makes up the end words of the lines as usual, the other makes up the start words.
And every stanza they switch places.
Apparently this is an entirely new variation. If anyone knows different, drop me a message.
Emma Jane Davies and her mythic keywords are to blame for the theme!

Howl, fellow wolves, and greet the rising moon!
Owl spreads her wings for she will join us soon.
Dark shadows hold dominion over Earth
Bark, brother wolves, and herald midnight's birth!
Red sun went down, and we, the fierce and wild
Fled from the day to greet Diana's child.

Childsplay, the hunt. From human eyes we fled
Moonlight shone down, and made us want to howl
Wild children with our teeth and claws stained red
Soon we will join the badger and the owl
Birthing the night, we slaver, pant and bark
Earth turns away from sunlight into dark

Darkness now spreads its cloak across earth
Fled is the bright one, daylight's only child
Barking, the wolves bear witness to the birth
Howling, we greet the daughter of the moon
Owls circle her, and then we know that soon
Red blood will spill, rejoicing in the wild.

Wild eyed we yearn to tear into the red
Earth is our hunting ground when it is dark
Soon we must feed on flesh just like the owl.
Child of the moon, show where our quarry fled
Moon-daughter, hearken to our loving howl
Birthed-of-Diana: listen to us bark!

Barking,we chase our prey until the birth,
Red in the east, of dawn. We love the wild
Howl of our brothers underneath the moon.
Dark creatures swarming all across the Earth
Fled from the woods. each tender human child.
Owl's voice should warn. 'Your fate will meet you soon.'

Soon they will sleep, the badger and the owl.
Birth of a new day makes us cease to bark
Childlike we cower, from the light we've fled
Wild though we are, we fear the rays of red
Earth is our kingdom only in the dark
Moonchild, return tonight to hear us howl!

Fled is the owl, Night's child will call her soon:
Moon, at your birth we'll bark and whine and howl
Red lights the dark, and wild ones leave the Earth.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Sestina Day 10: Beer and Spirits

Today's keywords are from Helen Mort, a fabulous poet and lovely person.
Three cool things about Helen:
1) She's from Sheffield.
2) She writes poems about ghosts and her surname means 'death'.
3) She has an ace whippet called Bell.

This sestina is inspired by Helen's collection of poetry 'A Pint For The Ghost'.

The job was new to me, learning from scratch
The names of all the ales, but then, I'm bright.
Each customer I welcomed through the door
And learned their names as well, in time, which pleased
The regulars, who always stopped to speak
To me as I was polishing each glass

After my shift I'd stay and have a glass
Or two of lager, listen to the scratch-
y Jukebox, stop to hear the locals speak
At first, it's true, I thought they weren't too bright
But when I got to know them, I was pleased
They told me tales of hauntings. I adore

Such legends, and I'd often lock the door
At closing time and, sipping from my glass
write down the stories which had really pleased
me in the empty pub. Sometimes a scratch
Or rustle made me jump, but I was bright
Enough to sit quite still and never speak.

I'd hear these disembodied voices speak
And feel a draught as if the bolted door
was swinging open. Then I'd see a bright
And eerie light which formed around my glass.
As if a ghostly hand wanted to scratch
A message on the bar. It wasn't pleased

The presence I could feel, it was displeased
Some evenings it would condescend to speak
and say, “This rat's piss isn't up to scratch
It's got no soul, I'd chuck it out the door
Pour us some stout, I'll have it in a glass
That's got a handle. I can see you're bright

Enough, my lass, to know when it gets bright
And full in here, us ghosts are never pleased
But in the quiet moments, the odd glass
Of porter is a lifeline, so to speak.
So when you sense my presence, near the door,
Pour me whichever ale is up to scratch.”

I keep aside a glass, polished and bright
You never hear him scratch: these days he's pleased
Perhaps we'll hear him speak, he's by the door.

Sestina Day 9: Drinking with Jow

Our friend Jow, who is also my wife's comedy writing partner in The Venns, and has office supply related fun at Post-It Says It All, thought it would be funny to give me ridiculous keywords for today's sestina. Unfortunately for him, the only way I could get it to make sense was by writing a poem about Jow getting progressively drunker and talking more and more bollocks. Sorry. Great poetry it's not, but it was fun to write (and to research, come to that).

