Sunday, 28 February 2010



Well not so much kill me as

make sure I never lived

which is pretty serious

And me I’m

taking it personally

I’ve never had any relationship with proper poetry

That world of books

those bleak shelves of flat oblongs

Its always seemed such an appealing world

With such unimpressive and unappealing people

That I couldn’t be bothered

I mean

no-one does anything

Hardly anyone makes a living from it like, say,

I do from performance poetry

Its all teaching and grants and editorships and prizes

Given each other by a insidiously incestuous bunch of mates

The sales are abject

Embarrassingly feeble for a medium which,

because of its shortness

should be perfect for this age

if only it would free itself from the

aesthetic and professional

prisons of the past

the archaic forms

the do’s and don’ts

the ivory towers

the eternal bunch of self-serving mates

the mouldering puny establishment

A gang of public-school types

A cliquing claque all convinced they’ve got the ball

They are the ball

Yet all they do is run off and sit in a

shadowed corner being very

pleased with themselves that

They’ve got the ball

They are the ball

Though it’s a battered and ragged ball

Lacking the air and roundness

The bounce

That makes any functioning ball a, well, a ball

While performance poetry is a considerably more dynamic medium

Its always right here right now

Where, if you throw yourself at it

And always believe you have much more to learn,



But I can think of a more human reason why I’ve never wanted anything to do with it

It tried to kill my Dad

Cos my Dad spent the war in Slough

His Dad was a policeman and air-raid warden

And Slough was bombed a fair bit

German bombs killed people in my Dad’s very street

While he was there

Which is close

And a few years before that

John bloody Betjeman wrote that poem

Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough

And you know what?

They did

So Betjeman

And therefore poetry

[he was laureate at one stage]

Tried to bomb me into non-existence

Maybe the Germans heard him

Maybe he put Slough on the map

I doubt it, but

Whatever, he did his best to get it bombed and me

I’m taking it personally

Mind you

I’ve always quite liked Betjeman

The Cockney Amorist in particular

He was what he was

And I also like the fact he liked and admired the modernists

And got what they were trying to do

But it wasn’t what he did

Or wanted to do

So he kept getting better at what he did best

I got put me off the whole Arts Professional milieu forever

A horrible experience at an

Arts Council live literature meet

in Manchester in 99

Come to think of it, it rather blew off track my enthusiasm for performance poetry for a while

Those ghastly arts professionals who didn’t know

Who didn’t care that they didn’t know

Why was I expending so much energy to get into a world at least in part inhabited by those horrible people?

The small-minds and the snobs and their elevated nostrils?


Suddenly I

didn’t know the answer

I’d been running a really rather good poetry cabaret weekly in London for five years

Busting a gut, burning my head, fraying my nerve-ends and generally having a slightly wonky good time

Plus, I was the only person capable of running a poetry cabaret in Edinburgh at the time

The only successful one in decades

Apples and Snakes, the estab, had just abjectly, laughably failed

and yet a number of those careerist arts professionals

their nostrils in the air

wouldn’t even talk to me

and yet their only function that I could see was to receive pay cheques

so other arts professionals could persuade themselves they were doing something

and receive pay cheques themselves

One of them was so self-important she even refused to read my press pack

Full of more juicy press quotes than many established poets and performance poets have ever had

And she refused…

I was some street-level schmuck and she was in the rarefied air of the litfests

the funding people, arts council, were far less awful, they would at least listen

it was their job to

and they did

And I returned to London rather shattered by the whole immiserating event

Thinking, this is the world I’m supposedly moving in to and

Its hideous

I want none of it


fortunately i moved to Scotland and didn't have to bother with any of them


Saturday, 27 February 2010

look on the bright side

its a full sun

ungood morn


A morning gone so ungood


We still have colds

Worse than yesterday

Which is annoying after 10 days

Plus the travel shop has disappeared

And the one i found after too much walking in the hot sun

Was first a pain-in-the-butt rip-off joint

And second had a powercut so have to go back for ticket

And third i cannot work out if we need US dollars to buy our Nepalese visas at the border

Every version differs

Then the bookshop we pilgrimmed too was crap


All in all, a morning gone so ungood i hesitate to sit in front of this screen

Because it seems too likely a

large fist will burst out of it and wallop me on the nose


You know that Bob Dylan line?

