Monday 31 March 2014


From the first time I heard Emily read I was hooked, the presentation, the passion and the power made the audience sit up and take notice. Emily stole the show at the Fire River Open Mic night.

Emily is a member of Juncture 25, Taunton’s leading poetry group. She has read at many events and has the ability to captivate the audience. There is a real energy about her readings, if you get the chance to catch her at a festival this summer take it. You will not be disappointed.

Not only is Emily a first rate poet, [who writes about Magpies] she is also a seasoned traveller and her account of her journey across Europe in a van is a delight. I am not much of a reader of travel stories but I found Travelson the Continent to be an excellent travel book. It kept me entertained from start to finish.

What I like about her work is its richness; there is much to ponder on in her poetry. I am impressed by the skilled manner in which she deals with rhythm. There is a lyrical quality to her work that draws you in and transfixes you.
Enough from me, let’s here from Emily.
Why poetry?
Because I’m too impatient! Just joking – I like the way poetry captures an image, a moment or a feeling that is hard to express in just one page (or less than page). In fact to counter that, I am actually trying to write a novel (so far about 1/3 of the way!) and it’s a great experience because you have so much time to look at a situation from all sorts of different angles. With poetry you’ve got one shot at making an impact.

Plus poetry can be so striking – sometimes you find a poem that just hits you, perhaps because you’ve had a similar experience or perhaps a similar feeling. I want to do that. One of my favorite examples that has stuck with me is Julia Copus’: “we don’t fall in love: it rises through us…like tea stains as it creeps up…a cube of sugar lying by a cup.”

My poetry is often emotional but I believe you can’t truly represent something unless you’ve been there in your mind, either in real or imagined state and I hope that (like how I sometimes have that eurieka moment with other poems) my poems can affect other people in the same way.

Tell us about how you work? – tell us about your work…(in advertently changed the question, might also answer the original question at the end…)
I’ve been writing since I was little and I hope have now got out of that awkward stage when you write laments over your poor teenage life…(but probably not).

Possible favorite proud moment: won second place in a school poetry competition with a little poem I wrote in an English lesson. We weren’t set for anything except science and maths and so my mind often drifted in English (particularly as we were studing Of Mice and Men – not one of my favourite books). I didn’t put a name on the poem, just posted it to the box then saw it on the school wall a week later. Secretly I thought that if I had put my name to it I would have come first!

Since moving to the South West I have met the most wonderful people (Paul included!!) who have supported my writing and performing. I think I would have continued to write anyway but would not have the same guidance, I’m still astonished that together Juncture 25 have published our own book. It’s so exciting and I just want to hand out copies to everyone I see in the street!

Other things I suppose I could include in ‘your work’: my dissertation at uni was a collection of poems based on the Cornish myth of Tristan & Isolde. I printed it on my mums printer and bound it with card and raffia then sold quite a few copies!

And then I’ve got my blog (shouldn’t really call it that!) my ‘kindle book’. About my travels around Europe in a red ford transit van/campervan. It was an amazing experience and I’m so glad I wrote it all down. The book wasn’t just a diary of my travels though (I have that handwritten somewhere!) I like to think of it as a window on a journey. I hope that it could be a good read to others, I certainly like looking back, and I included little poems, lists, photos – photos were a key part – and stuff like that. It was fun to do and it’s available on amazon for the kindle – a fair 98 pence!

The campervan you drove hither and thither across Europe - what was that all about?
After university I didn’t know what to do (a common feeling I do believe). Applied to various graduate schemes before deciding that wasn’t what I wanted so instead embarked upon a journey.

The van was incredible. 6 foot long wheel base, giant steering wheel, wild engine. It took us through 13 countries safely (mostly) and was the most amazing way to see and experience Europe. I thought that the trip would be more productive – poetry wise – but I suppose it was mostly spent absorbing the environment. I did however write a diary every day and a blog post about each section of the journey. And I’m so glad I did as it forms a good story and even though things have changed since then, still makes me smile. One day I might write up the boring version!! (The daily diary!)

Which would you say is the more important-the poem on the page or the spoken poem?
I think they are equally important. I know I am the worst person for sitting on the fence but I am strongly perched on this one. I began writing for myself (cringe) and so they were I suppose silent poems and now that I have found my ‘voice’ in more ways than one, although I think my poetic voice does wander around a bit, I have found a new dimension for the poems. I love the way different people read a poem, again a double meaning, people read poems differently and they sound different in different peoples mouths. And the main thing about poetry – and literature – that I love is that it is all right.

