"An accomplished performance of poetry and song, combining humour and wisdom. A maker who lifts image after image from the most ordinary experience." William Oxley (GB)

As an itinerant musician, working in as many as ten countries a year, poetry is the lightest article in my baggage. There's no limit to the amount I can carry or pick up en route; it travels back and forth in time, crosses national and cultural borders with ease, and rarely attracts official interest. Some is in my head, some is in paperbacks and jottings, some is mine, some is a gift from others, some appears out of nowhere, some falls off bookshelves, some is spoken or overheard. It's always in the air; self-willed, intractable and dangerously addictive. It can take off vertically, come at you from any angle, and land where you thought there was neither time nor space.
Because of poetry I have to live in hope, sleep with the windows open and be prepared for guests at any time of the day or night.

This, of course, is just the beginning!



Poetry Publications:-


'Night Reading for the next Ice-Age'   (Book)
'Parthenope's Burden'   (Book & MP3)
'Clothyards & Quarrels'   (Book)


Poetry Recordings:-


'Night Reading for the next Ice-Age'   (CD)
'Piepowder Poems'   (CD)
'Slam Special Edition'   (CD)


HUNTING AMBER
(For Johs Pedersen)


This poem won 1st Prize in the 1996 'Poetry Life' International Poetry
Competition, and appeared in the Autumn issue of that same year.

IMAGO MUNDI
.


This poem won 1st Prize in the 1998 'Tabla Poetry Competition', and
apeared in 'The Tabla Book of New Verse' 1999.
It was also printed in 'Stand': (New Series) Volume I, Number 1 (March 1999)

ERRANTRIES
.


Commended in the 'Daily Telegraph - Arvon International Poetry Competition' 1998
Appeared in 'The Ring of Words' anthology 1998.

BRIGSTED'S NIGHTINGALE
.


Won 3rd prize in the 1999 Trewithen Poetry Prize.
Appeared in the 'Second Trewithen Chapbook' March 1999.

FIRE TO THE FROST
.


Scintilla 5 2001 - 2nd prize

LOST FOR WORDS
.


EFL 'Chalkface Muse' anthology 1999

MONTEPULCIANO
.




MOON SLEDGING
.


Tabla 2000

PIG'S EAR
.






POETRY TO ORDER,

Jill Balcon once made the valuable contrast between taking poetry 'seriously', and taking it 'solemnly'. It is an infinitely versatile medium, and can plumb the depths or ascend to the heights, but stodgy or elitist, 'solemnity' is not part of the Muse's make-up. So, it's sometimes fun to take the whole business lightly, and this is what I've been doing recently. In the person of Lord Byron (complete with anachronistic sunglasses!), I've been writing poems 'to order', at the price of 1.00 Euro (approximately 80 pence) per line.

The customer simply decides how many lines they want, and what they would like the poem to be about, they might even specify that they'd like a sonnet, a haiku, a limerick, a triolet etc., and Lord Byron composes it then and there, writing it out with a genuine quill pen, in beautiful script, on marbled paper. (See link to the site of one satisfied customer. She also took the photos featured here.)

Lord Byron will write you a poem,
About whatsoever you please.
Provided you pay what you owe him
He'll scribble with consummate ease.
His handwriting, scansion and diction
Are always remarkably fine;
Be it history, humour or fiction,
It'll cost just one euro per line.


So, his lordship will be pleased to attend any event at which his rhyming skills might be appreciated, and, if you're not able to meet him in person, but would still like a poem composed, especially for you, he will undertake to do so for the above price, plus postage; providing the handwritten original, together with a typed copy, and a free one-page outline of his (the real Lord Byron's) life and poetry.

Though the bees of the Muses make wonderful honey,
Mellifluous verse can be written for money.
It won't cost you much for such pleasures diversional,
Inspired, spontaneous, and uniquely personal!

