NaPoWriMo 2015 – #0 – Too Late

It’s all out of order this year, but I’m putting all my NaPoWriMo poems online – just about a month late.

This poem, was written from the prompt from 31-03-2015. It linked us to the poem Essay by Bernadette Mayer, and challenged us to take those same initial lines (I guess it’s too late to live on the farm…) and write a poem dealing with the same emotion.

As I am Edinburgh born and bred, but my family is from the Western Isles, I feel like I am both drawn to and distant from islands. My debut poetry pamphlet Who Are Your People?,  dealt with the journey from Edinburgh to the isles and back, and the poem I wrote for this prompt deals with what it would be like to live on a island.

Too Late

I guess it’s too late to live on an island
I guess it’s too late to learn to love the sea
I guess the thought of living on the island is over
I guess I should give up dreaming of coastlines
I guess I will never live upon an island
I guess it’s too late to live on an island
I will never be able to understand the ocean
the way that coasts do, with the holding of memories
against sand and shells and glass before it was ever glass
I guess it is a good thing that I cannot
live on an island
poets are too abundant on the islands
growing like grasses amongst the low dunes on the beach
I would like to take Sara to an island, but
I think it is too late for all of that, there is
too much concrete, brick dust and all night shops in our skin
learning to love the sea would be easy,
for us, not the sea, which loves like hating things
we would have to grow thicker skin
and a fascination with rain
I do not think my work would survive
Jen Hadfield left Cambridge for the Shetlands
hung her words on fishing line and dragged it around the harbours
Sorley McLean lifted himself from Edinburgh
and let his tongue grow long on the Atlantic winds
warmed his words under blackhouse roof
my words are city words, do not have the echo
needed to live in the heart of the wind
I guess it is too late to live on an island now
I guess it is too late

(c) 2015


NaPoWriMo 2015 – #1 – The Eagle

I’m a few days late with getting this blog started for this year, but I will upload the poems from Days 1-5 over the next few days to catch up with myself.

This year, I’m looking forward to getting to grips with the prompts for NaPoWriMo, and I’m looking at this month’s worth of writing as an opportunity to develop my stylistic and formal abilities and share a full 30 days of poems with the world.

Day one – the prompt was to write a poem defining something in terms of what it is not. I’m not sure why an eagle was what came into my head, but this is my first poem for NaPoWriMo 2015.

The Eagle

she does not rest on earth
seeks too much the thermals
heights, lacking of earth
she does not sing songs of trees
does not think of life in terms
of edges, and distance
she does not understand gravity
as anything other than a
niggle in the back of her mind
she is not heavy, not a drag on the air
but neither is she without weight
she hangs in the sky, biting the clouds
with her wings

(c) 2015


I’ve been experimenting a lot recently with creating poems from random or arbitrary phrases or collections of words. This has led to me messing around with poems inspired from, or derived by TV show episode titles, or quotes from favorite TV episodes.

This poem, which is the start of my life long playdate with poems formed out of these mostly un-poetic origins, is called Hearts, and comes from Anya’s response to Xander’s proposal in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (I would say “spoiler alert”, but there cannot be anyone left who has not seen all of Buffy). She hands him back the ring and says “Give it to me when the world doesn’t end”, and there was something so haunting, so human, so faithful and faithless about that, that it just sat in my head for a couple of days, until the following came out of the other end.

For anyone who comes along to TenRed (Persevere Bar, 2nd July), or Blind Poetics (Blind Poet, 14th July), I will be performing this live at those days – so you can get a sneak peak of what to expect.


