Recent Posts

29 March 2013


Phaeton chariot and Argus’ head,
One lion skin.
One tomb of Dido, one bedstead
Canopy, old Mahomet’s head.
Iron targets, one Mercury's wings,
City of Rome, one golden fleece
Belin Dun's stable, one bear's skin
Tantalus' tree
And Phaeton's limbs.

Items picked out of an inventory of 'all the properties for my Lord Admiral's men' – the Elizabethan theatre company – taken by impresario Philip Henslowe, 10 March 1598. Via Futility Closet. Submitted by Gabriel Smy.

27 March 2013

The broken down train

The broken down train has started moving. We will be able to get all the trains moving soon.

The train has just started moving. We will be able to get everything running soon.

The train has moved, we will be able to move all trains now. Some residual delay will occur.

The broken train has moved, Trains will be able to run again. Sorry for the delay.

The train has just started moving, Trains are able to run again. Some residual delay will occur.

The broken down train is now on the move. Residual delay is expected until 19:15

Ha, Make sure you tweet again next time.

You're welcome, sorry for the delay.

Sorry for the delay today.

Consecutive tweets from South West Trains, 16th March 2013. Submitted by MsJinnifer.

25 March 2013

Prescription for a creative burst

I want to sit out in privety
with my dressing-gown on
and nobody to see
but it must have a balcony.

Then I can finish my writing.
It's a hundred-and-forty a night, with a hot tub.
That's no good. I can't write
with a fountainpen in a hot tub.

I wonder if there's background music.
I can't have the sort of music
that keeps you jumpin' all the while.
There needs to be quiet.

The windows have got to open.
I must hear water all the time.
If I get a room that's luxurious
I'll get writing in half the time.

I want to see Rooms One and Eight.
I want to see if they'll do.
I don't need you to come with me,
but I'll need you to move in with me.

It's all sketched out already,
just waiting to be filled in.
I'm tense till I get this settled.
Can't get my head round it till then.

Overheard in a hotel bar in Ludlow, Shropshire, on the 10th March 2013. Submitted by John Killic.

22 March 2013


We were getting new recruits
sixteen and seventeen years of age
when we had to do this attack

The two youngsters were crying
It was such a shock
We moved up to the attack
They had cleared off
three or four miles from the action

They were brought back and charged
The verdict of the court was read out
The two young men had deserted
They were going to be shot at dawn

The two young men
were brought out
to a yard

Fire at the head
At the heart

The chances were
they would be killed instantly
As of course they were

The four men who had to shoot them
were sick with it all
There was sympathy for the boys
but more for their parents

We lived with it all
for days

I can see it all now

Taken from Forgotten Voices of the Great War by Max Arthur (Ebury Press, 2002), p.203f. The poem is taken from the words of Private William Holmes, 12th Battalion, London Regiment. Submitted by Lisa Oliver.

20 March 2013

The Nightingale

The color paintings were prepared on fine,
brilliant Wu silk, which were closely and wonderfully woven.

Traditional Chinese paints were used. The blues
and greens came from azurite, malachite, and indigo;

the reds from cinnabar, realgar, and orpiment, with the brilliant red
from coral and the pink-red from a flowering vine; umber from an iron oxide

called limonite; yellow from the sap of the rattan plant; and white from lead
or pulverized oyster shells. To all, powdered jade was added

for good fortune. These colors were mixed with stag horn, fish or ox
glue, or glue made from the pulp of the soap bean. The black

Chinese ink is ten parts pine soot, three parts powdered jade,
and one part glue made from donkey hides boiled

in Tang River water. The paints were mixed with boiling water. In
the first stage, the water looked like fish eyes; in the second,

like innumerable pearls strung together; and in the final stage,
like rolling breakers. The paints were applied with Chinese brushes made

of sheep, rabbit, goat, weasel, and wolf hairs picked in autumn,
as well as of mouse whiskers, with handles of bamboo and buffalo horn.

Where changes were required in the art, the paint was removed
by wiping the area with the juice of the apricot seed.

Illustration notes from The Nightingale by Demi (Harcourt Brace Javanovich, 1985). Submitted by J.R. Solonche.

18 March 2013

Crustacean Odyssey

Ever since we were an item,
for years, we had an affinity
for crayfish.

They didn’t stay for long
in the garden.

They didn’t like the pond then
– was it running water?

It was very quick. It didn’t have time
to be un-running.

Did they all go together?
How could they know where to go?

They’ve got eyes and feelers,

Yes, but for underwater, not on land.
And how could they do that, across fields and roads?

I don’t think “road” is in their vocabulary.

I wonder if they went in a line...

What we don’t know is how
they got out of the garden. The fence
it comes right down to the ground.

Maybe a cat killed and ate them -
Oh no, then you’d see the shells.

A cat wouldn’t do that!

Yes it would, if they were moving around.
A cat will eat anything that moves.

Well, they just disappeared.

A conversation between an older man and a younger woman, overhead at breakfast in a Shrewsbury B&B, 2009. Submitted by MsJinnifer.

15 March 2013

Glance sideways

Glance sideways into the wings,
and you see the tacky preparations
for the triumphant public event.

