It will surprise no-one reading my blog (is there anyone reading it?) that I do not throw myself into celebrating the New Year. The next year is to come, it is as yet a fantasy, perhaps it will not live up to the champagne bottles and grand hurrah.

Better to be thankful for the old year; the friends and relationships, my loving husband, my work, my writing, my passions, which have, once again, made its passing possible. Though I am cognizant, perhaps even forgiving, of the bitter moments, I will not let them flavour the whole of my palette, submerge the sweet tastes of 2008.

Our local paper does a page long interview with local worthies each week and they are always asked what motto they live by. I began musing over what mine might be and it came out as something like:

Live simply. Notice the changing seasons.
Trust your gut. Follow your heart.
Nourish your soul.


You have to be something of an optimist to be a writer. So said the iconic writer Harold Pinter who died in the last day or so. This had never occurred to me, as I consider myself a pessimist and feel that it is more often than not my despair and dread which leaks into my work.

I guess what he meant was that in trying to communicate even the most hope-less of messages, we writers carry the slenderest faith that our words may have an effect, perhaps even open up the possibility of change. Otherwise why would we bother?

I continue to rail, therefore, against the forced jollity of this time of year, condemning the crushing commercialism and obscene over-indulgence. And ask: where is the stillness, the silence, the peace?


I wonder if anyone else's imagination has been caught by BBC correspondent, Aleem Maqbool's journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem (

"This was never supposed to be about the donkey," he writes ruefully at the beginning of his blog. What he hasn't grasped is that the story is always about the donkey. The donkey who wouldn't leave her village. The one who didn't have the right papers to cross the border. The one who refused to leave the secluded bye-ways to join the busy road. And the one who is just too slow to make it to Bethlehem on time.

As I log on again for the next chapter, it is the four-hoofed companion I want to read about. Trust me, Aleem, your narrative is most definitely about the donkey.


Alice Negotiates a Writing Workshop
on my paper.
You who smile so much
beautiful garden large and.
I knew them once.
Now they are forgotten jumblings,
large garden and beautiful.
I did not write them,
though they are there
on my paper.
I cry for the little girl
fastened in my garden
large and beautiful.
You offer me tissues.

There's another piece of paper I haven't written on either, though it is covered in neat words. I know what you want me to do. Choose one. "Cobweb," I say. And you smile your wide smile.

Yes, yes, yes!

By Kate Evans, 2008


On one side of the train, the world in monochrome, on the other, the world in colour. The sky splits like a cotton seed dyed a ferocious pink, its flush slashed by the palest of blue. Below the land is still and frost bound, the nude trees black against the fierce blush. Golden fleeced sheep stand sentinel, their faces placidly awaiting the light.

"I wish I was talented, a talented writer, artist, performer," a woman opposite me confides to her colleagues. "But I'm not, I'm an organiser."

I frequently ask myself whether what I write is good or good enough, am I a good enough writer? But I don't often consider whether I have a talent for it, if my work is better than that of others because of an innate gift. I have read some unengaging or mediocre writing, and I tend to assume the writer is unmotivated or hasn't yet learnt to let themselves go or, conversely, to craft. That they may not have the flair for it, doesn't occur to me.

Does it matter? I do it because I feel compelled to, and because I enjoy it. Here I am on a train and while others read or chat or snooze, I write. If someone told me I was untalented as a writer, I'm not sure this would make a difference. And I'm not sure I would believe them.


So here I am, intent on appearing professional, having my CRB check with the Director of Patient Services, the person I want to impress. She opens my passport and starts to laugh. And I think, how rude, my photo's not that bad. She holds it out to me, it takes a moment to register that the image is of a bearded man. The obvious, and indeed rational, explanation, that I have picked up my husband's passport by mistake, does not come immediately. Instead my mind is indignant, who has dared to replace my photo with this alien one, of some random person, who I don't even recognise?

Luckily, my brain gets between thought and word and paints a grin on my face, as I twitter, oh gosh, how silly of me.

"Never mind," she replies, "At least it gave me a laugh this morning." Perhaps she is compassionate or maybe she thinks poets can be forgiven for being scatty.


