Category Archives: Workshop

The Playhouse

Every show seventy beeswax candles
flicker and burn in the iron chandeliers.
The player’s breath writhes in the flames
a handful of minutes is all it takes
to tell the best and the worst of us
love and betrayal blazes in the eyes
of the crowd. They go home to their own
story, the players wipe their faces clean.
Alone on the darkening stage
a single figure lowers each chandelier
snuffs out the remaining light.

A run in the dark

A run in the dark 

Headlong down a narrow entry between
two high brick walls. Claustrophobic.
Black, only a faint strip of light above.
Runaway feet reverberating.
Eeeeaaawww! Something leaps beneath me.
Shy away, thud into one wall,
rebound onto the other, end in a heap.
Oh, just a cat… and I’ve given Paul the slip.

“Boys, please!”
As I pick myself up I remember how she stood
distraught between my warring older brothers.
Mike landed a blow on Paul who pushesd her
into the standard lamp, its light swaying crazily.
“Paul, dear, do stoppit… Oh!”
I was pummelling Paul: “Leave Mum alone!”
Then BANG!
“You little fool! I’ll give you more than a black eye.
I’ll kill you, d’you hear, KILL you
Racing off into the night I was aware of the
startled expression of Mr Green from next door
who I passed at our front gate.

Much later, in case Paul is still lying in wait
out front I clamber over our rear fence
every inch the hero and open the back door.
She looks up from ironing. She’s been crying.
“Where have you been? How could you be so silly?”
“I, I…”
“Why did you run away? Paul didn’t chase you.
We all went round calling for hours.Your father was
so annoyed. If you hadn’t stuck your oar in
it would have blown over by the time he got home.”
A straggly strand of hair has fallen across her brow.
She brushes it back with a jerky movement of her arm.
“Well, don’t stand there like a lost soul.”
Balancing the iron on its stand, she comes towards me.
“Just look at you, you’re filthy.”
Starts dusting down my jeans.
“Such a fuss with Mr Nosey Parker Green watching.”
Runs her fingers through my matted hair.
“Anyway, you’d better bathe that eye of yours.”
Dad looks out of the living room as I burst
through the hall, throwing myself up the stairs.
In the bathroom he prises the flannel from my eye.
“Mm, not too bad. Now, was it Paul who hit you?”
“It was nothing, Dad, honestly. All my fault.
I was silly, really very foolish…”

What Happened on St. David’s Day

What Happened on St. David’s Day

In school, we sang:
“Oh, great St David, still we hear thee call us,
unto a life that knows no fear of death”.

It was a life which celebrated song, music, dance
and above all the power and the art of poetry.
Poems were written to exacting form
and the best awarded the highest of honours.
They were learnt by heart by children
who recited them in unison in front of an audience.

We sang about the mountains and the rivers
of the land we loved,
of the blackbird, the thrush, and the cuckoo,
of David of the White Rock,
of idle days in summertime
that lovers spent together,
and lullabies for babies.
We even celebrated the privy at the end of the garden
where the wind blew cold through the cracks,
every morning. ‘The little house ‘we called it.

We sang about loving and living life to the full
and the sound of the Golden Harp
that would sweeten our deaths.
We surrounded ourselves with daffodils
and we laughed a lot.



I’m struck by the stones
not pebbles smooth rounded stones.

The deserted cove I’ve come across
is filled with millions of them

from the foot of the cliff to where
they disappear beneath the waves.

Stones small medium large
every shade of grey.

I pick up a few of these ovoids
weighing them in my palm.

Balance ones of decreasing size
on top of each other constructing

a watchtower in the face of
the tide that foams ever closer.

Next day I return to contemplate
such ruins as remain.

March Challenge 2017


St David’s Day. Ah, where can we go from here?

David…whose popularity in Wales is shown by the Armes Prydein, a popular poem which prophesied that in the future, when all might seem lost, the Cymry (Welsh people) would unite behind the standard of David to defeat the English.  So maybe could write a poem about nationalism.. or something of the sort. Here’s ‘Blues’ by Derek Walcott:

Or maybe we could think about David’s life and teachings which have inspired a choral work by Welsh composer Karl Jenkins, Dewi Sant, and an oratorio by another Welsh composer, Arwel Hughes, also entitled Dewi Sant. And in this Dylan Thomas poem the original version had line 17 reading “But for St David, his arms”
No it didn’t, I made that up.

On the other hand we could go with his association with corpse candles, lights that warn of the imminent death of a member of the community. The story goes that David prayed for his people to have some warning of their death, so that they could prepare themselves. Here’s a poem about candles for the dead by Bernard O’Donoghue:

So there you have it – St David’s Day. Nationalism, inspiration, candles. What does it mean to you – if anything?



This planet is not terra firma

What was most significant about the lunar

voyage was not that man set foot on the Moon

but that they set eye on the Earth.


On the first day in space they pointed to countries.

On the third day they pointed to continents and by

the fifth day they were aware of only one Earth.


Jim put up his thumb and shut one eye.  His thumb

blotted out the Earth.   Everything he ever knew

lay behind his thumb.  He felt very, very small.


This jewel is lonely, is isolated

and there is no resupply.  Small and blue

and beautiful, it floats in eternal silence.


This round Earth in which all directions meet

and where there is no centre because every

point, or none is centre, is an equal earth.


We are riders on the Earth together, siblings

on this bright loveliness in eternal cold—

siblings who know now that they truly belong.


A found poem from the words of astronauts Scott Carpenter, Neil Armstrong, Jim Lovell,

Abdulaziz Al-Saud,and American writers Norman Cousins, Archibald MacLeis


On his eightieth birthday, up at the lake
first snow, ‘ensilumi’,
fell in spirals of white garlands through
the dark branches of spruce and alder.

The old gang of party-makers
climbed out of their station wagons
and picked their way across the ice
towards the old smoke sauna.

Inside, the enormous mound of rocks
spat and hissed, voices swelled
with heat and memories, vowels expanding
to a drone like a tape running down.

He sat among them like a shadow, the thought
haunting his body until it punctured
through the steam and the years: how
she had got herself up there that night,

pain tearing at her young womb,
how she might have welcomed the pall
of smoke, her scream bouncing out
across the unflinching lake.



Sleep seeps through the house
from room to room
like evening mist,
enveloping one by one
the bodies laid out
in the darkness.

Now only the last pair of eyes
gleams white in the night,
just that last brain remains
under management control,
turning over and over
some scheme or other.

February Challenge

Okay, it’s too big to ignore. We’re confronted daily by the antithesis of Light…

Here’s a poem by Edward Baugh:

and another by D.H. Lawrence. It’s worth listening to Glyn Maxwell read  it as he adds an insight into Lawrence’s technique.

Poems about the dark can take many turns – political, natural, personal…  They raise questions, too – can the dark be positive?