The Curse of the Couplets

The Son of Man by Rene Magritte

The Curse of the Couplets

A minister’s office.  There is a knock and the Professor enters.

Ah, professor, good afternoon.
It’s really very good of you to see me quite so soon.

Oh, no trouble, Minister, no trouble at all.
I came the very minute that I first received your call

Then let me bring you up to speed the problem facing here:
Something has been happening, and something very queer.
Something has affected quite the very way we speak,
It’s spread across the nation within only half a week,
It’s very hard to spot, of course, which makes it all the worse –
But each and ev’ry citizen has started talking verse.

But surely you don’t mean…

Alas, I rather mean I do.

But what then made you realise ?

(on intercom)
Ah, Bridget, tea for two.
(to Professor)
Oh, little things, just nagging doubts.

You thought you had some pests ?

We wanted to be certain, so we ran a batch of tests.
We’ve got our finest boffins out there looking for the source.

But why then did you turn to me ?

It’s time to alter course.
We need to find an antidote, we really can’t delay.
And that is why I called you in…

We’re out of Earl Grey.

Well never mind, well never mind, I’m sure this shall suffice.

Bridget exits.

I really can’t imagine I could give you sound advice.

But you’re our finest scholar, you must surely have some clue ?

Nothing at the moment, I’m afraid.

One lump, or two ?

But are you really certain that we’re talking all in rhymes ?
There hasn’t been a mention in the Telegraph or Times.

We’ve had to keep it hush-hush so as not to cause a panic.
Would you like a ginger-nut ?  Don’t worry, they’re organic.
Of course, it isn’t fatal – no, the country’s not entombed –
It’s just so very curious…

We’re doomed, by God, we’re doomed !

Now not to be alarmist, or to overstate things grossly,
You’d never even know it’s there unless you listen closely
To the steady pitter-patter in the rhythm of each sentence…

We’re doomed, I say !  We must all pray, and beg the Lord’s repentance.

Professor !  Pull yourself together !  I need you now to think;
There must be something, anything, to save us from the brink ?

Wait !  There may be something…the problem is systemic.

The problem is we’ve staring at a bloody epidemic !

The problem is within the brain and its linguistic centre
Now, usually it’s very good at recognising…

Door knock


Bridget enters and clears the tea things.

…the diff’rences in how we speak, but something has confused it

Shall I clear the paper, too ?

I haven’t yet perused it.

We need to shake it up again, with something quite sublime:
By ending ev’ry sentence with a word that doesn’t rhyme !
Now ev’ryone’s aware that there is nothing rhymes with orange…

I’ve contacted the builders to come and fix the door hinge.

Another word that comes to mind – there’s none to find with chimney.

That Watkins tries to feel my legs – he said I had a trim knee.

There must be more, there must be more – I’m sure we’re safe with plinth.

That gift I need to buy your son – was it guitar or synth ?
I’ve called the milliners – your wife has found her trilby small.
Will there be something else ?

No thanks, I think that will be all.

Bridget exits.

There’s must be more examples, such as anxious, purple, month…

No rhyme, say you ?  That can’t be true !  Why, surely there is…
There is…
Hah !  You’ve done it !  I’ve stopped rhyming.  How can I ever thank you professor ?  Your suggestion will save the country.  Finally, we can stop the rhyme.

That’s alright, Minister.  Any time.

In the Nash’nal Int’rest

In the Nash’nal Int’rest

Ev’ry, dammit, ev’ry time
My ev’ry sports a ’postrophe,
You howl and howl my spelling crime
As def’nit’ly catostrophe.
But still they pop extr’ordin’ry,
Dishon’rab’ly, inord’nat’ly,
By lis’ning out for how it’s said
When diff’rently from how it’s read.
So speech shall speak, and I’ll lit’rature obey –
Just deal with it, you soph’mores –  cos the commas stay !

Poetic Truth

The Passion of Creation by Leonid Pasterak

Poetic Truth

You are so wrong, so very very wrong,
To think that rhymes wreck the verse.
Sure, they get used where they don’t belong,
And when ill-used are a curse.
And yes, they take their time to mature
In the life of the poet’s pen –
They cannot be nervous, must always be sure,
And practiced agen and agen.

They write their verses blank and free,
And barely bait the hook;
But Keats and Frost and Tennyson
Can still be grasped by anyone.
They write their verses free and blank,
And barely sell a book;
While Blake and Burns and Betjamin
Can still sell-out and fetch ’em in.

I tell myself, its cos they rhyme –
They hate me that, they hate me that.
I know my verse is in its prime –
They must see that, they must see that.
But still they always get rejected,
While some prosy tripe’s selected.
Must be just how I suspected –
Must be that, it must be that.

