Roddy Williams – The Atheist Poet


Fin (2006)

We had no garden
or words for this small scale event

We could only hold hands
touch the
glass wall of the world
guilty jailers made awkward
by the lack of conventions for
such a ceremony

We cried separately
in different rooms
in order
not to have to discuss it

Barry slipped out in the dark
with a trowel
glinting like a glimpse
of coy in a black pond
to a quiet verge

He may have said some words
as I did once I heard the door close
gently like a mouth


sugar baby (2017)

boy with the wave
you should lay off the sugar
you should
it’s not good
your mother would tell you
I tell you she would
she’d say ‘keep off the sugar
ya little fat bugger
you’ll die before christmas
of doughnuts and pies.
it’s sweet on the tongue
but goes straight to the thighs.’

I tell you she would
maybe that should be should

VP50 – Jamie McGarry (Ed.) (Valley Press 2016)

VP50: Fifty Poems from Valley Press

‘From humble, ‘student hobby’ beginnings in 2008, Valley Press has grown into a force to be reckoned with in UK poetry. Famed for its distinctive, no-two-the-same cover designs, plus writing that is frequently accessible and ambitious, the press is now home to some of the UK’s most exciting poetic talents.

This new anthology offers a valuable overview of VP’s poetry output so far. Here are fifty poems, one from each poetry title, selected by readers of the much-loved weekly newsletter; then ordered and organised by founding editor Jamie McGarry. In these pages, comedy sits alongside tragedy, the surreal finds itself alongside piercingly-accurate life writing, and the only thing you can expect is the unexpected.

Both a ‘greatest hits’ and an introduction to dozens of new poetic voices, VP50 is a tremendous starting point for any readers new to the press, and a must-buy for existing fans curious as to which poems ‘made the cut’…’

Blurb from the 2016 edition

This is one of the best anthologies of contemporary poetry I’ve come across, and one I feel I will return to since, unusually, it contains a number of poems that have stayed in my head and to which I feel I will come back.
As an overview, this is a great introduction to the books published by Valley Press being composed of one poem from each of the first fifty books they have published.
Highlights are for me Kate Fox’s ‘Billy Bragg’s Beard’ which is, as you may have imagined, an ode of love to the beard of the UK’s favourite singing socialist, Patrick Lodge’s ‘Yiannis in His Bar’, a beautifully observed portrait of a bar owner set against the backdrop of the bar itself, atmospheric and evocative, Di Slaney’s ‘How to Knit a Sheep’ and Oz Hardwicks’s ‘A Train and a Fox’.
A sublime collection

Incense – Claire Crowther (Flarestack Poets 2010)


This is a rather intense, though interesting, collection of fatrases, a composition in which the first two lines are repeated as the first and last of the next eleven lines. There seems to be no formal structure otherwise other than a paragraph break between the first two lines and the rest of the poem.
The poems themselves are very clever and vary in seriousness and tone but all focus on the subject of body fat, which is possibly why the format of the fatras was chosen.
It works because of the variety of ways in which the author has approached the subject and the limited number of pieces in a Flarestack pamphlet format. I suspect the concept would not stretch to a full collection.
Here, however, the combination of conformity and contrast has produced a small volume of gems, each distinct from its neighbour but related by length, theme and structure.…

Ode to Britney Spears

Britney Spears! Britney Spears!
You’ve screeched at me for years and years.
It vexes me. I get fed up
So would you kindly shut the fup!

Jungle Politics (2016)

‘He wouldn’t have had that job,’ squawked Deepak,
‘if he wasn’t Alan Hawke’s nephew.’
‘He’s not,’ I countered, cuttlefish blunt.
‘He’s not?’
‘No. Never has been. Just a rumour.’

That ruffled his feathers.
He hates me now
for having rejected this offering,
this morselworm of gossip
which may have
elevated his beak
to nearer the peak
in the pecking order,
extra nectar points
on his office cred card.

It might have lasted the week.

the four stars hotel (2016)

has no stars
no lift
no room
to heft the cat before the swing

yet it was first class
filled me right up to the hilton
with satisfaction

no satisfaction card

you can smoke out the window
while someone stands naked
behind you

that’s where the stars come from

the sign (2016)

you know those signs
the yellow sandwich boards
they prop on floors
in every coffee shop
and takeaway
the ones that say
‘caution! wet floor!’?


I’d like to have one made
quietly tiptoe
sneaked into caffe nero
then left
all proud and splayed
that says
‘caution! dangerous yellow sign!’

changeling child (2016)

When I saw the changeling sat there
I was stuck to find an action.
Do I tell the doting parents
of my visions, my suspicions?
I was quick to mask expressions
poker-faced against the tide.
It was the eyes, the knowing eyes.
They reflected something kindred,
with two saucersful of strangeness.
There’s a dawning recognition
growing in the air between us
like the waking of a lotus
slowly irising to wonder
at the secret growing darker
on the petals white as lies.

the black dog (2016)

the dog arrives
he’s that phone call we all dread
he hangs up in my depression
i call it that
it’s lower than the world
it’s nice and warm

he’s a difficult guest
to evict
keeps coming back

sometimes without calling

to lick at my welcome
with a gilt tongue
his nasty rasped lash

then curls up and watches
my mouth

I can feel the stillheavy
of the receiver like
the visitor

for whom
one keeps smiling
the thanxious smile