The Snaggerwamps

Here is a poem I recently wrote to celebrate the centenary of the birth of one of our great writers, who is famous for his stories for children, but was a fine writer of short stories for adults too: Roald Dahl. He was well known for making up new words, so I have done likewise in my poem. There are also shades of Edward Lear here too, famous most of all for ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’, and I would be surprised if Roald Dahl was not an admirer of his work.

Who can know what the Snaggerwamps look like, or indeed Quoggy Bottom? The pictures suggest what the place may look like, but you can use your own imagination instead! After all, the river doesn’t look very purple, does it? That may be just a trick of the light!

This a poem for kids, perhaps, or for the adult’s inner child.


Down in Quoggy Bottom                                                  



The Snaggerwamps lived all the way down

the dipsy-tripsy hill in Quoggy Bottom,

having hopped away from Tattle Town

so long ago that just when I’ve forgotten.


Breakfast every evening was cabbage fish,

which they caught in the purple river

by singing their riddles of gibberish

that made all their enemies quiver.


For the Snaggerwamps had many enemies,mystical-landscape-2

as all strange creatures do,

and they’d eaten up all of the strawberries

that in Quoggy Bottom once grew.


Their language was lovely and yellow

like the sun of a June afternoon,

and they loved to sing songs to the cello,

who complained they were never in tune.


The Snaggerwamps asked lots of questions too

about this and that and who, when and why,

like what to do if your mouth’s shut with glue

or your toe’s in a cherry cheese pie;


or why is the Greater Wart-faced Scum Bum Bird so incredibly shy

and no camels are seen with three humps,

and why we are born if one day we’ll die

and toads are all covered in lumps.


So if you should meet any Snaggerwamps

when you’re frozzwuffling down in the dell,

please answer their curious questinumps

and make friends with those creatures as well.



© Terence the Troublesome Terrapin   2016

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Heart of Darkness

The following poem was published on the webzine, I Am Not A Silent Poet on 9th August 2016. Here’s the link:

The refugee crisis continues, and everyone gets on with their own lives. Although many of us are disgusted by what the refugees have to endure, governments fail to take clear and decisive action. Europeans and Americans in particular live with great wealth and privelege, much of which could be shared with suffering refugees. Yet still so little happens to relieve their suffering. Are we all essentially selfish and protective of our own interests? This poem addressteargas-calais-YouTube.jpeges the plight of unaccompanied child refugees in particular.

                                     Heart of Darkness

 Something is rotten in the states of Europe

children fighting for survival     tear-gassed

at close range

into the eyes

refugee children

down the throat.

Something is rotten in the Jungle

of democracy

and civilisation

refugee children starving

sent away from terror       to suffer in horrorunaccompanied children refugees

or be killed on the road           to a better life.

Something is rotten in the states of America

land of the free                    capital of liberty.

Is something rotten at the heart of humanity?


© David Urwin  2016



Woman’s Hour, BBC Radio 4, August 3rd, 2016.

Photos courtesy of,  and (teargas image)







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Ashamed to be white

The following poem was published on the webzine, ‘I Am Not A Silent Poet’ on 11th July 2016.

According to, ‘Police killed more than 100 unarmed black people in 2015.’ And ‘Unarmed black people were killed at 5x the rate of unarmed whites in 2015.’

Forty years ago Bob Dylan was singing (in ‘Hurricane’) about a black man, Rubin Carter, sentenced for murder by an all-white jury: ‘How can the life of such a man/ be in the palm of some fool’s hand?/ To see him obviously framed/ couldn’t help but make me feel ashamed/ to live in a land where justice is a game.’   What’s changed?

black lives matter Is his life worth more

Ashamed to be white


(in memory of Alton Sterling of Baton Rouge, Louisiana

and  Philandro Castile of St.Paul, Minnesota,

murdered by white police officers.)


‘Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.’   John Donne


It is shameful to be white.

It is shameful to be white

and not speak out.

It is shameful to be white

and not speak out against

racial abuse.

It is shameful to be white,

the colour of purity,

when so unclean.

It is shameful to be white,

the colour of innocence,

when so guilty.

It must be shameful to be white

in the home of the brave,

when some behave as cowards.

It must be shameful to be white

in the land of the free,

when so many are imprisoned

by their colour.

It is shameful to be white,

the colour of cold sterility

of those who have the power

and abuse it.

Black brother, black sister,

when the trigger is pulled,

I am ashamed to be white.

Centuries deep

and time after time

I am ashamed to be white.


© Dave Urwin 2016


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Library closures in the UK

We are going through a period of local authority austerity measures, resulting in the very short-sighted policy of closing public libraries. Well over 300 have closed since 2009, whilst others have been saved only by being taken over by community groups and staffed by volunteers. Much gratitude is owed to them.

