Goff Morgan - Adventures In Hack Poetry

A repository for the poetry of Goff Morgan, the one and only Newport Town Poet. Goff was the only official town poet in Wales from 1997 to 2000, and since then has continued in an informal capacity to write commissioned verse for BBC Radio Wales, and others.

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Location: Newport, Gwent, United Kingdom

I trained as an actor in the early eighties, and performed my own one-man shows until 2000. I was made Newport Town Poet in 1997, and have broadcast on BBC Radio Wales since 1991. My first solo programme for Radio Wales was "Goff At The Pictures", and I've recently completed a two parter called "Goff's Guiding Principles".

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Why Pandora?

This poem, which tells the story of the discovery and naming of asteroid 55 Pandora on September 10th 1858, is an attempt to answer one of the questions that have always bothered me: what makes an astronomer looks at a lump of bobbing rock, and go "Ah, Aphrodite!"?

The legend of Pandora was the bulk of the background reading for this piece, and it's an interesting tale. Look into it for yourself during an idle moment. I was particularly intrigued by the big philosophical problem of the story: what was Hope doing in a jarful of curses? Was it a compensation package from the Gods, or their final curse?

This poem was broadcast on BBC Radio Wales Roy's Rarebits on September 10 2006.

Why Pandora?

George Mary Searle, Astronomer and Clergyman,
Gazed into the spangling heavens and found Pandora!
Rather large, as small things go, and very bright,
She sailed in a sea of her sister asteroids
On a five year celestial circuit.
Because he found her, he named her,
After the first woman,
The curse and gift of the Gods.

What made him think she was squeezed into a ball of star-stuff
By the skilful hands of Hephaestus;
That Aphrodite clothed her in twinkling beauty?
Did he feel, as an astrological undertow,
That as she glided towards us we would hear her
Singing with the music of the spheres:
Or that a healing miasma would bathe us,
And every garden burst into a riot of fecundity
As she reached her periapsis?

Or did he fear, as she skimmed away,
That she would leave in her wake
All the evils that her jar contained:
That waves of plague, sorrow, poverty and despair
Would deluge the timorous world.
Or, finally, did he name her for what she gave him:
Her last gift/curse to mankind.

For he had found her,
One tiny lump of rock
Lost and adrift
In an ocean of sky:
And did he carry on hoping
That one day he would find another of her sisters,
Though until the end of his days
He never did.

Stolen Days

I chose to celebrate September 3rd 1752 because it was a day that never happened. It, and ten other days, were stripped out of the calendar when Britain finally got around to adopting the Gregorian calendar. The calendar had be adopted throughout Europe as early as the 1580's, but GB stuck it out, and ended up losing another day in consequence.

The story that people rioted in the streets, demanding the return of their eleven days is now believed to be apocryphal, but if they didn't then there's still time to do so today! They've got to be there somewhere, and wouldn't it be nice to get them back. Every time you'd had a rotten day, you could have eleven goes at having it again.

This poem was broadcast on Roy's Rarebits on BBC radio Wales on September 3 2006.

Stolen Days

Lined up in a row,
Eleven days are owed us,
Eleven unshaped temporal nuggets,
Eleven shining dayfuls of raw potential
For extra opportunities;

Each and every one a chance
For a second chance,
For one more throw of the dice,
For another stab at it,
To lap it up or muck it up;

Additional batches of possibilities
To say what you'd wished you'd said,
To tell it as it is,
To let it all come out,
Or deal with it when it did;

Who wouldn't grasp at these occasions,
Or choose to leave fondness unspoken,
Or harsh words unremedied,
Or final partings hurried through and cursory
When you could have another day?

Another day, and another,
When the hammer doesn't slip,
When the bus comes on time,
When your mouth doesn't open
And the wrong words tumble out!

They say they took to the streets when they were taken
And we should do so now,
And march, fervently, to Greenwich (possibly)
And demand back from the grasping calendar of Gregory
Eleven stolen days.

Tarzan And The House Of Lords

On August the 27th 1912 Tarzan of the Apes was first published in serial form. I've always had a soft spot for Tarzan, and the background reading lead me into some very strange territory indeed! The principle area of weirdness was the Wold Newton family, where Phillip Jose Farmer postulates that all the major heroes of fiction are all related in one vast mutant family!

Tarzan is still around today - he took an immortality potion in the year 1912, and has been eternally 25 ever since. But, his whereabouts since 1945 have been a mystery - his disappeared after serving in the RAF during WWII. It's my theory that, as the Eighth Duke of Greystoke, he simply took up his legislative duties in the British House of Lords. Though the hereditary principle has been overthrown in the Lords, 90 places are reserved for the most active hereditary peers. I feel the Tarzan could not but help being one of the more active members of the House!

This poem is also based in part on the Lords' biographies that you can click on the House of Lords website - particularly the biog of Lord Archer, and other works of fiction.

It was broadcast on BBC Radio Wales' Roy's Rarebits on August 27 2006.

Tarzan And The House Of Lords

His Lordship is a very active Member of this House -
Too active, to be honest, for many of his peers;
His tendencies to swing in on the curtains cause remark,
And his dishabille has reduced many a Baroness to tears.

At openings of Parliament he causes much concern:
If he abstains from yelling it's a source of much relief.
He'll wear his ducal robes to the occasion, it is true,
But sadly will wear nothing but a loincloth underneath.

He has a rather hands-on attitude to our debates
And grappling opponents to the ground is hard to take.
He will insist on clambering his way across the seats
And frequently he startles several Members half awake!

In the Register of Interests he's listed on the Boards
Of many of the major wildlife charities, and such,
Particularly research in teaching chimpanzees to talk
(Though doesn't like the things they might be saying over much).

He likes to register his disapproval of a Bill
By impersonating leopards at the Peers in the front rows,
But tends to let amendments pass, in toto, unopposed
If he's much too busy peeling a banana - with his toes.

At the close of every session, when their Lordships all retire,
He knuckles from the Chamber as if swinging through the trees,
And takes tea with foreign visitors, ambassadors and the like,
Whilst hanging from the Pugin gasolier by his knees!

He lists his recreations, in Burke's Peerage (107),
As "wrestling alligators, and then fighting with a knife!".
His homes are named "The Jungle", and "Greystoke Manor, Bucks":
His club is the Reform: he's lead an interesting life.

