Reasons the Volkswagen Beetle shouldn’t be your first car

By which I mean: ‘God, I wish the Beetle had been my first car’. It’s a quasi-genetic need to covet it. In my childhood, three Beetles, a mini and a bay window camper made their way in and (sadly) out of my Ma & Pa’s driveway. The final bug was going to be my first but on reflection here are some fond memories and reasons why I’m glad it wasn’t.

The Purple

– As a very young kid I only remember this car as an icicle during winter. On drives home after family parties me, my two sisters and brother would fight over the tartan blanket in the back (the car’s only heating system), and wear gloves. My dad would have the luxury of being warmed by beer.

– For a long time, the starter motor never worked. To get mum to work we would have our next door neighbour, Mick, myself (rather uselessly) and my dad push it up the road. Mum must have parked on a hill when she got there, to start it again.

The Godly Beetle

Godly Beetle.
Forgive the 35mm photo


– It’s previous owner had been a vicar, hence the moniker. This also had a duff starter motor at one time. This didn’t stop me and dad doing a motorway trip to Volks Fest (I think they’re cool). On the trip home he stopped at a service station and jumped out saying “jump in this side and keep revving it so it doesn’t stop”. When we filled up for petrol he had to cut the engine, so we pushed it the wrong way out of the pumps to drive home.

It now has flowers stuck to it and we see the lady driving it around Gleadless.

The Orange

This car came to my dad with one lady owner since 1972, who’d taken it to the doctors and back in all that time. 52,000 miles in 35 years; that engine sung. The reg plate also ran: ERB 1 which was a kind of magic.



– This bright orange car once became even more orange. I heard about it first at school from the kids off the bus. “Did you see that daft fucking car that was on fire in the Midland carpark?”. I also remember the call from dad talking about the Beetle as if it were a family member having recovered from a heart attack: “it’s ok, John says that it’s really not as bad as it sounds” *. My sister was in the car at the time, and I assumed she was ok. My other sister was embarrassed to be seen in this car; this year she’ll be using a splitscreen camper as her wedding carriage, so, swings and roundabouts, in’t it?

* He rescued the car by stopping a school bus and taking its fire extinguisher. He got charged by the bus company for using it. Cheeky gets.

– When it came to saying goodbye to this car, dad put it through its MOT. The standard procedure is to make sure it all works, runs, is safe and replace anything with industry standard parts. But Beetle John is a gentleman mechanic and a new floorpan would have been unnecessary cost. Instead, a steady mix of welding and biscuit tins made it fly through the test.


All this, and still on sunny days in July my dad will often say “should’ve never got rid of that Beetle”. It’s true they’ve got problems but they’re reliable compared to most classics, that, and these stories and memories filled them with character. I’ll never forget learning to drive in one on the fields and feeling ‘the dogs danglies’ for getting into third (they only have four gears). It’s only when I drive up the M1 in December, sleet all around me, with a working CD, heater and fog lights do I think; “Christ, I’m glad I’m not in that Beetle”.


Never ask if I sincerely mean that and never ask my Aunty Clare why you should never buy a Morris Minor: the car that tried to kill her.

– F.C.W

Typecasting: Bottling.

A little microfiction. Short shorts, flash fiction, micro-fiction, whichever epithet you prefer, fills a pretty little niche between narrative poetry and the short fiction. Here is a piece written on an ‘Empire Aristocrat’ (essentially a Hermes Rocket made in England). They (David Gaffney, the undisputed master of the form and many more) say you should not rely on a ‘punch-line ending’ which… well, I’ll let you be judge.

Bottling. Microfic.


Picture credit goes to:

Dirty Type Slugs: the 1947 Smith Corona Sterling

Half of the fun is fixing typewriters. My current record stands at 3 in 4 typers arriving and needing some immediate attention to get them functioning properly, despite ‘good working order’ descriptions. Soon I’ll start hunting the old fashioned way, in reclamation centres and thrift houses to get up close before adopting another basket case. This Smith-Corona didn’t arrive as a basket case, but the carriage would not return all the way to the right. Turns out that seventy year old catgut isn’t such a reliable drawband. I’ve added some photos of what it was like when I found the frayed, looped and hardened drawband wrapped around the mainspring (which is very small and note: only needs three turns on this model, not six like on Brother-style portables). Also, my Corona’s spring makes and incredible ‘ching’ sound when you wind it up, not a quiet ‘tink’ like the Brother. This noise gave me palpitations until I realised the spring hadn’t broken.

The drawband in disarray after teasing it from the spring.









On the Sterling the end of the drawband has a neat little hook that fastens over a small screw on the carriage. I’d intended to replace the catgut with more reliable fishing wire but given this little hook (a miniscule piece on such a large machine) I didn’t feel like getting rid of the original part. So onward ho, for the catgut. After unhooking the drawband I pulled it through the carriage to the opposite side to make untangling it easier as it had gotten into a tangle so bad, I can’t imagine how it happened. A little white spirit seemed to soften it too.

The clear ‘carriageway’ with hook inside.

