Wednesday, December 24, 2008

My Ancestors Take the Night Train across Europe

Your sister looks Italian though
my mother says randomly
(though she's always looked very English to me)
or Spanish perhaps,
where does the name Gratrix
come from anyway?

It's an ancient British name I explain
oh she continues well what about Train
that must be Scandinavian?

My paternal Grandmother's maiden name was Gratrix
My mother's maiden name was Train, another ancient British name

My mother's paternal grandfather was a station master and his surname was Train. His son married a Miss Driver. Thankfully they didn't go for a double-barrelled name.

Going Ancestral for Read Write Poem

and yes, that was a real conversation with my mother.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Winter Streets

it has always been
something on the cold
strikes the heart

I only realise now
as I stumble, numbed

winter night stage set streets
siren blue flash police cars pass

it's a lonely road

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Book Giveaway

I'm giving away some books over on Crafty Green Poet - to find out what I'm giving away and to join in , please go here.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


Because we no longer believe
we spend months preparing
for a festival
whose true meaning scares us
so we bury it under greed
and gluttony to escape
the cold slanting sadness
that is our fate.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Language Instinct by Steven Pinker

Anyone who is interested in languages should read this book! It's accessible, informative, intellectually stimulating, entertaining and sometimes infuriating. Pinker puts forward the idea that language is instinctive and looks at the evolution of language, how grammar works and the genetics of language. Academic linguistics is kept to a minimum, instead examples are given of how language works in real life situations. Pinker explored questions such as can chimpanzees really be taught sign language? and is the English language deteriorating?

You may not agree with everything he says, but you'll certainly have plenty to think about....

The Language Instinct by Steven Pinker

Friday, November 07, 2008

Citrus Nightmare

oil glazed lasers throb
surreal landscapes, spacescapes video
bass pounds.......drums pound
vibrate through floor.......through legs

pure noise smash
strobe lights crash
slow motion collapse

sensory overload drowning
in red music
of burning glass

(Tangerine Dream in Concert, Sunday 2 November)

Red Music of Burning Glass for Poefusion

Monday, November 03, 2008

hen party -
no one more attractive
than the bride's mother

Friday, October 24, 2008

Misinterpreting the Gothic as Goth.....

The Read Write Poem prompt this week is 'the gothic' but I'll deliberately misinterpet that as goth. After a long break, we finally managed to get to a goth club last weekend (Nervenkreig), so I'm feeling in a goth type of mood - here are links to some of my goth poems on this blog:

Young Woman in Black
Silk Neon Gothic

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Monday, October 13, 2008

Look what someone else wrote for me.....

from the infamous internet spoof anthology For Godot Issue 1


Our different paradise
More different than a matter
Supposing fear
A well
A hopeless thing
Strange as a bribe
Fit and unfit
Hospitable as opulence
Like a small bell
Patient as a gaze
Like a distant creature
To know an interview
A salubrious thing

Juliet Wilson

check whether you are one of the 3,000 poets in it without permission, with poetry you've never seen before attributed to you, read more at the Poetry Foundation website. There's a lot of interesting commentary on it too, as to whether it is some kind of elaborate social experiment. I think I'm choosing to laugh....

Sunday, October 12, 2008

after silent months -
a one line mail announces
her visit

Friday, October 03, 2008

Dresden - a reconstructed city

Most of Dresden has been entirely rebuilt in its original style, after being bombed in the Second World War. The original stones were reused where possible, giving many of the buildings a patchwork appearance as the new stone doesn't match the colour of the old.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Café Artist

view from one of my favourite cafés in Dresden
You can read more about my trip to Dresden on Crafty Green Poet, here.

In our illicit rendezvous,
oblivious to most, except
the promise of forbidden pleasure,
we were barely aware of you,
sketching quietly in the background.

At next season’s
‘Meet the Artist Night’
we wonder as your eyes light up
in recognition we don’t share.

We wander carefully round to view
(no touching just in case).
The pictures do not inspire or move,
but disturb in some peculiar way.