This telephone was ringing

It just about blew my mind

When i picked it up and said hello

This foot came through the line


That’s Bob Dylans 115th dream

My favourite Bob Dylan song

And the origin of much performance poetry

Johnny Clarke must know it very well

On the other hand

Lyrically its fairly Chuck Berry

Who i reckon is the chief origin of Bob Dylan’s verbal humour

Subterranean Homesick blues is Too Much Monkey Business on amphetamines

And Chuck Berry and Bob Dylan are where i start...


In the mean time i’m going back to a darkened room to lie on the bed so nothing bad can happen beyond the demise of the British Empire in The Last 1000 Days Of The British Empire

Which is OK, in fact good

O perfidious washington

Friday, 26 February 2010


on sunset’s river

leafy branches drift to the sun

the wreaths of the day



I wonder

do Health and Safety inspectors ever

come on holiday to India?

do they?

or is it one of the worst mistakes they could possibly

possibly make?…

would they have a rapidly concatenating

personal crisis

culminating in a

nervous breakdown?


Where do they for a holiday?






varanasi still

i love this place


boats on the river watching the daily puja ceremony just after

morning rooftop coffee before the river and the low sun

strolls up the ghats

loads of work to do

so much i look forward to going to bed so i can get back into it

aaaah bliss

what a place?


Thursday, 25 February 2010



I have a script

I have a show

Its unlike anything i’ve done before

Firstly, its a story

so its storytelling, which is new to me

And also, its about me


I thought i’d be doing a show of ten or so new performance poems

and i have enough i like at this stage for

a show i like a lot

to be well doable come June

But i’ve kept coming back

And coming back

And coming back

To a thing i wrote five years ago in France,

Dec/ Jan 04/05

About something that happened to me in 1990 at the Poll Tax Riot

And its a story, a ghost story in fact

So i have to learn some new skills


Which is a different ballgame to performance poetry

Though less technically demanding than any show i’ve done before

[unless it gets hyper-theatrical, which it might]

But which is story led

When everything i’ve ever done has been writing led

And its now Late Feb

Meaning i have 14 weeks to get it right

To get more gags in

And work out the physicality

Will premiere it in Edinburgh in late May

And 14 weeks is a long time

Long enough to get consummate at new-ish skills

To come up with a number of decent gags

And easily enough to iron out the many kinks in the tale

If i work hard enough

very hard

hundreds and hundreds of hours hard


Plus its about me

When very little i’ve done has been about me

Some have been about a kind of caricatured me

But nothing like so personal

Back in Sept I showed it to TJ Dawe

and Jonno Katz

and Rob Gee

And they all said, you gotta do it

So here we go

My only regret is that, if I do a show next year of performance poems

It will have been a way too long, 4 years since I did a show of new pieces

The romping success in 2008 was one monster poem about shopping

Biggest show on the whole fringe tour

2009 was my misguided Greatest Hits show

So, with a story this year, I don’t do a show of new poems till 2011

And, more than anything else, I am a performance poet

And 4 years is a long time

Whatever, that’s it

This is it

The new show


Here we go...


trepidatious excitement

cautious glee

One-Man Riot


lost consonants

sorry, lost continents
Did no-one ever write...?
East is east
And west is west
And ever the twain shall meet
i can't believe they didn't...

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

the land of fudge and...


where everyone is long long used to nothing working properly
its like me and half the stuff i owned
the computer turntable
none of which worked 100%
but i knew the knack
it was a bit like a security system, with a knack rather than a password
well this country is all bit like that
like this keyboard
where the e doesn't work
so to do the e's in this
i have had to lift one off a document
and do
control v
to paste in an e
which is a lot of cut and paste
so its a pest
but it is doable
the essential thing is not the hassle
but that
despite imperfections
it can be done
so much of this country operates in this way
despite the manyfold imperfections
it can be done
so it is done
it might take a while
it might not come out a 100%
which reminds me of the Portuguese in Angola cos
when they left
after 400 years
in which they never even built a well outside Luanda
they cut the e out of all the typewriters
to make them useless

which was a spectacularly charmless way of saying
thanks for letting us freeload for 400 years
don't you think?

