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

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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, 13 February 2011

Stitching the Cliches

Spring is busy trashing my garden with wind and rain and I see poetry slams and events shooting up all over the place. Something is definitely in the air. But for me, all normal writerly service is suspended for the next week as THE WEDDING approaches. It even demands to be capitalised with barely 6 days to go. Life is now a whirl of menu-choice spreadsheets, table plans and sparkly accessories. For a wedding wraps a writer tight in the very thing s/he most abhors - yards and sequinned yards of cliche ...

However, this nuptial circus training has also entailed the writing of the Wedding Poem - the subject of this week's blog. A very tricky assignment. And not only writing and editing it but then getting it past the censorious scrutiny of the Registrar's Office. On Friday, I submitted my offering in person at Leicester Town Hall. A very helpful young woman cast her eye over the poem and looked uncertain. She passed it to her superior who scanned it with even more gravity and took it away for further checks. I don't know how many officials subsequently passed judgement on it or whether they used surgical gloves. What were the critieria for this entry? Were they hesitant about line breaks, thematic cohesion or the secular connotations of the verb 'to divine'? I'll never know. When it finally secured approval, no critique was given. Whew!

Because I certainly couldn't have produced another one. I'm quite lost when it comes to writing poems for occasions and it's very rare these days I write about personal experiences at all. I'm no Carol Ann Duffy, not a poet of the heart or human relationships. And how do you engineer a love poem that's not riddled with cliche - or a lyric that is authentic and intimate and yet immediately accessible to fifty or so guests? I had to rummage through notebooks as far back as 1994 to find the raw material for this one. Now give me an iceberg ... which did manage to make an appearance in this one:

we cross Baltic blue seas,
skim ice water in Kvaloya,
drift with bergs in Jokulsarlon

And that's all you're getting because even more than the dress, this adornment of words is under wraps. The only people who've seen it are my trusted critics, Leicester Writers' Club, who helped me edit it this week. Much snipping, pinching in and stitches in time. Certainly the groom has not had a peek. Because when you strip away all the language, all the civil ceremony and wedding cliches, he is what the day is all about.


  1. Feel priviledged to have heard and seen this poem, Siobhan.
    Hope to hear a new collection of poems about your Big Day, maybe(or at least a tongue-in-cheek one about your poem's submission & acceptance process;)

  2. It would take a wittier poet than myself to pull off that one - feel free if you want to use it!
    Not sure there'll be wedding poems - not my usual material - but there'll definitely be pics and possibly a blog ...