Tag Archives: Big Tent Poetry

Big Tent February 28th

2 Mar

This week’s Big Tent prompt was the above Wordle, and also these three phrases:  “Say more,” “There is also the matter of ____” and “He started by _____.”

I love Wordles, but a lot of poets dislike forcing the words into a cohesive poem: the goal is to use all the words in the Wordle.  It’s okay if you can’t: the goal is also to get writers writing.  I haven’t used any.  This came out instead. 


On Wordles

For Viv, who hates them

There is also the matter of Wordles:
those linguistic, logistical hurdles. 
Use all the words if you daredle
but watch the poetic cream curdle.

Time For Some Recycling

16 Feb

I haven’t been inspired by any of the poetry sites for weeks.  I blame me, not them; though I am working on a poem caused by Big Tent.  It won’t be displayed here because it’s about South Africa, but you can always pop over to my other blog to read it.

We Write Poems has gone all romantic for Valentine’s Day.  Yes, I know that’s so last Monday, but Post Your Poems Day is Wednesday, so what’s a site to do?

I haven’t written anything new, of course (were you not paying attention?); but I have some old ones that my new readers won’t have seen:


21st Century Marriage

Two minds with but one
single thought: can I have a
fling and not get caught?


Another 21st Century Marriage 

Four: such a bore.  One more chore
and I’m out the door.


The Housewife’s Aphrodisiac

You want me trembling
with desire for you? Offer
to wash the dishes.


Valentine’s Day for the Unhappily Married  

Cupid fired the arrow,
But it’s us who got life.


Unaccustomed As I Am 

I don’t write love poems
but if I did
I’d say you were
the remote to my telly
the fart to my smelly
the shake to my belly
the mud to my welly
the peanut butter to my jelly
the catessen to my deli
the phant to my ele
the circus to my Nellie
the copter to my heli
the é to my mele
the Brazil to my Pelé

I don’t write love poems
but if I did
I’d raid a dictionary for you
include you in my felony
and hope that no-one thesaurus






We’ll Let You Know

7 Jan
Richter Magnitude Scale

Image by Sean Claudio Mancillas via Flickr

Today’s postaday2011 prompt is to write about a memorable job interview.  I can’t do that because all of my interviews have followed this pattern:

  • a sleepless night before the big day, then panic as I don’t hear the alarm
  • no liquid after seven a.m. on day of interview
  • thirty-three trips to the toilet, seven of those at interview premises in the ten minutes prior to interview
  • tremors so bad it registers on the Richter scale at 3.2
  • a rictus grin and dead arm from the handshake for the interviewer
  • answers rattled out like a shaken box of Maltesers under the Christmas tree by a desperate me
  • the interviewer bids me good day and secretly wipes my sweat from his good hand

The only employer to take me on after that is either desperate or, well, desperate.  Cardboard cutouts have more personality than I do in an interview, unless you count ‘terrified’ and brain-dead’ as personality. 

Talking of earthquakes, did you hear about our typically British one last week?  An old gent was interviewed on Radio 4 and he said, marvelling, ‘The wife’s wardrobe doors rattled for at least ten seconds.’  Nobody does understatement like us Brits.


I wasn’t really inspired by this week’s Big Tent prompt and what I got is just more of the same on a theme I’ve been chasing on my South Africa blog; but here it is.  Maybe I’ll come back to it in a couple of months; though I doubt it.

Don’t Walk On By 

I have no shoes; no shirt.
I have feet and hands and hunger.
I have pain, fear, famine.
Apathy is the enemy.

You have shoes; a shirt:
you can feed me. 
There is no dignity in my distended belly. 
Give me food.  Give me life.

Annual Review

31 Dec
Bramall Hall, in the County of Greater Manchester.

Image via Wikipedia

The last day of the year seems like a good time to re-hash the last twelve months – not much point doing it next March, is there?  I won’t include links to previous posts because I don’t expect you to go and read them again; I’m just glad you showed up at all today.

On a personal level, we acquired a new dog and six fish (now, sadly, five fish).  I went on a back-to-work course; had a work placement and one interview but still no job.  I was in the audience for the first leaders’ debate and was given a new kitchen and bathroom by my landlord.  The whole of my downstairs and part of my upstairs has been re-decorated this year, and it’s all hidden by the Hub’s ever-growing mountain of crap.  I discovered I am two inches taller than I thought I was; and Glee.  I celebrated my 25th wedding anniversary; witnessed a police siege in my street; and won £100 in shopping vouchers.  The Hub’s CFS/ME got steadily worse and he was diagnosed with anaemia and restless leg syndrome, so I doubled my fun-poking efforts.  I became a pirate for a week; had several colds and infections and a wisdom tooth extraction; and still claimed to be as healthy as an ox.  Have you noticed that you never see oxen anymore?  Spud had three holidays – two courtesy of friends – and Tory Boy helped win the election (sort of) and saw the Pope’s back while interning in Westminster.

