Roddy Williams – The Atheist Poet


Landscape Photography (2009)

I need the venture to photograph myself
face the lens boldly
an old mountain
trying to forget what I can see
the crevices
the overhangs of jaw

I’ll direct light on the north face
to catch an aspect, leave the rest concealed
unrecall it further distanced
into continents of white
rising from an inkdeep sea

I have to learn geography and me
cross the pass of exams
face my face
I could have foreign parts
I need to know
the lay of the land
‘so’ I tell myself ‘face it
it’s come to this’

to forgetting who I am
look at this face as a new place
a random set of shapes
that upsets me for no reason
like a map of home

percy pigs (2008)

he bought me percy pigs
but i don’t like percy pigs.
they’re pink and taste of vile intentions
smell like the seat of a pervert’s car.

he knows i don’t like percy pigs
and yet he bought me percy pigs.
they’re sweet as liar’s lips and
he should know i’ve had enough of those.

i’ve said i don’t like percy pigs
so why’s he bought me percy pigs?
he’ll have to eat them cold himself
like humble pie, words or revenge.

message found in a richmond menthols packet (2007)

as i smoke my last cigarette
i see the shapes of men
through the net curtains in the park-keeper’s hut
engaged in arcane park-keeper’s duties
that may involve tea
and rough council biscuits.
their hanging jackets tease a wink through the netting.

they’ve aroused the curious beast in me
that i exercise in the park.
his paws are on the window
but the doylie curtain baffles him.

meanwhile i am drowning out here, alone
in a tide of russet leaves
which has rushed in vertically as i’ve watched.

they’re watching me i know
over rims of grim cracked mugs
through the net that secrets their games
as i sink into the waves

if you find this poem
then it means i did not make it.
take it,
and present it to the town hall.
tell them
they knew i was drowning, not waving.

the black bee (2007)

we found like a gift
pristine, unblemished
stilled on the stairs, perfect
as frozen mink
placed there by a shadow
furtively nameless.

i was awed enough
to lay it out in state,
this preserved velvet silence,
on a white plate for viewing.
something this magnificent
deserves attention.

odd things just happen
sometimes. we may question why.
why is there a why?
i stroke the cold pelt
then lean in to whisper
‘poems start like this’

Barberstalking (2007)

He told me he’s stalking a barber today.
He hangs round outside when the boss is away,
round about closing time
hoping he’ll speak to him,
spark up some chat about clippers or foam.
Then he’ll invent an excuse and go home.

He’s the girl in that song, what’s her name? Delta Dawn.
‘Prettiest woman you’ve ever laid eyes on’
It’s all in his head.
He’s the Lady in Red
and Chris de Burgh’s in there, doing a trim,
maybe singing a song, but it’s not about him.

lost bus stop (2007)

there’s a kind of grave
where our bus stop used to be.
people stand there, out of habit.
countdown screens in their heads read
and when the thought arrives they disgregate
still stunned by a shared loss.

derek acorah’s been here
in his ghost van.
he says there’s the spirit of a queue
and that it’s been there a long time.
all that residual impatience
soaked into the york stone paving.

and i stand here sometimes
free of the milling of prams, smokers
and tv psychics
haunted by the timetable of our waiting
trying to resurrect the conversations
we conceived
to kill time.

we never expected time to fight back.

Foraging – Joy Howard (2017)

The only serious problem I had with the kindle version of this book is that the formatting is just terrible.

Poems runs into one another and one has to check the index to ensure that one is reading one poem rather than two. Capital ‘Th’s are replaced regularly with tickboxes, and the letter sequence ‘fi’ is replaced with a space.

This is doing the poet a disservice since it is difficult to concentrate on a single poem while having to check where exactly it ends, and indeed recognise that the letters ‘fi’ are missing.  ‘terrified’ for instance, appears as ‘terri ed’


However, with perseverance, one can translate to a certain extent.

I very much enjoyed the piece related to hares and St Melangell, ‘Melangell and the hare’ which was flowing, evocative of the forces of nature and somewhat surreal. Indeed, the pieces relating to nature, the older British landscape and conservation are all quite powerful, orchestrating the lines and phrases into a rhythmic flow.


This is somewhat missing in other works which focus on human interactions and relationships, although many of these are interesting, the longer pieces faring better than the shorter ones. ‘Hydro’ works particularly well, with its vignette view of fellow diners at a restaurant breakfast. I very much liked ‘Living to tell the tale’ which sets Scheherazade in a modern context, quite chillingly.


