About Me

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Bristol , United Kingdom
I am co-director of the Leaping Word Poetry Consultancy, which provides advice for poets on writing, editing and publishing, as well as qualified counselling support for those exploring personal issues in their work - https://theleapingword.com. My fifth poetry collection, Learning Finity, is now available from Indigo Dreams or directly from me.

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Gorgeous Goats

Off out with Dru today, across the Downs to Sea Walls. There are new arrivals in the gorge - six Kashmir goats from Great Orme in North Wales, brought in to manage scrub in Walcombe Slade and help restore wildflower grassland.  But first we scouted around the Downs in search of bee orchids. Apparently it's not a good year for them. We saw some bladder campion, though, and some magnificent seed heads.  

At Sea Walls we scrambled down the very steep sides of the gorge to a rocky outcrop high above the muddy River Avon. Luckily, a fence has been installed to pen the goats in the gully, presumably until they become hefted, and this eased our precipitous slither.

It was low tide, and we could see the sun glancing off the mud banks that lurked a couple of hundred feet below us.

Dru had already visited the goats every day since their arrival earlier in the week, but this was my first glimpse. We saw two, then three, and finally all six sunbathing, eating and generally lazing about in the sun.  

I was moderately pleased with my photos until I saw Dru's. I'm going to claim she achieves this because her camera is the dog's bollocks, but actually it's because she is knowledgeable, has a good, quick eye and doesn't walk around with her mind in China.

Eventually we scrabbled all the way down to the Portway, and without falling to our deaths.  

And there were still more glories to behold, like a pair of buzzards and a peregrine (so Dru tells me).  And these fugitive red hot pokers, looking better au naturel than ever they do in suburban gardens.

I also loved the scribble made by insects mining tracks under the bark of a dead tree.  Nature's fine art!  They could almost be the fossilised remains of prehistoric insects.  Or an Art Nouveau illustration by Aubrey Beetlesbee.  So very beguiling. 

And back up top, another dead tree, this one with a chiff-chaff at the top, chiff-chaffing the remains of the afternoon away.  Lovely.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Watts Gallery, Compton - Hope over Indifference

Continuing Jan, Dónall and my visit to Watt's Gallery, Compton, a delicious 'potter's' lunch on site - though really it should have been 'poetter's' - followed our visit to Lady Mary's Chapel, and then we had a look around the newly refurbished gallery itself. 

I voted for Watts' Gallery to win the 2006 final of the telly programme 'Restoration' (it came second but secured a grant from the Lottery Fund and various other sources anyhow, thanks in large part to the efforts of the villagers), so I was delighted to see the fabric of the building looking so cared for, with lovely, modern Arts and Crafts touches added here and there to good 

Still one or two things left to do, however ... 

Inside the gallery, Watts' paintings are displayed to good effect, although I have to say that they're a bit too typically Victorian for my taste. The iconic 'Hope' - apparently (and rather conveniently) Barak Obama's favourite painting, and the name given to the campaign to save the gallery - is the subject of one of the exhibitions.  I particularly liked the soft red chalk version that was on display.  I can't find a picture of it online and obviously you're not allowed to take photos yourself, so this version below will have to do.

I do have a favourite Watt's painting and it's the wonderful portrait of William Morris, in which the sitter comes across as some sort of magical green man - which is pretty apt, really.  It's (quite properly) in the National Portrait Gallery, however, not at Compton. 

Watts' sculpture is also on display - huge gesso grosso models, including one for the memorial statue of Alfred, Lord Tennyson at Lincoln.  I was delighted to learn that Tennyson's wolfhound, seen gazing up at her master, was called Karenina. 

Next, we visited Jan and Dónall's artist friends, whose house was open as part of Guildford Arts Trail.  Then there was just time to squeeze in a visit to Guildford Cathedral. More about that anon.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Watts' Gallery, Compton - Lady Mary's Chapel

Last weekend my son had an appointment with several roaming robots in Guildford. This afforded me the chance to pop my Surrey cherry, at the same time catching up with my old friends, the poets Jan Windle and Dónall Dempsey.  At least they felt like old friends, it was just that we'd never met before.  It was good to put that right, and to find that they were as engaging as I'd imagined.

It was the day after the Watts Gallery in nearby Compton had opened, having been closed for a couple of years for a much-needed restoration, and although I badly wanted to visit, I was concerned that it might be teeming with people.  Happily, this wasn't so; in fact, we had our first stop, the stunning cemetery chapel, to ourselves.

Designed principally by Lady Mary Watts, the chapel is a mix of art nouveau, Celtic, Romanesque and Egyptian influences. Mary believed that anyone with sufficient interest and enthusiasm could produce beautiful decoration, and so she cajoled almost everyone in the village into learning how to model in clay. 

It rather looks as if some of their likenesses have been appropriated for the architrave around the door.

If the exterior was a delight, the inside was fantastical - again an exuberance of styles, in painted and gilded gesso.  This, and its close, curving dimensions, make for a wonderfully intimate and romantic space.

Outside, in the grounds, contemporary cloisters, an Art Nouveau well and complementary gravestones.

Though my favourite has to be this truculent cherub:

More anon.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Sharing, fellowship and that sort of thing

Communion is an act of sharing.  So I'm sharing the title poem of my collection of poetry, which was inspired by the chance sighting of a 15th century mural warning against the perils of Lust, on the wall of the nave in St Winifred's Church, Branscombe. 


She lifts her veil of lace,
her eyes are narrowed and her face
upturned for kisses,

and as she draws her lover in,
he binds her close
with promises. Yes,

they will prey,
but on each other
on this holy feasting day.

They don’t appear
to feel the Devil’s spear
thrust into their sides,

don’t realise
that they're a warning
painted on this ancient wall

to a score of generations
against temptations
of the flesh. Instead,

they’ll partake of each other
in red mouths of sandstone spires,
in sumptuous, honey-coloured quires,

in sanctuary, chapter house and chantry,
once used as store for vestments,
warm with candlelight and incense,

in drowned and sinking chapels
filling up with sand and lapped
by worn stone steps.

In sacred glades and nymets
beneath the fan-vaulting of trees,
she’ll smile and slither to her knees

on mossy hassocks, last year’s leaves,
like her dress of lovat silk
snagged on a hook.

Deborah Harvey © 2008 , 2011

Would also like to share how much I'm enjoying being here, tucked in between Thomas Hardy and Seamus Heaney:

If you like my poems, the collection is now available to buy.  Please contact Indigo Dreams for further details, or, if you would like a signed copy, email me at deborah.harvey@ymail.com.  Price is £7.99 inc p&p within the UK, £8.50 inc p&p to the rest of Europe, £9.50 inc p&p to the rest of the world.

'Deborah Harvey's ... poems are raw and true. She is the real thing'      Hugo Williams

Saturday, 18 June 2011

A Poem for Autistic Pride Day - Prognosis

In celebration of neurodiversity, a poem ... 


for J and S

No functioning intelligence.

No meaningful relationships.

Mute.  Forever closed off from the world.

I remind myself of this

as my daughter
bounds across the concourse,
waving her essay on Citizen Kane,

as my son delivers his lines,
in bathers and rubber ring.

He’s the star of the panto.

Oh no he isn’t. 


Deborah Harvey © 2010 , 2011

Fallen Woman

My poem, 'Fallen Woman', won the Chipping Sodbury Festival Poetry Competition last night.  

It's about Sarah Ann Henley, who jumped from the Clifton Suspension Bridge on 8th May 1885, only for her dress and petticoats to fill with air, parachuting her onto the muddy river bank below.  She died 63 years later, a reluctant celebrity.

This is my poem having a little lap of honour before it sinks back into the mud of obscurity.

Fallen Woman

Mud sticks,
sister of Icarus,
under the nails of pointing fingers,
to the skin of idle tongues.

You can scrub your treacherous dress,
those voluminous petties.
The prurient breeze still lifts the hem
and sniffs beneath.

You tumbled before you stepped
from Clifton’s glittering parapet, the city
spread between your legs
like a dowry to the wind,

which wrapped itself around your body
and possessed you,
as you somersaulted
like a clanging knell,

and plumped
the lecherous lover’s bed
that dipped to catch you
as you fell.

