It was the birthday of the awesome Dr Seuss yesterday – so as a way of marking the anniversary of such a remarkable writer who has turned so many youngsters into readers, I decided to review this affectionate parody by my writing buddy Geoff.
The Twat is the Flat is an anarchic reimagining of Dr Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat, deploying an alternative narrative to create an uproarious illustrated book for adults. Part parody, part homage, The Twat in the Flat has all the offbeat humour of the original, but you will probably not be reading it to your children at bedtime!
That’s the blurb, which doesn’t tell you all that much. But the story is about two depressed, broke young lodgers staying in because they are expecting the landlord to come calling for the rent – when they are visited by the idiot who lives upstairs, insisting on sharing his drugs and booze with them. Geoff has stuck to the rhythm and structure of The Cat in the Hat, which he says has only increased his admiration of Dr Seuss’s genius, as it took a lot of drafting and redrafting to keep to the limited vocabulary Dr Seuss was initially given.
Geoff aka The Speechpainter is an experienced performance poet who been gigging around southern England for the last twenty years, so the anarchy that the twat unleashes is ably handled in this amusing parody. My favourite character is the roach, who replaces the goldfish in The Cat in the Hat as he hops from the ashtray to the boot of the unwanted guest, imploring the two to get rid of him.
However, the original was not just about the poem – the illustrations were also part of the magic and Geoff has the great good fortune to know the gifted Annabel Munn, who provides the artwork for The Twat in the Flat. The pictures throughout are a joy and beautifully match up with Geoff’s punchy, amusing verse. I’m aware that as I have been involved in this project from its inception, I am not unbiased – but if you are looking for a book to put a smile on your face, then consider tracking this one down. It is a little gem.
This poem was written after the discussion about bringing in women’s carriages on trains, due to the rise in reported incidents against women. Then someone suggested a creep’s carriage – and this poem kept running around my head this morning while I was trying to edit. So I let it loose…
They say women should be herded into
separate carriages for their own good.
To keep them safe from the slimy creeps who
won’t leave them alone to travel in peace.
Why don’t we pen up the vile creeps instead?
Give them vomit-curry coloured tickets
showing their creep-class status, to be led
by guards straight to the creep’s carriage.
Who will qualify to travel creep-class?
If you’ve ever groped, stroked or touched, then in
you go. Let’s ditch words like bother or harass –
if you’ve unzipped your fly to have a wank,
you’ve applied for creep-class. Shouted ‘fuck!’
loudly, watching the old bag’s face as she shrank
into her seat, while grinning with your mates –
you’ve complied with creep-class T’s and C’s.
Rating a girl’s tits or her face, demanding dates,
taking pics and posting them online – I’m pleased
to say you have fulfilled the terms that rates
you as entitled to travel creep-class.
Have a journey full of fear and heartache.
Syrup-thick African nights stroked
my skin, bathing me in
Pupil-black African skies sprinkled my way
with pearl-sweet shafts of affection.
Blood-rich African earth powdered
my feet with silk-soft smoothness,
pillowing my walk with unconditional
So why am I stranded on this northern shore
skewered by winter’s blast?
How come I am cornered under
the stained-orange glare of a bleak
plane-streaked sky? Why are
worm-filled clods of cold mud caking my
What did I do so wrong to lose
my African nights?
I wrote this poem when my children were in the throes of teenage angst. Now those days are now behind us, I’m relieved to report that ongoing gritted battle between us is history.
Blood- stained stems spiral
with sappy springtime love.
Heart-shaped leaves frondle
over sticks and stones –
billowing in green pillows
across the garden. Clasping
strong young growth in a
snugly lethal grasp.
Madonna-white bells nod
sweetly as I tear through
massed tangles of stems
and blanketing leaves, to
reveal the maggot-pale,
mangled plants beneath.
My teen-smart offspring with
wary eyes, and sharp replies
rip through my pillowing love –
blood-warm and snugly tight –
the bindweed in my children’s lives.
Monday, 16 September 2002
As a young woman, I enjoyed walking alone at night looking at the moon and stars – until a scary encounter stopped my nocturnal wandering. I wrote this as an expression of my frustration and sadness that I no longer felt safe enough to do so…
You send forth your milky
sweetness. Your silvered completeness
flowering for me to see.
You beacon the black night –
rounded in your contoured clearness,
powered to pull the sea.
