when I was perched on the toilet
without anything to read
and I asked you to fetch
me some Charles Bukowski
from the pile of anthologies
in our living room
and you slid a physics book
under the door instead
saying ‘Just read the first paragraph’
that my knowledge of physics
had expanded beyond
our everyday experience
of attraction and repulsion
to a knowledge that
the author’s grandfather
was illiterate and that
the author,

One’s feline reclined
with a saucer of wine.

© Brian Sweeny

The cat lies on

the chaise longue.


©  Brian Sweeny


Posted: August 15, 2014 in birthday, poetry
Tags: , ,

Some men aren’t like you.
They resort to cliches on Birthdays:
white chocolate saffron truffles
are still just chocolates
no matter how conceited the spice.
But you, you really thought of me:
‘I nearly bought you tickets
for John Helgley,’ you say,
‘but I didn’t know
if it was him or the other bloke
you like.’
I smiled at the sentiment
and the unwrapped running watch
you then passed me instead,
wondering all the while,
‘What other bloke?’

I’m a poet. I love open mic nights. The events provide me and others with the opportunity to use our voices and, at the risk of sounding all New Age, having a voice is vital to feeling as though someone, somewhere might ‘get’ me, might ‘get’ what I’m trying to say, might ‘get’ what I’m about and might, above all, relate and feel more connected to the world that surrounds us both.

It’s important, therefore, that people aren’t unduly criticised for using the voice they have. After all, being ‘got’ by someone in a world where the most dominating voice is the media, is priceless.  Subsequently,  at an open mic night, a quietly respectful understanding that another’s writing  might be their only outlet of expression outside of other roles (worker, parent, carer, lover, provider), and that these moments at the mic are as equally unpredictable as they are pivotal in their power to empower or dis-empower, is particularly helpful.

So it’s not without some cognitive dissonance that on Monday night, when I attended my favourite open mic, I found myself less quietly respectful and more like I wanted to kick the goolies out of one poet whose voice caused mine to scream inwardly in condemnation.

This is a writer whose poetry has been selected for curriculum study. This, therefore, is  a poet both with a loud voice and responsibility. And it was with my fist in my gob that I listened with irritation as he spoke articulately about the two things that get on his nerves: writers who write about landscapes and writers who write about cats.

These writers, he said, before launching into a tirade of a poem which defamed more explicitly, should be writing about the big things in the world. Writers, he said, should be using their voice to express feelings and thoughts on war, on injustice, on poverty and inequality.

Regrettably, the original inspiration behind his frustration – members of his hometown writing group – weren’t present. Furthermore, T.S. Eliot and William Wordsworth were also unavailable for comment.

Those who were present, though, included poets who’d entertained the audience with their musings on subjects of beetroot, unicorns, pie and chips, as well as Gaza, Iraq, WWI and death row. And now I felt concerned for the less politically inclined ones.

There they are, I thought, most of them novice writers, enjoying what they do, enjoying the risk that is unpredictability of the audience: some might get it, some might not, when along comes this more established writer and tells those John Hegleys and Pam Ayres among them that they’re doing it all wrong; that they shouldn’t be writing about the mundane, about their favourite vegetable or pie – no matter how much these topics make people laugh. Nope. Rather than aspiring to use humor to engage people, they should be writing the polemical, painting the political, getting down to the rock-rockin’ beat Orwellian and Dostoevsky stylee.


Okay, so you might think that this is fair enough. The poet has his aversion to writers who don’t write about war, injustice, ‘pain and suffering’ but about their love for their feline friends and luscious landscapes they once lunged around on, and I’ve got my aversion to writers try tell other writers to write about war, injustice, ‘pain and suffering’ and not about their love for their feline friends and luscious landscapes they once lunged around on.

We’re kind of equal; I’m kind of a hypocrite.

But I’m coming from a perspective that believes writing is a personal expression, that it can be and should be about whatever the writer damn well chooses. Writers should write about Snowdonia or Syria, domestic animals or dogmas. Whatever they want; whatever works. As somebody who has both professionally witnessed and personally experienced the liberating, therapeutic effects of writing, I know how important voice and the opportunity to express that voice is. It provides us with a sense of identity, a sense of value and a sense of belonging. If anyone thinks that’s being mundane well, then, here’s a bit o’ TS Eliot.