The turn of the screw was daunting (the title of a good short story by Henry James too), and because of this I set up the carriage with two turns on the spring. That returned the carriage, but only half way: no good. THREE turns is perfect, if a little fiddly to get the hook back through the carriageway. I fashioned a tool from a hairgrip and a chopstick (see below) that worked great and looks a lot like the tool used by the Egyptians to fish Pharaoh’s brains out of his skull via the nose.

Chopped gripstick
The ‘gripstick’ worked great.


I thought I had fixed it, until…




After doing a lot of research on the typewriter forum, oz.typewriter and many others (including my nearest typewriter mechanic’s number), the job was worth the trouble and ended up being good fun to explore the mechanics and get it right. You’ve earned it when you’ve fixed it: the font is big and bold and serifed just right, the touch is very light and the Bakelite keys are easy touch-typers. After, dislodging a metric ton of dust and cleaning the filthy type-slugs I wrote out two pages of stream of consciousness drivel just to try every button. Well worth the work, catgut and all and for £50 all in, who can argue with that? Corona over Chromebook every time. As you can tell I’m smitten with it. The previous owner ‘remembers hunting and pecking his school homework on it in Canada and South Africa’. Most of my typewriters are better travelled than I am, so now it’s time to get to work on remedying that.

The featured image is not my machine. The only difference is the ‘Made in Canada’ decal below the Smith-Corona logo.

As I said, manual machines, when they go wrong, are fun to fix. Still frustrating, patience still needed in bucket loads, but they aren’t going to freeze on you, the problem isn’t buried in an oblique miasma of binary or html code, no loading bars will move along at the speed of erosion, and the interface once fixed, is fixed.

Bukowski quotes so positive you could sell them at garden centres

He gets a bad wrap Bukowski. Whether for misogyny, alcoholism or dirty-realism, he’s a tough nut to love. It’s clear though, from a small crop of quotes, that his misanthropy was a pall covering a simple, hedonist’s love of life. Here are some quotes (a few admittedly pushing the boundaries) which you might see scrawled on a rough piece of wood that you’re Gran might buy for extortionate prices. You know what I’m getting at, those garishly optimistic platitudes hewn onto boards, strung up with twine and sold as ‘shabby-chic’ whatever the hell that is. How the hell did ‘shabbiness’ become commodified, anyway? Modern times, eh.

I will remember your small room. Buk. Fin what you love and let it kill you. Buk. and we are in bed together laughing. Buk. We're all going to die. Buk. We are here to laugh. Buk. The problem with the world. Buk. The less I needed the better I felt. Buk. She's mad but she's magic. Buk. Nobody can save you but yourself. Buk Life's as kind as you let it be. Buk.

Leonard Cohen’s Olivetti Lettera 22

I haven’t acquired the Olivetti Lettera 22 that Leonard Cohen famously ‘typed with under water’ and did, in a rage, throw across his room. I would like to think that thanks to the good folks at Hermes Delivery company, I do own an uncanny replica of the ill-fated machine. Although, his was a pistachio colour. Mine’s called il bruto Garibaldi: ‘The Brute Garibaldi’, because it’s Italian and has the rugged charm, liberality and war-like appearance of Guiseppe Garibaldi, a key figure in the Unification of Italy, and the namesake for a classic biscuit.

Leonard Cohen Lettera 22

I can see why Cohen fell in love with his Lettera, even sneaking onto the Olivetti work-floor to seek an illicit repair job from a typewriter guru. It’s action and type are svelte compared with Japanese typewriters. Features such as the touch-sensitivity settings, the paragraph indenter and the basket shift predate my Silver Reed by 20 years and do the job much better. It’s also quieter than a mouse’s cough. The details shout quality, even when they smell of old tobacco and are filled to the brim with 50 years of magnetic dust. The spring return lever and its folding design are genius touches.

‘I was in a mood of some extravagance and I put the typewriter in the bathtub and tried to type under water. Then I threw my manuscript for Flowers for Hitler in the bath and tried to scrub it with a nail brush.’*

Lettera flattering lamp

It’s a shame then, that this Lettera got sucker punched in transit. To tell the truth. I enjoyed making rubber grommets from an old iPhone case to replace the ones that once held the body in place. Think ‘atomised’, and that will give you an idea of the condition the grommets were in. I found bits of old rubber lining the inside of the Lettera and the body rocked on the frame. The front bar protecting the type keys was cracked and bent inwards, preventing the spacebar from moving. A bit of metal-hammering and duct tape reconstructive surgery and the face no longer interrupts the space bar.

Lettera gromet
Old iPhone case doubling as makeshift grommet.

Lettera ducttape stitch Lettera crack

Always send that well-worded email, even if you feel patronising, to spend longer than 30 seconds packaging something brittle and mechanical. This ‘replica Leonard Cohen Lettera’ arrived in way worse condition than the photos show. I bent the frame back to a better (not perfect) shape. It’s as though the typewriter has suffered a dislocated jaw or a bad stroke as the front lists to one side. Anthropomorphism of inert objects. That’s me all over. But I don’t name typewriters often, like I do cars. They’re a tool that should be used. I’ll post a short I wrote using the Lettera that has many working titles, one of them is ‘Misguided bullets’. Information I gathered about Cohen and his Lettera anecdotes were taken from the link below at It’s a good summary of the trials, tribulations and triumphs he achieved with his little journalist’s portable. I wonder where that machine is now?



