Category Archives: collaborating

What we thought was true…

We thought it was a sign, the sudden
shattering of the sky. The screaming prophets
scrying doom in lint balls scraped from the darkest corners
of their mystic pockets.

We thought it was a sign, the flying out of orbit
of the world; but maybe it was just a storm becalmed
in a cup of coffee, sipped by normality on the fields
of Armageddon.

We thought it was a sign. Yet in the street
slow traffic still gangles past the doors and windows,
fast bolted against the ominous black sea
of superstitious feathers.

We thought it was a sign, but the crones tell us
it’s not the sky above us we should fear.
Instead, we should fear our own unstable witness
of this unwilling moment.

We thought it was a sign. But later – if later comes –
we will know it was only the skreeling of fear
prophesying its own dreadful fulfilment in the confusion
of our lonely hearts.

This started life as a chain poem on the poetry collaborative. 14 poets each contributed a line, and we were then invited to do our own revisions of the original draft. This is my revision – click here to see the original poem and links to other people’s revisions. Many thanks to  Jo, Dana, Leslie, Rethabile, Dave, Nathan, Blythe, Christine, Susan, Whirling DervishSchmutzie, Kay, and Jessica for their inspiring creativity!



Dear Dana and Dave

In a world muddied by fake vibrato the real thing
becomes mythical. So rare for the ears
to glimpse the vibrant voice that springs
from the stretch of a diaphragm sinking low
to touch the gutrock of emotion. And yet
when you hear that voice coming up from
the depths of the soul, trembling with the
force of its intimate journey, you know
why there are so many imitations of this
pulsing heart-sound. The endless shabby
imitation doesn’t flatter – it clutters,
makes it harder to find the real gold –
yet cannot debase the real coinage
for those whose teeth know how to bite it.
Still sad to see the thousand wild goose chases
of shaky singers, who, like celebrity chefs,
pretentious poets or arrogant artists
seek to show that they are great cooks
by pouring salt and spices over
tasteless battery meat when flavour
comes from the deep bone marrow of a life
lived as free-range as a skein
of geese winging their heart songs
across the face of the coming dawn.


I’ve just butted into a poetry conversation between Dana and Dave, who have been exchanging poems, each one responding to the previous poem. They’ve kindly extended the invitation for other poet-bloggers to join them. If you’d like to reply to my poem, or any of theirs, all you have to do is link back to the poem you’re responding to, and leave a comment with the original poem so that people can follow the conversation in both directions. Have fun…

Bones of the earth

amazing photo volcano eruption lightning

amazing photo of an erupting volcano from




Blurring all the days and nights,
cloud banks muffle the sky’s bright space
And a tirelessly destructive breeze rewrites
the expressions of the world’s wrinkled face.

But still the pulse of the living earth
awakens striving hope and breath
in the cataclysmic earth-wombed rebirth
of dreaming mountains from molten death

Ageless rocks in the elements’ hells,
stand and weather the eroding dew,
which joyfully rivers to eternity’s wells,
where long-lost hopes are born anew.

This poem was produced in response to readwritepoem’s challenge to write a poem based on the skeleton of someone else’s. I used a skeleton provided by throwshiswords – I didn’t read his original poem until afterwards, so all I had was this skeleton:

_______ all the _____ and _______,
_______ ____ obscures the ____.
____ _______ breezes _______
erase the ______ of the ___.

But still the _____ _____ of the ________
awakens ______ ___ and ____.
In the ________ _________ echo,
_________ half-__________ ______.

Ageless ________ in the _______,
_____ and _____ and _____ alone,
connected ______ ___ to _____,
a long-lost _____ is _____ _____.

And here is the original poem I produced based on that skeleton:

Blurring all the days and nights,
damp mist obscures the stars
subtly destructive breezes patiently
erase the face of the world

But still the pulse beat of the living earth
awakens tentative hope and breath
In the quiet, unregarded echo
of patient half-heard dreams

Ageless rocks in the elements’ path,
stand and weather and endure alone,
connected subtly to eternity’s wells,
a long-lost hope is born anew.

I then went back and did some tweaking – I wanted to deepen the connection between some of the images, and also felt the poem wanted rhyme. Thus ending up with the version that appears at the top of this post.

An intriguing process – firstly that I spontaneously used some of the words from the original poem that didn’t make it into the skeleton (dew, mist) – and something of the same mood. And secondly that, although the final version contains very little of the skeleton, I don’t think it’s a poem I would have spontaneously written without the prompt.

