Golden Shovel, after Charles Simic “Watermelons”

A golden shovel takes an existing short poem, and uses every word as the end of each line for a new poem

Watermelons, by Charles Simic

Green Buddha
On the fruit stand.
We eat the smile
And spit out the teeth.

Golden Shovel, after Charles Simic “Watermelons”
I lazed on the lawn, summer green
Calm and peaceful, an urban Buddha
Eyes closed, nothing on
My mind, just enjoying the
Moment, this day, this sun, the fruit
Of nature. Feeling its rays, I stand,
Arise without thinking, realising we
Are one; nature, earth, people; we eat
Of the soil and feed the
Soil; reaping what we sow, every smile
Breeding a dozen more, joy spreading and
Growing, an infection of hope that spits
On salty pavements, letting out
The poison of doubt, and the
Self-constraints of “can’t”, through newly-revealed teeth.

Al at the Maze4 - May-18

Alistair Lane performing at The Maze…

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YouTube

For those who hadn’t already noticed through other channels, I’ve put a couple of videos of my poetry performances up on YouTube, and have more to drip-feed out over the coming weeks.

I’d really appreciate it if you could check them out, maybe even subscribe to follow me on YouTube… if you like it, feel free to share!

This is the latest one I’ve uploaded. It’s my first ever live performance (aww!), at a Crosswords night in a cave in Nottingham (still my favourite place to perform). The first poem, Memory, has been rewritten substantially since this performance… one of the benefits of testing material in front of an audience. Hope you enjoy 🙂

 

Alternatively, you can subscribe here

Thank you!

 

 

Pets and their owners

They say that pets look like their owners… This is called “my cat’s a sexy motherf*cker”

Your dachshund may be a darling
And your terrier drive a truck
You may think your pet’s amazing…
But mine’s as sexy as f*ck

So your gerbil’s got some game
And your schnauzer isn’t a schmuck
Your pets each have their qualities…
Mine’s as sexy as f*ck

You may really dig your degu
Think your Pekinese is full of pluck
I couldn’t be any happier for you…
But mine’s as sexy as f*ck

Your ferret may bring you good fortune
And your black cat carry good luck
I’ve won the bloody lottery, mate…
‘cause mine’s as sexy as F*CK!

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My cat, this afternoon

 

Nottingham Poetry Festival – some takeaways

Nottingham Poetry Festival closed on Sunday, after a total of 70 acts graced different stages, libraries, markets and other locations across the county, entertaining, engaging and inspiring a huge variety of crowds that perhaps wouldn’t normally go to a poetry event. I had a flipping fantastic time… as is the tradition with these things, here are my  (non food-based) takeaways for the fledgling poet, from the Festival :

1 The whole bloody lot
I bloody love Nottingham. Big thanks to Tommy Farmyard and Henry Normal and all the other organisers, performers, and poetry fans of all stripes, for making this what it is.

2 Poems…duh!
As in actual content, from a workshop run by the effervescent Leanne Moden, who seemed to be on 24/7 poeting duty! (Added bonus – spending time with lovely fellow poets who inspire me, such as cosmicpoetry – I was a fan of her blog before I met her – check it out!)

3 Gimme the mic!
I really want to perform more… I loved the Comedy Extravaganza hosted by Willis the Poet, and spoke to him immediately afterwards (boring types can call it networking) about joining his comedy circus. I’ve also applied to perform at some other festivals… wish me luck!

4 Be more open…
Seeing how Hollie McNish (and Cleo Asabre-Holt – what a rising star!) shared themselves, no barriers, taking risks… Inspiring

5 Range
The sheer range of poetic styles, and what can be done with performance poetry…if there were four of me, I’d have gone to four different events on Weds, for example, and had a blast at each. If you haven’t seen the clip of Stephen Thomas performing his synth-pop set closer yet, do (here)! He has raised the bar for all who follow.

