Three new poems from Martin Jackson

I saw Martin read on Friday at Broadcast’s Greatest Hits event and very much enjoyed his own poem, as well as his choice of ‘covers’ from Burnside and Stevens. Martin was born in Warrington and having previously worked for a number of large advertising agencies quit in 2007 to focus on his own writing. He lives in Hackney, was a founding volunteer at the Ministry of Stories, teaches writing at a university and works in his local pub. He received an Eric Gregory award in June and his first novel is pretty much finished too. A good year, then.

Saatchi: compositions in Black and Red
no. 1

On Ecopoiesis


Research told us about
the Basics of Adulthood.
Tri-decade transitioning
is something hard to conceive.
Childhood dreams are dashed.
We are not special.

Achieving autonomy
is not linear, as hoped,
but soft drinks are well-placed
to deliver moments
of self-actualisation.
The hoped for better you.

We called the solution
Grown-up Innocence
and proved it using
a two-minute mood film
(Home Alone, Trigger Happy,
Shrek’s donkey snorting cocaine)

followed by storyboards.
We explained that the fridge
would have only eggs, milk, juice,
and that it would be more ‘fridge’
than the fridge in the drawings.
(Smeg, without being Smeg).

There were rushes and rough cuts
and we elevated the dramatic tone.
Early CGI was circulated
against our strict wishes.
There was a meeting to explain
why we had to be trusted.

Weekly WiP meet-ups
became daily FTP downloads.
The sigh at the start
was made to suggest:
‘I want nothing more
than to go there.’

The one towards the end:
‘I’m thankful for having
avoided so many deaths.’
We were too far down
the line to zoom into
the personality of the fruit.

A timeframe was constructed
around David Bellamy.
Concerns his delivery
lacked clarity dissipated
as less words became
more powerful. More filmic.

The packshot was pearlised.
The splat icon took weeks
to be satisfactorily rendered.
There were sunbursts and lens flare.
Fingers of god were made punchier.
They were brand properties.


Women were targeted
through Quality Press
and supermarket six sheets
after the family food panel
was replaced by a brainstorm.

It was to be real fruit
but treated differently.
A hyper-reality of fruit.
Blimps and hot-air balloons
good enough to eat.

AMc signed off helicoptered bushes
after consulting with her scientist.
There would be butterflies (native)
and flowers (various, unimposing).
It would be 8am BST.

Mountains were to be archetypally Scottish
but greener, with snow-speckled peaks.
Things would not be seen from a worm’s POV
but from the POV of fallen, heroic fruit.
Worms were not to be mentioned. They are not taste.

AMc was sent a copy of final outdoor.
Outdoor was well-liked and circulated to all.

Saatchi: compositions in Black and Red
no. 2

On Dialectical Reasoning

Know how to start. Create
appetite. Beware of ticks.

There is always a room.
Understand it. Change it.
Rehearse with a stranger.

Brutal logic always wins.
Tell them what you’re going
to tell them. Tell them. Then
tell them what you told them.
Avoid textual fatigue.

Don’t borrow someone’s watch
to tell them the time.

For handovers: just stop
and seamlessly hand over.
Be yourself. Watch for ticks.

Saatchi: compositions in Black and Red
no. 3

On Social Democracy


Spencer suggested that more TV is better,
despite the plans as sold. MPs see it, are reassured
things happen, so can reassure others.

We awaited operational and policy details
but PG and even GB were becoming involved.
CR was scoping from a distance.

Status was urgent. KP, IMc, SV, SW,
BW, TK, GE, JJ, GC, KC, SN and MJ sat down.
We had to read the Tax Back findings.

Econometric modelling was to be closely stuck to
in terms of timing. There was a CiC ethnic LTC
document rumoured but unseen by anyone.

SV was merchandising old tracking data
to programming teams via chartless summaries.
Milk cartons were definitely still possible.

Future planning meetings were becoming essential
but no one knew what would follow them.
A low take-up on ethnic was reported.

If Craig was charged ½%
and Josephina 2 x ½%,
what would Ahmed be charged?

All liked the suggestion to use analogy.
A leaky pipe. A hole in a boat.
Trousers falling down, gradually.


Everything about 2006 changed.
Milk was definitely gone.

We were asked to sit down
on the brocade of context.

The tone needed to get worse.
It had to develop and become far worse.