I like pancake syrup whose hue and viscosity
Has a high level of Verisimilitude
With maple syrup. At breakfast, I groove
To tunes on my iPhone. I hate sounding pompous
But I do find bands like the Darkness superfluous
I only listen to them when I'm bladdered.

It's not every night I go out and get bladdered,
I like amaretto because its viscosity
Slips down a treat, leaving mixers superfluous.
I'm not impressed by the verisimilitude
Of certain copycat brands, though it's pompous,
I find Disarrono does help me to groove.

After the drinking it's time for a groove
But I really can't dance till I'm utterly bladdered:
When sober I just feel too stilted and pompous.
My feet seem to stick to the floor with viscosity -
Swayze and I share no verisimilitude -
So I just drink till I don't feel superfluous.

There are some people I do find superfluous:
Poseurs and hipsters who think they can groove.
They're not special: the mutual verisimilitude's
Striking: can't tell them apart once I'm bladdered.
They all stick together with sickly viscosity
Get on my nerves, so pretentious and pompous.

I guess you could say I'm the one who is pompous
For calling those hipsters pretentious, superfluous,
I'm talking bollocks though: blame the viscosity
Of Disarrono. I'd quite like to groove:
D'you fancy a dance? Now I'm feeling quite bladdered.
And with a pissed newt I've got verisimilitude.

I can pronounce words like verisimilitude
Yep, Like A Boss, but you can't call me pompous,
I just talk a whole lot of shit when I'm bladdered.
Use lots of words that are really superfluous
But I'm still awake, though not feeling too groov-
y, Cause I've just thrown up with disgusting viscosity.

When bladdered, these words such as verisimilitude
Oh, and viscosity, make me sound pompous.
But they are superfluous. Let's have a groove.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Sestina Day 8: Birthday Special

This one is for my lovely wife, who does awesome projects like The Venns and Adventures in Menstruating
It's her birthday today.
Anyone who knows my wife knows she has a giant brain which goes in 20 directions at once at any one time. The words for this sestina were chosen by her.
I love you, honey. Happy Birthday.

Birthday Sestina

She goes up to the bar and orders Jack
And Coke and then she laughs and flips her fringe
Aside. She's feeling far from halcyon
Her heavy backpack overflows with paper.
"The kids were mad today. Must be full moon.
I wish I hadn't come here on my bike.

I really shouldn't drink and ride my
But on a day like this I find a Jack
And Coke, sipped slowly, underneath the moon,
Helps me relax. Oh shit! I think my fringe
Needs cutting. Have you seen what's in the paper?
What beers are on? Have you got Halcyon?"

It's clear her mood is far from halcyon
She's like a paperboy who rides a bike
Through traffic when delivering the papers
Her conversation swerves as she hijacks
Her own thought train. She dances on the fringe
Of lunacy, so maybe it's the moon

Which sets her off. It couldn't be the moon...
Up there it seems benign and halcyon
But when it's full, those out there on the fringe
of sanity, do wobble on the bike-
Path of convention. Still, I don't know jack.
She's far from mad. She sits and reads the paper

And, in her head, prepares a research paper
And marvels at the beauty of the moon
Offers to buy a round and drains her Jack
And Coke; this time she wants a Halcyon.
Extolls the virtues of her folding bike
And phones the hairdresser's to get her fringe

Cut in the morning. Those out on the fringe
Who only see chaotic mounds of paper
And half formed thoughts of Shakespeare, haircuts, bike,
Might scorn her childlike joy when the full moon
shines down and makes her calm and halcyon
For those who call her hyper don't know jack.

Her folding bike, her cute and youthful fringe
Won't tell you jack. Ignore what's down on paper:
She's like the moon. Astounding, halcyon.


