This will be good fun: a day in beautiful Hay-on-Wye, making poems with local poets while (I hope) the sun shines!
My best latest news is that my poem sequence Again Behold the Stars has won a Cinnamon Pamphlet Award, and will be published in spring 2023.
Thank you, mille grazie, Cinnamon Press!
These are poems very dear to my heart and I can't wait to see them in print. They are set in Montalcino, the town where I live when in Italy. The central narrative thread happens in the 1500s, a time of siege. But the poems are also about events in the world right now, and drawn from my own experience of lockdown over the past few years.
A small taster from near the opening, honouring the role of women in medieval sieges:
Three women’s battalions, uniformed in red and violet taffeta, fought on the city walls.
La Fortezza bares a stony
countenance. She gathers
the beseiged under her skirts.
Against her stubborn wall
the cannonballs shatter
like fishermen’s glass floats,
leave no more than scratches.
Moss heals her. Sparrows roost
inside her scars. She glowers
from her high redoubt
beyond the mangled plain,
all the way to the sea
where boats cast off as easily
as taffeta slips from the loom.
In other news, I've broken my hand, luckily not the writing one.
The hospital at Nottola, where they straighened the bones and encased my arm in plaster, was exactly as it was when I wrote this (about partner David's broken ankle) in 2015! You can find this and others from that time in my first collection, White Roads, Paekakariki Press 2018.
La Sala Gessi
Lined up, not crying
in the corridor: girl,
both hands twisted
under a scarf;
grape-pickers, bare feet
like knackered horses
shifting the weight;
on a stretcher; you,
your swollen leg,
me with a crumbling panino.
pronounces the nurse
with pride, waving a sheaf
of X-ray notes. All broken.
Inside the sala
they keep their mystery,
their buckets of white slop,
swaddle your pain
in gesso. Woozy,
we join the procession,
happy to stumble
through swing doors
lurching on stampelle,
in wheeled carriages
or wreathed in slings;
David Underdown's wonderful Calder Valley Poetry pamphlet, 'Snig', landed on my doormat on a grey November day and I've been enjoying the poems ever since. Here's one I love - appropriate for me at the moment as I'm in the process of moving house.
I'm back in Italy, and this week our small town smells like heaven; ivy blossoms are opening all along our garden fence, and on walls and trees and hedges all around town. Magical! The bees are delighted too. They've reminded me of this poem, from my collection 'White Roads' (Paekakariki Press 2018)
Before Closing Time
What would it taste like, ivy honey?
Would you dare? On my mind’s tongue
I sample green notes dulled by dust,
how it would tease my throat;
cling with a passion, hint at poison.
There are only so many harvest days.
Today, the bees are frantic;
hundreds reel between the flowers.
They can’t stop, it’s so plentiful -
there’s more music in the garden
than that day the pears were picked
in a hurry; the day before Winter.
Yes, they’re all still open: waxy petals
in the ivy tree, bees’ restless wings.
A pandemic year in London
It's passed like no time at all, and like an infinity. This zoom reading with in-words of Greenwich will reflect on it, grieve for it, flee from it, keep trying to survive it. Joining friends in poetry world on zoom has been at times hard work this year, but always a lifeline. I hope many of my poetry reading and writing friends will be there.
ONE YEAR ON – Thursday March 25 at 7.30 on Zoom
A year of lockdowns, tiers, brief respites, losses and resilience – and yet it’s flown, thanks partly to Zoom and the internet in general. We’ve all become more adept at technology, baking, entertaining ourselves and making do, maybe even at realising what’s not essential and can be let go of…
With so many uncertainties about dates, loosening of restrictions etc, it’s good to have a definite date for something as lovely as this… One Year On is definitely going ahead, featuring Rosie Johnston, Alex Josephy, Colin Pink, Jacqueline Saphra and Rob Walton. They will be offering their takes on these last weird twelve months in verse and prose (Rosie).
There will be plenty of smiles and some sadness, nostalgia for ‘before’, anger and questions. Expect to hear words that, at some point, we have all said or thought – but crafted in ways unique to these fabulous wordsmiths.
This event is free by invitation. If you wish to be sent a Zoom link, please email
I'm looking forward (with a lot of hope and a little imagination) to
my first ever Aldeburgh reading!
Sadly, this is 2020, and so it will be on Zoom. But it is still an honour, and all weekend I'll be thinking of fish and chips, bracing beach walks and poems shouted into the sea breeze!
Catch the reading: Between Places: Britain and Europe
12.00 - 13.00
Saturday 14th November 2020
with fellow Europhiles Sharon Black, Christopher North and Fokkina McDonnell
For me, a Zoom launch is a new and strange experience. Wonderful in some ways - people can attend without leaving their comfortable chairs in studies, kitchens and living spaces all over the world! But also a little detached, without the warm, sparky interactions of a live reading.
For anyone who was unable to 'come' to the launch, here is a recording. I put it here with heart in mouth, in all its imperfection.
There are moments where the connection is not good, and there are a few interruptions,. including (SPOILER ALERT!) someone interjecting 'Oh f@*k!' as they struggle with the Zoom technology! But if you can rise above that, it is otherwise, I think, quite a good recording. And perhaps all that is just wabi-sabi, the imperfection that makes precious things all the more special! Or so I like to think.
Many thanks to starry PIndrop Press editor Sharon Black, and co-reader Liz Bahs, also launching her lovely collection 'Stay Bones'.
Here's a link to the reading:
Very excited to have in my hands the first copies of my new collection, now available from PIndrop Press, Naked Since Faversham!
Putting the final touches to the collection, with the help of PIndrop editor Sharon Black, has been quite wonderful - moments of joy in these frightening, uncertain times. For me, collaborative work is always heartening, and in that, PIndrop excels.
We're planning an online launch reading later this month or next.
Meanwhile, here is a reading recorded at Woking Write Out Loud, including two poems from the collection.
Click here to see and hear the reading.
There's always so much to see, read and hear at Free Verse, which was held last weekend at Conway Hall, with great Poetry Cafe snacks popping up there too. A round of applause for the delicious dal!
This year I couldn't stay for long, but managed to catch eloquent readings by Pindrop Press poets, Liz Bahs, Marie Naughton and Lucy Wadham, and also Green Bottle poets Julian Stannard (witty narratives to warm the heart) and Caroline Davies' engaging feminist re-telling of Noah's Ark.
Great to see news of forthcoming titles from Paekakariki Press too... I'll be impatiently waiting to read these new collections from Ruth Wiggins, Isabel Bermudez, Sian Thomas and other poets I've yet to get to know.
Looking forward to a couple of days at the seaside! I'll be reading with Janet Sutherland, whose collection 'Home Farm' enchanted me last year. Poems, writers, and oh please, an ice cream or two, even though it's the season of February storms.
I like what Franz Kafka said: