Friday, 26 August 2022

'Where the Seals Sing' by Susan Richardson


This is an astonishing and beautiful book. It exudes Susan Richardson’s passion for our fellow creatures, and particularly for the pinnipeds who frequent the waters around the UK. The seal narrative is intertwined with, and enhanced by, the parallel story of Susan’s family, a story that deals openly with the challenges faced by the author as she strives to balance her seal research alongside her father’s health-related needs. This seamless interweaving of the parallel narratives is perhaps one of the many features that makes this book unusual, authentic and compelling.

The seal revelations and theories shared by Susan must surely be of huge practical and educational value in the complex but vital sea of conservation. These discoveries, gleaned from the author’s travels around the shores of Wales, England, Scotland and the Isle of Man, are presented in a way that enables the reader not only to appreciate the magnificence of the seals themselves, but also to encounter afresh the many human-induced dangers faced by these threatened mammals. The author’s quest to find out more about the mysterious seal, not least its extraordinary ‘singing’, is inextricably linked to her animal-activist mission to bring about positive change. 

As someone who has been entranced not only by the otherworldly song of the seals, but also by the author’s skilful dexterity as a poet, Where the Seals Sing fascinated me from the outset. I delighted in the Pembrokeshire seal-watching cameos and the small but memorable details of the natural world, such as the fragrance of the Elderflowers encountered along the coast. The sections on music and mythology were intriguing. Sadly, but not surprisingly, the reports of cruelty, pollution and plastic were often devastating. I was totally captivated by Susan’s engaging affection for, and whole-hearted dedication to, her Grey Seal subjects. I would love to think that some of her zeal and practical actions might inspire us all to play our part in these uncertain ecological times.

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Where the Seals Sing: Exploring the Hidden Lives of Britain's Grey Seals

Author: Susan Richardson

Publisher: HarperCollins (imprint: William Collins, 7 July 2022)

ISBN: 9780008404543
ISBN 10: 0008404542

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You can find my previous post here.

Thursday, 25 August 2022

Reviews of 'Driftwood by Starlight' (updated for 2022)


The photo above shows me with my first full poetry collection, Driftwood by Starlight (The Seventh Quarry Press, 2021 - see here). 

Reviews of the book and short features have been appearing at intervals, so it seemed an idea to update this page, with links where appropriate.

I am extremely grateful to those who have taken the trouble to read my poems and to write about them. Susan Richardson, who wrote the back cover blurb, was among the first to do this. 



  1. Juliet Wilson, August 2021, review on The Crafty Green Poet site - here
  2. Tracey Foster, whose review on Everybody's Reviewing was arranged by Dr Jonathan Taylor, Associate Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Leicester - here 
  3. Neil Leadbeater on the Write Out Loud site - here
  4. Neil Leadbeater in Littoral magazine #8 (ed. Mervyn Linford) - here.  
  5. James Knox Whittet in Twelve Rivers (Vol.12, issue 2, Autumn/Winter2021). Twelve Rivers is the magazine of Suffolk Poetry Society. 
  6. D.A. Prince in Orbis #198, Winter 2021 (Review title, 'Stones, Sea and Sky', p.57)
  7. Richenda Milton-Daws in the ArtServe magazine, Winter 2021. 
  8. Jessica Newport in #35 of The Seventh Quarry magazine, 2021.
  9. Dilys Wood in Artemis #28 (Second Light journal).  

Q and A Interviews

  1. Questions from Maria Lloyd (@mariatlloyd) at the University of Reading about the collection. Links to the Q&As can be found here.
  2. Sue Wallace-Shaddad, Secretary of Suffolk Poetry Society, In Conversation, Twelve Rivers (Vol.12, issue 2, Autumn/Winter2021). Twelve Rivers is the magazine of Suffolk Poetry Society. 
  3. Questions from Janet Emson on From First Page to Last.  
  4. Questions from Annmarie Miles on The Writers' Trail, UCB Radio, Ireland, 28 April 2022. I read out 'Et in Terra Pax'.


Online Features

  1. July 2021 - Writers' Online Showcase section, here.  
  2. Creative Writing at Leicester blog, arranged by Dr Jonathan Taylor, Associate Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Leicester - here.  
  3. Poetry Blog Digest on Via Negativa (Dave Bonta) - here. 
  4. 23 November 2021 - Newcastle University News - here. 'Alumna Publishes First Poetry Collection, Driftwood by Starlight.'  
  5. May 2022 - Walthamstow Hall magazine.