Deborah Harvey © 2009 , 2011

NB. My first poetry collection, Communion, is being published by Indigo Dreams next month. This poem isn't in it.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

A Literary Riddle

Hay, Ross. I'm Wyes
to the difference between you:
Hay the Literary Festival,
Ross the Chained Library.
Or is that Here,

Saturday, 11 June 2011

'Communion' - front cover

Funny how brilliant things and crap things come along on the same day. This - the front cover of my first poetry collection, 'Communion', which is due to be published around the endish of this monthish - is definitely the former, and I really shouldn't let this  moment be eclipsed by tribulation ...

Photo of 15th century mural against Lust at St Winifred's Church, Branscombe by Dru Marland, cover design  by Ronnie Goodyer of Indigo Dreams

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Persons to Porlock

Off to Porlock last Friday.  I first visited three years ago, and it turned out to be the start of a series of jaunts which led to my poem, 'Coleridge changes his library books', so I feel affection and gratitude towards the place.  My father had never been, however, and as he is now 89 and quite frail, I decided to get him down there pronto, along with my mother, my sister and Ted.

So, another chance to visit the Ship Inn, which Sam Coleridge, William Wordsworth and Robert Southey used to frequent. On the wall in what would have been the inglenook, there are a few lines of a poem composed in situ by Southey: 'Porlock! / Thou verdant vale so fair to sight / Thy lofty hill which fern and gorse embrown. / Thou waters which roll musically down, / The woody glens, the traveller with delight, / Recalls to memory.' 

Then, having lunched, we moved on to the implausibly named Church of St Dubricius, with its 1,000-year-old yew tree a friend of mine once likened to Don Quixote on his horse.  

It was lovely to climb up the narrow, spiral staircase to the Chapel of the High Cross once more, the warm and welcoming chantry which once served as a schoolroom and as storage for vestments, and to see the delicately detailed Harington tomb again, with its graffiti dating back to 1531. 
A minor disappointment was that a tomb I was expecting to see - of a reclining woman carved in marble - wasn't there.  I must have encountered it in another church I visited that day. Must try to find out which somehow.

Next stop was Porlock Weir, where I parked my parents and sister in the sun and set off with Ted along the rollercoastery coastal path to Culbone.  Ideally I would have liked to have done the entire walk in my book, especially since the latter part of the route passes Ash Farm, where Coleridge was famously interrupted by a 'person on business from Porlock' whilst writing his sublime, opium-inspired poem, 'Kubla Khan' (and whom Julien Temple in his film 'Pandaemonium' rather scurrilously identifies as Wordsworth).  But I didn't want to leave my parents too long, just in case, so that must wait for another day.

As it was, it was very hot and the four-mile-round trip to Culbone was quite enough for me, if not Ted. I was thankful that the route wound through cool and shady woods before descending to the valley in which the hamlet - famously inaccessible by road - and its tiny church lie. 

Culbone church is reported by some parties to be the smallest in England, although this is open to fierce debate. The guidebook claims it is the smallest complete parish church in England, with its chancel measuring 13'6" x 10' and the nave 21'6" x 12'4". Its total length is 35ft and it is reputed to seat about 30 'in great discomfort'. Another interesting snippet is that in the Assize rolls of 1280, it is recorded that Thomas, the chaplain of Culbone was indicted 'for that he had struck Albert of Esshe (Ash) on the head with a hatchet, and so killed him'.  (Presumably this is the same Ash in the anecdote about Coleridge.  What a history!)  This isn't the first time I've come across a West Country church with a lurid history of murder ...

Meanwhile I was enchanted by the sweetly small yet solid entrance door, the rood screen and box pew, the exquisitely carved linenfold panelling on the back of one of the pews.

In the churchyard lots of graves of people with either the surname or middle name of 'Red'.  A bit more earthy than Rufus or Scarlett, lovely names as they are.

Then back to Porlock Weir and the drive home, via Kilve where we stopped for ice cream.  Sadly, my dad was too tired to go up to the beach as he'd hoped and we went home without him seeing the bleak beauty of that part of the coastline. Never mind, hopefully we can return another of these fine days ... 

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Slutwalk Cardiff

Slutwalk - the radical notion that women are of value 


Four per cent of rapists  remember what their victims were wearing ...