Friday, October 15, 2010


Come and find me at my new home here...

Or sit with me on my bench blog.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


An (old-ish) article of mine about the joys of Getting Lost has just appeared on the Psychologies Magazine website. Really happy to have it out there where I can find it because I am quite the expert at getting lost myself....!!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Another Poetry Competition...

Expensive this one, but it is highly respected.

(sponsored by NAWE)
The Poetry Business is now inviting entries for its 25th Book & Pamphlet Competition. Entrants are invited to submit a short collection of poems (20-24 pages), for the chance to win:
book publication & six free copies (for the overall winner),
pamphlet publication & 20 free copies (for three/four first-stage winners),
a share of £2,000 prize money,
a poetry reading hosted by The Poetry Business,
and publication in The North magazine.
JUDGE: Simon Armitage
DEADLINE: Last posting on Monday 29th November 2010 (or for online entries, 1st December)
ENTRY FEE: £25 (or £20 for Friends of the Poetry Business and North magazine subscribers). A £1 surcharge is applied to entries submitted online.
Enter online, download an application form and find full details on the Poetry Business website at

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Some publication news...

I'm very pleased that one of my short stories, For the Sake of the Children, first published in Night Train was chosen for the Chamber Four Fiction Anthology, a selection of 'outstanding stories from the web during 2009/2010'.

You can download the anthology here and please do, not least because it's FREE!

Also I wanted to tell you that a poem I wrote during Pascale Petit's wonderful Monday nights at the Tate Modern is included in the pamphlet, Poetry From Art. This is only available from the Tate, but I really recommend you getting a copy. Not just for my poem, of course, but for those of the other contributors including Karen McCarthy Woolf, Naomi Woddis, Malika Booker, Rowyda Amin, Matthew Paul, Anne Welsh, Rebecca Farmer, Zillah Bowes, Cath Drake, Rishi Dastidar, Beth Somerford, Roberta James, Cath Kane, Kaye Lee, Lynn Foote, Seraphima Kennedy, Ali Wood, Julie Steward, Elizabeth Horsley, MJ Whistler, Andrea Robinson, Angela Dock, Beatriz Echeverri. Good stuff.

It really is such a privilege to walk around a gallery like the Tate Modern after hours thinking and writing poetry, but what gets me most is how good it feels just to sit and stare at ONE thing, rather than do what I normally do which is to try and see everything. Thank you Pascale!

Here's a poem I wrote in response to Anselm Kiefer's amazing installation, Palm Sunday:


Down in the root ball of the ship
the plant collector is making a nest.

He counts his catch, tucks each seed
up in its own handwritten box, an ebony

cabinet ticking with paused hearts.
He dreams of growing a fresh desert

one day, of these dried moments
in the old land coming back to life.

His bones ache as he waters
the dust, while on the deck above,

sailors sleep, the wooden mast dances
again in perfect tune with the winds,

until reaching for water, it leans
too far, loses balance. White sails,

like baby gowns, christen the sea.

I also have poems in two more anthologies coming out soon, WordAid and South East Poets, but more on those shortly.

Monday, October 04, 2010


Somehow I like it even better when it all goes a bit wrong - do LOVE Kim Addonizio and want to make my own videos now. The only recent one I've got is of me doing my party trick of sucking up a creme caramel directly from the plate and believe me, that is neither pretty or poetic.

Sunday, October 03, 2010



Here's a copy of the email I've just received in case you're interested in this excellent poetry prize:

Dear Poets

Some last-minute reminders in the run-up to our 2010 deadline as you're deciding which poems/how many to submit...

- shortest turnround of any major competition: poems in on/by Fri 15th Oct, winners know by Mon 22nd Nov, results by e-mail to everyone else after announcement on evening of Mon 29th Nov;

- no sifters/chuckers-out, both judges read every poem;

- not just £1000 top prize but 22 other prizes and the chance for every prizewinner to read at Troubadour Prize Celebration on Mon 29th Nov;

- every submission, whether one poem or ten, supports our fortnightly Monday night readings in London's liveliest, longest-running and best-loved literary landmark venue, now surviving without Arts Council support and relying increasingly on poets around the country and around the world to keep literature 'live' in London.

Do feel free pass on the word to anyone you know who's writing and who mightn't be on our newsletter lists. And many thanks to all those of you who've already submitted.

