I have finished – for the time being – with Edward Thomas, and am now reading Rilke, who wrote, in a letter to his wife:Gazing is such a wonderful thing, and one that we know so little about. In gazing we are turned completely outwards, but at the very moment when we are most outward-turned things appear to happen within us that have waited longingly until they are unobserved…

There is more, but that is enough for the moment. That letter was dated March 8th 1907, so today – March the 8th 2016 – is a good day to think about gazing; is in fact a good day to gaze. Gazing is such a wonderful thing.

This is called Gazing (it’s by me; not Rilke)

          “On a clear day you can see the coast of France.”

          I take his word, and on this clear day gaze

          At shapes of low hills, blue-grey shadows,

          That look uninhabited; a desert.

In front of these the shipping-lanes appear

A darker blue than the rest of the sea.

Ships appear hardly to be moving

Until you look away; and then they move.

          Then there is nothing but sea, and the broken

          Light on the sea, and then, much closer but

          Far enough to seem but licks of a brush

          On a canvas, a black boat and a black buoy.

And then the end of the sea, unbothered

Today to be spectacular or grand-

An old-age sea, with its trousers rolled,

Doing no more than paddling on the sand.

          And then the beach and people throwing balls

          For dogs and letting their children romp;

          And then a line of unused chimney-pots

          Atop the off-white crescent of beach hotels.

Above them and shoulder-to-shoulder with me

A pine tree with straight, bare trunk; leaves

That are needles, sharp against the sky;

And then the railing that I lean against.

          And then my eyes, looking outward and sealed

          From the gazer beside the tree;

          Leaving the coast of France, the ships, the sea,

          My gaze returns to something unrevealed.

Edward Thomas

I have just come to the end of Edward Thomas’s Collected Poems. There are 146; not so many, but then he wrote his first poems in December 1914 and was killed at the Battle of Arras in April 1917. (It works out at just over one a week.) Ted Hughes referred to him as ‘the father of us all’.

‘Anything, however small, may make a poem’, he wrote. This is called ‘Tall Nettles‘.

Tall nettles cover up, as they have done
These many springs, the rusty harrow, the plough
Long worn out, and the roller made of stone:
Only the elm butt tops the nettles now.

This corner of the farmyard I like most:
As well as any bloom upon a flower
I like the dust on the nettles, never lost
Except to prove the sweetness of a shower.

I also love ‘The Combe‘:

The Combe was ever dark, ancient and dark.
Its mouth is stopped with bramble, thorn, and briar;
And no one scrambles over the sliding chalk
By beech and yew and perishing juniper
Down the half precipices of its sides, with roots
And rabbit holes for steps. The sun of Winter,
The moon of Summer, and all the singing birds
Except the missel-thrush that loves juniper,
Are quite shut out. But far more ancient and dark
The Combe looks since they killed the badger there,
Dug him out and gave him to the hounds,
That most ancient Briton of English beasts.
He also wrote this in his diary:
Up 7. Reading. After tried to shoot myself. Evening reading. Read Marlowe. To bed 11.
He didn’t write stuff to cheer you up.
This is me:
I wonder if Edward Thomas had to ignore-
When he stepped into the combe-
Takeaway-food boxes,
Empty cider tins; worse-
To be able to form his idea of the Ancient Briton-
If the badger he wrote of
Had choked on a used condom-
No; that’s Modern Britain.

A beautiful day in Folkestone

Yes,  it is a beautiful day in Folkestone, one of those of which H.G.Wells wrote :

It was one of those…clear days that Folkestone sees so much of- every colour incredibly bright and every outline hard.

(In case you are thinking it especially bright of me to have such a quotation to hand, I must point out that it is on a sign that I have seen a couple of hundred times since I came to Folkestone.)

I had the treat last evening of seeing the great Paul Cheneour perform at the Cheriton Light Festival. I found him in a cafe trying to warm his fingers. Paul plays the flute, and the stage was outside, in the chilly wind! I was delighted that he managed to loosen his frozen fingers, as the music was terrific.

Nothing doing this week, but next week I shall be with Dover Tales on Monday March 7th (8pm at The Louis Armstrong, Maison Dieu Road, Dover) and at Kipps’ Alehouse (top of Old High Street, Folkestone) on Wednesday March 9th  for the ‘7th Wonder Jam and Poetry Night’. 8pm          Kipps’ Alehouse is on Facebook


                              POEM IN A BOTTLE

                   I bottled up a poem

                   And launched it on the sea-

                   Fifteen years went by

                   And no-one rescued me.

I wrote verses about childhood

How innocent and free-

But nobody was listening

From across the sea.

                    I wrote of love and marriage

                    Of youth and beauty-

                    I waited by the shore

                    But nothing did I see.

I wrote of clouds and mountains

Of flowers on the lea-

I listened for an echo

But no echo came to me.

                    I wrote of God and heaven

                    Of how the world should be-

                    But when the waves came rolling in

                    They were empty.

I wrote of the dead and the dying

Of a grave beneath a tree-

And I waited for an answer

From the silent sea.

                    I bottled up a poem

                    And sent it out to sea

                    Sixteen years went by before

                    It washed back in to me.


This blog has been open for 5 days, and it is time to offer my manifesto.

Manifesto stands for More Aubades (Alexandrines, Acrostics, Anapaests) Needed In Folkestone; Epics (Elegies, Eclogues), Sonnets (Sestinas, Stanzas) TOo

My manifesto proclaims that the poetry-loving people of Folkestone need and deserve more and better poetry. According to the OPS* 95% of Folkestonians go to the newsagents to buy The Complete Works of T.S.Eliot; 4% for fags/lottery tickets; 1% for The Times/Guardian/Mail/Mirror/Sun. The evidence is overwhelming. More poetry! Better poetry!

                                                                                                                                                                                       *Office for Poetry Statistics



Looking back, from halfway up the cliff,

At the sea with glittering sunlight adorned;

I say to myself it is as if

I have been granted a vision of glory;

And I stand, stock-still with awe

And ask: What more could you ever want than this?

And I answer-











My favourite joke is this: A horse goes into a bar. The barman says “why the long face?”. Yes; that’s it. Understanding the joke depends upon two things: knowing that horses have long faces (everybody knows that), and that people who drink alone in bars sometimes pour out their troubles to the bartender. Frank Sinatra singing ‘One for my baby, and one more for the road’ is an example.

Otters almost became extinct in England during the last century. At the eleventh hour, we stopped polluting our rivers and watercourses, and otters have now returned to every county. This is called ‘Old Neptune’s Dead’.

                    Old Neptune’s dead, who raised the walls of Troy;

                    And Cupid’s lethal arrows are but toys.

                    There is no Robin Hood to feed the poor;

                    No poets hymn the ecstasies of war.

                    St George, who killed the dragon in his prime,

                    Is a refuge for scoundrel-patriots in our time.

                    Though Arthur will not come again this year,

                    The otters have returned to Cambridgeshire.

                    Great Pan is dead; the temple fires are out;

                    And Achilles is bedridden with gout.

                    Heroes we worshipped once have feet of clay;

                    And every mangy dog must have its day.

                    No matter: be of good heart, good cheer:

                    The otters have returned to Cambridgeshire.

Monday February the 22nd 2016 15:40

My new – my first ever – blog. There should be a celebratory verse. Here goes:

        People often ask if there is a book or a website

        And I answer no, I’m an amateur,

        About as amateur as you can imagine;

        In fact, this is my retirement hobby-

        It was either verse or indoor bowls

        And you have to stand up to play bowls.


There! 15:45 and I’m off and racing…