It's true the Duke of Greystoke needs a haircut and a wash,
And shoes, and encouragement to come down from the drapes,
But in the Other Place at PM's Questions every week,
It's hard to tell who has and who has not been raised by apes.

The Fourth Magi

We go right back to the year 0002 for this poem, for on August 20 this year was a conjunction between Venus and Jupiter which is now believed to be the Star Of Bethlehem, and referred to in the story of Christ's Nativity.

In reading up on the background of the Three Wise Men, I was surprised to discover that the idea that there were three Magi is only a tradition: the exact number of Magi isn't mentioned, only three are referred when giving the gifts, there might have been more.

Also, what happened to the gifts? Medieval legend states that the gifts were given to Judas to look after - possibly a bad move, in retrospect. Other legends state that they popped them to pawnbroker to fund the Flight to Egypt. I hint at this legend towards the end of the piece.

In reading The Journey of the Magi by T S Eliot, which this poem references throughout, I was also aware that a large chunk of the story was missing. Who was complaining: who was drinking and gambling: who was left out, and why? This poem attempts to address those questions.

I find this poem a bit of a puzzle - it should be ridiculous, but somehow it isn't. It leaves me with a strange frission every time I read it. What do you think? It was broadcast on Roy's Rarebits on BBC Radio Wales on August 20 2006.

The Fourth Magi
(With thanks to T.S.Eliot)

A cold coming they had of it
Out of the winter hinterlands of the East,
Casper, Melchior and Balthasar
And the other one,
Grumbling at them constantly
Like the galled, sore-footed camels on which they rode,
About how they were late already
According to his calculations,
And what if it wasn't a portent
But just two stars lining up by accident
They'd look a right bunch of idiots,
And how could they follow it
If it was staying in one place,
They'd be better off with a comet,
And that it was this sort of behaviour
That gave Zoroastrian astrology a bad name
In his opinion,
And his voice sang in their ears, saying
That it was all folly,
And that they should have stayed at home in their summer palaces
With the silken girls and the sherbet,
Though sherbet was overrated
As far as he was concerned.

They arrived in the evening, not a moment too soon;
The mother tired, but serene,
The father flushed, feeling useless,
A carpenter not a midwife,
With hands more used to tools,
The boy asleep:
They found the place (you may say) satisfactory.
They gave the gifts they'd born out of the East -
Myrrh for anointing,
Frankincense for perfume,
Gold for wealth,
And a jumper.
And they turned to the other one saying
We thought we said that we'd bring gifts full of portent,
Gifts that resonated with hidden meaning, that foretold,
What symbolism lies in that object,
And he looked at them, astonished and affronted, and said
It had a reindeer on it!

Then they sat in the midst of the animals in the stalls,
And took wine, and talked of this and that,
And the hard journey they'd had of it,
And the weather
Which made travelling difficult at that time of the year
Particularly with camels,
And the other one drank too deeply,
And ate too well,
And lay down beside the family's beast of burden,
With an arm draped across it's bristled neck
And said that that donkey understood every word he said to it
And would be talking itself in a minute,
And after singing songs of suspicious sentimentality
Fell back into the straw
With red wine staining his white beard,
And snored sonorously,
As he had done the previous afternoon
Throughout King Herod's speech.

Then they rose to depart,
And each in turn spoke to the weary, young mother,
Speaking into her ear in the doorway as they passed
Details of the horoscopes they'd cast,
Details of the life to come,
The successes, the torments, the death,
And the other one spoke to the mother last of all
As her tears flowed,
And patted the small shoulder,
And winked at her as he left.
They watched them ride back into the East,
And the father asked her what the other one had said that made her smile
And the mother replied that he'd said
Next Thursday would be a good day
To sort out financial matters with a friend,
And if it wasn't for the kids, we wouldn't bother, would we?
The father said it would probably be better not to mention him in future.

Each birthday they told the Story of the Gifts to the boy
And they told him of their meaning,
Of kingship, of divine authority,
Of death,
But never of the other one,
Though he would insist on wearing it
Because it was his favourite,
Because it kept him warm,
Because it had
A reindeer on it.

King Otto the First

There are occasions when history throws up such extraordinary stories, that the most fevered imagination would struggle to come up with them as fiction. Such is the tale of Otto Witte, who's doings are chronicled in the following poem, which has been embroidered scarcely a whit.

Otto Witte died at the age of 85 in 1958, and his official documentation from the German Government show his occupation as "Circus acrobat and King Of Albania" having been crowned as such on August 13th 1913. For bare-faced cheek alone his memory should be preserved.

As this poem was emerging it fell naturally into the rhythms of the Cautionary Tales For Children by Hillaire Belloc, hence the acknowledgement in the title. This poem was broadcast on BBC Radio Wales, on Roy's Rarebits on August 13 2006.

King Otto The First.
How the people of Albania were too easily influenced by appearances, and lived to rue the consequences.
(After Hilaire Belloc)

Halim Eddine, I'd better explain here,
Was people's choice for King of Albania,
Who arrived in Durres, and was swiftly crowned
By the soldiers brave who'd gathered round.

He inspected the troops, in his gilt and braid,
And ordered them at once to "Take Belgrade!
Let the hosts of Montenegro do their worst!"
He declared himself King Otto the First.

I suppose in the next five days, it's true,
He behaved like monarchs ought to do:
He opened parliaments: he opened fetes;
He held garden parties on his estates.

He waved from balconies; he waved from planes;
He waved from liners, and the royal trains.
He waved from below, and he waved from above,
All the time waving in a nice white glove.

He cut a ribbon here, and he drew a curtain there,
And did his very best to get an heir and a spare!
(He consorted with his harem on a nightly basis),
And kept the civil list in a state of stasis.

But rumours started spreading that sadly he
Was not all a monarch ought to be:
One shouldn't have a fondness, it's more than clear,
For conducting state business with a foot behind each ear!

And the supplest of kings, even if they're able,
Should not perform contortions on the palace table!
Nor swing quite madly from the chandelier
To a half pike finish on the jardiniere!

Then a telegram arrived, and expressed the views
That Halime Eddine, when he'd heard the news
Of his coronation, was heard to declare
That it might have been better had he been there!

Imagine their horror when the news first hit!
They'd crowned a clown named Otto Witte,
Not Halim Eddine! The Devil strike him!
He wasn't the King, he just looked like him!

