Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Adventure Sky! more parts etc.

I can't do the formatting properly, but here, for no reason other than I need to update my blog before it breaks one of my fingers out of sheer temper, are some shiny new extra parts to my long poem ADVENTURE SKY!

(The first part of this poem can also be seen at Stride.)

ADVENTURE SKY!   a poem in progress

Wilderness of continents/howling
winds of up to speeds of/tsunami. NO SMOKING.
Bruise-blown sun hangs like a battered bulb.
Tornado silence. Newsflash: APOCALYPSE.
Cities/black steel craters burning without light.
Cinder priests consumed in last absolution:
“And few shall be saved,” according to the prophet
and space-time-continuum logistics: S.T.C.L.
Back to people murdering themselves for relief.
Road rage. Oxygen critical. Survivors
reviewing themselves in soft silver spacesuits
while earth burns/red mist shift-clinging to thighs.
Oceans boil over. Sungate. CRASH. Blister-pack
Arsenic Survival Kit.™ Here kids, take this.
Fasten your nooses he says bluefall founders –
some GOD forsaken rock Home Sweet Hole
in the ozone. Fragrant as ever. Amen Now take the w(h)eel Captain
O Captain Adventure. Our world is gone –
a stagnant used-up trashcan reservoir billy.
Life support stutters. Fans applaud. TOUCHDOWN.
Outside the porthole invisible glistens:
another dis-aster place de l‘étoile car smash
* red-eyed peripherique candlelit vigil
waiting to happen.         
                         – Goddess!   
                                      – Adventure Sky!

Sleep-pod eggsistence. Dust ® POUF! ¬ tinfoil
rocks. Pan right. One small stepladder –
                                                down arrow  ¯
(welcome) – humanity. INTRODUCTION ENDS.

Part One: The Journey

ON THE BRIDGE:                          
                                              SongStress enters,
clipboard in hand. Multisize uniform, fastened
at neck and groin. Pseudo-realistic
representation with same sex attraction.
Steel(breasts)-brush. Off/ followed by roll-up
roll-up male eyeballs bulging lesbian alert.
72 months to touchdown/don’t flashback.
Aftship, the Lawman is nowhere to be seen. Cradling
a ghee-tar on his bunk, feet up, he strums semi-
idle elegies to Earth. “Lost, ah lost …”
Amongst the seed-banks and proto-plant racks,
in green rubber spaceboots, the Shaman moves
with his soft hands from leaf to leaf, swaying
and muttering. Nothing much happens.
Flashback to back: two visions. One earth burning
then – “Come in control…” – “ARK! ARK!” –
a rainbow of lights/fast-forward flotilla lift-off
steel-soft hardware/fluorescent tubes.
Behind, the dark pageant consumed audibly
in shear-off random starburst/pinpoints of light.
Rolling to starboard: rotating sections ROTATE!
deep shudder then – flung back – G-force – white lights
drawn into suction (artist’s impression) BLING!
Steadily shinily faster-than-light sailing.
Metal shutters DESCEND. Pale
corridors hum. “Bug Detectors Activated.”
Tungsten glow, watching the planet dwindle:
burnt stack on the horizon’s black smoke signal.
Bible-ash/soft with believers. Gold tooth wrack.


Had sausages for tea. Amazing what they can do
with/EMERGENCY. “Space debris sighted, Captain.”
“Blast it from the skies.”/synthetic pigs bladder.
71 months to touchdown. Carpet golf.
“Scan the universe for survivors.” / “Aye aye, Cptn
Adventure.” / Lines of Virgilius R6
feet, dactylic in essence, caesura in the third,
spondee to finish. Not so these.
Nymph, in thy orisons be all my ships remembered.
The Captain reminisces: ‘Light years from now
all this will be grassland and you, lady,
with furious incantations, or no furious incantations
but mown lawns at 3pm,
old Mr Patterson in his shirt sleeves, glowing,
the town clock …’ 
And so on.


