These be the verses

Inspiration coverWell, after two decades as a published fiction-writer, I can finally call myself a published poet. At least, I’ve had two poems included in an anthology of verse and flash-fiction which came out today. Inspiration: a Space for Words has been published by the award-winning independent press, Indigo Dreams Publishing, as part of a three-book collaboration with Wordspace, the creative writing imprint of Leeds Trinity University, where I’m a senior lecturer.

The anthology has been jointly edited by two students on the Creative Writing MA, Lynn Bauman-Milner and John Gledhill, and the course director and internationally renowned poet, Prof. Paul ‘Oz’ Hardwick. It includes prose and poetry by current and former postgraduates and undergraduates from the English programmes at Leeds Trinity, as well as teaching staff and invited guest contributors from the university’s Wordspace Open Mic series and annual Writers’ Festival.

Oz Hardwick says, “This is a wonderful showcase for the range of writing that’s produced at Leeds Trinity, both within our academic courses and through other events. There’s poetry, prose, humour, horror – a really eclectic mix, with the one common factor being the excellence of the writing.”

Leeds Trinity logoThe commissioning, collating and editing of the anthology was completed by Lynn and John as part of their assessment in the Writing as a Profession module on the MA. “I jumped at the chance to be part of this because I knew that the hands-on experience of editing an anthology would be invaluable,” Lynn says. “Not only did it help me to learn how to read critically, but it allowed me to edit and improve a piece without losing the author’s tone of voice. It is definitely an excellent addition to my writing CV.”

To read more about the book and the background to its publication, please go to this news item on the Leeds Trinity website. And if you wish to buy a copy, priced £7.99, direct from Indigo Dreams, please click on this link to the publisher’s website.

Meanwhile, here, are my two poems from the anthology:

On Ilkley Moor

It’s glorious up here today
in May sunshine, some years on

from that time I walked with you
along this same track,

past Panorama Rocks
in autumn’s driven rain.

You in your inadequate cagoule,
polyester-cotton slacks

saturated, blackened by damp.
Or that other walk

above Cow & Calf, one Christmastime
in slicing wind,

ice crisp beneath our boots;
your eyes, your nose, streaming.

However cold, however wet,
you pressed on, uncomplaining,

matching me stride for stride
despite three decades’ difference.

We must’ve been up here
on fine days, too, though it’s not

those walks that come to mind
as I hike, alone, in spring’s

glazed light, wishing it foul
if only you were soaked

and shivering at my side.


“Slaphead!” you holler from a passing car
that rocks with your mates’ laughter.
Is that your best shot,
your weapon of choice?
Have you any idea who you’re taking on?
Beneath my thinning hair
do you not discern the air
of a literary combatant, conqueror
of the distant lands of language?

Yes, you, with your puny peashooter –
behold the vast bunker of my vocabulary,
my arsenal of character assassination.
See the scathing scimitars of sarcasm,
the rapiers of repartee
the caustic cudgels of calumny.
My pejorative pistols,
my rifles of revenge,
my grenades of denigration,
the retaliatory rat-a-tat-tat
of machine guns that spit
a thousand mots justes a minute.
Be shocked, be awed
by my witty howitzers
and exocet epithets,
my cluster bombs of contempt
and torpedoes of torment,
my heat-seeking missiles of humiliation,
the mushroom plumes
of plutonium-enriched opprobrium.

But time is my enemy –
you, your mates, your car, are careering out of range.
So I grab the first weapon that comes to hand
and unleash it in your wake:
“Oi,” I cry, “who you calling a fucking slaphead?”

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