I was born into a literary family, was given a little clear book at the age of 6 in which to collect my ‘poems’. I read my mother’s library and at school my first term at the age of 14 I was in the library learning Keats by heart for my own pleasure.

Across the world are English professors teaching in universities, and retired, who can out-quote me with ease, who know more about poets and their lives and possibly even more poets, than I do. They can dissect works more readily than I and without rehearsing give lectures on any poetics you ask them to.

But there is not one of them a century who can actually write poetry well enough to be remembered. Intellect is only part of the poetical story, knowing the forms only the beginning.

I Live in a World of Words

Not all soft spoken, not all remembered. Voices loved and respected. Rapid thinkers and slow thinkers. Drawls and Queen’s English. The words that flow from American and British accents. The rhythms of the learned English of Norway, Denmark and India. The words of friends. The words of lovers.

The words of those who have lived. Poets in my head learned from school and from my mother. Words of beauty and pain together. Life lived and life lost, together. Frustration and the power of hope, together. Too many words to count, too many emotions and feelings to forget.

Words worn like clothes to protect me against the cold of indifference and the chill of ignorance. New words like new shoes walking with me along my days. Favourite words and words that change their faces as my face changes. Words that are names, sounds that are meaning, voices that are heart beats.


Whispers my inner-self
To all I have become,
Where did you find the shelf
To hide from the one
Who you loved most?
Through ages of my heart’s
Calling, calling to a ghost –
How weary, tired, cross love departs –
Leaving nothing, but a wrinkled brow –
Leaving nothing, but a falling tear –
Nobody ever tells me how
Or why true love must disappear –
Yet I suppose there is a place
Where my inner-self will find your face –

Shänne Sands, ‘Moonlight on Words’. FootSteps Press 2010.

Revisiting School

I am moving which entails packing up my home and fighting dust. Lots and lots of dust. In amongst the boxes and files and stacks of paper I have found letters from my mother to me when I was at school and for the first time been able to track how she talked to me as I grew from 14 to 18 years old.

This is an amazing thing about her, she never spoke to me any differently though some of the issues she spoke about changed. She always treated me as an adult when it came to discussing anything and her typing was always terrible, often because the ribbon was running low as she used it mostly for her books.

And love. Every letter so full of hope for me, looking forward to seeing me on the holidays, hoping for the best for her work. She once told me if you wish upon a star it is because you need to, and that self-deprecating style of talking to me knowing she had an excellent mind but with the vagaries of publishing it was not guaranteed anyone who admit it.

I miss that. The smiles. The laughter. The joy of knowing she was alive.

The First of Many

I stopped writing my old blog in 2012 after three years with 150,000 unique visitors a year. Mostly because I was tired of thinking of something to write in 300 words everyday while looking after my mother, Shänne Sands, who had become bed-bound in 2008.

Let’s start as we mean to continue. On the first anniversary of her death 21st July 2017:


Where is your soul, mother mine?
The patient smile
The vibrant laughing
The morning tea

How I long to walk with you
A dog by you side
A smile for clouds
A handful of Bluebells

And the hope that tomorrow
Humanity will arise and find
Its sorrows were all of their own making
Because they did not hold poets
Higher than monarchs.

What Makes Poetry?

People will go into reams of analysis about poetry and I will say now, more people know more about the analysis, syntax and grammar of poets than I ever will. They know a good deal about the history and the various verse forms from all around the world but none of these things are what makes poetry, because if there were no languages there would still be poetry.

Before you say that must be ridiculous remember who created these verse forms – poets. They were not waiting for the language before they expressed themselves because it is the intellect of the poet that makes poetry and they make that poetry with their entire lives. With their ideas which they relay to us with words, but not just words which is why we can call Chopin the ‘poet of the piano’. The poet will express their poetry in anything and everything they can because it is not words that make poetry, but the mind of the poet and the poet is made from birth, and through experience, and in living.

We can copy them of course,and sound like them but very few individuals in this world think like them or have their courage, to chance everything on a line, to forgo companionship and any semblance of the happiness conforming can give to one, for a life of ideas that few will understand for a hundred years.

It is a lot to ask, which is why no one is ever asked to be a poet.

The Politics Of Poetry

I don’t think many people – even some artists – understand the role of art in the human mind. There are many fanciful things said and quite a few believed to excuse the behaviour of artists which taken in the round are little more than men behaving badly. On a purely non-academic surmise women artists are not quite as flaunting of their being as the men, probably because so many of the men have a woman to keep them grounded and put up with them, whilst the women rarely do.

I am sure people are born with a higher ability than others in various arts but I am also sure there are very intellectual reasons why artist choose their lives. Few artists are ‘joiners’ and the vagaries and passions of society are rarely of interest to them. And then some see their art as the deepest expression of their thoughts. Which is where the talk I give about politics and poetry takes it lead. Shelley was not being facetious when he said poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world, because they talk about the universal and strip away the transient parts of society.

They are the ultimate commentators –  at their best brutally honest, unafraid, writing to be listened to and effective. But the point of the poetry is not the writing or the words or the life of the poet, but the listener. If the listener is there everything has meaning.

Experience Shows

Thinking can be dangerous. I have always been a lover of close thinking – though never very good at participating – it is instructive to listen to people who can divide up the meaning of sentences and slice away at them as you might a cake with smaller and smaller portions. We can see an analogous thing happening in science as we learn to go deeper into smaller subjects until today no one is an expert in their entire field, just one part of it. The days of the philosopher scientist have vastly changed since the eighteenth century.

