Monday, 22 December 2014

Blackbox Manifold 13

The new issue of Blackbox Manifold has gone live, featuring work from Claire Crowther, Allen Fisher and Hannah Silva, among others. Enjoy, then have a look back through the previous issues for a fine selection of poetry.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

The most scathing reviews ever

The Guardian had this piece the other day about particularly vicious book reviews. They're good, but I think my favourite is the one mentioned in the comments, When Saturday Comes' review of Tim Lovejoy's book.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Not The TS Eliots

Jo Bell flagged this up on Facebook - an interesting and varied list that makes me want to get hold of at least a few of the books featured. I must confess, though, to being initially rather disappointed that the Burning Eye-published Boldface isn't in fact by the former captain of England's cricket team - as I may have mentioned before, I have a high regard for the brittle-fingered batsman, and I was briefly delighted to think he'd turned his talents to poetry. Still, it looks like a book worth reading either way.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Norfolk Festival of Nature

This looks very interesting - excellent line-up so far, including Mark Cocker, and all at a location that, for any British birdwatcher, is close to heaven. If you need an excuse to be in North Norfolk in February (and you really shouldn't), here it is.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

The Great Revolt

I'm a sucker for historical 'what ifs', and this excellent article examines what might have been one of the great turning points in British history. Certainly, as Paul Kingsnorth says, it seems every bit as pivotal as the dates mentioned at the end of the piece.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

The best poetry of 2014

Let's assume that, some time between Christmas Day and New Year's Day, I find myself in a bookshop with a few pounds to spare in my pocket. Let's further assume that it's a bookshop with a well-stocked and varied poetry section (if you're thinking this sounds suspiciously like Five Leaves Bookshop in Nottingham, you'd be right). Let's say I've got enough for one new collection, and one Selected or Collected. What should I buy?

I've bought and read mainly 'back catalogue' stuff this year, so pretty much anything you suggest is likely to be new.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Folk names of British birds

Think you know the names by which different species of birds were known around Britain in the past? Test your knowledge here, with Dr Fulminare's splendid quiz. I'm afraid I only got 8 out of 12.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014


This arrived today from the wonderful Sidekick Books - seven poems on skir-devils, jackie squealers, whips and longwings from Anne Stevenson, Edward Thomas, Alistair Noon, Jon Stone, Ann Drysdale, Lynne Wycherly and myself. It's part of their new Bird Superminis range - each volume contains a handful of poems about a particular bird species. They are, dare I say it, perfect Christmas presents for the birdwatcher and/or poetry-lover in your life.

Five Leaves Bookshop reading, 7.12.14

It's all been a bit frantic at work this last week, so I've not had much chance to reflect upon Sunday's Nine Arches Press reading at the Five Leaves Bookshop, Nottingham.

It was the first time I'd heard Bobby Parker and Dorothy Lehane read, and both confirmed all the good impressions made by their debut collections from Nine Arches. Dorothy's poems are dense, swirling, exuberant galaxies of words, and all the better for being heard out loud, while Bobby manages to create a crackling tension by virtue of an unshowy, matter-of-fact delivery of startlingly honest material. Tony Williams was, as always, a pleasure to hear - his collection The Midlands would be one of my poetry books of the year.

It was good, too, to catch up with some familiar faces such as Alan Baker, Wayne Burrows, Richard Skinner and Kerry Featherstone (hope the Jason and the Scorchers album is up to expectations), and great to have a chance to browse the bookshop itself. I bought John Harvey's Out Of Silence: New and Selected Poems. He's a hugely overlooked poet (maybe because of his fame as a crime writer), and it's good to see the best of his work in one place.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Five Leaves Bookshop reading

This Sunday, December 7th, I'll be reading with fellow Nine Arches poets Bobby Parker, Dorothy Lehane and Tony Williams at the Five Leaves Bookshop, Long Row, Nottingham, NG1 2DH (it's only a minute's walk from the Market Square).

It starts at the very civilised time of 4.30pm, entry is £3, and refreshments will be available, and you can read much more about it here.

It's also worth pointing out that you'd be well advised to arrive earlier, to give you a chance to browse this superb independent bookshop.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Top 10 books of rural Wales

The Guardian had this interesting list yesterday. It includes three personal favourites - The Owl Service, Bruce Chatwin's On The Black Hill (and the writer here neatly encapsulates what makes it such a fine book), and of course RS Thomas's Collected Poems.

As with any list, though, there are bound to be controversial omissions and inclusions. Nothing by Raymond Williams, for example. Anyone got any other suggestions for what might have been included?

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Catching up

Last Thursday's Vanguard Readings event, at The Bear, Camberwell, was a lot of fun. Six readers, of which I was one, a lively and very responsive audience, and a great venue.

It was great to hear Josephine Corcoran read. She's been such a tireless promoter of other's work that her own poetry has sometimes been overshadowed, and very unfairly so. I enjoyed her honeymoon poem in particular, but her whole set promised good things from her forthcoming Tall Lighthouse pamphlet.

I'd never heard Josephine Dickinson before, but I have read plenty of her very fine work, and it was given a whole new dimension by her reading here. She's one of those poets who manages to create an enviable stillness and silence around her words - there's a tension there that always feels as though it's on the point of breaking.

Michael Symmons Roberts read beautifully, mainly from his most recent collection, Drysalter, and it's hard to add anything useful to the praise that it, and he, have already received. His poems are always spiritually charged, yet intimate and approachable too.

Cristina Newton read just two long poems, and held everybody spellbound with the sustained music of her work - I look forward to reading and hearing more from her.

Finally, Richard Skinner, whose hard work makes Vanguard happen in the first place, read the work of three absent poets who appear in the Vanguard anthology - it's not on general sale but you will be able to buy it at future readings, and I recommend it very highly.

My own reading went well, and it was good to read a couple of poems, including Butterflies from the afore-mentioned anthology, that haven't had an airing for a while.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Vanguard Readings, 20.11.14

Just a quick reminder that tomorrow, Thursday, November 20th, I'll be reading as part of Vanguard Readings' all-poetry night, at The Bear, 296a Camberwell New Road, London SE5 0RP, along with Josephine Corcoran, Josephine Dickinson, Cristina Newton, Richard Skinner and Michael Symmons Roberts.

If you're anywhere in the area, come along - as well as the poetry, there's good beer and food available, and entry is free.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

The best yet?

I'm not entirely sure how long the Leicester Shindigs have been going. I could check, probably, by trawling back through this blog, but suffice it to say that it's been a good few years, from the early days at The Looking Glass to its current incarnation at The Western.

