Wednesday, 15 May 2019

You can see it from here

Readers of my previous blogs will know that I've been working for some time on what I've been calling my Sheppey project. It started out in my mind as a celebration of the natural beauty of the island, but less positive thoughts kept coming into my head, particularly as the island is under threat from developments which could impact on both the natural world and, in quite a major way, on people's everyday lives. 

When I first came here, someone told me that Sheppey wasn't the end of the world, but you can see it from here. It's a negative view, but there is a sense sometimes when you speak to people that they feel Sheppey is not what it was. They may still love it, but also feel it is in danger. 

There are many different views of Sheppey, from the people who live here, those who holiday here, those who remember it from childhood - and from those who've decided they don't want to live here.

I do want to live here, and I wanted to pull together the strands of why I do, and also highlight the threats. There was an increasing sense of urgency as more and more developments were proposed, so I have brought together - in words and pictures - how I feel about the island - and have produced a little book called 'You can see it from here - Views of Sheppey'.

The island is fragmented and the book likewise is fragmented - it's not quite how I envisaged it would be. Hopefully, in its different views, it captures different aspects of the island.

I have been fortunate already, in that the Aviation Museum in Eastchurch and Blue Town Heritage Centre in Sheerness are stocking it, so people can buy it from them. If you would like a copy (£5) and can't get to those two venues, just contact me through Twitter and I'll try to find a way to get one to you.

Monday, 11 March 2019

What I've found

This is a catch-up blog. I've been working on my Sheppey project (see earlier blogs if this means nothing to you) - out and about locally in all weathers - catching the unseasonal sun, getting drenched in the far more predictable rain, and buffeted by the gale-force winds - trying to pull my ideas together - and it is getting there. More on this soon.

I've also been looking for new and different poetry to read. What I've found (again) is that there are far too many poets for me ever to catch up with and I'm running far behind. It is also an expensive business trying to do so. There are resources online, which is great, and libraries can be a good source - but regrettably not locally. I would love to subscribe to more poetry mags but unfortunately, even though they're usually brilliant and really good value, it's just not possible. And there are great deals on poetry books too, but even so... there is just too much good stuff out there.

Actually, if the poets among you could stop writing for a while - say twenty years or so - I could possibly catch up - and also, it would help me get my own stuff published. Just a thought. (I may have suggested it before, but do they listen?)

Anyway, here is a list of some of the wonderful poetry I've discovered recently. I've tweeted about most of these (and the descriptions are as per the tweets), but the more publicity they get, hopefully the more they will get bought and read, and then the poets can all retire early, leaving the field clear (laughs hysterically). On the other hand, it might just encourage them - oh no!

Starling and Crane - Elspeth Brown - Indigo Dreams Publishing - this really resonated with me - there is something of Sheppey, something of me in it.

Heartwood - Alison Jones - Indigo Dreams Publishing - imagery to wallow in, woven with feeling that is sometimes tangible, sometimes more elusive, but always worth pursuing. Beautiful.

Invisibility for Beginners - Helen Pizzey - Cinnamon Press - 'from the humorous to the tragic' - to quote the cover

Please hear what I'm not saying - compiled and edited by Isabelle Kenyon - heart-wrenching, raw, hopeful - the many voices in the stunning poetry collaboration for MIND.

This is not a spectacle - Isabelle Kenyon - raw, intense, with inspired inner strength.

Also just discovered - Kim Moore - If We Could Speak Like Wolves - Smith/Doorstop Books - still re-reading this - it's wonderful. 

And finally, the stunning poems of Eloise CC Shepherd - as featured in Sarasvati (052) from Indigo Dreams Publishing - explicit and tender. (I've found Sarasvati a great place to discover new voices.)

And, having got all that tidied up, I'm now off to finish my Sheppey project, which will turn into a publication quite soon - I'll let you know.

Thursday, 31 January 2019

I fly, settle, fly - Gran Canaria

I've just had a much-needed short break in Gran Canaria:

from fog-grey, sludge-grey, dying-grey,
got to get away grey
to sky-blue, lapis-blue, flying blue,
yes I got away blue 

And it was wonderful:

sand shifts, settles, shifts
sea tumbles, settles, tumbles
I fly, settle, fly 


Friday, 14 December 2018

My Sheppey Highlights 2018

I'm still exploring Sheppey and mapping it with photos and poems - well, photos and some words that don't actually constitute poems as yet. The following photos were taken all across the island, including in my garden. They are some of my personal favourites of the year (and I've tweeted some of them previously, and made a calendar out of them), but they are just a few of many, and remind me just how much natural wonder can be found on this island (and indeed everywhere!)

