Saturday, 2 January 2021

New Year Greetings (despite everything)


Farewell to 2020

I expect you are also wondering how to wish everyone a happy new year in the light of the past nine months and, indeed, the current situation. Let's hope the vaccination programme really speeds up this coming week, here in the UK at least; and that 2021 will eventually prove to be a bit easier for all.

I am very much looking forward to the publication of my first poetry collection later in the year by Peter Thabit Jones, editor of the Seventh Quarry Press. Meanwhile, I am enjoying my Christmas books, notably Fury (Carcanet) by David Morley and The Christmas Wren (Candlestick Press) by Gillian Clarke.  

I am delighted to find myself included once again on Matthew Stewart's Rogue Strands Best UK Poetry Blogs of the Year list. Thank you, Matthew.

Thursday, 12 November 2020

Poetry in Aldeburgh (Online), 2020


Poetry in Aldeburgh (a few years ago)

I am much looking forward to this year's festival in Aldeburgh of all things POETRY. It will be different, of course, without the huddled groups of poets in halls and cafes, and I will miss the bracing sea air, the taste of chips and the chance to do some bookshop browsing. 

I commend the team for putting the Festival together in a new way. Sadly, online festivals are not suitable for all; though, technology permitting, the virtual nature should make the events more accessible not only to folk like me, but also for those who would normally live too far away to be able to participate.


This time last year I was invited to read two of my poems, 'Storm and Steam' and 'Penwith Fingerstone', at the launch event of Port in the Peter Pears Gallery on Friday 8 November. Port has been produced and published by MW Bewick and Ella Johnston of Dunlin Press. Copies can be purchased here.

This year, my first event is a workshop tomorrow afternoon, taken by Dr Mina Gorji on ‘Listening into Poetry’. 

Wednesday, 14 October 2020

One Planet, an online anthology of ecopoetry produced by Linda France, Climate Writer in Residence, Newcastle University

I am a Newcastle graduate and recently wrote a poem for last Saturday's 2020 Alumni Day of Action. Climate Writer in Residence for the University and New Writing North, Linda France, invited graduates to send in short poems responding in some way to the Climate Crisis. 

I received an email at the end of last week with a pdf copy of One Planet, an eBook anthology containing new ecopoems, with a Foreword by Linda France. It includes my contribution, 'Silence on the Sand', about the decline of the Curlew. 

It may seem strange, perhaps even ironic at first, to read that Linda describes the poems as a 'source of hope'. If one reads on, however, it becomes clear that it is our sense of connectedness as a body of writers, both to each other and to the world in which we live, that offers a glimmer of light. 

In our endeavours as a global community faced with the task of stemming the tide of the climate crisis, we are stronger together. We all have a part to play. In the wider scheme of things, poetry is, as it always has been, one medium through which issues can be aired in fresh and meaningful ways.

I chose to make the Curlew the focus of my poem because I associate this iconic bird with sightings in Northumberland, especially around Budle Bay and the sweep of coast around Holy island (which is where I took the photograph above). The Curlew's haunting cry never fails to send a shiver down my spine. I have also watched and heard Curlews in places beyond Northumberland, notably on the mudflats in Laugharne, underneath the Boathouse home of Dylan Thomas. 

This bird is marked 'red' on the RSPB site for UK conservation. If you would like to help this iconic species of our coastlines and mudflats, you might like to take a look at these suggestions from the RSPB. The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) have provided an informative Curlew factsheet here.


One Planet, edited by Linda France and produced by Newcastle University in October 2020, contains 27 poems for the planet. It can be viewed online...

  • here at Yumpu (press 'read' and flick arrows to start).  
  • here on issuu (you may want to press 'full screen'. Once again use the arrows to go backwards or forwards).

Wednesday, 7 October 2020

A Poem in 'Where Shallows Talk', the Munnings Art Museum Anthology


I am delighted that David Gill (my husband) and I are both represented in this new anthology produced by The Munnings Art Museum in Dedham, and edited by Dr Tim Gardiner. My poem concerns the Migrant Hawker dragonfly in the next photograph.

Copies of the anthology are available here


Thursday, 1 October 2020

National Poetry Day 2020: Vision

Greetings on National Poetry Day 2020

Vision: ‘see it like a poet’



I wonder what 'vision' might mean to you and how you will be celebrating NPD this year, when so many events have become virtual.

Not surprisingly, the National Poetry Day site is packed not only with poetry but with a wealth of poetic information from copyright to competitions, not forgetting the #haiflu

My own very recent news is that Peter Thabit Jones, editor of The Seventh Quarry Press, is due to publish my first full-length poetry collection in 2021. I am particularly delighted about this as my chapbook, The Holy Place, co-authored with John Dotson, was published by The Seventh Quarry Press (Swansea) in conjunction with Cross-Cultural Communications (NY). 

I have just checked on Twitter, and as usual, there is a flurry of #NationalPoetryDay and #nationalpoetryday2020 activity. English Heritage at Stonehenge @EH_Stonehenge, for example, are posting poems about the site. 

My own Stonehenge poem, 'Preseli Blue', was read on BBC Poetry Please in as part of the 2008 programme from the Hay Festival. It was written in response to a rope-bound Millennium Bluestone (pictured below) on display in the National Botanic Garden of Wales. You can read the text by scrolling down on the Shabdaguchha site. 


The Laurel Prize for ecopoetry collections will be announced this evening. The longlist, here, contains a number of books I have read, e.g. Seasonal Disturbances by Karen McCarthy Woolf, and would highly recommend; and others I much look forward to reading, such as Zoology by Gillian Clarke. 

