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.

Monday, 22 June 2020

TED Walks in the time of coronavirus Pt ... er ... 8

The break in the weather has meant fewer TED Walks lately.  

This was the scene that greeted us a couple of weeks ago when I took Son the Younger up the meadow with the promise of views all the way down to the wind turbines and the coal chute at Avonmouth, near where he works. 

And the sunset on the longest day of the year looked like this. 

At least there's water in the ditches now.

When the longer view isn't so great, I find myself focusing on stuff that's under my nose and that I might otherwise have missed ... 

... like these poppies and cornflowers and corn marigolds ... 

... and the first rosebay willowherb of the season ...

... and this very large, very hungry cabbage white caterpillar, munching on honesty ... 

... and this greenbottle ... 

... and these rose chafers, both on hogweed.
And just look at the colours of this - a five-spot burnet moth on vetch. Just amazing.  

I've also been furthering my umbellifer identification skills, so while we're on the subject of burnets, here's the beautifully delicate lesser burnet saxifrage.

The etymology of 'burnet' is Middle English 'a dark brown woollen cloth', which is a bit perplexing.

Here's another lovely: daucus carota, also known as wild carrot, bird's nest, bishop's lace and Queen Anne's lace. (You can tell it by the single red flower near the centre of the umbel, which is there (though not always) to attract insects.) (And is also blood from the lace-maker's pricked finger, obviously.)

Different stages of hogweed setting seed

I've also learnt some new-to-me flowers with wonderful names. This is hedge woundwort, with my favourite moon daisies ... 

... and marsh woundwort.

And here's marsh woundwort with ... well, for a while I didn't know what this red globular onion-y plant was. I just took some photos and decided I'd look it up when I got around to it.

But then the very next day my cousin, 3000 miles away in New Jersey, posted a photo of the same plant on Facebook. (She didn't know what it was either.) And the next day Mitch, just outside Bath, did the same, only she could identify it - Allium vineale, or crow garlic. 

How strange, I thought, to have been unaware of it all my life and suddenly it's pimpling the edges of the playing field, and infesting my timeline. 

On Saturday I spotted some in my front garden. 'It's everywhere!' I wailed to my cousin. 'It must be the triffid component to Covid-19. It's going to wait until everyone of us is weakened and immobile and then it's going to eat us.'

Yesterday I realised  they weren't strays in my garden at all, but scouts reporting back to a garrison of the stuff stationed at the end of the road ... 

... wild-haired as a result of the lockdown and sending urgent messages ... 

Deadly nightshade and the witchy whitethorn of the fairway

It's a shame that the moment the Northerner finished his coursework, the football started up again, but with the weather set to change back to sunny summer days, hopefully there'll be a few more TED Walks for me and my dog. 

Monday, 15 June 2020

Poets vs Coronavirus

In the battle between poetry events and coronavirus, coronavirus appears to be winning. At the last count, I've had thirteen readings and a book launch postponed and/or cancelled, with one tentative rearrangement so far.  Hopefully most of them will be rescheduled, but when is anyone's guess. 

One of the cancellations was the Clevedon Literature Festival, which was especially poignant as it was the inaugural one. However, the poets involved - veritable titans of the local scene, including Clive Birnie of Burning Eye books, Melanie Branton, Ben Banyard, Dominic Fisher and me -  have produced recordings of our poems instead, and they can be heard here

Meanwhile, in the continuing absence of a launch for my new collection, The Shadow Factory, another review has been published, with a couple pending, and if you care to, you can read them by following the links below:

Review for London Grip by Rachael Clyne

Review for The Blue Nib by Emma Lee

Review for Write Out Loud by Janice Dempsey

Review for The High Window by Lucy English

Oh and here's the latest issue of the wonderful Long Poem Magazine, with my long poem, 'A brief life of the poet in seventeen contradictions', about Bristol bad boy and free spirit, the poet Thomas Chatterton, in it. Huzzah!

Monday, 8 June 2020

TED Walks in the time of Coronavirus Pt 7

Still not straying far from home, though that might change a bit now my car's passed its MOT and I'm not so anxious about the prospect of breaking down. 

But only if we can find somewhere to go that isn't too crowded.
Snuff Mills, where the River Frome runs through its gorge into the centre of Bristol, is a favourite destination, and it was busy the first time we went there, on a hot sunny day during half term and in the middle of a pandemic.
Though the worst noise was coming from the jays in the trees just past the car park and garden.
And it wasn't so crowded that you couldn't get away from it all, and listen to the ravens chatting overhead. 

A week later parts of the path were looking decidedly bridal, being covered in fluff that the breeze blew into a long train of figured lace. Willow seeds, maybe?  

And bouquets of hemlock water dropwort. All very gothic. 

A dancing oak

Meanwhile the meadow and the woods we walked in every evening during the strictest part of the lockdown are looking very summery. The elders are masquerading as William Morris designs ...

... and flowers are intent on growing in the most improbable of places.

There are still sunsets ... 

... but essay deadlines (the Northerner) and having to work from work instead of home (me) has clipped our wings a bit.

In fact, the lifting of the lockdown has changed a lot of things.  

Here is one of the few lone-standing thorn trees we can get to now the golfers are back. 

An early morning squirrel

Charlton Common

A way through the woods

The meadow oak in high summer

When the meadow's too far to get to, there's the dead to commune with. 

In this first wave of the virus, I know three people who have died. 

Nothing is certain from day to day, and sometimes it's scary. But then there are amazing moments, like when a hated statue is hauled from its plinth and all the cruelty and ugliness it has represented for so long is chucked in the harbour, and I think yes, I really want to be around to see how this turns out.