We stop before a canvas –
the largest in the room,
a portrait of our favourite haunt
and unmistakeably of us.

Our infidelity on display,
we need to find a place to hide,
when from the corner of my eye,
I see someone I recognise –
his wife,

she’s with another man.

Previously published in Poetry Scotland and nothing to do with Dresden!

for Totally Optional Prompts

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Weißig, Dresden

A church in Weißig, a village on the outskirts of Dresden. You can read a bit about the youth farm in Weißig on Crafty Green Poet here.

Monday, September 15, 2008

der volle Mond -
ein frisch gebackenes
weißes Brötchen.

the full moon -
a fresh-baked
white bread roll.

(evening barbeque at the Nickern Jugendbauernhof, Dresden)

Thanks to Angelika for correcting my German. You can read more about my trip to Dresden on Crafty Green Poet here and here and more to come!

Monday, September 08, 2008

The Puzzle Box by Paul Squires

I was delighted to receive a copy of Paul's book The Puzzle Box. It's a must read for anyone who is a fan of his Ginga Tao blog, and if you're not a fan yet, why not start reading his work today, here....

The Puzzle Box starts with a letter to a Mr Valesquez, thanking him for the gift of a Chinese Puzzle Box. Not quite poetry, not quite short fiction, some of the pieces that follow feel very cinematic and feature recurring characters (including a jazz pianist and two mysterious Japanese gentlemen, one of whom may or may not be the film director Takeshi Kitano) and recurring items (including the puzzle box but also various hats and a ball with a bell in it) and themes (including tattoos and the meaning of poetry). The writing is clever and visual, my favourite part is probably this, the ending of (...)

if the thought is the poem before it is slowed
by words it hides in here,...,
or in here 'x'
or in (you)

But best of all is the way all the pieces play off each other, tied together by the recurring elements. I really would like to see the film of this book.....

Friday, August 22, 2008

Library senryu

public library -
a classmate grabs my leg from
under the bookcase.

school librarian -
my classmates tease her, asking
for smutty books.

school library helper -
another barrier
between me and boys

second hand books
from charity shops
my private library.

Libraries for Booking Through Thursday

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


for Sigitas Parulskis

a Slavic sounding
avalanche of poetry

even though i recognise the word
in the original

the translated poem
still takes me

(Sigitas Parulskis, Gintasas Grajauskas and Eugenijus Alisanka, three Lithuanian poets read at the Edinburgh International Book Festival earlier today).

Sunday, August 10, 2008


In August heat
.............we see
...............from every crossroad
.............a funeral procession winding
..........through narrow hillside streets
..or perhaps it is several processions
for several funerals

so many people are dying now

under a bridge
a thousand miles from here
in the place that was his living home
a dead man hangs

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Reflections on Leaving

She keeps her eye on the rear view mirror
he could easily hide among so many cars
but as the road behind her empties
bright as the red glow of sunset
she feels her heart begin to lighten
as the road ahead becomes the future.

What we leave behind for Easy Street Prompts

Sunday, August 03, 2008

The Eternal Optimist

Always suffering:

Playing in the garden of a sinister house
with sinister trees.
Running down a blood wet street
pursued by fear.

Always a violent death:

Knives, machetes, napalm, burning homes,
machine guns; alone
on the deck of a capsizing boat
in uncharted seas.

Always reincarnated.

Lost Stuff for Totally Optional Prompts

More Lost Stuff over at Crafty Green Poet

Saturday, July 26, 2008


Croissants for me are weekend breakfasts, fresh from the corner bakers shop, where people queue along the street for the cakes and croissants, despite the convenience of a supermarket across the road.

Croissants seem quintessentially French, but my favourite breakfast I ever had in France was at a long wooden table where we all broke off chunks of crisp baguettes, loaded them up with lots of butter and apricot jam and then dunked them in bowls of steaming hot chocolate.

