Sundry- from the old English for syndig- distinct, separate; related to ‘sunder’ .

I’ve just been up to the Newcastle, neighbour to Sunderland, for the fabulous poetry festival. The festival included the launch of the new issue of the Butchers Dog poetry magazine, and I was fortunate to have been invited to read my contribution. I’d been to the northeast of England once before, to visit a friend some thirty years ago, and needed little excuse to return.


I love the geography and architecture of Newcastle and the surrounding country, and find the people to be extremely friendly. If you haven’t bought the Butcher’s Dog, I recommend you check it out. It’s a beautifully produced magazine packed with an eclectic range of fine contemporary poetry.

Angel by Phil Pounder

Angel of the North, photo by Phil Pounder  

Another brilliant, albeit much older British poetry magazine, The Rialto, has arrived, and continues to surprise, provoke and delight with its selection of poems and discussion.  It is well worth checking out the blog for a considered response to a letter from a reader who responded to the editors request that they be challenged on their selections.

The Rialto, issue 85

My poem in this edition, ‘Geese’, benefited from a suggestion from the editors that the ending wasn’t quite right. Without overtly suggesting a change, they subtly, gracefully and succinctly explained why they felt this, and thereby sent me and my poem to a new and improved conclusion. I am grateful for their astute reading and careful comment.

Elsewhere, the wonderful poet John Foggin is one of the winners of this years Poetry Business pamphlet competition, judged by Billy Collins. I am delighted for John, who is a fine and prolific poet as well as a generous friend and supporter of many other writers. You can read some of John’s work here. I can’t wait for the launch of his pamphlet.

Social media occasionally leads me to gems. I found this in an interview with the poet Li-Young.

‘ The more we practice it, the more we discover how thinking in poetry is actually the closest thing we have to enlightenment. Poetic consciousness is the deepest, fullest form of consciousness there is. The longer we practice it, like a yoga, the more we uncover about ourselves, our identity as children of the cosmos, or of God. Whatever you want to call it….we can practice art not only as a way to make money, not only as a way to compete, not only as a way to aggrandize the ego, but as a way, really, of self-knowledge.

It seems to me the more we practice it, the more art gives us. That’s abundance. It’s infinitely abundant. You never stop discovering. You never stop.’

Also this month, I was pleased to be presented with second prize in the inaugural Aurora East Midlands International Poetry competition.
It was great to visit nearby Nottingham and be part of the award ceremony. All the facts in the poem, and there are many more fascinating aspects to these birds, are taken from research into crow behaviour. Any ‘crow’ poem will, I imagine, owe a debt to and fall under the shadow of Ted Hughes incredible poems in his collection ‘Crow.’ Here is my homage to Hughes and to these fascinating birds.

From the Book of Crow Etiquette

for John Foggin

To avoid association with a crow’s death
feign a limp or otherwise disguise your gait
when passing a crow funeral. In order to escape
a scolding, don’t contest a crow’s right
to your roof or disrupt its visceral business
among fledglings and eggs. Crows have memories
like wet tar, can recognize the white-stitched ribbon
of a fruitful carrion road, the location of a yard
from which a stone was thrown. Tame crows
give pet names to their keepers; make of this
what you will. Crows that are damaged or ill
are often assisted by others, or else
done in. Decades may pass before a widowed crow
casts the cross of her shadow
on a long abandoned farmyard. A murder might mob
the one-time owner of a slingshot, now
a grandfather in the park. Crows bring gifts
to those who feed them, to children with no prejudice
or fear of crows. You might not need
a stash of broken necklaces, Airfix kit
of sparrow bones, lens cap rinsed in a birdbath,
nor a half heart locket, inscribed with ‘Best’.
You may not wish for ‘friends’ to priest a garden fence
or wall, who call before your alarm sounds
and pick at your open dream.       

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