Saturday, February 14, 2015

Andrew Darlington





too old, too sick, too tired for poems

done with poems, until returning here,

where we were the bright and burning wind

bled and howling through Hebden Bridge

in spliced silver apocalypse frame after frame

with machine whirr and click whirr and click,

and now they start up again, can’t staunch

these ghosts caught and stuck in flickering

projector images/ ...when we matched breath,

exhaling into frosty-crystalline sunset over

hacked and gouged ripple-skied motorway/

by the underpass/flyover chrome-grille

concrete monolith of spiral M62 crawl

stooped and crawling, screaming ‘BASTARD

at anonymous steel projectiles, our laughter

lost and rolling in shattered syllables all along

the verge/ ...and did we lie inert and not move

and breathe again as if it were our first breath

and at the same time our last breath, recalling

a bright and burning wind over Hebden Bridge

and ripple-skied motorway monolith of stoop

and crawl, and smile and think ‘this is good’,

I don’t ask for my head to be stuffed

with these burning visions, but they’re here,

is a sleeping madman still crazy…?

too old, too sick, too tired for poems

trying to turn your mind to other things,

and these ghosts return…



Check out my website ‘EIGHT MILES HIGHER’ – ‘The Blogspot for People Who Don’t Like Blogspots’ – latest postings include ‘Music From Sheffield: The Box’ interviews/history, Kurt Vonnegut 1983 interview, full Bill Nelson interview-live/album review-discog retrospective with rare archive art, ‘The Lost Worlds Of Arthur Conan Doyle: His SF, Fantasy & Horror’, Neil Sedaka Live, Elvis: My Visit To Graceland & Sun Studios with photos, ‘Rogue Moon’ by Algis Budrys – history & analysis, Cassandra Complex 1988 interview, and moremonthly updates at



Adam Ward

The Piano


It’s as if my fingers had forgotten the piano,

or maybe my eyes drifted from the keys

to the ivory of her smile once too often.

Maybe the beer had slowed my knuckles,

and the turquoise sponge of her eyes

drifted to my hands to watch me play,

but the nerves rose through my chest

and gave up music, or hope perhaps.


As I played for the hollow home

somewhere beyond the rolling cloth

the creased quilt, dotted with sheep

bleating new accents in every field

she sat quietly, tongue small and thick

resting on a scarlet glistening pillow.

Her eyes stroked between my face,

my hands, and back and back.


But I shook the notes away,

each cadence a memory discarded,

an inhibition lost, an epitaph.

Every bar was a coda waiting.

Each coda could not begin a new refrain

for there was no melody for here and now

without a scale of guilt.  And those chords

would only accompany me to the gallows.


Yes the songs would end

the hammer ceased beating the strings

and her hands brushed mine

like a cotton bow upon airy skin.

Begin again her mouth would urge

and whipping hair of flame just once

to rest upon the lagoon she’d draped

around her hidden curves.


As the bitter night closed the light

and my hands caught the wind

reaching for hers, subtly.

She shrunk back into whispering black,

her elven feet carrying her home.

Back up the hill I’d drag my shoes

through gravel, gate, and upstairs
to play piano perfectly alone

A Rutlanders Yarn


In some wez shis wiser na.

Sh’c’n tell th’Jewsh, Christians,

th’Indoos oo’s right’ an’

seddle th’score on those what lied.


Tho still an’ dumb, th’eyes a closed

wi’sheckin’ thumbs, c’n see wha’ man

‘as killed ‘is brother uva, fer centries

in livin’ breathin’ blin’ness.


Jus’ las’ week shwas ‘ottin’ soup

an’ serm’nisin’ ‘rithmetic and revlations

to yunguns oo’d not utter a word

whils’ Mam’d wield th’ladel


Mu’ely, an’ withou’ force she

gev um each day their delly bread

an’leddem no’ inta temptation.

We mathed’er words to full bolls.


When Dad cemmum frum wuck

th’dug, cherishin’ ‘is face wi’

baptisms a slick slobber

shwud thank th’Lord furriz return.


 Shid sen’ God wee us, dan th’jitty,

up each tree wid climb, uva each stile,

an’ anywur ‘cross th’Wellan’ Valley

wid yomp wi’spirit accussom t’ yunguns.