Croissants for Weekend Wordsmith

Friday, July 18, 2008


You are a ghost in my memory
a wraith in my thoughts
a breeze in my hair
as I walk down the street

you're a floater that's not
quite blurring my vision
tinnitus that blunts
the edge of my hearing

you stalk my days
and haunt my nights
I'm not scared of ghosts
so what do i fear?

a quick scribble about ghosts for Sunday Scribblings
there are ghosts in some of my poems over on Crafty Green Poet too, you can read them by following the links below:
The Lost Dances of Cranes
Corstorphine Sycamore

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Leonard Cohen

We were lucky enough to get tickets for Leonard Cohen's concert at Edinburgh Castle last night. It's a great venue for a summer concert and Mr Cohen performed brilliantly to a very enthusiastic crowd, choosing an excellent selection of his very wide repertoire and coming back gracefully for several encores though as the rain fell during his rendition of Closing Time, I think everyone got the hint and realised that there wasn't going to be any more music!

I'm currently reading Beautiful Losers, a novel written by Cohen the year I was born! Written with the same magical ability with words as are his songs, the novel is a wild and brilliant mix of native American land rights, Catholicism and sex. Definitely an 18 certificate!

I really want also to read some of his poetry, he published several collections before he started singing.

Sunday, July 13, 2008


a crush of velvet and lace.........satin and silk.......glitter of silver jewellery
deep colours and black, lots of black......pale faces and dark eyes
long hair in ribbons........stiletto heels and mini skirts
lycra and neon glow sticks.......corsets and fishnets
Victorian costumes and embroidered fans
military boots and spiked belts
loud music and melancholia
gothclub dancefloor

hey, we meant to go dancing last night but never got there.....

crowded for Weekend Wordsmith
For a different type of crowded, visit Crafty Green Poet

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Italian-American sentences

Twirling spaghetti round my fork - tomato sauce on my favourite dress

Why does the country of la bella figura make such messy food?

Food and Drink for Mad Kane's Haiku prompt

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Sudden absence in his kiss
freezes her veins,
frosts her heart.

The king size bed stretches
under rumpled white sheets
like tundra.

The crystal at the window
mocks with rainbows
from a distant sun.

Tears lie cold on her cheek.

Previously published in Poetry Scotland

Absence for Totally Optional Prompts

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Dead Kennedy's gig and a senryu

The Dead Kennedys were excellent in concert last night! The venue was crowded but everyone was good natured, as they generally are at these types of gigs. I found myself right at the front 'in the mosh pit' at one point, something I generally avoid as I'm always worried I'll lose my glasses! But its great fun in there and that's where my partner always hangs out. The band played all their crowd pleasing old songs (California Uber Alles, Holiday in Cambodia etc) but we were treated to a 'brand new song' to prevent us living in the past. It was a great night. Have to say though I've not had such bad tinnitis since, well the last time we saw the Dead Kennedy's in concert, same venue a few years ago. This senryu, vaguely based on observation at the gig, suits Mad Kane's Haiku prompt (this week the theme is dating)

alone at the bar -
she watches her new boyfriend
dancing with his pals.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Eerie by Moonlight

The graveyard is dark, eerie at full moon
Honeysuckle scents the light of the moon

The boy down the road becomes a werewolf
and gives the neighbours a fright at full moon

Gravestones are lifted and vampires break free
to find people to bite under the moon

Inner city streets are crowded tonight -
street gangs and demons fight under the moon

When Romeo gets lost in the garden
Juliet shivers at sight of the moon.

Chapter 4 of Unleash the Poem Within suggests that the ghazal is a perfect form for daydreaming and letting your mind wander. I was obviously thinking of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in these daydreams! I wrote another ghazal on Crafty Green Poet here.

The Ghazal Page , an excellent resource to find out more about this fascinating form, is currently holding a competition for moon ghazals.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Unleash the Poet Within by Wendy Nyemaster

This book is an intriguing mix of self help and poetry manual. The tone of the book is relaxed, chatty and women centred. Each chapter takes the reader through a specific poetic form (eg the sonnet) or type (eg the letter poem) and suggests which form is best for writing about certain personal situations, giving examples written by the women in the author's writing circle and titles of examples by famous female poets that can be accessed online or from a library. The focus is on using poetry to explore personal issues and to allow writing to access emotions and discover solutions to personal problems. Form and craft are described in a simple (sometimes simplistic) and straightforward way that demistifies poetry and enables the reader to feel confident about starting to write. There are also nice lists of tips for each form, along with a selection of ideas around areas such as sharing poetry, how to make time to write and using poetry in journalling.

