The Cold Tap Sings

the p-word

Tag: Birds


photo: Bearseye

photo: Bearseye

Look Here This

is a poem
about a cygnet
under a mackerel
sky when was
the last time
you saw something
beautiful without
photographing it
when was the
last time you
saw a cygnet
and didn’t think
this baby swan
is a poem


ben eine i

Poem three in my univocalist suite … it’s called ‘Twitching’.



First light.
Chill mist.
Nihilistic swifts
in whirligigs
kiss wingtips;
lit with indistinct light
writing is instinct.
Writing is instinct
imprinting infinity.


You can read the other poems in the univocalist suite, as well as a potted history of the form, here.


I’m slowly but surely working my way through the vowels with the aim of writing a suite of univocalist poems. Here’s one which only uses E.



The relentless kestrel
checked the breeze
then threw herself
the crested grebes
the tender nest…
she persevered.


I’ve more or less decided to make each poem not only a univocalism but also about birds. I mean, when writing under severe constraints, why not add another? For the first in the suite, and for a brief explanation of univocalisms, click here.


Rivertones, Caught by the River‘s record label, have just brought out their second release, a live recording of Robert Macfarlane and Chris Watson’s collaboration at the Port Eliot festival in July. Macfarlane narrates the account of a journey he took to Sula Sgeir, a small island 40 miles north of the Outer Hebrides. His description of the voyage adorns the beautiful sleeve by Nick Hayes.

Macfarlane’s lyrical storytelling is enriched by Watson’s evocative field recordings – of waves, of water, of whale song – which fire the imagination. I found the tale of a gannet that dived into the boat particularly stirring. Hear for yourself.

The Sea-Road is released on limited 12″ vinyl and is available in the Caught by the River shop. Every purchase will also receive the mp3s. There’s more info about the record here. I wrote about Rivertones’ first release here.


Here’s a wordplay I recently wrote on the train from Eastbourne to London. On this journey you snake through the South Downs and skate across a floodplain on the approach to Lewes, where this poem is set.


‘The Mirror’

The mirror the rain left
mirrored the sky.
It mirrored the clouds
when they sailed
through the sky.
It mirrored the sun
when it smiled
through the clouds.
It mirrored the bird
when it thirstily
the mirrored bird.
And when the clouds
grew bigger and blacker
it was no longer a mirror.
Instead it was a glut of rain.


I was looking at a puddle and then I saw the sky. It goes without saying that this was inspired by the abysmal weather we’ve been subject to in Britain this summer. Go here for another poem about rain. And, if things continue in the same vein, stay tuned for another.