Manchester remembers

Was so proud recently that my poem, Manchester, was chosen by BBC Radio Manchester for their 20th year bomb commemoration broadcast.

They made a video (sadly with typo from years ago – I’m a grammar pedant!)

It was voiced by people who were involved in the events of the day.

Was invited to the broadcast and it was a great honour.

But here’s a thing:

  • I understand that the internet throws up many problems in protecting copyright, and I am certainly not precious about things (heaven knows there’s no money involved!!!) but was disappointed to find my poem online recently, with a new introduction added and zero acknowledgement. I know it’s been used on blogs/profiles before and I’m ok with that, it’s also been used by a Uni and tv (with permission) and read as part of a tour, but trying to pass  it off as your own is a step too far. 

Day 30 – Last One!

Before I start, many thanks to all who have followed, liked or commented, or even just dipped in to read one poem. I hope you enjoyed it/them and thanks for supporting my efforts. See you next year, if not before!
I was a bit disappointed to find this was the final challenge because it’s another of those that can sound either like complete nonsense or just very contrived. As I have a passing acquaintance with other languages, I also found this tricky as my natural tendency is to try to translate.
I was determined to finish, however, so ploughed on regardless. I used a poem in Swedish  (a language I do not know) by Thomas Transtromer but either by luck or judgement some of the words are actually the same as the poem in translation, as I found out afterwards. I found it impossible to just use the word sounds in the same order, so this is more ‘informed by’ the original, with some embellishment and divergence. It’s weird – what can I say?
Once again I really enjoyed the challenge and I’m quite sad it’s over, even though it was tricky at times. I always say I will try to keep writing, thereby setting myself up for a fall, so this time I will say nothing and just see what I can do!

The Badlands Nightingales

In the green of midnight, nightingales sing shyly, like lovers in a trance,
meet secretly together, under cover. Sages all, they coalesce by chance,
unite in their elemental dance of oblivion.
Rudely roused by neon lights they fly, with geometric precision:
the sudden tick, tack, tick, tack of their strident wings slicing the verdant night.
Omens trip gently from their troubled tongues, feign concern for man.
Dawn marks a new day that strums with melancholy, breaks solemnly.
The nightingales speak to us but we have forgotten their tongue.
Some slip into rhetoric, hold us in thrall, blind us to their lies.

Day 29 – I remember

Wow – the penultimate challenge! Where did April go to?
That said, I am torn between thinking about how hard it has been to stay on track, at times, and delighted that I have managed to (just about…) keep up.
I always say that I intend to carry on writing, only to fail miserably within a day or two.
This year I am saying nothing but I was lucky enough to win the fiction prize at my University this week, totally out of the blue, and so it has made me think that maybe I do still actually have some kind of voice and should push myself to try something different and exciting.  Watch this space!

Anyway, to the challenge: things I remember. Sorry, went a bit of a weird/depressing way and I know the line length/rhyme are iffy, but it’s the penultimate day! (oooh that rhymes too…)


I remember desperately wanting the cockerel egg cup:
our lives so focused on such minutiae, it held us spellbound.
The twilight of the ward, the never-darkness,
was lifted gently on a Sunday night, when all around,
even for non-believers, the lyre and Bible stories
offered comfort, peace – a temporarily welcome sound.
I literally fell out of bed one day, to reach a Popeye toy,
the bulk of plaster soon dragging me back down.
Ice cream, smuggled in, in plastic footballs,
helped to soothe the itchiness of cotton-wool
but never the routine of pink medicine and the inevitable sick-bowl.
Eventually I learned to walk again, each time harder than before.
Recovery always took longer, though my body  strived for so much more.
Seems to me, I became one of the plastic toys on my table tray:
compelled to keep moving, being pulled painfully every which way.
And always, the merciless ledge – inexplicably stopping me at the edge.

Day 28 – backwards poem

The trickiest thing with this challenge, in my humble opinion, is the punctuation. So rather than struggle for hours/days/weeks to get it perfect, or go for single sentences with full stops, I took some liberties. Do I feel bad? Hell, no!
There is always the darkness
While, inside her aching head,
Like so many times before,
She feels it crushing – pulsing through her veins.
There is uncertainty and
an inherent inability to understand a total block.
There is one conclusion:
A pressure, building inexorably –
Submission, offering
Hope in redemption.
One tiny comfort:
there is always the darkness.

Day 27 – long lines

I am a bit disturbed about how television seems to be informing/inspiring my writing lately!

I lapsed a bit behind yesterday so I am only doing a short one, with long lines, if that actually makes any sort of sense? Also, I  tend to err on the side of brevity, so this one is quite a challenge for me.

Curiously I found I had made myself a note on Tuesday night, while watching Bake Off: Creme de la Creme, which said “geometric petits gateaux”. Yes, I really am that sort of person!!!!

