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If you’ve had your radios tuned to BBC Radio 3 recently you might have heard me reading my poems at the Royal Albert Hall for Proms Extra Lates. I shared a stage with the band Snowpoet and the oh good grief the most 🌟 dazzling 🌟 voice of Lauren Kinsella. If you didn’t hear the event live, the recording is available online for the rest of the month.

I read a new poem ‘Anniversary’, plus two poems which were originally published by The Junket as ‘Charm Against Wednesdays’ and ‘From What I Remember’, here titled ‘Field Dress’. And I started off with Aft, a poem for a passenger ferry called Matilda, commissioned by Spike Island in 2015 – and that reading is also online as a clip.

A million thanks to the Poetry Society for making it happen and to Georgia Mann at BBC Radio 3. I also got to sneak into the Proms proper and open my ears to bits of Reinbert de Leeuw’s The Night Wanderer which features barking dogs, big hammers and a recitation of Goethe’s poem The Wanderer’s Nightsong in German. I was clapping with my upped thumbs and I’m so grateful for the chance (the luck of it, the opportunity to be there, both). I had never been to the Royal Albert Hall before and here is my view of the audience gathering…

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And if you were listening to BBC Radio 4, you might have caught me squeaking ‘hi there!’ to John Keats (at a fictional poetry festival (in a pub run by Sally Phillips (in a collective/fever/day dream of a village (in the mind of Glyn Maxwell)))).

I was one of three ‘new poets’ in the two-part programme ‘How to Write a Poem’ alongside Victoria Adukwei Bulley and Dominic Fisher. Thanks to the incredible Mair Bosworth for inviting me to get aboard Glyn Maxwell’s minibus to share a pint with John Clare and attend a Q&A with Emily Dickinson. Keats, Clare, Dickinson and Byron reply to us with lines taken verbatim from their poems, letters and diaries. It’s strange but all the better for it.

In Episode 1, I discuss my poem ‘Female Vapourer Moth’ with Glyn and in Episode 2, I talk briefly about writing on the move and in particular on the M4 as I chase a poem all the way from Bristol to Cambridge.

howtowriteapoem

It’s been a year since my year with the Jerwood / Arvon Mentoring Scheme came to an end and here’s another year, hi there! hup! you go onto the pile. It feels like a good moment to look back on a meeting I had at the end of last year when I was asked by a publisher where they might find more of my work and I pointed to a bulge in the carpet and received a look so withering that I sat down on the bulge in the carpet as if to insist it was comfortable and so practical. I decided to stop hoarding and send some work out.

So now let me point to the windows and the places you can now find more of my work.

In August, my slide / poem, ‘JETS OF FIRE’, was included in the first issue of para·text, an unbound, hand-embossed publication produced by Laura Elliott and Angus Sinclair. It’s a beautiful thing. Poems are delivered in an envelope closed with string while all paratextual matter – poets’ names, bios, notes – stays online in an index. My lantern slide, a long exposure of fires burning in northern Iraq’s oil fields, taken at dawn in 1932, is positioned over the page from its poem, written to the same dimensions of the slide. It’s indexed as oo1.1 and you can see it laid out here by Sal Randolph reading in Brooklyn.

para·text has just closed its submissions window for a second issue so look out for that when it lands.

After this, a little rush of poems appeared in the autumn, starting with ‘Brake Lights‘ in The Clearinga gorgeous online journal published by Little Toller Books. A numb box of prose about cloves and teeth, ‘Avulsion’, turned up in Ambit 222 and a longer sequence ‘Caddisfly’ crept into The Rialto 84. A prose poem full of noise and phosphenes, ‘Total Destructive Interference’ appeared in Poetry Wales 51.2 and just this week ‘Charm Against Wednesdays’, ‘Deep Field’ and ‘From What I Remember‘ were included in The Junket Issue XVI. And February, unbelievably, saw my poem ‘Deepwater‘ find a home in Poetry magazine.

I was also invited to contribute to the Poetry Foundation’s Reading List and, while I am burrowed two years deep into my PhD in site-specific poetry, View-Masters and caves (jks! but actually no really some of this is true), everything I am reading is a kind of cave, another cave and then criticism. So I also send thanks in my Reading List to Jen Hadfield for providing opportunities to read about daylight and puffballs.

Squinting ahead, then, I’m currently writing a poem for 1814 for the For Every Year project and, excitingly, I’ve just started reviewing for frieze, with my first couple of pieces in the upcoming April issue. My poem ‘Loxodrome’ will also be in Eyewear’s anthology The Best New British and Irish Poets 2016 alongside poems from those beautiful people Ian Dudley and Debris Stevenson, scoring a hat-trick of the Jerwood / Arvon 2014/15 poets (ah! what’s that? a little weather rains on my cheek) and ending things as they began.

Today my sister is 21. Happy birthday Clare!

Really, her birthday began last week when Margaret Atwood retweeted Clare’s latest illustration from a series of prints based on The Handmaid’s Tale.  This began a flurry of activity over on Clare’s blog and a few sales, including a beautiful triptych of Handmaid-inspired images to an Atwood reader in Canada.

Clare's portrait of Offred

A detail from Clare’s portrait of Offred, the narrator. Click through to see the rest of this image and the other pictures from the series on Clare’s blog.

So, thanks Margaret Atwood.  But your gift to my sister was a difficult act to follow.  Difficult to prize her away from the stats page.

Instead, I offered her a strange, little beast.

I made her a bird out of wool and wire and clay.  Clare is an illustrator who loves to draw birds.  So this is a bird to sit on her shelf, a bird to watch over her work while she hatches her plans.

It’s a birthday beast only I would fettle.  And I would only make it for my sister.

SkeletonCaw!Caw caw!  Caw blimey!Caw!  Caw blimey!  What a lovely bird.  Clare has lovingly renamed it Disco Chicken.

If our bizarre star-breasted friend has taken your fancy, I am available to take commissions for similar birds, beasts and beauties.  Obviously, not exactly this one, as it is now sitting in Falmouth, guardian to a fully-grown little sister.  It’s looking out to sea, thinking that the Cornish waves glint just like a disco ball.

Little bird looks out to sea

I’m starting the new year with a new house, a new town and new socks.  BAM!
Thanks to mum for the last life changer.

And thanks to a crushing arrival of perspective in my life last year, I am stoically ransacking my own life to see what I can make of it.  With a thorough training at the Bitsa School of Upcycled Art, I can fashion a fair angler fish or an insubstantial glasses case out of wire, wool and papier-mache; I’m hoping to apply the same techniques to turn my career into a stylish origami galleon.  Or similar.  I mean, everyone wants to remain employable so, you know, got to keep the CV in mind.

So.  In September I jumped ship, upped sticks and started this to keep tabs on things.

So so: I’m moving to Bristol today.  The header image with the Barbie was taken halfway up the Avon Gorge.  Maybe I’ll see if she’s still there when I get there.  I’ll be letting you know how I get on.  Hopefully better than the Barbie.  Stay in there, lass!