My problem with formal verse has always centred on why to use a particular form, I'm a prolific haiku writer because that is a form that suits my way of looking at the world and the things that inspire me, but I don't like to write, for example, a sonnet, just for the sake of it, I want to feel it's the right form for the thoughts I want to express. This book really helped me with its chapters outlining why each form suits particular situations, eg:

sonnet - working out emotions
sestina - making sense of memory
ghazal - allowing your mind to wander
haiku - living in the moment
villanelle - accessing your inner voice
ode - dwelling on what is good in your life

I know that each form suits other situations too, but this was really helpful in getting me to think about form and when I can use it. So in the next few weeks and months, watch out for posts here and on Crafty Green Poet containing my first ghazals and sestinas!

The book is aimed at beginner poets and women interested in poetry as therapy. As the author says: 'I decided to write a book on poetical form because it is something I can wholeheartedly believe in and can provide personal testimony about. It can help women to live fuller, more in tune lives...' It's a book about allowing creativity to help you explore personal issues and though it is also useful for free verse writers who want to start exploring form, it is not a manual for the experienced poet who wants to develop skills in writing quality formal verse.

Unleash the Poem Within by Wendy Nyemaster, published by Source Books.

Sunday, May 18, 2008


I give you my secrets
like chocolates.

Shinily gift-wrapped
and sweet
with a nugget of truth
buried deep.

I give you my secrets
like chocolates.

Please do not share.

previously published in Envoi

Read Write Poem

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Saving Face

Years ago his skilled fingers would
reshape wounded heroes,
make a face worth living with again.

He rescued people from childhood
deformity, ravaging disease
to face the world anew.

Now the surgery fills with ageing
prima-donnas, forgotten actors,
last minute’s discarded It girls,

Clamouring for attention, for
nips and tucks to buy
back a plastic copy of their youth.

He pulls back living flesh
creating hollow masks
from which old eyes will stare.

His fingertips do not have the skill
to heal away their
paralysing fear of life itself.

Previously published in Poetry Scotland

Transformation for Totally Optional Prompts

Friday, May 02, 2008

Thursday, May 01, 2008


My prompt on Science Fiction poetry is now up at Read Write Poem - you can read it here! I'll be posting my response to the prompt on Crafty Green Poet next Monday, but meanwhile here is a scifaiku I recently wrote:

strange shapes
in the sky
green glow

I posted another scifaiku on Crafty Green Poet here.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

At the Bus-stop

I remember your straggly hair
unfashionable clothes
painful pale thinness
world weary air
persistent cough
your daily struggle to find change.

I remember the day you were no longer there.

Previously published in Poetry Scotland

People for Totally Optional Prompts

Friday, April 11, 2008

Turn the Page

On page fourteen, an exploded plane –
Pilot error in overcrowded sky
Leads to fear and terror,
Many die.

On page fifteen, don’t miss the special offer –

Cheap flights to Spain

Flight for Writers Island

earlier this week I posted a haiku about flight over on Crafty Green Poet, you can read it here.

Monday, April 07, 2008

haiku - chess (2)

chess players sit
silently at the table -
mist on distant hills

previously published in Wisteria

you can read my previous chess haiku here.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Poetry and Novels

Totally Optional Prompts this week asks us to be inspired by novels. To start with here is a haiku review of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See, a novel I read recently:

sworn best friends
write secrets in a fan -
bound feet ache.

Secondly, you can read a poem I wrote inspired by Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels

Thirdly you can read my review of Emperor's Babe a novel in verse by Bernadine Evaristo
here on the Pink Gun blog.

Finally, the last stanza of this poem was inspired by Chocolat by Joanna Harris

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Publishing Update

I am yesterday's guest poet over on Cynthia Marie's blog Epiphany: Amor Habitus Intus Vos. You can read my poem here.

