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/

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Ice Floe Drifting

Wedding maps and menus are being posted as we speak, OFSTED paperwork is piling up for this week's inspection and my poetry event on Shackleton's Endurance story is not much more than a week away. Yikes! January is indeed a full-on month.

But I was given a huge boost recently when the editor of my Northern Lights book, Firebridge to Skyshore, offered to publish this new collection of poems as a chapbook. Sam Smith did a great job on my first book and I'm thrilled that this new sequence will find a home and a pathway into print with Original Plus Press. Look out for news of that later in the year.

That gives even more impetus to my frantic editing. Although I'm also finding myself writing new poems to round the sequence off - five in the past fortnight. I've been workshopping as many as possible at Leicester Writers' Club and this week at the new Poetry Stanza group in Leicester. This group of poetry enthusiasts offer detailed critiquing off the page so was very useful.

So I have to reflect on my great good fortune - not only to have an editor who is so supportive of my work but to live in a city where literature/writing groups abound. This week, I'm hoping to make it along to the women's poetry group Soundswrite, who are also bringing out a new anthology this year that will feature 3 of my poems.

Meanwhile, as Caroline of Stanza said, I am still on my ice floe. Here's a poem in progress:


they set off
to hoist a blue flag
in an empty country
a jagged ice-barbed
no-man's land

nineteen hundred
and seventeen
was a speck in the long
geological calendar
of the continent

which resumed
its freezing, melting, fastening
throes; its volcanoes
smudging black funnels
of smoke on livid skies ...

(to be continued )

Monday, 17 January 2011

Glass Plate Visions

These days many of my weekend breaks are research trips: Cardiff, Iceland - and now Liverpool. It was my first time in the city and I was here for an exhibition of photographs from the 1914 Shackleton Endurance expedition. The Albert Docks were beautiful on this bright January day and I wished we'd had more time to explore. The Maritime Museum was also very impressive with exhibitions on the Titanic, on Slavery, Art and the Sea as well as Shackleton. All good reasons in themselves to come here again but the Shackleton exhibition was so spectacular, it kept me busy for two and a half hours.

There seemed to be hundreds of photographs, all printed from Frank Hurley's original plate negatives. I learned so much about the expedition from trawling through them. And useful snippets from the men's diaries alongside. Even maps of the period were fascinating. In previous centuries, Antarctica was either completely missing from the map or 'the white edge' with no detail - the guessed-at continent. Explorers such as Shackleton had only been probing its shores for a few decades and were filling in the maps as they went.

The photographs painted a vivid picture of the hardships of the men, of their camaraderie and their increasingly desperate plight. But what shone through was the vision - literally - and the passion of one man, the remarkable Frank Hurley, a gifted photographer working at the cutting edge of his art in that era. So enthralled was he by what he saw, he even dived into the freezing waters of the sinking ship's hold to retrieve these plates. Inevitably, I started jotting a poem on the spot:

He loved the ice, this man,
laid his eyes upon it
with an illuminating caress;
sugar surface, snow pebbles, ice caves, stalactites ...
even when it defeated
them, wrenched them, imperilled
and appalled them,
he kept faith
stealing back with his tripod and plates
to spread his gaze
over its infinite broken form
its sea-changing, melting magnificence ...

I love a good museum and was astonished that this wonderful exhibition was entirely for FREE. Long may places like the Merseyside Maritime Museum escape the grasping fingers of government cuts and offer such treasures to all. I shall certainly hope to return to Liverpool.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Saturday Ice

When Shackleton was recruiting for his 1914 Imperial Transarctic Expedition, he filed thousands of applications in piles marked 'Mad, Hopeless & Possible'. It's a good slogan for the whole ill-fated voyage and a wonderful title for a poem - which I've recently written. Perhaps I'm touched with something of the same spirit in deciding to put on an event on a Saturday right between an OFSTED inspection and my own wedding. But I couldn't resist the impulse to seize the moment, while winter's grip hangs on, to tell this astonishing story in poems and pictures.

So here it is. You are invited to a Saturday afternoon of cake, story and pictures. (Yes, Gloria's best plum cake!) Take a voyage into the white beyond and shiver at the men's accounts of icy peril. All of this in the lovely, warm space of Leicester's Quaker Meeting Hall.

WHITE WARFARE: Shackleton's Endurance Expedition

In 1914, as war broke in Europe, Shackleton's ship Endurance sailed for the frozen fields of Antarctica. Intended as one final push acorss the white continent, it turned into an epic and harrowing tale of surival and loss. Now Leicester's 'Polar Poet' tells the story, drawing on the men's own words and images.

Sat. 5th February 2011
2 - 4pm at Quaker Meeting House
16 Queen's Road, Leicester, LE2 1WP
Entry: £3 (includes coffee & cake)

Last night I was watching Bruce Parry on TV venturing out between pack ice in small boats with Inuit hunters. Ice closing in and bergs looming all around. Stunning scenes that recalled the Endurance crew trying to steer their little whaling boats to safety. But Parry explores the impact of climate change and fresh industrialisation on indigenous Arctic peoples as the ice melts quicker than anybody expected. Well worth a look.

And this week, I'm hoping to travel up to Liverpool to see an exhibition of Frank Hurley's wonderful photographs from the expedition. Courtesy of the National Maritime Museum there. More inspiration.

Can you feel that nip of frostbite pinching?