Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Caterpillar Poetry Draws to a Close

I won't be continuing with Caterpillar Poetry in 2020.  There are many reasons, not least a continuing alienation from a UK poetry scene in which poetry is seen as more of a component in wider social agendas, decreasingly concerned with the artistic and linguistic, increasingly characterized by rant-based readings. I tried to use Caterpillar Poetry as a means of publishing the work of lesser known poets, and to create associated community arts ventures which would bring all kinds of poetry to the fore at local and not so local levels. In almost all of this, I largely failed.  Books were published (including my own), events successfully put on.  But the costs, and labryinthine processes of funding applications, especially from the Arts Council, usually tailored to specific ideological criteria, proved too difficult to navigate for one with limited time and experience.  More personally, I was saddened by the extent to which poets known to me, who would regularly (not least through their poetry) express their own strong views about social justice showed absolutely no interest, let alone solidarity, when I recently confided in a number of them about my private fears and concerns regarding antisemitism from the Labour Party. I've had many good times on the poetry readings circuit, and enjoyed much of what I've tried to do with Caterpillar Poetry on this site and beyond, but there comes a time to draw a close to most things, and the turning of a corner into a new decade seems the right time to do so here.

In due course I will be setting up a new blog or website promoting my own work, and a new publishing venture. It is also my intention to continue writing essays about poetry, but mainly for external publication, and collating them for inclusion in prospective books.  I've removed a fair few essays from this site  - including some touching on the poetry of politics (or the politics of poetry?) - for incorporation into forthcoming publications.  Other pieces may go also, if accepted by magazines and such, though in most cases I'm aiming to retain the body of this blog in more or less its current form, with the existing essays playing the part of draft versions rather than vanishing altogether.
I've tried to use this blog as both a record of my own progress (or lack of it) and a platform on which to explore and celebrate poetic voices from around the globe. Few posts have recieved more than a few hundred views, but I know from some of the comments, and from personal correspondence, that I've managed to bring some of the less recognized poetic talents of the world to at least a few appreciative eyes over the last five and a half years, and for that, at least, I am happy.

Sunday, 17 November 2019

Three poems from a forthcoming poetry collection

With more concrete news to come, I am very happy to reveal that in early 2020, I will have a collection of poetry published by Brambleby Books, Devon, which is currently undergoing the final editing stages.  I would like to share three poems and photographs from the book, below:

GARDEN SNAIL (Cornu aspersum)

Like a hollowed hazelnut
your shell, round-mouthed,
is whorled
in spiral bands.


Slugs, like fat black seals on sea-front snow,
crowd the drizzled concrete,
ebony clouds massing
in a sky of raindrop stars,
bistre blisters,
bronze brigades,
maroon platoons
and coral mobs,
slugs the colour of satsumas
sousing steps and driveways,
announcing saponaceous presences,
making themselves at home,
kicking back, and settling in for the night.


Like a blob of lipstick
splodged with mascara,
the ladybird catches light,
pedal-legging over leaves
in twilight rain,
like a small
spray-painted bubble.
Ruby globule,
sliding over stems,
a glutton for greenfly -
this domino-goblin
is a manic ember,
summer's gloss tar-toughening,
hardening this delicate diablo
into a pearly fist.

Two Poems About Elephant Hawk Moth Caterpillars

With more concrete news to come, I am very happy to reveal that in early 2020, I will have a collection of poetry published by Brambleby Books, Nottingham, which is currently undergoing the final editing stages.
The book begins with a poem about Elephant Hawk Moth caterpillars, originally part of a sequence. I have retained the two related poems fromthe sequence, and would like to share them here, with a photograph by Ian Parker. The first poem is a meditation on the appearance of the caterpillars, while the second relates to a time when such a caterpillar was brought into my workplace by a young boy.


To me, your onyx bodies,
and striped in browny-grey,
your shuffled shapes of crumpled
and pre-pupal flesh,
disc eyes
and sad
suggest space-trawling creatures,
galactic gastropods,
lonely aliens
sailing through the wastes
of distant star systems.


Once, I saw one,
brought into the library I worked in,
like a chubby tube of plasticine,
folded into sluggish chunks,
rolling eyes gaping
at a galaxy of books.