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Defining Image Of India So Far


Four saffron-clad holymen

crammed into the back of a

shiny new rickshaw


beeping parping and blasting its

loud horn

while impatiently, maniacally

edging thrusting inching

through the

thickly milling market throng



will explain why soon


Monday, 22 February 2010

Fatehpur Gurgaon


So, last night in the Vaatika, we meet an English guy

Who teaches Architecture and Urban Planning in L.A.

And he says there’s a new zone outside Delhi

Called Gurgaon

Like Hitec City outside Hyderabad

A spanking new 21st Century construction of glass and light

Of Malls and Offices

Perhaps the Indians think their old cities are irredeemable so the best thing to do is start completely anew

Except they haven’t connected it to the main sewers

And the water doesn’t always run

And the ground beneath the flashy blocks is simply soil and stone and the usual rubbish

And I wonder if its like Fatehpur Sikri outside Agra

The fabulous palace complex

And capitol

Built by Akbar the Great

[he of Rushdie’s The Enchantress of Florence]

In the late 1500s

But where after 15 years building, and vast vast expense, Fatehpur was abandoned

after 14 years

Because there was no water

No-one had thought to check the water table

And some think Akbar one of the wisest men who ever lived

But he looks like a major league twat to me

And his great construction one of the

Earth’s greatest follies

What a plonker!

To waste all that effort and money

All that labour

All that taxation extorted from the hungry at the end of a sharp sword-tip

On something so ingloriously useless

Its not comedy its tragedy

Well I don’t know what the great architectural blunders of human history are

But that would be near the top of the list

What a jerk!

But the point is

Are the Indians doing it again in Gurgaon?

And as I’ve never heard of anyone else making this big a mistake

… the water might run out, of course, for any city

It happened to some Pueblos in New Mexico way back when

But in Fatehpur Sikri there was never enough water to start with

So what this makes me wonder is

Because you’ve done something before

Good or bad

Are you much likelier to do it again?

And all those countries which never committed such a colossal blunder

Are they far less likely to do it than the Indians…?

It makes you think huh?

