Excerpt for It Was Funny On Paper Poems A E Miller Wrote Before The Internet by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

It was funny on paper: Poems A.E.Miller wrote before the internet

Copyright 2018 Anthony E Miller

Published by Anthony E Miller at Smashwords

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This e-book contains most of my poems and bits of nonsense that others deemed worthy of publication in various small press magazines (and Viz) between the years 1992-2005 when I eventually gave up writing poetry through gradual apathy. Excluding the ones I don’t like and no one else liked it comes in at under 30 of them so to pad it out I’ve written this forward which is longer than the collection its self about my half arsed meanderings through the poetry world between the ages of 21 and 33 before the internet was invented and everyone could just shout at each other over the ether perpetually and have it held against them by future employers and the general public. Not that people were not equally outraged in the early 1990s … they just did it quietly… because no one could hear.

Most poets see their first collection as a stepping stone along a long career. I, on the other hand, see mine firmly as the end of my poetry career. As Michael Jackson would say : This Is It. Although I may have written some more – I just don’t feel like inflicting them on the world. It’s about 10 years since I tried to get a poem published in a literary magazine and as result this stuff now seems both a long time ago and more like a block of what for a better word I’ll call “work” that might be worth collecting together …just …so I thought I’d better do so in case I snuff it. As Edward Lennox Wallace the antihero of Stephen Fry’s The Hippopotamus once remarked “reading other people’s poems is like smelling their farts” …or something along those lines but never-the-less as this is an e-book not a real book (unless you chose unwisely to purchase the corporeal version) so I thought it would be fun to leave in the bad as well as the average.

The reason I started writing poems is rather uninspiring. I wanted to write and there was no internet so I joined a writing group at University and that’s what everyone else did. Without the life experience or skill to write a novel, play, script or something more complex poetry was something we could all attempt with varying degrees of success or failure as poems are description before plot – so I did. The downside of this is, of course, that writing a poem anyone wants to read or publish is very hard because of the quantity of competition and obscurity of the form. Also the early poems were sort of semi performance pieces – that is they were written to be read out loud – whereas the later ones were written for the printed page. What works on the page often sounds rubbish when spoken… and visa versa… different types of crap.

The – for want of a better phrase – career path in poetry at the time was to write six poems at a time and post them to a poetry magazine who would maybe select one or two to publish at any time between 6 months and 2 years later and to keep doing this until you’ve been published widely enough and published by enough people in the small press to get together enough poems that a publisher of slim volumes no one reads might decide that you now have a large enough profile that someone may be interested in reading a whole book of your witterings. Most poetry magazines are/ were edited by people attempting to, as their writers were, raise their profile – sorry, I mean ….are written by people who are very interested in poetry as a form. Actually today it’s probably true that most poetry publishers and editors are very interested in poetry as a form but in the past there were a lot more interlopers and entryists like me who’ve since left. Many of the early pieces here I would not even attempt to write as poetry these days. They are pieces of satire, nonsense, review and sub-journalism and the reason they’re in a form of a poem is because there was a larger market for poetry than for all these other forms. Today you can publish pretty much what you like on the internet in any form but in the 1980s and 1990s it was not so. So really… The poetry world was simply where I first found I could get stuff published and listened to …so as people started to offer to publish my nonsense... so I wrote stuff and as people continued to print it I wrote more stuff... etc .. etc… much like my comedy career which continues because people book me rather than because I’ve thought about why I’m doing it or because the public enjoys it. At least with comedy you have the excuse that you need to do gigs because you have booked gigs. I’m not sure what my excuse for continually writing poems was. Do I need one?

I’ve always been writing something but much of it is unreadable and consigned to old ring binders. Honestly I wasn’t that interested in poetry…. But I wasn’t disinterested. It was more a question of if you don’t know much about performing and you’re not a journalist or a stand up what else do you do? Also I was a bit dyslexic and poems are enormously easier to read than novels so I found the poetry world easier to engage with. So that’s another reason. Anyway it seemed at least one up on just being another commentator on something – although, of course, many of my poems were just commentaries masquerading as poems. What I’m driving at is the supposedly bad stuff is at the start of this ebook which is in a vague chronological order … but reading it today I wasn’t sure what was good or bad..?

After a while I figured out that different editors had different requirements and the solution to getting published was in many ways to meet the editor half way by reading the kind of thing they published and writing something that seemed to fit that style. But when you think about that … that’s like the “accepted” logic of stand up reversed. Instead of everybody trying to find their own style many in the literary world are trying to emulate the same style. Okay, that’s hugely over simplistic but let’s just say from the start I could see problems with the model of evaluating things…

All literary poetry magazines were/are financed by their subscribers who are, to a large extent, their writers too creating an interesting overlap of responsibilities. Such is the vanity publishing ouroboros. At the bottom of the pile were those magazines who simply published what their readers sent in based on how much cash they have… which is of course absurdly democratic. But if you’re going to pay to be published why bother paying for space with someone else? Suffice to say the economics of the bottom end of the poetry scene which I used to inhabit mirrored in many ways the economics of the bottom end of the comedy scene which I now inhabit.