                                    Woo-ooh ®

                                                          SongStress enters
in a wave of / stuffed cat in hand / eucalyptus
and Old Spice. ‘Where is,’ she asks, ‘the governor
of this gang?’ (Polemic Pat, we called her.)
Lawman stands, cradling his ghee-tar, unbuttoned.
(The overheads of hyperbaton) We
who are about to watch Mad Max II again
salute thee, O thief i’ th’ night, hortus conclusus
guarded by the flaming swords of cherubim.
Lawman strums a bar and sings
his “Bee-Bop-A-Lula” definition of sin as

                  Water Theft
                  Refusal to Procreate
                  Destruction of Seed
                  Blooms in the Engine Rooms
                  Pretentious Crap

We read out the digital displays and cry
across the vast exigencies of space
for those we left to die on a broken planet.
‘Lost, ah lost …’ Melted down to a toothpick.
But a new star beckons. Preserve the old ways, for/
‘63 months to touchdown, Captain.’/
they are soon lost to us. Like table manners.
The stars roll over, thunder / ‘GAS! GAS!’
‘Emergency shutdown: Sections 18
through 25.’ ‘Send in a team; check for
survivors.’ / ... et ad aeternam shine.

(a tongue twister)

Could be morning. Soft breeze in the living quarters.
Shaman taps at the air-con: 21°
Celsius. Physical jerks on the touchscreen.
A small cabin with rolling tobacco
and apple fritters. Deafening whiteout.
“That last mortar attack on Paradise Street ... ”
Exploding limbs and / ‘Oxygen levels stabilised, Captain.’
‘Re-open sections when ready.’ / the rest is silence.
Chilli dogs remembered. Birdsong Bar-B-Qs
from the leaf-fringed suburbs:
“When I consider how my light is spent,
I wish I’d stayed behind and burnt.”
But Shaman says: “Arise and go now,
for a bold coming we had of it
and that one Talent that is death to hide
is lodg’d with me useless, though dull would he be of soul
who could pass by such a pearly porthole.”


The touchscreen flickers.

“I heard voices in my ears, saying Ding-dong. Here endeth,
here endeth nine runner bean rows
and a sea-change into something rich and strange:
sea-nymphs, linnets’ wings.
O, for a beaker full of ding-dong
in a small cabin. Come in; my soul’s of clay
and wattles made. Here endeth
here endeth everything.”

                  Hic iacet liber.

So the old gods die.
Throw them down, every one of them, and let us make
no new idols but music.
The music of the wormhole.
The music of dust.
The music of alienation,
         synthetic whiskey in a plastic cup.
Of porn and peas and leaving party repartée.
For all things have their music.
Even betrayal has its music.
Even deceit is a song.

O SongStress, ­give us lemons, for we are thirsty!
Give us lemons, lemons/
& lemonade.
Ding-Dong. Here comes a chopper.

To Be Continued ...

Thursday, November 01, 2012

To dream of death ... a poem for All Hallow's Eve

A poem for All Hallow's Eve, which I managed to miss by a few seconds. Typical.
To dream of death signifies fear
of the unknown. Dandelions
tell of a lover’s

infidelities. Towers and steeples
are signs of ill omen.
To avoid nightmare, sleep

with a stone under your pillow.

The ring-tailed dove

must not be crossed with the crow
or harm approaches.

To see rivers in flood

means death by drowning, and roses
financial ruin. Anything blue

is an excellent omen

for childbirth. Pearls bring sickness.
Opals, relief.

Falling from a high place

indicates a stranger’s treachery

and carrying milk

a long-held dream fulfilled. But

to dream of milk spilt

is to suffer love unrequited.

From Camper Van Blues (Salt Publishing). 

Friday, October 26, 2012

New home website for Jane Holland

You will not be able to stand the excitement of this announcement, but I have finally managed to transfer my old domain name to a new website, which is still under development.

There you will find scaffolding, rickety walls and buckets of cement, plus a few new structures - for instance, information on my poetry collections for sale, and a page for reviews and endorsements, now all gathered in one place.

There is also a 'blog' on the new Jane Holland website. But I don't see it replacing Raw Light.

Indeed, there's a link on the site to draw new readers to Raw Light. For I do intend to revive this blog's flagging fortunes with some new blog posts in the near future.

These days though, I'm just continually ... you know ... busy! And right now, fiction is the headliner for me, with poetry very much the sideshow. But it makes me uncomfortable, if that's any consolation. And I have attended one poetry event recently - don't all faint - so that's a good sign that I intend to make a comeback.