I've had this blog post on my "to do" list all week, but have been submerged under marking student assignments. It's a tricky business appraising other people's writing, being aware of the subjectivity of it, and constantly asking myself, what (apart from university requirements) am I doing this for? How is my feedback going to be helpful? How can I get the right mixture of encouragement and challenge? What do I know anyway? I actually think I am pretty good at it, though some of my students may not agree. I do trust that I grade relatively fairly and give a focused critique which intends to assist in development.

I have some trusted writer friends, and we swap our work for comment. Outside of this and the university context, I am reluctant to offer anything more than bland reassurance to people who want me to read their poems or stories. In the past I have been asked to offer a critique and have spent hours reading and reflecting and crafting my feedback, only to find that it falls on stopped up ears. Mostly people want to hear, yeah it's great. And mostly, I can't be bothered with that, it takes up too much of my own precious writing time.

I have used some websites where my work is anonymously critiqued, while, in return, I anonymously critique that of other writers'. This I have found useful, though, again time consuming, because to get my own appraised by four people, I had to appraise four others.

I am relatively new to blogging, so it is exciting to be contacted by another blogger and told that I am on her blogroll. Having looked at her site, I am happy to return the favour:
"Ideas are fragile," says computer giant Apple's design guru, Jony Ive, interviewed on the BBC's Stephen Fry in America. Jony Ive moved to the US because he felt that his notions would be less likely to be carelessly trampled on out there. I don't feel the need to do that, but his words resonate with me. Ideas are indeed fragile, require nurturing, time to blossom. Another BBC programme, a drama, Eddington and Einstein, reminded me how long, and how much effort, it took for even this great scientist's ideas to be taken seriously.

It is wonderful, therefore, to meet someone who treats your ideas with care and respect. Sometime ago I was contacted by a fellow Lapidus member (Literary Arts for Personal Development, She is a clinical psychologist and jointly runs a support group for women suffering from chronic pelvic pain. She suggested we put in a funding bid for me to run some creative writing workshops with the group and for her to evaluate them. This week we heard we'd been granted the funding and we met face to face for the first time.

It was invigorating to be with someone who shared a similar world view to me in terms of attitudes to mental well being, gender and writing - our discussions wandered off the matters in hand. And exciting to be collaborating on having the work that I do clinically evaluated. For me it was an important validation. I can already feel my ideas germinating with greater vigour and colour.


What inspires me:

"Peace to look, life to listen and confess,
Freedom to find to find to find
That nakedness."
Mariel Rukeyeser 'Song', Map of Hope, Penguin (1999).

The desire to unclutter my life of irritating, destructive and un-nourishing relationships. I was going to say nonsense, but no, I want nonsense in my life, the kind of nonsense that makes me laugh. The nonsense that reminds me not to take myself too seriously and allows me to see the ridiculous side of me. What I don't want is other people's nonsense, the "should"s and "have to"s, the guilt laden manipulations which are silently injected before I've even noticed. I want the courage to go for the nakedness and for that I need closeness with those who encourage me in that and distance from those who don't.

But my courage evaporates when I read about Constance Briscoe being sued by her mother over the accuracy of Constance's memoir Ugly. And her mother's lawyer is taking the fact that Constance never told anyone when she was a child as proof that she is "spinning a yarn". I hope the judge has had some training on the realities of child abuse.

This story must send a shiver down the spine of anyone embarking on their memoirs. I am no lover of so-called misery memoirs, but if this case is found in favour of the mother, it will be a warning to anyone in search of that nakedness.


What We Make of It

Each time we love, we die a little,
each time we die, we love a little
more, but too late.

The first time
I careered through
with the naivety of a clam,
hardly noticed
the breath as it was given to me
and then withdrawn,
all in a rush.
I took and was taken
with something like desire,
but we had to hunt then,
even songsters like me
had blood and raw flesh under our nails
and between our teeth.

The second and third
were short,
poisoned by diseased milk,
by bad water.

But I remember, ah I remember
the fourth time,
for then I learnt to love.
To give that part of myself that matters,
to be warmed, consoled
in arms that only cared.
I would have stayed there for ever,
but eternity lasts neither in love nor hate,
and you passed from me.
So I learnt to live without life,
perishing before dying.

