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So I guess I’m now officially a novelist, rather than just a poet who wrote a novel, as I have TWO more novels coming out next spring, both engaging with fairytale, folktale, history, and the stories we tell about society.

The first, a children’s book called THE UNTAMEABLES, will be coming out with the Emma Press. I actually wrote it a couple of years ago but couldn’t find a publisher at the time, and I’m so pleased it has found a home.

The blurb is: The Untameables is a radical reworking of Arthurian myths, aimed at older Primary School Children (8-10). It draws on British folklore – Merlin, The Lady of the Lake, Tom Thumb, faeries and dragons – whilst also questioning the colonialist and brutal roots of the Arthurian legends. The novel reclaims the stories I love, by retelling them from the perspective of those who work below-stairs – the gentle dog-boy, Roan, who hates violence, and his friend Elva – as they try to beat the Knights of the Round Table on their quest to find the Holy Grail that could save his mother’s life. More info here.

I’d love to come to your school or children’s bookshop to read, talk or get children writing medieval riddles.

I’m also absolutely thrilled to announce my second adult novel will be coming out next spring in the US with the fabulous Avid Reader Press. THE MODERN FAIRIES is loosely inspired by the real adventures of the salonnières of the late seventeenth century who shaped fairy-tales as we know them. We meet Mme D’Aulnoy – who coined the term fairy tale – Henriette-Julie Murat, Charlotte-Rose de la Force, Charles Perrault, Marie-Jeanne L’Heritier de Villandon and others – the group who collected and originated tales including Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, Rumplestiltskin, Beauty and the Beast, Bluebeard and Cinderella, over 100 years before the Brothers Grimm. They live in a world of mirrors, princesses, evil queens, splendid balls, poisoned fruit, and women locked in towers. And as their subversive tales threaten to put them all in grave danger, they begin to wonder: who is the wolf?

It’s a love letter to storytellers everywhere. It’s also my first romantic comedy, that I hope channels the dazzling wit of these salonnières. In many ways it feels like the book I’ve been waiting to write all my life, bringing all my obsessions together!!

Can’t quite believe my luck that I have two novels coming out. More soon…

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Spring is coming. Things are happening in the garden and it’s the season of supermarket tulips.

Just updating the website with some up-and-coming events. On Saturday 25th February I’ll be reading at Poets and Players in Manchester at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation, 2.30-4pm, with Jake Morris-Campbell, Wayne Holloway-Smith and John Haycock

I’m also very excited to be doing my first events in Belfast next month, as part of the Imagine! Belfast Festival of Ideas & Politics. At 12.30 on 21st of March I’ll be talking about DELPHI as part of a panel about ‘Writing Now’, then in the evening I’ll be the poetic support for my old friend Luke Wright, who’ll perform his show The Remains of Logan Dankworth

I’m teaching three residential courses this year, so thought I’d put up the links for those too in case anyone is tempted. I love a week in the countryside with real fires, walks, cake, and the chance to talk poetry every evening over a glass of wine, and since I’ve had children have virtually considered them a paid holiday!

The soonest will be at the beautiful Garsdale Retreat 13th-18th of March, and there is still space. It’s catered if you’re not sure about the Arvon everyone-cooks model (the food is AMAZING, especially the breakfasts) and my course is on Finding your Form.
Seni Seneviratne is the guest reader. BOOK HERE.

I’m also teaching an Arvon Tutored Poetry Retreat 19th-24th of June with Rishi Dastidar, and Kathryn Bevis as reader BOOK HERE

And I’m particularly thrilled to be teaching my first course at Tŷ Newydd 2nd-6th October with Owen Sheers, and Sabrina Mahfouz as guest. The theme is ‘On Voice and Voices’, and we’re going to be exploring dramatic monologues, confessionalism, film-poems and verbatim work. BOOK HERE

Otherwise, DELPHI is ticking along nicely, with the German translation now out (translated by Anke Caroline Burger) and the UK paperback cover just finalised – see below. I love the dying tulips, which I think really sum up the strangeness of that first lockdown and its spring-gone-wrong vibes 🌷💀🌷 – it’s out in April, paperback people. I also have some new projects on the go I’m very excited about, but can’t announce officially yet, more news very soon!