Sunday, 20 March 2011

Sestina Day 7: Secret Recipe

It's been one week, to quote Barenaked Ladies, and I'm enjoying this more than can possibly be normal.
Today's poem is for my lovely sister Jude, whose chosen keywords can be found in her comment on yesterday's post.
Keep the suggestions coming!

Secret Recipe

To make the perfect juicy hamburger
Requires a high degree of artistry
I keep a secret blend of seventeen
Exotic herbs, wrapped in a handkerchief.
To bind the mince, I use one free range egg.
The end result is always quickly

Before I found that recipe I gobbled
All kinds of mediocre hamburger,
Often made up of offal, salt and egg,
You can't disguise bad food with artistry:
They made me retch into my handkerchief
Until one day when I was seventeen

(I can't believe I was just seventeen),
When sitting in a greasy spoon, I gobbled
A meal that made me raise my handkerchief
Up to my eyes because that hamburger
Caused me to weep at such fine artistry.
That perfect match of beef and herbs and egg.

(Too many chefs forget about the egg)
The radio was on: East 17
were playing with their usual artistry.
And as the other patrons sat and gobbled,
I asked the chef about the hamburger.
He wiped his hands upon a handkerchief

- A nasty, greasy, filthy handkerchief -
And said "Why should I tell some posh young egg-
Head how to make my secret hamburger?
You must be young: what sixteen? Seventeen?
Since when have teenagers cared what they gobbled?
But you, you really get my artistry!

Not many recognise such artistry."
He said, and wept into his handkerchief
"For years I've seen my gourmet artworks gobbled
Along with beans and sausage, chips and egg."
And so, although I was just seventeen,
He taught me how to make the hamburger.

What you've just gobbled takes great artistry,
Good steak minced fine, A handkerchief
Of herbs, an egg, and luck when seventeen.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Sestina Day 6: Babywriter

Another science fiction sestina, this time inspired by the delightful Emma Jane Davies. One of her tweets referring to novice writers as 'baby writers' set us both off on a sci-fi tangent, and she gave me some excellent keywords!
My favourite so far, I think.


I take my pen and start to write the foetus.
Dipping my quill into the seething ink
Which, sapient, awaits life in its tube
I fill the world with verbal progeny
On artificial vellum leaves they spawn
And issue forth from my life-giving word.

They say in the beginning was the Word,
But once upon a time the human foetus
Grew in its mother's womb, from father's spawn
Back then, the source of life was never ink.
From lust and pleasure came our progeny.
But now it's just the writers and the tube.

We sit at desks around the metal tube.
Creating life with every written word.
The virus came and killed our progeny
And, in the womb, wiped out each new-formed foetus.
We found we could survive by using ink
And now through words alone can humans spawn.

We've learned to love our pretty, wordborn spawn,
And venerate the life within the tube.
As long as we can write our dreams in ink,
The human race can live in written word.
They grow up fast. Soon they will write each foetus
They will forget that they're our progeny.

Sometimes, we're scared of our own progeny.
Fleshborn, they call us, or organicspawn.
They snigger when I say I was a foetus
Inside my mother, never in the tube.
And ask me how, if never born of word.
I understand the passions of the ink?

I tell them fleshborns first created ink,
To write our stories, not our progeny.
They stare at me, and don't believe a word.
What is ink for, to them, if not to spawn?
The wordborn have no stories, and the tube
Can only fill our pens to write a foetus.

I write the words down in the living ink
Another foetus joins my progeny
Organicspawn: the servant of the tube.