Whatever the case, last night's might just have been the best yet. Certainly top three, anyway. Four excellent readers, packed open mic slots, and an extremely appreciative audience. Kudos to Nine Arches Press and Crystal Clear Creators for all their work in building the event over the years, and to Jane Commane and Jonathan Taylor for their unflagging enthusiasm as hosts.

Let's start with the open mic. So many were signed up that the readers were restricted to a single poem (or in one case, piece of fiction) each, and that kept things flowing nicely. Regulars such as Roy Marshall, Jayne Stanton, Martin Malone and Charles Lauder Jr were reliably high quality, but there was a heartening number of first-timers, too.

The first guest, Michael W Thomas, was making his return after reading here a couple of years back. As then (when he read a superb poem about the secret language of tramps), he was quietly assured and utterly riveting. I'm always pleased to come across one of Michael's poems in a magazine (and fortunately, he's in plenty), and I rather hope that he's one of those small press poets who's actually widely read as a consequence of his prolific nature, his willingness to offer his work in a wide variety of outlets, and of course his skill as a writer.

Ben Wilkinson's pamphlet For Real, winner of the Poetry Business competition, was a real advance on the anyway highly accomplished The Sparks, and his reading from it confirmed all those good first impressions. It's poetry that thinks very hard about what poetry can do, but it's never less than accessible and engaged with the real world.

After the break, DA Prince read from her recently-released second collection, Common Ground. She's another poet who manages to be understated and precise without diminishing the emotional punch, and she read the same way, giving every word the chance to pull its weight.

Andrew Taylor brought the evening to a close with poems from his debut, Radio Mast Horizon, as well as two forthcoming chapbooks - his poems also work quietly, and perhaps with more of a cumulative effect than the other readers, but again without sacrificing anything in the way of readability (or listenability, perhaps that should be). I look forward to reading more.

So, the only problem now is that Shindig had set itself a very high standard to maintain in 2015 - get along in January to see what's next.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Vanguard reading series

Next Thursday, November 20th, I'll be reading as part of Vanguard Readings' all-poetry night, at The Bear, 296a Camberwell New Road, London SE5 0RP, along with Josephine Corcoran, Josephine Dickinson, Cristina Newton, Richard Skinner and Michael Symmons Roberts.

It's a terrific venue, and a great line-up - I'm flattered to be part of it. The poetry starts at 7.30pm, and entry is free.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Monday, 10 November 2014

Poetry family trees

I enjoyed reading George Szirtes' piece on Clive James's Poetry Notebook, so flagging it up for your enjoyment is reason enough to be posting here.

Now I'll admit that I've never been the biggest fan of James's poetry or criticism, although that may have more to do with struggling to forgive him for inflicting Margarita Pracatan, a joke of approximately 30 seconds duration, on a helpless nation for what seemed like years. I should put those prejudices aside and give him another go, and George's article makes a very good case for that.

Anyway, to the main point of my post. He describes James's poetry thus: "...full of an energy that is partly Augustan but racier, as if Dr Johnson had sealed a pact with the 19th-century poet Winthrop Mackworth Praed".

The worthy Mr Praed is an ancestor of mine, on my mother's side of the family - I have cousins with Praed as a middle name, and the Praeds can still be found down in Cornwall around St Michael's Mount. I haven't, to my shame, read much of old Winthrop's work, but that's something else I'll put right soon.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

The words of Poly-Olbion

I came across this page yesterday, and was surprised to find that Michael Drayton is credited with the first use of the name 'Goosander' (although he says "Gossander'), for the sawbill duck Mergus merganser.

It's not the only bird name that he coined, or at least first recorded, either. Bidcock (possibly meaning Water Rail) and Tydie (possibly referring to a Blue Tit) are also listed here, but Drayton's masterwork also contains a lot more references to archaic or folk bird names.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Chatting about chats

My latest post is now up at Out There With The Birds - it features a rather wonderful poem by Frances Corkey Thompson, from her HappenStance pamphlet The Long Acre, as well as some very nice Stonechat photos by my good friend Peter Jones.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Tree of the Year

The Woodland Trust is asking the public to vote for England's first Tree of the Year - here's the top 10 to make your selection from.

I will, of course, be opting for the Major Oak, given its supposed Robin Hood connection.

While looking at the background of this, I noticed that what's thought to be England's oldest oak tree is just down the road from the office, here, near Bourne.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

TS Eliot time again

It happens every year. The shortlist for the TS Eliot Prize appears, and I've read far too few of them to be able to offer even a vaguely informed opinion. There are a couple of names on there who would, I suspect, be shortlisted were they to enter their shopping list, but that's not to say they're not fine poets. Anyway, on the whole, this shortlist makes me curious to read more, so that's no bad thing.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Green Man Poetry, 14.10.14

Occasionally you come across a poetry event that's a bit out of the ordinary. Last night, I'm proud to say, I was part of one.

Green Man Poetry, at Kendalls of Earlsdon, Coventry, was the perfect venue for an evening of poetry, song and performance, with the Green Man himself, Barry Patterson, leading the way. He bookended the evening with impassioned performances of songs, drumming, flute and bagpipe music, and a mixture of his own poetry and William Blake's. What's invigorating and inspiring about his performance is that his vision of what could be - man learning to live in greater harmony with the natural world - comes through at least as strongly as his indictment of what's wrong. If you get a chance to see Barry perform as the Green Man, don't miss it.

Antony R Owen (above) was the first of the guest readers. Another writer whose work is deeply rooted in his immediate environment, he manages to be both understated and powerful - no mean feat - and he has the knack, like most of the best readers, of creating a crackle of tension in the room (packed out, by the way, and a very fine venue it was too).

Tom Wyre's poem on the horrors of the fur trade was a highlight of his excellent set - poetry that made you uncomfortable, and asked questions without posing easy answers or reaching for consolation.

Leanne Bridgewater isn't a poet I'd heard before, but I hope I'll hear and see her again. Her performance (and it was a performance, complete with items of fruit handed out to audience members), was never less than intriguing, and hugely entertaining.

I read five poems, from The Elephant Tests and hydrodaktulopsychicharmonica, and felt privileged to have been part of such an inspiring evening. The icing on the cake was that Barry donated £50 of the takings to Ovarian Cancer Research, for which I'm doing a 21-mile walk on Sunday. I'm very grateful for his support, and if you want to add your own donation, you can do so here.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

A Great Valley Under The Stars

I bought this book, published by Isobar Press, at the Free Verse fair at the beginning of September, and have been enjoying it ever since. I have a slight obsession with New Mexico, with which large parts of the book are concerned, but Tyler delicately treads a path between being intimate, and encompassing the great wide open spaces of the American West in his work. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Postcards from Portugal

This is Mertola, a historic town in the Alentejo region of Portugal. I stayed there for a couple of nights last week, and as well as exploring the superb birdlife of the surrounding area, there was the chance to dig into the history of a settlement that has Roman, Moorish and medieval Christian remains.

