Lots of Planets Have a North

Some of the best things happening in poetry at the moment are the on-line, one-off, non-standard anthologies of poems and other artistic work being curated by people with great ideas and imagination. Two such people are Claire Biddles and Emma Jackson, who have taken a line from the Christopher Eccleston incarnation of Dr Who (see the title of this blog post) and used it for:

A beautiful collaborative publication exploring the North of England as it is lived, remembered and dreamed of.

The blog for this project has just started on tumblr, and there is a kickstarter ongoing to fund a book of the same name. I’m delighted to have two of my poems in at the beginning of the blog project, especially because I’m heading back to the north myself very soon. So, one of my poems remembers visiting relatives in Newcastle with my parents, and the other is about having almost got comfortable in the south of England over the course of 25 years, and now being uprooted back to my ancestral homeland.

Please visit my poems on the blog! And thank you, Emma and Claire, for featuring my poems on LOPHAN.


I’m interested in the way poems sit on the page, and what cues a reader can take from the layout and the white space around the words. It’s a big subject, and we looked at it in our class in Newbury last term. I suppose it reaches its apotheosis in the “concrete poem”, where the poem takes the shape of its own subject. I took as examples, Philip Gross’s “Amphora” (the only version I could find on line was mistakenly left-aligned, so for the full effect you would have to download and centre-align it) and Edward Mackay’s “The Size of Wales” (not on line). Not only are they visually interesting, but also excellent poems in themselves.

Encouraging the class to have a try at this form, I decided to join in. Looking at Glass’s “Amphora”, I thought a symmetrical object might be the easiest way to tackle this. And this became a poem about something I’m going to miss when we move house. It’s dedicated to the Nettlebed bellringers.

St Bartholomew’s Bells.


on Sundays
for holy communion

or sunny Saturdays in June
to ring in the bride and groom

and not just Christmas Eve after
drunken carollers lurch for home

or Easter Sunday when solemn Lent
is done and Spring is coming ringing in;

I like to hear them chime on Wednesday
evenings with the windows open in my room

just for the fun of it and for the practice, the Old Golden
& the treble-bob, saying all’s well in the village. What could




Ampthill Literary Festival

File:Ampthill market place.jpg

I’m very excited to be part of the first ever Ampthill Literary Festival, which happens on July 5th and 6th in that lovely Georgian town in Bedfordshire. Many thanks to local novelist and blogger Rachel J Lewis for inviting me. There will be poetry workshops – details to follow shortly – and an extremely good vibe, including the parallel festival of AmpRocks with rumours of a fab headline act, as always!

This is going to be an excellent summer weekend. Hope to see some of you there for poetry readings and workshops. Now, what rhymes with Ampthill? It’s an interesting place and deserves an Ode of its own.