The general election threw up my favourite quote of the year:

Paddy Ashdown: 

The British people have spoken; now we just have to work out what they’ve said.

As far as the writing goes, I was published in several poetry ezines and two collections; was counted part of the Manchester blogging scene; and saw one of my poems turned into a piece of art work.  I took part in April’s NaPoWriMo and November’s Poetic Asides Poem A Day challenge; performed at Bramhall Hall with Manchester Camerata; and at Stockport Art Gallery with its vanishing audience.  I completed an excellent creative writing course at a local college and was a founder member of Stockport Art Gallery Writing Group.

My blog was given a makeover and I had three guest bloggers.  This blog is growing exponentially.  In March I was thrilled to reach the magic figure of 5000 hits; in the nine months since then I have had over 21,000 hits with the figure at this moment standing at 26,671.  I started a new blog for my South African poems and sometimes it gets as many as three readers a day. 

Not a bad year, overall.  Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to share it with me.


The prompt for Big Tent was to write a list poem.  I was inspired to write a haiku by today outside:

A Stockport Winter

dull grey cold muddy
miserable the same as
a Stockport summer

It’s The Fall That’ll Kill Ya

17 Dec
trip and fall down carefully

Image by jimmiehomeschoolmom via Flickr

…No it’s not – my big brother tells me it’s the sudden stop at the end that does the damage. 

My day started out great when Tory Boy called for a chat at seven-fifteen a.m. – the doctor appears to have sorted his sleep issues; he was up at six-thirty and wide-awake enough to chat.  Then it was time to see Spud off for his last day of term. 

As he put on his shoes he suddenly remembered that he wanted a gift for his teacher.  I ran upstairs to grab a card and gift bag and downstairs to grab an emergency box of chocolates (one of those helpful gender-neutral standby gifts you can always find a use for after Christmas).  I so wish I wasn’t careful with the electricity…the hallway was dark and I charged straight into Spud’s school bag and flew face-first into the floor.

I lay there in the dark, blubbing like a baby, all the while thinking I looked like a starter chalk outline kit; all Spud could do was bleat an appalled, ‘Mum!  Mum!’  I snarled at him to put on the light and my brother (who is visiting us) helped me up once the dogs had stopped licking me.

MY CHILDREN SHOULD SKIP THIS PARAGRAPH: I wasn’t really hurt, if I don’t count my sudden and pronounced limp, and carpet burns (sigh – I remember when carpet burns could be collected in a fun way).  No affront to my dignity because I haven’t had any for years.

OKAY, BOYS: IT’S SAFE TO LOOK AGAIN.  Spud went off to school in a subdued mood.  Having an artistic temperament*, and not wishing to hurt his mother more than is teenagerly needful, he was upset by what happened.  He sent me a text – ‘sorry’ – and I replied with a cheerful ‘Well at least I’ve got something to blog about this morning’.  His ‘ok’ that came back tells me his last day at school will be miserable.  Remember, he’s a hair shirt kinda guy.

He is also a little indignant: I have been nagging for months about where he leaves his bag in the hall on his way in and out of the house (it stays in his room but he has morning and evening rituals that necessitate the leaving of large objects where people can fall over them) and he had actually made an effort this morning to put it out of harm’s way, but I came at it from an unusual angle.  It’s not his fault if he does as he’s told and someone gets hurt.



I really enjoyed last night’s Royal Variety Performance.  Here’s a clip:


This week’s Big Tent prompt was somewhat convoluted; here’s an extract:

 The form is comprised of two sections. One is titled “The Dead Man and …” and the second “More About the Dead Man and … .” All lines are written as sentence lines and enjambment matters quite a bit. The first two lines generally turn back on each other. The two versions seem to discover or expose different things about the Dead Man, one more internal in nature, the other external.

It didn’t grab me so I did my own thing:


The Dead Man And Me

The Dead Man has nothing to say.
I much prefer it that way.
I like my corpses mute;
don’t you?



There’s a series of three linked poems on the South African seasons on my other blog:  http://sapoems.wordpress.com/

Please pop over to take a look!




