Jam, Bargain Booze and Pi



They’ve arrived. Copies of Jam. You never know what your book’s going to be like until you hold a copy in your hand.

They arrived yesterday, in fact, but I didn’t get my hands on them until the evening. I got back from Aston University (an RLF Fellowship day) to find one of those notes you get, by the front door: ‘Sorry you were out…’ The good news was I didn’t have to walk to the delivery office on the other side of town to get them (and I’d never have been able to carry them on my bike). They’d been left at a drop-off point, Bargain Booze, just round the corner. I told the bloke what was in the box. ‘I’m not very poetic, I’m afraid,’ he said. ‘It’s OK, I’m not either.’

Also yesterday, I had another poem from Jam published online in International Times, ‘Dog-speak’. Jake is really Pi, a Jack Russell that lives over the road. Pi’s great. One of my heroes. He makes you glad to be alive.

Ian McMillan – To Fold the Evening Star: New and Selected Poems


“The first time I saw a collection by Ian McMillan it was four feet off the ground, winging across my classroom. It was 1988 and Ian, mid-peformance with Year 9, had just whipped out of his pocket a copy of his newly-published Selected Poems and hurled it into the corner as part of a ‘magic trick’ he was demonstrating. I was laughing so much that my stomach hurt but I remember thinking: ‘Oh, he’s written a book as well.’“ – from my ‘The Collection’ piece on Ian’s marvellous To Fold an Evening Star: New & Selected Poems in the latest issue of the North, now in its thirtieth year. Great to have poems in there too, in such good company.


Poetry Swindon Festival and Leonard Cohen


After tutoring the writing poetry course for the Arvon Foundation at the Hurst in September, I’m very much looking forward to reading at Poetry Swindon Festival on Thursday 6th October alongside Wendy Klein. It’s worth checking out the rest of the programme, put together by the wonderful, tireless Hilda Sheehan. Andrew McMillan and Kim Moore are in residence and leading workshops.

The following day, Friday 7th October, I’ll be at Cheltenham Literature Festival introducing the students I worked with at Millbrook Academy as writer in residence for Cheltenham Festival First Story. They’ll be reading from their anthology (that I edited) as part of the Young Writers Showcase.

And the Sunday before, October 2nd, I’ll be leading a workshop and reading alongside David Clarke at Buzzwords in Cheltenham – Exeter Arms on the Bath Road – workshop at 7pm, reading and open mic from 8pm.

3295On a different note – there’s a wonderful article in the Guardian on Leonard Cohen’s final letter to Marianne here. And this follow-up article which contains a definition of poetry by Leonard Cohen that I haven’t come across before: “Poetry is just the evidence of your life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.”

Teachers as Writers


Here’s where I was last Wednesday. Exmouth. I’m working alongside two English teachers as part of the Arvon Teachers as Writers project. The idea is to research into the impact of teachers writing on their classroom practice. Great to work with two enthusiastic committed teachers and to be part of the project.

I also really enjoyed the poetry salon event in Ledbury recently. It was in the panelled room in the Master’s House. Great audience and Chloe Garner’s questions couldn’t have been better. A podcast will be available soon.


Finally, I co-tutored the Poetry Business Writing Day with Peter Sansom the other Saturday. It’s always astonishing how many good poems get written on those days, and the atmosphere is invariably brilliant.

Ledbury Poetry Salon Wed 8 June and the stones


I’m featured poet at the Ledbury poetry salon on Wednesday 8th June, 7-9pm in the Panelled Room at the Master’s House. More information here, along with details of Ledbury Poetry Festival events. There’s an open mic in the second half. If you’re in the area, it would be great to see you. In the meantime, let me introduce you to these two, from last week in St Ives. They lasted until the evening, when the tide came in.



Trams on Corporation Street and the moon over the water



Good to read from Jam last night alongside Judy Brown (her cracking new collection Crowd Sensations) at an RLF event in Birmingham and straight afterwards to catch Luke Kennard reading from Cain in Waterstones. Brilliant. And 10pm heading for New Street for the last train home, there it was on Corporation Street, lights on and bell going. Great to have trams back in Brum. And here, just for the sake of it, the moon over the water in St Ives a few days ago.


moon 3



‘Heidelberg’ and the International Times

I have a poem that’s just appeared in the International Times, ‘Heidlelberg’ from Jam, my forthcoming collection. I left school at sixteen, as soon as I could, and got a job in a printing factory as an apprentice printer. It was a good job in those days, the union was strong and looked after you. My dad always said it was important to get a trade, and printing was certainly in that category. I stuck it for six months, did another couple of jobs and eventually ended up at Kidderminster College of FE. It made a big impression on me, working in that printing factory and I sometimes think what would have happened if I’d stayed on and completed the apprenticeship. I was in Paris one time, walking down a side street past somebody’s garage, and inside there was a bloke on a Heidlelberg platen. The sound and the smell took me right back, stopped me dead.