I may even write a poem soon. Yes, a whole poem. All of my own.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Poetry Critiques: the horror, the horror!

Having thoroughly and disgracefully neglected my old friend poetry for the past two or three years, I am finally attempting to rectify this fault.

I am heading off tonight to the Falmouth Poetry Group, notable members of which include poets Penelope Shuttle and Caroline Carver, and will grit my teeth to endure 'group critique' - the horror, the horror! - in order to kickstart myself back into the poetry 'scene'.

Tonight may be kill or cure, my friends. Kill or cure.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Juicy and Tudorish: The Queen's Secret hits paperback

Buy me, buy me, buy me!!! Oh, I am so juicy and Tudorish.

Yes, it's official, my Tudor novel The Queen's Secret - which is NOT a romance, as some erroneously believe - is now on sale in the UK in paperback.

It's a spy thriller/adventure set against the backdrop of Queen Elizabeth I's visit to Kenilworth Castle in 1575, and also happens to be Book One in a trilogy about the life of one candidate for Shakespeare's "Dark Lady", black court entertainer Lucy Morgan.

For more on that, please see the book itself, which has an extensive Author's Note!

Anyway, 'tis the first fruits of my labour as historical novelist Victoria Lamb, and I urge all my regular readers to at least THINK about buying it. It's reduced to under a fiver on Kindle - and may drop lower - and could be as low as £3.99 when it hits larger branches of Asda and Tescos. Please support a poor poet by buying her prose.


Saturday, September 15, 2012

I Don't Call Myself a Poet: a grumpy interview

Poetry: the days when the pen is mightier than the Mac
I don't think I've mentioned this before, but I was recently interviewed by Emine Ahmet on a website of interviews with contemporary British poets: I Don't Call Myself A Poet.

For some reason, lost in the mists of time, I was in a particularly cynical and terse mood the day I was interviewed, and it shows in my responses. Another day might have seen me more inclined to my natural charm and joie de vivre, ho ho. But alas, I am instead doomed to go down - in the history of this website at least - as a grumpy old bag.

My favourite Q&A from the interview:
What keeps you writing and sharing your work with a society that seems to be listening less each day?
Stupidity and egotism, I expect.

Read more of this poetry interview at I Don't Call Myself A Poet.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Young Shakespeare: Victoria Lamb

Mealtimes for William Shakespeare would have looked very much like this, in his large and lively Warwickshire family.

I thought some of the readers of Raw Light might be interested in today's entry on my alter-ego Victoria Lamb's blog.

Some of you may know that I published the first book in a trilogy about Shakespeare's 'Dark Lady' in hardback earlier this year. It's called The Queen's Secret and is out in paperback in a couple of weeks.

In this first book, William Shakespeare is eleven years old and plays only a very minor role in the story. But he features as a point of view character in the second book, so his life as a child and young man in Stratford upon Avon is uppermost in my mind.

Please do hop over to read my entry on Young Shakespeare - and maybe click to Follow my blog there, if interested in updates on my fiction writing as Victoria Lamb.

Monday, August 06, 2012

In Search of Coherence

Here's my dilemma, poetry-wise. I'd like to publish a fourth collection, but I'm not sure who with. I have ideas about that, but am not ready to act on them at the moment.
That's problem number one.

Problem number two is that I don't actually have a book of poems to show to anyone right now. My last full-length book was Camper Van Blues (Salt Publishing 2008). That's four years ago, and I really ought to have another book's worth of poems ready to publish. But I don't, because I've been mostly writing prose fiction since then. And the rest of the time I've been working on various short translations - mainly Anglo-Saxon poetry - and of course my biggest project since CVB, which has been my version of the Middle English poem Gawain and the Green Knight.

I now have about 15 pages of Gawain, cobbled together in a vaguely finished state, and think another hundred and fifty lines should bring it to a close. But finding the time to write those lines isn't as easy as it sounds. You don't just write something like that in your lunch break. It's about finding a rhythm and a feel for the original that can be translated into the version I'm writing, to make a coherent and powerful whole, and that takes time. Well, it takes me time.

So Gawain has to sit on the back boiler until I can find time to re-read the original and get back into the rhythm and mood that inspired me in the first place.