I'll be posting a few photos from the town's museums over the next couple of weeks - to start with, here's a bowl from the Moorish period - the bird looks rather like a bustard, and both Great and Little Bustards can still be found in the area close to the town.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Team spirit

The fall-out from Kevin Pietersen's new book is all a bit depressing, if predictable, and while I doubt very much that he's telling the whole story, I think it's also probably safe to assume that there's at least some truth in what he alleges about the culture within the England dressing-room.

If so, it raises questions about the management of the England set-up - not so much the coach, but those above him. If there really was a culture of bullying, then they're the ones who should have identified it and stamped it out.

If it was a cliquey culture of certain senior players lording it over the rest, well, that's a bit different. It's probably not ideal, but it's also probably no different to every other sports team, professional and amateur, around the world. Team spirit is, if not exactly overrated, certainly very different to how it is usually painted. In any team, you're going to have players who don't get along, who openly dislike each other, even. It doesn't matter. All that matters is that they're able to put that behind them while they're on the field, and play for the team. Look at Shane Warne, in the great Australian team he played in. He never bought into the visible team-bonding exercises, openly mocked the coach at times, and fell out with more than one captain. It didn't stop him playing at his best, and helping the team to play at their best. I once played in a local league team in which, the season we won the league, our two key players loathed each other off the field. On it, they put that aside and won game after game for us (one was a bowler, the other a wicket-keeper).

This is where KP's story falls down a bit, too. His villain of the piece, Matt Prior, might very well be all or some of the things he alleges off the field, but on it he was always a notably unselfish player. Maybe KP should simply have got on with it.

Equally, though, English cricket has a bad record of accommodating anyone out of the ordinary. While KP has predecessors in the 'too selfish' camp (Boycott, I hear you cry), we've also tended to mistrust the eccentric (Derek Randall), the slightly rotund (Mark Ealham, Samit Patel), the hard-headed professional (Brian Close), and the apparently (but not really) too laid-back (David Gower, Tom Graveney). Maybe English cricket, too, needs to learn to just get on with it.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

New Walk 9 launch & retrospective

This one-off event takes place at Five Leaves Bookshop, Long Row, Nottingham, from 7pm on Wednesday, October 15th, and includes readings from all back issues, as well as from Issue 9. I'll be among the poets reading, but even if that's not really your thing, it's a chance to look around and buy from a great little bookshop.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Free Verse Anthology

In a previous post, I mentioned the little guide booklet that everyone attending this year's Free Verse poetry bookfair received, and how it formed an excellent little anthology, by selecting a poem from each of the publishers represented.

You can now see it for yourself here - it's well worth a read.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Green Man Poetry

An early heads-up that this splendid event will be taking place at Kendall's of Earlsdon Delicatessen, Earlsdon Street, Earlsdon, Coventry, CV5 6EJ, on Tuesday, October 14th, at 8pm.

Barry Patterson's Wild Man Of The Woods will perform his work The Giant Albion's Nightmare, with music and other poetry, including the work of William Blake, and readings from Antony R Owen, Leanne Bridgewater, Tom Wyre, Adam Steiner and myself.

Entry is £4.50, on the door.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Hawk boosting

My latest post is now up at Out There With The Birds - a few ruminations on Sparrowhawks, Kestrels, their hunting methods, and writing. Ted Hughes and Gerard Manley Hopkins get a mention too, of course, hence the appalling pun above. As ever, there's plenty else of interest to be found there, so stop and have a good rummage.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Found in a secondhand bookshop

I have more than enough books in my house. I have piles of books currently unshelved. I have piles of books waiting to be read. I have piles of books that I've earmarked for charity shops but have yet to get round to taking down there.

Unfortunately, this doesn't stop me from buying more. In particular, I can't resist a secondhand bookshop. It's the feeling, of course, that you might unearth an absolute treasure, or something that you've been looking for for years.

At the weekend, I was in Suffolk. There was a secondhand bookshop (no name on the front, other than 'secondhand bookshop') in the market square, so of course I had to browse. For under £15 all in, I bought two old Raymond Chandler paperbacks, the poet Tim Dooley's first collection, The Interrupted Dream, from the mid-80s, and the Reader's Digest Field Guide to the Butterflies and Other Insects of Britain, from their Nature Lover's Library series – I've already got the birds, trees and wild flowers volumes, and love them, and this was in the original hardback, in perfect condition.

The latter probably isn't going to get too much use until next year, but the Chandler and the poetry will be welcome companions on some forthcoming travels.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Antiphon 12

Issue 12 of the online poetry magazine Antiphon is out now - among the contents to have caught my eye so far are poems by Jayne Stanton, Rebecca Bird and Anthony Wilson, and reviews of books by James Caruth and Ben Wilkinson. Recommended, as always.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Camden Migration

Camden Migration, taking place from September 25th to October 5th, is an exploration into the migration of birds and people through the arts, celebrating cultural expansion but also considering its environmental impact, particularly on bird extinction.

On the 10th anniversary of the Morecambe Bay disaster, and the 100th anniversary of the loss of the last Passenger Pigeon, it will use art to explore the perils of migration to both humans and birds.

The Forge building, in which the Festival takes place, uses sustainable materials, powered in part by solar panels, with natural ventilation systems and featuring a 6.5m high living wall. 

The Ghost of Gone Birds Exhibition, a pop-up art studio, will breathe life back into the birds we've lost, creatively resurrecting extinct birds, so we don't lose any more. Eleven artists will be working at break-neck speed over the Festival to create a gallery of gone birds.

Conservationist and internationally-acclaimed poet Ruth Padel will give a talk about her book The Mara Crossing, a meditation on migration, of birds, animals and human beings, throughout history and in today's world of asylum-seekers and detention centres.

David Lindo, The Urban Birder, will give a talk about urban bird migration, and the effect which environmental changes, such as climate change, have on it.

The film drama 'Ghosts' directed by Nick Broomfield, about the Morecambe Bay disaster which saw 21 people lose their lives will be screened, following a short talk by Dr Diana Yeh to commemorate the lives lost during epic journeys of migration and to examine ways forward for the future.

All events can be found at The Forge website.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

At Frampton Marsh

There's a poem in my current collection, The Elephant Tests, called At Frampton Marsh, written some time after a visit to the RSPB reserve just outside Boston, Lincolnshire, a few years back.

