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, 29 July 2021

Poetry openings and a visit to All Saints, Clifton

 My small corner of the poetry community is opening up, just a little. I did my first real-life reading, in front of a real-life audience, in 17 months last Saturday night, at the Victoria Methodist Eco Fair. The space was cool and airy; all the audience, which was sizeable, wore masks; and it was a chance for me to read some of my new poems about the field, wood and common in the north Bristol edgelands that we visit most nights, as well as some older ones from 'The Shadow Factory'. I even sold some books. 

I don't have any photos of the event, but here's a couple I've half-inched from the church's FB page. 

The IsamBards have also been plotting some pop-up poetry over tea and biscuits in Pameli's kitchen, this time in the University of Bristol Botanic Garden, so if you're planning a visit and would like to hear us, make it the afternoon of Sunday 8th August from 2pm.

Prior to our refreshments, we'd been for a wander around All Saints Church in Clifton, which was designed and built in 1967 by architect Robert Potter, and which I'd intended to visit for ages. It was a treat to finally get there and see John Piper's striking and very beautiful fibreglass windows, which were cutting edge when installed (and painted in situ), the original Victorian Church, designed by G E Street, having been bombed in 1940. 

The Lady Chapel South window

Windows by the organ, itself a work of art

Perhaps the most sublime are the West Windows, offset by the beautiful, plain font.

The River of Life

The Tree of Life

I don't think I've seen such glorious blue light since I visited Liverpool's Catholic Cathedral. 

The altar, which was covered in a cloth but has fossils in it, apparently, has a decorative canopy or baldachino, which was designed for the new church and incorporated into the design.  

The angel on the left appears to have two left feet. 

Part of the old church, which was founded in 1868 and added to in 1909 and 1928, still stands. This includes the former narthex, now a chapel dedicated to St Richard of Chichester, with some (unimpressive) surviving Victorian glass and an East window by Christopher Webb, designed in tribute to one Ella Madeline Hodgson, who lobbied hard for the Church to be rebuilt after its destruction. I like the detail of the then vicar, Father Albert Luetchford, delivering up the new church building.

I also love the patterning on the ceiling, which is reminiscent of work by William Morris. Not surprising, perhaps, given that the narthex was designed by George Frederick Bodley, who, like Morris, had been a pupil of the original architect, G E Street, and collaborated extensively with him. 

Bread of heaven

Saturday, 24 July 2021

Sker Point and Kenfig Burrows

True to form, it being the school holidays, I've driven 400 miles in the last two days. Most of these were in my capacity as Chauffeur to the Star, ie Son the Elder who is back doing some extra work for the first time since the pandemic started. (Can't reveal what the production is or who the big-name star is, obviously, except that even I've heard of him.)

The other sixty miles were with Son the Younger, who needed to get his car repaired in Newport, and who wanted to go on a jaunt to Porthcawl, rather than sit in Dunelm on Spytty Road for a whole day, waiting for it to be fixed, and since both jobs were in South Wales, it was easy to multitask.

The last time we were in Porthcawl, we'd walked along Merthyr Mawr beach to where the River Ogmore meets the sea, and we'd had my lovely old collie Ted with us, who'd had a great time running in and out of the waves even though it was February. We didn't bring our current collie, Cwtch, this time, even though she hails from nearby Neath, on account of it being 32 degrees in my car and far too hot. We decided to walk in the opposite direction too, in the hope that it would be less crowded than the beaches nearer town, so parked at Rest Bay and headed north-west along the coast towards Port Talbot.

Rest Bay with sea holly

Rock samphire


Pink Bay

The further we walked, the fewer people we encountered. It felt wild and bleak and lovely.

Cattle grazing on Sker Point

This is Sker House, the history of which goes back nearly a thousand years to when it was a grange belonging to nearby Margam Abbey, and which has attracted stories of persecuted Roman Catholic priests, and wreckers luring ships to their doom on the rocks of Sker Point.

A rock pool 

No idea whose feather this is

We walked some way along Sker beach and then decided that given the heat, we'd probably gone far enough. A little further ahead there were some naturists, and it was certainly hot enough and remote enough for the sighting not to be a surprise. As we sat and sweated, the skies cleared and the sun came out, burning away some of the mist that had shrouded the views of Port Talbot, Swansea and the Gower. There was a bit of a breeze, just enough to make the heat bearable. 

On our way back, we walked along the edge of the dunes, which were thick with vegetation and wildlife. 

wild carrot


wild thyme

sulphur beetles on carrot

There were multitudes of six-spot burnet moths, who, when they take off, become a blur of red wings - seen here on viper's-bugloss, spear thistle, wild mint and ragwort. Their wings had been bleached by the sun and the wind ... 

... the same conditions, I imagine, that has stunted the growth of this yarrow.

There are also some extraordinarily round pebbles.

Views from Sker Point 

By now we were tired and thirsty and glad to see Rest Bay on the horizon, although when we finally reached it, a brief glance in passing was all we had time for. Son the Younger needed to get back to the garage, and after I'd dropped him off, I had to dash back to Bristol for a few hours' respite before my midnight return to Wales to chauffeur home Son the Extra. Which is scant rest indeed.  

Wednesday, 14 July 2021

Poetry and Time-Travel

There are strange time-lags in poetry sometimes. After spending most of last year watching and listening, I've been completely immersed in a different way of writing this spring, as part of my studies at the Manchester Writing School. I'm hoping the resulting sequence of poems will become a pamphlet exploring the patch of edgelands we've been visiting since the first lockdown, and which I've been documenting in this blog. 

Meanwhile, my publishers, Dawn and Ronnie of Indigo Dreams, have sent me the first draft of my fifth collection, Learning Finity, to work on, which means taking a complete break from common, wood and field for a week or two, and revisiting poems almost all of which were written before the pandemic struck.  It's a big shift back to a past that now seems a long time ago. 

For me, writing poems is a particularly intense means of expression. My brain tends to up sticks and shift completely into the world my current poems inhabit, so switching from one project to another does feel like negotiating a rift.  This is ameliorated, however, by the fact that the poems of Learning Finity exist mostly in mythic time, and are themselves well practiced in time travel.  And to encourage me in making this mental leap, my copy of Poetry Salzburg No 37 arrived from Germany today, in which three of my Learning Finity poems find themselves in excellent company. I'm especially pleased that they're alongside work by my comrade in poetry, Chaucer Cameron. 

I've realised that during this time of pandemic and Poetry Zoom, I haven't been posting much about poetry and publications.  They have, however, been getting out and about while we haven't been able to. Here are a few more of the publications they've appeared in. Many thanks to the editors involved.