For over twenty years Andy Croft has been writing letters in verse to the ghost of Randall Swingler (1909–1967), novelist, poet, playwright, librettist, editor and war hero.
ISBN: 978-1-910323-84-7Read More...
A bilingual French-English selection of poems written over the last twenty years, from Nowhere Special, Headland, Just as Blue, Comrade Laughter, Sticky and Three Men on the Metro, as well as a number of previously uncollected poems. Translated by Thierry Gillyboeuf, with an introduction in French by Francis Combes.
Le Temps des Cerises/Le Merle Moqueer
Fifteen contemporary poets pay homage to Byron’s greatest satirical creation by writing a new Don Juan for the twenty-first century.
Edited with Nigel Thompson
ISBN: 9781907869327Read More...
A verse novel (in Pushkin sonnets) set during the 1948 London Olympics.
ISBN: 9781907869327Read More...
The word stikhi means poems or verses in Russian. It comes from the Greek stikhoi, meaning lines of words – or soldiers. A book of poems about an age of imperial slaughter already sticky with blood and lies.
Flambard Press, 2009
ISBN: 9781906601058View Sample...
Sticky 'By our efforts, we have lit a fire... a fire in the minds of men. It warms those who feel its power, it burns those who fight its progress, and one day this untamed fire of freedom will reach the darkest corners of our world.' (George W. Bush) for Adrian Mitchell at 75 One sticky summer afternoon Three boys were playing near a wood; They made a swing, played hide-and-seek, And ran around as children should. Then, gathering some twigs and sticks They built a little cairn until They only needed bigger sticks To light a fire, as children will. Beneath the ancient family tree The sticks were watching in alarm, 'What's going on?' Simplistick asked, Said Idealistick, 'just stay calm.' 'I don't like this one little bit,' Said Pessimistick; 'I suggest,' Beamed Optimistick, 'we will find It's bound to turn out for the best.' 'No doubt they'll put me on the top, Where I belong,' Bombastick boomed, 'It doesn't matter anyway,' Wailed Fatalistick, 'we're all doomed.' Unrealistick then piped up, 'They're going to build a dinosaur!' 'Of course, they are,' Sarcastick said, 'That's what they've got those matches for.' 'It's obvious,' Majestick said, 'That I'm the stick that they require.' Artistick said, 'I do so hope We're going to make a lovely fire.' 'I'd like to know,' Statistick mused, 'How many sticks they're going to need.' Scholastick looked up from his book, 'Look can't you see I'm trying to read?' 'What's going on?' Simplistick asked, 'I'm not so sure,' Agnostick sighed, 'I wish I knew - it's hard to say - It all depends - I can't decide.' Iconoclastick threw some stones, Enthusiastick tried to dance, Acoustick strummed, Monastick hummed, While Mystick fell into a trance. When all the sticks were gathered up They lay in one enormous heap, 'We've had it,' Fatalistick groaned. Somnambulistick fell asleep. Said Masochistick 'will it hurt?' 'I'm sure it will,' Sadistick hissed, 'How awful,' Altruistick sniffed, Domestick snarled and clenched his fist. The boys then stuffed the bonfire's base With piles of leaves and bits of paper, They passed a box of matches round, And tried to light the home-made taper. Just then the wind began to blow, The matches flickered in the breeze, Said Nationalistick with a snort, 'Those matches aren't from British trees.' Eventually the fire was lit, The little flames grew hotter, higher, 'How beautiful!' Artistick said, And fell into the glowing fire. The flames began to lick the sticks, 'That tickles!' Masochistick yelped, 'I bet it does,' Sadistick grinned, Realistick shrugged, 'it can't be helped.' 