Monday, 10 February 2014


Hi, a few weeks ago. I was asked to take part in a blogging tag tour by the wonderful poet Kim Moore. The questions looked interesting and hopefully the answers might be of some interest to you. Her blog can be found by clicking here.

1) What am I working on?

I always seem to write poems with not a great deal of conscious thought as to how they might link up or might fit in a collection. Sometimes I wonder how other poets seem to have these big ideas that result in the ‘cohesive’ collection, with all the poems in the book following similar paths. Maybe that will come? I love having a constructive poem to work on, but feel a bit at sea when I haven’t written for a while or working on something that I think is going nowhere. So I’m not working on a ‘book’ as such, just writing individual poems. At some point many of these poems will probably find themselves in a manuscript. I like the idea of not having a map.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

It does and it doesn’t, part of me thinks ‘there is nothing new under the sun.’ Surely everything is influenced by something or has some echo from the past? My aim has to be to make “it work,’” which, “might be more revolutionary an objective than making it new” as David Morley once wrote. I don’t compare myself to other poets in that way, although there are plenty I’ve learnt from. Rather than differing from ‘others’ I like to differ from what I think of as my own style of writing now and then. Hence the ‘Poetry Bingo’ card set published by HappenStance and poems about topics that take me out of my comfort zone; writing about sex and science matters for instance. I’ve just finished a poem on the French astronomer La Caille. That’s very different for me!

3) Why do I write what I do? 

Erm...I don’t quite get this question. Actually if it means do you write about what you do, I’d be horrified if I actually did what I did in my own poems! Some of them are partly biographical, but if I were courting mermen and drinking from the rivers of the Hades it would be a worry! I don’t really write ‘what I do’, poetry is about real life through a hall of mirrors. For me, it’s about putting unusual thoughts into some sort of coherent shape and being concerned about the sound as much as the content.

4) How does your writing process work?

There are quite a few ways. Firstly, reading. If I’m stuck, I’ll read. I’ll read poetry that I love or new poetry I’m excited about reading. I spend lots of money on books! I’ll then pick up a pen and see where it takes me. There’s also nothing better than a good, immersive novel. The thing is, however, I don’t feel inclined to write poetry when I’m lost in a novel! That comes after.
Sometimes I just have an idea and I have to get it down on paper. This can happen at any time, I might be doing something completely different: swimming, walking, admin chores, and then bang! It has to be done, people sometimes say, as did the late Seamus Heaney, that they feel ‘commanded’ to write a poem. It’s sounds a bit grandiose, but it’s so special when that happens and feels much more natural and unconsciously done. You’re not drafting the hell out of a poem which doesn’t feel like being written. I think there should be an imperative for writing a poem, otherwise it won’t work. Also, I have no idea where a poem might be heading when I start to draft it. My notebook will be full of rough drafts and then I’ll underline the things that work and cut out what doesn’t. The only workshops I go to are the ones held in Sheffield by The Poetry Business, so I have lots of stream of consciousness poems in books waiting to be edited.

I feel sorry for the abandoned poems, the ones that Sylvia Plath refers to as the malformed ones. There are so many now, they had such good intentions, poor things. Sometimes, they manage to creep out of the drawer.

Next week it's Jayne Stanton's turn! Jayne has been published widely in many magazines and is an great poetry enthusiast! Not only is she a poet, but she's also a teacher and musician. She lives, works and writes in LeicestershireHer debut pamphlet is forthcoming from Soundswrite Press in autumn 2014. Her blog can be found here. 

Monday, 3 February 2014


When my twins started school in 2013 they developed a habit of getting very attached to the most bizarre objects, especially when out and about. Our walk to school takes us down an alleyway (or a jitty if you're from Leics) which leads on to a patch of green with a large willow tree. There's a busy crossing next, but before that bit we get a little bit of nature.  There are some railings next to allotments on one side of the jitty. Back in late summer 2013 this became the ideal hiding place for my daughter's collection of sticks. We'd go to school in the morning and she'd leave a stick in a special place in the railings and feel very pleased when we walked home in the afternoon when she found the stick waiting for her. The sticks changed everyday and eventually formed a pile in the front garden, but the point was that the same stick had to be retrieved at the end of the day. A sense of security, I suppose.

Of course one day the stick wasn't to be found. That provoked a lot of tears. I had to try and see the world from a 4 year old's perspective and think what it was to lose something which gave you a sense of place and security. I'm sure starting school had a lot to do with that. Eventually sticks became old hat and I had the idea of writing a poem about the event. It went through many drafts, at one point there was a cherry tree, but then there were too many trees! Tinkering ensued. I did an online course and this was one of the poems I submitted for feedback. Thank you Liz Berry and the other students! The poem is now available in 'Acumen 78' although there was a problem with the printing and the last 2 lines were lost from the page. The editor, Patricia Oxley, has kindly published the poem online so you can read it in full here. If you're reading this post months after it's been posted, then scroll down and you'll find it eventually. It's only been relatively recently that I've started writing about my children, so this is quite personal territory for me.