For My Daughter, on What Would Have Been Her Eleventh Birthday

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I want you to know

that we are happy. 


I want you to know that we laugh. 

That some days I think I have forgotten

what you look like. 


That we sit on the patio

drinking wine

and sometimes

we don’t think of you at all. 


That I can’t imagine you

at the age you would be now.


I want you to know 

that I keep your clothes

near our bed, 

where I can see them.


That your photo is faded

and everyone in it looks dated,

except you.


I want you to know that sometimes

I live in the days of your death.

That sometimes I can smell

the bereavement suite, sometimes 

the sound of the heart monitor wakes me

and the sound of the fan whirring

and the smell of toast on the ward 

and the squeak of trolleys wheeling drugs 

in the corridor and you in the Moses basket 

is all there is. 


I want you to know that on those days

it is difficult to let you go again. 


I want you to know

that today isn’t one of those days.


I want you to know that today 

I carry you up to the cemetery like

a goldfinch on my shoulder


and that you bob away in the air

and then back again, and that 

it makes me happy

to imagine us this way.

Heart, Horse, Spelt and Health

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It’s been a while since I did an update blog. A lot happened in March.

First there was my birthday. Another lockdown birthday, but it was vey nice. We got a takeaway from a restaurant and pretended we were posh folk dining in a private booth. I’ve missed dining out. One perk of being childless is being able to go and eat out, and up until this year we’ve not been able to afford it as I have been crazily building my writing career and earning very little. I earn a wage now. I would not describe it as a good wage, but it is a wage and it would allow me to sit at a table, drink over priced wine and not have to wash up. I can’t wait!

Then there was the launch of my new collection, When I Think of My Body as a Horse. A strange affair in which I was in my office on zoom and the audience were on You Tube and I felt like I was talking to myself. However, it was brilliantly orchestrated by the Poetry Business and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The other readers were absolutely wonderful. You can watch the launch here:

and you can buy a copy of the book, signed from my own shop, by following this link:

The book is doing really well and has had some wonderful reviews. There’s a pattern to launching a book. First there’s a honeymoon phase where lots of people are buying it and talking abut it, then it goes quiet and you start to feel a bit embarrassed plugging it because perhaps, like a sponge, the book has absorbed all the sales it will get and now it is the time for it to slink away into the dark while other books have their time in the light. Every now and again I think, “oh, that’s it, that’s the honey-moon-book-launch-period over, as it disappears and I don’t hear about who’s reading it and there aren’t any reviews to read etc, and then a review like this one pops up in the Yorkshire Times and it’s so considered and careful and beautiful that it makes me feel like a proper poet again, and I feel that my Horse still has legs yet and a bit further to go.

Then there was the launch of issue one of my magazine, Spelt. Unbelievably, we had more than 100 people attend the launch and it was fantastic! We had some lovely feedback about the warm atmosphere and the range of regional accents which was just exactly what i wanted. I would love to show you a link to view the launch on our youtube channel, but I am technically inept and need my co-ed and general tech miracle worker Steve to get it set up properly and unfortunately Steve’s computer is down right now. I can show you this, though, which is one of our contributor’s poems made into a little film. Thanks Carole Bromley and thanks Steve for creating it.

I’m so proud of the magazine and so pleased with the response it’s had. We’re ploughing forward with it and have launched a competition, which will be judged by the amazing poet Maggie Harris. We’re also open for submissions for issue two, and you can buy your very own copy of Spelt one and read about submissions and the competition here:

I am loving running Spelt. It is one of the best things I’ve ever done and I think me and Steve are a good team. I’m very ambitious, I want Spelt to do well. I treat it as a business that I am growing and I hope that soon contributors will be paid and the magazine will be in more indie bookshops.

