Saturday, 12 June 2021

Publication Day ... 'Driftwood by Starlight', The Seventh Quarry Press


I am excited and delighted to announce that Peter Thabit Jones of The Seventh Quarry Press in Swansea has just published my first single-authored poetry collection, Driftwood by Starlight. I am immensely grateful to Peter.

The book can be purchased from the online shop on The Seventh Quarry website - here

Fellow poet, Susan Richardson, has written the following words:


Laurence Hartwell generously provided the cover photograph of Cadgwith Cove on The Lizard in Cornwall, UK.  

As it happens, one of my poems in the collection, Elegy for Idris Davies, is currently a Poem of the Month on the SecondLight website here

Friday, 28 May 2021

'On a Knife Edge', a new anthology from Suffolk Poetry Society


This book has just been published by Suffolk Poetry Society as a response to the diminishing state of nature. It forms part of a collaboration between the Society and The Lettering Arts Trust (Snape), where an exhibition of the same name opens in July. I am delighted to have two poems and a micro-poem about IUCN red-listed species included. 

The topic resonates closely with Robert Macfarlane's work (supported by Jackie Morris and her artwork) in response to an increasing concern over the fact that 'nature words' (the 'lost words': see here) were being removed from the 2007 edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary. Apparently space was needed for words deemed more valuable in a digital and technical age. You can read my post here about a previous exhibition at The Lettering Arts Trust on this subject. 

On a Knife Edge was primarily created by Derek Adams, Lynne Nesbit, Beth Soule and Colin Whyles. It can be purchased here.  

Thursday, 20 May 2021

Workshop on Columba by Alex Aldred, Poet in Residence, Historic Environment Scotland


Approaching Iona by CalMac ferry from Mull

The photo above brings back many happy memories of days on Iona, the small and very beautiful island where Columba is said to have landed with twelve followers in 563 AD.

David, who is a member of Historic Environment Scotland, mentioned that a series of creative writing workshops were being run on Zoom by HES to mark the birth of Columba 1500 years ago. I was keen to find out more and signed up for the first, which took place this evening on the topic of Columba, the Exile.   

Alex Aldred, Poet in Residence for Historic Environment Scotland, led the workshop, giving participants information on Columba, along with prompts for creative writing and time for the sharing of our ideas. It was a very enjoyable way to spend 90 minutes, and I have come away (so to speak) with a raft of enthusiasm, pages of notes and a couple of poems in draft.  

The workshop inspired me to revisit my Iona photos, taken on several occasions ...

The Abbey on Iona (2014)

Exquisite cloister carving by Chris Hall

Fabulous beaches on Iona

Crystal-clear water

The view from the ferry

Setting sail for Fionnphort, Mull

One of my abiding memories is of the colossal wave of wingbeats as the wild geese hurtled up the Sound. 

Of all the Inner Hebridean islands, Skye is the one I know best. It contains a small inland island named after Columba. It is a tranquil (if usually damp) spot, and a beautifully tucked-away corner of the Misty Isle.   

St Columba's Isle, Skye

Thank you, Alex, for an inspiring evening.

Friday, 14 May 2021

Marking #DylanDay 2021


Some of you will know that I lived in Swansea for twenty years, so #DylanDay is always an opportunity for me to remember visits to Cwmdonkin Park and Number 5 Cwmdonkin Drive (plaque above). 


I also like to recall carefree hours spent on the waterfront at Laugharne. You can see the Dylan Thomas Boathouse in the photo above and Dylan's Writing Shed perched somewhat precariously on the cliff in the photos below. 



There is often a Grey Heron on the shore, and not infrequently a Curlew or two.



This bird's eye view of Laugharne (below), with its tidal estuary, castle, boathouse and writing shed, brings back a number of particular memories, including a day when I attended a Creative Writing workshop facilitated by Aeronwy Thomas as part of the Laugharne Festival. 


The southern and western areas of Wales are not, of course, the only locations linked to the poet. Dylan visited New York on four occasions in the 1950s. I spent a few days there in 2012, enjoying a meal in Greenwich Village and the long elevator ride up the Empire State Building as the light began to fade. 


