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Flowers by the Road

My debut poetry pamphlet, Flowers by the Road (Templar Poetry) is now available to order direct from the on-line book shop at Templar Poetry. Price includes free UK shipping.

The collection was a winning entry in Templar Poetry’s Portfolio Awards 2016.

To order a copy please follow this LINK

Thank you


Flowers by the Road – 2017

The Hawthorn Halls (the anniversary edition)

As the weight of 2013 finally see-sawed to a staying position where the New Year could creep towards an unlocked door then it was time for the wave of reviews, top tens and ponderings to crash against the Windows. At what seemed an unstoppable pace, my hotmail doormat became loaded with lists of the best music, books, films and gadgets and gradually I began to lose the will so, with the type of wild abandonment that only a forty three year old knows, I did the one and only decent thing – turned the computer off.

You might have guessed – I was in a mood. I know that some people shudder at the annual round-ups but for me it’s great fun. Somehow time has an ability to trick you into a false sense of security until you suddenly find yourself sat in the same chair, at the same table, on the same day with the only difference being is that a year has passed between you and your memories.

This was my first full year as a poet (I’m using the term loosely as someone who has had some poems published) and a blogger (very loose term as someone who tries to write a bit and share the odd poem and some good music) and one in which I tried and tested a few ideas, allowing the blog to grow into the armchair of organic ramblings where it now sits. It’s just about there but with each new week comes a new idea so watch this space, as the marketers say.

Amongst the poetry round-ups where Greg Freeman’s excellent review of the year for Write Out Loud, Josephine Corcoran skipped to all the good bits bringing back some great memories of the Derwent Poetry Festival whilst Robin Houghton’s Poetgal blog is quickly becoming a favourite with a chatty style and great insights into the world of poetry publishing. Both Josephine and Robin also celebrated the blog of fellow poet, Anthony Wilson, who’s series, Lifesaving Poems has been a personal favourite throughout the twelve months.

I first came across Anthony’s story at the beginning of 2013 and was immediately struck by the honesty and integrity of his writing.  Perhaps it was the fact that at forty two I was the same age as Anthony had been when he was first diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma; perhaps it was the family, the children, the home, the job, the friends and everything else in his life that mirrored my own which the disease tried to break. I immediately ordered the book Love for Now and read it in a couple of sittings. My wife thought I was being a little morbid after discovering what the book was about and that I wasn’t secretly indulging in romantic fiction. The book is described as a hymn to everyday living and in a year in which cancer has broken the lives of both close family and friends it’s sometimes worth being reminded to stop and count your blessings.

Anthony recently published the most read Lifesaving Poems of 2013 and I was sorry to see that my favourite from the year wasn’t on the list. Swineherd by Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin is a poem that seems to resonate the more it is read. It is shrouded in its own mystery and all the more better for it. In response to Anthony’s post I commented that Swineherd was in my new top ten. The sentiment was right but the world is too big to have top tens. Perhaps I should have said it’s a poem I’m jealous of, one I wish I had written.

The reader and keeper shelves are sagging under the weight of new purchases this year and of particular note in the anthology section are Sculpted – Poetry of the North West edited by Lindsey Holland and Angela Topping and 1914 Poetry Remembers edited by Carol Ann Duffy.

Sculpted was launched at one of the monthly poetry nights organised by Sarah Corbett at The Bookcase in Hebden Bridge. I’m keeping quiet about these wonderful evenings as it’s already hard to get a seat but for November we listened to Peter Riley telling stories of his trip to Andorra which inspired the book The Glacial Stairway published by Carcanet. Another favourite, also published by Carcanet is Parallax by Sinéad Morrissey. Finally the long awaited debut collection from Helen Mort landed on the doormat proudly wearing all its South Yorkshire colours. At first glance everything about Division Street seems perfect and the recent release of government documents from 1984 will only serve to enhance the power of poems such as Scab. This is a book I need to savour.

In the world of prose, in 2013 I discovered two masterpieces. The Music Room by William Fiennes and To A Mountain In Tibet by Colin Thubron are both exquisitely written and deserve to be read by everyone. The shelves are already being filled with more Thurbron and the anticipation is wonderful.

