Category Archives: Education

Go tell the bees.


Apparently, when the monarch dies, the royal beekeeper has to go and tell the bees of their passing. They have to ask the bees not to fly away and to keep making honey. Because, a new monarch will be along shortly who will look after them just as well as the last one. True story.

Anyway, I thought I’d write a poem about this bewildering event. And, in doing so, may have inadvertently stumbled across the title of my next collection of poetry!

Go tell the bees.

By David Milligan-Croft.

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Go tell the bees

The queen is dead!

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Go tell the bees

That their mistress has passed.

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Go tell the bees

Not to journey to the spirit world.

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Go tell the bees

The spirits have already welcomed her there.

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Go tell the bees

The living need them here.

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Go tell the bees

Not to stop making their precious honey.

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Go tell the bees

That a new master is coming.

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Go tell the bees

His name is King Charles III.

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Go tell the bees

That he will take care of them.

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Go tell the bees

The queen is dead! Long live the king!

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* * *

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Go, royal beekeeper,

To Buckingham and Clarence.

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Tie your black ribbons

Around the white wooden hives.

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Knock gently upon their roofs

And whisper into their cells,

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That their queen is dead

And they shall not believe you.

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For, she is here, they will proclaim.

Alive and well,

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Tending her hive,

As she has always done.

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Mix Tape


Hands up, who remembers mix tapes?

I found one the other day, while I was emptying boxes, that an old girlfriend had made for me in the 90s. I couldn’t play it, of course, as I don’t have a tape deck anymore. Or a record player. Or a CD player. In fact, I don’t ‘physically’ own any music. It’s all in the ether. Intangible. Owned by Apple, Spotify, Youtube or some other super corporation.

It got me thinking about how I would go about making one now, if I felt the urge to translate my love through the medium of music to my new-found paramour.

So I wrote a poem about it. As you do.

Then I had an epiphany!

Why not go ahead and actually make the mix tape as part of the poem.

For ‘mix tape’, I mean playlist, obviously. So, here you are. 

(The link to the playlist is at the end.)

Mix Tape.

By David Milligan-Croft

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Don’t talk to me about love;

I was making mix tapes before you were born.

Speaking of which, just how old are you?

I may look old, but inside, I feel 33 1/3.

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It was easier to record from vinyl.

That way you could avoid abrupt endings. 

Fade in, fade out, like a Grandmaster Flash.

If you were slick, you might include excerpts

Of dialogue from old movies,

Or from great speeches like- ‘I have a dream!’

…That one day you’ll kiss me!

(Not sure that’s what MLK had in mind.)

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Recording off the radio was an art form.

You’d need the dexterity of a nuclear fission scientist

And a Watergate wiretapper to operate 

Play, pause and record simultaneously,

Before some schmaltzy DJ chimed in with his drivel.

And if your tape got chewed up

From too much stopping and starting,

You’d have to pull it all out until you found the kinks,

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Straighten it, then stick a pencil in the spool 

And rewind it all back in again.

Praying it doesn’t happen while she’s listening to 

Je t’aime moi non plus.

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I hope you like it.

It took me a whole weekend to put together.

Quite good fun though. Reminiscing, and all that.

I imagine you listening to it in your bedroom.

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Lying on your bed, looking up at the ceiling.

Your long, velvet hair cascading over the pillow,

Thinking of me, thinking of you. 

Except we’re not Gainsbourg and Birkin.

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The lyrics say things I never could,

Would or should. And are more self-indulgent 

Than a box of Thorntons. But what can I do?

I’m just a 20th Century Boy in love with a 21st century girl.

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για τη δέκατη μούσα μου

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Mann Up


Sally Mann is an American photographer who courted controversy with her ‘family life‘ series, due to nude depictions of her children growing up at their home in Virginia. And whether the photographs overtly sexualised children.

I haven’t included those shots here, but if you want to, you can see them by visiting Sally Mann’s website. In my opinion they are beautiful and sensitive. And many of us will recognise moments like them from our own children growing up. The controversy isn’t really about child nudity but more about consent to put them in the public domain.

Regardless of this, Mann’s work is challenging, provocative and defiant. And her compositions raise more questions than answers. Below is a selection of powerful shots I wanted to share with the class.

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The Perfect Poetry Antidote


Friday is Library Day for patients on Arden Ward at Stepping Hill Hospital.

And, if you didn’t know already, reading is very good for your mental health. (Probably not if it’s by Piers Morgan or the Tory party manifesto, mind.)

Reading quality literature and poetry, however, is proven to alleviate stress and anxiety.

Quite serendipitously, I came across this collection of poetry by Mary Dickins entitled Happiness FM. I thought her poem, ‘How to administer a poem in an emergency’ was perfectly apt for the group. So, I thought I’d share it with you.

And here is the poem from whence the collection takes its name.