Panic! Only 394 Shopping Days To Next Christmas!

26 Nov

I read these in an email doing the rounds:

  • There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face.  Ben Williams
  • Scratch a dog and you’ll find a permanent job.  Franklin P. Jones
  • I wonder if other dogs think poodles are members of a weird religious cult.  Rita Rudner
  • Anybody who doesn’t know what soap tastes like never washed a dog.  Franklin P. Jones again.
  • The most affectionate creature in the world is a wet dog.  Ambrose Bierce
  • If your dog is fat, you aren’t getting enough exercise.  Anonymous


I got a shock yesterday when I noticed the date – only a month to Christmas!  I have never been so behind in my shopping – I normally start in the January sales and stock up through the year.  My kids are gonna cry come December 25th when all they get is three pairs of socks and a tin of deodorant.


The prompt for this week’s Big Tent was a wordle.  I used all of the words but I could only manage three senryu, and I’m not particularly happy with them.

Cry Baby

A mother cupped
her baby’s face with a gentle
hand: peace was restored.


Inspection Passed

Ash-pit re-surfaced;
ancient boiler fork-lifted
away from the site.


A Reason To Stay Awake

Words clunk from my nib.
Once hung in the air – studied –
lush rhymes will follow.


 For a linked senryu on what South Africa sounded like to me, go to my other blog: South Africa: A Love/Hate Story.

I Could Be Happy

8 Oct

I was stuck for something to write about today, until I took a look at this week’s Plinky Prompts email and it suggested I list ten things that make me happy.  I thought it would be easy, but it’s not.  Let’s take a minute to think about it.  My immediate reaction was ‘Maltesers’ and ‘Watching The West Wing‘ (the Hub & kids came waaaay down the list because they are too much like hard work) and all of those things that give us momentary pleasure.  But that’s not the same thing at all.  I found a great video on You Tube by  Videojug called How to be happy, which gives us seven simple steps to happiness.   However, I wonder just how happy Videojug is because he won’t share, so you’ll have to visit it yourself.

The best advice he gives is to ‘turn off that Morrissey record’.  He’s absolutely right: stop listening to misery and you’re halfway there already.  My Mum requested Whitney Houston’s version of I Will Always Love You to be played at her funeral, and I sobbed for the whole four minutes (give me a break; my mother had just died), so I want something cheerful at my funeral that will get everyone dancing (apart from the Hub, who will need no help, having been doing a jig to MLK’s Free at last! speech from the moment I take my last drool).  Maybe something by Mango Groove:

I think New Orleanians have it right, with their musical parades:

That’s what I call a funeral.

Not sure how I went from happiness to funerals; back to the subject at hand: I had to really think about what makes me happy because it comes from within and in my case will be hidden by chocolate; but I reckon for me, happiness comes from being true to myself.  I love my family; I love God; I love to write; I love to make people laugh; I love to laugh myself; I love to laugh at myself.  That’s enough for me. 

What makes you happy?


The prompt for Big Tent this week was to borrow a line from someone else’s poem and use it as a springboard.  This is something I often do when I’m stuck for something to write; but it didn’t work for me this week (which I’m not happy about), so here’s more from the archives, inspired more by style than substance.  You can check out Roger McGough at  http://www.rogermcgough.org.uk/

My Favourite Poet

I’ve been reading Roger McGough.
I hope he makes a lot of dough.
If I ever meet him, I’ll bow down low;
Or perhaps I’ll bough down lough.


How To Annoy A Poet

Roger McGough
would be hacked off
if he could only see
the liberties I’ve taken
with his excellent poetry. 

Alas, I’m a poet with no audience.
At least they can’t be boredience.


And The Award For Greediest Retailer Goes To…

1 Oct
Tesco shopping trolley shelter

Image via Wikipedia


…Tesco, for showing the first Christmas advert (toys).  Every little helps the largest supermarket in the country fill its overflowing pockets.  The advert tells us that Christmas has come early this year; they’re not kidding: in Morrisons, Christmas decorations have been stacked next to Halloween goodies (or baddies?) for half of September.  Don’t get me wrong – I love Christmas and the run-up to it; but it would be nice if it started on December 1st instead of October 1st.  It’s like getting nine boxes of Maltesers for your birthday: you can have too much of a good thing.  

<Short pause while I recover from my hysterical laughter>  


Malteser Watch, Day 2  

The Laughing Housewife is now in possession of ten boxes, her Blonde Friend having made an afternoon birthday visit.    

