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A new Chapbook from Beau Beausoleil

July 31, 2016

Compass resized

I’m happy and proud to announce a new chapbook from Beau Beausoleil, founder of
the Al-Mutanabbi Street Coalition. Thirty new poems are printed on ‘Metaphor’
recycled paper and hand-bound. The cover photo is by Carolyne Charrington.

These are clear-eyed, uncompromising poems of startling beauty, poems in which language is pared to the bone and each line can lead the reader into a new place, into heartbreak or wonder.

Edition of two hundred copies, available for $15 in USA from overlandbooks(at)

UK and the rest of the world – contact barleybooks(at) £10 by sterling cheque or Paypal only. Postage payable outside UK.


you said
bring me to that place

where we can sweep the words
into each corner

where we can sleep
as the blood dries over us

but I haven’t seen you
since that day
and now is the third hour again
and tomorrow the third year

and my kitchen prayers are not easy

and it is only wonder
that takes me past each darkness

                                                                              Beau Beausoleil

These poems have the qualities of the first light of morning: clear, intense, and essential.
~ DUNYA MIKHAIL, poet and editor

Beau’s poems plunge us into the blind darkness of loss, where we have only the tendrils of each slender, living poem to guide us through the grimness of our world. We peer through the blood on the windows, we name those who gather in the shadows around us, and “the blood dries over us” in our sleep. It is a poetry that allows us to reckon with the public and private dead, but one that can also steer us to wonder. These are poems for the missing, but they are also poems that help us find our way past the darkness, as when a tree slides off the page “and put / its roots / near you”.
~ M LYNX QUALEY, writer, editor, literary activist

This book is a meditative work, not only about actual and present things, but about those who are absent, whom the poet calls the disappeared: I am listening/ to your disappearance’ he writes and ‘the disappeared are there’. Thus, ‘their shaded voices’ can be heard in these poems ‘amid the mountains’. All of this happens in a ‘bare room’ where the bareness, both poetically and humanly, mirrors those who are absent.
In Compass, Beau Beausoleil produces a kind of unity between life as a real experience and the poem’s message as a metaphorical one.








Swindon Poetry Picnic

July 23, 2016


Morag, Rachael, Sara and I will be the guests at Swindon Poetry Picnic on Saturday 30th July, performing our latest collaboration “Second Skin”. Entry is free: bring a picnic and, if you like, a couple of poems to share.

1pm to 4pm – details here.

A quick trip to Edinburgh

July 22, 2016

Daughter Mary discovered that the University of Edinburgh had acquired thirteen of my grandfather Gill’s sketchbooks last year. There are some very good photos on their website. Mary arranged for the four of us to see them on June 24th and booked an exceptionally nice B&B in Morningside, a very pleasant half-hour walk from the University.

We drove up on the 23rd, leaving Gloucester very early in the morning and arriving at 8am for a picnic breakfast in bright sunshine on the sea-wall at Crosby. Anthony Gormley’s installation “Another Place” was every bit as impressive as we hoped. A hundred life-sized cast iron figures gaze out to sea.

Our next stop was at Vindolanda Roman fort and Romano-British village, near Hadrian’s Wall.

Excavations are ongoing and there is an excellent museum. Most poignant exhibit – a tiny child’s shoe. The Vindolanda Tablets were first-century messages written in ink on postcard-sized slices of wood. Hundreds of them were found on the site of a quenched bonfire and painstakingly conserved, photographed  and deciphered. The most famous of them is a birthday party invitation written by a scribe and signed by a military commander’s wife – a rare early example of a woman’s handwriting.

Apart from a short ice-cream break at the border, our next stop was Edinburgh. Keith Paterson’s B&B was all we could have wished for! Quiet, comfortable and civilised and full of interest. This little person, for example, sitting quietly in her miniature arm-chair by the fire-side.


Our appointment at the University library was in the afternoon. We spent the morning in the National Museum of Scotland, where the Celts exhibition is on until 25th September. I cannot recommend it too highly. It is magnificent. I bought a few postcards in the shop. The one below caught my eye, I enquired about it and a helpful member of staff showed me the way. In the summer of 1836 some boys went rabbit-hunting on Arthur’s Seat and discovered in a small cave seventeen tiny coffins. The full story is here.


On arrival at the University Library we were taken to a seminar room and the collection of sketchbooks, in two cardboard boxes, was brought on a trolley. These are no ordinary boxes, we were told: they can survive fire for an hour without being burnt. They are kept on the top floor (in case of flood) in a temperature- and humidity-controlled environment.