The fifth and sixth were ended
by something like fear.
I was sacrificed
on a stake,
to the sword.
Yet despite this, there have been epochs
when I myself have been misguided
by anger or self-adoration
into breaking another
in two
for no more than the pleasure.
For it is easy to forget
the circumstances of one's own death
when the birth pangs come anew.
Life seems whole, untarnished
and many an era I bit it
with a salivating jaw.

Love never came again as it had once.
The ardour that had given me youth
had left me older
than glacier scarred rock.
Still on occasion love would blossom
like some Alpine sedge
and melt through my aching bones.

And yet, and yet
the breath comes back
and though I am ancient,
mouldered to my marrow,
there is a chance that I might recall
some instance of wisdom
and I will not hold it in my muffler,
as a goitre in my throat,
but speak it, yes speak it out.
In that moment
I am uplifted.

So it was this morning,
as I stood ironing.
Which means I know how good it feels.

And that is also something like



"Each of us writers, I have found, is obsessed with the personal equation and, however successfully he or she camouflages it, is surreptitiously pushing a world view." 'The Writer's Commitment', Claribel Alegria, Map of Hope, Penguin.

I don't think I am particularly surreptitious about it, I believe a life without joy and hope is a bleak one, a life without sorrow and despair is an unexplored one. It amazes me how many people wish to avoid the shadows and think that by pretending to do so, the shadows will disappear - even those who seek counselling or those who say they wish to be writers.

Light and shade, light and shade runs through all good writing. From the shade we see the light with greater clarity and after the coolness we feel the warmth all the more. The trick is not to get stuck in either for too long, but find fluidity in moving from one to the other. And to a certain extent it is a trick which we can learn. I find writing can sometimes help me to step from one to the other with greater ease and at my choosing.

At Wednesday's workshop we listened to Benjamin Zephaniah's Rong Radio Station and then did some free writing around the subject of lists. I found myself being taken into a playful place:

A litany of ls in a list. Franz Liszt was a composer. He wrote love letters, unlocking a liquid lust in alarming lamé, which overflowed Lent, that period of abstinence lost in today's culture of consumption.

Even here my world view sneaked in.


Barak Obama has run the race, and not only do we have the first black president in the White House, we also have a writer. I read his Dreams From My Father when I was in the States in 1994 and I was absolutely blown away by it, both by the story and the quality of the writing. When I returned to Europe, I had to ditch some of my books to keep my luggage weight down, I wish I had held onto that one.

Of course, what really struck accord at that time was Obama's descriptions of community organising in Chicago, since I was also working in the voluntary sector. I felt a kindred spirit in this person with high ideals of harmony between peoples and justice getting buffeted by the realities of communities which don't want to be organised and individuals who are too scared or angry or worn out to take any opportunity offered to them. I remember particularly his portrait of a sparsely attended meeting in a big old community hall being completely dominated by one old lady chewing over the American equivalent of how dreadful it is that some people leave their wheelie bins out.

I have pondered whether writers write because they see the world in a different way or whether they experience the world differently because they write. I now ask myself what will be the effect of having a writer in the White House?


I did a rough calculation of how many words I have written for my book on training to be a counsellor, it comes to around 35,000, with my target being 60,000. It is a moment to stop and be pleased with myself, otherwise I will just flog myself for not having written more.

My ruse of pretending I'm not writing a book, and writing about what comes on a particular day, instead of getting too bogged down with the sequence of what I am doing, has worked, it seems. Usually I am much more ordered. Though I take comfort from Patrick Gale who said in an interview that he did not know what order the chapters from his novel Notes from an Exhibition would go in until he went to see his editor. He said that between them they literally "hung" the chapters in a pattern, as if the texts were themselves pictures being collected together to be shown.

I have not sorted the issue of how/whether to reveal some of the most personal aspects of my training. I am writing about them, but, for the moment, only as veiled portraits.


Written in a writing workshop following a reading of "Woman on the Moon" by Jean Harrison.