Beside Gawain on that back boiler sit various translations from the AS, plus a gaggle of self-conscious stand-alone lyrics that might or might not be publishable on their own merits, and some rough ideas on how to fit them all together, none of which have any coherence right now.

I also have my long poem On Warwick, which was published by the lovely Nine Arches Press in pamphlet form in 2008, but which I'd like to see as part of a collection.

Basically I can't decide if Gawain should be published alone - it's very short though, even for a chapbook - or in book form.

If it goes into a book, along with On Warwick, then I have a full collection ready to show. But if it doesn't, then I don't have enough for a book.

What needs to happen now is for me to finish Gawain, write more stand-alone lyric poems, polish up my Anglo-Saxon translations, and get the shape of this fourth book right. I have a list of possible victims publishers, places which might take my career further forward and help me with poetic direction. But will any of them have me?

I suppose that question is academic until I've done the actual work. Perhaps I need a poetry retreat?

Friday, August 03, 2012


This is a long poem taken from my debut collection The Brief History of a Disreputable Woman (first published by Bloodaxe in 1997, now available in a revised form on Kindle as Disreputable). I published substantial extracts from Canzoni on the blog in May 2008. But since it's now 2012 and I probably have a wider readership now, it seems fair to post it up again for another outing.

Canzoni does have an explanatory preamble, but I'd prefer the poem to stand alone without going into it. So I shall not bother to comment on its inspiration, except to say that the "Inquisition" scene in the middle has an unfortunate and highly unsuccessful Oxford interview at Magdalen College at its heart. If you think I'm difficult in my mid-forties, imagine me at age seventeen.

I'm rather glad I outgrew this type of self-indulgent posturing (or hope I did) and the knowing obscure references which feel rather silly at this distance in time. It has some good things in it though, so it's worth a nod.


Your image blurs
in a fingerprint of rain,

shark’s-eye twitching the lens
like a landed fish
as you gather yourself.

This is your funeral.
You cannot afford to be absent.


Where the world was, there is a hole.
At the bottom, a rotten box
opens steel hinges.

The church stiffens
into the future, beckoning.

The goddess bends over the pram
in a wave of bright light and eucalyptus.
Her skin has the look of scouring pads.
She is angry, then diffident.

When she goes,
she leaves something with me –
so tiny I could tuck it under my fingernail
and not notice –
but it shines, it sparkles!

It turns in the wind like a seed
hungry for soil, then sits all summer
under the red bell of the rhubarb.

I hear it pressing
cool dark clay
with its arm stumps.


This coal bunker is so drab
it is almost innocuous;

inhabiting the air like a virus,
its unseen spores drift inwards.

This photograph
must have been taken in ’68 –

he came out with a sledgehammer
not long after

and reduced it to rubble –
but I remember the smell, the gritty feel of it.

Coal dust is like pollen –
I carried it around in my lungs

summer after summer,
a black hive.


It was always raining
and the bookcase was always full.

After the rug ended,
before the skirting board began,

your dark spine shone like skin
under my fingers.

You were a shadow
on an x-ray,
growing and deforming.

They should have had you removed
but you were part of me –
a sucker, coming out of the soil
where the graft root was accidentally buried.

Your words hatch
white clutch-eggs in my larynx
twenty years on,

where the dull sheen of pearls
first gleamed under my palate.


This is no mosquito.
The lump is already swelling and purpling
like the eyesockets of an aborted head.

It stinks of old cats, fishbones, dustbin lids.

It has no name,
so reluctantly I give it yours –
unwanted, it’s been skulking about for years
and demands purpose.

I will give birth to a wolf bite.


The car ticks over,
the soft green pit pit pit
of rain on the windscreen.

It is three minutes to twelve.

When the lightning comes,
it is a steel pin
in the throat of the morning,

holding noon from midnight
and one swift breath
from the other.

Afterwards, I shudder down the lane
like an old woman,

thirty seconds closer
to whatever took you.


This is not The Purple Rose of Cairo
where you will walk out of the screen,
a dea ex machina,

but the echo of an echo,
repeating myself
as I try to unwrangle

future from present,
present from past historic,

finding them all
on the same skein of wool
like runners from a strawberry,
budding intermittently.

There will be no
ice cream at the interval.

Down, down, the house lights
have all gone down,

leaving nothing but the waiting,
as I step outside my own skin

into the silver skin of history.


