I’m off for a weekend in deepest Devon with old friends. Apologies for what this will do to our “summer” weather.

This was the view from our kitchen one morning a few days ago. Not exactly sunny but rather gorgeous.


Zoomed up to Birmingham after work last Tuesday and had a wonderful time at Stirchley Speaks, held at the artsy but warm and friendly P Cafe: amazing venue run by lovely people.  I read/performed a weirdly varied assortment of poems, including trying out a new poem that went well.

Meanwhile, here are the last few pictures from Ty Newydd.

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Sarah James reviews Fox Unkennelled

Blog posts like buses … After uploading last night’s pictures I noticed a flurry of mentions on Twitter which turned out to be thanks to Sarah James who has reviewed Fox Unkennelled in the same micro-review blog post in which she review’s Jo Bell’s fabulous new collection, Kith. Blimey, I am in ace company there and, as I’d not canvassed for reviews, an unexpected joy to discover how Fox Unkennelled is met by a poet I so much respect. The full reviews are HERE but I shall quote:

The bold opening poem’s image of Hallucigenia on a baby’s face is a haunting one, and the pamphlet’s poems are full of vivid imagery. ‘Cwmmy Crab’ is so beautiful and evocative that it reminds me of the gorgeous, lush illustrations to my childhood favourite Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper’s Feast.

In Fox Unkennelled, there are poems of science, of man’s impact on the world, endangered animals and class/politics. But there is also humour, and literary illusion; all brought together in a poetry of precise details and precise sounds. Very much a pamphlet I enjoyed, and one also for re-reading.

And now for some more photos from Ty Newydd last week, this time mostly from costal explorations:

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Myth Making

It’s been busy. Excuses, excuses. The sci-fi is progressing with some critiques and comments from generous beta-readers. The day job is on an overtime spree but I have just managed a week’s holiday for a poetry Myth Making course at Ty Newydd in deepest north Wales: bliss.

There will be writing. But, for the next few weeks, it will be the sci fi or new-hewn poetry (thanks to Ty Newydd and the excellent tutors, Pascale Petit and Daljit Nagra): probably not work to share here. In the meantime, and for the use of anyone else on the course who wants reminders of our close observations on our walk(s), here are some pictures. More will follow.

Ty Newydd is beautiful and old. I shared an attic room with a very quiet friend in the main house. We had a view over the back gate walnut tree.
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The stairs were a challenge with a big suitase.
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And we were never sure who had the room with the small door above the library …

There was a blue moon, someone said.

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More photos to follow …

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A Shrinking of shrugs, mermaids and carbon monoxide poisoning – Worcester blog

Originally posted on Quiet Compere Tour 2014:

On arriving at the Hive I met Steve Wilson (after so many phone calls and emails in planning stages) who was taller and didn’t have the right colour hair for my phone vision. The Hive and Steve were brilliant hosts. I discovered the venue was unlicenced and decided to grab a pub lunch with a pint before the event, low on time my cheap B and B/pub agreed to bring it up to me at no charge. Height of sophistication fish and chips on my bed in pyjamas with Porridge on the TV.

Catherine Crosswell: Catherine’s lively style that jumped between weird and dark and funny made her a perfect person to start the evening. Her tape measure that measures arms lengths is genius. She warns that ‘we will continue to auto-correct those who do not suspect/or believe.’

Mike Alma: put beautiful postcards of war on chairs to accompany…

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The pity is in the poetry. And nowhere else?

Myfanwy Fox:

//Austerity, as journalist/activist Owen Jones has said, is not like the weather, a thing to be endured because we have no choice. It is a deliberate strategy by this government to roll back the welfare state and create a ‘new normal’ in which we blame those less well off than ourselves//

Originally posted on The Bell Jar:

Capture1This is a usually a blog about poetry, but I don’t keep my politics a secret on it. For those of you who find this an irritation, I’m sorry. I’m a whole person, and the poetry in which I speak of kindness or friendship comes from the same place as my politics. I beg you to read this anyway, especially if you’re not on the same political spectrum as me.

Three things strike me on the news this morning:.

