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Gap Year by Andy Blackford & John Foggin | SPM Publications Poetry



Middlesbrough, 1966: The young new English teacher, John Foggin, rolled into the Lower Sixth’s Eng. Lit. lesson like a Dyson* into a world of broken Hoovers.  Joyce and Shelley and Gerard Manley Hopkins danced in his wake, vividly alive and slightly intoxicated. That’s how it seemed to 16 year-old Andy Blackford, anyway.

Almost 50 years later, they were reunited here in Staithes. Foggin was already a much-lauded poet - Blackford’s prime contribution to high culture, the TV jingle for Um Bongo.

They resolved to write a poem each, every week for a year. The result is Gap Year, a collection that has won them the SPM Publications Poetry Book prize.




“Both these poets display the art of being present, acutely observing both the urban and rural worlds they know well, and above all, their keen humanity. From Cuthbert to Todmorden to Captain Oates, Cuttlefish Common to the Red Brick Cafe, its range is extraordinary, its vocabulary as wide. These are storytellers whose originality we admire, whose company we covet.


- Hilary Elfick | Author of An Ordinary Storm and  The  Third Mile.


“This is a rollicking to and fro of poems, taking in , amongst other things, Christ and Bodhidharma, colostomies and the sea, a grandfather’s cardigan, Einstein, and the 'lovely generosities of summer’.


 - Maitreyabandhu | Author of The Crumb Road and Yarn.


“Less a duet and more of a flock, "Gap Year" speaks with a host of individual voices, all combining to a single, powerful call. Various, from still to raucous, from humorous to heartbreaking; shot through with moments of brilliance and playfulness; this is a collection which was born in connection and which, fittingly, will leave you moved, challenged and comforted; closer to the world and those who live in it; somehow richer”


 - Clare Shaw | Author of Straight Ahead and Head On.


“In this collection of questioning and explorative poetry, the worlds of now and beyondness, enigmatic yet centring on the immediate, are transformed into something approaching a nightmare reality in which the concrete is made disconcertingly abstract, and vice versa. The application of an almost metaphysical wit, leavened by touches of humour, serves to make the writing subtle and nuanced: sometimes gently lyrical in its musings; and at other times hard-edged and disturbing in its raw perceptiveness. Both states are explored via a wide range of structures; a palette of richly-appropriate diction which luxuriates in colour; startling imagery; and skilful lineation. This is a candid and honest poetic partnership. Its fruits are of the highest order.”

 - Roger Elkin | Author of Marking Time  and  Blood Brothers.


Gap Year by Andy Blackford and John Foggin

  • Paperback: 86 pages

  • Publisher: SPM Publications (28 April 2017)

  • Language: English

  • ISBN-13: 978-0-9935035-4-2

    £8.00 + P&P |
    Please allow up to 7 days for delivery in the UK, 14 days in Europe and 28 days rest of the world.


    A Charm 

    If you would grow comfrey,

    arrowroot, valerian,

    coltsfoot, camomile or yarrow.


    Take the jawbone of a woman

    died of childbed, and bury it

    teeth down in well-turned loam

    a full four-handsbreadths deep.


    Water with the rinsings

    of the mother’s linen, and sow.

    Dust with the ashes of a holly fire.


    Each night for seven nights

    from the moment that the seedlings set,

    in the month of misted moons


    sing softly from an opera

    that you love. Not Wagner, though.

    Not him. Something Italian.



    About Death


    For the life of us, we can’t fathom Death.

    It’s too dark and wide, spills over the rim

    of any notion with pretensions to contain it.


    Tsunamis earthquakes and volcanoes

    (which cause the deaths of multitudes)

    with some unimagining can be compressed

    into the zip file called Disasters

    lending distance if not rendering them more sufferable.


    But Death itself deletes such software

    making void all comprehension. 

    There is no contemplating Death

    because the eye that sees it blinds itself.


    It is the stateless state

    the raven of the hologram

    the sediment, tasteless, odourless

    left at the bottom of the flask

    when all the chemistry is done.

    John Foggin, a retired teacher, advisor and lecturer (Andy Blackford was one of his students, long ago), lives in West Yorkshire, writes a poetry blog:  the great fogginzo’s cobweb and jointly organises the Puzzle Poets Live in Sowerby Bridge. 


    His poems have won first prizes in competitions judged by three different Poets Laureate. He has authored four pamphlets and chapbooks. A prize winner in the 2016 Poetry Business Book and Pamplet Competition, his first full collection, Much Possessed was published by smith|doorstop in November 2016.

    Andy Blackford enjoyed careers as a rock guitarist and advertising creative director before applying himself seriously to writing.

    He is the author of two novels and many children’s books and was a longtime columnist on Runner’s World magazine for which he ran the world’s toughest foot race, the Marathon des Sables.

    Nowadays he works as a prison chaplain and is training for Ordination in the Triratna Buddhist Community.

    He took up writing poetry when he re-connected with his A Level English teacher, John Foggin, after losing contact for more than 40 years.  

    He is married and lives in Cambridge.    

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