Skylab Stories

Poetry, Performance, Participation, Possibility. Huddersfield, UK. I write and perform poetry, and run workshops to get people writing poetry together.

NaPoWriMo 2.13: Upmarket Sunday Kennings April 13, 2014

Upmarket Sunday. Nom nom nom.

Today’s challenge: to write something with the Old Norse tradition of kennings. These are a kind of compound-noun, which evoke a particular thing, ie. “Whale-Road” for “Ocean”. (I’ve also head them done with a noun and verb – “Bin-Diver” – but not mentioning the name of the thing itself.)

As we went to the market in Huddersfield today for Upmarket Sunday - and had a very nice time talking about delicious things, trying delicious things and buying too many delicious things – I thought I’d evoke some of what we acquired, or saw, through kennings…


Upmarket Sunday Kennings


Buzz jar.

Pastry oink.

Moo smoothness.


Apple fuddle.

Tiger stamp.

Spirits Sherpa.


Oat oracle.

Mother pulse.

Allspice elder.


Woof weave.

Chick covers.

Podge pleasure.


NaPoWriMo 2.12: Hilarity Crash-Lands in Japan

Or become hysterical – but do go to Japan, it’s great.

Yesterday’s word adventure was to think up a concrete noun – a word for a solid, everyday thing – and look it up online.

Then, the idea is to replace that word with an abstract noun – love, fear, sorrow – and see what emerges:  a ‘replacement poem’.

It’s a nice way of forcing an unusual perspective, a form of remote association (which poetry depends on) - wherein one has to draw together two disparate elements and seek what links them. I found the playlist poem exercise did this, too, linking song titles to a Russian constructivist tower (!).

So I got a concrete and abstract noun (from a third party, to make it interesting), looked up the concrete noun and found a news story about it, or a particular type of it…Then created a sort of deletion poem, cutting down and down until it became something else:


Hilarity Crash-Lands in Japan


It burst in

from a pit

that orbited Earth

for eight months.

Very interesting



The ‘extraterrestrial’,

expected in April,

suddenly produced.


Form was unusual:

sent to the ISS

with astronaut

Koichi Wakata,

returned to Earth

eight months later.


“We are amazed

how fast it has grown,”

Masahiro Kajita,

chief priest, said.


Children planted the seeds,

to blossom in 10 tears*,

when children

come of age.



The original – very strange & beautiful – news story can be read here.


* NB this typo was in the original article, but I left it as I liked the image…


NaPoWriMo 2.11: After Anacreon or, Loaf and Whine

After Anacreontics

Hangover evidence…

Day 11: the challenge to write something Anacreon would approve of. Well, I’m not sure how much he wrote about hangovers, as it sounds from reading on him that his work was about wine and love (rather than – as mine is – whining and loafing, the day after).

Still – I’ve kept to (one idea of) Anacreontic verse form of seven syllables to a line and in couplets. Which I don’t claim to make it any classier. Ah well.


After Anacreon

or, Loaf and Whine


Ah the rustic thrill of it:

from my flat-thumbed palm, you lick

the sugared ibuprofen

which last night demands, again.

‘Oh lover wine!’  Whine we friends,

as you whinny from both ends.


NaPoWriMo 2.10: Did You Use Any of Your Own Bags?


Someone else’s crackling sausage.


It’s a catch-up day…I’m aiming to get 10, 11, 12 and maybe 13 on here this afternoon – eek!

Here’s Thursday’s poem – which was supposed to be an advertisement, but came out as something (also prompted by 52) both to do with consumerism, identity and an overlooked object…


Did You Use Any of Your Own Bags?

or, The Crackling Sausage


I unstuff it onto the floor, in search

of the gaping chaotic drawer

of childhood. This cylinder,

a test tube in which are fizzily mixed

a potion of all our

Debenhams House of Waitrose

notions of ourselves, with the

Wilko T K Maxx Pets at Home Sports Direct

realities, among the glowing orange

catalyst of Sainsbury’s

(whose logo fills our window).


This was a distant thing -

I’d see it at Daniel Bell’s house

as we were given milk before bed

positioned next to a pristine

Brabantia bin. Not in our

bottom drawer: there, the tendrils

of Tesco crackled out, whenever you sought

to store your almost-forgotten PE kit.


By the way, we recently tried a new

black pudding which, instead of blood,

is reimagined out of beetroot and pulses.


So I think of it, stately

by my tiny shiny silver pedal bin,

as dense as a diary.

Saveloy thick, but contained

by stitches thin.


As the Mother of the Self Checkout

sings its enquiry at me:

Did You Remember to Bring Any of Your Own Bags?

And so, with heavy sausage fingers,

I click “No”.