1 The health secretary ‘doesn’t see anything wrong in principle’ with charging people for missing appointments. He simply cannot imagine, apparently, living in a world of unreliable public transport or the kind of poverty that makes many people fragile in the first place – nor any kind of punishment that doesn’t involve money.

2 No hospital in Britain – not one – is expected to balance its books this year. Are…

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John Hegley ConFab Special

Myfanwy Fox:

Here’s my round-up of the ConFab Cabaret John Hegley Special recently.

Meanwhile, Ledbury Poetry Festival is now in full swing. There is so much amazing poetry and poetry-related stuff happening over there – do get there if you possibly can!

In one tiny corner of such things I shall be reading at Ledbury’s Seven Stars Inn next Thursday night (9th July) with other poets from Malvern Writers’ Circle. We’ll be there from 7 pm till around 10 pm and it’s FREE so do drop by if you are passing. If you’re looking for an excellent dinner with a side of poetry, the Seven Stars food is superb.

On Friday (10th) evening I’ll be one of ten poets reading at The Hive with  The Quiet Compere as TQC tour reaches Worcester. Tickets just £5 for ten hand-picked poets and available from that link.

And then on Saturday I’ll be zooming to Stratford Poetry Festival for Jo Bell’s 52 event.

Originally posted on confabcabaret:


ConFab’s first ticketed* special was a brilliant gig with John Hegley as guest star on superb form. Hegley’s surreal humour, wit, stage experience and skill made the night. If you missed him in Malvern do try to see him somewhere. If you caught the show, you’ll want to see him again anyway. Sorry if you tried to get tickets and they’d all gone more than a week before the event. I won’t do a full review here but I’ll throw in a free fact (gleaned at his workshop the next morning): apparently his violin-look-alike instrument is an unusual variety of mandolin. So now you know.

Support acts were some of ConFab’s open mic enthusiasts along with Steve Kaos with his juggling balls and stilts.


“Fox Pops” – the Audience Poem

The paying audience were frightfully well behaved with none of the usual ConFab heckling-of-the-Fox so they came up with one…

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Hearth by Angela Topping and Sarah James


Sarah James & Angela Topping

Mother’s Milk Books, 2015

James’ and Topping’s poetry duet explores ideas of home through memories and objects from childhood. Crows, sewing and laundry lines are recurring images; “The sister I never met hangs out my sheets” (The Washing Line, James) and “small acts of love, pinned up with such hope of drying” (Spring Lines, Topping) with a nod to Larkin and Hughes, amongst others.

Page-paired poems directly riff on shared themes but motifs play from page to page. One page’s poems are based on music boxes and their mechanisms and these echo in a grandfather clock and a wind-up toy. The same musical motif resurfaces regarding pianos and songs. Buttons – loose or in their tin – feature along with washing. “To watch the women pegging out, / you’d think the breeze was all for them / and not to hold us up in air” says a crow in the final poem duet.

These poems conjure safe, hard-working family childhoods. There is nostalgia but not the syrupy it-was-all-rosy -then nostalgia. It’s the sort that says we are older but we carry memories to pass down; a solid ground from which our families spring upward into a future distance far beyond us. In Firefighting, “It’s Mum’s job, down on her knees / on the rag rug, every morning, // Just as she did in service” (Topping) took me back to memories of my own Grandmother, born in 1902 who became a kitchen maid at twelve, just as WWI began. So many things in these poems echo my own childhood. So, as reader, the poems speak to me and to others’ similar childhoods despite age differences. If my childhood had been different, I think I would still be drawn to these references as they are so enticingly specific in detail and voice.

Mother’s Milk aims to promote “breast-feeding and celebrate femininity and empathy”. While I feel “femininity” is rather open to definitional debate, breast-feeding is A Good Thing if it is possible (physically and emotionally enriching mother and infant, scientific data confirms) and empathy is what glues human societies together: laudable aims. Hearth is a gentle, accurate, evocative duet that fits that remit perfectly.

I should also add that I know Sarah James (she is an excellent promoter and organiser in West Midlands poetry) and I am acquainted with Angela Topping from Facebook and a couple of readings. However, I have tried to examine Hearth independent from those friendships.

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