With dark, chilly weather and a new batch of Covid circling, the news that I have three poems in the latest issue of A New Ulster is enormously cheering. What an excellent magazine ANU is. It’s always a rewarding browse and you can find issue 121 here.
On Thursday 16 February, 2023, 19.30 – 21.30 GMT, Irena Hill of In-Words will host an evening featuring Irish poets who have appeared on Gill Stoker’s marvellous Poems and Pictures blog on the Mary Evans Picture Library’s website. I’m honoured to know both these excellent women. I’ve been a contributor and big fan of Gill’s blog since its early days. Irena was a member of my earliest writing group in Bermondsey in 2011 and we’ve been friends ever since. Very many thanks to them both for inviting me to read alongside Catherine Phil MacCarthy, Eithne Hand, Geraldine Mitchell, Geraldine O’Kane, Linda McKenna, Maureen Boyle, Maurice Devitt and Noel Duffy.
Karli Land of Colorful Crow has asked to quote my blogpost about what we can expect after the glorious day when you finally receive an acceptance. I’m happy and honoured to say yes. You can see Colorful Crow’s website here. Thank you, Karli, for your kind words.
Colorful Crow is a great site – I wish you a happy ramble among its books. I don’t have a picture of colourful crows, I’m afraid, so here are some beach huts instead. Yes, I was up to my middle in the sea with my camera.
Well into his eighties and not so steady on his feet, my father would drive from his home in Belfast past drumlins and sheep fields to his beloved Mourne mountains in County Down. Safely back, he would call and regale me with tales of the people he’d had wee chats with and the places he’d revisited, how much he loved the air there, the spirits of the mountains. As a young man he’d climbed there at this time of year, overnight in a canvas tent with his friends, waking to the glint of first sunlight on snow all around them.
On one of my visits from London, I persuaded him to talk about what he remembered. He was in his twenties, a teacher at Down High, when he discovered rock-climbing. Thanks to weekends clambering all over the place with the minimal equipment of the time, he’s recorded as having led six Mourne first ascents. He and his friends went on to climb in other countries but it was always the Mournes my darling father loved best.
The first news, and I’m bursting to tell you, is that Lapwing Publications have accepted my fifth poetry book Off the Map for publication some time next year. I’m thrilled that Lapwing will be its publisher. Dennis Greig is so fast, it’s already typeset with the cover chosen!
Many thanks to everybody who invited me to read at their events this year and to everybody who was there: the Faversham Festival in February for my poetry event with Fiona Sinclair; to the wonderful people of SaveAs in Canterbury; Clair Meyrick’s exciting new event in Oare with Charlotte Ansell; and Richard Cooper for involving me in his Faversham Fringe event about home with Maggie Harris and Barry Fentiman Hall. Thanks to Richard too for bringing so many of us together in Faversham Guildhall to read the uncompromising, beautiful words of his late wife, Rosemary McLeish. This north Kent poetry community has tremendous energy and warmth and I’m so grateful to be part of it.
It’s time to close the laptop now for a while. However you celebrate this festive holiday, I wish you and yours a warm, healthy and very happy time.
The trouble with getting older is that sometimes we don’t get enough time. Before the pandemic, Rosemary McLeish came to read at some events I ran in Whitstable on the north Kent coast and, like everyone else, I fell under the spell of the rich embroidery of her language, her humour and fearless truth. We felt like two retired warhorses who’d wound up in the same corner of the field – we knew we had scars in common without having to say – and I wish we’d had more time to be friends. Rosie contracted cancer and died not long ago and from this Kent coast to Glasgow and beyond, Rosie and her poetry are hugely missed. Her husband Richard reads Rosie’s work on her behalf wherever he can and has organised an event at the Faversham Fringe on Friday 28 October, 8.30 – 9.30pm, in the Sidney Room in the Alexander Centre. I am deeply honoured to be included alongside Maggie Harris and Rosie’s publisher, himself a poet, Barry Fentiman Hall.
Out of respect for our late Queen, TOMORROW’S SESSION HAS BEEN CANCELLED. We hope to meet online and in person next month.
For the first time in over two years, my Churchill College writing group will be together again in person, with online access available. We will gather over tea and coffee from 3pm, as we did in pre-pandemic days, with the writing session running between 3.30 and around 5.30pm.
If you would like to join us, please drop me a line on firstname.lastname@example.org with a few lines about yourself and your connection with the college so that I can welcome and introduce you. You will find more about how the group works here. It’s as much about friendship as writing and we’ll be very happy to see you.
Throughout the pandemic, we have met about once a month by Zoom and are looking forward very much to this, our first blended, in-person session. We will not return to our old schedule just yet (four Saturdays in college each term) and will combine our monthly Zooms with with one or two meetings in college per term while we feel our way.