I was there again on Friday, being shown around by warden Toby Collett, and was amazed at just how much it has developed even in the last couple of years. A bird list of 70-odd species included Glossy Ibis, two Pectoral Sandpipers, around 10 Little Stints, 50-plus Curlew Sandpipers, 10 Spotted Redshanks, hundreds of Black-tailed Godwits, Merlin and Marsh Harrier. The particularly high numbers of waders (I've never seen that many Little Stints or Curlew Sands together) were in part due to a very high tide which came right up to the sea wall.

Here's a little group of five Curlew Sandpipers, and a larger gathering of (mainly) godwits, although there were Dunlin and Knot among them.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Tears In The Fence Festival

The independent literary magazine, Tears In The Fence, is holding a festival to celebrate its 30th birthday, on 24-26 October.

It all takes place at the White Horse, Stourpaine, and among the speakers already confirmed are Peter Hughes, Carrie Etter, Dorothy Lehane, Chris McCabe and Steve Spence. You can find out more here.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Poetry: The Next Generation

The Poetry Book Society has announced its 20 'Next Generation' poets, the once a decade list that aims to, as chair of judges Ian McMillan puts it, "lead our national cultural conversation for many years to come".

As always, there's going to be a lot of argument about who was included and who wasn't, as well as the criteria used to make the choices and the entry requirements that do seem to make things harder for small presses.

I'm not going to rehash those arguments here, but I do find Daljit Nagra's inclusion slightly strange. Not that he's not a fine poet, just that I would have thought he's already very firmly established as one of poetry's big names - I would have thought the place could better have gone to a less well-known poet. On the other hand, maybe outside poetryworld he's not that well-known, and this is, after all, an attempt to get people who wouldn't otherwise read poetry to pick up a book.

Anyway, congratulations to all concerned, and I'm particularly pleased to see Rebecca Goss, Luke Kennard and Helen Mort among the 20 - all poets whose work I enjoy a lot. Of the others, there are several who I'm still to read, so if nothing else it will give me some ideas for the future.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Winchester Poetry Festival

Winchester Poetry Festival takes place this Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with writers including Jackie Kay, Michael Longley, David Constantine, Patience Agbabi, Ros Barber, Julia Copus and Brian Patten among those taking part.

You can find full details, including the programme and how to book, here.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

And the books I brought back...

I didn't say yesterday that I returned home on Saturday with several more books than I set out with (of course). They were:

Sarah James' Be[yond], as I mentioned in my last post. It's an adventurous and hugely enjoyable collection - I recommend it highly.

Three splendid Worple Press volumes - Andy Brown's Exurbia, John Greening's Knot, and Anthony Wilson's Riddance. I haven't started on any of these yet, but all three are by poets I've enjoyed a lot in the past. There are loads of other goodies in the Worple stable, too - Michael McKimm's Fossil Sunshine is excellent, and Stephen Boyce's The Sisyphus Dog looked intriguing.

Royall Tyler's A Great Valley Under The Stars, from Isobar Press. This is one of the reasons Free Verse is such fun - I doubt I'd have come across this book otherwise, but I started reading it yesterday and it's great. I have a bit of a fixation with New Mexico, which is what made me pick it up initially - I'm glad that I did.

Finally, it occurred to me when I got home that the programme given away free to everyone attending is actually a pretty good little anthology in its own right - there are profiles of each attending press, plus a poem from one of their poets. I have a spare copy, so, if you'd like it, leave a comment here, and I'll send it out.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Free Verse 2014

On Saturday, I was down in Red Lion Square in London for the Free Verse Poetry Book Fair. I attended a couple of years ago (or was it three?), and it was obvious then that it had bags of potential, but I was staggered at just how busy it was throughout the day on Saturday. From beginning to end, the main room was exactly as it appears in the above photo, while the readings and talks were well attended.

I particularly enjoyed the Knives, Forks and Spoons Press readings, especially Sarah James (and bought her collection, Be[yond]), and the readings from Bill Griffiths' work by Geraldine Monk and Alan Halsey (pictured below).

As always at such events, a large part of the pleasure was in catching up with other poets and publishers, and I chatted to Helena Nelson, D A Prince, Alan Baker, Michael McKimm, Peter Carpenter and Roy Marshall, among others, as well, of course, as to my own publisher, Jane Commane of Nine Arches Press (below).

It was only afterwards that I realised that, in the hustle and bustle in the Conway Hall, I'd managed to somehow miss Alison Brackenbury and the Sidekick Books stand - that's a mark of how busy it was.

I read alongside fellow Nine Arches poet Josh Ekroy, and Worple Press poets Mary Woodward and Martin Crucefix, at the Garden Cafe out in the middle of the square. There was a decent-sized audience, and we were on just before the arrival of the marchers in support of the NHS (and Billy Bragg, a longtime hero of mine). Me and Josh are pictured below - I think I need to work on my microphone technique.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Free Verse

Just a reminder that Free Verse, the poetry book fair, takes place in London this Saturday. As part of it, I'm reading at the Garden Cafe, Red Lion Square, at 11.30pm, with Josh Ekroy and two Worple Press poets. There are events at the Cafe, at the nearby Conway Hall, and at the Rugby Tavern in the evening.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Birdwatching Argentina

As there's been a heavily Argentinian feel to the start of the new football season at Leicester, with the arrival of Ulloa and Cambiaso, I thought I'd post this video from the trip to Argentina I went on earlier this year. We were at Puerto Valle, looking out across the Rio Parana towards Paraguay. I don't actually do much in the video other than nod a lot, but fortunately my travelling companions were more talkative.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

On Nuthatches

My latest post at Out There With The Birds concerns the Nuthatch, and Bernard O'Donoghue's poem of the same name. While I was out at the weekend, I saw good numbers of this species around my patch, presumably little family parties just getting ready to disperse for the winter. They were noisy but, as in the blog post, largely indifferent to my presence.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Judi Sutherland on Ritchie McCaffery

There's a really good review of fellow Nine Arches poet Ritchie McCaffery's debut collection Cairn here, in the Irregular Features section of the Dr Fulminare site. While you're there, have a browse through the many excellent past reviews and features, too - it's a truly eclectic site.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Matthew Stewart on Ben Wilkinson

Matthew Stewart, at Rogue Strands, has posted an excellent review of Ben Wilkinson's chapbook For Real, from Smith/Doorstop.

I'm in almost total agreement with Matthew about it. It is, in its own way, a very raw and emotionally honest book, and all the more affecting for that, but that's not to say that Wilkinson's writing isn't considered and absolutely sure-footed throughout.