The people of Albania learned with a frown
That there's not a lot of difference 'twixt a crown and a clown!
And, assisted by his harem, Otto fled into night
With the bulk of the treasury boxed up tight!

I'll append a simple moral, if you don't mind them
(All poems have a moral if you can find them!):
If we took our chances like Otto Witte
We could all be kings, if our faces fit!

Measure A Circle Starting Anywhere

It was a joy to discover that the 6th of August 1874 was the birthday of Charles Hoy Fort, and a can think of few finer men to celebrate. I'm something of an OOPart myself (an out of place artifact), and have always loved the bizarre world of Fortean doomed data.

This poem is an imagined tour through the head of Charles Fort, where reality is a lot more interesting, and was broadcast on Roy's Rarebits on BBC Radio Wales on August 6 2006.

Measure A Circle Starting Anywhere

Inside the noiseless libraries of London and New York
Charles Hoy Fort, darling of damned data,
Lifted the edge of science's carpet
To bring brushed-away facts out for an airing.
With a lush moustache, dark and drooping like an elderly ravens wings,
And thick, waving hair swooping to each side in a determinedly off-centre parting,
This Theodore Roosevelt of Anomaly,
Culled The Times, Nature and the Scientific American
For inconvenient factualities.

Behind the round and shining pebble lenses of his spectacles,
Behind his dark contrarian eyes,
The world was not what they told us it was:
Balls of lightening rolled with spark and thunder,
Fish pattered from the sky to flap and gasp upon the pavement,
Frogs croaked from the glittering heart of stones,
Giant phantom cats stalked the wrong locations,
Poltergeists banged and clattered or spontaneously combusted,
Folk and other objects randomly levitated, translocated and teleported,
Aliens regularly abducted across the sweeping, fuzzy boundaries of pseudoscience
And giant wheels of light swirled in the midst of the oceans!

Inside his skull
Life was one vast correlation,
A mass of such strange, discarded and interrelated intelligence,
Each and every thing, so improbably connected
That coincidence itself ceased to exist.
Nothing was without intention,
Existence was one all-encompassing circle
You could start measuring from any point.
He could slide away into the wide Super Sargasso Sea,
That titanic other dimensional liquid waste where all lost things go,
Where he could swim through the drowned halls of the Library of Alexandria
Searching out the lost souls of life's unmanageable facts,
A bespectacled and moustachioed seal
In a shoal of shimmering notelets.

Outside the noiseless libraries of London and New York,
Charles Hoy Fort, President of All OOPArts,
As out of place as a frog in a stone,
Was faced by a world where lightening only flashed,
All bumps in the night were easily explained away,
And the only thing that rained from the sky was water,
But, he knew, in the depths of his mocking soul,
That there was a Universal Mind -
And it was barking mad!

No More To Caerlud

It's remarkable where you can end up by wandering through the internet. The poem was triggered by the fact that on July the 30th 1760 the last of London's city gates were sold off for scrap. The three gates in question were Aldersgate, Cripplegate and Ludgate.

Whilst it's easy to see where Cripplegate got it's name (begging for alms), and Aldersgate (where the elders entered the city) Ludgate was a bit of a mystery to me.

Lud, it transpires, was both a Celtic God (Llud Llaw Eraint) and the mythical founder of London. It was the westernmost gate to the city, thereby showing that Lud must have entered from an easterly direction, ie Wales. That most Welsh people know nothing of the "origins" of the nations Capital is surprising, particularly since the writer of this history was Geoffrey of Monmouth.

Is his account true? Probably not, but never mind.

This poem was broadcast on Roy's Rarebits on July 30 2006.

No More To Caerlud.

Lud can no more enter his city
Robbed of the gate that he used in his day:
Blagden of Coleman Street bought it completely
In 1760, and dragged it away.

He who once was God of the river,
Llud of the Silver Hand visits no more;
Denied of the gate that carried his name on’t
He simply refuses to use the back door.

The westernmost gate has gone, and defensive
Towers he built have vanished, and all
That remains of the temple that honored his triumphs
Is buried beneath the fat dome of St. Paul.

He who was God of harpers and healers,
Historians and writers, poets so proud,
Simply declines descending at Paddington,
Bothered and jostled as one of the crowd.

The people of Lud, who go on that journey,
Know not that that city once carried his name
(Caerlud, Caerlundein, then Roman Londinium)
Unknowing, they carry on shopping the same.

Lud could once more enter his city:
Tell poets and harpers to sing all he did;
Tell historians to write of his power, of his glory,
His impending return: but who would he kid?

He, the occasional King of the Otherworld,
God of war, and (collaterally) death,
Stays in another world; under his hollow hills
Llud Llaw Eraint is saving his breath.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Ex Pede Coroebum

July 23rd 776BCE is, some believe, the officially recorded date of the first Olympic Games at Olympia, Greece. At this Olympic Games, a naked runner, Coroebus (a cook from Elis), won the sole event at the Olympics, the stade - a run of approximately 192 meters (210 yards). This made Coroebus the very first Olympic champion in history.

The stadion at Olympia is supposed to be 600 times the length of the foot of Herakles, which means that the great hero of the twelve tasks took a size twelve sandal. Not extraordinary by today's standards, but this was 776BCE remember. So legendary were the size of the feet of Hercules (to romanise him for a moment), that they inspired the Latin motto "Ex pede Herculem" - We recognise Hercules by his foot!

There's an awful lot about Hercules on the 'net, and a shed load about the ancient Olympian games - in fact, I now know more than I ever really wanted to know about ancient Greek jock straps (basically, a length of leather thong and a degree of precision knotwork that brings tears to the eyes!).

But, if you put Coroebus into Google, all you get is those two facts - a cook, from Elis. This caused me to produce this meditation on Coroebus, and what might have happened whilst winning and afterwards. It was broadcast on "Roy's Rarebits!" on BBC Radio Wales on 23/7/06.

Be warned - this poem features full-frontal male nudity, so control your imaginations or read some A. A. Milne instead!

Ex Pede Coroebum

In the scorching Olympian sun
Young Coroebus stands,
Naked as the twenty men beside him,
Right toes hooked into the starting groove,
Arms stretched straight ahead,
For the agonothetes to give the starting signal.