New mothers had to be targeted, but when?
They had to have decisions made for them.

Timings became very squeezed
at the back end.

There was a con call to discuss London-
centric Bang/Pak/Black communities.

We had to construct a story,
then work out the logistical tale.


There was no ethnic research.
None had been commissioned.
We produced a general campaign
targeting the usual targets.

We remembered the translation holiday.
Naked were to send invites for the rounders game.
Critical timings were sent through instead.
April was unlikely to happen.

Read another poem from Martin here

Four poems from Rishi Dastidar

Recently I posted a poem from Rishi taken from the Faber Academy anthology and I’m delighted to be able to publish a further four today. One is a version of a poem by Durs Grünbein whose work I first came across in translations by Michael Hofmann – a collection I can’t recommend highly enough. One to watch, this fella…


When I am as rich as Carnegie,
but lacking his pious exhortations,
I shall give you a bridge
made of snow and diamonds and onions,
all designed to echo the golden glow
as the sun sets on two cities, and us.

And what of it that I stole this dream
from an advert I saw?
Where else am I to find gifts for you?
A catalogue?


In every map is a kind of trance,
as a whisper that says geography
is destiny, no matter what you say.
Remember the bridges of Konigsberg,
it continues. That was an unsolvable
problem, and so is your desire to keep
moving, to lose yourself in whatever
new topography you can conjure
with the spin of a compass – as if
it’s a roulette wheel, rather than a
divining rod that keeps saying
he who changes the sky above
him without changing his soul
changes nothing.

Shipwreck champagne

Once the bloodless caravan has floated off,
buried shanties have uncoiled their last
memories, and your dreams are sunk, again,
by the looming metaphor that is the cold, cold her,
seven-eighths of which you couldn’t fathom
and on the bit you tried to cling to
you ran out of crampons and carabinas and gumption
and time – and the fact she refused to
be like the contented failing whale.
Console yourself as you drift down past
the seahorse paddocks into secret seas.
The shipwreck champagne is sweeter here
and won’t give you the bends.

The last hunt

(a version, after Durs Grünbein)

A man in Belgium has been shot, shot on his way
to a hunt, shot by his faithful dog. It’s a funny old world
said the newspaper; not the dog.

He, the man from Belgium, was sat in his people-carrier,
at the wheel, and sat on the back seat was his faithful dog
and his faithful gun, both unaware of each other.

Like they always did, they looked the same way
at the forest; he silently, the dog panting, because
it was already summer hot –

the last summer, as it turned out, for him, the man,
because the road was bumpy, the dog was jumpy and bang,
a fatal discharge, from the faithful gun caused by the faithful dog.

Sad to think one of these two Belgians
could still be around, if a pothole hadn’t punctured
their faithful friendship. Oh well.

Two poems from Bernard O’Donoghue’s Farmers Cross

Bernard O’Donoghue’s new collection is a characteristically unassuming masterpiece and of the many wonderful poems in it I’m thrilled to be able to post my two favourites today. Without question it’s been one of the highlights of my poetry year – read a recent review from the Guardian by Paul Batchelor here and more on Bernard here.


for Yousif Qasmiyeh

Unhappy the man that keeps to the home place
and never finds time to escape to the city
where he can listen to the rain on the ceiling,
secure in the knowledge that it’s causing no damage
to roof-thatch or haystack or anything of his.

Unhappy the man that never got up
on a tragic May morning, to go to the station
dressed out for America, where he might have stood
by the Statue of Liberty, or drunk in the light
that floods all the streets that converge on Times Square.

Unhappy the man that has lacked the occasion
to return to the village on a sun-struck May morning,
to shake the hands of the neighbours he’d left
a lifetime ago and tell the world’s wonders,
before settling down by his hearth once again.

Clegs at Totleigh Barton

Plenty of gates to lean on around here,
and plenty of time to watch the horse-flies
on the dung, to see if they are really
generated from it. There is more chill
than blessing in this gentle breeze off Dartmoor,
more edge than you’d expect in September.
So: winter soon, after no summer.

Yes, this is the place: ‘Road liable to flooding’.
This is where Grace Ingoldby did handstands
on the frosty tarmac. Where Mick Imlah stayed,
when we nearly ran over the cliff
at Morwenstow, looking for Hawker’s hut
in which the old man composed, or didn’t.