We returned this bundle of  




and prolegs,




and nerves

onto the grass outside,
where it wobbingly
wiggled, wriggling instinctively,
escaping into green familiarity.

Copyright Ian Parker

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

My poem Autumn Hawk

 On  a walk outside Sowerby Bridge this morning, I came across the hawk in the photograph above, hovering above the hills at the foot of the moors. I thought, gien the time of year, it was a good excuse for posting the poem below, from my collection Dove, Deferred - for which I'm currently seeking a publisher. The poem was originally written seven years ago but has been edited.


Hill's fog-swaddled pinnacle peels
in stony scrub to moorland gorse,
you loom,
a lowering
hooked hawk,
carving-knife body
bonfire coloured,
swaying like a sapling
but patient as the onset of winter.

Whip-sharp candle,
you dream of tucking talons
into flesh,
desire rooted
in millenia of hunger,
and as daylight wickers out
the contours of a dream dissolve,
your wavering flame of dusk-dulled ruby
twists into a svelte,
jack-knifing dive,
a swoop through twilight,
swerve, quicksilver tilt,
and then the landing,
stabbing rusting grass
with a fleet, inch-perfect, lethal kiss.

Monday, 2 September 2019

White Hare, a poem about the moon, from a forthcoming collection

I am delighted to announce the publication of a collection of poetry, coming in early 2020, in three sections. The poems will focus on natural history and mythology, and include the piece below, originally written nearly a decade ago.  The title is taken from an Asian legend about the moon, in which it is associated with a white rabbit. The myth originated in 3rd Century BC China, with a hare as companion to the Moon Goddess.


Dim stars, scuffs of half-light
like the simmering tab-ends
of ash-fat fags
decomposing in ashtrays.

Soils vibrate with slugs, alive with hunger,
converging on gardens in the depths of dawn,
large soft eyes aglow and fixed
on leaves like compasses.
Owl sorrow pierces the silence
spread like a duvet over roofs and floodlit car-parks.

Moonshine filters in.

The silver gem irradiates.
Slanting streaks are couched
within a bosom of black gas.

Horizon’s diamond,
owl eye.

Insanity’s insignia,
the secret sphere
which gradually comes quartering to life
orb of mountains and canals,
ornamental as an asteroid.

You are a cleanly coloured mint
hanging beyond grasp,
a ball of ice,
a sunken cathedral
splintering like memories.

Monday, 12 August 2019

River of Poems

I spend a lot of time beside and around rivers.  The Calder flows by my window, just out of view beyond the canal, but a stone's throw down the road it surges over a rocky dam, frothing down towards Copley, or meandering more peacefully east, shaded by willow trees and studded with rocky outcrops and cormorant nests.


I walk the courses of small rivers across the hilly hinterlands of Yorkshire, seek out their sources on the moors, follow as they seep into Littleborough, Smithy Bridge, Clough, the tiny towns which dot the eastern edge of Lancashire, navigate the banks of the Ryburn along its sylvan course, follow the courses of tributaries and see where they take me.

The wildlife of rivers flies, swims and drifts into my poetry, often:


Like wedding dresses
drifting over moonlit glass
these wisps of silvery stillness
are soft as nitroglycerin


Sweeping through the river's mist
this late summer evening,
body white as winter,
I watch you bend and plummet,
swerve upwards once again
and appear to dissolve
into a skyline blurred
by chimneys, hills
and ash-grey twilight.

and the plethoras of life that they support are an almost constant backdrop to my days.


The poetry of rivers is frequent in my reading. Wordworth, Southey, Coleridge - all wrote memorably of rivers.  Alice Oswald's poetry of the River Dart, John Burnside's Swimming in the Flood,  the poems of Oriental antiquity, with their invocations of willows, peach blossom springs, and reflected stars, have woven their impressions like currents, flowing through the years. The beauty, biodiversity and drama offered by rivers makes for much imaginitive stimulation, but of late, the strains of private life buffeted by the daily woes of a turbulent world, amid the growing sense of despair at a worsening environmental nightmare, it has been the sadness of rivers that has tugged at me.  The river's mists and billows, wrote 8th Century Chinese poet Cui Hao, make my heart forlorn, and it was perhaps for this reason that a poem discovered in the 1980's journal Kunapipi - an Australian publication which, taking its name from an Aboriginal deity - collected "Post-Colonial Writing and Culture" from across the world - struck such resonance. 

