Thursday, 17 November 2016

Readings and Reviews

I'm looking forward to reading tomorrow at The Second Light Autumn Festival : The Song of the Earth.
I'll be reading for about 30 minutes with poets Caroline Carver and Cora Greenhill, before we open it up to readers from the floor. The event is held at The Art Worker's Guild, 6 Queen Square, WC1..
It will be preceded by two days of readings and workshops, all with the theme of the natural world.
Second Light is a brilliant poetry organisation run by the indomitable Dilys Wood. More details here -


Another nice bit of news is a good review of Slant Light in the latest issue of magma poetry.
The reviewer says the book "generates a sense of reflection and solemn joy" and describes it as a "beautifully constructed meditation on man's objectification of nature.
"The poems are full of clear, sometimes startling imagery and presented using a number of experimental forms."

Read the full review here in magma 66 and some cracking poems on the theme of comedy !
Bye for now and see you when the trees are bare and the leaves are blazing at our feet..

Monday, 24 October 2016

Haiku competition

Does anyone write haiku?
I promised I'd share details of this competition on my blog so here they are -

You only have until the end of this week to enter - and it's free so what's to lose! good luck.

Thursday, 20 October 2016


Hi there
A few snippets of poetry stuff to share - as much for my records really as anyone else..

I was properly happy to win the Manchester Cathedral Poetry Competition, judged by Jo Bell,  and announced earlier this month on National Poetry Day, which makes me Manchester Cathedral Poet of the Year 2016.
Unfortunately I was unable to get to the reading and prize giving and have never been to Manchester, but this is something I will rectify!
The poem that won is called Breast. I will post it up here soon. The competition invited poems with a loose spiritual theme and this is something I am noticing I write about (and think about) a lot..
I have only written two poems since our baby was born a year ago so it is gratifying to get some external recognition for something directly inspired by looking after him. In this case breastfeeding in the small dark hours while rain rattles down on the roof and the house snores.

It is one of those rare poems (in terms of ones I have written) that I look at, and think 'yes'. I like it, I don't fully understand it, it excites me, I feel the music when I read it, and it goes to surprising places in the mind (well, of this reader anyway and hopefully others.)


Here is an interview I did with Dr Sam Solnick for the Literature and Science Hub at the University of Liverpool. It was interesting to engage with his questions.


I'm looking forward to reading this Saturday from Slant Light as a guest reader at the long-running Poetry at Palmers Green series in north London. Fellow readers include Katherine Gallagher and Kevin Crossley-Holland.


Finally, I had a poem on a Poetry Tree for National Poetry Day at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History - thanks to poet-in-residence Kelley Swain for spreading the theme of messages in such a fun way

Monday, 12 September 2016

Some reviews

hi, just a quick one. I thought I'd post a couple of reviews of Slant Light. It's really heartening and interesting in a slightly voyeuristic way to hear what readers think of it.
This short write-up is from the Poetry Book Society Bulletin - sorry about the tiny text!

And I was delighted to hear the thoughts of writer and Costa Poetry Prize judge Jen Campbell on her Youtube channel.
Among her comments were: "I was really impressed with this collection .. it's beautiful. This is one I'd push into the hands of a lot of people and I don't think you have to be very familiar with poetry to enjoy it either."

You can listen to Jen and her thoughts on other books here -

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Forwards, Onwards

Hello blog, Oh I have missed you! It's been a wonderful summer but there has not been enough time to blog, really. Only to notice things.
The scrubland along the road is full of rosehips and berries, and seed heads and brittle thistles as late summer slides gracefully away.
Night falls suddenly and quietly, mercifully.
Who can smell change in the morning air? A tang of leaf litter and woodsmoke, a clean scent of matter breaking down. The trees are discarding their old layers, the sweet chestnut first to turn golden and brown.
Geese call overhead in their heavy bodies, forming and reforming into a wavering V over the traffic.
I love the melancholy and the fruition of this time. The baby loves blackberries. He is very nearly one and crams them into his mouth with the palm of his hand.
Anyway ..

A couple of poetry things.
Here's an interview I did with Sarah James, the poet and editor. (Incidentally we were at Cardiff University as post-grad journalism students together, 18 years ago. 18 years!) She's a wonderful force for good in poetry and I enjoyed thinking about Slant Light and answering her pertinent questions.

And I'm pleased to have a poem Highly Commended in this year's Forward Prizes. It's in the Forward Prize anthology 2017 which is a *wonderful* mix of voices and subjects, from Alice Oswald to David Harsent and Sharon Olds.
Details here -

Monday, 11 July 2016

Ledbury Poetry Festival

I so enjoyed reading at the Ledbury Poetry Festival yesterday. It was the first poetry festival I have been to and people had told me how friendly and welcoming it was. There were poets everywhere. Lesser-spotted and rare breeds along with champions, veterans and young bucks.
And there was a warm, appreciative audience of readers and writers and listeners flowing between venues across this ridiculously pretty Herefordshire market town.
Sadly I was only there for a few hours and didn't go to any other readings but I plan to come back next year instead.
On a personal level, this was the first poetry reading where I began to actually enjoy myself. I could feel the audience listening and responding and rather than rattle through my poems, I began to relax and address the audience as listening people, rather than a threatening block of potentially judgmental faces.
It was lovely to chat to some poetry friends such as Nichola Deane, Sarah James and to meet poets like Penny Shuttle who bought a copy of Slant Light (thank you) and a guy called Gerald (not him of Voodoo Ray fame) who told me how he was interested in the intersection of biology and poetry.
Enjoying being up on stage and sharing my work is a break-through for me and I can't wait to put my nascent performing skills into action later in the year. I would love to do more readings! Anyone out there care to offer me one?!