Before Grace’s son died in the fire, and Grace died too.
Before Mick got ill. Today I am back on my own
to stare at these insects at their dreadful trade.

‘Now try your brakes’, it still says on the sign.

Two poems from Adam Wyeth’s Silent Music

Adam Wyeth’s a Cork-based poet who’s been highly commended by the Forward Prize and a runner up in the Arvon International Poetry competition, among many enviable accolades. His debut collection, Silent Music, is published by Salmon and it’s a pleasure to post two poems from the book here.

Pinter’s Pause

It was the height of summer.
We sat in the garden reading a play.
I played him and you played her.
Before long you said, ‘Do you know about
Pinter’s pause? – those silent moments –
pregnant with words unsaid … ’

I wasn’t really listening, I thought I saw
a fox in the undergrowth—
stopping by the hedge to eye up his purple gloves.
Everything was in flower.
We read the play right the way through.
I was him, she was you.

Looking up during each pause—
I imagined him creeping beyond our garden
wriggling under the gap in the fence
behind the clematis and convolvulus—
or whatever it was? The twist of hedgerow,
the turn in the lane, the height of the day.

Just then, everything stopped,
caught between the hands of a clock.
The sun was at its zenith;
I thought if I put my hand out,
I could catch it and put it in my pocket.
I didn’t want to say anything, to break the spell.

Then it moved on—like a great cog
in a grandfather clock. The season was passing,
our lives were turning before its eyes.
Those soft paws padding the undergrowth,
gingerly treading between the hedgerows—
beyond the clematis and convolvulus

Leland Bardwell

night I could not sleep
I came to read you in lamplight –
poking from the rushes
of books, festooned on my shelves
that I look upon as family.
But Leland, you were the least familiar
of kith and kin, given me
by your son, Nicholas in Dingle.
And so, Leland Bardwell,
I stretched out your pages like arms
and undressed you
with my eyes, my ears, my nose, my hands,
my mouth – watering inside –
devoured you! Night I could not sleep,
Leland Bardwell
I came to you out of the rushes of bed sheets,
and held your slender spine
tenderly as the first time I found poetry
singing in me.
The lines of your life on Lower Leeson Street
opened and closed like windows
in my mind, and the sun and moon rose
at the same time.
Leland Bardwell, night I could not sleep
I came to raise the dead
weight of my head from its rushes of knots
and lay it on your lap
where your lyrics ran like fingers through my locks.
Night cannot contain
the strain of thoughts that fly between these walls –
so I have come
to settle them in words
plucking them
from the air, where all things come.
Such thoughts
I had while reading you Leland Bardwell,
night I could not sleep.

Find out more about Adam’s debut collection and read two more poems here, and see a recent review of it here

Three new poems from Samuel Prince

I met Samuel through Roddy’s group, and I’m a big fan of his combination of  inventiveness, imagination and restraint, as well as his ability to find black cabs which have no understanding of the geography of London.

The Communal

A pinchful of flour has been stolen,
someone has tripped the switch and left
the widower cussing in the bathroom.
Grandpa ails on the divan.

That hair-lipped miser behind the screen,
indexes our visitors, hordes his heirlooms
and buffs his stiletto pristine.
We eavesdrop on his fractured breathing.

Around the phone is an unannexed zone
but we choose to encrypt our idle chatter;
inhale to hello, two coughs to agree,
tomorrow is a whimper.

Birthdays and accordions wheeze, the tension lifts,
a détente observed and we all donor a song
swap wives to serenade, before a rift
is rekindled over musical chairs.

The corridors become conduits to our private nightmares.


Dial the talking threat level,
sadly it has been sabotaged by the pools forecast – just when we need it.
Then there’s this: Us cannibals will come to turn on each other
seems the graffitists have tried their hands at clairvoyance.
Here’s my tips: those steel calypso drums will be out, petitions out,
those spray-can connoisseurs asked to sketch in court.
Us untrustworthy narrators, our stock will rise.
My double-decker, it edges on as if in a sideways scrolling Atari game,
jolts as we wait for the next scene to load, to earn its features.
From this vantage, I can see beneath the panoply of bus shelters,
the braided princesses, the bobbed gamines, all you High Road drifters,
and junctions ahead, to the cut-offs and overtakes, all the intimidatory tactics
of screw loose drivers and their splenetic emissions.  It wasn’t always so.
Come the day, proverbs will be in, temperance will be in, nightsticks will
be back, and as for me, I want to be on a pre-ordained blacklist,
a who’s who of who has to go,
to be herded to the changing rooms in the national stadium,
fingertips tenderised by bull-clips. I want to leave my lodgings and landlady,
her hands finned in hope, to inspect the pavements that morning
and find craters and craters and craters.