Sestina day 5: A Cautionary Tale

The other day I was at a literary salon at Bank Street Arts in Sheffield. The idea was that we could have a poetry reading where the audience weren't afraid to heckle, challenge and otherwise bother the readers. This I approve of. The painful, martyrish, polite restraint that pervades spoken word audiences gets on my nerves. Imagine what would happen at a comedy or music open mic night if you totally bombed. The audience would let you know. It would be unpleasant, but then you could choose to give it up, change your material or soldier on, assuming that they'd get it eventually. At a spoken word night, it takes a certain amount of self awareness, and ability to read the mood to know if the silence is stunned awe or embarrased, barely contained snorts of the wrong kind of mirth. And if you haven't got much self awareness or ability to read the mood, you are very likely to mistake the latter for the former.
So, in theory, challenging this seemed great, and I was honoured to be asked to read at the first one.
But.... I dunno, sounds a bit pretentious, doesn't it?
I think it was OK, a couple of moments that made me cringe. I think sometimes we were all trying a bit too hard to get it right, and still worried about hurting tender poets' feelings. Actually, I had a really nice time.
I explained the sestina-a-day thing (hmmm...worrying about seeming pretentious? it's posssible the horse has bolted through that particular stable door) and was givensome deliberately problematic words.
So, Bank Street Arts Salonniers, this one's for you. Take heed. And enjoy the homophonic cheats further down.

He looks up witty things to say on Google
Finds famous epigrams on Wikipedia
To sprinkle in his speech. Wears corduroy
To look Bohemian: pretentious bastard.
His glowing auburn skin is soaked in spray-tan.
Surrounded by young, sycophantic belles,

He's propping up the bar until the bell s
-Ounds for last orders. On his phone, he Googles
To see where else he can show off his spray-tan
And brags “It's not on Wikipedia,
But I know this new club, though it's a bastard
To get in, if you're wearing corduroy,

But I don't give a shit. My corduroy's
A statement. I'll get in. I mean, hell bells!
This scene would fold without me. If some bastard
turns me away, he'll see, if he checks Google
Or else my page on Wikipedia
That I'm not just a pretty face.” His spray tan

Confirms that statement. (Note: he got that spray-tan,
Which, sadly, clashes with his corduroy,
Because an article on Wikipedia
About 'ironic chic' was ringing bells
With him, and so he bought a can on Google.
Now goes by 'Rusty Irony' – smug bastard.

Fast forward to that club. The slimy bastard
Got in, despite his corduroy and spray-tan
And now he's boasting of the hits on Google
His name is getting these days “Cor! Do roy-
Als feel as loved as this?” Those belles
(Who looked him up today, on Wikipedia,

To see if he was 'hip', for Wikipedia
Is actually a great "who's who" for bastards.)
Giggle on cue. One young, lurex-clad belle
Seems rather keen. He swoops. His prey tan-
Goes with him. Lurex and corduroy
Ignite with friction: look it up on Google.

Fire engine bells - it says on Wikipedia,
And also Google - couldn't save the bastard.
It burns fast, spray-tan, so does corduroy.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Sestina Day 4. Advice for Alien Spies.

Well, when people like my new friend Kiri give me keywords like ketchup, monocle, birdbath, squash, gargoyle and alienation, it's not going to be the most straightforward of poems.
So, this sestina has a backstory. A race of Gargoyle-like aliens have sent spies ahead to integrate into human society prior to a massive invasion. The aliens require high levels of sugar and salt to survive in our atmosphere. The following is a transcript of the instructions issued by the mothership to the Gargoyd spies.
This also seemed to good time to venture away from the safety net of iambic pentameter. Um... enjoy...?

The best thing for blending in quickly is ketchup
Eat it on all meals. Please wear a monocle
To seem more eccentric. and also a birdbath
Is there for the birds, it is frowned on to squash
Yourself into a birdbath and squat like a gargoyle.
Avoid all sensations of alienation.

To combat the nausea and alienation,
We can't stress enough that your best friend is ketchup
Dont be dismayed if you find that your gargoyle
Features are showing, 'cause wearing a monocle
May hide the seams if you totally squash it
Right to your eyeball. Hang out near a birdbath

We're told older humans enjoy watching birdbaths,
That viewing small birds combats alienation.
Some elderly humans play games such as squash
But this isn't compulsory. Stick to the ketchup
And those dressed as males may favour the monocle
You'll be observed by our surveillance gargoyle

Our cameras are hidden in each churchyard gargoyle
And there is a microphone under the birdbath
The tracking device that's concealed in each monocle
Keeps you in touch with the Alien Nation
Replace vital sugars and salts using ketchup
We've found it delicious on butternut squash.

