Water – three poems


I used to fish that beck for trout
where it flowed thinly down a weir
to a dark pool beneath.

Below the fizzing damsel flies,
the shards of splintered sunlight
lay gravel beds and pebbles
strands of weed
green banners streaming.

Trout lurked there, hovering,
winnowing the flow
for nymphs and water bugs.

One afternoon I took a round half dozen,
the line twitching between my fingers,
rod tip dipping to the water.

On this grey morning, frost
sheathes every blade of grass,
the brook runs sullen
under dirty ice.

All things are withered
and stilled
under a crust of cold.

Late October, when the world
shifts towards winter.
Trees stripped, leaves slimy underfoot
and the lake, jittery with wavelets
slopping and sucking at the bank.

That’s when they come, riding
the cold rivers of air-
Canadas and Greylags in their tribes
chattering like children
as the land unwinds below –
matchbox roofs, glittering windows,
the slow uncoiling roads.

Then a splash of spilt metal
silver in the low sun.
They turn, tipping the wind
from their wings
as the lake leaps upward
brushing their wide webs
with a silky hiss.



From the rock, a miracle.
Water, the colour of sky,
cold as the caverns
it came from, glittering
into the morning world
and down the hill.

Wily as a cat, it twists
and splits round shingle banks.
Shape-shifter scooping deep
still pools for trout to loiter in.

Gathers to itself the becks and burns,
the brooks, the runnels and the rivulets,
puts on muscle, hurls its berserker howl
against the valley walls then
cleaves a crack, a man might leap,
and bludgeons a way through.
A sheet of sliding amber takes
the evening light, transforming it
to gold, imparts a fine polish
to wet stones and fronds of weed.

The scribble sheet

This is where a poem starts- for me, at any rate. I write down any ideas, any fragments that come into my mind. I cannibalise old poems which never made it over the finish line.  I write knowing  that it’s quite possible that nothing I’m writing now will make it into the final version.

Here’s the scribble sheet for the poem I”m working on at the moment.



You can see the present state of the poem here

Work in progress

I’ve mentioned before that Poetry and I aren’t getting on very well at the moment.Put it this way, we’re sitting at different tables, but we’re still in the same cafe. I have no intention of taking up knitting, for the moment at least.

I’ve decided to be less self-censoring.

It’s time to let it all hang out, to write with the inner critic firmly switched off – and to put up the rough drafts here.

Over the last year I’ve inadvertently written two poems of a three poem package – and they’re all about water. I’ve written about a river, and a stream and now I’ve come to the lake. It’s quite close by – about thirty seconds walk from where I’m typing this. It has fascinated me ever since we moved here ten years ago. It was the lake which triggered my interest in geese too. Every autumn there is a Goose Parliament.They fly in ( we had 280) last year, stay for a day or two, and then fly away, going God knows where.

So I’ve started piece which may be about this.

Here it is. This is incomplete, a rough draft of a rough draft. Read it, and come back in a few weeks time, and you might see how it has changed.

When the world
shifts to winter
trees stripped,leaves slimy underfoot,
and the lake jittery with wavelets
slopping and sucking at the bank.

That’s when they come, riding
the rivers of cold air
Canadas and Greylags
chattering like children coming home
as the land unwinds below
matchbox roofs,glittering windows,
the slow uncoiling of roads.


It’s Tuesday now and I’ve been trying to progress the poem. I’ve got to decide what the poem’s really about. Am I writing about the lake ? Or the geese which fly in every autumn for a week or so, and then head for God knows where. Will the poem be too long ? People bore easily. That’s what I’m thinking at the moment.

More to come later in the week.



Show me the crumbs 2

This voice-over business is going to take a while to get started. First thing I’ve done is to work up some better demos – short pieces which give a client some insight int0 the kind of voice I have.

So I’ve got four decent demos ready to roll. My voice is very BBC (Received Pronunciation)  although there’s a hint of the north about it. I can do English regional accents – Lancashire, Yorkshire- but my forte is just doing a straight read. It’s very much an anonymous posh voice.

I shall put the demos up on the website – when I have one.I do have a profile on Voices.com still – but it’s hard to access now I have reverted to freebie status. I can’t afford to pay someone for building me a website, so I shall have a look at all the free, build-it-yourself offers and see what I can find.

I’ve found another site which is not quite P2P, called Direct Voices. You pay ( very reasonably) to put up a profile, but after that you deal directly with potential clients.It seems a great idea except…. I can’t get the profile sheet to work. I input my name and password…and then the whole page goes dark and inert. I sent them an email a few days ago and ….no reply. So that doesn’t look very good and I will have to look elsewhere.

One of my regular clients is EscapeArtists – heard of them ? They deliver some of the best audio fiction around – I should know – I’ve read some of it. And recently I did some work for an EA offshoot- ” Cast of Wonders”-a wonderful Dickensian pastiche. It’s going live soon, so keep an eye open for it.