And then, half way through the month I had a weird heart episode. I’ve had palpitations before, but this was weird, and still is quite weird. It was like bad palpitations but my heart was all over the place, skipping beats, squishing in my chest and I kept feeling quite faint and dizzy and breathless and getting really bad headaches and tingling hands and a bit of pain in my arm. When I took my blood pressure it was though the roof. It was all a bit worrying really. I should really have gone to the hospital but refused to go because I couldn’t bear the thought of making such a fuss and also I felt like I couldn’t take time away from work which, in hindsight is absolutely crazy. It went on like that, off and on, for two and a half weeks, almost continuously, with me in and out of the GP having blood tests and getting referrals. Chris’s apple watch flagged it up as abnormal heart rhythms and at one point atrial fibrillation. I’m waiting to see a cardiologist, but you might have noticed there’s a pandemic on which is slowing everything down. My GP put me on blood pressure pills which have brought my blood pressure right down and I am not getting the headaches or any of the other symptoms anymore, and my heart, which was like a frog in a box, is now beating normally, on the whole, with just a few smaller episodes much more like the palpitations i’d been experiencing previously. The GP told me to cut back my workload and my stress levels. And caffeine and alcohol. It’s pushed me to seeking ways of slowing down, which I’ve talked about before as being something I needed to work on, but like lots of people it felt like it wasn’t that important. I’ve developed lots of crutches to deal with stress and exhaustion from my chronic over work, alcohol and caffeine among them, so this heart thing pushed me to address them and look at how I can make a long term plan for reducing work, alcohol, caffeine, stress. I signed up to a health app that is designed to help you reevaluate your habits and choices and think around them. Amazingly, it’s working!!! I have reduced my alcohol and my caffeine intake, am more in control of my choices and feel like I am actually living very healthily. But I’m still massively overworking. I expect that in the future there will be less prompt a day courses, and more courses like the Analyse This! Course which had a smaller group of attendees and meant I could work more closely with the group. I cannot continue to work 60+ hours a week. Something’s got to give, and I don’t want it to be me, really.

So there we are. A frantic, fantastic month. next up: what I read in March 2021.

Stay safe



It’s back! April Write-a-thon, starting April 1st! ALL NEW PROMPTS!

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It’s that time of the year again! To coincide with NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month) I am running my April Write-a-thon, a prompt-a-day course aimed at getting you to the end of April with enough poems, notes and thoughts to get you through the year! This year I’m running it again with all new prompts!

How it Works 

Starting on April 1st, this course will run until 30th of April. You will receive a brand new prompt, every single day, including weekends, delivered straight into your email inbox. The prompts are aimed at getting you putting pen to paper, fingers to keyboards to get a first draft of a poem written. You’ll also have access to a closed facebook group where you can share your work with other members of the course and receive and give feedback. I monitor the group daily and try to comment, briefly, on everyone’s posts.

This is a no pressure course. You don’t have to produce anything if you don’t want to and we all know how life gets in the way sometimes so there is no need to post anything in the closed facebook group, if you don’t want to, and the good news is that you will have those thirty prompts to return to whenever you feel like it. This is a fun course suitable for anyone who wants to write poetry, from the absolute novice to the more experienced writer looking for a boost for their writing.

You’ll be able to join in discussions in the closed Facebook group, which will be moderated daily by myself. The group is friendly and welcoming and you’ll receive basic tips and advice from myself alongside lots of encouragement.

notebook writing pencil start
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How to Sign Up

I now have a simple payment method in my shop (follow this link: where you can make a payment to sign up. If the email address you want your course materials sent to is different to your PayPal address, let me know by emailing me at 

To make things fair, and to make sure that my courses are available to those on lower incomes, I have a tiered pricing system. Details below. And don’t forget, you can sponsor a place for a writer who doesn’t have the money to sign up. What a great gift that would be! If you are a writer who would not be able to partake in this course due to financial difficulties, drop me a line at for details of available sponsored places.