An’ one day sh’open’d twa man,

seein’ only a bet’n gosp’l in wunand,

not th’knife ‘e ‘ung cashwul-like

‘aside ‘is fawny jacke’ an’ nea’ trousers.


Goodwill twall men, sh’ad ‘im in

sheckin’ wee a fruzzen gale.  Hid accep’

th’good char, of a good woman, wee th’

good book on ‘er oak tebbel


Frit tho’ shid be, a’th’ final plunge

a’d no’ won’er tha’ a final preh would

‘scap ‘er lips, ta God ‘oo fersucker

a’tha’ mumment, in ‘er dires’ of need.


Na cotched in slumber, in wood an’ chapel,

‘ands ‘cross her motionless ‘eart she knows

an’ sees th’frui’ ova life whisper’d on knees.

Bu’ sh’speaks not til’th veil’s drawn
Adam Ward can be found on social media in the following places. Twitter - @WardyBoy82
FB Page - I last found him in North Gate bus station in Northampton, where I twisted his arm to give these poems to Beatnik. I think they're extremely good, for whatever my opinion's worth ~ Bruce.

Monday, January 26, 2015


By Kerouac’s Grave
by Pat King

Sure, but I do realize that I’m quite the vain man, the pain-in-the-ass man. Dear friends, this is why I love looking at old pictures of myself, love showing them to other people. “Look, look, here I am! I’m real! Let me tell you a little about myself…” Most of the pictures are casual snapshots, taken either by my dad or mom. They’re nice enough things to look at and, in my dad’s case, done with a certain sense of aesthetics, since he was always an amateur photography enthusiast. However, among all the snapshots and pictures taken on vacations and holidays, there’s one picture that I particularly cherish. It just sums up a moment so completely. Yes, I’m pretty sure it’s my favorite picture.

Observe the photo’s composition: it’s framed deliberately, thoughtfully. It’s meant to evoke something very specific, perhaps something that the photographer only knew unconsciously, after all, she had only a moment to snap the thing. It’s clear that the photographer is trying to get at the real meat of the subject. The subject was my sad, dead-drunk face, my broken heart.
The photographer was Katie Jachowski. Later she would become Katie King, my beautiful wife. Maybe that’s part of the reason I’m so attached to the photo, because Katie took it. But Katie’s taken a lot of pictures in which I’ve been the subject. No, this picture is special. This one says so much.

Observe my late-20’s hipster long hair and the hoodie I was wearing and the all-too-serious look about my face. I wasn’t happy.

The picture was taken on an unusually warm mid-October day in 2007, the final morning of an annual Jack Kerouac festival in Lowell, Massachusetts. The weekend had been a blur. We didn’t go to many events. Only one, actually. It was a Jazz brunch kind of thing that I have vague memories of. We wandered the city and drank whiskey in our hotel room. The whole thing had a tie-wearing, appeal-to-authority kind of vibe. We had more fun just doing our own thing. We did, however, make sure to visit the original On the Road manuscript. The teletype scroll was on display at a textile museum.

That whole trip had a kind of lost weekend feel.

I wonder whether that look in my eyes, the one that Katie captured so well in that picture, was the same one a literature professor saw when he said to me, “Just don’t end up like him,” meaning Kerouac, after I had casually mentioned my weekend plans to him: the drive from Baltimore to Lowell, the readings, how much I was looking forward to the whole thing.

End up like Kerouac?

Like drinking myself to death, living my last decade in isolation, shunning my friends and dying from cirrhosis of the liver? Nah, man, not me. I was 27 years old and never going to die. I liked excess, I liked extremes. So what if I had been drinking and overeating for the past decade? What the hell? This guy, this tie-wearing literary professor thought that I was romanticizing Kerouac’s life. I guess he figured I thought it  would be cool to die in physical and mental anguish, to have my body shut down. Get a life, man. Fucking asshole.


Maybe I was kind of on the way toward killing myself. It’s hard to say for sure, because by that time I didn’t really drink with any real frequency. I would binge, sure, but I would also go cold turkey for a few months at a time. But couple that with my out of control eating and it was obvious that a breakdown of some kind was coming.
It crept up slowly, but it seemed so sudden.

