I Built This Poem


I constructed these words from scraps of leather and bricks,
forged them in the white hot heat of love and relationships.
I wrote these words while in the Arboretum or down by the cut,
inspiration flowing like smoke from my cigarette butt.
These are words that came to me on the bus or in my flat,
I wrote them down late at night on the wrapper of my kebab.
I took words from literature and scrawl from toilet walls
I took everything I loved and etched it deeply it on to my soul.

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Meet Me at the Hippo


We always met at the hippo
it’s a local tradition that we adopted.
Sitting by Walsall’s concrete enigma
sharing our chips with greedy pigeons
chugging MD 20/20 down,
as the town ebbed and flowed around us
like the drift of flotsam on the canal.

Then chips finished, paper and
bottles were shoved in overflowing bins.
We’d flick away the stubs of Marlboro lights
stagger off to indie disco nights,
saying to the hippo.
“See you again soon.”

But as the years danced by we
just stopped returning, as
joints stiffened like concrete and
hair became striped with hippo grey.
We swapped wooden benches for an IKEA sofa,
chips are now delivered, along with
craft beer bought by the ASDA delivery man.
We changed
but so did the hippo.

You see that hippo
that carefree hippo of the people
also grew up.
I passed him the other day
outside the library,
perhaps he’s turned intellectual ?
Anyway, I asked him why
he turned his back on the people who loved him.
He’s still thinking
about his answer.

 

yes my home town does have a statue of a hippo just like in the picture and for many years it was always a popular place to meet.

If I Were Not Me – A chat with poet and author Dale Parnell


Dale Parnell in action

When I first met local poet Dale Parnell he had yet to step fully into the world of poetry
as he was promoting his excellent book of short stories, “The Green Cathedral.” 
Now, not only is he an author and a poet but he has just published his debut collection of poetry , “If I Were Not Me,” so I thought this would be an ideal time to fire off some questions to Dale via email and find out about his new collection and more.

Q. Can you tell folk about your new poetry collection, “If I Were Not Me?” What inspired the title and what poems can readers enjoy inside and how did you find putting it together and which poem/s are your favourite?

This is my first attempt at putting together a poetry collection. I wanted to record where I’m up to with poetry, it’s been a very recent endeavour for me, only starting in 2017 really after I published my first short story collection. I suppose I wanted something solid that represents what I’ve done so far. I’ve been reading some of these poems out at open mic poetry events and the feedback has been very kind and encouraging. Having a book is also a good way to draw a line under the poems I’ve done so far, I can look at them and say, OK, that’s what I’ve done so far, what can I do next?
With regards to the title, I’d love to be able to say that it holds some deep and personal meaning, but really it came about from trying to design a cover for the book. I played around with the idea of calling the collection “38” in reference to the last poem in the book, being the age that marked a kind of milestone in my life (19 years living in Norfolk, 19 years living in Staffordshire) but I never felt comfortable with it. I started going through some old photographs that I have saved on my laptop and found the image of a tree at sunrise that was taken on a camping trip I took with some friends a number of years ago. A lot of the poems in the collection are about nature, most notably “A Tree”. The poem and the image seemed perfectly suited for each other, and re-reading the poem the line “I think if I were not me” jumped out at me. I could pretend that the whole thing was deliberate and has a second meaning around the themes of mental health that are also in many of the poems, but I don’t think I could keep a straight face!
The poems are a bit of a mixture, there are a few concerning nature, a few about my experiences dealing with mental health issues, and a few about relationships. When I was putting the collection together I found a lot of older “poems” that I had written over the years. Some of them weren’t actually that bad, some needed a fresh edit, and some were just awful! But what I found was some writings from years ago dealing with some of my less than successful relationships. I thought it was interesting to show these in contrast to the newer poems inspired by my wonderful wife, Thelma.
As well as these, there are a few just plain goofy poems, things like “Goblin Soup”, and I couldn’t tell you where they come from.
I suppose I’ve never wanted to limit myself to one type of writing or one style, one genre – and sometimes a collection that is too heavily themed around one idea or one topic can feel a bit dull for me – it works for some people and that’s great, but I do know that a lot of my writing can lean towards melancholy or just outright misery, and I didn’t want to subject anyone to an entire book of that!
So, putting the book together was fairly easy. I re-read all of my finished poems a few times and then started moving them into different folders – ‘good’, ‘bad’ and ‘needs some more work’. When I had a nice selection that I was happy with I did some final edits and put them in alphabetical order. I played with the idea of grouping them into themes, but when I’d created the alphabetical list, I saw that it actually created a nice mixture of short and long, happy and sad poems that will hopefully keep a reader’s attention.
There are a lot of favourite poems in the book, a lot that mean something to me and are about a specific person or memory that are special to me. But I think “What kind of man am I?” just tops the list. This is inspired by a real event and was the first time I really wanted to write something about myself being a flawed person. I’m not proud of how I responded on that day, and this poem is a reminder to myself that I should always think and look past the initial hasty conclusions that we can all sometimes make.