Show me the crumbs

I’m looking for some advice here. I want to turn a sort of hobby into something more serious. For too many years now, I’ve been playing around with voiceover.

I’ve got a decent USB microphone, a sound absorbent screen, a pop guard and a lot of enthusiasm. Voiceover gigs have kind of found me out. I’ve worked as a narrator for “Pseudopod” – the horror website for years; I have regular work recording the English side of English/ Spanish language courses as well as corporates and one or two ads. Jobs seem to appear every few months, including a recent lovely gig with “Cast of Wonders” the YA story site.

Now I would like to work more often. I decided this summer that I would join “Voices.com” with a Premium Lite membership. It cost me $40 a month and I kept it for five months -$200.
I got tons of invitations to audition – some times five or six a day- lots of variety- and potential income ranging from $100 up to $2.5k. I sent in 753 demos, was favorited 10 times and liked 11. No work. Not a smidgeon.

Now I wouldn’t claim to be King of the Voice Artists, but I don’t think I’m that bad. I’m good enough for the crumbs which fall from the big boys’ table. And I’d be really happy with a crumb or two.So I decided to quit Voices.com leaving a dormant profile behind me.

Where do I go from here ? Do I find another P2P site ? There’s something called Direct Voices which claims to give you the freedom to set your own rates…is that worth a try, I wonder.

Or do I set up on my own ? I can’t afford a massive outlay. I haven’t the skill to build a website, nor the money to pay someone to do it for me. Any outgoings would have to be pretty small.

My question is :

“ Where are the crumbs ?”

Any help or advice gratefully accepted.


I’m putting this up because I’ve been struggling with the writing of it for at least three months. Poetry and I have had a falling out. I’ve been unable to write anything worthwhile since the early summer – and what I have managed to produce has all the meaning and perception of babydrool.

I had this memory – it goes back ten, maybe fifteen years – when I was living on the Isle of Man. I started fishing because that’s what you do when you live on an island with rivers. Sometimes, in the summer, I’d go down to the harbour for mackerel- they used to come  in shoals, right up to the harbour wall. All you had to do was put a bit of silver foil on the end of your hook and they would throw themselves on it. And mackerel brought straight from the sea tastes like nothing you can ever imagine.

Then I found a little river which led down through some woods and into the top end of the harbour. There were pools there, and trout would wait in the shadows to take damsel flies, water bugs- anything with lots of legs and not much sense.

One summer afternoon I  was fishing a shady pool under a weir. I was using breadpaste and sugar…..and they were interested. There were four brown trout, head on to the stream, waiting for a toothsome morsel to float past, and I caught all of them. They weren’t stupid – it took me the whole afternoon. Thinking back to it, I must have been fishing for about six hours. Totally involved. In the zone. I’ve never forgotten that.

The poem came about because it struck me that writing poetry and trout fishing are comparable. You’re trying to catch something which is cautious, fleeting. You have to be immersed in what you’re doing. Does that make any kind of sense ? I hope so.

So- after all that preamble. Here’s the poem:


I used to fish that beck for trout
where it flowed thinly down a weir
to a dark pool beneath.

Below the fizzing damsel flies,
the shards of splintered sunlight
lay gravel beds and pebbles
casting amber shadows.

Trout lurked there, hovering,
winnowing the flow
for nymphs and water bugs.

One afternoon I took a round half dozn,
the line twitching between my fingers,
rod tip dipping to the water.

On this grey morning, frost
sheathes every blade of grass,
the brook runs sullen
under dirty ice.

All things are withered
and stilled
under a crust of cold.

The Dog Walking Poet 2

Do you like to read a poem for yourself ? Or do you prefer to hear it spoken ? I ask that because there has been a recent revival in spoken word poetry. Maybe it stems from rap music. I must admit that I have a problem with rap – maybe I’m too old to appreciate it, but I do think that sometimes it glorifies rhyme and rhythm at the expense of meaning. But at least it’s there.

When I was growing up spoken poetry was dull, prim and exclusive. I remember being made to listen to TS Eliot reading “ The Wasteland “ – he read it in the portentous, droning way which was the fashion in those days. Most poets are bad readers- they need helping out. And yet I can remember listening to Ted Hughes read “ Crow”. It was late at night, with the wind howling and the rain lashing at the windows- and he scared the living daylights out of me. And no-one can beat Richard Burton in that wonderful opening speech of “ Under Milk Wood.”

