Archive for the ‘NaPoWriMo’ Category

Poem number 21 for April 2015. Last night I was showing my son a book about the area in Co. Mayo, Ireland, where my father’s family were from. It’s called Corthoon, and the nearest town is called Charlestown. The specific townland where my father was born is called Sonnagh. The book is a sort of social history, centred on the local national school. The introduction says “this book is a social  history of a part of rural Ireland where people lived for some or all of their lives –  many emigrating to Ireland or America never to return and others bringing back life experiences to enrich the folk history of the area”.  Well not many came back (other than for a holiday); certainly none of my father’s 13 brothers and sisters ever went back to live there. They all stayed in England or America. The book contains photographs of my father and some of his sisters, brothers and friends. There are interviews and stories, amongst them a story by an aunt of mine, about fairies. There are other tales in the book, about strong men and strong women and ghosts and more fairies.  I’ve taken some one of those tales and mixed and embroidered them – that’s what a story is for.

The Strongest Woman in Ireland

… was so strong that she could life a 25 stone sack of oats onto an ass’s back.

She was so strong she lifted a cow out of McGowan’s bog where 10 men could not.

When she was 18 years old she weighed 18 stone. Only the parish priest weighed more.

She could find no dress to fit her and so she wore a tunic made from tent canvas.

Her fame was such that two men came from Dublin to ask her to join their travelling circus.

She was the best dancer in County Mayo and could dance both the man’s and the lady’s part.

She had such an appetite her parents could not keep her fed, so she hunted wild deer and pigs in Coillte Forest and killed them with her bare hands.

Some people say they saw her carrying a sheep under each arm, and that they weren’t her sheep.

One day there was such heavy rain that the river flooded and would have drowned the schoolhouse. She lay down in the path of the river and diverted it around the school.

She was such a fast runner that when her father had a thirst, she could run into the town and bring him back a pint of porter before he even knew he was thirsty.

She did not feel the cold, and would swim in the Sonnagh River in the middle of winter and catch trout with her bare hands.

Her eyes were so keen, she could spot a hare in a field and catch it without any need of a dog.

Her ears were so good that she could hear the priest’s sermon without getting out of bed.

Her hair was so thick that one day when her mother tried to cut it, she blunted the scythe.

She was so strong she did not need a man, which was just as well because all the men were scared of her except for one man. One night this one man who was not scared of her crept into her bed without a stitch of clothes, but she laughed at him. He never came near her again.

When she was 20 she sailed to America to seek her fortune, but the ship sank within sight of New York. When she saw it was sinking, she dived overboard with a rope between her teeth and swam ashore, dragging the ship with her.

When she was 25 she died after slapping a fly on her forehead, she hit herself so hard. Some say it wasn’t a fly it was a fairy.

If she was alive today she would be dead 61 years.



Copyright Mike Hopkins 2015

Poem a Day 2015 #20 – Landay

Posted: April 20, 2015 in NaPoWriMo, poetry

Poem number 20 for April 2015. Last year I wrote about a form of Pashtun poetry called “landay” here.

Today’s prompt on the NaPoWriMo website was to write one or more landay. So here are a few, though they are more landay-ish than strict landay. Proper landay are written in Pashtun, with a nine syllable first line and a thirteen syllable second line, they usually rhyme and they deliver a powerful punch. These are pale imitations.


when making love to a young woman

ensure the light is directed on her not on you


barreling down the black top highway

a brilliant moon chases the shadow of his past


he turns the radio volume up

so that she will not hear the mad plunking of his heart


his wife is no longer his wife

his lover is no longer forbidden fruit


staring into the blackened night sky

he had an urge to declare a love he did not feel


Gina Rinehart you are so rich but

I would not sleep with you for all your gold and silver



Copyright Mike Hopkins 2015

Poem number 19 for April 2015. A sort of surreal imagining based on a Cuban snippet.


Years later

I find him in Havana

on the Malecon


“I thought you had died”

“It looked like that, didn’t it?”


He is looking out to sea

His hands are muscular

One is full of stones


Every few minutes

he fires one into the waves


“America is like

an all-you-can-eat smorgasbord

beckoning the poor

to gorge

on its abundance”


I want to ask

why he gave up all he had

for the oblivion of alcohol


I want to ask

what he is trying to hit

with the stones


But I know he would say




Copyright Mike Hopkins 2015

Poem number 18 for April 2015.  “The blaze that killed 56 football fans at Bradford City’s Valley Parade ground in 1985 was just one of at least nine fires at businesses owned by or associated with the club’s then chairman, according to extraordinary evidence published for the first time”.

