The Cold Tap Sings

the p-word

Tag: London


ben eine o

Here’s the penultimate section of my suite of univocalist poems about birds. I found this one difficult to write because I couldn’t use any pronouns (I, you, we, us, they) or articles (a, an, the), but got around it by writing about a character, Crow, the mythological creature created by Ted Hughes.


Crow’s Books

after Ted Hughes

Crow confronts Wordsworth’s works.
Frowns. Throws books off rooftop.
Loots London’s bookshops
to look for old school scrolls
on cosmology, cosmogony,
crowology. Howls. Twofold.
Stomps on rows of snowdrops.
Drops soot on Stockport.
Owls sport scowls.
Crow downs oloroso.


I can’t imagine Crow liking Wordsworth, so I thought it a faithful homage. Read the other poems in my univocalist suite here.

Now for U, which I have a feeling will be harder still…


When you wander through London’s streets you never know what you might find. That is the thrill. At the weekend I went for a quick walk around my neighbourhood and, on Millfields Road, there was a derelict house that had been boarded up with PVC panels. The security instructions were peeling off, creating a whole wall of found poems.

Millfields Rd, 010513 Multilingual

Click on the image to zoom in. Notice how the frame of the diagram at the top is peeling away as if it had melted under the heat of the sun.

The instructions were multilingual, so I photographed a found poem in four different languages. Here is the Spanish version.

Millfields Rd, 010513 Español

I’m not a Spanish speaker, so I don’t know how far the poem veers from the original text, but this is the most complete of the found poems. You can see that the headings of the original text remain, although the edges of some of the phrases have worn away, fashioning the shape and sense of a poem.

Here’s the German version.

Millfields Rd, 010513 Deutsch

More of the text is peeling away – even mid-sentence. Amazingly, it is a sentence about removing protective film. A single word closes the poem perfectly.

Now the French version.

Millfields Rd, 010513 Français.jpg

This one is even more weathered. Two fragments are balanced on each end of a complete phrase, suggesting a word.

Finally, the English version.

Millfields Rd, 010513 English

Barely any text is left at all, and there are only two complete words, but somehow this is the most satisfying of the four. Perhaps it is the shape, or the words the fragments suggest, or the arrowhead leading the eye across the ‘page’; either way it seems to work better as a poem than the others. Perhaps less is more.

You can read more found poems here.


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 glanced in the window of an old-fashioned barber’s on Chatsworth Road, London, the other week and this poem came to me instantly.


The Barber

I couldn’t be a sculptor
so I became a barber.
But don’t get me wrong –
I cut with a kind of artistry.
You should see me shape
the crisp curve of a quiff,
as a Moore square jaw.
If Hepworth did fringes
she couldn’t match my contours;
believe me, the shadows fall
on my short back and sides
with a Renaissance splendour.
Why, come in sir, have a seat,
what can I do you for?
My scissors are my chisel.


Read more poems about sculpture here. You might notice that I’ve stolen a line from an old poem for the one above. Rather than laziness, I’ll call that a motif.


At the moment I’m rereading The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Matsuo Bashō. It’s made me fall in love with haiku all over again.


Early autumn now –
under the trees a collage
of orange and green.


Read more haiku here.