Nigel Pounds, Katesgrove Poet

When Oscar Wilde visited the Huntley & Palmers biscuit factory in 1892, he simply wrote ‘poet’ as his profession in the visitors’ book. It is this affirmation that I think poets first crave; simply to be called a poet. Nigel Pounds is a poet bubbling with enthusiasm about his new work tentatively titled ‘my response to’. His 2015 fat volume called Spark was a vivid, angry, albeit romantic look at the injustices of love and life. Nigel says his new work is even better.

Nigel’s poetry is both readable and understandable, with no inherent mysticism or cant. It’s personal, revealing and veers between shadow and light with humour and a political edge. The frustration with the modern world and his own foibles are tangible, but there is a hint of optimism. Nigel is a blue and white hooped hearted working class lad originally from Tilehurst, raised on lardy cake and stolen wine and some of his work has a definite local identity.

I am not sure how all his friends and family feel about the poems but he assures me his poetry is at the very least “tolerated” by kith and kin. Nigel once read one of his poems (“This is the summer”) on BBC Newsnight and has had some of his work set to music on the album ‘The Original Human Mind’ in collaboration with influential local musician Jason Applin.

Some of his new poems are included here together with some from his old collection Spark. More can be found on Nigel’s website and Facebook page.

I met Nigel for pint or few of golden ale at Katesgrove’s proper red brick ale fortress, the Hop Leaf, to pose some probing questions. I am happy to report that unlike most poets, he did buy a round.

[Matthew] What do you think of the Blade?
[Nigel] It’s a one-peg attempt at a Manhattan skyline.

What compels you to write poetry?
Truth, honesty and to get things off my chest. I can’t write about things I don’t care for.

Have you ever eaten lardy cake?
Yes loved it – haven’t had it for years and years but growing up as a Tilehurst boy, I loved it.

I notice things

Sat here, I notice things
Like odd socks, a flash of leg
Varicose veins, the shiny shoes
Of the men in suits
Busybodies busying

Cyclists frantically pedalling
Mother’s frowns, babes crying
The not-so-urgent call
The jangle of absent change
How empty pockets appear full

The dust to throat on the baking
Sun, wind, rain and snow
Staggering stags, their bling
Gaggles of hens, a missing ring
I notice things, but go unnoticed

From ‘Spark’ by Nigel Pounds.

Is Katesgrove an inspiration for your poetry?
The people of Katesgrove are certainly an inspiration.

When did you start to write?
When I was about 15 years of age; crap mostly and they are hidden deep in a suitcase which I may give an airing as a photo for my next work.


The madness of love consumes
I hear its song, breathe in the fumes
Can think of nothing else but you
And know you feel it too
We cannot show our passion
Although it is evident for all to see
In wanting this for us we hurt
Draw out a sad conspiracy
Denial is found everywhere
The path a rough and scarring trail
My heart is so completely snared
I want to be with you, right now

From ‘my response to’ by Nigel Pounds.

What poets do you admire?
Larkin, Hilaire Belloc, Edward Thomas and Betjeman. Carol Anne Duffy and Simon Armitage are pretty good modern poets. Betjeman is unfairly derided for being clearly understood and rhyming. I don’t like playing mind games with people. It is good if it’s concise and shares the human experience.

Is your poetry cathartic?
Yes, absolutely.

Are you nervous when you give a reading?
I am nervous reading it, nervous writing it and nervous talking about it.

Do you fear appearing pretentious?
I do fear being laughed at for being pretentious. I am conscious that poetry is pretty old-fashioned in a way but it does live on in music lyrics. I do prefer musicians and artists to other poets! I am just a normal bloke from Reading who wants to say what he feels.

Do you want to constantly revisit or revise what you have written?
I can’t leave it alone.


I really do, I really do believe that

We all have a spark – it’s why we are here
In some of us it’s obvious, in others less clear
For some it burns bright, for others it’s dim
All of us possess our own special thing

Some find it comes easy, some find it hard
Scratching at words that they then discard
Some refuse to accept it, others implore
Some approach it lazily and some ignore
Some are blessed by it, others are scarred

Some waste it, some make the most
Savouring long the seconds grossed
Some do it down, others celebrate
Some forge alone and some collaborate
Some carry it modestly, others like to boast

I really do, I really do believe that

We all have a spark – it’s why we are here
In some of us it’s obvious, in others less clear
For some it’s a plan, for others a whim
All of us possess our own special thing

From ‘Spark’ by Nigel Pounds.