Like the open mic circuit the poetry world insisted on articles of faith such as that one should read as much poetry as possible in order to become a better poet. While this may be a good idea in general it did seem to me somewhat obviously self serving and the fact that no one seemed to see how self serving it was seemed to me beyond parody. No small press editor was ever going to say that you didn’t need to read their magazine in order to be good enough to be in it. Also as a comedian I to some extent avoid watching some comedians too much as I’m scared of absorbing their material or becoming a clone in terms of delivery. In the poetry world these problems bothered nobody. None of this is to say that the published had no intrinsic artistic value. It is art and it does exist so some of it must be of some value. It’s just that most of valuable stuff is submerged in a sea of dross – like what appears in this volume. And of course that sea is in my view made deeper but no more easily navigable by Arts Council/Lottery funding. There seemed to me a direct correlation between Arts Council/Lottery funding and the incomprehensibility of some magazines.

As time went on and the internet was invented suddenly writing for the small press seemed increasingly absurd. You could write directly on the internet and be read instantly. So why did people still insist that they needed to be published on paper – with all the technical limitations that that entails? For instance most of the later “serious” poems in this collection are no longer than 40 lines. There’s a reason for this. The economics of paper publishing and subscriber magazines means that any poem that brakes the 40 line limit is unlikely to be economic enough to publish and even if it is good enough to publish ….it would be a huge risk on many levels for most editors to publish anything longer than 40 lines …which is about as much as you can get on an A5 page without splitting the poem over the page. As a result my poems got shorter and shorter until now they are zero lines…. Yes when the internet came along it was as if a veil had been lifted. I mean okay maybe there’s something to be said for paper but surely it would make it easier for the poor to participate if these people also issued their small press magazine in e-book form which would keep the price down. Besides which I read nothing on paper these days unless it doesn’t exist in downloadable format because I actually find it easier to read on the internet. The fact that they don’t do this only confirms to me my long held suspicion that secretly much of the poetry world is not about quality but about snobbery. Not that it was exactly a well kept secret. I mean do none of these people have a Kindle? Really? To be fair there are certain bulk volume economic advantages of a large print run vs print on demand and there are some great poetry websites and paper magazines out there but there still seem to me to be many people in the poetry world clinging to paper like it’s a life raft? Why? It was shit. Move on. Or at least think about it…

That all said I did notice that when I wrote an okay poem it was usually snapped up by the first editor to read it whereas when I wrote a bad or mediocre poem it would be continually rejected sequentially by an endless procession of editors. As most editors suggested sending in a “hand of six” I’d use some of the bad ones to bulk out the fact that actually I wasn’t writing new ones very fast. As I got slightly better at it the volume of time it took to write one poem I liked got increasingly longer till now it has reached near to infinity. I was learning to self edit… but it was still nice to have someone else decide your work was worthy of attention. Just as comedians test their works against audiences, poets likes to test their works about editors. One of the poems was even reprinted in an anthology about World War One by and I think I once received a cheque for £15 from some editor. So there is money in poetry. It’s just pin money.

Individual editors had their eccentricities of course. Roger Elkin was obsessed by line breaks in a way I still don’t fully comprehend but I feel he had a point somewhere. And Carole Baldock once sat on one of my poems for about a year before sending me a version she had re-written herself a week before publication asking casually if I minded the changes. Well, erm… Yes. Accepting the poem then saying you want to rewrite it months later is to say the least a little disingenuous / indecisive. After all if it was crap why accept it to begin with? “I’m an editor. Therefore I edit” she said but it has to be said in the strictest sense editing is taking things out not putting them in or completely rewriting. Here’s my diplomatic reply as reprinted in her organ…

… sparking lots of replies by angry self righteous prigs queuing up to have their voice turned into someone else’s. However what annoyed me was not just her actions but the general doctrine of the poetry world that all that is important in poetry is the best and most perfect arrangement of the words. Not their meaning or what is being said. Poems are made of words not ideas it was often bleated which while literally true is as intellectually asinine as saying the Shard is made of steel and glass not blueprints. But then I suppose if the poetry world said things it’d find it far harder to apply for Arts Council funding. Anyway this was the point in time when I finally decided I’d had enough with the poetry world and it was just a waste of my time… It is an absurdity that in an era of massive public spending cuts the poetry world still insists it needs grants from the government and the arts councils towards subsidising poetry magazines that are on paper when they could just as well exist digitally. It wouldn’t be so bad if state funding produced better magazines but it always seemed to me to produce magazines that were at best esoteric or at worst simply unreadable.

Perhaps that’s harsh but I subscribed to many magazines during my poetry writing era that I simply never understood and having paid for this experience I think I have some right to say that at times it was a bit crap. Of course all poetry is to some level esoteric or it would be prose and there’s a place for poetry that is “intellectually challenging” but personally I find little relaxation in poems that are so complex they read like a cross between a cryptic crossword and an insoluble riddle. At least my poems are readable and comprehensible to most people even if on the downside they may be somewhat trite, corny and lacking in deeper meaning. Luckily today I know my place. In the back of a pub talking poorly conceived smut masquerading as vaguely intellectual comedy.

Not that tactless editors and money were the only reasons I gave up writing poetry. Eventually I found doing up to 100 comedy gigs a year, dating, writing my act and working full time was somewhat demanding and looking at my life in terms of what was producing the least pecuniary advantage and fulfilment writing poetry seemed fairly near the bottom of my list. So gradually I wrote less and less of it, renewed fewer subscriptions and drifted away from the poetry world.

