Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Following the unexpected link from Mr Ron's blog, I thought it was time for the poetry website to get a quick spruce-up. Five poems in the Workshack have been killed, and a further ten promoted from the 'shack to the comforting obscurity of the Archives.

I've also re-hung the Showcase - it hadn't been touched for over a year!

One last development: the Rikweb Forum is up and running, and slowly becoming populated with archive data and suchlike - for instance, all my short stories are now ensconsed within its shelves, alongside a single thread for the Rik's Blog Story work in progress. There's even some short excerpts from the book wot I wrote - though that book faces a reasonably major revision in January before being submitted to Agents (again).

On the poetry side of things, I've done threads for each NaPoWriMo bloodbath, together with details on how each day's draft subsequently fared. And there's plenty of stuff for the Conlanging and Conworlding lovers amongst us - in particular, a whole subforum dedicated to Ákat translation sentences (complete with logoscripts), for those who like such things.

As the Man said: enjoy!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy feasting ...

(as the Nakap philosophers would write, and say)


The thing that the Pope - and his many, many little helpers - fail to understand is the fact that I am God's creation, just as much as he is. God created me the way that I am, with my middle finger just slightly longer than my index and ring fingers, with my brain wired in such a manner that I find the sight of a man's broad shoulders more sexually attractive than a woman's breasts, with a preference for sucking on lollipops rather than thrusting my tongue deep into the ice cream cone.

Putting aside the controversial subject of a gay gene, my body has been formed as it is without my active consent - indeed much of the handiwork occurred in the hormonal floods of my dear mother's womb. Whether I was conceived gay or not, I was most definitely born gay. And whatever way you choose to stir the figgy pudding, the fact remains that my existence on this planet must be God's will, and thus comes with God's blessing.

In fact, my homosexuality is a boon to the planet's ecology. I've no interest in creating more people, which means that rather than invest my energy into raising my own offspring I can invest that energy into helping to raise the children of my siblings (only two of the five of us chose to breed). I help the society I live in by paying taxes for services, most of which I do not then claw back to meet the needs of my loin's fruit. I am in every way a benefit to society, not a burden.

But no, we all have to bow to the dogma of a misunderstood God and a misrepresented Saviour. Which is a pity, I think.

But this is the season of good will to all men and such like, so may I take this opportunity to thank Pope Benedict for taking the time to think of me, on the eve's eve of the day of his Saviour's purported birth (I won't mention the fact that Jesus was most probably born on 29 September rather than 25 December, a birth date which I fortuitously share ... oops! Sorry about mentioning that), and wish him - and his many, many little helpers - a fruitful, peaceful and serene 2009.

Because people need more hugs; the world needs more hugs. Let's all work together to make 2009 the Year of the Hugs!

Without an invitation, Rik answers some questions

David F. Hoenigman, from the Word Riot website, appears to be conducting interviews with various worthies concerning their writing - including an interview with Ron Silliman.

While David has not invited me to answer his question - it appears that he is completely unaware of my existence, which is both sad and understandable at the same time - I'm still going to answer them. It's Crimbo's Eve, after all, and since my driving instructor has had to cancel my driving lesson the most pressing item on my ToDo list is The Making Of The Sherry Trifle, so I've got a little time available for personal aggrandisement ...


What projects are you currently working on?
The three key projects I'm currently working on are my two SF novels - one drafted and undergoing revision before being submitted to Agent/Publishers, the other a first draft work-in-progress - and my Interminable Work (Snowdrop) which seems to be inching its way towards first draft completion. Though my plans for all three took a hard knock in the last quarter of the year and I've found it difficult to concentrate on any of them since October.

When and why did you begin writing?
I started writing in Junior School (what do they call it now? Year 4?), and I haven't really stopped since then. Why did I start writing? I suppose because my earliest memories involve books - looking at them them, chewing on them - they fascinated me, and I've always had a place (a knot, or maybe a ganglion) in my guts telling me that my key purpose in life was to be a person who wrote books. Maybe it's the destiny I chose for myself before starting this latest lifetime. It must be: if I was a rational person, if I had ever wanted to be well-off, normal, that sort of thing - I'd have become a scaffolder, yes?

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
My early jobs were practical (labourer, lab technician, soldier, office clerk). So the idea of being a writer - by which I mean earning money from writing - didn't become a reality for a while. My first paid work for writing was in the Civil Service, once I was promoted beyond the tyrrany of the filing cabinets. Of course the stuff I was writing wasn't published in the official sense of the word, though its pedigree as works of fiction (we're talking here about speeches, position papers, briefing notes, etc) is beyond doubt.

As for being a 'poet' or a 'novelist', I've been writing poems since puberty, and I finally finished writing my first novel earlier this year. I've never sold any poems, or short stories, or novels, so at the moment I have to consider myself to be an unwaged writer - which is more honest than being a Civil Servant.

What inspired you to write your first book?
There's this profound belief I have in my guts that I can write better stuff than most of the other people currently publishing novels and poems.

Who or what has influenced your writing?
On the SF side of things, my greatest influences are the swathe of SF writers from the 1890s through to the 1970s - the canon writers, if you like. There's just too many of them to mention. Truthfully, I should be busy reading and being influenced by contemporary published writers, but I can't help but hold a flame for my childhood heroes.

For the poetry, I really don't have a clue - though I suspect I haven't moved much further than Coleridge, Lear, Owen and Eliot.

How has your environment/upbringing colored your writing?
Books were an escape from the realities of life in rural Kent. They also offered a very real escape route from there. I no longer live on the Romney Marshes.

Do you have a specific writing style?
I have a default style - quite conversational, a little wry, not too heavy on the irony. Sometimes I mix things up for fun; the current work-in-progress is written from a first person present tense POV.

What genre are you most comfortable writing?
I'm very good at writing speeches, and position papers, and briefing notes. I want to be very, very good at writing genre SF and poetry. Other genres - highbrow literary fiction, for instance, or biography, or romance - have much less appeal to me.

Is there a message in your work that you want readers to grasp?
No. I want people to enjoy reading my work. I have no mission to change the world's zeitgeist.

What book are you reading now?
Terry Pratchett's 'Nation'.

Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Tim Powers. Massive in North America, but almost unheard of in the UK. Which is a great pity.

What is the most misunderstood aspect of your work?
If my work is being misunderstood, then I'm doing it wrong.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Bill Knott, he says ...

Bill Knott issues a challenge in his latest blogpost:

"Hey, Post-Aholes!—: wanna be "radical"? wanna be "socialist"?—

how about performing an anticapitalist act:—

because you're always claiming on your blogs that if people only knew about your work, they would applaud it,—and that the Poetry Establishment/Official Verse Culture is blocking your path to greater acceptance and readership recognition—

so why don't you take all your poems or "poetries" or whatever you call them, and post every one of them onto a website for open access and free download by anybody with a modem anywhere in the world—

put your money-ass where your adorno-mo is."

And Rik says: "I'm there already, Bill. Been there for the best part of a decade. And still I'm not a socialist!"

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Poems about light hitting desks

Seems to be a lot of angst around the bloggy sphere at the moment re poems about light hitting a desk. Particularly after a certain Mr Goldsmith said they were the most dreadful sorts of poems (to read, I suppose).


What is it about a desk in particular, and the light that reflects from said desk, that castigates a poem about it into the outer realms of despicability? Call me a crusty old Quietist (I won't be hurt), but if you can't pull off a desk-light poem then you can't be much of a poet, can you.

Am I a poet? Rather than force others to acknowledge my poethood as an act of faith, I'll let you both judge for yourselves. Below, two poems about desks and light, written waybackwhen, before people told me that writing such poems was Just Not Very Cool, You Know ...


In an island of hard-polished desk
squats the stump of a candle, wax spat
on the green, chipped dish. Once
it was tall, hard: a column of opportunity.
The flame has stroked too often, the bright wick
is aged too soon. The sun is guttering
and my windows are smeared.

There is no clock on my wall
to tick me to grey. I am sat before a mirror
to watch my face fade to patterns
in reflected walls. When the sun surrenders,
I am gone: un-mirrored, I cannot be.

Somebody stole the moon, leaving half
a milky mug-stain where once the silver tureen
overflowed. Now that I am not human, I can smile, creasing
what was once a face. I do not know
who stole the moon, but they stole my clock
and my candle too.

Had enough yet? No? Here's the other one:


The desk sits square on the side of the room.
Touch polished panels meld with the dusk.
Hard drawers grin half-shut
and gabbled papers stray, confused
between cups and pens edging
to cascade on the floor.
Midway, brass handles spit brass reflections
across the bed - unmade -
towards the door, unlocked.

Behind the desk stands the oval mirror,
baroque curves and tainted glass.
In the mirror of the desk, papers are stacked.
Pens line the rim of the cup
in stout regiments, headless stalks.
In the mirror of the room, curtains are hung,
the floor is swept, carpet tufts are spright.
The bed is made, the door is locked
and I am not here.

I think everyone should write a poem about light hitting a desk, as a Celebration of Crimbotide. On your marks; get set ...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

If you love Facebook ...

