Random Words for Profit or Pleasure (call for participation...)

I've had some success (translation: fun) assembling recordings from friends into variously poetical compositions.  There was New Muses and there was Cloud Crowd Found Sound...

At the time of the latter, I was torn between doing it with nonsense words, or using genuine approved dictionary-grade lexemes.  Well at that time nonsense prevailed (I'm saying nothing...) but the idea of doing something similar with real words remained and now...  it may be An Idea Whose Time Has Come (tm).

If you would like to play, then you can use the link below to get a short random word list, please:
  1. Click the link
  2. Increase the number of words to 5 or 10
  3. (Fiddle with the word-length controls if you want)
  4. Click "Generate Random Words"
  5. Record the words using your favourite computer or phone recording app
  6. (Try to do it somewhere quiet and non-echoey)
  7. If you are feeling keen, throw in a few commonplace words like "if", "but" or "was"
  8. Send the result to me (message me in comments or on Facebook if don't know contact details...)
If you want to participate, here is the: LINK

  1. What will you do with the words?
    Make some sort of post-modern poetry from them.
  2. Will we get credit for our input?
    I'll put you in the credits if that's what you mean...
  3. Will we get a share of the profits, then?
    Sure!  Just as soon as I've made the first million.
  4. This isn't an attempt to steal our bank details then?
    Not as such, how could I——
  5. Or our souls?
    OK.  Moving swiftly on...


Review: Paul Brookes "Please Take Change"

Paul Brookes is a poet I know through the internet.  We used to hang out on Poetry Circle, an online forum...

Before I begin this review I must reveal that I live a charmed life.  I have always found it easy to get jobs, and places I have worked have been more akin magical kingdoms, than grey Kafkaesque distopias.

I try to remain aware that this isn't true for everyone (should be... isn't) but awareness is one thing and knowing what living it is like would be something else again.  The main power of this book is it gives you a window into exactly that, and furthermore it paints subtly, neither glorifying, nor playing up to the grimness.

From the biography on the back we discover Paul has been a security guard, postman, admin assistant, call centre advisor, lecturer, poetry performer and now works as a shop assistant.  He has recently been interviewing almost every poet in the UK in  The Wombwell Rainbow Interviews and very interesting they are (you may find yourself, or even myself, in there if you look hard enough...)

This collection draws heavily on Paul's employment history.  Not all of those are the most glamorous of jobs (except "poetry performer" — literally the most glamorous job there is...) and you might expect there's a degree of arduous toil, unsympathetic bosses, wearying drudgery to be expressed.  In this you'd be right, and these poems do reveal a world of quotidian working days.

However, also running through this are threads of razor-sharp observation, human warmth and humour which keep the collection alive and make reading through the 75-odd short poems a light and rewarding experience.

Let's start with:


some systems don’t work
so you have to do
a work around
when this becomes the system
I don’t know
my bus
takes a detour for roadworks
or accident
something tells me
this is not temporary

I love the sheer universality of the experience related here, I have encountered the same thing in fields as separated as software design and cafeteria queuing; my home town had a "temporary car park" for four decades; and I've even worked for major international corporation entirely devoted to working around the things it failed to address previously.

Also the skillful way everyday language is put to work to illustrate the general principle, but simultaneously narrate the concrete example, is typical of the poems here.  Another that demonstrates this point is:

The List

Their companion gone
old men stoop lower
with less in their basket,

try to recall her shopping list,
was it Robinson's marmalade,
or Hartley's lemonade?

Spam. No she never liked spam.
Never enough fat on bacon.
Yes, I need a receipt, young man

Which is touching, humorous, and heartbreaking in roughly equal measure.  People who do or don't need receipts are a recurring theme, almost a running joke throughout this collection.

These two poems are perhaps a little unusual in using a symbol as a metaphor for something larger.  More pieces are essentially biographical, in the sense of relating wonderfully observed moments and characters from the author's working life, take:

Two Lads

at my till. I put first lad's
goods through while second

says to his mate,
I'm gonna get a kitchen knife
and rip your twatting head off.


I'm gonna put it in shoebox
Set fire to it. Piss on the remains.