Payment Tiers

For this course, and all future courses, I am bringing in a method of tiered payment, a ‘pay what you can’  method which relies on the honesty of course attendees. There are three payment levels: £20, £40 and £60 plus a special £90 option which entitles you to more detailed editing suggestions on up to four pieces of work at the end of the course. There is also the option to sponsor another place at the price level of your choice so that I can support disadvantaged writers.

Why I have given the option to pay more

Lots of previous attendees have told me, during feedback sessions, that they would have paid much more for one of these courses, comparing it to other courses available to them. But at the same time, lots of people have told me they were grateful for the lower cost as it meant they could afford to develop their writing within their own means. I am from a working class background and still live in a working class town. There’s a grey area when it comes to WC folk, and it’s the place where almost everyone I know lives – the place where you are certainly not living in poverty, but you can’t justify retreats, courses or workshops because there is always something else (Christmas, birthdays etc). It’s my opinion that everyone should have access to exploring their world through the arts, creative writing is my niche and in a world in which the arts are being slowly eroded, where funding is reduced and reduced, I feel I need to do something practical to help people like me, from my background. At the same time, as a working class writer and workshop facilitator, I need to be able to pay my bills and continue doing the things that I have trained for. Hence the option to pay more if you feel you can. I know from experience how difficult it is to work out which level is right for you, so I have put some guidance together, below. I’ve based my reasoning mainly on the value that £20 has to you:

Sponsored Place – 

If you would need to make a choice between the course and essentials like food and electricity, then you are most likely entitled to a sponsored place.  Get in touch at for a chat. I don’t interrogate, this is an honesty system and giving writers a leg up is important.


If £20 is what you might spend on a takeaway and a bottle of wine, this is probably the tier for you.


If £20 is what you spend on a bottle of wine and a nice bar of chocolate, the forty pound tier sounds about right for you.


If twenty pounds is the amount that you might put into a charity box, or a church collection, then this is probably the tier for you.


Even if you aren’t interested in doing the course, you can still sponsor a place and give a leg up to a writer who has hit hard times and can’t justify the disposable income for a creative writing course. If you ARE doing the course, you can also sponsor an extra place. You might choose to pay £40 for yourself and sponsor a £20 place, you might be an absolute angel and pay £60 and still sponsor a £20 place, you might be a virtual saint and sponsor two £60 places. It’s up to you. Mix and match.

What happens after you’ve paid for your place?

Once you have paid for your place (by visiting my shop: within a day or so you will receive a welcome message to check that the email supplied through your PayPal account is working. This will have your link to the closed facebook page in it too. And that’s it. The 1st April you’ll receive your first prompt and you are off! If you don’t receive the welcome message within a few days after signing up, drop me a line at

I am so looking forward to the community of writers getting together again for the write-a-thon, it has been such a fun, friendly course in the past and I can’t wait to see you in the group!



Women of Words on #IWD2021

Delighted to feature as one of WOW chosen women poets on IWD!

Women of Words

On March 8th International Women’s Day 2021 we thought we’d give space to four fantastic women whose work inspires us. Each of these four northern women – the geographical distinction is of vital importance too – these women are, despite a global pandemic, successfully launching new collections.

The Oscillations by Kate Fox was released through Nine Arches Press, When I Think of My Body as a Horse by Wendy Pratt via the Poetry Business and Winner of the International Book and Pamphlet Competition (Judged by Imtiaz Dharker & Ian McMillan) Passerine by Kirsten Luckins was published in February by Bad Betty Press, and due to be launched in a few weeks time [Just in time for our 6th Birthday] Vitriol Works by Geneviève L. Walsh on Flapjack Press. (Click on Links to purchase and support independent publishers)

By now we have become accustomed to our poetry selves existing…

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What I Read in 2021 February: Margaret Atwood, Maggie Mackay, Carole Bromley, Angela Readman, Andrea levy, Shauna Gross, Vic Bennett, Hannah Hodgson and Jacqui Rowe