A trumpet blares,
And Coroebus, a free man,
Soles burning on the pale-brick dirt track
Hurtles along in the 600 size 12 footsteps of Herakles,
Arms pumping,
Legs stretching,
Lungs sucking in the hot dusty air,
Sweat pouring
For the honour of Zeus
And, crying out, first breasts the line.

The agonothetes, like officials everywhere,
As Coroebus pants, breath grating,
Take their time in judging
Who elbowed who,
Whose heel hooked whose ankle,
And finally tying the winner's headband
To the sweat striated brow of
Coroebus the Cook, of Elis.
For him the honour,
The lighter of the fire in the temple of Zeus,
The first Olympic champion,
And then what?

Was it back to the kitchen,
For the young man who put Elis on the map,
Back to the olives,
The feta cheese,
The stuffed vine leaves,
Did Coroebus feel the long slow slide from
Celebrity to curiosity to nonentity:
"You won the last Olympics!"
"Didn't you win the Olympics once?"
"What! You won the Olympics?"
Is heard, or nothing heard at all.

Finally, when tripple legged like the Sphinx's riddle,
Did even his own grow tired of the tale,
His grandsons weary of being told
How to place their heels when running,
How to avoid elbows jerking towards their breastbones,
How to breathe,
Until Coroebus ceased to do so.

Who knows?

But for one perfect flyspeck in the amber of time
Coroebus will always stand,
Young, naked, with arms outstretched,
Poised to leave his own footprints
Seared into the stadion of Olympia.

Love In Defiance

On July 16th, 1439, kissing was banned in England (allegedly to stop germs from spreading, although germs hadn't been discovered then, so what they thought they were preventing spreading goodness alone knows).

Henry VI seems to have been a bit of a miserable git all round, so it doesn't surprise me.

This poem was written for the BBC Radio Wales program, "Roy's Rarebits!" and broadcast on the anniversary of this stern decree.

Love In Defiance

There should have been no pecks upon the sly
In barns and undercrofts,
No bright blossoming cheeks bussed
To blush from breast to forelock, and set ears ablaze,
No first kisses to set youthful hearts aflutter,
With lips that brushed uncertain of response,
No fleeting furtive fancyings
Sealed with sudden smackers,
No breathless passionate smooching
To leave shambolic shirts, and dimpled wimples,
There should have been no snogging whatsoever
When they banned kissing.

Was there abstinence, I wonder, when this health conscious measure
Was proclaimed in square and field:
Did loved ones, after a long absence,
Remain dry cheeked in stilted welcome:
Did sons and daughters try to sleep in croft and cot
Uncomforted by the lingering touch of parental lips;
Did friends step out into the threatening dark
Merely mm-wah-mm-wahed on their way,
Did bewrinkled whiskered aunts
Cease to plant moist affection on reluctant wriggling nieces,
Was there a full-on famine of fondness
When they banned kissing?

Or did they do what we would do:
Bolt the door,
Secure the shutters,
And in gleeful acts of unlawful osculation
Spread love in defiance of all germs.

The Patented Hole

I've recently been asked to provide a weekly "On This Day In History" inspired poem for the BBC Radio Wales program, "Roy's Rarebits!", starting 9/7/06.

I presume I'm one of Roy's rarebits, but in a nice way, obviously.

I've fancied having a crack at a weekly muse for quite a while, but I've never found a niche to wriggle into in the current Radio Wales programming, but Roy's quirky style and the patchwork hotch-potch content of the program suits me nicely.

So, on to the first poem. On the ninth of July, 1872, Captain John Blondell patented the first cutter for a doughnut, poking out the middle so he could stack them on the wheel while he was at the helm; some legends state that this happened earlier, to a different captain altogether, who in the middle of a storm accidentally rammed his doughnut onto the handle of the wheel when the ship lurched to port!

I have difficulty accepting that any responsible seaman would be tucking into pastries in the midst of a gale - all the sugar would have washed off for one thing! My mate Harri pointed out that had he had an extra strong mint in his hand at the time, he might have invented the polo!

Thus, a nautical shanty in celebration of an unsung hero of deep-fried pasty!

The Patented Hole
A Sailor and his Doughnut.

Sing you the tale of John Blondel,
A naval captain of whom sailors' tell,
Who loved a deep fried pastry just a little too well.
(Sing a "Yo, heave Ho!" me hearties!)
Though all the merchant seaman in his employ
Knew consumption of the doughnut was his only joy;
It's the sort of mild fixation that can start to annoy!
(Sing a"Yo, ho, ho! How peculiar?")

For all the sailors knew, when suddenly they'd feel
A judder from the rudder, or a scraping from the keel,
He'd be reaching for a doughnut with but one hand on the wheel!
(Sing a "Yo, heave Ho!" me hearties!)
And from the coast of Cromarty to Goodwin Sands
There's something every naval rating understands;
There's occasions when you're sailing that you need both hands!
(Sing a "Yo, ho, ho!" in particular!)

So in the year of 1872,
In order to overcome the sneers of his crew
He patented a cutter for to poke a doughnut through!
(Sing a "Yo, heave Ho!" me hearties)
And thus potential mutiny was brought to heel
With a plate of punctured doughnuts, for he could reveal
How he'd stack 'em on the handle, and have both hands on the wheel!
(Sing a"Yo, ho, ho! How spectacular!")


Now John Blondel mayn't've had a lot of soul,
But the sum of his parts were greater than his whole,
For without him doughnuts ne'r would have a hole!
(Sing "Yo, ho, ho!" in the vernacular!)

Thursday, January 12, 2006

In The Grotto

A festive offering that was written for and read during the Christmas Carol Concert for the Samaritans at St. Woolos Cathedral, Newport on 16 December 2005.

This is based on a true incident I saw whilst working at Tredegar House in Newport one Christmas, as I do most years, haranguing small children as Mr. Bumble.

In The Grotto.

There were four of them,
Ladies of a certain age,
Deliberately wicked as only the wise can be,
Who'd swept through rooms of faux Dickensiana
Like a small whirlpool of flirtation,
Eyes gleaming with mature mischief.
Spectacle chains jingled upon the bosoms
Of M&S quilted blousons in beige and burgundy
Surmounted by coursage of holly, tinsel and baubles,
Adding a festive timbre
To the naughtiness
Of those who should and did know better
But who had decided,
In the spirit of seasonal impishness,
To forget that they did.

