Bowie, Cut-Ups and Poetry!

Cut-Up About Bowie and Poetry


I am writing this on the 9th January, the day that sits between the date of David Bowie’s birthday and the date of his death. My thoughts are drawn to DB and his music at this time of year, and like so many others, I play his music and think about his lyrics. The Poetry Society has been asking people on Twitter to give their favourite DB lyric. The whole lyric/poetry debate could be explored at this juncture, remember Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016 and just recently Faber published the lyrics of Kate Bush in a volume called How To Be Invisible (exposing,, is how I would rate some of those lyrics on the cold bare page). Whether or not Bowie’s work is considered poetry is up to the individual, what I would say is much of his work is poetic.

bowie cut up
To see a great bit of footage of Bowie putting the cut-up method into action go here – 

Bowie obviously had an interest in language and its flexibility. We know he was a practitioner of the cut-up technique at times: the  deconstruction of a primary text using the random cutting up of words and phrases to form new sentences and thus a new piece of writing”. (

Anyway, the point is in the weeks after Bowie’s death, I wrote a poem called ‘Believers’ that borrows from him, and I initially took the cut-up route. However, the poem took on shape and meaning that takes it beyond merely referencing DB lyrics, to make its own points. I don’t want to close down possibilities within poems by over-explaining work, interpretation is for the reader.  And so why I wanted the poem to appear early in my collection The Space Between Us, as a marker of tone and direction, and what I think the poem says is for a reader to decide; after all, as the man says, “I can’t give everything away.”

See how many references you can spot in the poem I wrote …


Beneath the English evergreens that wait for you

we shadowbox our past.

The blackest of years

plays hollow through the night.


Roughed up and frightened,

we need an axe

to break strange doors

we find ourselves behind.


Look up

to keep believing,

because there’s nothing else

that we can do.


(from The Space Between Us, Cinnamon Press).


cut up bowie image



I recently took part in the Local Authors Party at Waterstones in Chiswick as part of Chiswick Book Festival. It was an excellent evening, lots of people, and plenty of variety among the books discussed. Each author had two minutes to speak about their book before a klaxon sounded to stop them. So it was fun and fast paced. How to talk about a collection of poetry in two minutes … hmmm. Well I did it, and things seemed to go well.

CBF2018-Waterstones-packed-IMG_3269-crop  A packed Waterstones to hear local authors speak.                                                    Dm7I0uhWsAM4Kiw Myself with  Amer Anwar and Louise Burfitt-Dons – fellow writers at the Chiswick Book Festival event.


After a spell not writing or thinking too much about poetry, I’m back into a more creative period.  It’s also a busy time, of my site, but I have a couple of readings coming up – first is to celebrate National Poetry Day on October 4th and second is on October 7th in Kentish Town – see the Readings page for details. For the first of these dates  I’m reading at Pitshanger Bookshop near Ealing – here is what they say on their website –

Thursday 4th October

Image for Space Between Us, The


6:30 p.m. for 7:00 p.m.

Neil Elder will be reading from ‘The Space Between Us’. This is a collection of poetry which mines the gap between aspiration and reality, appearance and truth, the said and the unsaid, but never takes itself too seriously. With wit and tenderness, Neil Elder explores love, loss and the absurdities of life on earth, bridging the chasm between disappointment and hope.

Wine from 6:30

Poetry from 7:00


Do let us know if you’re coming so we don’t run out of refreshments……!

The Space Between Us

The Space Between Us     

“A remarkable collection”   “A scintillating debut”

The Space Between Us is my full debut collection. Within the collection are some poems that I wrote a little while ago, and they stayed the distance, and a good number that were written much more recently. The result is a collection that won the Cinnamon Press Debut Poetry Collection Prize, and a book that has attracted some very kind responses from well known poets, friends and colleagues alike. 

          blog pic Space 2        The poems explore numerous aspects of life, but always with an awareness that much of what really matters goes unspoken, or perhaps can’t be spoken. The spaces between are where the real business happens. There is, of course, light and shade, and I hope there are plenty of smiles (laughs, even) among the knowing nods that readers respond with.

To support the collection you can buy here

To see a video for the book go here  

Video – The Space Between Us

 The latest reviews of the book are here-

 A Space Filled By A Review

The Space Between Us

A Space Filled By A Review

I have recently  seen a couple of reviews of The Space Between Us and thought I’d share the links here – the first comes from Mandy Pannett in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Magazine and the second from Isabelle Kenyon on her blog The Fly On The Wall.