The Click

The Click

Ev’rywhere in poetry,
Ev’ryone must show it free –
Jarring, scaring, woe-is-me –
Fashion of the times.
Me, I think their mumbling knows,
Ev’rybody’s writing prose –
But not I, I’m fighting those –
Gotta have my rhymes.
Gotta have my flowitry,
My meenie minie moetry,
My Edgar Allen Poetry –
Rhythm is no crime !
Even when it strains my lung,
Even when it stains my tongue,
Even when my brain is wrung –
I sing it till it chimes.

Circle Lines

city night architecture metro
Photo by Skitterphoto on


Circle Lines

I see the poems popping up again
Upon the Underground –
Prosy, earnest, and ignored
By all except the very bored.
They’re forced to slum it on the crowded train –
At least they get around,
But free from glottal stops and grime,
And far too erudite to rhyme.
And yet, it does them good to mix where
Plain-speaking folk abound –
And tailor their delivery
To suit the Drain and Jubilee:

“Mind the gap please, mind the metaphors,
Next stop is Leicester Square,
Tyger tyger burning bright,
She walks in beauty like the night,
Change for Piccadilly, mind the doors,
Use Oyster for the cheapest fare,
Remember me when I am gone away,
The darling buds of May,
South Kensington for dinosaurs,
Beyond the spiral stair,
Beware the Jabberwock my son,
All trains to Bank from platform one.”



Transient Verses

blur book stack books bookshelves
Photo by Janko Ferlic on


Transient Verses

Year after year, our language is changing
And drifting yet further from Shakespeare’s day,
Making it harder to known of his meaning,
Making obscure as we’re slipping away.
Writings updated retain all their meaning,
But lose all their diction and word-play and flow –
So when only scholars can read still this poem,
Then do not translate it, but just let me go.



Vanity by Numbers

there's nothing new in vanity
Doctor Syntax & Bookseller by Thomas Rowlandson


Vanity by Numbers

I sent in some poems, a varied selection,
And each was admitted with not one rejection,
Included within this exclusive collection,
And mine for just twenty-nine pounds ninety-nine.

I thought of the public enjoying my writing,
In thousands of copies, on my words alighting –
Yet only those featured received the inviting
To purchase this volume, exclusive and fine.

It came and I read my first masterworks printed,
And turned not to one of the other fresh-minted
New authors, who each in their turn would have squinted,
At only their own words, and never at mine.



Amongst my first forays into promoting my poetry was (since sold, so party on, current owners).  They invited submissions for competitions that I now suspect were never actually won by anyone – instead, I received congratulations and offers be included in an anthology, which as a participant could be mine for a reduced price, how many copies did I wish to order ?  I allowed my work to be entered, but never bought the volumes.  After two or three times, I stopped even allowing the use of, and cursed myself for once again wasting my stamps.

Another vanity outfit with which I had a dalliance were the Forward Press of Peterborough (who I later discovered were definitely not connected to the Forward Poetry Prize).  Again, I avoided sending them any actual money, though I did allow them to use a couple of my poems in their magazine.  I even won a £10 cheque for the best poem, which caused me to order the issue in question.  Alas, they went bust before it arrived, but I did get to download the electronic version (though that has been lost on an abandoned hard-drive long ago).  I distinctly remember which poem won, because it was the weakest of the ones I sent them, which in itself inspired another poem along with this one.




photo of sliced orange citrus fruits
Photo by Dominika Roseclay on



There is no rhyme for orange,
Excepting for Blorenge,
But who on Earth’s ever
Heard owt about Blorenge ?

There is no rhyme for love,
Except glove and above,
But then those come up never
When talking ’bout love.

There is no rhyme for life
Which is not knife or wife,
And they sound so cliché,
So there’s no rhyme for life.

And the one rhyme for self
Should be left on the shelf !
So it’s better, we say,
Just to rhyme with itself.



Poesy Posers

ut enim ad minim veniam


Poesy Posers

When did poetry become so small ?
When did we all become about the ‘me’ ?
Self-centred pseudies up our own arses,
Full of minutia we’re bursting to free.
I blame Romantics for swooning and moping
While other folk got on with stuff.
We’re just not that int’resting – nobody cares !
So spare them our whiny old guff.
When did poetry become so small ?
Obsessed with the truth, when it used to tell tall…



No Biography

this chair does not look comfortable


No Biography

When I die, don’t worry who I was,
Don’t carve my name at Poets’ Corner –
I hope my rhymes still cause a fuss,
But let no stranger be a mourner.

When I die, let me die and be done,
Don’t raise blue plaques or rename streets –
I’d love to think my words still run,
But they weren’t written for receipts.