before whisky after jazz

Dreamers Writing has just published three of my poems: ‘Smooth Horseback and Plenty’, ‘Background’, and ‘Bracelets’.

Take a look here:




Disrupting the Food Chain? ‘Chicago’ meets ‘The Gruffalo’

Think a musical crime drama set in the Jazz Age would have nothing to do with a children’s animation about a made-up monster?

Think again!

I happened to see them both last weekend, and noticed this:

A hungry mouse and a wannabe cabaret star each challenge ‘survival of the fittest’. They win out, not by being the physically strongest, but by using their available resources to shape others’ thinking and get access to what they desire.

Each of the two worlds has its own food chain. Wouldn’t it be fun if academic articles used visuals like this?

‘Food Chain Worksheet’ by Lori Soard, Amended by me

The Gruffalo’s food chain is the literal one, with the herbivore mouse feeding on acorns and having to dodge carnivores such as the fox, owl, and snake, who are in turn afraid of a larger carnivore, The Gruffalo. The completion of the cycle via decomposition and the sun’s energy is implied.

Chicago’s ‘food chain’ is the media machine. Roxie Hart craves fame; Billy Flynn’s successful business relies on people like her; and journalists feed on his stories. Masses of newspaper readers feast on their papers. These chattering mouths represent the sun’s energy, a replenishing source of the very fame Roxie desires.

In a post-Darwinist twist on the ‘hero prevails against all odds’ trope, these food chains are disrupted by the protagonists’ cunning.

The mouse wards off the fox, owl, and snake by talk of the Gruffalo, and later dupes the Gruffalo by claiming a status as the scariest animal in the forest. As a woman in a world where men are the breadwinners, Roxie complies with the ‘food chain’ while it’s to her advantage – but capitalises on the connections she made in prison of her own accord when she agrees to collaborate with Velma Kelly and they achieve success on the stage together.

In the end, both the mouse and Roxie have what they wanted in abundance without having to scrape around for it. In other words, survival – on their own terms.

I’ll leave you with ‘They Both Reached For The Gun’ from Chicago. Check out the journalists – led by the glorious Christine Baranski – gorging on the stories about Roxie devised by Billy Flynn:

Chicago, Dir. Rob Marshall, USA, 2002
The Gruffalo, Dir. Jakob Schuh and Max Lang, UK and Germany, 2009

Ce n’est pas toi, Londres : c’est moi


I wasn’t prepared for how rewarding it feels to translate one’s poetry – and how challenging it can be. Picking from the array of available expressions for the new version requires some deep digging that you have so far left to the audiences. What did I actually mean with that line/word/expression/rhythm?

Club Cronopios has started hosting French-language poetry nights, and my poetry group Clame ton slam went along to share. Above is a photo of me apparently looking quizzically at some audience members. Below is the translation of one of my spoken-word poems into French.


‘It’s Not You, London: It’s Me’ by Siobhan Tebbs, translated with Ada Oliveras

Ce n’est pas toi, Londres : c’est moi

Ce n’est pas toi, Londres : c’est moi
Il y a six ans, je me suis dissous en toi si facilement
Et là j’ai besoin d’être libre

Ce n’est pas facile de m’en aller
Mais ça suffit des déjeuners « Prêt-à-manger »
Et des chai à la vanille au bruncher
Plus de soja lattes que tu ne peux l’imaginer

Du houmous maison coule dans mes veines
Mon lycra est taché, il bouloche et me freine
La hausse du loyer me plombe comme des chaînes

Mais des fonds me manquent dans la banque des rêves,
Même Google Maps se met en grève

Je passe ma carte et je vois rouge
Je suis dans le 29
Il me tarde que mon lit me berce
Mes paupières tombent
L’épaule d’un fêtard endormi me perce

Londres, c’est moi qui décide
Je ferai un saut chez toi
Quand j’en aurai envie

Ne me regarde pas comme ça !
Toi, qui a eu tes lumières
Sur chaque page de mon livre.

Je suis allée à des stations dans toutes tes zones
Je suis montée dans le métro avec des milliers de drones
Les transports sont bondés mais je n’y vois personne

Ce n’est pas ta faute, Londres.
Je suis contente d’être venue
Mais tic-tac.
Big Ben est à l’heure, je ne trouve plus le temps

J’ai besoin de sable et de rochers
De chaussettes plus épaisses
De neige.
Et de soleil
Et de silence.

J’ai besoin de me promener toute seule.
Reconnaître – au moins – les visages de mes voisins

Et c’est vrai que j’aime mon vélo de course
Je me faufile entre les voitures
Au sommet de mes compétences
Mais j’ai trop la tête dans le guidon

J’ai envie de rouler en roue libre
Me sentir chez moi dans tous les tons de vert
De respirer à plein poumon pour avoir le cœur net

Et j’ai peur, mon Londres
Comment te quitter ?
En toi, j’ai créé un havre de paix
Je me suis mise en pièces : mon existence, mon identité
J’ai tout recommencé

J’ai payé mes frais
Je suis dans le lounge avec les VIP
Je suis restée dans les parages
J’ai construit des communautés

Ces mots ne peuvent jamais te montrer
Toutes les personnes que j’ai étés
Tous les espaces dont je n’aurais pas rêvé
Le bois de Hampstead, et les bribes de pensée que j’y ai chassées

Comme tes lampadaires ont brillé, Londres!
A quel point ces panneaux de pub ont ressemblé à de vieux amis !