Like a cackling octopus,
In eight-legged black polyester slacks
And eight shining black shoes
With just a hint of heel,
They clattered down the stone steps into the cellar
Where the entrance to the grotto glittered.
Patting and tweaking at Sergeant Bob
In his Victorian Policeman's uniform,
And fondling the bobble of Raymond,
The Head Elf,
In a less than grandmotherly way,
They perched conspiratorially together on the foremost bench,
Surrounded by fake snow and real fir trees,
Bathed in twinkle and the tinny belling of an automated glockenspiel,
And brought their loose permed heads of grey with just a hint of rinse together
To plan their deceptions:
For they were the last one's in to see Santa
And they were going to "get one over" on
He Who Knew Their Wrongdoing.

But in the Grotto,
In a semicircle before the elevated throne where Santa sat,
Surrounded by mounds of empty boxes wrapped
In shimmering green and gold
Glimmering in the blink of Asda fairy lights
And the glow of the electric blaze-effect
From the pseudo-fireplace,
When Father Christmas leant down,
An amiable avalanche of red velvet and fake ermine,
And asked them if they'd been good girls this year,
The accumulated crust of a lifetime's misbehaviour
Sloughed to the ground in a mound of decades
And for a brief moment
The tiny girls they once had been
Looked up at the scarlet-robed figure
With the cascading white beard,
And with eyes of now seldom experienced wonder
"Oh yes, Santa!"
And they promised they'd always clean their rooms,
And swore to help their mothers around the house,
But when they'd each one received their gifts from Santa's sack
They all at once recollected who they were now,
And four naughty ladies of a certain age,
Re-invested in the vestments of their sauciness,
Exited the grotto in a gaggle all a-giggle,
Checking their dollies' knickers.

Then Santa took off his beard,
Scratched at his head where his wig had niggled,
And saying,
"They're just big kids, some of them!"
Took off his bright red trousers
Until the following night.

Asking For It!

On Friday the 4th of November, 2005 I was contacted by BBC Radio Wales (at lunchtime) and asked to come up with a "welsh" Haka for the evening news programme "Good Evening Wales".

Wales were playing New Zealand at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff the following day, and they thought it would be a wizard wheeze to come up with our own version of the Haka to cahllenge the New Zealanders supremecy in this art form - we obviously weren't going to be able to challenge them effectively on the pitch.

Wales lost disgracefully, but I feel that had the Welsh team responded to the Haka with my own stirring version of a traditional Welsh challenge, things might have turned out differently.

If you'd like to find out more about the Haka, here's the excellent site I visited when researching this poem.
(And you thought I just made it all up, didn't you? A Tahu to you!)

Asking For It!
(An Untraditional Welsh Haka)

Come on, then! Come on, then!
You're asking for it!
Come on, then! Come on!
No,He's asking for it!
Don't make me come over there!
Let me get over there!
Somebody stop me!
He's asking for it!

What are you looking at?
What is he looking at?
Who does he think he is,
He's asking for it!
Somebody hold my coat!
Look, will you hold my coat!
I'll have him in a minute,
He's asking for it!

Don't tell me to leave it!
Don't tell me to leave it!
I know he's not worth it,
He's asking for it!
Don't want no apologies!
Too late for apologies!
No-one spills my pint,
He's asking for it!

Come on, then! Come on, then!
Don't make me come over there!
What are you looking at?
Somebody hold my coat!
Don't tell me to leave it!
I don't want no apologies!
No-one spills my pint,
He's asking for it!

Trust, And How To Get It

Commissioned by the Radio Five Live Anita Anand programme, broadcast live from the Cameo Club Canton.

As we were in the middle of an election, they wanted some poltical comment.

It's thanks to this programme that I am now Honarary Poet in Residence for The Cameo Club.
Eat you heart out, Andrew Motion!

Trust, And How To Get It

Advice from a Party Mandarin

"If you're seeking for high office then it's very clear you must
Do everything that's possible to gain the nation's trust.
Tell `em how your every move's designed to keep `em rich `nd greedy,
`Nd how your opposition's plans'll make `em poor `nd needy
`Nd if the country's in a state there's one thing left do;
Just tell `em that the sorry mess is nowt to do with you!"
Give `em enemies aplenty; give `em somebody to blame;
Don't just give `em anybody, give `em someone "not the same":
Give `em somebody's who's "different", someone easy to attack
(Providing that it's somebody who cannot answer back);
Make `em scared of germs untreated; make `em scared of what they eat:
Make `em scared of bumping into something "foreign" on the street;
Keep `em frightened; keep `em fearful: point out Britain's slowly sinking,
Keep `em constantly wrong-footed so the buggers won't start thinking;
Raise `em to a pitch of terror `bout hordes plotting to enslave `em,
Then smile, `nd kiss a baby, `cos you're just the one to save `em!"
Show `em you're the answer, show 'em you're the nation's saviour,
Who'll return `em to a land of home-cooked meals `nd nice behaviour!
Tell `em you're the one who'll fend off those who're seeking to abuse `em
(Don't give `em facts and figures, it'll just serve to confuse `em).
Pad your hollow manifesto full of platitudes for stuffing;
Promise never to forego it; promise "Everything for Nothing",
`Nd then they'll trust you!"


Commissioned by the Radio Five Live Anita Anand programme, broadcast live from the Cameo Club Canton.

As the programme was about all things Welsh, they wanted something about the new phenomenon of Welsh paparazzi, and their professional stalking of Charlotte Church et al.
Also, Wales is "hip", and it's now cool to be Welsh, apparently.

It's thanks to this programme that I am now Honarary Poet in Residence for The Cameo Club.
Eat you heart out, Andrew Motion!


From the saddle of our mopeds
(Honda Melody Express)
We scour the streets of Cardiff
For celebrity excess,
`Cos it's very cool in Cymru,
Welsh is hip, if it's not hippy,
And the tabloids love a pic of
Of Charlotte Church behaving lippy,
And the editors of the Sundays
Will descend from near and far
For shots of the Super Furrys
Buying Vimto from the Spar.
First we prowl around St. Mary's Street
`Fore our initial sally
At Gavin Henson with a Cod & Chips
In Botulism Alley,
Then we rumble down to Bute Town
For the simple thrills and spills
Of Shirley Bassey in a knife-fight
Outside William Hills.
After pausing for a Panda Pop
We're straight onto the phones
To sell photos of Huw Edwards
Bitch-slapping Aled Jones,
Then it's back into the centre
Where we're hoping for the chance
Of another shot of Charlotte
With her skirt caught in her pants
(And we really pulled it off,
`Cos things turned rather nasty
And she tried to bottle Colin
With her heel stuck through a pasty).
Then as the dawns descending,
With our mopeds tucked away,
We sleep the sleep of the pure at heart:
Tomorrow night's another day.