Mandy Pannett is a highly regarded poet and reviewer who has had several collections published, been an editor for magazines and written numerous reviews.

See the review here








Isabelle Kenyon is the highly innovative writer behind the ‘Please Hear What I’m Not Saying’ anthology which raised awareness and money for MIND. On her site you can also see a short interview i did about The Space Between Us.

See review here


I am grateful to both Mandy and Isabelle for such attentive and kind reviews; any support the collection gets is always lovely to know about.

The quickest way to get hold of The Space Between Us is by using this link

See The Space Between Us promo -

Filling A Space In Lucie’s Lounge

See The Space Between Us promo video here –

I had a great night reading from The Space Between Us at the Bloomsbury Tavern, as part of Lucie’s Lounge where singer songwriter, and all-round lovely person,  Lucinda Sieger plays host to a variety of musicians and artists on a monthly basis. See for more.31563891_10156542930367845_2897383048095989760_o

I have been lucky enough to read twice at the event and both times the place has been packed out with supportive, friendly people willing each other on. Here are a couple of pictures from the event. In the picture below are Lucinda (front right), Mo Michael (Back Left), Lost Remnants (back row) and artist Alba Ceide (front centre). These acts were terrific and testament to the kind of quality that can be found at Lucie’s Lounge.31603734_10156542934057845_427197968613900288_n


Video – The Space Between Us

A wonderful promo for my collection The Space Between Us has been made by Lizzy Higham – a real talent to whom I am enormously grateful.  Lizzy took lines from a number of the poems and worked them into a video that gives a flavour of what readers can expect.

Click on the link to take a look – and do please share if you can; I think it deserves viewing.

You can of course order the book direct from me on the link above, or via the Cinnamon Press website (it is available from large online retailers, but we will all sleep more soundly if you come direct to me or Cinnamon Press).

Space cover


Filling The Space Between Us

Not Long Until We Fill The Space Between Us

My full debut collection will be available very soon, but I thought I’d pique your interest by giving you a peek at the front cover, and by saying a little about the collection.

The book has taken shape over a period of time, interrupted by having a couple of pamphlets published along the way, the day job and life. However, what really focused the mind was winning the Cinnamon Press Debut Collection Prize; suddenly there was a target and consequently a need to really decide which poems go into the collection and in what order.

“Music is the space between the notes” said Debussy, well I think he has a point, and these poems seek to explore some of those silences, gaps, the spaces that exist between us. What is it we really want to say, or avoid saying? What is it that you actually feel and what is it you wish you could feel?  How do you hope to fill the spaces in your life? The spaces between us, be they metaphorical or actual, are at the heart of this collection.

I shall be posting more on the book in a little while, and of course I shall be promoting the collection with Cinnamon Press by doing a few readings.


space betweenBut for now, until the book arrives to fill a space on your bookshelf (I hope), take a look at the cover image, designed by Adam Craig at Cinnamon Press. It arrived unexpectedly one day in an email attachment; I paused, puzzled and then loved. I hope you like it – and that you find it works well with the poetry itself.

Cinnamon Logo


Poetry That Makes The Everyday Larger

A short and informal review of We Are All Lucky a collection of poetry written by Ben Banyard, published by Indigo Dreams. Not because I was asked to – but because I enjoyed the collection so much!

In my title I use the word ‘everyday’, and that is more complimentary than it might at first sound; who says there is anything wrong with the everyday? The everyday is the universal and Ben Banyard explores this in We Are All Lucky. In his poems Ben does precisely what I look for in a poem; he points towards the small things in our lives and reminds us that these moments, these exchanges and places are what bind us and makes us who we are. There is nothing showy or deliberately tricksy, nothing that says “Look at me, I’m a poet!” in the way too much contemporary writing does. Instead we have a collection that keeps on rewarding by speaking directly to us; nod of recognition when you finish reading a poem, followed by nod of recognition and wry smile as you finish the next, as we see ourselves and the world around us reflected. It is through the familiar that Ben gets us to new ways of seeing.


Poems such as ‘The Difference Between Us’ and ‘First Aid’ zero in on moments we have all been through, and Ben finds the tug within those moments that get the reader to look again at such times and see their workings. The seemingly everyday becomes something larger than the moment described.  So the set of keys found in the first of these poems acts as symbol for the way we see life differently from each other, or our partners;

I close the drawer, forget them;

You lie awake most nights, straining

To hear them whisper their secrets.

