Thursday, 29 December 2011


Taking the rum bottle you rinse
out the sweet sugar film and force a red
candle into the void

Each evening we light the wick, replace
it when flame melts into nothingness,
only the wax

remains, the liquid drips hardened
around the neck like the frill
of some long extinct lizard

I nurture the long drops like children
noting the growth and checking
for weeping fragility

What are poems but the flickering
huff and waft of the smoke
when the candle

gutters in the coil that sneaks past
reason and sense, the spaces
where emotion gets in

through the gap of the window frame
and my glass is tilted in the hand,
the liquid is burning amber

and the flame in the eye
is burning amber

Monday, 19 December 2011

LITERaTE ILLUSTRaTE : review of the night

This was an event held at The Boars Head Gallery in Kidderminster. It was an interesting concept asking poets and artists to combine words and artwork and submit them for a competition. I enjoyed working on the piece. It was nice to get the paint out and do something creative other than sit with my notebook.

The gallery is a wonderful space to perfom in with fantastic artwork on all the walls. There is a facebook page that you can join if you are interested in finding out more about exhibitions and events.

I read but it was not my best, I was exhausted and could feel the tight grip I was keeping on myself, resulting in a slightly over-anxious performance. It didn't help that I read three feminist poems one after the other. The men in the back row of the room looked a bit unsettled and then they all went for a fag straight after...coincidence~?!

Must remember to mix in a few poems on other topics to give the audience a break from the strong messages in those types of poems I suppose. I seem to write a lot of poems lately that are angry or curious about how women are treated/placed in society, having a daughter makes me reflect on these issues more than I did before she was born.

The poem I wrote for the event was called 'Ambition and Expectation' and was about those things being personified as two creepy masked women watching me...very odd indeed! The other poem I read which is on the clip is called Bikkja and I am very pleased because it is going to be published in Be:Magazine in February.

Youtube clip of the two poems

Bobby Parker was host for the night and performed two poems that were full of manic energy and imagery, he had control of the words and made them twist and bend into the shapes he wanted.

Delphine de Noire had a quieter stage presence but it was effective in the way it made everyone sit forward and listen. Her wolf poem was one of my favourite of the night. She came second in the final competition with her piece 'Multiple Lacerations'.

Sarah James perfomed three poems at the event but she also recored her artwork poem and there is a youtube clip of her reading it plus the ones on the evening. It gives a real glimpse of the gallery and atmosphere of the night. Watch it here. It was an excellent set, 'At Night' was an interesting poem which used a lot of rhyme which worked well.  She also performed one my favourites from her collection 'Into The Yell' which is which is about 10 different options of things to do before you die.

Catherine Crosswell is always entertaining to watch as she has a very professional performance style. She has poems that packed full of words, that play with different meanings and puns and she never slips up, it all sounds effortless and I like the way she drifts into lines that are sung and alters her pacing from rapid to slow almost line by line. 'Thief' was another highlight of the night.

Kate Wragg's artwork 'Hanging On' won the competition and it was very clever and the idea was simple which was refreshing, it was beautifully painted and everyone liked it.

Jo Langton is an exciting poet. Her ambitious collection of art postcards were excellent and I thought they brought an interesting viewpoint to the comp. She read two poems from her collection 'Fill the Silence.' This is available here

Sarah Tamar's 'Meltdown' was the third place, I voted for this one, I loved the intensity of it. Sarah read very well and held the audience's attention. Her poem about Father Christmas was perhaps, the biggest success of the night. Very festive and witty in a way Sarah does so well.

Raven Brookes tuned up late but she handled it with style, getting up and reading despite having no time to sit down, I am glad she did because she read so well. Her villanelle was really excellent, they are tricky things to write but Raven has nailed it with one. The hypnotic repeating lines made the poem stand out in a night of incredible poetry.

I always like to be surprised at poetry nights and for me the best part of the night were the two poems by George Payton. I thought he was just there to watch as he had no artwork included in the competition but he got up and performed in the second half of the night. I really enjoyed his poems and his whole performance style, I especially liked the witty way his stoner poem ended as he forgot the words, almost in a cloud of smoke, he is either incredibly clever or his shambolic pothead persona is true to life: I imagine it to be a bit of both.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

All the Whiskey in Heaven by Charles Bernstein

Not for all the whiskey in heaven
Not for all the flies in Vermont
Not for all the tears in the basement
Not for a million trips to Mars

Not if you paid me in diamonds
Not if you paid me in pearls
Not if you gave me your pinky ring
Not if you gave me your curls

Not for all the fire in hell
Not for all the blue in the sky
Not for an empire of my own
Not even for peace of mind

No, never, I'll never stop loving you
Not till my heart beats its last
And even then in my words and my songs
I will love you all over again

Friday, 9 December 2011

Arvon course is a gift of peace and quiet so I can write

Being a mother of young children is stimulating and wonderful. They are loving and responsive and interesting to watch as they grow and learn new things.

But it is also very loud.

There is the constant noise of children chattering or bickering, the hum and swish of the washing machine with it's endless cycle of clothes. The television's chirping blandness, cheerful tunes that get stuck in my head.

The shrieking noise when they are arguing over something is nearly as loud as the joyful noise they make when they invent a running around in circles game or a 'we are roaring tigers' game.

It is noisy, all the time, except when they are asleep. Then it is quiet and calm. But I am too tired by then to do anything useful, let alone be creative or write my dissertation. Not the best environment to be a writer, however I keep going, seeking time in between the chaos.

Yesterday I found out I had been awarded an Arvon grant allowing me to go on a course at the very end of winter. It is in Shropshire and as the picture above shows, it is secluded and peaceful. I am so happy and excited at the thought of silence and time to write. I feel extremely grateful that Arvon encourage and help writers like myself who cannot afford the fee. It is generous and I hope to repay them by coming out of the course inspired and motivated.

The poets teaching on the course are Fiona Sampson, David Harsent and Jamie McKendrick. I am so excited...I've already said that haven't I?!

Friday, 2 December 2011

Mid-Term Break by Seamus Heaney

I sat all morning in the college sick bay
Counting bells knelling classes to a close.
At ten o'clock our neighbours drove me home.

In the porch I met my father crying -
He had always taken funerals in his stride -
And Big Jim Evans saying it was a hard blow.

The baby cooed and laughed and rocked the pram
When I came in, and I was embarrassed
By old men standing up to shake my hand

And tell me they were 'sorry for my trouble'
Whispers informed strangers that I was the eldest,
Away at school, as my mother held my hand

In hers and coughed out angry tearless sighs.
At ten o'clock the ambulance arrived
With the corpse, stanched and bandaged by the nurses.

Next morning I went up into the room. Snowdrops
And candles soothed the bedside I saw him
For the first time in six weeks. Paler now,

Wearing a poppy bruise on his left temple.
He lay in a four foot box, as in his cot.
No gaudy scars, the bumper knocked him clear.

A four foot box, a foot for every year.