Photo of Michael Bartholomew-Biggs

Michael Bartholomew-Biggs is a retired mathematician and current poetry editor of the online magazine London Grip.  With Nancy Mattson he has, for over twenty years, hosted poetry events both in and above the crypt of St Mary’s church in Islington.  He has published four chapbooks and six collections the most recent of which are Poems in the Case (Shoestring Press 2018which sets poetry in the framework of a murder mystery, and Identified Flying Objects (Shoestring,  2024) which hangs its contents on a string of quotations from the Biblical book of Ezekiel.


They knew nothing of roulette
but understood the wheel of heaven
turns through slow configurations.
Thoughts they
tossed against it skipped
across revolving skies
and often tumbled into nowhere.

Then fancy fell into a clutch
of stars converging to such brightness
that it pulled them to their feet
to name it and to claim the promise
it must hover over. Watching
wouldn’t do: they started walking,
staking life and reputation
on that single night’s alignment.

Not that stars have much to do
with our affairs: they neither cause
nor prophesy our shifts in fortune.
So the cosmos moved ahead
a few degrees for its own reasons
while their search, beginning
with apparent patterns in the sky 
brought them near a focal point
for all celestial paths.


………………………………….Here too
all human histories are watched
and understood – not just as arcs
but utter narratives, complete
yet still continuing through time
elapsing while it’s standing still.

© Michael Bartholomew-Biggs

A little legacy from Antioch

It was there the disciples were first called Christians  Acts 11:26


Who can say what folk in Antioch intended
when they picked that nickname small anointed ones?
To indicate a taint of smug self-righteousness?
Or crediting a rare degree of calm and kindness
matched with tolerance that didn’t roll its eyes?


It’s odd this one-off label stuck throughout a time
when folk were told that nearly all anointed kings
had royal blood before the oil was poured on them
(and those without made sure to prove their built-in
better-than-all-others claim to climb the throne).


It might suggest all Christians have to pass a test
– like squeezing through that parabolic needle’s eye,
or being shaken in a catechism’s sieve –
before approval’s balm is massaged on their brow
by suitably well-qualified examiners.


Much better labels are available: disciples,
servants, followers or friends. No previous
experience required – or even relevant.
No fixed-term contracts either nor retirement date
from practising whatever is too hard to preach.



© Michael Bartholomew-Biggs