Others Mentions and Listings

  1. 31 July 2021 - The Poetry Society, Members' e-bulletin. 
  2. 27 July 2021 - The Poetry School, e-newsletter. 
  3. 12 July 2021 - ACW eNews, bulletin #27
  4. September 2021 - In Touch (Suffolk community magazine). 
  5. Autumn 2021 - Star Tips #143 (with sample poem)  
  6. Autumn 2021 - ARTEMISpoetry #27 
  7. December 2021 - Exeter University: Celebrating our Alumni Authors
  8. May 2022 - GDST magazine


  1. 3 August 2021 - Online launch and reading, with Peter Thabit Jones of The Seventh Quarry Press and guest readers, Susan Richardson, Jean Salkilld and David Gill reading their own work. 
  2. 7 October 2021 - Suffolk Poetry Society National Poetry Day event in Ipswich Library, Suffolk, UK. Three poems from the collection were included in, and read out on my behalf, as part of an event on the theme of 'Choice'.  
  3. 19 February - ACW Online Poetry Day. I read 'Dunwich in Winter'. 

Matthew Stewart's 'Best Poetry Blogs of the Year' 2021 List

  1.  14 December 2021 - I was included in the list on account of my posts about Driftwood by Starlight.


Thursday, 26 May 2022

'The Leaping Hare and the Moon Daisy', a Poetry Collection by Jill Stanton-Huxton


I have recently had the privilege of bounding along in the company of Jill Stanton-Huxton’s Leaping Hare. What a truly unique and exquisite collection of poems, as I imagined it would be from so evocative a title. It is wonderful to 'feel the love', the author's passion for our threatened creatures and woodlands, as it blows through the poems to the reader. I was spellbound as I turned each page, and Emily Brady's illustrations are exquisite and indeed the perfect complement.


There is a fascinating Introduction (p.ix to xii), which sets the collection in context and explains the debt the author owes to her parents, who knew the importance of enabling their children to spend time in the natural world – with a pair of family binoculars. As I moved from the introductory prose to the poems, I found Jill’s magical memories were triggering a host of half-forgotten ones of my own.


It was the intriguing title that made me want to read this beautiful collection in the first place. I love the way in which the Moon Daisy weaves her way through the pages. I admire the sense of balance between joy and wonder on the one hand, and concern and pain on the other. This judicious inclusion of this ‘light and shade’ seems fitting for a dappled woodland backdrop. There are, however, other habitats to explore and enjoy; the opening poem offers a coastal setting, while the kingfisher prefers the willows by the river and the fox prepares ‘to curl up tight nose to tail’ in an urban garden.


Like Jill, the author, I found myself very worried when I first heard that a significant number of ‘nature’ words (‘acorn’, ‘buttercup’ and ‘catkin’, to name but three) had been removed from the Oxford Junior Dictionary back in 2007. Many will be familiar with Robert Macfarlane’s book, The Lost Words (illustrated by Jackie Morris); the poignant reference to 'last words' in Jill’s final poem, ‘The Nightjar’, did not pass me by.


The Leaping Hare and the Moon Daisy will surely appeal to adults and children alike. The author’s subjects are most engaging; we marvel at the Moorhen in her ‘green stockinged feet’ and are introduced to the Dandelion with its ‘mustardy roar’. The collection can be enjoyed for these wonderful descriptions alone, but I sense most readers will allow themselves to be transported downstream on the metaphorical undercurrent of something a little deeper, something linked to the joys, sorrows and responsibilities that reflect our humanity. 



The Leaping Hare and the Moon Daisy: you can read the backstory on Jill's website here

Copies are available from Jill at £6.95 plus p&p. For each book sold, a £2 donation will go to UK wildlife charities. If you would like a copy, please email Jill by clicking here.

The Leaping Hare and the Moon Daisy (45 pages, Troubadour Publishing Ltd., 2021)

  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1800463340
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1800463349

Monday, 16 May 2022

'The Gloucester Fragments', a Poetry Collection by Neil Leadbeater

I was delighted when Neil Leadbeater asked if he could use my Redwing photograph for the cover of his latest poetry collection, The Gloucester Fragments, recently published by Mervyn Linford of Littoral Press

I first met Neil at Swansea's First International Poetry Festival, organised by Peter Thabit Jones (The Seventh Quarry Press, Wales) and Stanley H. Barkan (Cross-Cultural Communications, New York). 

