Category: poetry

My breath is an anchor

Anchor in Clear Blue SeaMY BREATH IS AN ANCHOR

My breath is an anchor,

Holding steadfast and true,

Each fear that I conquer,

Makes more space for the new.


My heart is an ocean,

Floating out with the tide,

Each ebbing emotion,

Helps to soften my pride.


My mind is a hard rock,

Resisting the fierce waves,

Each thought that I block,

A habit that enslaves.


My dreams are like water,

Drifting just out of sight,

Each moment I falter,

Takes me further from light.


My breath is an anchor,

Holding steadfast and true,

Each time I reach the shore,

Brings me closer to you.

Covid Haiku

Screen shot 2020-04-30 at 14.35.37

Lingering morning

A wise, silent flower blooms

Whilst watching the pain

9781526611307Being stuck at home in Northern Italy while the deadly virus wreaks its havoc outdoors, I find myself looking for books that express a humane, honest and unsentimental view of the world. I struck gold with Ben Myer’s latest novel.

Last year, I read this Durhan-born author’s ‘Gallows Pole’ which I enjoyed although I felt that the women in the story were too thinly drawn. ‘Thankfully. this is never an issue in ‘The Offing’ (Bloomsbury , 2019).

Set in the aftermath of the second world war, it introduces readers to Dulcie Piper, as fun and feisty a female character as anyone could wish for. She it is who befriends, feeds and mentors a 16 year old lad, Robert Appleyard. These two outsiders meet by chance after he leaves his a pit village in Northern England on foot in search of freedom and adventure.

Robert’s desire to explore new horizons finds favour with this aging, free-spirited spinster. Dulcie is the kind of wise aunt everyone would love to have. She encourages Robert in his “act of escapology and rebellion.” Seemingly, his only alternative is follow the family tradition and become a coal miner. She gently, yet deliberately, nudges him in another direction.

Dulcie’s fierce independence and defiance of convention is signalled when tells him that “plain speaking and direct action are my favoured modes of communication” and in the scathing attitude towards those she calls the “janitors of mediocrity”.

She urges the young man to travel mindfully, read widely and also to “Live and love as many mouths, hands and clammy holes as you can cram yourself into, and then, when you find someone who satisfies your soul too, you give yourself to them entirely.”

The novel’s title denotes a distant stretch of sea where sky and water merge; a word used in the work of the real life poetess Romy Landau who inspired Myers to write this story. The ghost of Romy haunts Dulcie and the enigma of the relationship between these two women is a vital part of the plot.

In one sense this is a simple rites of passage story in which Robert discovers ways to escape the narrow confines of his working class background. But it is so much more besides. Myers celebrates the natural world and finds poetry in everyday details whilst also stressing the need to seize and savour life’s fleeting pleasures.

For, as the older and wiser Robert comes to appreciate, “Life is long when you’re young and short when you’re old, but tenuous at any time.”

The Old Ways by Robert MacFarlane (Penguin Books, 2013)
The Old Weird Albion by Justin Hopper (Penned In The Margins,2017)

Screen shot 2019-12-02 at 21.59.29If Robert MacFarlane were to say “I’m just poppng out for a walk”, chances are you wouldn’t see him again for days, weeks, even months. Not for him a gentle stroll in the park. We’re talking serious trekking here. He tells us nothing about the equipment or supplies he takes with him, but it’s plain that he sets off prepared to sleep rough and scavenge for food if necessary.

Being fully immersed in the natural world is what drives him and gives him sustenance. In ‘The Old Ways’ the writer wanders around England and Scotland and also roams abroad (Palestine,Spain and Tibet). Some of these adventures border on the reckless as he challenges himself against the elements or strikes out onto what he knows full well to be inhospitable terrain. MacFarlane regards “walking as enabling sight and thought rather than encouraging retreat and escape”. In other words, it’s a serious business and not just a gentle recreational pursuit. Continue reading

Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom by John O’Donohue (Harper-Collins, 1998)

Screen shot 2019-12-01 at 10.25.48This is a self help book for the soul in which traditional Celtic wisdom from Ireland is couched in universal terms. It is full of  quotable anecdotes about living correctly and completely.

On the downside, affirmative thoughts are frequently undermined by woolly references to ‘spiritual’ values that imply all life’s gifts are God-given. O’Donohue argues that “At every moment and in every situation, God is the intimate, attentive, and encouraging friend”, ignoring the fact that there is not a shred of concrete evidence to support such a statement.

As a life-long Atheist I find the pseudo-religious aspects of the book frustrating primarily because it seems at odds with the admirable Humanist thrust of the key ideas. How can we be truly free as individuals if we are subservient to a divine being? Continue reading

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