From Notions of a Mirror (Anvil Press Poetry, 1983)

How to be reason, how to be hopeless in light:
Exhaustion throwing off the bad
Other proposals — letter to get off
To people of pedestrian letters, petitions
Somebody causes out of gas bills, idées fixes.
Falling and tardiness in keeping up
Dental Floss, feet. Highly strung times
To sit still through for long enough, guilt about
Times unstrung when one can’t get up
In the shambles that has somehow ended up.
Of a kitchen of the body — blisters, bruises,
Spots brought on by not changing to be
Bright for all efforts to prove oneself
A citizen: that has been denied fellow citizens.
Without blame. Imagination, a dirty enough
Word, an education, it elbows. And walls
Of the innumerable discomforts brought about.
But sleepiness, the fading eyes, the heavy.
Heavy to waste an hour, the mending
Of petty ruptures, all the tasks—
How to be hated, having no whine
Among children, throwing off the dream.
And power trips, and self-obliterating ideas
And scent of recriminations. Yet another
Pedestrian in charge makes jams.
Being so over-sensitive, falling back asleep,
Guilt about sanitary habits such as
The person who wishes you dead
When one doesn’t manage to do anything
Out of the chair facing the cooker
In the hotch-potch of aches in the corners
And irritating underwear. Often enough
To be clean and unblemished as a new advertisement,
That has been denied a citizen:
Other than imagining not having had enough
Of when one feels too old to do anything
About heads held upright by anyone,
By being what we are, especially heartedness
Of an infinity done over, sleep,
The semi-faint and shock blanking out.
A further, deeper breath of lapsing
Into oblivion. How to be swayed by
Swaying eyes disunited, blanking out to sleep
And sleep a second time again.



From Notions of a Mirror (Anvil Press Poetry, 1983)

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Saint Catherine of Alexandria by Caravaggio

My article on martyrdom down the ages – and reflections on Ukraine – published

here by The Fortnightly Review.

And here is my poem for Shireen Abu Akleh, a martryr in my time.

More about Holodomor

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You journos, you’re poets on active duty,

For you can get disappeared, positively aimed at,

Even with PRESS writ all over you.

Maybe even because….

Today you’re Al-Jazeera, tomorrow

Some scruffy independent.


And then you have your caricatures

In the press-corps, fresh from their diplomas,

Each with a degree in data-marketing…

They’ve learnt the first of the 48 Laws

So well they’re more than willing to repeat

The spiel of their senior, so as not to outshine


Down the corridors of the Hotel CNN,

Worlds away from anyone’s front line.

Nothing to do with them,

Your ducking away as the shell is dropped

Into the mortar’s barrel, saving ears.

How hard it must be


To feel ordinary again

And not unearthly, unless you already are.


My homage to the murdered journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.

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Shunga 1-6


Over the bedspread

His pipe is well-used, and he fills it again.

You’re wearing a mantle over your gown

Because he likes to enter the reserve,

Searching here and there for its waterfall.


You have done up your sleek black hair

With a fine comb and ivory pins,

Done it up with particular care

In contrast to the wilderness below.


Taking another puff of his blow,

He thinks of it all in a dopey dream,

Imagining what he’s about to do,

And comes too soon, annoyingly for you.



That curls the toes.

She has been attending his creative writing class.

He has invited her to his summer-house,

He says it’s where he does his best work.

It overlooks an undulating stream.


She has put on her loveliest kimono:

The one with the chrysanthemums:

Pink and yellow pompons floating on a grey

Watery silk with raindrops maybe


Or discarded petals. Goes so well with the hot

Pink of her sash.  It’s crimson underneath,

Which he discovers – when he lets her read

His latest verse while dipping in her pot.



Behind a screen

There’s no point in fussing with her hair,

Left on her own all summer,

Belly getting heavier and heavier,

Her black-necked crane sent off somewhere


Remote.  His fault for lines that discomfited

An emperor.  She keeps the lantern lit,

And now he’s sent her this totally

Horny book, with an intimate note in it.


He’ll be back with the cranes this winter,

If he can wheedle his way back into favour.

Now she dribbles cum all over her loose

Maternity smock.  She knows he likes her flavour.



Fuck the exam!

I turned up to show you my prep, not my pussy,

And don’t see why you should need to inspect

It here in your bedroom, not in your study.

Anyway, as far as you’re concerned,


There’s nothing to see.  The sight

Of what you’ve got leaves me sealed up,

As good as intact.  Get that discoloured instrument

Away from me.  It makes my toes uncurl.


You should treat a nice girl with respect.

I don’t give a shit about your intellect.

Wrap your arm around my thigh

And you’ll see red – I mean to scratch your eye.



Feeling him again.

The cherry scent of Spring offset the nip

That was still in the air.  My maids had spent such ages

On my coiffeur, and he was home at last from his business trip.

A coat well-travelled and well-stuffed wallet.


I’d had the towels laid out for his bath,

But my plan had been to feed him first

His favourite noodles.  Carefully prepared,

Dressed in my opulent best, I came in with the tray.


I knelt and set it down, and he

Had an appetite, yes.  His hunger like a tree.

He had been a fair good while away.

The noodles?  Not exactly his priority. 



On a floating carpet

Delicate hands, delightfully slim, such a darling hen.

She should be on stage, so able is she

To typify the perfect courtesan. 

This is why I begged her to come over.


We could study the classics together, the key roles:

Suicidal lover, nemesis of the conqueror,

But how should a game cock tread her – since she proves

As eager for the ride but actually


As cocky as myself?  No need to worry,

Love will always find a way to enter,

Turn the tables on what’s said in Persia,

After a summer of girls, one boy through the winter.



Shunga, literally “spring pictures”, is an erotic artistic tradition that emerged from early modern Japan, featuring graphic images of sexual activity. Produced by the thousands during the Edo period (1600-1868), shunga offered sexuality a shameless visual platform, where sexual pleasure, female sexuality, and homosexuality were not only acknowledged but encouraged.

(Artsy, Sept 24, 2013)

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The Distance Measured in Days – some new comments and a video

New comments

These can be found by scrolling down through the link.

And here is an introductory video I have made, in which I read the beginning of The Distance Measured in Days

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Birthday Poem

We are gathered outside the magistrates’ court

To witness justice wither away.

Barristers with black sling-bags and grey

Drainpipe suits slink inside past officials today

As we listen to the Grim Reaper

Analyse the truth’s ignominious departure.

Big lorries blare their support.

Lamborghinis could not give a fuck.

The Lion and the Unicorn above us all

Have one comment: Dieu et mon droit.


We are gathered outside the magistrate’s court

Attended by the foreign press. It seems the Beeb

Is on Easter break as we unite in chants for freedom,

All too aware that this is an illusion

Rubbishing those rights for which so many fought.

A signature establishes the irrational.

The CIA are here among us trying to look hip.

And as the wife of Julian Assange

Communicates a foregone conclusion.

The prosecution flees like rats from a sinking ship.

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Lines from Hubble

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Two Sequences of Poems by David Plante

David and Nikos

Two Sequences of Poems by David Plante

I am proud to introduce these two sequences by David. He and Nikos Stangos were vital components of the London scene in the 60s and 70s – two people I would see as often at art events as at literary events.

And see if you can pick up a copy of Pure Reason: Poems by Nikos Stangos 

This is a wonderful book of poems accompanied by pieces of art dedicated to Nikos, all superbly reproduced by the publishers Thames and Hudson, a tribute to their former editor.

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M. Borymchuk

You are unwilling to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

She is a male who has just won a woman’s swimming-competition.

Is Hunter’s laptop his confession?

The trees have started losing their confetti.

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