The Ship Owner’s House is where I live.

The book exists in the real world. I collected a couple of boxes last Friday, and yesterday was the official publication day. Not only that, but you can BUY A COPY via the Vane Women Press website, which is here…!

I hope you enjoy it. Please tell me if you do – or if you don’t!

I should perhaps say something about the title poem. When we moved to Barnard Castle, we bought a big brick-built house on top of a hill on the edge of the town. It’s very windy and cold here sometimes, but the views over the back of Arkengarthdale are HUGE!

I did a bit of research into the history of the house, and found it was built by a local architect in 1916 for his own family, but by the 1930s belonged to a family called the Woodliffe Simpsons. Robert Woodliffe Simpson had made his money as a ship owner in Hartlepool. I wondered what he was doing living this far inland, then I came up with the idea that the house was a bit like a ship, riding the wild moors.

 

Plans Afoot.

The pamphlet is going to the printer’s! Here’s the lovely cover, front and back, made by Pat Maycroft. I am so pleased with the sea monster on the back cover (I will love him and squeeze him and call him Brexit). The words are from my editor, Jackie Litherland.

So far there are plans to read at the following events:

T-Junction festival – Middlesbrough, 25th – 29th April. LAUNCH EVENT!

Hexham Book Fair – Sunday  6th May

Darlington Arts Festival – 26th May

Crossing the Tees Book Festival – June

I’ll update the details when I have them.

Have pamphlet – will travel. So if there’s a poetry gig or festival near you that needs a reader, please mention it to me. I’d love to share my poems with you.

 

The Ship Owner’s House

A lovely thing has happened. After ten years writing poetry, I’m going to have my first solo pamphlet published early in 2018. Jackie Litherland and the wise Vane Women, who do so much to support women poets in the North East, have agreed to publish my work and we’ve been polishing a set of poems to include. If there is a theme, it’s disorientation, belonging, and what we mean by home; and it was born out of my move from the south of England to the north, and the many moves I’ve made in my life which were pretty much all necessitated by work. Anyway, here’s the cover, featuring a photo of the Last House on Holland Island, which sank into Chesapeake Bay in 2010. Despite that American reference my book is focused on England, plus a couple of poems about Northern Ireland.There are also steampunk birds, historical figures, red kites, a plane crash and a walk along a canal towpath. I’m excited about the prospect of introducing my poems to the world.
Cover design is adapted from an image by baldeaglebluff, used and licensed under CCBY 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

The Quiet Compere

Here is Sarah L Dixon, the Quiet Compere, whom I read with in Sunderland the other week. Sarah, recently settled in Huddersfield, has been organising poetry events all over England for a number of years now. The idea is, she doesn’t give the poets a massive big-up introduction; she lets them, and their poems, speak for themselves. Sarah herself has recently had a book published; it’s called “The Sky is Cracked” and it is published by Otley-based Half Moon Books. These are poems about love and break-up, and picking up the pieces again afterwards. Lovely stuff, and you can buy it here:

Half Moon Books

Wishing Sarah (and her little boy, the unique and super Frank) a happy new home and many more Quiet Compere nights.

Elevator Pitch

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I was reminded by the Harvey Weinstein ‘affair’ about the hundreds of little microagressions that can make a woman feel unwelcome in a workplace. A few years ago I listened to a senior manager I was working with tell a joke that not only wasn’t funny but was in poor taste. The joke took place in a lift that was stuck. I wrote a poem to try to analyse how that joke made me feel. The lovely website, amaryllis – an offshoot of the remarkable Swindon poetry scene – featured my poem and here’s the link.

Still writing Teisa

My journeys along the River Tees are continuing, and I’m writing as I go. I guess I am about a third of the way along my poetry journey but I am doing a little bit here and a little bit there, as time allows. The landscape certainly is inspiring. Here’s a shot at Cow Green reservoir, near the source of the river. Cross Fell, the highest mountain in the Pennines, is in the background.And at the other end of the river, this is the old steelworks at Redcar, seen from Teesmouth. Such a mixture of rural and urban landscapes.

