When I pound the streets Sniffing out the scent of the next poem I attract strays Whether it’s a dog day Or raining cats and dogs A pause is the signal For a stranger’s friendly paw Kindred spirits With no distillation Of direction One disposed to instinct One disposed to reflection Both accustomed to rejection Threadbare and patched Shabby warmth Chews loneliness Between yellow teeth Yet there’s a limit We circle round for a while Then reach the end Of my friend’s territory Where plaintive eyes Watch me pad away To the next steps of my story
Like any faithful hound I scent dinnertime From a country mile Come bounding Sit up Devour my bowlful Slaveringly Slavishly Eternally grateful For a full five seconds So Why Broccoli Leaves me Dyspeptically full Green Begging to get down Is a mystery Of the cosmos I chew over Endlessly While Tim Glowers Over the rim Of his no dessert School ma’am Glasses Mimics ‘I’m full’ Like a whining Whelp Until I skulk off With the dishes Tail between my legs Sneak a Wistful sniff Of the cheese And crackers Leave seizing For a furtive night time Raid Because What garnishes Wistful and crackers If not Fistful And knackers
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?…
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.