Poetry Blog by AJ McKenna

Recent Comments

M.C. Newberry on The Ballad of Private Manning (Sat, 24 Dec 2011 02:04 am)

Dave Bradley on The Ballad of Private Manning (Fri, 23 Dec 2011 11:06 pm)

Nick Coleman on Collude 2 Exclude (Thu, 22 Dec 2011 11:34 pm)

Ray Miller on The Ballad of Private Manning (Thu, 22 Dec 2011 11:31 pm)

Nick Coleman on Alarm Clock Briton (Thu, 22 Dec 2011 11:30 pm)

Nick Coleman on Criminally Fragile (Thu, 22 Dec 2011 11:22 pm)

Nick Coleman on The Ballad of Private Manning (Thu, 22 Dec 2011 11:20 pm)

Philipos on Criminally Fragile (Mon, 21 Mar 2011 11:34 pm)

Elaine Booth on Criminally Fragile (Mon, 21 Mar 2011 10:26 pm)

on Criminally Fragile (Mon, 21 Mar 2011 05:59 pm)

The Ballad of Private Manning

The Ballad of Private Manning

Vaclav Havel died today:
you spoke of freedom far away,
but in a courtroom in your land,
the witnesses denied the stand
told the story, gave the lie
to that song you sing, the flag you fly.
You are not brave, and neither are you free,
and though you claim it, you do not love liberty.
While Private Manning sits in jail
your Founding Fathers' drea...

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Criminally Fragile

She writes down all the answers but she doesn’t raise her hand.

She bites her lip to keep her mouth from moving.

She never stays behind to ask a question after class:

she comes and goes and sits there, just achieving,


pushing up the school’s league table ranking,

never acting out or showing signs of EBD.

Her Belsen ribs, her jutting hipbones, are the things you’ll ...

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Alarm Clock Briton

(dedicated to Nick Clegg) 

I sit by the harbour

and I wake in  bed cursing the moment

when I realised I could set any tune on my phone

as my alarm clock noise, and my own laziness


for never changing it after

our summer trip to Whitby,

where we ate breakfast in the Caedmon cafe,

poky, basic, vaguely disappointing

(so appropriately named after a poet),


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Nick Clegg can kiss my snooze buttonpoetrypolitics


Surprised how slim you looked, how young,

red cotton briefs that made you look like Sybil Starr,

my room the way it was, the bed half-broken.

I lay, my body rhymed, at last, with yours,


though clothed: the same smooth legs,

same swelling breasts, the same receiving void

between the legs, the origin of worlds,

here, at the end, yours given, mine achieved.



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bloody depressingdeathgenderpoetrysexuality

Collude 2 Exclude

Collude 2 Exclude


A member’s box, a football game,

all the men all talk the same:

the same old jokes,  the same old blokes

perpetuate the same old hoax.


They’re shaking hands and slapping backs

to ease their passage through the pack.

At work they say they honour law:

outside their box, we know the score.


They collude, collude,

collude to...

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Employer of the Year

We use task as a verb, and learn as a noun,

we encourage the turning of frowns upside-down

and, to improve your relationship-building technique,

we’re constantly policing the way that you speak.


We’ve read every book going about NLP,

but we’re not sure quite how you spell Psychology...

Does that worry us? Heck no! That’s small stuff! Don’t sweat it!

It takes gu...

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What are you afraid to say?

I've been asked, by people following my blog, to include the poems I read on my recent poetry tour, so I'm putting them on here, then will be providing links back here from the blog. Hence...


What are you afraid to say?


You stand and ask what I’m afraid to say?

I’m afraid to say lots of things:

afraid to say no, to say stop, to say sorry;

afraid to say I’m wrong.


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free speechpoetrypolitics

On looking back into the mosh pit

I've been asked, by people following my blog, to include the poems I read on my recent poetry tour, so I'm putting them on here, then will be providing links back here from the blog. Hence...


On looking back into the mosh pit


This was never about fun, you rotten liar,

never about fun, but something higher,

never about fun. Yes, about drums,

pounding like the feet...

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gender/sexualitypoetryrock and roll

A Short Course in Suicide Writing

I've been asked, by people following my blog, to include the poems I read on my recent poetry tour, so I'm putting them on here, then will be providing links back here from the blog. Hence...


A Short Course in Suicide Writing



that short, punchy phrases are best.

Say 'I can't take it. I will kill myself.'