All poetry was originally spoken word.. It was a way of embodying experience, of shaping the past. Before a battle, the bards of each party would meet and agree a place where they could watch the fight- they would note who showed the most courage, who fight with the greatest vigour- and at the end – they would work it all up into an agreed version, to be spoken in the mead hall or before the next battle. It wasn’t a good idea to upset the bards- they held your reputation in their hearts
Printing changed everything. It altered the very nature of poetry. What was a flourishing, social art became personal. You could read a poem for yourself and by yourself. Rather than being simply an audience, the reader became a partner in the creation of a poem. You could work it out for yourself. You could relate it to your own experience. Thomas Wyatt was the first Elizabethan poet to make poetry directly personal- his work is taut, allusive- meant at the most for a very small audience. The same can be said of Shakespeare’s sonnets, Donne’s love poetry, George Herbert’s quiet dissection of his own soul.

And poetry as good as this is being written now, you’ll be glad to hear. If you haven’t read Clive James poetry- then that’s a gap you’ve just got to fill. And James Nash’s “ Some Things Matter” – a wonderful sequence of sonnets- is simply a masterpiece. It’s moving and human and it really does go straight to the heart.

It’s horses for courses, isn’t it. The main thing is that poetry is alive and well and getting stronger by the day.

Ah…the dog… here he is…you ndon’t believe there is a dog, do you ? You think it’s a cheap way of bringing this to an end… wait till next time… and he will make an appearance.

The Dog Walking Poet

I’ve been writing poetry for about sixty years, and I’m just starting to get the hang of it. Why do it ? All sorts of reasons, really. First, it was more fun than football. I never liked football. Terminally short sighted and with two left feet, I was useless at it. On the other hand, I was good with words- I could kick them around the page and, from time to time, I achieved a goal.

Writing poetry was a way of fixing the present. Time moves on, you’re old before you realise it – and a poem can fix one moment, with all its complexity, like a fly in amber.I’ve still got poems I wrote forty years ago – they’re dreadful – but they’re honest.

I hate to say that poetry is a journey – a cliche about as fresh as that tub of last week’s yoghourt hiding at the back of the fridge – but sometimes cliches are true. When I start a poem I know exactly where I want to end up – and I never get there. I end up in a place I never dreamed of. Someone is leaning over my shoulder, whispering “ No, Ian…this way..can’t you see it..”

Poetry’s greatest virtue is that it’s short – unless you’re John Milton…or Byron…or Homer…ok…poetry is usually short. I like the idea of cramming ten gallons into a pint pot. It intrigues me. If a novel is a Venti Cappucino with cream, sprinkles and chocolate sauce, then a poem is a triple shot of bitter espresso.

I like the technical challenges of poetry writing. Anyone can write a novel. Even Morissey. Have you seen the reviews though…No – being a poet means heavy duty thinking, balancing meaning against structure, making one word do three jobs, agonising over a comma. It strains your brain.

It all takes time. Was it UA Fanthorpe, or Stevie Smith who said that a poem took 74 hours to finish. How did she get to such a precise number, I wonder. I know that most poems I write take about a fortnight. Around the half way mark I’m ready to quit – it’s so tempting to drop it into the “ Scrap” folder and melt it down later. But if I keep going, there’s a lovely moment when you know that it will work. The golden city is in view. All I have to do is walk through the gates. It’s a great moment.

And of course, poetry writing is therapy. It’s a chance to dig down, get the bad stuff out, look at it, and move on. Good poetry is an account of internal weather.

Talking of weather- it has stopped raining, and the dog is demanding his walk round the lake. Next time I shall be talking about the printed…and the spoken word.

Until then – goodbye

You can always listen to a spoken version of this piece here:




Somewhere, a long way,
the sea- a second horizon line.

Here, a blank sheet of sand.
The ground gives, blanching at each step.

Later it will be a palimpsest
of stories, a circle scrabbled
by eager children;
a dog’s paws printed shallower
and wider as it runs;
serpentining bike tracks and
gulls’ webs pressed like leaves
into the sand.

This is not a new poem. I wrote it five or six years ago when we were visiting family in the Isle of Man. It’s not quite the poem I hoped for and I post it here because I want to use it as a starting point for something else.
Let’s see what we can salvage.
I don’t like the start. It’s all too vague. Too vanilla.
I do like “ The ground gives, blanching at each step” – there’s movement here. That works.
I’m not sure about “palimpsest) ( it’s a manuscript which has been scribbled over and re-used) Shall I keep it ? Maybe

The rest of the poem is straight description – stories and pictures drawn from the marks on the sand. It works…a bit…but it doesn’t go deep enough for me. Standing on the tideline is a curious existence. You’re standing where fish swam a few hours before. It’s not one place.It’s two places. And tomorrow morning there will be no scrabbles or bike tracks in the sand…the tideline only exists for now…

So. I’ve got some ideas. Add to them if you like. I’ll go and punt a few sentences about.

If you want to hear the poem read then go here :

https://soundcloud.com/superfortress99/beach … on #SoundCloud