6 Camaraderie
I have always been acutely aware of being the outsider… Hey, that’s why we start writing poetry, right? But going to events, meeting people, chatting, being friendly, making friends… Sure, there are some pre-formed friendship groups, but I’m relatively new to this… And if shy old me can go solo to numerous events and KNOW that there will be someone friendly I’ve at least spoken to before, then you can too! (Plus, Henry Normal speaks to literally everyone… He personally greets everyone on arrival, helping to set a tone of everyone being made to feel welcome – truly inclusive…)

7 Confidence boost
I performed at three events – the Crosswords Sue Ryder evening (I’ve posted a couple of videos of me performing that night, here and here); at one of the library hours; and at the NPS Poetry Slam. Poetry crowds are so warm, supportive and generous – you get the feeling that everyone really wants you to succeed. For someone who lacks confidence in public speaking, this is an amazing lift. And to top it off, I finished third in my first ever poetry slam!

8 Keep at it
Roger McGough closed the festival with an hilarious, engaging set… But what impressed me most was the sheer number of – incredible – new poems he shared. For someone with a fifty-plus year back catalogue of amazing work, Roger could easily have just played the “greatest hits”. He didn’t, and clearly still has the passion for poetry. A true inspiration.

So…see you next year?

hollie mcnish - al in crowd

Me, enjoying Hollie McNish’s raw, compelling, hilarious, poetry

Grampy

A poem about my Grandfather – “Grampy” – written for and performed at the Nottingham Poetry Festival, at the Crosswords Sue Ryder open mic night. I’ve attached the recording below on YouTube, with another poem from last night too. I’d love it if you checked it out 😀

Grampy died when I was young.
Young enough to remember,
but not old enough to know him.

He was a baker by trade, always
bringing oven-warm buns,
the three minute walk back to
his front door.

He’d served in North Africa
in the Second World War.
This utterly fascinated me,
the reality of war.
The notion of “service”. The grit.
But we never spoke of it.

The closest we came was him buying me
“Commando” magazine from the newsagents,
next to the bakers. Those pocket booklets of
heroism, jingoism. Derring do. Reality
safely sanitised into periodic pieces
where the good guys always win.

I never really cared for them –
I preferred when he
bought me “Buster” comics –
but I never told him that.
He thought I’d like them,
so he bought them for me.
Maybe he wanted to say more.
I wanted him to say more.
But he never did.

The cancer
ate through him
In those final days.
A Brylcreem skeleton.
A shadow of sallow skin,
sunk in his favourite chair.
Unable to manage even that
short walk to the newsagents,
now knocked through into the
bakery, selling undertaxed coffee.

No more Commando magazines.
No more unspoken words.

Me, Me, Me

I attended a poetry workshop on Saturday, as part of the Nottingham Poetry Festival. I’m barely home this week for going to various poetry gigs (sadly not performing, but am hoping that will come), and consider myself blessed to live in such a poetry-hungry city!

At this workshop, I wrote a number of poems that will eventually see the light of day on this blog. This was written for the opening exercise, to write a tanka to introduce ourselves. I wrote two… the second explains why!

Really a rhymer
Who then got hooked on haiku.
In recovery.
I’ve been clean for a year.
Damn! I’m back on the wagon!

I love a challenge.
Stupidly competitive.
Fitting these words in
Gives me great satisfaction,
When the syllables all fit

🙂

 

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Careers Advice for the Chosen One

In my head at least, this is a lost Monty Python sketch… you may prefer it had remained lost!

INT, DAY, CAREER GUIDANCE COUNSELLOR’S OFFICE. STUDENT LOITERING IN DOORWAY

COUNSELLOR:
Come in! Please! Come, take a seat. Tell me, what can I do for you?

STUDENT: (entering)
Well, it kinda says on the door… I was after some career guidance.

C:
Of course! Wonderful that young people are so proactive these days. What sort of career or careers have taken your interest?

S:
Only the one career.

C:
Very decisive of you. And that one is?

S:
Chosen one.

C:
Chosen one?

S:
Yes, that’s right, chosen one.

