Ben Okri: Enough philosophy for a morning’s walk.

The mellifluous Ben Okri entranced us at Buckingham Literary Festival. This poem is my take on him and on his sharing of The Magic Lamp history (Ben Okri, poet and Rosemary Clunie, artist). I asked him for three words he would want to see in a poem about himself. They were ‘laughter’, ‘spirit’ and ‘magic’… 

A philosopher dreamt on a stage before us

Bade us step into the space between brush strokes

And led us down a painted path


Born of grace and silver his footsteps were light

He left pursuit of knowledge for a quest to unlearn

And we followed him into the silence of colours


Words sang him darkly under blue and yellow skies

Black lines curling into painted prose

Encircling the smudging pastels


When we shivered, the dreamer draped us with his laughter

Warm and brown as vanilla pods

Until we melted like the pricked yolk of the sun


Then the poet poured words into our throats

And drew our voices on the words of writers

High rise ‘I rise’ into the vaulted ceiling


There in the shadows his spirit ignited ours

With the magic of imagination and feeling

And we were mesmerised.

The Day of the Jackal (1971) – The Fox (2018)

A fascinating conversation with Frederick Forsyth at the Buckingham Literary Festival. I think you had to be there, but the following gives a flavour for those who weren’t, and hopefully a souvenir for those who were!

In what universe does a jackal evolve into a fox?
Well, in the imaginary world of a raconteur who rocks!
With Afghans, cobras and dogs of war
His narrative bursts with tooth and claw
Eschewing the pursuit of empty glory
For him it’s all about the story
He says there’s no message for the human race
It’s all about a plot with pace.
Serendipitous meeting of place and time
An ability to pre-think a crime.
He regaled us with tales of boyhood dreams
Carried for years in trouser seams
Until at last his feathers grew
And he gained his wings in Air Force blue.
With ‘eau de spitfire’ now a memory past
Their youngest pilot took off fast
Just like his literary career
Due to his chutzpah and lack of fear.
We heard him speak with charm and wit
And saw the heart beneath the grit
Presents for the one he loves the most
Diamond rings and tales of a ghost
Shepherding readers who flock to know
Where next the twisting tale will go.
Well, it went where mothers would not want it to
As he did what healthy young men do
But with a coldwar spy? Oh Freddie!
You made ‘sexpionage’ sound so heady!
And just as we thought you’d closed the door
We find your retirement has been delayed once more
With tales of cyber crime to tease our brain
The master writes for us again
And as the pen-clenched fist of the Outsider knocks
We cry “remember the Jackal and long live the Fox!”

Buckingham Literary Festival: Divisions

Though-provoking talk by Tim Marshall today about the walls we build in society. Resonated with me and I dug out this poem which I have published here before:

The same burst of stardust made us all

The same hot sun holds us all in thrall

Baked us in the oven of creation and coloured our skin.

Governs the planet on which we spin.

Some hide behind a burkha, some behind a two faced smile

Some find god in a cosmic event, some find god in the smile of a child

But as in the beginning, so the end

Together regardless as foe or friend

And in the end what good will the fighting have been?

As the sun goes down on our final scene

As the unimportant is sucked away

Flung back to the void on our final day

As we turn to each other, stripped bare on that plane

We’ll finally see, we are all the same

So regardless of today’s divisive calls

Of hate-mortared bricks in fear-fashioned walls

At the end of days it’s united we’ll fall


Buckingham Literary Festival: Quiz Night!

Very excited to be the Poet in Residence for the Buckingham Festival this year (, documenting my impression of what’s going on through the medium of poetry. I will be posting my festival poems here, and other related poems before, during and after the event.  This poem is a bit of fun for the literary quiz night (14th June) , playing with book titles and authors’ names.


When Alexander Pushkin comes to shove

We must celebrate the books we love

Be it fairy tale or mystery

Be it novel, poem or history

Steinbeck, Shakespeare, Forsyth forsooth!

Literature holds the key to truth.


The Power of Austen, a Bronte-thesaurus

Tales of travel in the Mountains Taurus

Books transport, transform, transcend

Literature can heal and mend

Print on page or pixeled screen

Stories in comic or magazine


Read sci-fi, poetry, Wilde and Chaucer

Tales of a pilgrim or a flying saucer

Legends of fairies, queens and kings

Lords of flies and lords of rings   

Rhymes to mock a killing bird

It was the Sparrow, haven’t you heard?!


So now, whatever your Poison is

It’s time for a literary/local quiz

The obscurest questions about Hardy’s Jude

Or what makes Lady Chatterley rude

Fill your glasses with beer or gin

Good luck and may the best team win!






Buckingham Literary Festival: Bucklitfest

Very excited to be the Poet in Residence for the Festival this year, documenting my impression of what’s going on through the medium of poetry. I will be posting my festival poems here, and other related poems before, during and after the event. The following poem is my festival ‘launch’ poem. Enjoy!

Come to the Buckingham Hidden Quarter
Be you reader, writer, listener, talker
Come and wrap yourself in words
As they take to the air like spoken birds;
Hear poets getting intense in tents
See politicians sitting on an interview fence
Hear Ladies bring to life our history
Find out how plot reveals a mystery;
Enjoy an encounter with a master thriller
As he navigates with ink-filled tiller
Through paper sea and page-turner wave
Charting the lives of hero and knave;
Time-travel to real or fictitious places
And take the chance to see the faces
Of those who write inspiring prose
Or because of whom your knowledge grows;
Come see a festival at its best
Don’t miss out on the BuckLitFest!

Wake up Daddy

Watched the news on 23 May – distressing

Wake Up, Daddy

Go wake your father, the crops need tending

Go wake him now, the roof needs mending

“Wake up, Daddy”, a little boy’s voice, “wake up”


Go wake your father, the planes are coming

He must be asleep, I can’t hear his drumming

“Wake up, Daddy”, a tear-stained face, “wake up”


Go wake your father, the baby’s crying

Interrupt his dream – humanity is dying

“Wake up, Daddy”, small hands clutch, “wake up”


“Wake up, Daddy”, a little boy’s voice.

“Wake up, Daddy”, a tear-stained face.

“Wake up, Daddy”, small hands clutch.

“Wake up, Daddy”, a fatherless child.


Hush now, and cease your crying

You cannot wake him, there’s no point trying

Get up child, no one can wake your Daddy.

Writing fonts

 I had the honour of kicking off the Buckingham Literary Festival this year. Below is one of the poems I wrote for the occasion:

Capturing the world in a cage of words, we fasten life with ink on paper, pinning down our experiences with curlicues and commas.

Pinning down the beauty – butterfly words. Entomological etymology.

Imageless pictures rise up from pages like steam from summer asphalt. Or the breath of a dying muse.

Does each reading strip away a layer of the writer’s soul? Or replenish it?

How does the magic happen? The graphite reproduction of beauty, romance, horror or despair. All the colour of the universe disguised in HB grey or black printer ink.

The glories of the Roman Empire etched in Times New Roman. Mermaids wreathed in Arial.  Poems christened in a font of the author’s choosing.

And then born and reborn in the reader’s eyes, offspring judged by strangers. So take these words by the hand, and please, treat them kindly.