“A poet of fantastic inversions.” Poetry London

“Multifaceted, mega-fabricated, louche architecture.” Magma

“Voraciously experimental, precociously accomplished.” Poetry International

End of 2017 deskjam #2: TICKETS & THINGS. First image, clockwise from top left: The Japanese House exhibition at the Barbican, with handwritten amendment permitting re-entry the following day (Abby successfully argued we had been misinformed about how long it would take to see everything); Into The Unknown: A Journey Through Science Fiction, also at the Barbican, which I saw with visiting family; The Great Gatsby, interactive theatre experience (tickets generously offered for free by a friend who couldn’t go); Vanishing Man at the High Tide festival, which the lovely Tom M invited me to see with him.

Second image, clockwise from top left: The Cabinet of Dr Adam, a lecture on film set design at Arnolfini in Bristol followed by a screening of Dr Strangelove; Robots at the Science Museum; Guzzle, who is there just to square off the shot; the Great York Ghost Search, a map of York City Centre marked with the general location of tiny hidden ghosts. 

End of 2017 deskjam #1: NOTEBOOKS. First image, three notebooks finished this year: x-ray one was a gift from Abby, the other two were cheap purchases from the Barbican, picked up on visits to the Into the Unknown and Japanese House exhibitions respectively.

Second image, still-active notebooks. Clockwise from top left: all-in-one address book and planner, a gift from Abby; softcover lined book for general notes, also a gift from Abby; outgoing 2017 Dodopad, a gift from parents; ‘Play With Us’ Ladybird notebook, specifically for collecting new and unusual words; relatively expensive ‘Monokaki’ Japanese paper notebook specifically for drafting poems.

Headbooks Exhibition

I’ve done a very poor job of keeping this Tumblr updated for the last year. Here, however, is the culmination of two of the big projects I’ve been working on: the exhibition of pages from Aquanauts and Bad Kid Catullus, the first two titles in Sidekick’s Headbooks series: anthologies of visual and lyrical poetry mixed with collage, handy information and interactive/scrapbook pages.

The launch is tonight, from 6.30pm at the Poetry Cafe in Covent Garden. It’s a toga party with an added underwater twist – transmediations and versions of the poems of Catullus are on display on the ground floor, while below deck are the visual poems from Aquanauts, including an entire wall for our collaborative oarfish renga, which has been blown up to the size of a real-life oarfish.

There will, of course, be wine, grapes and honeycakes. We’re also taking custom orders for prints from the book, and selling copies. One final big blowout before I get my head down to prepare for 2018.

3:AM Magazine / Squelettes

It’s Raymond Queneau versus the Skeletons! Three of my ‘Squelettes’ sequence are up at 3:AM Magazine. Any gamers out there will recognise Domino Hurley, Spinal and Undead Hero as the subjects of these short poems.

Background: my PhD explores the overall interplay between poetry and games. At the most basic level, I’m interested in the intermedial conversation – games that are aware of poems and poems that are aware of games, and talk to one another. In terms of my practical work, I’m contributing to this basic level of interaction by writing some short sequences that look in both directions: at other poets and poems, and at games and game culture.

These poems use the ‘quennet’ form that Raymond Queneau invented shortly before he died. It’s a very skeletal kind of poem – all pairs of words strung together, with sonic and semantic echoes as the ligaments. I mean, they basically look like the ribs, spine and hips. Queneau used the form to map out the 64 hexagrams of the I Ching; I’m using it for an exploration of the roles played by skeletons in a variety of computer games.

Cold Fire (with audio)

Cold Fire is a pamphlet of 18 poems based on different Bowie albums, published by The Rialto earlier this year. I supplied ‘The Hounds and their Half-Hound Master’, which riffs off Diamond Dogs – I won’t put the usual write-up here on my Tumblr, because I’ve actually written about it for The Rialto’s blog, where you can also find a recording of the poem in the style of ‘Future Legend’, the first track on the album.

Here’s an extract from the article, just in case you need a taster before you click the link:

Bowie as Actaeon Gone Wrong, and his dogpack made up of his choicest, bitingest words, roughly in the order they appear on the album. They’re his droogs, his boys, his girls and his selves, all leaping around him.

Poetic Interviews

How will you attempt
to turn the sands
back once more? …

I’ll tell you how, but first, hear that? The guard’s asleep.
He’s churring like a pylon, and that sparkling laugh?
I’d say that that’s the keys he gathers at his hip.

Aaron Kent (@godzillakent) runs Poetic Interviews, where interviews are carried out in the form of exchanges of poems. Today the first of our back-and-forths is up, in which I suggest that now is the optimum time for an escape attempt.

Of course, lulling your jailer to sleep is the easy part when it comes to poetry.