Best wishes


4th Annual Troubadour International Poetry Prize 2010

Judges: Gwyneth Lewis & Maurice Riordan
(Both judges will read all poems).

1st prize £1000, 2nd £500, 3rd £250, plus 20 @ £20 each
Spring 2011 Coffee-House Poetry Season Ticket
prizewinners' Coffee-House Poetry reading
with Maurice Riordan & Gwyneth Lewis
for all winning poets
on Monday 29th November 2010 at the Troubadour

Submission deadline: Friday 15th October 2010
See for previous winners & winning poems, 2007-2009;
See below or for judges, rules and submission details.


Gwyneth Lewis was the first National Poet of Wales (2005) and her words appear over the Wales Millennium Centre, opened in 2004. Educated at Ysgol Gyfun Rhydfelen, a bilingual school near Pontypridd, and at Oxford, Columbia and Harvard Universities, she has written oratorio as well as having written on clinical depression and 'Two in a Boat - The True Story of a Marital Rite of Passage', inspired by a sailing journey during which her husband was diagnosed with cancer. Her poetry collections in English include 'Parables and Faxes' (1995), 'Chaotic Angels' (2005) and 'A Hospital Odyssey' (2010, all Bloodaxe).

Maurice Riordan (b. Lisgoold, Co, Cork, 1953) is the author of three collections of poetry, 'A Word from the Loki' (Faber, 1995, a PBS choice), the Whitbread shortlisted 'Floods' (Faber, 2000) and 'The Holy Land'(Faber, 2007) which received the Michael Hartnett Award. A Next Generation poet, he has been Poetry Editor of Poetry London and is currently Professor of Poetry at Sheffield Hallam University, has translated the work of Maltese poet Immanuel Mifsud ('Confidential Reports', 2005), has edited and co-edited anthologies on science, space and ecology, and has edited a selection of Hart Crane's poems for Faber's 'Poet to Poet' series (2008).


General: Entry implies acceptance of all rules; failure to comply with rules will result in disqualification; competition open to poets of any nationality over 18 years; no competitor may win more than one prize; judges' decision is final; no individual correspondence will be entered into.

Poems: Poems must be in English, must each be no longer than 45 lines, must fit on one page of A4, must be the original work of the entrant and must not have been previously broadcast or published (in print or online); prizewinning poems may be published (in print or online) by Troubadour International Poetry Prize and may not be published elsewhere for one year after Friday 15th October 2010 without written permission. No limit on number of poems submitted. No alterations accepted after submission.

Fees: All entries must be accompanied by fee of EITHER £5/ 6EURO/$8USD per poem, if fewer than 4 poems, OR £4/ 5EURO/$7USD per poem if 4 or more poems submitted; payment by cheque or money order (Sterling/Euro/US-Dollars only) payable to 'Coffee-House Poetry' with poet's name (and/or e-mail Entry Acknowledgement Reference, if appropriate) written on back.

By Post: No entry form required; each poem must be typed on one side of A4 white paper showing title & poem only; do not show author's name or any other identifying marks on submitted poems; include a separate page showing Name, Address, Phone, E-Mail (opt), Titles and Number of Poems EITHER @ £5/ 6EURO/$8USD each OR @ £4/ 5EURO/$7USD each; no staples; entries are not returned.

By E-mail: No entry form required; poems must be submitted in body of e-mail (no attachments) to; entries should be preceded by Name, Address, Phone, Titles and Number of Poems EITHER @ £5/ 6EURO/$8USD each OR @ £4/ 5EURO/$7USD each; acknowledgement will be sent to entrant's e-mail address showing Entry Acknowledgment Reference; send payment by post within 14 days quoting Entry Acknowledgement Reference; e-mail entries will be included only when payment received by post.

Acknowledgement/Results: will be sent to all e-mail entrants; postal entrants should include stamped, addressed postcard marked 'Acknowledgement' and/or stamped, addressed A5 envelope marked 'Results' if required.

Deadline: All postal entries, and postal payments for e-mail entries, to arrive at Troubadour Poetry Prize, Coffee-House Poetry, PO Box 16210, LONDON, W4 1ZP postmarked on or before Friday 15th October 2010. Prizewinners will be notified individually by Monday 22nd November 2010. Prizegiving will be on Monday 29th November 2010 at Coffee-House Poetry at the Troubadour.