... then all well and good. But best not be posting your artwork, short stories or poems to the site. Not before reading this little snippet from the website's Terms of Use:

"When you post User Content to the Site, you authorise and direct us to make such copies thereof as we deem necessary in order to facilitate the posting and storage of the User Content on the Site. By posting User Content to any part of the Site, you automatically grant, and you represent and warrant that you have the right to grant, to the Company an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide licence (with the right to sublicence) to use, copy, publicly perform, publicly display, reformat, translate, excerpt (in whole or in part) and distribute such User Content for any purpose, commercial, advertising, or otherwise, on or in connection with the Site or the promotion thereof, to prepare derivative works of, or incorporate into other works, such User Content, and to grant and authorise sublicences of the foregoing. You may remove your User Content from the Site at any time. If you choose to remove your User Content, the licence granted above will automatically expire, however you acknowledge that the Company may retain archived copies of your User Content. Facebook does not assert any ownership over your User Content; rather, as between us and you, subject to the rights granted to us in these Terms, you retain full ownership of all of your User Content and any intellectual property rights or other proprietary rights associated with your User Content."

Yes, you retain copyright to your work. But that licence is as good as transferring your copyright of your work to them for 0.0 peanuts. And yes, the licence expires when you remove your content from their website, but while it's up on their site, they can do what they damn well please with it. And I bet they keep the copyright to any derivative works, too!

Compare this to the blogger.com TOS:

"Your Intellectual Property Rights. Google claims no ownership or control over any Content submitted, posted or displayed by you on or through Google services. You or a third-party licensor, as appropriate, retain all patent, trademark and copyright to any Content you submit, post or display on or through Google services and you are responsible for protecting those rights, as appropriate. By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through Google services which are intended to be available to the members of the public, you grant Google a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free licence to reproduce, publish and distribute such Content on Google services for the purpose of displaying and distributing Google services. Google furthermore reserves the right to refuse to accept, post, display or transmit any Content at its sole discretion."

Again - Google are saying you grant them a licence to use your copyrighted material, but they then put a limit on the ways they can use your material. Distasteful, yes, but much more honest and open (until they unilaterally change their TOS, of course).

Always read the TOS before posting. You know it makes sense!

Friday, December 05, 2008

Updates and stuff

So having played with the shiny new toy, I've now updated the RikVerse website to include links and stuff on each of the chapbook pages. I also took the opportunity to spruce up the Rikweb Bookshop (on lulu.com) - just in case someone stumbles across the thing and in a mad fit of generosity decides to purchase the book.

I'm thinking that one further addition to the Rikweb website, on the Kalieda side of things most probably, should be the addition of a bulletin board (phpBB3). Not that I want to start my own community or cult or anything, but I think having something like a BB will be useful place to store background stuff - stuff like map tutorials or biology ideas which I find myself posting to other BBs which then get pruned.

I'm also thinking of maybe setting up a forum as a guestbook for the website - I always liked having a guestbook (and coded the old one up myself), but had to decommission it in the end because of the amount of spam it was attracting. Maybe the inbuilt spam controls on the current phpBB thingy could come in useful ...

What else am I doing? Well, I've failed this year's NaNoWriMo in spectacular fashion (unlike young Scavella and the other TUF stalwarts, who get a line of Conga Rats from me on their achievements).

Instead, I've been re-reading and annotating my first novel (now rejected by three Agents) with a view to a major redraft in January and sending out to more agents in the early spring. Believe me, this book is good - maybe a touch more spit'n'polish will help convince others of its goodness next year.

On the Rik's Blog Story (RBS) front, I'm not giving up on it yet! I might not have written much of it this NaNo, but I've certainly been thinking about it and have a good idea about where I want it to go. And I've also decided that I'm not going to go down the agented route with this one; rather, I'm just going to publish it via lulu.com - if only to keep the RikVerse book company in the otherwise bare shelves of the Rikweb Bookshop.

I might also carry on writing it on the Rikweb BB rather than here - one of the major drawbacks of writing anything long on a blog is the insistence of the software that posts appear in date-descending order, which I think is a real turn-off for both of my casual browsers.

As for this year, I'm planning to pull my finger out of my creative arse and do some work on both the RBS and on the Long Poem. I want the LP to be published (again via lulu.com) by spring next year - why wait to new year's eve to make resolutions, huh?

And I've just noticed that lulu.com appear to have extended their Publsihed By You service to the UK - which means that Rik's Sparky Little Printing Press may in fact become a reality rather than just a line on the frontpage of the RikVerse book and chapbooks.

I can't believe I haven't posted any cat photos on the blog this year - have to do something about that this week ...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Shiny new online publishing toy!

With many hat tips to Didi Menendez (via Ron Silliman, of course), I've discovered the pleasures of Issuu - You Publish:

It's fab, yes?

Naturally I had to play with the shiny new online publishing tool intensively - all four of my chapbooks are now available from my Issuu profile page. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Ákat - as constructed by logoscript

This is an Ákat sentence, as rendered in the Ákat logographic script:

Want to know what it means?

Well, over the past few months I've been conducting an occasional teach-in on this very question over at the Scriptorium website, and tonight I've made the post that completes the exercise. Of course, the thread isn't finished - the above example is fairly simple. Next up, we'll be tackling this little bugger:

And people though Hallowe'en was scary stuff!

People occasionally ask me why I bother to conlang - invent my own languages. My response is simple: it's art. In fact, I think conlanging is where a person can really come to terms with the English language: who needs the Avant Garde poetics'n'stuff when you've got conlanging, huh?

It's ART! Enjoy it!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

NaNoWriMo 08 ...

... starts on Saturday.

I've decided that this year I shall cheat, just like I cheated last year. By which I mean I will finish writing a book rather than write the first half of a new book. In fact, I shall attempt to finish the Rik's Blog Story thingy I was posting to this very blog earlier this year.

It shall be fun.

You have been warned!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Mood music ...

... courtesy of Matt Bianco:

And just a bit more, as I'm in that sort of mood:

Saturday, October 18, 2008

On a brighter note ...

I got an email today from those hard-working folks over at the Shit Creek Review letting me know that they have decided to nominate my poem Coots (published in their inestimable tome last September) for Sundress Publications' Best of the Net thingy.

Many thanks, guys! That email really helped cheer me up - even if nothing comes of the nomination, it's greatly appreciated!

Alan David Roots

My brother Alan died at work last week; his funeral was yesterday.

I had the honour of writing his eulogy, which the vicar read out yesterday to over 100 mourners - family and friends from the village, the marsh and further afield.

Alan David Roots
20 June 1955 - 7 October 2008

In the front garden of the house in Orgarswick Way where Alan was born, you can find a stone with the following poem inscribed on it:

"He sits amongst the summer flowers
and only counts life's sunny hours;
for him dull days do not exist,
the brazen faced old optimist."

If ever a poem could describe a man, this poem describes Alan David Roots, whose life we have gathered here today to commemorate.

Alan was born in Dymchurch in June 1955, the fourth child and third son of Anne and Walter. The family was part of a tight community: Alan was baptised in this church and would later sing in its choir. He went to school at Dymchurch, and later New Romney. He never left the Romney Marshes for more than a few weeks at a time - this was his place, his home. He was a true Marshlander.

The defining moment of Alan's life came when he was just six years old, falling seriously ill with diabetes. For thirteen weeks Alan was hospitalised by the disease, where he became known - infamously - as the "red devil" for his constant running through wards and corridors in his bright red dressing ground, causing havoc and laughter in equal measures.

But it was not the disease that defined Alan, rather it was his determination to own his disease - to bend it to his will and not let it rule him - that made him the person that many later came to know and love.

Alan could never stick to a diabetic diet. He always preferred real chocolate over diabetic chocolate. And while his iron will on these matters led to some close medical shaves over the years (and worry for his Mother and siblings), nobody could overrule his determination to live his life as he saw fit.

At school, Alan discovered a passion for football, and for one team in particular - Manchester United. His greatest dream was to become United's goalkeeper. And while such dreams were not to be, Alan did win a national newspaper competition when he was seventeen; his prize was to travel to Old Trafford to watch United play, and to meet the team afterwards.

Beyond school, Alan was active in a number of areas, for instance joining the Army Cadets where he made the rank of Corporal. But his main love was exploring the marshes around the village - fishing, shooting, watching. He also took great pleasure in the beach and the sea, and was featured on one of the Dymchurch postcards in the 1970s leading a line of donkeys across the sands.

It's reasonable to say that Alan was fairly accident-prone as he grew up. He crashed his bicycle several times - once memorably managing to destroy the side of a car with the cricket bat he had wedged in the handlebars of his bike.

Driving was another of Alan's passions. Once he had learned to drive, little could stop him from getting behind the wheel and heading off - if only down to the local shops. He owned and drove a number of different cars over the years, but was particularly proud of his black sports car with its rigid plastic bucket seats.

