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Wednesday, 25 July 2012


feet up on desk

Dropped The Moon is closed for a week or so.

While I'm away, browse the archive, leave some comments, be nice to your fellow human beings and hug a poet at every opportunity.

SHIFT by RHIAN GALLAGHER (Poetry Book Review))

Product Details
By Rhian Gallagher
Enitharmon £9.99

I have read "Shift" four times and every time I think I get it, I am thrown by some cryptic reference, by an odd phrase, a whim or a curved ball that is uncatchable.  I have written and read poetry for over forty years and I have been entertained and frustrated in equal measure.  I am a simple soul, but one that craves intellectual challenge, even if I don't understand everything I read. I love a writer's urge to be an individual, to flirt, to manipulate, to tease, to say something that means everything to the poet but leaves the reader reeling in a state of agony, trying to comprehend what the hell is going on.  I love to eavesdrop on angst, to peer through a keyhole, to ogle intimacy and to swim in an ocean of emotion, if a writer is willing to allow access.

For all these reasons and much, much more, I loved "Shift" by the remarkable Rhian Gallagher.

There is nothing easy here, nothing to take for granted.  This is a poet baring her soul as she takes us on her journey from homeland New Zealand to Europe, specifically London, and on to Brooklyn. Rhian Gallagher looks within herself from the outset in the evocative poem “Blood Work”, remembering her father: “….and I couldn’t see/how I’d make the journey/going away and away from him.”  I was struck by these words especially because of my own father’s abruptness when leaving home when I was six.  I see affection here from Gallagher, in contrast to my own anger.  If a writer can encapsulate something about the reader, then that is a very clever writer indeed, or a very sensitive reader, perhaps.

I have sincere admiration for my sisters for reasons that I will not go into here, but Rhian Gallagher brought out so many feelings in “My Sister’s Country”, “My Sister’s Dead Perfection” and “My Sister Remade” that I had to stop reading and take a breath. “You were tough and sweet/and wonderfully mean./I tugged on your hem/with my questions, I rode/in your slipstream.”

This is a poetry book that seeps into your personal life because it is so personal to begin with.  It is true to it’s title.  It shifts locations, issues, poetic styles, and touches you when and where you least expect it to. It is an exemplary work and will require re-reading to ensure maximum understanding and satisfaction.

My favourite line, from “Crossroad”, “Giving up on words is the final failure.”  Amen to that!

Rhian Gallagher has created a collection to confirm that she is a poet to cherish, one not to ignore, one that is adept at getting to your heart, your soul, your inner core. “Shift” is essential reading.  Rhian Gallagher is a special talent.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012


23 July 2012: James Holmes, 24, sat in court in a red jail suit with dyed orange hair, and appeared dazed during the proceedings.  The US man accused of killing 12 people in a shooting at a Batman film screening in Aurora, Colorado has appeared in court for the first time.  Seven of 58 people wounded by the gunman remain in critical condition.

Orange hair,
hangdog face,
we don't have to see your craziness
to know you're crazy.

We don't have to understand you,
analyse you, listen to the story you'll tell.
We have to look for the only justice,
to see you rot and burn in hell........

.......and hope the grief of survivors, 
families, friends will ease
as we pray for these people
to rest in peace:

Gordon, 51
Rebecca Ann, 32
Jesse, 29,
John, 27
Alex, 27
Matthew, 27
Jonathan, 26
Jessica, 24
Alexander, 24
Micayla, 23
Alexander, 18,
Veronica, 6

We pray that they rest in peace.

Sunday, 22 July 2012


Battle, partaken,
legendary, omega,
entitle, situate,
ivory, teaspoon,
recorder, coped,
hoarder, glucose,
poker, sensitive,
strident, arrest,
bulletin, shapes,
tightrope walker,
lengthy, ordered,
talented, resin,
abyss, arrogant,
two-step, courier,
keep a low profile,
neater, adherent.

From his inside world,
he would stare 
at the crossword answers,
his only mental activity
as each day bled into night into day,
not understanding it,
but trying to make sense of it.

Lost in the random.

Saturday, 21 July 2012


The Canterbury Tales - Wordsworth Poetry Library
By Geoffrey Chaucer

Wordsworth Poetry Library
Wordsworth Editions

The poet, the poetry reader, the teacher, the student of language and literature, and lovers of wonderful words generally and classical works specifically, have an opportunity with Wordsworth Editions to invest as little as £3.99 in books that have stood and will continue to stand the test of time.  Visit the Wordsworth Editions website to see the full range of books available. 