Six months’ worth of writing, living and learning

To celebrate six months of blogging (over 200 posts and nearly 100 poems!), I thought I would share thirteen things I have learnt in that time, many of them directly from blogging:


  1. Hearts can heal, and a thoroughly healed heart is stronger than one that has never been broken.

  2. Creativity, particularly new creative projects, is a great way not just to recover from a broken heart, but to grow immeasurably from the experience.

  3. Writing doesn’t have to be a solitary activity – and sharing drafts with an understanding audience is a great way to keep motivated.
  4. Writing things in a public forum, even to a small audience of people whose faces I have never seen, is different from just writing them for yourself – and it can be much more healing.
  5. Sometimes the things I don’t want to say are the ones I most need to say. Sometimes the things I don’t want to say are also what others are most interested in hearing

  6. Free writing practices often produce some of my best writing… and paradoxically often my most structured writing too. And I’m increasingly realising that the ideas and experiences that go into my poems are strong enough to stand as free verse. I enjoy playing with different structures, but I can have more confidence in the interest of my own voice. 

  7. It’s better to say too much than to be too vague to be understood – even if you have to clarify what you meant, or soothe someone’s agitation, you’re communicating. And being so tolerant of other people’s views and beliefs that we don’t express our own is almost always counterproductive – and leads to much less interesting discussions.

  8. It’s far too easy to accept arguments and evidence that supports your conclusion, and not notice the obvious flaws. Reading and participating in the debates in the blogosphere has made me very aware of this, and hopefully made me a more honest debater!

  9. There are some wonderful people out there in the blogosphere…. as well as a lot of people who can’t string a coherent sentence together. Many people out there have had lives incredibly more difficult and complicated than mine has been. I’ve been touched and moved and shocked by some of the things I’ve read. I don’t know whether bloggers are more likely to have trauma in their past, or whether it’s just that in the blogosphere, people tell stories that you would normally hear only from your closest friends. Either way, thank you all for increasing my awareness and understanding of what it is to be human.

  10. Finding my own words to express myself is, right now, more important to me than singing the music and words written by others, however beautiful and powerful.

  11. Always follow your dreams can be a good principle, but it can also be a trap that leaves us struggling and miserable, feeling like failures or forcing ourselves to do things that just aren’t right any more. So it’s important to leave room for both you and your dreams to change and grow.

  12. This last year has been an intense time – difficult in many ways, but I don’t regret a moment of it. I have learnt so much and grown so much, that it’s a hundred times worth all the tears and the pain of heartbreak.

  13. Writing means far less without readers – so thank you all!

Together – a Burmese Climbing rhyme

So they were true,
the words you said!
I knew, deep down –
yet still found it
astounding we
could stop grieving
so easily –
once more free, to
just be in love.
Like a dove wings
above the wood
to her good home,
we could nest too,
me and you, with
our wounds now healed.

This is my first attempt at a Burmese climbing rhyme, an intriguing form that I came across thanks to Michelle at Poefusion, who came across it at The Miss Rumphius Effect. Each line is of four syllables, and uses end and internal rhymes in the following pattern: 

x x x a
x x a x
x a x b
x x b x
x b x c
x x c x
x c x x

(Edit – I’ve just realised it’s possible to go on indefinitely with this form, so have expanded the poem beyond its original seven lines!)

In the night

Someone, somewhere is playing a tune
his fingers strumming in the gloom
on the trembling strings. And my heart
echoes the pulse of his subtle art.
Someone, somewhere is playing a tune,
calling to me through the rainswept dark.
In the unknown distance, under the moon
someone, somewhere is playing a tune
on the trembling strings of my heart.

This is a response to the picture above, by newjack at photobucket, the Monday mural at poefusion.  My response came to me as a very complete visual and aural image, though it’s nothing I’ve ever experienced! It started as a triolet but I modified it because I didn’t want the refrain lines to appear together until the final couplet, and because the repetition just seemed to work better this way.

Inevitable chance

Sometimes I wonder – “Just how we will meet?”
In the elegantly intimate embrace of tango?
Clumsily colliding on some unfamiliar street?
Or both reaching out for the same plump mango?

Voices finding harmony in spontaneous duet?
Or a very civil handshake in an office’s formality?
Wrestling with each other in a martial artist’s sweat?
Arguing about the state of affairs bizarrely called normality?

Defying fear of strangers on the underground at night?
Or comfy on a friend’s introductory settee?
Surfing in the tangled web of true and false bytes?
But there’s no point guessing where and when it will be!

One day it will seem that our souls were born to merge.
But only by chance will our paths at last converge.

A sonnet inspired by Sunday Scribblings’ prompt to write about a chance encounter. It’s both serious and light-hearted, which is very much the way I’m taking my search for a new partner!