Monday, 24 December 2007

A cold coming we had of it...

Here's one for the season, TS Eliot reading his poem Journey of the Magi.

On a very different note, it was a poem (Twas the Night Before Christmas) first published by an anonymous North American in 1823, that is largely responsible for the conception of Santa Claus from the mid-nineteenth century to today, including his physical appearance, the night of his visit, his mode of transportation, the number and names of his reindeer, and that he brings toys to children! Despite this revelation, I'm still hoping for a bumper stocking...

Happy holidays and a peaceful new year to all.

Monday, 17 December 2007

A Touch of Frost

All week the Hope Valley has been etched with frost. 'Hoar frost', the dictionary tells me, is from Old English and means 'frozen water-vapour on vegetation etc.'
Frost At Midnight was written by Coleridge in 1798. It's long-ish but don't let that put you off. Reading poetry (the link will also let you download or listen to it) at this time of year can be a good antidote to pre-Xmas madness ...
Photo: Liz Jones

Monday, 10 December 2007

Poems for 6 +

If you need a poetry present this Xmas you can't do better than Goblin In The Fridge - funny, imaginative and thoughtful poems for children (and smart adults) by my friend (he didn't even ask me to plug it!) and fellow poet Matt Black. Quizzes, games and much, much more for only £4.99. Here's a sample:
He’s got big green eyes that stare
and a head of wiry hair
but he's the goblin no-one sees
because he hides behind the cheese

and if you ask him “Are you real?"
the goblin cries “I’ll make a deal -
if you’ll believe in me
then I’ll believe in you…”

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Poets Kicking In Nantwich

If you happen to be near Nantwich, Cheshire this Thursday 6th December you can catch 3 members of Poets with a Kick performing at Nantwich Library, 7.30 pm. Nell Farrell and myself will be assisting Suzanne Batty in launching her new Bloodaxe collection The Barking Thing on her home ground. Hope to see you there!

Monday, 3 December 2007

Write On!

If you are a young writer or aspiring writer aged 12 - 18 you are most welcome at Write On - Chesterfield Young Writers' Group. I've been working with this lively and prize-winning group for a year and it contains some of the most enthusiastic writers I've ever met! Read some of the group's work and find out how to join.

This week's poem is suitably rain-influenced: Watch Your Step - I'm Drenched by the Shadow Poet Laureate Adrian Mitchell (about time he put in an appearance here).
If you'd like an animated version try selecting it from this list.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Snow, Suddenly

On Sunday evening Derbyshire was blanketed in the white stuff, and there's still some left on high ground. Snowballs and /or tricky driving conditions! It's a good subject for poems, here's a couple: Snow by Louis Macneice ('World is crazier and more of it than we think') and Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost ('And miles to go before I sleep').

This photo was taken near Buxton by Chris Barrow.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

4 Poets Kicking with Aplomb

Thanks to everyone who came to the gig on Sunday, in the bijou Lantern Theatre, a Victorian gem in the heart of Sheffield's leafy Nether Edge. Due to illness we were down to four, but Suzanne Batty, Anne Caldwell, Nell Farrell and myself were still kicking hard! Check out Suzanne's new collection The Barking Thing just published by Bloodaxe.

Autumn is waning but rural Derbyshire is stunning in its russets and yellows; if, like me, you've been trying to recall Keat's Ode to Autumn, here it is.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

The 'Main Man' ;-)

Andrew Motion read last night at Sheffield Hallam University. He was warm and inspiring and if I wasn't already converted to the idea of poet laureates, I would be now! His specially commissioned poem is highly visible on the side of the university as you walk from Sheffield station to the city centre, and passers-by can be seen gazing upwards at the shiny letters. One of the things he has done as national P L is to raise £2 million for the Poetry Archive, a treasure-trove of recordings of poets reading their own work. Poetry is meant to be heard aloud and this is a fantastic collection. Here's a much-loved poem by John Betjeman, and one of my favourites - Jackie Kay.

There's only a few days left of Off The Shelf, Sheffield Fest of Reading and Writing 2007. It's a wonderful mix of writers, workshops and book-related stuff. I will be reading as part of Six Women Poets with a Kick at the Lantern Theatre on Sunday 4th Nov. Tickets are sold out, but there may be returns on the door if you want to chance it.

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Derwent Poetry Festival 27 / 28 Oct

Templar Poetry are bringing some great local and national poetry stars together this weekend at Masson Mills, Matlock Bath, where Richard Arkwright built his showpiece mill in 1783 (now a World Heritage Site). Full poetry programme here. I will be reading a few poems on Saturday 3-4pm, at a free reading by poets included in the 2007 Competition Anthology. Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Autumn Trees

I was interviewed by the Derby Evening Telegraph yesterday. I must get used to being asked about my favourite poets. One of the names that popped into my head was 'Emily Bronte' but in truth I only remember reading one of her poems - 'The Prisoner' which we did at school (quite appropriate for the miseries of teenage-hood). I looked at some of her other poems hoping to find one about Autumn, but most of them are wintry in the extreme.

The closest I can come to an Autumn poem is one I've recently written about a tree I sent off for (a small one - to plant in my garden!) after collecting tokens from a few gallons of yoghurt.

Today's factoid: Derbyshire Wildlife Trust are currently searching for the oldest trees in the county.

Planting the Rowan

Blackbird clacks day’s end through undergrowth.
A week past autumn equinox. We should go in

but keep on, half a cup of cold tea rain-flecked
on a stone, nettle-bites inside wet gloves.

Knees sag with mud, backache as yet benign.
A bramble gives. I’m flung back.

Lights along the row like honey toast.
Shouldering the drizzle, we’ve amassed

a heap of rot-stripped doors, roots, bucket rims.
Downhill from everything we’re nose to earth,

breath - raw damp clumps. A little more.
It’s painful to unbend, stretch to the last grey line

of light. I kiss you, plant the tree
whose bed is soft stroked loam. From inside

it will look so dark out here
we’ll wonder how we saw our way at all.

Friday, 5 October 2007


Cathy Grindrod (the previous Derbyshire laureate) and I were interviewed on BBC Radio Derby. The theme of this year's National Poetry Day was 'Dreams' and I had to come up with two lines which listeners could add to throughout the day. I had a few nightmares about those lines! Cathy's poems have been featured on Radio Derby this week.

After a long cross-county drive I arrived in Buxton for a double launch under the Dome (the former Devonshire Hospital, now University of Derby at Buxton): the new Buxton Poetry Competition, and my own launch as laureate! I read a new poem about the Tissington Trail. Thanks to Marjorie and Trevor for chatting with me about the poem afterwards and correcting my dates! It was also good to meet local writers, including Philip Holland, a poet and former dairy-farmer.

Laureate Lines features poems Cathy Grindrod wrote during her time as laureate. It contains extracts from her laureate diary and a selection of poems written by participants at poetry workshops. Copies are £7.99 and available from Derbyshire Libraries or Ali Betteridge, Literature Development.

Saturday, 29 September 2007

Poet Laureate To Be

Hello and Welcome! I've the honour to have been appointed as the new Poet Laureate for Derbyshire, succeeding Cathy Grindrod who's been wearing the laurels for the last two years. You can read about her achievements here

She'll be handing over the baton on BBC Radio Derby next Thursday 4th October, National Poetry Day

I'll be out and about flying the poetry flag in Derbyshire, meeting budding and established poets, reading my poems and running poetry workshops over the next two years. Look forward to meeting you soon!