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I’ve managed to get through quite a few books this month. I have more time to read when I’m not running the month long workshops. My total books read for the year so far is 14, so I feel like I’m doing OK. March is going to be a tremendously busy month, starting with the official publication day for When I Think of My Body as a Horse, my birthday and the launch of Horse, alongside launching the new course, Analyse This!, running Wednesday Writers, Friday Writing, Women Writers Writing, mentoring, editing and putting the last bits and pieces together for Spelt magazine. We’re going to print mid month. I have also booked two days of actual holiday off this month. You may remember I devised a brilliant system in which any over time I did would be gathered up so that I could take time off. I’m having to re-think it as every week I am accruing two days overtime, and seem to have no time to take it as holiday. I am my own worst enemy and I feel like I might need to address some underlying issues around the reasons I can’t stop still and not work for any real length of time. It sometimes feels a bit pointless, all of this, because I don’t know how to sit back and enjoy the things that are happening. Actually, I have all the tools to be able to do that, I know how to do that, but I seem to be incapable of getting off a treadmill that I’m powering with my own anxiety. What’s the point in any of this if the anxiety means I can’t enjoy it! She screams into the void, manically. Anyway, I have booked two days off after the book launch; days with no work, and I am hoping the weather stays nice so that I can get out in the garden. The March workload is probably going to do for me, but at least spring is near now and I don’t have to cope with the cold and the dark. I can have my mental breakdown in the garden at least.

Right, enough of my interminable waffling. Here’s what i read inFebruary 2021:

Margaret Atwood: Negotiating with the Dead

Absolutely loved this book on writers and the writing process. Would recommend to any writers, teachers or those just interested in the purpose of, and drive to, write. Rich in resources, yet accessible and witty. Brilliant.

Maggie Mackay: A West Coast Psalter

This was a pleasure to return to. Maggie Mackay brings past lives lived into the present so clearly. Would recommend. Buy it from Kelsey Books

Carole Bromley: The Peregrine Falcons of York Minster

This is such a good collection from Carole Bromley, I think perhaps her best. Carole has a real way of observing the ordinary and making it extraordinarily. Her poems are witty, often moving, clear, careful and beautifully crafted. Highly recommend.

Angela Readman: Cooking with Marilyn

Loved this beautifully written collection by Angela Readman. Every poem is a picnic of lush, dark imagery. Love the title poem in particular. Would highly recommend.

Andrea levy: Small Island

Absolutely loved this book. Funny, thought provoking, the characters feel like friends to me now. It’ll be one I read again. Highly recommend.

Shauna Gross: Whip It

YA fiction at its best. Loved it, desperately wanted to crawl into the book and go Roller Derby.

Victoria Bennett: To Start the Year From its Quiet Centre

Enjoyed returning to Victoria’s beautiful, delicate pamphlet. Lovely to see an ex mentee doing well.

Hannah Hodgson: Where I’d Watch Plastic Trees not Grow

Incredible pamphlet by Hannah Hodgson. Full of visceral, defiant, angry, necessary, challenging poems, poems that should be read by everyone. Highly recommend.

Jacqui Rowe: Other Things I Didn’t used to Know

Highly recommend Jacqui Rowe’s book: subtle writing, wry humour, carefully crafted poems that are never sentimental. These are strongly observational poems; documenting a human experience not often explored, the chronic illness that changes everything. Excellent.

And that’s it. If you’d like to join me and the other winners of the Poetry Business Book and Pamphlet Competition for our launch on the 7th, the link is here:

Until next time, take care



Writing the Rural: The Peregrine Falcons of York Minster, Carole Bromley

We’ve reached that point in the year when Spring is within finger-tip touching distance. The snow is cleared, and yes, even we on the North East coast got a little bit of the white stuff. In its place is a muddy, brown/green landscape of bare trees and fat sheep in fields, but also snowdrops, everywhere snow drops. This week I used the snowdrop as a base for some writing exercises in a workshop I ran. We looked at a poem by Louise Glück and wrote poems of survival and emerging after a period of wintering in. It felt good to be looking forward. At the end of last year my garden was destroyed by, first flooding from a burst mains pipe, then by the team who came to fix the leak who had to dig a whole corner of my postage-stamp sized front garden out to get to the pipe. It just happened to be the corner of the garden where something grows, that something being the spring snowdrops which emerge each year in greater quantities. I feared they had all been destroyed. The garden still looks like a WWI battle site. But the last couple of weeks a few straddlers have come through, a few hardy snowdrops emerging white as bone into this weak early spring. Lovely stuff. And there are green shoots on some of the cultivated rose hips in the village and the buds on the trees are looking less waxy and sealed and more like they are preparing for living. The bird song is starting to swell on a morning, the blackbirds are clearing their throats, I have seen the strange collared dove couple who, each year, are obsessed with trying to get through my bedroom window onto the inside windowsill, (presumably it looks like a good nesting site) starting to eye up the ivy on the front of the house, and sitting in my sycamore and again eyeing up the bedroom windowsill. Birds are pairing up. I need to trim all the hedges and trees before they attempt to nest in them. Spring is going to arrive like a magician pulling a bunch of flowers out of a hat.

My village is in an area of high water table and clay soil. The two make for a very boggy experience. The village is full of beech trees and willow as testament to the amount of water in the ground. These thirsty trees love it. But it makes for quite bad walking in winter. So while the snow was laid and the ground was frozen it made it much easier to get out of the house and out round the fields and tracks. I’d not been up to my favourite track for ages until the snow came, it felt good to be out in that sharp bright weather, to feel the cold on my cheekbones and what was even better was, as I walked up the hill towards one of the farms, the sight of a buzzard being dive-bombed by the local crows and jackdaws. I’d not seen it all winter, which means it might be migratory, I guess. But there it was again, returned; its enormous V wings, and F**k you attitude to the dive bombing crows – completely ignoring them, its lazy circling of the updrafts. I’ve seen it up close once, and spent a lot of last year convincing my husband that it was a buzzard and not a seagull. I hope it makes it through the year. Other raptors I’ve seen so far this year include a big barn owl, presumably male. We used to see a barn owl a lot around the village, I even found an owl pellet, complete with bone of some unfortunate small creature, outside the barn in which it resided.

Recently the same barn was converted into a holiday home, and whilst they put an owl box in, I haven’t seen a barn owl round here for a while. So it was even more pleasing to see the white drift of it returned to hunt the hedgerows of the village.

I’ve also been seeing a lot of a lovely kestrel in the back lane. They seem such a common little predator, I’m so used to seeing them hovering by the road sides, sliding and adjusting, that I’d forgotten how beautiful they are up close. This one seems to be using the telephone wires as a good vantage point for the farmland around here. I managed to get quite close to it, but it was always a few wing beats in front of me, flying then landing, flying then landing, before it was off like an arrow out and away where I couldn’t follow it. Never staying long enough to catch it well with my camera.

These last few weeks have been a whirlwind of applications, first the PhD scholarship, which took weeks, and was turned down within days. I was quite gutted. But decided to let go my place at York, stop trying, for now. I’d thought about applying to other universities, but that would have meant letting go of the project, changing it, trying to do something different and it suddenly dawned on me, with the help of a friend who was willing to talk it through with me, that I wanted to do the project more than I wanted to do the PhD. So I decided to take control, and I re-worked the proposal I’d used for for the PhD and cut out all the bells and whistles I’d put in to make it fit into what the university and the scholarship folk wanted, stripped it back until it was the project that I was originally excited about, and I put myself out there and I approached a publisher and pitched the idea of, what would have been, the PhD poetry collection. And they said they’d like to publish it, and I was a bit gob smacked, because it’s not written yet, and yet, this publisher believes in my work enough to want to publish what I write. It felt like a jigsaw piece falling into place. I felt released. I am a writer, I shall write. I quickly put an ACE funding bid in, which won’t be successful, but I shall attempt another one when it’s not and I approached someone whose work I admire enormously and asked if they would mentor me with this new collection, as it’s something of a move away from what I have been writing about up to this point, I feel some guidance might needed. And she said yes, she said it sounded exciting and that too felt like a jigsaw piece falling into place. Perhaps this is what I should have been doing all along. I have drafted the start of a poem for the new project and tomorrow I am taking a day away from work-work to write that poem. What a brilliant feeling.