You see your beautiful suit deconstructed,
the tailor’s chalk lines, the unsecured seams.
You see that your life is a charade,
that the scenery is cardboard,
that the paint is peeling,
the red carpet fraying

and if you linger you will notice the oily devotion
fade from the faces of your subjects,
and you will see their retreating backs
as they turn up their collars
and button their coats

and walk away into real life.

From Hilary Mantel's discourse on Royal Bodies. Submitted by Angi Holden.

13 March 2013

This is our island

We have water all around us, and in these lochs,
and we have the boat –
and there were porpoises – we
have to cross the causeway… These
great big rocks.

This is Raasay, this is Skye; there is nothing
as far as the North Pole.
The sea was like a millpond, the sky was
a great… American blue.

We could never imagine ourselves alone,
with the sheep… and the gulls were laughing
like people.

There are yachts that just arrive
in the North Inlet,
and people arrive in bad weather
and we bring them in.

Here is the croft, with the white walls;
the tide is low here.
This photograph,
this is our island.

My friend's Mum, in her kitchen, talking about photographs of their holidays on an island off the west coast of Scotland. Just as it was. Submitted by Kerry Featherstone.

11 March 2013

Before the end came

Death is so intimate –
more intimate than first love.

I could hold his hand, 

gaze into his eyes, 



at his tender face, 


his frosty hair.

He was very thin,
skin the colour 

of a dried corn husk. 

His mouth 

a dark tunnel. 

The jagged mountain ranges 

of his ruined teeth.

The petrified forests
of his hair.

The failing locomotive of his breath.
The sadness of the black bobbled socks on his calves.

Yet he was
who he had always been. 

Taken from Tim Lott's Guardian article, My father's final moments, 23 February 2013. Submitted by Ailsa Holland.

08 March 2013

Happiness is simple

Rise and dine
The winner will appear
When you’re too hot to move
Don’t worry about snagging a picnic table

The winner will appear
Don’t just watch the Food Network
Don’t worry about snagging a picnic table
Just toss ‘em in your pitcher

Don’t just watch the Food Network
Make pulled pork with the Neelys
Just toss ‘em in your pitcher
Happiness is simple. Cook with bacon.

Make pulled pork with the Neelys
Keep everything cold for nearly a week
Happiness is simple. Cook with bacon.
It will travel forty feet on a flat surface

Keep everything cold for nearly a week
If you find anything else inside our bag…
It will travel forty feet on a flat surface
Not all love notes are written.

If you find anything else inside our bag…
See if the judges pick your dish
Not all love notes are written.
Where can I buy it?

His and her refrigerators
Happiness is simple. Cook with bacon.
Where can I buy it?
Where can I buy it?

Rise and dine.
When you’re too hot to move.

Ads and headlines from 'Food Network Magazine' 2009, arranged into a pantoum. Submitted by Lita Kurth.

06 March 2013

Dead pianos

The Knabe baby grand
did a cartwheel and landed
on its back,
legs poking into the air.

A Lester upright
thudded onto its side
with a final groan of strings,
a death-rattling chord.

After ten pianos were dumped,
a small yellow loader
with a claw in front scuttled
in like a vicious beetle,

crushing keyboards,
and cases

into a pile.

From For More Pianos, Last Note Is Thud in the Dump, The New York Times, 29 July 2012. Submitted by J.R. Solonche.

04 March 2013

Said the Prophet to his Captors

I came to do the will of the Father. I am not Jesus Christ. I am his servant.
I am the Lord's servant, and he has called me out of the world.
I have no part in these questions or answers that you’re seeking.

Her name is Shear Jashub. Shear Jashub Esther Isaiah.
I am the servant of the Lord, and my name is Immanuel David Isaiah.
It mattereth not how good you think this case is against me.
God hath power to deliver me out of the hands of my enemies.

By the power of God, she was delivered to us.
I received her in the bonds of marriage.
She's had a glorious experience.
We have had many trials, but we have seen God's power.
And she knows who I am.

Joseph Smith was arrested almost fifty times.
I'm willing to suffer whatever the Lord God will.
Death, prison or death, it mattereth not.
The whole world is in bonds and chains.

You will reap great shame and sorrow.
I have more compassion for Shear Jashub Esther Isaiah than you do.
I have been obedient unto God Almighty.
Why should I submit to your accusations?

My name is Immanuel David Isaiah.
I say that your question is an accusation.
I never raped anybody. I never raped anybody.
I have only done what the Lord God Almighty commanded me to do.

You're asking me to talk about things that are sacred and holy.

Composed of selected quotations from an interview with Brian David Mitchell, conducted on 12 March 2003. Some punctuation has been added. Submitted by Laura Elizabeth Woollett.

02 March 2013

Fried bread

Taiwan’s hand grasp bread
A legendary experience of dough
It’s just doomed earthshaking. Because the
inoculation of thousands have experienced and
iceberg … Finally one thousand reopen. You see
it … The cold of each lovely white body.
Experienced pressed on warm body … Clean and
attractive turning on the state of the body. Blood
in the body boiling. Inflation. Tempestuous … A
lovely stunner available. Curse. Wrapped in
white silk garments of thin layer. Extremely
upset, body of waving … Use hand grasp, surface
silk involvement.

You move?

From a poster advertisement on a small fried bread stand in China. Transcribed by Sean Wilkerson and Herbert Woodward Martin.