Anyway, I'll post my own review when I finally get round to finishing it, but in the meantime, do yourself two favours. Read Matthew's review, and buy Ben's book.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Vote for Britain's National Bird

Posting on here has been fairly sparse of late, mainly due to work and Birdfair. But, one of the best things at Birdfair this year was the launch of the National Bird Vote.

My friend David Lindo, also known as the Urban Birder (you may well have seen him on The One Show and the like), thinks it's high time that Britain had an official National Bird, and I agree whole-heartedly.

So, I cast my first round votes on Sunday, choosing Curlew, Skylark, Kingfisher, Gannet, Lapwing and Puffin (I think - it was a tough choice). Now's the time to make sure that your favourites make it into the second round.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Anxiety dreams

Apropos of nothing, I've been thinking about anxiety dreams, and how they change over time. Most people, at one time or another, will have had the naked-in-public dream. Having failed to revise for an exam is another common one.

My most regular one, for many years, had a cricketing flavour (I used to play club cricket regularly). I'd get the call to go in to bat at the fall of a wicket, and find I had no pads on. I'd rush to get padded up, manage to do so in time, then find that the spikes in my boots were stuck fast in the wooden floor.

These days, I occasionally get a poetry anxiety dream instead. I'm doing a reading, usually somewhere pretty upmarket-looking, when I realise that I've got no books or manuscript or anything. At that point, it occurs to me that I've never actually written a poem, and I'm caught between asking the organisers why on earth they booked me, and legging it at high speed.

But anyway, my question is, does anyone out there get anxiety dreams that are nothing to do with any aspect of their real lives?

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Under The Radar 13

Issue 13 of Under The Radar is out now, from Nine Arches Press - you can order it, or set up a subscription, here.

Featured poets include Mona Arshi, Bob Beagrie, Rebecca Bird, Sharon Black, Joseph Blockley, Peter Branson, Brendan Cleary, Jim Conwell, Frances Corkey Thompson, Martyn Crucefix, Nicola Daly, Rebecca Farmer, Carolyn Finlay, Mark Goodwin, Terry Jones, Charles Lauder Jr, Jack Little, Siobhan Logan, Tim Love, David Lukens, Beth McDonough, Nigel McLoughlin, Abegail Morley, Theresa Muñoz, Ben Parker, Mark Rutter, Janet Smith, Jayne Stanton, Paul Stephenson, Mary Wight and Charles Wilkinson, there are short stories by Gary Budden, Myra Connell, Mark Mayes and David Steward, and a selection of in-depth reviews.

It's the first one for which I've acted as poetry editor, so I'll be interested to hear any feedback about how you think we've done in terms of striking a balance of content.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Free Verse - The Poetry Book Fair

An early heads-up for this - I'm reading with fellow Nine Arches Poet Josh McEkroy at the Garden Cafe at 11.30, but I'll be hanging around all day, either at the Nine Arches stand or somewhere close by. There's loads of good stuff going on, and if anyone fancies catching up, drop me a line.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Hidden cities

I was interested to read this piece on the UK's top hidden city spots, and pleased to see Moseley Bog come out of it so well. It's a wonderful place, like nearby Sarehole Mill, with which it shares the distinction of having inspired the young JRR Tolkien. In both places, it's hard to believe that you're so near to the centre of a major European city.

The definition of 'hidden' is fairly loose, and one slight disappointment is that they seem to have chosen from a fairly restricted list of cities. I would, I confess, be struggling to make a case for anywhere in my home city, Leicester, but I can think of very worthy candidates in any of three other cities I know pretty well - Nottingham, Newcastle and Cardiff. I'd be interested to hear of other worthy locations from readers.

A couple of weeks back, I was down in London to meet one of Bird Watching's long-standing contributors, David Lindo (AKA The Urban Birder). He took me for a morning stroll around his local patch, Wormwood Scrubs, and I was staggered not only by the variety of the bird life that we saw, within a stone's throw of the Westway and the hustle and bustle of West London, but how quiet it was, both in terms of sound (less than outside my house on an average morning) and seeing other people (we encountered a dozen at most).

Cities need these little oases of calm and green, or rather city-dwellers do, so it's depressing to see that not only is the Scrubs being mooted as the site for a major open-air concert later this year, but it's also under threat from HS2. You can find out more about it at the Save Our Scrubs site here, and sign a petition to preserve this hidden gem.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Cafe Writers competition

It's a long time since I entered a poetry competition (it's a long time since I wrote a poem - that might have something to do with it), but the Cafe Writers comp is one of the best out there.

Very reasonable entry fee, good prizes, and it all goes to support the very popular monthly Cafe Writers reading/open mic slots in Norwich. This year's judge is the wonderful David Morley, so you've all got until the end of November to come up with something to impress him.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Edward Thomas at Out There With The Birds

I've got some musings about bird names, poetry and Edward Thomas up at Out There With The Birds - as always, take the time to have a browse of this really fine blog, and enjoy great writing on birds from around the globe.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Leicester Shindig, July 21st, 2014

It's Shindig time again on Monday, with guest readers Carol Leeming, Tony Williams, Richie McCaffery and Kerry Featherstone. As always, it's free, everything starts at 7.30pm, downstairs at The Western, on Western Road, and open mic slots will be available on the night.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Jo Bell on 52's success

Nice piece here about the success of Jo Bell's 52 project, which aims to get poets writing a poem a week in response to a series of prompts. The Facebook group now has 560 members, and they're really producing some fine work, much of which is now getting published in mags, etc.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

A walking reading with Tony Williams

This Sunday, July 20th, I'll be joining Tony Williams for a walking reading around Attenborough Nature Reserve, Nottingham.

It's to help launch Tony's splendid new Nine Arches collection, The Midlands, and it's free, but places are limited and should be booked in advance here.

We're meeting at the Visitor Centre from 1.30pm, with the walk to start at 2pm. We'll stroll around this superb reserve in search of wildlife, and no doubt people-watching too, stop every now and then to read a poem or two, and then return to the centre at 4pm for more reading - I've been enjoying Tony's book this week and it really is worth hearing out loud.

If you get there early, I should add, the Visitor Centre usually has a magnificent array of cakes.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Black Box Manifold 12

The Summer 2014 edition of Black Box Manifold is out now - I've enjoyed the poems by Peter Hughes, Kelvin Corcoran and Martin Malone so far, but there are plenty of other names worth investigating, plus a review of the anthology Dear World And Everyone In It. Enjoy!

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Larwood country

Nice article here from Sidharth Monga, about tracking down Harold Larwood, arguably the greatest fast bowler ever to play for England. He ends up at Kirkby Portland CC - I've trudged around their outfield a few times in the past, sustained by the thought of following in a legend's footsteps (and by the excellent teas).

