The Life Dyslexic

Philip’s next collection, to be titled THE LIFE DYSLEXIC, will be published by Palewell Press in June 2022. 

Why is this poetry collection titled “THE LIFE DYSLEXIC” – a play on words involving the title of the excellent Radio 4 science programme “THE LIFE SCIENTIFIC”?

The word LIFE in the title underlines the way that dyslexia is in-built, lifelong, and goes much wider than reading and writing difficulties; I was forgetful, disorganized, constantly late, a day-dreamer who made little progress.

Life was hard straight away at school in 1950. I metaphorically wore the dunce’s cap, received the dunce’s slap (daily), and then progressed, with great relief, at the age of nine, to the rejects group, which was left to its own quiet devices.

Most of the poems in the collection are focused on Technical High school, and my reactions

to various teachers as they struggled, be fair means or foul, to help me to read and write, and how the colourful characters among the teachers, word lists, chemical symbols, and cursive writing combined to allow me, exhaustingly, to build a neurone bridge to the frontal lobes of my brain.

East Riding Poetry Competition

For the East Riding Poetry Competition, Festival of Words, 2021 there were six hundred entries on the theme “reasons to be cheerful”. Philip Burton’s poem THE HEIRLOOM was awarded the £500 First prize, £30 worth of poetry books. The prize-winners are to be found at

There was a children’s section and, as I often find with such competitions, their poems outshone us grown-ups!

Margaret and I enjoyed a winter break on the East coast. You may know already but the RSPB SHOP / CAFE  / NATURE WALK is fantastic to visit and is at Bempton Cliffs near Bridlington.Regarding the poem, my dad seldom threw anything away. It took three days to look through the goods and chattels after he passed away, and it is true that I took the bucket of nuts and bolts as a favourite heirloom!”

Forest of Bowland AONB 


The wildflower meadows of Bowland has sprouted poems to celebrate this year’s National Meadows Day in July, with local writers taking inspiration from the blooming fields at Bell Sykes Farm.

As part of the workshops, I answered questions online about writing some of the poems in my recent collection Gaia Warnings.

Bell Sykes Farm in Slaidburn boasts some of the most important flower-rich meadows in Lancashire.  From eyebright and yellow rattle to hawkbits and great burnet these fantastic fields are a sea of colour during the summer months – and home to great numbers of pollinators.  Designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) thanks to the variety of species found there, this set of six fields is also the official Coronation Meadow for the county of Lancashire.

This Festival Bowland National Meadows Day initiative offered a guided – and Covid-compliant – walk around the meadows, followed by an online workshop over two evening sessions. The walk, led by Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust’s Bowland-based Meadow Makers Project Officer, Carol Edmondson, took place on the morning of Thursday 3 June, with a second opportunity to walk on Tuesday 8.



Poetry can give a voice of the voiceless. Members of our wildlife can speak directly to us, as in Wheat Sheds a Tear, page 46, a shape poem, or concrete poem:

I’m bread-scented /

Conversely, the poet can speak directly to a wildflower, as in Sonnet The Lily, Mary Tighe, one of the first Romantic poets:

Unfold thy robes of purest white

Unsullied from their darksome grave

Notice the metaphor of resurrection here, winter death softened to a sleep…

More often the poet comments on the wildflower using the five senses, selecting the specific flower as metaphor, praising its beauty, lamenting its fate, as in:


along rebel areas of wild marjoram /



And what magical, comic, evocative, local names they have.

The more alternative names a flower has, the wider its distribution must surely be. Individual villages would give them a fanciful name, and, having less means of travel,

that label would stay local. One person’s Flanders Poppy is another person’s Common Poppy

Gill-over–the–Ground is a supreme example; European travellers carried it all round the world. In the mint family, blue flower, it is known as Creeping Charlie, Alehoof, Catsfoot, Field Balm, Run-Away-Robin.

I have made use of this multiplicity of names in my poem Canal Country, page 19, where Gill-over–the–Ground (AKA Run-Away-Robin) contrast with the resting spade that allows, in the final lines of the poem:

robins to hop on

A wildflower can, simply the musicality provided the name, win its way into a poem e.g.

the highland reel of blown marsh speedwell

Note that any specific wildflower can do more than one job in a poem e.g. Speedwell is one of the most highly distributed British wildflowers, and is found even on the major Scottish islands. In my poem Canal Country, Speedwell symbolises the amazing length of canals we have in Britain (over four and a half thousand miles of them).

Practically any wildflower will provide lovely associations the flower for the reader.

Wildflowers carry the poetic weight of all things “wild”,

e.g. the vulnerability, rarity, beauty…


Wildflowers present the poet with perfect examples of the fragility of the natural world where a million species may be lost within decades.

A poetic twist to the flower can allow it to act on another level of the reader’s consciousness

e.g. in The New Oasis, page 28

a galaxy of clover

lit by a buttercup supernova

The small is as great as the greatest. The first shall be last.

A wildflower can provide a metaphor/symbol for our own society and its attitudes:

e.g. in Canal Country, page 119, the flowers of the canal banks which arrived from America, e.g. Wakerobin and Bloodroot, can be seen migrants who have been welcomed and are a valued part of our pleasant land.

Similarly, the wildflower meadow with its fifteen varied species of flowers and grasses (sweet vernal grass, common sported orchid, eyebright…) can be a symbol of a human society where all are welcome, and all play an equal part.

All sorts of idiosyncratic uses can be made of wildflowers in the context of a poem


The purple flags of Foxglove

and Creeping Thistles rise to shine

is intended as a somewhat medieval military metaphor to link with the last line.

Carol Edmundson tells me that the White and Buff Tailed bumble bees, not being long-tongued, have found a neat way into the tube of the foxglove flower by biting a hole in the base of the flower. The nectar is “stolen” and the pollen does not get distributed. This can be seen as a metaphor for “life finds a way” or even for “sneak thievery”.

Both Yellow Rocket and Eyebright feed off the roots of grasses and thus slow the rampant growth which would otherwise smother wild flowers: an image begging to be a metaphor!

In THE SAND GARDEN, Page 15, a cultivated plant, Escallonia forms a seaside garden hedge, but leaves a gap for items from the shoreline to drift through, flavouring the garden with the character of the area, involving and blending cultivation with the wildness of the environment. Having a wildflower garden echoes this, or choosing to have a rock garden in an upland site, rather than importing an unsuitable rose garden.


The very word wildflower can be powerful poetically e.g.

The Iron Bridge (extract), Billy Collins,

across a thin channel joining two lakes

where wildflowers blow along the shore now

and pairs of swans float in the leafy coves.

However, as in poems in general, it is usually good to be specific and name the flower. I never worry that readers may be unfamiliar with a particular, perhaps rare, species; send them off to google it. Literary poems are for studying, not just for Christmas! Most people will be delighted to discover the point of your reference.