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Unlocking Anne

Just a link to a BBC Radio Three Sunday Feature I scripted and presented, Unlocking Anne, that was broadcast this evening.

Anne Locke wrote the first sonnet sequence in the English language – a dark meditation on Psalm 51 about adultery, guilt, sin and the soul that I think prefigures John Donne’s Holy Sonnets (and plays, as he does on ‘done’ and undone’, with ‘lock’ and ‘look’) – and it was an absolute pleasure to contribute towards the work of reinserting her into the canon – many thanks to producer Sarah Shebbeare.

We don’t have any pictures of Anne Locke, so instead here’s one of our new kitten, Sinbad.

Happy new year.

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Literary Podcasts

I’ve been very slow to podcasts. I’ve always had a particularly keen hatred of talk radio. People blithering away about literally anything at all to fill time: their first haircut, whether they prefer ketchup or brown sauce, their opinion on a sensitive political issue of which they have zero knowledge or experience. Generally, I find the rabbiting on interferes with my thoughts and makes me borderline-angry. However, I have recently realized that there is a lack of space given over to literature in mainstream media, and podcasts are filling that gap, so I’ve started to catch up whilst ironing or making a late dinner once the kids are in bed (I’m working my way through Meera Sodha’s East – Aloo Gobi tonight).

Backlisted is brilliant, for example – where else would you get such a deep-dive into Fungus the Bogeyman or Elizabeth Bowen?

Little Atoms is also one of my favourites – very simply, Neil Denny just chats to an author each week for half an hour about their new book, but I usually come away from it as stimulated as if I’ve attended an event at a literary festival. Recent guests include George Saunders, Yiyun Li and Maggie O’Farrell, and I was delighted to be asked to talk about DELPHI which you can listen to here.

There are some amazing poetry podcasts out there too, like Arji’s Poetry Pickle Jar where poets chat to Arji Manuelpillai about a favourite poem by someone else – I picked Anne Sexton’s ‘The Truth the Dead Know’ – and highlights include Jack Underwood on Natalie Shapero’s ‘The Sky’ and an exclusive recording of Wayne Holloway-Smith’s living room salon.

And this week I’m honoured to have recorded an episode of ‘A Mouthful of Air’. Another simple concept really well delivered – Mark McGuinness asks poets to read one of their own poems then talk about how they did it, as well as digging into the form. I’m chatting about my poem ‘At Peckham Rye’, from Incarnation.

All these podcasts have amazing archives to explore when you’re doing your housework… Hope you enjoy the links!

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The Premonition

For those of you not on Instagram (where my US publishers Avid Reader posted a very cool video) I thought I’d share my Delphi inspired cocktail recipe, the fitting culmination of my lockdown cocktail obsession! Its name is a nod to my all-time favourite, the Aviation, and it’s seasonal as UK supermarkets are full of cheap figs at the moment.

The temple of the Delphic Oracle was on the slopes of Mount Parnassus. In caves nearby lived nymphs who were half-woman, half-bee, whilst the mountain was also sacred to Dionysus – the God of wine and song, associated with figs in Greek mythology. The Ancient Greeks knew of citrus fruit too – many scholars believe the tree of ‘golden apples’ in the Garden of the Hesperides, guarded by a dragon, was a lemon tree. This cocktail combines archetypally Grecian flavours then – honey, fig, lemon, thyme – whilst the drop of ouzo introduces a taste of my own Greek holidays, and a hint of mystery worthy of the Oracle herself.

The Premonition ingredients:
– 1 fresh fig
– 10ml honey
– 20ml lemon
– 50ml brandy
– A couple of drops of ouzo
– To garnish: a sprig of thyme

Scoop the flesh of the fig into a shaker and muddle. Add the other ingredients (except the thyme) plus ice then shake hard. Fine strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a sprig of thyme.