The sketchbooks were laid on book-cushions for us to look at. We could turn the pages but we were not permitted to take them off their cushions. They contained, for the most part, sketches of buildings and architectural details, and designs for new buildings and alterations to existing buildings. There were notes in French and English. One note read “Half-timbered gables – not a good idea.” I felt that I got to know my grandfather a little better. I remember him as a quiet, kindly man in gold-rimmed specs. His hobby was making violins. The sketchbooks cover his whole career as an architect, from student days in the 1890s to a year before his death in 1960. I’ll add some photos later. They are on Mary’s camera.

It was only my second visit to Edinburgh since I lived there in the late 1970s. It’s a wonderful city and I haven’t seen enough of it!


The Very Quiet Foreign Girls poetry group

July 14, 2016

Necessary reading, from Kate Clanchy in The Guardian today.

Still European

June 27, 2016

I am in mourning. Not for my much-loved aunt, whose ashes we buried in her home village in Hampshire yesterday: she had been longing for release. But I feel bereaved, angry, embarrassed and ashamed. A capricious vote by (some of) the 52% caused an immediate fall in global markets representing a loss in wealth of 2.7% across the entire world. The richest will hang on for better times. Both here and (more importantly) in the developing world, it is the poorest who will suffer most. How can we possibly justify this?

The EU is not perfect, but it was the best we had and we have now given up any chance of helping to improve it. This was far too important a decision to be left to an electorate fed lies by media whose owners’ wealth is safely squirreled away in tax havens. Well done Cameron; you have driven a wedge between neighbours, between workmates, between young and old, between England and Scotland. Nicola Sturgeon is the only politician I have heard talking sensibly.

Xenophobes seem to think they have been given a licence to bully. There was a shocking report on Radio 4 this morning of violence and verbal abuse directed in general at people perceived as being foreign and in particular at Polish people. Even school-children!  Hitler could not have been defeated without Polish assistance seventy years ago, and our NHS today could not function without them. The care home in which my aunt was lovingly nursed for her last two years is staffed largely by skilled, cheerful, conscientious and compassionate Polish and other guest-workers. And yes, they are paid the living wage.

As usual, Gerry Cordon put it succinctly: “Brexit, pursued by despair”.




Pee-ow pee-ow

June 18, 2016

it is midsummer in the country of grief – Dave Bonta

in an instant
the squat stock
the lean barrel
the angle between them

we may forbid
even a water-pistol
but a boy will take a stick
and run amok
shrilling the ricochet

or cock his hand
point two fingers
take aim and fire
fire and fire again
a frenzy of killing

most grow out of it


I wrote this today in sorrow for the death of Jo Cox.

With thanks to Beau for sending me a link to Cathy DeForest’s Vision Quilt project against gun violence.

More books and a botanical walk

June 14, 2016

Jane and I were stewarding at the Dove on Sunday afternoon. More books had appeared! “Zoo” is a beautifully-produced and satisfyingly chunky little book of animal-drawings by Bron’s grandson Theo. My favourite page is “Instructions for building a horse”.

Theo Zoo

Below is Pat’s pocket-sized field guide to the White Field.

White Field

This patch of land supports myriads of plants, insects, birds and animals that have been natives of Somerset in this region for thousands of years. Surrounded by arable land and rye-grass leys, it is a reminder of formerly abundant hay meadows that provided grazing and hay for small farmers as well as supporting a great diversity of wildlife. It survives due to Patrick who bought it, changed his name to Whitefield, and gave it to the Somerset Wildlife Trust to keep in perpetuity.

At the end of our shift, Pat (who is a lichenologist and knows a great deal about all manner of plants) took Jane and me on a botanical walk.

From the Dove we crossed a field of ryegrass, stepped over a huge slab of fossiliferous blue lias and across a stream in which hemlock water dropwort grows (Oenanthe crocata) – probably Britain’s most poisonous plant.

Blue lias and Oenanthe


flower carpet

yellow rattle

yellow rattle, a semi-parasite on grass roots

We saw a bumble-bee visiting rattle flowers. Its pollen-sacs were bright orange.

common spotted orchid

common spotted orchid

bee orchid

bee orchid

A small group of very large orchids – possibly a hybrid of common spotted, but uncommonly tall! Click on the photos to enlarge.

pyramidal orchid

pyramidal orchid


Twayblade (Neottia ovata),showing the pair of oval leaves that give it both its common and botanical names

butterfly orchid

lesser butterfly orchid (Platanthera bifolia)

We saw two spikes of this rather uncommon orchid, which has been lost from 75% of its recorded range in England. It is pollinated by night-flying moths.

dog daisies and goatsbeard

dog-daisies and goatsbeard

bird's foot trefoil

bird’s foot trefoil

cowslip seed-heads

cowslip seed-heads


an isolated patch of hogweed

surroundedIt was a good place to be, even for just half an hour. Thank you Pat, you made me ridiculously happy!

See also “Off the grid in Dorset” for more wildflower meadows.