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Ledbury Festival and English PEN

Hello there
I was going to write about political matters but decided not to. I'd only be saying what others have already said, more eloquently. Instead I drafted a poem and I will share it with you when I've edited it a bit more. It was inspired by this from Michael Rosen - 

Fascism: I sometimes fear...

"I sometimes fear that 
people think that fascism arrives in fancy dress 
worn by grotesques and monsters 
as played out in endless re-runs of the Nazis. 

Fascism arrives as your friend. 
It will restore your honour, 
make you feel proud, 
protect your house, 
give you a job, 
clean up the neighbourhood, 
remind you of how great you once were, 
clear out the venal and the corrupt, 
remove anything you feel is unlike you...

It doesn't walk in saying, 
"Our programme means militias, mass imprisonments, transportations, war and persecution."

And incidentally Michael Rosen wrote this before the referendum


Instead I want to write briefly about an important project which I am proud to be a very small part of. 
The "Poetry as Protest" initiative sees poets at the upcoming Ledbury Poetry Festival sharing work from imprisoned poets from around the world. Dozens of poets will give voice to their words, to a living audience, citizens who enjoy freedoms we might take for granted.
The programme is run by English PEN  - a literature and human rights charity that defends writers’ rights to freedom of expression.

I am going to to read a poem by imprisoned teacher and poet and mother-of-two Mahvash Sabet. She is serving a 20-year sentence in Evin prison,  Iran and began writing while incarcerated.
Her poems are described as ‘sometimes a means of historical documentation…; sometimes a series of portraits of other women trapped in prison with her; sometimes meditations on powerlessness, on loneliness’.

Here is one of her poems - 

Lights Out
Weary but wakeful, feverish but still
fixed on the evasive bulb that winks on the wall,
thinking surely it’s time for lights out,
longing for darkness, for the total black-out.
Trapped in distress, caught in this bad dream,
the dust under my feet untouchable as shame,
flat on the cold ground, a span for a bed,
lying side by side, with a blanket on my head.
And the female guards shift, keeping vigil till dawn,
eyes moving everywhere, watching everyone,
sounds of the rosary, the round of muttered words,
fish lips moving, the glance of a preying bird.
Till another hour passes in friendly chat,
in soft talk of secrets or a sudden spat,
with some snoring, others wheezing
some whispering, rustling, sneezing –
filled the space with coughs and groans,
suffocated sobs, incessant moans –
You can’t see the sorrow after lights out.
I long for the dark, total black-out.
Adapted from the Persian by Bahiyyih Nakhjavani. Based on translations by Violette and Ali Nakhjavani.
From Mahvash Sabet’s Prison Poems. Published by George Ronald Publisher Ltd 


Mahvash  is one of a group of seven Baha’i leaders known as the ‘Yaran-i-Iran’ – ‘Friends of Iran’ – who have been detained since 2008 for their faith and activities related to the affairs of the Bahá’í community in Iran. 

According to PEN, the Baha’i community in Iran has been the focus of a systematic, state-sponsored persecution since the Islamic Revolution of 1979. After the revolution, the ‘Yaran-i-Iran’ – was formed with the full knowledge of the government and served as an informal council for the Baha’i in Iran, working to support the spiritual and social needs of Iran’s 300,000-member Baha’i community, until its entire membership was arrested in 2008. Mahvash was arrested on 5 March 2008 while on a trip to Mashhad. The other six members of the group were arrested on 14 May 2008 at their homes in Tehran. All were imprisoned without charge until January 2010, during which they were held incommunicado for weeks and were not allowed access to legal counsel. 
PEN says: "Charged with espionage, propaganda against the Islamic Republic, the establishment of an illegal administration, cooperation with Israel, sending secret documents outside the country, acting against the security of the country, and corruption on earth, their trial began on 12 January 2010. On 14 June 2010 each of the defendants was sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment, after six brief court sessions characterised by their lack of due legal process. Their sentences were later reduced to ten years each when an appeals court revoked three of the charges; however, in March 2011, the prisoners were informed of the reinstatement of their original sentences. They have never received official copies of the original verdict or the ruling on appeal despite repeated requests."

You can find out more about the Poetry as Protest initiative here - 

In these times of turbulence across Europe it is important to remember how fortunate we are to live in democratic societies and to be able to speak without fear of persecution or imprisonment. The Poetry as Protest initiative drives this home.
It is vital that people are aware of the plight of those who cannot speak or who are imprisoned for speaking out against the authorities. Until I took part in this initiative I am ashamed to say I was unaware of poets living out 20-year jail terms in Iran, without legal recourse or right to appeal.
The chance to share a poem from Mahvash Sabet with an audience at Ledbury is therefore a huge privilege. The poem is a direct connection from her prison cell to the listener in Britain and as such it is a vital link that runs both ways.
I'm going to be sending Mahvash a letter, and a book, and she and many like her are in my thoughts. Their plight puts the current situation in Britain and Europe into perspective.