Steve Pottinger

Steve Pottinger

Steve Pottinger is a performance poet who's passionate about the power of poetry to create connections between people. He believes in making an audience laugh and think and decide that poetry isn't so bad after all.

should an agency cleaner in the basement
Sunday, 24 December 2023 08:58

should an agency cleaner in the basement

Published in Poetry

should an agency cleaner in the basement

of the British Museum find
in some forgotten room
an old earthenware lamp

and choose to rub it,
rub it with the sleeve of
her overall, gentle

and curious, knowing this
is not strictly within the T&Cs
of her employment, but

should she do that
and lo! a djinn appear,
stir itself to life and ask

Yeah? What?
and should she, thinking of
her neighbours in the flat

next door, the sobbing heard
through a shared and common wall
whisper Gaza. Peace

and should the djinn nod,
fade, vanish, the lamp
a dusty artefact and

she alone with the dead
hours of the night, miles
to tread before she sleeps

should she finish her shift,
wait, half-awake, for the 6am
bus that will carry her home

to newsrooms, airwaves, screens
in meltdown, jabbering the endless
Who? How? Why?

should a prime minister’s son
cower in hospital scrubs
in the ruins of Al-Shifa

a diplomat and her family
flee down Salah-al-Din Road,
searching for safety and water

should, in Khan Younis,
a pundit with a white flag
stumble into the sights

of a sniper, the president’s
mistress beneath the rubble
of a building, buried alive

should all this come to pass
there will be ceasefire before
the cleaner turns the key

in her front door,
trucks of aid in their hundreds
before the sun has set.

Tomorrow, we will begin to rebuild.

Wednesday, 06 December 2023 10:30


Published in Poetry


by Steve Pottinger, with image above by Alix Emery

To the apologists for genocide who choose
to walk in no-one’s shoes but their own

Imagine all this happening
to your children. And to your
neighbour’s children. And to
the children who play football
up and down your street, in the
dust and the heat and the rain,
whose joy and whose laughter
has been a gift all your days.

Imagine all this happening
to the mother of your children.
To the mother of your neighbour’s
children. To the mother of the
quiet boy three doors down
who dreams of becoming
a journalist, or businessman.
To a whole street of mothers.

Imagine all this happening
to the mechanic in the next block
with the missing tooth, a ready smile,
who can make any motor purr.
To the musician whose name
you never learn. To the couple
whose shop opens late into evening,
who sell the best mangoes.

Imagine your home, gone.
The dress shop where
your sister worked, flattened.
The hospital that looked after
your father, nothing but rubble.
Imagine all these futures,
all these possibilities

Imagine being told
by those of us who believe
our children will always be safe
will always be blessed
will always be healthy,
imagine being told
that this is complicated,
that you have brought this on yourself,
that we are content you shall feast
on concrete, on grief, and on death.

Imagine us telling you
that when you cradle the
broken body of your child
you are showing us a doll.
She was only ever a doll.

Imagine that.

Slip on those bloodied shoes.

Coronation poem: Corodividednation
Sunday, 07 May 2023 13:47

Coronation poem: Corodividednation

Published in Poetry


by Steve Pottinger

by now, of course, you’ll know
the way the day panned out

mid-morning, the mood dark
as skies, heavy as policing

abbey filled with the great and good
whose mouths taste of leather

whose souls are spreadsheets
their world an unending transaction

who watch the robe presented
to a rough sleeper curled in a doorway

on Euston Road his filthy sleeping bag
laid upon the monarch’s shoulders

the holy oil, brought up the aisle
in a dinghy found on Dover beach

to Canterbury, life-jacketed, sodden,
who drips salt water and the echo of prayers

in Albanian, Dari, Farsi, and homegrown
poverty over the heads of the congregation

the jewelled sword of offering
the bracelets of sincerity and wisdom

pawned for foodbanks in forgotten towns
where bread and tinned goods count for more

than any circus

that Black Power salute
a thing of wonder

nightingale singing in Berkeley Square
the Thames running out to the sea


In solidarity with the people: Strong Message
Wednesday, 14 December 2022 12:05

In solidarity with the people: Strong Message

Published in Poetry

On December 4th, Tory chairman Nadhim Zahawi urged nurses not to strike but send a very clear message to Russia’s President Putin. In a moment’s pause on night shift, a British nurse considers the nature of the strong message she must send to Mr Putin.