This room breathes
the dark stench of the Inquisition.
She does not have the answers to your questions.

Will you stretch her on the rack?
Is she your next victim?

A star swivels
above the one glinting eye
of the brickwork, aching
to be opened and examined.

Milk-white, it tenses and folds.
She is not a cat. She will not drink it.
It stands for insanity, knowledge.

Your questions beat about her head
like sisters, their blood is on her fingers.


God, for a heart rent like a veil –

flayed on an anvil
like the skin of a walrus –

ripped, beaten so thin
its veins, its valves,
the bright gush of aorta,
wither to sun-dried red chillies.


Her black-hole-eye collapses
in on itself. The debris
thickens and follows.

Tell me, old man,
what was it like
to sleep with the goddess,

to taste her death,
the retreat of it?

Your mind is a morgue.

Images lie tagged on the tables,
smiling postmortem,
the flash of a shutter.

For this sad pilgrimage to end,
the beast herself

must rise and walk,
bearing her slab
like a standard before her.


There is a bullet
lodged in your gullet,

a small shining oblong
with the voice
and cry of a woman.

The hare, the grouse,
the blood-flecked rabbit,
dance on your rain gibbet,
creaking their shut eyes.

The sea walks tall
in the distance,
a whisper of silver
past the high grasses

where the moon hangs
like a crude symbol
over a rough cot.

There is no way
to ward off this evil.

You will lie face-down
for centuries,
picking out her features:
stones from mud.


I step back,
listening to where the ripples
found me,

the still drop of a stone
into dark water,
the endless concentric circles.

After the stone’s entry,
the waters heal themselves
like lips closing on silence.

From the depths,
the world comes back
as a blue shadow,

seen through the shallow eye
of a stone.


Worm wriggles
inside his fur pouch, stretching.

The animal died last month.

His mouth is squeaking
the tin whistle
of its teeth, restlessly.

Then the wind shifts.
His damp striations rise
and coil.

Someone has hung someone else
out to dry.


The clock calls in the hall
with its first hand, striking.

She says something,
but the crack of your heart
is too loud to hear it.

Through the dark room,
you see the glint of her breath
as she turns into the pillow.

She knows. She knows.

The sheets pull like dust-jackets
into your hand.


Harnessed to the air,
she is anathema –

no birds touch her.

The stinging flail
of the sun catches her ankle.

She is anchored
to a heat-source, incandescent.

Her marigold mouth
and shrivels –

is this how death feels? –

her hair withers
like a field of burnt bracken.

The thrush
starts from the thicket
as she arches, hollow candle,
from one form to another.

The lawn leaves a charred circle
where her feet fall.


Black ash
under the broad sweep of an oak.

Starlings sift
through its fingers.

She imagined herself violent,
failing to see how the line breaks
at the meridian,

leaving her stranded, unalterable.

Too far inland for the sea,
crashing between houses, gleaming
like the blunt edge of a sickle –

where a boat might cross and recross,
telling its history –

but still now as the centre,
silent, irreproachable.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Not Beaten Yet

Time for a Raw Light relaunch?

I was taken aback the other week when, answering a friend's questions during a lit-mag interview, it was suggested that Raw Light, i.e. this blog, was 'over'.

Is that truly people's perception, that this blog has gone the way of all flesh, or rather that my poetry career has tumbled in that direction? That in turning to prose, I have somehow closed the door on poetry altogether?

I know that I've been very busy elsewhere, and indeed have a new blog for my historical fiction as Victoria Lamb, but I genuinely wasn't aware that Raw Light had become a dead space. But perhaps my usual readers feel it is no longer worth visiting. Over the past year I've thought of my poetry blog as being on hiatus, on a sabbatical, not dead but just resting - "pining for the fjords," as it were.

The problem, as with most things, has been time. Time closely followed by energy. Or rather a shortage of both.

So this is a promise, or a threat, or both, and a reminder that Raw Light is not beaten yet. It's been going since 2005 and it's still on the air. These things are cyclical. And maybe that giant wheel is slowly juddering back round again. We'll see.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Interview on The Camarillo Review

It feels odd to step back into the world of poetry, my time is so constantly wrapped up in prose fiction. But I was interviewed recently by Sean Colletti for The Camarillo Review.