And then there’s been Spelt, which is a lot of work, but I love it. The content that we have is so good. It’s in the final stages now, we are laying it out, we are sorting out backer’s packages, we are preparing to go to print and it is so exciting. One of the themes I wanted to explore with Spelt is the liminal spaces where the rural creeps into the urban. So when I read Carole Bromley’s new Valley Press book, The Peregrine Falcons of York Minster, I was hoping there’d be a poem that I could highlight on my blog. And there was, there is, it’s the title poem. I’m so grateful that Carole’s work exists in the world. Her latest collection, in my opinion, is her best yet. she manages to be straight forward, direct, unsentimental, and yet able to write incredibly moving poems. I read this collection right through in one go, it’s beautiful and I highly recommend it, here’s the link to where you can buy it:

Valley Press:

The peregrine falcons that nest on York Minster are quite famous. They are an urban success story, successfully producing chicks, feeding them on unsuspecting pigeons. They even have their own website: . I don’t think I have ever seen a peregrine falcon in the wild. They look magnificent, especially when one sees them sitting between gargoyles, their own boggled eyed yellow stare somehow matching perfectly the gurning faces of the Minster carvings. How wonderful. When we are allowed out again I shall travel to York to see them. I shall sit in the little square with my binoculars and I shall watch them. Oh for the days when it is safe to travel and visit and explore. In the meantime, here’s Carole Bromley’s poem:

The Peregrine Falcons of York Minster

Best observed from Dean’s Park
(bring binoculars and stand well back
so you don’t get a crick in your neck),
Mr and Mrs Minster are high up
on the North West Tower, 
on the balcony or on a grotesque.
The falcon prefers The Thoughtful Man
who, for centuries, has stroked his chin
and ignored the crowds below,
the tiercel sits on the eroded carving
the other side of the belfry
but then he’s the smaller of the two,
less powerful, more easy going
with a neater and cleaner look
even when fluffed up and relaxing. 
It’s the female who hunts the pigeons 
which nest on that ledge in Stonegate
just behind the stone cat above JW Knowles 
Stained Glass, Leaded Lights, Decorations.
Look out or your chicks will be 
snatched and whisked to a nest
where the fledglings will soon take
their first scary flight from the House of God.

What do I like about it? Firstly I like the directions, how the poem opens with a guide to looking at the birds. That placing of the narrator as guide allows for the poem to open up into place names, street names, drawing the reader into a familiarity. Even the choice of names for the birds; ‘Mr and Mrs Minster’ is familiar, and the reader is allowed to be familiar with them too. It gives the impression that the birds belong to everyone and no one, but they are not simply the Minster’s birds. Then that last line, The House of God; the minster which has been a background of carvings and stone work to the falcons suddenly becomes the huge impressive and very human thing that it is. Smashing poem.

In other news – my own book launch is on the 7th March, online and free. You can get you’re tickets by following this link:

Take care


New Course ‘Analyse This!’ Starting March 1st 2021

New course starting 1st march 2021

Analyse This!

What is it?

How can we use close reading and poetry analysis to improve our own writing? Are YOU confident in how you read poetry, and how line breaks, use of white space, imagery, metaphor – the tools of the poet’s trade – can be utilised effectively in your own work?

Do you feel that, sometimes, you don’t ‘get’ what’s happening in a poem when you read it?

Then this is the course for you.

