I’m a freelance poet and tutor. My latest collection of poems is Jam (Smith/Doorstop, 2016). A former Poetry Society poet-in-residence, I have led courses and workshops throughout the UK and abroad. I am the author of Jumpstart Poetry in the Secondary School (Poetry Society, 1999; 2004).
POETRY & FICTION
My first collection, Henry’s Clock (Smith/Doorstop, 1999) received the Aldeburgh prize and won the Poetry Business book & pamphlet competition, I received an Arts Council England Writer’s Award for Frank Freeman’s Dancing School (Salt, 2009; KFS 2014) and an Arts Council England Grant for the Arts for Jam. Smith/Doorstop have published my ebook Selected Poems (2015). My poetry pamphlets include 14 Ways of Listening to the Archers, Emergency Rations and Bike, Rain. I’ve had poems published in maany magazines and anthologies including the North, PN Review, Stand, London Magazine and the Rialto. I’ve also written short stories for anthologies published by Comma Press. I have given many poetry readings in the UK and abroad.
TEACHING & FREELANCE WORK
I taught English in comprehensive schools in Cheshire and I was Deputy Head and English teacher at Maharishi School in Skelmersdale, where my students were renowned for winning creative writing competitions, including the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Awards, WH Smith Young Writers and Young Poets on the Underground etc. As a result, I was commissioned to write Jumpstart Poetry in the Secondary School (Poetry Society, 1999; 2004) during my time as Poetry Society poet-in-residence. I’ve broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and the BBC World Service, and my teaching has been the subject of feature articles in the Guardian and the Times Educational Supplement.
I played a leading part in several Poetry Society educational initiatives and have spoken at conferences, including UKLA, Writing Together and NATE. I have been Guest Poet for the Times Educational Supplement, a committee member of the National Association of Writers in Education, and a member of the Poetry Book Society board of directors. I have led courses and workshops for many organisations including the Arvon Foundation, the Poetry Society, Ty Newydd, Moniack Mhor, the British Council, the Poetry School, universities and schools in the UK and abroad, and I have taught creative writing in higher education. I am a Writing Project Associate (Royal Literary Fund) and a former Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Aston University.
In addition to Jumpstart I have published on teaching creative writing in the TES and other journals, and have contributed to books on teaching poetry, most recently Making Poetry Happen: Transforming the Poetry Classroom (Bloomsbury, 2015). My poetics, ‘Flying’ is collected in Troubles Swapped for Something Fresh: Manifestos and Unmanifestos (Salt, 2009). I’ve published criticism and reviews, particularly in the North.
I was born in Birmingham and grew up in Birmingham and Kidderminster, where I was a regular at Frank Freeman’s legendary Sunday Club. The photo on the cover of the Salt edition of Frank Freeman’s Dancing School is of Captain Beefheart playing live at Frank’s. John Peel told the story of how he drove Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band to Kidderminster for the gig, and when he told them where they were playing, they said, ‘Wow, that’s a really groovy name.’ Peel said: ‘No, it’s not a groovy name, it’s a dancing school run by a bloke called Frank Freeman’ (quoted in Captain Beefheart by Mike Barnes).
Leaving school at sixteen, I did a variety of jobs before returning to full-time education, going on to obtain degrees from Swansea University and the University of Warwick. I learnt Transcendental Meditation, as taught by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, in the 1970s, trained as a teacher, and I have taught TM, both full-time and part-time. I completed a PhD in Poetry & Poetics in 2006, supervised by Robert Sheppard, and I was one of the founder members of Robert’s Poetry and Poetics Research Group, based at Edge Hill University from 1999. I’m now based in Cheltenham, not so far from where I grew up. I practise WuDang style Tai Chi Chuan. My brother took the photo of the plane flying in front of the sun on the cover of Jam. He calls it: ‘our book’.