Make that eight boxes, TLH & HBF having got stuck into the wine.  


The kitchen is coming along.  Work has halted for a few days but the tiling will be done next week.  The story so far:  








The fitters told me we have one of the biggest kitchens on the estate.  We appear to have been lucky in having a sympathetic designer.  The long counter, according to the fitters, is the longest they’ve put in on the estate (they had to take out the window to get it in the house).  I have a small under-counter freezer that will go where those bags on the right are now, and the designer must have been in a good mood because he gave me the extra bit to cover it; the counter should have stopped at the end cupboard.  He also gave me a bin space: the counter should have stopped at the washing machine.  My fridgefreezer will go where the butcher’s trolley is now.  


The Big Tent prompt this week was to step outside and do something different, then write about it.  This wasn’t a week where I could do that, so I am sharing a pair of poems I wrote for my OU Creative Writing course, back in 2006.  They are technically still within the parameters of the prompt, because they are about two people doing something they wouldn’t normally do.  They tell the same story from the perspective of both participants. 

A Cardinal Sin 

I’m sick of being a one-man band;
Tired of playing the solo hand;
Self-confidence flagging;
Can’t go around begging.
I feel like a walking gland.

A mate of mine gave me a card.
‘Every man deserves a reward.
No sense feeling fearful;
They’re discreet and cheerful.
It’s time to let down your guard.’

He reckoned I would have a ball.
Desperate, I gave them a call.
Got to be worth a crack.
She’ll be good in the sack…
…She’s standing out in the hall.

Nervous, I invite her in.
Cash up front so we can begin.
We soon get down to it
But I know I blew it,
Aware that this is a sin.

In no danger of a rebuff,
But I still blushed; this step is tough.
The girl’s foreign body
Left me feeling shoddy.
Perhaps I was a bit rough.

Got out of her fast as I could.
Shudder to think it wasn’t good.
She said I was a stud
But I know I’m a dud.
Why did I join the priesthood?



The Man
invites me

Devils dance inside of me.
Mere vacillation…
I breach my barricade.






A Madagascan Dock

17 Sep

Big Tent’s prompt this week was a Wordle.


I managed to use all of the words in a poem that discusses a theme I keep coming back to. 

On A Madagascan Dock

A ship’s garbage pile
embellished by a child swarm.
Flies; debris; half-eaten food.

A prize: a mouldy loaf –
a feast for ribs, backbones,
fleshless faces.

Evidence of temporary joy:
laughter, chants, bloated pockets,
engorged bellies.

Tourists recoil,
sweep skirts aside;
fearing hunger’s contaminants.

There is no welfare; no child care.
They ask no questions.
There are no answers.


In The News

3 Sep
Postcard picture for New Year's; eBay store We...

Image via Wikipedia

In spite of continuing stories about British binge drinking, a report out today says that we are drinking less:

The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) said 2009 saw the sharpest year-on-year decline in alcohol consumption across the board since 1948. 


Sky News had a roving reporter out in the pubs:

***********************************Reporter: Are you drinking less?

***********************************Old Man: I’m drinking more now I’m old. 

***********************************Reporter: Than when? 

***********************************Old Man: Than when I was younger.

Looks like all that booze hasn’t impaired his common sense.


I assume it was an old man because he sounded like one; I had my back to the telly so I don’t know.  Technically, then, I overheard that conversation, which brings me to this week’s Big Tent prompt: eavesdrop on conversations and use the words in your poem.  As all I have done this week is stay home, that didn’t work for me.  However, I dug out this old senryu from a few years back: 

Hindley’s Dead 

‘Well, at least one good
thing happened this week,’ I heard
an old lady say.


 Two senryus for the price of one today: this one is for Haiku Heights, the prompt being resurrection.

The Good News

The Resurrection:
God breathing new life into
an old religion.


For Big Tent, August 23rd

28 Aug
Writing samples: Parker 75

Image by churl via Flickr

This was a difficult one and I’m not convinced it’s finished; I’ve had some useful feedback from my online critiquing group but other critiques are welcomed. 

We had to do a manual task and observe the details, then write about it.  I wasn’t inspired but I thought I’d better write anyway, and as I sat staring at the blank page and watching my hand not write anything, inspiration hit.


Labour Pains

I write, hand tight.
Tense. Always:
past, present, future.
Knuckles hunch like ancient slaves.
Fear snares the words.
Fingers throttle the pen,
afraid I’ll say nothing.
I wrangle blank pages,
ignoring the void.