Do you want a receipt? I ask
the first lad.

There's the slyly comic receipt again :-) and also here is the acute observation of real everyday behaviour, skilfully juxtaposed against the mundanity of the till queue.

This is a fascinating collection.  The early copy I had was a little unevenly edited, but I hope that will be sorted out in the final edition.  The scenes from everyday life are compelling, and the understated humour and good will with which they are presented lifts them well above the mundane to a plane of their own.

The conflicts, insults and travails presented here are something to be accepted, but not surrendered to, and the ultimate message we take from this is one of optimism and — I said it before — good humour.

Lets just end with this:


One of two young girls with flushed cheeks
who buy cans of coke and energiser asks

Please can I buy a lotto scratch card, #7?
I ring for the manager as per rule.

He asks the girls for i.d.
No. I haven't. I'm eighteen.

We need to see your I.D. he says.
You're an embarrassment, one replies

How dare you embarrass me?
Both girls flounce out the shop.

Did you hear what she called me?
Says the manager, smiling ear to ear.

Please Take Change is published by  Cyberwit.

Paul's other books are available here.


An iconography of rollers left in fields

image credit: cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Rose and
Trev Clough - geograph.org.uk/p/5159038
Rosemary got invited NessFest, a book festival in Inverness.  Good grief, that's a lot of railway...

And when you're stuck for hours in a train, even in such exquisite company, you start to notice recurring themes outside the windows.

There's a lot of abandoned agricultural machinery lying in fields here and there across the country, and what is that, if not a metaphor for life?  Or even a whole scheme of related metaphors...

An iconography of rollers abandoned in fields

Garden rollers in agricultural settings

Observe the small child whose duffle coat
wanders in the cathedral,
runs a bit, shouts at echoes,
peers at the stained glass window light
spilled on the floor. See how he sits down now
and falls asleep.

As if only just left

Dust sheets, ladder, brushes, cloths...
Where is that old screwdriver? Here. I'll lever
at the paint tin lid. Again, a little further round--
Oh damn! I need a stirring stick...
I'll be right back.

Some rust

Surface discolouration is a given:
we all show signs of wear. "Patina"
to put spin on it, or "you look shit!"
--when your bestie doesn't want to say it nice
as you stand beneath a poster
bigger than your house
filled with a newer model: preternaturally perfect,
sublimely open smile.

Wood rotting, metal intact

The softer parts break down, at first,
while harder parts prevail: the blistered finger,
the hangdog nail, but sooner or later
the long-term maintenance creeps up
that ligament in your left shoulder,
the tibia chipped inside one shin...
The wear and tear of years
accumulates: more a sadness
than a fear: no longer walking all the way,
the stairs a bigger thing; until one day
upon some ordinary bus,
a young lady offers you her seat.

Scattered iron fragments on the ground

To all things an end: only archaeologists believe
they can retrieve a past and piece
it back together. You, meanwhile, one recollection at a time,
take the finest brush to days
in infant school: the graze upon your knee
the way that one girl ran away
however carefully you offered her the mud.
Did anything happen in the years after that?
It isn't easy to be sure.

In the ditch

We all have low points
entropy will see to that.
The same sky is still above you...
the mud's quite soft:
why not lay back?

In the middle of the field

Look at me! Look at me! Look at me NOW!
No, of course I don't have anything useful,
or even actionable to relate. But I'm so great...
See, I even have the expensive shoes.
Just keep looking at me!!

In the middle of the field with an unmown area around it

Am I that man? Am I the one that people drive
their metaphorical tractors right round? Am I
the guy? Is everybody quietly told:
not to mention the steam railways, or question
me listening to that single 80s band
for seven hours a day;
he's a friendly enough man...
it's just his little ways,
work around him

With a small tree growing through

Life is as we know it, not
as we plan it: an adaptation situation.
We wouldn't plan a largish silver birch
inserted just where it hurts
but since that's where we find ourselves,
we make the best
of never moving again: a great view to the West
every evening's sunset;
the birds that roost at twilight,
in autumn eating the birch seed
that hasn't run off through the wind.