give it
when it is ready to be given
when it is whole
when it needs no more apologising
when it has just the right amount of weight
do not worry about the dust
there is already plenty of that in my fingertips
it would not be honest, if it were too clean
do not worry about what looks like confetti
that will be taken as being worth the same
give it
when it is a word that rhymes with hope
when there are too many letters
falling out of your mouth
and you can’t remember what the words are meant to be
give it at night
not the ones where we actually shared skin
those are too obvious
give it
during thunderstorms
when your ears sound like
the echo of tin roofs
give it without the possibility of regret
without the mathematical expression
of a sudden seismic shift
give it when your arms
are as wide as the moon and the sun
give it like it is a love note
they are passing to each other
in the true names of stars
give it when it burns
when there is too much ash
and not enough leaves
give it with a surplus of bleeding
you must by now have realised
this is no easy surgery
give it when you can no longer chase
the edges of wounds back through time
until you find the first, the deepest,
the one that hurt the longest
they may all be the same, or they may not
give it when it is least expected
and most needed
there is a very good chance
they will be the same
give it to me
when the world is about to end
when the world has already ended
when the world doesn’t end
give it whenever you ca
give it because it is yours to give
give it because you want to
and I will give you mine

(c) 2014

Song of Ash and Dust – NaPoWriMo #30

Today’s prompt was simple – in commemoration of the final day of NaPoWriMo – write a poem that says goodbye. As ever I leaned towards the emotional rather than the abstract in my final poem for NaPoWriMo – Song of Ash and Dust.

Song for Ash and Dust

that first day
what you notice
is not so much absence
but the awkward accumulation
of dust
in places you were not used
to looking

your home is made of shelves
that couldn’t be cleaned
by you alone,
your arms do not quite fit

the man with the starched neck
said too much about ashes and dust
that is not what you
will choose to remember
a person is worth
so much more

you will notice the silence
not because
there is less noise
but because a clock
winding down
does not tick

not long after
the day you find the dust,
you will brush the floor
for the last time,
you will have left one slipper
under the bed,

months will pass before they realise
it is even missing


Principles of Aroma Determination – NaPoWriMo #29

Today’s prompt was a very odd one, full of interesting elements, but thrown together in an eclectic and exotic mix. We were given a series of 20 things that we must incorporate in the poem, some easy, like sense experiences, some less expected, and the whole poem sits very haphazardly together. Still, that said, this is one of my favourites of this month.

Principles of Aroma Determination

the grass grew as the bones of babies

it is said that an ant can only smell
with the feet on the left hand side of it’s body
cut grass aromatics
always made me think of
broken showers, and the contact paper my grandma used
the remnants of the mustard from my bagel,
lingered on my tongue
a taxi screeched across two lanes of traffic
horn blaring like a badly tuned radio
I’d starched my shirt the other day,
the collar still scraped against my Adam’s apple
the sun shone down
a yellow nickel in the sky
reminding me that my suntan lotion was running low
this sun took me straight back to summer 2003
when the sun had dripped gold
across the hyacinths in Adele’s garden
in Flushing Meadow
I watched an ant colony
remembering that ants used their feelers
as their way of smelling
a ridiculously complex of scents

so, in Montana, on a mountain climbing trip
with John and Kenneth, I got drunk one night
and spent four hours trying to get them excited
by “tibialoconcupiscent”, the word for the desire
to watch a woman put on stockings
but my eagerness to avoid discussing
my own love for nylon and heels
I was stumbling on my words,
after a while, John stopped listening to me
and began talking about his ex-boyfriend
“and then Alex, ran off with that Korean girl,
she did ‘circus things’…”
the red moon of justice hung in the sky
like the swaying corpse of a common theif
I reached up and touched the face
of the moon, felt her tears pool on my fingerprints
The Duke was not well used to crying women

but, one day, it will be seen that rain falls horizontally
the first sign of a coming hurricane will touch down
in the most unexpected of cities,
somewhere east of Kansas
but that was my unconscious teeth talking
and I wasn’t sure what they meant
because as my father used to say when I was upset
“The ground may look close now, and it may have cut your hands
but only when the eagle dies can we see the depth of the sky”
the old proverb runs, dove aquila salire, where eagles soar
the wren will commit acts of heinous flattery,

and then, in time, rain will come
from every corner of the sky
will cover each blade of grass
in diamonds and glass houses
and the ants will have somewhere
to leave their memories

(c) 2014

Friendly Fire – NaPoWriMo #28

The prompt for Day 28 was to craft a poem from a newspaper article, using only the words in the original article where possible.

