Bedford Square 7 Launch Party!

Bedford SquareBedford Square 7 is out now, with poetry and fiction from Royal Holloway Creative Writing MA students. There will be a launch reading and party to celebrate on Thursday 27th March at the Centre for Creative Collaboration, Acton St, London. The evening kicks off at 6pm with readings from 6.30pm, everyone is welcome!

Bedford Square 7 features poems by: Charlotte Attkinson, Claire Dryer, Holly Hopkins, Jan Heritage, Lucy Mercer, Susan Sheridan and Tara Siddel.

It also features fiction by Adrian Hornsby, Alexandra Cannon, Amelie Skoda, Anne Bayley, Arike Oke, Belinda Buckley, Kate Williams, Meade Carey, Miriam Tareen, Ray Wood, Ross Mallin, Sandra Walmsley, and Yosola Olorunshola.

You can buy copies from Ward Wood Publishing.

List Of Great Poems Not In This Book


I recently found a 1931 edition of The Week-End Book (first published by Nonesuch Press in 1924). It refers to itself as a poetry anthology. Indeed the first 165 pages are a section entitled ‘Great Poems‘. This is followed by much smaller sections of:

Hate Poems
State poems (poems patriotic enough even for Gove.)
Zoo poems (poems based on animals.)
Songs (complete with sheet music.)
Games (‘Human Polo: The biggest men are ponies, and the girls or lighter weights mount them pick-a-back… Flat Racing: Ponies similarly mounted race thirty yards on hands and knees; after which apply iodine to the kneecaps.’)
Travels with Donkey (which seems to mean camping tips, such as how to improvise a cup from ‘paper 7 to 9 inches square’ which you remembered despite forgetting your cup.)
Bird Song At Morning
Starshine at Night (with diagrams.)
On Food and Drink
The Law And How You Break It
First Aid In Divers Crises (sic.)
List Of Great Poems Not In This Book
Manuscript Pages (with prompts nudging you to fill them with your own poems, songs, games, recipes, and prescriptions.)
A Checkers Board, Nine Mens Morris Board and Rulers (printed as endpapers.)

Yes an anthology can be a binding together of anything, but as mentioned the book does refer to itself as a ‘poetry anthology’. It reads like a poetry anthology that has accidentally been bound together with the facts and games section of a Rupert Bear annual. I enjoy the brazen attitude that says we can fit everything you need for your great weekend in one book, and most of it is going to be poetry.

However, what really caught my eye was the ‘List of Great Poems Which Are Contained In Many Memories And Anthologies And Are Therefore Omitted From This Book’. I’m sure there are those who would argue the phrase ‘Great’ (a friend once told me, ‘You don’t need to read anthologies, you don’t need someone else to tell you what’s good.’) But setting that can of worms to one side, I like that while the editor has decided to not fill his pages with the obvious, he’s also not going to assume it’s so obvious that there won’t be people grateful for the list. It seems a happy medium, and turns the ‘List Of Great Poems Not In This Book’ into a spotters guide. I may not have read all poems that have been printed in this book, but I have definitely looked down the list of those that are not, mainly to see if I agree.

Perhaps I am being nostalgic, maybe if a contemporary anthology did this I would find it patronizing or cliquey to see a list of poems I’m expected to know, and perhaps it is only the opportunity to sample changing tastes that makes the list interesting now. However it might be fun, at the end of the next themed anthology of new work, to see, not a list of ‘poems you should know’, but a list of ‘poems that were our starting point, poems our work grew from.’

Room of Thieves Launch

Room of Thieves Angela ClelandAngela Cleland is launching her new book Room of Thieves. The blurb promises to take us from the “bemonstered waters of Loch Morar to the London commuter belt” which suggest we’ll be getting more of the eerie folkloric touches which were so seductive in her last collection.

Come join us for an evening of celebration, poetry and wine at:
Benugo Bar & Kitchen, BFI Southbank, London SE1 8XT
on Thursday 7th November at 7.30

Angela will be reading from her new collection while Rebecca Parry and I will be contributing short warm up sets.

Workshops at the Poetry School This Autumn

The Poetry School Autumn ProgrammeI’ll be leading workshops at the Poetry School as part of the Tutor Academy this autumn. This is a ten week course in which five poets each teach two sessions. As a participant you get to sample a poetry tutor variety pack and, because we’re new to the Poetry School, the course is half price!

The workshops will be on Thursdays, starting 19th September. The tutors and workshop titles are:

Holly Hopkins – The Good List
Luke Heeley – The Poem’s Inventory
Sarah Howe – Dream Poems
James Brookes – Vanity
Wayne Holloway Smith – Make it Wonky

Find out more and book on the Poetry School Website. 

“Blonde Going Back to Romford”

A few weeks ago I was commissioned to write a poem, for London Lines, inspired by people’s memories of Havering. Before the project all I knew about Havering was that it was the most eastern London borough, starting with towns and gradually filtering out into greenbelt. So I decided to take a journey, from Havering’s centre – the former Essex market town of Romford – to its furthest edge, beyond the M25 to where London ends at a dotted line on a remarkably white square of the OS map. I could then retrace this journey in my poem, weaving in the memories of the people I’d met.

Romford Market

Most of the people I spoke to from outside Havering associated Romford with the Underworld’s lyrics, and on first exploring the town I was a little taken back by the enthusiastic patriotism of its market buildings…

Clough Williams-Ellis's House
However, I discovered Romford has also been the ultimate playpen of suburban fantasists: Gidea Park was built in 1910-11 by competition, with 100 different architects winning a plot of land to build “exhibition houses” setting out their visions of the future.


