Monday, 28 March 2022


SkyLines, a festival of poetry and spoken word events organised by Nine Arches Press and Writing West Midlands, will take place in Coventry on July 15-17. Keep an eye on the website for further developments, with the full line-up to be announced by the end of May.

Wild Art Photographer of the Year

Just a reminder about Wild Art Photographer of the Year – the 2022 competition is now open for entries. It's a competition that puts the emphasis firmly on the more creative, artistic side of wildlife photography, and you a superb book of last year's winners and outstanding entries is available if you want to get an idea of exactly what I'm talking about. 

Saturday, 26 March 2022

What's new at Nine Arches Press

Shaun Hill's warm blooded things is the latest publication from Nine Arches Press, and looks terrific, based on the poems I've seen so far. 

Nine Arches also have plenty of other books coming out this year, as you'll see here, and I don't need to remind you (but I'm going to anyway) about Under The Radar magazine, and the Primers mentoring and publication scheme.

I am, admittedly. rather biased, but I heartily recommend that you have a browse of the whole site. 

Wednesday, 23 March 2022

Coming soon...

Last year, I reviewed Robert Selby's The Coming-Down Time (Shoestring Press) for Magma. I loved it – it was pretty much my favourite collection of the year – combining as it did the highly personal with the historical and the subtly political by way of close attention to family history.

He has a new collection, The Kentish Rebellion, forthcoming from Shoestring in July, and will be reading poems from it at the Poetry London launch this week – you can find full details here.

Tuesday, 22 March 2022

Pearls, by Helena Nelson

Over at Rogue Strands, Matthew Stewart has posted this very well argued review of Helena Nelson's Pearls (Happenstance Press). I haven't read it yet, but this does what all good reviews do and makes me want to go straight out and do exactly that.

For those who don't know, Helena is the driving force behind Happenstance, and I like, like a good many other poets, owe her a great deal. Happenstance published my first chapbook, Making The Most Of The Light, which I remain very proud of. Without it, and more importantly without Nell's encouragement and advice, I would never have had a full collection published. 

Monday, 21 March 2022

Cheltenham Festival

No, not that one. It's Cheltenham Poetry Festival I'm talking about. I'm just going to briefly remind you that I'm reading as part of it with American poet Chase Dimock on Monday, May 16th (you can book tickets here), but that there's also a great line-up of poets and events to browse through here.

Friday, 18 March 2022

Have your say (and an apology)

Thanks to Sue Ibrahim, I have realised that I have comment approval switched on for this blog. Not really because there was anything too controversial, or abusive, or potentially libellous getting posted – it was more down to the amount of spam.

Anyway, that means that I've discovered a backlog of unapproved comments, dating back to who knows when, and which I have now gone through carefully. As a consequence, you might well find that you get a notification of an old comment of yours being approved. Apologies to all of you who have wondered why on earth you'd been blocked.

The only other thing to say is that I'll be checking the blog every day now, so if you do want to post a comment, I promise to say yea or nay quickly.

Thursday, 17 March 2022

Iamb - new poets

Just a reminder that iamb has new poets and poems appearing on a regular basis, as well as a great archive of writers. It's a beautifully designed website, too – easy on the eye and equally easy to navigate. I'll let you make your own minds up about your favourites, but there are a lot of really excellent poets there.

Wednesday, 16 March 2022

How we read and listen

This is a really fascinating and excellent response by Sue Ibrahim to some of the questions raised by that article about Larkin I posted about, and it's something that I've been thinking about a lot for a couple of days, mainly because I'm planning for my first readings in a long, long time.

I generally say a few words in introduction to each poem, but it is very hard to hit the right balance, I think. I'm very wary of leading the listener to approach a poem in a particular way, or giving them too much background information, but there are some where I think you need to give the listener/reader a way in.

I once saw a relatively well-known UK poet read (a writer whose work I like a lot), and their introductions started to become explicit instructions for understanding the poems, which rather ruined them for me. It was down, I think, to nervousness as much as anything else, but it's something to be avoided. Similarly, I haven't read a great deal about the lives of poets, or at least not until long after I've read their work.

Tuesday, 15 March 2022

Stanislav Petrov

I did say that I'd be avoiding the constantly alarming news, but it's not entirely possible. I've heard the word 'escalation' more in the last three weeks than I have since the early 1980s, and the context in which it's used is maybe even more chilling now than it was then, probably because although I was reasonably well-read about politics and world affairs at the time, I didn't appreciate exactly what was going on. 

Much more recently, I've read a few books about the Cold War tensions that almost resulted in disaster in 1983. With the relationship between the USA and the Soviet Union already strained, a computer malfunction almost convinced the Soviets that the Americans had launched a massive pre-emptive nuclear strike. 

Almost, I said. Fortunately, a man called Stanislav Petrov was responsible for interpreting the faulty early-warning readings, concluded that the Americans would be mad to attempt such an attack, and decided not to initiate a response. 

I hope there are plenty of Stanislav Petrovs still around. 

My poem about it, below, appears in my second collection, hydrodaktulopsychicharmonica, from Nine Arches Press, which is still available as an e-book.

Stanislav Petrov

The hardest part? How to stay alive

(inside the bunker, remember,

there are no days or nights)

to a sight you'll only see once,

the screens suddenly flowering

with tendrils of light, taking hold

of the world as we always imagined

they would. For some, perhaps,

the danger is a mind that wanders,

to football, or vodka, or the legs

of Comrade Ivanova.

For me, only a waking dream

of days awaiting autumn in Fryazino,

and my wife asking, what did you do today

Yevgrafovich? Answering her

as I always do. Nothing, I did nothing. 

Monday, 14 March 2022

The Vanishing Earth

I'm delighted to be reading alongside US poet Chase Dimock as part of this year's Cheltenham Poetry Festival, on May 16th. The online event, titled The Vanishing Earth, focuses on the natural world, and our interactions with it, and in particular the threat of extinction that so many species face.

In the weeks leading up to the reading, I'll be talking a bit more on here about those issues, about the background to some of the poems I'll read, and about Chase Dimock's poetry.

To start with, though, I'll just point out that there's also an open mic, and that you can book tickets here.

Sunday, 13 March 2022

Larkin about

I'm not in the habit of reading The Spectator, but Twitter drew my attention to this article by Nicola Shulman, which certainly throws some interesting new light on the poetry of old Laughing Boy himself, Philip Larkin.

I'm a bit of an agnostic where Larkin's concerned. I did The Whitsun Weddings as part of A Level English Literature (I can only imagine what we'd have made of this piece of lit criticism at the time), and didn't enjoy it much, then warmed to it a little later on. I suppose, as with the vast majority of poets, there are poems of his that I like, and others that I don't like, and others again that I really don't have a strong opinion of. 

Saturday, 12 March 2022

I'm back (again)

Yes, yes, I know. My promises to resume posting regularly here have been about as reliable as the Tory government', I'm not going to go there. I have the urge to blog, and to write more generally, and I suspect one of the main reasons is the utter chaos out there at the moment. So, I'm going to restrict myself to talking about poetry, and literature more generally, and birds, and history, and maybe some cricket (although, there's not much about England that inspires me at the moment). I can't guarantee it will be upbeat, exactly, but it will definitely be more fun than the news.