Friday, 22 April 2016

Second review of A Sky Full Of Birds

A Sky Full Of Birds was reviewed in the Daily Mail today – shame that the sub-editor made the old birdwatcher=twitcher assumption, but a really nice review all the same.

Phil Brown on Hugo Williams

Over at Rogue Strands, Matthew Stewart has posted about Phil Brown's excellent Huffington Post feature on Hugo Williams, a poet whose work I've always enjoyed.

It rang quite a few bells with me. Years ago, 2004 I think, I went to hear him read in the theatre at Uppingham School. It was a weekday evening in late autumn, and I think I was the only person there who wasn't actually a pupil at the school. I'm not sure if the kids there had been dragooned into attending by their teachers, but they were an enthusiastic, appreciative and large audience.

After he'd read, I had a few words with him in the bar, and he very kindly offered to take a look at some of my work (I didn't ask him to, honestly). A few weeks later, I received a charming handwritten letter, in which rather as Phil describes, he pointed out why the poems really weren't very good. He was right and the advice he offered with a view to improving them was taken on board. But he also, by way of illustrating some of his points, enclosed a handwritten copy of his own poem Memory Dogs. At the time, I assumed it was a poem that he'd discarded previously, but it subsequently appeared in his collection Dear Room. I'm glad to hear that his health has improved, and that he's writing again.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

First review of A Sky Full Of Birds

This review of A Sky Full Of Birds appeared on the Fatbirder website earlier today – many thanks to Bo Beolens for his kind words about it, and for reviewing it so soon after release, too.

Incidentally, Fatbirder remains a terrific resource for birdwatchers of all ages and abilities – as well as containing a wealth of reviews and factual material, it's always a good read, especially Bo's own columns.

You can buy the book through the link provided by Bo, in all good bookshops, or at various other online outlets.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Spring migration

April is when the arrival of summer migrants to these islands really gets into full swing, making it (and May) probably the two best birding months of the year. You know what's coming, pretty much (although there are always unexpected vagrants and rarities to spice things up further), you just don't know exactly when, or in what numbers. Every time you pick up you binoculars and step outside the front door, you're in for a surprise or two.

Although March certainly wasn't exceptionally cold, migration seemed to get off to a slow start. Sand Martins and Wheatears trickled in locally, and I've not seen a Little Ringed Plover yet.

But what I enjoy most about this time of year, and it's something that I talked about in that recent Daily Telegraph interview, and that crops up in my book A Sky Full Of Birds, is the way that certain species arrive en masse.

Yesterday, for example, the birding news services were pumping out constant updates about sightings of Little Gulls. These elegant, neat little seabirds, a world away from the popular image of the sandwich-stealing seagull, were crossing the country on their way back north, and it seemed that every reservoir or gravel pit had a few dropping in to refuel.

Chiffchaffs, similarly, suddenly seemed to appear a couple of weeks back. One minute there was no sign of them, even though small numbers now winter here, and the next they were in every tree, with their insistent, two-note calls.

And tomorrow? Well, it's getting near Redstart time, and also around the date I usually hear my first Cuckoo. I'll be in West Wales later in the week, at the wonderful Cors Dyfi and Ynys Hir reserves, so they ought to provide plenty of opportunities to look and listen for both.

Monday, 11 April 2016

Cars and Girls

I've got a confession to make. I don't like Prefab Sprout. An awful lot of poets do, it seems, but I was never a fan. The only song of theirs that I do always enjoy hearing is Cars and Girls, which is a little odd in that it takes a bit of a pop at the (perceived) worldview of Bruce Springsteen, of whom I am a big fan. But still, I like it. Good tune, and good lyrics, which actually end by conceding that there's room for Springsteen's seemingly hopelessly romantic view of things too.

But this article, which I came across last week, makes some excellent points about Bruce's 'cars and girls' songs. Perhaps, in his first three albums, they were at times simplistic, but certainly from Darkness At The Edge Of Town onwards, they're anything but. Far from conferring freedom on the protagonist of the song, they often end up trapping them ever more hopelessly in their circumstances.

Anyway, it's got me listening to Springsteen's albums from the beginning again, and that's never a bad thing.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

A Sky Full Of Birds - published today

So, the big day is here. A Sky Full Of Birds is out today, from Rider Books, in hardback and as an e-book. You can find out much more about it here.

Writing it and then working with the editors and team at Rider has been a long process, but always an enjoyable one, and I'm looking forward to getting out and about with it, too. I'll be reading from it at Jazz and Poetry in Nottingham in July (full details nearer the time), and we're just in the process of setting up some more events and appearances.

Above all, I hope that anyone who reads it will enjoy it for its own sake, but also think a little more about the UK's birds. Celebrating the amazing avian spectacles that we have can, I think, play a huge part in creating interest in the very real threats that face some of our wildlife. 

Monday, 4 April 2016

Making The Most Of The (New) Light

Over at his blog Rogue Strands, Matthew Stewart has very kindly linked to my recent interview in the Daily Telegraph, before talking about how it throws new light on some of the poems in my HappenStance chapbook, Making The Most Of The Light, which came out in 2005.

When I was packing up ready to move house last autumn, I found two final copies of the chapbook, which is otherwise out of print. If anyone's interested in getting their hands on a copy, just drop me a line.

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Alison Brackenbury on Front Row

Poet Alison Brackenbury talks about her new collection, Skies, about 20 minutes into the programme, and reads from the book - great to hear poetry being given this sort of exposure, and lovely to hear Alison read.

Friday, 1 April 2016

David Morley wins Ted Hughes Award

Great to hear that David Morley has won the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry for his selected poems, The Invisible Gift. I like the fact that the judges talked about something "theatrical" happening when you open the book, as well as highlighting the rich Romani tradition that David draws on in his work. If you get a chance to see him read, then don't miss it. His work is enchanting in the literal sense of the word.