I also have two haiku in the current issue of Blithe Spirit, the journal of the British Haiku Society.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Dancing to Amadeus
in the dark of a goth club
takes me back to
a vast cemetery in Vienna
where a friend of mine
(though no fan of yours)
dragged me to your grave
where a tall pale
man in black
was laying lilies
whispering your name.

More on Falco

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Smoke and Mirrors

One of a dying breed
an elegant smoker, you lean
casually against the wall
and watch the room
through the mirror.

You kiss your girlfriend
and whisper - a smokescreen
of lies, while you reflect
on another woman.

Your girlfriend keeps
a voodoo doll in her pocket
savage with pinpricks.

Smoke prickles her to tears.

Smoke and Mirrors for Totally Optional Prompts

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Gypsy Dancehall

I dance with Signora Argento in Transylvania -
plates smash
and crash to the floor
the room shimmers with Italian passion
and the imponderable beauty of Romany
songs amid sad violins

She is lost in the dance,
the moment, some inner turmoil.
I am drunk on the music
her beauty in motion.
The touch of her hand
is like some kind of promise.

I wake in a bed
where the sheets are all tangled.
My husband is jealous -
he knows I've been dancing
with Signora Argento.

There's an earlier poem about a dream on this blog here.
And birdwatcher's dreams over at Crafty Green Poet here.
Dreams for Read Write Poem

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Saturday, February 23, 2008


Seven years old, in my jigsaw world map
I saw the west coast of Africa
fit neatly beside Brazil
despite the expanse of ocean
that correctly came between
in broken blue.

Years later in a college lecture room
I discovered continental drift,
plate tectonics, theories of biogeography
and instantly understood.

Now, sifting through photographs
I see your distant face:
Africa to my Brazil.

previously published in Curlew magazine

unneeded(?) puzzle piece for Weekend Wordsmith

Monday, February 18, 2008

haiku - bad jobs

all these days we spend
just sitting in an office -
mind numbing boredom.

bad jobs for Mad Kanes Haiku prompt

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Writing Workshops

For anyone reading this blog who is in Edinburgh (not many I know!) here are some details of the workshops I am facilitating. I think all these dates are subject to change:

6-8pm, Tuesdays, eight weeks commencing 29 April. Poetry Workshops at Waste Innovations, 17 St Mary Street. The series will start with reading poetry, preparing to write then a series of writing workshops and finally a workshop on how to share poetry through blogging, performance and magazine publication. More information from Waste Innovations.

Afternoon of Saturday 21 June - Haiku workshop at the Salisbury Centre. Further details to follow in this blog and in the Centre's summer programme which isn't published yet.

February 2009 - writing workshop at Vogrie Country Park, Midlothian. Date to be set and details to follow!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

48 Hours Without

Third World First Sponsored Fast 1986

I bought a bag of tangerines
for the time of breaking the fast -
they sat, glowing orange
temptation in the fruit bowl.

The first day I struggled
to remain normal, distracted
by ugly rumbles in my stomach -
signs of a deep hunger

that on the second day
gave way to dizzy light headedness,
an ability to float
above the mundane everyday.

On the forty ninth hour
I held a tangerine, its scent
spicing the air; how strangely
difficult it was to eat

to deny myself my entry
into that other existence
I had almost started
to glimpse.

Sacrifice for Read Write Poem

Monday, February 04, 2008


I hold an inexpensive bracelet
that goes with nothing I wear.

My mother never wore it,
could tell no story to give it value.

She told me I must keep it
(though it would only gather dust)

but it matches your dress,
looks bright against the darkness

of your hair. It is a gift.
It is worth more like this.

Previously published in Poetry Scotland

Clothes (and jewellery!) for Read Write Poem

Previous poems about clothes on this blog:
Coming of Age
and on Crafty Green Poet:

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Monday, January 28, 2008


on the dance-floor -
you make not speaking to me
into an art form.

