An eclection of poems, by turns lyrical, sardonic and celebratory. Neither fearing rhyme nor revering it, they flirt shamelessly with the sententious and sentimental, occasionally nod to their elders and betters yet remain assiduously accessible.
I used to navigate by rail through the dark heart of Manchester. When the scattered copies of 'Metro' palled, I found writing the best way of blocking out the squalor and misery of those overcrowded carriages.
Special thanks to Ron Baker and Sarah Fiske of the Spotlight Club, Lancaster, for the opportunity to perform many of these pieces in public.
This book records the pupation into a poet. What a sandwich-board burden of a word that is - anyone aspiring to that role must bear the expectations of an idiot savant to speak for their age.
For me, it started in a friend's bathroom. See, I'd shown my novel, The Lucky Krab to the aforementioned Ron Baker. Sure, he'd said some nice things about it, including those immortal words "You can definitely write", but he'd also suggested that I enter an upcoming poetry slam.
"What's a slam?" I asked.
Ron explained how a slam works. I still think it's a silly, vainglorious word, but the gist is you write a poem, perform it within a time limit and thereby submit your soul to the judgement of your peers. It's quite fun, really.
That left only two questions; a) how hard could it be? and b) what the hell could I write about?
Not long after that, I found myself in a friend's bathroom looking at her rather attractive collection of sea shells and I found myself pondering what life looks like from the point of view of a Nautilus. That sounded like a way in, so a week later, I turned up at the Slam with a sheet of A4 and a seismic pulse. The poem, "Perspectives" won second prize and I came away with actual cash.
Writing that poem was like removing a gob of hair from a plug-hole. I wrote three or four poems a week for the next few months - some of them quite good, some of them bin-fodder. Eventually, I developed that hardest skill of all, self-restraint, and built up enough too-good-for-the-bin pieces for a collection.
All of which is a rather long-winded apology for the dullness of the title, which I chose to represent the importance of that first piece. My later titles, Stinging the Sepia, A Whoop Above the Dust and A Silence Black as Milk are a bit more interesting, I hope.
You let me plait your hair tonight
And, just for once
Didn't moan that Mum was better.
I brushed it straight, in a golden cascade
Then parted the curtain with not enough fingers.
A hypnotic weaving
Where three silken tresses
Took turns centre-stage
The others supporting
The whole of it stronger
Than the sum of its strands
Just like us.
Video extracts from the book