Richard Lawson's Poetry



I began to write poetry in the 1960's, and continued until political activism took over in the late 1970's. My main influences were the Metaphysical poets, although I also spent time with Robert Browning (even to the point of trying to stagger through Sordello). I knew what Liverpool and the performance poets were up to, and even shared a Poetry Society stage with the great Horowitz and had the word `OM' written on my hand by Allen Ginsberg, but my head was firmly planted in the sands of the past. All the criticism against "dead" poets is misplaced, since poets do not die as long as their words are read.

The most recent poem is usually the one that brings the parental feelings out of poets, so they are printed lower down this page.

Ogrin is my longest work. He was the hermit who facilitated the rehabilitation of Tristan and Yseult. This poem took 2 years to make, and is so long it stands no chance of seeing the light of a magazine. It is centered about the part of Cornwall where the legend of Tristan and Yseult touches history. Possibly.

My main preoccupations are with the seashore and other natural locations . Some are set in my Somerset locality. Unfortunately, environmental degradation figures almost constantly in the poems. The poetry simply reflects what is, regrettably, there.

A few might be described as philosophical .

Politics rears its aching head in the political poems, because green politics is not a career, it is a compulsion driven by emotion - mainly fear that our species is in the process of destroying what was once a perfectly good planet. Quite a few are about War. Unfortunately..

Sometimes I write about people (and insects). Sometimes - rarely - I write especially for a competition theme, but never get around to sending it.

Most of my stuff is "page poetry" rather than "performance", but this one popped out as a performance poem, although I have a sneaking feeling that my unconscious plagiarised it from a longer poem I heard at a Bristol poetry reading.

Some are quite long.

Recently there has been a definite tendency to dwell on the subject of sheds.

Often I write a poem, and leave it for years before finding it during a tidy up. Running from Surt met this fate. It emerged from a period on reading mythology.

Which leaves the miscellaneous poems gracing the rest of this page. The top one is usually the most recent.

Thanks for having a look. Hope you find something you enjoy. Feel free to contact me to give feedback.



The following poems have been published:

Timeships :Coventry Prize
Scarborough Shore :Beehive
Night Call : Poetry Room (web)
The City Burns : Poetry Room
Heaven watchers: Voice & Verse
Driving has won first prize in the W-s-M based West Country Writers' Association
View from Crook Peak ,
Tsunami Vilanelle ,
A Wood in Somerset, Iraq

Leaves on the Lawn
Hail to the Chief - all in C

How will they live,
Strange Light,
A shadow touched,
Down Changing Corridors,
Fairground Ride
: all in Nightingale.

Genoa & Lost Sock in a previous incarnation of Writers Hood.
The Dream was Poem of the Week in
A Case of Fire published in Philosophy Now
The Fisherman, The Wild Horse: published in Aquarius many years ago
A Wood in Somerset, Iraq, and
A Dream of War
were judged joint third and highly commended (respectively) by Adrian Mitchell in the Iraq Occupation Focus / Red Pepper Poetry Competition 2004
To Walk Again was highly commended in the Iraq Occupation Focus / Red Pepper Poetry Compteition 2005
Leaves was commended in the Partners Poetry Competition 2005



Sun disc pale and white
At the low point of the year.
Day gives way to night
and the wet branch drips a tear_

that holds a falling world
compressing all we see
into a tiny liquid globe
hung on a silent tree.

While Roman steel is hurting
and their armies make us bow,
From Mary's belly bursting out
a child infused with power.

We listen for a while
to universal love;
he conjures up a spell
change the eagle to a dove.

But the dove grew talons
and his song became a scream:
a Church bore down upon us
where the Roman boot had been.

So we traded Church for Market
and the donkey for a Ford
but there's nowhere we could park it
and the children soon got bored

and the banks that gave possessions
are calling in their loans;
their smiles hide their aggression:
they want everything we own.

But the sun will rise beyond this death
And next year we shall find
Another way to shield the Earth
From the Roman soldiers' mind.