Anyway, I used that as a starting point and here’s the sweet, but perfectly formed, result:
Crème de la crème

Et voila! Observe the pastry chefs, as they carefully assemble geometric petits gateaux.
Every one exquisite: decoration quite precise, presented perfectly,side by side. Just so.
Next, they craft a croquembouche – a golden Tour Eiffel, magnificent and soaring.
But their showcase, a sweet retelling of Dante’s nine circles of hell, was judged too boring!

Day 26 – call and response

I have to be honest – I really dislike this kind of repeating poem and would never write one normally. The first year I did NaPoWriMo I seem to remember the sea shanty prompt really stopping me in my tracks for several days.

However, I was watching River Monsters on the TV tonight and we were joking about how, in previous series’, the anticipation is always ramped up about what could be lurking in the deep waters and preying on local animals and people, but inevitably it’s always a blooming catfish in the end!

Obviously things have been mixed up a bit this series, so this is my homage – with just a soupcon of artistic licence!

River Monsters

There’s a monster lurking here,
Could it be a catfish?
local people live in fear.
Could it be a catfish?
When a giant lies in wait
Could it be a catfish?
I must use myself as bait.
Could it be a catfish?
I still have that tingling feel
Could it be a catfish?
from a mad electric eel.

Could it be a catfish?

From Venezuela to Guyana,

Could it be a catfish?
far more likely it’s piranha.
Could it be a catfish?
I found paiche in dark Peru
Could it be a catfish?
(that’s arapaima or pirarucu).
Could it be a catfish?
A fish by any other name…
Could it be a catfish?
is still, to fishermen, fair game!
Could it be a catfish?
This week I have found my prey
Could it be a catfish?
among the sharks, out in the bay.
Could it be a catfish?
Who said this series is in a rut?
Could it be a catfish?
No – even catfish are found in the gut
of the giant, predatory halibut!

Day 25 (caught up!!) – borrowing

Hurrah, I am back on track and there is less than a week to go! (she says, setting herself up for a fall…)

I never cease to be amazed at what my head/fingers write when I approach some of these challenges. I often look back at them later and can’t remember/believe that I have written some of them – that’s why I really love to do NaPoWriMo, even though it can be quite overwhelming at times.

I borrowed a line from a Simon Armitage poem that I didn’t know and didn’t read beforehand. It was called ‘About His Person’. Having read it afterwards it felt quite ‘Mr Bleaney’ whereas mine has a slightly obsessive/sinister undertone in some respects, but hopefully also retains a bit of a love story feel. The line I chose was “planted there like a spray carnation”. I really love Simon Armitage’s poetry so I am glad I went for this.



He stood silently
by the gate, planted there
like a spray carnation in a rain shower,
Through the nets
all day I watched him,
saw him grow sodden
as the light failed.
At midnight
I parted the blind, to find him
stark in streetlight,
Dawn drew me,
stale, blinking
I grabbed a coat,
keys, ran
to where I knew
he would still be waiting


Day 24 – mix highbrow and everyday

The challenge today was to choose some highbrow words and then mix them into a poem with everyday ones. I concentrated on a couple of words which led me to a home environment, and this is what came out:



on my fridge-mounted
shopping list,
reminds me that I buy
bread, cheese and tea
with alarming regularity.
Who can deny the
unnameable assuagement
of a brew and a cheese butty?
I scrub/scrape sink soap scum
and, alliteratively,
wet wipe windows.
I pause
to anthropomorphise
my pets, plants and,
random household appliances.
I eschew the science
in favour of the aesthetics
of cooking,
though my reluctance to follow
a didactic narrative
can sometimes lead to
a flop.

Day 23 – Sonnet

A sonnet – whoopee! That was a sarcastic ‘whoopee’, I might add. Ah well, put my head down and got on with it. I tried to stick with the basic form but not necessarily sure that I could do the volta element, however I tried!

The scents of summer always take me back:
a childhood spent out, playing in the sun,
among the sedge and cowslips we would run.
True feral kids, we formed a private pack.

The tented hawthorn arched above our heads
A canopy, concealing us from sight.
Our dens would fill our days from dawn to night
And fill our dreams, when tucked up tight in bed.

But was it always sunny in my youth?
I can’t believe we never felt the rain.
Could it be I’m hiding from the truth?
It’s easier than facing up to pain.

Alone and growing old, my mind unsure,
the arms of childhood gather me once more.

Day 22 – Earth Day

Well the temptation here was to go all Michael Jackson (minus Jarvis Cocker) I suppose, but I’m not really in the mood for doom and gloom so I just did something light and fluffy instead. I love bees and I know they are not doing so well these days, so I do plant flowers to attract and feed them. We get lots of red tailed bumblebees in our garden as they love the Cotoneaster horizontalis (see pic on left above).


Bombus lapidarius,
the red-tailed bumblebee,
pootles round my garden
as happy as can be.

His pollen baskets bulging,
he buzzes merrily
from flower to fragrant flower,
how sweet to be a bee…