Contacts at the address, phone number etc., given on this homepage's 'Contact' page. Please head any e-mails LORD BYRON'S POETRY

Here is my email address cowlan@t-online.de


HUNTING AMBER

Do you have an eye in the long side of your head
to squint down into seaweed tangle,
bobbing up sea-apples, cockle shells and ivory?
Do you love winter, and the numb itch of storms
knuckling the sea bed where old forests dream?

On moonlit nights a bronze gong trembles,
calling you out into the wind;
pacing the tide's loose chain-stitch
where wreathed pebbles gleam,
crisp sigils, wrack and limpet,
boned driftwood, feathers and beaked skulls.

Watch for it, that sly, gilded wink,
a sigh from the woods where hunter's fires
burned in the snow.
Fix it. Don't look away.
The embers flush under old precessions;
game-trails and hunting shelters,
bruised bark, and the glitter of unnamed stars.

Amber loves winter,
a soft nudge from high up in the surges,
kneading it free of needle-mulch and sand.
Æons rise with it to the veiled light,
bonded and firm, snugger than glass;
voices awash in spindrift bottles,
ravelled with kelp and furled sea-stars.

A bead with a spider in it,
a midge embalmed in sunlight.
Or Neolithic talismans;
sketched elk,
a bear from the drowned bluffs.

Kit up, forge out,
pinched toes and nerveless forehead,
up to your waist in white combers and the barging wind.
Netting each trailing nap for lagging splinters,
barley-sugar motes a-swing in turbulent light.

Electrum, lacquer, mastic, or Roman amulets.
Whatever you believe,
these goddess tears have strange powers.

You could be sleeping,
tucked up out of the flung sea grail;
instead, here you are,
well towards dawn,
teasing the strand for scintillae,
spinthares, leven-brands;
obscure tapers at the sea's licked rim.

The moon rocks westward,
topaz and heliotrope;
and crouched at the meniscus
a puckered sun smears ochrous resins.

Leave now,
while the sand is loose and cloudy.
Your feet slug, your legs are stiff and heavy.
Already the brittle sky is softening.


IMAGO MUNDI

Stalled at the Pole, the compass points desert you;
tiptoe on an asterisk that furls up like a claw.

All routes lead south,
or north, depending,
but you're down to one dimension,
and the lodestone shimmys all across the map
until you get a grip.

Co-ordinates are meaningless.
Slick as soap, and flippering between meridions and isobars,
they clog the trawl with wanhope, scrimshaw, hyperborean feathers;
and a clutch of rainbow continents arcing the dusk to snap at gadding stars.

But don't be fooled!
They're far too old and fundamental for such capers.
Creamed on the peaks with drift and avalanche,
their rawhide itch persists.

Heart-lands and coasts, tectonic snouts;
roots down, bulldozing the core.
Fire-barnacles burst out and coruscate
while fen and forest tangle with the rasping light.

Forget the lines and nets.
It's down to footwork.
No-one else can tell you where to start.
You're on your own in this god's game; world-making.
How it stands already is irrelevant.

Hopscotch between the magnets,
pirouette, dodge sideways,
take a pot shot at the azimuth;
but ultimately make a step
and walk until perspective reasserts itself.
Nobody can help.

Not even Atlas;
bunched up, sullen,
moiled in ice-work,
beach ball oiled in the fontanelle;
continued making heavy weather of his chosen perch
between a base and apex.
Hell-bent. Classic head-case!

And cartographers.
From Pytheas to Strabo,

Ptolemy and Marinus of Tyre;
their geodetic needles clacking
on a stretchy windsock for the Magna Mater.

Conic, cordiform, Mercator, polar or oblate;
choose your projection,
kneading it to taste.
The geosphere is infinitely malleable.

Meanwhile the axes scintillate,
grinding a bevel on the Northern Star,
or probing blindly in the south.
The bearings smoke and rumble
but, so far at least, they're holding out.


