Poetry

For videos of poems, generally live performances of 'funny' stuff, go and check out the Videos page of this site.

On this poetry page are audio recordings and printed texts. Where poems come from collections it is mentioned, and some of those are for sale on the books page. Where it's not mentioned, they're just floating random poems. There's a mix of the silly, serious and somewhat in between here.

Some of the audio recordings feature music which is not in the book versions. Unless you hear music in your head as you read.


Two versions of one of the first poems AFH wrote specifically for a slam, in c.1997. One studio recording and one live recording in a basement at a party round Gren's house in about 1999, with a French chap called Vincent playing violin.


This poem was written for an exhibition called Sense of Place at Reading Museum (2015) to accompany a painting by Keith Vaughan called The Accident. The poetry side of the exhibition was organised by Lesley Saunders.


These poems are from the collection The Point of Inconvenience (2013), a sequence of poems about terminal illness, death and family.


These poems are all from the collection Harold (from the Life and Songs of Harold) (2012), a book which tells the story of Harold from birth to death via a series of minor misfortunes, slight embarrassments and mediocre boredom.



These poems can all be found in Lies My Mother Never Told Me (2014), a collection of assorted oddments, entertainments and poetry moments.

This poem is in the book, but unillustrated by Chris Riddell, unlike here. (The great Chris Riddell draws almost everything that crosses his path.)


These are from Flood (2010).

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This was written for a Hammer & Tongue slam in about 2004. It's a collage of movie quotes from 1939-2003. It might be your idea of fun.


These poems are from the out of print collection The Man Who Spent Years in the Bath (2008). The illustration to the Monk poem is by Rich Ponsford.


A very old poem from the tail-end of the last century, recorded at a slam in the Oxford Playhouse, with vocal assistance from Matt Westwood.


This poem was written for W.N. Herbert and Andy Jackson's blog New Boots and Pantisocracies, a response to the 2015 election.




This poem is the title piece from the out of print collection Postcards from the Hedgehog (2007), but can now be found in the children's collection Things You Find In A Poet's Beard.


These poems are all from the out of print collection Logic and the Heart: Love Poems, 1999-2003.

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Watching The Ghosts

A shoal of ammonites float lazily down Broad Street.
Through their transparent sides I can see Waterstone’s.
There’s a great offer on on books I don’t want to read;
I’m much more interested in the silent ammonite shoal.

I love their tentacle sway, their buoyancy, their tiny eyes;
how they move in concert like slow spiralled starlings,
nodding at one another, quite unaware of me watching.
It’s been 65 million years, and the dead are still dead.

(2010)


Just This

Autumn days seem longer
when the low sun slinks,

before mists rise up
and afternoon puts evening on.

There are spaces in them,
crisp and airy where no bird sings,

which open simply
into a long view of all that’s gone.

(2012)

The New Estate

It’s so hackneyed I can hardly write it down,
but, when I’m on that train,

heading to the town that’s emptied out
of almost everyone I ever knew,

I look to the right and see, there,
underneath that new estate,

the fields we called the Farmers’ Fields.
We’d go as kids in twos and threes,

cross the railway at the stile,
make dens, set fires, and grip the wire:

feel the tingle eeling up the arm,
a fairground challenge, kids’ bravado.

Those fields went on so far
I don’t remember where their ending was.

And now the same strange shock:
the New Estate’s twenty years old, and more.

I touch your arm, say it anyway:
I can remember when this was all fields.

(2012)

 


This piece of childhood reflection relates closely to some of the autobiographical elements of The Song From Somewhere Else.

The Fleas

In our playground was a shallow depression.
When it rained it became a puddle.
If it splashed you, you were seen to be stained.

Even in the depths of a dry summer
we knew where it was,
and even then we fought to not fall in.

It was named after this one girl,
bore her family name, was the ----- Puddle.
Everyone knew she had fleas, her puddle stank.

We spent four years in that school
and I never learnt how she’d infected that spot,
who first noticed the tarmac dip had become so dirty.

Going up to big school we were split up
and I’ve not seen her since.
I never lost sleep wondering how she got on,

but I do remember the poor lad
(though his name escapes me)
who was driven out by a long term of taunting,

who was bullied so bad his family left town.
The rumour was he was gay,
a fact I know now to be untrue or unimportant.

I wasn’t a part of all that,
but I bought into Susie’s smell, her fleas,
the stigma of that eponymous puddle, wet or dry.

Even now her family name’s distasteful in my mouth.
I like to think I’m kind,
but Golding’s got a point: kids can be shits.

Thirty years too late her name’s stuck in my brain.
I stare up at the blank ceiling
imagining I can remember her face; find I can’t.

(2012)

The Moth & The New Moon

The paper globe rattles, rustles and falls silent.

This is my study. This is late in the evening.

I look at the me looking back at me from the window.
From behind him endless blackness looks in on both of us.

The lampshade bursts back into brief life.
Dry paper shaking. A black-grey flutter inside.

I wonder how moths were before the lightbulb.

How did they feel unable to get to their goal,
the old bright moon untouched in orbit?

Is life more fulfilling these days, these nights
when the light’s within their wingbeats’ reach?

No moth knew this stark white warmth before.

The paper ball rattles, rustles and falls silent.

(2011)


Spider, In One Movement

I watch this fragile spider walk the bath –
her circumnavigating threads of legs,
with black-patched kneecaps, delicate
and unlikely, and one short – one lost.

Inside her tiny brain there is a pattern:
a walking pattern, the order of those legs –
always eight steps – locked in a subroutine
she cannot change or will not change about –

so as she walks with each eighth step she dips,
leans backwards to the stumpy side and pauses –
her phantom leg, perhaps, takes up the strain.
But she gets about alright, notwithstanding.

(2008)