'I do so hope I look my best,' Said Narcissistick with a smile, 'If I am going up in flames At least I'm going to go in style.' 'What's going on?' Simplistick asked, Fantastick said, 'it's just a joke.' 'It's wonderful!' Ecstatick gasped, And vanished in a puff of smoke. Ecclesiastick said a prayer, Gymnastick balanced on her head, 'Let's face it,' Fatalistick shrugged, 'It's obvious we'll soon be dead.' 'I must protest,' Bombastick boomed, 'I'm far too valuable to die!' 'I knew it,' Pessimistick groaned. Nihilistick laughed, 'The End is Nigh!' Then Communistick raised his voice, 'We can't just branch out on our own, We must resist - all sticks unite, Together stronger than alone!' 'I'm not a stick!' Majestick barked, 'I'm more a branch - or else a bough,' 'A Special Branch!' Sarcastick smirked, 'It's time you twigged you're firewood now'. Said Egotistick, 'I don't care What happens to the rest of you, I've packed my trunk, I'm outta here -' Ballistick broke him clean in two. 'I saw that!' Voyeuristick said, 'So what?' Antagnonistick snapped . Elastick jumped on Plastick's head, Evangelistick loudly clapped. 'What's going on?' Simplistick asked, Anachronistick swore an oath, Surrealistick yelled, 'A fish!' Antagonistick punched them both. And so the sticks began to fight. As they were eaten by the fire, And one by one the silly sticks Became each other's funeral pyre. The moral of this sticky story Of sticks who were too proud to bend, Is we must learn to stick together Or else we'll meet a sticky end. Although the earth is hotting up We can't agree on what to do, So stick around and ask yourself, What kind of silly stick are you? Andy Croft
A journey in verse from the Newcastle Metro to the Moscow Metro.
Five Leaves, 2009
ISBN: 9781905512843View Sample...
Song of the Banya 'Not enough bathhouses, not enough soap.' (Vladimir Mayakovsky) In this city of well-dressed ambition It is hard to peel off from the dance, But here in the Banya, we say do svidanya To all of that hustle and hassle and bustle - For once in the Banya, You've nothing to lose but your pants. Hey! Hit me with your venik stick, Hit me! Hit me! As long as you're stark bollock naked You can stay in the Banya all day, The fat and the skinny, the max and the mini, The lean and the gristly, the clean and the bristly, We sit in the Banya And sweat all our troubles away. Hey! Hit me with your venik stick, Hit me! Hit me! The Banya asks nobody questions, The Banya tells nobody lies, You jump in the water, your manhood gets shorter, You walk in a mobster and crawl out a lobster, The god of the Banya Cuts every man right down to size. Hey! Hit me with your venik stick, Hit me! Hit me! There's only one rule in the Banya, Enlightened self-interest's our cause, You may be quite podgy, you may look right dodgy Be sick and unhealthy, or virile and wealthy, But here in the Banya - If you scrub my back, I'll scrub yours. Hey! Hit me with your venik stick, Hit me! Hit me! The Banya treats all men as brothers, The wise man, the fool and the knave, No matter how ruthful or truthful you may be, No matter how youthful you were as a baby, Outside of the Banya The next place we're equal's the grave. Hey! Hit me with your venik stick, Hit me! Hit me! One member one soap is our slogan, Uniting the whole human race, Once step through the door you can't tell the dirt poor From the man with the itch to become stinking rich - If the world was a Banya It wouldn't be such a foul place. Hey! Hit me with your venik stick, Hit me! Hit me! Andy Croft
A literary detective–story written in Pushkin sonnets and featuring a cast of ghosts, spies, poets and hopeless lovers. And it is based on Hamlet.
Five Leaves, 2007
ISBN: 9781905512386View Sample...