The thing is I suppose I didn’t mind to some level subsiding the small press in its ambitions to kill lots of trees when that was the only way for people to communicate short of becoming a journalist or a stand up as I did but … but as this gradually ceased to be true I increasingly started to think …why am I giving these people my money? And I just couldn’t think of a sensible answer. At the same time I felt as I wasn’t financially contributing I shouldn’t participate. Madness. But maybe if I wasn’t doing stand up I’d still be writing poems and sending them into small press magazines. I’ve always written comedy things but I only really turned to stand up when the 1999 OPEC price war created a massive round of continual redundancies in the oil industry which prompted me to think more along the lines of …if I’m going to do this writing thing what’s the best way to make it work financially?

To be fair comedy usually works better live than on paper but to be fairer a lot of the poetry world is completely humourless. Doing stand up meant I could take the silly jokes out of my poetry but in a strange way I started to feel then that my poetry was then just becoming a watered down version of my comedy. The aim of the poetry world was not just to be read… it was said… but to write things so good they’d still be read in 100 years time. I don’t think any of my poems are of that quality but since someone invented print on demand and ebooks here they all are for you to enjoy either digitally or in dead tree and throw away. Eat that Faber and Faber. Amazon has made them eternal … even if that means eternally ignored. As some of the poems are a bit abstract further explanation of some of them is given at the end…

Not all the poems in this book were published in the traditional small press. Some were published in Pelicans the Leeds University Union funded magazine where there was more space to play with. And some were published in Gargoyle – Chris Allen and Alan Wheeldon’s magazine - which they succeeded in selling through shops directly to the public on a break-even basis till the physical exertion of distribution overtook them. These poems are slightly more satirical and less esoteric. Really they’re semi-performance pieces. Not really poems at all but parodies and satires. Readers of books of old poetry will probably get most of the classic works they are sending up. The Black White Norman Freeze is a parody of The Green Eye of the Little Yellow God. The Hand that Pumped the Penis is a crude Dylan Thomas parody etc. It’s always easier to write a parody of an existing work than to come up with an original idea. Credit should also go to Chris and Alan’s housemate Olive Poole who got us some free publicity in the Yorkshire Evening Post in the form of this article…

… Gargoyle had nothing to do with peace – we were just shameless self publicists.

As I remember one of Oliver’s relatives owned the paper or something along those lines and we had enormous fun winding him up about this… particularly when an envelope turned up for him addressed to him by the hereditary title which he went to great pains to keep secret. However, we weren’t of course above manipulating the advantages of any nepotistic arrangements to advance our own ends. Eventually Oliver became a war correspondent and was sent to Iraq to be shot at a lot… He even wrote a couple of books about not getting a cap in his arse …Black Knights: On the Bloody Road to Baghdad and Red Zone: Five Bloody Years in Baghdad. So maybe having a daddy who owns the local rag isn’t all it is cracked up to be if... Chris Allen writes plays these days. Alan Wheeldon still reads.

One reason I’ve left the nonsense stuff in is there is a kind of crossover between the parodies and the later “proper” poems. The first proper poem that was published in Envoi was the result of a cut up and re-arrangement exercise that Alan Wheeldon who was a big fan of William S. Burroughs suggested we try. You cut up a page of text and re-arrange the words into a new form / story / poem. Of course all poems stand on their own but it just shows if you give a comedian a cut up page from a novel eventually they’ll come up with something that they can slip past a literary editor.

Credit and/or blame for smelling these “farts” should also go to the editors who selected them from mounds of meaningless paper – a thankless task. Most small press editors receive up to 10,000 poems a year of which they can only print 50-100 an issue ... Including the late Mike Shields and Carole Baldock at Orbis, Roger Elkin at Envoi, David Holliday and later Bob Mee and Janet Murch at Iota. Andy Robson of Krax. Sam Smith of the Journal. And of course Chris Donald of Viz who once gave me a cheque, three subscriptions and a free pen for sending in more Top Tips than anyone sane wanted to read. The best of these that don’t stand up very well are at the very back as are the Snail and Sea-Cucumber song lyrics for all those who complain I don’t perform these pieces in my set anymore but never booked me because of them. Write your own tunes and sing them for yourselves.

Of course it’s easy to send up the poetry world as a self serving mutual admiration society along the lines of the Poetry Society in Hancock’s Half Hour but I suppose that the real problem in the end is that like Tony Hancock I do admire and aspire on some level to being like William Oxley, John Greening, Tim Love, Mario Petrucci or someone sensible. I’m just not. For one thing if you think stand up is lonely you’ve never sat at home writing poetry. Black him, purple her, yellow us, pink you...

The Black White Norman Frieze

There’s a black white Norman frieze at the back of Chaldon church

where depicted is the final judgement day

and the devil to the angel laughs forever wicked cackles

and over steaming cauldrons people flay.

And beneath the eves of Chaldon church peasants made their praise

humble under watchful eyes of final judgement days

Noted Angel then to Devil: “Watch, you lose for they fear God!”

and Devil back to Angel “We have our plans, oh saintly sod.”

“I say against such faith as this no plan of yours can win.”

“Of what you say, oh saintly sod, I couldn’t give a shit.

I'll work you wait and see.” Answers Angel “I wouldst not bet on it.”

But before the two could lay there bets they had been –

There’s a white white painted wall at the back of Chaldon church

and before it Cranmer’s words the preachers mutter,

and with new found texts of nothing, farm enclosures and much suffering

diluted rites of consecrations utter.