© Richard Lawson
December 2006

Hail to the Chief

You flash your filthy flower, your red pustule
whose foul black winding sheet's your final word.

This is your moment of fulfilment,
your argument that cannot be denied,

since everyone who sees this rose of death
is forced to feel the hate that tortures you.

It echoes on and on in desolate triumph
a set of images caught in facing mirrors

trapped in a split infinity : hate, hurt,
hurt, hate, irrational regress, endless,

your wasted world, where nothing grows,
no bird sings, only a lacerating hate
that stains your too-committed consciousness,
the perfect canvas of your world, with blood of babes,

and us, the bystanders, no longer innocent,
spattered with hate.

We feel a surge of hate for you, and so it goes
over and even until death, which does not part us,

until the pity that we feel for your split victims
can grow and blossom into a piteous love that swells

to cover the whole world until it swallows even you,
you pitiful child-leader, engulfing you in

pain-struck, hate-contaminated love,
the leader who in some way we have allowed

through lifetimes of inattention, to speak and act for us,
to mouth these foul excrescences, these blasphemies
against the Life that bears us,
to speak these bombs on our behalf .

We powerless to pity you enough, rightly to pity your pain,
condemned to heal or share your nightmare

'til we die.

© Richard Lawson
01:12hr 15 July 2006


Occupation : Jobbing Squaddie
(The Platoon Pantoum)

It's what we're trained to do, it's just our job.
If jumped up Hitlers want to get tooled out
with nukes and gas and germs that they can lob
at us, we'll bring them down, no fuckin doubt.

It wasn't so much warfare as a rout.
The worst our unit faced was sand and heat.
Talk about open doors - if we got out
to piss, they'd stick their hands up. They were beat.

It wasn't really such a major feat,
it's just our job, it's what we're trained to do.
First they were friendly, nice as you could meet.
We all relaxed. Nobody had a clue

how it would all go sour. Nobody knew
exactly when we overstayed our leave,
but when a roadside bomb took out our crew
I got the first faint sus we'd been deceived.

We didn't mind the looters and the thieves
we're trained for that, it's all part of the job.
The thing that always makes my stomach heave
is facing down a screaming angry mob.

Stones hurt, bottles can burn, but when they gob
and spit at you, that is the thing...
we sweated blood to save the fuckwit yob
who's screaming hate at's that what stings.

We chased and caught them. Some one brings
them back inside the compound walls.
I heard our sarge say "Make them sing".
We laid in with our toecaps on their balls.

We got court martialled. Told us all to crawl.
Told us what not to say, gave us a gag.
They called it torture. I say we lost our rag.
We'll pay with years for one five minute brawl.

What stupid bastard sent us to this war?
How is this supposed to help the British nation?
They lied to us - we're here for Bush's oil.
No paddle in a shit-creek situation.

Two years have passed since liberation.
There were no WMD. That lying slob
Blair, he fouled up. This is an occupation.
He should jailed, not us. It's not our job.

(c) Richard Lawson 28.5.05


Leaves on the lawn

This happens every year
coloured and sculpted to look like frogs
a leaf-plague crawls across the mossy lawn
sometimes by hop and skip, mainly by stealth

blurring the borders
blanketing mournful flower beds,
their plan is simple: cover the earth with mulch,
rot-fragrant brown leaf drifts

repeat each year
to make a fine soft nursery for seedlings
to raise their heads, spread out their arms to greet the sun
and in their turn, drop leaves.

We cannot criticise.
Within our species there are those
who'd clad the earth in death
without a thought.

Between those two extremes
we have to set distinctions.
Grass here, flowers there,
and leaves in shining sacks

to wait three years,
rot down to fibre, to make soil
improvements that I may not see,
if in my turn I go to ground, the land sold on

maybe to be covered yet with concrete death
or reclaimed by the river.
but we must do this work ;
our given role
is to improve our soil and our soul.

(c)Richard Lawson
Congresbury winter 2001/2

To Walk Again


It was a routine day

the way to work

marked out by sameness


packed in a steamy cattle truck

like extras in a film

faces closed down


strangers, unknown to anyone

apart from family and friends

apart from those who cry when we're not there


apart from millions who will experience

one tiny shock

to hear what happened next :


a flash of soundless light

changed everything, forever.