Many years have passed since I read The Canterbury Tales, a challenge and a chore for a young schoolboy and it was with not very fond memories that I picked up this 700-page Wordsworth Edition.  But, whatever happened and however it happened, from my school years in the 1960s to now, I found fresh enthusiasm as I started to read the tales again, helped along by the explanatory margin notes in the book, and gradually succumbed to the wonders within Chaucer’s writing.

Now it would be dishonest to suggest that I have read and absorbed every word of this extraordinary work, but I have read enough to be reminded of the complexities and marvels on offer from writing that dates back to the 14th Century.

There will be those readers who will know the book very well but there will be others who shy away from such classic literature because it is seen as a difficult text, requiring patient concentration and time, two commodities that seem to be in decline in this hi-tech, high-speed, rush-rush modern age.  But, I promise you, if you stick with it, The Canterbury Tales will not disappoint you, and you will find clever storytelling, delicious wit, drama and a wondrous smattering of Medieval English words and phrases to boggle and amuse.  It is a work like no other.

For the uninitiated, The Canterbury Tales collects the stories of thirty pilgrims who meet at the Tabard Inn, Southwark in south-east London.  They decide to travel together to the shrine of St Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral.  Along the way they tell their stories.  The tales cover a number of themes including religion, human nature, morality, women in society, marital relationships, honour, truth and chivalry.  The binding ingredient, humour, is evident throughout.

This is not holiday beach reading.  It's not for the impatient, nor is it a page-turner by modern standards.  But it is a treasure chest of exemplary writing for those who truly want to understand the lengths to which a writer went to stretch the English language and to tell stories in a unique way.

It is challenging. It is annoying, It is frustrating.  It is unique. It is The Canterbury Tales.  Oh, and did I mention that at £3.99, it is a bargain - almost ten times cheaper than a train from London to Canterbury.  Now, that’s a tale the pilgrims would not believe.

Friday, 20 July 2012


Almost a year,
trees a little taller,
world a little darker,
rain falling today
and just as wet,
tears for good times,
tears of regret,
in two days it's here,
almost a year.

Thursday, 19 July 2012


Ad-verse (sic) - sponsored by, er, me!

I'll not be Poet Laureate,
(big loss to the nation),
I plough on with my verse
with its fun and frustration.

I am Poet-in-Residence,
wherever I reside,
a journeyman wordsmith,
(t&cs applied).

I can find phrases
to inspire and amuse,
to improve morale,
wherever you choose.

I can do slogans,
write the odd ditty,
I can do serious,
I can do witty.

I can write lyrics,
I can write features,
work with executives,
editors and teachers

If you want some samples,
if you want a flavour,
browse this blog's archive
for something to savour.

I'm writer for hire,
with professional aplomb,

Twitter: @JoeCushnan
Twitter: @PoetryPleeze

Daily Poetry blog:
Daily Retail/Business blog:

Wednesday, 18 July 2012


He slipped on the first white glove,
then the second, adjusted the snugness,
flexed his fingers unnecessarily
before walking to the table,
pausing for a long, lingering look
at the yellowed, frail, delicate book.

He moved to open it, stopping
to absorb the moment - he, here, now
and ancient it lying on a velvet cloth, exposed
for a rare viewing outside the locked cabinet,
two centuries, an antiquity, beautiful, rare,
white gloves reminding to handle with care.

As he positioned one clothed finger to lift the cover,
of the significance of the moment, he had no doubt,
unaware for a short time.....seconds.....minutes,
that he had neither breathed in nor out.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

ZEAL by ANDREW BAILEY (Poetry Book Review)

Product Details

By Andrew Bailey
Enitharmon £9.99

For another review project, I have been re-reading “The Canterbury Tales” by Geoffrey Chaucer, that challenging, unique classic tome with its weird language and elaborate composition.  Whilst not searching for any specific comparisons here, I realised quickly that Andrew Bailey’s debut poetry collection, “Zeal”, has one thing in common with Chaucer’s masterpiece – it requires concentration……and time.…..and re-reading, to understand and absorb the themes, the nuances, the observations and emotions therein.  There is nothing throwaway in his fine collection of poems.  It seems clear that every word and phrase has been chosen painstakingly and positioned in precisely the right place on the page for maximum effect. There is something very special going on in this volume.  Not all poets are as meticulous as Andrew Bailey but it is right and proper to acknowledge his skill, his intelligent craftsmanship with language and his poetic powers.  He leads us and we follow.