Strong Message

by Steve Pottinger

This letter comes to you, President
Putin, from another, better world. Here,
Nadhim is once again working the graveyard
shift – hospital basement, concrete tunnels,
the flick flick flickering striplight no-one cares
to fix, his muscles aching, the bus ride back
to a cold flat on the wrong side of town still
hours away, the sealed bags of surgical waste
he must toss into the furnace that little bit
too heavy for a man as old as he, his pay
packet always that little bit too small, while
the one slow clap that plays
on repeat on his headphones does nothing
to help Nadhim put food on the table, meet his bills.

And you, Vladimir?
Oh, you won’t even exist.
This letter will never need to be.

Me? I will be as busy as ever.
Today we open Nadhim’s former home
to refugees, will offer the young couple
from Palestine room for the night
in the comfort and warmth
of his legendary stables,
will wait for miracles.

(don’t) read all about it!
Friday, 23 September 2022 09:21

(don’t) read all about it!

Published in Poetry

(don’t) read all about it!

by Steve Pottinger

In all the stories from the funeral there’s one that they don’t tell:
it’s how Kwasi’s clearly off his chops or seriously unwell,
but the media stay silent, they decide this isn’t news
instead they focus our attention on the pronouns people choose.
They laud a queue to see a coffin, ignore the ones for A&E,
print photographs of foodbanks with Conservative MPs
who are smiling for the camera, and never ask them how it is
that folk can work yet not afford to eat in this wealthiest of countries.
And if we start to grumble about what lies out of our reach
they’re quick to point their lying finger at some poor sod on a beach
who’s just landed in a dinghy, say that they’re the ones to blame.
They set the poor upon the poorer, the same old sorry game
they’ve played down all the centuries, one that offers no solution,
which provides us with a scapegoat when we need some kind of revolution.
And yes, we’re desperate and angry, and we sometimes take the bait
they’re dangling in front of us. The politics of hate
can be attractive when you’re powerless, when hope’s in short supply,
when costs go up and wages don’t. When rent’s sky-high.
When the day-to-day is dismal and the future is a threat
and you could do with some distraction. And so, the trap is set
with flags and pageantry and outrage, they launch their war on woke™
and we’re conscripted in a culture war against our own folk
where we’re at each other’s throats and all of us lose,
fighting on battlegrounds we didn’t choose.
We need to do so much better than this. Bring ourselves back from the brink.
The world we want to live in is closer than we think
if we just look out for each other. Don’t buy the lies they sell.
The stories that we need to hear are the ones that they don’t tell.

and this.....
Friday, 09 September 2022 09:10

and this.....

Published in Poetry

and this…

by Steve Pottinger

is for those politicians and journalists
who will now sing the praises
of life spent in public service

who are indifferent to nurses
at food banks, care not for civil servants
who cannot heat their homes

remain silent about pensioners
lying in their own piss
in corridors in A&E

who will never say they met
a dinner lady once, how she
was a wonderful, wonderful woman

who never stood in the rain at the gates
to the crem, awaiting a coffin,
offering heartfelt condolences
to family and friends.

on living with a larger, expansionist neighbour
Friday, 11 March 2022 14:53

on living with a larger, expansionist neighbour

Published in Poetry

on living with a larger, expansionist neighbour

by Steve Pottinger, with image above 'The War Abroad' by Alix Emery

you know he has always coveted
your garden, considered to be his
by right the olive trees, the earth,
that access to the sea, believes

your home an extension of his own,
tells himself that you are leading
him on, asking for trouble,
driving him crazy by smiling

too much, by not smiling enough,
by smiling at all, flaunting that
independence you’re so proud of,
dressed in that provocative

geography he can’t get out of
his mind, refusing his advances,
gardening your land without
so much as a by his leave

while he presses himself tight
up against your borders,
belly over the waistband of
his trousers, simmering to fury

planning for the morning you
will wake to find the front door
off its hinges, the olive trees
your grandparents planted

chopped and cut to kindling, his
tanks flattening your flowerbeds
and him blocking the way to your
kitchen, stripping the fridge bare,

not expecting you to fight.

Monday, 01 June 2020 07:56


Published in Poetry


by Steve Pottinger

for george

under a darkening sky
we sit round a log fire
out there cities are burning
the planet is burning and

i can’t breathe

out there people are dying
in hospitals in care homes
alone in bedsits with the knee
of a cop pressed into their neck and

i can’t breathe

out there pepper spray nightstick
rubber bullet rage
the same wrongs the old injustice
complicity complacency and

i can’t breathe

in the darkness we search
for each other for hope
for the glimmerings of dawn
for words but what words are there
we haven’t used before?

listen     fucking listen

i can’t breathe
i can’t breathe
i can’t breathe

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