* Cohen quoted by Scott Cohen in his book, Yakety Yak, 1994
Gathered from:


As a side note: I found myself using the Lettera with the cover off, initially to un-jam type-slugs, then to correct the ribbon spool nuts and finally to enjoy the sight of a compact portable spinning out words. After searching about I noticed that a lot of Lettera users end up doing the same.

Leonard Cohen - Cover off. Lettera Oriana Fallaci (1930 - 2006). cover off.




Interrobang name-checked in Nicholas Royle’s ‘The Best British Short Stories 2014’

An update for the Interrobang Project! We were privileged to be named in the acclaimed anthology series, edited by Nicholas Royle, ‘The Best British Short Stories 2014’, alongside journals such as Ambit, Structo and the Edinburgh Review. Some very kind words considering the circumstances in which I and my partner fumbled two issues of Interrobang into Nicholas Royle’s hands. Click on the picture below to see our mention and the surrounding Introduction to the book. The intro is also visible on Amazon. Better yet, the BBSS series is a fantastic annual publication, and Royle has an expert eye for a variety of short fiction. I personally recommend buying the set from 2011-2014.

Scan of BBSS Intro. ARROWs. Crop.
Click to enlarge


‘The Best British Short Stories’ is published by SALT, who have a track record of producing new authors and poets.



Typecasting: Riding the hell out of Kelso

I’m venturing into realism. This is a rough first draft of a story I banged out. The short version: it’s about a young man dealing with the loss of his grandfather, and more besides. It needs paring down, sharpening, but its a lump of clay I’m happy to continue sculpting. A revision by friends won’t be resisted either. I’ll post a typecast of draft II sometime in the future.

Kelso I.
Page 1


Kelso II.
Page 2
Kelso III.
Page 3
Kelso IV.
Page 4


Typecasting: The Kind King Light of Mind

Uploading images of type-written text is one way to road-test material without contravening the provisos of many literary journals. That being: not to send in work that has been otherwise ‘published’. Included in that definition is the publishing accomplished on personal blogs.

The draft of a story below ‘The Kind King Light of Mind’, is just that, a draft. Every time I retype it, the story becomes a little different. Even the definitive and uncompromising medium of the typewriter didn’t strengthen my resolve to creating a version of this little surreal didactic that I’d be happy to set in stone. There is something about the ending, needs fleshing out.

Shaman 1. TKKLoM. II.
Part I.
Shaman 2
Part II.
Shaman 3
Part III.
Shaman 4
Part IV.


In future I’ll use double spacing.


Tabulations: the Silver Reed 150

There is a wealth of information on the interwebs about most brands of popular typewriters. But it can be difficult to find much material on the models less-revered by the typospherians. When I bought this Silver Reed 150 ‘Tabulator’, it was largely due to the long-trusted description: ‘one lady owner from new’, with the added bonus bracket: ‘(my mum)’. That, and it’s shinier than a Jimmy Saville shell suit. Big Silver this.

It arrived with the original protective plastic cover slotted above the hammers, which I’m keeping to cover up its vital organs when not in use. On a whim I bought it with the assumption that Silver Seiko Co, Ltd who make the typer were a branch of the Seiko Watch Company. As it turns out I was wrong on that count. As is said in the car industry: the Japanese are the Germans of Asia where manufacture is concerned, and this Dale Winton’s face with type keys seems built like a tank. So, I’m not worried.Big Silver keys. this.

Silver Seiko, after a little research turns out, started life similar to its major Japanese competitor, Brother. It began as Marukoshi Knitting Machines, Ltd. in 1952, before appeasing the European market in 1955 by swapping out ‘Marukoshi’ for Silver, and putting away the knitting needles in 1967 to form Silver Seiko Co, Ltd. Since then Silver dipped there hand into as many businesses as possible, building paper folding machines, water purifying equipment, ozone gas generators; and dabbling in life insurance, real estate, brokerage. That gives some reassurance, right? If its nearest relative is the long-withstood ‘over 10 million sold’ Brother Kondo design spanning 30+ years and the company went on to put prices on the average man’s life and purify their water, a humble Silver Reed typewriter should be a belter.Big Brother this.

It is. Definitely a belter with the noise it throws out. I enjoy the hammering snap it makes. Everything feels solid, things are simple like the ribbon reverse which is just a case of flipping two arms that hold the spools. But there is no attempt at ‘insulating’ the thing from noise. I live and work in a boarding school and the house parent living nearest my flat HATES this thing. The kids love it, but the older woman that is otherwise deaf to a full-on fist fight seethes at it. Each time I’m tapping I hear a theatrical sigh of indignation from next door. The Silver gets all the more use for it, and the sighs add to the rhythm you get into when typing.

It seems even in 1977 the Silver company bypassed the craze for ‘Silent’ models that were produced in America and Europe as early as the 30s. It adds to the experience, requiring a bottle of codeine to battle the inevitable migraine – something nice and Beatnik about it… ‘the typewriter is holy…’ (totes posing with a Ginsberg quote). Kerouac used a desktop Underwood; Burroughs: various Antares, Hermes Rocket; Ginsberg, a Remington #5, and enough Benzedrine to bring down Shia LeBeouf (incidentally, doesn’t his name translate as ‘Shia The Beef’?).