I was already overweight when the picture at Kerouac’s grave was taken, but I would keep gaining. Seven years later, I was 310 pounds. A hulking beast of a man who could barely walk without getting winded.
In late September 2014, I had just started a new supermarket job. I had only been there for a full day and a half day when the freakout happened. I’d been noticing that, for the past week or so, my vision had been getting bad. I used to have perfect 20/20 sight, but now I couldn’t see much past a few feet ahead of me. I thought maybe my eyes were sore or something. I didn’t know what was going on. I just figured it would get better on its own. But it didn’t get better. On that second day of work, I noticed that I couldn’t see a customer’s face across from the deli counter. I panicked and said that I needed to leave.

I went home. I told Katie what was happening and she came home early from work and took me to the emergency room. The nurse nearly gasped when she saw that my blood sugar was at 445, way over the normal 60 - 100 range. No good. Diabetes. Katie and I sat in the waiting room, silent, for about thirty minutes, until I was admitted.
Over the next four hours, I was given insulin. My sugar got down to about 140. After a long lecture on what I could eat (not much) and what I couldn’t (just about everything I liked), I was finally discharged. My vision had already started getting better before we left the hospital. It took a few days, but it finally returned to normal.
I was devastated. I took the next day off of work. I figured I was fucked. Surely I was going to get fired.
I lay in bed, self-pity washing over me. All I wanted was to sleep, to drift away…

Katie got home from work that afternoon and walked into our little apartment to find that I had locked myself in the bedroom. I didn’t really mean anything by it. I just wanted to be alone for a while. But I guess I did mean something by it. Katie, panicked and afraid, called my dad, who drove 45 minutes just to talk to me. I wouldn’t let him in either, so he talked to me through my locked door. As always, he was kind, gentle, his voice soothing. He did his best to talk me down from my freakout. Finally, after about an hour, he asked, “What’s next? What’s the next step?”

I said, “I’m going to work tomorrow.”

I knew I had to do it. It was a daunting step because of my embarrassment over being so new and already calling out -- a working class dilemma if there ever was one. But if I could just make it through the day, through the awkward motions of a new job and new people, then the worst of it would be over. Then I could really get going.
And so I went to work. A couple of days later, I started to walk.
It was only a few blocks at first. I got winded easily. But I kept walking. Every day at first, then five days a week, pushing myself a little more each time. Months later, I started to jog. I still have to alternate between jogging and walking, but I’m getting there. I’m making progress. I’m going to make it.

By December 2014, I’d lost over 50 pounds. I was still about 260 pounds, quite a bear of a man, but getting smaller, getting healthier. I was also eating right. Meat and vegetables, bread every once in a while. No sugar. And I started meditating again, something I hadn’t done for months. All this is to say that, while these aren’t the happiest days of my life, they might end up being the most contented.

But, man, that picture. Sitting cross-legged at Kerouac’s grave didn’t mean much to me at the time, except maybe that I got a cool picture of myself out of it, a way of saying, “I was there.” But now I look at it and can’t help but see a kid. A kid pushing thirty who thought he knew his trajectory. I was trapped by a faulty sense of imagination. I’m 34 now, and far less sure of myself than I was back then. But what did being sure of myself ever get me?

Sometimes I can’t help but shake because of the immensity of it all.

 Thank you, Katie. I love you.  

Pat King is the author of the classic underground novel EXIT NOTHING. 

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Review: MERRY-GO-ROUND by Bryn Fortey

The Alchemy Press, 2014

"Merry-Go-Round" has been available for a while now. It's a perfect gem of a book by a writer who I've only known, previously, for his poetry. According to the introduction by editor Johnny Mains, however, Bryn has been writing stories like those featured alongside the poetry here for years and years. Shows what an authority I am.

I know some of the poetry. So might you, if you read the little magazines, or if you saw me read them at a festival last summer. They're presented in six sections between the stories, and they explore some of Bryn's familiar themes--music and family in particular. His science fiction poetry is new to me. A taxi driver on Mars studies to keep his brain ticking over. The Siren Women of a distant planet slaughter their males by tearing their flesh with sharp teeth.

