Martin Hayes’ new collection is a roar of frustrated rage and pain at the way we live and work in the twenty-first century. It’s a book about 11-hour shifts, sick-days, lay-offs, computer systems crashing and the joy of Friday afternoons. Dermot, Stacey, Shaq, Big Bri, Dexter the old-timer, Antoine, Mohammed, Jim the Letch and Harry the head supervisor work for Phoenix Express couriers, located somewhere ‘between Stockholm Street and Syndrome Way’, making money for other people and trying to make themselves heard above the roar of an economic system that ‘has us in its mouth and is shaking us about in its teeth’.
Author photo: Victoria Hayes
Mike was reading a magazine on the bus to work and came across the following exchange in a piece titled ‘How Poets Share on FB’. Poet Tom has posted a poem of his onto his FB page and shared it with his ‘friends’ only. Below is part of the exchange between them regarding that post. Poet Lucy: Love it Tom! It's super. Poet Tom: Thank you Lucy, it was lovely to see you again yesterday and to see you perform. Poet Miles: Tom - you're simply the best - I'm working on a poem called ‘All the Daffodils in the World and Me’ at the moment – AOW! Poet Tom: Yes, Miles. It's good to search inside your soul and reveal to the world your true self. I hope your poem about the daffodils turns out ok. Cheers, Tom.’ Mike wondered what AOW meant. He had to look it up on Google – found out that it was an acronym for Act Of War which he thought brought Poet Miles’ mental health into question if he thought that working on a poem about all the daffodils in the world was an ‘Act Of War’. Mike thought that this was very interesting and wanted to look into it more so he set up a few FB accounts and set about friending poets on FB to see if he could find out what was going on. What follows are a few selective posts that Mike found more interesting than the other ones he came across. Post 1 Poet Tom has worked 14 days on a poem about smoke. He has called it ‘smoke’ and posted it up on his FB page clicking ‘public’ so that everyone can see it. Poet Lucy: TOM! This is magnificent! Poet Tom: Thank you Lucy. It took me 14 days to polish and shine. Poet Dexter: Brilliant Tom. The juxtapositions are confusing at first but read again and again they pull apart layers that normal people don't even know exist! Poet Tom: Thank you Dexter. You are right. I was worried it wouldn't be understood by normal people at first but then as soon as I reminded myself that poetry isn't for normal people it all fell into place. Poet Lance: Well done, Tom. Stupendous cadences. Poet Tom: Thank you Lance. It took me 14 days to find them. The one that ends verse 4 came to me while I was eating a bowl of quinoa and cherries. Poet Lance: Quinoa and cherries? I'll have to try that! Poet Annabel: Oh Tom, you've gone and done it again – just where does it all come from? Poet Tom: Well, I'm not quite sure Annabel, it did take 14 days for it to surface so I can only assume that it comes from somewhere deep inside me. Mike From Bermondsey: The last time I checked Tom, smoke came out of a poet's arse. BLOCK MIKE. Post 2 Poet Lance has made a cake with his adopted child Symphony. The two of them have spent the whole of a Saturday afternoon mixing and baking a cake so that when Poet Lance's partner, Poet Miles, comes home from a performance they can surprise him. That afternoon, and Poet Miles’ face when little Symphony presented him with the cake, meant so much to Poet Lance that he has written a poem about it which he has posted up on his FB page. Poet Lucy: Ahhhhh, Lance, that is so touching. Poet Lance: Thank you Lucy. You should've seen Miles’ face. Poet Crikey-Ellis: Wonderful Lance. Those who think two men can't create a loving inspiring home life for a little girl are going to be shocked by this. Poet Lance: thank you ’through tears’ Poet Tilly: Lance, just superb! Need to send that one off – I know an editor who is looking for poems for his next edition that use the metaphor of cooking and how it brings children and families closer together to show how the destruction of the working class family unit is pure fantasy perpetuated by the Nazis in the media. Poet Lance: Do you think so Tilly? I thought it held a deeper meaning other than just the baking of a cake when I was writing it. Poet Tilly: Defo Lance. So