Monday, October 30, 2006

Reading in Cheltenham this Sunday

This Sunday evening, November 5th, I'll be running an hour-long poetry workshop in Cheltenham, followed by a reading from my new collection BOUDICCA & CO with open mic session. It's being held upstairs at the Beehive Pub, at "Buzzwords" which is a regular poetry event, from 7pm onwards.

For those only wishing to hear me read, or to read their own work, the poetry reading and open mic session begins at 8pm, upstairs at


I'm keeping my fingers crossed there won't be too many loud bangs - November 5th being bonfire night! - during my reading, but if there are, the atmosphere will probably suit my poetry, many of the poems from the Boudicca sequence being concerned with war!

If anyone browsing this blog can make it, I'd love to see you there!


Friday, October 27, 2006

The Nail, Autumn 2006

A new issue of THE NAIL is just out and lying on my desk. THE NAIL is an eclectic magazine coming out of Oxford - edited by Dave Todd - which looks in particular at the live poetry scene in Oxford and beyond. This new issue of THE NAIL features spanking new poetry by, well, me, plus many talented live poets such as AF Harrold, Alan Buckley, Rob Gee, Peter Wyton and Nina Davies.

Besides its vibrant cover, the magazine is also illustrated throughout, with photographs and some highly atmospheric line drawings.

Even if you don't usually buy the smaller poetry magazines, THE NAIL is useful because it has two pages of live poetry and performance listings at the back of each issue, letting people know what's on where in the Oxfordshire and Reading areas. You can buy THE NAIL from Dave Todd - pictured left in MY hat! - by contacting him for details: davetodd or send contributions with SAE for return to Dave, Hammer & Tongue, 16b Cherwell Street, Oxford, OX4 1BG - though you really should buy a copy first to see the sort of work he prefers.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

On Fame

Tidying my book shelves in advance of an influx of my own slim volume, in largish numbers for selling, I found a beautiful little green-backed 1897 edition of ‘The Lyrical Poems of John Keats’, heavily ornate, decorated with gilt flowers and leaves both on the spine and front cover.

Though I have several other editions of his works - letters as well as poems - I had forgotten that I owned this particular nineteenth century edition. Very much a pocket Keats, and unashamedly lovely.

Picking it up, the book fell open at the following poem; wonderfully serendipitous, given that I have just published a new collection of poetry myself and am wondering how well - or poorly - it will be received.


Fame, like a wayward girl, will still be coy
To those who woo her with too slavish knees,
But makes surrender to some thoughtless boy,
And dotes the more upon a heart at ease;
She is a Gipsy - will not speak to those
Who have not learnt to be content without her;
A Jilt, whose ear was never whisper’d close,
Who thinks they scandal her who talk about her;
A very Gypsy is she, Nilus-born,
Sister-in-law to jealous Potiphar;
Ye love-sick Bards! repay her scorn for scorn
Ye Artists lovelorn! madmen that ye are!
Make your best bow to her and bid adieu,
Then, if she likes it, she will follow you.

John Keats, 1818

Sunday, October 22, 2006

BETA BLOGGER -Time to Swop Formats

Okay, I swopped POETS ON FIRE over to the new advanced Beta Blogger system last weekend. Now it's the turn of my Raw Light blog.

If the site takes ages to load once the switch has happened, or if you spot any other problems like dead links or whatever, or even if you just love or hate the new look of Raw Light, please let me know by emailing me or leaving a comment below this post.

Here goes ... abracadabra!

PS. Just to add to this, having now switched over to Beta Blogger, there are some teething problems. Like not being able to post poetry up in the sidebar except as a list (posting it backwards, one line at a time, which is an odd but very interesting procedure!) and also having some trouble getting the new layout to load fully.

So please forgive any strange things going on for the next week or so, as the new format beds in. Hopefully, all will come right in the end.


Friday, October 13, 2006

Boudicca & Co. is now out there and available to buy!

Nine Years On

Friday 13th may be unlucky for some, but for me, it's an immensely important occasion and one I refuse to be superstitious about. Today, my second collection of poetry Boudicca & Co has gone live on the Salt Publishing website, which means it's now in print and available to buy!

It's nine years since my first poetry collection was published by Bloodaxe, amidst a flurry of exciting publicity. It seems an incredibly long time ago, yet some of the poems I wrote immediately following the New Blood tour in October 1997 - just after Brief History of a Disreputable Woman was published - are in this new book, and they still feel and sound as fresh to me as they did the day I wrote them.

So why did I wait so long before publishing my second collection? Well, it certainly wasn't because I'm a slow writer! I must have written nigh on three hundred poems, at least, in the interim between that first book and Boudicca, but I was advised that the vast majority of my poems were not up to scratch and so I dumped many of them soon after they were written. Possibly the wrong move, but I guess we'll never know.