Q. As well as being a poet I know you write short stories as well. When inspiration strikes how do you decide that an idea is going to become a poem or a story?

I generally know from the very start if something is going to be a short story or a poem. Short stories tend to start in my head as almost complete ideas, or at least a beginning and a middle. A lot of my poems have started as a phrase or line, something that sticks in my head and begins to suggest the next line and so on. I also tend to write poems in response to my own life and how I am feeling at any given moment. There may be a slight hint of myself in some of the stories I write, but on the whole, they are fictional creations.
The only exception so far is a poem called “House Clearances Available”, which will feature in my second collection of short stories. For a long time I was trying to write a short story about a man getting trapped in a haunted second hand / antiques shop, a place where the items are somehow imbued with all the negative emotions that they had absorbed in the houses they had come from. But I was never happy with it, I started it four or five times and could never get the tone right. One morning sitting in bed I decided to try the idea as a poem, I don’t know where the whim came from, but it flew out of me and the poem as it stands is almost identical to that first draft.
Since then I have been mindful of considering whether new ideas would work as stories or poems. Maybe one day I will try re-writing one of my short stories as a poem, it would make an interesting writing exercise.

Q. As if you’re not busy enough I know you run a storytelling open mic in Cannock, can you tell folks a little about the event and what goes on there?

Yes, we have the third ‘Cannock Tales’ event coming up on the 1st April. I love the open mic events that are available locally and I think it’s amazing that there are so many opportunities for people to get out there in front of an audience to read their works. But as a short story author I’ve always found it a bit frustrating that I could never really get into a story given the time limitation. I completely understand that you can only have 5 minutes or so with most events in order for everyone to get a chance to read, but I kept searching for events that would give you longer to read an entire story. When I couldn’t find anything it occurred to me that I could try and run an event myself. I spoke to my local pub, the brilliant Stumble Inn on Walsall Road, Cannock and they agreed to let me use their back room. The idea is to give three authors 30 minutes each so that they can read an entire short story, or a good solid chunk of a novel. We have a break in between so people can refresh their drinks and chat with the authors (and hopefully buy a book or two) before moving on to the next author. So far we have started off well, if a little light on audience numbers, but I’m hoping that will grow as more people learn about the event. If nothing else, so far it has proved a great way for local authors to meet up and have a natter with a pint and it may be that this is the way the event will grow in the future. At the moment we meet up on the first Monday evening of every other month, but if people are interested and want more then I’m very happy to arrange it for every month.

The cover to Dale’s new book

Q. What was your introduction to poetry? Did you first read it at school or elsewhere, can you tell readers what started you down the poetry track?

