Philip was born in Dunfermline and raised in Ramsgate; he has been hippie, laborer, traveler, professional student, amateur actor, and a Catholic head teacher in Lancashire.


He studied Chemistry at Edinburgh University, Humanities at The OU, and Religious Studies at Saint Martin’s College, Lancaster. His poems have won many awards in recent years.


The Poetry Society’s East Pennine STANZA has been a great support, as has Clitheroe Writers Group. Philip is prolific poet and very widely published in literary magazines, including Stand and PN Review, and is in lots of anthologies, including

those for children.


Philip has won many awards, including wins in the Teignmouth Poetry Festival poetry competition 2015, the 2005 Lancaster litfest, and the Sentinel Literary Quarterly (August) poetry competition 2014.


He came to writing through the WEA courses of Copland Smith, and with endless support from his five children and from forty years of marriage to Margaret.















138 x 216mm


36 pages


£6.00 + P&P UK


ISBN 978-1-910834-42-8












His Usual Theft is a hope-filled poetic voyage through a landscape of failure, crime, and major natural disasters. The poet gives voice to a wonderful range of human responses to life at its most precarious.





'Philip Burton has a lot going for him as a poet: he’s got serious things to say.'

Derrick Buttress


'…a precise talent for description.'

    Catherine Smith


'...not derivative but immediate and deeply felt…deserves a wider audience!'

Barry Tebb


'Philip Burton is interested in words. He has a sure sense of rhythm… striking images.'

 Copland Smith


'Philip Burton’s poems are full of colour. His playful way with words can take his poems to unexpected places.'

 D.A. Prince







His Usual Theft


Philip Burton

How to Paint a Marigold            


The gradation from orange to yellow

has to sing out in rotational symmetry.

A golden note has to be trumpeted too.

A great master showed me once


how to place a central blue dot

and five concentric rings of orange

in an exact mix of oil and turpentine.

A sable brush, a slick river of sunshine


flicks an arc across the deep current

of tone, like a tailgate jazz trombone,

from a low warmth to consummate flame

which, half way, somehow, is gold.


And this sfumato, this tight transition

of one colour into another is to be

repeated, petal by petal, layer on

layer with drumbeat precision


and the nimble wit of a piccolo.

No wonder I stick with what I know.

I let the music of marigolds

paint the garden. I bask in the glow.






Treadling hard on a Singer machine                  

the girl would often sit back and weep  

to simply be spared the plaintive sight                        


of yet more embroidered Sweet Violet            

handkerchiefs shuddering through

to be boxed and ready for World War Two.


She altered skirts for a high street store,

campaigned that the jobless be catered for

and was duly ditched from her sewing job.


Taken on by a parachute firm, she couldn’t curb

the sense she’d left undone a vital seam

in the sea of silk, and a flier had come to harm.


She knitted and threaded from door to door

with her bone basket and grubby velour.

The further she fell, the further she’d fall


but would always have cotton and needle.

She mended spent elbows, potatoes in socks –

penny a go down Saint Katharine Docks


till she dreamed of holes appearing in ships

and they’d sink, sink, for all that she stitched.

She took to night shelters, still mending



rough, trying to make good. She stripped men,

prior to plying a patch, for she’d fret

that her tacking might pierce a breast.


The magistrate judged her too simple a girl

to be charged with gross indecency, sent her

down as a vagrant. Then she gave birth to me.



His Usual Theft    


His usual theft of metal

had all the approach of an egg thief

at the nest of a Golden eagle –

get in fast – get out while you’re able –

stop somewhere to wind the BR cable

and overhead wire to keep things neat

and don’t brag about your haul on Station Street.


Cross Hill nature park was an odd one –

fence-posts of chopped railway line

and a Victorian gate of entrancing construction

with a hinge made to rise on its axle

by a wheel set to climb a half circular slope

when the barrier swings into action;

a self-closing mechanism from another time.


Like the ancient River Ribble –

which balked upon a fresh moraine

left by the last Ice-age

and changed course –

he left all the metalwork

in proud place;

felt his life ratchet up a stage.




A Recent Dried Flower      

I must have flowers, always, always.

                  – Claude Monet


No Great Worm of compost did for you

with its inner circle of digestion.

You avoided, too, slow desiccation.


No wooden press has bruised your stem.

Your colour had no time to leach away

and permanently greets us.


No prison pallor mars your freedom,

no curling cancer wrecks your petal’s rim

all thanks to one key kitchen item.


You’ve had a taste of microwave,

had the milksap creamed off

as in a hothouse Turkish hammam


showcasing the algebra of veins.

The piquant colour punch of stained glass

streams off you to the dull sky.




The Relevant Door    

after Carl Sandburg


From afar, a door seems stitched on

like a blazer badge, bold as a blue beard.


The door looms, gorged by one’s entry,

expands to fill even unavailable space.

The door swings planetarily

                      in the orbit of the porch.

One closes it with astronomical care


but, once across the threshold,

a door dwindles, a mere thimble

after the final pin is pushed home.


A door, its moment gone, becomes

a prick in the fabric, such as on a lapel,

invisible after the wedding.

author amend Burton