Friday, 11 July 2014

Cannon Poets reading, July 12th

I'll be reading with my fellow Nine Arches poet, Angela France, at Cannon Poets, Moseley, Birmingham, tomorrow night. There will, of course, be an opportunity to buy copies of The Elephant Tests, should you want to.

The reading takes place in the Moseley Exchange, in the Post Office Building, starting at 7.30pm, and as well as the poetry there's music from Flootsweet.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Kathy Bell and Carrie Etter at Jazz & Poetry

The final Jazz & Poetry for the time being (it will return in October with the launch of Mahendra Solankia's second collection The Lies We Tell), takes place next Wednesday, July 16th, at the Guitar Bar, Clumber Avenue, Nottingham NG5.

The poetry will be supplied by Kathy Bell, reading from her new pamphlet at the memory exchange, and Carrie Etter, reading from her excellent and highly-acclaimed collection Imagined Sons.

Entry is free but donations are encouraged, and of course there's jazz from Four In The Bar (including special guests).

Friday, 4 July 2014

Butcher's Dog magazine

Always good to see new poetry magazines succeeding - Matthew Stewart has some good things to say about Butcher's Dog here.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

The Elephant Tests reviewed at Stride

Over at the online magazine Stride, which remains one of my most regular browsing places on the net, The Elephant Tests has been reviewed very kindly by Alasdair Paterson - it's always nice to get a good review from someone whose own poetry you like a lot.

Also reviewed are Angela France, Patricia Debney, Richard Skinner, Jennifer Copley, and Ian Brinton & Michael Grant - that's pretty nice company to be in, too. There's a lot of food for thought in this piece, and at least a couple of books to add to the 'To Buy' list.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Ampthill Festival reading

This Sunday, July 6th, I'll be reading with Judi Sutherland at the Ampthill Festival, Bedfordshire. We'll be in the Literary Marquee, from 2.45pm, and I'll have copies of The Elephant Tests to buy, if the fancy takes you (also a few copies of hydrodaktulopsychicharmonica). Hope to see you there.

Monday, 30 June 2014

The Interpreter's House, Nottingham launch

This is on Wednesday evening, and you should definitely go along if you can (I will be doing). It's a terrific mag, and a great bookshop, and look at that line-up of poets. There's not even any football to get in the way.

Monday, 23 June 2014

An interview with Mark Burnhope

Mark Burnhope is a poet, editor and disability activist born in 1982. He studied at London School of Theology before completing an MA in Creative Writing at Brunel University, London. His work has appeared in various magazines and anthologies in print and online, as well as two previous chapbooks: The Snowboy (Salt Publishing, 2011) and Lever Arch (The Knives Forks and Spoons Press, 2013). Mark co-edited Catechism: Poems for Pussy Riot (English Pen, 2012) with Sophie Mayer and Sarah Crewe, and Fit to Work: Poets Against Atos online (launched April 2013) with Sophie Mayer and Daniel Sluman, books which won a Saboteur Award and the Morning Star Award for Protest in Poetry consecutively. More recently, he became co-editor of Boscombe Revolution alongside Paul Hawkins. Mark can be found living in Boscombe, Dorset, with his wife Sarah, four stepchildren, two geckos, a greyhound and, occasionally, one or two stick insects or mantids.

Species is his first full collection of poems, and is available here.

You've published two chapbooks ahead of this, your first collection, but this already feels like something of a change in direction, or rather a settling upon your preferred direction, in the way that the poetry tackles disability issues head on. Would that be fair?
In a way. I definitely hope the book represents my settling into a more confident interest in poeming the non-normative body, embodiment and bodily experience. Disability is a focal point for that, but also the ways in which it impacts and interacts with sexuality and gender. My chapbooks touched on disability as part of a wider exploration of embodiment. Maybe they showed me playing with these ideas in the hope of one day doing something more conceptually coherent with them (Is that Species? I hope so). Three of the Snowboy poems were epistles to fictional characters who represented various aspects of my own embodiment (there are three more of those 'To My...' poems in Species). Poems like 'Wheelchair, Recast as a Site of Special Pastoral Interest' and 'Milo Won't Go in the Water' referenced disability in a (slightly) more clinical manner. But I was more nervous of the pitfalls then. An early draft of 'Wheelchair, Recast...' was my very first attempt at using the wheelchair in a poem, and I still transformed it into a monolithic landscape sculpture. It was still an irreverent symbol, a half-joke.
Lever Arch, my second chapbook, was partly inspired by Larry Eigner, whose poeming of the body through his Cerebral Palsy has massively influenced Disability/Crip Poetics in America. When I discovered that, and the disabled poets collected together in the online journal Wordgathering and anthology Beauty Is A Verb, I wanted to play with that sense of making poems using my 'hidden' bodily experiences: anxiety, neurodiverse thought and speech patterns, spacial recognition, memory, and particularly (in the case of Charles Olson's 'Projectivist Verse', Black Mountain poets, and particularly Eigner) breath and white space. So Lever Arch's approach to disability was more the aesthetics of disability than what the medical dictionary, and the medical model of disability, fixates on.
I'm more interested in disability as a social phenomenon than a medical one, though one arises from and impacts the other (when terms like 'social construct' fall into the wrong hands it's a problem): barriers caused not by our 'wrong' bodies but by a society which, instead of taking responsibility to alleviate struggles between us, blames us and makes us responsible for the 'mistakes' of our impairments. Maybe I'm more confident in that as an obsession now. That we 'other' humans into 'species' based on what we deem to be 'natural' and 'unnatural' is more clear than ever. There's also a conscious effort to include poems that came out of my disability activism and political protest against David Cameron's government, particularly Iain Duncan Smith's 'Welfare Reforms'. There are still poems about grief and loss after my wife Sarah's miscarriage ('The Snowboy' poem was an earlier attempt at that). It's all generally explored in, or alongside, or in the middle of, that natural history context.
I don't revert to self-mocking jokes about disability as easily as I used to, and when I do, it's angrier. The failings of so much contemporary white and non-disabled satire are rife: it so often draws together the privileged to laugh at subjects they feel are socially transformative, but ends up playing out as a kind of identity tourism meant to enrich their experience without affecting ours in any crucial way. The upshot is that there is no upshot: the status quo is maintained. Liberally-minded people are made to feel proud of themselves for thinking of those below them, again.
I don't know. Maybe the biggest departure (surely the biggest risk) was deciding not to include any poems from my chapbooks. I hope that gives readers a sense of culmination, if not change as such. In those senses, yes, maybe I've started with as clean a slate as possible. In many ways I feel a need to take stock, even start again.