Which would it be tea or coffee?
Tea. Loose leaf. With a digestive.

What's in the pipeline?
I hear we are going to be performing at 2000 trees festival in July! Again, I am grateful to Juncture 25 for pushing me towards these things. Work has slightly overtaken my life at the moment, and sometimes means that I don’t do as much writing as I want to, or apply to festivals, competitions etc etc etc but to have a group of people working towards the same thing, namely getting ourselves out into the world, is brilliant.

Personally I would like to get my own book out there at some point, the plan is the magpies… I’ve got a collection of poems from the Magpie rhyme (1 for sorrow, 2 for joy…) and I’m nearly finished but I’m just waiting for the words to come. Then I want to do something with the 7 finished poems, whether a book or a performance or a video, or a piece of art…the possibilities are endless!! Plus my novel which I hope at some point to finish. It’s going to be a long one though, I don’t want to make it into a short story. It is based on two children and their journey through life. I have tried not to use any ‘internal monologues’ and is entirely founded on the descriptions of their body language. I hope that some people might like to read it, if not it is certainly a good exercise
Apart from all that, the pipeline includes honing my rather wayward writings!

What question would you not like me to ask? 
Do you write for yourself or for others…

And how would you answer it?
I write for myself but I hope that it illuminates similar things in other people’s lives or imaginations. But I feel guilty sometimes that I write for myself and in the future (when I become more worldly wise) perhaps I will be able to be more proactive, but probably not.

If you were a colour/ a book/ a poem and a song what would you be?
All together?!
Grey. The Magic Faraway Tree. Words, Wide Night – Carol Ann Duffy. Such Great Heights – The Postal Service.

Tell us about how you work?
I do most of my writing in bed, or in the arm chair by my bedroom window, and quite a bit on trains. I have been known to write something down on the steering wheel (don’t tell anyone!). Possibly because these are the places where I am on my own, or where I can gather my thoughts. I especially find trains very thought-gathering places.
This may be why I struggle with writing in form, my poems seem to come at strange times, normally when my mind relaxes a little bit, and when I try really hard to write something in structure, or for example my ‘gold’ magpie poem – I have the scene, the “whats at stake” (thanks Ginny) and the characters so it were but just haven’t found the words yet. So I’m just waiting for that to form itself.

So in a nutshell, my writing is not confined (to a nutshell) and I hope that with the right nurturing will grow wings and fly. There we go! 

Sunday 30 March 2014


A poem I have been working on for some time this post. It was prompted by the allotment flooding again. I struggled with the second half. I knew what I wanted to say but could not find the words to say it.

The water is rising
but the river is full.
Now it crosses the allotment,
causes a uniform flatness
that ripples under the wind.
Put your ear into the flood,
there is excitement here – change comes.
The enforced idleness of
the imprisoning ice is ending.
The rising sea will recover lost land.

This is definitely a work in progress. I am not sure about the last line- can the ocean recover lost land? The ocean is the water rather than the ground and I am not at all convinced the last line works. 

This week at the Juncture 25 workshop the task was to write a self-portrait as a sonnet.  I did not like my attempt and have ripped up the form.

Selfie in Light and Darkness

The magpie told me,  
the purpose of this life was to choose,
but when I look in the mirror I see my father,
maybe more hair, less lines, but him.
I want to say to the magpie
I’m in it for the poems,
but he knows that already,
and I have to describe the creature I see.
Part light, the rest darkness,
it’s the percentages that count.
I’m not saying.

That’s it for this post. I’d like to hear your opinions about the work in progress. I shall post an interview with the amazingly talented Emily Faye McCoy. Not only is she a fantastically talented poet but she has a book of her travels out. I shall leave you with Serafina Steer.

Friday 21 March 2014


To start this post a poem based around observing a man in perfect cricketing whites walking through the town early on a February morning.  I could not help but wonder what was going on. I was out to buy the paper and was looking forward to settling down with my toast, tea and the book review. As I walked to the shop and back again the bones of this poem formed in my head:

February cricketer,
startling the grey street in perfect whites,
shoulders a bat in a bag on his back.
Sport shoes crunch the broken glass
and polystyrene remains of a Friday night.
I watch him from across the road,
I think him misplaced from a gentler July day,
or Well’s time traveller come to bring Victorian civilisation
to a town that has lost pride in its appearance.
The church he is passing is locked,
bars prevent the homeless from sleeping in the porch.
On the corner, cash is paid for cars.
He had hoped for better than this,
social justice, equality, perhaps welfare for all,
only to find us squabbling over remnants.
Astride his machine once more,
He sets the controls for another future.
We will I am certain, not even rate
a foot note in his narrative.

