No torment so sweet
As a brand-new bicycle
Confined to the house
As the rain falls.

The spotless silver chain,
Those glossy black tyres
That smooth, gleaming paint:
I cannot do it –

Something within me rebels
At the very thought
Of knowingly exposing her
To what’s out there:

Bleak roads all awash
Seeded with needle-tipped flints
Slathered with churned filth
Potholes like bomb craters.

Fear not, my lovely.
The moment will come
When, under blue skies,
We finally get acquainted.


The calendar says it’s spring. The daffodils, primroses, snowdrops, celandines, windflowers and assorted amorous birdlife all concur. The weather, however, is refusing to get with the programme. Profoundly bored of the endless wind and rain now; longing for dry roads and warm, sunny days. N.

Return of the jorio

It’s just four lines
Of four words each.
Can’t be that hard.
I mean, come on:

Not like the sonnet,
The villanelle, the ode
And not even close
To the wicked sestina;

No rhyme, no metre,
No stressed, counted syllables;
No getting stomped on
By careless iambic feet

And no limits, either:
Gorge yourself on stanzas;
Let rip, cut loose
Because here, anything goes.

Even the ending’s easy:
You just quit when
You’re no longer inspired
(No rhyming couplet required).

Is it a poem?
Depends what you mean.
OK, so it’s not
Shakespeare, Shelley or Sassoon

Wordsworth, Whitman, Browning, Blake,
Marvell, Masefield, McGough, Muldoon,
Hardy, Hughes, Heaney, Holmes
Or Gerald Manley Hopkins;

But if every word
Is carefully, thoughtfully chosen
Earns its rightful place
Carries its full weight

Adds to the story
Hooks them, holds them
And, were it missing,
You’d feel the loss

It seems to me
That it must be.
As to this one
You be the judge.


I haven’t written a jorio for ages: I’d forgotten how much fun this simple form can be. A good warm-up for the brain before getting down to something more exacting; or, as with this one, the perfect cool-down after being shackled to the keyboard until late by the day-job. Glad to have rediscovered it. N.

Jorio: Hard labour

This day has been
As hard and blank
As a prison wall.
Must get over it.

Some poet I am.
Whatever made me think
I could do this?
I have no idea.

Some days it’s easy,
The words flowing unbidden
Onto the page. This
Isn’t one of them.

Today it’s breaking rocks
Or hauling up some
Rusty anchor on miles
Of thick, slime-covered chain.

Five lots of sixteen:
Eighty words. Can I –
Dare I – call this
A good day’s work?


For anyone else who feels that writing is really hard work today! N.

Jorio: One for the road

My last four lines
I’ve saved for you:
Fair wind for France,
Les vacances pour nous.


Going offline for a few days to recover from what my dear friend and mentor Tom calls ‘a long work jag’, and gather my strength for the next onslaught. Looking forward to devoting proper time to my girls, the dog and the bike, being sans phone or inbox, and writing with pen and paper instead of a keyboard and screen. Thank you all, as always, for your friendship and encouragement. See you soon. N.

Jorio: Taking it back

OK, computer, listen up:
I’m in charge here.
Yes, me. Not you.
Have you got that?

I know you think
You’re something pretty special,
With your funky icons
Four gigabytes of RAM

Weird ways of working
That I don’t understand.
You said nothing, but
I bet you laughed

At my frustration. Windows?
You have no idea
How close you came
To an old-fashioned defenestration.

I guess you thought
You’d got me whipped.
You’re new here, so
I’ll let it slide.

But from now on
I say, you do.
And above all, remember
Who can unplug whom.


After a long and frustrating couple of days, I feel I’m finally subduing my new PC and bending it to my will. Just had to show it who’s boss. N.

(My daughter was thrilled when she discovered that ‘defenestration’ is a real word. She was even more delighted when she found out what it meant! 🙂 )

Jorio: Note to self

Don’t think. Just start.
No head. All heart.
This, in any art,
Is the hard part.

That’s easy to say.
But could be today
The Muse stays away
Completely. What then, eh?

Yep, guess she might.
(Or at least fight
Off any advances.) Delight
In the struggle. Write

Anyway. It’s in there.
Long as you care
Enough to dig, dare
To lay it bare

Something will eventually appear.
It’s not always clear
What, or how. Fear
Is the enemy here.

Let the words run.
Follow them for fun.
And no sooner begun
There’s a jorio done.

Hard, and no mistake,
To get going, break
The block, and shake
The poet within awake:

He (or she) sleeps
Deeply some days, keeps
Silent, still – or creeps
Away somewhere and weeps.

And even if what
You produce is not
Great Literature, you’ve got
Something. That’s a lot

Better than nothing. I
Struggle even to try
Sometimes; want to cry
In frustration. (Or die.)

But today I fought
Back and finally brought
Forth a poetical thought.
(Well, of a sort.)

Why all this striving?
It’s how I’m surviving
The rigours of living:
Seeking, remembering, finding, forgiving.


Had no idea what to write when I sat down at my desk this morning. Felt lousy. Poet, huh? I thought. Yeah, right. Ended up giving myself a stern talking-to (see above). And apologies for a rhymed jorio. It was only a matter of time. N.

Two-way jorio: Freight train

Diesel hauling heavy freight,
Fighting hard. Cars rumbling
Over grade crossing, moving
Mountains, biting through America.


Ina, bless her, has upped the ante once again, by writing a jorio that reads vertically, as well as horizontally. Mind-bogglingly brilliant. Never one to shrink from a challenge, I’ve had a go, too: vertically, it reads

Diesel fighting over mountains,
Hauling hard, grade biting.
Heavy cars crossing through;
Freight rumbling, moving America.

Hurts the brain, but this could become dangerously addictive. N.

Jorio: Terror of the Blank Page

Again the blank page
Taunts me, chin outthrust
Like a bar-room drunk.
‘Call yourself a writer?

‘What’s the matter? Scared,
Are you? Go on,
Stick one on me
Now. I dare you –

I know your type:
Talk the big game,
Always starting, never finishing,
Wanting to have written.

Time you got real:
You’ve never mastered me.
I’m stronger than you
And always will be.’

Something in me snaps –
Bam! – I let fly
With a Petrarchan sonnet
Right on the nose:

Up from the basement –
Pow! – a crunching shadorma
Straight to the jaw,
And the blood leaps:

Press home my attack
With an ABAB rhyme –
Wham! – it staggers back.
Gets ‘em every time.

It’s not done, jeering –
‘So where’s your novel:
Airport blockbuster, Times bestseller,
Five-book deal, movie rights?’

Go for the kill:
Unleash the double sestina –
Take that, left-right, one-two –
Snarling, ‘Want some more?’

The page spits teeth.
‘Nice try. But just
You wait. Tomorrow, I’ll
Be here again. Waiting.’


Where would I be without Ina? Well, I wouldn’t be here introducing my first jorio, that’s for sure. Having opened my eyes to the magic of shadorma already this week, she’s now got me into jorio – what my dear friend Christine over at journeyintopoetry calls ‘four-square poems’. Which they are: no rhyme scheme or metre, just four lines with four words per. (I’ve cheated ever-so-slightly in a couple of stanzas: in Word, hyphenated words count as one, and that works for me.)
We writers all know the terror of the blank page, and as someone who writes for money as well as for love, I experience it every day. It was a lot of fun taking one back with this piece, but I know it’s a fight I’ll face again. And again. N.