Fading whispers of the years pass the Devil’s and Ange1’s ears

Fading wounds of purpose lost the paint have crossed

When in roughly ’63 give a year or 23

mutter CofE priest with reverent apathy:

“You know we really should make an effort to do this old place up,

I’d say it needs a jolly good spring clean!”

And so they stripped the paint from the wall and found revealed there all

the secrets for so many years unseen.

To examine experts seek for many a very long week

to restore the frieze and date and understand,

but the figures on the wall do not seem to talk at all.

“Hell?” “Judgement?” Vicar cannot understand.

“Think you not, ‘He told me so’? See you not the evil grow?”

laugh Devil judging congregation now again.

“The way they shuffle in you can see they’re steeped in sin!

You can see I’m going to win! I told you so!

With their Volvos parked outside their wealth they cannot hide!

and eyes of needles I believe are very small.

For dead dogmas and instructions on love and all it’s functions

their pride and vanity won’t care at all.”

“True whilst we’ve been away, yes, they have been led astray,”

admits the Angel with a smile that seems to know,

“but though no silent reverence sparkles but relaxed and quiet memory

of rituals that were practised long ago.

Yet they still come every week they know not what they seek

I feel them seeking something. Do not you?”

There’s a black white Norman frieze at the back of Chaldon church

where depicted is the final judgement day

and the Devil to the Angel laughs forever wicked cackles

and over steaming cauldrons people flay.

The homeless helping man

Are you cold

are you lost in your head?

are you dead to your will?

Shall complulsion kill?

have you lost all hope

as addiction rope tighten

morning never lighten?

Well, never say die

we’ll get along

and down

the long long drain

that sinks to the sewer

that links to the river

that torrents to the wide deep ocean again

So rest your head

on the dead concrete

to cuddle your bottle up tight

curl up in the rim

of the south bank’s soft womb

with your warm poison tar hope alight

And if you’re lucky

as you fall asleep tonight

the homeless helping man coming round

will sound and be dressed in a great white golden light in the rain

and he’ll lay you like a staring starfish in your pain

and he’ll take you up in a pentagon wind

to the pace where purple bottle chain strain and strain then shatter

way away from the sinned

and it shan’t matter any more in the blue finned sea

so wide so deep



I mean why don’t they fuck off

The hand that pumped the penis had spunked seduction

that stroked fair hair

have broke free her fear

and she who couldn’t pull

who hadn’t pulled in months

nearly a year

who’s really far

who think she’s ugly

who is ugly

is with the man of her dreams now

or anyhow a man like one who was once in one of her dreams

and he didn’t cum too quickly

and he was so very kind

charming, sure, but gentle,

he left her soul behind

on the bed


when he said to his parents

how he’d had his first screw

they threw

a party

Demolishing St. Lawrence's

St. Lawrence's has no patients now

but the empty buildings know

such spirits and bad memories

as amplify and only grow

in the repetitive Victorian architecture

Windows by thousand

miles of corridor polished floor

echoing wailing voices

I remember this much more:

The doors, silently, were electric

Slid. The receptionist cool and quiet too

but how the labyrinth spread out

nobody answered or told you

The cleaner sort of grunted

and we found eventually

the mass with fainting fitting prayers

to Mr. Skinner’s memory.

And while outside the rainy windows

all the sky was black as black

and inside were no statues

or sharp objects that could split or crack

that supreme sacrifice

of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world

was made

by his servants

in episodes

episodes of restraining the congregation

who it seemed all wanted to be alter severs simultaneously

but not all helpfully

and episodes of helping giving resuscitation

to the collapsing over


But afterwards I felt the

prayer flare up?

his tormented spirit freed from hell?

it seemed so strange to have known not just

the man with the inner tube -

but the woman who found the smoke filled car as well

not running as she re-lived it.

And was he drunk when he set out?

or was he really very sane?

Did he mathematically work out

how much petrol to use

and how much would remain

in the tank

before the engine stalled

had he

thought which seconds would pass

how many, how lonely, how quickly?

Did he

wrap up in that big coat

because he thought it would be cold?

I was told he told

shadows to people

But so silent

Star distant



St. Lawrence's has it's voices now ~

for the empty buildings know

such spirits and bad memories

as amplify and only grow

And why it is they shout so loud

from featureless blocks behind shielding trees

Like every dreadful mystery

it's explainable with too much ease

Because the very existence

of every patient of this place e

has been blocked from pictures and memories by design.

There are no pictures of the patients of these buildings.

Minutes of the Theatre Group Committee (7.l2.95)

When Dorothy Parker took Prozac

nobody went wild

but a quorate vote was taken

on who got off at the ball

The meeting then proceeded

to the committee members’ petrol claims

and how to stop their screams

In order to stop their screams

a motion was carried

A motion was carried also on ‘Fit Steve’

and how he could be very big in a quiet letter

with massive majestic pathos in thanks (not said openly)

A further motion was carried

that Fit Steven was not as fit as the Vice-President

who has curling red hair

and beautiful breasts

and finally

we congratulated ourselves.

Oh, and Anthony turned up.

That's it really.

Marshmallow Man Song

I said to that old chap in cell 213 -

"I think I'm an orange — for what reason be

you in the funny bin?" he said then to me

"I am the Marshmallow man, this is my story:

I used be a student at University

I studied lots of Physics and I got a good degree

by Hadrons / Quarks / Bosons while I knew the lot

of sex by the end I had not any got


Marshmallow Marshmallow Marshmallow said he

Marshmallows Marshmallows They all should be free

Beautiful girlies their smooth skin pale white

my Marshmallow heart they have conquered outright

I went to the meat market to try and get a pull

but I'm not Casonova — as sheepish as wool

So I tried as a Prostitute — it wasn't such a whirl

I got offered sex, of course, but t'was not from a girl

I did so very well at work — I got my P.H.D.

