Contemporary short fiction, poetry and more

Monthly Archives: November 2015

Happy Birthday To You, as it might have been written by John Darwin

Happy Birthday to you.

Squashed tomatoes and stew.

You closely resemble something

they wouldn’t allow at the zoo.


You are one year older:

and you still hug that rather pointless folder.

I never got why you carried it.

At least you never tried to marry it.


Mortality is a bit of a bastard.

I have heard of a place called Gastard,

in Wiltshire.

Jean-Claude van Damme never went there.


And now, you are blowing out the candles.

We might as well be lifting you by those fake brass handles.


Happy birthday to you.

Happy birthday to you.

Happy fucking birthday


to you.


Ozymandias, as it might have been written by Matt Abbott

He were reet, reet owd, this bloke I saw dahn Westgate.

He went on about two stones: he needed to confess it.

He were mostly drunk. Summat abaht summat “half sunk”.

I said I still don’t get thee, dad: you’ll have to come again.

This thin and wobbly old bloke turned the volume up to ten.

He said there’s stuff round Wakefield that’s owder than thee and me:

Some got shut by Thatcher: some you still can see:

Like winding-gear and foot-bridges and factories and canals

And them as carved yon pedestal were some of my best pals.

I hated that Ozymandias, allus broadcasting despair,

As if he owned mortality: it just weren’t bloody fair.

He governed like an Eton twat, as if he didn’t care:

Never went dahn Westgate: he just stopped inside his lair.

I peeked into his garden, once: it were boundless and fucking bare.

Review: A Firm Of Poets at Unity Works, Wakefield 26/11/2015

This is the first time I have paid to see A Firm Of Poets. The evening was worth every penny.

The music was provided by a band whose name I didn’t catch. Their line-up was: electric piano, guitar, and violin. The violin playing and backing vocals were provided by Matt Abbott’s girlfriend, Lucy Relins.

The format was the same one that A Firm Of Poets always use. They line up five chairs. They line up five poets. Each poet does a single poem and then it moves on to the next one. Sometimes there is a preamble or banter about the previous piece, but it is always kept to a merciful minimum. They all recite from memory. I don’t know how they do it.

The compere was Geneviève Walsh. Her performance was the best I have seen. A Firm Of Poets are accessible and alternative at the same time. Geneviève is the embodiment of this. I heard her poetic voice more clearly than I have in any previous performance. She is maturing in her presentation, and staying crazy and uncategorisable at the same time. If Geneviève Walsh ever enters the same room as Alan Bennett, there will probably be a thermonuclear explosion.

Matt Abbott is only 26 years old. Like Geneviève, in this performance he spoke with the clearest voice I have ever heard him use. Part of his patter was the comparison and contrast between audiences that expect rhymed pieces (music crowds) and those that expect unrhymed (lit crowds). Matt has mastered both. He also does pieces that leave the listener wondering if they were rhymed or unrhymed. His last three pieces were political. He can do political poetry that has a mixed-aged, mixed-gender audience stamping their feet, clapping, and shouting. I have lost count of the number of failed attempts at political poetry I have heard.

John Darwin’s work has a depth and breadth that defies description. The man himself is quitely-spoken, philosophical, and introspective. His work is inventive and profound. His performances are crafted, to the extent of being like those of an old-time music hall performer. He reminds me faintly of Eric Morecambe. It is impossible to tell whether everything is rehearsed to the nth degree, or if is improvised. I guess that the truth is somewhere in between. He is also a Manc, which helps to diversify what might otherwise have become the contemporary poetry equivalent of Last Of The Summer Wine.

If A Firm Of Poets were a set of spice jars, then Victoria Garbutt would be the chilli powder. Apart from the three years I spent at Liverpool University, I do not get Toria’s drug references, but I do get her anger and the stylishness of her delivery. I heard five poets this evening. I preferred some of them to others. The fact that there was a range of voices is something I would never change. Toria keeps the preamble down to virtually zero, which is greatly to be applauded. She also met most of the evening’s quota of swearing, which is also a thing to be encouraged. This was commendably augmented by the representatives from A Republic Of Poetry, particularly with regard to the word, “wanker” by a gentleman from Featherstone.

Ralph Dartford’s voice also came through more clearly in this performance. He added touches of comedy and pathos, as well as delivering his blockbuster, ‘Safe Home’, with topical variation.

Jacqui Wicks produced the performance. As a production, it could not have been bettered.

If I had to think of one word to describe the whole event, it would be: Shakespearian. We had everything: characters, voices, stories, love, sex, death, substance abuse, childhood, old age, madness, familiarity, strangeness.

The auditorium of Floor 4 at Unity Works was packed. Everybody in that auditorium apart from the performers had paid ten quid to get in. This is A Firm Of Poets. This is the People’s Republic Of Poetry. The next performance is at the Barnsley Civic on Saturday 28 November. I won free tickets.

Lyrics news 3

A state of affairs exists in which temperate-zone precipitation continually descends upon my cranium.

I feel a great sense of empathy with the individual who finds that his masculine frame has outgrown his mattress.

And yet this ghastly precipitation continues.

I entered earnestly into dialogue with representatives of our local insolation-provider. I stipulated that service-level agreements were not being met. I went so far as to accuse them of having allowed their agents to take siestas while they were on billable time.

The relentless precipitation continues.

Nevertheless, one remains convinced that, despite this current state of affairs, a much more favourable outlook remains in prospect.

I would like it to be understood that precipitation is in no way related to any lachrymatory reaction on my part.  I espouse a belief system in which precipitation is in no way related to personal feelings.

The rest of the meeting was very repetitive. It suffices to say that I feel insulated from any immediate dangers or upheavals.

The long haul

I first encountered Chumbawamba when I was in my late teens, in Leeds, in 1984.  I thought it was our mission to abolish the state and bring about a new society.  I thought this was going to happen within the next few months.

I am now a member of Commoners Choir, run by Boff Whalley, from Chumbawamba.  Thirty-one years later, I still believe that it is our mission bring about a new society, but I am not promising you anything about when it will happen.

We need it to happen, more than ever.  And how long it takes depends partly on you.