Musically, 2013 was a mixed bag and we should have known something was afoot when David Bowie made a surprise release in March with The Next Day – possibly the best album cover ever? Go on – I dare any other artist to simply stick a white square over one of their previous best album covers when they’re two years a pensioner.  Musically it’s as sharp as anything he’s done in the last twenty years and in parts his voice sounds alive with the excess of the nineteen seventies.

The album of the year – and yes, in a musically indifferent year there is just one – comes from an artist who, admittingly, I’ve struggled with over the years. I nearly got Murder Ballads, I very nearly got Dig Lazarus Dig but finally I’ve really got Push The Sky Away by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. It is absolutely startling and deserves to win every award going. Here’s to the next year with more poetic ramblings, a dose of good music and a few surprises along the way.

All the best,


Higgs Boson Blues by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

The Hawthorn Halls – the star spangled edition

Pushed to choose a favourite word then without hesitation it would have to be spangled. Not only does it sound wonderful, but the child like mystery it evokes when added to basic word recipes adds glitter to the dullest imagination. It sounds pure and alive.

I generally keep my word obsessions private so I can only think that stars must have aligned across a spangled sky when Peter Spafford of East Leeds FM, sent me an email to advise that, as part of the 100 Poets project , my chosen rugby nation was the USA.

The 100 Poets project is a fantastic idea that brings together one hundred poets from across Yorkshire who will perform a series of poetic suites prior to the Rugby League World Cup match at Leeds Carnegie stadium on 08 November. It’s a meeting of poetry and rugby and a sell out crowd of twenty one thousand people.

Without wishing to give too much away, each of the sections has a world/sporting theme with the penultimate being the challenge to write a new anthem for one of the rugby nations. I’ve promised to dress for the occasion so if you see a dusty bow-tie and hear the word, spangled, then stop and say hello.

Friday will see the end of what’s been a busy couple of weeks, spangled with the glitter of poetry.

Hardcastle Crags

During half term we finally managed a walk I’d been planning for what seemed like years. Setting off from Hardcastle Crags, we completed a relatively modest circular walk inspired by the poetry and places of Ted Hughes. Half way point was the house, Lumb Bank set within its own walled garden amidst twenty acres of woodland. The house, once owned by Ted Hughes, now belongs to the Arvon Foundation and has no doubt inspired countless writers who have been lucky enough to attend one of the many residential courses.

Whilst the setting of Lumb Bank can be described as magical, with the golden canopy sun spangled, the silent steep sided valley is somehow awash in its own melancholy. Only after re-reading Hughes’ poem, Stubbing Wharfe (the pub which was our intended final destination), did I really begin to understand my own reaction to the place; a sense of loss for something unknown.

Lumb Bank

Retreating back up the steep lane, the autumn sun had tricked us into believing that there was still an abundance of daylight left above the valley. Only on reaching the footpath leading towards Heptonstall did it become clear that clouds had rolled across the moors bringing with them an ominous darkness. Winter was upon us.

Heptonstall is, of course, Sylvia Plath’s final resting place (and is again referred to in the poem, Stubbing Wharfe, ‘you saw only blackness’) and behind two newly raised headstones, laid her grave with its usual adornment of pens and trinkets. We silently paid our respects and left.

The darkness was rain which chased us back through the woods, down an impossible steep path, to our car. The intention had been to eat at the Stubbing Wharfe, our new favourite destination after summer walks, but the rain and darkness had made for an early retreat so we hopped back over to the Colne Valley where a split in the clouds brightened the last of the day.

The weekend welcomed the eighth Derwent Poetry Festival at Masson Mills in Matlock Bath. This unique festival showcases new titles from Templar Poetry. I had been invited to take part in the launch of the new anthology, Peloton which includes two new poems, The Cat Stone Cast and Late September. Sadly, due to work commitments, I was unable to make the Saturday which did feel a little like missing the ball but also gave me a steely determination to make the most out of Sunday.

The drive from Marsden to Matlock must surely be included in a list of one hundred drives to do before you die as unspoilt landscapes flood your vision from any direction as you pass through the High Peak and then on through the Derbyshire Dales. The return journey was even more spectacular with the setting sun adding the spangles.

This was the first time I had read at a festival so was a little unsure about the format and would have got a little nervous if it hadn’t been for the fact that I was first up with little time to worry. If I had worried then it would have been a worry wasted as the reading was over in a blink of an eye without any stumbles or mishaps. Next up was Gareth Prior who, along with all the poets, entertained and thrilled the audience. Gareth has written an excellent review of the festival which can be read by following this link, Derwent Poetry Festival.