I discovered the quo—mon—athon — so Nobel Prize for me

But all the prize I wanted was a girly by my side

I even tried the small adds - but nobody replied


I took some out to dinner by saying I'd Nobel Prize

but the ones who said they fancied me — I fancy they told lies

for the moment that I mentioned a research possibility

they'd stop asking questions, and just say “Oh, Really”

So I decided in the end that I couldn't form relationships

& satisfied myself instead with staring at their bits and hips

but I wanted for their beauty to somehow pay them back

so I started leaving notes for them — when they turned their back


For some strange strange reason

my Marshmallows caused commotion

why that this should be — I have not got a notion

and when a girly caught me then they put me in a strange jacket

they said of mental sense I'm a fag short of a packet

But some men treat their girlies like a piece of dirt

they sleep with lots of women and they dont care who they hurt

but all I ever wanted was to show love I can't hide

so for leaving Marshmallows for girls they have locked me inside.


The Story and the Woman’s Hour Presenter

Now then, great Ms Ichaowa, said the Woman's Hour presenter,

let us delve deep into your body to find it's womb and it's placenta,

where us find us at your centre, at the place from which grow flow,

with the wings of your swan power the womanhood that makes you


much better than a man could be

so starts the great Ms Ichaowa the wisdom winner Nobel Prize

to spark the fire force of fiction's infamy, to pluck the lies,

sly for secrets that are our soul, sly the pride that heart's devouring

still more the rot within

So fascinating stuff Clarissa spake the Woman's Hour presenter

but really what we want to know is how your breasts

your womb's placenta offer insights men can't know?

So start again Ms Ichaowa

fumbling fit back course somehow, as again make word music

born explain cannot know how where the powers thinks sex drives go

telling of a man's soul once special passed in to her start again grow

flow beginnings how one grow smelling shadows from twice childhood

blending insight now to –

Yes, I know, ~

but how does being a woman help?


crack flow

I don't know

why you keep asking me that, said Clarrissa though

she suspected as

Presenter stop for the serial

‘The tree that wouldn't grow’

Julie has been jilted by her lover Stephen

who it emerges has been carrying on clandestine affair

with pregnant flatmate Stephanie

so mysteriously murdered

after the lecherous Mr Magellan's retirement party.

The Doodle Sing Thing

"l whistle ditties to the breeze

that swirl about my form to please

to tantalise and titillate

the mentally invertebrate

I might decide that flares are in

or juvy hoods

or layers thin

of garments draped

now loose

now tight

I might

decide very rashly

that it should all be Laura Ashley"

So she whistles to the breeze

the flower child's pubic muse fancies

she tints the light

she tunes the sound

her echoes echo

strange ways round

till found round everything they ring

that mindless sing of copying

and dated shadows all remain

of glory waned to doodle stain

of something that was fun and light

now become quite callow

and heavy


will she flirt with it again?

To mend its heart

to break its pain

to end its heart

to make it pain

does never a single thought remain?

Does she willingly profane

The form of love?

Even as I think it

She frowns to world, to sane,

She frowns the world too sane

She tugs at my choke chain

How silly me!

I mean really?!

How could she cause any pain?

What can I mean her feign? Profane?

After all,

after all she’s said and done

all she’s done is to

Whistle ditties to the breeze

that swirl about her form to please

to tint the light

to stain the sound

to echo


strange ways round

The expression of justified anger consequences only in pain and suffering for the injured party: Discuss

“Pooh,” said Christopher Robin,

Promise you’ll still be here sometimes

After I’ve gone away.



“Even till I’m a hundred?”

“How old will I be then?”


“What?” said Christopher Robin,

“the wooden beams of a ceiling bits of ship

Well, I don’t see why they should be


they were just discarded from a scale model of the

Sainsbury Extension of the

National Gallery.”

“What?” said Christopher Robin,

“because Winnie’s in a glass case in the new world



Well, I don’t see why I should be

I’ve got had a wife and my own life and family

It’s not as if I’ve a need for an old toddler toy to tell me

‘Here was love’.”

“What?” said Christopher Robin,

“me, because I had my virgin childhood voyeurised by everybody,


Well, of course, I’m bloody angry,

wouldn’t you be?

Of course, I it wasn’t Pooh’s fault really

to be so brilliant a hummer as to honoraily win the

some Nobel Prize for poetry or something

if there was one while

I never made it in the creative arts

and didn’t try to.”

“What?” said Christopher Robin,



Hate him just because he had a talent and talent doesn’t need me

Now, just because he’s some success that I couldn’t hope

to have the choice to try to catch or ever be or want to be?”

“Well, alright maybe a bit

but then there are secrets of Pooh

that will always be secrets to you

and to everybody else

aren’t there?

and so even so you know

you’ll never be able judge any hate of mine might be


Anyway, I think you should piss off now,

like the others you forget too quickly

Edward Bear belongs to me

and he’ll still love me

even when I’m a hundred

and he’ll be ninety nine

“What?” said Christopher Robin,

“do you mean if he belongs to me I should bother with him more

and not leave him in a glass case three thousand miles away

where he can’t be get a hug

either from me or from anybody?

