To be a poet
on the playing chords
of emotion

quality escapes,


and discernment

passes back as shade.


is to have a soul.

(cut-up: Middlemarch – George Eliot)


As a man
a man
simplicity of
the noun
the adjective

and this word

spoken of
as a man


to his
to his
fellow men
immured in

meaning as
relation to

in a term
that only
is often
prisoner to

(cut-up: North and South – Elizabeth Gaskell)

‘Trumpets Stuffed with Cloth’ by Ralph Hawkins – Crater Press

Here’s another poet known to many but not to me, an increasing discovery of non-discovery I have encountered quite often of late. Perhaps it really was the teaching and the incessant marking and the two other jobs. All that reading just to teach the curriculum. But I thought I read for pleasure too.

In researching a little about Hawkins after I read this chapbook, I didn’t recognise strongly the oft-mentioned wit and the apparent randomness of his constructing that I came across in reviews and general observations, not that there weren’t these elements in Trumpet Stuffed with Cloth.

There is much in the book about birds singing/chirping and it just so happens I read outside with the same all around me – perhaps even a rare woodpecker in the distance, or someone building something quickly with hammering but not all that loudly for whatever reason.

With titles like the opening poem the eithics of loss and then on the nature of age, and terror and heartbeat it is clear what the tone will be when reading, and I didn’t find it chirpy despite the singsong sparrows darting past my head to continue their performances in the hedges. And this early reading made a deep impression so perhaps it overrides a broader impression of the whole.

I was roused from feelings of sadness in these early evocatiosn of loss – as with that opening poem – by references to food that somehow seemed written for me, like ‘donut ringed / together, glazed over’; ‘apple crumble’; ‘jar of sweet pickle’; ‘Polish sausage’; ‘soured cream’, and during the eating of these the author writes he is listening to ‘Mozart or the Small Faces’ and I’m with the latter so stress this for I think it is in the recognition of and sharing in Hawkins’ feelings with one’s empathetic own that makes these poems so pervasive without doing so focibly, but, as I’ve already said, gently and honestly.

This is the meeting place with this collection for me – familiars with Hawkins’ personal reflections and remembrances, like the closely observed in here is the stone fallen from my heart

‘with her hair pulled back after washing

she’d witnessed the farmer sowing

her white sheets strung out, fresh air

the wind with its sharp edge, such anger

the morning dough thrown down, so needed

it is then she wipes her eyes with her forearms, dusty sleeve

it all falls into place

the wish of having wished

scrubbing on the planter’s hands

children endlessly at play in the field with friends’

(the double spacing is as in the book for many poems; others are single spaced)

I like the singular statements of each line, and the additional information that would suggest a further detail/description/qualification and yet do not go on to develop; do not need to develop. In a later poem after the storm by ralph hawkins (an interesting self-reference!) there is more of a connecting narrative line and details that surprise and tease, but these do seem to be moved beyond personal experience which is rooted in reflection rather than as a creation.

There are the more ‘witty’ poems like 24 hour traffic along the tokyo port seaside road and a ‘Maisy’ thread that is quite playful.

My thanks to Steve Spence who recommended this chapbook to me: his review of it can be read here. For more details and to buy, go here.



they are beautiful

stored with ideas

ever ready to
escape error

necessary to the form
of the world within

necessary equally to

the pleasure of

counteracted by
the languor

of relief, stored in

uneasy sensations,
pleasure –

the necessity of thought.

(cut-up: The Mysteries of Udolpho – Ann Radcliffe)

My various cut-up postings will now be from my first found poetry project, this based on the notional British novel canon.


I’ve nearly completed a collection of concrete poems and other playfulness with words/phrases/precursors. The following is one I’m not sure is a fit for that manuscript, but I do like it. I often post work here – always to share – but also to have it on a page which for some reason prompts me to read and consider it in ways I don’t always manage on/in a Word document.


Birmingham Found

I’m looking forward to the Birmingham Commonwealth Games opening ceremony tonight, created/organised by Steven Knight.

The following is my found homage to the city and surrounds, a poetic journey written a few years ago.

I looked in this city and found

a rub of quintessentially English
forested country
remote and marginal meaning
the grassroots of being

I looked through history and found

eavesdropping in the Domesday
Roman conquest of hope
air ever-changing
tree felling appeal

I looked at landscape and found

modern humans
the Plateau of can goods
Beormingahām beginning
primary people legacy

I looked within corners and found

Edgbaston in its AD
many burnt mounds
a celebration of free
progressive importance

I looked with its people and found

early human Britain
artefacts suggesting names
hierarchies of the established
collaboration in a blossom

I looked down side-streets and found

heavily bombed foundations
an economy dominated by people
a beautiful leading to the clearance
culinary scenes

I looked by watching and found

river valleys of the tribal
our world’s past
cultural pluralism in bloom
transition and growth of a period

I looked from day and night and found

a built-up area
an influx of the stylish
digbeth dining

I looked inside books and found

the Guarded Font
Sherlock seeding roots
Highfield on its high
a Ring of Arden trees Lording

I looked through opened eyes and found

the dialect of its name
an infrastructure of planners
a sector of service
a fabric of shaken privilege

I looked for Birmingham and found

the stretching of forges and furnaces
a single bulk commodity of creativity
a wide variety of specialised
exceptional levels of the heart