This poem was written for Newport City Council, and read by me at the opening of The Gentle Giant Exhibition, The Newport Centre, Tuesday 12 April 2005. The exhibition celebrates the life of John Charles, the first internationally sucessful Welsh footballer.


Make no statue for this man:

What could a statue show of him?
Could it show the boy of fourteen
Who left his misspelt name,
Finger-written in cement,
As a memorial to his dreams;
Would it show the footballer,
Part salmon, part stag, part mule and part Fred Astaire,
Who towered in the Italian sun,

Gossamer booted,
And sang of Love in Portofino;
Or should it show the man
Who lost everything,
Finally losing even himself,
Yet never stopped giving
As his world collapsed:
Who knew a big head
Was always beaten
By a big heart.
Make no statue for John Charles;
No statue could be big enough.

Three New Nursery Rhymes, and One Extra

These three new nursery rhymes were written for the Nicola Heywood Thomas phone-in programme on BBC Radio Wales.

A recent tongue-in-cheek report had revealed that children are exposed to ten times more violence in traditional nursery rhymes that in post water-shed television.

The Early Learning Centre also suggested that new nursery rhymes be written to be more appropriate to the New Millennium.

I'm not sure this is what they were after!

The extra poem occured to me on the way home in the car after the programme had been broadcast, but as I'm still giggling about it, I though I'd post it here. Humpty, Hamble and Little Ted were all soft toys used in the now defunct kids' programme "Playschool" (Hamble was a horrible plastic pig-faced baby doll with a tight black perm!)

What Big Ted thought when he found out about it, history has not recorded.

1. A Proverb.

Whether it's fat,
Or whether it's thin,
Eat not a cow
With the spine left in!

2. Strangers.

Never speak to strangers,
Though statistics clearly show
We'll probably be murdered
By somebody we know.

3. Cotton Wool.

Wrap your child in cotton wool,
And before it's very old
It'll know the world's more scary
Than ever it's been told!


Humpty & Hamble.

Humpty & Hamble were happy,
Until the day he said
He couldn't "extend their relationship"
`Cos he'd married Little Ted.

Grand Slam Poems

These two poems were requested by the BBC as part of the ongoing broadcasting of the Six Nations Tournament, 2005.

(For those who don't know , the Six Nations is an international Rugby Union competition between Wales, Scotland, Ireland, France, Italy and England. Winning every game is called winning The Grand Slam, which Wales won in 2005, having not won it since 1978. There was much rejoiceing.)

Spinning Tonight was commisioned by BBC Radio Five Live actually during the Wales v. France game, as it was so obvious from the score that Wales was going to win it!
And Strong Men Wept was commisioned by BBC Radio Wales "Good Evening Wales" news programme the day after Wales wone the Grand Slam.

To paraphrase Eli Jenkins,
"Praise the Lord, we are a Rugby nation!"

Spinning Tonight.

There's a dynamo hum in the Paris air,
As the gold-leaf flakes off Les Invalides,
And settles like snow on the shoulders broad
Of players from Wales that know, indeed,
That Napoleon is spinning tonight, oh yes,
Napoleon is spinning tonight!

And fifteen Welshmen, bandaged and bruised,
All battered and bloodied from each ball they caught,
Can bathe away the remnants of the soil of France,
Each soothed by the balm of the noble thought
That Napoleon is spinning tonight, oh yes,
Napoleon is spinning tonight!

And Strong Men Wept.
An Allegory.

The Dragon once was slain
By haughty, foreign saints
And lost besides the jewel of hope
That in its heart was kept,
And women screamed,
And children yelled,
And strong men wept.

But the Dragon rose again,
And trounced those foreign saints,
And found again more jewels of hope
As on its foes it leapt,
And women screamed,
And children yelled,
And strong men wept!

Now, the Dragon's foes are slain,
And it seeks out fresher saints,
And stands there (on a heap of hope)
Poised on the world to leap,
And women will scream,
And children will yell,
And strong men will,
In all probability,


A poem requested for the Community Education Newsletter, as an example of how not to do it!
And, honestly, everything about this poem is true!


He taught French,
Did Mr Morgan,
(And looked like Lurch
Aged seventy,
With a long, crumpled neck
Like a distressed factory chimney,
And a bright yellow streak of nicotine
Staining the bristling, white, flattop hair
Above eyebrows each as big as a badger),
Except on the last session on Fridays
When he couldn't be bothered.
Then he taught us
The derivation of our surnames,
Each one of the thirty-one of us,
One after another,
For forty minutes,
And how he'd once tackled De Gaulle
Before scoring the winning try
At the Stade de France
In nineteen thirty something.
The rest of the time,
When he could be bothered,
And in between snatched roll-ups
Furtively smoked between yellowing finger knuckles
In the school corridorTwice per lesson,
He'd rank us according to our inadequacies,
Separating out those who were merely stupid
From the utterly irredeemable,
And insisting that anyone named
Morgan in his class
Had to be the very best at French,
Or never be called other than "Higginbotham"
In his classroom.I was denied my own surname

For three years,
To everyone else's amusement,
Then escaped his brown-fingered clutches at fourteen,
And never looked at a French dictionary again.

Mr. Morgan is probably as dead as De Gaulle,
Lying there as perfectly smoked as a mackerel,
Pickled in nicotine,Tarred like a mummy,
And he's probably every bit as good a teacher
As he ever was.

News Quiz Poems

These two poems were requested for the Radio Wales News Quiz, which was recorded at the University Wales College, Newport on 19/11/04, and broadcast the following day.

David Cornock (BBC Wales parliamentary correspondant) and I won resoundingly - 14 to 7 against actress Ruth Madoc and lawyer and prospective conservative MP Andrew Taylor.

"Ode to Sprouts" wasn't broadcast because of recording problems on the day.

Ode to Sprouts.