NaPoWriMo 2.9: A Short Shukhov Tower Constructivist Playlist Poem April 9, 2014

The Shukhov Tower in Moscow



skinny and constant

heaven lies

like a Hello? Hello?

If only. Don’t stop. No.


A little poem about the Shukhov (broadcasting) Tower (the future of which there is currently discussion over), written using a constructivist poetry approach which you can find here – and constructed with only the words from five song titles, via randomising my Most Played tracks. These were:

Skinny Bones (by The Ditty Bops)

Hello Heaven Hello (by James Yuill)

No Lie (James Yuill again)

Don’t Stop (by Owen Pallett)

Constants (James Yuill, who’s done well out of this exercise)


Addendum: There is a Russian revolutionary movement of ‘constructivism’, the manifesto for which you can read here.

There is, however, also an educational idea of constructivism – which I think my poem was based on more – which you can read about here.

My initial idea was to write something in the Russian Constructivist approach, but it seemed like that would have involved a great deal of graphic design…Maybe another time I’ll create a found latticework Constructivist poem from excerpts out of the Manifesto, about the tower. But that time is not tonight ;-)


NaPoWriMo 2.8: Position 7 April 8, 2014

“The vase is filled with another thousand of these moments.”

Today, I’ve co-written (with my partner Paul Hurley) the second poem of the day, using a technique based on the work of Paul Matthews using questions (the elemental sentence related to Water and communication) and sentences (relating to noun, object and Earth). I’d been ‘gifted’ the name of an artist – photographer, Isabelle Wenzel – on Facebook, to post up a picture by…

So we made an ekphrastic call-and-response poem, using one of Wenzel’s pictures as stimulus. The idea is that one of you writes 4 questions while the other – without seeing – writes 4 statements, then you do the same but writing the other type of sentence. So you have eight of both.

After that, you read them out and listen out for interesting mismatches, dissonances and combinations.

Then you have a tinker and see what comes out – as follows. Sometimes it works better than others, but as a response to a picture it’s quite a fun (and fast) way of creating some writing…


Position 7

(after Isabelle Wenzel)


What time is it?

The vase is filled with another thousand of these moments.

From where did she get that vase?

It is often seen here, baying in the corner of this café.

Is that one piece of fabric?

That floor is a psychedelic million checker-board war zone.

What is her name?

Tangerines all begin this way.

When it is done, what will be left?

It is a painting.

What is the angle of its knees, the degree of curvature in the spine?

There is tension and balance.

Is it staying, laying, roosting, or is it passing through?

The toe nails are painted on the shoes.



If the formatting doesn’t work, then here’s a PDF of the poem…

Position 7



NaPoWriMo 2.7: Love Song of the Goblin

The dream home of Tomorrow, in which you might find the Goblin…

It’s a two-poem day as my brain was too fried yesterday…The other (today’s) will appear later.

So, catching up with yesterday’s prompt to write a love poem to a thing, here’s my offering. It ended up quite long, so if you can stick it out – thank you, there is a ‘pay off’ and I appreciate any constructive suggestions for cuts or other edits! :-)


Love Song of the Goblin


Such Integration:

where before, we poor

humans had to lumber through

the morning chore of tea

production, in a number

of discrete actions:

no more.


Such Automation:

for now, the boiling water

of morning is poured on to the teabag

of your dreams, even before

your fleshy eyelids

have flickered.


Sentinel of The Modern Day:

you begin your boiling ways

at precisely the allotted tick.

As we kick off our fluffy

heads and robes, gliding

into one (of two) myopically

chrome and out-damn-spot

clean family cars.


Such Illumination:

dissatisfied with the distant

Sun, you add your cheery

and alarming glow to the throes

of a dawn chorus of factory-produced

daylight. Springing up, along the branch

that Britain was, alert to promotion, bonus

cash. Growing on the map like a gorgeous,

bioluminescent rash.


Such Reanimation:

now, in pixelated times, we save up

the promise stored in your recklessly

un-energy-efficient bulbs. Half a century

- no, more – from your peak, we keep you here

(though there is scarcely space) for the idea

that there is use in you. For moments, you rejoin

the Gleaming Highway of Time. When we children

of another century, want the ambience for a birthday

do just right. We put our ear to you for a tick,

or a Frankenstein fizz of electricity. From time

to time, we invite you, nervously,

to join us at the party,

as a light.



Addendum: here is the actual sort that we have on our shelf, as a light (and never, ever a tea-making device)…


A 1959-60 Goblin Teasmade, like the one we have on the shelf (and for which I have a curious affection).



Peter and the Hare

Hubbub of the Afternoon

rusty nuts and bolts

old railways, cars and mechanical gubbins


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