Macavity the Mystery Cat

Macavity’s a Mystery Cat: he’s called the Hidden Paw—

For he’s the master criminal who can defy the Law.

He’s the bafflement of Scotland Yard, the Flying Squad’s despair:

For when they reach the scene of crime—Macavity’s not there!

Macavity, Macavity, there’s no one like Macavity,

He’s broken every human law, he breaks the law of gravity.

His powers of levitation would make a fakir stare,

And when you reach the scene of crime—Macavity’s not there!

You may seek him in the basement, you may look up in the air—

But I tell you once and once again, Macavity’s not there!

Macavity’s a ginger cat, he’s very tall and thin;

You would know him if you saw him, for his eyes are sunken in.

His brow is deeply lined with thought, his head is highly domed;

His coat is dusty from neglect, his whiskers are uncombed.

He sways his head from side to side, with movements like a snake;

And when you think he’s half asleep, he’s always wide awake.

Macavity, Macavity, there’s no one like Macavity,

For he’s a fiend in feline shape, a monster of depravity.

You may meet him in a by-street, you may see him in the square—

But when a crime’s discovered, then Macavity’s not there!

He’s outwardly respectable. (They say he cheats at cards.)

And his footprints are not found in any file of Scotland Yard’s

And when the larder’s looted, or the jewel-case is rifled,

Or when the milk is missing, or another Peke’s been stifled,

Or the greenhouse glass is broken, and the trellis past repair

Ay, there’s the wonder of the thing! Macavity’s not there!

And when the Foreign Office find a Treaty’s gone astray,

Or the Admiralty lose some plans and drawings by the way,

There may be a scrap of paper in the hall or on the stair—

But it’s useless to investigate—Macavity’s not there!

And when the loss has been disclosed, the Secret Service say:

It must have been Macavity!’—but he’s a mile away.

You’ll be sure to find him resting, or a-licking of his thumb;

Or engaged in doing complicated long division sums.

Macavity, Macavity, there’s no one like Macavity,

There never was a Cat of such deceitfulness and suavity.

He always has an alibi, and one or two to spare:

At whatever time the deed took place—MACAVITY WASN’T THERE !

And they say that all the Cats whose wicked deeds are widely known

(I might mention Mungojerrie, I might mention Griddlebone)

Are nothing more than agents for the Cat who all the time

Just controls their operations: the Napoleon of Crime!

© T S Eliot




The Last Word

Posted: July 16, 2014 in poetry, Uncategorized

You might be gone

But, just so you know:

I was – and still am – right.


I’m always right:

I’m the right of right

(Albeit, politically still left)

That’s right of righteousness.


And it suits me:

I can carry off righteousness

Like a politician his grin

And a snake its oily skin.


Being right, for me,

Is just right.

Right for me

- and I think -

Right for you.


Support my righteousness

Like a bride’s proud father supports

His daughter down her wedding aisle

And it’ll make you one happy man.


Don’t try to be right yourself -

You and right are about as compatible

As socks worn with sandals.


If only you’d accepted me and right

As inseperable…there’d have been

No need for the ‘I hate you”s barked at each other

Or the dreams of ‘I love you”s we kept for another.


If you’d accepted just how right I am

You’d be languishing in contentment

Right now; secure in the knowledge of EVERYTHING.


But then you’d never be happy

Because without the fight

To be right, there’s nothing to aspire to.


So, for your own welfare, just accept:

I am right

And now you

Never can be.



Nobody Else

Posted: July 13, 2014 in poetry, Uncategorized, Writing

I like to let the fresh air
in through the garden door,
inhale the garlic from our neighbours’ kitchens
enjoy the outside without being there.

I like to walk barefoot
on carpets and wooden floors,
upon the world we’ve made together.

I like to feel the rush of hot water on my palms
and pass my fingers through the flames of candles
just to remind me of how fleeting pain is.

I like to fall asleep when the sky is at its darkest,
when the bedroom windows are open
and the only sounds in the street
are the muffled frustrations of a domestic
three doors along
or the low hum of a car engine winding
down and parking.

And I like to wake when daylight
turns our curtain nets the colour
of skimmed milk,
leave the house
and imagine the world
with nobody else in it
but me.