Tuesday, 10 January 2017


You could say that it was a dull story.
I gave you when and where, but not much what.
Not much happened: not like the action guy
whose brave deeds get the girl in the last shot.

The hero does not reflect or look back
he does not need to. His why
in the final analysis
does not stand up to much scrutiny.

At least you know something of my biography:
the sheets I sweated in; the upside-down days
when rain pattered onto the rooftops
the frowsy streets printed on my memory
the hopes and moods that impelled me.
I was the Ulysses of the library.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Philip Larkin is on Top of the Pops

Phil Larkin straps on his Gibson SG
for the blistering riff of Mr Bleaney.

It's his chosen weapon of attack.
He looks at Johnny Rotten – a flashback.

The Sex Pistols had outraged the country
with their foul-mouthed ranting on TV.

Thanks to their anthem, God Save the Queen
they were more outrageous than Benzedrine.

How he had admired their first LP.
when was still at the university.

He wrote a letter; Johnny said ‘join us’.
So he went down to London, on the bus.

His first gig was a room over a pub.
Next thing, he’s playing the 100 Club.

Steve Jones is toast, says the NME.
Larkin brings to the band a new energy.

See him swaggering down the King's Road
he has finally killed off work, the toad.

Punk’s gain is a loss to the library.
Each slab of noise is a sonic elegy.

There's a tender savagery to their sound.
Marr had Morrissey, Eliot had Pound

Lennon had McCartney; he has Rotten.
The grey mornings in Hull are forgotten.

Rotten scowls, from Sid a cheeky grin.
One, two, three, four … Paul Cook counts them in.

Smile like a fool, pull out the organ stops.
Philip Larkin is on Top of the Pops!

Monday, 26 December 2016


These three flew too close to the sun
but now in their embroidered finery
they are pinned to the dust of history
glowing faintly in a junk shop window.
Their crushed velvet rebellion
that once burned so brightly
seems like a trick of memory.
Did it happen? Now all are gone.
Like three tropical deities
they play on. Squandered royalties
and blown amps don’t matter now.
Answering a muse higher than poetry
with their amazing musical alchemy
Jimi, Mitch and Noel: their last show.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Victory party

I came to play you my guitar
Like I done for Obama

I’ve never had no beef with tax
And I’ve made millions with this axe

I know that you have come real far
But I ain’t playing for no liar

The good guys lost, the bad guy won
The hopes we had are overthrown
Now that jackass orange clown
Is gonna run this frikkin town

To celebrate his victory
Would waste electricity

So dim the lights and close the show
We lost, the party’s over now

I aint gonna sing no song
So to all of you so long

The good guys lost, the bad guy won
The hopes we had are overthrown
Now that jackass orange clown
Is gonna run this frikkin town

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Hymn to Karl Marx

who are you to defy my authority?
that which cannot be measured does not exist

nothing can lie outside my analysis
the iron law of the empiricist

your vague impressions of beauty
are as elusive as an infant’s kiss

and your strange magic, the Eucharist:
beauty is the tyrant’s nemesis

I am the destroyer of symphonies
I will turn your Parnassus 

into a blighted wilderness 
so put your muse on out-of-office

of your fragile ghost I am the exorcist
that which cannot be measured does not exist

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

That which cannot be measured

That which cannot be measured does not exist:
your staring out of the window, your daydreaming
your jack in the box ‘imagination’ –  a will o' the 
All are unproductive. Ergo, you have failed the test

There are no metaphors on a balance sheet.
Your ‘creativity’ is as elusive as the Eucharist.
It is, as best, a faded scroll, a mere palimpsest.
That which cannot be measured does not exist.

Unwind your spring, do not construct analogies
or let your restless mind concatenate.
Let this Excel spreadsheet record you
noting, merely, your presence, your absences.

All of that time, you could have been elsewhere
writing your poetry and your symphonies.
To the ghost in the machine, I am the exorcist.
That which cannot be measured does not exist.

Thursday, 29 September 2016


For weeks as the sharp cold tightens his skin
he hunches over the lexicographical machine.
Each sheet is laced with streams of graphite
like a desiccated spider. Tap tap tap. Cough.
More blood. Likely his death sentence: a haemorrhage.

He ventures out only to watch the slate grey sea and the gliding of fulmars:
movement without purpose. This strange world – an infinity of grey.
Hunchbacked, in the cold kitchen
he puffs on his hand-rolled muse like a true proletarian.
On the white page he can engrave
the gold of Valencia, the crimson banners of the dead.

With his coloured plates he illustrates
sadistic commissars, the idiocy of ideologies.
To make them mean more, a novel.
His eyes narrow down a wrong-way telescope
on slogans, burial pits and victory parades.
A whole century was betrayed.

He sees the overflowing sink. He touches his bullet wound.
Puff puff puff. Tap tap tap. Wrong-way telescope. Century betrayed.
Should he smoke? Of course.
He will finish this cigarette and thousands  more.
Milk in, blood out.
And the book? He chipped it out from granite
with his bare hands. He could do no more.

London welcomes its hero with a glass colonnade
The pages go to proofs then plates.
His stained fingers are as orange as cinnamon.
They run off the first books when he is in hospital
in his wedding bed, shortly before his funeral.
His melancholy face smiles faintly, greeting them

Like lost children. Cough.
He did not stop. He finished it.

From each small death he built a larger one.
He did not stop. From Jura granite he chipped it out
from stone to paper, paper to stone.
The final book his adamantine memorial.