His hands and legs are crippled,
his back snapped,
his curved over figure presented to me
as a warning.
'It was him,' they whisper,
'who went too close,
melting the wax that held
the feathers, the bone, the straps.
He only has himself to blame.'

And yet, and yet,
it was him
who felt the heat, the rush,
the backdraft to his stomach,
smelt the sulphurous gases,
saw the orange centred volcanoes swirling,
before he fell.
And there must be
in that.


I have sent my book proposal off to a second publisher today, having had a rejection from Jessica Kingsley. It seems like there's a practical part of me which is determined to 'get on with it', even as the creative side wrangles on. Though I do feel more of an impetus to write and I am looking forward to some time this week when I can really get my head down.

Used to be I could come in from a full time job plus an hour's commute and write on a make-shift desk for a couple of hours before bed. I wrote four novels that way. But no longer. Get much past afternoon tea at three and I'm thinking it's too late on in the day to be writing. If I'm going to get this book completed, along with my counsellor accreditation done, I will have to work on that mind set.


"Dangerous writing," author Chelsea Cain citing Fight Club writer Chuck Palahnuik, is writing "whatever makes you feel uncomfortable, getting to the point where you, as a writer, sitting at your keyboard, can feel your cheeks grow hot, you get a little nervous and giggle to yourself and think, 'I should should cut that, I shouldn't write that.' That's dangerous writing."

In her article for Mslexia magazine (, Cain is looking at horror and crime fiction, but the same could be said for non-fiction. On the face of it, this shouldn't be dangerous writing, however, the "I shouldn't write that" is certainly getting in my way, and it's not thrilling in the way that Cain and Palahnuik obviously find it. Because it's about who is going to be hurt by this in a deep and personal way? Have I the right to stick to my truth even as it diverges hugely from other people's?

And even as I chew over these questions again and again, nothing is going down on paper.

What is happening, which I am pleased about, is that I am collating the writing I did over the residency and am finding that I am still moved by it. A good sign that perhaps others will be drawn emotionally to it.


I was once sand.
Then I was mixed with soda ash and lime
and roasted.
My colour came from cobalt
which did for my first master's lungs.
So he swapped me to pay for the brew,
he called medicine,
my new mistress stewed in her cauldron.
She filled me with the juice from a rat's spleen.
It stank and stained my sides.
I wasn't happy.
But hey, what did I have to say about it,
I was but a vessel.

They came one night,
crying, "murderer," "whore,"
dragged her out by the hair,
smashing their fists and clubs
into her wormy bedstead and flawed jars.
I was saved.
It was the way the candle light
was caught and reflected back,
gold and green,
which attracted him.
He seized me by the neck,
I thought he would snap it,
but then he hid me away in the harsh folds of his woollen cloak.
For years, I held vinegary wine,
until my master's wife became a widow.
She outlawed the stuff,
replacing it with figs and syrup.

I was passed on to her daughter
and then to her daughter
and to hers.
I held lemonade in the Summers,
barley milk in the Winters,
once a bunch of flowers for a wedding,
some sparkling elderflower for a christening,
a quantity of blood red port for a funeral.
Life was short,
meted out in a miserly fashion,
sunrise to sunset
was a span long enough.
I did not lose my colour nor my shape
as those around me did.

It was two meagre harvests
and a hacking cough, pitiful to hear,
that finally saw off the family.
Those that did not succumb, left.
The house, already slouched,
fell to ruin.

I was looted along with a feather filled quilt
and oak beams.
Chimneys replaced the trees where I came to live.
I was not much admired then.
Smoke clogged the air
and grimed my sides and anyway
I was up against the new, the modern,
the mass produced.
I was shoved to the back,
a receptacle for nails and screws.

Then the shuddering,
the noise, the splintered wood,
the smashed plaster, the crushed brick.
All around me fractured.
I toppled

but I did not break,
the debris held me in an airless tomb.
Rubble, earth, bone,
a skinless foot taps against my body
as the world is turned upside down
once more and once more.

Finally there came a time when you wondered
more about the past than the future,
and you dug and scraped and lifted,
until I was taken up in a human hand once more.
I was cleaned and turned and passed around.