Of course, our visits to the library aren’t just about reading. They’re about social interaction and doing other mindful activities.

While I was writing this post on a rainy Sunday evening in Stockport, a haiku came to mind. So, I’m going to share that with you as well.

The pitter-patter

Of rain outside my window –

Nature’s melody.

Night, night.

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Dandelion Clock – new poem.


‘Nebular’ by Maria Popova.

This poem was inspired by an article I read on The Marginalian by Maria Popova about G.K. Chesterton, called ‘The Dandelion and the Meaning of Life.’

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Dandelion Clock

By David Milligan Croft

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I searched for the meaning of life

In philosophers’ books.

I looked for a reason for being

In great religious texts.

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But I could not find anything

To assuage the frustration

As to the point

Of my own existence.

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The sun dimmed

On the page I was writing,

As the Earth slowly rotated me away,

Into the shadows.

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And there it was, shimmering

In the fading light of dusk.

A dandelion clock, swaying

Gently in a summer zephyr.

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Its seed pods lifting off 

Into the atmosphere,

Like the universe itself

Exploding into life.

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The wind would carry it

To its destination –

It did not need to worry what it should be

Or where it might be going.

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I searched for the meaning of life,

And found it in a dandelion clock –

Either, it is all important,

Or none of it is.

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I was looking for heaven,

And realised I am already here,

For the briefest, most glorious

Moments in time.

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And the point of existence,

Is to have existed at all.

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Hawks over Haworth


Hawk hovers over

Wuthering moors, searching for

Cathy’s eidolon.

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Exquisite Corpse


Exquisite Corpse, or Cadavre Exquis, to give it its original French title, started out as a surrealist writing game in 1920s Paris. The name comes from a line in one of the original games: “The exquisite corpse will drink the new wine.” Penned by Andre Breton.

It’s quite simple really, you just write a sentence and then fold it over (leaving part of the sentence uncovered) and pass it on. The next person carries on where you left off. Obviously, you need a few people to do it. Four is a good number. At the end of the page, or whenever you feel like stopping, unfold the paper and read it as one complete piece. I can guarantee you it will be surreal.

You’ve probably already played the pictorial version of the game as a kid, (or with your kids). It’s the same principle – you draw the head and shoulders of a person or creature then fold it over. The next person draws the torso and the next draws the legs and feet.

I remember playing this game in a restaurant in Dublin once. Me and three friends/colleagues went for lunch at one o’clock and left at two. Not an hour later, but 13 hours later. (We had dinner as well.) We didn’t play the game for the whole 13 hours, but it did wile away the time between blinis and Bellinis. 

Why am I telling you this? Well, you should try it. It’s fun. I’ve played it at various arts groups over the years and it’s always gone down well. And, because a colleague of mine played it recently with her flatmates and I thought what they wrote was brilliant so I wanted to share it with the class.

“The clouds above parted, like the Red Sea, revealing the beautiful, chiselled face on the moon. The man who lived a monochrome and solitary life. The lonely lifestyle of a duck on water; the only ripple on the pond. What a privilege it is to revel in the wonder of nature – and forget, for a second, the pain of being alive. In contrast the joys make it all worthwhile. I sit on the edge pondering what I dreamt about last night. The shapeless figure slipping through the doorway, watching me sleep. I dream of my own life, of starting all over again, and doing everything the same. In monotony I finally found peace. Then I woke up. The crushing weight of reality on my eyelids, as I wrench myself from the dark. The worst thing about me is that I’m afraid to open my eyes again, to look up at the dark side of the moon, shining judgement down on me. I thought only Jesus could judge what was right or wrong, but this proved me “wrong”. Everything in my life had led to this point. It was the most important moment in all my time. I finally did it – I took a deep breath and forgave myself for the choices I made whilst just trying to please others. I should have just prioritised myself, it seems like everyone else does. I can’t be like everyone else – or do I risk becoming a shadow of my former self. Oh, how I miss how I blossomed in the sunshine.  Now I wither as the Seasonal Affective Disorder gets to me. I should get a lamp. Something to light the way, from the darkness of which I crawled.” 

I think Breton et al would have been proud.

And the relevance of Florence + The Machine?

This is a post about surrealism.

There doesn’t have to be any.

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The 10th Muse


There were nine muses in ancient Greek mythology. Daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, they were the divine inspiration behind human artistic and scientific endeavour. Calliope is probably the most well known, she is the muse responsible for inspiring heroic/epic poetry. Erato is the inspiration behind love poetry.

Because I love art, a couple of years ago, I promised myself I would do some form of art every day. Whether it be a few lines of poetry or prose, a sketch, doodle or a painting – or even taking a photograph. I think I do two types of art – conscious and unconscious.