Does me …



Sunday, 21 February 2010

No No No, Its Not The Varanasi No Dance

written 3 years ago
when i went varanasi agra
rather than agra varanasi
O, just yesterday, how he marched so cleanly through all the milling street-pavement-square- arch-entrance throngs, how he carved through them like a hot knife through melting butter, how he affixed his fiercer eyes upon his fierce face and how he A-to-B-ed like no-one has A-to-B-ed round here since the rampaging Muslim hordes of 300 yore… how, yes, he arched his eyebrows in that unmistakable negative, how he rolled his eyes and shook his determined jaw one way while shaking his head the other way, and mouthed a muttered no or a crisp no thank you, not today, sorry no, and no not thank you again as he shrugged his shoulders in a distinct definite not while rolling his wrists one way and wagging his index finger the other while shaking the other wrist in a subtler negative, and wagging that other index finger whatever way all the while looking deeply, distinctly, down-to- every- last- detail, uninterested, unlikely to ever get interested and, most importantly of all, not stopping, not stopping for anything and looking like nothing, not anything, not anything ever, could, has, will, or might ever make him stop… and, o yes, how it worked, how it all so inconclusively, unstoppably, profoundly, successfully said shouted whispered and declaimed, NO, Not, Not Any and definitely, Nothing At All … for nothing could stop him and would he stop? no he would not… not for watersellers, restaurants, dhabas, sarees, auto-rickshaws, cycle-rickshaws, postcards, chess sets, taxis, carpets, bangles, ivory boxes, wooden elephants, pashminas, shoes, internet, t-shirts, table-runners, fruitsellers, auto-rickshaws, cycle-rickshaws, bike hire, soap gandhis on a rope, taj mahal snowdomes, potatoes, aubergines, exchange, beer, jewellery, silk… no not anything will ever make him stop, even if he does want oranges, internet, exchange and more…not for bangles, bracelets, necklaces, guidebooks, India maps, spices, incense, bindis, stone work, auto-rickshaws, cycle-rickshaws, postcards, giant khalis, mini-khalis, not while giving money to beggars, looking in shops, eyeing up random aubergines… not ever not not not will he ever stop… except, ummm, today… when the word sucker, affixed so seemingly indelibly to the forehead of the cheery-smiling nice-teeth brightness-brimming Canadian, has somehow shifted overnight onto his forehead and so , suddenly, uncharacteristically, complete with friendly interested beaming smile, she is unstoppably strolling while he, he, the master- blackbelt nonstopper of just yesterday, is snake-sliding, is stopping for begging children, for juice-sellers, for Premi the cycle-rickshaw man who somehow, expertly, engages him with his niceness, his charm, his need, his two days without a customer, his three children and, after the next thing after the next thing after next, with Premi ever- smiling returning guiding chatting returning, Mr Jams and Miss Lisa are, after the somehow fleecing by the toothless conman at the fourth mosque in a month called the Jamma Masud, uncomfortably sat on his uncomfortable rickshaw watching the man’s arms back and legs strain them through the haberdashers’ bazaar on their way, away from where they really wanted to go, towards the utterly rubbish-strewn banks of the Yamuna to see another view of the backside of the Taj Mahal and stride through the scavenging dogs and the eviscerated corpses of cows, through the truly rubbishy rubbish the rubbish becomes after the scavengers beggars children dogs goats cows and crows have picked and picked and torn and sorted and picked and eaten and torn their way through it again and again and very again while they can hear the distant singing of the washer- women on the far bank below the railway bridge which is where they did want to go but aren’t because they are, even more incomprehensibly, on their way to meet Premi’s brother Askar on his auto-rickshaw, to be expertly transferred and taken to a silver-saree-shawl-carpet-trinket- woodcarving -shop way past their hotel, all because premi gets commission and the ex-non-sucker Varanasi-no-dance- ex-expert has mysteriously, despite himself, despite all experience-habit- knowledge-defences-and-sense, to the laughter of the ex-sucker non-sucker, agreed to all of this and they are now on their uneager proven-greenhorn way to the next carpet-shawl-saree-woodcarving- silverware-jewellery-giantkhali shop

Saturday, 20 February 2010

A World Of Hesitation

To explain the age-old shilly-shally dilly-dally
the fact the human race has advanced so little
changed so little
stood so still

Do you know what would happen if everyone stopped saying Om
The buddhist Ommm
... The world would properly start

For its been one very long misapprehension
an error as long as eternity
as long as the longest Ommm
Chanting Om doesn’t clear the mind
It holds up the world
It’s the same as UMMM
As errr
As uhhh
And the great collective OMMM is a
collective permanent spanner in the works
Its willing the great eternal hesitation to continue
They’re riding the wrong horse
down the wrong road
by the wrong river
under the wrong sky
to bark up the wrong tree

I always thought OMMMM sounded a bit coloured with the negative
And it seems I was right…
For every single Ommm sustains the nothing
Prolongs and forevers the unending hesitation in the human race
Dithers it beyond the dawdle into a stop
Wavers it to a standstill
Halters and falters it from a halt to a fault…
So, everyone please, stop saying stop
No more OMMM
With the best of intentions
You’re mucking it all up
So, no more OMMMM
Lets start…

