Places of Poetry – more news!

Still buzzing about selection of my poem Carnlough Bay for the Northern Irish section of the Places of Poetry anthology being launched on 1 October. It’s wonderful news that the UK Poetry Society‘s online launch on 1 October 2020 is FREE and you are very welcome to join us using this link here.

To celebrate the anthology’s launch, the project is also going to reopen the marvellous website map between 1 and 11 October so you will have extra time to add your favourite poems of place in the UK. They are hoping to gather another 2,500 poems to lift the total to 10,000 – so don’t hold back. There’ll be more about this on social media soon.

Congratulations to the Places of Poetry team on the project being shortlisted for ‘Research Project of the Year: Humanities and Social Sciences‘ at the THE Awards. You can see more about the award and shortlist here. Here’s wishing them all the very best!

Places of Poetry anthology coming soon

One of the United Kingdom’s most beautiful poetic projects recently has been the Places of Poetry map, set up by Paul Farley and Andrew McRae. Last year we were invited to pin poems about any place to the relevant spot on the map, rather like Orlando in As You Like It pinning his love poems to trees. As the site said, Places of Poetry is open to all readers and writers. It aims to use creative writing to prompt reflection on national and cultural identities in England and Wales, celebrating the diversity, heritage and personalities of place. The site is closed now but the project has announced publication of a Places of Poetry anthology soon.

I am thrilled that my poem Carnlough Bay is selected for the Northern Ireland section of the anthology – here it is on the Words for the Wild website. I spent most of last weekend, with force 5 gales and rain beating down outside here in Kent, remembering the beauties of the gusty, damp coast of Northern Ireland where I grew up. Beloved places do glow in our blood and aspects of that gorgeous place are with me all the time: long breakers riding to the shore, the way the wind can haul you right over a cliff edge, seagulls who know that while we think we own the world, the land, air and oceans are always theirs. So, while the north winds battered at my windows, I recorded a wee video of Carnlough Bay. All the anthology poems will have videos to circulate in place of a launch.

It’s going to be a wonderful book – I can’t wait to read it. And I hope you enjoy our videos when they are released. img_3204 (1)Portstewart Strand in Northern Ireland where I grew up. Beautiful, whatever the weather. 

Join me online in Glasgow tomorrow, 7pm – Public Health Private Illness

One of the silver linings of these grim times is that we can attend events all over the world without being there. Glasgow University’s conference (planned for last April) on public health and private illness – details here – has been revived online and I’m delighted to invite you to join us tomorrow from 7pm at an evening of creative reading.

I’ll be reading from Six-Count Jive (Lapwing Publications, Belfast, April 2019) and will be with:
Georgi Gill
Colette Coen
Sam Rose
Mara Dougall
Moira Dancer
Sara Louise Wheeler
Judy Crow
Caitlin Stobie
Gillian Shirreffs
MT Taylor
Jane Hartshorn and
Laura Donald

It’s going to be an amazing night. Please register here to get the Zoom details. See you there!

New review of Six-Count Jive

So much has changed since my latest book of poetry was published by Lapwing Publications in March 2019. The shop where the book was launched has sadly closed, the world has been gripped by the Covid-19 pandemic, we’ve all been in fear for own lives and those we love, and many of us have suffered the loss of dear ones.
Writers have responded to lockdown in different ways. Some are finally cracking on with that great novel, memoir or definitive poetry collection. I found myself so wrapped in mental health struggles that I’ve written very little. In fact, my writing light was pretty low until I read this review of Six-Count Jive this afternoon.  Billy Mills is a highly regarded poet and publisher living in Limerick and his reviews on his WordPress site are always worth a read. Safe to say, Billy Mills, you have cheered me enormously.
I look forward to reading the other pamphlets mentioned.
If you would rather have a paper copy, I’m afraid that Lapwing’s Dennis Greig is about to go into hospital, so provision of paper copies from Belfast is likely to be tricky for a while. I have a few paper copies left and can send copies to you for £10 each (postage etc. included, wherever you are). Please just email me at with your details, I will let you have my bank details and you can have the book in the post, signed if you’d like.
Thank you for reading this. Writing and publishing, like all the creative arts, are having a tricky time at the moment. But it’s nothing to the loss of members of our family and friendship circle and if you are grieving, recovering from this pernicious virus or supporting someone who is, I send you my warmest wishes.

Mirror, mirror

On the Mary Evans Picture Library’s Poems and Pictures blog today – my ‘Mirror’ poem with its gorgeous, accompanying photograph:

Mirror, you old jobsworth, you know

all my fractures

and keep your counsel.


Half-turn. There – twelve years old,

my scowl,

half confidence, half hope of better.


Eyes dip, and I’m in an aisle. A dress

my mother

liked and I did not.


Veiled dreams. That need to please,


make good, make safe. Make it out of there.


Between my brows one line of


cut two years later when he left.


Frail memory. It skims and

sinks away

as if it never happened.


A gleam. Breath held, I watch

my baby

reach – two steps, one step, three – and walk.


Decades splinter into

gemstone shards

we shake, twist, blend with artless grace.


You, mirror, witness all our pieces,


of loss and kisses.


The Mary Evans Picture Library is a wonderful archive of images, tucked away in a beautiful Arts and Crafts building in south east London. Every Thursday, the Poems and Pictures blog, curated by Gill Stoker, publishes a poem, old or mint new, accompanied by something from the archive. It’s absolutely gorgeous and an ideal oasis of calm for these uncertain times.

Word of Mouth #Whitstable cancelled for now

I’ve just had a chat with Jo at the Umbrella cafe and, sad news, we’ve decided that our Word of Mouth events in #Whitstable will go on hold until it’s wise to do this kind of thing again. I’ve let the writers know and we’re all together about the wisdom of this. I hope very much that when the time is right, we’ll start again as scheduled, beginning with our Raining Men event, then a celebration of artist-poets. Perhaps we could bring back our cancelled International Women’s Day event too.

Meanwhile it’s the perfect time to stockpile some poetry. 89789727_10159272384507835_6698364813690535936_o