Saturday, 13 March 2021

Poetry readings

Do you remember poetry readings where people gathered in a room, before everything went Zoom?

I've always had mixed feelings about poetry readings, and I hate Zoom. Poetry readings can be great and they can be terrible. Some poets can read their poems well and some can't. Sometimes people want to talk before and after the readings and are friendly and welcoming. Sometimes they just go off into their own huddles and ignore you if you're not part of that group. Sometimes they throw up fascinating characters.

I've just found this, which I jotted down about one such character shortly after the reading:


It's been the best of times,

the worst of times,

and I've taken myself off

to recover,

to reflect,

to write stuff

which even I can't categorise,

which just seems to flow out of me


from page to page,

each one of which

I throw over my shoulder

as I finish performing them.

And she did!

Friday, 5 March 2021

Normality will return

I posted this lament on Twitter a while back, but I felt the need to post it again today in light of the news of the 1% NHS pay offer. If this is all we can do for NHS workers, I fear for social care and for all those who need support. Sometimes it's hard to be positive.


Normality will return


And those who were undervalued before

will be undervalued again.

And those who were vulnerable before

will be vulnerable again.


And the things we vowed to remember

we will forget.

And the things we vowed to change

will be unchanged.


Normality will return

with all its inadequacies.

And more people will lose the fight.


Sunday, 17 January 2021



They're dwindling,

those who might turn up to mourn,

and some of those are just in tow.

Some went before -

the ones you mourned the most

the ones that would have

mourned you most - 

to be expected.

Some you lose through death,

some fade away,

some are blocked,

some block you,

some you knew well,

some just slightly,

the rest you didn't know at all - 

to be expected.

Of those remaining,

one would be distraught,

two would be sorry,

one or two say positive things,

one or two would have mixed feelings,

some would comfort the one distraught,

the rest would mingle round the buffet - 

to be expected.

And if they all go first, what then?

The council would have to deal with it,

and when you're scattered

and your stuff is binned,

what then is left of you?

No-one to remember,

nothing to remember - 

but at least nothing expected.


Saturday, 19 December 2020

What I am grateful for

People who care.

People who are supportive.

People who try to understand.

People who do not expect you to feel positive all the time.

People who understand when they're lucky and that others are not as lucky.

People who try to make things better.

People who have the right words when you need them.

Poems that help me understand.



I'm not going to name names - I have already thanked individuals throughout the year who are covered by this list and I will continue to do so, particularly those who are closest to me personally.

My huge thanks to all those who care, in so many ways, in the community. 

Thank you too to all those who have supported my poetry and have helped me through theirs, whether in pamphlets, anthologies, collections, blogs or magazines, and to all those birders who have brought light through photos, tweets, blogs and magazines.

My photography has fallen away this year for many reasons, but here are a few photos that I'm grateful for - for beauty, memories and life. Hopefully, there'll be so much more to come.





Tuesday, 20 October 2020

How it is

This is life at the moment.

This is life in the moment.

This is life by the moment.

This is life for the moment.

Wednesday, 2 September 2020

Eng Lit, poetry and creativity

I have just read the inspirational book, 'Some kids I taught and what they taught me' by Kate Clanchy. It's eye-opening in many ways, and so good on poetry. One thing which really resonated was the piece about studying English at school and onwards, which includes this:

'In English, we assess and value only that last part of the learning process: the meta-language and the critical essay.'

At school my English teachers were not inspirational, did not give me a love of reading and writing or encourage creativity. Nor did they even, at A level, succeed in helping most students get good grades. I got a good enough grade to study English Language and Literature at University, and found that, again, I was not inspired, but at least, and it probably is least, I learnt the meta-language and how to write critical essays well enough to get a 2.1. As soon as I left University I swore I would never write like that again or read something in such a way that I could write like that.

However, possibly helped by seeing 'Educating Rita', (that should give you some idea how long ago this was) I realised that I now had a choice. I could read and write in a way that got me good exam grades or equivalent in the wider world, or indeed because it does have a value if used well, but I could also read and write what I wanted, and respond how I wanted, for the love of it and for what it brings to me personally and in terms of knowledge and joy. I could be as creative as I wanted. (Kate Clanchy writes so well on this.)

So why did I study Eng Lit to A level and degree? Almost certainly because I did have a good teacher - at home - my Dad - and he kept me going. My love of reading and writing, especially poetry, comes from him. He was a primary school teacher - a brilliant one. I am extraordinarily lucky to have had him as my Dad. Kate Clanchy shows in her book how children can be inspired and given control and power through reading and writing creatively. Her students, I think, were lucky to have known her. So many do not have that luck. Lockdown and the lack of access to learning has highlighted how disadvantaged people, in particular, miss out, as has the exam fiasco, but they miss out in so many ways, and we all will if we don't value all aspects of a person's life and potential and creativity.

Monday, 20 July 2020

Poetry and me at the moment

I've been reading even more poetry than usual over the last few months (and there is a lot of poetry out there to read). A lot of it has been by poets totally new to me. I've been surprised at times by what I've liked - and by how different from each other the poems are that I've liked. I've also been surprised that I haven't liked some poetry that has had very enticing reviews, and yes, I know, different people like different things. I use 'like' here to cover a multitude of  positive responses - poetry can move you in so many different ways, and sometimes it just doesn't work for you right now. It's great, though, to see the diversity of poetry out there, and it's also great to see how well the poetry presses have responded to the current crisis.

I've also realised that my own poetry has recently changed direction - and style. Well, hopefully it's been developing before that, but now it feels different. I know that for quite some time I have wanted some particular poems I have written to be published as a pamphlet/collection. Some of them have been published/accepted in magazines, for which I am very grateful, and have also been online, but it seemed to mean a lot to me that they got published together. At the moment I don't think that's going to happen. I have made changes to some of them (though I'm not sure I should have), and mixed them in with newer ones that have been published/accepted separately, but maybe they are a thing of the past and should stay there. Maybe they were just not good enough overall or didn't work together. There's a lot of competition out there and other factors involved too, and yes, different people like different things. Whatever the case is, they had their purpose, and they're still there for me, and for the people to whom they would mean the most, who have already seen them anyway.

Those poems were largely about remembering, trying to understand, to explain, maybe. They were very autobiographical, personal. I don't think you can actually ever get away from that entirely, or indeed whether you should entirely - we write from who we are after all, but I notice my more recent work is more outward-looking. I'm not sure if that was a conscious decision, or has been influenced by what I've read, or whether that's just where I am at the moment. Maybe it should have happened sooner. It wasn't that I didn't look outwards before, it's just that I wasn't sure how to respond. Certainly the current situation is one where change is a part of daily life and it would be hard not to respond to that somehow. My earlier poems drew very much on the natural world, particularly birds, and I don't think that will disappear, but maybe now it will be from a different angle. There are a lot of new areas I want to explore now too. I'll keep working on it anyway, and see if that connects with others, the way others do with me - and I'll try to remember that different people like different things.