 

 

After the Terror Attacks

I believe there are good people still;
kinder, more patient than I could be, who ask
for nothing, but to go about their ordinary tasks
giving it their best shot, as you know they will.
Who, when a drunken evening hiccups to an end,
pretend to be ironic, hug each other, solemnly state
I love you mate. You’re my best friend.
The sort of people who don’t forget to feed
the birds, who plant the flowers beloved of bees,
who stoop to pat the mournful dogs who wait
outside the supermarket, asking them, who’s a
a good girl, a good boy? Yes, you are.
Who are more likely to weep while they are clearing weeds
from their smalltown gardens, than in a public place,
who smile at passers-by with open faces,
who put more than they can afford in the charity box
who pop in with cakes to visit neighbours.
Who draw the curtains in their children’s rooms,
switch on the nightlight, wish sweet dreams
and softly close the door. Who go downstairs
to watch the news and wonder what we’ve come to.
When it seems, on days like these, the poor old world
and all its folk are battered, beat, betrayed, do
what they have to; keep on keeping on,
and whether or not they have a god to pray to,
think to themselves; let the world be blessed,
and whisper quietly, beneath their breath.
Amen, let it be so, again; Amen.

More poetry for the petrified

magneticpoetry

It’s great to be teaching poetry again! I spoke to the people at the marvellous Witham Arts Centre in Barnard Castle and we’re going to be running some introductory poetry classes on Tuesday afternoons, starting on January 17th. I loved doing this in my previous location – everyone in the group seemed to get so much out of reading and writing poetry – so I am looking forward to working with some Teesdale people, to spread the poetry love and turn them into creative writers along the way.

So if anyone wants to join us, it would be great to see you there. Here are all the details of the new, ten-week Poetry for the Petrified course. After that… well, I’ve got some further ideas but let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet.

Teisa Revisited

We’ve been in Teesdale for two years now. I’ve written quite a few poems about being uprooted from the place where I spent almost twenty years – poems about place, home and belonging. We’ve been working, decorating our house and dealing with a big garden; it feels like we haven’t had a lot of time to get to know our new surroundings.

Then a couple of weeks ago I found out that a really interesting symposium was going on, right in my new home town of Barnard Castle. Artists, Farmers and Philosophers was a discussion promoted by the wonderful Heart of Teesdale Landscape Partnership about landscape, how it is formed, recorded, enhanced and preserved by the people who use it and respond to it. I learned something about hill farming, land art, and aesthetics, which made me think about how, as an ‘offcomer’ I can get to know the landscape of my new home. (I’ve updated the photographs that form the header of this site with my photos of the local landscape, and I promise to add more.)

This made me think about Teesdale and the River Tees that shapes it. There’s a long tradition of writing about rivers, sometimes as an allegory of a human life or as the life of a civilisation, sometimes as an observational study. Alice Oswald’s 48-page poem ‘Dart’ played a huge part in my own interest in reading and writing poems. I love the way Oswald is equally lyrical about a milk-processing plant as she is on kayakers and wading birds. It also gives me some courage that Oswald was not a native of the area she captured in her poem. Then there’s this:

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Nobody seems to know much about Anne Wilson, who, in 1798, self-published a 1600-line poem tracing the Tees from its source to its mouth. It was written, unsurprisingly, in heroic couplets; with many classical allusions, appeals to the muses, and a long, rambling Arthurian story that gets in the way somewhere just east of Barnard Castle. Since that time, a lot of water has passed under a lot of bridges. The Industrial Revolution has been and gone, Sir Walter Scott wrote ‘Rokeby Abbey’, John Cotman and J.W.M Turner sat on the banks of the Tees and painted. Lewis Carroll grew up on Croft-on-Tees. But many places that Wilson invoked are pretty much unchanged after 220 years.

I think I should have a go at writing an updated Tees journey. It will make sure I really get to know the place, to look at it and listen, and to walk as much as possible of the Teesdale Way, which goes all the way from the highest point on the Pennines to the South Gare breakwater in Redcar. I’ve already made a start.

Poetics and Politics

I’m still trying to process all the politics that has gone on since the Referendum. There seems to have been far too much news and most of it bad. Things have been happening so fast that it’s hard to keep up, and even harder to stop and think about what one’s reaction is. The death of Jo Cox MP, as she served her constituents in Batley and Spen, hit me pretty hard, as have all the other senseless shootings, and knifings, and the use of a truck as a weapon in Nice. So I wrote a poem that shows me thinking about why these gunmen, who seem both to be deeply troubled and radicalised, do what they do, and why the ever think it is going to do any good, or further whatever twisted cause they espouse. I found a home for my poem with Marie Lightman’s new anthology, Writers against Prejudice, which I am sure is going to feature some wonderful and thoughtful poems over the next few weeks. I’m delighted to have the honour of providing the inaugural poem in that anthology. Thank you, Marie!

Here’s a link to the poem. For Jo Cox.