I'm having trouble deciding what to write this week, so I have turned back to a 'collection' of my poetry that I made in 2006. This is not the best poem I have ever written (I hope I have not written that yet) but it immediately takes me back to a moment in my life, to the unexpected girlish excitement which followed an escape from a disappointing sojourn which should not have been so. I hope it will take its readers somewhere too.

Drive Interrupted

What if we had stopped?
Tread those slumbering slopes,
reached the sugar encrusted cone,
come closer on the rim,
stared into the untamed core -
sodden now, cold, ashless.
Unable to take another step
without slipping.
Sure only of the hand we held.

We would not have stopped,
eaten cake on the Via Barberini,
kissed on the Spanish Steps,
laughed at the silly witches flying
in the carnival lights
or seen the ruins rise unexpectedly
under the smudge
of a Roman moon.

There does seem to be something of a myth of the solitary writer in the isolated garret - I guess initially perpetuated by the romantics in the 19th century - which has become generally accepted. And yet, writing is such a relational act; we are relating with ourselves, with the words (evoking images and memories) and eventually with a seen or unseen audience.

Before the written words, stories were told round a fire. The teller would be listened to, no doubt, but the audience would also play a role. Perhaps prompting certain twists in the tale or reminding the others of bits which had been forgotten and omitted. Yet in our literary-based world this interaction has been squeezed out.

No writer can write without peers to help them with feedback. I was reminded of this on Saturday when I spent time with a writerly friend and came away inspired and motivated by the responses she had given to my work. Feedback has come attached to the word 'critical' and so it has become associated with something which is necessarily negative or aimed at ripping apart the text (and, therefore, the self which has created it). None of this should be true. Good critical feedback assists the writer and their work to develop and flourish. Good writing cannot come to fruition without it. It is, therefore, essential that we choose our critical writerly friends with care.
I am very pleased to announce that the article I was writing with my colleague, Dr Lesley Glover, has been published:

It chronicles our small project of running some creative writing sessions for women suffering from chronic pelvic pain.


'I think,' I say slowly, 'You've got too many metaphors here.' It's something I hear myself commenting relatively frequently to the writers who proffer up their poetry, short stories, even novels, for my comment (or feel compelled to do so because of my status as tutor). I love metaphor. I love how they startle, how they appear unbidden, how they say more than the sayer could ever think to say. But, I've always held, the secret is to peel through to the core of a metaphor, not trip lightly through a whole allotment of them.

And for me that was the one down side to Your Last Breath by curious directive at the SJT (26th April). It was a wonderfully slick and compelling performance piece using drama, music, dance and video projection which intertwined four narratives from four different time zones. Ambitious to say the least which almost came off. I say almost, because I have to query, wasn't there too many metaphors?

Breath and breathing; bodies and their constituents; frozen (landscapes, bodies and emotions); maps and cartography. All fabulous metaphors which I adore exploring. It's just that, wasn't there three too many for the seventy minutes? Or perhaps I am going to be called old-fashioned, like those who still claim you can't start a sentence with and.


My good writing friend, Sue Spencer (see The Quirk on the Hill in my web/blog links list) introduced us all to Fiona Robyn's idea of 'small stones' at our Lapidus retreat on Saturday ( The idea is to capture a moment of moment in a short poetic phrase.

Sue suggested an intriguing exercise to get us to this point which also entrained us into really listening to another person and into attempting to do justice to their voice. Individually we chose something in the environment which had snagged our attention. Then in pairs we told each other about it. By turns, the listener took notes and then crafted a 'small stone' in negotiation with the story teller.

Coincidentally, me and my partner, Hilary, had both chosen blue flowers. I rather like her - or is it my - 'small stone'.

The fragility of forget-me-nots.
Summer sky blue,
little suns at the centre,
in amongst the green.