Food For Thought

'A poem was never worth as much as a dinner'

                      Joseph Berchoux, poet, his works include 'La Gastronomie'

as a poet
prudently healthy
in rickety, food bank Britain

(and is the rest of the 
well stocked world
any different?)

I don't have a guilty conscience
but I feel conscientiously guilty

if my words could really be eaten

I would write 
ravenously
voraciously
if every verbal flourish
could nourish

those who are rumbling
for a bellyful more than culture
those picked clean
by vultures

and there's the rub
the salt in the wound
grind it in deeply
(we absorb it all so deeply)
my fine company 
of budget line raconteurs
breadline activists

(I'm not trying to cod you
my situation
is anywhere near the worst)

Heaney
harvester
of solid Irish staples
potatoes and milk
not the faintest scrape of famine
in his wholesome words

Hughes
cruelly organic
the leanest meat
visceral
dripping
no time for pretty packaging

Ferlinghetti
                                   spaghetti lines
                                                                    to the very end of the horizon
non-perishable
                                                  easily digestible
                                                                                                       accessible to all

(and at his side
Ginsberg
plentiful enough
to keep the little ones from howling)

Caribbean Nichols
succulent
a feast of natural sugars
indulge
salivate

an extra serving of laureates
Armitage
carefully measured rations
home delivered with a joke
with compassion
citric Duffy
acid tongued fount of vitamin c

(for vit d
how about The Bard himself
a delightful punnet of summer
if ever there was one)

this menu isn't only set in the west
arigato
Haiku
compact yet perfectly balanced
all you need
in a single mouthful
served with rice paper
exquisiteness

am I being too serious
too po-faced
dip into Ayres
scoffed at as candyfloss
who doesn't need 
an occasional sweet treat
just remember to brush your teeth

a bit too much to swallow
a dry throat croak
swig Dharker's blessing 
of H2O
certified safe 
for all to consume
or if so disposed
imbibe the spirits 
of Thomas and Behan
two true drops of the hard stuff

if words could really be eaten
maybe it would be different

in France
where Michelin starred poets traipse away
to prosaic jobs
tales between their legs
mutts without bones

and will it leave a bad taste 
if I fish for a miracle
wonder
if Plath might have
changed her mind

savoured
the unleavened verse
she was preparing

set it aside to rest
saved the oven
for baking



  

Food For Thought

'A poem was never worth as much as a dinner'

                      Joseph Berchoux, poet, his works include 'La Gastronomie'

as a poet
prudently healthy
in rickety, food bank Britain

(and is the rest of the 
well stocked world
any different?)

I don't have a guilty conscience
but I feel conscientiously guilty

if my words could really be eaten

I would write 
ravenously
voraciously
if every verbal flourish
could nourish

those who are rumbling
for a bellyful more than culture
those picked clean
by vultures

and there's the rub
the salt in the wound
grind it in deeply
(we absorb it all so deeply)
my fine company 
of budget line raconteurs
breadline activists

(I'm not trying to cod you
my situation
is anywhere near the worst)

Heaney
harvester
of solid Irish staples
potatoes and milk
not the faintest scrape of famine
in his wholesome words

Hughes
cruelly organic
the leanest meat
visceral
dripping
no time for pretty packaging

Ferlinghetti
                                   spaghetti lines
                                                                    to the very end of the horizon
non-perishable
                                                  easily digestible
                                                                                                       accessible to all

(and at his side
Ginsberg
plentiful enough
to keep the little ones from howling)

Caribbean Nichols
succulent
a feast of natural sugars
indulge
salivate

an extra serving of laureates
Armitage
carefully measured rations
home delivered with a joke
with compassion
citric Duffy
acid tongued fount of vitamin c

(for vit d
how about The Bard himself
a delightful punnet of summer
if ever there was one)

this menu isn't only set in the west
arigato
Haiku
compact yet perfectly balanced
all you need
in a single mouthful
served with rice paper
exquisiteness

am I being too serious
too po-faced
dip into Ayres
scoffed at as candyfloss
who doesn't need 
an occasional sweet treat
just remember to brush your teeth

a bit too much to swallow
a dry throat croak
swig Dharker's blessing 
of H2O
certified safe 
for all to consume
or if so disposed
imbibe the spirits 
of Thomas and Behan
two true drops of the hard stuff

if words could really be eaten
maybe it would be different

in France
where Michelin starred poets traipse away
to prosaic jobs
tales between their legs
mutts without bones

and will it leave a bad taste 
if I fish for a miracle
wonder
if Plath might have
changed her mind

savoured
the unleavened verse
she was preparing

set it aside to rest
saved the oven
for baking



  

Back to the Day Job

Somebody once wrote that drink was the scourge of the working classes. Then some joker reversed the polarities and got closer to the truth. Either way, it’s the scourge of the artistic ‘classes’ as well. Today saw me reacquainted with the day job, and this evening sees me with distinctly mixed feelings. As a supply teacher, I can’t say I’m truly suffering for my art. The bills get paid and the hours aren’t that long. Compare to Charles Bukowski, who worked in a postal sorting office for ten years before deciding to ‘quit and starve’ before he went mad. Obviously, countless others have laboured, literally, in order to support their literary labours.

After two months of no income, I’m grateful for the job I’ve got. I’m also grateful for having something to do. Nevertheless, the feeling endures that I really shouldn’t be in teaching. It’s not because I hate it, as I don’t. It’s not because I think it’s beneath me, as I don’t (and would deserve shooting if I did). The point is I’m better at writing, I’m passionate about writing and I’m prepared to put in more than the hours of a full-time job.

Intellectually, I get that writing doesn’t, for the vast majority, pay. But in my heart, there’s a glimmer of hope that one day it will and this is what I deserve. Meanwhile, as JM Coetzee put it, there’s escapism and there’s the real world. Now, which is which?…

A Kind Of Biography

I am proud to be mixed race. One set of relatives are from the Black Country, the other is a crowd of Brummies. I was born and raised in Worcestershire, but have lived in Birmingham since 1989. My day job is teaching English, these days as a supply teacher.

At fifteen, my writing first received national attention when I wrote the letter of the week for Record Mirror, suggesting a boycott of the Kiss fan club. Despite this early promise, little was heard until a 1997 appearance as a losing contestant on Countdown.

The new millennium heralded a new burst of creativity. That sounds good, but it isn’t true. Luckily, I’ve got an elephantine memory, so in 2004, when I really started to write, I’d got lots of ideas and things happened quickly. A debut collection, ‘Red’ (Dynamic Press) appeared in 2005. The book is notable for its orange cover, a nod to my colour blindness.

My poetry covers a huge range of subjects, but very little of it is about myself. There are far more interesting things to write about. Some of it is light and fluffy, some of it is deep and very, very dark. I never try to explain my work because I can’t explain it. I know what it means to me, but I don’t know what it means to you.

Around the time ‘Red’ was published, I began performing my work. I quickly became a fixture on the West Midlands poetry scene and have gone on to appear nationally, both on stage and on radio.

In 2010, a second book was published. ‘Once’ (Dynamic Press) is a gritty teen fiction novel set on the mean streets of Smethwick. Critics were kind enough to praise it and I’ve received some wonderful letters from young readers thanking me for a book they can relate to.

At the time of writing, 2013, the performance train keeps rolling and the writing train is going educational. ‘Balancing Acts’ is a collection of online resources combining original poetry with activities for young readers and teaching ideas for colleagues.

2013-5 will be dominated by schools-based workshops and performances. It’s going well so far and it’s all jolly good fun. If you’d like to be involved, please contact me for details.