This year I am delighted to have a poem on Lidia Chiarelli's Immagine e Poesia #DylanDay website and also to have a letter addressed to DT and a poem in a new anthology called Dear Dylan, edited by Anna Saunders and Ronnie Goodyer, and published by Indigo Dreams Publishing. 

Dear Dylan is published today, and you can purchase a copy and read more about it here. I am looking forward to the 'Dear Dylan from the Birthplace' Zoom event this evening. 

Thursday, 13 May 2021

Looking Ahead to #DylanDay 2021 ... Immagine e Poesia


Tomorrow is #DylanDay (see here), so I wanted to post some photographs linked to the poet whose hometown of Swansea was also my home for two decades. The water fountain in Cwmdonkin Park in the picture above had a chained cup in the days of Dylan's childhood. 



The park is a riot of colour in spring when the tulips are in flower and the ornamental cherry trees are in bloom. 

Italian poet and Dylan Thomas aficionado, Lidia Chiarelli, charter member and co-ordinator of the Immagine e Poesia movement, has been busy assembling and curating a website of international writing and visual art to mark the day. 

I am delighted to have my poem, 'The Gothic Arch', posted on Lidia's website (do scroll down slowly and read the wealth of new contributions, though the easiest way to find my poem may be to scroll to the bottom here and then move the cursor up the page a little). My poem, as you will see, was written in response to a few words from one of Dylan's poems. 

The site also contains articles, such as one by Peter Thabit Jones on 'Dylan Thomas and Greenwich Village, New York', in which he ponders some of the fascinating 'what ifs' in relation to Dylan's short but extraordinary literary life. 

Do click over to the site and explore some of the features. 

Thank you, Lidia, grazie mille. 


* * *

Lidia informs me that the website event is sponsored by the Metropolitan City of Turin.
Here are the links to the Poets' and to the Artists' sections: the contributions are in order of arrival ...

- 48 Participating Countries on 5 continents










Wednesday, 5 May 2021

My Puffin Photograph on the Cover of 'Reading Between The Lines' by Neil Leadbeater

Littoral Press, £8.50

Those who follow my blogs, and perhaps particularly this one, will know that (in normal times) I enjoy watching Puffins as they move about on and off our coastal cliffs. I am thrilled to have one of my Puffin photographs on the cover of Neil Leadbeater's new poetry collection, published by Mervyn Linford of Littoral Press. David and I met Neil back in 2011 as fellow participants at Swansea's First International Festival of Poetry, organised by Peter Thabit Jones of The Seventh Quarry Press (Swansea) with Stanley H. Barkan of Cross-Cultural Communications (New York).

This fine collection includes poems rooted in a variety of rural (e.g. Tarr Steps), coastal (e.g. Aldeburgh) and urban (e.g. Port of Tyne) landscapes. A compelling sense of musicality pervades much of Neil's work, aided and abetted by a sprinkling of alliterations and allusions. I have been particularly enjoying the poem sequences ... and the Puffin poem, of course!  

P.S. This has also been posted on my Wild and Wonderful blog since the subject was relevant to both.    

Thursday, 8 April 2021

'A City Waking Up' by Sue Wallace-Shaddad (Post 3: Q&A With the Poet)


For those of you who have been following my mini-series on A City Waking Up by Sue Wallace-Shaddad, here is the continuation of my Q&A with Sue, constituting the third and final post of this mini-series. Subjects addressed include the collection and assimilation of material and the route to publication. Do read on.

If you missed Post 1, you can read it here.

If you missed Post 2, you can read it here


It would be helpful to know something about your approach in terms of assimilating and incorporating biographical and autobiographical material. I wonder, do you keep a diary? The ‘I’, of course, is always of interest to poets. 


I used to keep diaries in my teens and as a student, which might make a good source of inspiration if I dare re-read them! Recently, following advice on the Newcastle MA summer school, last year, I started keeping a journal but I have to say I have not as yet used that to inform my writing. I do make notes or even draft short poems on my iPhone quite often when out for walks during lockdown. Mainly I write from memory, in the moment. Of course, sometimes I research information to flesh out my ideas, usually doing a google search.


