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Reading in Bath and in London

November 30, 2018

Last Saturday I took part in an unrehearsed reading by ten readers (one of them also a singer) of Sue Boyle’s sonnet sequence, The Letters from Mexico, at the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution. Everyone took their role seriously and read clearly and with feeling. The sonnets are densely-written and full of poignancy. Not a word is wasted.

The audience was wildly appreciative. It was a real privilege to be part of the performance. For details, see

Mexico Letters

It was lovely too to meet the illustrator/artist Jude Wisdom, whose drawings add so much to the published version of the sonnets, and to hear something of the way she works. Jude is a talented, original and refreshingly unpretentious artist.

And yesterday I read at the London launch of Magma #72, the Climate Change issue. It was a great (and not too grand!) event with a full audience and a programme of readings from, among others, Jemma Borg, Leo Boix, Mario Petrucci, Maya Choudhry and the brilliant Shetland poet Jen Hadfield.

I felt old and provincial and insignificant in such company, but everyone I met was friendly and welcoming. Thanks to Peter, my minder and navigator, we found our way safely there and back. One of my many shortcomings is that I have very little sense of direction and shockingly poor map-reading skills. A bad combination!

My poem is below. The layout was not an easy task for the magazine’s design team, but they did a great job. Note: an extremophile is a micro-organism that thrives in what we humans consider to be extreme conditions. Our earliest ancestor was one such, and doubtless the last surviving life-form on earth will be another.

I was human once

Navigation: a very small edition

November 25, 2018


Two visitors to our recent exhibition wanted copies of my one-off book “Navigation”. I delivered them yesterday. Here they are. I redesigned the cover and added an extra poem. Closed, the book measures 10.5cm square. Each page opens to 20cm square.

2 books

The sewing is a two-needle Coptic. The poems are printed on Denim, a very pale blue recycled paper made from old jeans. Each page is folded into a Turkish map-fold and pasted between the sewn pages of darker blue Lana paper, so that it opens up like a rather complicated flower. The covers are lined with sections of an out-of-date hydrographic chart.

Here’s one of the poems. An earlier version was published in “Obsessed with Pipework” in 2016.

       It’s not far

but you have to choose your moment
for crossing to Steep Holm

the ferry sidles crabwise
across the pull of the tide

and just when you wonder why
you’ve overshot the island

the skipper cuts the motor
the water takes the boat

and swings you straight and safe
to the one landing-place

You win some, you lose some

November 13, 2018

As I wrote elsewhere recently, writers need to see every rejection as a chance to make the work better.

 I’ve been showered with rejections (one of them exceptionally kind) in the past week or two, but I’m excited to see the eleventh and final draft of my circular poem I was human once in the new, planet-friendly, plastic-free issue of Magma, and very much looking forward to reading it at the London launch later this month. Tickets to this event are free but need to be booked. I am indebted to co-editor Fiona Moore for her generous and inspired suggestion of a change of title. Sometimes that’s all it takes!


On Sunday a found-poem of mine was published online at Unlost journal of found poetry and art. Big thanks to co-editors Dale Wisely and Howie Good of Ambidextrous Bloodhound Productions.



Bath Writers & Artists on 24th November

November 6, 2018


ABCD: November at the Dove

November 4, 2018

Ten of the thirteen members of Artists Book Club Dove met on Saturday in a mood of post-exhibition euphoria and excitement about finding our new direction, in which trees and hedges will predominate. Judith brought, by way of inspiration, Forest by Riccardo Bozzi, and a recent reprint of  Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours. She also brought some of her own handiwork, some very beautiful blank books made during a bookbinding course at Dartington with Tom O’Reilly. She also informed us about the following:

Hannah Brown: designer bookbinder extraordinaire now living in Shepton Mallett

and more about Hannah:

Little Book Project in Cornwall:

More images as last lots on this auction site:

Karen brought Norman MacCaig’s posthumously-published Between Mountain and Sea, a book that celebrates a landscape in which I spent a memorable summer in 1964, and Julie Johnstone’s Brevities, in the characteristic elegant and minimalist style of Julie’s Essence Press.

Clare brought her sketchbook, replete with watercolous, pencil drawings, notes and collage, a loving souvenir of a recent holiday in the Scilly Islands with her sister.

Jane brought a book on hedges from Collins’ useful and practical New Naturalist Series, and Caroline brought The Great Hedge of India by Roy Moxham.

To my great surprise and delight,  the rest of the group presented me with a card designed by Jane and a garden token as a thank-you for organising the exhibition.

E Coker mug

And Caroline delivered my colourful prize from the East Coker Poetry Group for a two-line poem that was joint winner of their recent competition, in which each entrant was allocated a random colour as a prompt. Mine was Yellow Ochre:

handprint on the rock
I was here

After the usual splendid lunch we went on a “field trip” to the tree circle in Dove Meadow. Each of us picked a tree (according to our birthday, if possible) from the thirteen species represented there. We will do some research and come up with ideas and prototypes for our chosen species (not necessarily the individual tree in the Tree Circle) to bring to the next meeting on 1st December. This dovetails (see what I did there?) rather well with a poetry project I’m engaged in.

These are the species representing the thirteen Celtic lunar months, as described by Robert Graves in The White Goddess, a book that has been important in the lives of more than one of us in the group.

Birch (Beth) 24th Dec – 20th Jan:    Pauline
Rowan (Luis) 21st Jan – 17th Feb:   Carol
Ash (Nion)  18th Feb – 17th March:   Clare
Alder (Fearn)  18th March – 14th April:  Thalia
Willow (Saille)  15th April – 12th May:   Karen
Hawthorn  (Uath)  13th May – 9th June:   Judith
Oak  (Duir)  10th June – 7th July:   Ama
Holly  (Tinne)  8th July – 4th August:   Jane
Hazel  5th August – 1st September:   Janine
Blackberry (Muin) 2nd  -29th September:   Caroline
Ivy (Gort)  30th Sept – 27th October:    Nina
Guelder Rose (Peith)  28th October – 24th November: Judy
Elder  (Ruis)  25th November – 22nd Dec: Bron

Here are some close-ups of bark from the tree-circle. Click to enlarge.

As usual, I collected eavesdroppings:

November Dove-droppings

I passed the Titanic on the way here
an ichthyosaurus bone
brownish purple red

the taxonomy of colours
fil rouge: a connecting thread
for a year and a day

loops of paper
medical tweezers and giant knives
between mountain and sea

a hedge of spiny acacia
patterns of hedgerows
patterns in the landscape

to keep us on the barricades
where we belong
with birds and invertebrates

thirteen trees in ogham script
beautiful as they grow older
the yew came from Chewton Mendip

index the contents
of the seed-bank
organised by colour

he wanted to learn flamenco
those hand-movements
using sound like light

ABCD Exhibition October 2018

October 22, 2018

We took down the exhibition this morning. Here are some photos I took during the week. A week of interested and interesting visitors made for very enjoyable stewarding. John’s serene and timeless inscriptions on the walls made a perfect contrast and complement to the busy gathering of our books on the tables. It is a lovely room with a matchless view.

On the theme “Shadows”: In the Shadow of her Brother by Nina Gronw-Lewis,

Etched in Time by Caroline Mornement, and Summer Shadows by Judith Staines.


Various interpretations of “Loose Ends”, by Clare Diprose, Judith Staines, Judy Warbey, Pauline Pearce and Carol Wood.


“Bridges” by Caroline Mornement and Janine Barchard.


“Frozen” by Clare Diprose and Janine Barchard.


“Connections” by Karen Young and Pauline Pearce.


“Nostalgia” by Clare Diprose and Carol Wood.


And a few others: a meditation book with pages dyed with plants and a book of sandwiches eaten while crossing the Severn Bridge from Nina Gronw-Lewis, Jane Paterson’s Stone-age Satnav and tunnel-book, and Karen Young’s winged accordion.

Lastly, a couple of my books on the theme of “Navigation”.


a serving of poetry

October 16, 2018

What a great idea!

The Poetry Department . . . aka The Boynton Blog

The Poetry Society of America (PSA) has just launched Poems on Wheels, a collaboration with Citymeals on Wheels, which provides meals and companionship to New York City’s homebound elderly, delivering over 2 million meals each year.

Each season, PSA will select a poem for inclusion with meal deliveries. This fall, the poem “Autumn Dusk” by Sara Teasdale will be included in Emergency Food Packages, which are delivered to over 18,000 meal recipients to ensure they have food on hand should hard winter weather delay regular deliveries.

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