textualised. It reminds me of Larkin in his prime. Poet Lance: Thank you Tilly. I do see what you mean. DM me the editors details over and I'll send it off to him. Poet Tom: I've just recently finished a poem about cooking the last white tiger on earth and how from destruction and extinction can rise a most uplifting unity. Do you think your editor would be interested in that, Tilly? Poet Crikey-Ellis: That sounds amazing Tom. Poet Tilly: Sounds right up his street Tom. Poet Tom: It is amazing Crikey-Ellis, even though I say so myself. Poet Lance: Yes, Tom. Sounds like a poet's poem. But then you've always tried to be one of them haven’t you. Always tried to show how you are able to dive deeper soar higher! Poet Tom: Thank you Lance. Though I feel I should be saying ‘oouch’. Did Symphony like the collection of dead hornets I brought her back from Marrakesh by the way? Poet Lance: Fuck you Tom! You bitch! You've never even been to Marrakesh! Tilly, if you DM Tom those editor’s details I won't invite you to Symphonies art exhibition at the prep! and so the poet's world spins as the cakes get baked and no white tigers roar upon the earth anymore, Mike thought, while watching everything going on out of the eyes of one of his FB accounts. Post 3 Poet Tom hasn't written a poem for over 14 minutes. He is pacing up and down his study unable to work out what is going on. Every time he gets a thread of a line inside his head he goes to his Vivio laptop and before he can get it down it's gone. This has never happened to Tom before. He decides to post up on his FB page a cryptic message to all of his friends about his predicament. Poet Tom: the seas are liquid steam but the desert’s are upon me. Poet Lucy: That's cryptic Tom. Are you working on a poem? Poet Tom: I wish Lucy. It was just a thought I had. Poet Miles: All poems begin as thoughts Tom. It's what happens next that makes the magic. Poet Dexter: So are you saying, Miles, that poets are like magicians? Poet Tilly: Like? Poet Moonbeam: I like to think that poems are made of fairy dust that gets blown down to Earth on the solar wind... Poet Dexter: Okay, Tilly...ARE magicians. Poet Newton: Magicians make me laugh...poetry makes me think, at a kind of molecular level. Poet Moonbeam: ...and that poets are somehow the Universe's hoovers. Poet Miles: So, Moonbeam, are you saying poems are the emptying out of an old hoover bag? Poet Newton: More like the oscillation of a giant dynamo centered inside a star that IS ME! Poet Anouska: I think Magician's is a great collective for us all. We make the magic happen. Poet Tom: I think my wand is broken. Poet Tilly: Oh no Tom... Poet Miles: OMG Poet Dexter: Are you ok mate? Poet Newton: OMFG Poet Moonbeam: The Universe is a lesser place Tom. Get fixed soon xxx Poet Lance: Good. LOL. Post 4 Poet Tilly has just returned from visiting the Why Oh Why poetry festival in Little Munchkins, Somerset. She has been enthused by the whole vibe and the poets she has got to meet and chat with over the last 4 days have made her a little hyper. Though, unusually for Tilly, she hasn’t written a poem about it yet, she nevertheless has posted the following up on her FB page. Poet Tilly: Just returned from Why Oh Why. Absolutely super time. Got to meet so many fantastic poets and there were other people there too, buying books, I think. The vibe was just so inspirational. I think I have enough to write about for a whole year! Poet Tom: Sounds excellent Tilly. Did you see my book on any of the stalls? Poet Tilly: Yes Tom, I saw your book! Poet Miles: I heard Panda Bear Braithwaite read there this year. Did you catch her? Poet Tilly: She did. I sooooooo much wanted to see her read but the tickets to see her were sold out for like months before. I did see her though...in between readings. What a truly inspirational woman she is. Poet Tom: they asked me to come down and read this year but I couldn't on account of mother. Poet Miles: Awwww. Hope she's getting better Tom. Poet Tom: Not really Miles. She just sits in her armchair as I feed her fingers of bread dipped in warm milk. Poet Lucy: She's lucky to have a son like you Tom. Not many men of 36 would still be living at home with his mummy. It must hold you back so much. Poet Tom: Well yes Lucy, it does a bit. I did nearly leave once, when I was 28, but mother made such a scene and