There is a lot of sand, water, rain, wind and other natural ingredients driving his poems.  Love and sex make guest appearances too.  The challenges and conflicts of nature interweave with personal feelings, hopes, regrets and doubts.  “Quickening” is a strong opening poem: ‘Where surf fusses at the definitions/of sandy water, watery sand, a tethered boat/enjoys support from both./I promised once to sail,/one hand in sea one hand in sky,/for the point where they would meet/and I would learn some undefined/but Eleusinian thing. I learned/about how to be wet.’

The killer lines of some of the work stick with you.  From “Chill”, ‘moon as faint as a misprint”; from “Dream”, “Dream is headfill”; from “Halloween, ‘a cobweb past noon’; from “Coastal”, ‘We will speak like sandpaper’; from “Aspire”, ‘each particle of sand aspires to pearl’.  I know I’m teasing you here with scraps but back to my original point, the words and phrases are plotted and knitted together beautifully.  The poetry, although cryptic at times, is sublime.

In my experience, if you have read a poetry book and remembered nothing, it wasn’t much of a book.  But if you remembered something, the seed has been sown for you to return to the work again and again, or to urge you find out more about the poet. On reading “Zeal”, you will want more.

I urge you to buy this book and then to promise that you will respect it and it’s author by giving it your full concentration and a fair chunk of time.  It will be well worth it and you will feel all the better for introducing yourself to a deep thinking but rather exciting new poet.

More, please.

Monday, 16 July 2012


I had to write this down to clear my head,
to try to understand the reason why
politicians talk about talks.

Politicians talk about talks and cheer
their progress while we witness people dying,
for all the while the demon stalks.

All the while the demon stalks
opening cracks, stirring conflicts,
causes driven by bombs and guns,
piling corpses, so where's the sense in it,
pointless as the dryness of dry spit.

Politicians talk about talks
and all the while the demon stalks.
The demon stalks.

Saturday, 14 July 2012


My life as a slug isn't easy,
I make some humans feel queasy,
it isn't my fault
but they rush for the salt,
then I get all drowsy and wheezy

Friday, 13 July 2012


Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy is to be awarded the 2012 Pen Pinter Prize.  The annual prize, in memory of the platwright Harold Pinter, is awared to a British writer of outstanding literary merit. (Reported 13 July 2012)

No need to get huffy,
huffy and puffy
about Poet Laureate
Carol Ann Duffy.

Just 'cos she's brilliant,
just 'cos she's great,
these are not good reasons
to insult and hate.

She gets all the credit,
she gets all the praise,
she wins many prizes
for her gift to amaze.

She's just won another,
the Pen Pinter Prize,
and I've won nothing
but I refuse to despise.

No need to get huffy,
huffy and puffy
about Poet Laureate
Carol Ann Duffy,
but in private I'll chunter
and like my teachers would scribble,
"Joe must try harder,
and not be slave to the quibble."

Thursday, 12 July 2012


I'm riding shotgun on a stagecoach,
hat brim flat against my head,
rifle nestling in my arms,
wishing it was you instead.

Across the plains from here to there,
desert wind means dusty eyes,
bumps and bruises from the trail,
that's the job, it's no surprise.

I dream of rocking chairs and sunsets,
I'm just a poor old son of a gun,
I need you now, we need our time,
my working days are almost done.

The danger's high, the pay is low,
the land both beautiful and bleak,
I've been attacked, I've shot and killed,
I am as strong as I am weak.

Sunrise, sundown, shadows, shapes, 
trigger ready, eyes sharp and wide,
one more trail for my aching bones
and these shotgun days will subside.

But what is that out in the distance,
fifty, a hundred, it's hard to tell,
me and the driver exchanging glances,
one more trail, the trail to hell.

I'm riding shotgun on a stagecoach,
in this God-forsaken place,
rifle cocked and more than ready,
inside my head, I see your face.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012


Just for a change.....the opening chapter to Belfast Shakedown.........

“Belfast is a shit hole.  If the world had piles, that’s where they’d be.”  The man who spat these words in my face ended up in hospital with a broken jaw and two black eyes.  My bruised hand was purely a coincidence.  Nobody runs down my city.  That’s my job.  On a particularly dull and boring Belfast day in my first floor flat overlooking the river, with a couple of empty warehouses shimmering in the foggy smog, I tried to find a position where the eyes of the toy leprechaun on top of the bookshelf did not follow me around the room.  It was impossible to hide from the damn thing.  It sat there between James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’, essential to impress the ladies, and Seamus Heaney’s ‘Death of a Naturalist’, just essential for mind, heart and soul.  Here I was, a private investigator, outwitted by a little green lucky charm, which had been given to me as a fun gift by an old ex-friend who seemed to enjoy taking the piss out of the Irish.  I remember thanking him from the heart of my bottom as I poured, nay wasted, a perfectly decent pint of Guinness over his head.  We have not spoken since but his spirit and spite haunts the leprechaun who in turn haunts me with static but deadly eyeballs.   Some self-imposed threat of a lifelong curse stops me from disposing of it, so we have a silent pact just to get through each day without unnecessary rancour. Over the years, I have assigned a very important task to the green chap.  He carries my front door key in a slot between his buttocks and to save my legs I throw him out of the window to whomsoever I authorise to come up and see me.  It is an arrangement that works and we just get on with the job of being a key-minding leprechaun and a private investigator.