Of This ‘n’ That

12 Aug

You may recall I wrote about the Hub’s trip to Madagascar a while back, and the awful poverty he witnessed, particularly amongst the street children.  I just read a cheering article in earthtimes which reports on things being done to give them the tools to improve their lot.


I get quite a few hits from people looking for information on how life was lived during the Second World War, so I’m going to direct you to Vivinfrance, who has started posting her memories of life as a child during the Blitz.  Highly recommended!


The Big Tent prompt this week was ‘possessions’.  I did write something which isn’t very good, but I thought this one I wrote a couple of years ago about the run-up to the first free & fair elections  in South Africa was better.  

Pre-Election Jitters 

Civil war is on the tip of the country’s tongue.
You might have to flee for your life:
what do you pack in your truck?

Dried goods
Canned food
Can opener
Two 25 gallon drums of petrol
Ammunition for the firearm
you keep at your hip
A map to Zimbabwe

The things you need to survive.

You fear the day is coming soon.
You might be one of the lucky few
to be airlifted out of the country
by your former government.
What do you put in your tiny suitcase?

Family photographs
Video tapes of your baby
His first curl
The battered jewellery box
that was a gift
from your parents
on your 11th birthday
The jewellery in it
(inexpensive; sentimental)

The things you need to survive
to make surviving matter.

Fun In The Big Tent

30 Jul

I decided not to be serious for this prompt: This week, start with a list of pop culture icons that interest you. Imagine one of them in a mundane setting: Marilyn Monroe doing the dishes, Elvis mowing the lawn, Lady Gaga carpooling the kids to soccer practice. Poem an icon into a situation they may never, in real life, appear.

Listening to Quote…Unquote yesterday, I was interested to learn that Florence Nightingale coined the phrase, ‘First, do no harm.’ And that she had a sense of humour. That set me thinking about her letting her hair down; I also tried to think of the opposite of clean and hygiene, which is how I arrived at Miss Aguilera. I was in the mood for a little fun and what better reason is there to write a limerick?

That’s a lot of introduction for one short poem but that’s the advantage of being the blog’s author: I can waffle on as much as I like.

Interesting fact: according to Wikipedia, Dirrty wasn’t a hit in the States, only making it to number 48. I guess America doesn’t like rude Mickey Mouse Clubbers.

Ladies Excuse Me

Flo Nightingale got dirrty with Christina
The naughty nurse was usually pristiner
Her dancing became bolder
Because the soldiers told her
‘Do what you like, miss, for it’s not a crime ‘ere.’


I have an Auntie Flo. She is famous in our house for offering my Mum a piece of cake in her hands and saying, ‘Don’t worry, Anne; my hands are clean: I’ve just been to the toilet.’

Big Tent July 23rd

23 Jul

The Big Tent prompt this week was to write a poem inspired by your own favourite poem.  I have two favourite poems, learned at school: Wilfred Owen’s Anthem For Doomed Youth and Dulce Et Decorum Est.  Here’s a bit of the first one (we’re not supposed to post the whole thing because of copyright issues):

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle

I love how that third line sounds like the guns it describes when you read it aloud.

I wrote this one a while back, in protest at the underfunding of the British military.  I haven’t tried to emulate Owen’s brilliance; just used it as a starting point for my own view:


Afghan Anthem 

Bullets sing the soldier’s
last rites; road mines
play his death march. 
Soldiers die, they shrug. 
Newspapers cry –
for a day, a week. 
Families lament each
neglected death,
each unremembered anniversary,
as unelected men decline
to sign cheques, and
soldiers die.



A Scouse Apology

17 Jun

Soz liccchhhh.

I know I promised you details of the bus ride that never happened but I am too tired to finish it. I’ve written novels that are shorter. I haven’t really, but I’m so tired I have no idea what I’m saying.

I’m going to add insult to injury by giving you a poem about a dead rat. I nearly fell over it the other morning when walking for the bus. It looked as if it had just fallen asleep, apart from the fact that it was stiff enough to pick up and bash some spitting boys with.

I happened to be working on the prompt from Big Tent so it gave me my subject matter. The prompt was a Wordle which I can’t reproduce so you’ll have to take my wordle for it.

Tsetse Rat

Poor rat and your pedestrian end:
was it death by cat?
I hope it was old age; you fell asleep.
Dark comfort in your long rest.

Dangerous praise to resent your passing,
forlorn corpse; scorned by
heels and prams and bicycle wheels.

Sleep peaceful, rat, on your dull part
of the dirty path; curled like an idle moon.

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