Digressions. For £30.00 all in, I got a good machine in unused condition with the added charm of shouting about its tabulator function (which had been around for 40-50 years at the time). If it had been a pre-war Underwood it would be a collectors wet dream, alas it is not.Big SMith Corona

I hope this goes some way to helping anyone taking a punt on those hundreds of Silverettes on auction sites. As I said, there doesn’t seem to be a big fanfare for these machines; neither does there seem to be a big downside to them. They aren’t Gromas or Speedline Smith-Coronas but it is another dependable bulletproof Japanese typewriter.

Time to Lay Dormant for a Year

The first FiNaPoWriMo NaPoWriMo had it’s highlights:

  • Over 500 people visited the site in 30 days
  • 30 bloggers followed
  • 1 poem was commissioned and used (I think) in a job interview
  • A national museum recorded a poem and posted it on their page

I didn’t imagine a better response.

I’ll see you for next year’s instalment. Dissertation year poetry sounds like a ready-made quality standards issue. But there is always National Novel Writing Month in November.

Keep scratching,


To hear the audio of ‘Rolling Hulks’ click here.
Coming soon…  Interrobang Cliffords Tower


NaPoWriMo #30


Home. Home is in the hills.
Among valleys where flora turns
emerald ice dead winter,

Where water tastes of dew from
the strands in a duck’s moustache.

House is the habitat.
Home when breath breathes ‘welcome back’
a ghost-hello, condensing words in air.

‘kettle’s on’, or ‘put kettle on’,
steam: birth of a brew.

The brick and mortar, the
tile and plaster, carpet and cutlery
can be dust

For trusting limbs, natural smiles,
are crux to kitchenware teeth.

There goes thirty days of poems. I’ll post an exit strategy tomorrow, but until then keep reading and enjoying.

‘Exit pursued by a bear’,

Fionn Coughlan-Wills.

Rolling Hulks

NaPoWriMo #28

Rolling Hulks

Exibit chesspiece,
Leviathan, foreigner, imported, cast iron, steel-alloy, turntable, turnpike,
contacts ignite, piston rupture.
Walking round, tripped by invisible
wires between men and their cameras.
Iron giants – immobilised, geriatric, asleep.

Oil on the air, in the lungs –
sorry, excuse meFinley, come here!
Excuse me. Stephenson’s there, Gresley’s
grizzling in the corners, counting the lubricate spots on drip-trays
and the days until fire breathes in the smokebox,
pending steps on the footplate, shattering pressure to release, to accelerate.


English: Sir Nigel Gresley Crossing the bridge...
English: Sir Nigel Gresley Crossing the bridge at Moorgates on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway.

With thanks to the NRM, York.

Too openly fond of rail history,

Fionn Coughlan-Wills.

Do the Maladaptive

NaPoWriMo #27

Do the Maladaptive

Sit in an upright position,
spine erect but not rigid.

Release obvious areas of tension,
anchor the mind in the breath.

Become inexplicably attracted to
female cadences, in my guiding voice.


Mindfulness and boomshanka,

Fionn Coughlan-Wills.

‘The internet is a graveyard of obsolete information’

This pithy aside is quoted from my Tutor. She quickly summarised a whole seminar on journalism technique with these eight words. We need to keep on top of the flaws in the world wide web, no matter how useful a tool – or dependent upon it – we become.

Didactic? Impossible.

The Loveseat

NaPoWriMo #25

The Loveseat

While She shaped
the pyramid,
spending an aeon
crafting for others,
He whittled a select timber shaft
Each season
scrimshawed his digits into the grain.
Fashioned an X-brace marionette’s soul
to rest on spun struts, a giant’s cane,
cross-hatched the
skeleton frame with
Her choice, rested. Only to
spring the leaves, decades on,
to recede under worn, time-drawn
After filling the chair’s bladder –
horse hair, peacock feather,
phoenix mane, barguest tail,
the swan’s neck of wood between them
hands laced,
A third presence
giving them away.
only one.
Their loveseat.


In a way, this is a sequel to the ‘Pyramid Scheme’ #5. I would like to make or own a loveseat.

Fionn Coughlan-Wills.


NaPoWrimo #23


Everything abridged
at sixteen
to a fan of cards
to slot into a sober, leather-looking

Three for bank,
four clubs,
two bus passes,
driving license and one light motorcycle,
one organ donor.

Now each life
is in profile
an enduring record for
the flash-bulb mind.

Kick start those pages,
how can I count thee?
before the server konks out
and I’m left – just me.


Looking at the paraphernalia that your life amasses can be daunting. But acknowledging it is empowering. The ‘greater than the sum of your parts’ polemic is a good one to study.

Thank you,

Fionn Coughlan-Wills.

Postcards from the Mentally Ill.

NaPoWriMo #22

Postcards from the Mentally Ill

Let fly a culture of Freudian slip
between the legible
black on white
indelible ink, imperative:

I was not involved with my cousin Carol.

as though the recipient
has power to prescribe dignity,
lost to diffraction patterns
in boyhood mishap.

Otherwise a foul in genealogy.

Yet heightened amiability,
the fact you know the middle-name,
despite impossibility
licks my stamp

but perhaps is perturbing.