Do not say: 'I cannot take the endless pain,


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I've been asked, by people following my blog, to include the poems I read on my recent poetry tour, so I'm putting them on here, then will be providing links back here from the blog. Hence...



You tell me you have to walk on eggshells

and I wonder what eggshells you mean.

Is it the fact you can’t call me a fag

because the same blood flows in both our veins?


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I've been asked, by people following my blog, to include the poems I read on my recent poetry tour, so I'm putting them on here, then will be providing links back here from the blog. Hence...



I drink watermelon breezer,

holding the neck of the bottle

between my left mid and index fingers,

flashing a V with each swig,

showing off my purple nails.



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A poem I did for the first time at Jibba Jabba in Newcastle yesterday night. I was a little nervous of doing it given the subject matter, but it seemed to go down quite well.


She’s that girl in every film you’ve seen,
hair tied up and eyes cast down,
books held to her chest, looking geeky-serene,
the skin above her glasses wrinkling into a frown

as she sucks nothing but her...

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gendersexualitytransgressive poetry

If Schwitters were Twitters

Very late, and I'm browsing the google analytics stats for my blog, mainly because I didn't have them set up before and now that I have, I like playing with my new toy. But aside from finding out that people have searched for my blog using terms like 'keep calm and suck my dick', 'filth without make-up' and, most disturbingly of all, 'Sarah Palin', I also discovered which words I use more than ...

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blogginggeekerypoetrywrestling emily dickinson

Adult Content Warning

for Roz Kaveney, among others


There’s a vow I must make before I get to read you:

I must say I understand, and I wish to continue.


I must make a choice,


before I can feel with you,

that I understand, that my world can contain you,


that I spit in the face


of those who can’t explain you,

the legion of those who would like to restrain y...

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Stop Saving

Stop saving for a rainy day: it's always raining, anyway.

There'll be no turning of the tide, the cavalry will never ride

to rescue you, so rest your cries: there is no path to paradise

that they won't bar, and Avalon

is just a Bryan Ferry song.


Forget your prayers, for they aren't heard; and every happy little bird

that sings above the rainbow knows that hope exis...

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bitter and twistedpoetrypolitics

Class War?

When the have-nots decide they'd like to have a little more

you call it class war, class war;

but when the rich declare a silent genocide against the poor

it's never class war, it's only case law.


When muslims get irate and say they'll detonate the state

you say it's faith that generates their hate;

but when the guys with home-made gelignite are English-born and wh...

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gender/sexualityIslamophobiapoetrypoliticsracismright-wing dickheads

Call for Submissions

A while ago, I was toying with doing a poetry 'zine called Diseases of Staggering Beauty. I'd gotten tired of a poetry scene that seemed divided between 'respectable' little magazines that seemed mainly to publish poems by middle-class people about whichever former Eastern Bloc city they'd last gone on holiday to, and those newer poetry mags which seem to me to be the literary equivalent of lan...

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calls for submissionspoetrypublishing




I come to again

in this hotel room dark

where paranoia eats the curtains

like a fleet of moths


the wine and whiskey in my bloodstream

laying plans with my enemy hormones,

chemical defence

to make my body

shuck my soul, leave me

just another zombi

in the low sun light of day


so inviting

this annihilation



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gender/sexualityManchesteroverwrought languagesubstance abuse

Beneath the swagger portrait

entry picture

Beneath the swagger portrait

she stands, legs wide, arms angled,

hand -  raised to harp or dance,

to be plighted, an enchanting gift,

their pallor and their dainty size

a toy for kings to stroke

with their rough fists,

and marvel at, returning

from campaign, or from the lists -


turned in, and resting on the skirts

which flare from where her hips mus...

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gender/sexualityhistorical figures

The secrets, almost silent, that we sang

It has to start in whispers,

rehearsed behind closed doors:

mirror-practised gestures,

slowly savoured words -

jacquard, damask, devore -

rolled and tasted on the tongue.

It is always sotto voce,

this song, when first it is sung,


and for some it never rises

to a higher tone and pitch.

For some, the song is silenced

by the insults, by the fists,


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gender/sexualityoverwrought languagerabble-rousing demagoguery


To Hell with it, it's time I ran.

I've let you hold me down for long enough.

If nothing else, these roads know who I am,


and will remind me, as I track their span,

that I'm still strong. Do you define my truth?

The Hell you do. It's time I ran


until my heart forgets the way you slammed

it hard, your words like punches to the gut.

If nothing heals, the...

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identityrhymerunningstrict formvillanelle

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