The humanoid species are easy to squash
Phase two will involve you reverting to gargoyle-
Mode and controlling the masses through Ketchup
For more on this plan stay in range of the Birdbath
And try to blend in, because alienation
Will hinder our plans. We can see through your monocle.

When battle commences you'll find that your monocle
Serves as a mind control beam that can squash
All the human resistance of Alien Nation
And soon, when the dominant species is gargoyle
We'll laugh at them, twitching like birds in a birdbath
And then we will feast on them, smothered in ketchup.

The Alien Nation needs you and your monocle
To utilise Ketchup when starting to squash
All the humans. Each Gargoyle report to your birdbath.

My mind worries me.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Sestina Day 3.2: For KB

Kate Bornstein is probably, of all the people I feel I know, but really I've just read their books, the person I admire the most in the world.
Anyone (most people I've met) who has become embroiled with me in an argument about gender and sexuality can blame, or rather credit, Kate's work for challenging, inspiring and politicising me into the gobby, queer, poke-gender-binary-with-a-stick-and-see-what-happens feminist/heretic you see before you today.
And I'm absolutely not going to go all high pitched and swoony about the fact that she has on occasion, tweeted me. Or that today's (extra) sestina's keywords were suggested by her.
Happy belated birthday, Kate. A soppy romance from one Piscean to another.
(SQUEEEEEE! *thud*)

You took my hand and led me to the green
And purple of the moorland. It seemed endless
You said 'I come here when the world goes mad
The birds and flowers give me sanctuary'
And at the time I thought you rather silly
And wondered when on earth we'd get to fuck

I felt it was a given that we'd fuck:
Why would you bring me out into the green,
away from all the crowds and from the silly
Gossips whose insinuations endless-
Ly upset you and disturbed your sanctuary
If not to fuck? I thought you must be mad.

But still, there seemed no point in getting mad
I mean, you seemed to like me. How the fuck
Did that happen? I'd searched for sanctuary
In love before but only found the Green-
Eyed Monster, and the tears and endless
Arguments just left me feeling silly.

But then you came, and never called me silly
And what my other lovers saw as mad-
Ness, you referred to as my endless
Store of creativity. I loved to fuck.
As much as you loved walking in the green,
Wild, open spaces, seeking sanctuary

I'd never thought that you'd need sanctuary
You always seemed so calm, while I was silly
You told me that you tried to hold the green
Inside yourself to keep from going mad
When dealing with the daily awful fuck-
Ing tragedies that, sometimes, seemed so endless

I'd always tried to push away the endless
Sadness in me; not by seeking sanctuary
Instead, distraction. Dancing, drinking, fuck-
Ing till I felt carefree and silly.
But inside I was slowly going mad
Till you showed me the peace in hills of green

And when we fucked, I knew our love was endless.
Just like the green that is our sanctuary.
And being silly stops us going mad.

Sestina Day 3. Haunted

OK, I should pace myself on this marathon (I've decided to do 100 of these, one a day), but it's technically Wednesday, so to hell with it, here's another.

This time, the words (passed surface doorway light place house) were suggested by @OliverMantel, from Twitter. Hello, Oliver.

It came out pretty dark, which wasn't inherent in the words, so it must be me.

She seemed to see a shadow as she passed:
A ghostly face in each reflective surface,
A silhouetted figure in the doorway.
She hurried onward in the fading light,
feeling the chilling malice of the place,
she longed to get away from the old house.

She'd felt she ought to see her childhood house
Because well over 80 years had passed
Since anyone had occupied the place,
She had imagined dust on every surface
Her mind's eye casting a nostalgic light,
The evening sunbeams streaming through the doorway

These thoughts had opened up a sort of doorway
Inside her head. She'd giggled with delight
Remembering the joy in her old house
Before the night her loving mother passed
Away, and though he seemed fine on the surface
Her father somehow never found his place

But yes, the house had been a happy place
The memories came flooding through the doorway
She and her brother, skidding on a surface
Of polished wood, that velvet tasselled light-
Shade that she'd stroke each time she passed,
The marble dog that stood before the house

So thinking that she'd like to see the house,
(And maybe tidy round the dear old place
Put ghosts to bed and exorcise the past)
She knew as soon as she could see the doorway
Which seemed to glow with some unearthly light
That those horrific memories would surface

The spattered blood she'd found on every surface
The awful silence filling up the house
Her baby brother, lying in the light
Of evening sunbeams, when she'd found the place
Her father'd strung himself up in the doorway
His last attempt to uncreate the past.

