Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Spring

I wanted to post this in April when I scribbled it down but already we are past this point and into the inevitability of May



The plants and trees are changing daily here
April is the most vigorous of months
(Rough winds doth shake)
the shivering leaflets and wrapped buds,
astonishing cow parsley (bean stalk)
All around bird life
wren, a tick, calling loud
and birds everywhere with insects and grubs in their beaks
and birdsong everywhere
and on our decking a mouse with fine-boned hands who hunches over crumbs
and the wood anemone and bluebells
the greenery and growth like a cancer or foetus
multiplying and dividing unstoppably
stopper out of the bottle
and the sheer fresh green in the energy of the sun
and all across the shreds of cloud and a northerly wind
shaking the new leaves open
I touch a bud and feel its deep earth energy
walk the earth and soak it in
crazy april growth
eating itself




Saturday, 23 April 2016

Book launch




Here are a few photos from the launch of two new Pavilion Poetry books - Slant Light - my first collection, and Every Little Sound by Ruby Robinson this week in Liverpool. It was quite an experience to read from the book and talk about the poems to an interested audience in special surroundings. A beautiful day to visit Liverpool for the first time and also meet fellow Pavilion authors and the whole editorial team.
 I'm proud of my dark green book and the poems inside its covers and I hope it reaches a few hearts/minds/ears as it makes its quiet way about the place..
I chose to group the poems I read into loose themes - direct inspiration from the natural world, Anglo Saxon charms, and then oblique ways of looking at the world. There was also a Q&A which I enjoyed for its spontaneity and interaction.
As soon as I finished my reading, I thought 'I want to do that again and I want to do it better'.
Im really delighted to be taking part in the Linklater Voice Coaching Method course next month and then reading at Greenwich, Ledbury Festival and at Poetry in Palmer's Green later this year. 
I do feel lucky to be published by such an exciting new press and I'm really looking forward to finding the space to write again. This is all a bit self-promotional but I think is probably part of being a poet these days, as is the ability to perform.
All in all, a week to celebrate, so thanks for reading.
The reading room at the university's School of The Arts
With some of the fantastic interns from Liverpool University Press who helped with typesetting and marketing the books
New authors outside the pavilion

Friday, 8 April 2016

Short and sweet..

Delighted to have a poem in Issue Three of The Compass Magazine - a beautifully designed and curated online poetry resource. Some wonderful poems here with my favourites by Pascale Petit and Liz Berry.
Poems that are unafraid to be true about their intentions - 


Mine is a playful poem really, written in the style of Les Murray, and with the idea of an 'islanders' mentality in mind, with all is positive and negative connotations.
I love observing things, closely. Have you ever looked at a bank of barnacles, millions of them encrusting rocks and piers and abandoned wood? There is a uniformity in their serried ranks, a pleasing efficiency in the way they occupy every millimetre of useful surface with their almost hexagonal forms, and then if you look up close, they are aged and new and all in between - there are larger misshapen individuals, tiny, neat ones that fit in a crevice, others snarled with threads of hair or twine, and each is marked with a tiny cross that will open like some strange space pod and wave in the salt wash in a mass feed as the tide comes.
The way they feel under bare feet too - almost painful and strong enough to resist human weight.


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Meanwhile, I am looking forward to the Liverpool launch of Slant Light soon and a London launch later this spring. I have sold a few books - hurray! 
I was also privileged to be a judge of the Greenwich University/PNSEL 2016  poetry competition.
It was interesting to be 'on the other side' of a poetry competition, reading anonymous entries, shortlisting and discussing them with the other judges. How subjective it is, and yet how clearly the winning poem announced itself despite our differing tastes.
It was interesting to hear some of the shortlisted poets read at the Made in Greenwich gallery last week and reminded me of how brave you have to be to stand up and read your words to an audience. 
I remember doing so at university and being absolutely terrified.
Happy Aprils, thanks for reading. I'll be back with a more interesting post soon.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Monday, 22 February 2016

Something Gallant

Hello
Lots of loosely connected links to follow in this blog post but do bear with me as they're good ones and worth your time ;-)

I do like the deceptively throwaway tone of this love poem by Annie Freud from her latest collection, The Remains, published by Picador. It kind of sums up where I am at the moment: both in diction and content. love poems that come at the subject slant are my favourite and this is a good example -

http://www.picador.com/blog/friday-poem-‘something-gallant’

I don't really know her work but look forward to reading her collection some time soon. Feels pretty good to be writing this speedy blog post while Gabriel sleeps.

In other news, it is only two months till the launch of my book, Slant Light, which is part of the Miriam Allott Visiting Writers' Series at the University of Liverpool.
I've got a couple of readings in north and south London lined up for later in the year, and the launch in Liverpool, on April 20th. It's beginning to feel like an exciting and real prospect.

