7 November 2017

Words for Sorrow

Words for Sorrow

When my great-grandmother
discovered she was the last speaker
of the mid-west dialect,
she ditched her songs
of wind and tumbleweed
to mime for me
ten words for sorrow.

Her garments were eased
to show a sorrow that salted
deep folds in her skin.
That rose and hooked
the back of her throat.
That contoured
into an hourglass,

squeezing the very rasp
out of her. And how
the same word, with new
inflection, connoted a type
that flowed swiftly,
and formed a gully
she could not wade.

She taught me
the word for sorrow
that out-shrieks darkness.
That descends like gauze,
yet no beast can rip through.
A kind that fastens itself
to the span of just one day

or to a jutting peg
where cast-off jackets droop.
And when her hands measured
empty space, I saw it made
a difference whether sorrow
remained solely the vehicle,
or became the entire road.

Katie Griffiths, from Primers Volume One
published by Nine Arches Press, 2016

22 March 2017


…although the link between jousting and Rishi Dastidar’s Ticker-tape seems at first to be a stretch, it is there, in the whole notion of a book launch where you hurl a book, throw it high in the air, its arc curving under the nostrils of a hungry public.  The action is no less than a spear thrust, which is the origin of the word launch, coming as it does from Middle English launche, and Anglo-French lancher, and Late Latin lanceāre meaning to wield a lance.  To be liberated with your lance, be a free lance, or a sprightly lance, or a totally crowd-clearing lance depends entirely on how you want to work these days - whether you take your lance with you on the Tube, or into the 5 pm gridlock, or over the soggy moors at night.  And if you lance frequently, lance a lot, in fact, then you are turning into something knightly, courtly, a bit cavalier perhaps, which etymologically speaking means you must be travelling with a horse.  And then we have to get into cavalcades, parades of horses, even a ticker-tape parade where (if you are lucky) paper, words, and poems rain down on your head. 

All of which means I’m hugely looking forward to this evening’s launch of Ticker-tape in Waterstones, Piccadilly, London.

6 March 2017


This time of year my thoughts always turn to Spain.  From a notebook dated 2010:

At the bus station café in Malaga, the waiter is running a tight ship, persuading and cajoling all ditherers at the door to sit down at a table even before they have time to get their bearings.  This way there is no dilly-dallying at the counter over the cheaper fare, but an orchestrated segue into the more serious part of the establishment.

Middle-aged with a small paunch, the waiter busies himself constantly - wiping tables, taking orders, clearing crockery, and directing with aplomb the not-so-sure hovering at the entrance.  He stretches a friendly but authoritative hand to my shoulder, and I am clinched.

After taking my order for tortilla, he flourishes a paper tablecloth to cover the perfectly serviceable, perfectly wipeable melamine table to indicate that here, unlike those feebly ordering only a cup of coffee, is a customer who has squared up to the menu and is ready to dine.  I sit prepared for his next move, perhaps to tie a napkin around my neck.

‘¿Cómo se llama en español?’ I ask, motioning to the tablecloth.  I’ve forgotten what it’s called, but offer up the word napa, a ridiculous cheatling I’ve concocted from the French nappe.

He looks at me quizzically.   ‘Es un mantel,’ he says.  Then: ‘De donde es usted?’  Where are you from?

‘De Inglaterra,’ I answer.  

He nods, slowly, sympathetically, in recognition of the misfortune it must be to hail from a land in which the art of covering café tables with paper tablecloths has all but disappeared.

30 January 2017


Just in under the wire, before the month changes - a poem about January.

26 January 2017

Proletarian Poetry

I've long enjoyed Peter Raynard's blog Proletarian Poetry, 'a home for poets and poems that portray working class lives from many different angles', and am very honoured that my poem A Lack of Minarets has found a place amongst excellent company.

The poem was first published in Primers Volume One  by Nine Arches Press.