Ominous •
your still using telegram stops • as big as
squashed flies •
on a square no bigger than • a chapbook fly leaf •

One mind in staccato rhythm.

A simple admission
that quirks are not faults
despite harm.
Stability is a priori

the human condition: a smidgeon of
grit to the egg and the chicken.


If my Pa reads this: we are still open to make that coffee-table book using the same title.


Fionn Coughlan-Wills.

Spirit of the Staircase

NapoWriMo #21

Spirit of the Staircase

That night we smoked cigars and broke onto the roof of a seaside diner
just for a better centre in the sky,
that night when someone became half-cut under inspiration,
ran screaming headlong into the canopy night,
a life ring around his head, an illicit halo keeping him buoyant through the air,
how we gave chase, regained a friend,
wasted no time inundating arcade high-scores with our initials,
we shouted from the dark cove of a seawall stairwell
(themselves a rock pool)
to strangers passing in twilight
‘we aren’t thugs, come this way’,
impromptu guiding lights in a black world of human reefs.
That very day we had skinny dipped in the North Sea,
not one hundred yards from where I and my family
have ritually placed our infant feet,
generation after generation, from various walks
and an orchard of trees,
for the first time, in salt water.



Do not worranyone (all three of you), who regularly read finapowrimo, I did not write a poem about a deceased pet and then spend days in melodramatic, Victorian-widowesque mourning. I felt like I needed a break, what with academic commitments and a quick trip to the beach, and now I am back. 

To the people who came on the holidays that are the subject of the above, thank you again, they are still my favourites. Especially 2009, they know who they are.
Lazy Sunday afternoon, I got no time to worry,

Fionn Coughlan-Wills.

Coping Ugly

NaPoWriMo #17

Coping Ugly

You were a rubbish dog
and all I could think about today;
never came when called,
scared of the stick when thrown,
would lurk in the dark of the stairwell –
where I still step over
the memory of your fury body
ready to turn tail and bite
under pressure of a foot -,
didn’t like children,
had a mind all your own.
An absolute dog.

I honestly think something in my mechanism went,
when we were disallowed the formality of burial.
This is me attempting ‘goodbye’.


Depending on your pronunciation of the title, you may have thought this poem was about heavy-petting.


Fionn Coughlan-Wills.

Omnipresent Tanka

NaPoWriMo #16

Omnipresent Tanka

When I am cremated
scatter the ash in the sea
then will I be beat
Beatific and everywhere
In all the drinking water.


A tanka today. Classical Japanese poetry getting me out of a bind… not for the first time.

‘Frankly my Dear, I don’t give a damn’.

Fionn Coughlan-Wills.

In the Sun

NaPoWriMo #15

In the Sun

In the sun
somewhere, anywhere, dusty
a man, no name, anyone
digs to divine water’s loci.

In the sun
there, everywhere, all over
an opaque hand, bigger than the Cayman Islands
salts the earth, drives water deeper, undermines his spring quicker.

This limb, spanning the hemisphere
incubates expenditure
in its palm half a world away, thinking of it
as offspring – hatchlings

Justified by this view,
obliviously watches the world over,
– this new mother –
fleshier bodies, younger than a babble, weaker than a cry, be spent as walkingdollar.

It is said these peoples are developing.
Really they bide their time, choosing
to preserve the truth of the matter,
opting out of a world so ready to

mortgage humanity
to uphold
the spectacle of a filing cabinet,

draws akimbo,
paper haze aflutter,
balanced perfectly on a
pink, pot, piggybank’s snout.

To expose this manic circus trick,
replacing marble and brick with glass, and air, and window polish.
will cost a mint in sweat and dough –
To refrain from doing so?

May cost the earth, and so much more.


Because of tax havens, a third of the world’s financial wealth (US$18tn) is pent up in countries of zero tax and fiscal obscurity. Christian Aid work to make this money accessible to programmes across the world that are striving to end world poverty. This was the first poem I’ve ever been ‘commissioned’ (don’t worry, no charge) to do, so thanks to Miss J. Warrey, and good luck.

Here is the link to the Christian Aid Trace the Tax campaign.


Fionn Coughlan-Wills.

Cut-Ups Poetry Experiment. NaPoWriMo #14

NaPoWriMo #14

Cut-Ups Experiment.

Compendium of the ‘i’ 09/04/13.

If giving customers a bed down London’s ice
is Labour’s new energy, the four chimneys broke with the theatre’s grey.

Falklands wand finally to addiction.
There is a timiction helpline special.

In death, you especially imagine a celebri-divide,
I met Margaret where she was detoxed once.

She created the more-vention, went smooth Britain
– contradictions of a human spiral road death.

It was not quite Marilyn McChange,
her fans cheered her, with responsensitivites.

We are in the midst of day and make
a fresh Second World War – Great economic collapseers.


to buy so much failurotunity, she
was stock to be sold.

the national psyche:amily more opaque.
mine to realise that I could.

We could go on Britard.


