Monday, 27 December 2010

Graffiti Project - 2

Calligraphic scratchings on bamboo in the Majorelle Garden, Marrakesh. Small tags of luv and 'I woz yer' and equivalents in several languages.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Gillian Clarke awarded Queen's Gold Medal for poetry

Very exciting news today Gillian is the National Poet of Wales and a great teacher to whom I am much indebted for her generosity as critic and mentor. She is a very worthy winner indeed. If you are not acquainted with her work, I urge you to buy her books and read on.

Gillian Clarke

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Merry Christmas one and all

Carol Ann Duffy has commissioned a selection of seasonal poems for the Guardian which you can read here
I particularly liked Imtiaz Dharkar's Mubai Kissmiss.
Here is a poem of mine, which was selected by Carol Ann for The Mirror in January this year. Seasons Greetings to you all.

Snow light

I was born to the snow, brought
to snow light, the glow light of a late spring.
My first winter was all snow, ice floes
in the river, the Thames frozen bank to bank.
For three years I was beyond snow’s comfort,
beyond star-flake, hoar frost, rime,
touched it only once in a rusty patch,
as if roadside and rock-salted.
On Kosiuszko’s peak, it mended my snow-broken
heart with coverlet, sheet.

My uncle promised me a bucket of snow,
a bucket of hail, a bucket of sleet,
and in my six year old purity and Adelaide’s heat
I longed for the parcel, to grasp its cold deep,
crisp in my hands. I dreamed of snow;
snow beyond lamp-post and Narnia,
beyond Five’s winter adventures,
even beyond that cruel joke. Snow, a quilt
to lie down in, make igloos, eat.

Today it’s as if I’ve ordered snow; thick flakes
for you to mould and mountain, snow-shoe
and slide on. You won’t know what it is to be
blind without snow, beyond brilliance,
beyond its dazzling light.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

The Troubadour - end of season party

I have a tiny spot tomorrow evening if anyone is going to be there. I am rather looking forward to the usual fiendish poetry quiz and a few seasonal treats.

Graffiti Project

A long running photography project of mine is to collect interesting graffiti from all over the world. I will share a few of my favourites over the coming weeks. One day the plan is that they will cover a real wall.

First up is this topical and seasonal one which can be found on London Street in Reading opposite RISC. If you sit in the window of the excellent RISC cafe, you can't miss it. That's how I found it.

Monday, 6 December 2010

World Book Night - 5 March 2011

You might like to give away 50 copies of a book to your friends, family or total strangers. To register visit and make your selection. There are two volumes of poetry, a selected Heaney and Carol Ann Duffy's The World's Wife. Hard to choose, but I managed it! Applications need to be in by 4 January, so get your skates on.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Brickworks Poets and Guests - Poetry Reading - 16th December

Please join us for a Reading themed poetry reading at  5.30pm at the offices of Blandy and Blandy, Town Hall Square. A stellar cast of Reading poets will be reading, namely Peter Robinson, Claire Dyer, Anna-May Laugher, Susan Utting, Gill Learner, Lesley Saunders, AF Harrold and myself.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Academi - Big News

I am absolutely thrilled to have been invited to be a member of the Welsh Academi. This is truly a great honour for a Welsh writer and I am very proud. Thank you.

Harry Potter 7

At the risk of being childish - ooo it's good - dark, scary and well worth the noisy cinema, although there was rather too much wandering in the wilderness doing an ad for the Forest of Dean tourist office. That aside it had everything you could want from an HP movie. Pity we have to wait so long for the final instalment. I want to see it today...

Friday, 1 October 2010

Henley Literary Festival

A rare day of sunshine and warmth yesterday - a boat on the Thames - a poetry reading. Sounds like a heavenly recipe to me. I read my watery poems inbetween and around Lesley Saunders' 'Waterscape' sequence. It made a great confluence of words. To my right are Lesley and Jane Draycott. Out of shot are the lovely audience and our fellow readers Peter Robinson and A.F. Harrold. Hugely enjoyable readings. Don't miss it next year.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Forthcoming readings

Yesterday - so too late for this blog - at Marlborough Literary Festival with Brickworks. I good chance for us to showcase our Art set, made more enjoyable by selling a book. It's amazing how it pleases me that a total stranger liked what they heard enough to part with hard cash - bring on more total strangers please!

Henley Literary Festival

Wednesday 29 September - Hot Gossip Cafe, Henley on Thames - I am reading with Peter Robinson and Victoria Pugh at 7pm

Thursday 30 September - The Hibernia - I am reading with AF Harrold, Leslie Wilson and Peter Robinson at 1pm on a boat on the Thames

Boomslang Poetry Workshops

The first workshop on the theme of objects and memory was held earlier this month with a small number of attendees. I'm told it went down well.

October's workshop theme is The Road. There are a few places left, so please get in touch if you want one of them.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Boomslang Poetry Workshops

A new programme of poetry workshops in Caversham is being unveiled for the autumn. Get in touch to find out more.

