Showing posts from 2013

The Last Living Unicorns

I am sadly posting this on the day that the Western Black Rhino was reported extinct.

This piece was Commended in the Somerset Short Story Competition 2013, whose theme was 'Lost'. Copies of the resulting anthology are available for purchase from the organiser Alyson Heap - contact her at alysonheap [at] yahoo [dot] co [dot] uk.

The Last Living Unicorns
Ammassalik, Greenland, 1861

Their fur-covered backs against the dense packed snow, faces flickering in the flame at the centre of the iglu, four teenage children are listening in rapt attention to their storytelling aunt.

In the story she tells them, there is a woman underwater, thrashing and turning in an attempt to disentangle herself from a harpoon rope, which surrounds her waist and whose sharp end has gone into a beluga. It was fired by her son. He used to be blind. When he was blind, she mocked him for it. This is his revenge - her efforts to free herself are in vain.

Like a fly on a web, her struggle is the trap. Her hair …

Wells Festival of Literature Poetry Competition - The Prizegiving - Winner's blog

Sunday saw the prize-giving for the 2013 writing competitions (Poetry, Short Story and Crime Novel) at the Wells Festival of Literature.

This year I had one of my poems shortlisted, and the prize-giving at the Bishop's Palace was preceded by a reading of all 27 poems that made the cut. Those writers who could make it read their own work, the rest were well represented by the Festival's own readers.

I felt blessed to be included in the shortlist from more than 400 entrants - particularly once we got to the reading, and it became apparent just what a high standard we were dealing with. I think a good half of the poets included were there, and everyone did a great job of delivering their work. I had a few family and friends with me and - truth be told - at the outset, the prospect of listening to 27 poems read aloud sounded dangerously akin to an endurance test. None of us felt that way at the end. It was a joy to be there.

By the time we'd heard all of them I just felt prou…

Two Heads part five

Five poems about birds from folktales. This is the fifth part of an ongoing collaboration project - earlier installments were completed with Ben Platts-Mills, Llyr Pierce, Yusuf Azak and Erica Viola. In this case, Ceridwen Brown made the bird-helmet.

Spring at Last

Today is a day for strong daffodils.
Today is a day for my shadow, fitting exactly between the yellow lines of paint on the road.
Today is a day for lambs lining up (almost) neatly on a ridge on the Tor, And for a lamb in the field to headbutt its mother's udder in search of milk, Overzealous, And for her to step gently to the side.

Today is a day for thatched roofs, For eager birdsong, For pigeons to make a sound with their wings like the one they make with their throats. Today is a day to drive in a BMW or a Renault or a Citroen, Or to leave a Volkswagen or a Toyota or a Land Rover parked...

Today is a day to practise the piano. Today is a day to queue for a record, Or not to queue for a record. Today is a day to walk two dogs, Today is a day for a businesswoman to wear a yellow ribbon.
Today is a day to buy shoes for my wedding. Today is a day to
be there
in time

Rana, the Frog [First draft]

Yesterday morning, on my way into town, I went past a frog which had been squashed by the traffic. Unpleasant.

Then a little way along the road, there was another - then two more - all of them mashed by unknown tyres. There were many. It was disturbing walking past them, trying to avoid stepping on any. Repeatedly I’d pick out something that might or might not have been a squashed frog; and then each time as I approached it, the shape of a leg or a foot, or its particular combination of colours - pink and green - would confirm that, indeed, it was another who’d croaked his last just hours before. It felt wrong to see the pink parts.

I’d heard in the past about frogs crossing paths in their thousands. For so many to have been caught by vehicles - on a quiet road overnight - it seemed this must have been what had been going on here. If they had been that numerous, it might only have taken one big, oblivious truck going through to cause this scene of carnage.

Then on the way home after dusk…