Et si le temps pouvait s’arrêter
Je compterais tous les visages qui ont vu tant de choses avant moi
Ames à nu ; emportées par la brise
Comme des éclats de miroir,
Ou des feuilles qui tombent.

Londres ! Avec quelle fierté a-t-on dansé ?
Tu es bien d’accord ?
On s’est donné une chance
Six années d’aventures
Une longue romance

Et franchement, je n’étais qu’une invitée;
Je me suis incrustée
Là je ne plaisante pas
Je serai partie au petit matin
Prends bien soin de toi

Pigeon Pie, a poem

Since I regularly wade through the ocean of chaff that is The Blogosphere to search for fresh and moving poetry, I thought it would be a nice idea to share some of what I find.


Lives built on pigeon dreams
structured by Madison Avenue
calculated by Wall Street
beribboned  by Hollywood
We take them: these manufactured dreams,
one-size-fits-all, straight off the rack . . .
And damn cheap too!
Mad, cannibal pigeon dreams
turn good minds and whole hearts into mince
We pray to false economies,
seek deliverance from Cheap Jack
We buy one, get one free –
And fetch and fetish youth eternal
from face-lifts, Botox™, and boob-jobs –
Exit here:
drugs, alcohol
Get a house, a car, a jewel –
Be the first on your block.
Buy now. Pay later.
Filling the empty with nothing more,
something less . . .
and warehousing our souls, they
gather dust in public storage . . .
the first month free.
Poems unwritten. Songs unsung.
Chumped. Stumped. Petrified.
A gullible human Pigeon Pie,
neatly boxed
and wrapped to go.

© 2017, poem, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved; Photo credit – Lars…

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The time I discovered that the best health and safety measure is looking where you’re going

Submitted this to a Lonely Planet travel writing competition recently. No prizes but I enjoyed the trip down memory lane.

The time I discovered that the best health and safety measure is looking where you’re going

‘Shiv! STOP!’

My body was sailing forward over the threshold by the time I heard Lily’s shout. Momentum was carrying me into what should have been the next carriage of the train.

A split-second was enough to feel the breeze on my face and register the darkness. Fast-moving darkness in the shape of Ukranian farmland.

My right foot scuffed the top of the coupling plate.  I would have walked straight out of the train had it not been for the sharp yank on the hood of my jumper. I tumbled backwards in a heap onto Lily’s petite frame. Crash! – The heavy door slammed shut.

G’dun, g’dun, g’dun…

The motion of the rattling night train soothed my heartbeat as I rolled off my friend and lay still on my front for a few seconds, my nose uncomfortably close to the old wooden floor panels.

I should have guessed. The doors were never locked like that. It hadn’t even entered my mind as I turned the large metal bar that it would be possible to walk off the end of the train.

‘What are you doing?’ we heard, in Russian. The carriage manager, or ‘provodnitsa’, had come to restore order to the corridor. ‘That door’s not for passengers!’

‘Who is it for?’ I thought; and Lily helped me to my feet as I clumsily explained that we had been looking for the restaurant.

The no-nonsense provodnitsas are responsible for keeping passengers safe and orderly on the trains. A good night for a provodnitsa is not one in which a foreigner, with the habit of being mollycoddled by Health and Safety rules, fails to look where she’s going and ends up on the tracks halfway between Kiev and Sevastopol.

‘What do you want from the restaurant?’ she asked. I was a little thrown by the question but answered ‘pelmeni’.

Lily shook her head. ‘A vodka,’ she said. ‘We need a vodka.’

‘Well, you don’t have to go to the restaurant for that!’ replied the provodnitsa, and promptly herded us into her staff cabin, where there was a healthy supply of the good stuff.

‘Sometimes,’ the provodnitsa was recounting an hour or so later, ‘the men drink too much and wee out of the window. They can’t wait for the toilet…’

‘And what about that?’ asked Lily, pointing to the back of the train. ‘Has that ever happened before?’

The provodnitsa didn’t hesitate. ‘No,’ she said. ‘Nobody has ever been that stupid.’ It was deadpan. ‘I’ll be telling that story for years to come. And don’t remind me what country you’re from,’ she added, ‘or I’ll be telling them that, too!’

The Light Switch

The Light Switch

My 101-word story The Light Switch has been published on the 101words website.

As I mentioned in my haiku post, I love working with strict limitations because of the creativity that blossoms when you have to think very carefully about revising something to fit specific form-related criteria.

What’s more, a short word count is less daunting to fit into your schedule!


The English Haiku?!

Haikus are surely the ultimate form of poetry. I didn’t realise until recently that the English haiku is seen as a distinct form, altered from the age-old haiku from Japan for reasons explained here.

What is poetry for but to express universal ideas in as succinct a way as possible? What provides more scope for creativity than the strictest parameters of form?

Fine: these are clearly my ideas of what poetry is for, since plenty of celebrated poets are not interested in applying these concepts.

One of my favourite haikus:

Love is not complex
It demands an absent mind
And a present heart


For Christmas, I wrote two haikus: one for my Gran (who used to be a pharmacist) and one for my brother Jamie.

In her pharmacy
With laughter’s analgesic
Wisdom is dispensed
For my Gran
His music carries
Echoes of the harmony
Felt in his presence

For my brother Jamie
I’d love to see more haikus in the comments if you have favourites…