Thursday, 18 February 2010

pune bombings

well they focused our minds
especially the eleven dead
though the fact the sunday papers are printed in advance
so there was no news the next day
nor any increase in security presence for a few days
made it a bit unreal
but as the bombs were definitely aimed at tourists... a german bakery in pune...
meant that when we got to agra we didn't stay in an obvious hotel in taj ganj
nor did we eat or hang out in the obvious rooftop restaurants
the fact it takes over 40 mins to get a cup of tea in the shantih lodge helped this decision
but agra
and now varanasi
are in different orbits to pune
which is mumbai
though we were in aurangabad when it happened
and that is definitely in mumbai's stretch
and there was no visible extra police there
...buyt its hard to judge because there are so many more guns in North India, than South
which is where we just came from
the maoists, by the way, are massacring unarmed soldiers, and i doubt that gets any foreign press
you wonder what could precipitate maoism in this country
a couple of very bad crises, one assumes
communism of the harsh russian chinese variety only ever came out of terrible crises
and this country might be exceedingly poor, but its always been that way
its not getting noticeably worse
and there's no first world war
or japanese invasion to really harden people's lives
and corruption is rife
but is it as rife as chiang kai shek's china?
which would seem to be the byword for a corrupt country
you can't get much more corrupt than chiang's china
so my guess is this place will moulder along
getting very rich in parts
and barely changing in others
while the the banks in Dubai and the UAE have their coffers fillwed with the emptyings of many Indians who have filled their boots...
its invisible
i mean, i've no idea how corrupt Britain is
and the US, well, what most Europeans would consider to be political corruption is legal there
so how corrupt is corrupt?



Lively bustle




One of the liveliest noisiest and filthiest

A dead body in the river

She must have been old

And she was within fifty yards of where two of the holiest rivers meet

The Ganges and the Yamuna

So maybe it’s a good place to be dead

But she looked like she’d been forced to kneel and drowned with her arms behind her back

And left there

Maybe for days

Because she’d been there a while

And no-one has taken her out

Her puffy arms

Her bony elbows

Her blackened torso

So, Allahabad

This is where they have the Kumb Mela

30,000,000 people

A hundred times the size of Glastonbury

There was that famous documentary on Channel 4

A daily broadcast from here

And later on I got to know the guy who made it

The late Jack Shea

We even ran a show together in Edinburgh, a birthday party for a dead poet, Jack Kerouac is 81,

A raging success if I recall

But the big question for me is

If there’s 30M people

How big are the toilets?

Think of the utterly unbelievably terrible Glastonbury toilets

Then multiply by a100

And put them in India

…Now there’s a thought…

We take a boat out on the water

To Sangam

Where the two rivers join

The Ganges glimmering across the flats

The pilgrims in their yellowed underwear washing themselves next the boats

The boatman strong-armed against the current

And we think, well we take boats

But we won’t take a bicycle rickshaw?

Cos there’s something awful about being pulled by another man’s effort

It feels like slavery

The rickshaw guys have a good way of touting you

They offer absurdly low prices and then

When you’ve got off and been behind them

Their legs straining

Feeling the effort

You always pay them five or ten times what they said

Cos you feel so awful

And it wasn’t necessary

And you want it all done with

…Yet on a boat it doesn’t feel so terrible

And after 15 weeks in India what do I think

I think


I think my opinion of the human race has gone down

And Priscilla says

Its made her a more critical skeptical person

Because its filled in the shades of things she suspected were there

But its not like the things in india overshadow the things in the rest of the world

Yet it has confirmed more of the negative aspects of humanity for her

Its given them an image, a smell, a shape, a sound


what's sacred

People say

Nothing is scared

Well that’s a nonsense

Money’s sacred

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

the gruel

two long train journeys in two days
the gruel of it
the four hours late
the worst possible time to arrive into a new and unknown city
2.45 a.m.
and now allahabad
for chitrakut
and varanasi
and points north... darjeeling or nepal, probably both

the greatest work of art of the 90s

Image of four blokes in a pub
where they’re not even talking about football anymore,
no, chance would be a fine thing,
no, they’re all texting other people...
you’ve seen it, i’ve seen it,
and the first time i saw it there were three of us
so we all went outside and sat on a wall
texting people we knew to tell them about it
because it would be