This course is designed to help you develop a close reading practice, supporting and guiding you through different styles of poetry and encouraging you to try your hand at these styles in a warm, supportive and pressure free environment.

How Does it Work?

There are three different parts to the course, designed to suit different income levels and ‘free time’ budgets.

Package One: A four week course including two writing prompts per week, example poems delivered to your email inbox five times a week, access to the closed facebook group AND an invitation to the end of course open mic.

Starting on the 1st March, each week for four weeks in March you will receive a set of guidance notes and two writing prompts over the week and each day you will receive an example poem with brief notes direct to your inbox. You’ll have access to the closed facebook group where course members can post their work safely, comment on other people’s work and chat about the course materials. I’ll be about daily to moderate the group. You’ll also get an invitation to the end of the course open mic, a chance to come and listen to poets on the course and even share your own work!

Price: A flat fee of £20

Sorry, Now Sold Out!

Package Two: A four week course including two writing prompts per week, example poems delivered to your email inbox five times a week, access to the closed facebook group, an invitation to the end of course open mic. AND access to two zoom based, live mini workshops on Wednesday 10th and 24th 7-9pm UK time. Places are limited.

Price: £40


Analyse This! The Half Day Workshop: This is an added extra to run alongside the course, but also as a stand alone event. You do not have to be a course member to book a place on this course. This is a half day zoom workshop (10am – 1pm) on the 27th March. It will involve close reading of poems, discussion and writing prompts in a safe, encouraging and nurturing environment.

Price: £20

To book your place on this workshop, visit my website shop by following this link:

Don’t forget, you can sponsor a place!

If you’d like to help a disadvantaged writer to access any of these packages, please do. So far we’ve managed to help around thirty writers access courses and feedback they may not have been able to without your help!

To sponsor a £20 or £40 place on this course, visit my website shop by following this link:

I can’t wait to welcome you aboard this brand new course!



Finest: Wendy Pratt – “Nine Years of Mourning”

Huge thanks to ben for giving me the space to showcase this poem from the new collection, and to talk about how it references an earlier poem.

Ben Banyard

Wendy Pratt Finest

Nine Years of Mourning

When my grief finally breaks
I shed the embarrassment
of mourning like a skin.

I have been sick with grief,
heavy with it, entombed by it
for so long I have atrophied
within it.

Unable to escape it, unwilling
to let her go again again again again
I treated grief as atonement,
punishment for her death.

Now I see
it was the perfect counter weight
for my love.

There is snap, a snip of umbilicus.
We slide apart. I step away.

Today I climb out of my skin;
my mourning dress. I am nude and white
as a stripped willow branch. I leave the dress behind;
stiff with the sweat of surviving.

I leave behind its brutal blacks,
its corset; so like the mouth
of a fledgling wanting more.
Only I know the comfort
of the pink inside of that dress.

It is time now. Now

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What I Read in 2021, January: Emma Storr, Valzhyna Mort, Samuel Pepys, Rebecca Goss and the Poetry Review

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January is a crazy, crazy busy month. Mainly because, on top of my freelance work (running courses, facilitating workshops, mentoring and critiquing poems) January seems to be the month of applications. I spent most of the first half of January bedded in to a PhD scholarship application. This is my second attempt at it, you might remember I had a go last year and was awarded a place at York University, which I have deferred as I can’t do the PhD without a full scholarship. I just don’t earn enough. It’s a full scholarship with fees paid and bursary or nothing, and as you can imagine, the entire potential PhD community all want this golden opportunity. I’m up against such stiff competition that I doubt that I’ll get it, but with the help of my friend Claire Cox, I managed to translate my proposal into something more academic in style AND big myself and my career up in the CV part of the form. I’m not generally very good at that sort of thing and looking back on last year’s proposal, I can see I really did not blow my own trumpet enough. Lot’s of ‘I think I ams’ rather than ‘I ams’.

