Recent workshop News Poems from Durham

I’ve been using the Facebook News Poems site which is wonderfully active.

(Here; )

 However, I’ll continue to post poems here too. Recent events at Cheltenham Lit Fest and Durham Book Festival have generated some great examples of the genre. On Tuesday afternoon at Durham’s Clayport Library, nine of us sat down to write first short Saturday Live style stabs, then longer pieces based on events we went and scouted for in Durham city centre. The idea of an event as the basis for a news poem was illuminated further by a Tyne Tees journalist filming us- I though the process of gathering images to illustrate a story was what we would do too. With the advantage of being able to actually witness the event and report it as poets- rather than come into the story half way through as most reactive journalists have to.

Foot traffic builds and falls
Bus clusters come and go
Snoggers hug each other, and walls
Last minute shoppers stutter and flow
Phone photographs – phonographs? – capture moments to be replayed
A dress, a toy,coveted or rejected
An old woman, arms milkmaid-weighed
The half-cut, the hurried, the dejected
Light drains steadily from the day
The lines of a million poems, poets, cross and merge
Glowing like butter, stories pass on their way
Finished. In the midst. On the verge.
Alfie Crow

The Plan

It was a cunning plan, by a cunning man,

to prepare the TA for war:

reduce their pay, cancel their weekends away,

that’s what hardship is for,

to shape up the body and harden the mind,

the better the Taliban to fight;

and the bonus is, the Government looks good

for keeping its budget tight.

Les Holloway

October 2009


Gladys Armstrong

Gladys Armstrong was a very happy woman.

She’d worked as a cleaner for thirty years

in the County Hall. Then she was made redundant;

a victim of contracting out,

her long service of no account.

She soon got another job at Luke’s, the baker’s shop,

serving sausage rolls and hot pasties.

Luke’s had just purchased a top-of-the-range,

all hissing, all steaming Gaggia coffee maker,

and Gladys was trained to operate it.

How proudly she placed the polystyrene cups

under its foaming spout,

pulling its levers and turning its dials.

She wiped it clean throughout the day

and gave it an extra polish at night.

This did mean, the following morning,

the first cups of coffee had a lavender flavour,

but that was part of their  appeal.

Then one day a young Italian came into the shop

and bought a double Espresso; he declared it

“the finest I’ve ever drunk outside Rome”.

Smiling sweetly, as Italian men are inclined to do,

he told Gladys she was “a Barista”;

she was of course taken aback by this

until he explained the meaning of the word.

“No-one,” she said, “is allowed near my Gaggia.”

“In that case,” and he smiled again, “you are not just a Barista,

but a Capo Barista.” Gladys knew what that meant,

the Godfather was her favourite film.

That night the Gaggia received an extra polish,

and as she caught her reflection in the shining chrome,

she smiled. “Just think a Capo Barista.”

Gladys Armstrong was a very happy woman.

 Les Holloway

October 2009


No Pets

Did the Eco Warriors really think

When trying climate change to sink

What dire theories might form links

To keep the weather in the pink.

The windy cow will have to go

Machine gun all the flatulent sheep

And veggie meals we`ll have to eat

But worse if Greenies have it so

Your pets a carbon climate threat

Cats and dogs! send for the vet

Oh rather let the ice melt yet

But not a world without a pet.

I warn you Greenpeace not to try it

The general public like their diet

Kill Fido, Tiddles that is ghoulish

And makes the Green Campaign look foolish.

Keith Parker

(Find him Twittering at

Cultural Offensive

Elite poeticals took over the centre of Durham City today

As part of a bid to storm the ramparts of the City of Culture

Crack forces of the 16th Stanza Poetic Culture Brigade

Seized the Market and Gala Squares in an attempt to provoke

Cultural Events!

Startled tourists found that any pause near the town`s famous statues

Resulted in in-depth interrogations by strange male and female poets

Concerning their quality of materials, location and general aesthetic effects.

Lovers, shoppers, people swearing in doorways or even just serving coffee

Were forced into surveys to assess their cultural significance

In post industrial, post modern, post rhyming Durham

After thirty minutes of intense bombastic intellectual bombardment

Including a near outbreak of artistic street fighting

As conservationists and left wing academics exchanged words with the poets

Concerning the relative merits of the statue of the third Marquis of Londonderry

And whether his pit ponie`s backside should face north or south

The poetic cultural commandoes withdrew to be debriefed

In the newly captured upper floor of the town library.

Children continued to play instinctively amongst the figures of St Cuthbert`s sculpture

And to totter dangerously down the narrow street kerbs

Fat women continued to run for buses releasing whippet children to catch the doors

Lovers continued to look dreamily at the sky

Ex lovers continued to curse and lament in doorways

And this In spite of the intense looks of the workshop versifiers

Trying to turn them into cultural artefacts.

In the library HQ a film record was made of the creation of a dozen poems

The literary propagandists thus set up the most recent instalment of Culture Durham

Loot from the attack to finance the latest phase of culture wars

Keith Parker


Welcome to Durham City’s Millenium Place Stadium
for tonight’s main event the 50 metre public transport sprint.
The bus is in position, the doors are open and the runners are off!
Tracey has made a slow start and is getting slower.
Her KFC diet, skin tight denim and carrying son Jaden
are holding her back.
But Jaden’s wriggled free and is now running to the bus.
He’s got a good turn of speed for a 4 year old.
The bus is slowly moving away from its blocks,
what’s this? Streaking down the outside lane is a grey and navy hoodie.
This could be a CCTV finish.
The bus gathers momentum,
lungs bursting, fingers outstretched, the hoodie reaches for the door,
but with a triumphant ‘see you later’ sigh, the doors snap shut
and they are all left standing
choking on exhaust.
Elizabeth Farnhill

October 31, 2009. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.