Saatchi Gallery

I'm ashamed to admit that it has taken me until yesterday to visit the Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea, now gifted to the nation in an act of great generosity in these cash strapped times and free to all. The current show is new British artists. Lots to love, be indifferent about and even loathe here, but a very worthwhile trip on the rainest day of the summer holiday so far.

I was pleased to see Eugenie Scrase's Truncated Trunk, having followed her exploits on TV earlier in the year in School of Saatchi. Also it was good to see so much painting espcially Hurvi Anderson, Alastair MacKinven, Phoebe Unwin and William Daniels.

The one permanent exhibit is Richard Wilson's 20:50 - a whole lower ground floor gallery filled with sump oil. A stinky optical illusion is created where you are not sure what exactly it is you are looking at. Only blowing on the surface reveals that it is there at all. We speculated on the depth of oil and wondered if this is how the fouled beaches of Louisiana smell just now.

Brickworks Poets at Outside Inside Festival

Saturday 14 August, 12.30pm, Broad Street (eastern end), Reading. Please come and listen to our only open air reading this year.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Oxfam Readathon

I will be reading at the Oxfam Readathon at 12pm at 91, Marylebone High Street, London on Monday 5th July. Do come along.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Whiteknights Studio Trail

As well as admiring the work of all the wonderful artists, I am looking forward to hearing readings from new poetry books by Peter Robinson (English Nettles) and Adrian Blamires (The Pang Valley) this weekend. They are reading at 3pm on Sunday at the hang out of Two Rivers Press - 24 New Road, Reading.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Romeo and Juilet

Illyria production - Friday 11 June - Greys Court, Henley on Thames. Open air Shakespeare - it must be summer, but R&J as slapstick? I wasn't convinced. It was a long way into the play before it turned into the tragedy it is. I'm not sure you need to play it this way for the family audience - we all know what happens after all - or have the muscians dressed as the fab four with mop top wigs - a nearly 50 year old reference. Still, it is admirable that a troup of five can pull off all the part and costume changes required and cope with a relatively uncut script. Hurrah for their stage craft, if not the direction.

Salome at Oxford Playhouse

Saturday 5th June. Great play - shame about the performance and direction. Far too much shouting to be heard above the industrial sound track and the dance of the seven veils disappointed - no veils not much dancing. Sensuality entirely absent. Pity. Oscar deserves better.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Turbine House Reading

Lesley Saunders and I read our river poems on 5 June alongside the work of artists Hilary Kneale and Ann Rapstoff. The reading added an interesting dimension of words and sound to their residency and preparing for it was an exciting opportunity for me to consider how different media enter into a conversation. Our reading interlaced my individual poems with one long sequence of Lesley's. We are keen to do it again somewhere else equally watery.

Monday, 31 May 2010

Macbeth at the Globe

Blood, witches, blood, Scots fighting, blood, witches, mad woman, blood, murdered children, blood, ghost, did I mention the blood? Yes, there was a lot of it. Gratuitous? Probably but I rather ignored it in favour of the witches appearing in many unexpected places looking like they were the true puppet masters and not a hint of Halloween in sight. James McArdle - the new David Tennant - as Malcolm, was an unexpected find. Watch him, I think he'll go places. Pity about the circling helicopter, but this is one of the hazards of the outdoors in London. Macbeth on a sunny day - weird, but rather wonderful.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Brian Patten

Last night at South Street in Reading. Excellent reading of his wide range of poems - those for children, of adolescence, love and death. Especially poignant were the poems on the death of his mother, and his fellow poet Adrian Mitchell. He signed some pretty ancient copies of his work brought by the crowd- testimony to his long lasting appeal. Patten was supported by Alan Buckley from Oxford who gave a well measured reading from his pamphlet Shiver (tall lighthouse) as well as new poems. A lovely evening - thanks guys!

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Mexican Poets Tour

I heard their reading at Exeter College last week and fell for the very seductive poetry of Coral Bracho. I have very little and very rusty Spanish but sometimes that doesn't spoil one's enjoyment of the sound of poetry, which is in part what it is all about. Luckily translation was at hand. Coincidentally a poem of her's is in the current edition of Poetry Review. Enjoy it.

Oxford Poetry Professor

I'm backing Michael Horovitz, not that I have a vote, I just wanted to beat my drum in his direction. Bon chance.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Carol Ann Duffy at Oxford

Carol Ann Duffy read at Oxford University last night and it was a stunning reading. She read some well known poems from The World's Wife (Mrs Midas, Mrs Faust, Mrs Tireseus) and a clutch of unpublished poems, often featuring bees, an environmental concern that is finding its way into her peotry at present, as well as a number of recent poems that have appeared in the press (John Barleycorn, Atlas). Her reading struck the difficult balance between wit and seriousness, speed and pacing perfectly and was a masterclass in how to do a reading well. 'A snowball wept in my hands' from a poem on the death of her mother says it all - what a star. It was a priviledge to be there.