Send him a Christmas Card, don’t I?”

I, psychologist

Someone crying separate tears

Must be an oblique testament of the figure

So to indicate the experience

I have inserted arrows and labels

We can learn a lot about the way such children see the world

From oblique arrows and labels, I think

At any discussion it is more constructive

Than casting my mind back

For although I once was a child

I no longer am

Because my testicles have lowered

because I have grown horrible hair

because I have fancied women

and been able to do something about it

for all these reasons I must be wiser

and not remember childhood

It stands to reason, I think

I think it stands to reason.


Bazaars shout out the wide and shifting stream

and then it is a theatre

and then it is an office block

and all along the Strand

there is black brick

it is the trick of the effluent sewer

not to be seen or heard or spoke of

as even a phenomenon of sound now

How do you write about a common experience

become uncommon to the point where even the slightest trickle

is tapped away to a glint?

My father said the worst riot to hit the city

was when the offices of Lloyds crossed the road.

It seems another world now that showed the river last

the secret of Limestreet deep

the Eldorado sparkling river

which now and again will still seep forth labour unfairly

In turds to turds for turds for turds to weep

There are no bathing-steps on the river front now.

No temple. No worshipping lowly

That that is neither holy neither pagan.

Indeed, there is no river front.


I want to write something crisp

as a freshly minted note – a fifty!

although a twenty would do

or failing that a fiver.

Better than money

Would be something that can be spent

But not devalued

But everything does devalue

I am afraid

I am afraid

that I want to: “satisfy the intelligent reader”

to be: “ a topic of conversation”

that I want the people in Hampstead to have said:

“Ezra Pound, Sylvia, Ted Hughes,

all had interesting poetic views

but for literary sagacity

you can’t beat ‘Anthony’”

“A.E.”, “Edmund”, “Anty”, “Miller”

all as good as the other

so long as they mean me.

Maybe I could be discussed in “Acumen”

as poetically fake and appalling:

“Successfully bad”.

That would be something.

Even if I was a footnote in the Poetry Review

or an anthology artefact some one in fact read

at least I would be read

which would be something

not that sparkling.

I seem to write small change.

Where there is discord

Flirtatious as an old prostitute “Thatcher”

springs jack-in-a-box-like to my box

as if she never knew she'd gone

hangdog as Macmillan

and that her very name now is an “ism” and a flag of hate

for the right to rally to, the left to hate.

Yet still I see she stuffs herself into tight suits and talks

earnestly to camera as if

at a lecture where a residue

is left in her test tube waiting to prove

the reaction isn't quite over and cover

some important ground

her students if they went without demonstrations

wouldn’t get but somehow haven't yet...

Poor Margaret— So pathetic to still be at it.

Stateswoman without a state yet perpetually in one.

On about Henry Moore: “He loved order.”

She loved ordering and now she can't her poise isn't


More like watching Mollie Sugdon, having preened

herself and her pussy, waiting to be served

by some toyboy

she hasn't the cash or cachet to attract.

Yes, I pity poor politicians

who've lived out or out lived their powers

like some bad actor who never could remember lines

landing rotting brains.

Who do you think you are kidding, pedigree breeder

So bigheaded it needed a knife

to separate him from womb

yet his air-passage is rasping

with such awkward constriction

it's like suffocating

every breath of what life

you can have in a skin so saggy

flabby upper-lip folds

become as ideal a place

for fleas and infections

as a tiny ear’s long tiny canal

ornamental not functional

free from air yet

a trap for sweat.

Do I need to go on on how he “lives”?

with a “Bulldog Spirit of the Blitz”?

by a eugenics so cruel

it would be a wonder if the inbred

creature didn't cry

through the misshapen eyes

so twisted his tear ducts

block permanently.

Ian Hamilton’s career by Edward Pygge

Someone would get it

our justice (not spite)

- would be the trite git

kicked from high pedestal

- falling till the brain and heart are separate!

We would believe it

— that we'd served a service to poetry —

eliminating from your community these charlatans

by causing their books not to be read

which they wouldn't be anyway

unlike our entertaining Arts Council displays

of block-yanked-off, stuck-out necks snapped.

Of course, it's only the sort of game one plays

when one’s young and imagines poetry matters to many people.

Anyway, I believed it then and if there were no sneers

where would be the cheers when anyone climbed the steeple?

It worked for me: I'm in the “Poetry Review”.

I've almost talked to J. D. Salinger too.

St Bernard and the Virgin's breast milk

The little lord Jesus — no crying he makes

but he does not seem entirely happy

about his dinner being sprayed in air

arcing with well preserved surface tension

all the way from Mary’s breast

and through thin air

to splatter on a saintly tongue.

And, frankly, who can blame the kid?

It's not as if the old priest's thin or lean

and surely the Christ child's own body and blood

should have more spiritual nutritional value

than his mother's lactation?

Why doesn't he take some?

After all, Bernard is a priest

he can do transubstantiation?

What’s eating him?

Then again maybe virginal Mary feels

That even if uou can eat her son any time

you need a bit of variety to escape impiety?

Perhaps even the Saintly need to be weaned?

Drip fed their doctrines and sacraments?

Eternal redemption or damnation being hard to swallow

when continually in the same form:

mortal, invisible pain and denial?

Poor old Osiris

After being hacked into fourteen and stuck together again

he was properly stitched up

for Set in his ways concealed the location

of mummy’s best friend: Osiris's penis.

