Tuesday, May 26, 2009


There’s a branch
Of a tree
That I see
From my window

A thick pencil mark
Across a tiny rectangle
Of sky

And on it sits a bird
Sometimes a crow
Black and sinister
Sometimes a pigeon

The pigeon is fat
Probably the only fat bird
On the estate
With its own private store
Of peanuts

Sometimes I see the pigeon
Sometimes the crow

As I lie in bed
In the morning half awake
Before I open my eyes
I sometimes wonder

Will I see the pigeon
Will I see the crow
Or will the branch be empty?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Why Off By Heart Missed a Beat

I was one of the heat judges for the BBC2 Off By Heart programme, part of the BBC’s Poetry Season.

I thought it was very disappointing. Sure, it was a very interesting look at the winners and their families but…

1 - despite the fact that 1000s of kids entered it and hundreds of schools supported it there was very little mention of either. How about showing some of the schools preparing for it and some of the other children who entered?

2 It was all about children entering a competition - but not made FOR children at all. It was on late (9 o'clock until 10.30)) and made for adults. It should have been FOR children. Or at least for families to watch.

3 Why are the BBC so scared of actually having someone recite a WHOLE POEM on screen. Why, in all these BBC Poetry Season films, has there been so very little actual poetry - so few poems read from beginning to end?

(And one of the very best bits of the season, I think, is the trailer when Phil Jupitus does recite a whole poem. In fact it's a very imaginative piece. I'd like to see more like that. I'd like to see lots of poets reading their poems.)

And finally - 4 - I'm fed up that everyone you ever hear talking on the BBC seems continually surprised that children enjoy poetry. They love it.

What do you think?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Staffroom Disaster

(for Moss Lane School)

It’s been that kind of day at school
When you know you just can’t win
The school cat has been sick again
And no biscuits in the tin

Lesson plans need updating
Reports, you still have plenty
The head teacher is on your case
The biscuit tin is empty

The school cloakrooms are flooded
We can’t find Michael’s shoe
No biscuits in the biscuit tin
Now what are we to do?

For when your class runs riot
And you cannot stand the din
Retreat into the staff room
And eat biscuits from the tin

When it’s a wet playtime
And it’s windy and it’s snowing
Custard creams and hobnobs
Are all that keep you going

So here I sit, all on my own
Feeling blue and wondering why
There are no biscuits in the tin
I think I’m going to cry.

Friday, May 08, 2009


I’d call him a big man
Swarthy and dark
And he sat in the seat in front of me
And wrote trouble in the air
And passengers avoided his eye

He spoke on the phone
He’d been to Brighton
To talk to the police
About the sneak thief
Who had stolen his briefcase

He would recognise him
He had a star tattoo
On his neck

I pulled up my collar
And sank down in my seat
And concentrated on the Metro
And finishing the difficult Su Doku


Can disappoint
They start promisingly
As each line grows, tension builds, then
They end

Monday, May 04, 2009

Iron Bars

There are iron bars
Around my house
A wall
Edged with barbed wire and broken glass

You say
But where?
It looks like any other.

I say, look!

Friday, May 01, 2009


You may be familiar with the mnemonic for spelling Mississippi.
Here’s one for Isis.

One snake
One snake

Or… on a similar tack - The River Thames.

Hut with chimney
Orange with a crutch
Two huts with no chimney
Moon with an eye