No Smoke

the old ground

the turnstiles

the fathers

the sons

the tickets

the rows of seats


The final match of the season

Bradford versus Lincoln

A celebration of promotion

The trophy presented pre-match


the railings

the spikes

the terraces


Wooden stands painted in claret

A festive atmosphere

A relaxed first half


the smell

the smoke

the chants


At first just a feint smell of smoke

People still singing

Men eating pies

The crowd retreats

to the back of the stand

People chatting

Then thicker smoke


the disbelief

the panic

the running

the rush

the crush

the stairwells

the corridors

the flames above

the amber

the blackness


The game goes on until the flames are visible

The crowd in the stand heads for the stairwells

The corridors under the stand are packed

The wooden structure above is engulfed

The turnstiles are locked

Nowhere to go


the rescuers

the scars

the charred

the screams

the 56 dead


eight or more fires

at businesses of

Bradford’s then-chairman

Stafford Heginbotham

insurance claims

worth twenty seven million


the warnings

the previous

the insurance

the truth

Copyright Mike Hopkins 2015

Poem number 17 for April 2015. Not sure what’s going on here, except it’s cryptically political and inspired by hearing a far, far superior poem this morning called “Good Morning America” by Curt Anderson.

Good morning Australia…

may I direct your attention

to rivers of alcohol under a veneer of ice,

the dilated pupils of the penniless gamblers,

and damaged sportsmen

giving themselves up for adoption by the state

rather than face the unreality of idolatry


may I point out

the desecrated monolith at the heart

of your promotional campaign

where the status quo is inverted

in an attempt to gloss over

the ruined fabric of dot paintings


can we speak quietly

of the domesticity of your suburbs

in which abuse is colour blind,

the churches are oh-so child friendly

and the hierarchies pre-occupied

with limiting their liabilities


and perhaps I could just whisper

in a guarded way

of the barbed remarks

and arguments persecuted

by wiry men refusing refuge



do not raise your voices

lest you drown out the staccato slogans.

the dogs may become inured to the whistles

of the ring-leaders

and the circus may be left

with only straw men

and locked cages.



Copyright Mike Hopkins 2015

Poem number 16 for April 2015. Possums regularly wake me at night. (great night at Langmeil. Will report tomorrow).

Drop Ins

no possums invading

my backyard last night

no vampire hissing

no fresh scattering

of chocolate drop droppings

along the path

no clod hop bounding

 across the roof

nor crash landing

on the neighbour’s fence

no scritch nail fighting

along the path


just the                                distant                  sound


of freeway air brakes


and the mournful            two


in            the         morning





Copyright Mike Hopkins 2015

Poem number 15 for April 2015. Following on from poem #7, or rather finishing it off. As noted, I’m not a fan of bush poetry.  Tonight (Wednesday 15th April) I’m a guest poet at “Poets and Platters” at Langmeil winery in the Barossa Valley. There is a well-known bush poet also on the programme. Last time I heard him, he was (tongue in cheek) ridiculing vegetarians, with some hackneyed lines about mung beans and rabbit food. Being a vegetarian myself, I didn’t laugh, though most of the audience did. I’ll return the (tongue in cheek) ridicule with this tonight. A world premiere!  As he’s after me on the running list, he’ll probably have the last laugh.

Last of the Bush Poems (completed – well first draft anyway)

A poem needed writing

for to please the winery push

and me usual stuff looked wanting

they might think a load of tosh

so I looked for inspiration

laid some thoughts for incubation

and I sought for information

on the poetry of the bush


First I grabbed an old akubra

then I dropped me accent posh

And I drank til in a stupor

and neglected for to wash

I dragged out some corny punchline

about vegans, sheilas, waistlines

and I read up all the guidelines

on the poetry of the bush


I bought a new Land Cruiser

You won’t catch me near a horse

Then I bought a new computer

Wikipedia is the source

Of all me information

About swags, and sheep and stations

Coz I get the palpitations

When I’m in the bloody bush


I drove down the supermarket

To stock up on bush supplies

I bought string and corks from Target

for me hat to ward off flies

softest swag and new Drize-a-bone

gas-powered fridge and satellite phone

I was well prepared to leave home

to write poetry in the bush


When I reached the wilds of Salisbury

Well me nose began to bleed

and the dusty paddocks scared me

when I saw some sheep stampede

So I stopped near Gawler Oval

dumped me swag and asked some yokels

Where’s the nearest comfy hotel

That serves beer here in the bush?


When I saw the pub landlady

well meself I introduced

as a widely known bush poet

who could keep her crowd amused

for fifty bucks and free beer

I recited in her front bar

I was feeling like a film star

so the lady I seduced


Now I’ll go back to the city

And no longer will I roam

I’ve memorized me ditties

and acquired a bush man’s drone

And me poems I’ll deliver

Like the man from Snowy River

Coz I get the sweats and shivers

If I’m ever near the bush.