What is the “obvious” referred to in the eponymous poem in Spark?
It is what you have denied for so long and suddenly you get a realisation that it’s what you should have been doing and that is what is “obvious”.

Are you terrified at the prospect of your own mortality?
No I’m not – I’m kind of relaxed about it really.

What influences either musical or literary have influenced your writing?
I love Dexy’s Midnight Runners. I think Kevin Rowland is a genius. I love old soul music and the bands I grew up with. I think most poets and artists are frustrated musicians and rock stars. This one is anyway.

Are you immensely proud of Spark?
No, ‘cos I always go back and think of some way of improving it. I think it’s good but the new stuff is really much better.


To reminisce is wonderful
But it is often a trick of memory
You kid yourself that things were
So much better way back then

Reading Festival ’89 – it’s not quite true
You fondly remember sharing a cold beer
On a hot summer’s afternoon, but
She never saved a drop for you

From ‘Spark’ by Nigel Pounds.

Do you still love Reading?
I love Reading. I am the biggest defender of Reading; it’s an amazing place. I don’t like the post code snobbery against Whitley and other places. I volunteered for the Princes Trust last year and I dealt with kids from all over with loads of problems and got on with them very well. People are far too quick to be dismissive or nasty about not-so-wealthy parts of the town. They have their own history and culture like anywhere else.

When and where do you write your poetry?
Anytime and usually at the most inconvenient time; I can’t do it to order. Sometimes I am really on it and can do five poems a week – not that they are all good. I am an insomniac, so in the middle of night, sometimes on the bus or even in a meeting at work. I don’t feel in charge of it – I’m just channelling it.

How many fridge magnets do you own?
Several; a lot of them from France. I love France and French people.

Is beer an inspiration?
A couple of beers can be an inspiration, but too many and you can’t read your own writing. I have never taken drugs or LSD or anything.

Happiness is hard

Happiness Is Hard
Is there anything that doesn’t make you smile?
I would love to be like you, just for a while
I think of the boy that became this man
And the promises he made to us
I broke them one by one
Happiness is hard. Discuss

From ‘my response to’ by Nigel Pounds.

Do you have to embrace some gloom or poverty to be a good poet?
Kevin Rowland once said “old clothes do not make a tortured artist”. There is nothing good about living in poverty. I would like to be quite wealthy and write poems while wearing a smoking jacket, but I suppose I would have nothing to write about. I have been gloomy at times but I don’t think you have to be a depressive; writing poetry maybe a way of countering negativity and creating hope. I don’t like to constantly live or wallow in the past – I like to look forward. Poetry is used to make everything alright.


I’m not sure if it’s agoraphobia or claustrophobia
All I know is that I’m scared of the stairs
Scared of supermarkets with big wide aisles
Scared of apartments with wall to wall tiles

I’m not sure if it’s the micro or the macro
That I most worry about
So please don’t let me in
And please don’t let me out

From ‘Spark’ by Nigel Pounds.

Does a real job such as a civil servant or a bank clerk crush the imagination for poetry, or nurture it?
These jobs are not training grounds for creativity, but maybe there are some reasons why they could be. Larkin said he couldn’t give up his job and TS Eliot worked in a bank. I just don’t know is the answer.

Could you handle great success?



I doubt she would recognise me, no
If we passed in the street, our summer finery burnt to cinders
There would be no long looks, or fragile interest to show
For the small intimacies that bind like glue
Yet here we are again, so close we’re almost toe to toe

She returns to me with pizzazz
Not dowdy or downtrodden by years, but carnival ablaze
Even after all this time, her red dress still has heads turning
To her twirling and swirling all ways
Her necklace shimmering, bright colours shining far as

I remember the brother, who was yellow
The father who did pack runs and was on nodding terms
In a very different time, before any of us knew
We were closer still. I think about this and how it affirms
My heightened senses, Latin rhythms coursing through

He calls over from a face-painting stand
Where kids are getting glossed as butterflies and clowns
I knew she would be with him. He takes her hand –
Those small intimacies again – and they disappear into the crowd
As night falls, long shadows submerge the straggling band
And no one can hear what I’m thinking out loud

From ‘Spark’ by Nigel Pounds.

Matthew Farrall, the author of this article, died on 20 April 2018.
We are grateful to his family for allowing us to continue to display his work online.

  1. Nigel Pounds’ website and Facebook page
  2. Oscar Wilde in Reading