This interview was largely in connection with my recent work as editor of Epicentre. (The poetry magazine is on summer break, by the way, so please don't send me work for it!)

Anyway, the interview is here on The Camarillo Review. Here's an extract:
"The main time to listen to advice is if you feel uncertain yourself, and what an editor or fellow poet says seems to make sense. Sometimes you can be too close to your work to see the flaws or their solutions. But at the same time, I’m not a big fan of listening to other people (as my husband would tell you). If you want to write what everyone else is writing, go ahead and take classes, join groups, seek advice from fellow practitioners. Because in general the advice you get will push you in the direction of homogenising your work. And that kills originality.
Yes, I know that seems to be giving a carte blanche to every crackpot who thinks their work is wonderful when it isn’t. But so what? As long as they don’t send their work to me, I’m fine with it."

Tuesday, July 03, 2012


Here's a little request for those of you who are on Goodreads (a site for readers to list and share information on their books).

Out: Thursday 5th July
I'm on Goodreads as Victoria Lamb, and have a new novel out this week. It's an historical paranormal novel for Young Adult readers, and is called Witchstruck.

It's listed on the Goodreads Historical Fiction 2012 list, somewhere in the twenties, and I'd love to see it climb a little higher. 12 more votes will get it into the top ten.

So if you're on Goodreads, it would be great if you could amble over to this list of new historical novels for 2012 and vote for Witchstruck

Many thanks!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Deep in Revision Land

I was back in Caernarfon last week, a place I love to visit when writing. Walking out at dusk for some air, I spotted a couple of students making a number of paper hot air balloons and letting them go over the harbour.

A few moments after this shot, the hot air balloon caught fire and dropped gracefully into the water a few feet from the Harbour Master's building. He came out and stared down at this soggy pink mess in the water, then at us giggling on the other side of the harbour. At which point I made a hasty exit.

The day before that I was in the Welsh seaside resort of Llandudno, where I had an excellent cup of tea and bought Alan Hollinghurst's new paperback, The Stranger's Child. Needless to say, I have not even opened this very beautiful-looking book as I am still deep in revision land.

I have about 48 hours to complete revisions on my latest Victoria Lamb novel, provisionally entitled His Dark Lady, a Tudor four-hander which revolves around William Shakespeare's relationship with his "dark" mistress.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Dunkirk boats in Diamond Jubilee pageant

As the day of the Diamond Jubilee pageant on the River Thames in London arrives, I thought it might be amusing to comment on the fact that some of the boats used to evacuate soldiers from the beach at Dunkirk will be taking their place on the river today.

I mention this because there is an old Dunkirk rescue boat which shares my name: Jane Holland.

The Jane Holland was one of 19 lifeboats sent to Dunkirk to evacuate the British Expeditionary Force. You can find photographs of her and her crew here at the Eastbourne RNLI site. According to the station historians, a Naval Officer had asked for a boat which would not sink on its way to Dunkirk, like all the others he had been given. He was given the Jane Holland, which was unfortunately rammed on her approach to the beach - leaving a great gash in her side - and then riddled with machine-gun bullets from a German fighter plane. When the engines failed, and the boat came under further enemy fire, those on board were forced to abandon ship right outside Dunkirk Harbour.

Despite this hellish attack, the Jane Holland did not sink. She was found a few days later, floating in the English Channel, utterly battered and bashed, letting in water and splendidly decorated with over 500 bullet-holes. Incredibly, the boat was repaired and later returned to active service as a lifeboat in the early 1940s.

Since she seems to have 'left service' after a final rescue mission in 1948, I don't imagine the Jane Holland is still going. But it's nice to think of her spirit at least, floating down the Thames today with the other extant boats of the Dunkirk evacuation.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Bodmin Moor Poetry Festival

Our Beloved Leader

Having moved to a particularly remote corner of Britain, on the darkling, wind-tossed fringes of the wilds of Bodmin Moor, and having been informed on inquiring in Bodmin itself that there was 'no poetry' anywhere about, I was utterly amazed the other day to receive a newsletter from Helen Jagger in which a 'Bodmin Moor Poetry Festival' was mentioned.

Bodmin Moor Poetry Festival?!