Oh, little unlovely globes of green,
Ministered by nanas in a vast tureen,
Simmering on each glowing ember;
Put on for Christmas in September.
Not from me are your praises uttered
When served up crisp, and lightly buttered;
Squashy, with gravy, brings the flavour out
Of the little unlovely sprout.


What speaks of Scotland to the world,
Is it sweeping moors of heather, or Lochs so fair?
What keeps our banner to the wind unfurled?
It's a tartan bobble hat with orange hair (attached).
The clans may have their history, but they've their flaws
For the Dougals and the Campbells just can't compare
With that emblem of our nation that the world adores;
Our tartan bobble hat with orange hair (attached).
So speak no more of engineers James & Watt;
And, for the actor Connery, have no care.
Destroy the tomb of novelist Walter Scott;
We've a tartan bobble hat with orange hair (attached).

The Barbarian At The Gate

This poem was written for the opening of The Riverfront Arts Centre, a long awaited and much appreciated event in Newport.

It was read, after some confusion, on Saturday 23rd October, 2004.

The Barbarian At The Gate.

When the Barbarian stands at the gate,
And the sound of the death knell rings hollow,
One should not give up, or give way to despair;
There's a simple procedure to follow.

One should not make mock of his hair and his woad;
It will only aggravate him.
One should not rain down on him arrows and blows;
It will serve to irritate him.

No, engage with the fellow in matters of Art:
Let him read from his native romances.
Invite the bold gentleman onto the stage
To perform his indigenous dances.

Encourage the warrior to lay down his arms
For a pottery session, at least:
And foster his song: for music, we know,
Can soothe the most turbulent beast.

And should one engage in this "cultural" war,
One is more or less certain to win:
The Barbarian won't want to kick down the gate
If he's queuing with the others to get in.

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In An Oxford Museum

Written to celebrate the 2004 National Museum and Galleries Month, and performed at Llantarnam Grange Art Centre on 30/4/04.

In An Oxford Museum

In an Oxford museum,
(Where even Ruskin's architecture
Is stripped to the bone)
The skeleton of the Dodo
Resides improbably.
This unlikely bird,
The gull of a cruel and humorous evolution,
Stands, like a reconstructed Christmas carcass,
Legs gnawed spotless,
Breast picked clean,
And wishbone pulled,
And lest we look upon this
Scoured, ivory outline of a bird
And fail to see the shadow of the defunct meat,
Portraits of this luckless fowl
Flank it's glass tomb
To flesh out the long vanished flesh.
One is Lewis Carroll's Dodo,
Heavy beaked, startled eyed, and comical,
The same grey, ungainly, waddling heap of fat and fluffy feather,
That presented the thimble to Alice,
And swam in her tears.
However, this is not the real Dodo,
Not the Dodo as it lived (and died) in the wilds of Mauritius.
No, Carroll's was a middle-aged bird,
That had run to fat through poor diet,
And never got enough exercise.
Beside it stands another portrait,
The Modern Dodo,
The Dodo as it should have been,
Sleeker, nippier and altogether younger,
A creature in it's imagined prime,
That would have given any hungry sailor
A damn good run for his money.
It almost swaggers in its reinterpreted splendour.

One day the University Museum,
Four hundred years hence,
May get its hands on my fleshless bones,
And when they're scrubbed and gleaming,
Either side of my vertical, transparent sarcophagus
They'll place two portraits;
One a representation
Of a sorry specimen seen in middle-age,
And the other an imagined reconstruction
As I most likely would have been
When I was young
And in the wild.

(With thanks to Dominic Watkins for researching the Dodo!)

The Morning After

Written and performed on "Broadcasting House", on Radio Four, on Sunday 16 November 2003. Commisioned by the programme to celebrate a recent outbreak of Anti-English sentiment at the Rugby World Cup!

The Morning After

The morning after the seventh day,
Rather than stay in bed,
God leapt up at the crack of dawn
And created the Welsh, instead.

He created the roaring Irish,
And the bonnie Scots as well,
And then he created the English,
And the whole lot went to hell!

For the English inspected Eden,
Every animal, fruit and stem,
And decided everything in the world
Had been put on the earth for them.

So they tightened their grip on Eden
And started breeding quick,
And they set about naming the "animals"
Taff, and Jock, and Mick.

The Welsh, the Scots and the Irish
Sighed and resigned to their fate,
But they thanked God for the English,
For He'd given them someone to hate!

Pity, Oh Pity!

Another one written for The Jamie Owen programme on BBC Radio Wales for National Bread Day 2002!

Pity, Oh Pity!

Pity, oh pity the poor, old sliced white,
Unwanted, unloved and reviled!
Once Mothers of Britain,
Their faces agleam,
Emerged from the kitchen,
And thought it a dream
To serve four pounds of dripping
Spread thickly, like cream,
On a beautiful slice of sliced white.

But when they found out what was in a sliced white,
And whispered of "bleaches" and "E"s,
The Mothers of Britain

Let out a shrill cry,
And pushed it away

With a disgruntled sigh,
Then served instead humus
Smeared thinly on Rye.
Oh pity the poor, old sliced white!

Bringing the World to Wisdom

Written for BBC Radio 5 Live after the Arch-Druid had suggested that the Arch-Bishop of Canterbury move the HQ of the Anglican Church to Newport as it "had just been made a city solely with that purpose in mind"!

This lead to a truly crazed live interview/arguement with a Canterbury City PR Person who thought I was arguing for the move in good faith, not mere devilment.

By the way, St. Gwynllyw (aka St. Woolos) in Newport's own saint, canonised for converting the whole population of Gwent by threatening to cut the heads off anyone who did'nt!

It's this sort of "hands on" religion that is so lacking in the Church of England these days.

Bringing the World to Wisdom.

The tools Augustine used
When converting English heathens
Was the sanction of Pope Gregory,
And the power of the word,
But not Gwynllyw!
When St. Woolos went converting
He brought the light of heaven
On the sharp end of his sword!

When Augustine went a-preaching,
With a Roman condescension,
He was driven out of Dorset
With a fish tail on his coat,
But not Gwynllyw!
If they'd tried that on St. Woolos
They'd have heard the angels singing
As he took `em round the throat!

Thus St. Augustine learned that,
When dealing with the heathen,
Their hearts and minds won't follow
If you've only ifs and buts,
But not Gwynllyw!
For the lesson of St. Woolos is
You'll bring the world to wisdom
If you've got it by the nuts!

