Day 23 — Shakespeare & birds & eccentrics: but no rabbits 

23 scotland-starling-murmuration

April 23 is, as I said Monday (Plague Lear), Shakespeare’s birthday/deathday/choose-your-own-anniversary-day. Each year I write something Bill-affiliated. This is the reserve idea mentioned then even though it’s been in my mind for several years ever since reading an article about … well, see below.

A second part  2. Austin’s rabbits, exploring the introduction of rabbits to Australia is also intended, but owing to: a) part 1’s length; b) my inability to reduce a); & c: my weariness, I’m only going to upload part 1. Part 2, although currently incomplete, I still see very much as a companion to this poem. When a first draft of it is finalised, it might help me work out what to trim here.


the law of unintended consequences: Schieffelin’s starlings & Austin’s rabbits

1. Schieffelin’s starlings

i. 1596, London
Shakespeare penning Henry IV, Part 1 :
Hotspur plots to drive Harry nuts
by teaching a starling to repeat
his brother-in-law Mortimer’s name
till he is released from Welsh prison.
the only reference to the bird
in all the Bard’s eclectic opus
— a throwaway line from a country
twitcher turned urban playwright.

ii. 1890, New York
March 6, 1890, Central Park
German immigrant, Bronx resident,
wealthy American businessman,
gentleman, (eccentric) drug manufacturer
American Acclimatization Society member,
& Shakespearian aficionado or fanatic
depending on who you ask
— Eugene Schieffelin —
decided it would be a lark
to introduce (imported from
the Old World at great expense)
every bird spoken in Shakespeare
to North America.

& so 100 birds fly off
into the virgin new world blue

iii. Now
numbering over 200 million
from Alaska to Mexico
these lean mean feathered bullets
do nothing in moderation.
the Rocky Balboas of bird boxing
fierce fighters for nest cavities
regularly muscle out native birds
& blamed for their population declines.
willing & able to eat anything
breed with disconcerting vigour.
— have brought down planes
cost US agriculture a billion a year
steal cows’ grain condensing milk production.

iv. Retrospect
Schieffelin’s attempts
to introduce skylarks
bullfinches, chaffinches, & nightingales
were thankfully, unsuccessful.
however, starlings, sparrows, & pigeons
remain the only unprotected avine
in North America (all introduced)
their numbers in total more
than all other birds combined.

no doubt had he future-known
Bill would have taken up
his quill
& struck
said references from his pages
most vigourously.



Note: some scholars reject the theory that Schieffelin belonged to a group dedicated to introducing into America all the birds mentioned in Shakespeare’s works wanting to hear them warbling their old world songs on the limbs & branches of America … but I have used it irregardless because, poetry. Everything else is as factual as my research can make it.

Day 20 — positive thinking while in lockdown

William Shakespeare writing at home

I was saving this idea for the 23rd (Shakespeare’s birthday/deathday/chose-your-own-anniversary-day) when I usually write something Shakey-related. Anyhoo this was an idea I thought I might explore then, but it poured out of me today, so we’ll just deal with it. (I do have another idea in reserve, or perhaps something entirely new will pop out.)

Also thanks to a poet whose work I hugely admire, as well as being a dear friend, for saying he’s been enjoying reading my poems. He was particularly kind about this year’s Easter Sunday poem saying it “abided with [him]” & it’s been returning to his mind often over the last few days. He’s even left it open in his browser to be able to come back to it. Thank you Tom. That means the absolute world to me. It often feels during this mad month that you’re writing in & to a vacuum; and that much of what gets created is pedestrian at best, or merely not-quite-average, so even if only one or two poems fire during the month, it feels like a success.


Plague Lear 

if, like me,your mediocrity valve is already open
full trickle then saccharine motivational memes
such as Shakespeare wrote Lear during the plague 

aren’t.   bloody.   helping.   one.   poxy.   bit.

well take a modicum of heart cos the reality is
Shakey dates are always shaky at best but Lear
probably doesn’t quite pass the jester test

sure, Lear was most likely written in 1606
it was entered into the Stationers’ Register that year
& contemporary events seem referenced within

yet 1606 wasn’t such a big deal as pandemics go
— most every year had a bitta Black Death — the Great Plague*
didn’t hit til 65 & the Sweet Swan was long gone

1603 was the go to year for things bubonic in Bill’s life
& all our country boy turned out then was (chortle)
Measure for Measure — yes, one of the “problem plays”

if you really want to feel insecure (& no doubt you do)
consider that 1606 might’ve been the year not only
of Lear — but Macbeth — & Antony & Cleopatra too

                                                     Bing.   Bang.   Boom!



