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, 6 April 2014

Space to Mourn

Another beautiful OystercatcherPress chapbook - a slim pamphlet titled 'atthe memory exchange', immaculate design but so spare in its contents. However a brief dedication to the poet's parents tucked away on the copyright page reveals they both died the year before publication. And this note anchors the first sequence for me. Kathleen Bell's 'They come for you to buy and sell' is a moving meditation on mortality, lives lived, memory, death rituals, loss. The buying/selling metaphor maintains its grip throughout and its idioms nail the dead into their place as the men in 'tall hats' arrive to do their business:

'We bought it years ago

cash down


... and if you have the price

to buy it back

well, pay it now.'

The bereaved have their moment too:

'a child enters a wood

                       and cries

for something lost

she cannot name.'

Brevity is all here and I am interested in the hesitancy of verse line layout, those speaking spaces:

'I leave you

                        empty air

and a white page

remember me.'

The second sequence in this chapbook is also full of sorrowful echoes but 'Off Lampedusa' reflects on a found story. Apparently these drowned refugees washed ashore off Italy after a fire caused their overcrowded fishing boat to capsize. 366 died including many children. I only know this because I heard Katherine Bell read her sequence at Leicester's bi-monthly Shindig poetry event. The beach scene is haunting enough:

'flame on the ship

and corpses on the sand

                              so many, unimportant ...'


But Bell deepens the impact of this narrative by drawing analogies with travellers and exiles from classical Western literature. First up is 'that many-travelled man' Odysseus is rescued by Nausicaa and honoured at the feast. Later Jane Eyre stumbles across the moor and 'our minds say "Please/ please take her in."' But as for the refugee 'bulrush baby/ there's no promised land for you.' Fragment 13 offers an elegy for all these modern wanderers, bundling their humanity into another tentative assertion:

'people like us

             but braver

more afraid.'

Uncapitalised, unnamed and '(not a phone among 'em)' they are nonetheless mourned in Bell's second meditation. Oystercatcher Press have packed two huge stories into these 20 pages, full of resonances that ripple outward. But I would have liked some little footnote to reference the identity of those lost souls at Lampedusa. Also a credit for the artwork, an evocative seascape, which really helped to sell it to my roving eye at the bookstall.

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