The English Muffin

Written for The Jamie Owen programme on BBC Radio Wales for National Bread Day 2002! What more can you say!

The English Muffin.

Some foreign sorts of muffin
May yearn to take the stage,
And stuff themselves with blueberries
And swear they're all the rage,
But not the English Muffin
That, with a sense of true reserve,
May tolerate the butter,
But looks down on a preserve.

The transatlantic muffin
May dome above its cup,
All iced and sugar-dusted
To entice the world to sup,
But not the English Muffin,
Who wouldn't dream of doing that
Or anything more "showy"
Than being brown and round, and flat.

The nervous, upstart muffin,
Though full of vim and passion,
Sleeps restlessly upon its shelf,
For it knows it's just a fashion,
But not the English Muffin,
Which sleeps sound without a care,
For it knows its been around for a terribly long time,
And it isn't going anywhere!

The Chairman's Report

Written for BBC Radio Wales' "Good Morning Wales" on the occasion of the WRU's announcement of it's new way forward for Welsh Rugby!

Bizarrely, though this poem was written the evening before the announcement, and recorded at 11.00pm to be broadcast at 6.00am the following morning, this is more or less exactly what they said! Spooky!

The Chairman's Report.

We're gathered today to reveal to the nation
Strategic proposals for Rugby in Wales,
But we'd like to explain how we reached our decision
`Fore we disclose precisely just what it entails.
We formed ourselves into a General Committee,
To overview process, both form and content,
Which then subdivided `to Grand-Sub-Committees
With particular briefs to pursue and present.
The Grand-Sub Committees then further divided
`To Sub-Sub Committees of disparate needs
Which, when established, again subdivided
To beget more Committees for various deeds.
(The Four Franchised Provinces Merger Committee,
The Committee For This [and occasionally That],
The Other Committees Liaison Committee,
The Co-opted Committee for Chewing The Fat.)
Then all the Committees reported back upwards
To the Sub-Sub Committees from which they were spawned,
And the Sub-Subs back up to the Grand-Subs reported;
The Grand-Subs to the General.
Now a bright new day's dawned.
So, here's the Report of the General Committee,
And we're proud to report this Report recommends
That we form ourselves into a Brand New Committee,
And start it all over again.

With A Pointed Stick

This poem was the second of threes poems I wrote the Growing Space, a horticultural project for people recovering from mental illness, based at Tredegar House in Newport. Sadly, I've misplaced the dates and details, but I've always rather liked it, so here it is.

With A Pointed Stick.

When the first bloodied lump
Fell into the fire,
And the tribe did little else than shout,
There came one man,
With a pointed stick,
Who valiantly tried to poke it out.
And he poked it right,
And he poked it left,
And he stirred the ashes about,
And the tribe were glad
That there came one man
With the gumption to try to poke it out.

And `til this day
When the heavens roar,
And the tribe to the kitchen's fled,
You'll find one man,
With a pointed stick,
Who'll stop and poke the fire instead.
And he'll poke it left,
And he'll poke it right,
`Til the charcoal's cold and dead,
And until he's got that bloody sausage out
He'll stop and poke the fire instead.

City of Cherubs

Written to replace a short "haiku" that was written during the BBC Wales live news broadcast when Newport was made a city. This poem was performed at a Jubilee Fireworks and Concert at Caerleon Campus in June 2002.

City Of Cherubs.
(After W. S. Gilbert.)

At either end of the Old Town Bridge
The City Cherubs nest.
Above a shield of red and gold,
They take their daily rest.

Their heads are doffed with yellow curls,
And dimpled is the blushing cheek,
That hints of many a saucy tale
If those metal tongues could speak,

And their smiling eyes are frosty blue,
And twinkle with hidden quips,
And a single butt from a cigarette
Hangs ever from their rosy lips.

They doze and smile the whole day through,
And when Phoebus' course is run,
A most peculiar scene takes place
When the City's clocks strike one!

With wings that whirr like a hummingbird's,
Attached `neath either ear,
Those curly heads each night take flight,
And, fluttering, disappear,

They flitter around the whole, wide world,
(`Tis one of their cherub tricks!),
And alight once more on the Town Bridge ends,
Ere the City's clocks strike six!

None are aware of these nightly flights,
And the terrible pains they take,
And no-one know of the things they've seen,
Or comparisons that they make,

But a solitary reveller, out at dawn,
And obliged to the bridge to cling,
May semi-sober, half awake,
Hear the cherubs softly sing,

"We're not a City of Angels,
A Big Apple, or a London Town,
Or Gay Paree, or Amsterdam,
Or Venice where the lions gaze down,

We're neither Rome nor Istanbul,
And Bruge may be nicer far,
But pluck the butt-end from our cherubic mouths,
And insert a large cigar!

We must adopt far loftier airs,
Our public now expects `em.
Though we don't yet rank with York or Bath,
We're nicer far than Wrexham!"

The haiku form poem, should anyone be interested, was written with a 10 minute deadline and can be found below.


Add four letters to our name
And, when we're spoken of,
Drop the exclamation mark!

Goodness, that upset some people!

It's Not My Fault!

Written for the BBC Wales segment of BBC Politics Show, broadcast Sunday 9 November 2003. The City of Cardiff had created its own Speaker's Corner in Cathays Park, and the BBC wanted to show a few suitable voluable debators giving forth, and asked me to contribute a suitable inflamatory piece.

Since this poem was broadcast, the average percentage of people voting in Welsh elections has in crease by 0%. I feel justly proud!

It's Not My Fault!

It's too much bother
For the 63% who think
There's no such thing as a wasted vote,
There's just a waste of time.
And when taxes rise,
Or public services decline,
You can always stand
By the graves of the luckless saps
Who died to give you the bloody vote
And smiling smugly say,
"It's not my fault!"

So, why bother?
The government always gets in!
(Har, har!)
And as each civil liberty
Is slowly picked away
By the acts of a pack patriots
Trying to save us from ourselves
You can still spud-out in front of
The latest re-run of last year's `Pop Idol'
And smiling smugly say,
"It's not my fault!"

Don't bother!
And when we've come to rack and ruin,
When the balloon's gone up,
And the chips are down,
And boots with snow,
Or sand,
Or any other undesirable substance
On their toe-caps
March up your street,
You can look up cheerfully
From the rubble of your living room
And smiling smugly say,
"It's not my fault!"