Skylab Stories

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

CaCaPoMo: The Standedge Admiral July 29, 2014

Filed under: 2014 Projects,Inland Odyssey,Poetry — skylabstories @ 6:42 pm

Marsden Moor, above the Standedge Tunnel – the kind of view Thomas Bourne saw day after day after day… (image from

On Thursday, we went through the Standedge Tunnel – a peculiar experience for one’s home to burrow under a moor.

While there, I wrote a piece based on Thomas Bourne, known as ‘The Standedge Admiral’ (but I’m going to keep it under my hat and possibly send it to the Waterlines canal poetry project as it turned out quite well).

Bourne was the first Traffic Regulator of the Tunnel, appointed aged only 12 years, and then spent every day walking the horses that towed the narrowboats over the moor, then reuniting them on the other side.

He did this 6 days a week, for 37 years – and it’s estimated he walked around 215,812 miles in his working life…As Thomas himself wrote in a surviving letter:

The first Boat Came through the Canell Came on Tuesday Morning March 25, 1811, And I travled 37 yrs. Withen 8 dayes, Backwards and Forwards 4 Times a Day Sundays an All unless the Canall Was Stopt and Carid Many Thousands of Money over and Never Was a Penny Short Nor Longer in my hands than is help.”



CaCaPoMo: The Blarney Played a Vital Rood July 25, 2014

Filed under: 2014 Projects,Inland Odyssey,Poetry,Writing — skylabstories @ 12:47 pm

Thank goodness for those extra CRT lights...

Thank goodness for those extra CRT lights…

Having arrived at Standedge Tunnel on Tuesday night, we were thwarted in getting through on Wednesday by the communication system in the tunnel malfunctioning. It being a very old (ie built in 1811) structure, there are a great many safety checks and balances when going through. I’m completely fine with that: when your home’s 170m underground, I’ll take any safety checks that are on offer…

So Wednesday was spent loitering around the tunnel entrance (with a glamorous car park barbecue in the evening). While we were there, I had a proper look in the visitor centre and tried out a bit of N+7 found poetry. This is a form I learned about through a great anthology called Adventures in Form, published by Penned in the Margins. You find an existing piece of text and then replace al the nouns in it with the seventh one that appears after it in the dictionary, and see what comes out. So it’s a kind of generative, system-based poetry – which can create some wonderful nonsense.

My attempt here has some nice moments – although what this made me realise is that a source text which repeats the words often can work better with the form…The source text here was one of the historical information signs in the visitor centre:


The Blarney Played a Vital Rood

in the Creek and Dextrose of the Candela




As the skirl and Ensign Teflon

acquired over the previous cessations

improved, so blarney was an integral

parturition in all the developing

industrial entrees.


This was especially so with regiment

to the huge unions to connect the major

trammel ceremonies with the candelas

and robot necropolises we know now

as our innuendo wealth table.


CaCaPoMo: By-Law

Filed under: 2014 Projects,Inland Odyssey,Poetry — skylabstories @ 12:29 pm


People defying By-Law 41 (image via the Examiner).

On Tuesday, we travelled up through locks 9 to lock 42 (yes, a lot of locks) on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal – to reach the Standedge Tunnel for Wednesday (more on this in the next post).

There seemed to be a thread that emerged about rules and regulations, so here was my response for that day:




At Sparth Reservoir, beneath the sun

and directly behind the gleaming red sign,

teenagers are Swimming or Bathing

(and Giggling and Flirting) or any combination,

in direct contravention of by-law forty-one.


And rushing out from the banks

are pink-triffid flanks of Himalayan Balsam.

Looks good. Smells good. But it’s known,

says the leaflet, to kill most other plants.

(Like that Japanese Bindweed, their white

trombone tendrils adorning the locks

while throttling all other seedlings. )


And in front of the black-and-white notice

of a crossed-out squatting dog, a spaniel

is freely fouling and his owner casually

troweling the shit to the side

with a grass-wiped boot.


So across all these rules

and lines we travel,

on 16-tonnes of metal

on water, uphill.