I will also take this opportunity to thank everyone who has supported me throughout the year - I really do appreciate it. Wishing you all happiness in 2019.

Monday, 5 November 2018

Climate change

Magma's Climate Change Issue is out now and has some stunning and thought-provoking pieces - looking not just at the possible impact of climate change, but the relationship between this and poetry. There are some remarkable poems here - David Tait's 'Beijing Parakeets', Yvonne Reddick's 'Brent Crude', Harry Man's 'Up in the Woods' and my particular favourite, Nan Craig's 'The loss of birds'. But there are so many I could list.

When the call for submissions to this issue of Magma came, I had just read an article in The Guardian about mass mortality events (MMEs). There are many causes of these, but they can be related to extreme temperature or temperature shifts. In one of the biggest of these MMEs, hundreds of millions of starfish along the coast from Mexico to Alaska were affected by sea star wasting disease and began to 'melt into white gloop'. White cuts appeared on their bodies and some ripped off their infected arms and tried to walk away. But for most the disease was deadly. Some of the species most affected were morning sun stars, giant pink stars, purple stars, sunflower stars and rainbow stars. 

Something about this particular case moved me. I wrote a poem and submitted it, but it didn't get accepted - which is fine (not least because it needs seven lines of introduction) - just look at the ones that did! But it still means something to me, so I thought I'd share it anyway (now it has got the intro):

Sea star MME

the sunflower
tore off its petals,
the rainbow
the pink and purple
cut to white,
the morning sun
and when night came
the stars
had lost their reflections 

And to be honest, anything that inspires us to think and to create, rather than destroy, has to be good - so thank you to Magma for prompting me to think more and for the brilliant issue.


Saturday, 29 September 2018


Sheppey celebrates its place in the history of aviation - open spaces are punctuated by sculptures that surprise - and flight is a key theme for the island - planes, birds, people.


it's a place of flight
to and from - a place to hide
to soar or to crash -
as the vapour trails vanish
so too all hope of escape

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Off track

I thought it a good idea - a happy, positive idea - to map the wonderful place I live - its nature and wildlife - in pictures and poetry. Thank you so much to those who encouraged me in the idea.

But Sheppey, where I live, is a complex place, both in itself, and for me. When I first arrived, around five years ago, I found myself in the odd position of both feeling at home, and a complete outsider. It has a mixed reputation. Birders, and many others, love the marshes, the sea and the open spaces - it is a haven for waders and raptors in the cooler months. In the summer they are overtaken by flocks of holidaymakers. People come here to live and to work. And people come here to escape and hide. It is not just one place - it is a lot of small places linked and yet strangely separate. There is not just one landscape, there are myriads. And sometimes they overlap. It is a strange place.

I've spent time over the last few weeks - as I have done ever since I came to the island - walking, looking, taking pictures. There is a great deal of beauty on the island, even in unexpected places, but when I come to write, there appears to me to be an underlying sadness, or sense of loss, which is both real and imagined. And not what I hoped this project would be about. But that happens.To me, anyway.

I've looked back at pictures and poems and notes I've built up over my time here, and found this, which I scribbled about four years ago, coincidentally (!) sitting outside the local caff.

The Outsider

She lived down by the sea, they knew,
and she was always on her own,
but she would smile at passers-by.
That worried them.

Her hair was long and grey and loose,
and round her neck she often had
a camera and snapped away.
That worried them.

She'd sit outside the caff most days
and write things in a little book,
then tuck it safely in her coat.
That worried them.

She'd stand down by the sea and watch
the tide, the sand, the birds, the sky.
The weather didn't bother her.
That worried them.

They didn't know where she'd come from
or what she'd done before she came,
or where she went - just that she'd gone.
That worried them -
but not for long. 

All of which is a very long-winded way of saying I've gone a bit off track with my new project. But I have some interesting pics and I'll be tweeting them, and possibly blogging them, sometimes with words, sometimes not, and I'll keep scribbling and see what happens.

Let me know what you think.