'Tis now struck twelve, the world is sleeping, There's nothing stirring, not a mouse; The only sound's the sodden weeping That shudders, ghost-like, through the house; And as the sobbing slowly passes Among the ashtrays, plates and glasses, The blinking minutes of the night Are counted by computer-light. The scene is set, the mood is mostly Suggestive of the tragic art. Our hero, Tod, is sick at heart, His candle-life now flickers, ghostly, Pursued by phantoms which, it seems, Must haunt him even in his dreams. Where others dream of sex and money, Of life as one long endless cruise, Tod's dreams consist of darker honey - Of Sunday Supplement reviews, The Book at Bedtime, Libby Purves, The South Bank Show, the old World Service. Ten years ago Tod said that he Would turn his useless PhD Into a Waterstone's best-seller. But in the disappointments since, Our author - whose full name's Tod Prince - Has watched his green hopes turn to yellow, Just like the bills upon the mat Inside this weary, stale, old flat. It once seemed such a good idea! An easy way to make a splash, The kick-start to a bright career, The quickest route to fame and cash. The Thirties being then in season It seemed to Tod there was no reason His shouldn't join the breeze-block Lives On which the British book trade thrives. The major names already taken (Woolf, Auden, Swingler, Barker, Joyce), Tod faced a somewhat narrowed choice; His chance of bringing home the bacon Depended on some long-lost Red, Once widely read, now safely dead. Prolific poet, if somewhat minor, Rex Dedman seemed to be Tod's chance. He'd fought in Spain and been to China, Wrote thrillers published by Gollancz, First joined the YCL at Eton, Was photographed by Cecil Beaton, Produced some rather minor verse And minor travel books (no worse Than anything by Stephen Spender), Was read in Left Review and Fact Until the Nazi-Soviet Pact, Then spent the war years on a bender. A writer - critics all agree - Whose life was in a minor key. But ten years on and Tod's no nearer To banking any royalty cheques; With every floppy disk it's clearer He'll not complete his life of Rex. The usual stumbling-block of course is A lack of proper primary sources; But there's too much in Dedman's case, So much on poor Tod's database - Unpublished novels, letters, speeches, Unfinished plays, libretti, notes. Tod trawls them all in search of quotes As if somehow convinced that each is Potentially the final clue He needs to make his portrait true. And yet, despite such fond devotion, The archivist's slow, patient art, Tod can't resist the growing notion He knows less now than at the start. As he collects the jig-saw pieces His sense of Rex somehow decreases, As if he must have somehow skipped A crucial dog-eared MS. What's worse, the more that Tod discovers About his subject's private life, The complications with a wife And endless mistresses and lovers, The more he struggles to suppress The thought he likes Rex less and less. Ten years have passed, ten years of worry. Flat broke, no girlfriend and depressed - To say that Tod is in a hurry To get the damn thing off his chest Is something of an understatement. But there's no prospect of abatement. This very witching time of night He's still awake and trying to write. Behold the author now composing - With nothing but occasional sups Of lukewarm beer and endless cups Of cold black tea to stop him dozing Just long enough to realize He'll never get the glittering prize…
Poetry for humourless old lefties.
Flambard Press, 2004
ISBN: 9781873226667View Sample...
The Elephants of Mudfog As the sun climbed up over the chimneys, And the traffic jams started to crawl, Ten stone elephants marched into Mudfog And sat down beside the Town Hall. Now nobody knew where they came from, Or what they were hoping to do, Perhaps they'd escaped from a circus? Perhaps they belonged in a zoo? A terrified crowd quickly gathered And stared at the marvellous sight, Ten stone elephants sitting in Mudfog - It shouldn't be, couldn't be right! Then someone alerted the council, Who called out the National Guard, Who called for a SWAT team and air-strike, (Cos shooting an elephant's hard). The elephants stared at the soldiers And blinked in the bright Mudfog sun, Until a small child ran over and smiled And gave one a Greggs' currant bun. The crowd watched in silent amazement As the elephant picked up the lad, Then stood to its feet and walked down the street And brought him back safe to his dad. Hurrah for the mammoths of Mudfog! Three cheers for our elephant chums! Although it's well known that they're just made of stone Their hearts are as big as their bums. They soon were a local attraction, They even gave rides to the Mayor, Folk came from afar, by coach and by car, To stare at them sat in the square. They starred in a Blue Peter special, They handed out gongs at the Brits, Took part in another new round of Big Brother, And modelled the new England kits ; There was talk of a remake of Dumbo, The National Lottery draw, The rumours were thick of a Hannibal pic, A phone-in on Radio 4. The jumbos were quite a sensation, They helped put the place on the map ; Some artists came down to visit the town In search of some elephant crap. But alas, there were some folk in Mudfog Who resented the elephants' fame, Their lives were so grim and their brains were so dim, And they needed somebody to blame. They stood in the Mudfog elections And ranted and raved on the telly, 'You've got to be firm with a stone pachyderm, Our watchword is Not on Your Nelly!'