You can book free tickets and find out details here -

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/miriam-allott-visiting-writers-series-2016-launch-event-pavilion-poetry-tickets-20459560095

And in May, the VOICED project is officially launched at the Bethnal Green Nature Reserve in May. I am really looking forward to seeing what the artists Lucia Montero and Duncan Robertson have done with our words and songs inspired by this unique place. They are working on a sound installation to be embedded in the reserve, which I think will be fascinating.
Here are some details on the event, and the artists/writers involved in the project -

http://nomad.org.uk/project/voiced

Spring is coming; I can feel it in the light and the crocuses are beautiful this week; egg yolk yellow, imperial purple and rich cream. Are there any other crocus colours? Ive not seen any. The blackthorn by our house is in full blossom and the daffs are doing their coronal thing. I feel like this is going to be a good year. Thanks for reading.. till next time. x

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Hello 2016

It has been a long time since I last blogged so *thank you* for reading if you have returned and may this year bring much joy and inspiration.
I've been working on the final proofs for Slant Light, and looking for a prefatory quote.
Being a bit of a quote hoarder, I had quite a few good ones scribbled in the back of my diaries from over the years. One I have liked for a while is the brief: "More detail in the cow parsley" by David Hockney. There is something true and funny about it. But it's somehow too allusive and light weight.
There are others, too, "A flower passes, and that is the best of it" by DH Lawrence, and "Where the bats go round without answer" by Ted Hughes. But none of them seem right, so we have gone with a creamy blank page. And I am proud to dedicate it to my children, all three (!) of them.
We are also getting some readings set up, including a launch on April 20th at Liverpool University. I've never been to Liverpool. Really looking forward to this..

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It's been so busy with a little one that I haven't had time for any sustained or concentrated reading. If I get through the London Review of Books in a fortnight, then I give myself a very small pat on the back. I have so enjoyed David Almond's "A song for Ella Grey" which is a re-telling of the Orpheus myth, ostensibly for teenagers. I bought it for our newly teenage son (who also enjoys Harry Enfield's Kevin very much) but he has not read it yet, being into Jeeves and Wooster at the moment. I wonder if it is the case of a book which adults think is a "nice thing" for children, just as they might approve of "nice friends". In any case, a song for Ella Grey is just exquisite. Almond is one of my favourite writers. He mixes a delicate spirituality with north-east earthiness, that makes for a rich, delicious register.
Here's a description of Orpheus' lyre: "It was a clumsy-looking, homemade-looking kind of thing ... seemed made of drift wood, waste wood, any wood. But when he played, it sang so sweet, so deep. Even the clunks of the thickest strings were right. They held the music down to earth, even as it seemed to float away to nothingness.
"The crudeness and the sweetness rang together, like the body and the soul, the earth and sky. And his voice. Like something from a billion miles away and somewhere very close. Like something ancient, something very new. How can I say this? Wouldn't have known to say such things just a few short months ago."





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The other book I have much enjoyed recently is Sophie Herxheimer's tender and vivid The Listening Forest. But the baby has woken up and I won't do it justice so I will blog about it very soon.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

New Book

Delighted to share the exciting news that my first collection is coming out next year, with Pavilion Poetry, part of Liverpool University Press.

The book is called Slant Light, and comes in this handsome shade of green which I hope chimes with the somewhat botanical and earthy contents. I would hesitate to label the collection as 'eco poetry' but it is written with a deep awareness of human and non-human connections and threads. It contains some poems from my pamphlet, Inklings, but mostly new work that has been published here and there in the last three or four years. It's been an interesting, painstaking and laborious process gathering the work together, ordering and editing it, and we are still tweaking the manuscript.
Here's a picture of the cover -


And here is a taster of the 'blurb' -


In her first full-length collection, Sarah Westcott immerses the human self in the natural world, 
giving voice to a remarkable range of flora and fauna so often silenced or unheard. 
Here, the voiceless speaks, laments and sings - from the fresh voice of a spring wood 
to a colony of bats or a grove of ancient sequioa trees. Unafraid of using scientific language 
and teamed with a clear eye, Westcott’s poems are drawn directly from the natural world, 
questioning ideas of the porosity of boundaries between the human and non-human 
and teeming with detail. A series of lyrical charms inspired by Anglo-Saxon texts 
draw on the specificity of the botanical and its spoken heritage, suggesting a relevance 
that resonates today. Westcott’s poems are alive to the beautiful in the commonplace 
and offer up a precise honouring of the wild, while retaining a deeply-felt sense of connection 
with a planet in peril.



It is only the second year that Pavilion have been publishing and I am privileged to be part of this new series, edited by the wonderful poet Deryn Rees-Jones. The press got off to a flying start with Mona Arshi's collection, Small Hands, which won the Forward Prize for Best First Collection this year, and two other collections - Blood Child, by Eleanor Rees and And She Was by Sarah Corbett.
Slant Light is due in April next year.
Also forthcoming at the same time is Every Little Sound by Ruby Robinson, which I am looking forward to very much, having recently enjoyed her work in the Poetry Review. Hopefully we'll be reading at a few events together in 2016.

I was particularly pleased with the comments from two fellow poets on the book which will go on the back - two poets whose work I admire and enjoy very much indeed. Permitting myself to blow my own trumpet *parp* - this is what they said:

Slant Light is a book of charms and wonders, full of birds and flowers. 
But Sarah Westcott is too good a poet to simply charm us, and the work here is fierce with intelligence, 
compassion and the sheer exuberance of attending to what Hopkins called ‘the dearest freshness 
deep down things’. A super debut. 
Jacob Polley   
I have been waiting eagerly for a full collection from Sarah Westcott. Now it is here I am dazzled. 
So imaginative are the poems in Slant Light it's as if she pulls her language from a fantastical place; 
Westcott takes us deep into the natural world, makes us understand its physical urgency, 
‘the insistence of air’. She has a microscopic eye. Everything we encounter here – the bat, the mole, 
the hare, the flower – is so finely described, things rise up from the page. 
This is not just a book of poems, it is a book of rich, exquisite shapes, providing a new understanding 
of how ‘we sense the bright world’.
Rebecca Goss   

You can read more about Slant Light, and Pavilion Poetry, here -