This has to be a spoof, I thought. A poetry festival in the middle of nowhere? The link in the newsletter didn't work, and I became even more suspicious that someone was having me on. But then I googled it and found this very convincing website:

Bodmin Moor Poetry Festival, with Carol Ann Duffy, no less. Plus, Jackie Kay, Ann Gray, shortlisted in 2010 for the National Poetry Competition, and various others.

So it seems wherever I go - however remote, desolate or unlikely a spot for versifying - I cannot shake poetry off, damn the stuff. There's an open mic night too. Should I go, do you think?

Friday, April 27, 2012

We Have Moved to Cornwall

Well, I don't seem to have mentioned this rather important piece of information, so here it is. We have now moved from Warwickshire to Cornwall. Some four and a half hours' distance by motor vehicle. Nice place, plenty of space, an old farmhouse on the edge of moorland. Bit damp, mind.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Epicentre Magazine launches!

No, I haven't died, I've just been very busy recently. After much procrastination, not to mention a few tasty Easter eggs, my new literary-poetry venture "Epicentre Magazine" is finally live online.

Edited by me, with Ian Chung as my fearless assistant editor, the first issue features work by fourteen poets, one reviewer and a fiction writer. So Epicentre is starting off as a small but perfectly formed ezine.

Please do go and read some of the contributions, and hopefully leave a few comments. I'd love to hear your opinions. More work will follow in the next few weeks, so do please keep checking for fresh content.

You can find Epicentre's first ever issue HERE.

Saturday, March 10, 2012


One of my earliest poems, Sleepers was, I seem to recall, first published in the Times Literary Supplement. It later appeared in my first poetry collection (1997) with Bloodaxe (now revised and available in a new, digital form on Kindle).


Under the green skirt of the sycamore
we kissed, or loved in other ways.
We asked no questions, had no need.

The sky was china-blue, like all the summers
of our youth: cloudless, undemanding.
We came to love too easily those days,

not thunder-struck or lightning-shot
but something underwritten, guaranteed.
A contract we agreed indulgently

like pouring double cream on strawberries
or shutting out the night-cry with the cat
as if some simple act could silence it.

That piercing cat-call should have woken us.
We walked those years like sleepers do,
sensing blindly where our feet should fall.

The shanty house we built out on the branch;
wild blossom thrown like rice at other kids;
your father’s voice; late sunlight on a pool:

these carried us through years of innocence
and into times that took us by surprise,
too rough to measure on our little scale.

You can still find details of my first collection with Bloodaxe Books here, though it is now out of print.

Friday, March 02, 2012

"How Potatoes Saved The Queen" launches for World Book Day

I'm utterly delighted to announce the launch of my youngest daughter's first publication, an e-book for Amazon Kindle entitled "How Potatoes Saved the Queen".

It's a short collection of Tudor tales for children, based around the fictional character of Potatoes, a rascally Irish wolfhound who has the distinction of being Sir Walter Raleigh's dog.
"The Amazing Adventures of Potatoes, the Tudor dog!"

Potatoes is Sir Walter Raleigh's dog, who named him after his greatest discovery - the potato!

Potatoes is a friendly rascal. But he is also a very brave dog. He has many daring adventures, often saving Sir Walter Raleigh and Queen Elizabeth from certain death.

You can find out about Potatoes' adventures in this short collection of seven easy-to-read exciting stories for younger readers under 10 - and older readers who might like an alternative view of Tudor history.

The author is 8 years old. In 2011, she was the youngest winner of 'The Tick-Tock Box', a national short story competition at The Guardian newspaper judged by Francesca Simon, author of the Horrid Henry books. This is Indigo Haynes' first publication. She is currently writing a fantasy adventure novel for children.
I can verify that Indigo wrote all these stories herself, mostly last year when she was seven years old, plus some other animal stories which are being saved for a later collection. I typed them up and acted as her editor, correcting her spelling and occasional infelicitous sentence structure. Though I have to admit, some particularly amusing word inventions have been left to stand - 'dignant', for instance.

Indigo now considers herself a published author, and is already planning how to spend her royalties. The collection is priced 77p in the UK, and I'm sure would appeal to most young readers. And a few grown-up ones too!