Clearly the self-deprecating Mr. Fortey has an imagination as wild as H.G. Wells and Edgar Allan Poe. And they are the authors I kept thinking of as I read the stories. Not because Bryn is copying them, or even, necessarily, influenced by them; I'm not an expert in horror or science fiction, genres that most of the stories fall into, so if the author's style has precedents, I almost certainly don't know them. But the horror stories, especially "Shrewhampton North-East", which starts the collection, have an eerie mystery, and a perversity, that almost belongs in the Victorian periodicals. (When I say the stories are perverse, I mean that as a compliment.)

And like Wells, Bryn's science fiction takes us to places our own minds could not conceive of. He imagines technological advances that allow for the instantaneous transfer of human beings from one place to another, or from one time to another. Time travel, of course, is one of the most venerable tropes of science fiction, but Bryn handles it with real ingenuity. In "The Oscar Project" the protagonist journeys back to the days before Christ's execution--an interesting premise in itself for an author who has rejected religion, as Bryn seems to have done. I won't spoil your reading by telling you what happens, but the drama that unfolds is intensely gripping and beautifully described.

As I've already written, music is never far away when Bryn's around. It's something he and I have in common. Other stories in the collection concern his beloved jazz, a subject he writes about as well as anyone. I like most "The Pawn Shop Window", a melancholy tale about a trumpet player who lives in the Golden Age of jazz but never makes it. In some ways, at least for me, that one's about poets too: all the really wonderful men and women Bryn has known and I have known who lived hard lives trying to bring something to the world that the world didn't want. People in the small press whose stars were eclipsed by greater talents (like Louis Armstrong in the story), or lesser talents, like the poetasters whose academic connections got them mainstream publication and write-ups in the TLS.

You can probably still order copies of "Merry-Go-Round" online at I think it's a very good book, and not just because of my long-standing friendship with the author. There's science fiction in here, for Heaven's sake. Anyone who can get me reading, and even enjoying, that has got to be worth a wider audience.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

by Bruce Hodder
At ten pm under a thin December moon, Declan O'Connor, a short, overweight Irish shift manager, arrived in a new BMW to interview candidates for a cleaning job at the meat factory. He was half an hour late, but as he was in charge, who was going to tell him that?
Two Polish men, one Lithuanian, one Latvian and one English man had been waiting silently in the canteen since half-past nine. Once O'Connor was in place in his office, with his usual cup of coffee and his biscuits, a woman in a tabard came into the canteen.
"New starters? Follow me."
The candidates were escorted to a meeting room, where they sat together around a big table talking quietly, mostly in Polish, but occasionally in broken English.
"What was your last job?"
"You never work?"
"A day here, a day there."
"How long you been in England?"
"Six months."
The Latvian man, his blue eyes hollowed out by melancholy, told the Englishman, "Used to be jobs so easy to come by. Now nothing. So hard. Something very wrong."
The candidates were called one by one down the corridor to O'Connor's untidy office, and returned to the meeting room five minutes later.
"His accent so hard to understand," said the Latvian man. "Ireland is part of England? Same language?"
The English candidate went in last. O'Connor told him with a conspiratorial smile, "You're in a minority here. There are only two English people on the shop floor. And most of the managers, of course."
They had a cursory chat. O'Connor asked the Englishman about his experience, although the job had been advertised as "full training given." If he had known experience was a requirement, the Englishman would not have bothered to spend money he didn't have coming all the way across town on such a cold night.
Afterwards, he was sent back to the meeting room as the other candidates had been. They waited another five or six minutes for O'Connor to come in and announce three successful names out of the five. The chosen ones who would come back in tomorrow and start their training.
There was a complete absence of feeling in his voice or on his face as he read out the names. He might have been sorting fresh joints from rotten.
Leaving with the others, too tired to feel sorry for himself, the Englishman said, "Well, that was a waste of bloody time."
One of the successful candidates, walking behind him, laughed and said, "Can you smell the dead meat?"
He was right: the stench rising from the factory floor was thick and awful.
Pushing open another door marked "exit", the Englishman looked at his mobile and realised he had missed the last bus home. Perhaps understanding why he looked so annoyed, and perhaps not, one of the Polish men touched him on the shoulder.

"Hey, bro, you want a lift?" he said.

Outside the winter chill closed around them. 

