glare back at the emptiness

This volume has been superseded by my chapbooks.

This is the second volume of my (dylan harris’s) poetry published by Potato Press. This volume is licensed by the Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike Licence (2.5).

This zip file contains Word 2000 and Publisher 2000 format files used in the last print run.

For those unwilling to use propriety software to reproduce copylefted material, you can gather the entire booklet from this site. The photograph used on the cover is shown below, followed by a copy of copyright notice, contents, ands (material not available elsewhere on this site).



introduction ii why copyleft my poetry ii Acknowledgements iii Fenland Sketch 1 1 1 2 1 3 1 4 1 The Queen Of Santa Fe 1 Driving The Trees 2 Expanding Horizons 2 Old Funeral Music 3 A Well–Kept Pint of Burton 3 The Pub Quiz League 3 I Saw A Sleek Seduction 3 Am Lemming 4 Don’t Understand 4 On Saying No 4 Vanilla 4 On Being A Nerd 4 Her Catching Eyes 5 Home Town 5 Swoop 8 1 8 2 8 3 8 4 8 5 9 Hence The Coldness 9 Lost Sanctuary 9 A Village, Old Families: 10 Introduction 10 Ceremony 10 Inn 10 Grey 10 Chance Is Such A Scornful God 10 Bright 11 Cley 11 Riddle 11 My Appreciation Of Schoenberg 11 (untitled) 11 Family Photo Album 11 Tring 11 Starr From The Outside 12 A Fenland Poet’s Advice To The British Conservative Party Of 1999 12 Dedication 12 Doris’s Day Out 12 Obligatory Cat Poem 12 An Ode To My Ego 12 An Ode To The A14 13 The Trumpet Blown 13 Slough, Pronounced In French, Is ‘slug’ 14 Accelerating Is Language English 14


Welcome to “glare back at the emptiness”, one of four small potato press collections I’m preparing.

The purpose of these collections is to raise the funds for a drink in the pub after I’ve given a reading. If I’m really lucky, I’ll may have enough left over to subscribe to a poetry magazine.

Putting this collection together, I was very surprised to realise how negative so many of my poems are. I might be turning into a grumpy old sod. Yuk. I suppose this means that if you’re looking for a sweet collection of soporific fluff, you’re out of luck.

Be warned: I’ve found the hard way I’m completely hopeless at selecting my own poetry. There are poems that I consider awful that have been published. I’ve gone back to dreadful poems after ten years to ‘hang on a sec’. There are poems I consider excellent that no–one else likes. So, apart from the outrageous drivel, I’ve kept nothing from these collections. That’s half the reason they’re so cheap.

My website is You’ll find versions of these poems there. But there is a fundamental advantage to buying a copy of the poems in this booklet rather than browsing online: I get a pint out of you. Thank you!

why copyleft my poetry

Copyleft is, if you like, guerilla marketing. If something is copylefted, it can be freely copied, modified and distributed, commercially or non–commercially. This freedom is governed by a licence, designed to ensure this freedom is not abused.

Copyleft does not exist to be guerilla marketing. It was created to defend principles of freedom, as the introduction to the Licence suggests, in particular freedom of thought and action against abusive restrictions by the owners of intellectual property rights and patents. What if a motor car manufacturer stated that you are not permitted to maintain your car, you have to use their highly expensive services? What if the car failed after five miles and you were barred from opening the bonnet to reconnect the battery? That’s how a lot of the software industry works, and that’s why the hacker’s hacker (a word given negative connotations by those scared of freedom), Richard Stallman, started the Free Software Foundation. For further information, visit the FSF website at, or read Sam Williams’s copylefted biography of Richard Stallman, “Free As In Freedom”, O’Reilly, ISBN 0–596–00287–4.

Certain reasons for copyleft do not apply to a collection of poetry. Where, in a poem, is the oil that I can charge you for changing? No, my reasons to copyleft my poetry are very different. In my collection ‘Ranting Poesie’ is a poem entitled, would you believe, ‘Copyleft’ (which can also be found on my website).

If a poetry collection is copyleft; anyone can copy and distribute it as they wish, subject to the licence. If the poetry is copied, I neither pay nor receive a penny. If a critical mass is achieved, copyleft material can conquer the world. In the computer world, the copyleft operating system Linux is global and challenging even Microsoft Windows; which is incredible when you consider it began as a hobby project of Linux Torvelds, a Finnish student. Copyleft can be very powerful.

Poetry does not make much money; even the greatest poets often need additional income. William Wordsworth was a tax collector, Ted Hughes was a farmer, and many living poets, such as Benjamin Zephaniah, lecture in poetry at universities. One does not become a poet to become rich. Poetry is rarely a source of instant success. Only certain well established poets are generally known to poetry readers. Just a few poets are known to the general population. Such general awareness usually follows years of hard poetic graft and sculpted art. Poetry is—usually—a long game.

I do have ambition; I do like people knowing about and commenting on my poetry. It’s a reward for all that creative investment, if you like. I want people to hear, read and enjoy my work. That won’t happen if they don’t know about it.

So I need good distribution. I can’t afford it myself, so I have to depend on publishers. Most poetry publishing houses are merely national, if that; all disappointingly parochial. Worse, though eminently sensible from their perspective, is that I’m an unknown uncollected poet; I would be a seriously risky investment. I’m not confident about traditional distribution.

I’m interested in the long game. I’d like to get my name and poetry known. I hope easily available modern English poetry, which can be copied, distributed, and modified, will be of interest in education. If I’m right, advanced students of English may see my work, and hopefully a few of them will like it and want more.

There are charitable reasons why copylefting poetry might be a good thing. A volume costs less to produce and distribute; there are no royalties. It becomes extremely low cost if distributed electronically. All the legal information is included in the volume, so even the most fastidious need not waste time and effort checking permissions. This makes it cheaper to put such poetry into schools and colleges, where it can assist advanced students to explore modern English literature—there’s even a clause in the licence requesting copies from to be donated to schools. There are no doubt better examples of modern English poetry out there, but I believe something—even my something—is better than nothing.

I’d always intended to copyleft my work, so I had no a problem with publishing it online at my website ( Even if I killed the site today, the Internet Archive Internet Archive ( will have copies of it, and would continue to make these copies available without successful and seriously expensive legal action. Anyone with net access can see my poetry anyway without paying me for it. Publishing a copyleft collection isn’t really a change.


I would like to thank:

  • the editors of The Citroënian, Equinox, Island, Never Bury Poetry, Orbis and Subverse for accepting some of these poems;
  • Jenni Tucker for CB1;
  • Michelle Remblance for her input to Home Town.

Accelerating Is Language English was inspired by Sir Harrison Birtwhistle’s Opera Gawain. Fenland Sketch 2 includes a reference to Iain M. Banks Culture novels.

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