Desire for Writers Island

Thursday, January 24, 2008


If the French slowed down
enough for me to understand
I might be able to translate
(mais non le subjonctif!)*

but German, though understandable,
exists in a Parallel Universe
wo keine Englische Worte anpassen konnen**

and Italians take the same indefinably elegant
approach to language as they do to fashion
ma penso che l'eleganza delle donne italiane sia un mito***

or perhaps just untranslateable

* but not the subjunctive
**where no English words fit
***but I think the elegance of Italian women is a myth

a Macaroni poem (one including more than one language) for Monday Poetry Stretch

A while back I reviewed Paso Doble a book of poetry by ANAMARÍA CROWE SERRANO & ANNAMARIA FERRAMOSCA where each poem was written in Italian and English. You can read the review here.

Monday, January 21, 2008

haiku - vision

raging headaches
of scary intensity -
scenes of destruction

(inspired by Cordelia's visions in the tv series Angel)

there's another view of visions on Crafty Green Poet here.

Vision for
One Deep Breath

Friday, January 18, 2008


In a war zone existence, delimited
by snipers, landmines and hostile troops,
a couple fall in love.

Alchemists, they make a home with
scavenged chairs, a broken table, a second-hand bed
and a sense of humour.

They transcend the ordinary, buoy themselves
against the terrible gravity of war
with the feather lightness of joy.

The pull of vestigial wings between their shoulders
lifts them above their troubled town.

Previously published in The Book of Hopes and Dreams

Sunday, January 13, 2008


We cannot speak for you
we have not walked your path
the path that wore down your shoes
the shoes that are now piled high
in glass cases that we file past

We have not walked your path
and cannot speak for you
but silence allows your deaths

again and again and again.

previously published at: Poetry Songs and Writers in Scotland.

Journeys for Read Write Poem

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Poetry Speaks Expanded edited by Elise Paschen and Rebekah Presson Mosby

Poetry Speaks Expanded is a huge and ambitious book with three accompanying CDs, bringing us an overview, from a USA perspective, of English language poetry from the end of the 19th Century to the later years of the 20th Century. The 40 poets included here were chosen from influential poets who have lived and died since the invention of sound recording. The poets are arranged in order of date of birth, starting with Alfred Lord Tennyson and ending with Sylvia Plath. For each poet we are presented with a brief biographical introduction, an appreciation from a living poet and a selection of their work. The biographies are fascinating, offering real insights into the influences different poets had on each other artistically and personally. The appreciations are all excellent, each writer obviously chosen for their keen interest in the featured poet they are matched with. Each writer takes their own approach to their subject: Brad Leithauser for example gives us a clear overview to the work of e.e. cummings, while Robert Bly concentrates on William Stafford's 'genius in sound and his relation to reverie'.The development of poetic attitudes to numerous themes, including human rights, death, the environment can can be traced through this book, it's also instructive to look at how the style and form of poetry changed through the period. The CDs are also fascinating with an informative narrative from Charles Osgood and sample recordings from all the poets featured in the book, showing the development of reading styles and sound recording quality over the period. Some readers outside the USA may be surprised by some of the poets included or excluded, but as a guide to the greatest influences on US poetry over the past century it is an invaluable resource.

A longer review of this book, concentrating on nature poetry, can be found on Crafty Green Poet. A more complete review can be found here.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

haiku - chess

the grand master
holds the queen in his hand -
a black cat stretches

previously published in Haiku Scotland

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne

This children's novel follows nine year old Bruno as he moves with his family when his father is made commandant of Auschwitz. Bruno doesn't understand what is happening around him - why do all those people live behind the barbed wire when he has no-one to play with on his side. Why do they all wear striped pyjamas? Why are they all so thin and sad? He makes friends with Shmuel, a nine year old boy on the other side of the wire, who shares his birthday. They sit and talk about their lives and Bruno smuggles food out of his house to give to Shmuel. Although I knew the ending before I read the book I won't reveal it here, though I think it may be well known. Just to say, have a large box of tissues with you when you read this book, it's very moving. And do read it, even if you don't normally read children's books.