Friday, 21 October 2016

There's a skeleton of a rockhopper penguin in Manchester Museum

You've heard about The Rockhoppers? No? You can go here to find out about this new Poetry group:

Here's a poem about Rockhoppers. I wrote it for the first gig of The Rockhoppers -- on National Poetry Day at The Brown's in Laugharne.

There’s a skeleton of a rockhopper penguin in Manchester Museum

Red eyes,
orange beaks,
spiky feathers of yellow and black
on their heads.
Their feet are webbed,
and pink.
Colourful little buggers.

They shout their news and gossip
to all their great colonies
as they hop across rocks,
breeding in their thousands
all out there in public.
Noisy little fuckers.

In the same nest each year,
they mostly couple with the same mate.

Sod that new relationship stuff,
all that watchin and waitin
and will-she-won’t-she…
will he, won’t he…
Stick with what you know, mate,
life’s too short.

And so are they, very short,
the smallest penguins,
about 20 inches tall.

They make up for that,
they are (still)
the most numerous penguins on the planet
(must be all that noisy public breeding).

But rockhoppers are in decline.
And there is a long way to fall.
They are, officially, ‘vulnerable’
close to ‘endangered’.

It’s the other Rockhopper,
the one with no feathers,
the one that deals only in black stuff,
and share prices.
No colourful feathers, red eyes, or  pink feet,
not even an orange beak…
and the black rockhopper
goes quietly, softly,
almost unnoticed.

Rockhopper Exploration PLC
found oil,
one billion barrels of it
in the North Falkland basin.
The first will flow in 2020.

There won’t be many rockhopper penguins
left in the Falklands,
or anywhere else, by then,

but, after all,
there is a skeleton
of a rockhopper penguin
in Manchester Museum

 one appears on the company’s logo,
preserved there in black and white,
so long as the oil will flow.

Bird calls, feathers and extreme flights of fancy

The Rockhoppers -- left to right: Annie, Jackie, Mel and Maggie.

I’m pleased to be part of the newly formed poetic foursome, The Rockhoppers. We had our debut gig on National Poetry Day 2016 as guest hosts of the monthly poetry event at the famous Dylan Thomas watering hole, The Brown’s, in Laugharne.

The Rockhoppers is a group of four poets based in west Wales. Annie, Jackie, Maggie and Mel are four strong distinctive individual poetic voices. They also work well together and collaborate to produce innovative and sometimes surreal pieces for performance. They have a strange and unexplained affiliation to small penguins.

Here are some comments from audience members after The Rockhoppers'  debut gig at 
The Brown’s:

‘Surreal, musical, sublime!’

‘They play off each other very well’

‘Excellent, varied’

‘Lovely mix of styles, very amusing’

‘Fantastic combination in the last piece, great evening.’

Annie Butler
Born and educated in Cardiff, Anne Marie Butler worked as a civil servant. Her career took her to west Wales where she also studied Fine Art and Design. She now works as a landscape artist, book illustrator and writer.  Her written work fetes the everyday. She shares a natural awareness of the rural landscape and relies upon nature and people to inspire her.  Her poems reveal clear observations, together with exploration and experimentation with the surreal.  She is currently working on her first collection of illustrated poems.

Jackie Biggs
After a successful career as a journalist and editor, Jackie Biggs started writing poetry five years ago.  Her first collection, The Spaces in Between was published in September 2015 by Pinewood Press (Swansea). She has also had poetry published in many magazines and anthologies. She reads her work at spoken word events all over west Wales – and anywhere else that will have her.

Maggie Harris
Maggie Harris writes poetry and prose. Caribbean roots and Kentish shoots now growing in west Wales. Proper jobs have included teaching Creative Writing and an International Fellowship at Southampton University. Maggie has won the Guyana Prize twice for poetry and the Commonwealth Prize for a short story. Now loiters in gardens and cafes and anywhere that accepts poets. 

Mel Perry
This one travels more than most penguins we know – all in the interests of poetry. She can frequently be found in Sweden, Ireland  or on Bardsey (Ynys Enlli) both reading her work and writing new poetry. Her full bio is currently winging its way to us from one of these far-flung places….

to contact the Rockhoppers please email Jackie:

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Splatchwordy world

We recently celebrated the centenary of the wonderful writer Roald Dahl. This poem uses many of his made-up words and a few I created myself, including the title. It was also inspired by a sketch called 'Endless Column' by Jude Macklin, which was part of a printmakers exhibition held this summer at the Old College in Aberystwyth. 
You don't really need to know what all the new words mean, but I would say that a 'quogwinkle', according to Dahl, is an alien from space.

Splatchwordy world

(in memory of Roald Dahl)

How’s the view from up there,
                Cast your goggler over the way we live our patchwork lives --



are we worth just a glimp
from your perch
that purple morning haze?

                Are we wobble-crossing
down the street,
                not finding a path,
just tripping the stones beneath our feet?

How is the view from up there?
Can you spygog us
                down that
mundane road -
among everyday traffic in the
cloudy mauve
                jiggered morning
kind of rain

How is the view from up there?
Are you biffs-quiggled by our scrotty lives?

                Can you see
through your violet shadows
                our darksome,  jumbly froth-buggling,
                fluck-gangled, whopsy-waddling,
                                poisnowse world?

Tell us, quogwinkle,
                what do you see with your glimpy-gumbled spy in the sky?
                     What do you see?

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Haiku on the page

Here’s a selection of some of my haiku that I have been fortunate enough to see published over the last year or so in Blithe Spirit (Journal of the British Haiku Society).

try to describe love
as summer flowers –

valley lost in cloud
rain falls steady all morning
drips glisten on twigs

dry leaves crack
under silent skies
empty wires, too quiet

in the middle of
an open field
the only shadow

summer meadow
deep and tall under
scythe of swift

walk to the beach
on a spring afternoon
my shadow goes first

and one from a recent edition of Haiku Journal

misty air whispers
in a forest full of dreams
                love breathes through trees

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Jingo lingo

This poem is in remembrance of my Dad, Walter Biggs, who was born on July 27th, 1912. He died on June 24th, 1978.

Jingo lingo

After he died we found his
service book -
Royal Air Force blue
Flight Sergeant,
               Class A release.
That meant he was too sick
                to repost.

India and Burma, 1942 to 1945:

                ‘Character and general conduct:
                very good throughout his service’.
                ‘Proficiency – exceptional’.

It was a ‘special discharge’:
                appendectomy, pneumonia.
Dysentery and malaria hit in the jungle,
hiding from the nips.

                He nearly died in the heart of it,
                that darkness,
until they remembered
to bring home the forgotten troops.

Three months in hospital.
He never spoke about it all.
No complaints.

So wasted, so thin,
even his own mother
                saw a stranger at her door.