It’s interesting, I’ve been asked a few times how long I’ve been writing poetry and so on, and I always reply that it’s a very recent development. I did study poetry at school as part of my English GSCE, but when I think about it, I remember winning a poetry prize at middle school and having my poem published in the school newsletter – I think it was about the walk-through shark tank at a local Sealife Centre, where you walk underneath the curved glass ceiling.
But I think the first time I really took notice of poetry was in my early teens watching an episode of The Simpsons. It was one of the Halloween specials where they recreated The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe and was narrated by James Earl Jones. I fell in love with the poem and managed to track down a tiny paperback book that had The Raven and a small number of Poe’s other works. It must have been a special collector’s library edition; the book was about as big as an iPhone and for a while it lived in my coat pocket. This then led me to Poe’s short stories, but apart from re-reading The Raven over and over again, I didn’t really read poetry for a long time.
When I published my collection of short stories, “The Green Cathedral” I was looking for any local bookshops that might be interested in stocking it for me, and I discovered Southcart Books in Walsall (very sadly no longer there!) and I was invited to read at one of their events. And then suddenly there you all were, a community of writers right under my nose, writing fiction and poetry, all of it excellent, and I think it must have stirred up that old poetry monster lying dormant. I started trying to write poems, I looked up old pieces of not quite fiction I had written years ago and gave them a polish only to discover it was poetry all along. I found out about the poetry night at Caffe Del Nino in Cannock, run by the very talented Scarlett Ward, and it was actually here that I popped my poetry reading cherry. And it grew from there. The more local poets I met, the more I loved the community and the art form itself. Now I find that I start to get a bit twitchy if I haven’t written a new poem in a while!

Q. If you could only take one collection of poetry to a desert island, which collection would it be and why?

This is a tricky one. Being a relative new buyer of poetry books I don’t have a huge collection. Most of my collection is books by the local poets that I have met, and I don’t want to play favourites, but I think it would have to be “Bullet Verse” by Matt Humphries. I love this book; Matt’s voice really shines through and I count myself genuinely lucky to be able to call him a friend. The book also contains what may be my favourite poem of all time, “The Word”.
I would also have to sneak in my little collection of Poe – I reckon I could hide it between the pages and it’s so small it hardly counts anyway. Its that or I’d have to quickly copy The Raven onto my arm in permanent marker!

Q. Where can you be found online if readers want to find out what your up to?

I decided early on that I wanted to concentrate mostly on Facebook. Almost everyone you speak to has an opinion on which is the best social media platform to use, and if you did all of them, I honestly don’t know when you’d sleep!
So you can find me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/shortfictionauthor, which works as an allusion to the fact that I write short stories, and that I’m only 5’6”!
I try to regularly post any updates about my writing and books and any signings, or events I’m going to. This is also where all the information for the Cannock Tales storytelling events can be found.
My books are also listed on Goodreads if anyone fancies leaving me a review!

I’d like to thank Richard for inviting me to take part in this interview and for his help in putting my first collection of poetry together – your very kind feedback means a lot. I’d also like to thank you and the many other poets I have met in the past almost two years for entertaining, moving and inspiring me to re-discover poetry in all its glory!

Always a pleasure to help Dale, I’ve read both your short story and poetry collection and thoroughly enjoyed both and thanks again for agreeing to take part in my interview.

Click here to buy If I Were Not Me.

Poison Pen


My pen has become a viper in my hand,
each time I start to write
it shakes off its cold-blooded slumber
to strike the paper,
injecting venom in to my words.
And now I fear to stop writing,
worrying that if I even briefly pause
this viper will then turn on me.

 

Before I Go I Want to…


Before I go I want to …

Not be dependant any more on my meds
End the pain within my head.
Not lie about how I feel like a fraud
Conquer the petty set backs that get me annoyed.
Remove all the monkeys from my back
Give optimism another crack
Be proud to display my scars
Escape from my illnesses’ prison bars.
Find a grain of hope in which to believe
Wear my heart proudly on my sleeve.
Recover my long lost inner peace
Have just one night of uninterrupted sleep.

Nirvana’s in Bloom, a chat with poet Tina J. Cox.


I first met Tina J. Cox at an open mic and workshop, where I enjoyed her powerful poems and performance. When I recently learnt she was publishing a new book of poetry entitled “Nirvana’s in Bloom,” to be released on March 13th, a book I’ve been privileged to see an advanced copy of. I thought it would be great to have a chat via email. Here are the results of that and I hope you enjoy it.