C:
(pauses) You are looking at a career as…the chosen one?

S:
It’s a calling. I’ve been called.

C:
(hesitant) You’ve been called… Have there been any signs? Any miracles? Any unexplained phenomena?

S:
An electronic gate. It opened automatically for me.

C:
Lots of gates do that.

S:
This one didn’t have a sensor. It just opened. For me.

C:
There could be lots of perfectly reasonable, rational explanations for that gate opening. Malfunction, for example. A short circuit. Some electrical disturbance.

S:
I find your lack of faith disturbing.

C:
Well, it really isn’t much to go on now, is it? Have there been any other incidents?

S:
I stopped a bus.

C:
You stopped a bus?

S:
Is there an echo in here? Yes. I stopped a bus. It was coming towards me in the road, and I put my hand out in front of it, onto the windscreen, and stopped it.

C:
Were you at a pedestrian crossing?

S:
Yes…

C:
Is it possible, in any way, that this bus was, perhaps, stopping anyway to allow pedestrians, such as yourself, to cross the aforementioned road?

S:
(snorts) It’s possible.

C:
Ok… anything else? Two pieces of evidence you see, if such they are, is hardly conclusive. Even sainthood needs three miracles these days.

S:
No, just the two.

C:
Well, as your careers guidance counsellor (gestures to the sign on the door), let me counsel you then to go out into the world, do good deeds, a bit of helping the meek, making sure you recycle, save the planet… generally live a good life. You could start by volunteering at a charity shop?

S:
A charity shop! I come in here telling you that I’m the child of a supreme creator, and you want me to volunteer in some dingy charity shop? (getting increasingly irate) “Here, Jesus, come down off that mount and stop sermonising, Mrs Jones wants her Dan Brown boxset bagged up”… “Never mind that restituting the meek malarkey, how much are the Princess Diana tea plates?” For the last time, stop healing the blind and the lame, there’s a queue of irate pensioners at the till and they’re getting hangry!” (storms out)

C:
(to camera) That’s the problem with kids today. Want it all on a plate… Next!

 

Pigeon Pageantry

This is a 300-word FF on the theme of “Royalty”, for the Bloggers Bash competition… My second entry – this one’s less likely to get me a knighthood! Hope you enjoy!

“Alright, Trev?”

“Not so bad. Yourself, Dave?” The first pigeon shrugged his barely discernible shoulders.

“Can’t complain. Found half a box of KFC last week. Seemed a bit of a coup in the circumstances.”

“Haha, ‘coup/coo’… good one,” he laughed, in that way that pigeons do.

“ ‘ere, Trev, have you seen Sal lately?”

“Yeah, I see ‘er now and again. How come?”

“Have you seen that ‘er with that bracelet? Big rattley thing, wears it ‘round her neck.”

“Can’t say I’d noticed… hang on, wasn’t that her mum’s?”

“Yeah that’s it. Her mum’s shuffled off to join the choir invisible…”

“That’s a shame. Well, I say a shame. Never really liked ‘er. All those airs and graces. La-de-das and all that. Thought she was better than us, just ‘cause her dad left her a big nest. She never had to scrabble around in the mud for a worm like the likes of us, did she, Dave?”

“No, she did not… ‘ere remember, that daft little tip of the wing she used to do to her “adoring crowds”. Give me strength!”

“Haha, it’s a wonder that any of the other pigeons fall for it!”

“Yeah, but you know what we’re like. Suckers for a bit of pigeon-pomp and pageantry.”

“Too true, my friend, too true…. What were you saying about Sal?”

“Well, just that with that bracelet she seems to think she’s lady of the manor now. As if it makes a bit of difference who her parents were!”

“Never even knew my Dad. Never ‘eld me back.”

“You’re made of hardier stuff, Trev. The world needs more pigeons like you.”

“Aw, cheers mate… don’t suppose you’ve …got any of that KFC left, have you?”

“It’s been a few days…”

“I don’t mind if you don’t”

They fly off, together.

 

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