And now I stand
in this glass box,
still blue, still rotund and graceful.

and empty.

Kate Evans, 2007


I am facing what many a writer faces, the blank page, uncertain what to say. I've often said I find the blank page open, forgiving - ever accepting as Gillie Bolton suggests - but this blank page is to be shared with others. And the internal critic gets in the way, what have I to write which is of any interest to anyone else? What if I get it wrong? Without any real sense of what wrong might be or look like.

This is consistently stopping me from working on my non-fiction project: a book about training to be a counsellor, from the inside out, so to speak. With the help of a more published writer friend and mentor, I've put together a proposal and had sent it off to Jessica Kingsley Publishers. On the advice of my mentor, I am only sending it to one publisher at a time, the non-fiction world is too small for anything else. To my surprise I got a brief personalised emailed reply very quickly saying they were looking at my proposal. This, in my experience, never happens with fiction, where you're lucky to get a tatty compliments slip attached to your returned pristine submission. Unfortunately, only a few weeks later, I get an equally pleasant, thanks but no thanks email.

So it's back to base camp, and I know I have to send my proposal off again. My mentor and others have told me it's a good one, I just need to have some faith.

It's not easy. I was in the South-West of England this weekend and on the local news there was some information about a literary festival. Not one of the authors mentioned were actually primarily writers, they had all made their names through doing something else. Celebrity has stitched up the fiction market, how much longer before it ties up the non-fiction one too?

All this is true. And an excuse. If I want to get this book written and out there, it's me who has to believe in it.


So this blog is going live at last. I have expunged all the posts which have upset the Primary Care Trust, what remains are the scraped bones of my reflections during the residency. I still think they are worth keeping.

And I hope my blog will prove interesting to read. I am back to teaching on a part-time degree at the university - where all my students are mature, new or returners to Higher Education - and to running a therapeutic creative writing workshop for people with depression and anxiety. I am into the final part of my training as a counsellor. And I am trying to write a book about that training.

It is the life I choose, financially insecure, often exhausting and frustrating, and organisationally complex as I juggle the demands of various employers along with my compulsion to write. It can be painful as I have to face the many hurts carried in myself and others and in the world around me. But it is a life which buzzes with people and creativity and is nourrished by love.
It's wonderful to receive confidence boosters such as this:

"As a nurse, I have seen the effect of Kate's work with patients. Initially some resistance to 'poetry' was obvious, but soon overcome. Patients looked forward to Kate's sessions and have felt able to express themselves in ways they never expected. Patients have reported feeling lots of emotions: great relief at letting their feelings out, some sadness, laughter at shared memories, sharing. Personally I have loved reading the poems and have been awed and moved at their content."

Thank you to everyone who has made me feel so welcome on this residency. It's been an inspiration!
The residency is coming to an end. My visits to the various units are tailing off and I am beginning to collate the poetry. I have many and various feelings. In the past I have often been plagued by the question, could I have done better? More? However, I am trying to do things differently these days, I have done what I was capable of doing at the time. The effects may have been small, but then I am small in the general scheme of things and in terms of the big issues of life and death.

Before I leave, a nurse reminds me that words - my words - can be powerful, in this case in a negative way. They have obviously inadvertently salted a sore wound. The healer in me is sorry for that, though the artist knows that it is not necessarily my place to always seek to soothe.

Back at home, I look at the poetry and am pleased by some of it. An essence - of a person, an experience - has been captured, perhaps, at times, imperfectly, yet it is there. I would like time to mull and savour, only the life of a jobbing writer hardly allows it. The academic year is gearing up and already I am being sucked into a different rhythm of co-ordination, preparation, organisation.

Course recruitment worries are paramount. The Government in its non-wisdom has once again changed the funding guidelines. It has cut money for mature students who already have degrees, paying no heed to how old the degree might be. Nor to people's need to retrain or their desire to follow, at last, after a lifetime of graft, a long held dream to do something other than what they thought they wanted to do at twenty years old.