Q1. Please could you tell readers about your new poetry collection “Nivarna’s in Bloom,” where did you take the inspiration for the title from and what poems can they expect to find within its pages?

From the moment we get up till the time we close our eyes on the night, everything is sensory, rather than emotion, I have tried to capture everything felt through the day as that, although there is emotion in there too. Emotion is always important. Surprisingly, the inspiration for the name didn’t come from Nirvana’s brilliant Song called ‘In Bloom’….I actually felt that everyday we work towards our own idea of a Nirvana every day. What your idea of Nirvana is perhaps different to mine & that is completely fine, but I think I have covered pretty much everything in there of morning to evening. Right from rising in the morning, our heaven will be there at the end of the day and it is in bloom.

Q2. Although this may be hard do you have a favourite poem in your new collection and if so what is it and what was the inspiration behind it?

I have to be honest and say, that one is really difficult. However, I can pick one out that is further into the book, which is based on a complete overloaded day, it is called Overload also, in every which way possible, visually and audio. I do try to convey also how it is for someone on the Autistic Spectrum. It’s very difficult to vocalise emotions & feelings about something as we have to take a little longer to internalise and process things. It’s great being in a position, where I can create poetry that keeps everyone informed too, in different experiences or feelings of someone with Asperger’s Syndrome. Albeit, we all handle these experiences differently.

Q.3 You’re a very prolific writer of poetry books what else have you written, and could you pick a favourite from among them that you think sums up your feelings towards poetry?

The very first two books that I produced called ‘Feelings, Stuff & Things’ and also ‘Rhyme & Reason with Autism’, were actually written before I knew I had Asperger’s Syndrome and was on the Autistic Spectrum. So, I would have been in my twenties/thirties. There is a BIG difference in my poetry, I find then, perhaps, compared to now, immature and I can see why younger readers have found them more appealing than adults. It’s also, from a time when a lot was going in my life, my children were young and I was experiencing difficulties in a relationship….so those two books, were, I didn’t realise at the time, therapy. It is quite one thing to be able to look back in life at events, remember them again. But, to know that I captured certain times that mean a lot to me regarding my children growing up and also how it made me feel at the time, is blissful.

‘Kieran & Kristian’, is the one I am referring to. I remember sitting up in bed and writing that, on an evening. While the boys, were in their room watching T.V. When I completed it, I called them in and read it for them. It made my oldest, who was then only about 8 fill up, with tears.

The cover to Tina’s new book

Q4. How did you get into poetry and how long did it take you to start writing then start publishing books?

I have always been creative, in my teens I could do stories much more easily than I can now, but later in adult life, during difficult times I wrote poetry and as previously said the first two books, ‘Feelings, Stuff & Things’ and also ‘Rhyme & Reason with Autism’, I wrote in my twenties and thirties. Although, not formatted in any particular way, they were sitting on my laptop and I decided to take everyone’s advice, who had previously said about publishing and did it in April 2018. Within a matter of weeks, because they were already ‘there’, I had two books made.

Since then, I haven’t stopped.

Q5. A lot of people would like to publish their own poetry collection, do you have any tips for them on what websites to use and how to go about it etc?

Whatever is in your mind, at that time, get it on paper. It doesn’t matter if ‘you’ don’t think at that time it’s good or ground breaking. We can always edit but sometimes when we haven’t jotted something down, it’s forgotten and cannot be retrieved. Also, your own particular style will change over time and to look back where you started to where you are now and in the style you now write is a way to almost gauge your own progress, I have found. It’s also nice to look back on ‘yourself’, in a I find nostalgic way.

Q6. Once the new book is launched what’s next for you?

Ahhh, I definitely want to ‘better’ performing them. I have so much inspiration from friends made since beginning this journey and even if I thought I wasn’t bad before, which I thought, to performing there wouldn’t be much to it. BUT I was SO wrong. From dealing with your own anxiety to intonation and pronunciation. I have such a long way to go, in regards to performing though. Also, definitely more writing. That will never stop.

Q7. If folk want to follow you online and read your poetry where’s the best place to find you?