The doorbell rang, just a normal ding-dong, although I had promised myself a new chime of the Black Velvet Band as soon as I could afford the luxury of it.  I looked out of the window to see Limp Donnelly’s bald spot.  I opened the window, shouted down for him to get ready to catch the leprechaun and then threw it down towards him.  In true tradition, he raised his hands above his head and waited for the key to succumb to gravity.  When it missed Limp’s hands and banged into his forehead, he shouted an expletive that seemed to echo across the river, bouncing between the warehouses before evaporating into the stillness of the afternoon.

I had hoped that Donnelly had brought a fresh bottle of Bushmill’s with him to warm us up. The flat was as cold as a solicitor’s heart, only because I was too tight to turn on the heating on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  I looked forward to the other days but as this was Wednesday, I was wearing several layers of clothing and waiting for liquid refreshment as a necessary remedy for my blue nose and shivering limbs.

Donnelly had indeed delivered the goods.  He had a plastic carrier bag containing two bottles of booze, which he presented to me with glee, unaware of the demon bag’s singular threat to the planet.  He took the view, supported by me incidentally, that plastic bags are made from products of the Earth, so there is nothing strange in their manufacture to frighten the Earth, just, it would seem, Earthlings who get off on gloom, doom and despondency.  He put the bottles on the kitchen table and incarcerated the plastic bag with all the others accumulated under the sink in a cupboard akin to Alcatraz for bad, bad things.  There were a couple of tax demands in there too. He poured generous drinks and sat down.

Donnelly and I had a long history of friendship, moral support, pub-crawls and love of poetry.  We would write and perform poetry every Thursday night at The Stanza, a venue for writers to meet, share verse, get drunk and put the world to rights.  It was the perfect antidote for a private investigator used to crime with all its nasty traits and evil outcomes.  It was certainly a welcome sideline as business had been a little slow of late.  In practical terms, Limp was expert at finding his way around Internet search engines and he seemed to know enough people to gouge out information when I needed it most.

“Have you written anything new for tomorrow night?” I asked.
“No,” said Limp, “remember Eddie Hennessy is doing a rare performance.”  Hennessy was a world famous poet, with global poetry sales in respectable numbers.  He was a Belfast man in his late sixties and wrote some of the most wonderful words in literature.  He had never forgotten his roots, his upbringing, the locality that had shaped him and his friends and supporters.  I had forgotten his appearance at The Stanza because the gig was a last minute arrangement.  But I was looking forward to it because I loved him and his canon.

The phone rang.

“This is me, is that you?” I enquired.
“Yeah.  Sticky, it’s Barney at The Stanza.” Barney was manager, caretaker, chief cook and bottle smasher at the venue and a friend of mine who had fed me in the hard times and made sure I got home when I was mugged by alcohol.  He had one tooth in his mouth, but ironically a great warm smile.  I detected nothing but anguish in his voice.
“What is it Barney?” I asked. 
“I’ve got a problem over here,” he said, his voice a little higher pitched than normal.
“What is it? Booze sales down and you need me to bump up your income?”
“I wish it was that simple Stick.  It’s Eddie Hennessy.
“What’s the matter?” I asked.  “Don’t tell me, he needs a killer limerick to open the show and he knew he could rely on me?”
“Shut up, will you?” Barney was in no mood for unwise cracks.
“Barney, what’s going on? What’s wrong with Hennessy?” I said with my hand clenched around the receiver and with tight ripples forming on my brow.
”Hennessy’s dead.”

Monday, 9 July 2012


Based on the format of the song The Scottish Soldier...........

There was a player,
a Scottish player
who came across as dour
on the tough tennis tour,
he’d grump and smoulder
with good broad shoulder
he fought in many a set
and sometimes won.

His chance at glory
was the Wimbledon story,
a battle glorious, a tad laborious,
he lost the prize, tears in his eyes
but won the hearts of all who cheered him on.

You see his driving force is to find the guts,
no ifs, ands and buts, just a sportsman’s guts,
and when he wipes away that final tear, have no fear,
he’ll have next  year,
to fight in many a game and fight to win.