...you came gently with poems once

walked my banks
swam in my clean body
you wrote poems
as lovers wrote poems

Bruce Cudney's River of Poems is narrated from the viewpoint of a river - of rivers? - and when I came across it the other day after an absence of more than fifteen years, it knocked me for six.

say nothing to me now
pass over me on your high bridges
turn your face
from my dissipation
build your factories about my hills
dump your garbage   your urine   your feces    into me
cut the flesh from my banks
that you may twist me to your use

 This was published in 1982, when what we now know as the environmental movement was in its early stages, but when abuse of the planet through pollution and waste were clearly of mounting concern.  I have been unable to find out anything about the author, other than that he was a Canadian poet born in 1933, who worked for the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, and was living, at the time of Kunapipi's publication, in that city.  Apparently, he began writing poetry in 1970. For me, though, even if River of Poems were his only published work, it would stand out as a stark rejoinder to Man's abuse of nature, and his hypocrisy.

...tell in your houses of laws / how you will restore me mocks Cudney's river, before cynically countering: 

do not let me hear it. 
kill me with your poisons
but write no poems to me

For my part, I shall go on writing river-themed poems, and if anything the perilous state of our cimate and environment compels me to celebrate more urgently their place in the global ecosystem, and to speak out against forces threatening their - and, by association, our - survival.  But Cudney's poem, along with delivering a sharp condemnation of humanity, also serves as a reminder that whatever catastrophes may befall the human race as a resut of its polluting plunder of the planet, the Earth herself shall overcome, and its closing image represents a powerful riposte to the savagery and madness of the Anthropocene:

the stars sang in me
a thousand years
before the poets came
they will sing again.

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

July Octolunes

We have lately been blessed by some stunning moons, luring my focus to the lunar. I've produced a fair few Octolunes*, and as usual am unsure quite what to do with them.  Since inventing the form in December 2014, I have chalked up several hundred, and, as readers of these pages will know, others have taken up the baton from time to time as well.  I'm still hoping to launch some Octolune events, workshops, and collaborative pamphlets, as well as publishing some collections of my own - and from time to time Octolunes find their ways into regular collections - but the truth is I now have so many of them on my hands that they are running riot, and short of devoting an entire website to their publication, the most sensible thing seems to be to feed a few in periodic posts, starting with these, a few of my most recent.

*8-line verse form, addressed to the moon, in which the opening word is always "Moon."  That's it!


astro-tycoon, like a sky-bound rune,
you're a lunar balloon over lakes and lagoons,
baboons, racoons, and protozoons,
from Rangoon to Cameroon,
to the dunes of Saskatoon.
I've written a poem about the moon
without once even thinking of mentioning June.


globe of gloop,
a frozen scoop
of ice cream, hoop
filled-in, you sloop
through starry soup,
like a giant, silver, sup-
er drupe.


you rise in skies
like a slimy eye's
reflected twinkle.
Your distance belies
your actual size
as you crystallize, a crescent kinkle
like a glittery Rip Van Winkle.


permafrost pearl,
hinterland's glim,
Pre-Raphaelite ferris wheel,
like a frozen ocean, condensed
into a skull-like phial,
like a shrunken Jupiter
you seethe.

inflated raindrop,
atop the dripping treetops,
crescented, a haloed halebopp
gloppy fop, your astral hop's
a crinkled cough-drop,
soothing the sunburnt throat of space
like a snowy glottal stop.

murk's quirk,
like a cool quark
you smirk,
sawn smile,
glinting grinner,
swollen ghost.

in  crescent jest
you wince,
like a quartered quince
slicing sky's blackness
in an icy stripe
of plucky light.


ice heart,
tubular fuse
of post-river,
rocks of yore galore,
crescent twist,
glistening in mist,
like a pearl of frozen dew.

soapsud moon
who, like a sheen of silky sherbet
sprinkles silver showers of icy light,
you bask,
illuminated lunar beauty,
against the licorice black
of frozen night.