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Showing posts from May, 2013

How to Win the Lottery by Matthew Sweeney

I'm currently reading Matthew Sweeney's 'Black Moon'.  Sweeney has been one of my favourite poets ever since I discovered his prize-winning poem, 'The History of Glassblowing' a few years ago.  For me, it's his sense of humour that gives his poetry lasting appeal.  It's inventive and often fantastical, and his poems are a real joy to read.  Humour in poetry requires a very light touch for it to work on more than one level, but Sweeney does this with incredible skill.  As a result, his humorous poems are understated enough to avoid becoming distracting or intrusive.  'How to Win the Lottery' is taken from his 2007 collection, Black Moon, and is absolutely an example of one such poem. 


There Will Be Blood

Nurse: Before you give blood, I've just got to ask you a few questions.
Me: Okay.
Nurse: Have you done any strenuous exercise today? 
Me: Yes-I mean no. By yes I mean no. Well, maybe.
Nurse: Which one is it? 
Me: It's a possibly-but-pretty-please-I'd-still-like-to-give-blood. Is that an option on your sheet?
Nurse: Mr Wiggins, I'm going to have to press you for a straight answer.
Me: It depends how you define strenuous.
Nurse: What did you do? 
Me: I went on a small bike ride.
Nurse: How small? 
Me: A medium-sized small. I cycled back from Cheltenham. You see, I don't have a car at the moment.
Nurse: How far did you cycle? 
Me: It's not as much about-
Nurse: Sir, how far did you cycle? 
Me: Five miles, give or take.
Nurse: Give or take? 
Me: Um, now let's see. No, it was five miles exactly. 
Nurse: And how fast did you cycle? 
Me: Now, you see: that's the thing. I had to rush back to make this appointment.
Nurse: How long did you cycle for? 
Me: Oh, maybe thirty minutes. Th…

A Short Account of Kurama, Japan (And Why Andy Likes Men)

Thursday 26th July 2012



The Lonely Planet book states that Kurama is a retreat for Kyotoites who need to get away from the pressures of the city.  The receptionist at J-Hoppers Hostel in Kyoto said that it would be a lot cooler there, and indeed it was: the higher altitude (Mount Kurama rises to 1,916 feet) in an area of little congestion allowed us at least a little respite from the overwhelming heat of Kyoto that has tormented us since we've arrived. 
The train weaved the 12 kilometres north-west through dense forest to the small rural town of Kurama.  You can understand why the residents of Kyoto City like it so much.  For one thing, the train provides a transition from big city to small rural town that is as soothing and restorative as any journey I've ever experienced.  The vast green borders that the train cuts through allows the traveller - Kyoto resident or otherwise - a much-needed period of reflection before the real recuperation begins.  
I cannot recall seeing one wes…

Helen Ivory's 'Waiting for Bluebeard'

I must join Matt Merritt at Polyolbion in drawing attention to Michelle McGrane's blog, Peony Moon.  In her latest entry, Michelle interviews Helen Ivory in which she talks about the inspiration behind her latest collection, 'Waiting for Bluebeard' (published by Bloodaxe Books, 2013).  That interview can be found here.  I owe a personal debt of gratitude to Helen Ivory as she was kind enough to publish one of my poems on her extremely well-regarded poetry webzine, Ink, Sweat and Tears.  I urge everyone to take a look.  
The interview concludes with a picture of a mouse reading one of Helen's poems.  What more could you want?   


Nan's Tribute

I know my brother will agree with me when I say that we both had a blissfully happy childhood, and this was in no small part due to nan.  She was a strong woman: strong-willed, strong-minded.  Strong was a regular prefix.  But she also doted on us with that strength and we doted back.  Another of her many good qualities was her generosity, which as a kid translated to pocket money.  Such was this generosity that receiving pocket money from her – particularly during her final years – was like receiving a tax-free second income.  
Nan was someone who saw things plainly - sometimes a little too plainly, though sometimes not.  Her methods, also, were occasionally received with suspicion, such as the time when I was eight or nine.  We were having tea around nan and granddad’s.  My hands needed to be clean for inspection at cub scouts later that evening and soap wasn’t doing a good enough job of removing the ink I’d got on them.  So Nan motioned towards the cupboard below the sink and produc…

On the Occasion I Turned to My 23 Year-Old Brother and Asked Him to Tell Me Absolutely Anything

Hippocampus: it projects rostrally. Write something about the brain – not like a technical poem, but one pertaining to the brain.
The lateral geniculate nucleus is part of the thalamus, a mid-brain structure that regulates the sleep-wake cycle, amongst other functions,
such as the generation of neuronal oscillations, and it’s also a target for deep brain stimulation, which is a treatment designed to attenuate resting tremor in Parkinson’s Disease.
Russians managed to transplant the head of a dog onto the back of another dog, which could blink.
Head transplants are a thing of the future. 
Take the head off a paraplegic and swap it with the head of a comatose patient.
Have you seen Face/Off?  Basically, that film, but instead of the face, it’s the head.

In Memoriam