US readers can find "How Potatoes Saved the Queen" here on Amazon Kindle.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Lonesome Place on Bodmin Moor

Some of my readers will know that we have been living in the English Midlands since 2003, having moved there from Cornwall when my husband changed his job.

Our latest news is that we are moving back to Cornwall next month. We've found a lovely and very ancient farmhouse to rent, whose earliest recorded incarnation seems to date back to the early sixteenth century, and intend to live there for the foreseeable future. It's on the desolate fringes of Bodmin Moor, with moor ponies and hardy-looking sheep grazing all around us, but not too far from village life if we get lonely. The children went to see it over the weekend, and have fallen in love with the place.

We move late next month. Raw Light will continue as usual - with sporadic but hopefully interesting posts on writing and the writer's life - as soon as we have some kind of broadband connection going.

And in the midst of packing cases and general chaos, I have a major book launch still to come this week. Watch this space for details!

Friday, February 03, 2012

RNA Blog Interview

I've been interviewed today on the Romantic Novelists Association blog, largely about my forthcoming novel The Queen's Secret - published under the pseudonym Victoria Lamb - and my working methods as a novelist.

Might be interesting if you're into fiction writing.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Epicentre - a new literary ezine

Jane in editorial mode

I am now editing Epicentre, a brand-new literary ezine - based geographically in the English Midlands but publishing internationally - with an emphasis on new poetry.

I intend to launch the first issue in April, and afterwards focus on rolling content rather than publishing new issues at set intervals. This seems to work well for literary ezines, such as the excellent Stride, which is updated according to the editor's whim. It also means I won't feel bound to any particular schedule but can edit the magazine and monitor the inbox when I have the time.

So if you've emailed work or a query, and not yet heard back, don't panic. I'll get round to everyone in the end. Though once it's more than 4-6 weeks, feel free to nudge me, in case your email went astray.

If you wish to send a contribution, please read and follow the submission guidelines, if only to avoid annoying me before I even open your email. Seriously. It's amazing how few people take the time to follow magazine submission guidelines, yet still expect the editor to read their work at the other end in a generous and professional spirit.

Though of course I always do.  Because I'm such a liar nice person.

By the way, there is another Epicentre magazine. Though being American they are EpicentER whereas we are EpicentRE. A small distinction but an important one. Not least because you'll be sending your work to the wrong place if you don't check you're at the right site.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Psychicbread Tour Dates

Received these tour dates today and thought I would kick off my 2012 blog posts with some promo for Mark Gwynne Jones and Psychicbread, a live poetry-music act I have had the joy and delight to see several times, and can heartily recommend to anyone with a developed sense of humour and a liking for the zany.
Dear Shimmering Mountain

Here are shows to bedazzle and delight in Derby, Nottingham, Manchester, Loughborough and London. Featuring such new creations as The Devil's Arse (the illusory nature of the world, as revealed by the world's greatest illusionist).
Hope to see you somewhere. Thanks,

Mark Gwynne Jones
Nottingham - Wednesday 18th Jan - Guest at Speakasy (an openfloor poetry night)
The Alley Cafe Bar, Cannon Court, Longrow West, NG1 6JE  8.30pm

London – Thursday 19th Jan – Guest at BANG SAID THE GUN
The Roebuck, 50 Great Dover Street, SE1, Show 8pm £5 door

Manchester – Friday 27th Jan – Mark Gwynne Jones delivers a Beat the Rush Hour Show
John Thaw Studio Theatre, Martin Harris Centre, The University of Manchester, Show 5.30 – 6.30 Tickets £5 - Tel: 0161 275 8951

Loughborough – Monday 5th March – Guest at new open mic Speech Bubble
Students Union, Loughborough University, Doors 7pm, Tel: 01509 222 881

London – Sunday 11th March - Guest at the Jazz Verse Jukebox
Ronnie Scott’s, 47 Frith Street, Soho, W1D 4HT, Doors 6.30, Show 8pm, £7 Door

London – Friday 23rd March – Guest at The Poetry Café’s Fourth Friday (An evening of poetry and music, booked artists and voices from the floor)
20 Betterton Street, Covent Gardens, WC2H 98X, Tel: 020 7420 9887

Derby – Saturday 28th April – The QUAD
Market Place, Cathedral Quarter, DE1 3AS, Tel:  01332 285 444