Tell us a little about the writing of the book - first collections are often a "Best Of so far", but this feels much more coherent. How much of it was written with the collection in mind, rather than as occasional poems slowly accumulated into a book?
For a long time now I've known that I'm interested in 'concept albums'. I like to read a book with a sense that all the poems in it add up to a larger conceptual whole, that the poet is trying to tell me something. I don't think this approach is particularly in vogue, and in a way, I get that: there's a danger that such books can repeat themselves, or feel ham-fisted in terms of how much they're trying to instruct readers and point them to that 'Aha! I get it' realisation of what the book's about. I hope readers don't feel cheaply manipulated by my writing. At the same time, though, I'm unsatisfied with books that feel like a 'best of my stuff so far', with no organisational principle other than 'Which were my best poems?' This might be to do with how my Hydrocephalus-addled brain works, but how do I prioritise a criteria for 'Best' if I'm aware of so many possible ones? So many poets seem to come forward with 'objective criteria' for pinning down 'Best', I really had to find an emotional or conceptual onus with which to pick one way over another, or I was lost. So my way was to discard questions like 'Which are my best poems?', and to think 'What have I been trying to say all this time?' I wanted readers, if possible, to be able to say I remember that book because it was about... which was pertinent to my life at that moment. All of my favourite books have stuck in my craw for that reason.
As far as how this was put together, there are poems (particularly the Leopard Gecko sequence now called 'fragments from The First Week of the World: the herpetological bible') which date back to early versions written something like five or six years ago, possibly more. I'm not sure, I don't date my drafts. I'm fairly prolific, and a lot of these poems were started before, or written in parallel to, The Snowboy and Lever Arch. But those each seemed very self-contained to me, and even when I first felt the spark of the idea, Species took all that time to become a potentially-coherent piece. For a start, I had to come to realise that all of the elegies to dead pets I'd been writing (which I'd considered totally geeky indulgences) had to be something that other people might want to read. I also had to realise they symbolised quite a significant thread in my work as a whole: this central motif of 'natural' and 'unnatural', 'domestic' and 'captive', 'familiar' and 'queer/alienating', 'heaven' and 'hell', 'life' and 'death', that sort of thing. Some of the later poems I wrote, which are perhaps more explicitly about human experience, were written as I was realising that I might be able to throw nature, queer and disability poetries together as kind of a trilogy of concerns that talked to each other about 'otherness.' I was trying this in the past. I hope it's more fully-realised here.
Ultimately, I guess I don't care much for poetry in a vacuum. If it doesn't draw strands together from our lives lived in a particular society (and in terms of the UK at the moment, a society being heavily engineered and conditioned to be anti-disability and anti-welfare), if it doesn't seek in some way to give to or interact with that society, I'm not amazingly drawn to it. With a few exceptions, 'poetry for its own sake' seems like a non-entity to me. There's a sense of urgency, a need to want it to matter, especially now.

Do you use other poets, workshops, forums, etc. as sounding boards during the writing process, and if so, who?
I used the online forum PFFA (the Poetry Free-For-All) for some years before I was first published in Magma in 2010. A few forum members will recognise the lizard poems in Species, early drafts of which I very tentatively workshopped there. Eventually I felt that although I had met some great contacts and supports through online workshopping, I had to go it alone. I had to more closely guard my work in order to make it something readable before showing it off in public (I was a serial poster, a habit which hasn't changed in social media circles), especially since my approach to disability had to reflect my own living with it; there can be so many expectations built in the minds of able-bodied critics about how the disabled experience should be presented and written about to a 'wider readership' (which I came to realise would not, in most people's minds, include me). For a long time I felt the frustration of that without knowing how to articulate it, or (more importantly) find a solution to it.
I was published in Magma after I got frustrated with workshopping, sent some poems out on a whim, hardly expecting to get them accepted. But that's what happened. Since then, I've met some incredibly supportive writers who have truly grasped, I think, what I was trying to achieve in my work, and helped me find and hone my various voices and techniques. I'm guaranteed to forget someone so I don't like lists, but I feel particularly indebted to Ira Lightman and Andrew Philip. We've often passed poems back and forth to one another on Facebook (a social network site I love and hate in equal measure!). Since co-editing Catechism: Poems for Pussy Riot in 2012, Sophie Mayer and Sarah Crewe have been incredible influences to me in terms of thinking about my subjects and concerns, my various political, social and bodily identities, and how to channel those into poems through an intersectional lens, queer and feminist poetries, body-positivity. These all converse with disability in some great ways, and I'm trying to move forward into a more intersectional practice. I feel like, if my poetry doesn't draw together all the separate strands of embodiment and oppression in my lived experience, it doesn't cut it anymore. Maybe even the lizards (I keep lizards as a hobby, it's an obsession) speak to that.
Daniel Sluman, whose Nine Arches debut collection Absence Has a Weight of its Own deals with his experience as an amputee after having had cancer as a child, has been a great ally in terms of thinking about disability/crip poetics, the ways we might be more involved in it, even try to shed more light on it in the UK, if we can. I got to know Daniel better over the time I was co-editing Fit to Work: Poets Against Atos with he and Sophie Mayer. We agree on a lot of things regarding disability, and even when we disagree, I always come away from our arguments with a deeper, more nuanced perspective.