Isis was furious with her jackass son

but her lover was impotent — could only kill and damn Set.

It was impossible to divine

this divine cock up.


Just to emphasise this is not black and white T.V.

but a technicolour horror

sumptuously shot on an enclosed set

with location filming at Pinewood

where these clipped dialogues were exchanged like legal papers

once upon a film

everything is slightly too colourful.

For while Dean and Marilyn

were dying to develop their method

Lee an Cushing became stars through stares.

Discovered true horror was standing

with a beautiful woman in a sumptuous room

and not acting or reacting or seeming to want to ever.

Anger and fear are the only emotions

scarcely seen— when they break the skin

they're righteous or hideous with nothing in between.

Oh, give us Bela Lugosi!

At least he could be flirty.

The Cream

These are the ones who wrote poems.

The Sassoons and Owens who made us feel slightly guilty.

Indeed, some of them were an embarrassment

because they were also the cream.

Cream is for spreading on strawberries and luxuries

and it's such bad taste for it to go sour

to be wasted on mud, machine gun, hun.

Particularly the prefects who'd become head boys.

There were others of course

that served at tables or attended lavatories

who did not write poetry or play cricket for their University.

Less eminent Edwardians who's contributions to our culture

were not signed and so attributed to “anon”.

And, of course, we also remember them.

We grieve for them too. Honestly.

But they were our strawberry jam

not our cream.


Did the first men who rubbed sticks

twig how their smouldering fire would spark

those men who open mined the first coal

who didn't dig how deep

they'd need to to excavate

all those black substances of millennia of death?

Do the viewers of Star Trek

realise that the trek to the nearest star is so far

that travelling at a speed where our matter would be energy

we’d be dead for eighty years when we got there

if we could live to 120 and repair

the fact acceleration would rip our

cells apart?

People may think the rising

of an odd ocean is the worst of global warming

but it is not the change of environment

but the rate of change of environment

that like the rate of change of speed in a crashing car


No civilisation ever thinks seriously of any ends.

The Greeks thought they had it cracked by enslaving

‘tools’ to do their washing and ironing

but when the Roman Legions

(and not that many)

came and saw and slaughtered

they leant what it really is

when things are cracked

Now they are ruins and cracked pots

we think the solution of just cracking petroleum

some hope.

Marketing Man of the World

Serve us up your finest pickle

from which you'll escape scathed but well.

Singed by truth. Child proud of scars.

Giggling at those foreigners.

Keep silent on fiddled expenses,

cramped seats on low cost airlines,

silence of basic hotel bedroom

and supplement charge for cable porn.

Remember how you put one over

even when you were the loser.

Talk of barters with gleeful gloat,

tell economically truthful anecdotes.

Music Lessons

My fingers and the elephant

tusk covered wood

were never really destined

not to be alien.

I never did learn

to decode

tailed os and staves

into dexterous

digital displays.

And I suppose

I ought to mention

that I was quite a long time

on Grade One.

But the thing was that

the price didn’t


in real terms just kept


so I still go but

less often and for nothing

but to swap stories with an old

retired spinster

with one leg

shorter than the other

but these days no longer

with her late senile mother

and these days she has another

more regular boyfriend who

doesn’t come

to learn the piano either.


for life. Sign

and we will send

a small plastic carriage clock

in case you

didn’t know

time is slipping

away whenever

you meander,

potter, arrive.

Yes, make provision

avoid the crippling

costs of long term

residential care.

At retirement have time

to practise your swing

potter, meander,

study Open University

and afternoon film.

You know you owe it

to your children

your children’s children,

the state, the NHS,

the tax-payer, your lover.

Cuts Both Ways

Thomas 5 Becket - struck head on

was cracked like a boiled egg;

his opened mind squidged still cogitating on consecrated stone.

Treading the prirnate’s grey cells under foot

fleeing knights immediately sensed they wouldn’t be thanked

for slaughtering this leviathan.

But it was because they weren’t that the unchivalrous pariahs

went on to become R.C. Crusaders for Pope Urban

absolved from sin with eternal felicity

thanks to public celebrity Peter the Hermit

their souls were saved and they saved souls.

Dispatching souls claimed Jerusalem for Christendom.

Dancing in the Rain

Under umbrellas clubbers skip in the rain.

Their teen ages shine vibrant as neon.

Their hair is loose and drips on anorak and coat that cover

the colourful, skimpy garments that don't need to reveal

but don’t conceal flesh.

Tonight, this moment, together yet not attached,

free from rejection and someone,

like their playground selves they laugh

from skipping, rain, expectation, fun.

The surrounding darkness is not threatening.

They are warm and not worried by liquids penetrating.


My father had a camera

into which some light leaked.

He said the pictures were no whiter

as each year they got more bleached.

He showed slides on a projector

that no longer had a fan.

Slides that were left to linger

in the heat of the beam would burn

but there was nothing wrong with it.

His music centre loudly crackled

when you pressed the function buttons

eventually he had it repaired

just to rest his tortured ear drums.

He kept the quite good headphones

they survived a lot of feet and bum

our heads wore out the ear-pad’s foam

till they were flat and hard in bent steel frame

though there was nothing wrong with them.

There WAS something wrong with the loo cistern

which when not broken was exceptionally capricious

but to fix it would've meant a complete re-plumb

and new bathroom fittings didn’t excite us

as much as leaving our home a lot

to visit the pictures or on the holidays

dad told us were a good investment

and which my head often replays

when it needs to escape something broken.

