5 4 3 2 1….



In some celebration/recognition of the 5oth anniversary of Apollo 11 and the first manned mission to land on the moon, launched on this day in 1969, I am posting this poem which I always used to lead with when introducing concrete poetry to my students.

I cannot remember the author – apologies – and even with online research I have been unable to locate: apart from others having memories but also being none the wiser. If anyone…

I would just write the numbers on the black board [oh yes, many years ago] and then ask the students what they thought this ‘poem’ might be about. Of course, calling it a poem was the first tease, but someone would always eventually suggest a countdown – this prompted if needs be by my reading aloud – and then there was the vertical numbering before words were added so a rocket might be suggested, and that was the first route into exploring how concrete poetry can take the shape and other elements of the thing/event/item/idea it describes. Adding the words was always a great reveal – a little ruse, if also crucial, that worked to engage.

And this was the essential purpose. I would, however, also reflect on that line ‘What 4?’ because this does matter. Even in the early 80s when I was first teaching we were some way down the space road from 1969, so it was an apt question about the cost in a world riven with poverty and disadvantage. Then there was the final line and a suggestion of an ongoing commitment. I’d make reference to how poetry can have important messages to make/explore, but not necessarily.

This was mainly all about making poetry experimental and fun and I have fond memories of using this first example and launching the ideas of others.



even if the life is cruel
is your last sentence written

[on its own at the top
of an otherwise empty page]

as I work up through the script
marking pages as ‘seen’

ready for that other marking,
later, when judging

chronologically what has led
to this apocalypse.

Assuming you have
answered all, I know

it is Laskey’s poem,
so I hope – at the age of sixteen –

you will look for the snow
to trod and mess about in,

throw a big round one at
nobody in particular,

and laugh at the cruelty
that might have been.

Dynamic Learning 3

Dear teachers,
I have been telling

off your students,
but the off

is you
for teaching them

linguistic things
that are

in their minds
just things, really,

to imagine sound
better [let’s not

examine as adjective,
as adverb, as noun

as verb]
than ‘better’

or what is

This is a ‘rotten’
thing to do,

which is not
a lexeme,

even if it is
or could be,

but is definitely

as a thing to
teach students.

Having Finished Watching Harry Dean Stanton’s Film ‘Lucky’


I don’t remember a single birthday
growing up.

There are photographs,
and there will have been things

and much love
as well as some parties with friends,

but I don’t recall one celebration.
I do for my twenty first,

a big event at the time,
and the pewter mug with

its transparent base
for looking through.

Also my fortieth
and sixtieth, more recent than

childhood, obviously, but for
other reasons.

I’d like to go back to an early birthday
and sing to myself in a foreign language

to suggest just one change.
Any would do.