When the time came to choose a career, Alan decided to train as a chef. Unfortunately, the heat and pressure of working in big town kitchens affected his diabetes - though in later life he returned to catering, working in a number of small hotels and pubs both in Dymchurch and further afield.

If there is one pub in particular that Alan will always be associated with, it's the Ocean Inn. He drank there, he worked behind the bar and in the kitchens there, he played darts and cards there, he was actively involved in the formation and running of the pub's very own football team.

Alan loved people. He was always interested in meeting new people and catching up with other people's news. The needs of his friends was often more important to him than his own needs. He couldn't stay angry with anyone for long - friendship always trumped emnity in Alan's view of the world.

For a short while, Alan even represented the people of Dymchurch on Shepway District Council - nominally as a Liberal Democrat Councillor, though he had little time for tribal Party Politics.

Alan worked at Portex for over 25 years - he has a clock for long service from the firm to prove it; later he got a job as a warden on the Hythe Ranges - a job that allowed him to indulge his interests in bird-watching and ship-spotting.

It was at work, on the ranges, where Alan died, from a massive and totally unexpected heart attack. That he died so quickly and painlessly can only be a small consolation to those he leaves behind: Anne, his mother; Paul, Shirley, Andrew and Richard; his many uncles and aunts, cousins, nephews and nieces. His many, many friends and colleagues.

We shall never forget him; and it is with our deep love and gratitude for his time in our lives that we send him, reluctantly, into God's loving embrace.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Rik's occasional PLM post

PLM, in case you're wondering, stands for "Poor Little Me". Join me as I wallow in my current fit of blue vapours ...

23 Sept - Maisie's funeral has been arranged for 26 Sept; we'll miss it as we'll be on holiday. Guilt trips ensue.

24 Sept - Off to Cyprus. They've shrunk the airline seats (again); the plane dinners continue to worsen in quality (thank you, Monarch Airlines); departure from Gatwick is almost as chaotic as arrival in Pafos. At least the apartment is nice and roomy.

25 Sept - Limassol sucks big time. Everything is expensive; the quality of the food is limited; every other nightclub is topless. At least we can console ourselves with the entire series 3 of Desperate Housewives.

29 Sept - Today it rained all day. On my birthday. In Cyprus. Not that we could do much: we both have food poisoning from the alleged taverna we visited the night before. At least we can console ourselves by watching the entire series 1 (new version) of Doctor Who.

1 Oct - the coach taking us on our day trip to Famagusta never turned up to collect us. Thank god for Vicky (our tour rep) who argued with the company and got them to send a taxi to collect and race after the coach - we finally boarded the bus on the motorway 10 miles from the borders. Even so, not enough time in Salamis or Famagusta to make the day really enjoyable.

2 Oct - Off to Pafos for a couple of days, travelling under our own steam. An adventure! With very uncomfortable seats. At least the apartment is nice and roomy, if a little jaded at the edges.

3 Oct - My partner gets an excellent birthday - Tombs of the Kings, mosaics, the works! The best day of the holiday so far!

4 Oct - We decide to take the regular bus service back to Limassol. When we finally find the bus station and ask when the next bus leaves, we're told "Monday". Aaargh! These people can't even organise a bus service on this bloody island! Luckily we manage to contact the service taxi firm and get a seat on their next run - which takes a very scenic route lasting 3 hours.

5 Oct - Our first burn day on the beach. We get burned. Very burned. Ouch!

7 Oct - Our second burn day on the beach lasts all of 40 minutes. Bloody clouds! At least we go home tomorrow.

8 Oct - Package travelling back to Gatwick. The airports at both ends are even more chaotic than the outbound journey. Two bastards checked their bags in but never bothered to get on the plane. Bastards! Another hour added to the pleasure of sitting in too-small seats on the planes while they remove the unwanted bags from the hold.

8 Oct - Back home - finally at 10pm. Cups of tea; rummaging through mail; listening to voicemail messages. Two phone calls from Mother - she sounded distressed so I phone her back.

8 Oct - My brother Alan died at work on Tuesday (7 Oct). Probably a heart attack. Very quick. Mum's distraught on the phone. Alan was 53 years old. What sort of fucking age is that for keeling over dead at work?

9 Oct - To Dymchurch by train. Hugs for Mother. Answering the endless phone calls. Talking. Arranging. Numb, numb, numb!

10 Oct - Sorting through my brother's papers - office work; easiest for me to do as I have the experience for it. Then visiting his home to search for more stuff, start sorting, start packing, start feeling again. In the evening I decide to go for a drink down the pub - but can't walk through the door. This was Alan's place, he won't be there tonight. Not ever again. This isn't a fucking joke.

12 Oct - Back in London and checking my money. Is there a crisis in the money markets? Probably: that bastard financial advisor who told me how to invest my redundancy money might not have given me the best advice. I wanted a deposit account; he sold me an investment plan. Eight thousand quid gone. It's nothing. My brother's dead: why worry about money when there's bigger perspectives to consider, yes?

ps: Maisie's funeral lasted all of 10 minutes. Some people in this world are more fucked than me, it seems.

Monday, September 15, 2008

This evening ...

This evening I sat for about 90 minutes holding the cold hand of an old woman who will most likely die sometime tonight.

We - M who is the patient, and me - were in a mixed sex ward in Homerton Hospital. There is (apparently) no space in the ward for patients who are on the verge of death to be taken - no side room. Instead we had to make do by drawing the curtains around the bed. Beyond the curtains the sounds of everyday hospital life continued as I watched M fight for each breath: visitors talking loudly to friends and relatives; nurses talking loudly - sometimes in English - to each other as they dished out the evening drugs; orderlies banging beds and equipment from here to there; assistants coming round with foul-smelling food ...

M is a proud woman; at some point last night she retied her hair into a bun - an attempt, I assume, to give herself some dignity. She is also a strongly opinionated and quick-tempered woman; I was at her bedside because she is a neighbour I've been helping to look after - she fell out badly with her family, her children, a long time ago and even last night was adamant that they should not be told of her plight: "not until my last fucking breath" in her words.

I would love to say the doctors have been wonderful, but as far as I can tell the only doctors that have seen her are the doctors who admitted her last Friday afternoon, and a doctor doing the rounds this morning who gave her a strong sedative. I would love to say the nurses have been wonderful - and I think that if they had the time, they would be wonderful - but there's only a complement of seven of them on a ward that holds (I think) 18 patients; all the beds were occupied, by the way, and as I was holding M's icy hand I watched as one patient was harried out of her bed (to be transferred elsewhere) and another hustled into the spare slot next to us.

I chatted to the patient across from M as I was leaving. She told me that M had been crying all night: "just kill me now ... please kill me". M has a great fear of death, of the pain of the dying act. I wondered as I was walking home whether the sedative had been to ease her pain, or to ease her fear, or to bring a little peace to the ward. I wondered why they had chosen not to increase the dose just a little ... is M still suffering, but just no longer able to voice her terrors?

When I left, M's breathing was heading towards apnoea - several breaths followed by a long pause. I am no doctor, but I hope that is a sign that her life can be measured in hours rather than days; the thought of being in M's state for days - weeks - in that place ... no, that is not a humane thought.

This is not a humane post ...

Edit: serendipity strikes - we got the phone call from the hospital five minutes after I pressed the 'post' button. Rest in peace, Maisie! You're with your Dad now, and the pain's all gone.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

He Preaches Amid the Vehicles

Snowdrop 11.1: He Preaches Amid the Vehicles

"I will praise You, my Lord, as these horseless carts praise You; I will bellow words about Your marvellous works! I will be glad and rejoice in You: I will sing hymns to Your name, my commander - my liege ... As my enemies turn their backs on Your morning, they fall and perish in Your presence. For You have relieved my plight and my mind; judgment

"has come! You have reviled the heathens, You have destroyed the wicked, You have halted their fornicators for ever and good. I say to my enemies: your destructions are surrendered; your everlasting night is destroyed; your memorial moon perishes with your flesh! But my Lord shall endure for ever: He has prepared His throne for judgment - and He shall judge the world in righteousness, He shall minister judgment to the ranks in angelic garments! The Lord will also be

"a refuge for the non-combatants, a redoubt in times of trouble. And they that know my Lord's name will put their trust in Him: for You, my God, have not forsaken those who march for You. Sing praises to the Lord, who dwells in Hythe: declare among the people His doings! When He orders us to charge, He remembers us: He does not forget the fervour of His humblest trooper. Have mercy upon

"me, my Lord; consider the troubles which I suffered, the sneers of those that hated me: it was You that lifted me up from the gates of death, so that I may demonstrate and praise in the streets of Hythe - I will rejoice in Your salvation! The heathen are struck down in the ditches they made: by the mists in which they hid are their own lies taken. The Lord is known

"by the judgments he executes: the wicked are snared by the skyrods and wires that pucker this Heaven! The wicked shall be ploughed over like these Levels, and all the nations that forget God shall become sheepdung! Arise, my Lord; let not idle men prevail: let the heathens be judged in Your sight - put them in fear, my Lord: that the nations may know themselves to be men!"

