Sunday, 8 January 2017

Reading List

One of the positives in going back to work is time to read on the train - relative bliss. Though I find it difficult to read standing up - a sign of middle age?
This year, I thought I'd keep a list or tally of the books I have enjoyed - both poetry and fiction. I will give each book no more than a two-line, honest review.

This list is for my own interest, really. Reading is one of the essential delights of my life. I remember the Roger the Red hat books with their boring, repetitive prose and funny old Edwardian buses with sticking-out bonnets. There was a hill involved and someone with a yellow hat and they never did very much. Later, sitting under the stairs, knowing I was too young to understand 1984 and terrified at Winston's humanity as a gin-soaked tear trickled down his cheek. Knowing I was Winston and so was every other human. A book called Playing Beattie Bow terrified me to my bones. I used to spin around in the bath and imagine opening my eyes into a life of Victorian servitude. Paul Gallico's The Snow Goose is still one of my favourite shorter novels. I spent time at university reading books that were not on my reading list and i am glad for that. I am sorry for all the books I shall never read because life is not long enough and living has to be done.
There is so much extraordinary work in the world, and more being produced every year. I am guilty of not reading beyond Britain, or America. I can only read in one language. The slightest of books can contain multitudes of truths and views.
Here's my list anyway of books read so far in 2017 and I shall add to it as the months come and go.


Grief is the thing with feathers by Max Porter.
Feasts on entrails of loss (and love) playing with Hughes' archetypal crow. Mischievous hybrid mash-up pushes at edges and under things. deserves all the hype and award-chatter.

Jackself by Jacob Polley (poetry)
Mire and dark mirth and mud and something of PJ Harvey's blood ploughed into the English soil. Deep and rich and (un)even. Visceral and chewy, language sticking on the teeth like flesh. Ribald and odd.

Sea Journal by Lisa Woollett
Raids the myth/folklore kitty with justification  - less mermaids and more grit thankfully. Tempered with biological realism and sumptuous photographs - author scavenges the coastline for stories, species. Part travelogue, part diary part natural history notebook.

Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver
Blowsy and exquisite  - more than an "issue' novel (climate change)  - she writes with acuity and subtlety of marriage and class. Genuinely sad to finish it

Let Them Eat Chaos by Kate Tempest  (poetry)-  I just found this a bit sixth-fomery and un-nuanced. Probably incredibly powerful off the page, being spoken. Book is not the best format for this work. Admire the boldness and conviction.  The characters' back stories were a bit two dimensional.


Cove by Cynan Jones. Admirably/bravely taut, lyrical. I was captivated but left faintly disappointed with the 'ending' - I think this says more about me than the book. At times sublime.

Void Studies by Rachel Boast (poetry)
Maddeningly elusive, ethereal and profound. Best poems for me are anchored with some quiddity (at risk of sounding pretentious). Not sure any have *stayed* with me but I think when I read again the book will offer up new notes and states. The poems are washes of colour or tone. Many are exquisite.

Monday, 26 December 2016

New year

May 2017 herald new buds, deep waters and wide skies
I really hope to update this blog more over the coming months
But for now, like midwinter, it will sleep for a few weeks
See you when the snowdrops push up, white and strong

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 -