End of Term

The men in their suits.

The ladies in hats.

Teachers in gowns.

Pupils in blazers.

Secretaries of State for Education on the podium.

All of them bored and baked

in a stifling white tent

concealing the summer sun

but not stopping dehydrating

and sweating and sighing

and watch watching and yawning

through speeches as stirring

as unravelling string

and embarrassed fake chuckling

at badly delivered jokes

before prizes for the swots

and the winners of games.

Approved books.

Coloured strips.

Shaken hands.

At the back of the tent is a large table

with a thoughtfully prepared cold collation

which will also be ignored. Uneaten.

Marked Man

Bulldog clips on penis,

fingers, ears and toes

and just enough juice

to make all muscles convulse.

The noise is not human.

It is animal, primaeval,

as every nerve is fired

but his organs remain undamaged.

Later, when unplugged

there is only memory

and unblemished skin.

If he can still collect thoughts

in scrambled brain

he will tell his people:


Safety Last

For Harold Lloyd they made a glove

with fingers that were stuffed with cloth

to help the camera lie that two

digits of his did not now rot

For close-ups stand-ins’ hands were used

to fool fingers could grip and bend

just as the long shot human fly

sequences were done by a friend

Who’d caught his curiosity

by drawing such a loitering crowd

that loitered as they had round him

after he’d lit that hand-held bomb

Kept in hand for an unplanned test

to see first hand if it was the best

effect for a movie about suicide

when his power to touch tore his grip in a flash

The Snail Song

People who think snails lives are simple

are not hermaphroditically sexual

It’s not easy to be faithful

when your eyes are retractile

and stick out on stalks at any coelomate at all

as you follow down the street

any slug who’s effete

you find you’re excreting

a thick mucus trail

thick mucus trail

thick mucus trail

it’s the fate of the coelomate to crawl along kerbs

yes, it’s hard to form relationships

when you’ve both sets of gonads

but it’s more fun than being a multi-boned organism

as you follow down the street

any slug who’s effete

you find you’re excreting

a thick mucus trail

thick mucus trail

thick mucus trail

it’s the fate of the coelomate to crawl along kerbs

The Sea Cucumber Song*

I feel safe and warm within your

a-a-anus sea cucumber

a mammal ‘d probably feel ashamed

to harbour crabs and parasites

but you don’t and I like

coming inside y-o-o-u

away from predatory view

Some say you are a simpleton

just mouth, little guts and an arse

so stupid you poo whole organs out

but you’re not heartless it’s simply bollocks

liver, kidney guts and brains

and at least you’re not up your own arse

there’s no room because I am

And I feel safe and warm within your

a-a-anus sea cucumber

*It’s actually sung by a hermit crab (obviously)


Good poems should stand on their own and need no explanation. As that isn’t exclusively what this volume contains I should probably offer some explanation on some of the poems. I always thought Paul Muldoon should put a list of references at the back of small volumes explaining all the references to literary history that I didn’t know within them so… that’s what this bit is … as I say all poetry should be esoteric to some level but there are some references people may not get even with the help of google and that’s what this end piece is here to help you with. Say what you like about the Ruth Padels of the world and their overly pretentious titles like “Icicles Round a Tree in Dumfriesshire” but at least the reader doesn’t feel that they need to buy another book in order to understand the first book. But then maybe there’s a reason why poetry is rooted in the incomprehensible … it’s about the incomprehensible. As Alexei Sayle once said, stand up is mainly black and white - This is good, that is shit. Poetry is the world of grey mists and mystery. Many of the early poems are about my childhood in Caterham (because when we were very young like Christopher Robin that’s all we had experience of).

The black and white Norman freeze at the back of Chaldon Church is real (actually it’s red and white but the morality is monochrome) and depicts the purgatorial ladder of souls. In order to widen my social world my parents told me to join the Chaldon Scouts (Chaldon is a small village adjacent to the town of Caterham dating back to the Doomsday Book which had been turned into a rather upmarket housing estate for the very upper middle class) who were taken to Chaldon Church for services about twice a year and I found it interesting that the CofE didn’t believe in hell as being a Catholic boy I knew all about Hell and it was if not a primary very much a secondary motivation for us going to mass and observing Holy Days of Obligation. I could not get my head around why anyone would do religion without there being a big stick? Religion was a much bigger deal in those days because no one had invented Wikipedia and the Pears cyclopaedia didn’t cover every possible criticism of organised religion at all comprehensively in the way Richard Dawkins does. Okay the RCC was clearly homophobic even then but as the whole of society in general was none of us felt at all odd. Suffice to say … the contrast between the Revd Colin J Luke Boswell’s homely narrations of how God was love and the friendly domesticity social club feeling of C of E services was to me somewhat comically divergent from the view of Christian theology depicted on the wall behind us… where the primary motivations for participating in religion were clearly laid out as a need to avoid being boiled in oil and being anally / sexually raped with garden implements by deformed trolls with animalistic features.

Of course I could probably re-write the earlier poems better now than when they were originally written – I am 22 years older if no wiser – but it felt to me like airbrushing the past or painting over a wall painting because it betrays the fact that you may have changed one’s world view since then so here they are as they were... although I’ve changed a few odd things. One of the advantages of the small press was since virtually no one read it you could do things like liberally libel anyone you liked and there were no consequences… and little hate legislation.

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