Created via the cut-up method, (I said I would deliver three days ago – but had ideas since). Two pages of the newspaper are divided down the centre, one half of Page A is then placed next to the corresponding half of Page B, creating a composite of the two pages. There you have the contradictions – and arguably the crux – of the whole paper. Some neologisms that surface are inventions that only chance could create. ‘insta-woman’, ‘collapseers’, ‘failurotunity’, ‘celebri-divide’ and ‘psyche:amily’ should already exist, but don’t. They’ve subsequently been pasted into my dictionary.

Thanks go to Mr Gysin and Mr Burroughs.


Fionn Coughlan-Wills.

Economic Prothalamion

NaPoWriMo #13

Economic Prothalamion

The odyssey casts off from here,
hereafter now you six are competing
for favour of more suitors than ever
you’ve tried a’gaining advantage of before.

Don’t be a cynic!
Honest, Penelope, I wouldn’t dare.

I bet you, in the least, it’s ten years
‘til you guys launch those thousand ships to Ithaca.
‘til then your carbon carats’ are gonna be crushed
to the upper limits of diamondness.
Buy Whitby Jet, for Chrissakes.

I received an anniversary card from you yesterday,
its pithy witticism about years being like falling waves
had me prithee resurrect the shank’s edge repartee we had,
and parry our fleshless humour.

All been gone a long time since last I saw
the individual parties, partners and bags
mouth ‘I will’ – not, ‘I do’ – that’s a misnomer,
everything here is.
Dream blacker faceless engineers!

To accrue a bona-fide familial cartel,
a genuine polyglot of communicative strategy
is amended to the mind engine.
I’v watched three of a half-dozen,
over eroding time, fall on their word.

Nice an slo – mo, like.


Makes sense.


Fionn Coughlan-Wills.

Holding you like I might a bottle of wine

NaPoWriMo #12

Holding you like I might a bottle of wine

On my favourite sofa. both eyes reflect
over my shoulder
your mother, left. your father, right.
Each one separate and both combined

Your father’s face, a pride you cannot yet fathom
through blurred vision where people become the air.
And hers, simply in disdain of your
furrowed brow to do so.

Outward from those gleaming irses,
micro-film to read under a voice projecting later,

in my hands, one
cradles your tiny head,
the other on the small of your back,
no wider than a handspan.

I hope, for years to come,
it is impossible to watch your
developing ouevre of faces
without seeing one, or the other,

in either eye.


For G.L.


Fionn Coughlan-Wills.Gracie, Mum, Me.

Morse Carpet

NaPoWriMo #11

Morse Carpet

All that viscous gunk
in the fibres
from years of tramping custom
over the mat
I told him to update and refurb,
turn into a coffee shop,
replace the bald welcome
improve and serve
the barista-madness
but he is old hat

Keeps shop capital under his bed
doesn’t trust the bankers
still greets on the high-street – everyone,
Surrenders his cap to every passing hearse.
sees development as
to fickle ephemera.
I ask if he’d consider some
kanji transfers on the wall
or a brushed steel surface
but Japanese suggests
quality is an exotic appendage
far from home –
He tells me he’d rather tongue the welcome mat.


Tomorow is cut-up day. Back to the scalpel, newspaper and creating barely legible literature.


Fionn Coughlan-Wills.

Un love

NaPoWriMo #10

Un Love

You eat munchies
When you greet me
The work you undertake:
are opinions
You fail to recognise
Your Laugh
I could forgive you
like a horse masticates on carrot,
it is as welcoming as Zyklon B is
obsolete, like male nipples,
to you as unwanted as bad childhood memories?
the opening bars of ‘All you need is love’,
is a prerequisite to migraine.
But it is the boredom that jars.


This one turned into an experiment with column poetry. I’ve always wanted to try a dual reading poem. The napowrimo prompt ‘a poem of dislike’ became a little staid, with similes quickly losing impact. I am happy with this as a first attempt.

Oíche mhaith.

Fionn Coughlan-Wills.

Dada Poetry Experiments NaPoWriMo #9.1 & #9.2

NaPoWriMo #9.1 Dada Experiment.

NaPoWriMo #9.2 Dada Experiment. Photo.

A • lea • tori • cism

Aleatoricism is the incorporation of chance into the process of creation, especially the creation of art or media. The word derives from the Latin word alea meaning the rolling of dice.

On day 9 of NaPoWriMo I ran short of creative juice. Someone had asked me on day 8 whether I would be writing about the death of Margaret Thatcher the next day. I told them no, I don’t really go for topical writing – especially poems – as the field is already crowded with thousands of words dedicated to the subject in advance.

Which got me thinking about Thatcher’s impending biblio-mass of obits. Obviously these would be marked on the front page of every newspaper. All my favourite artists have used newspaper at some point as a multimedia, to either utilise its rigorous vernacular, or as a cheap method to transgress the boundaries of text, via cut-ups and typographical collage. I was tired of constructing; #9 had to be a Dada poem.

What formed while randomly selecting from a hat was surprising and intelligible. I particularly like ‘has rope as power’, there is something about the unstressed syllables rhyming. The line ‘restored Lady £10.08 mystery’, reminds me of Daily Mail headlines. Overall, the money shot, the one I will take away with me: ‘dream blacker faceless engineers’. It’s the seething menace, as though there is one whole character and their story embodied in a single line. I digress.