I have a Facebook Page TinaJCox-Author
I have Twitter @tinajcoxpoetry
I also have instagram Tina_J_Cox

Many thanks for taking the time to interview me.

Thank you Tina for taking the time to answer my questions, if you want to see TIna’s collection of books here is a link to her Amazon page.

Sandcastle


Dark clouds are gathering behind my eyes,
inside my head an imperfect storm is brewing.
Black waves of thoughts froth and swell
then surge and crash
against my resolve.

A resolve that is a castle,
a castle built of sand.
Whose smooth walls have
withstood many storms and
although some of its parapets
crumble today the rest stands firm.

Once the storm passes I
lower my drawbridge, then
as for the rock pools of doubt
left behind, I tread carefully
round them.Wary of what
they might conceal.

Yampy


 

“Yampy,” my neighbours said about me when I was young,
as I rode my Grifter no-handed past their shocked faces,
laughing as I crashed into their beloved shrubs.
“Yampy,” they whispered from behind their windows
as I walked to school,
laces untied, shirt hanging out, head in the clouds.
Teachers echoed these taunts,
“could do better, must try harder, slacker.”
I didn’t care as I couldn’t change
as yampy was burnt into my DNA.
Fast forward I grew up – a bit – and discovered beer.
“He’s yampy,” after a few they said in my local,
“he’s yampy before he’s walked in the door,” was the reply.
Fag in my gob, pint in my hand I joined in the laughter.
When I met my wife she used to laugh at my bad memory,
“Come on you yampy bugger,” she’d say,
“Why can’t you remember my favourite drink?
Why can’t you remember my birthday?
Why can’t you remember your own poems?”
Us yampys do have memory problems it’s true,
our brains are like attics
stuffed with junk that we think one day might
come in useful again.
Then when we want to find something
we struggle to remember
where it is and what we wanted in the first place.
Plus we’re easily distracted in attics
Look an old school report
I’ll need that later in the poem.
Where was I…, that’s it
When my daughter was born people said, thinking they were out of earshot,
“I hope she takes after her mom.”
I ignored them as I cradled my new-born, writing a poem in my head.
Poetry again I know, I was surprised as you.
But us yampys are drawn to poetry like
a seagull is drawn to chips.
Snatching ideas and words, squawking them back out
cackling like the bird brains we are.
Poetry was one of the many plasters I applied to my brain,
I tried drugs legal and not but
yampyness cannot be cured only
lulled into drowsiness until
it snaps awake at 12 am demanding attention
like a dog demands an urgent midnight piss.
Recently I burnt all my school reports
then I burnt all my school photos,
plus I burnt all the mementoes of my teenage years.
But I didn’t burn my bridges
I’m yampy not stupid.

 

Yampy is a local term where I live to describe someone who is daft or losing the plot.

Quick plug this poem features in my latest poetry collection A Pigeon among the cats.

The UK version can be found here, paperback or Kindle

The US version can be found here, paperback or Kindle

Post Blue Monday Thoughts


Yesterday I forgot
that I only needed to stretch
and the stars would
have been easily
within my grasp.
Instead I scrabbled for
dirt, that quickly
slipped through my fingers.

Today I have promised myself
that I will stretch
and pull the stars down.
And even if they burn
I won’t stop until I
hold the planets in
my hands as well.

The Poem that Refused to Stay Dead


This is the poem that refused to stay dead
it clawed its way out of my head.
The words struggled and scrambled for the light,
pressed together in a shambolic incoherent half-life.
A poem eager to escape the shallow grave of my brain
a rhyme I thought I’d buried and would never see again.

This is the poem that came back from the dead
that has no heart or spirit left.
Verses that have no right to exist
an unliving, unloved family of misfits.
Constantly struggling just too even breathe
yet unwilling to die despite being so ill-conceived.

This is the poem that should have stayed dead
it shouldn’t live, it should be six feet under instead.
With no obituary pinned to a church noticeboard
no wreathes of roses and no time and place to mourn.
It will be buried tonight in another dark corner of my mind
and I hope that this poem will now quietly lay down and die.