Blood, Sweat, Tears and Poetry

Today I spent a couple of hours at the Bishopsgate Institute being interviewed for BBC Radio 3 by Patience Agbabi and her producer Simon Evans. It’s for a programme called ‘Blood, Sweat, Tears and Poetry’, broadcast for National Poetry Day on 9th October at 11.30am. This year’s theme is ‘Work’ so they’ve been interviewing poets who have been ‘resident’ in workplaces (from April to July 2008 I was the Bishopsgate’s first ever Poet in Residence).

Of course, many artists and writers spend their lives in perpetual guilt that they’re not doing ‘proper’ jobs. Seamus Heaney’s famous poem ‘Digging’ – in which the father’s spade is transformed into the son’s ‘squat pen’ – comes to mind.

In other news – I am soon to move into a garret in Aldgate. True enough.

Berets by registered post, please.


  1. I’m really, really pleased for you Chivers. Made up you are making ground on MacMillan who stole my idea for the All Island Live Poetry championships two years ago and gave it to radio four, and not a nod nor mention to tyhe originating brain behind this sham slam won by a rhyming yoof wrapper of words in txt speak stir who also stole my self respect as an alcoholic dustbinman excluded from the cultural life of my home lands in Lancashire, by the omnipotent mister A Oh U ee I ogham bluffer knowing nowt but a few lines of Pam and Carol, who is targetting me telepathically from her base in Manchester, because of the beret and bangles containing the secret source of all poetic history on these green unpleasant hands which wove alone the silence of ermine shells and oyster filled pearls of an Algate all-sort, 55, lonely, mentally ill, looking for desk space to renage the rent on after a long and protracted dance of increasing emnity between myself and the landlord having to pay my rent there. Guaranteed to alienate yr friends, turn up pissed four days a week and sabotage all potential poetic gains of the fellow desk-jockeys and instill a deep mistrust of human nature as well as performing with aplomb, the role of complete work and social embaressment.

    All artists have their nightmares, let me be yours at work for an extended run you can turn to top class comedy once recovered. Think of the kudos, a real rebel, let me help you develop any latent drug and alcohol issues into a serious addiction and be a success in the Bernstein
    L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E sense of embracing failure as yr route to eventual success as a verbal practitioner.

    Seriously though, hope it all goes well, mention me and my practicve at any available opportunity in the furture and i will say good things about you, just coz i can and because you seem to have a gsoh. And on the success as failure note, my only advice to you as a poet, is that if you do not read Anthony Cronin’s Dead As Doornails memoir of his time with Behan, Kavanagh, Flann O’Brien in Dublin and Julian MacLaren Ross in Fitzrovia when acting as a hired hack who just dished out kickings or praise according to his ed’s wishes.

    He wields a Paranassian and gurrier eloqernce in the one slingshot sentance, describing scenes which – if he were not a poet – would be about nothing but drunks in the pub. This memoir of his is the book of genius he is rightly known most for, and upon reading it, any committed poet who drinks to excess with other literary types, automatically recognises that being a boozer who causes calamity in their wake, is far from being a bar to artistic success on the page, and if you do not read it, will remain poetically impoverished for not spending a night doing so.

    Tell Patience i cannot make it to hers next month, as i am meeting Fiona in Covent garden to help her with her delivery..


    yr faux foe

  2. Poetry Gaffe says:

    Hi Tom.

    There is a new poetry gaffe to chat in, set up by a coalition of non-appalled free thinkers here

    You can also get there by clicking on the name above.

    You are very free and welcome to come and talk there. If the thing takes off, the idea is the members will collectively moderate by consent and common sense.


  3. Thanks, I’ll check it out.

  4. brrnrrd says:

    ‘Digging’ is burned in to the minds of at least two generations of GCSE students. Are you up to anything else on NPD? Of all possible gigs, I find myself reading in Brighton :/

  5. Ah, Digging…

    Yes, I’m giving a talk on 9th at Plum, Whitechapel Gallery. It’s on Barry MacSweeney, my poetry hero. I’ve just started writing it. 750 words in. What are you doing in Brighton?

  6. Rehan Qayoom says:

    National Poetry Day is one of those dreaded days like Christmas, (yes I’m such a Scrooge and I rate Ricky Tomlinson’s song from last year ‘Christmas, my arse!’) I don’t see the point to it. But I shall definitely tune in to this program so there’s something to look forward to.