*Between 1603 and 1665, only four years had no recorded cases of plague. 

The Great Plague of 1665-66 was actually the second plague to be so known; the first was in 1625 & was known as the Great Plague until it was surpassed in deaths by the “final” Great Plague.

Plague was par for the course for everyone in those days is what I’m saying.

Day 23 – poem about idols

shakespeare_by_lastfirstkiss CROP

Unexpectedly found myself grapepicking for a few hours yesterday. Oddly, it’s not as much fun as I remember it (& I don’t remember it being any fun at all). All of which point to the fact that I was bone-tired & sore when I got home last night, & although the pome had been written, WordPress was as slow & creaky as I was, & so when midnight ticked over I thought, stuff it, I’ll just have a wee nap & post it early in the am (when I invariably wake up & wonder why I’m not sleeping). This did not happen. I slept very well.

Then most of today was spent writing & researching, until I’m now under the pump to get two NaPoWriMo posts up before midnight. Oh irony, your name is Alanis.


everyone thinks
they know you
despite how little
anyone does
just make it up
facts don’t matter
only selling
outrageous lies
books to fuel
the author’s

still no idea
what you’ve
done to me
your name
in my skin
tattooed it
above my heart
the shadow
i am always

Day 23 – Ode

Given that Billy Boy’s birthday (maybe) & death day falls in the middle of NaPoWriMo, I usually like to write something Bard-related.

This year, I’m focussing on the famous joke about the school kid who was studying Macbeth complained: “I dunno know why my teacher says Shakespeare was such a good writer.  Everything he writes is a cliché.”

As is often the case with these collage poems, it has clunky patches (which would have been softened if I didn’t give myself Game 1, below) but I think in a future rewrite could be smoothed out to give me sense.

Two games for readers:

1. How have the clichés been arranged?

2. One play is not mentioned … this is not for want of trying, but dozens of websites listing famous phrases that have passed into cliche territory, not one listed a recognisable or common phrase people would easily recognise. Very strange. I even skim read most of the play, trying to find one I could pinch. Nada. There is a prize for those who can name the play (haha, there is no prize except the joy of satisfaction).

The Bard of Cliche

& so I step Into thin air, a Brave new world
Such stuff as dreams are made on —
Strange bedfellows, Make a virtue
of necessity As good luck would have it
I am no longer a Laughing stock
The world’s mine oyster I Refuse
to budge an inch Something in the wind
Makes me As merry as the day is long
& that’s the Obscene Zany Naked truth
Fancy-free, Swift as a shadow
But With bated breath, I wait
Even though Love is blind Truth will out
I could Hold a candle to your Pound of flesh
Forever and a day Cannot get
Too much of a good thing
All the world’s a stage
All of a sudden, Bedazzled
You Break the ice Kill with kindness
It’s Cold comfort to know
All’s well that ends well
As you Laugh yourself into stitches
Out of the jaws of death Leaving my face
— As white as driven snow.

I must Play fast and loose
There is no Elbow room To keep
my Spotless reputation as a Night owl
Yet Give the devil his due
Set my teeth on edge The game is afoot
He has Eaten me out of house and home
It’s an ill wind which blows no man to good
A heart of gold, Faint hearted
Mum’s the word, Tongue tied
Tongue, Dead as a doornail
Tongue, A tower of strength
For goodness sake

It’s Fashionable to say Good riddance
to the Devil incarnate
A fool’s paradise A wild goose chase
Parting is such sweet sorrow
We have seen better days
A dish fit for the gods Masters of their fate
Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war
I am constant as the Northern Star
Milk of human kindness
Live long day All our yesterdays
in One fell swoop we Double double
toil and trouble Be-all and the end-all
Crack of doom Knock knock! Who’s there?
To thine own self be true
In my heart of hearts
In my mind’s eye There’s the rub
Nothing can come of nothing
& so we Come full circle
Where everything is
A foregone conclusion