Friday, September 12, 2008


Snowdrop 10.6: Mysteries

"My Lord! A heroine in tears - what fuss
is this, my child? These dew-buds on your cheeks
should signal joy, relief, release from night -
I saw you strike the Tallyman's own pot;
I watched as mists were wrenched apart, unwrapped
like muscle teased from bones - confusion reigns
in Purgat'ry and sunlight welcomes us
to Christ's immense, unmeasured grace!
Have you been hurt? An injury perhaps?"

"How long have I been gone from home? I know
there was a night of terror: madness claimed
my heart and guts, my mind - I was ashamed
and angry ... visions came to me although
I fought them hard. I killed a man? No - no!
A nightmare, nothing more! But you were there,
I think - you told me things, you let me share
your food ... how long have I been gone from home?"
"Now there's a question set to stretch the brains
of naturalists and scholars! Who can tell
how time can pass in timeless realms? And yet
it cannot be denied that sequences occurred:
each act begat another act, each moment built
upon the last - a parody of time, maybe?
I felt each breath to be my last and still
I breathed again, cessation never came -
a memory of life, I thought, a scrap
of old routine retained to keep me sane
beyond the binding weight of grave and corpse.

"Another question comes to me, a dog
that whines and digs for bones. This place does look
- familiar; this hill that curls the land
is surely Lympne - yes, look! I see the rocks
of Stutfall Tower buried deep in turf.
And there! That steeple - Burmarsh church, I'm sure,
and northwards sits the town of Hythe ... my house ..."

"I broke a window, climbed inside. I found -
a different place; fresh paint, new furnishings
and gadgets - phones so small - a thin TV -
computers, fabrics, shoes that bounce and bound -
so soft to wear. I do not know these things!
It's like the future's come to finish me!"
"You speak in English, yet the lexicon
you choose is foreign - gadgets? Puters? Phones?
Such vexing words - are these angelic tools?
Although your eyes show pain and fear - as if
these miracles have changed while you were gone
from here, and how can things be changed if not
by time itself? Ahh ... now I see the need
for tears and grief - how long have we been trapped
by mists and moons? It seemed an age to me
but thinking back - a month, perhaps, of new
awakenings, each colder than the last -
we must investigate this mystery!
The task will clear away confusion, steer
our feet towards redemption, yes? We'll walk
to Hythe, my friend, and question all we see!"

The Slumbering Marsh

Snowdrop 10.5: The Slumbering Marsh

Where soil and mud
mix, a toad -
each breath a month
of suspensions.

The water's own wolf
waits in the reeds,
teeth primed to spike
cold sticklebacks.

A regiment of sabres
hold steady in trenches,
their wintry green
a stubble of profits.

A swan stabs
her carrot beak
deep in the slime,
harvesting mulm.

A scythe of wing,
white, culling gusts -
discordant chorus:
angelic gulls.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

A New World

Snowdrop 10.4: A New World

"This miracle scares me! I thought we were free
for Heaven's embrace when the sun blushed the trees
to gold; such delight took my head to my heels -
I choked on my tears! But this world is unreal:
these wires on poles set to trawl through the air
are God's handiwork? Why would He want to snare
the winds? Or perhaps they are soul-nets, a skein
to rescue folks caught by the Tallyman's bean ..."

"It was not God who rescued us
old friend: we watched her thrust her knife
and slice the mage's pot in two!
A girl, no less, and there was me
who said she'd make a sacrifice
to keep the Tallyman appeased
for many nights - such fools we are!"
"Now don't you be blaming yourself, mistress May;
just thank the good Lord that we've witnessed this day!"

"Oh don't you fear - I have the scabs
upon my knees as evidence
of how I praised sweet Jesus Christ
as sunlight spread across my face!
Such joy to feel a prick of heat
not born of flame embroider skin
with life! So long I've been a corpse,
a ghost, a wraith, a monster caught
in mists - look up above: no moon!
That girl has resurrected us!"
"To what? And to where? Though my eyes see the world
my mind is confused - like the Marsh has unfurled
and flattened itself into shapes that confound
my memories. Where do I stand on this ground?"

"You're right, old man; this place has changed.
what once was green has been despoiled -
the pastures ploughed, the sheep enclosed.
These wires strung on poles - they sing
a mournful ditty: ditches filled
to make great fields, their hedges grubbed
from God's soft earth. And look! This road
is grey and hard, too harsh to let
a donkey trot along it - what
has happened here? Almighty God ...
you hear that roar? A cart on wheels
as round as I am tall - it moves
across that field alone, no horse
to haul its weight: it burns, I'm sure!
You see the twists of smoke - and yet
a man is sat upon it: run!
It turns towards us, hunts us: hide!"

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Tiger Hunts

Can it really be more than four months since I've added some lines to the interminable work? Bad Rik! Especially as I've set myself the target of having this long poem finished, revised and (possibly) published by the end of the year.

Snowdrop 10.3: The Tiger Hunts

She walks the sods and the soils of the marsh,
each saucer paw padding the dirt
into oval dents. When ditches block
her path she leaps them, pitching her limbs
in a stretch across the stagnant waters -
an arch of blacks and oranges burst
through the robes of mist, disrupting geese
from sleep in the reeds. She sniffs at the earth,
whiskers herding the hardened stalks
of winter wheat in whorls and swirls,
touching, tasting the tangs of this world.

When she spots the sheep, she stops mid-pace -
a new-cast statue: an ewe looks up,
cud on the tongue, twitch-ears sculling
for a hint of sound beside the expected
creaks and cracks of her cold-hugged home.

Still now; steal a splinter of inch:
let slide the muscles, let slip the claws
through the clay clods and crouch, and settle
the tail, and wait. Watch for the duck
of a head, the scrape of hoof on ice ...

... and dash! A flash of fur across
the field; a snarl, a flick of the paw
and they tumble down, a tussle of wool
and scat - the herd scarpers, their bleats
a billow of alarms alerting neighbours:
danger! Danger! Dogs on the loose!
Teeth on the throat! Tearing and ripping -
run to the gate; gather and huddle!

But she is no dog. She drags the meat
back to the ditch, dips through the reeds
and into the water, etching a curl
of ripples from bank to bank as she paddles
her course to the sewer, and the sea beyond.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Publishing your poems

Lots of people are talking about this first blog post by a poet who had a bad experience after winning a poetry contest (hat-tip Scavella, VLAW and countless others). Go read it now.

Now go take this are poetry contests killing your soul quiz ... how did you score? I scored a big fat zero, making my soul juicy!

Reb Livingston (for she is the Quizmaster) is on the button with her comments on the affair. I expect she won't be thanked for saying things like that, but then it's a dirty job and somebody has to change the Muse's daiper.

It isn't difficult to publish and promote your own poetry: hard work, yes, but with a bit of creative thought and low cunning it can be done. It won't happen, of course, until you realise that the only person who cares enough to promote your poetry is you (and maybe your friends and the occasional obsessive acolyte you may pick up along the way). For a more complete lowdown on promoting the book, check out this excellent and detailed essay by Quincy.

Then go and visit my self-published and proud-of-it poetry website: you know it makes sense.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Stolen from a Guardian article ...

... and I make no apology for my theft. These are the words of Stuart Jeffries about reading books:
But there is nothing wrong with abandoning a book halfway through. I consulted National Literacy Trust director Jonathan Douglas to get his tips for overcoming reader's block. Giving up on a book you are not enjoying was his first recommendation. Here are all six:
  1. To read for pleasure you have got to be in charge of your reading and that means knowing that it's OK to stop reading if it gets boring. Lots of books drop off halfway through. For me, that includes Brideshead Revisited and Wuthering Heights.

  2. Talk about books and ask friends for recommendations but avoid getting trapped in a tyrannical reading group for literary point-scorers. Life is too short to read books you do not like.

  3. Have a varied reading diet. After a satisfying course of Philip Pullman, cleanse your palate with a sorbet of Heat or Grazia.

  4. Make sure that the book you have got fits the time you have got to read. If your life is a frantic race and you only get to read on five-minute tube journeys or among the suds in the bath, do not start War and Peace. Grab one of the fantastic Quick Reads series that celebrity authors are now penning, or try a poetry anthology.

  5. Read aloud. Importantly, 76% of mothers and 42% of fathers read bedtime stories to their children, but sharing a book is a wonderful way for anyone to spend time.

  6. Try listening to a good book on tape or eavesdrop on Book at Bedtime on Radio 4.

It's good advice. I use Rule One every time I reach page 8 of a Salman Rushdie novel.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Wot? No RBS Thingy to post today, Rik?

Well, after reading the Is Google Making Us Stupid? article over at Atlantic.com, I decided to settle down and do some serious, sustained book reading. Which has managed to get me through 200 pages of Kim Stanley Robinson's Green Mars.

So no, no RBS Thingy today. Maybe tomorrow I'll post the next episode.

Now go read something long and involved, both of you: it's good for your brains, innit!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

RBS: the first month

Today is the one-month anniversary of my first RBS post and, unprecedentedly, I've managed to make at least one RBS post every day of that month.