Some of the rest I also eventually binned out of sheer lack of interest, others I stupidly lost in a wearying series of house moves, still others were eaten by dead computer drives. An entire verse play called Umbra disappeared. I stopped writing in the end and only began again, very tentatively, towards the end of 2004. The individual poems that remain from that dark time, the ones I kept copies of and refused to stop believing in, are true survivors and I'm very happy to see them in print at last.

I shall not be waiting - let's hope so, anyway! - another nine fairy-talesque years before producing my next collection. New poems are already simmering in the 'possible' pile. But in the meantime, I have a new and extremely handsome book of poetry to sell and I sincerely hope you will all consider buying a copy of Boudicca & Co ... before the first print run sells out!


Here's the link to BOUDICCA & CO.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Poets-I-Used-To-Know, Poetry-Magazines-I-Still-Miss

Well, the Ancient Greek exam is finally behind me - results at Christmas, I'll admit to them only if I pass - so I now have a small amount of time free each day for writing poetry.

But is that what I do, first day 'out of school' - write some poetry? Of course not, that would be too sensible. No, instead I spent a few hours tonight trawling the net in search of amusement. Not the porn stars on pink lilos type of amusement - I used to bother with that sort of thing when I was single, but now the pop-up ads just drive me insane - the poets-I-used-to-know type of amusement.

Here for instance is KM Dersley, who may have said hello to me at the Small Press Fair one year in Newcastle, possibly 1996, after we had been corresponding on a poetry matter.

As I recall, he came shuffling up to me in a duffle coat, heavily rucksacked and looking at me sideways. I was on a stall flogging, or trying to flog, copies of Blade, the poetry & critical magazine I used to run before my brain ran out of energy for such adventures. We talked and then he moved on to the next stall. And here I find KMD again, ten years later, still poeting and online at the Ragged Edge website and writing about precisely that experience; the 'Magazine Rigmarole' as he calls it in his poem of the same name ...

I wouldn't get on very well at committee meetings,
would rather be at home
reading Scarlet Pimpernel stories
or one of Rider Haggard's soap and tsetse fly sagas

Later in the same poem, he quite accurately - if cynically - describes the motivation of poets to part with hard cash in exchange for poetry magazines they despise on the off-chance that this purchase may somehow enable them to get their work in too, since

If that shit counts, then maybe their crap does too,
and everyone can then sit on the dung pile and
smoulder together.

Nada the Lily. What a classic. And Umslopogaas. They don't make tragic heroes like that anymore.

Everything I know about tsetse flies I learnt from H. Rider Haggard.

But not all (small press) poetry magazines are/were unadulterated rubbish.

What about Joe Soap's Canoe? The Wide Skirt? Sunk Island Review?

The poetry world seems to be shrinking even while the magazines proliferate ... shrinking down, down, to the few that still matter (to me, that is).

When will any of us get excited by a new magazine again? By which I mean the sort of little magazine that spurns the establishment whilst making its strong new ideology heard above the wastepaper-bin fodder.

Ah, those heady days of wide-eared poetry innocence ...

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Second Prize and a Poetry Reading!

This National Poetry Day (Thursday 5th October) I found myself in the stately Great Hall at Warwick Castle, surrounded by suits of armour and sitting three seats away from the Mayor, as the winner of Second Prize in this year's Warwick Words Festival poetry competition, judged by former Birmingham Laureate Julie Boden. My poem was called 'The Sound of Guitars' and after reading it to the assembled dignitaries - it was the launch ceremony of the 2006 Festival - I was then awarded my various prizes: a generous book voucher, a copy of Andrew Motion's new memoir of his childhood, In the Blood, which I can't wait to read, a recording of Julie Boden's poetry called Beyond the Bullring, and a copy of her poetry collection Through the Eye of a Crow (Pontefract Press), which seems, at first glance, to be heavily inspired by my own favourite poet, Ted Hughes. All in all, quite a treat for a cold and rainy Thursday night in October!

The winner, Helen Yendall, was crowned as new Poet Laureate for Warwick, taking over from Brenda Tai Layton, with her winning poem 'Kettle'.

Today, Saturday 7th October, I'm reading at the Thomas Oken Tearooms near Warwick Castle as part of Brenda Tai Layton's Poetry Cafe event, which runs throughout the Warwick Words Festival.

If you're in the vicinity, my particular performance slot runs from 1.30pm to perhaps 2pm. But I should imagine that's a moveable feast! I'll be reading poems that will appear in my brand-new book, Boudicca & Co., which is due out from Salt Publishing in a matter of weeks. Also a few poems from my first book, The Brief History of a Disreputable Woman, which is now available for sale at a considerably discounted sum!

Hope to see you there!