You throw your welcome wide –
weaving spells of magic madness,
creating wells of tragic sadness
for those stranded in your tide.
You’re feared by the male mind –
your allure and maternal mildness
mistaken for a pretanatural wildness
by those who’d scorn womankind.
Oh Mother Moon, me and mine
are shuttered and trapped,
muffled and sapped,
our answering tune
strangled to a whine.
So, I shall never see dew-jewelled grasses
dance silvered, and gleaming in your milky tide.
For I am afraid to take the chance-
I press my hurting head,
against the chilly pane,
yearning for your silky touch –
The remarkable pictures of the sun looked as if she was writhing in agonised grief. So I wondered what could make the sun so sad – and this is what I came up with…
Besieged and surrounded,
the Sun lashes back at the snarling
blackness hounding her every move.
She aims her daughters – brave fountains of
eye-biting brightness – into the frigid
abyss. Such futile defiance…
Howling through the old coldness of deep space,
fragile sunspots weaken and chill, crumpling into
dimming frills of light, finally wisping into
as the blanketing blackness silently sneers.
Meanwhile, hidden behind a blue veil
millions of miles away…
celandines and coltsfoot,
blazing dandelions and
auriculas, buttercups, spears of golden rod, yarrow, californian poppies
birds’-foot trefoil, cowslips, corn marigold, st john’s wort, yellow rattle –
along with hundreds more sunspots – burst onto the ground,
eye-brimming and bright.
tell the Sun.
Picture from Wikipedia.com
Being lonely is one of the most desolate experiences of all. Especially when alongside somone who should be looking out for you…
Burning wasteland of parched sand
shivers under the sun-scoured sky.
Eyes bleed useless tears looking
for help – no one ever comes here.
Just when the aching emptiness is
vast enough to swallow dust storms,
an oasis of Love blooms on the horizon…
miraculous pool shaded by lush bushes.
You run towards it, maddened by
the moist promise of tenderness…
It shimmers – a lover’s breath away from
And then blinks out.
Image from wikipedia.com
I thought of inevitable space accidents – and what it will be like for the salvage teams having to go in and retrieve dead, vacuum-frozen bodies in amongst the drifting chaos of zero gravity. And this was the result…
You glide through the airless airlock
with your breath rasping in your ears,
As the beam from your headlamp waits
to fade in the massed darkness…
You rasp through the useless airlock
with your breath sounding in your ears,
as your headlamp beam fades under
the mass of waiting darkness
when you weave through the drifting
debris of a dead crew…
Every breath you take fades in the darkness,
and the gliding debris masses and snags you
waiting to weave traps in the airless locked trap
as you drift against one of the dead crew…
You retrieve the drifting crew,
pushing a path through the debris
picked out in your headlamp, and
soundlessly screaming as you weave
your way back to the dead airlock…
And when you’ve fled to the safe sunshine
of a planet, you’ll hug and hug a nice
next-door girl – taking great care
never to look at the starlit sky
image taken from Gravity, a Warner Bros picture, 2013.
It’s the near-miss slip
and the just-caught keys
as they head for the slatted drain…
The baby’s coo as she chews her shoe
kick-kick-kicking the air;
scent of rain on drought-baked soil;
the taste of sweat on your
love-slicked skin – these put the spring
in my limbs and make me
hap-hap-happy. Smart and snappy.
All warm and safe inside.
Now I’m not thick or easily tricked –
I know too well that Life’s not fair.
The bed of roses is lined with thorns;
the bowl of cherries slimed with mould…
when family needs more than I’ve got;
bills build and the writing stops –
It’s sun-slit sea and the smell of salt,
the crunch of fresh-picked peas –
Gems of joy that pin the grin
on my lips and make me
hap-hap-happy. Soft and sappy.
All safe and warm inside.
I wrote this a long time ago, after watching a BBC programme about Mandlebrot sequences. Now, sadly, I think the message is even more relevant…
What if God especially loves numbers?
The clean, cool certitude of wrong and right
that comes of sums… No encumbering
maybes that clutter the messiness of words.
What if God’s chosen few are the likes of
Pascal and Euclid who unlock
ancient questions with mathematical skill
so achingly sharp – they lift
the hair on the nape of your neck?
What if the secrets of everlasting Life
are bound in sequenced equations
with the complex beauty of Mandlebrot?
And if I – figure-fettered and innumerate –
can count on being loved by God,
Then why should any religious quarrel
matter more than the smallest speck