I've posted just over 20,000 words which represents:

- 20% of a 100k word story

- around 650 words a day written - not up to NaNoWriMo speeds (which require around 1700 words a day), but not bad given my tendency to work in spurts

The story is beginning to progress, we're beginning to get a bit of movement from the characters. My favourite bits are the two dream sequences - have fun analysing them!

No comments to date on any of the writing. I'm going to assume that people are enjoying the story, which is a lot more glass-full than assuming everybody stopped reading after the first couple of posts.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

In the annals of stupid things done by Rik

How do you say to a publisher, who is very, very enthusiastic about developing and publishing a book based an idea that you had a few years back, and who wants to put your name on the front of the book, and pay royalties to you on each book sold - even though the publisher has done all the running with the book's development and you've contributed, basically, sod all except the original idea - that you don't want your name on the front of the book and don't want to be paid the royalties?

"Thank you and please send the cheque to ..." is not an option.

I've tried the Nice Rik approach; it's not working. Publisher doesn't want to listen to Rik's whines. But the publisher doesn't deserve the Nasty Rik approach - not yet, anyways.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

RBS thoughts ...

When I started writing this story, I thought I'd fall flat on my face - no plans? No plot? No effing characters? Madness! It was bound to fall to pieces within a week!

So, three-and-a-half weeks later and I'm still writing and posting, and I've got a glimmer of an idea about how this story could develop. Though the current Big Problem is that I haven't been writing much over the past couple of days (I've been trying to let each section stew for a few days before being revised and posted so as to make the reading experience a bit more bearable), the main reason being that while I can sort of see the bigger picture thingie, the details of how to realise the bigger picture thingie keep tripping me up. For instance:

- while I'm liking the characters, I seem to have killed half of them off before doing anything interesting with them. Not a great problem, thanks to the pretty stones-and-metal-band McGuffin which I can use to ressurect (some of) the characters, and there's always Ye Olde Flashback technique for developing the N's history with (for example) Bull. But I am a bit worried that the churn rate of characters may be a little too fast - distracting - for the reader

- where's the baddies? Where's the danger? I've been playing on an unnamed, unknown threat for over 13k words now and I'm not sure it would be a good idea to keep the reader in the dark any longer about what that threat is. Except (of course) I haven't yet decided on who the baddies are and what the threat is. I'm as much in the dark as the N on that point

- talking about baddies, what about the good guys? Is Kal (the N) good or bad? Currently he's a bit of a callous bugger with a big, unknown backstory. But is he a hero, a villain or a commentator? I don't know yet, though I think I can put off making that decision for a few weeks

- Sam. Dear, dear Sam. With his youthful looks and toned body he is so obviously a Marty-Stu that it's hard for me to write about him without blushing in shame. Maybe that's why I'm torturing him so much at the moment. Sam is, I feel, a big danger to this story; I'm going to have to keep him on a short lead until I decide what his role is going to be in the bigger story

- vampires: baddies, or tools, or a big fat red herring? I worried about mentioning vampires given the baggage that comes with them - will the reader get the point that these vampires feed off a person's energy, not their blood?

- the band - it's not really a McGuffin, nor a Deus ex machina, but what sort of plot device do I want it to be? I'm still undecided about whether the worlds it contains are only visited in dreams and flashbacks, or whether to send Kal (and Sam?) to one (or more) of those worlds as the story develops. Should I be capitalising The Band in the text to make it feel more ominous?

- 1st person present(ish) POV: it's a bugger to write, very constraining. I'm tempted to insert passages from other POVs, but have resisted so far. I don't know if staying with Kal is damaging the story or not

Worries, worries. Ah, heck! It's all a learning experience. Nobody's reading this, so nobody's being damaged by my uncertainties and indecisions. And I'm only writing this to stall myself from making the next big decision: what's the threat, Rik; what's it all about?

Saturday, July 05, 2008


There will be a short break in The RBS Thingy as Rik spends some quality time (with tens of thousands of other folks) in the sublime company of Dolly:

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

RBS feedback

So the first seven sections are up. Is the story performing for you yet? Is there a hint of anticipation for reading the next section? Or are you still floundering in a sea of confusion - almost on the verge of deleting the RikFiles from your blogroll now it's got so boring?

Don't be scared; you can tell me ...

Friday, June 27, 2008

RBS: Rik's Blog Story

'Kay, here's the deal.

I've started writing a new story. It is a science fiction story. It has no title; it has no storyline or plot beyond a few slippery thoughts in my head. Characters are being made up on the fly.

This new story seems to be wanting to be written in short sections. The POV is resolutely 1st person present tense (which is an effing bugger to write in, I tell you). And because it is so wonderfully fluid and clueless - I have little idea what I'll be writing beyond the next section or two - it will probably end up being an unpublishable mess.

Which makes it perfect for posting to the blog.

So for the next couple of weeks I'll be posting a new section every day to this blog and, hopefully, I'll be able to keep writing additional sections so that by November we may - might - just have a finished first draft of an unpublishable, but enjoyable, book. Well, that's the goal, anyway, and it does no harm for Rik to have one of those goal thingies. Maybe even Gold Stars for any particularly good sections I feel proud about.

For convenience, I shall call this new Work-in-Progress The RBS Thing. And I shall post the first section forthwith.

Be warned: be happy!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Second Sin

Second Sin

He brings a harsh heat into the room;
stones among sand: "You see me?"

I nod, reach for the warm whiskey
as he crouches on the chair
with the snapped back, his almond mouth
bitter within its shallow beard.

He says: "I need a vengeance. My grave
has room for another, a brother
to lie in his furrow by my bones.
I can pay you in camels, or goats."

Behind me the sky in the broken window
bloods clouds, marks the fall of the sun.
In the street below, shouts; the bark
of a car. "Am I your brother's seeker?"

"These are good camels," he smiles,
"and Judgement Day draws close."

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

My Bloody Valentine

I tend to keep quiet about my various (rather sad) claims to fame. But sometimes they can come in useful. For instance last Friday we got a phone call from Debbie, my sister-in-law, saying she had got us tickets to go and see her band playing at the Roundhouse on Monday. I've never had the opportunity to see Debbie "at work", so of course we said yes:

Well it's taken a couple of days for my ears to recover, but thinking back on the event I have to admit that it was much, much more enjoyable than I (as a card carrying lover of all music "fluffy" and "poppy") thought it would be:

Debbie, being who she was and everything, got us tickets which we had to peel off and stick to our t-shirts - all platinum and black covered in triple-A ratings and stuff - which not only got us into the venue, but also got us into the dressing rooms backstage afterwards (with the free beers and wines and, for some unknown reason, two large boxes of Earl Grey Tea) where we got to meet the other family members and support folks associated with the band. We even went to the press party (with a paying bar) afterwards - a fascinating insight into a world that properly belongs to the beautiful-and-famous people, not window-stuck oiks like me!

So here's a big thank you to Debbie and Bilinda, Colm and Kevin for giving me the opportunity to experience one of the most mind-blowing, intense and interesting evenings of my life! And best wishes for the rest of the tour. Play loud! Party hard!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

What Rik did on his holiday

Things I did on my holiday ...

I stayed in a very nice little self-catering apartment block run by Stacey and her mum Olga

Inside the apartment

I went househunting in Chania

Ruined house

View of Chania

I went on a chuff-chuff through a gorge and into the mountains ...

Theriso gorge

Church at Theriso

... where I saw a cretan lily

Cretan lily

I went to the beach and explored some rockpools where I saw fishes and crabs

Rock pool

I visited the ancient ruins at Aptera overlooking Souda Bay ...

Ruins at Aptera

Souda bay with warship

... and took lots of photos of flowers

Flower at Aptera

I watched some swallows building their nest under the main highway

Swallow nest

I went through the orange groves to Meskla (by chuff-chuff again: I like Cretan chuff-chuffs)

Churches at Meskla

I climbed a mountain at Polyrhinia ...

Polyrhinia ruins

... where I saw a cemetery and a goat ...

Polyrhinia cemetery

Polyrhinia goat

... and got lost in the mountains when trying to walk home

polyrhinia view

And I walked down Samaria Gorge - the longest gorge in Europe (descent time for a rather unfit Rik: 7 hours 20 minutes)

Samaria gorge - near the top

Samaria gorge - river

And now I'm back home - with thanks to all the people who helped make this holiday one of the best holidays I've ever had!

Rik in Crete

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Sentimental Rik

So once again a throwaway comment by Mr Silliman sends my mind hurtling around the curves of my forebrain, questing for fresh insights into the point and purpose of poetry. What Ron typed today included this paragraph:

Whenever we see poetry being equated with sentiment and sentiment equated with responses to military intervention, as with the Richeys, it’s hard, frankly, not to remember that schmaltz was the aesthetic preference & sentimentality the preferred emotion of the Nazis. Or, for that matter, how these same phenomena contributed also to Stalinist social realism. This isn’t a left/right question so much as one of totalitarian psychology per se. Sentimentality is the quintessential totalitarian emotion.