ERRANTRIES

Slip on your lobster hauberk with the breast ridge of blue steel,
Hang out a pouting casque beside the saddle-bow
and slowly jog into the rains.

Ride over three pearled fields, or one good mile of heather,
with Rosinante's fetlocks threshing the tall brome;
drubbing together like a mace's down strokes.

Look out for towers; ivyed and silent in the dusk;
a cave, a ditch, a hollow oak or, if you must, a heath;
between the hours of dog and wolf.

Sleep in full armour. Difficult enough!
But also try to dream of ruffled silk,
pale hands, red roses and blue eyes.

Mount up at dawn, stiff-limbed and shivering,
point north and tremble. Compass this.
Then ride home to your central-heating.

Download the chills of night;
add forests, fairy hills, cash-counters
and a white face, glimpsed in dreams.

Click Rosinante to her binary stable,
save it, then exit; turn your mind to other things.
Hoover the front room, clear the breakfast table.

And once upon a motorway, somewhen or other,
you'll pull in for a breather or a snack,
and suddenly one word you'd never thought of -

certainly a word you'd never go out looking for -
will break in on you through a crack between the worlds.
You'll know.

Because the moon will be before you at the check-out;
with a basket full of icicles, and frosty smile.
Now, while she counts her money..........

Whisper the word across her shoulder!

Watch her glow gold; and melt until she's sweet as honey.
(Though get it wrong and you could be arrested!)
This is your first quest anyway. Run through it at your leisure.

Now, dig out shield, lance, sword, mouse, modem, or whatever.
Make back-up copies. Surf the web. Check forecasts of the weather;
and whistle up the groom to bring the horses.


BRIGSTED'S NIGHTINGALE

Thorn-flower dusk,
rain loafing in.
A coaldust sky.
Lacklustre birch and wild cherry;
with the estuary's frayed strip
picked at by rag-and-bone rooks,
jeering full-ooze from the mud flats.

All day we've dodged it;
flight on flight of chill goose fletching
from a needling thrum of wind.

But now a nightingale kicks in,
tirling his crystal rod against the wind's bodhran.
Dew-pointed strophes,
flipped up and juggled;
bubbling cast-offs,
lilted, flourished,
flung out at the rain.

If there's a moon up there
behind those drab cloud scuttles,
this song's for her,
and us;
and for all lovers who recall
that to be cold and cosy
in a Transit van somewhere in Denmark,
when the calendar says 'May',
but when the sky says 'Winter',
is one of those peculiar privileges
Life withholds from anyone who goes in search of them.

He can't have much to sing about.
A sodden nest, scant shelter,
Spring petulant, and arguing the toss.
But beak and breast against the weather
he lets fly his fusillades;

engorged, warm, fulsome,
buoyed up in this miserable gloom,
dousing the shrubs with joyful stars;
from here out to the tide's edge,
where they patter down and lie there shimmering.


FIRE TO THE FROST

You bring fire to the frost
this blue day of white grass,
lying, hands folded,
cold in your gown and collar.

Trees scuff their frozen shadows
and the wind combs gulls
up from the estuary,
but you will not come back.

Already you have settled
in your hull of pleated satin,
head sunk, face waning,
to sleep through fire and ice.

Who are you these dark days?
Where have you gone?
Cancelling dawn and sunset,
needing no-one.

Absolved from pain or mischief,
Sleep carries you.
And reluctantly we follow;
afraid of love, not daring to look back.

Another world is slipped.
Another glass is sand again.
Snug in your blue-hot keel
you leave no track.

Your provinces are dreams,
your laughter is the living,
who remember everything
until the pain no longer matters.

You have grown smaller, fallen away
into a web of sunlit lanes,
a sheen of faces too far down to catch.
And as you fall your fingers tighten,

fine, long fingers,
locked beyond my reach.
Beyond touch, beyond breath,
beyond this poem you will never read.

Time draws the barb at last.
Now only fire can hold you.
Uninvited, at your side,
Death in her working clothes.