I have much appreciated your evocations of place and situation; when it comes to the crafting of your poems, what aspects are important to you? 


Most of the poems were written in situ in Khartoum so I was surrounded by my experience, the colours, sound, smell, taste and sight.  I would read some of the poems out to family as I wrote them. I was concerned that the poems should be accurate and always checked with family members about my use of Arabic. The visual is very important to me, having a heritage of painters in my family. I like to say I am painting with words. When I first wrote the poems, I was not experienced in making decisions about stanza length and form. The final shape of several poems was crafted only just before submission and even after that in one case, thanks to my very helpful publisher Janice Dempsey. I use rhyme from time to time and that comes naturally as I write, so I also included a few poems with rhyme.

More generally I would say that I like to be succinct in my poems so the words need to carry a lot of heft, emotionally and visually. I have become much more aware of how assonance and internal rhyme contribute to poems; some of that is instinctive but once I have seen a pattern I develop that further. 


How did you go about finding a publisher and what have you learned about the road to poetry publication?


I knew that Dempsey and Windle had published ‘Sprouts’ by Alexandra Davis in 2017 – Alex and I had previously done a course together with Rebecca Goss. Alex had had a good publishing experience. Derek Adams, a fellow committee member of Suffolk Poetry Society also had his pamphlet ‘Exposure’ published by them in 2019. So I thought I might be in good company if I got published! I had submitted a single poem to their annual competition which was commended and published in their 2020 anthology, which was encouraging. I had also chatted to Janice Dempsey at the Poetry Fair in London so I knew a bit about the publisher. I was not sure that my subject matter, Sudan, would necessarily be of interest but decided to submit to their submission window without any expectation. I was delighted to be accepted and have my short collection ‘A City Waking Up’ published only months later on National Poetry Day 2020.

I have submitted pamphlets in the past to other publishers but looking back, I can see that I was doing this too early. The poems were not cooked enough and the arc of the pamphlet was not in place. I am hoping that new submissions will be stronger with my greater experience. It is definitely good to get to know the editors which might be by going to readings they organise, doing poetry reviews, noticing who gets published by which publisher, keeping up with Twitter etc. My first publication ‘A Working Life’ was in fact self-published in 2014, another route, which I may still go down again, particularly when it comes to an ekphrastic set of poems which would benefit from the images alongside.


You wear several proverbial hats, including the one assigned to the Secretary of Suffolk Poetry Society. How do you go about fitting the writing and editing of your own poems into your schedule? Do you draft in a particular pen or notebook, or have a particular working space and routine? 


I don’t have a routine as such, but tend to have more time to write towards the end of the week and at weekends.  My poems get edited at my computer which is by a French window looking out in to garden and park, so I enjoy that light and space. It helps if I have a complete morning or day free of other commitments. Some days I will be doing organisational matters, other days writing poetry reviews so it is always good to then spend time on my own poetry.

I partly decided to do the MA in Writing Poetry to help me structure both my reading and writing. Now that is finished, I am not quite settled into a structure. I often read poetry as I walk. I find movement helpful and we are not on trains much at present! Doing submissions gives me deadlines which can help write new poems and improve older ones. I also take part every year in the national poetry writing month in April and that creates a discipline – I am trying to write a poem every morning.

I always write very quickly, usually in a spiral ‘Reporter's Notebook’ and then start the editing process as I transfer the text to the computer. I leave the poem for some time before returning to see what needs reworking. I like to use a ‘Papermate’ ballpoint pen as it is very free flowing and suits my style of quick writing.


Sue Wallace-Shaddad

I would like to express my gratitude to Sue for sharing so much information in these posts about the creative process, and about the writing of A City Waking Up, in particular. Thank you, Sue!



A City Waking Up was published last year by Dempsey & Windle


The book costs £8.00 and can be purchased here by PayPal (UK) or by contacting the poet (international and other orders).  


Sue's website can be found here.