Four poems in Sleet Magazine

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The summer 2018 issue of Sleet Magazine is now live, and I’m honoured to have four of my poems appearing there. You can check out “Airport Run”, “Coming Back”, “Harry” and “Caprice” by following this here link.

I’m grateful to Susan Solomon and the rest of the editorial team at Sleet for finding a space for my work in this very fine issue.

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Saltmarsh thoughts

IMG_1487It’s been a week or so since I journeyed up to the Solway coast to take part in a creative writing day organised by Cumbria Wildlife Trust at RSPB Campfield Marsh. As you might be able to tell from these images (easier with the colour one, admittedly), it was a glorious late-spring/early-summer day of high pressure weather, sunshine and stillness. A real blessing. With the tide wholly out, exposing the saltmarsh and mudflats to their fullest extent, the sense of openness and space was remarkable, and the beginnings of the Galloway hills across the border loomed almost reachable on the horizon.

Writer and blogger Ann Lingard, who was running the event, encouraged us to spend plenty of time out in the estuary amongst the mud and the marsh, exploring, observing and making notes, before gathering us again to compare findings and take part in a couple of writing exercises. She also took the time to share her extensive knowledge of both the microfauna that calls the place home, and the history of the immediate area. I doubt I could identify again (or even find) any of the critters we were introduced to, but at least I have no excuses anymore.

I’ve found myself regularly revisiting and reprocessing the experience in my head ever since. It would be untrue to say that I’ve used the notes I made to create anything of substance – poetry, fiction, whatever. It’s still just a jumble of notes. Had I expected it to be otherwise? I can’t honestly say. But I do know that something far more valuable has occurred to me in the meantime.

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I’m fascinated by the creative process – by what it is about us that makes us creative and makes us create (or else allows us to think we aren’t and stop ourselves). And how the germination of ideas takes place. What I’ve realised is how rarely I grant myself the gift of spending time simply looking at things, at what’s really there. Not only looking, but also using every other sense in a deliberate, conscious way. It’s an incredibly precious gift, but for me, it has to come without any hint of agenda. There must be no pressure, no compulsion to write about the observations – the sensations – as a result.

I either write or think about writing every single day (the latter occurs much more often!), but I almost never see or experience something and then sit down to try and write coherently about it straight away. Instead, whatever seeds have been sown usually have to sit there and fester first – for years, even – before a thing I might think of as ‘poetry’ happens.

But I have to gather those seeds, raw materials. I’ve never known precisely where poems and their ideas originate (I have a clue…) but I know that in order for the whole process to keep rolling, I need to continue to be as open and receptive to the world as I can. So I’ve made a promise that I’m going to give myself the gift of taking a look around much more often.

 

 

Hinterland

Hinterland

Hinterland

 

They say it doesn’t rain here much, often, but

when it does, canopies of merciless cloud snuff out

 

every last square of the sky, hanging about the fields

like a quarrel, forgotten without ever being resolved,

 

and empty themselves in angled swipes that paste

both barley and nettles to the red earth, bleeding into

 

the leather boots and loafers of commuters on trains,

who steam coolly in their seats all the way into Waverley.

 

 

first published in Southlight Magazine, 2017

Featured Poet in Northampton Poetry Review, Issue 2

NPR2It’s a real honour to be part of the second issue of the Northampton Poetry Review, and in particular to have been chosen as Featured Poet for this issue.

I’m very grateful to editors Tom and Philippa Harding for finding space to include five of my poems – Winter Fire, October, Sunshine, Holly and Putting back the clocks.

This issue is a fine collection of work from a very talented group of writers, and I’m sure  NPR will become a well-established and admired publication over the next few years.

Flood

Flood


Flood

 

We did not see the swollen river

overtop its banks, failed by the

modest bow of its channel, its

traffic doubled by the bludgeon

of three consecutive moonrises

under rain, waters earth-brown.

 

Instead, we passed a day later,

taken by the bleached streamers

of torn-up grass, stretched like

comet-tails from the lowest boughs

of thornbushes, calm swirls of sand

making fish-loops across our path.

 

 

first published in Southlight Magazine, issue 22, 2017

Before winter’s first frost

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Before winter’s first frost

 

an unprecedented silence is combing the air,

and colours are forgetting themselves below

 

darkening rafts of sky, a universe-deep in stars,

reaching in between the crowded roofscapes.

 

Perhaps a milk-jug moon is flooding monochrome

ghostlight over the cupped hands of the valley,

 

laying up shadows with fuse-wire precision.

At the appointed moment, a page is calmly turned,

 

and a hush of ice heaves crystals through

the geometry of the soil, or feathers its way

 

across the windows of cars on every street,

its signature written on a contract, now honoured.

 

first published in Young Ravens Literary Review, issue 5, 2016

Launch of Southlight 22 at the Wigtown Book Festival

Issue 22 of Southlight Magazine will be launched this coming Saturday, 23rd September, at the Wigtown Book Festival, a 10-day literary celebration in Scotland’s National Book Town.

This issue includes four of my poems: Planting cyclamen; Hinterland; Flood and Arran Victory. My thanks go to Southlight’s editorial team of John Burns, Vivien Jones and Angus Macmillan for choosing my poems. Best wishes for a successful launch – wish I could be there!

Katia

Katia

Photograph used by kind permission of Phil Hinton

Katia

We caught the tail-end of their hurricane.
She was not yet fully spent, like a fading
soul diva, who may no longer rock the gowns
and dresses, but whose lungs still retain
the power to snatch anyone’s attention.

Her momentum had smuggled a tropical grenade
across the Atlantic. It strafed our skies for
half a day and an endless night. The old trees
largely shrugged it off. It was the younger ones
– their growth too tall, too close, too rapid –

who fell, though they were only upended,
pushed over, throwing up the underskirts of
their exposed roots in shame, not snapped
across their trunks and flung as shrapnel
at fields and villages tens of miles distant.

In the aftermath, we entered the woods again,
found ourselves arrested by exotic air, the remnant
of scents we couldn’t identify. And if we closed
our eyes, we heard them on the wind – now nothing
but a background stirring – those calypso rhythms.

first published in The Cannon’s Mouth, Issue  61, 2016