Copyright Mike Hopkins 2015

Poem number 14 for April 2015. And another snippet from my Cuba journal:

The Music of Havana

Tuesday 28th June 2005

I want to hear some live Cuban music. After dinner I walk down to the Malecon to catch a scooter-taxi. The taxi driver is the biggest and blackest man I’ve ever seen, with the whitest teeth I’ve ever seen – they almost glow as night draws in. He quotes $5 to take me to Habana Vieja (Old Havana). He is loud and humorous and friendly, like most Cubans. He tells me “you need to find a woman. You haven’t lived until you have fucked a Cuban woman”. I tell him I am married. He says so is he, but it makes no difference. I say “no thanks”. He laughs and points out a few of the “chicas” as he speeds along the Malecon, looking more at me than at the road. I ask him where to find the best music. He recommends La Bodegita del Medio and drops me nearby. This area of Havana is well preserved: cobbled streets, no traffic, it could be an old part of Madrid or Barcelona. The Bodegita is a small, cramped, L-shaped bar with wooden partitions to the street. There is indeed a good band playing, nestled in the corner, backs to the street, guitar, double bass, maracas, drums and all of them singing intricate harmonies. The maraca player occasionally bangs his maracas on the partition. It the best I’ve heard so far, but the place is a bit touristy, and the beers are tourist prices i.e. $3 for a beer compared to the usual $1. After two or three songs, the guitarist passes around the hat and pushes their CD. I buy one for $10. I walk about 100 metres and hear another band. A more down-market but bigger bar. Ceiling fans, waitresses, cigar smoke. The band are OK. A female flautist does a dance routine with the male lead singer. I walk for another ten minutes and come to the Bar Monserrate. The band here really cooks: saxophone, electric piano, drums, guitar, vocals. The sax player is a virtuoso, sprinkling references to Gershwin in his solos. I wander further, past a derelict, partly demolished building in which chairs have been set up and there is an improvised bar in the corner, and a small stage. The band on the stage look and sound like the Buena Vista Social Club. Great vocals. But the rain starts, and it gets so heavy that they call the gig off. I get a scooter-taxi back to Vedado. A different driver. Not a good-time guy, a serious guy. No talk of Cuban women, but of Fidel and Chavez and a big deal they are pulling off.



Copyright Mike Hopkins 2015

Poem number 13 for April 2015. Another snippet from my Cuba journal:

On my way to meet Fat Mary the Prostitute

18th June 2005

I’m cycling on the Guanahacabibes Peninsula, to the westernmost point of Cuba to see Fat Mary the Prostitute. She’s not there anymore, but the town of Maria La Gorda is named after her. Maria was an aboriginal Venezuelan woman, cast aside by pirates once they had tired of her. When the pirates departed, she set up an “inn” where she made a living by entertaining sailors and locals, and grew fat on the proceeds. The inn is now a Cuban hotel. Cuban hotels are almost all terrible, but there’s nowhere else to stay at Maria la Gorda. Once I’m on the peninsula, the landscape changes from small farms to thick scrub, which is high enough to cast much-needed shade over the quiet road. Clouds of white and yellow butterflies rise up in front of my bicycle. Thousands of small red crabs scuttle sideways across the road. A vulture flies along the crest of the road in front of me for a few hundred metres after I disturb it from its road kill. I stop by the roadside about 11:30 for an early lunch. 44 kilometres covered. A hundred mosquitoes descend on me, but obligingly disperse when I wave my arms frantically. My backside is sore. I adjust the height of the saddle and get back on the road. At 52 kilometres I reach the sea at Bajada. I was told there was high security here because of the fear of U.S. invasion and the sparse population along the coast. There’s a boom gate across the road. The guard is asleep in his hut. I stop obediently but it seems a shame to wake him. I cycle around the boom gate. The last 14 kilometres is alongside white sandy beaches. The road gets rougher. It’s completely washed away in places. It’s covered in white debris – what looks like a mixture of sand and marble. I’m wearing an old long-sleeved business shirt I bought in a shop in Vinales for 33 Cuban Pesos (about $2). I didn’t know it was old until I unwrapped it and saw the soiled collar, but for $2 it was still a bargain. The long sleeves and high collar will give me some protection from the Cuban sun. To try to stay cool I have unbuttoned the shirt all the way down the front. Despite my downward facing position on the bike, I find that my stomach and chest are turning lobster red from sunburn; the sun’s reflection off the white road. I reach the hotel at Maria La Gorda. I haven’t booked, so if it’s full I either sleep out in the open (not a good idea) or turn around and head 70 kilometres back to Sandino (impossible, I’m exhausted). The Señorita at receptions says “Si”, they have a room. She is not fat. Her name is not Mary.



Copyright Mike Hopkins 2015

Poem number 12 for April 2015. I love a list poem:

Loneliness is

the bastard memory of lost love

the post box empty of letters

the street kid curled in a doorway

the anti-hero running from the pitchforks

the tunnel with well-drilled wardens at each end

the obsession with imagined slights

the teardrop on an old photograph

the long distance runner still running when the race has ended

the one left out when all others have paired

the rage behind the closed door

the scream with no response

the single word answer to the heartfelt question

the certainty that everyone else is wrong

the half warm double bed

the deserted husband eating from a tin

the deserted wife still cooking enough food for two

the oldest woman in the harem

the porn-star past his prime

the fragile border between mood and mood disorder

the fraud committed alone

the only lit office in the building

the lie too big to admit

the executive sending 3 a.m. emails

the truth untold to troubled ears

the heart aghast at daylight



Copyright Mike Hopkins 2015