Libraries are absolutely vital to a civilised society. Education takes place not only in schools, but for life in libraries.  At a time when it is thought that boys in particular need to be encouraged to read, and we are sliding down the world rankings in terms of educational achievement, we opt to close down one of the most vital of public services. How can we hope to develop intelligent and civilised minds without books and reading? ‘Library’ derives from the Latin for book, ‘liber, libris’, and I would say that the word ‘liberation’ does too- liberation from ignorance, prejudice and lack of imagination at the very least.

Here is the poem I wrote for a reading in aid of a community library group in my part of the world.


 Inside the building of worlds

all was there,kids in library

worlds    within words   within worlds,

a liberation

from the narrow shadowed field,

from the stricken streets,

from isolation,

from grief,

from the daily creaking mill.                                  kids' books in library

How the girl lost herself

and found herself

and lost herself again,

fed the hunger

on a simple page

in a simple chair.


How the boy’s horizons broadened                                   toddler in library

of mountains,

of desert,

of polar ice cap,

Shackleton meeting Confucius,

Peter Rabbit on board with Columbus,

Mowgli in the little house on the prairie,

Darwin discoursing with Prince Caspian;

and was that not God and Kierkegaard

in conversation?


Their minds, their imaginations

lay like fallow fields in the sun,

eager for the sowing of seeds,

thirsty for the raindrops of wisdom;

and the old man came in

out of the wind’s careless clamour

to warm himself on the world’s news.


Then all the wise men and women

of  Constantinople   Alexandria

Cordoba  and  Nalanda

wept to see

the chains of Fiscal Man

imprison the brains of new-born babies,

his setting fire to the old libraries.




© David Urwin 2016

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Earthly resurrection

Here is my very latest poem, inspired by a planting of tulips in my garden, which every year never fail to amaze and delight me. After this, I should speak no more of them.


Earthly resurrection                                                



Some may think it quite sad,

some may think it quite ‘zen’,

but I confess that I’ll be glad

to tell the world yet again

of the dusky, seductive beauty

of my sultry Queens of the Night.

I count to very nearly fiftyDSCI0021

blooms with satin sheen that quite

astound the mind with mute perfection.

Why should we look elsewhere than right here now,

this spring, this earthly resurrection?

In the mad chase we lose our sight somehow.

Soon those petals of maroon will drop awayDSCI0022

like all life. We must learn to pluck the day.



© David Urwin 2016

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Lake Como haiku sequence

I wrote these haiku, my favourite poetic form, in 2013, whilst staying by the lake. They were direct observations of what I could see and hear around me while sitting right by the lake’s edge in solitude.  Photos by Franca Panizza, who has lived all her life in a village by the lake, and by Guido Ferrari.


                                                     Lake Como haiku sequence

 Como across the grey lake


           Sunday church bells chime

        across the grey lake hills

draped in grey cloud.

Como-draped in grey cloud


the gull on the rock

             at the lapping lake’s edge-

          a dream of fish in its feet.

Como gulls

  flotilla of ducks-

invisible engine

        their feet in the lake.

Como ducks

necklace of cloud

     around the mountain

       waist deep in the lake.


Como necklace of cloud

           lake edge kingfisher

             flashing her jewels on

 flat, grey rock.



                                                    in two (three?) towns

 church bells chime mezzogiornoComo church bells 3

back and forth the lake shores.

Como village


Como church bells 2Como church bells 1

           ding dong dong ding dong

dong   church bells

      this that side the lake.


Como-yellow light

         yellow light stippling

         the grey green lake –

it comes, it goes


                    green mountain  white peaks

         blue lake sky red roofs

kingfisher’s flash.


Como cloud mtn

                   cloud white, snow peak white,

sky blue lake blue,

            breeze waves dance light.




Como lizard

after the storm

in lakeside sun the lizard –

scratching his head?

Como sunshine

© David Urwin, October 2013


Photos by Franca Panizza and Guido Ferrari





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In tune with nature?

Here follows a poem written a few years ago, but which is ever relevant to my life, as I ‘harvest’ all my own firewood and heat my cottage with a woodburner. More sticks than ever have been blown from the trees this winter.

Winter Sunday afternoons

Winter Sunday afternoons
I pick up twigs and sticks
of ash and oak and also willow
from field, garden and outgrown hedgerow
that autumn gales
have torn from the trees’ tangled tresses.

I am blessed by this necessity,
this primeval labour,
this fundamental harvest,
twice warming the body,
kindling the spirit,
distant from the clutch of money,
the claptrap diatribe of politician,
the television’s siren blether.                       DSCI0001

Yes, I am blessed
by this need for fire
that draws me out into haunt of heron,
the fox’s clandestine domain,
the snipe’s hunting grounds,
where frost-bitten air stings skin clean
under the one embracing sky.
© David Urwin 2013

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