The house is old, and as the horrors surface
She leaves the past behind, enters the light.
Deserts that place, and passes through the doorway.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Sestina Day 2: tits, arse and... liver?

Today's keywords were suggested by the filthyminded @hannahthehobbit. I don't know where she got 'liver' from. Right old spanner in the works!

You must admit I have amazing tits
And noone here has such a perfect arse
Mine is the name on everybody's lips
Hot property, they'd like to get their fingers
On my assets. Yes, a humble lass from Liver-
Pool made good. But I don't know... Sometimes I feel

Nostalgic for the days when I could feel
Some vestige of sensation in my tits
And when I hadn't trashed my pickled liver
But poverty's a right pain in the arse
So i just smile andflirt when someone fingers
My thigh. I smile with artificial lips.

I love my collagen injected lips:
It really makes a difference I can feel
When smearing on the lipgloss with my fingers
I love my perky double D cup tits
I've got no time for you if you're an arse
About my looks. I have been a hard liver-

I hate to think about my poor old liver
You drink a lot when giving rich men lips-
Ervice. You kiss a lot of arse.
And somehow all those drinks help you to feel
Less bothered as you smile, and show your tits,
And try to dodge their sweaty sausage fingers

I miss my mother's food: chips and fish fingers
Or else a lovely steaming plate of liver
And onions, but these great pretentious tits
Serve caviar which bursts between your lips
And doesn't fill you up. instead they feel
You up. His hands are never off my arse.

But he is such a grateful little arse
I make more cash than if had light fingers
Its easy work. I don't want you to feel
Sorry for me. Well, maybe for my liver
But I know what I'm doing. Read my lips:
I've really made my living out of tits

And when I feel he's too much of an arse
Grabbing my tits, I slap away his fingers.
I'd eat his liver whole, and smack my lips.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Sestina A Day

I'm reviving this defunct old thing to challenge myself to write a sestina a day. they may not be good, but they scratch an itch in my brain. suggestions of sets of six key words very welcome.

This first one was suggested by Geraldine Byrne, who gave me the keywords 'damp, smoke, green, dark, stolen, free.'It is, as yet, untitled.

The flat is small and cold and smells of damp
and unwashed bodies, and the fragrant smoke
of cannabis, a sticky bag of green
lies on the floor. The room is growing dark
There's music coming from an ipod (stolen)
The lad is good at living cheap or free

He knows that he is lucky to be free
He'd rather be here in this tiny, damp
and smelly flat. Than inside. Cos he's stolen
More than ipods. And he tends to smoke
The kind of thing you purchase after dark
On street corners. He likes to see the green

Of city parks. In prison there's no green.
There have been times he nearly lost his free-
Dom, sent him running through the dark
The cops in hot pursuit, his forehead damp
But he can vanish like a puff of smoke.
He's not amoral. Everything he's stolen

Has been from rich old bastards, who have stolen
From us, the poor, for years as a green-
Eyed girl once said. She taught him how to smoke,
How to rebel, ignore the state, live free
A scared young runaway, afraid and damp
Lost in the freezing city after dark

Hers was the voice who called him from the dark
She shared with him a sandwich that she'd stolen
And said she knew a squat. Warm, not too damp
Where he could crash. Her eyes were emerald green
She said since she was 13 she'd been free
Her voice was low and scratchy from the smoke

Back at the squat she'd offered him a smoke
They'd cuddled close together in the dark
The boy felt that, at last, he might be free
To leave the past behind, a childhood stolen
And gaze intently into eyes of green
Remembering, his cheeks are growing damp.

But thoughts are free, and, when he starts to smoke
Though cold and damp, he doesn't mind the dark
Thinking of stolen kisses, eyes of green.