Like all things of course when you think so accurately you are defining each and every word, each and every step, you can put yourself into an intellectual cul-de-sac which may be pretty despairing. Several notable French philosophers committed suicide in the post war period because they became pessimists due to their own inability to think themselves out of their own logic.

It is often sensible to note whilst you think about life, the universe and everything that that includes the muddled thinking of the rest of humanity and though we are all wrong we are not totally wrong, there is an essence of philosophy in all of us and when we get down in spirit we should perhaps go to other minds and share their views of life. We may disagree with their assumptions and even their conclusions but finding out where they were right may often save our thinking.

Poetry is a soothing balm to the over active brain.

What Makes A Poet?

Having been to University and watched the rigmarole of the Chair of Poetry over the last year at Oxford University, I am reminded of how many ‘poets’ come out of Universities across the world. How college magazine publish them and how ‘movements’ are started by like-minds promoting each other enthusiastically for their entire careers. Most recent has been the Anglo-Saxon mob in the United Kingdom. For the most part if you are not prepared to join in with the mutual ego-massage of these people you are ignored. Actually if Ted Hughes is an example of a poet one is better off separated from them as he only used words as a therapy for his depression.

But Poets are not all born, some very worthy ones are highly intellectual and driven to the form because it is their only outlet. In the time of the great catholic/protestant wars in Europe to be a catholic in protestant countries and vice-versa left one without a vote or a voice. Alexander Pope solved that problem by writing stunning polemics in verse.

When you are at odds with accepted wisdom and accepted ways of doing things, people simply do not want to know you. In the UK the whole Poet Laureate debacle is about raining in the dissenting voices but making sure you have a trained voice to out-perform them. Betjeman was no poet. The closest he came was in Death In Leamington Spa.

Movements are a problem to the world of Poetry where individuality is a synonym for true talent.  The sooner English loses the Ezra Pound influence the sooner the real poets will be discovered.

And no I do not count myself amongst them at all.

A Modern Sonnet

I wrote this yesterday morning. For some reason I was quite pleased I had written anything! I thought I would post it so you would know how I spent part of my morning:

We’re all writers penning on Time’s paper
The incremental moments of our lives
Sculpting with water like luckless shapers
The haphazard follies for which fame strives;
To generate a generation’s name
To be remembered for remembrance sake
And paperclip existence to the game
Of all things human and utterly fake.
I only pretend to breathe, my lungs are
Restricted by the automation in
Nature that dictates survival is far
More important than zetetical spin.

We give our DNA away with ease,
I wish wisdom were as easy to freeze.

To Women

My poems about love actually started with one written years ago about love of life, and what life meant to me. My mother said it was a very good poem and one of my friends said it was the loveliest thing she had ever read!

Over the years it expanded in a strange way and I found that what I was writing about was all imagined. The poem about loving one’s children when I do not have any, the poem written as a fortieth wedding anniversary present when I have never been married and know nothing about how love mutates as we grow older, from personal experience. In fact all the poems in the book are written to women I have never actually met.

Jonathan Coudrille asked if any of the poems contained anything to do with dreams and when I explained to him how they were written he was fascinated. Jonathan is going to do the black and white photography for the book. People who read them do not believe that I have not had the experience of waiting for a lover to open her eyes and turn her towards me, or seen an empty unmade bed and thought it useless without a lover in it. But that is the nature of sensuous invention.

I met with Jonathan on Saturday 1st May. My first book of poems will be published later this year.

Love Sonnet

Only when I am with you do I have
A sense of everything: of possession
And possessed, of the liberty in love,
Of the frank and easy conversation
Dovetailed with the intensity of your
Eyes,of the waterfall of your ideas
Growing closeness like crystals in the pores
Of my skin, of the shadow which appears
And disappears with your departure and
Return – for your breathing is my heart beat
Your voice my blood flow, your desires my hands
Your caress my voice, your arms my retreat –

I have nothing left of myself but this,
In us I have everything self could wish.

The Eve Of War

I know the sea is made of tears for I
Have wept them all; I know the air is made
Of sighs for I have felt them all and cried
Out all the world’s nightmares which cannot fade
With the dawn. There is no battle I am
Not weary from; no dirt that does not cling
To my clothes and pain flows just like flotsam
To where I stand on the beach of all things
Human.You can talk of borders, countries
International law and god’s commands
But until your arms learn to dry my eyes
I wade in the waves of sorrow which harms
The psyche of a wand'ring soul which yet...
In the name of all, blesses the sunset.

Love In Old Age

Your eyes speak of my youth and my hand holds
Yours with that ease of emotion only
Years can grow; suppleness has changed to folds,
Wrinkles crease our nakedness, laughingly
The young would fun – what do they know? Your breasts
Suckled our children (and me once or twice),
And now our skins are thin, our love’s contests
Are tactile drawings of our minds, which slice
Into our hours, sending ripples of sex
Around the day – I kissed your body in
To my being so now it is the text
From which I read – for everything – loving.

Tenderness does not age, how then can we?
Look into my eyes, see your youth in me!

The Old, Old Song

by Charles Kingsley

When all the world is young, lad,
And all the trees are green;
And every goose a swan, lad,
And every lass a queen,—
Then hey for boot and horse, lad,
And round the world away;
Young blood must have its course, lad,
And every dog his day.

When all the world is old, lad,
And all the trees are brown;
And all the sport is stale, lad,
And all the wheels run down,—
Creep home, and take your place there,
The spent and maimed among:
God grant you find one face there
You loved when all was young.

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