Friendly Fire

the military in Afghanistan
suffered catastrophically
British troops say

it was routine
when it fell from the sky
with the loss of all

dead troops
were last night named
described as rising stars

he leaves a wife
shot down

the family cannot express
being without him
are poorer

the Prime Minister paid
tribute to those who die
“…truly wonderful husbands,
brothers, sons, and friends
put their lives on the line
to help”

(c) 2014

Painter – NaPoWriMo #27

The prompt from Sunday was an interesting one, use a poem to create a poem. I settled on not one picture, but a whole series of pictures of Pablo Picasso painting in the air with a light, torch…I’m not sure of the exact item he uses in these photo’s but there is something fantastically ethereal about them all. I love the whole concept behind them, and so rather than respond to a single image, I responded to the ideal.


he plucks art from the air
like switching on a light
if you close your eyes
you could miss it all
from birth to death
the flashing of his arms
makes monuments from dust motes
turning an empty room
into an endless gallery
a continuum of painting
lasting for as just as long
as the shutter moves

(c) 2014


Lune – NaPoWriMo #26

Saturday, I was on a roadtrip into the wild heart of Arbroath, and as such was separated from my daily NaPoWriMo prompt, (which was written, but on a different day, as an expansion into the curtal sonnet form of the poem I did write on Day 26).

The inspiration of this is clear, Arbroath is a coastal town, and as such the sea sings its songs at me with unerring fervour.


the sea smells
of salt and frayed memory
I start unravelling.

(c) 2014

Temporal – NaPoWriMo #25

Today’s prompt was to write an anaphoric poem, that is a poem with a repeated phrase or word that started many lines, or clauses within the stanzas.

My poem came out of consideration of a dystopian or post-apocalyptic universe, but without a lot of the sci-fi melodrama and extravagance. So, what would the world be like in the future if things went a bit wrong.

The poem is also ordered by alphabetical order of the first letter from each phrase. There is a sonorous quality to this that I think will be very interesting to hear live. A fellow poem I wrote last year Geology, contains a similar anaphoric quality, as it combined the features of a pantoum (alternating lines between stanza’s) and a sestina (rotating pattern of end words) to evoke a mantra feeling, and that poem works well read for an audience.


In time, a man can cry in public without shame
In time, blood will be thinned out
In time, clocks will lose their voices
In time, death will not be the end
In time, erasure will be high art
In time, fashion will be censored
In time, great men are endangered
In time, home and hearts are interchangeable
In time, islands will be landlocked
In time, justice will have given up blindness
In time, kings will sit on the ground and tell sad stories of their own deaths
In time, lines have no meaning
In time, mornings will show sunsets
In time, nightingales will listen, not sing
In time, oaks will no longer grow from acorns
In time, punishment
In time, qucksilver will be worth more than platinum
In time, rain will be warm
In time, silence in the heart will be enough
In time, there will be guns without bullets
In time, underwhelming will be the new success
In time, voluptuous will be considered a lifestyle choice
In time, winter will not have to return
In time, xylophones will be made of bones again
In time, years will not fit into calendars
In time, zoos will have no cages

(c) 2014


In a Day – NaPoWriMo #24

Day 24 was a most curious prompt – write a poem about masonry.

In typical style, I have tacked my masonry poem onto the theme of love – because what is poetry without love poems and tortured analogy. 🙂

In a Day

“Rome wasn’t built in a day”

such a stupid phrase.
of course it wasn’t built in a day
nobody said otherwise
something like a city
takes time to put together
you have to make the bricks
the right shape,
have to ensure the concrete
is mixed to the recipe
if you use substandard masonry
you’ll have nothing more than
reorganised sand to live in
certain types of bricks work
better together, fit cleaner,
smoother, bear a greater load

when first built, Rome looked
nothing like it does now,
that first attempt never holds up
and that’s okay, the second wall
stands stronger than the first
rubble makes the best foundation
bricks flake apart
fighting to keep the sky
from crashing to the ground

eventually, after many fires
more changes of style
than a teenager
and an conurbation of civil engineers
these walls will stay up
all the roads will lead
to the right places
and the city, will be ready
to be twinned

they always say
“Rome wasn’t built in a day”
they never say it about love

(c) 2014