“If you mess with bears” – poem 1/183 #poems #poets #poetry

183 Saturday 12/09/09

RIP Timothy Treadwell
it’s eat, fuck & kill out there
that’s the law
if you mess with bears
they’ll eat you


“Gramsci’s Hair”. #poems #poets ‘#poetry



Il Duce was too soft on you
and let you live

so your hair survived
the damp cells of Ustica and Turi
where you wrote a way out for your comrades
from the ruins of their revolution

I saw you in that photo
on a tutor’s wall
from before those prison days
hair thick and black
you in your neat commissar’s outfit

now every student reading Dante
inhales your spores
and can spell the word hegemony

afterwards I see it was a simple suit your wore
like any old bourgeois citizen
and your face had grown fat
though your hair was still black
if not so voluminous

pity you didn’t live to see
the bald dictator strung up and bloody
like a bulbous spider

that hegemonic bastard, death,
did for both of you, hair or no hair

@ Michael Blackburn, 2018

“Telling lies to the young is wrong” – Yevtushenko


Telling lies to the young is wrong.
Proving to them that lies are true is wrong.
Telling them that God’s in his heaven
and all’s well with the world is wrong.
the young know what you mean. The young are people.
Tell them the difficulties can’t be counted,
and let them see not only what will be
but see with clarity these present times.
Say obstacles exist they must encounter,
sorrow happens, hardship happens.
The hell with it. Who never knew
the price of happiness will not be happy.
Forgive no error you recognize,
it will repeat itself, increase,
and afterwards our pupils
will not forgive in us what we forgave.

“Lies” by Yevgeny Yevtushenko, translated by Robin Milner-Gulland and Peter Levi. From the Selected Poems in the Penguin Modern Poets series, 1968.


“Out of the vortex, rifling the air it came…” – In Parenthesis

The final paras of Part 2 of In Parenthesis by David Jones. Private Ball, the protagonist of this Modernist Great War poem, experiences for the first time the blast of a shell close by.

“Where the English wilderness is”: a poem. #poems #poets #poetry

Cliff Lane

where the English wilderness is
in the interstices
along the margins
here at the roadside
deep in grasses, poppies,
mallows and escaped hypericum
wherever the wind bears the seed
wherever the buzzard has moved in
new territory of field, wood and air
not asking for our opinion
us, who are
wilderness in wilderness

(Poem 105: 29/06/08 from the poem-a-day project, 2008 – 2012, Michael Blackburn).

Brian Higgins and the iniquity of his oblivion.


“THE INIQUITY OF OBLIVION blindly scattereth her poppy, and deals with the memory of men without distinction to merit of perpetuity.” So wrote Sir Thomas Browne, a writer who has not had the full weight of said iniquity fall upon him and managed to remain partly in the light of literary remembrance. Those of us stricken with the vanity that we may be remembered after our death for our poems, novels, plays, paintings, songs or whatever, never find out, of course, though we know the odds are in favour of the poppy.

Such was the case with Brian Higgins (1930 – 1965), poet, mathematician, teacher, rugby player, freelance journalist and dole wallah. Higgins published three (hardback) collections, two of them during his very short life (The Only Need and Notes While Travelling), and one posthumously (The Northern Fiddler). His poems had appeared in reputable magazines and anthologies, including The Faber Book of Twentieth Century Verse, so he was not exactly an obscure scribbler while alive. His portrait was painted by Patrick Swift, one of the leading Irish artists of the day, and he knew many of the more successful writers of the period. This included George Barker, himself a permanently half-remembered poet, who wrote a foreword to The Northern Fiddler.

Read on at The Fortnightly Review.

Being interviewed by the RLF on poetry and the writer’s life.

‘After a while most of us find we’re doing the same stuff; I tried new things.’


What has it been like being a poet and publisher the past couple of decades? These are some of the things I talk about in this interview with poet, Geoff Hattersley, for the Royal Literary Fund.

Listen to the whole podcast.