Monday, 26 April 2010

The World's Wife

Adaptation of Carol Ann Duffy's poems acted by Linda Marlowe and presently on tour. Deals with the difficulty of moving from one poem to the next (always a challenge to allow the audience's ear to absorb and then adjust) quite well I thought by use of music and minimal, but significant, changes of costume (scarves, shoes). But the one thing that jarred was the loss of the poetry - pity that actors feel the need mostly to over-ride the rhythms the poet has been so careful to craft, but then I suppose it isn't meant to be a poetry reading afterall, more's the pity.

The Glass Menagerie

At the Oxford Playhouse with Imogen Stubbs as the mother. It's been a very long time since I've seen this play and I'd forgotten how striking it is. Good timing to revive a play set in the Depression - no accident I'm sure. Imaginative set too with use of film footage at various key points. If it's on tour, go an see it, but obviously not if you want a barrel of laughs or are in anyway feeling miserable.

Friday, 16 April 2010

The Laugharne Weekend

A marvellous weekend of readings and sunbathing (I did say the sun always shines in Laugharne) and I even sold a few books. Most memorable moments were: Roddy Doyle on the last of his Henry trilogy - now an older man and working as a school care taker, Henry beats the bejesus out of abusive teachers; Peter Finch's launch reading of Zen Cymru, his latest poetry collection - part performance, part meditation; Niall Griffiths reading from his new novel about girls who will do anything to be celebrities - scary stuff, brilliantly written; Helen Griffin's performance of a one woman show about Caitlin Thomas - superbly done; and, of course, the annual reading of Twin Town.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

The Laugharne Weekend

Runs from this Friday 9th April to Sunday 11th April - a bargain as £50 gets you into pretty much everything including me reading from both of my collections and some new poems at Portreeve at 2pm on Friday. See you there. The sun always shines in Laugharne - you know this is true.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Oxford University - New Tutor

and that will be me. I will be teaching poetry on the undergraduate diploma in creative writing next academic year - very exciting.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Tellus magazine

A new poetry magazine published by Cambridge University Classics department. Its first edition, just out, includes some classy work from Michael Longley, Andrew Motion, Adam Horovitz, AF Harrold, Jenny Lewis and me. Check it out here

Art in the everyday

A workshop by Cahal Dallat (repeated from Aldeburgh) at The Troubadour last Sunday. Very profitable indeed, in that it has given me two new poems. Highly recommended workshops that give lots of writing ideas and prompts on a theme, and plenty of time for writing and sharing- check them out.

Sunday, 31 January 2010

Poetry Live for Haiti

Sadly I missed this landmark event yesterday, being stuck on a train. So very disappointing as I am told it was a stunning poetry show and a very moving occassion. Still at least I can donate my refunded train fare to the cause. I hope it was recorded so that I can hear what I missed at some point.

Saturday, 23 January 2010


Literary concerns, spotted in Clifton, Bristol. When did poetry last attract such passion I wonder?

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Philip Gross wins the TS Eliot Prize

Fantastic news for a great poet. I had the pleasure of being 'workshopped' by Philip during my MPhil course. He is a generous critic and a thoughtful reader, and I can recommend The Water Table to you. Many congratulations!

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Sting - If on a winter's night

Was one of my Christmas presents to myself (it's like that sometimes!). Some of the songs are more lovely than others to my ear, but I am very interested in the interpretation and setting of poems by Robert Louis Stephenson (Christmas at Sea) and to hear Vaughan Williams' music for William Blake's Cradle Song. Check it out.

Album cover stamps

This week the Post Office have issued a limited edition of stamps of 'classic' album covers - classic meaning presumably the artwork, not the music. How else does one account for the inclusion of Tubular Bells (Mike Oldfield) and Division Bell (Pink Floyd)?

My order for The Clash and New Order, snow willing, are winging there way to me. Hurray for that, but I fret that this is the seal of establishment approval. Pun intended!

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Snow Poems

'But for now I am a willing prisoner in this house,
a sympathizer with the anarchic cause of snow.'

So says Billy Collins in 'Snow Day', where he has his dog 'porpoise' through the snow, an accurate image. I am in complete agreement with Billy here this week and have the same 'mind of winter' that Wallace Stephens explains in 'The Snow Man'.

Robert Frost's 'A Dust of Snow' is eight short lines of excellence for a day such as today. I commend it to you, along with Emily Dickinson's 'The snow that never drifts' and which is 'fragrant'. I wonder what snow smells of? Metamorphorically perhaps it smells of all things clean and new. But this is not so for everyone.

The emptiness of the world in the snow is described in Louise Gluck's stark poem 'Snow', on the loss of childhood innocence. Or perhaps one might find uses for Yeats' image of things being 'as mad as the mist and snow' (from the poem with this title). Or Larkin's 'wretched width of cold' ('First sight').

'The snow is melting
and the village is flooded
with children.' (Issa, trans. Hass)

Ah, if only, but I suspect we have many more days yet to play in the snow and let is give us poems (cf Ted Hughes' 'The thought-fox').


to the all new Boomslang Poetry blog. I am planning to post items here of interest to poets, other writers and random culture vultures.

This week's news is that I have a poem, Snow light, in The Mirror, selected by Carol Ann Duffy for her Poetry Corner on the women's page. It will be in either Thursday or Friday's edition.