I wonder what poetry you are reading today. I have been reading A City Waking Up by fellow Suffolk poet, Sue Wallace-Shaddad, and plan to write in more detail soon, once my thoughts on this exciting and unusual new collection from Dempsey and Windle have begun to settle.

Meanwhile, I have two new other collections on the go and, interestingly, they both have single word titles. 

Lure, published by Calder Valley Poetry, is described by Cathy Galvin on the back as Alison Lock's 'liminal journey' in and through a landscape of mud, rock and water. Alison wrote the poems during a spell of recovery from a very serious accident that occurred in this beautiful but bleak setting of hills and watercourses. The narrative may be dark in places, and while the poet's approach reveals the tenacity of the human spirit, her language sparkles with the lustre of a Yorkshire river on a crisp and chilly morning.     

Rail, by Miranda Pearson, was published in 2019 by McGill-Queen's University Press and has a glowing commendation from Kathleen Jamie on the back cover. The poems fall into five sections, which in itself suggests a breadth of theme and approach. Like Alison's 'Lure', the word 'Rail' has more than one meaning; and, having just started this volume, I am already enjoying poems that range from familiar aspects of school life in Kent ('Abacus', for instance) to a view, perhaps a vision, of Gaudi-like spires of ice in the poem 'Alaskan Cruise'.


* * *



 I have just seen this Tweet, posted at 14.50 hrs this afternoon:


 Thank you, Tim. 
I much look forward to seeing all our poems in this.


Happy National Poetry Day


Monday, 21 September 2020

A First Full-Length Poetry Collection to be Published in 2021 by The Seventh Quarry Press



As you can see from the Tweet above, Peter Thabit Jones, editor of The Seventh Quarry Press (@SeventhQuarry), has just announced the exciting news that he will publish my first full-length poetry collection in 2021. 

I am particularly delighted as The Holy Place, my poetry chapbook, co-authored with John Dotson, was published by The Seventh Quarry Press (Swansea, Wales) in conjunction with Cross-Cultural Communications (ed. Stanley H. Barkan, New York).

Peter Thabit Jones (centre) with John Dotson (left, bio here) and me
at the launch of The Holy Place in the Dylan Thomas Birthplace,
5 Cwmdonkin Drive, Swansea, Wales

Saturday, 19 September 2020

Poetry in Lockdown

I was on the 'government shielded' list during lockdown so was confined to the house and garden for almost thirteen weeks. Time for most of us has been a strange commodity during this pandemic, time and most other things, too. There have been spells when the hours have raced by, but each day has gone at its own, often unpredictable, pace. The wave for the NHS and key-workers was one of the activities that punctuated my week: we waved to our neighbours after the clap and it was usually the only time I made face-to-face contact with human beings other than my husband. Nearly all other human interactions were by telephone, the internet or Zoom, and this was the case for many of us. 

Most of us, I think, felt the waves of motivation ebb and flow at times during those strict months of lockdown. Early on I decided to enrol on one of the Poetry Kit courses. It lasted three weeks and was conducted via email and listserve. It gave me set tasks to do, excellent feedback from the tutor, Jim Bennett, and a group of fellow students with whom I was able to interact. At the end of the three weeks I felt a sense of achievement and enrolled on a second course, this time on poetry that engaged with the natural world. Once again, it was an extremely positive experience and, at times, a steep learning curve. 

In addition to my own writing, I have felt a strong urge to offer something 'poetical', however small, to others during this difficult time. I was invited to judge a local poetry competition on the theme of 'key-workers'. I have long been persuaded that it's not what you say but how you say it that counts, and that short poems, even very short poems, can be powerful. They tend to be less daunting for new or would-be poets to write than, for example, an epic or sestina. And yet they require focus, craft and poise if they are to spin their magic. With this thought in mind, coupled with the assumption that if I was looking for chinks of light in a bleak situation, others were probably feeling the same, I started a blog for 5-line poems, written in response to a fortnightly photo prompt. The blog, The Glow of Emerald Light, can be found here. Anyone who was 18 or over was invited to join in the challenges. 

I had a few of my own poems accepted and/or published during this spell. One came out in Reach Poetry (Indigo Dreams) and another, a villanelle, will appear in Locked Down, the PoetrySpace anthology edited by Susan J. Sims. Another took 2nd Place (Category A) in the Petrarchan Sonnet Contest for Metverse Muse, an international poetry journal published by Dr. H. Tulsi in India. A couple of other poems were also published in the journal, including one on the Fritillary butterfly in the picture above, which we saw some years ago on the iconic path to Hallaig on the Inner Hebridean island of Raasay. 
For several years now I have teamed up with an artist (not always the same artist) with a view to submitting work to the annual Immagine e Poesia online anthology, created by Lidia Chiarelli from Italy and edited this year by Huguette Bertrand from Canada. This year I collaborated once again with South Korean artist, Jongo Park, who supplied one of his artworks, leaving me to write a poetic response. I enjoy these international collaborations. You can read the anthology via this link (or via this one).   

The writing and reading of poetry go hand in hand, and the books I have enjoyed during lockdown include Forest, moor or less by Ronnie Goodyer and Dawn Bauling (IDP), Throat of Hawthorn by Carl Griffin (also IDP), The Craft edited by Rishi Dastidar (Nine Arches) and The Haiku Handbook by William J. Higginson and Jane Reichhold ( Kodansha International). We have also enjoyed re-watching the Michael Wood series, In Search of Shakespeare.
It seems strange to be posting this summary of my lockdown poetry activities just as Covid cases start to soar again, but I hope you will all keep safe as we continue to navigate these stormy waters.