Oh dear. Where to start.

Well, for me it starts not at the blinking eyes trying to comprehend the assertion that sentimentality == totalitarianism. Rather, I found myself wondering what people actually mean by the term 'sentimentality'.

It turns out that the word is more than just kittens on cards and soggy poems about how much A loves B even though B was heartless enough to go and die. Though it is about that sort of stuff, of course.

But it's also (and you can thank Wikipedia and the hour I spent browsing through its various articles for what follows) a lot of other things. For instance, it can be seen as a literary tool which deliberately seeks to cause an overt emotional response in the reader - a way of programming the reader to laugh at this point of the text, or well-up with tears on the next page. This idea interests me a lot.

Sentimentality can also be seen as one half of the battle of ideas which flourished from the start (probably) of the renaissance and continued into the 20th century, the emotional black against the empirical, rational white that arrived with the Age of Reason. The Romantics reacted against reason (in part) with a vision of sentimentality that promoted the individual experience over the constraints of old social structures and traditional views of the world. Indeed, the Victorian Age was soaked with sentimentality - especially when it came to the true and unavoidable inevitability of death. Yet the Victorians were also rationalists, developing science and engineering and philosophy to the point where the industrial revolution changed the face of the planet.

I don't think the second half of the 19th century - a time of massive progress, migration, development, change, cruelty and horror - was a praticularly totalitarian period in the history of the world, however many locks of hair found their way into pendants and brooches.

Onwards into the 20th century and the birth of modernism - which of course was conceived and whelped in the Victorian Age. Which leads me to another problem - what, exactly, is modernism? From my browse of Wikipedia, I get the impression that modernism was not a single, monolithic thing, but rather a change in the European zeitgeist within which writers, poets and artists operated. The change took decades to ferment and mature, but when it did finally catch the popular imagination, it blew away everything before it. Which is not surprising given the devastation of the Great War - the point in time where humanity became its own worst enemy, replacing the constraints of nature and the whims of gods as the Way of the World.

Modernism seems to be (to me, in my own naive way) about individualism - much as Romanticism was about the individual - but this time around without the comforts of sentimentality. Once more there is a dichotomy between those who cling to their emotional insights and those who reject intuition out of hand. Science and religion are seen as opposing ideologies rather than alternative ways to deal with the world around us. Emotion is viewed as either something to be cherished and relished, or something to be dissected, controlled.

As can be seen from the above ramblings, my mind is in a state of flux at the moment with no particular pronouncements to make. But I am beginning to see the shapes of possible questions. For instance, is it fair to say that while pre-modernism saw Art as an intrinsic quality of the object or work whether it is viewed or not, modernism (or at least some strands of it, such as conceptualism) generally sees Art as what the experiencer takes away from an encounter with objects or works?

My (subjective, intuitive and thus probably sentimental) view of Art is that the object or work is not the central point; rather, Art takes place when an artist and an observer interact. The artist usually chooses to invest their side of the interaction in an object (painting, sculpture, installation) or work (poem, novel, play, dance, film), and the observer can be there at the artist's performance or may choose to look at the painting or read the poem hundreds of years later. But it is not the painting or poem itself that is important, but rather the connection between artist and experiencer that takes place - the connection is the Art.

Which makes me realise that, because I write my poems with the specific aim of triggering a sequence of emotions, realisations and insights in the mind(s) of my luckless future reader(s), I must be using sentimentality as part of the toolkit for programming my poems, which makes me a Sentimentalist Poet. And possibly an Artist of the Totalitarian variety - you shall react to my poems in the manner I have decreed!

Oh dear. Time, I think, to post a few more kitten photos to the blog ...

Friday, May 02, 2008

Facebook: bye-bye.

I'm bored of it. I deactivated my account. I can't physically get rid of my account - which royally pisses me off - but at least I'll be saving my ribs from pokes and superpokes (whatever the fuck they are). No more scrabulous invites, either ...

Thursday, May 01, 2008

NaPo 08 - so was it good for you?

This is, to tell the truth, my fourth attempt at NaPo, and only my second successful completion of the task - last year I gave up around the Day 21 mark and (strangely enough) the same thing happened again this year; if it hadn't been for 2 miserable days of churning out half a dozen poems to catch up I would no doubt be offering tea and biscuits to my old friends Mr. Useless and Mr. Inadequate. Again.

But, 'tis done, and here's my thread over at PFFA to prove it. I also posted the poems to my old usenet haunt rec.arts.poems, for those with the stomach to witness the carnage - not that there was much bloodletting, or even interest, this year; most of the more interesting trolls seem to be hibernating, or dead ...

If one thing is clear to me this time around, it seems to be that I'm getting better at writing poems on the fly: there's more potential keepers in the pile this year than in previous years, and there's only a handful of 'poems' in the thread that need to be put out of their misery as soon as possible.

The other thing that gives me pleasure is the progress made with my interminable poem - I think there is an ending in sight for Snowdrop, and I've now given myself the task of finishing, revising and self-publishing my Great Opus by the end of this year. Just in time for the Crimbo Stocking trade, hint, hint.

Suddenly giving away your poem is a 'big thing'?

Though why The Telegraph should consider this to be newsworthy is anyone's guess. I've been giving my poems away for free for years - and I'm not the only one at it.

There again, any publicity for Gillian Ferguson’s poem should be welcomed - the poem is large and ambitious and (more often than not) very well executed.

Hat tip thingy to Ron Silliman.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

NaPo 08: 30 April


And on the last day -
peace; saplings reach for white clouds
mushrooming the sky.

NaPo 08: 29 April

Marjorie's Mother

Marjorie's mother had a wish
to see her daughter eat a dish
of tasty capercaillie stew
she'd made from beaks and morning dew.

Marjorie's mother had a need
to send her daughter out to see
if Mrs. Griff had scrubbed her step
and scrubbed her windows while they slept.

Marjorie's mother had a want
to make her daughter's car a front
for dealing pasties and cream puffs
to Madame Lightly's weight-loss club.

Marjorie's mother took a dare
to cut her daughter's long blond hair
and make it spiky, pink and mauve:
a special treat done as she dozed.

Marjorie's mother clasped the chisel
her daughter rammed into her navel -
thus ends the tale of Marjorie's mother
who never knew when not to bother.

NaPo 08: 28 April

Onas 28 Berk

I crost a manch at sefan dibes
and tropped the bead mahoo to slurt
the spulging tromp; she praxed in furt
for gribbing tanes aspatanglibes:
whoe shupped the gripter's lanefloss drub
id wappanmash and libersty?
Grufant glaps win troglass clee
roe daval's mag in lurben slub.

An nery bead drubs mickloss tave
whit jappas gliever drubs na lon
to maklass quandram fon belass -
a spluggas tom Havattasmave
is nally's whit. Nos pallason
grimp aman tom, nos emmer's dass.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

NaPo 08: 27 April

Julain: Float

She lets the sunlight warm her toes, and beak,
and rocks as boat-wakes lap around her shape:
the river's last embrace - she can't escape.

NaPo 08: 26 April


He picks at his coat as he waits,
each loose thread an irritation.

Such tall ceilings could swallow
a man's courage, should he dare to look.

They come as a full dozen, a coiffure
of coconuts sat in their carved box.

Lead powders used to keep the lice
doused in the confines of their wig.

Echoes. Everybody echoes. Lies
echo just as loudly as truths.

There is no judgment, just an arrangement
of lint across the weave of his cloth.

NaPo 08: 25 April


Can you hear the dogs?
Each unleashed howl
a cry to the storms
seeded in spin?
My love, slake this fear
that will not sleep.

Let's sleep
with dogs,
no fear
of howls
to spin
our storms.

It takes an anvil to shape the storm,
levering the puffy clouds of sleep
and hoisting them high to the voids, where spin
can shape their wetness, ice them into dogs
or toads, or castles, or gods who howl
cascades of electrifried molecules - such fear!

Why do we fear
the clout of our storms?
I can show you how
to devour change, rout sleep
as we snout like dogs
gouged by the pain of the spin.

I spin
in fear
of dogs
that storm
my sleep:
I howl!

Now we have thrust our howls
through the sweat of pain and spin
we can relax in each other, let sleep
blunt the edge of our fears:
we are the storms;
we are, my love, the dogs.

Dogs howl;
storms spin:
fear sleeps.

NaPo 08: 24 April

Snowdrop 10.2: Gran's Cottage

"This is my home: the bricks and slates are where
I know I left them. Someone's parked a jeep
where compost heaps should slump and steam and steep -
who's washed the gutters, fixed the roof? Who's dared
to steal the shittery? Has Gran gone nuts?
She can't have sold the place! I'm gone two days
is all and now she's had the windows glazed!
What is this fresh madness? The doors are shut
and locked - she never bolts the cottage: who
would want to steal our scraps? It's not enough
that I should have delusions haunt my head
and hunt my flesh; with daylight comes a new
nightmare. I need to think. I need my stuff -
I need my Gran to tuck me into bed."