Bad editing, a jump

or in a dream,

where brown and red

can shift around


and no-one registers a thing

not for a second

not 'til the pain cuts in.


then it was bellowing of cattle

the noise of fear and pain

worse than an abattoir


much worse than when we kill to eat

neatly, in order.

Why not just line us up


Go there strip off, breathe in and die.

Why not that ordered Nazi neatness

to reach their goal?


Why so much blood?

Why tear us all apart

like spoiled kids


who rip their toys

scream like a jet

and throw red paint against the wall


to get their way?

And yet I know that I'm the lucky one

to have a heart that beats

to spite the empty space below my knees,


and every time my eyelids close

somehow the pinkness of the filtered light

conjures up images of tortured flesh


just torn up flesh,

no more than that

Halal or hamburger,

I do not care

Whether the author of our pain

Is now in heaven with a thousand virgins

Or laughing in his mess with brother officers

I do not care

Or screaming in hell while demons

using exquisite pains

put him together

I do not care

Or in the highest office in the world

bathing in lies

drowned in hypocrisy

I do not care

You who can freely walk the streets

You care. Break the routine of death.

I only want to walk again.

(c) Richard Lawson
Sept 2005


1 Clearing Out

Burdened by books
he is a spring
compressed between
the single root of all this fine reality
and tablets of wooden thought
that made him what he thinks he is

work out the weight of all these fetishes
not good enough to use
not bad enough to be destroyed

2 Advertisement

that flawless leg
sheathed in fine-spun fibre
will fade, grow veins
grow weak and rot away:
the plastic will outlast the leg

3 Power Comes In Many Forms

invisible detritus
the stable substance
that leaves an unseen cloud
weaving its way
among the sky blue air
so that the first wave of the web
breaks down

who cares? we are the Man
no-one can prove I killed your child
your father mother friend
prove it in court of law

reeling back
caught in the fork between
necessity and reason

go die for your beloved frogs
you child

Sclerosis is a form of power

Is willingness to try new paths another?

(c) Richard Lawson
Autumn 2004


Tsunami - Vilanelle

Do not search hopelessly among the wreck;
not here, among the stench and sticks,
for those who left this heaviness behind.

They do not grieve, except for us
caught in the tangle of a broken paradise.
We search for what is not there in the wreck.

There is a mess of wood and broken stone
of silver bone and fertilising flesh.
They have done well to leave this weight behind.

They rise above a dark chaotic mass
moving to lightness from a hard, heart breaking work:
You will not find them here among the wreck.

For them the fear of death is in the past
from height they see the gasping shade of dark.
Their burden's gone; their being has grown light.

Look for your life among those who survive.
Wait patiently to meet the ones you seek.
Do not look now for them among the wreck -
for they have left their heaviness behind.

(c) Richard Lawson



strange light storm coming

feeling sad

tap on my chest


a falling petal


Mozambique 1985




How will they live, our children
when like us they put their little ones to bed
and feel the lightless air
rich with cicadas and the voice of dogs?



I lived through a dream one night,
Beginning in the usual way, a group
Of people on some common task
Gathered on the beach
Lit by a fire, within a darkness
Needing for one of them to die

"I'll do it" said my dreaming self,
Impulsive, eager to please

And so I died - something involving waves
Khaki green shorebreak, others were there,
That memory is vague,

But not the vivid beauty of the breaking day.
A dawn that reached into the west
A hollow vibrant violet coral light
The surface of a sapphire seen from within
Taut as a bowstring
Splitting the world of darkness.

I was laid out in the mud
Feeling the dawn, not cold
Until a mother came,
Bent down, and looked at me.
"Poor boy" she said, speaking to herself

Then walked away


trembling in the gutter
a bougainvillea blossom
by a cast off yoghourt pot

if I fell off a cliff
there would be plastic by my corpse




© 2001 R. LawsonThis page was last updated on 28.10.04