Tag Archives: pamphlets



Perhaps people are needing some winter cheer this year more than usual – I’ve noticed lots of Christmas lights switched on early and various festive offerings around the place. In our house we don’t really mark Christmas but I do appreciate some light in the darkness around Solstice and New Year.

If you’d like to get in the Christmas spirit and celebrate Advent on 1st December, come along to the Candlestick Press launch of their Christmas pamphlets – Ten Poems about Angels and Christmas Stories – 7.30 – 9 pm. Most of the poets will be reading their poems from the anthologies plus another with a seasonal theme. You can find out more and book your free ticket here.


Look forward to seeing you there!



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Some Things You Might Like To Know About

Tonight we’re having our very first podcast discussion group Listening to the Climate. Everyone is very welcome to come along. We’ll be reading and discussing the poems in my podcast series In Our Element – a poet’s inquiry into climate change. The introduction in the first episode includes Jorie Graham’s Why and my sestina, Elementary. You can listen again to the podcasts here and also find transcripts of the poems and the conversations.

If you’re interested in the discussion group (which I envisage as a sort of book group for the ears), you can register for a free place via Eventbrite. Look forward to seeing those of you who can make it at 6 – 7.30pm (Tuesday 8th February 2022). We’ll be meeting on the second Tuesday of each month at the same time, talking about each subsequent episode and the poems therein. I also hope people might point us all in the direction of climate and ecology related podcasts they’ve found interesting or helpful.

Our monthly Writing Hour will continue – on the last Tuesday of each month, between 1 and 2pm. All are welcome for a dedicated session of shared writing time. These seem to have become inspiring touchstones for a lot of people – in this country and all over the world. The next one coming up is on Tuesday 22nd February 1 – 2 pm.

Tomorrow night at 7pm (Wednesday 9th February) you have a chance to join the online launch of Candlestick Press’s new pamphletsTen Poems about History and Ten Poems about Roses. The event will be hosted by the Lit & Phil and readers include Sean O’Brien, David Constantine, Catriona O’Reilly, Kathy Towers, Tamar Yoseloff and myself. There’s also an open mike slot. You can find more details and book your free place here.

Next week I’ll be reading some poems at the Sonic Valentine gathering at the Queen’s Hall in Hexham 12 – 1.30 pm (Monday 14th February). Expect gongs, Tibetan singing bowls, music and poetry. A drop-in sound lounge for the healing of the world. See you there!

I’m a little late posting these various news items – lots of things suddenly emerging after the quiet dark of winter. Already nearly two hours more daylight since the Winter Solstice. And more to come.

May your sap gently rise.



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For Those Who Live Nearby…

Just to let you know I’m doing a reading at the lovely Lit & Phil on Wednesday night (15th May) at 7pm.


I’ll be reading from Border Song, my collaboration with Kim Lewis.

Sewing %22Sky's a cotton whole-cloth quilt stretched over us%22

And from new work that’s emerged from my recent botanical travels.

Grasses %22Beautiful, the landscape patched with sunlight%22

Do come along if you can, and let folk know who may not follow my posts here.  I look forward to seeing you.

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Two Lives

It’s always busy at the start of a new academic year – lots of literature events seem to cluster around September/October/November.  Various preparations are being made for Durham Book Festival later in the month – I’ve been working on a poetry postcard for it, which hopefully will be ready soon.  Also, by chance, last week’s National Poetry Day happily coincided with our gategate reading at Newcastle University – from the second edition of my occasional folding pamphlet.  It was very satisfying to see so many people turn up at lunchtime to listen to a very special line-up of the poets included – Gillian Allnutt, Christy Ducker, Bill Herbert, Lesley Mountain and Ellen Phethean.  And Birtley Aris, whose pen and ink illuminations embellish the texts, also read a favourite poem – Peter Rafferty’s ‘Off The Beaten Track’ (from The New Lake Poets, edited by William Scammell, Bloodaxe 1991) Jane Hirshfield has a poem in it too but understandably couldn’t make it across the Atlantic to join us.  We sold practically every single copy and made enough to go towards the third edition, which hopefully won’t take as long as the last one (four quick, inexplicable years).

Wednesday was an inspiring day at Moorbank – writing alongside four other poets I’d invited to enjoy the particular mixture of peace and provocation that the garden affords.  Three visual artists also came to respond to the genius loci.  Birtley painted these wonderful complex watercolours in the Tropical House.

It was a relief to be able to spend the best part of a day focussing on just one thing – and to actually write.  These past few weeks I’ve felt as if I’m living at least two lives – one governed by a diary with all my usual commitments still in place, and another with a schedule working towards my various proposed botanical journeys.  Never have I longed quite so ardently for a travelling companion who finds making travel arrangements more straightforward than I do.  I will be very pleased when I step on the plane next Thursday to make my first gesture – right back to the beginning of things – and travel to Padua to visit the oldest botanic garden in the world, founded in 1545.

By another pleasing coincidence Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (the 18th century writer and traveller I wrote about in The Toast of the Kit Cat Club, Bloodaxe 2005) also spent time living in Padua, where she gardened and studied herbs; no doubt, according to her biographer, Isobel Grundy, inspired by the botanic garden there.  I hope to track down her scent in her ‘favourite palazzo’ in San Massimo, ‘handily situated near the river, the highway to Venice’.  Grundy tells us: ‘Padua, tightly penned between its walls and the River Brenta, was still regarded by many of the Venetian nobility as a good site for a second or third ‘country’ house.  Lady Mary went back and forth between Padua and Venice, between solitary study and socializing, between her foreign and English worlds.’  It’s tempting to think that busy, complicated lives are something we’ve invented but reading Lady Mary’s letters, it’s clear her schedule left no room for too much reflection.  She was a woman who always lived at least two lives and thrived on it.

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