A Coincidence of Two Mexicos at The Swan

How daunting it might have been to find that I was sharing my first ever extended reading of work-in-progress Letters from Mexico with the brilliant Connie Voisine, Associate Professor of English at New Mexico State University,  for whom Mexico is not a poetically imagined unvisited space ( as it is for me ) but an intimately familiar place.  And how beautifully generous of Connie Voisine not to daunt me about this!

Words & Ears last night was its usual vibrant, congenial self with a wonderfully attentive audience of accomplished open mic poets, all so different, all in their turn so worth the attentive listening. The Coach House at The Swan Hotel in Bradford-on-Avon is an excellent poetry space,  compered with such relaxing grace by Dawn Gorman that the evening appears simply to run itself.   ( It doesn’t. Nothing takes more skill than the organising of an apparently effortless happening. )

Connie had come to read from her third collection, Calle Florista. I was riven with anxieties  of course, before I arrived in Bradford for this reading. Which nine of the twenty four sonnets in Letters from Mexico would tell the story best; whether to include the bit I like so much ( for all the wrong reasons ) about the humming sloths; whether I would get away with knowing so little about Victorian microscopes; whether it was true that in Mexico the moonstones came from mines  – the usual things. It was such a joy to sit and listen to Connie’s sparse, vivid, enthralling poems and forget all that.

Calle Florista



Meeting Up in September

On Saturday 26th September, most of the Commended and Highly Commended Poets from our Short Poem Competition will be spending the afternoon with the Competition Judges in the Elwin Room in the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution in Queen Square.

We have had a remarkable take-up for this exciting and convivial afternoon.  Considering the distances that most competitors and judges will be travelling to take part, it is clear that we all feel that this is going to be a very special event.  There were twenty eight poets on the Commended and Highly Commended lists.  Of these, only four cannot be with us on 26th September, one because he was already booked in for a conference, another because it would mean her having to travel from Penzance.

The detailed programme for the afternoon is now taking shape, with three reading sessions and a reprise of Tom Tafferty Went Dancing, a particularly uplifting song from Annie Fisher and Tony Watts which was first performed in Bath at our Day of Good Poetry on 7th March this year.  The Cafe Poets will be running a Book Table throughout the afternoon, on which all the readers will be welcome to display and sell their books.  Generous breaks between the reading sessions will give everyone plenty of time to meet the poets, and to browse the books.

With their authors’ permission, I would like to start featuring some of the listed poems on this blog and will be writing to some of you shortly to ask whether this would be agreeable to you. Between us, we will make sure that no mentions on the blog will prevent you entering the poems for other competitions, or submitting them to magazines. For those of you who don’t know the BRLSI, here is a picture of writer Alasdair Saskena reading one of his short stories at the Independent Bath Festival of Literature in the Elwin Room. Notice how comfortable the chairs are. The room can seat up to 100 people. In a few months, twenty eight of our competition poets will be reading here.  Tickets for the afternoon will cost £5 at the door.

Elwin Room

my first full collection

On Monday 4th May, my first full collection, Safe Passage, was published by Oversteps Books.  Not only did it have a brilliant editor in Alwyn Marriage, Managing Editor of Oversteps Books, but it was also hugely fortunate in the poets who offered to endorse it and thus send it not quite naked on its way.  Martyn Crucefix, Duncan Forbes, Lesley Saunders and Linda Saunders – all highly accomplished poets and all very generous and thoughtful in their support.

Version 2Writing the acknowledgements, I realised that Safe Passage for me is not just a collection of  poems, but a record of the five years of my writing life which followed the publication of Too Late for the Love Hotel by Smith/Doorstop in 2010.  The acknowledgments page reads baldly, but every name represents a treasured part of the marvellous journey and the wonderful poetry  friendships which have so enriched the way. So before I start posting about the poems, I want to reiterate those thanks:

“I am very grateful to the editors of Acumen, Magma, Poetry Ireland Review, Poetry Salzburg and The Rialto in which many of these poems first appeared and to Peter Sansom for publishing others in Too Late for the Love Hotel which was one of the prize-winners in The Poetry Business 2010 pamphlet competition judged by the Poet Laureate, Sir Andrew Motion.

‘A Leisure Centre is Also a Temple of Learning’, first published in The Rialto, was selected by William Sieghart in 2011 for the Forward Poems of the Decade anthology. It also featured in Cerys Matthews’ Radio 4 programme With Great Pleasure in July 2012.

My writing has been greatly encouraged by Patricia Oxley; Anne-Marie Fyfe; the Ware Poets; Hilda Sheehan and the Bluegate Poets in Swindon; the Fire River Poets in Taunton; the Corsham Poetry Society; John Richardson; Dawn Gorman; A.F. Harrold; Ernie Burns and Jeremy Sallon who have all given me delightful opportunities to read as a guest at their events.

While I have been working on the poems in this collection, I have also had the privilege of organising the Bath Poetry Cafe and of collaborating with the many excellent poets from across the West Country who belong to it. I have been continually challenged and inspired by their talents and creative energy.

The Safe Passage poems have also benefited from the devoted attention of my Italian translators, Giorgio Piai and Giancarlo Caine from Sacile in North Italy. Working with such dear friends produced many new insights and editorial improvements as well as opportunities for joyful misunderstandings and convivial company. It is a great sadness that Giancarlo Caine did not live long enough to toast the publication of this book.”