Runaway Handicap



Considering a runaway selection,

If poetry can generate affection

A plumage fit for paradise entitles

Me to a mate enamoured of requitals.


My handicap’s an eloquence provoking

Offended editorial fits of choking.

It so incites the wrath of middle-management

Pretty Amanda’s quick to share my banishment.


“In the 1930s, the geneticist R. A. Fisher developed Darwin’s theory of sexual selection with the idea of ‘runaway’ sexual selection. Fisher suggested that if a heritable mate preference – for example, the preference for a larger than average tail – becomes genetically correlated with the heritable trait itself – in this case the larger tail – then a positive feedback loop will arise so that tails will eventually become far longer than would otherwise have been expected. This runaway selection may account for such features as the remarkably elaborate plumage of birds of paradise or the extravagant court­ship displays of the lyre bird.

For many academics, the significance of sexual selection as an evolutionary force only became apparent in the late 1970s, when Amotz Zahavi introduced the ‘handicap principle’. This was further developed in his 1997 book of the same name, which had the provocative sub-title A Missing Piece of Darwin’s Puzzle. Zahavi had recognized that for a physical or behavioural trait suc­cessfully to attract a member of the opposite sex, it had to impose an actual cost on the bearer. In other words, it must constitute a potential handicap to the bearer’s own survival. Otherwise, the possession of such a trait could be faked, making it wholly unimpressive.

The peacock’s tail that adorns the cover of Zahavi’s book is the classic example. Its impressive size imposes an energy cost on the bearer and increases the risk of predation: the larger the tail, the more noticeable the bird, and the slower it will be at escaping from dangerous situations. Moreover, to possess an elaborate tail fan, the peacock has to maintain itself in a healthy condition; it has to be good at finding nutritious food and fighting parasites. So, in the parlance of sexual selection theory, a large and colourful peacock’s tail is a ‘reliable indicator’ of particular good genes, since without such genes the bearer of this tail would either have been preyed upon or else would not have been able to sustain its elaborate nature.”

From Steven Mithen ‘The Singing Neanderthals’ – page 177


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Theatre Reviews



This page will be for theatre reviews and here is the first:

The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives

Very pleased to see this in the Fortnightly Review.

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Whistleblower Lit


Delighted that my review of Miles Goslett’s new book on the questionable details of the Hutton Inquiry into the death of David Kelly has now been published by the Fortnightly Review. Click on the link below:

Whistleblower Lit.

The review starts with a survey of selected Whistleblower books, and concludes with a more in-depth look at Goslett’s brilliant book – An Inconvenient Death: How the Establishment Covered Up the David Kelly Affair.

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Tango Schumann

Tango has always been a love of mine, and Lindi Kopke and I worked together for a number of years, exploring the notion of dancing tango to classical music. Click on the link below to watch some videos on the Tango Schumann website.

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Shadows and Vegetation


The Crown Prince gets preferential treatment

In the Hanoi Hilton. Hear the songbird sing

Of kind handling by the people he has injured

From the air. What will the rear admiral think though,

Should his son accept that offer of release?

Better hang on in there, rather than return

Ignominiously at best, at worst a Rose of Tokyo.


“Darned if I will,” says the cowboy who has destroyed

As many of his country’s planes as he has of the enemy’s –

Lopping power-lines from the sky, airman out of a rodeo.

“Pa’s in command of all our forces here in the Pacific.

Can’t just hold my breath till I turn blue

As I used to when a kid and get him to get

Me out of here. To the bitter…got to see this through.”


But when he does get back, after it’s all over,

Hasn’t this Prince a job to do, blocking all info on

Unreturned POWs? Some may know too much

About him. Show their families no justice, rail at them

And scream, insult them, drive the wives to tears,

Push a grandma out of her wheelchair. Well, how dare

She question his loyalty, doubt his patriotism even?


Puts his faith in his right to the might of his fathers.

And if prisoners get dishonoured by being left to die

At least their secrets die with them. He’s got a career

To fly. There’s his hate’s volcano to be stoked.

Thin, dark and starving, kept in the caves that years

Later will boost tourism, won’t they drop off soon

Like flies?” Satellite photos show the markings


Pilots such as our Prince have been trained to use

When signalling for rescue. He will insist

The Pentagon sees nothing more than shadows

And vegetation. He will agree with the CIA

That these are saw-grass clumps, no doubt,

Mere rice-paddy walls. What you get in Viet Nam,

Never the desperate name of a missing man


Gouged into a field. But then, as one investigator

Puts it to the Senate. “Guys, if grass can spell out

People’s names and secret digit codes,

Then I have found a new respect for grass.”





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Heron of Hawthornden

HERON OF HAWTHORNDEN – a chap-book of dizains by Anthony Howell celebrating his residency at the castle in the Autumn of 2017. Illustrations by the author. Limited edition from Scotland Street Press. Available for £5 incl. postage from Grey Suit Editions, 33 Holcombe Road, London N17 9AS.

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Poetry at The Room – Saturday 5 May

Saturday 5 May at 7.30 pm at The Room, 33 Holcombe Road, Tottenham Hale, London N17 9AS  – £5 entry plus donation for refreshments.

David Cooke

David Cooke was born in Wokingham and grew up in Reading, although his family roots are in the West of Ireland. In 1977, while an undergraduate at Nottingham University, he won a Gregory Award. His poems and reviews have appeared widely in the UK, Ireland and beyond in journals such as Agenda, Ambit, The Cortland Review, The Interpreter’s House, The Irish Press, The Irish Times, The London Magazine, Magma, The Manhattan Review, The Morning Star, Poetry Ireland Review, Poetry Salzburg Review and Stand. He has published five collections of his poetry, the latest of which is After Hours published by Cultured Llama Publishing in 2017. He is founder and co-editor of The High Window.

John Welch

John Welch used to run The Many Press. He has published several collections of poetry and a new one, In Folly’s Shade, will appear from Shearsman Books later this year. His prose writings include ‘Dreaming Arrival’, a personal account of his experience of psychoanalysis.

Jane Solomon

Jane Solomon was born in London. She had a novel, Hotel 167, published by Picador when she was 20. They subsequently bought her second novel, Camembert, which was never published due to a conflict of interests. She received an Arts’ Council Award for her third novel, The Nightberry. Jane continued to write novels while developing her other interest, Argentine Tango, which she has been teaching and performing for over 15 years, including 7 years spent in Buenos Aires. Most recently, she has been writing poetry, and some of her work has been published in The Spectator magazine.

Emma Hammond

Emma Ham

Emma Hammond has published two books- ‘tunth-sk’ with Flipped Eye and ‘The Story of No’ with Penned in the Margins. She also has a collection with zimZalla called ‘Waves on a Boring Beach’ and has self-published two pamphlets, ‘softly softly catchy monkey’ and ‘Sleeveless Errand’. She is working on her third full collection ‘Valour‘. It includes poems about journeying, infertility and puppies but is really about trying hard and doing your best to be a real person. Emma also teaches and mentors poets.

Poetry at The Room Enquiries – 8801 8577


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