. 'We'll be swamped,' said their Florida spokesman, 'They're animals under the skin, Once they've heard we're a soft touch in Mudfog We'll have herds of them trying to get in!' Each night in the town's evening paper The letters were worried and vexed, 'It's time our friend Ganesh was taught how to vanish, 'Or else it's our jobs will be next.' Some said that their skin was too wrinkled, Or else that their trunks were too long, Unnatural, alien, not local to Mudfog - In short that they didn't belong. The council proposed a solution Which they hoped would help sort out the mess, They gave them permission to stay on condition That they tried to stand out a bit less. 'Do you have to be such a strange colour? Do elephants have to be tall? Could your trunks be a little bit briefer? And why can't your ears be more small? To be honest, those tusks are just wasted On creatures with no sense of price, Your bums require slimming, your toe-nails need trimming, And to eat with your nose isn't nice. We know you've a right to be different, We respect this, as everyone does, But they say, 'when in Rome', so now Mudfog's your home, Why can't you become more like us?' The elephants listened in silence Then they turned and walked slowly away, And the only reminder they came here at all Is that Mudfog's now elephant grey.
An epic poem of the Great North Run.
Iron Press, 2001
ISBN: 9780906228890View Sample...
Mile 1 'Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us' (Hebrews) Well this is it - the moment has arrived ; No second thoughts, it's time to show your mettle, It's this for which so many months you've strived, It's now or never, time to grasp the nettle, To show the world the stuff of which you're made, To put your preparations to the test, So here you are, uncertain and afraid, In fetching bin-bag, shorts and running vest, With folk of every shape and every size From far-too-thin through medium to weighty, Who like to take a bit of exercise Between the age of seventeen and eighty. You can't explain just what you're doing here, With 40,000 other running nuts, You're not sure if it's such a good idea, Or what exactly's happening in your guts, Or why, when you could be tucked up in bed, You're going to put your body through the trauma Of running 13.1 miles instead (Such thoughts of bed don't make you any warmer). So this is why you suffered all that training, To freeze here on a six-lane motorway (And now, as if on cue, it's started raining) On Tyneside on a cold October day. Five minutes still to go before the start. You rub your calves, and do your best to stretch, You try to calm your palpitating heart, And worry if your nerves will make you retch. Three minutes. Though you know you've tied your laces You tie them tighter, synchronise your watch, Shake hands, exchange some last good-luck embraces, Rub ointment on your legs and in your crotch. One minute still to go. You diagnose A twinge in your left knee you don't recall, Re-check the time again and touch your toes, Decide you need the toilet after all, When suddenly the starting pistol's fired, And this year's Great North Run's at last begun ! And there's no time for feeling stiff or tired As 40,000 runners start to run. Then stop. Then shuffle forward. Stop once more. The anti-climax really is quite stunning ; You stand for several minutes more before You move at all, ten more before you're running. Though no-one really cares about the winners The Kenyans up ahead have crossed the Tyne While some of us you might call late beginners Have not yet even crossed the starting line ! So many legs, and all of them in front. It feels as though you're running on the spot ; And so we make our grunting exeunt In what feels like a syncopated trot, A jerky, silent epic movie-showing Of crowd scenes shot by Sergei Eisenstein, A sweaty human river slowly flowing From Spittal Tongues towards the River Tyne And on until at last we reach the ocean, A human tidal wave of wincing faces, A festival of running in slow motion. Where Nessun Dorma meets The Blaydon Races. 'Howay the Lads !' the footbridge banners urge, Two men in tights ask, 'what aboot the lasses ?' A sudden line of cones, the roads diverge And we descend beneath the underpasses, Steep-sided like canals at emptied locks, To test the empty subway demagogy As concrete roofs give back the runners' vox With cries of 'Oggy, oggy, oggy, oggy !' And then at last the One Mile signs appear, A half-unwelcome sight, because although The thought of one less mile brings half a cheer, It also means there's twelve miles more to go.