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Thankyou so much to all who have supported DELPHI! I had a wonderful launch week, with events at the Review Bookshop and 5 Points Brewery, and fortune-cookies all round. I just thought I’d put up links to everything DELPHI-related in one post on my website…

Firstly, I wrote a few blogs:

For Lithub, about how to write about now.

For Hatchards, about fortune telling and fiction

And I put together this listicle of novels by poets for Bookshop.org and wrote an essay for London Magazine about Cavafy’s ‘Ithaca’ and failing to visit Delphi in the current issue.

Also, I had some fantastic reviews (always a relief). I was so pleased to be generously reviewed by Sarah Moss in The Guardian (her Ghost Wall is one of my favourite books of recent years). Also by John Self in the Observer, Michael Donkor in the i, and Suzi Feay in the FT. The Daily Mail said: This isn’t the first – and most certainly won’t be the last – pandemic novel, but it might be the most brilliant’. And in the US I was very honoured DELPHI was chosen by indie booksellers to be an ‘Indie Next’ title, and reviewed in the LA Review of Books, and the New York Times, whilst Buzzfeed said: ‘For fans of Jenny Offill, Ottessa Moshfegh, and Sally Rooney, here’s another hot sad girl book to add to your list’.

Upcoming: I’ll be on the podcast Little Atoms soon, will be launching DELPHI in Bolton on October 4th, and am having a Drink with the Idler on October 13th (online, where I may unveil the new cocktail I’ve invented in Delphi’s honour, The Premonition).

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Summer News

Writing this from within London’s clammy heatwave, glugging iced-coffee, but just wanted to update the site with a few links. I’ve had a few lucky breaks lately, and am thrilled to be nominated for the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem for ‘Pollen’, which was published in Bad Lilies. The poem is here, and I also did a short interview. I was also totally shocked to discover Frank Skinner had made a podcast about my poems! He’s such an insightful reader, it’s a real honour – you can listen to it here.

And then this week I was made an honorary Doctor of Letters by Bolton University (I’ve always described myself as a ‘lady of letters’ so this is a pleasing upgrade). We had such a lovely reception, with champagne, nibbles and requests on the baby grand piano (thankyou, Martin), and my mum had a great time.

And Delphi is out next week too. So a few events… I’m in conversation with the fabulous Cathy Rentzenbrink this Sunday morning at 12am at Latitude Festival if any of you happen to be there… say hi if you are!

I also have an event at my beautiful local bookshop Review next Wednesday (27th July) at 7pm, where I will be chatting to Cecilia Knapp (also nominated for the Forward) – all proceeds go to CALM. Tickets are £5, redeemable against a copy of the book, and hoping to see some South Londoners there.

And for those who aren’t doing in-person, I’m very pleased to have a digital launch on the actual day of publication – Thursday 28th July – with FANE, where I am chatting to Sophie Haydock (author of The Flames) – tickets are available here. Right, off to spray my face with water now…

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So my debut novel DELPHI is coming out in July in the UK and August in the US, and is also being translated into German and Dutch, which is immeasurably exciting and strange! I’ve been writing (unpublished) novels since I was a child and can’t quite believe I can finally call myself a novelist. Just over a year ago I was researching oracles and prophecy, thinking perhaps it would be a book of poetry, but all I seemed to have were these strange fragments. And then I read Jenny Offill’s Weather and suddenly had the revelation I was writing a novel. I was actually quite annoyed with myself, as after so many disappointments I thought that meant it would end up in a drawer. But I wrote it very quickly, in a kind of fever – as soon as home-schooling ended – sent it to my UK agent Jenny Hewson with an apologetic note, and was shocked when she responded that she would start sending it out. And now here’s a proof!

It’s kind of about the pandemic, but I hope that won’t put you off. (My US blurb calls it, in fact, ‘one of the first great novels of this terrible moment’, which is very flattering). I’ve just always written about now, and the idea that I might live through a major historical event and not touch on it seems very odd to me. Like Virginia Woolf not mentioning the First World War in Mrs Dalloway, or Graham Greene writing The End of the Affair but not mentioning the Blitz. It’s also about middle age, tarot cards, The Furies, the age of surveillance capitalism, dream interpretation, Nostradamus, algorithms, the language of angels, Cassandra and the meaning of life, so plenty to think about!