And what about my dreams? Last year, for the first time since leaving London, I had some financial security, even though I earned less than I did on leaving university over two decades ago. Now, once again, that is on the skids.
One of my favourite poetry anthologies for dipping into is The song atlas, a book of world poetry edited by John Gallas and published by Carcanet (2002). This offering comes from Columbian poet, José Asuncion Silva (who lived in the second half of the 19th century):
A poem is a holy glass - put
undiluted thought in it, only that -
in whose blinking drop images gleam
like the gold bubbles in an old, shone wine.

Tip in flowers - flowers that the endless, punching
chill of the world has bruised -
quiet memories of things that will never come back
and dewlicked roses.

Thus our brutish existence is made sweet -
as if with an unfathomable essence -

What a wonderful view of poetry. I don't know whether the poetry I have been writing on this residency has helped make a brutish existence sweet or, at least, more bearable for having been heard. I am tolerating the position that comes to many a counsellor or therapist, that position of not knowing. Of feeling intensely connected with someone and their struggle and then having to accept that we can do little more than wait.


I am sitting listening to my friend and fellow writer and the question comes back to me again, what am I doing on this residency? He is pointing out the difficulties (that I am already aware of, but perhaps have not fully articulated) created by the poetry portraits I have been trying to write. As with any portrait, there is the sitter and the artist and what comes out is a fusion of the two. There have been many famous instances where the sitter is not happy with the final painting. But I am not just an artist, I am a healer. How healing are my portraits? And who are they healing for?

Initially with this residency, I had imagined creating the portraits and then taking them back to the person they were written about. I had thought there would be this sharing and negotiation over the words chosen and the sentiments expressed. The healing would come in the sitter being heard and being enabled to communicate. Unfortunately, I have rarely been able to see a patient twice. This means that I have a number of portraits which the patient has not had their input into. Who do these portraits belong to? Have I the right to keep them, to share them? Did the patients, in talking to me after being told my role, give me their permission to write about them? Were they capable of doing that? Will the poems be healing in some way to other listeners: nurses, relatives, people in general?

All these questions bear down on me as I listen to my friend. I have no answers. I feel paralysed, sad. I wonder again, is there any point to what I am doing?


I am on the periphery of disaster.
The man falls from the bench.
For a brief moment
people laugh
and chase the escaped dog,
not recognising
the seriousness.

I am held for a brief moment,

too scared to help,
too ashamed to run.

Unfortunately, for now this blog must remain private, only for me to read, and that does make me less motivated to keep it. Even though I know no writing is ever wasted, there was an excitement about having people read what I had created and something appealing about the immediacy of being able to "publish" my thoughts so quickly. I had been so careful to maintain confidentiality and to be senstive in what I was saying (all accepted by the powers that be), but rules are rules so I am told. I feel that closing this blog to even a select few, is like saying come in, paint a picutre, but you won't be able to share it with anyone. It seems that in this case words are to be feared more than brush strokes. Are more writers imprisoned by despotic regimes than visual artists?

There is also some irony in the fact that the Department of Health itself is launching a website where patients (or anyone) can post comments about named hospitals, wards, doctors, nurses etc. Where will be the maintaining of confidentiality and the careful thought about expression in all of that I wonder?
What's the point in poetry? There's a tension on this residency between seeing poetry as inconsequential to the needs of the patients against the contrary, fearing that it has too much power, particularly the power to distress. I know about the power of poetry. Of course I do, I'm a writer of poetry. And I believe this power can be distressing, though more often it is uplifting, thought-provoking and meaning-giving.

Most poets at some time or other question the purpose of their writing. In Dared and Done. The Marriage of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning Julia Markus says that in her poetry Barrett-Browning saw and sang out.
And I, a singer also, from my youth
Prefer to sing with those who are awake.

EBB 'Casa Guidi Windows'
Perhaps it is harder to sing to those who are not the most receptive, but it is also more rewarding when they begin to hum along too. I meet Karl, an engineer who says he isn't interested in poetry, but he is bored with the TV so I can distract him. I find out a bit about him and his life and then I read from Julia Darling's 'Waiting Room'.
I'm waiting for
the drugs to work,
this rain to stop, for results,
the tea to brew
paint to dry,

for it to harden, to wear off
my hair to grow, morning,
the weekend, a miracle,
to be put through:
Karl nods, "There's the truth."