When I consciously do something, I think about what it is I want to paint, how I want to paint it, materials, medium, etc. And I have an image in my mind’s eye about what I want to achieve. Invariably, I am slightly disappointed with the finished piece because it never lives up to the ambition of my imagination. The enjoyment was in doing it in the first place.

The second type is my unconscious art. I pick up whatever is at hand and just express myself without thinking about it. Whether it be in words or brushstrokes. I tend to get more satisfaction out of this kind of work because I don’t have any preconceived standard I was hoping to meet in my mind.

And it is this work that I sometimes question whether it is actually ‘me’ who is doing it. Or, rather my unconscious connection to the rest of the energy of the universe that my own sub-atomic particles are inextricably linked with. My Divine Muses, if you like. I am merely a conduit to put the marks on paper, canvas, or pizza box lid. (My muses do like a lot of pizza.)

Yeah, I’m aware that all sounds a bit pretentious and hippy-trippy, but you can’t escape the fact that our subconscious selves have an awful lot to say if you only let them speak.

Anyhoo, here’s what the muses wanted me to say recently…

Frida Kahlo inspired by the novel “The Lacuna” by Barbara Kingsolver.
Inspired by The Gorillaz and the war in the Ukraine.
‘Noodle’, inspired by the Gorillaz and Euterpe.
‘Peppa loves jumping in bloody puddles,’ inspired by a recent court case in Russia over copyright.
Inspired by patients at Stepping Hill Hospital where I work.
Ditto for this one.
And this one.
Inspired by the Divine Proportion, or Golden Ratio.
Inspired by Ourania.
Inspired by Melpomene.
Inspired by Polymnia.

I am very passionate about the act of ‘doing’ art being the most important aspect of it, rather than the end result. I see the benefits of this in patients with mental illness all the time. Yes, it can be insightful, but it doesn’t have to be. It can just be mindful, cathartic, meditative, expressive. And most importantly, you don’t have to be good at art to do it – it’s about the process, not the result.

Because, when you open yourself up and let the muses in – be they divine, subconscious, or Earthly, that’s when you really feel the joy of doing art.

Oh, and the 10th Muse?

For me, it’s the Golden Ratio.

More on her another time.

I don’t think there is a muse of epic tidying.

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The Runes of Scars


Well, hello there.

It’s been a while.

Just thought I’d share a few haiku with the class.

Languid river flows

past weeping willows and pink

cherry blossom trees.

_________________________

Vapour trails scratch the

deep, blue sky – a pair of larks

glide without a trace.

_________________________

Was it a petal

or a butterfly, caught on

a summer zephyr?

_________________________

Then, there’s this…

I tried to flesh it out into a haiku. But the more words I added, the less powerful they became. So, I’ll leave it alone.

Suffering is written in the runes of scars.

__________________________

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Blackout poetry – as mindfulness.


What Blackout Poetry actually is, versus what I think it is, could be two completely different things. I could Google a definition of it, but I can’t be arsed.

My interpretation of Blackout Poetry is where you take an original piece of text, then ‘black out’ the majority of the text to create a new piece of text. Kind of like what Mi6 does to official government documents.

I reckon folks got a bit bored of doing this after a while, so they started adding colour and doodling around the highlighted text to add a bit of spice to it.

As you’ve probably noticed by now, the original source material for my Blackout Poetry is a Harry Potter novel by J.K. Rowling. Now, before J.K. fans become apoplectic with rage for desecrating one of her sacred tomes, in my defence, the edition I had was damaged beyond use. (I.E. Some of the pages were waterlogged and were illegible.) Plus we had another copy.

As we all know, books are only meant to be read. Unless it’s a colouring book. In which case, you can, well… colour it in. Or a sketchbook. You can’t really read that either. Or a photography book… Look, the point is, I don’t advocate destroying perfectly readable books for the sake of art. Unless, of course, it was written by Piers Morgan.

The text you leave highlighted – or legible, doesn’t have to make sense if you don’t want it to. The point of this exercise is to practise a bit of mindfulness.

Just pull out a few words that speak to you then doodle around them. You can use felt tips, pencil crayons, watercolours, pastels, collage, acrylics, whatever you like.

You can do abstract shapes, geometric patterns or something more illustrative and representative.

Bit of a cheat this one, as I haven’t really highlighted any text, just used it as a background.

Obviously, actually composing a compelling piece of blackout poetry out of existing text can be quite challenging, but that’s not really the purpose of this exercise. This is to lose yourself in the act of creating something new and different out of something that already exists. A creative springboard if you like.

The original text doesn’t have to be from a book either. You can use a newspaper or magazine. Or your granny’s will. Whatever’s handy.

I’ve done this mindulness exercise with patients at the hospital, adult art groups and children alike.

And remember, don’t worry about the end result, it’s the act of doing that’s important. Losing yourself in the process is the objective.

Now get out there and start ripping up your mam’s latest thriller.

(Top tip: start from the back.)

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