Poetry London #87

Work under my name has slipped inconspicuously into the latest issue of Poetry London. I say ‘under my name’ firstly because both poems are collages, assembled from the thieved morsels of other writers’ work, and secondly because I think of them as being written by The Salvor, one of the characters in the book I’m working on.

The Salvor is only interested in reforgery; he doesn’t even really believe it’s possible to write or speak with one’s own voice, except inasmuch as one’s own voice is a secret recipe whose ingredients are the fragments of other people’s voices. You might say that is indeed the case, and that his position isn’t remotely controversial.

Anyway, The Salvor’s section of the book consists entirely of poems collaged from old British comics. The ones appearing in Poetry London this summer are made from Misty, a spooky girls comic, and The Perishers, a strip which ran in The Mirror for 50-odd years.

I’ve published two poems in this series previously (just in case you want to collect them): ‘Mars 1988′, a collage from The Eagle, in issue 152 of The Rialto (now out of print but borrowable from The Poetry Library), and ‘2000AD’, a collage from,er, 2000AD, which was published in the anthology New Adventures in Form (Penned in the Margins, 2012).

Additional note: this is the first time I’ve ever sent anything in to Poetry London! I have been published in two previous issues though, as a competition winner. If I keep it up, one day I might make cover star – hopefully before I lose half my face in a furnace accident or forget how to raise one eyebrow.



Carcass doesn’t want to have sex with me. Tonight I took off my clothes and put his scaled paw on my breast and he snatched it back with a high-pitched chitter. I tried pinching my nipples for him, swaying and rolling my hips a bit. He backed into a corner, muttering in his own language. As I reached down between my legs, he lunged forward and smashed my lamp, before springing from the window onto the next building, and away into the night.

I cried in the corner for a few minutes, wiping my nose on my dressing gown sleeve. Then I read a bit more of the book I found in his coat pocket. It’s in Carcassese, but I think I’m getting some of the phrasing. There are pictures of dead birds on most pages. I kept it so he’d have to come back. 

‘Love Carcass: An Interspecies Erotic Memoir’ starts today! A poem-a-day Tumblr by my Sidekick cohort Kirsten Irving. 


[Intro catchphrase]

Just a note to say that as part of my ongoing attempts toward coherent self-organisation, I’m consolidating another Tumblr into this one and changing the title to ‘Share Your Toys’. This Tumblr will still keep an intermittent log of published work, but now there will be other posts as well. 

[Outro cathphrase]

The Elmet Trust

‘Shock-construction’, a poem I wrote which should really have an exclamation mark in the title, has won second prize in The Elmet Trust Poetry Prize, judged by Steve Ely. You can read it, along with the first prize winner and other winners, on The Elmet Trust’s website, (I note that there’s an issue with the online formatting which means that the lineation of Penny Boxall’s winning poem hasn’t been faithfully replicated, although my poem is very simply structured and therefore unaffected). (“Actually, your poem is very affected, Jon. Ho ho ho.”) 

As per the rules of the contest, the poem was in part inspired by Ted Hughes’ ‘The City’, which begins “Your poems are a dark city centre.” The other parts of its inspiration include the historical fact of shock-constructed cities in Soviet Russia, and an idle thought I had about whether there could ever be such a thing as a counterfeit book. But the whole thing is about judgement and the failure, or limitations, of judgement. Of course it is!

It’s fun, though, to read the judge’s remarks and discover his differing interpretation:

The second-placed poem: ‘Shock-construction’  seems to be a self-deprecating commentary on the humiliations and anxieties experienced by the aspiring writer, perhaps addressed to a publisher, editor or competition judge.  As an entry to the Elmet Poetry Prize, this might be seen as ingratiating.

Ha! ‘Anxieties of an aspiring publisher’ might be closer to the mark when it comes to the contemplation on counterfeit books. You could also read the line about faked love as a dig at the emotional authenticity sought in poems, particularly competition-winning poems. I wonder if Steve Ely saw himself as the ‘you’ at the end of the poem, the film critic realising the screening is a con, realising that the medium itself is a con, and me as the poet-actor behind the silk screen of the paper, gooning for him, a desperately bad performance, daring him to get up and walk out and write a one-star review, so impertinently and gracelessly that he thinks, “Well, I won’t then. I’ll tell you what. I’ll give you second prize instead. Second prize, Stone! The one nobody remembers! And you won’t get to pretend to be the drop-out, the ne’er-do-well. You’ll have to make do as the not-quite-first-rate-but-A-for-effort student. Then just see how your little game works out for you.”

Eh, probably not.

This contest also reminded me, by the way, that I really am genuinely very fond of Ted Hughes’ work. Some time after I entered, I found an original copy of River, with Peter Keen’s photographs, at Snoopers’ Paradise in Brighton. It’s one of my very favourite books.