Hard on the Knuckle
Hard on the Knuckle mostly details my experiences as a writer-in-residence at HMP Nottingham. I worked at the prison from November 1997 to February 1999. At the time, the institution housed “lifers” and remand inmates so I worked with a whole range of individuals at different stages in their prison lives. The collection also includes a sequence of poems about driving through various landscapes, from which the poem printed below is taken. I originally entered the poems in the annual Smith/Doorstop pamphlet competition (www.poetrybusiness.co.uk), and was lucky enough to be picked out by the judge, David Constantine. I have a lot of respect for his work so was very pleased that he chose me along with four other poets (including Tim Liardet – another poet I enjoy reading).
Leaving Galway we drove out west
on roads like little twisters for the tongue,
stalling at junctions where we had to guess,
until, inevitably, I guessed wrong –
stopped dead, in rain, at the end of Europe,
the rock-pool farms of low walls and cold fish.
We had a map, a bar of chocolate,
and Hartnett’s Farewell to English
to guard against the sky’s upturned suitcase,
and you to drive me back to coral beach,
where creatures have a billion years of grace,
the light of shrunken suns within our reach.
Returning to the spartan, hostel room
we hung our clothes up, made it home.