One of your main concerns seems to be the poet's urge (well, everybody's urge, really) to name and categorise neatly. My own feeling, increasingly, is that the very act of writing helps clarify for you how impossible, and often undesirable, this is. Would you agree?
Yes and no. I do think part of my task, personally, is to explore how, ultimately, labels are like birds: you'll be looking at them through your binoculars, and they'll fly away before you've got your camera out. And yet, we need them: poetry needs to always allow for continual exploration, interrogation and renewal of descriptors and their definitions while always insisting that we need to name. If there's any reason for language at all, it's to embody experience in a vessel, the word, so that we can take it from one place to another. Like an ark. Insisting that your 'names' be set-in-stone if you like (especially if you need them to be set-in-stone to be able to flourish in an ecosystem) this doesn't deny that evolution will happen. We need both the 'now' and the 'not yet'.
In doing disability activism with other disabled activists online, many of them intersectional feminists, I've become conscious of the difference(s) between labelling others as an oppressive act, and naming ourselves with 'self-identifiers', words and concepts that people who have lived non-normative experience have had to find and guard closely in order to both understand their experience, and articulate that experience to others. Without those self-identifiers, we could never campaign for our rights. We could never demand our equality unless we could first familiarise people with our chosen labels and what they represent for us. 'Labels' and 'self-identifiers' are too often confused. In my experience, non-disabled people particularly are so used to being told that labelling disabled people is bad, negative, harmful (we are all essentially human beings!), they will often have a knee-jerk impulse to neutralise and remove your self-identifiers, even if you've explained why you need them: they perform the function of making you visible in a world which would rather erase you. It's easier to get along with you if it doesn't require me to understand you. But we can't rush to wipe that slate clean between us. 
In Species, animal taxonomy, and the religious 'taxonomy' of social groups (finding its most gruesome manifestation in Social Darwinism, eugenics, the execution alongside the Jews of the deformed, and the economically unproductive 'workshy' during the Holocaust), seemed like a way of handling all these concerns. Our neatest human categorisations tend to result in the strictest, most trapping prejudices and stereotypes. The book begins with an epigraph about the alleged division of the Mosaic Law into three 'species': moral, civil and ceremonial. In part, it's that arbitrary separation of the Levitical prohibitions into 'categories' by Christian theologians which has allowed continual discrimination against LGBTQI people to survive even in spite of other arguments. Evangelicalism, particularly, is hooked on a seemingly endless number of binaries: 'gay' / 'straight', 'male' / 'female', 'sick' / 'healed', 'heaven' / 'earth', 'sinfulness' / 'righteousness,' you name it. Many discourses (queer, feminist, crip, chronic illness and more) are trying to demolish these binaries and replace them with spectrums. Of course, the 'spectrum' itself can be problematic. No disability experience can be said to fall neatly onto a horizontal line; there are too many variables and offshoots. I'm reminded of the movie Donnie Darko, when Donnie (Jake Gylenhaal) gets angry at his teacher for making him place different human experiences onto a horizontal line beginning at FEAR and ending in LOVE. Given a choice between the two, I would rather the 'spectrum' than the 'binary,' but is that not another binary?
What I do think is that while so many self-definitions must be written down so that they are able to be shared and explored in safe communities, they also need to be open to constant upgrades by, and within, those communities. I'm repeating myself, but words are never just words, they're vessels: for stories, histories and experiences.

I'd extend that to poets themselves. The various schools and categories that they get lumped into seem increasingly irrelevant, and in the best possible way your poetry feels like an example of that, drawing on very disparate influences and inspirations. Is that fair?
Yes I think so. One of my very earliest poet-obsessions was William Blake: painter, illustrator, poet, nursery-rhymer, alleged madman, utopic visionary, punk, social justice warrior, anti-poverty activist, theologian, occultist, esoteric spiritualist! You name it. If poetry could be so apparently contradictory, I used to think, and bring together so many aspects, I wanted to do that. I think life is probably always a set of contradictions to some extent, but art so often tries to iron them out and neutralise them. On what basis, I don't know.
As I got deeper into learning poetry I felt a pressure to adhere to specific schools, nations, techniques and aesthetics, modernism/post-modernism (binary alert). An anxiety of influence, maybe. Seemingly everyone wants you to sign on a dotted line of some sort. Poets can champion their own directions as 'the right way forward', devaluing and pushing down others in the process. I have my opinions about what's 'greater' and 'lesser' regarding my practise, but it's all about what I want to say and explore, and how I can do it best at different times, in different contexts. Various poets from various traditions and schools, and none, have assisted me in figuring that out, and I still keep finding them. What makes that approach hopefully more coherent than it sounds is that I try hard to stay conscious of what I want to say. 
The poetries that stick, as it were, are the ones I carry with me for any length of time. Early on it was the Romantics (mostly Blake, easily my favourite Romantic), Confessional poets (particularly Plath and Sexton), 'religious' poets (Gerard Manley Hopkins and the Metaphysicals, especially John Donne, and contemporary poets like Gillian Allnutt), the apocalyptic (Dylan Thomas), landscape and nature (Heaney and Hughes). In the last few years it's been more political activist poetries, Eastern European poetry (I love several Polish poets), poetries of social exile and disenfranchisement through non-normativity. Surrealism, conceptualism and visual poetries, Disability / crip and Survivor Poetics, queer and feminist poetries, poetries of colour and race (particularly activist-poets like Audre Lourde, who so amazingly drew together black, queer and feminist threads). Basically, you name it, I'll tell you if I want it.

I particularly enjoyed the Abnominations section - could you tell us a bit more about this form (Abnominals) and how you came to write them?
Abnominals are a fantastic form invented by Scottish poet Andrew Philip. When he introduced me to the form I went away and wrote loads of them. Andrew describes the abnominal in his second collection The North End of the Possible: 'The abnominal is a form I have developed using only the letters of the dedicatee's name, each of which must appear at least once per stanza. The poem, which is 20 lines long, should begin and end by addressing the dedicatee in some way. The title must also be an anagram of their name.' 
The abnominal allowed me to directly address various personalities who felt like representatives of the themes throughout the book, including David Cameron, David Attenborough, Maurice Sendak (Where The Wild Things Are). There are one or two more personal abnominals, one addressed to my wife Sarah, another to our miscarried child, named Evie-Lyn, who was only ever born in our imaginations. It seemed like I couldn't explore 'otherness' across a book without looking at death as another kind of existence, the possibility of a next life, and what happens when we have to imagine a life that never literally was as we would have liked. Maybe anthropomorphising animals, exploring animal gender, is similar to imagining a child you never met, or even the self you would like to become. I don't know.
I also loved the abnominal's imposed constraints. It's easy to be drawn to a default clarity of line and syntax time and time again. The abnominal forced me to be more inventive with how everything was expressed. They frequently devolve into a kind of non-sense which can send the brain off in all sorts of associative directions, but which can also encompass characters just through sheer sound and vocabulary play. The abnominal stretched me: If I couldn't use a word because it had the letter 'L' in it (a real problem letter for me; it kept popping up where it didn't belong), I had to find a 'legal' word, or write the whole line again. It kept me on my toes, so to speak. I'm very grateful to Andrew for not only approving my use of the form, but reading, enjoying and encouraging me to include the number of abnominals I did.

And the inevitable closing question - what next? Do you have other projects in the pipeline?
 I have a novel, which has fairly recently become a verse novel, that I've drafted I don't know how many times over the last nearly-a-decade. I want to finish that, but it needs more... something (one or two secondary characters need more colour and purpose in the plot, an end game, that sort of thing). So I'm going to go back to it. You might see it one day. I have a few new poems in early stages, and possibly a concept, or set of concepts, for another collection. For now I'm going to just sit back and enjoy what feels like an 'end game' for me of sorts, at least to the first act. I've written the book I wanted to write. What I do next is anyone's guess. I'm excited by that. Maybe I need a hiatus so that I'm still around but the pressure's off.