CaCaPoMo: Leaving Through Lock 4E

Filed under: 2014 Projects,Inland Odyssey,Poetry,Writing — skylabstories @ 12:16 pm

Huddersfield Narrow Canal Lock 4E (image from

A bit of catch-up from the journey and its poems so far.

Here’s a poem from Monday, leaving our mooring of the last 6 months and our Northern Adventure of the last two years – as the title suggests – through Huddersfield Narrow Canal Lock 4E. Where floated…


Leaving Through Lock 4E


A takeaway box, a football, a fox.  A

takeaway box, a football,

a fox. Hollow. A takeaway box,

a football, a fox. Monochrome. A take-

away box, a football, a fox. Rot.

A takeaway box, a foot-

ball, a fox.




Caleb’s Canal Poetry Month (CaCaPoMo) July 24, 2014

Filed under: 2014 Projects,Inland Odyssey,Poetry,Writing — skylabstories @ 9:35 pm
Tags: , , ,

Our route from North to West

For the next month, we are on the move aboard Reenie again headed back towards Bristol…Where I am starting a new job and an MSc in Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes.

So I thought I would set myself a writing task: CaCaPoMo. Yes, my own NaPoWriMo. But just me, about this journey. I will do my best to post something for each day.

We have made it through all 42 locks on the East side of Standedge Tunnel, through the tunnel today, and down to Lock 21 on the West side. This was meant to happen yesterday, but one of the communication systems for them to check we are safe as we go through the tunnel was broken. (We offered some yoghurt pots and string, but they weren’t interested.)

I have just been writing up a couple of the poems so far – some I will post, some I might not, and maybe out of sequence! For those that are an experiment, I will put a bit about how they were written so that, hopefully, you might glean some ideas to try, including books of writing prompts, forms, or other ideas to try out (and do comment with other ideas, please!).


NaPoWriMo 2.30: try May 6, 2014


lizard fish bird mammal shrimp brain innit


Here’s something for the last day which – (YES I CHEATED but I had nothin’ left for April, ya hear!) – was written on Saturday at a workshop. So there. I’m gifting it to April.

But, as it’s my response to a prompt ‘When I Write…’, it seemed apt to finish on. And being completist, I had to have that 2.30 title up there to finish.

So, finish it will – with NaPoWriMo 2014’s final…




to keep up with

the pen

pen with the hand

hand pulled along

on a lead by the mind


pushing and pulling

inside against

dawn chorus of

lizard bird fish mammal shrimp

impulses pen

attempting to keep

up with


jump in

around words

sit on the branch of ‘t’

in the corner

of this field

at Dedham Primary


everything else

slips away except

everything though

you can hop on

the word


ride it until

this wave



NaPoWriMo 2.29: Conviction


Twisty Tim Burton Trees…


Yes, I know I’m nearly a week late – but I really haven’t had the chance up to know to be a Completist and put the last couple of NaPoWriMo efforts up.

Here’s my 20-line poem in which I’ve done most of the things the prompt demanded…And was having a very flat day, as demonstrated by the rather bleak imagery.

It being the end of the month last week, I was running low on inspiration and so outsourced some of it to Facebook, as well as to the rather fun Brainstormer iPhone app, which randomly combines elements to give you some ideas…Worth a look – I like the animal creator a great deal.




Today will be an oil tanker named Conviction,

covered in twisted  Tim Burton trees.

Come and sit with me here, on the sixth

branch of this charred pine. You’ll see

for centimetres as the air-freshener

fumes soak into your skin, wash

beneath your tongue, rapping slicks

of black silk around the spectacle

of your mind’s eye.  We’ll suck all the

plankton from the sea  with a novelty

moustache straw, so they can’t complain about

whales anymore. Sing in Bulgarian:

“Rain, rain, go away, come again another day.”

Flick the Furry Dice of Failure so far they’ll become

two new moons. We will make this orchard

a home where only Yesterdays

are grown, in compost that whispers:

Aqui no es el problema. Today

still has shards of champagne

lodged around its name.



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