What Banksy and Flash Mobs accomplish today the Dadaists, Les Hydropathes and the Incoherents were doing in the 1890s. I will strive to understand, but will not pretend to know the Dadaist manifesto, or what (under the pall of nonsense) they were pragmatically trying to achieve. All I fathom is aleatoricism – from William S. Burroughs’ novels to Bataille’s corncob pipe-smoking Mona Lisa – is responsible for my favourite works of art.

Ta ta. Goonight. Goonight.

Fionn Coughlan-Wills.

Misgivings I Will Only Admit to Friends

NaPoWriMo #8

Misgivings I Will Only Admit to Friends

On pain of above-par trivial pursuit skills
On pain of aversion to milk in tea
On pain of loyalty to Waitrose
On pain of pretentious baby names
On pain of pretentious dog names
On pain of periodicals posing
On pain of allusive non-drip gravy trains
On pain of internet-composed faux-ancestry
On pain of Smeg fridge
On pain of avocado coloured bath suite
On pain of inherent gout
On pain of shoe removal prior admittance
On pain of high-thread-count Persian rugs
On pain of understanding ‘æ’
On pain of unfathomably boring parents
On pain of conditioned love for Chaka Khan
On pain of socially-triggered overcompensation.

On pain of shoe removal prior admittance, not adhered to by Work-Colleague – despite clear Japanese-inspired ritual of the house plain to see via the IKEA lattice-work shoe rack opposite front door. Then when Inevitable happens and dusty prints left as ghost-patterns all over import-Kilim and She goes into hall to take a loud call, you think twice when you stoop to apply the hand-vacuum cleaner to the filaments in case you are found out as On pain of shoes and On pain of Persian rugs, so to compensate when gravy train is put in the cavernous Smeg to coagulate, you stuff the rug in there too, asking questions like  – did they notice the carefully stacked pile of Archæology Reviews next the portmanteau? What about the avocado coloured suite? – She emerges from bathroom, you shout: ‘Milk in your tea?’ to which Betjeman barks as though he’s been asked – dumb pup – but at least the perfect square of polished parquet is off of the mind burner. Then Persephone comes down stairs in miniature avocado-coloured Waitrose night-dress to see the Colleague and the volume, and calls you ‘meany!’ when you tell her to go to sleep. On pain of ungrateful spawn. Just leave so Ain’t Nobody can blast forth from the surround sound system knocking off the framed print-out of the family tree dating descendants back to Imperial Shogun Dynasty – to which the father of the father can wax lyrical about On pain of unfathomably boring parents.

On pain of eco-consciousness
On pain of overuse of hyphens
On pain of overuse of ‘of’
On pain of BBC Radio 2
On pain of hijacking-Literary-forms

My thanks to Alexander L. – and apologies if need be.

Fionn Coughlan-Wills

Herd Mentality

NaPoWriMo #7

Herd Mentality

Within the picture frame of a tea-caddy valley
an airborne lottery wheedled its way to the nostrils
of the sheep, selected the club night in the cow sheds
promising cuts of cut-rate sweet-meat.

Animals grazed as clan for millennia, hailed
by their thousands, into the news reels and word processors
of the Dictaphone media: no Nazi propaganda, no furnace in the street
the four-legs had reached their zenith and were a jewel in the peaks.

A party was thrown, from the depths of our hearts
onto the celebrating heap, warm animal bodies pirouetting together
in the bedlam of kaylee dancing cattle, heralded humans
in droves to douse the god-like livestock in champagne and altar fire.

Indeed fireworks: multi-shot aerial displays formed night into day,
Roman Candles set the bleating from black sheep shooting at the youngest jumpers
the gunpowder smell of acrid pleasure, Catherine Wheels likely to
fix landscapes across the nation with a micronova of prescribed carnival burn.

In their new-found importance, ablaze with screaming laughter,
aware that carnival antics are in ewes, rams, goats and bovine inborn.
Anything with cloven hoof apple-bobbed, splatted-the-rat and given a prize.
A shout-out over the tannoy, a double-barrelled loud-hailer, a lit sparkler.

Every moment a de facto Shangri La, each species a nomadic caravan,
all congregations a vigil. Sung out in all crevices The King of Love my Shepherd Is.
Epicentres of the crescendo were identified in
Essex, Northumberland, Cumbria and the North York Moors.

Weeks tore by – the breeds cross-pollinated – until all fetes, galas, events ceased.
Fires were extinguished; food was off, entertainment encored.
The perpetual motion machines, all animal bodies were on top
of one another, on their backs, ashen, asleep.

The lottery was spent.

It was later found that rather than announce Lent early
(commend the critters to respite, quadrupedal Butlins and organised fun)
Tiring them out throwing a party now
would cost the fleecy pockets of the markets less in the long run.

The carnivals abated. the skies no longer alight. All bleating eulogy silence.

For months after – aside dry stone walls before entering
the hallowed grounds of the sacred feasts
our sign of respect was marked by a blessing:
to wash our hands with buckets of water and disinfect our feet.


I remember 2001 quite well. Almost didn’t make it today. Also, to do right by ancestors ‘kaylee’ should be written Céilidh. Good night.

Fionn Coughlan-Wills.

Language’s Monologue I

NaPoWriMo #6

Language’s Monologue

The graft of the sentence is
I transmute meaning.
latch onto anything
between synapses,
father to order.