Anne-Marie Fyfe (Organiser)
coffee-house poetry at the troubadour

Saturday, October 02, 2010


What's going to happen to all our old, unwanted letters?

Well, do not fret. Because I have just found out that help is at hand.

They are being collected at the Museum of Letters in Berlin, the only collection of letters in the world so far.

I have to say that finding out about this, and looking at all the photographs of letters, has given me an enormous gust of pleasure.

And it means that I no longer have to feel quite so sad when I see pictures like this...

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


I'm delighted to welcome Sue Guiney to the blog today. Many of you will know her work already - poet, dramatist, blogger and novelist. Her latest book The Clash of Innocents comes out at the end of this week, and looks fascinating:

Against the backdrop of Cambodia’s violent past and the beginnings of its new Tribunal for 'justice', a story of displaced souls unfolds. In Cambodia, innocents are everywhere. Everyone is innocent, or so they would like to believe – everyone, except the few who, for their own private reasons, take on the guilt of the many.

I took advantage of Sue's good nature (plus the fact that she was available because of promoting the book, she's the busiest person I know!) to ask her to write about something that fascinates me - how the writer can be an entrepreneur too. Here's what she says.....

Thanks, Sarah, for giving me this chance to visit your blog. And thanks also for giving me this opportunity to put down in a (hopefully) coherent fashion the lessons I’ve learned from my rather meandering and, admittedly, iconoclastic approach to my career.

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I knew how to read. My first piece written for public (ie my class of fellow 7 year olds) was an adaptation for “the stage” of my favourite novel at the time – I’m ashamed to admit that I can’t remember its name, but I know it had something to do with mice. But it took me well into my forties to begin to believe I could write anything worth showing to anybody else. My first publications were a short story and a poem, both in the same year, in different magazines. I was 44. But here I am today, eleven years later, with 2 novels and a poetry play published, another poetry collection completed and a full-length play in development. I say this not to toot my own horn, but to show that it can be done. Now, as my second novel, “A Clash of Innocents”, is being published by the new publishing firm of Ward Wood, it’s a good time to look back and see what I can offer up as advice:

• Take your creativity off the page and put it into your life

We are all creative people, and writers are especially good at creating characters. Use that creative energy to create yourself. Think outside the box and let your imagination run free as you contemplate your own life. I suppose the rebel in me has always made me think that I can do things differently, I don’t have to do anything exactly the way everyone else does it. Agood example of this was the creation of my poetry play, “Dreams of May.” I had been taking my writing seriously for several years at that point, working on a series of short stories which eventually – and surprisingly - became my first novel, “Tangled Roots.” But at the same time I was writing more and more poetry and braving more and more open mics. Was I a poet? A short story writer? A novelist? Who knew? All I knew was I was writing and it felt good. I was trying to get my poems published but I realized that the poems which seemed best received by audiences were not necessarily the ones being accepted by magazine and journal editors. It made me question why, think about the differences between hearing and reading a poem and then I thought, “hey – why not turn my poems into a play?” I had never heard of anyone doing such a thing, but it didn’t stop me. I literally got a few friends together to help me get it done, and the result was a two-week run in London’s Pentameters Theatre. I also created a text which I assumed I would Xerox and hand out to people coming to the show, but another friend convinced me to send it to a small press who, quite shockingly, decided to publish it. Presto, I was suddenly a poet with a book published and a playwright. That bit of creativity helped me to become the person I had always wanted to be and to live the life I have always wanted to live – namely a life spent in the practice and contemplation of the literary arts. I used my “flair for words’ (as an early English teacher once said) to create Sue Guiney, The Writer. I guess I’m my own best creation.

• There is no one way to get something done

I’ve made all sorts of choices that have seemed sketchy at the time. I didn’t get a creative writing degree. I chose not to look for a big publishing house but to publish my first novel with a small press – and even though that press went bust, I’m today publishing with another small press (though one I know will be better run). I no longer have an agent. I write across several genres without focusing on any one of them. I’m not saying that others should make these choices, just that there are many roads that lead to the same place. My yoga teacher always says, “there are no shoulds.” I think she’s right.

