Bill Greenwell—Featured Poet



If you’re employed in
Public Relations,
all you require are
thick skin, impatience,
thin conversation like
calcified chatter—
and no fear of subjects which
do not much matter.

All P.R. gurus have
warm, greasy manners,
with giant address books
and leather-bound planners:
who is to say if they’re
trained up, or not—
even their spellings need
not be so hot.

Yes, doing publicity’s
just phoning through
to people whose people know
people like you;
you don’t even need a
diploma in Fretwork
to be the great nabob
who knits up a network.

Unforeseen Consequences

If Emily Brontë
Had met Carlo Ponti,
She’d be one of those Yorkshire maids
In shades.

If Glenn Miller
Had met Friedrich Schiller,
Tuxedo Junction
Would have had a moral function.

Had Courtney Pine
Met Gertrude Stein,
His solos would have been agreeable
But unforeseeable.

That Christmas

Do you remember an inn, Joe?
The one with the landlady’s yarn?
Where the turkey was cooked, and we’d been double-booked?
Where the baby was born in a barn?

Do you remember an inn, Joe?
Where we had to bed down in the shed?
No eggs and no bacon, the rooms were all taken,
And we didn’t look very well-bred?

Do you remember an inn, Joe?
The howling? The foul stench of fur?
Where the kid couldn’t sleep for the stink of the sheep,
And three strangers turned up with some myrrh?

Do you remember an inn, Joe?
The one in the Bethlehem brochure?
One star, said the guide. Perhaps, if inside—
Even then, Joe, I doubt it was kosher.

Loose Change

It’s not that I want to change you, she said,
tying a pair of tartan slippers round his neck
in a slipknot, and fitting him with chain mail,
over which she drew a bright white chemise
with a breeze blowing through it, something
she’d picked up on eBay for a real steal.

It’s just that, here she paused to take away
the mourning clothes, the jet-black jeans
and the set of dark silk underclothes and the coal-smut
shirts he wore, out of habit, to consign them
to a bonfire, I like to be seen with someone
who brings some brightness into my life.

She took him to the launderette in a red sack
and fed him into the drum. He didn’t struggle
when she popped the silver into the slot
and sat back to watch the suds whirl round.
That night she ironed him out, like a love letter
found in a forgotten pocket. There, she said: better.


Most is cousin to moist: one good word
deserves another. The consonants give
as teeth and tongue press them, half-stirred,
together—like treading on sphagnum moss,
although both are heard:
language like this is never at a loss.
The ear must sift them both, like a sieve.

Trust and tryst are bedfellows, too,
unlikely ones, perhaps, although each one sighs
as a mattress might, under the weight of you
and me subsiding—sinking into the sheet,
each one wondering who
is whom. The grammar is often indiscreet.
But the mouth pan-handles them, like white lies.

Hoist and heist are partners, probably in crime,
sounds like theft to me, from a well:
shifting vowels in the back of a van, if I’m
any judge. They’re like shaft and shift,
don’t wish to do time:
pronounce them, and feel the jaw-bone drift
in a different way, like the tales they might tell.

As for mask, and musk, they’re merely one-nighters,
covering up for each other, unrelated by blood.
They squirm in company, like good-time blighters
on a bender. They spark and they speak
while getting tight as
whalebone ribs. Their diction is very weak.
Yet they sense your pressure, like new-dried mud.


Astonishing how one in ten
Were fooled by E. von Däniken,
Who claimed that alien astronauts
Arrived at Mayan aeroports,
Or mated with the ancients, thus
Imparting high IQs to us—
And that the Bible’s famous folks
Were really these galactic blokes
Preserved in a defining myth.
Who was it he was dealing with?
The young? The credulous? The bored?
The fashionable but deeply-flawed?
Perhaps he just appealed to those
Who get a hit from deathless prose.
Or maybe—this we have to face—
He came himself from outer space.


They clack their teeth like dodgy castanets;
They tap their toes, and fiddle with their forks,
Unfold and fold their paper serviettes,
And watch the kitchen doors like sparrowhawks.

Impatience seems to plague those diners-out
Who, once a year, dress up like fancy toffs—
Each one is hyper-anxious that their snout
Be plunged at once into the offered troughs.

They cannot wait. The kitchens, so they think,
Are only there to rush them, course by course.
They ply their partners recklessly with drink,
And tell each other, “I could eat a horse.”

No matter that next morning they’ll awake
With thumping heads. They wolf supplies of bread
In ways that guarantee them stomachache.
They watch those eating—”Should be us instead!”

They sneer at chefs. They want food fast, and first,
And set no store by culinary verve.
When plates appear, the carriers are cursed.
(They also wait who only stand and serve.)

Modern Art

Thanks. We
Used to find graffiti hard.
We use yours for a birthday card.

Antony Gormley
Makes lots of a teeny tiny figure
But sometimes does much, much bigger.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude
Wrapped ridges, islands, the Reichstag—one is awed
By the packaging—they’re the champs,
Though they couldn’t afford the stamps.

Gilbert and George
Surrealist absurds,
E.g themselves in suits, with turds.

Alfredo Jaar
Uses billboards and signs to remind us where we are.
“This is not America,” said the neon sign in Times Square.
He was right there.

Pipilotti Rist
Made a chandelier of knickers, not to be missed:
She says, “We’re permanently juicy machines.”
I know what she means.

Bill Greenwell is from North East England. After teaching for 40 years, he retired in early 2015 (he was a creative writing lecturer at The Open University). He has published four collections of poetry and parody: Tony Blair Reminds Me Of A Budgie, Spoof, Impossible Objects, and Ringers. He was New Statesman’s weekly poet from 1994 to 2002, and still writes a weekly satirical poem on He’s entered the UK weekly competitions every week since 1978, and is researching the first 10 years of New Statesman’s competition. He also runs the online Poetry Clinic.