I can not, I am sorry, provide a more detailed view of this simply because of the formatting problems and wish I’d been able to get hold of a print copy.

Murderous Reviews: Invisible – Lorena McCourtney (2004)

Invisible (Ivy Malone Mysteries, #1)

Ivy Malone is a LOL. A little old lady. She’s a widow who has discovered that her social staus as a LOL renders her mostly invisible. She is ignored in shops and even discovers that she can slip into a Post Office queue without anyone batting an eyelid.
Following the death of her old friend, she decides to investigate the desecration of several tombstones in her local cemetery, rationalising that her relative invisibility will be a bonus in investigations.
Then, the lodger in her friend’s basement, Kendra, disappears and Ivy suspects that she may be the body that was found recently in a river.
Ivy, finding the police investigation to be running slow, decides to carry out her own enquiries.
It’s a very enjoyable and amusing read. McCourtney has created some memorable characters and the narrative rattles quickly along. There’s a nice balance between humour and drama and she paints a vivid picture of life in Missouri.
It has to be said that the heavy emphasis on Ivy’s Christianity was a bit wearing. I’ve checked some other reviews and it does come to something when even her Christian readers are complaining that there is a tad too much God in it. It’s counter-productive in fact, since one is tempted to skip the passages where Ivy is rambling on about having accepted Jesus into her life. If Jesus is in her life, he must be getting a bit tired of it too, or may have invested in some earplugs.
One could argue that the first person narrative here needs that because Ivy is a devout Christian. We have had religious detectives before, such as Father Brown and the vicar from Grantchester, but the religious element, although present, seldom intrudes unless there us a conflict of conscience of some sort. It’s over-egging the Jesus pudding, frankly.
At one point Ivy is ‘fixed up’ for want of a better phrase, on a date with Mac, a travelling reporter. He is the one character (apart from the criminals, who are obviously evil and ungodly) that comes nearest to being a challenge to Ivy’s beliefs. This isn’t explored fully enough. If Mac had been an out and out atheist it would have made for a far more interesting relationship and provided a different viewpoint.
The ending is a little ambiguous, leaving us to want to read the next installment. I think I will. I quite enjoyed this visit to Missouri and Arkansas and think I would get on with Ivy quite well, as long as she keeps the godbothering to a bare minimum.

Murderous Reviews: Crimson Lake – Candice Fox (2017)

Crimson Lake

Ted Conkaffey – a working Sydney police officer with a wife and baby daughter – is wrongly arrested and charged with the rape of a thirteen year old girl. The case is abandoned due to lack of evidence. Ted is left in limbo, being neither acquitted nor found guilty and very soon finds himself without a job and having to abandon his family to protect them from any collateral blame and publicity.
And so Ted moves away to the wilds of New South Wales and a town called Crimson Lake, surrounded by alligator infested swamps and creeks.
Here, he is advised by his solicitor to seek out Amanda Pharrell, a private investigator who offers him a job. Amanda has her own issues, since she spent years in prison following her alleged murder of a school friend, a murder which many suspect she did not commit.
She invites Ted to help her with her current case. She has been hired to investigate the disappearance of Jake Scully, an author of popular Biblical paranormal romance novels, who unaccountably drove out in the middle of the night and never returned.
It’s a great rollercoaster of a novel with a well-varied cast of small town Australians, moody teenagers, menacing corrupt cops, drug dealers, and people with secrets.
Amanda and Ted’s investigations are paralleled by Ted’s determination to discover the truth behind Amanda’s murder charge, which she refuses to discuss, and his attempts to hide from a reporter and the local vigilantes.
Crimson Lake itself is a wonderful setting, and Fox does a brilliant job of evoking the reality of this remote town, existing on the edge of the wilds with alligators, snakes and human predators for neighbours.
One of the best detective novels I’ve read in ages. Recommended.

The Writing Process

I don’t know about anyone else but I’m finding that when I receive a magazine or book in which I’ve been published – bypassing for the moment the other poetry with which I am sharing the publication – and rush to the page where one’s immortal words are sealed for posterity, I suddenly see what is wrong with it.
I can’t see any way round this unless I mock up a magazine full of my finished work and post it to myself along with some poetry competition entry forms and a flyer for the Ledbury festival.