I spent a fabulous afternoon wondering through this project built on a tipping point between movements, with impossibly slick modernist houses straight from a Poirot novel jammed next to turreted Victoriana. There’s a house built by Edward Burne-Jones the man who had designed Red House for William Morris fifty year’s earlier, there is even a house by Clough Williams-Ellis who built Portmierion.

Onward, I travelled to Upminster by train, where the first tube train starts each morning. The towns favourite picture is its windmill which has interwar housing built right up to its skirts. From one camera angle it looks idyllically rural, and from another the windows look dead-eyed under the plastic protecting them from vandals.

From there I walked to the edge of London, through fields, passing over the M25, navigating between locked up country churches and only getting lost once. I shamefully wondered into a farmyard whose owner was more concerned by the potential for road accidents than my directional mishap: “They drive like they’re still in London, be careful on the bridge.” He told me there was once a lorry came so fast he had to slam himself into the wall, “It was so tight if I’d stuck my tongue out it would have touched.”

End of LondonLondon ends in a wheat-field: one side is London the other is Thurrock. The first building outside of London is a burnt out hotel, as if to sarcastically declare: Here Ends Civilisation.

I’m editing my poem before it goes live on the London Lines website later this month. However in the meantime, in the words of those Born Slippy lyrics, I’m “Blonde Going Back to Romford / Mega mega mega going back to Romford.” I’ll be sharing my poems at the NICHE Bizarre on Thursday, there will also be stalls from 5.30 where anyone can come down and find out about creative projects in the area. I’ll be on the poetry stall with Gemma Saltzer, come join us at the Romford Quadrant Arcade on Thursday 8th August.

By the way, if you clicked on the link to try and listen along to the Underworlds lyrics and found them quite hard to pick out, imagine how the people using this Born Slippy comprehension exercise on the BBC World Service must feel.


Help Me Write A Poem For Havering

London Lines Poetry Jaybird Southbank

As part of the London Lines project, I’ve been commissioned to write a poem celebrating Havering. Do you have any memories of Havering you would like to share?

The project is a partnership between the Southbank Centre and Jaybird Live Literature; a poem is being commissioned for each of London’s 33 boroughs and I have been asked to write one for Havering. On Saturday 20th July I will be one of the poets at the Southbank Centre collecting people’s memories and associations of London boroughs. I’m then tasked with writing a poem for Havering overnight so it can be put into a giant physical map of London, in the Southbank’s Clore Ballroom, on Sunday afternoon!

If you’re in London that weekend it would be great to see you at the Southbank Centre, either sharing you memories of London on Saturday or coming to see the finished map on Sunday.

If you can’t come in person, but want to share you’re memories of a London borough you can follow @jaybirdlivelit , @litsouthbank and ‪#‎londonlines to join in. If your memory is of Havering, and it won’t fit in a tweet, you could let me know by leaving a comment below or sending an email.

Broadcast’s Summer Season: The Ventriloquists

The City Pride FarringdonThe days of hot city sun are on us, it’s time to head to the pub for cold drinks and great poetry with Broadcast’s Summer Season. I’ll be reading in the second event, The Ventriloquists, at The City Pride on Thursday 18th July, from 19.30pm.

The night will feature short sets from nine poets. My wonderful fellow readers will be: Amy Key, Barbara Barnes, Sarah Wedderburn, Ian Cartland, Rebecca Perry, Roddy Lumsden, John Clegg and Nicola Gledhill.

The event is free but there will be a hat passed round for the reader’s drinks. Come join us at The City Pride, Farringdon Lane, London, EC1R 3AU.

Songs of Innocence and Experience: Free workshop at the Southbank Centre

The Sick Rose William BlakeCome join me for a free William Blake themed workshop and a chance to perform on Sunday 14th July as part of Southbank Centre’s From Lambeth With Love weekend.

It’s an intergational workshop aimed at mixing up different age groups, so the Southbank Centre are looking for participants who are either in their twenties, or younger, or aged 50+ if you fit into one of those age groups it would be great to see you there!

It’s a reading, writing and performance workshop, from 10.30am – 3.30pm on Sunday 14 July, which will culminate in a performance in the Queen Elizabeth Hall Front Room. This intergenerational workshop will offer participants the opportunity to explore Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience, read them aloud, and write new poems inspired by Blake’s, which will then be performed to an audience.

If you would like to be involved and are available for the workshop and performance, please email Holly Hunter at Southbank Centre: Please note, there is limited availability and places will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.

Poetry Trust Podcast – Awesome Foursome In Conversation

The Poetry Trust's Awesome Foursome
Feeling short next to (from R-L) Helen Mort, Hannah Lowe and Katrina Naomi

A few weeks ago I was invited to read for The Poetry Trust alongside Helen Mort, Katrina Naomi and Hannah Lowe. Our chat before the gig has been turned into a new podcast: Awesome Foursome in Conversation.

Hear about our poetry joys and nightmares, the poets who started us writing and our experiences of the Poetry Trust’s Advanced Seminar Scheme.

Verse Kraken: Digital Edition Launched

Verse Kraken LogoThe online edition of Verse Kraken is now live, including my poem Antonio Duke of Milan.

Verse Kraken asks for poems in response to other artworks and this poem was inspired by Percy Stowe’s 1908 film adaptation of The Tempest. More specifically the incredible whiteness of the child-Miranda’s dress. It got me thinking about who had to wash it to keep it that way; how would Prospero have managed it without his magic? Of course as with all poems I started with one idea and it grew into something quite different; in this case into a poem about responsibilities and also about libraries.