Special offers in the run up to Christmas!

Order a paperback copy of Blood Horses or Carnivorous and receive another book of your choice for free! Great Christmas presents for the poet in your life. Have a look at the book details on the website and place an order – or contact me for more details and choices. Book packages available.

Sharing a link here to the Irish Times article I wrote for the launch of the Jukebox curation No Word for Stay. Maria McManus’s innovative project to bring poetry out onto the streets is now in its 11th edition and I was privileged to co-curate this moving and important collection of poems looking at the lived experience of the Troubles.

Peter Pegnall, poet, invited ‘fifteen artists … to contribute towards a collection that might bear witness to these dislocating times in a variety of ways.’ Their brief was to write or draw what they felt and not what they ought to say or represent.

This anthology is the result and I’m very pleased to be in there alongside poets such as Damian Smyth, Joseph Woods and Naomi Foyle to name a few. In my opinion it really is a bit of a special book. If anyone would like a copy, please get in touch – £10 with free p&p

It is always a pleasure to be a part of the John Hewitt Summer School and of course, this year, it wasn’t possible for people to come together. Instead the Society put as much as possible online and as part of this, shared video clips from poets who have featured at the School over the years. I’m pleased to share the link to my contribution. Lots of other poets to listen to also.

One of the best things about working as a creative writing facilitator, is the opportunity to mentor other writers. Although I was able to cut down on teaching commitments thanks to having received the Major Artist Award from the ACNI last year, I was keen to keep on the mentorship aspect of my work and I am currently working one-to-one with three individual poets, all at different stages of their careers. Fortunately it is something that is possible to do on-line, so we’ve been able to continue working during lockdown and beyond.

It is always exciting to receive new work from them and to be able to discuss not only the work itself, but also – influences, form, technique, inspiration – all the elements of writing a poem. These relationships between mentor and mentee are a two way process and I always learn something myself. It allows me to think about poetry in a more abstract way and is good for my own practice. The three poets I am working with at the moment are very different in style, but the one thing they have in common is their commitment to learning and to hard work; that is both exciting and motivating to see.

It’s a real pleasure when someone I am mentoring has a success with their work, whether it is getting something published, winning a competition, or simply feeling more confident in their writing.

Sometimes it is difficult to keep positive. For many writers, it seems as if ideas have dried up in these strange days of fear and isolation. How do you fill your creative well when you are stuck in an on- going moment to moment quest for survival and sanity. Many of my poet friends are talking about their inability to make words work – and I confess I am one of them. For those of us who are struggling in this way, it is disconcerting to hear of others racing ahead with work, completing things, sending them out, getting published. Facebook and Twitter can make you feel very inadequate!

I have a few personal thoughts about this. Firstly, I remind myself that writing or not writing, both are equally valid responses to this situation in which we find ourselves. Much also depends on your usual way of working. I have always been someone who writes about an event or an emotion long after; my poems are never immediate responses. Some of us take longer than others to digest life. It’s ok not to know what to say.

Secondly, I’m trying to lose that feeling that I have to ‘make sense’ of things. I’m gathering fragments without trying to make anything of them. Life feels fragmented, the flow is disrupted by unknowns and upturned expectations. Fragments are ok, I tell myself. Gather them like little pieces of flotsam from the beach. The big project may have been shipwrecked, but not all is lost.

Lastly – writing poetry has become part of who I am. I don’t like to feel that part shriveling in myself, but I remember that I have had fallow periods before and it has always come back, renewed and stronger in me. I need to trust that it will happen again.

I was recently invited to contribute a story to an anthology of ghost stories set in NI and although I haven’t written a short story in a very long time, I decided to give it a go. Why not! I had forgotten just how many hours it takes me to write a story and it has been a wonderful distraction in these strange days. I have been able to let my imagination run on otherworldly things and forget about the everyday and it has been great to achieve some written words at this time, when poems don’t seem to be coming to me at all.

The story is nearly finished and I look forward to seeing it in print later in the year.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of taking part, via Zoom, in a Bloomsday event organised by the Paris based Cercle Litteraire Irlandais. I read the Joyce poem ‘Ecce Puer, connecting with it as a new grandparent myself. One of the ironies of our current situation, is that whist we cannot be in the same room as each other, we can connect across the world to meet new friends. The readers and audience came from all across the world and it was great fun to spend Sunday afternoon in their company.