Blues for the new century.
Flambard Press, 2001
ISBN: 9781873226445View Sample...
Just as Blue A breezeless, sunny, Summer day At Brooke House Farm, and I'm just four Or five, a town-mouse come to stay, Homesick perhaps, and not so sure About this world that's fierce and strange And full of things from story-books: The giant oven in the range, The furnace doors I must not touch, The home-made broom outside the door, The baking smells of gingerbread, And everywhere the friendly, raw Tobacco smell of Uncle Fred; The cellar with its froggy holes, A fox head stuffed with marble eyes, The fences hung with rats and moles; The piglet wriggles in the sties, The shippon gloom of dust and straw, The diesel stink of old machines, The high-pitched smell of fresh manure, The dairy's chapel quiet, its clean And polished, buttered, sunshine taste; The angry, barking dogs on chains Whose unleashed fury must be faced If I'm to venture down the lane. But here, against the haystack sides, A ladder climbs to heaven knows where, A stair up which, half terrified, I slither backwards into air, Till half way up the clouds unfold Their magic carpet in the skies, A square of blue enframed with gold, A vast and roofless blue surprise. How close the sky appears from here. No child could ever paint such blue As this, an endless, hurting, clear And lovely, lonely, trespassed view. Within this blue I've built a den, A musty house of bales of straw To keep out stupid one-eyed hens, And hungry wolves outside the door. How dreamy still and quiet it seems, As though the giant world is curled Asleep and I'm inside a dream Of bean-stalks far above the world, Where hay bales might be spun to gold, And happy endings are all true, Where little pigs do not grow old, And skies are always just as blue. As if I've had this dream before, Down tunnels made with itching legs I reach to find, within the straw, A clutch of warm and feathered eggs, Like magic beans which only grow When all the grown-ups are in bed, Which lead to where all children know They grind your bones to make their bread. The sleepy world below now stirs - The milking stalls' electric hum, A distant tractor's muddy purrs, The background mumble of the glum Suspicious cows, as they're pursued By Fe-fi-fo-ing dogs and men. It's time to leave this solitude, The giant world's awake again.
Poems and photographs from the Hartlepool Headland.
ISBN: 9781897698143View Sample...
Edge Easy to see why they thought it was flat On such a bright and windless day. This was the view from Mount Ararat, The world a perfect circle of grey, A bright, spinning coin in the palm of the hand Contained by the sharp horizon's rim, A bucket of sunlight, full to the brim With all that we know and understand. Easy too to see why they thought This flattened, silver, well-scrubbed flood Was made for them, each fish they caught A salty covenant from God, Revealed in every rainbow scale, A promise that the sea would hold The hidden gold with which it's shoaled, And harvest seas would never fail. Hard to remember the first surprise When the morning was edged by the black silhouettes Of ravenous long-ships, the fisherman's eyes When the round world was caught in his nets, Violent and strange, too heavy to land, Too huge to be thrown back over the side, An edgeless map, washed up by the tide, Shaped like a footprint found in the sand. Easy to see on a day like today Why we believe that the world is a sphere, As the tankers edge their oily way Along the slow horizon's frontier Beyond the curving slope of the earth ; And why we know we can't disown The promise that we're not alone Painted in rainbow oils on the surf. Beyond the mirrored edge of all We think we understand or know The unacknowledged monsters crawl In the amniotic undertow, The nightmare, hungry things that creep Slowly up the pebbled shores Of headlands washed by ocean snores Where watching cliff-top sentries sleep. The world's not flat but curved with longing, An endless, cambered plain of foam We whittle smooth by our belonging, Ringed by the harbour lights of home, From where we scan the skies above The submerged kingdoms of the blood, The unfathomed mountains of the flood For our returning human loves.