* Dare to be bold and don’t edit your actions

Some of my most successful and rewarding ventures have been ones that I supposedly should not have been able to do at all. As I mentioned above, I wrote and published a poetry play and produced it against all odds. This was wonderful in its own right, but it also It led to my first publishing contract and then the formation of my arts charity, CurvingRoad (, which has led me into a world of theatrical pursuits that I had never dreamt of. Over the past five years we have produced a photography exhibition and four plays, one of which was a West End World Premiere. There was no way that I ever had imagine I could accomplish such a thing. And all of these efforts have impacted each other and have led to new ones. In other words, don’t let the rational you stop you before you get started. Now that I think of it though, maybe it’s not that I have been so bold. Maybe it’s just that I’ve allowed my own naivete to lead me down paths I should have known not to go down. In other words, don’t let the rational you stop you before you get started.

• Be truthful with yourself about your goals

Don’t be ashamed of being ambitious. It’s the only way to get anything done. But be realistic. If you want to go for fame and fortune, terrific. But write the sorts of things that will get you there. I decided I didn’t need to have my face on the side of a bus, so I’ve stuck to writing things that are not necessarily mass market sellers. But I demand excellence of myself, just as we all should. I can’t tell you how many times I read and reread a sentence. I know I’m no artistic genius, but I do finally believe in my own abilities and force myself not to settle for “good enough.” It’s not easy. It takes more patience than I normally have and so I ‘ve also realized I need help. I rely on trusted readers to tell me when it’s not good enough and when I’m ready to move on. To be honest, I have paid people to do this for me. It may seem like a luxury, but it really isn’t. Sometimes an objective outsider is the only one to tell you the truth. It doesn’t have to cost a lot, and when you think of how much time you invest in your writing, throwing a bit of money into the investment as well really does make sense. I worked long and hard on “Tangled Roots,” and it was the help of a paid tutor which pushed me towards the level of excellence that I was able to achieve with that book. I have worked just as hard, though not as long, on “A Clash of Innocents,” and I have relied on outside readers with that as well. Whether other people agree that it is up to the standard of my first book is yet to be seen. Pretty scary! But I believe in it and know that I couldn’t have done any better on it, and I suppose that’s my real definition of excellence.
I alsoBut I do promote myself as much as I can bear, because I admit that I do want to be “known” and interviewed and asked to be on panels and workshops (still working on that last bit). I do want my work to be read by people other than those who already know me. And, as long as we’re being truthful, I do want/need an occasional evening when a room is full of people congratulating me for a job well done (ie my wonderful book launch on 30 September!).

• Step away from your desk

Writers are by nature shy. We like to sit alone, playing with words and creating worlds in our heads. But you need to force yourself to go meet writers and readers. Go to readings, launches, conferences. Embrace that awful verb: to network. This is always torture for me, but I’m never sorry. My latest publishing contract grew out of a conversation I had at a poetry reading with a woman I had known through my first publisher, but who I got to know better through Facebook. Going out into the world forces you to say out loud to strangers, “Yes, I am a writer.” And believe me, that was the hardest, but most important step of all.

I’ve rambled on too long. Thanks for sticking with me. But I do believe that with flexibility, imagination and old-fashioned gumption we can all live our dreams. It’s taken a while, but I know I’m finally beginning to live mine.


I love this piece - there is so much here that makes sense. May we all step away from our desks a little, dare to be bold, and above all, live our dreams!

You can order A Clash of Innocents from the Book Depository here

Monday, September 20, 2010


Well, here is a story I wrote especially for (me and) you....

Meanwhile back at home

Veronica Comrie has to call home three times and when eventually her mother answers, she’s breathing heavily and asks Veronica to hold on while she sits down. ‘Where have you been?’ Veronica asks, clutching her tear soaked tissue. She is going to ask her mother to come and pick her up. She hates college. Choosing law was a big mistake. ‘On the running machine,’ her mother says. ‘Running machine?’ says Veronica. Veronica’s mother hates exercise. ‘We put it up in your bedroom, along with the weights and the yoga mats,’ says Veronica’s mother. ‘I feel like a new woman. Or that’s what your dad keeps saying.’ Veronica tells her mother that she has to go a lecture now, but that she’s fine. Really. It’s only when she puts the phone down that she realises her mother hadn’t asked.

