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Thursday 22 December 2022

Direct Instruction

This is a poem about a tree. 

It’s about a tree in winter, 

with all its branches bereft of leaves. 

The tree represents the poet’s family

(family tree – clever, right?)

and the fact the leaves are gone

represents the fact the poet’s family 

has somehow disintegrated.

In the poem, the poet

is standing and looking at the tree

from a distance. That distance

represents the distance

the poet feels from his family. 

The sky overhead is dark

which represents the poet’s mood. 

But! A dove comes to perch

on one of the branches! The dove,

of course, represents peace. 

The poet is at peace.

Or the poet’s family.

(See how ambiguity is key!)

The poem doesn’t rhyme,

which of course represents

the disordered state of the poet’s mind.

Not like yours, one hopes.

You have thirty minutes.


Tuesday 20 December 2022

So I had that dream again,

the one where you’re not there.

You’ve called the wedding off, or perhaps

it was never on to start with. Either way

I’m staring at the ring on my finger

and choking on your absence.

I’m looking you up online and when

I find out you’ve got another partner

I want to puke. Or perhaps we’re at

a party or something, but all I can see

is the back of your head and the way

you’ve pinned your hair, the way

you know I love. Then I heave so hard

I wake myself up. Morning begins

to brush the room, and the heap beside me

is you. And please believe me what I say 

I’m thankful for it all – those whispers

in my ear telling me what I have,

what I hold, and what I stand to lose.

Saturday 17 December 2022


Tomorrow is the World Cup Final, Argentina v France. Here is a poem I've written especially for the occasion:


My horse is playing cricket

and my pig is playing chess.

My duck is on the ski slope

where she jumps with great finesse. 

My sheep runs round the tennis court,

her racket going swish

My ferret’s playing badminton

along with all my fish.

My goose is throwing basketballs.

My rabbit’s playing hockey. 

My llama’s on the golf course

and my camel is a jockey. 

These animals are talented

but one thing is of note – 

the creature best at football

is none other than my GOAT.

Two bits of slang: 'Farmers League' is a term used in the football community to refer to a league that is perceived to be of a low standard. I'm not sure why. 'GOAT' stands for 'Greatest of all Time'. It is commonly used to refer to Lionel Messi, who plays for Argentina. Basically, the poem is quite witty, yeah?

Above: Messi, the GOAT

Thursday 8 December 2022

Poem from Year 3 and 4, Sellincourt Primary, London

I am delighted to report that the fabulous children of Year 3 and 4 at Sellincourt Primary School in London, whom I had the privilege of visiting yesterday, have been working on pieces inspired by my poem 'Drawing My Grandma'. My poem is published in Yapping Away, and you can read it for free on my website here. The pupils took the structure of my poem, and adapted it using their own descriptions. Here are three fantastic examples of the work they produced. Everyone should feel very proud of themselves!

Drawing My Dog

Miss Rocha says

to draw a picture

of our families. 

I choose my dog. 

A soft pillow

is its hair. 

A thick candy cane – 

that’s her arms and legs. 

A strawberry 

is her glowing heart

and a leopard

is her running around.

Drawing My Cat

Miss Rocha says 

to draw a picture

of our families. 

I choose my cat. 

Soft fluffy snow

is her fur. 

Drawing My Great Grandma

Miss Rocha says

to draw a picture

of our families. 

I choose my great grandma. 

A fluffy cloud

is her white hair. 

A delicate blanket –

that’s her arms and legs. 

A beautiful diamond

is her smiling heart

and an upside-down rainbow

is her warm smile.

Monday 5 December 2022

When Other Poets Get There First

Something fairly annoying happened to me the other day. Not terribly important, just mildly frustrating. When I was a kid I used to think it would be highly amusing to have a cat named 'Dog' and a dog named 'Cat'. Remembering this, I decided to write a poem using it as a premise. What if (I thought) I had lots of different things, all with the wrong name? I worked really hard trying to think of a witty ending for the poem, and after a few hours' worth of editing I came up with the following:

Got a Handle

My cat is called Dog

and my dog is called Cat.

My rat is called Fish

whilst my fish is called Rat.

My brother’s named Sister.

My sister’s named Brother.

My mother is Father.

My father is Mother.

My boat is called Car

whilst my car is called Boat.

My goat is named Sheep

and my sheep is named Goat.

I think that I’m great

so I’m rather enjoying

the fact those who know me

all call me Annoying.

Now, I am often given to posting my work on social media. I find it to be a really useful way of gauging how popular a poem is, and whether or not it might thus be worthy of inclusion in a future book. The poem garnered a very positive response, and I got excited. The poem, I decided, would definitely find its way into my next collection. That was until the fabulous children's poet Kenn Nesbitt got in touch to say he had written something similar. You can read Kenn's wonderful poem here

The similarity between my poem and his was entirely unintentional. Indeed, the poems actually end up going in two quite different directions. However, I decided that the level of similarity was such that I could not, after all, include my new poem in my next book. It was just too close for comfort. This is not the first time I have written a poem that ended up bearing an inadvertent resemblance to another poet's work. One solution, I guess, would be to never read anyone else's poetry. A better solution would be simply to do lots of Googling before getting too excited about something I've written. Oh well - you live and learn!

(update: Kenn has now been in touch to say that he has no objection if I choose to publish my poem in my next book. So maybe I will. Let's wait and see!)