Friday, November 14, 2014



Bethany (Bee) Stiana Patience

Performance poet, marketer, founder of ‘Run Your Tongue’ spoken word night, and Charles Bukowski devotee. Bee graduated with first-class honours in Creative and Professional Writing from the University of Nottingham. Following a brief period working as a poet in schools, she has since moved into the fast-paced world of marketing, where she’s able to use both the left ‘logical’ side of her brain and the right ‘creative’ side. Inspired by people and places, Bee’s work focuses heavily on the five senses, and she believes that every word counts. Her ultimate aim is for readers and listeners to see, hear, smell, taste, and feel her poetry. Bee also happens to be the 2012 Nottingham Poetry Society Slam first prize winner.




Written in response to a poem called ‘Song for Bethany’ by the late Graham Joyce; a fabulous mentor, an incredible author, and an insanely missed friend.


for Graham


life tasted like candyfloss

rolling ourselves in rizlas of earth

finding feet through hopscotch

joining freckles like dot-to-dot across

shoulders and collar bones

imagining cartoons and unicorns

onto skin





and arrowheads and bluebirds from chests


stabbed breath

twenty-nine reckless

glasses of wine

then coming up Sunday

aching gazes down stranger’s spines


unmarking red lines

under empty cigarette packets

and double-decker wrappers

what do they know?

what do I know?


standing in love with another

not falling

promising not to let them hurt me

as much as the first


or the second


or the third


pulling thorns

and arrowheads and bluebirds from my chest


underneath my tongue

broken guitar strings

are buzzing

like heavy rain on the sunroof of a car

like standing on the edge of a platform when a train goes past


I’ll use lowercase for every single word

so that each letter knows their worth



and I will write


I will write


 I will write


I will write


and listen

to the sound of











He Didn’t Want to be a Victim


What did you carry?

Anything –  flick knife, lock knife, butterfly knife


How can something so beautiful share its name with something so...



I didn’t want to be a victim. I’ve seen things, lost things.

The whisper of prison missed my ears beneath the shouting streets.

A slap on the wrist – I can handle that

then he’ll fall back into concrete embraces,

continue to subsist in a vulnerable bubble of kindred pretences


choosing violence, over conversation


Because they live in another post code?

Their skin’s a different colour to yours?

Or you can’t pronounce their surname?


I didn’t want to be a victim.

I didn’t want to be anybody’s victim.

We can’t harmonise with a handshake.


Peering from my back pocket, hidden in my jacket


the blade

boasts protection, saves face in front of connections


better to arm yourself with a weapon, denote intimidation

than be a victim.



I didn’t want to be a victim.

I didn’t want to be anybody’s victim.

We can’t harmonise with a handshake.


And now all I see are these walls

eats and sleeps a metre away from his toilet –

it disgusts him. The drip



of the sink, syncs with the thud of his heart and the blink of his eye

    as he tries to forget

the encounter of my shank with their skin


puncturing layers of cotton, cells, tissue

flesh tearing

at the point of his knife                 

and the life that taints his iron hand

that can’t be washed away with peroxide.

Unnoticed, until


around half past seven, eight o clock

he’s there. Just there


A lost receipt for a packet of wine gums

an elderly leaf, shrivelled

beneath your foot




The stranger captured in the background of your photograph


Always there

wrapped in

damp, last month’s shirt, rolled in tobacco


as if he grew from a seed of ash in the air

you stare

at this 1900s circus beast


but it’s you who paints a smile on your face.


A naked head hides

under the peak of a cap

his hair lost

years ago

to a receding hairline

along with everything else.


Both hands placed below his chest

his fingertips kiss

earth’s cast offs trapped

under his nails

his hands offering

a bouquet of decaying fruit


‘Excuse me? I don’t suppose you’ve got forty-six pence?’


He glances at the change cradled in his palm


‘I’m just short and I need to get a bottle of pop?’


For a heartbeat, you panic

smell diesel, taste metal, hear train brakes

barbed wire pricks your spine



you think, he needs more than a bottle of pop


Two small spheres of black ice, too close together

look at you



‘Uh no, sorry-’


Before you’ve finished, he’s turned away

as if swung by a gust of wind

zig-zagging through the blind


unnoticed, until

he asks them


He’s asked me three times – twice

in the same night, once


He’s there, always there. Just there


He mustn’t have remembered me.

I remember him.