then what with the stroke I sort of am still here. Poet Lance: Mucho Proseco I bet Tills? Poet Tilly: I'd say Lance. Every time I fart bubbles come out of my arse! Poet Lance: Haw Haw! Till's? LOL Poet Crikey-Ellis: LOL Poet Moonbeam: LOL Poet Tilly: I'll PM you something later Lance. Let me know what you think. Poet Lance: Ok Tills Poet Tom: sometimes I want to just put a pillow over her face so it can all be over... Post 5 PM post between Poet Tilly and Poet Lance. Poet Tilly: I slept with Edward Howls!!!! Poet Lance: OMG OMGOMG NO WAY!!! How? When? Where? Poet Tilly: At Why Oh Why. He was coming out of Panda Bear Braithwaite's reading and we bumped into each other. Poet Lance: bumped into each other? you mean more like you saw him and then rammed him you mean!! Poet Tilly: LOL Poet Lance: So? What did he do? Where did you do it? Was he good? Poet Tilly: Lance, it was amazing. Being with him was just like being inside one of his poems. He was so gentle but rough at the same time. Like he was lambing or holding a kitten's head in a barrel of water. Every word he uttered was like a shell coming out of the barrel of his throat. Poet Lance: they generally are Tills Poet Tilly: What? Poet Lance: words / they generally do come out of the barrel of a throat. Poet Tilly: But his words were special Lance. They literally put a spell on me. Poet Lance: So what happened next? Poet Tilly: We sat under a willow tree and talked, he read some of his poems to me, we grabbed a bottle of Prosecco, we ended up back at my B&B together. Poet Lance: And? Poet Tilly: He literally riveted me to the bed – hands feet arms legs head tongue vagina – he took it all in his big poet hands and made me...you know...it was amazing. Poet Lance: And was he a big poet? Poet Tilly: Not so much a big poet, more a DONKEY poet!! LOL Poet Lance: OMFG! So happy for you Tills, you deserve a bit of success. Poet Tilly: Thank you Lance. I left him my number and just waiting now I guess for him to call or text. Poet Lance: why don't you text him? Poet Tilly: He didn't give me his number. Poet Lance: Oh Tilly...? Post 6 The lead singer of Icelandic folk band KundaKa-Ka has committed suicide using a frozen fish. Poet Tom thinks that if he posts this up on his FB page it will be obscure and mysterious enough to help perpetuate the obscure and mysterious image he tries to perpetuate. Poet Tom: Sad day. A few hours ago Morton Freeze of Icelandic folk band KundaKa-Ka committed suicide at the tender age of just 27. Not only is it a tragic loss for Icelandic folk music but a tragic loss for world music as a whole. Poet Miles: is he the guy who played at the Berlin Wall with Sinead O'Connor? Poet Tom: Not that I recall Miles but he did front the Ka-Ka's when they played on the Slippery Glacier stage at Mortaledbury. Superb gig. Poet Moonbeam: The Universe is a lesser place. Poet Lucy: Have you written a poem about it yet Tom. Poet Tom: As a matter of fact Lucy, I have. Poet Lucy: I bet it's super. share shareshare Poet Miles: Yes Tom, share – NOW! Poet Tom: Ok guys, pinging it over to you now. I've written it mainly in English but with every 4th word in Hebrew and the last word of each stanza in Icelandic in memory of Morton. Let's see who can work that out !?!? I had the Autumn edition of My Lonely Lymph Gland in mind. You know how dark that editor is. Let me know if you think he will like it or not. If not, any other editor's you think would consider publishing it – with a tweak or two of course, or even a whole revamp, if you think that is necessary. Post 7 Poet Lucy has just got home from attending an open mic event at the Gob And Guts in Eltham High Street. She is shaking, crying, beside herself with shock. Every time she sits down in her comfortable armchair she soon has to jump up again. She just can't quieten what has been opened up inside her. Finally she logs onto her FB page and begins to calm down. Poet Lucy: Awful night at an open mic event in Eltham tonight. Quite literally, awful! Poet Tilly: Awww. What happened Luce? Poet Lucy: it was fine at first Tilly, though some of the people were a little uncouth they were talkative, pleasant. One of them even bought me a drink, though it did take me 30 minutes to get it across to the barmaid what an Aperol Spritzer actually was. Not sure it was even Aperol in there either. One of them kept asking me ‘ow's that Irn Brew taste with the fizzy water love?’ Haven't a clue what he meant or what Irn Brew stands for. I'm guessing it's an acronym, is it? Poet Miles: Eltham? What the hell was you doing in Eltham? Poet Tom: No. I think it's a fizzy drink that they sell in Lidl's. Poet Lucy: It was an organised event Miles. Open mic. All poets, MC's and Roadmen welcome it said. I thought it'd be good. The roadmen that tarmaced the road behind the conservatory the other week were charming. Poet Newton: Nothing is as it seems. Poet Tilly: So what happened then? Poet Lucy: it kept getting later and later. Everyone was drunk and smoking marijuana. Finally, at about 10 o'clock I was invited to read first. God...I don't want to go into it...just to say, I am super stressed. Poet Tom: what poem did you read? Poet Lucy: Seven Kittens Standing Under The Open Sky. Poet Annabel: I love that poem. Especially the bit about the kittens confusion when they realise that their mother has vanished. So urban. Brilliant metaphor dealing with what working to lower class families have to deal with. Poet Moonbeam: The Universe is a better place for that poem. Poet Lance: Yes, great choice of poem Lucy. The bit where the kittens in their confusion all start speaking in different languages to each other is a spectacular piece of writing. I bet it had them all clapping away in confusion? Poet Lucy: it didn't go down well Lance. None of it did. There was only one language they all new and I have never ever been taught it Poet Anabel: I read somewhere that language one can’t understand is either of alien origin or something they call ‘street’. It’s awful and rather scary. Poet Miles: Yes, I’ve heard of that before. My grammar teach taught me that they concocted it up to make them feel all superior and different to people like us. Poet Moonbeam: all streets lead to the center of the sun. Poet Crikey-Ellis: I've just looked up Roadman on the internet. Nothing about tarmac in there at all. I think you might have made a mistake Lucy. Poet Lucy: I think so to Crikey-Ellis. Never again though. Poet Tom: Did you see anyone there with my book Lucy? Post 8 Poet Lance has just opened up an email from an editor who liked a poem Lance sent him about the shoes of his dead father and has suggested to Lance that he would be willing to publish a pamphlet of poems based around the idea of a dead father’s clothes and shoes and what not. There is a deadline though of December 1st. It is only early June but Lance is getting all stressed about it. Since opening the letter Lance has drunk 6 espressos from his Nespresso machine, smoked 18 cigarettes, watched 2 hours of Loose Women and eaten 4 figs – but still he can’t pull himself together. He decides he needs to share this stressful moment with his friends on FB. Poet Lance: I've got a deadline coming up and I've only got 6 months left !!! Poet Tom: Fucking hell Lance. You aren't ever going to make it. Poet Lance: Thanks for your support Tom. This is fucking up-there-serious so don’t muck around with me OKAY!!! Poet Moonbeam: Relax. Take a deep breath. Let the Universe guide your pen. Poet Lance: NOT HELPING MOONBEAM! Poet Dexter: I find that deadlines don't help. They constrict the flow and energy that's needed if you want to be a great writer. Poet Lance: I know Dexter. I'm totally fucking stressed. Poet Lucy: Calm down Lance. How many poems do you need to edit? Poet Lance: EDIT? I HAVENT EVEN FUCKING WRITTEN THEM YET! Poet Tom: LOL Poet Lucy: Oh. How many poems do you need to write then? Poet Lance: I don't know. I've got 1 done so another 19 I guess. Poet Lucy: Oh. And when is the deadline? Poet Lance: December 1st Poet Tom: That's 6 months away Lucy. Poet Lance: Fuck off Tom. Poet Lucy: It'll be ok Lance. 6 months is a long time. Poet Lance: it isn't Lucy. 6 months is like tomorrow in the poetry world. Do you know how long it takes a poet even to get an idea! And then there's all of the fucking words and stuff to come up with. I don't think I'll be able to do it. Poet Tom: Nor me. LOL. Poet Moonbeam: The Universe will show you a way. Poet Lance: are you fucking with me Moonbeam!? Poet Tilly: you can do it Lance! Poet Lance: I can't. I have no ideas. Poet Moonbeam: that was rude Lance. I curse you with Saturn's eyes! Poet Lance: I just want to kill myself. Why the fuck did I send that poem off and get myself into this mess in the first place. Poet Tom: Go on Lance. I dare you to do it. Poet Lance: What? I can't do anything Poet Tom: kill yourself. Poet Lucy: TOM! Poet Lance: you're a cunt Tom Poet Lance: I'm doing it !