Canadian poet, Alden Nowlan, writing a hundred years after Barrett-Browning in 'Johnnie's Poem' said: you write poems about what/you feel the deepest and hardest.

With this residency I aim to see and sing out, to find resonance with others and to write about the deepest and the hardest; the deepest and the hardest joy and love, as well as the deepest and hardest sorrow and fear.


A friend recently reminded me of a quote from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran: "For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed."

I am not always good at holding onto this. Life, it seems to me, is a series of complex and unsafe mazes which I have to puzzle out, with snares set for the unwary, where meaning, reason and motivation are in short supply. I was in one of my claustrophobic traps the other day, when it came to me that this is perhaps the flip-side to my creativity.

It also effectively blocks my creativity. Blunts my curiosity, my wonder at the sea's waves and their casual ferocity, declaring this is what we do, we're waves, we splash, we break. I don't like it that in this mood I might miss the joy in little things. The pungent freshness - privet, grass, nameless weed, dark earth sodden after rain. Four puffed up pigeons in a puddle, like four fat businessmen discussing their affairs in a Turkish bath.

Do I need reason to breathe and meaning to get up in the morning? For I do take in oxygen, reason-less, I do rise, meaning-less.


I am weary, weary tonight. I am tired of not being able to earn enough from my creativity and of trying to balance creativity time against money earning time. The struggle goes on. I would like to find that equilibirum before I completely run out of steam. Uncluttered hours to write, each week I keep promising myself more of them and each week I fail to deliver, instead snatching the odd moment from here and from there.

A Haiku fits in with the time spent on the Hull to Scarborough train

Rash poppies scatter
sharp green blades, innocence lost
in a scarlet blush.


One of my poems, chosen and designed into a poster during the TONIC organised poetry residency with Char March at Leeds teaching hospitals 2007/08. Along with other posters, this one will be displayed in hospital waiting rooms around the Leeds Trust area.
To see all the other posters click on:

Starting out

It is a strange time to be starting out: mid life, mid year, muddling through. The main impetus for beginning this blog is that finally, after many years of trying to engineer it myself, I have been given the opportunity to be a Poet in Residence. In today's society there are few - if any - jobs open to a poet and a residency is surely the most exciting, challenging and fulfilling.

I have been taken on by the voluntary organisation Hospital Arts in North East Yorkshire to work in three palliative care settings, two in local hospitals and one in a hospice. North Eastern poet, Julia Darling, said in a Guardian article that, "Poetry can help to make you better. Poetry is essential, not a frill or a nicety. It comes to all of us when we most need it. As soon as we are in any kind of crisis, or anguish, that is when we reach out for poetry, or find ourselves writing a poem for the first time."

I have discovered this through my own experience of depression and I have seen it be true for others who are suffering in many different ways. However, it is not always evident for everyone to reach for a poem or a pen when they are hurting. Education often teaches people that writing, and especially poetry, is difficult, hard to understand, it is about complicated words, fancy phrasing, rhyme and is somehow divorced from the everyday experience. On the contrary, for me, poetry is absolutely about how we live our lives today. It is about what comes from our hearts, about word sounds which sing or wail or scream exactly as we would want to do, if we could only find our voice.

Generally when I start working with an individual or with a group, I ask for a favourite word from everyone. When they share that word I ask them to explain why it is special to them. Sometimes it is the meaning or the sound of the word, sometimes it is connected to a memory or a person they are particularly fond of, sometimes it expresses a wish or a hope or a comfort. In the explanation, everyone is already germinating a poem.

One woman recently said rather shamefacedly, "What came to mind was the word 'duvet', but I was trying to come up with something more fancy." There was no need, duvet is fancy enough for any poem. Along with its gentle sound, it holds many an image of peaceful sleep, warmth and drowsy lie-ins.

Despite my experience and skills, it is scary starting out. I doubt, I worry, I undermine myself, as many do when embarking on a new venture. However, at some level, even when I am unsure of myself, I know I can and must trust the poetry.