Skylab Stories

Poetry, Performance, Participation, Possibility. Based in South-West England. I write and perform poetry, and run workshops to get people writing poetry together.

Eyedrum Periodically: Backwards October 15, 2014

Two of my poems – as well as an array of splendid work – are in this edition of Eyedrum Periodically, on the theme of ‘Backwards’.

Of my two: one poem relates to upside-down art (or does it?); the other to topsy-turvy time (or does it?). OK, I’ll stop that now (or will I?). Yes, I will.

I hope you enjoy all the work included – looking forward to reading everyone’s work in the publication.


Bristol Death Cafe October 13, 2014

Here’s a short piece I wrote about my experience at the first Bristol Death Cafe.

The next event is at Cox and Baloney on Sunday 29th November – hope to see you there.


Joy’s Kitchen October 6, 2014

Filed under: 2014 Projects,Poetry,Publications — skylabstories @ 7:13 pm
Tags: , , ,

A poem of mine, in honour of my late Granny Joy’s compulsion to collect, has been published by The Moon Magazine, here.


My Phone Instead of an Onion: Video Poetry September 24, 2014

New Life (created during a videopoetry workshop at Liberated Words 2014) from Marc Neys (aka Swoon) on Vimeo.

On Saturday, I joined a splendidly energetic and fruitful workshop with Marc Neys, who makes video poems, as part of the Liberated Words festival.

The video we made is embedded, through Marc’s excellent Vimeo site, above. We wrote, recorded, and edited this film in about 3 hours – so the title of this post refers to one of the more baffling lines I wrote (and am still not really sure what it means, apart from being a reference to Sylvia Plath’s poem ‘Cut’ - you can make up your own mind!). But we worked fast, which can be immensely liberating…

As I learned, it’s a broad and brilliant genre (if it is a genre, as such), which can mean creating film to go with other poet’s work (perhaps by using the Poetry Storehouse project he told us about).

Or – more interestingly, I think – to gather images and sounds, while creating poetry alongside them. The two processes then start to interweave and interact, rather than one bolting onto the other.

So I’m all fired up about making work through writing, but also through gathering curious images – and creating soundscapes (Marc told us he has has a big bag, ‘only of children’s instruments’) using my never-really-played musical saw, and stylophone, and whatever else I have lying around…

This could get noisy. And rather fun.


CaCaPoMo: “My Boat Won’t Bend” August 5, 2014

Filed under: 2014 Projects,Inland Odyssey,Poetry,Writing — skylabstories @ 11:19 am

Rant away, sir!

Here’s something inspired by the end of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal and an encounter with another boater.

An admission: I am infuriated by discourteous boaters. Those who are in a weird rush (don’t go on a narrowboat then!) or want to speed past moored boats (it’s not a race and our stuff falls over!) or put a lock down when you’re coming up to it (it’s a waste of bloody water!). And so on.

There was just such a boater at the end of the Huddersfield Narrow, who was quite uppity about getting past our boat, having just come up the lock, while we were waiting to go down (and assisting with the lock). 

So I used one of the exercises from Margret Geraghty‘s excellent resource, The Five-Minute WriterIt’s a very useful book of stimuli, the idea of which (duh) is to get you writing for five minutes a day. The thing I love about the book is how she gives an example from literature, as well as some background to it psychologically (having also studied psychology) and then sets you an exercise putting these thinking skills to use. 

Geraghty explains in one exercise that Delta Airlines won a customer services award for their ‘genuineness’. They trained their host/esses, when dealing with an ‘irate’ (a ranting, irrational customer) to make up a story as to why they were that angry: their wife left them this morning; they just found our they’re losing their job. That sort of thing. In doing so, they could maintain empathy and not lose their rag.

So, with that in mind, here’s something in the voice of that rude boater. I don’t anticipate winning any customer service awards for it, mind:


“My Boat Won’t Bend”


He’s in the galley before I notice him stirring,

already holding out that mug of tea.

The duck hatch wide open.

There they all are, treading water,

that bloody blank quacking look

as they sup the bread he’s chucked.

Only twenty to go today, he says.

Always counting down. Always

staring, expecting.


I pick up speed just to see

if he’ll tell me to stop, scrape

through the lock so the bow, front,

head – whatever – butts slimy green.

At the top, two blokes are waiting

to come in and they’re in my way

so I say, My boat won’t bend.

But they insist, so I shove it

forward – they’re fault if it bangs.

But it doesn’t. So we slide by

and one of them says,

Have a nice day!


And he’s swinging his windlass

approaching lock number

six of thirty-two. Six of thirty-bloody-two.

I ram the boat through and there, half-

sunk, at the bottom of the lock,

a laminated sign:

Out of Order.


CaCaPoMo: Branches August 2, 2014

Filed under: 2014 Projects,Poetry,Sci-poems — skylabstories @ 12:10 pm

                          The Tree of Life

Some more poetry from our summer of canal travel (CaCaPoMo = Caleb’s Canal Poetry Month) – I’m sat inside, sheltering from the rain, while the other crewman (my partner) pilots…Time for a catch-up on writing from sunnier days.

I wrote this after a conversation regarding dragonflies – there are some beautiful ones around this summer, burnt-red and bright-blue in colour. I gather they enjoy the sun. Just like boaters.

Thinking about the scientific language (and our mis-use of it) in this poem brought to mind another poe t and designer’s work. Last year, Joanna Tilsley (AKA xYz) wrote 30 poems inspired by science during NaPoWriMo. You can read more about it on the excellent BrainPickings blog by Maria Popova, here and order a copy of the book and individual prints, through Etsy, here.




By my left ear, a dragonfly

changes itself from blue

to red; somewhere along the line

of this canal, territories merge mid-air.


We speculate, use spells -

words like Genus and Phyllum –

on how the Tree of Life grows,

how its branches are labelled.


Wings weave through our fingers,

waving, as we guess at numbers

of species, of miles today. Pick

out the time from the leaves.


Along both banks, trunks divide:

deltas into digressions;

chlorophyll into conversation.

At once red, blue, green.




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.”



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