I was born in Kent and lived in Rochester until I was fourteen, when my father moved the whole family to Cumbria. I lived there most of my adult life until my husband’s job brought us to just outside Cambridge in 2000. The wild beauty of Cumbria is a touchstone for me and I return often.
I have a degree in English from Bristol University and an MA in Theatre Studies from Lancaster University. My early play writing for Theatre in Education at the Dukes Playhouse Lancaster and youth theatres has always made me interested in speaking, sharing and writing poetry. For a while, I wrote both poetry and plays but my plays were poetic and the poetry began to take over, although I didn’t share it with anyone until I was 30.
In 1996 my pamphlet Landscapes won the Bradford Redbeck competition and from then I continued to write, being given a Hawthornden Fellowship in 2002 to write a sequence of poems about my grandmother’s Irish family. This was included in the anthology Take Five 04 published by Shoestring Press. Since then I have published four collections with Shoestring.
My practice as a poet has been to deliver workshops. For 10 years I was employed by Lifelong Learning (University of Newcastle) in Cumbria, teaching creative writing to adults. Since moving to Cambridgeshire I have worked for South Cambridgeshire District Council Arts Service, for charities, in primary schools and with community groups. I was writer in residence for the village of Weston Colville and festival poet for Fulbourn Arts Festival for the Darwin centenary; working with primary schools, I wrote a poem for three voices, What Lies Underneath, for the south Cambridgeshire Arts Service and the village of Weston Colville. In 2009 I was given a local government arts award for this work. Since then I have been associated with the Cambridge Art Salon for Festivals workshops and readings.
I enjoy collaborations. In the mid-2000’s I worked with the musicians Penni Mclaren Walker and Bryan Causton on an acoustic song cycle called Fen Song: a Ballad of the Fen. Fen Song was supported and developed with the Babylon Gallery in Ely, before touring with Creative Arts East, Arts in Cambridge on tour, and being performed at the Essex Literature Festival.
In the past few years, I became very interested in writing about the natural world in Cambridgeshire due to my interest in climate change and my involvement in conserving a small woodland. This has produced a sequence of poems about the local chalk stream, which is being opened out into a film for the whole community’s river stories, working with filmmaker James Murray-White on the Waterlight Project. The artist Victor Ibanez has also illustrated some of my poems about climate change.
I have recently published a short biography of the Cumbrian artist Lorna Graves called Winter Flowers which, as well as looking at her life, looks at her practice as an artist. I am interested in enabling people to access their own imaginations and giving them, as the poet Andrew Salkey wrote ‘Freedom to dream’, to use and experiment with language and imagery. I currently run a small poetry workshop and am convener of the South Cambridgeshire Poetry Society, Stanza.
his face shown in many places,
he remains in the copses,
covering fences with brambles,
straggling bindweed on the wrecks
of burned out cars.
He sends dandelions
through motorway cracks,
struggling to hold summer’s root,
the first fist of snowdrops,
the catkins on January trees:
a fracturing of time that
is Spring in the shift of the earth.
He hunts with kingfishers,
their astonishing turquoise
with its rumour of fire.
Long body made of chalk,
he is balding and grinning.
Lives in the undergrowth,
amongst travellers smoke.
Dispossessed, in the hope
of white violets, corncrake
and cockle, the footsteps
A memory of churches
keeps ivy and sticks in his hair.
Birds use them to nest,
where lichen replaces
broken cracked glass.
In abandoned sheds
entangled in old man’s beard,
he waits for a quiet resurrection of leaves.
Available in the anthology, Contourlines.
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