Archive for January, 2014

A busy month since I last posted. Firstly, some nice after-effects from my piece about poetry and motherhood.  Carolyn Jess-Cooke has accepted one of my poems for her forthcoming Writing Motherhood blog, and I’ve been asked to curate an event around the topic at Latitude. I’ve also really enjoyed chasing up some of the poets you recommended – I was glad to see Sinead Morrissey’s Parallax win the TS Eliot prize, having downloaded it on Alison Brackenbury’s recommendation and found the poems about her children really intelligent and clear-sighted.

I didn’t make the Eliot readings this year though as I was in Reykjavik, failing to see the Northern Lights but otherwise having a wonderful holiday.  It’s a tiny, suburban city, made of corrugated iron houses painted in a rainbow of colours, snow-capped mountains surrounding it.  We saw whaling ships and the remains of a viking settlement, ate preserved shark (pissy), and bathed in the milky waters of the blue lagoon in swirls of steam. I sped through the thirteenth century Njal’s Saga whilst I was there, which is brilliantly readable – a tale of honour and blood-vengeance full of hard-boiled wit and characters with the best names ever (Mord Fiddle, Harald Fine-Hair, Grim, Glum. )

I also journeyed back to Bolton this month to read at the Octagon, which was a really lovely event – great to be back there seeing old friends in the audience as well as an interested contingent from the University of Bolton’s Creative Writing Department. An added bonus was meeting Jon Glover, editor of the brilliant Stand and one of poetry’s great enthusiasts, who ended up gifting me a pile of poetry books to read, including some by poets whose names I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t know.  Owen Lowery for example, published by the Northern House imprint of Carcanet, a former British Judo champion now tetraplegic following an accident, whose poems move deftly between high literature (poems after Celan) and Fabrice Muamba.

Then there was lots of teaching, some Palestinian translation, a show in Bedford, and the four box-files of writing that were couriered to my door from which to select the Arvon mentees. Not to mention Gruff started sitting and crawling!  After a school visit followed by a nightclass this Monday I did feel slightly sick with tiredness, but was perked up by seeing a really thoughtful review of Ovid’s Heroines by Abigail Parry in the new Poetry London.  And then yesterday I went to a mothers and babies screening of Inside Llewelyn Davis – about the 60s New York folk scene – which was depressing in its depiction of a struggling artist who never quite gets the break, but still just my sort of thing, and felt appropriate on the day the great Pete Seeger died. ‘Little Boxes’ is the first song of his I loved and I often sing it to Gruff – I love the way the sweet little tune is subverted by the vicious lyrics. So here it is – RIP :

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New Year News


Happy New Year everyone! Hope you enjoyed Christmas. I was very pleased with my presents, which included a wolf necklace, lots of gardening things (a grow-your-own wild mushroom kit, an insect ‘hotel’, some big pots), and The New Penguin Book of English Folk Songs, which is a very beautiful object and ideal for dipping into on these winter evenings. I’m particularly struck by some of the songs in women’s voices, such as the one pining for a sailor:

If I were a blackbird I’d whistle and sing
I’d follow the vessel my true love sailed in
and in the top rigging I’d there build my nest
and pillow my head on his lily-white breast

I also got a bonus present in the form of Ovid’s Heroines being included in The Guardian’s list of Readers’ Books of the Year, which seems a particularly nice list to be on.

Today 2014 is looking crisp and shiny. I’ve walked with the buggy up Telegraph Hill, and have been eating leftovers from our New Year’s feast (potted shrimps, runny cheese and apricots) and filling out my new diary. Just thought I’d update you with a few up-and-coming deadlines and dates. Firstly, for those who resolved to write more poems this year, there’s still time to sign up for my intermediate poetry course at the Poetry School on Wednesday evenings, and my two courses at the City Lit.  I can also announce that I’ll be judging the Vers Poets open competition this Spring (deadline April the 30th). And I’m very pleased to be one of the Arvon/Jerwood mentors this year, along with David Eldridge and Jenn Ashworth – if you attended an Arvon course in 2013 you have until January the 13th to apply for a mentorship.

I’m also doing a couple of readings outside London this month, which will make a nice change. I’m particularly happy to be doing a reading at the Bolton Octagon on the 21st of January, as I don’t think I’ve read in my hometown for a decade, and when I was growing up I used to go regularly to see shows there with my mum. And I’ll be performing from Ovid’s Heroines at The Place in Bedford on the 26th, which I’ve heard is a fantastic venue. So lots to look forward to – hope to see some of you soon and that 2014 brings good things.

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