Strays

 
 
 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
  
  
   

Dogfood

 
 
 
 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
  
  
   

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.