The ground gives, the walls crack and our foundations are laid bare, revealing fragments of history, myth and memory we had forgotten once were ours. Subsidence is about the post-industrial Black Country landscape, where houses sink into old mines and the present collapses into the past beneath our feet. Written just before and after the 2016 Brexit referendum, these poems are love-songs to the dialect and culture of the Black Country, odes to working-class communities, and laments for the unwanted and off-kilter.

Sample Poems


The buildings, stained by industry tears,
scar those passing through.
They wallow in rancid reflections of filthy windows
and get caught – anaesthetised.
They flee, but I like the dry-eyed, dirty face
peering back behind the advertisements.

Burning Tongues

We ay from brumajum
weem in the borderless
pits – black be day
red be night. Where baby
rhymes with Rabbie – that old
bard who kept the burn
in his tongue.
That burn connects, it burns
like our old forges burned –
burning trade and toil and song
and burning a brand
that yow know and yow know –
burns like Saxon shamans
who’s embers were stamped
and pissed on by ministers
of education immersed in
double spayke –
thass why weem taught
to hayte those four letter words
like fuck and cunt.
Those words burn and words
that burn sit, like us,
in borderless pits, ready,
with Blakean bows, to fight
shot to shot – to burn back
with our vernacular,
thass why when my Auntie
sez yow doh spayke proper ’er’s
playing ‘er part in burning.


‘We’re all Middle Class now!’
Lord Prescott

It’s always been the borderlands –
borders we make, borders
put upon us
borders in the borders.

	Granddad holds forth about Kuala Lumpur conquests
	we’ve heard again and again. Nan does her duty.

		Old coals built them and their difference.

Stambermill viaduct divides his growth:
site of tissue bombs and resin bongs,
graffiti wars between Baggies and Wolves.
Looming grey bricks arch over plains
where the Stour cuts industrial estates
and municipal grasses where the kids,
whose Dads were on the box after Kuwait,
taught us porn and fags and illicit words.
We weren’t quite as working as them –
didn’t matter then.

	Paul moved south after Uni, e’ sez charnce and barth now,
	Linda told ’im – there ay an R in it, chance rhymes with pants.

		Old coals burn in tongues.

The middle son boards
with Mother, she could tell a tale –
the only child of a factory wench
and ex-guardsman,
with council estate maisonette,
the stench of salted meats
and carbolic soap. Father,
eldest of three in Post-War Semi,
where tobacco, wine and classical
music steep the scene.
Watched his Mum die at seventeen,
never says a word about it.

		Old coals, still subsiding.

Their spawn, treading waters.
Working enough for Pennfields,
Middle enough for Pedmore –
he ploughed a border. Nah, ’e’s alright,
’e knows Armitage but ’e’ll gerr’on
the end of a cross with a minute of lunch
to spare.

	who did her Tony Harrison thing,
	said a bit of honest vulgarity, better
	than them imagined pretentions.

		Old coal gets a spit polish.

New builds and period homes mottled
the other side of Stambermill, where the wraith
of the viaduct is fogged. A grinning
perjurer declares things can only get better.

	I doh like ’im, Nan says, ’e’s an hyena.
	’Er was right.

		Old coal, old oil, old game.
We had books,
Dad subscribed to Reader’s Digest
and demolished lit for fun –
a big American firm took him on.
Mum had her trinkets –
corn dollies, porcelain mice –
cultured a supermarket into a classroom.

They had rows of Penguin books,
neatly aligned amongst black and white
family portraits and kitchens
of locally sourced goods.
Have you ever been anywhere outside Europe?
We weren’t quite as Middle as them,
we noticed that then.

Shut yo’ gob

Shut yo’ gob
with Aynuk-Ayli tales
we know the loff
of ’ow they mistook
salt for kaylie
an’ ’ow weem solute
to theya solvent.

Tell it to John
an’ ’is single mom
where there ay nothin’
but the glue
an’ markin’ tracks.
‘Is mon ‘s gone
an’ Mr Smith day
act on ’is ADHD
an’ there ay a wench
who’d tek on a jitterer,
an’ no toil for a wazzock.

All ’e’s got ‘s ’is front,
an’ yo’ wan’im to loff?

Shut yo’ gob.

Imagist in Netherton

So much depends upon
This is Art, spraycanned
on the redbrick shed
of the MEC
down in the maze
of Sledmere estate.


A love letter spoken in his mother tongue, refusing to be a second language, a vernacular ripe with the heart and soul of everyday people. This is an observation of both strangers an’ kin, sometimes smashed glass of people’s lives reflecting a beautiful constellation under a Black Country sky.’

Roy McFarlane

A glorious musical score of Black Country dialect with all its complex tone colours and rhythms. Borderlands of class, the liminal aching space occupied by those who are not easily categorised are cracked open and witnessed.’

Roz Goddard

He is our Black Country guide to the relics, rituals, coping strategies of a defunct working class. Defiantly vernacular, written in dialect, we encounter the mythic, Germanic smith Wieland and his descendants in their haunts of pub, car park, footy pitch and wasteland, held captive and hamstrung by a tyranny of class and prejudice.’

Bob Beagrie