Sunday, 5 November 2017

There's no time for chocolate

People often ask me where my inspiration for poetry comes from. This is always a difficult question to answer, as inspiration comes from everywhere! However, this poem gives an idea of the sometimes tortuous way that poems can come into being.
It’s a cento, a poem usually made up entirely of lines selected from other poets’ poems. John Ashberry’s ‘The Dong with the Luminous Nose’ is probably one of the best known.  In it he links together lines from famous poems by Blake, Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley, Edward Lear, and others into a surprisingly coherent collage.

My poem below is a self-cento and is made with lines from a variety of my own poems that were started during NaPoWriMo in April 2017 – National Poetry Writing Month, when poets try to write a new poem every day for a month.  Remixing and restyling some of my own lines at the end of the month of writing was an interesting experience and I was able to use a few lines that started life during the project, but didn’t end up in finished poems.
Leonora Carrington’s painting Crookey Hall was part of the initial inspiration for the poem.
This poem was first published in Three Drops from a Cauldron in October 2017.

There’s no time for chocolate
A young woman in a long white dress
runs away from a big grey house
where white water falls in columns
over rocks that shine from
dark corners of her dreams. There’s
talk about a love of the dead, maggots and all,
but she has rescued the black demons
to stop them being lost, or maybe too much alive.

A child is drowning in a pond
but the young woman runs right past.
There’s no time for chocolate, she tells the kid.
If she had taken her hand that day,
if she hadn’t looked away …
but she wasn’t really there at all, of course.

A tall woman stands aside,
points a long arm and giant finger at
grand gothic turrets and gables –
that place of stone and grey customs.
Three ravens guard the entrance
where the woman in the white dress has escaped.
Two naked people stand there,
but they are interested only in themselves.

In one frame of the film of a night
the demon screams, scared –
what if we can’t save the bees?
Does the snow listen as it falls from the sky?
I painted all the walls purple,
waves crash wild on the shore,
banshees cry across the sound.

Someone asks if we want to fly a kite,
but it’s only me here now.
The tempest passes,
the snow hears the natural sand,
a river runs through the slow heat and
the morning meadow weeps under
cherry blossom and fresh green willow.

Monday, 30 October 2017


 My offering for Hallowe'en this year, a slightly-spooky poem about transformation. This was first published alongside some great work from other poets and prose writers in the Three Drops from a Cauldron 'Samhain 2017' anthology. Worth getting a copy! Link below.


A tiny sip of lichen slips
                through skin
                and creeps slow towards her wrist.

Algae emerge
                from the purlicue web,
                epidermis writhes into green

between the index and the next finger.
                Moss extends over the backs of her hands,
                a soft velvet caress

across her desiccated skin.
                Anchored by rhizoids
                this slithering layer

seeps out through pores,
                spreads like verdigris –
                a tight-fitting glove.

Around hair roots
                cerotodon begins, small and tight,
                and soon she is crowned
with a mass of fire –
                red and fertile in spots of light;
                orange embers glow under the forest canopy.

Liverwort breeds in the fossae above her clavicle
                and tracks towards marchantia in the jugular notch.
                Below, cladonia sprout their tiny
umbrella organs across her cleavage.
                Mood moss, wispy while dry
                is verdant and lush when moist

between her legs.
                Spores spread.
                She flourishes.

Her nails gleam
                with gloss from the thorax of bluebottle.
                Her black eyes

glisten, reflect the green sheen
                of a magpie’s nape.
                Wet leaves around her grow cold,

slick in the shade. An odour of rot
                from rank weeds touches the ends
                of her olfactory nerves.

Her mouth waters.
                She ripens                          
                out of the Earth

                as something     else.
                Something        vivid.


Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Time warp

Mirror maze
This poem was written some time ago, it's in my first collection, The Spaces in Between (2015). When I read it out recently at an event I realised it may have meanings that I hadn't intended, and I found I was looking at it afresh, so thought I'd share it on here.

Whatever feeling, thought or emotion we want to get across as poets, we can never really know that our work is received as we wish it to be by readers and listeners. The title of my collection has multiple meanings for me, and this space between the writer and the reader is one of them. The reader's/listener's role is beyond the writer's reach.

Now, several years after writing 'Time Warp', I am seeing a different meaning in this poem to the one I intended at first. A rather strange feeling -- and an appropriate title for that! 

Time warp

Light stabs at angles of her mind
as a hall of mirrors distorts and turns.

She is walking away from herself –
can she be moving forward?

As she finds a passageway
reflections tilt and slant.

She looks at her echo in the glass,
sees some other thing, with empty eyes;

travels back through cracked parallels,
but where she returns is not the place she left.

The people have the same faces,
but they are not her people.

They don’t ask who she is, no-one can
help her now, she is too far away.

A bird flies through the room,
she hears its wings whisper, and

in the tail of her eye she sees a dove
draw a new barrier.

No going back, they are separated.
She is out of time.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Busy time ahead

Reminder to self -- breathe!
I started working out some timings for readings that are coming up over the next month or two and realised just how busy this Autumn is going to be – and I am greatly looking forward to it all.
Although, there may not be much time for much actual writing …

The first main event is PENfro Book Festival, from September 7th to 10th.  I’ll be presenting the Saturday afternoon session in the main hall:  ‘Lyrical Legends, skin-dancing with Susan Richardson’, which includes a reading from this fabulous poet, results of this year’s PENfro Poetry Competition, which Susan is judging, plus an open mic session.

I was on the organising committee for this lovely festival for four years, and chair for two, but now I’m looking forward to attending the event as a punter –much less stressful!  On my agenda are sessions with Iolo Williams, Ann Clwyd MP, Lynne Truss, David Saunders and my Rockhopper colleague Maggie Harris. There’s loads more on, and all info is on the website, see link below.

Just after that another Rockhopper colleague, Mel Perry, will be launching her debut poetry collection Rum Dark Nights and I’ll be there to support that great event on September 12th in Llansteffan.

I’ll be reading alongside Dave Urwin at a benefit event for refugees in Haverfordwest mid month, and again at Narberth Book Fair on September 23rd, where we’ll be sharing a table with Helen May Williams, who has recently launched her own debut poetry collection, The Princess of Vix. 

Narberth Book Fair, which features more than 40 authors, will be a great day out full of readings and workshops. There’s a link for that below too.

The Cellar Bards spoken word event in Cardigan, which I co-organise, will be back after the summer break on September 29th.  I am so looking forward to this as the fabulous poet Sophie McKeand will be our special guest.

In among that lot there will be a few writing groups to go to, and a rehearsal session for the Rockhoppers, the four-woman poetry performance group I belong to.  And I have signed up for another online course with the Poetry School. That starts in September too – at least I can be sure that will generate some new writing among all the other activities.

That’s all in September, and October already looks busy too. Pleased to have an Autumn holiday arranged!