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.

Friday, 28 February 2020

When Greta came to town

We had some serious poetting to do, so parked the car in Bishopston to avoid all the road closures and walked the last two miles of our journey to the Folk House. Which just goes to show that things automatically get greener when Greta Thunberg comes to town to march with Bristol Youth Strike 4 Climate.

Apart from College Green. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The crowds were already gathering as we puffed up Park Street for the Last Friday poetry group. An hour later, during our break, a few of us popped outside to see legions of young people walking purposefully down the middle of the road. Because they could. 

As for College Green, there was no chance of getting anywhere near it, despite the heavy rain. 

Up in the Folk House music room we could hear the speeches, even if we couldn't pick out the words, but by the time we emerged at 1pm, there was no sign of the demonstrators, just an expanse of litter-free mud. 

We crossed an eerily quiet City Centre ...

... and remembering the traditional route for demonstrations through Bristol, walked up Corn Street to Wine Street, where we encountered the march, coming in the opposite direction.

 And there was Greta, in her Famous Yellow Raincoat. There. Just behind that bloke's head. 


I confess I started snivelling at this point.  It's been hard since the general election to have no hope for the future, but that ended today. 

Walking back to the car, we decided that we could probably do this every Friday, and save the parking money, and get some exercise, and reduce our carbon footprint a fraction. In the absence of meaningful action from our governments, the smaller things have to do. For now.

Tuesday, 25 February 2020

Second Chance Poetry Place

You can check out of the Poetry Place any time you like, but you can never leave. Especially not now there's a Play Again facility. 

This week Dawn Gorman and Peter O'Grady discuss poems by Wallace Stevens and Alice Oswald, and there's also the interview Dawn recorded with me a couple of weeks ago.  
In it, we talk about where poems come from, and the process of turning them from inspiration into writing that encapsulates the earlier experience and its emotional root. I also read three poems from my new collection, The Shadow Factory.


A blog should always be enlivened with a few photos, so I thought I'd post one per poem that I read on the show.

Here's the horse's skull that features in Touchstone. There was a gap of about four or five years between that particular walk and the writing of the poem.

If that's a bit gruesome, have some snowdrops from Holcombe Old Church. A much shorter processing period this time, of about ten months. 

Finally, a link to the actual good dogs of Chernobyl and how they are faring these days.

Plus, another good dog ... of Bristol this time (although here pictured at Land's End).

Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Tail Feathers from Storm Dennis

The plan had been for Son the Younger and I to drive separately to his garage in Newport, leave his car there for servicing and head to Llantwit Major for a walk, but Storm Dennis put paid to that. It also nearly put paid to me when my windscreen wiper motor failed during a ferocious squall on the M4. It took me about five minutes to prise my hands from the steering wheel once I reached my destination.

The worst of the rain having passed, I ordered a new wiper motor from eBay, booked my car into the garage on Friday, and drove to Llandaff with Son the Younger giving the wipers a helping hand, as necessary, through the passenger window. We detoured around a few places from our past, and then visited the Cathedral. Unlike me, it was the first time StY had been back since his grandmother's funeral 14 years ago.

The Rossetti triptych

Sir William Mathew (d 1528) and his wife, Lady Janet/Jenet

The Celtic cross is the only surviving remnant of the first church built on the site in the 6th century. It was rediscovered by the then bishop of Llandaff in 1870, 'embedded in the back wall of the shed over the Dairy Well'. 

I really like the newly installed painting 'The Virgin of the Goldfinches' by Clive Hicks-Jenkins, though Son the Younger said it reminded him of 'The Green Lady', a copy of which used to hang in his great-aunt's house.

The font at Llandaff has had a chequered history. The one in service during the civil wars was appropriated as a trough for pigs by a local Puritan, who also set up a tavern in the Cathedral and penned his calves in the choir. The predecessor to this one, which was designed and sculpted in 1952 by Alan Durst, was destroyed by the parachute mine which caused such damage to the cathedral in 1941. 

We headed on to the newly revamped Welsh Folk Museum at St Fagan's, which neither of us had visited in years. (That's not what it's called any more, but old habits die hard.)
I was excited as they'd moved and rebuilt a mediaeval church, complete with wall paintings, since I'd last been, but first we stopped off at my favourite of all the buildings there, the Kennixton farmhouse from Llangennith on the Gower, which was built in 1610 and re-erected at St Fagan's in 1955.

Red paint to ward off evil spirits

I've always wanted a bed like this. Well, maybe I'm too old and arthritickal for one now but I would have loved one years ago. 

Outside it was raining again. We headed for the reconstructed Iron Age hut but the path was closed,  so we visited a couple of other places and then made for St Teilo's, upon the wall of which a robin was singing loudly. 

The exterior is amazing. You have to boggle at the feat of planning that involved numbering every stone so that it could be reassembled correctly, over a period of 20 years. 

Forty percent of the original wall paintings were discovered under plaster, and I'd been looking forward to seeing them in situ, since miraculously, they were able to be moved, but apparently they are in storage. Instead, the interior has been painted to recreate how it might have looked pre-Reformation. 

I can understand why the curators might have decided to do that, but I was left longing for the atmosphere and authenticity of St Cadoc's Church in nearby Llancarfan.

13th century font

Over a lunch of Welsh rarebit in the cafe above the hardware store, we studied the weather forecast. Another belt of rain was due to pass over the area at 3pm, so we decided on a quick skip around our other favourite buildings and a leisurely return on a more auspicious day.

Llawr-y-glyn smithy

One of the terraced cottages from Rhyd-y-car

The communal bread oven from Poplar Place, Georgetown

The cast-iron urinal from Llanwrtyd Wells

We still have three of these in Bristol, Grade II listed and no longer in use but still in situ.

I like the prefab from Gabalfa and wondered aloud if a modern version that complied with building regulations might be an affordable solution to the housing crisis, but the guide explained that a prefab takes the same amount of land as two three storey town houses. 

The library of Oakdale Workmen's Institute has exactly the same computer system as our local library when I was a kid. 

The toll house from the southern outskirts of Aberystwyth

Maestir school, complete with stove and canes 

A traditional slate fence, reminding me of Ernest Gimson's Cotswold stone slab fence at Kelmscott

Two minutes of the softest drizzle smudged the windscreen as I drove back through Almondsbury interchange and I flicked on the windscreen wipers more in hope than expectation. They managed just one curmudgeonly sweep, but that was enough to see me home in crystal-clear style. Roll on Friday. 

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Tail Feathers from Storm Ciara

I love Frome. Have I mentioned that before? I think I have. 

Last night we arrived in good time for the Frome Poetry Cafe, which is held in the Garden Cafe on Stoney Street, so I went for a wander with my fellow guest-reader, Dominic Fisher, and our partners, up Catherine Hill to the Valentine Lamp.

Sheppards Barton

The rebel in me would love to retire to Frome one day. After all, it's hardly a level walk to the shops. 

The Garden Cafe was full of people and light and poetry, which was a wonderful thing given we were still riding the tail feathers of Storm Ciara.

Crysse had chosen as the theme of the evening 'New Beginnings, Green Shoots' and it made for an uplifting, hope-filled evening to set against the dismal time we've been having lately.

And it's always good to catch up with, and listen to, poetry friends from outside Bristol. 

B Anne Adriaens

Oh, so that's what's in the briefcase in Pulp Fiction ... Moira Andrews' poems.

Kate Semple

Mike Grenville

Dominic Fisher

Photo by Dave Goodman

Photo by Dave Goodman

Snow moon and street light