Polly Stretton in her back-cover blurb decribes The Gloucester Fragments as 'a real treat' and helpfully informs the reader that the new collection includes poems on the themes of 'nature', 'language' and 'myth'. And indeed, I am greatly enjoying poems 'inhabited' by the Shoveler ('Frampton Pools'), poems that 'play' with the building blocks of language to singular effect ('Errata for an English Pangram'), and a clever shape-shifting poem that re-casts the Homeric tale of Odysseus and Circe. 

There is so much more: take, for instance, Neil's clever allusion to nursery rhymes or the way in which he moves deftly from serious subject matter, such as detritus in the Severn, to the magical botanical names of wildflowers like 'periwinkle', 'fumitory' and 'hemp agrimony', which we find sprinkled, or scattered, throughout this vivid and compelling collection. 

Gloucester, and perhaps particularly Gloucestershire, will doubtless evoke different images among Neil's readers. I think especially of Edward Thomas, and am immediately taken in my mind to Adlestrop, which I visited some years ago on a frosty morning when there were certainly no 'haycocks dry' in evidence. Neil's delightful and inventive response to this well-loved poem by Thomas took me by surprise and put a wide smile on my face.


The Gloucester Fragments costs £8.50. 

Neil's previous collection, Reading Between the Lines (2020), with my puffin photo on the cover, is also available from Littoral Press. I mentioned it here shortly after its publication. 

The publisher, Mervyn Linford, suggests that those wishing to purchase a Littoral Press collection should email him in the first instance.


Previous post: #DylanDay 2022 ... here

Saturday, 14 May 2022

14 May 2022 ... #dylanday



Greetings to all on #dylanday 14 May 2022.

I thought I would post a rather different 'first' picture for Dylan Day this time. It was taken fifteen years ago, and shows me trying to photograph the Writing Shed that perches somewhat precariously on the cliff above the Dylan Thomas Boathouse in Laugharne. 

This is what the Writing Shed looked like from the outside in 2001:


... and in 2007:

Dylan Thomas aficionado, Lidia Chiarelli, a Charter Member of the international movement Immagine e Poesia, has prepared a Dylan Day presentation for 2022, featuring art and poetry from many different corners of the globe. You can find my Picture-Poem contribution, Tide Notes, in the section entitled  ...

Haiku - Haiga - Picture-Poems for Dylan Thomas 

... which you can find by (clicking the link immediately above and) scrolling down until you reach what I believe is the seventh tribute. 

* * * 

Love The Words 

eBook Anthology

I have just heard that my poem, 'Blubber, Fin and Tails', has been selected for inclusion in the 2022 #dylanday international eBook prepared by Infinity Books, after a judging process by Hannah Ellis and Mab Jones. There were about 400 entries from which about 50 have been chosen.  

* * *

My 2021 first full collection, Driftwood by Starlight (The Seventh Quarry Press, £6.99/$10 - see here), contains poems set in various places around the UK and beyond. I lived in Swansea, home town of Dylan Thomas for almost twenty years, a fact reflected in my poem, 'Rhossili: Writing The Worm' (p.38).  

Wednesday, 2 March 2022

UCB Radio Interview with Annmarie Miles, host of The Writers' Trail, 28 April 2022

My poetry collection mentioned in my radio interview is shown below:



The poem I read on air is 'Et in terra pax' from p.13.

The book costs £6.99/$10, and may be purchased here.

Tuesday, 22 February 2022

First Prize (Publication)


Sign on the Scottish island of Gigha

After a tricky ten days, it was a real boost to hear that I had won First Prize in the 'Wee Collection' Challenge, set last November by Mark Davidson of the Hedgehog Poetry Press. This means that my sequence of seven interlinked sonnets will be published as a slim pamphlet. 

Watch this space!  

In other news, I very much enjoyed taking part in the ACW-Trellis online poetry day last Saturday. Participating poets came from England, Scotland, Ireland, France and Albania. I read 'Dunwich in Winter' from my 2021 collection, Driftwood by Starlight (The Seventh Quarry Press).