which reminds me of the single best British work of art of the 90s
which was by John Major
Tory Prime Minister from 90-97
cos in the darkest days of his hopelesslness
and let’s face it
he had a lot of dark days
but in the very darkest doggest days of his hapless incompetence
of a different scandal every week in time for the Sunday papers
[wasn’t it good? ... yes it was
wasn’t it great?... in fact it was bloody marvellous]
he decided to get proactive
to do something
to break out of the Westminster goldfish bowl
and reveal himself as a man of action
to be a proper prime minister and deal with something
resolve something
of everyday concern to the British people
and he found that one thing which truly wound up the British people
were motorway traffic jams
they spent far far too much of their lives in pointless traffic jams
and the traffic jams which really wound them up
were the ones where no work was going on
where there was no working
or even no sign of any work
no equipment no nothing
and John Major thought, i can sort this out
and maybe people will start liking me again
so he instituted the Cones Hotline
the idea being that
if you saw a traffic jam caused by nothing
you could report it on the Cones Hotline and
something would be done
and there would be less exasperating traffic jams
and people would like him more
So they put up signs advertising the cones hotline
And there was press for it
But of course
In the event
What happened was that
If you rang the Cones Hotline
You got put in a phone queue
Isn’t that brilliant?
Isn’t that art?
You’re in one queue and
because of John Major
if you want to complain about it you
get put in a virtual queue as well?
just to doubly reinforce how bad the first one is?
isn’t that brilliant?
isn’t that conceptual
that folks…is art
that folks … is beyond the likes of you and me

so here’s the poem i used to do about John Major
if you heard me do it, and you were familiar with a certain great act called Christopher Twigg, then you might notice a resemblance in style
its called

John Major’s greatest quote
Greater even than his message of condolence to the
French people upon the death of President Mitterand
“Francois Mitterand had a great effect on public affairs, particularly in France”
John Major
The most over promoted yesman in history
A fabulousness of mediocrity
Once said
“On most vegetables I have an opinion but on peas I am positively neutral”…
I ask you
Could you think of that?
Like hell you could
What decades of training to create a mind capable of such words?
Such mindblowing dullness?
Such total command of the bland and the anodyne?
Such a stringent wringing out of all life from life?
On most vegetables I have an opinion but on peas I am positively neutral
John Major
A nice man
A man so honest he couldn’t see the crooks around him
Spent seven years, yes seven years, as a frightened rabbit stood frozen in front of the headlights
He should have been the manager of a high st bank
He’d’ve been good at it and everyone would have respected him
But no
He was running the country
The British people are not sadists … Or masochists
They did not enjoy the sight of a basically nice bloke having such an appalling time
Surrounded by backstabbing bastards hamstringing all action and sticking knives in…
For seven years
Aah, Mediocrites,
that really dull character from Shakespeare that everyone forgets
But I do not think of that
I raise my eyes to more comic concerns… Peas
When I see some
I think of john major and I laugh
When I buy them when I cook them
when I wipe them away afterwards when I see them I
Garden peas frozen peas mange tout marrowfat peas bird’s eyes peas cannonball peas
Fresh peas, round and many
Noble shiny emerald spheres of cheer
Proud, yet modest
Glad to be green
Bursting with nutritious vitamins
Happy to be alone but happier in company
How the light dances upon you when you are wet
It is a kind and friendly sheen of green that you do have
If you were people you would be wise people
You do not curse and brawl
Let us not think of dried peas
Peas peas peas peas peas peas peas peas beautiful peas
And tasty, too
Maybe its just me
But you have to admit
Its funny
On most vegetables I have an opinion but on peas I am positively neutral
Tins of peas
Canned laughter
If only there were a hundred other things like them
The innocent bus-stop actually a source of unceasing mirth
The very mention of pepper pots the harbinger of hilarity
Aah the elevated status of the humble crisp-packet
If only there were a hundred other things like peas
Then the world would be a place of joy
I would always be seeing glee incarnate
Like a songline, but better, the world would be laughed into being
One would only have to keep moving to keep laughing
A ride in a fast automobile might be unbearable
It would be wonderful
If only there were a hundred…
A thousand even
Why not?
Lets be positive and optimistic
Why settle for wonderful when we can have fantabulous?
If only there were a thousand John Majors