I am sure that the cricketing gentleman had his own reasons for being so attired on a Saturday morning. While I was mentally riffing on echoes of H G Wells’ The Time Machine, adding to it the images I collected on my journey. The first line was what I hung the rest of the poem. 

Here's a joke: Where do you get mercury from?
H G Wells!

This next poem took much thought and is, I think, a work in progress.


Afterwards I can track the switch,
exactly where one thing became another,
when suddenly compromised, I seemed to collude.
I picture myself on her website, my smile an endorsement,
a trophy of seized photo op.
She wears her ambition as if it were acceptable.
As I take umbrage, she says:
You don’t know anything about me.
This is both right and wrong.
I know the flag she drapes across her shoulders.
It is as blue as privilege and disdain.  

She broadcasts the easy answers as she has been coached.

I am not going to fill the background in-but I would be interested in your thoughts.

Here is a video of the wondrous Stray Birds playing Dream in Blue.

Tuesday 18 March 2014

Photographs & Memories 4

Just another collection of old images. This was taken in Barcelona.

Julie Sassoon playing the Chard Festival

Iraklion, Crete

Midlake in Bristol Uni last month

The view from inside the greenhouse in  this January's flood

Normal service is resumed on Friday.

Friday 14 March 2014


A couple of poems I have been working on this week. Both very straight forward and simple and I hope with the universality of a good poem.

In Bristol my favourite bookshop,
located at the top of Park Street,
sells remainders at two quid a pop,
cash, no cheques, no cards.
I have spent hours roving
from book to book that took my fancy.
Today I discover it is now a bookies.
This is I am informed, the joy of the free market,
demand will give us the shops we want.
I am not betting on it myself.

It was as described. I was driving up Park Street and happened to see that the bookshop had gone. It’s true I am not a frequent visitor to Bristol but when I go I always made a point of spending time in said shop. Should I clarify that a bookies is a betting shop?

There is something inviting about a good bookshop and for me, something even more enticing about a remaindered bookshop. Here you will find the unwanted books, the over printed and dead in the water no hopers. The books that otherwise escape your radar.

I have a collection of Chinese poetry 200-1000 CE that I bought for a pound in the early eighties and still enjoy today. It set me off reading poetry from other cultures though I have doubts about translation-a translated poem is a different poem.

This second poem wrote itself quickly but took time to smooth out. I tried a number of different formats but settled on prose poem as the most effective form.

With the self-limiting logic of the truly ignorant, this bloke once told me that if you can’t spell a word then you shouldn’t use it!  I did not reply that at school I had been judged word blind and if I followed this advice I would never have opened my mouth. That was over forty years ago. I wonder if he has managed to break out of the social construction in which he was attempting to imprison me.

Again it is a true story. The memory can cascading uncalled into my head the other day and as it did so I thought, there’s a poem in this. We are all the sum of the social constructions we grow up in.

Two things to leave you with: You can download the marvellous Emily Kraemer’s last album for free here; and listen to Anne Briggs sing Blackwaterside while you do so.

Friday 7 March 2014


I appear to be having a rather prolific spell at the moment. A number of sketches for poems are have together and I also have written some new poems quite quickly.

This first has gestated for about the past two months.

We leave the pub for the frost and darkness.
Now they wear the colours of separation.
I notice as they jostle to
avoid walking next to each other.
Now paired with one,
I look at the ice pattern on a car roof,
and how the space widens
between the people in our group.

I think it is in a state to show. Prior to last Saturday, when I revised it, the narrative was muddy. It is one of those poems that attempt to capture a moment when everything is in flux.

He wears a suit stolen from a Chagall painting,
carries a breathing bouquet
that exhales scent around him.
She appears in a dress
Bias cut from an O’Keefe flower,
it changes colour as she walks.
After meeting on Crocodile Street,
they will fly, marry above the clouds.
Entwined, counting stars until the dawn.

Not sure where this came from. It tumbled out on Saturday after Tai Chi, writing itself onto the page. As I am copying it to the post I am revising. It may be complete…

I have just realised that the poems chart the start and the end of different relationships. They are both concerned with night. I read somewhere that the poet seeks to be unique each time they write, to say something singular in a new way. Not sure myself, but I know that there are times when I can write variations on what I have already said- you rarely see those poems.

I am leaving you this week with a video of Annabelle Chvostek singing Resilience