Whilst in the second of these poems,  the mandatory First Aid training course reminds us that a “life behind laptops and paper clips,” is no kind of life to those who have “seen things” like the ex-Army instructor who keeps a defibrillator on “in the boot of his car because he knows.” In this poem, another demonstration of Ben’s keen eye for the everyday, he juggles the cynical office worker alongside the tormented instructor in order to arrive at a confrontation with self that takes us way beyond the familiar.

Indeed the familiar, supermarket checkouts, daily commutes and a junk shop that has become “a rock pool / restocked by the city’s tide” provide Ben with a canvas for his incisive observations. However, there are darker elements acknowledged so the world is not entirely sweetened by the warmth of recognition. Domestic violence breaks in and a quiet acceptance of death is present in some of the poignant pieces. Family is here too, with parenthood being a concern of a number of poems. However, what just stops a series of poems about parenthood and children turn too saccharine is the poem ‘Beach-combing’ that references that terrible picture of the toddler face-down on a beach that became etched on our psyches amidst stories of fleeing migrants in the Mediterranean. “You’ve seen the photo” says the speaker of the poem as he reflects on a day spent with his own son playing on a beach.  The poem takes on a huge subject, and one that could easily be mishandled, but the poem works beautifully – perhaps the poem’s structure helps this, the speaker does not seek to explain or argue, he does not even make that image the last part of the poem – and I think it is that aspect that really helps this delicate poem resist the weight that such a topic brings.

I mention the way ‘Beach-combing’ comes amid a run of family centred poems, and packs a punch because of this. I imagine Ben worked long and hard to get the sequencing of these poems to such a fine point. Short runs of poems are up and running on a topic before you quite notice that the focus has shifted from one subject to another. And the sequencing clearly allows the poems to ‘speak’ to one another so that, as stand-alone poems, the pieces would work well, but as part of a whole they grow further.

And there is light in these poems. I don’t want to give the impression that all the themes are weighty. We have Johnny Cash “safe among” prisoners reflecting on how fine that line he walked really was, we have the football team whose shirts “feature the logo of a local scaffolding firm,” and the pub with a “Pool table sunspot-faded… / Jukebox stocked up to the early-nineties.” Indeed, here is the milieu of our everyday lives, and here is a collection that speaks to us and speaks of now.

Poetry With Purpose

Please Hear What I’m Not Saying

A poetry collaboration for MIND, compiled and edited by Isabelle Kenyon

I’m delighted to now have my contributor’s copy of Please Hear What I’m Not Saying, a collaboration between poets to raise money for the mental health charity MIND. Credit for the idea behind the book goes to Isabelle Kenyon who also put in the hard work to get the work on sale so quickly.

Please Hear

I first became aware of the project when Isabelle put out a call for submissions on Twitter, looking for poems that deal with matters relating to mental health.  I had a few poems that met the brief and now I’m happy to say my work sits alongside about a hundred other writers’ poems.

The collaborative aspect is new to me, and one I like. The notion that these other poets have responded to the call for submissions and now we sit alongside each other – all hoping that people will get behind the project, buy the book and raise money for a vital cause – is a pleasing one. Now I get to enjoy a whole range of writers and styles, some of whom I’m familiar with and others who are new to me.

As poets and writers it is easy to become blinkered, and I admit to spending a good amount of time thinking about my poetry, my book and how to promote me! Well, here’s a break from the self-promotion and a plea that you get behind this cause and discover some wonderful writing in the process; this is poetry for a positive purpose –

Congratulations to Isabelle for the enormously efficient way this book has come together and for a great idea. @kenyon_isabelle


Being Present Beyond The Mainstream

“Humorous and contemporary with an underlying angst.” – reader’s comment on         Being Present.

The fact that the publisher Faber exists is fantastic – think of those beautiful block colour covers for their poetry collections. However, there are plenty of independent publishers who produce quality books, support a multitude of writers and publish for the love of it – nobody is getting rich – as Robert Graves said, ” “There’s no money in poetry, but then there’s no poetry in money, either.” Therefore if you can buy poetry from smaller publishing houses you are helping to keep people in business just long enough to make their next Arts Council application or until they run a competition to raise a little money simply to publish the next book.

Being Present is published by The Black Light Engine Room Press – an outfit that operates on love and stubbornness – two qualities it seems to me that are necessary in the poetry publishing game. So if you can buy from them (it doesn’t have to be my book) then you are keeping the flame in that engine room burning a little longer. Of course this applies to Cinnamon Press, another publisher I have the privilege of working with, and the list of deserving publishers goes on. Faber are great – but they’ll not miss your fiver quite as much as some. 

Being Present is available direct from me or via the Black Light Engine Room website. or contact

Being Present books