NaPo 08: 23 April

Snowdrop 10.1: On the Cusp of the Marshes

No sound but noise: a sonorous whistle
of wind constantly combing stubbles
of straw and reeds, their stripped pipes
playing laments. She pauses on the bridge
that slabs the canal with a concrete path,
crumbling rusts rouging its wounds.

She's cold: she shivers and clutches her hands
to each shoulder, her sharp elbows
pushing beyond the blood-stained cotton
swaddling shroud. She steps from dirt
to tarmac and grit, tightens the sheets
to keep the wind from caressing her skin,
steps over the bridge and onto the road
that loops across the levels to her home.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Peacock butterfly

Peacock butterfly
Originally uploaded by adleyrik
Guess what I saw on my walk today ...

What do you mean, "Why haven't you written a poem in 6 days, Rik?" I'll write them, 'kay! I mean, how difficult can it be to write 6 or 7 poems in one day?


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

NaPo 08: 22 April

In memoriam: Rik's upper right molar

Chattermay, cattermay,
Rik had a painful day
saying farewell to his
ulcerous tooth.

Novocaine jabbed in the
left the lad wanting to
gargle vermouth.

Monday, April 21, 2008

NaPo 08: 21 April

.........3 l-nes on age.........
.......a bed for old folk.......
..to rest -n :: m-dr-ff shr-nk..
.......a bar to the grave.......

(I know, I know: as far as experimental poetry goes, this one is at least a century out of date - but I wanted to try a bit of wordplay and typography stuff in a poem and this is the best experimental piece I've been able to come up with this month. So bite me!)

NaPo 08: 20 April

The Victim

I've had some ghosts
walk through that door,
but as wraiths go,
he was a first.
I gave him a drink
- whiskey, I think -
and asked his name.

"The bone that juts
out of my neck
offers no clues,
Mister Sleuth?
I thought the world
knew the name
of the kin who gave me
the third clavicle."

It was plain to see
the man was bitter
about his murder.
I probed for a while:
the name of his killer;
possible motives;
a corpse to check.

"He didn't even
bury my body -
well not until
that raven came
and showed him how
to hide his crime!"

I lied. I knew
this story, recalled
the hearing of it
on cold Sundays
sat on hard pews.
It made no sense
for him to be here -
the brother was caught
and judged by God
at the start of the book.

"You call that justice,"
the revenant spat,
"me in the dirt
and him to walk it
protected forever
by his precious mark?
When mum lost the farm
we all got to share
the punishment.
But no resurrection
for me, oh no!
I get to be dead
forever more,
and me a virgin
shepherd, too."

I did what I could
for the ghost; I listened
- until a woman
dressed in lipstick
knocked on the door.
It's business, I said
shrugging my shoulder,
the second sin
don't pay the rent.

NaPo 08: 19 April

Things I Love About My Bed

The bole of the headpost has faces
set in the vein of the wood, dryads
set to guard my dreams from harm.

Slats keep my flesh from reaching
into the cavern beneath, and the teeth
of the moths feasting on my carpet.

Atop the mattress slumbers my pallet,
its airfoams alert to the shapes
my bones throw through the night.

I could surround my head with pillows,
helmet my sweating skull with feathers
in cotton, but one is enough for my neck.

Sheets knot my limbs to the frame,
encot me as I sail the breath of the world
seeking unseen the truths in my dream.

NaPo 08: 18 April

Abigail Waits

When Abigail went to find
a place to keep her wandering mind
she searched the world, the caves of hell
and knocked on heaven's gates as well.
She sought a safe and homely place
where she could rest her aging face
and pick the dirt from pleated skin
while keeping track of time and sin
until the resurrection came
to animate her rebuilt frame.

Friday, April 18, 2008

NaPo 08: 17 April

Demolish Dig Design

Each day, a new terrain. These ants
are dirt-yellow, tracked mandibles
biting out the soil, levering hills
and levelling plains, a race to make
a stage, a point of focus - a zone.

Still the channels remain, their paths
within the floodplains destined, ordained
by the laws of gravity. This water
has no timetable beyond the moon,
the embrace of weight to weight.

When the sun's lanced light pitched
through the newfound skull's fragile orbit
scratched from the earth the earth
had spun the sun three thousand times
since the bone's last East End breath.

We shall raise legends in this park -
or so the hoardings tell me, each board
arrayed with its fantastic figure: so much
waste cleared; so many buildings razed;
so many dreams sparked in fresh skulls.

NaPo 08: 16 April


Said the man to the key:
please be true for me.

Said the key to the door:
creak for me once more.

Said the door to the wall:
better catch his fall.

Said the wall to the head:
I'll not be your bed.

Said the head to the floor:
Never drink no more!

Said the floor to the sick:
sticky; smelly; slick.

Said the sick to the cheek:
rest in me a week.

Said the cheek to the man:
please oh please just stand.

Said the man to his legs:
... you're not my legs ...

NaPo 08: 15 April


Red is for the pearl of blood on my fingertip,
blue for the colour of my nails as I squeeze my hands
tight. White is for your face, though your cheeks
are tinged in green. My cheeks are scarlet
from the swirls of swearing my yellow-coated tongue
weaves through the smoky brown airs. "Stick it
in water,"
you tell me. "Wash out the colours
so we can see the bland, numbed truth."
Having dropped
the steely hammer, I spit a kiss on your lips instead.

NaPo 08: 14 April


This dream brings actors to the stairs:
I thank them for their participation.
"This is not a problem," says one,
removing his face to wipe clean his head.
"We are always happy to help birth
a new story."
I muse on their next show,

the designs I could lay on their shapes -
these dolls who command words to perform,
who lead my linear characters from the plot
I have inked out for them. "You know
the way out,"
the faceless one says. I nod:
my presence is not welcome at this party.

NaPo 08: 13 April

King Worm

You said: "we can pop them
round the rim, white on red
like stripes, a pole of surfinas
shaved from the wall."
I pushed
fingers through humus, broke
knots of the earth between
my strapping palms. One clump
wriggled free of my prayer,
looped as it fell into the bowl
soon to be hoist high above
the world - a new lord
for the kingdom of heaven.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

NaPo 08: 12 April


Within the clutter, a clay cat
with daubed blue eyes and dashed whiskers
white against the black of cold fur.

I dust it routinely, knock powder
from between its ears, its paws, the crook
of its tail. It reports on my neglect.

I could break it, sever the connection
of gift and receipt; let fly shelved guilts
and griefs stored in its factory smile.

She is just a string of digits away,
it tells me. Pick up the purring comforter,
hold it to your cheek; click the buttons
and chat to Mother, who gave it me.

NaPo 08: 11 April


I don't see emotions
when I write blue.
I don't feel the dampness
of waves across my instep,
nor taste the sprays
of kicked water, nor hear
the insults, nor shudder
at the touch of the pulsing
plastic bag driven by currents
to wrap its inert tentacle
strips across my knee.
There is no sunny heat
in these tinted images.

Sometimes the pendular tap
of the waves on my ear
can bring tears to finger
their tide across my cheek,
but I don't see emotions
when I write blue.
This shade of indignity
lies hidden in the chord
of melody, the growl
of the throaty trumpet
planted in my chest. I test
each keyboard button
between knuckle snaps,
type the word: blue.

NaPo 08: 10 April

Four poems on footsteps

My first was vast, a dancing kick
heeled towards the dodging ground.

My next was skipped in rubber pumps,
a playground prance: stamp and veer.

I lost them for a while; a line of fire
from arse to calf made each an effort.

Can I trust them? Where once kerbs
tripped me, flesh will tip me down.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

NaPo 08: 9 April

And now for something a little bit different:

The LimerRik

There was an old chicken called Rik
Who sat on his nest with a stick.
Each day he would lay
an egg, which would say
'If you think I'm a poem, you're thick!'

NaPo 08: 8 April

A little late, I know, but this one needed several revisions:

Snowdrop - 9.5: Dawn

The sky is lighter, a scale of clouds
skinning the dome, their scorched edges
announcing the arrival of the ruddy sun
in minutes, seconds ... and Snowdrop kneels
in front of the man. He fumbles for his staff,
struggles to stand; he seems so old
in the weak light of winter's morning,
as old as the hills he inhabits, as old
as the battered pot placed at his feet.

"A copper pot, as green as spring with ropes
of smoke coiled inside its rim - who rests
within its roily depths? Did Mum protest
when shown her final home, did she lose hope?"
Within the cauldron a curl of mist
extends, a probing tendril seeking
space to expand, a place to fix
its form and set ... and Snowdrop watches
it branch and grow, grab at the legs
of its Tally Man, master its fear
of space as it latches to the linen sheet
gathered about the butcher's shoulders.

"I think this pot is full of life already:
look how it seeks the warmth of flesh, as if
it's lost its way - can it taste the air, sniff
the iron knife? And yet it's so unsteady ..."
When he notices the whiskery growth
he moves to snatch the mat on which
he sat away, whipping the stripes
of the ancient pelt over his head -
a hooded shawl ... and Snowdrop holds
a filament of mist in her fingers, a shred
of contact, a thread of thought, a moment.

