Tom Duckworth and Jay McLeod

Let me tell you about two poetry ebooks from August last year. 

Composed mainly of anagrams and rearrangements of words, Tom Duckworth’s Happy Fat Children and Protein Enhancers creates idiosyncratic, off-kilter poems out of road signs, bank notes and crisp packets.  The author describes his poems as “mathematical problems to which I have found a particular solution for.” 

It’s a very interesting concept, and I’ve never seen anything like this done before.  When I interviewed Tom for the Philistine Press blog, I asked him why he found anagrams so appealing. 

He said, “I’m fascinated by the butterfly effect and how one event leads to the unfolding of several others (I think the film Sliding Doors perfectly explains what I would try and describe here). With that in mind I thought about it in the context of just letters and words. I’m quite into the idea of somehow capturing a single moment where a collection of words has come together for some reason. I thought to myself, ‘why not try and create a poem to mark out the event of all these letters appearing together’. It then seemed fitting that the poem should only contain the letters that were present at the time and so my collection of anagram poems began.

“I did expand by using groups of words that didn’t necessarily appear together in a captured photograph, but words that somehow share a common link with one another. I also figured that perhaps more people would be able to connect with the poems if they were familiar with the words or letters they were built from.” 

Sample poem:

Cut-out hero 

The queen stares! Across checked land,

Religious service rechristened at her side

Castles, limbs of stone, advance

soon shatter to ruled ruins

Sixteen hooves fight,

clash, rider spirit fiery

Royalty rooting sacrifice,

cop out & plot over coco

Read the full collection online, including all of Tom’s original source material. 


Jay McLeod’s The Republic of Naught is a collection of sharp, funny, angry poems about the struggle to resist conformity while working through a string of dead end jobs.  

One obvious influence for this collection is Charles Bukowski.  Like Bukowski’s work, McLeod’s poems are drawn from his own personal experience but aren’t necessarily what you would call “autobiography”.  If I had the chance to interview Bukowski from beyond the grave, I would ask him whether or not he considered the voice in his poems to be himself or an invented persona.  I posed this same question to Jay McLeod. 

Jay said, “I would say there is a minimum of artifice to what I write. I write because I need to. A persona would get in the way of that. The creative energy required to create and maintain a persona would detract from the contents of the poems – i.e. the images and events, etc would not be as fully realized because the focus would be inward (on the persona) rather than outward, or on the subject of the poem. I see the poems as largely independent of me. When writing I try to help them along as best as I can, and not get too much in their way.

“The poems aren’t necessarily factual or drawn from my own experience, but speak to the kinds of things I wonder about or am concerned about. I’ve got some poems about murder told from the point of view of the killer. I have never killed anybody (yet!) but curiosity causes me to write about it. The voice is mine, but the perspective isn’t – nor could it be.

“I see the poems as an extension of my “natural” being. The “me” that works my job is not discrete from the “me” that does housework or interacts with neighbours or writes poetry. If anything, these activities (and attendant states of being) all feed into one another.

“To put it another way: it’s all part of the same cloth.”

Sample poem:

Notes From Abroad During Hurricane Season

they’re sleeping on their roofs

to get out of the water

a couple of lean months

at least

half a world away

we bicker about municipal politics

and “The Return of the Sequels”

ever myopic

held in thrall by

failed applications

character assassinations

faked celebrity weddings

a puppet government

fallen to insurgents

the hatchet man in another country

living off the rented time

of soldiers and pollsters

it seems anything but real from here

all the worlds a gas

when your home’s washed away

and you haven’t the wages to rebuild

at least the weather’s pleasant there most of the time


we maintain radio silence

we watch the damage in advance

the hurricane’s path

in the space of a single day

via satellite

several thousand swept out to sea

failed by geography

tropical out-ports

the men and women

a generation now disappeared

from the edge of the world

beyond the verges

of anything we know

or would care to watch

for longer than ten consecutive minutes

Read the full collection here

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