LOST FOR WORDS

Alessandra, honeyed by the twilight,
recited verse from Michelangelo.
I didn't understand a word, although
she stunned me with her eyes, as if I might.
'What does it mean?' I asked.

With a delightfully sly smile she said,
'You still don't know?
Is difficult in English. I speak slow.
'L'intensa voglia'. So! Is simple. Right?'

She leaned towards me, folding back the book,
breathing above my shoulder as she traced
each word, and brushed her palm against my hand.

Her tawny hair, her laugh, her sidelong look.
'L'intensa voglia'. Fingers interlaced,
the words grew easier to understand.

'L'intensa voglia' powerful desire.



MONTEPULCIANO

Remember that evening in Montepulciano?
A gonfalon sunset folding into the west.
Steep streets,
and that indrawn, aching, sweet cadenza;
a violin, locked up in the dark, high houses.

Svelte Venus on a hotbed of rust and crimson,
stars circling,
and that windfall of notes in the dusk.
Contained and undateable, shrugged out of sequence;
a catch in the fabric as the world drew breath.

Then suddenly the cars were back,
with Time in its groove
and a stark, sad bell tangling among street lamps.

No-one else heard it,
that sigh in the dark,
briefer than bats' wings over a star,
but, like so much between us,
neither would doubt it,
and nothing will convince us that it wasn't so.


MOON SLEDGING

I

Don't forget the moon.
She's ruffling her hair and scattering shadows from the wood.
When you sledge down a gully her cold breath hits you
as if she were perched on the rim breathing into your face.

She flexes a fan of white feathers,
shakes out a net of brass stars
and dipping her glass pen
etches curlicues and sigils on each branch;
signing her name and forging the wind's cuneiform.

But for all her barefoot dances
when you actually look up
she displays only a gibbous keel,
a slicked runner skating matted cloud
and, head down, face close to the ice,
you suddenly recall that
out of all the dunts and swoops and stallings of this fragile afternoon
only the lightest cuticles of snow were her idea.

II

Never forget the moon.
She'll re-arrange the months and set you spinning;
the bloom and blight of her cheek
cocked to the sun's star-solitaire,
his sinuous comets and ecliptic ladders
where she pirouettes in brittle shoes.

Accept it.

You'll never even touch the rungs,
where night by night she trolls her blue mirror,
whispering growth and confusion.
She's drawn you down to sleep so many times
even the roots of your shyest dreams
are cobwebbed with her silver frost.


PIG'S EAR

Ein 'Schweineohr'.
A pastry maze,
a toothsome trotter-print,
thick hog's-back horseshoe,
blunt tips dipped in chocolate.

Not in stock at every shop,
but maybe this one.

Worth a shot,
to lug a bagful home!
Sweet, flaky porcine auricles.
Delectable pig-out!

Herd up your daundering porkers;
Mastschwein, Ferkel, Keiler,
(Sauschwer this German syntax!)
reach down a formal, interrogative;
an ashplant shaft to thrust with.

Grasp the haft,
heft it, hone the edges,
stud your fidgetty pig-sticker,
and .......

'Ein schönen guten Tag.'

The woman is a valkyr!
She doubles chins, and grunts.
Not one to bandy words with!

Smile.
She will divine your meaning.
All or nothing!
Quiz the swinish oracle.

Say 'Guten Tag.'
(Don't overdo it.)
Just ask! Ask now!
Thrust home! Risk it!

'Haben Sie Schweineohren?'

Pig's Ear: There's a delicious pastry sold in German bakeries which delights in the name of 'Ein Schweineohr' (Literally, 'A Pig's Ear'). 'Mastschwein', 'Ferkel' and 'Keiler' are all pigs of one sort or another; and 'sauschwer' simply means 'Pig awful'. The real dilemma is how to ask for it. If your grasp of German is less than perfect, can you really trust yourself to say, 'Haben Sie Schweineohren?' (Do you have pig's ears?)