Archive for May, 2015

May sunshine! Not wanting to show off too much to all you non-freelancers, but today my ‘job’ has been sitting in the garden whilst bees bumble around peonies, uploading the latest notes for my Sylvia Plath course and relishing the new Annie Freud collection The Remains, which I’m reviewing for Poetry London. Here is my view:


The garden is looking a lovely mess – irises pushing through daisies, the pink and violet bells of aquilegia, an embarrassment of roses. I have planted out my seedlings: this year sunflowers, sweetpeas, beans, courgettes, lettuce, carrots, sweetcorn. And I have just harvested my first rhubarb!!!


Rhubarb is one of my favourite flavours in the world, and last year I had to keep my hands off whilst it established, so I have been anticipating this moment a long time. I am thinking compote, to have with Greek yoghurt, although I might also have to research rhubarb-based cocktails in celebration….

I’ve been enjoying the month. There were performances of the Ovid’s Heroines show at the South Yorkshire Poetry festival and the Alma Tavern in Bristol, both attended by lots of lovely poets (how I love theatre pubs); a glorious wedding; a bank holiday barbecue. I received a copy of the rather fabulous Neu Reekie anthology, which I’m proud to be in alongside poets such as Douglas Dunn and Liz Lochhead. I’ve also had my poem ‘Soft Play‘ appear on the New Boots and Pantisocracies blog and a recording of me talking about the favourite childhood book which made me a poet – Hilda Boswell’s Treasury of Poetry – appear on the RLF website. Here’s my battered copy which I still have in pride of place on my poetry shelves:


June is looking fun too. A couple of gigs coming up London people!

First, I’m taking part in a Poetry and Parenthood event at Keats House at 2pm on the 6th of June with Daljit Nagra, Fiona Benson and Owen Sheers.

And then I’m also very honoured to be part of the 20th anniversary celebrations for possibly my favourite poetry magazine (apologies everyone else!!) The Dark Horse on the 12th of June – details here. It’s an amazing lineup: I’ll be reading with Niall Campbell, Wendy Cope and Kei Miller!!!  And I have a poem, ‘In the Horniman Museum’, in the Anniversary issue, which I’m sure is going to be amazing. I’m anticipating it’s arrival almost as much as I am the eating of rhubarb.


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So. A Tory majority which is actually trying to scrap the actual human rights act.

And today the BBC reports that Cameron is to say: “For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens ‘as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone'”

Just let that sink in. Yes, for too long, law-abiding people have apparently been allowed to get on with their lives. But David Cameron, having decided Orwell’s 1984 to be a handbook for good governance, is about to put an end to Thoughtcrime.

0760e7837523f21b05af8525b8df38acFor me, the worst thing about the election result is that it happened because of a failure of language. I can feel political discourse untethering from reality, becoming more and more unreal. There were so many empty pledges and meaningless promises on all sides. There was so much blather about hard-working families and strong economies and being tough; such a shitstorm of spin and lies and trivia and kitchens and falsified figures and #milifans and dog-whistle euphemism. Add to that a venal rightwing media with a monopoly, and a social media where people only hear their own opinions retweeted, and most people ended up voting against their own interests – not because they are stupid, but because no one ever bothered to give them the actual truth. Because politicians and the newspapers deliberately, cynically, presented them with soundbites instead of fact; assertion instead of evidence. How many ordinary people who voted Tory had it explained to them what it means to their families to lose their access to legal aid and human rights courts, their welfare safety net if they lose their job or become ill, quite probably their child benefit and (if the leaked DWP document is correct) even Statutory Maternity Pay?

If the left has a problem it is certainly not that they were not ‘aspirational’ enough. That’s just more of the same shit, frankly. The central question for the left is how do we tell people the truth?

Because I don’t know. The Tories are to me so obviously self-evidently evil that when I start talking about it I get shrill. I know it’s not helpful.

But I’m sure too, that the fight we must all now begin is a fight to claim back the language of public discourse. It’s about the discourse that circles the unemployed and disabled, the asylum seekers and immigrants, our NHS and our schools, ‘terror’ and ‘security’. It’s about the wording of their so-called British Bill of Rights.

At the moment we are losing the fight with Doublethink and Newspeak, and if Labour reacts by electing someone fluent in it as their leader, things are only going to get worse

Ugh. Anyway. In my attempts to my make myself feel better this week I gave to my local foodbank and switched over to renewable energy at Ecotricity (which actually costs slightly less than my terrible deal at British Gas). I recommend both as temporary balms. And I’ve sent a poem to a new blog from W N Herbert and Andy Jackson – New Boots and Pantisocracies – that aims to ‘publish a poem a day for the next 100 days, each one responding to some aspect of the new unrealpolitik’. An important new space to think about political language, I hope. Do have a look and follow.

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