When Colin Hiscox’s dad picks up the phone, Colin thinks at first he has the wrong number. His father answers in French. ‘Sorry about that,’ Colin’s dad says. ‘It’s these foreign students we have staying in your room.’ Three girls, Colin’s father says. Apparently it brightens the house up to have some young folk around again. Even Colin’s mother is loving it. And the money comes in useful. ‘We are becoming quite fond of garlic,’ Colin’s father says. Colin hears laughter in the background. He can’t remember the last time he heard laughter in his parents’ house. Or whether he’s ever knowingly tasted garlic. And he’s certainly never been allowed girls in his room before.

‘Your room is your room for life,’ says Jerome Connor’s mother. ‘I have kept it just as you left it.’ ‘A bloody shrine,’ Jerome’s father adds from the upstairs extension. ‘She wouldn’t even let the neighbour’s niece stay there. Poor girl had to sleep in a tent in the garden.’ ‘It’s your room, Jerome,’ says his mother. ‘Now the neighbour refuses to talk to us,’ his father continues. ‘And will you be back to us soon, son?’ says Jerome’s mother.

‘Ferrets,’ Jane Brown’s mother says. ‘If it was kittens, or even rabbits, I might be happier. But what’s he going to do with ferrets? Keep them down his trousers?’ Jane’s busy smiling at the blonde guy from her economics class. ‘And they smell,’ says Jane’s mother. ‘I can’t go into your room without an oxygen mask. Not to mention the noise. It’s scrabble, scrabble, scrabble all day and night. And knock, knock, knock as he builds more and more cages.’ Jane stops smiling. ‘My room?’ she asks.

John Jenson’s father has built bookcases along the far wall of John’s bedroom to fit in every copy from John’s booklists, both primary and secondary reading. Every night, he works his way through them. Sitting at John’s old desk, he grinds his teeth through timed essays from the lists of titles John emails him, before sending them to an independent tutor to be marked. John hasn’t told him that he’s making up the essay titles, that the books lists are from several years ago, and that John isn’t at university any more. He’s working in a sandwich shop. He’s happier than he’s been since he started school and his father learnt to read alongside him.

Susan Carter’s father has turned her bedroom into a refrigerated storage space for his butcher’s shop. Meats that need to be hung are left on large hooks he’s drilled into the ceiling. ‘It might be a bit cold,’ says Susan’s mother, ‘but your bed is still there and we’ve shuffled everything round so no blood will actually drip on you when you sleep. I honestly can’t see what the problem is.’

When Chris Leslie’s mother rings, there’s a familiar background noise he can’t quite identify. ‘I’m cleaning your room,’ she says. For a minute he’s filled with fury. But then he recognises that sound. It’s the down pipe gurgling. Chris used to lie in bed listening to it, imagining surfing the water’s waves until it took him out of there. Out of the family. Out of the house. Out of the town. For the first time since starting college, he feels homesick. ‘I’m just cleaning because…’ she says. ‘Shhh,’ he tells her. He wants to listen to the pipe.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Poetry from Art
Launch of a pamphlet anthology: Poetry from Art

Saturday 25 September 2010, 18.45–21.00

You are invited to the launch of a pamphlet anthology: Poetry from Art at Tate Modern introduced and edited by Pascale Petit

These twenty-four poems were written on Pascale Petit's Poetry from Art summer course in the galleries at Tate Modern, the third of three six-week writing courses this year. These ongoing creative writing classes, open to both advanced poets and beginners, are held on Monday evenings and are in their fifth year.

The pamphlet includes poems after Mona Hatoum, Francis Alÿs, Joseph Beuys and Mike Nelson.

A still from Francis Alys's video work, Tornado, from which some of the poems were written.

The contributors are: Karen McCarthy Woolf, Naomi Woddis, Malika Booker, Rowyda Amin, Matthew Paul, Anne Welsh, Sarah Salway, Rebecca Farmer, Zillah Bowes, Cath Drake, Rishi Dastidar, Beth Somerford, Roberta James, Cath Kane, Kaye Lee, Lynn Foote, Seraphima Kennedy, Ali Wood, Julie Steward, Elizabeth Horsley, MJ Whistler, Andrea Robinson, Angela Dock, Beatriz Echeverri.

The event will be introduced by Pascale Petit.
Free entry, readings, great views and wine.

Tate Modern Level 7 East Room
Free, no bookings taken

Sadly I won't be able to attend the launch, but please do go, and please buy the booklet. There are some wonderful poems there. More information here.