Cut of the Jib,

Say I were multiplied,
given a header,
written as a letter
am I still a letter?
when translated into Latin,
my rhetoric increases
its calibre.
Quidquid latine dictum sit altum sonatur.
Anything said after
sounds profound.
to cloth ears.

il miglior fabbro.

The Pyramid Scheme

NapoWrimo #5

The Pyramid Scheme

She took a bronze saw
nine feet long,
set with sapphire teeth
to business
carving life into
a Pyramid
of manageable
Descending to the largest of jobs,
leading to glitches eventually
larger than life –
top down organising,
placing the smallest
in a pocket of time
five minutes from now. Now
the miniscule,
later the monument.
She began:
scratched her itch,
made a meal of it
left the dog the bones,
put things in order,
settled her affairs,
got the job done,
shattered sugar-glass ceiling,
left him holding the baby,
almost one time met her maker.
Performed the remit of
Serial Note-Taker.
Scrawling every last hiccup into submission
Mason to the stones
around others’ necks
to build
after a whole tome
Centenarian Charleston
beckoned home.
Hung up
the world-worn saw,
reflecting her hair, her eyes, sapphires now the size of amoeba fear,
Set a final gargantuan slab,
the foundation stone
for those to continue
by example. And
Pitched back on heels
to see

Venus Callipgye knows.

Fionn Coughlan-Wills.

Interstellar Shanty

NaPoWriMo #4

Interstellar Shanty

NASA pressurised an ink pen – spent a pennny
Russians risked graphite – mocked the moneyed
Soviet pencils are Sputnik’s armoury
logic translates compensate in Klingon

We’ll float, float on,
‘til we find a teapot orbiting the sun.

There are many questions
many more answers,
how d’you photograph a gas giant,
And what does Venus’ arse look like?

But we’ll float, float on,
‘til we find the teapot orbiting the sun.

Dawkins found God in a nebula, – wrote a book on it
Galileo used a jam jar to stare into the thick of it
Cox is a Blue Peter presenter – outposts and audits
Sir Patrick Moore – stargazer to the stars.

We’re floating, floating on;
a teapot silhouette in front of the sun.

Today’s poem was the end product of yesterday’s NaPoWriMo prompt ‘Sea Shanty’ but with a twist.

Here are links to Bertrand Russell’s Celestial Teapot Wiki and the Space Pen conundrum.

Also an amendment: I think Brian Cox is awesome.

Thanks go to a particular Amos (Not for much longer – big clue), for the pen anecdote.

Jupiter from beneath

In a strange twist of fate I have a picture of ‘Jupiter’s Bottom’ in my documents. Now there is a quality consciousness-enricher.

Fionn Coughlan-Wills.

Family Triptych

NaPoWriMo #3

Family Triptych

Up a gangplank
through the land
between house, home and road
three of a family tree trod,
one in front of the other
digits trellised
dovetailed together
a linked length
a pedigree.

Father, grandpa, clergyman drew
Mother, their grandmother, philanthropist
up. Denied purchase from spent years caring.
And steadying the give, behind
The daughter, granddaughter, the student.
Brogues, slippers and walking boots.
Tapping, gliding, clumping.

cosseting the altruist,
with age – under the weather,
weaker between the strength of two others
over scaffold bridge
bonded a chain-gang
of love
of life.


With thanks to the Amos’ and the Bowes family.

Fionn Coughlan-Wills.

Stitch That

NaPoWriMo #2 Stitch That.

Stitch That

I’d had a go of it,
he’d hooked me up,
chucked me up,
threw me over for the
femme fatale type.

Had blown my brains out with
tedious conversations on the terabyte,

fed him tripe,
fed me tripe –
had no excuse to cancel the milk that night.

So when he showed up,
all apologetic corduroy
and humility turtleneck
to say we’d had a go of it – he’s sick of it.
I felt obliged to stick him with it – stitch that I’m thinking.

Milk bottle bust, landed on the floor
made the opposite of a chandelier,
took his dead-weight to the crypt of the car,
saw milk, and blood, and bile mix
become ambergris

I had done with him, popped those clogs
shod the funeral loafers and bin bag attire,
to drive the motorway and dump cargo –
baggage, clothes and body – into the river.

And as they say, Officer, I never looked back.
It might be this reason, that I failed to check
my blind spot, cut you up with the motor
– blues and twos – hesitated, then signalled to pull over.


For this one, I am greatly indebted to Simon Armitage’s ‘Hitcher’, and Chicago’s ‘We both reached for the Gun’.

See you tomorrow.

Fionn Coughlan-Wills.

Life is a String of Wordplay


NaPoWriMo #1

Life is a String of Wordplay

Delay the delays
And answer the answer
By writing by writ
So to doubt the doubt.

Fixing my fix by
Dislking dislike,
to favour all favours
and ink ink to paper.

Control control,
it is the caper of capers.

The guarantee to guarantee
to limit my limits
is all matter over matter,
is by manmade the measure.

Keep the secret secret, and by rite you’ll be better.



Pretty wide-ranging for the first one. Reminds me of W H Auden in the tone. Good old homophones.

What’s it all mean? Let me know, when you find out.

Fionn Coughlan-Wills.