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Poet Lucy: Lance? Poet Miles: Lance? Don't be stupid !! Poet Tilly: Lance? Poet Tom: Fuck ME, he might've done it, I didn’t mean it Poet Moonbeam: the Universe is a much better place Post 9 Poet Crikey-Ellis has shared a link with his friends on his FB page about an article in an online magazine called Poets and their Flower Cutters. It is about the link between the progress humanity has made over the last 20 years and the rising number of poets who are writing totally brilliant poems. Apparently the totally brilliant poems help to galvanise everything and move things forwards, or backwards, or whatever the case may be. But because Poets and their Flower Cutters is a satirical magazine they have replaced the words ‘brilliant poems’ with the word ‘bollocks’. Poet Crikey-Ellis: Thought this was interesting. Thoughts anybody? Poet Dexter: Great angle Crikey-Ellis. Love the semantic camouflage. Makes you think doesn't it...without our ‘bollocks’ we might not be where we are today. Poet Annabel: Well, being a lady, I haven't got any bollocks as such, but I have been told that my pamphlet is full of ‘bollocks’, so I do get it. Poet Lance: Miles likes to look at my ‘bollocks’ every night just before he goes to sleep. Poet Moonbeam: My father, Sun Ray The Lightbringer, who was a fabulously gifted and confusing poet as you all know, used to show me his ‘bollocks’every morning at the breakfast table when I was growing up. I have always thought that seeing those ‘bollocks’ at such an early age helped me to understand the weird relationship this world has with ‘bollocks’. Poet Newton: This article is onto something. Progress has been proved time and time again to be linked to ‘bollocks’. Poet Dexter: So if I am getting this right, this article is suggesting that if it wasn't for our ‘bollocks’, then there wouldn't be Brexit, a social housing crisis, worldwide poverty and institutionalised racism? Poet Miles: Lance has a book full of ‘bollocks’ that Symphony shows to her girlfriends when they come over for a sleepover. I don't think any of them understand them but I do think it is great for young girls to be exposed to ‘bollocks’ at an early age. Poet Crikey-Ellis: I think more to the point Dexter is if your ‘bollocks’ swayed like a ten-ton bell against all of that then there might have been the chance that all, or some of that, might not have happened. But because your ‘bollocks’ don’t sway one way or the other, even in a hurricane, then everything has just been allowed to happen. Poet Tilly: I haven't told you all about this before but I once had one of Edward Howl's ‘bollocks’ in my hand as he tore another one off and fed it into my mouth. Poet Tom: This article sounds eminently plausible. All of my poems are ‘bollocks’. Poet Crikey-Ellis: Thank you everyone. Much to think about. But one thing I think we all agree upon, a poet's ‘bollocks’ can, and do sometimes, change everything.
‘Martin Hayes is speaking about matters too often ignored in today’s literature. A working man himself, Hayes writes brave poetry that sheds a unique light on the work world where most of us spend most of our waking hours. With biting wit and sharp insight he documents and exposes the absurdities of the managers and the trials of the workers trying to survive under them. A very necessary, powerful voice in this era of austerity, inequality and exploitation.’
‘This is poetry like virtually no-one else in Britain is writing. It is funny, wise, sad, tragic and thoroughly memorable.’
Mistress Quickly's Bed
‘I can’t think of any other British poet with this degree of obsessive focus and the result is claustrophobic, intense and unrelenting... More power to his pen.’
Steve Spence, Stride
‘Hayes is unique among British poets...thoroughly subversive... funny, shocking, fascinating, humanising.’
Mistress Quickly’s Bed
‘a real roar of anger, resignation and fortitude from workers on the frontline of austerity Britain.’
Andrew MacMillan, Observer
‘We need poets like Hayes now more than ever…. Important reading.’
Andrew McMillan, Poetry Review