  7. Rehan, I kinda agree with you about NPD – unofficially, obviously. Re. the Christmas analogy, sorry to state the obvious, but aren’t you Muslim? Wouldn’t that be like me saying, “oh, Eid, what a waste of time..”?

  8. love on kev, mate, be proud beautiful birth – Caoimhín – of who one is, no more

    “Dear Desmond

    Congratulations! We are very pleased to inform you that you are one of the 5,000 writers that will publish for free and that your bookstore quality paperback book will be ready for readers to order by Christmas.

    For us to publish you, you must follow the instructions attached exactly when sending us your manuscript. The manuscript must be sent to us by October 31st 2008 at the very latest to be ready for Christmas 2008. We will publish books in the order that they are received.

    We have also attached our contract that you must type your name and address on and email to us at the same time that you send your manuscript if you wish us to publish your book. Once you send us your manuscript and the contract we will acknowledge receipt and you will next hear from us when your book is ready, with a link for readers to order!

    We look forward to publishing your book.

    Best wishes,


    Dearest deepest darling friends in Poetry, one has been officially chosen to bore on National Poetry Day — associated with the most important day in the calender for the ace crew, using this day to spread the word about our very important jobs in this be the squares verse, saying hey, look at one, wanna buy one’s first collection, or what?

    And being religious oneself, fili of the new bore order, Ogma the good god of tuatha de dannan poetry, born with a flock of poets chained to his honey mouth, and with Lir the apical god of deep space and time as the main tide controlling don of the pre-milesian era, being a psychopomp, with…sorry, aren’t you , aren’t you a Christian dearest one, saying, party on dude, one’s a tolerant chap but hey, i mean, come on, do you know who is NOT!!! barred from myspace where Tom and one’s 10 million closest friends deface the rejects from other religions whose war mongers slotting the terry getting bombed by our brave erm, sars, sars, soo yah, yah, yah, go little book, bring me the forty percent royalty and tell all our closest shopper, to buy, buy, buy the verses that be in it, like lie lie right PiR of the bog in Caomhghin des, said yah, i’m floating as a bin man, high above the squares, planet porn is blue and there’s only you know whooer,

    Kev kev kev, tiz is goin to the party, yah yah yah, what is the online gurning, dump dump dump, tell them ollamhs how to do it, spend spend spend, on what we cannot mention, bring on Deasmhuman Chliatháin, we want D to replace mister GB, yah no wow, what is it we are doing, go go go, get DC into save us, rescue pride, coz he’s the common stock chep, D, D, D of mister you are fabtastic, fly fly fly, go tell them others we aint gonna takle it, no no more, there DC is so majestic, sorting out the tels, on telly with the rhetoric, go go wa, Write and Recite will save us, DC des, what about the Gorias..

    Upon the tide flowing from a summers night
    comes love, empty of promise

    offering no choice, chance, or means to utter
    a prayer; but swelling the Muse

    shed empty and turned inside out,
    by a rational process of time, returning its skin

    less the bones of battered misgivings
    the broken truth, fully conceived, swallowed

    spat out alone and searching the mind for a soul
    mate, when ungaurded moments abandon

    the impulse of sense. Untroubled by the pale
    defeat of ghost light dawning on past fields lost

    sieze the gift of faith; confide in belief, keep
    counsel in the tree of life rooted in the heart

    and pray for Hope. emerge from the melting
    absence of a passionate self yawning awake

    and confer change, in the deprtment conscious
    act, of deploying decorum, at all times.

    Until the final deprature is logged, recorded
    and halts the call of eternal Love, surrender

    a mystery a day, to what clear light, switches
    on God from within.


    Poetry Assassinor Love Poems, whaddya think’s the best title for a first book Tom?

  9. Of course, there are poets like me and Fred Voss who have already done proppa jobs! I hear that, because of Heaney, there is now a circle of hell that is reserved for work-shy poets. they are given a pen, pointed towards an endless potato field and told to dig with it.

  10. Rehan Qayoom says:

    Yes Tom. I am a Muslim but I believe in Christmas as a cultural festival and have great regard and emotion for its traditional standing, what I meant in my initial post was that I see so little of that and more and more of commercial exploitation of Christmas, it comes a month early every year to our mega-stores.

  11. Well, most of the ‘real’ Christmas takes place in more private places – Churches, family homes, &c.

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