Some kind quotes I’m really thrilled with – Evie Wyld, author of the stunning The Bass Rock says: ‘A compact miracle of a book’

Doireann Ní Ghríofa, whose ‘A Ghost in the Throat’ was one of my recent favourites says: ‘Vivid as fireworks…Both terrifying and exhilarating’

And Forward prizewinning poet and author of ‘The Answer to Everything‘ Luke Kennard says: ‘Consoling, harrowing, hilarious. I feel like it’s healed me…So funny and so radically honest it leaves you reeling’

Kennard by-passing the usual superlatives there, and instead really raising the stakes by implying my novel has healing powers!

And look at these covers in this cute little animation. I’m so lucky. I keep going round bookshops now and seeing all the ropey covers and feeling very smug. (Thanks to my US agent Lucy Carson for this)

Apparently pre-orders make a huge difference these days, so if you would like to pre-order a copy I’d be incredibly grateful. It’s available on Amazon of course, and it’s very nice to get on their charts, but even better would be to preorder from bookshop.org in the UK then you can support your favourite local bookshop (in my case, my local the Review Bookshop in Peckham).

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Autumnal Update

It’s been a busy end to the summer, judging the Foyles young Poet of the Year Award with Yomi Sode – look our for the winners being announced on October 7th – and making final edits to my novel Delphi (out summer 2022!). Last week I had new author photos taken for my cover by the brilliant https://www.sophie-davidson.co.uk/ who I’d really recommend if you need photos.

This week I’m slap-bang in the middle of putting together a bumper German-language issue of MPT, entitled ‘Slap-Bang’ and exploding with brilliance: Ulrike Almut Sandig, Özlem Özgül Dündar, Nora Gomringer, Esther Kinsky, Nelly Sachs, Else Lasker-Schüler, Uljana Wolf…

Thought I would take a moment though to link to a few things going on in the next couple of weeks. Firstly, I’m part of a digital reading this Saturday (4th October) 4pm BST to celebrate the excellent new anthology ‘100 Poems to Save the Earth’, edited by Zoe Brigley and Kristian Evans – you can register for free here.

I’m then reading IRL at the Winchester Poetry Festival with absolute legend Paul Muldoon on Friday 8th of October – I’ve never read with him before and am a bit in awe. Do come along! Tickets here.

I’m also very much looking forward to heading to Edinburgh, one of my favourite cities, for a brand new poetry festival – Push the Boat Out (15th-17th October). I’m taking part in two events on the Saturday – a talk about how poetry might heal the soul with William Letford, Tawona Sithole and John Glenday at 11am, and I’m running a poetry workshop on the language of childhood at 2pm. The whole programme is amazing though – Liz Berry, Salena Godden, Caroline Bird, Lorna Goodison, Nidhi Zak/Aria Eipe, Nick Makoha, Fiona Benson, Andrew Macmillan… Already excited for the pub.

And in November I’m running a course on The Poetry of Now at the Garsdale Retreat and there are still a couple of places left if you fancy some poetic R&R with fires and cake.

That’s all for now, but I hope to write a proper blog about my debut novel Delphi soon…

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After nearly two years without writing a poem, recently two came along at once. Unsurprisingly, they’re both attempts to process the last year.

My poem about the first lockdown, called ‘Pollen‘, has just been published in the excellent new online journal Bad Lilies.

I was also commissioned to write a poem for the Crick Institute, as part of Poet in the City’s ‘Drop of Hope’ project. It was really interesting to think about the history of inoculation – I read Eula Bliss’ excellent book On Immunity – and talk to scientists at the institute. Those vaccinated there have also been asked to jot down their thoughts and feelings, which we could draw on in our poems. The result is ‘A Mnemonic Device’ which you can read here, along with my artists’ statement. Do check out the other poems too, by a brilliant array of poets from Hanna Ali to John Hegley to Will Harris.

I went to visit the Crick today in the rain, and was heartened to see the rainbow of posters outside, with my words in big letters: MEMORY PROTECTS US.

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