Michael started it.  I was a toddler then,
but grew to laud his burglar’s brio;
the chutzpah of seeking his sovereign’s
counsel.  One stunt and he is 80’s lore,
one copycat bid and a movement is born.
          Gone midnight now, en route
to the Kilburn badlands and home by cab
(no FM paeans only the Sat Nav’s dulcet
diktat), past the palace, infirmary sullen,
high-gated, a crèche for the regal mad,
the acolyte in me wants us to pull over,
mount the perimeter wall and sneak
towards the servant’s annex as the wind
bothers the flag at half-mast, limp
as stringy bacon.
                              Believers  should cut
their hands, sup a vintage white, roister
in the banquet hall and retrace what
they imagine was his route.  Irrupt into
her boudoir, sit rambling at the side
of the four-poster, make small talk on
the décor and matters of protocol, then
ask for a smoke, stroke a footstool corgi
as she goes for help and seals your legend.

Read more from Sam here

New Poem by Faber Academy alumnus Rishi Dastidar

A striking poem from last year’s Faber Academy Becoming A Poet Anthology, this. Rishi Dastidar was born in 1977 and educated at Mansfield College, Oxford. Since graduating he’s had poems published in The Delinquent and by Tate Modern, and was a runner-up in this year’s Cardiff International Poetry Competition.

Matchstick Empire

So what do you say, now give me a
nice cup of hot, good, real English tea.
 – Wilhelm II on entering exile, 1918

He followed the laws of expansion
the way his tippling grandmother had,
but alas ended up so unworthy a sovereign

that he could only wear blue serge suits,
loden capes and a hunting hat –
even though he couldn’t any more,

nor ride; just walk, feed the ducks
and cut down trees, twenty thousand
of them by his seventieth birthday.

He joked it was the only gedankensplitting
his people would listen to now.
The logs went to the faithful poor,

the only retinue left, or became matchsticks
given to the curious, with no mention made
of the moral passing between cupped hands.

This year’s  Faber Academy Becoming A Poet course starts in October and counts the incomparable Jo Shapcott, alongside Daljit Nagra, as a course director as well as a list of guest tutors which includes Maurice Riordan, Heather Phillipson and Simon Armitage. Fuller details are here or from Ian Ellard on (0)207 927 3827.

Amy by Sophia Blackwell

Always an old-school girl, you loved your Death Discs.
Car-crash songs to cry to with big-haired, black-eyed chicks
crooning doomed lovers into hairpin bends
on rain-slicked roads at night. The click of a track
as it skipped. Your odds were stacked. The whisper in your blood.
The shakes. The bone-deep aches. The car that wouldn’t stop.
Ghosts spoke to you on vinyl over a screech of brakes.


That voice of yours held years of unknown pain
right from the very start. That blistered, crackling croon
conjured dark rooms that no longer exist, rich with heartbroken notes,
full of sharp-dressed girls with empty purses and old shoes.
You were excited, then. Curvaceous, fresh-skinned, new,
your dirty schoolgirl mouth gave birth to that new-old blues.
Notes flew easy as breath from the ruptured velvet of your throat.


You told us you were trouble. You were magnificent, a star
right to the end, a staggering, ruined queen
far from your old flowered gowns and white guitars.
You teamed that Ronette-high barnet with T-bird jeans
and wore your thin-skinned past like a fret of scars,
brain full of guttering stars, arms laced with ink
as though your veins had opened and leaked sailor’s dreams.


You were gone long ago, eyes like wounded crows
drifting out of the frame. Under the zigzag banner of your name,
you were razored by spotlights, bruised in the red-tops,
used by a rat-faced boy. At nights you lay, eighty-eight pounds or so
of tear-drenched weight curled on the kitchen floor. Money, fame, sure,
but not a shard of bone, a sequin scale, a swatch of hair to call your own,
knowing- until now, anyway – you could never go home any more.

Sophia Blackwell’s site