A three–handed portrait of Teesside, in poetry and photographs.
Scratch Publications, 1996
ISBN: 9781897698105View Sample...
Egerton Street One more dark, wet, orange night to inhabit, Walk down, splash through, soak up, at last admit, Just one more defeat to bite on, chew on, swallow; There's still worse to come, more rain to follow. Like this helpless anger, this year's new dismay, Which blows relentless, blows its strength away. So many torrential defeats, such dark weather, Pressing down and through the leaking leather Of my boots, vulnerable as faith, or love. You can't be gloomy enough. Enough.
The latest news from Utopia, poised between pessimism of the intellect and the chiliasm of despair.
Flambard Press, 1996
ISBN: 9781873226223View Sample...
How Blue Can You Get? 'We lived so far back in the woods, we never did get chance to see the sun till twelve o'clock.' (George Smith) I take the record from the sleeve And hold it like a negative, A print whose well-thumbed edges show The marks of twenty years ago, When growing up was still a laugh, An awkward grinning photograph, When Elmore James began to sing One sticky summer afternoon, and everything We didn't know, like politics and sex Was limed forever by those broken, wailing bottlenecks. And listening now, what was more true, I cannot say, Our curling, adolescent languor, Strung out on someone else's black dismay, Self-pity's need to make more reap The hugeness of our small town hunger, Or knowing straight away that this was hoe I'd always feel, That this is how the world would sound: Twelve bars of grief and beauty spinning round and round and round...
A Celebration of the Transporter Bridge in Poetry
Middlesbrough Borough Council
An anthology of poems about the midnight kingdom of birds and beasts, insomniacs, breast–feeding mothers and nightshift–workers.
Five Leaves, 2010
A festschrift for the seventieth birthday of the poet, publisher and critic John Lucas.
Five Leaves, 2007
An anthology of poems celebrating British sporting life – angling, boxing, cricket, darts, football, golf, netball, polo, rowing, rugby, running, skating, snooker, swimming, tennis – from Arlott to Wodehouse.
Five Leaves, 2006
A big, representative selection of 49 of the region's best–known poets.
IRON Press, 2006
153 poems by 117 of our best radical poets, from William Blake to Benjamin Zephaniah.
Five Leaves, 2003
'Given all this dexterity, resonance, fun, erudition and emotional richness, it continues to flummox me as to why Andy Croft isn't better recognised. Perhaps it's his politics? Maybe his work will be more noticed in some future, more congenial climate? It's worth hoping.'
'Give the man a gold medal!'
'an unreconstructed leftie of the old school, a fine poet who writes very skilfully in carefully formulated metrical stanzas... hilariously slapstick... refreshingly unfashionable and definitely not very post-modern.'
Tears in the Fence
'Croft is a communicator as well as a virtuoso versifier. Thumping rhymes? More like a thumping good read.'
'The Alexander Pope of the North.'
'What Wordsworth was to the Lake District, Andy Croft is to Teesside... Croft's poetry burns with his strong left–wing convictions and also (which many would say is the same thing) a passionate sense of our common humanity.'
'Andy Croft breathes resilience into perfectly weighted lines'
The Affectionate Punch
'There's a strong sense in these poems of writing for a sense of community, of defending values which have been all but defeated.'
'Andy Croft produces staggeringly flawless verse which is never heartless in perfection.'
'Wit and brio.'
'the sentiments are cheap and banal... like third rate Victorian verse. Unless you're writing for children or to be funny it does make the poetry look dreadfully old fashioned. Not many people, post Eliot, write like this any more.'