Among all the work I set myself a target of having finished reading 52 books by the end of December 2021. Reading keeps me sane and I also view it as a sort of Continued Professional Development – I like to keep up to date with the poetry world so I can bring that knowledge into my workshops and courses.

Here’s what I read in January:

I started the year with this pamphlet, Heart Murmur, by Emma Storr, published by Calder Valley Press. It was a good start to the year. The poems in this collection are from the point of view of a doctor and I particularly liked the delicate phrasing and interesting, unusual view point. The poems dealing with patient examination from the doctor’s point of view are particularly strong; a clever mix of medical facts and lyrical poetry. You can buy this book direct from calder Valley poetry by following this link:

Next up was Collected Body, by Valzhyna Mort, published by Copper Canyon Press. I felt like I’d gone on a journey with this collection which mixes prose poetry and poetry beautifully. The poetry is vivid, dream-like. The imagery floats across the collection making connections with itself. It’s a collection that feels alive. The prose poetry and poetry merge and absorb each other. It’s difficult to describe, the whole thing feels like it is being created as the reader is reading it. It is completely absorbing. You can but the book direct from the publisher by following this link:

Next I revisited my old friend Sam Pepys, this time in 1661. You might remember I read the 1660 one a while ago ( I’ve decided to make this part of my New Year’s tradition and I’m already looking forward to visiting 1662 next January. The best bit was when Sam pinched his mate’s pewter jug and then sent him letters from the ‘thief’. An oldie but a goodie.

Next up was the journal The Poetry Review. I’m classing this as one of my 52 books. As usual it was an interesting mix of poetry, essays and reviews and while I didn’t find the poetry as enlivening as I usually do (maybe lockdown is having an effect on how I perceive the poetry world?) I did enjoy the essays, in particular an article by Charles Whalley. You can buy Poetry Review direct from the Poetry Society by following this link:

My final book of this month was Rebecca Goss’s collection Girl. I’ve long been a big fan of Rebecca’s work, her collection Her Birth is one I return to regularly. I wasn’t disappointed. I found the poems skilled and delicate, beautifully crafted and often unexpectedly moving. There’s an observational quality that brings the normal into something transcendental in Rebecca’s work. I’d highly recommend this book. You can buy it direct from the publishers, Carcanet, by following this link:

I’ve started two other books but they’ll be finished in February.

I’ve also been busy organising review copies and distribution of the first signed copies of my own book. It’s such a strange feeling when your book enters the world and is read, there’s this weird hinterland between the book beginning to go out and getting any feedback, so I was extremely pleased and honoured the poet Kim Moore chose to feature a close reading of the title poem on her blog. It is wonderful when someone as established as Kim takes the time to do this. You can read Kim’s blog here:

I’m a big fan of Kim’s work, and it was a lovely surprise to see the blog post as I’d actually used Kim as my ‘featured poet’ in my Women Writers Writing course that week. Kim’s poems always go down well in the workshops I run, so featuring on her blog is a real thrill.

Keep your eyes peeled for news of some new courses in March, which I’ll be launching in February, and in the Mean time I still have a few places on my Wednesday Writers group for February, grab your place here:

Until next time, stay safe



January News

I’m excited and honoured that Kim should feature the title poem from my new collection on her brilliant blog. Thanks, Kim.

Kim Moore

Plans For The Blog

I’m hoping to be posting here at least once a month with a poem from a collection that I’ve loved. Now that my PhD is finished, I’m finally finding a bit more time to read poetry collections and I’ve read some amazing books this month. I used to post a poem every Sunday, but I can’t keep up with the pace of that any more. But I think I can keep up with posting one poem a month along with an update of what I’ve been up to.

January Freelance Life

January has been absolutely full-on. In a normal year, January is usually a pretty quiet month in the life of a freelancer. Most literary organisations are making plans for the rest of the year – there’s not many gigs around as people recover from Christmas (or at least this is what I’ve found in…

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