"... a newborn lamb caught by the height of legs,
or maybe older, a shrivel of life that once
was whole and strong - a giant beast - a god -"
Beyond Snowdrop, the silent man
takes from the pouch tied to his belt
her nadir, its bolster embedded in horn.
Chanting his words, he weaves the tool
over the scalp of his gift: Snowdrop ... ignores him.
In the blank spaces of her brain she seeks
a mould, a length of metal annealed,
a legend of a blade, a bedtime tale,
a key to a kingdom, a crude ikon -
she feels its hilt form in her hand.

"no saintly prince will ride to save me: dregs
is what I am, the pikey girl, the thief. No lance
to spike this mad insanity, no rod -"
As he brings his palm to her brow and pushes
her ear to her shoulder she shakes the weight
of wet metal away from the earth
beneath her. A coldness catches at her neck
- his knife, arrived and ready to notch
her throat. She carves the caliburn
through mud and mist to meet the edge
of the magic pot: it pits the lip,
pauses, presses past the copper
into the cauldron's heart, its heat - and shatters!

Shatter the dawn; shatter
the dream; shatter
the world to the
shapes of

Monday, April 07, 2008

NaPo 08: 7 April

Mixing ghazals and sonnets - should it be made illegal?

Snowdrop 9.4: Invocations

"These loving words you speak are true, my son;
the world demands that I renew the sun."

"I hear you talk, old man, I see your form:
are you the Tallyman? What do you count?"
"I saw the world first born; I saw it cry;
I watched the love of us subdue the sun."

"The tears of fear, the cries of those about
to meet your knife - why do you kill at dawn?"
"Without the golden orb, oblivion;
no love can thrive beyond the jewel sun."

"Perhaps you are an Aztec priest - we learned
of them at school: they killed to tame the sun."
"We drink its energy, we steal its heat;
our need for love makes us imbue the sun."

"They tried to rule their gods, they were undone:
they culled the hearts of thousands - still they burned."
"Our globe of flame is cracked - we've worn it out;
a gift of love through blood will soothe our sun."

"You killed my mother. Now you want my life
to feed your madness - will my blood make mist?"
"Rennaisance keeps us strong - we must proceed;
the pulse of love shall feed the newborn sun."

"Will dogs and monsters feed upon my flesh,
a roast of Snowdrop? Best then take your knife ..."
"There is no pain - my love is sharp and true;
my world demands that you renew the sun."

"... and thrust it deep within my neck and twist
it hard - a miss will end with your defeat!"
"A kneeling supplicant is best, my child;
I'll score your neck - let love soak through the sun!"

Note that this section pushes my line count for the poem over the 2,000 mark. The poem is officially a Monster!

Extra Snowdrop

This doesn't count towards NaPo on the grounds that it's bits of verse nicked from other sections of the poem and reused at this point:

Snowdrop 9.3 - A Son Speaks:

"Look at the man! He sits by the tree
and stares at the moon, chanting a prayer.
In his lap is a knife, its iron blade free
of its sheath of horn. A tiger's hair
covers the leafmould: his torso is bare.
Look at the man, eyes blinded to see
the death of the year, his work to free
the sun from the earth to fly in the air,
to bring new sap to the bud. Now see
the Tallyman chanting his prayer.

"Look at the woman knelt on a bench:
her mustard hair sweeps down in locks,
her golden eyes stare up to clench
the stars in her mind, so soon to stop.
Look at the woman catch her frock
in fists of sinews: her head is wrenched
back to expose her neck. Then shock
as blood cascades from veins to drench
her cotton dress. Now stay and watch
the woman collapse from the block.

"Look at the head of the Tallyman, sat
on his pelt of tiger stripes; the course
of millennia scratched on his face in tracts
of weals and folds circling his jaw.
Look at the head of the man who forced
the woman in white to kneel, then tracked
his knife across her throat, who cracked
her veins to feed a sun reborn
in the morning of the new year. See
the head of the Tallyman, set on his course."

NaPo 08: 6 April

Time to take a break from poor Snowdrop's travails, I think:

Fukyu: Flames

Such a short timespan
from your parabolic birth
to your wordy death.

And yet, such places
visited; deserts and seas
no bar to your path.

People fight to take
you in their palms, hold you high -
flickering applause.

A mastered race sought
to reinvent history:
a strong flame, stolen.

Who stole you first, flame?
The athletes? The worthy great?

You live to perform:
you spark the air for peace, hope
and competition.

You are a false hope,
branded flame, logoed lantern.
Burn free from ring chains!

Burn the sky, the skin
of politicians; blister
the flesh that holds you

captive! Coruscate!
Reach up your tongues to the sun
... unreachable home.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Snowdrop bonus

... I wrote this ghazal snippet ages ago. Rightly, it goes next in the long poem, so I might as well post it here - for completeness, etc.

Snowdrop 9.2: The Chant of Entrapment

"A hook on a line, a temptation, a bean
to lure the unwary. Go fishing, my bean!

"This gift you have brought me - a jewel, a rose:
she'll dance in the moonlight to passionate dreams!

"The greatest of mercies, my thumb on your cheek;
Your scent cuts my sinews, a potion unseen.

"My old hands are cursed with the blood of bright hearts.
The old sun is dead: I must fashion it clean.

"A knife has no purpose - it sits in the hand.
This Tallyman weeps at the gushing red stream."

This brings me up to line 1958 - 42 more lines to break the 2k mark!

NaPo 08: 5 April

Snowdrop 9.1: Procession

For all the feet that have angled their way
to his dell, none have damaged the earth:
there are no paths to this place in the mist.

She feels her torpor in the folds of her bones,
in the cups of her eyes; her ache of steps
furnished in thoughts focussed on - nothing.

A muddy godling guides her to doom
and others follow, an odd collection
of the lost and the damned, living and dead.

Witness the Betsy; the boy who shakes;
the purgat'ry man; the maid of Kent
and her smuggler friend; the soldier, his lad.

The queen's fair still fucks in the woods.
The hunter's dogs still howl and chase.
The corporal still calls to his callous god

in his chapel of mist, and the marshes flood
to capture the Roman captain's ship -
the grand and black Grattack still hunts.

The Peggy has left her pond tonight.
Jack of the Flame jerks as he dances
across the boughs of the bark-built woman.

And Snowdrop is dressed in sheets of white
cinched at the waist by a string of ivy
and crowned with holly - a holy gift

for the Tallyman's knife, a token of life
to bring the heat of a birthing sun
back to a world now bound in ice.

Friday, April 04, 2008

NaPo 08: 4 April

Snowdrop 8.6: The Glamour of the Prophet

Look at her! She fights to be free
from the boy-in-disguise, away from the birth
of her monsterous spawn - the children of trees,
the babies of flames and fluids, all worth
a place in his pot, his Hell-on-Earth.
Look at her fight him: she calls to the sea
but her lover is taken already; she's leased
her belly to the Tallyman now, her girth
a cauldron of magic and time. Now see
how her spawn slither from their birth.

Look at me! I crawled on my knees
into the soils surrounding the Queen
and hid, and grew like a shoot from a pea
as the seasons stopped - a son unseen
in the muds of the Marsh, a being ... between.
Look at me - I live. I breathe!
I can dance in the sun and dive in the sea.
I have furnished the brows of folks with a sheen
of sweat; my pleasure is theirs! Now see
how my conquests surround my Queen.

Look at you! The woman who flew
from her world to a world of deceits
in the mists beneath the Hunter's moon -
will you kill him for us? Will you make his defeat
complete? But the Tallyman, he cheats
too: would you dare, little one, to assume
you can finish what gods and queens couldn't do?
You ate the bean in the broth, the seed
of your demise, your contract - we'll soon
see you bleed to complete our world of deceits.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

NaPo 08: 3 April

Snowdrop 8.5: Shared Bread

The bread in his hand is brown, a hash
of ryes and wheats winnowed in the dark:
a memory of hay harvested by moonlight.
It smells of goodness - a substantial gift
from a different land delivered by a god.

            "Look at the state of you! Did I build you
            just like I built the knife? The shoe? The rocks
            and grass and trees and mad men wearing frocks?
            I doubt that you're as real as mists and dew ..."

He smiles as he sits in the circle, nods
to the hooden troop as he hands the bread
across to the Carter. He keeps his words
to himself, his certainty set in the face
he sets to the gaze of the girl. She smiles.

            "And still you're here - just like the way she spoke
            of you: your hair so dark, your chin so wide,
            your eyes the hue of slates and muds: she lied
            about your death, it seems, sweet man of smoke."

As the bread circles, so the banter soars.
She can see the Betsy belt the rider
as he yanks the mead from the young man's grip.
She doesn't notice. She doesn't care
anymore except for the man before her.

            "She claimed you worked the travelling fairs, a man
            of grease and moments caught in the swirl of rides -
            a sixpence man, a candyfloss of smile
            and kiss and grunt between the lights - she span
            a tale of you, my friend! You pledged her a tide
            of love: you left her flotsam, jetsam, a child."