This a poem I wrote some time ago. It has an exuberance about it which I still enjoy, though I'm not sure even I could say what it means:

And the Sky Caught Fire
There was a blazing bonfire of clouds,
red as poppies and rowan berries,
as butterfly wings going up in smoke,
that night we snuck away
from all that is human,
and snapped and bit and scratched
because we hurt so much

How could we not with a sky like that
and a dark wind
and something popping through our veins
and the flames licking the heavens
and god's bum.

That's what Jake said.


I've been reading Peter Ackroyd's 1984 biography of TS Eliot (Penguin Books) and was amused by the following -

When asked, 'What in modern life is the particular function of poetry as distinguished from other forms of literature?' Eliot replies, 'Takes up less space.'

'Nuff said!


I don't know if anybody else has been enjoying the series My Life in Books on BBC2 at 630pm weekday evenings. Anne Robinson proved an unexpectedly informed and congenial host and the choices of books by the guests was always interesting. I think my favourite of the programmes I saw was the one with Sharon Glees and Robert Peston. A surprising pairing perhaps which created a real spark and warmth. And Sharon's performance of the Edna St Vincent Millay poem was wonderful.

I began to wonder how I would express my live in books. For my childhood, I think I would have to choose the Pippi Longstocking adventures by Astrid Lindgren (a strong, independent red-headed little girl, how could I resist?) And the perhaps rather less famous Jill and her pony books by Ruby Ferguson. I remember saving up my pocket money, so I could go an buy the next one in the nine book series.

Moving on through my life, I would have to choose Down Among the Women by Fay Weldon, the first feminist novel I ever read. Then maybe Writing as a Way of Healing by Louisa de Salvo. And what of Austen or TS Elliot's Prufrock? The choice is difficult to make.

The interviewees on My Life in Books could only have four, I have already gone beyond that, but I still need a volume of poetry. It would have to be an anthology, perhaps Staying Alive edited by Neil Astley or The Song Atlas by John Gallas.

Then again, tomorrow, I might make a completely different selection, only Pippi, I think would always remain.


We've been playing about with fairytales in my WEA group:

A Fairytale
I am the big tree in the woods. I have been here for many thousands of years. My girth is very large, each year I get fatter and some years I get a little taller. Though generally I just get fatter. My limbs are long and fine tipped. My skin is smooth grey. In Spring time my leaves are lemon-green. In Summer, they are glossy jade. In Autumn, they turn a rich auburn and in Winter my skeleton stands out dark against the snow. I am home to many animals and insects. They creep and crawl and scurry about my branches. Birds build nests in my cleavages. Sometimes they peck or tap at me. But I don’t mind. I knew their great, great - many times over - great grandparents. I saw them as eggs, as chicks, I saw them take their first flight.

I am the old tree in the forest. I have been in this clearing for many, many years, quietly getting broader, until my branches bend and sway near the ground in the storm. I have been here for many, many years and now, suddenly, this two-legged has appeared, has dropped her wooden shed just opposite and wants to cut me down because I am blocking her light. Me blocking her light? She has spoiled my view with her nasty little dwelling and its tin roof, the smell of my burning brothers emanating from the chimney. She has already had a woodcutter, who she calls ‘son’, mark me up for the chop. That night I encouraged the wind to howl and crack at my fingernails. She got no sleep at all.

Here comes little Miss perfect in her red cape skipping round once again. Ostensibly to bring her grandmother tea, though she hardly stays for more than a few minutes, then she’s off, seeing her boyfriend, Mr Wolf. I cannot tell you what naughty antics they get up to hidden from view by my generous proportions. Surely they would miss me if I was gone? Today, though, I heard their whisperings. Her and Mr Wolf prised themselves apart long enough to talk about what they wanted to do in the future. They have dreams those two, to travel the world, but one thing holds them back: Granny in her barracks. Not only does Red have to do her duty bringing food over all the time, but the inheritance she needs to fund her globe-trotting was tied up in that little cabin which has invaded my clearing. If only Granny would move in with Red’s parents and sell her house. But no-one would want to buy that place, Wolf declared. No, only the insurance from it would do.

Then he began to examine me, walking round and round, measuring, estimating. Of course, he didn’t ask my permission, but I decided to co-operate. Better to lose an arm than my life. So when he came late at night to half saw through my branch, I bore it quietly, even though it really hurt. Then I made sure there was a good storm whipped up a week later which carried my fractured timber right across my clearing so that it crashed through Granny’s roof.

I could have killed her, but I’m not vindictive or malicious. And we all got what we wanted. Gran’s got a cosy bedroom with a view of the sea. Red and Wolf are half-way to Thailand. And me? I’ve got my clearing and my peace and quiet back.