The festival ended with, not wishing to sound like a beer advertisement, probably the best open mic session ever.  I had been invited to read a couple of extra poems and again was up first to avoid the waste of a worry. It’s a good thing because the list of readers that came next was astonishing. Paul Chambers and Rachel Spence were followed by the excellent Mat Bryden reading from his new collection, Boxing the Compass. Paul Maddern followed before the wonderful Dawn Wood, again celebrating the release of a new collection. Jane Weir then treated us to a couple of poems including the brilliant and timely Poppies and then, bringing the festival to a close, the fabulous Damian Smyth treating us to readings from Apparitions: A Hurricane.

Back on the Yorkshire side, we ended the day enjoying the surroundings of the Rose and Crown at Cop Hill on the Slaithwaite/Marsden borders where, on a clear day you can see as far as Selby and York. The sky was littered with fireworks. Explosive spangles.

This week’s short player comes from a game of music association. Starting with the Star Spangled Banner we skipped to 1969 and Woodstock and the legendary Jimi Hendrix before arriving at the much overlooked electric jam from the Waterboys 1993 album, Dream Harder.

The Hawthorn Halls – the sock edition

It’s not often that a poet’s sock is handed to you in the local pub and rarely is it as exciting as the insulated brown one that was dangled in front of me last night whilst squeezing the last of the Butterley bitter out of my shrinking pint glass. This sock has a story to tell.

The sock in question was the one made famous by Simon Armitage during his mammoth trek down the Pennines during the summer of 2010. The walk, which was later chronicled in the fabulous book, Walking Home, relied on people paying Simon what they thought he was worth following readings at various locations each evening. He was paying his way with poetry and the sock was employed as a means of collecting the rewards.  As far as a sock’s life goes, this one’s had it pretty good. It must have wondered, however, what it was now doing in the Riverhead with a bunch of strangers after such celebrity.

The sock was in the company of the poets, Michael Stewart, Julia Deakin, Gaia Holmes and William Thirsk-Gaskell who were preparing to set off to the Ilkley Literature Festival by walking the 47 mile Stanza Stones Trail.

The Stanza Stones consist of six poems by Simon Armitage. Each of the poems have been hand carved by Pip Hall into ancient quarried rocks at atmospheric locations along the trail. The walk covers the 47 miles between Marsden and Ilkley. Each of the poems focuses on water in its many forms and, mysteriously, there is another stone, the seventh stone, which, at this time, remains undiscovered. You can find out more about the trail here Stanza Stones

cotton grass 012

Enjoying its break from retirement and having been sent to Michael rather enigmatically from Simon without any note or explanation, the sock was collecting for charitable causes following some excellent readings by all four poets as a way of launching the project, aptly named, Walking the Line.

Members of the public are invited to join the walk over the next three days which will also see readings taking place at Hebden Bridge, Saltair and finally, the Ilkley Literature Festival. You can find out more by visiting Walking the Line. I had hoped to join the team for the first leg but a rather unfortunate incident with a scaffold board and bag of chicken food has left me receiving strict orders to rest.

Having returned to normality after an extraordinary summer that saw great holes being excavated in my front garden (more later), European road trips and sun, poetry has once again come back into focus with lots of exciting events.

Last weekend saw the fabulous Marsden Jazz Festival (I’m sure there should be an international in the title somewhere) host the fourth Poetry Jam. This was the first time I’d managed to make the Jam due to work commitments, and what a fantastic event it was. Hosted by Write Out Loud’s very own Julian Jordon, the family friendly event saw poets from across the country lining up to read to the packed out pub. You can read an excellent review here Marsden Jam

In other news, I’ve had a couple of new poems accepted for publication by two excellent on-line journals and also two poems have been selected by Templar Poetry for their latest anthology, Peloton, due for release in November. I will be reading at the launch event of the anthology at 12.00 on Sunday 03 November during the Derwent Poetry Festival. The full programme can be accessed here Derwent Poetry Festival .

In the Halls this week, getting heavy rotation alongside excellent new albums from Lanterns on the Lake and Pearl Jam are Embrace whose new album will hopefully be released in the next twelve months (Embrace fans will understand). While we wait, here’s the poetic Higher Sights from the debut album, The Good Will Out. I’ll put a sock in it now.