Writing is a journey, both imaginary and physical. My first book took me to the Arctic to 'catch the colours' of the Northern Lights. Then I hunkered down to catch the wind-blown voices of polar explorers on Shackleton's 1914-17 Endurance expedition. More recently I'm obsessed by space: the race, the rockets, the final frontier.

Hear a BBC Radio Leicester interview about my space poetry at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03wfpyp
Explore my digital narrrative PHILAE'S BOOK OF HOURS, published by the European Space Agency, at:

My prose-poetry collections FIREBRIDGE TO SKYSHORE
and MAD, HOPELESS & POSSIBLE are both published by Original Plus Press at:

Contact me for signed copies or bookings at:

Visit the writers' development service I co-run at: https://www.facebook.com/TheWritersShed/

About Me

My photo
Leicester, East Midlands
As a storyteller, my work crosses boundaries of myth, science, history and spoken word. It has been presented in the British Science Museum, Ledbury Poetry Festival, National Space Centre and the European Space Agency website. In 2014 I ran a digital residency on WW1 for 14-18NOW and Writing East Midlands. I teach Creative Writing at De Montfort University and have experience of leading school events, workshop tuition and mentoring. In addition, I co-run The Writers' Shed, a service for writers, at: https://www.facebook.com/TheWritersShed/

Sunday, 28 November 2010


Snow brings out my inner child. The thrill of waking up to a snow day hasn't faded after all these years. Maybe it helps that I'm not a driver.

At 8 am on Saturday morning I prised my partner out of bed to catch this Narnia-moment at our local park.

I loved the way the sky colour kept changing as the sun pushed through the trees sluggishly. This is my Blue scene - light that reminds me of the Arctic.

Another thing that reminded me of Iceland was the way my fingers froze whenever I peeled them out of my gloves. And the sweetness of plunging them back after the frostbite!

Look at all the blacks and whites and the extraordinary baroque curves of this bench. Or the skeletal forms of the trees on the skyline.

I find this kind of landscape utterly unique. Time seems to stand still. Details are etched in vivid monochrome. Sound is muffled but the eye sees everything with an ice-lit clarity.

And here's that fallen sun burnishing the ice on the canal. The trees, arching impossibly in a Gothic gesture, make one of those accidental poems in the viewfinder.

How can I not feel that I've stumbled into the territory of the White Witch? I'm happy to be under her spell, having no impulse to look for the lamp-post and the way home. In the end it was only the prospect of hot porridge and honey that dragged me back.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Sea-dog Shanties

Send a writer to the sea-side and they come home with shells and a bundle of scribbled notes. My birthday treat this year was a weekend in Norfolk. Here's some of my ramblings:

Friday eve, Hunstanton

The sea is dragging its chains tonight
out-of-tune hounds baying in the fog
lunging at broken walls

detonating a salvo of sound-bombs
a trip-wired mine-field barbed with salt
ghostly no-man's land

shaking ruffled skirts along the shore
a ragged chorus-line staggering
into a memory of the can-can

Saturday Morning

The sea is a doubtful rumour this morning. The world beyond the cliffs vanished into fog. The muffled quiet of the strand is unbroken by wandering beach-combers and dogs. Even the rotting of its cast-offs is muted – more scent than stench today. It is a dream-scape in which time drops away: soft footfalls thudding into sand, a flock of birds cheeping tiny as insects. A long-ago tide heaped this border of razor-shells – pink claws of crab, limp star-fish, bloated wrack – dark clods of sea-peat from another epoch. I scavenge a few scooped shells the colour of amethyst, coral, porcelain blue – and a tiger-striped feather. As the winter sun cuts a disc in the gloom, we trudge back to the pier before we too are emptied.

We stayed at a wonderful B&B barely 2 minutes from the sea - Cori House. And Hunstanton's multi-coloured cliffs and endless beaches were no less enchanting in November's fog. Terrific swoops of starlings at tea-time too.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Physics & Poetry in a Test-tube

Here's a thing that's weird and wonderful. In just under a fortnight, I'm doing a talk for the Leicester Physics Centre. Me - who was rubbish at science at school! Who thought it was all test-tubes and Bunsen burners, alarming chemicals and diagrams of electrical circuits. Who just didn't get it.

The talk is 'Physics and Poetry of the Northern Lights' and arises out of my book 'Firebridge to Skyshore' and related performances. I've been lucky enough to be involved in this really interesting collaboration with auroral scientists from the University of Leicester. And they've invited me to give this Public Lecture on Tuesday 30th November (see Events above).

And no-one can be more surprised than me to find myself talking on a regular basis about ions and electrons, explaining diagrams of magnetospheres and solar plasma, and beyond that, translating it all into metre and metaphor. I think of poetry as singing with words so my poem about solar wind is called 'Solar Arias'. In my talk I will be unravelling the science of the aurora borealis from a layperson's point of view. But I will also be taking the leap from aurora to story. For it was ancient legends and voices of the arctic that first drew me in.

I never guessed that my childhood love of stories about icy wildernesses would take me literally to the Arctic to see the Northern Lights but also imaginatively into the realms of outer space. 'If you could put your feet upon pure light/ Walk the trembling Roadway ...' this is where it would take you. I will be relating these extraordinary journeys, real and imagined, in my talk. And I look forward to the company I'll find along the way.

The talk is FREE so just drop in for 6.30. And make sure you wrap up well for some aurora-watching ...

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Changing the Clocks

As I dip my toe back into the blogosphere after so many months, I have to ask some questions. How do you juggle the job that pays the bills with the creative work? How do you get any kind of balance? Where does the time go?

Maybe you're lucky and they're one and the same. But lately I've been teetering all one way. For me, the teaching work is technically 4-5 days a week. And I'm supposed to keep Fridays clear for the writing and performing work. I've gotten used to the rhythm of the year and accept that at certain times - start of term, mock exam weeks etc. - teaching just sweeps all before it like a bore-tide. Except this year, the September rollers have just crashed on into November. How did that happen?

Teaching doesn't just pay the bills of course - it keeps me grounded and stimulates my thinking and learning. I love studying new books on the syllabus with the students - this year it's 'A Streetcar Named Desire'. I like those conversations and the shared purpose of it.

And despite the onslaught, I was lucky enough to have a few literary events this autumn that kept me engaged as a writer. Seeing my poems turned into beautiful art objects in Terri Bradshaw's wonderful exhibition in October. Hosting a National Poetry Day event with Leicester Writers' Club as part of the Everybody's Reading Festival in Leicester the same week. And best of all, an exciting Polar Poets gig as part of the Manchester Science Festival at half-term. You can read about that on my sister-blog.

However - it's high time I caught up with making some plans for the rest of the year. So if you're one of those people who's been wondering if I'd dropped off the face of the earth, the good news is I've been hacking my way through that avalanche of overdue emails. Radio silence is about to be broken!

But above all, November is probably my most fertile time for writing and immersing myself in new projects. So I need to get that balance back. As darkness falls and mist and frost push up against the windows, that outer hibernation gets some inner processes firing up. I'm restless to be in that place again. The hush of early mornings in the study before the bell beckons ...