• Books:
  • Beneath The Ice,
  • Snakeskin Stilettos,
  • The Horse's Nest,
  • Miracle Fruit,
  • Selected Poems,
  • The Goose Tree

About Me

My photo
Poet, creative writing facilitator, editor. Experienced mentor for those working towards a first collection. My publishers are Lagan Press, Belfast and Liberties Press, Dublin who published my Selected Poems in 2012 and my new collection, The Goose Tree in June 2014

Thursday, 15 February 2018

A couple of new poems

Here is a link to two new poems published by the fantastic on-line magazine The HU.

Solitude was written during my stay in Cill Rialaig.


Saturday, 25 November 2017

Cill Rialaig

Ten days in the stunning surroundings of Cill Rialaig, thanks to the Irish Writers Centre and what an experience it was. The solitude was quite difficult to get used to at first, and the sense of many layers of time one on top of the other. It is an elemental place and I spent a good part of each day out walking, watching the changing light over the Skelligs and the sea, visitng the Iron Age fort and the standing stones or just staring out at the horizon. I became acquainted with the Cailleach, a number of pookas and managed to write quite a few poems. It was a chance to reflect on all kinds of things and catch up on reading as well. An ideal retreat at this point in my life, newly retired and loving it.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

A Different Time

It has been a long time since I posted anything on here. Life has been complicated at times over the last couple of years and this summer I finally made the decision to apply for early retirement from the day job. I just knew I could no longer keep going. I felt tired and anxious. I had compassion fatigue My writing had been sporadic at best.
I've been officially retired for one month now and have still to settle into a new rhythm. For all of my writing life I have fitted creativity around everything else that had to be done. Now I have lots more time to myself and my hope is that I will write more - but I'm not sure that it will happen. The expanse of hours that I have now feels a bit scary. Perhaps I won't be able to fill it with words.

I'm hoping to kick start some creativity with a 10 day residency at Cill Rialaig courtesy of the Irish Writers Centre. It will be an opportunity to have a 'retreat' in which to think about themes for work and to go inwards to see if I can find a renewed sense of myself.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Exciting project

I am very pleased to have been invited to be part of this project, and now that I am off work for a few weeks, I will be able to throw myself into it.
Project 366 is a poem-centric collaboration of artists and writers taking place daily throughout 2016. And why? Because poetry is a process, art is a process. Poetry and art happen because we do it, because we make the effort to make it. So the object of this project is not to create finished art objects on a daily basis; it’s to get work on the way every day. Project 366 is to encourage the everyday business of artmaking for those who work – however they work – with word and image. Some people will post only pictures, some people will post only poems or short prose pieces. Some people will alternate among the various forms of their practice. And some may evolve new practices over the course of the year.

There are no set topics or themes for the project but participants add a short draft work daily so that the possibility is always there for response and for a conversation in the work. The project will be blogged daily on the wonderbook and, from there, republished to other social media, for instance facebook.

Project participants have their own keys and make their own posts each day. English is the language-in-common of the project and translation of other-than-English works will likewise happen on a daily basis, so authors working from languages other than English will need to draft rough translations of their work each day too.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Time is a strange thing

When the children were young and I was younger than I am now, I was always busy and yet there was always time to write - late at night or in intense bits of 'time out' of the usual run of things. Now that in theory I have a lot more time and I am a lot less busy, it feels as if there is hardly any time to write. Yet I feel the pressure of time getting shorter, of the probability of there not being a lot of time left.
Maybe it is energy I'm missing - or a sense of purpose? Or perhaps I just spend too much of my time on Facebook.
Whatever - I'm looking forward to taking some unpaid leave over the summer and not having the pressures of work. Having more time . Hopefully doing some serious reading and some writing. Alongside having a few more lie-ins, pottering in the garden, doing a bit of travelling and generally enjoying myself of course. Hope there is time for all of it!

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Mother's Day

Mother who has been

my broken bowl           my holy grail

my long silence                        my spoken truth

my tiny bound feet      my seven league boots

my never quite             my every first prize

when you come on the forgotten well among the trees
lower the bucket, hand over hand: the rope will hold
as you draw up the cold clear water. Feel how it cools
your blood’s wild fire, scorched earth greens back, seeds burst,
and you can read again the hieroglyphics of branches
budding across the sky. Birds wake to fly and small animals
uncurl among the nascent ferns. Listen –
a child’s untroubled voice rings on the morning air, singing
as you fetch water for your mother from the wood well

and nothing will be lost.
Here is your father, once the youngest boy
neighbours had ever seen between
the handles of a plough, the hardest worker.
He lies under my heart carved in stone,
grown to the man who never wept.
Soft as a breast, your mother
is my children’s remembered dream of milky mouths.
Each thought undone, each memory unpeeled,
each year of you, I fold, hold to my cheek
like the white linen your grandmother sewed
by candlelight. I breathe you in, the living skin of me
knowing it was always too late for us, for everything
happens as it must, in its own moment.

As I become the past on which the future rests,
forgiveness is a final irrelevance.
Years from now, on some perfect summer evening,
I will look and you’ll be in the garden, gathering fruit.
A small dog will follow at your heels

as you pick gooseberries, bursting juice,
strawberries red ripe under leaves.
When you see me, you will beckon me to come,
and I’ll run down the years into your arms.

From Snakeskin Stilettos 1998

Sunday, 28 February 2016

from the window

I'm so lucky to have a view of fields and trees from my kitchen window and I love to sit at the table and just observe. Often what I see seeps into my psyche.


This summer past, day after day, I watched the buzzard
rise from her stand of trees to hunt; watched her describe
her wide effortless circles, as a wheel set in motion, turns.

This autumn night she has gyred silently above my sleep
so that now at four a.m., I lie awake beneath her dream
and the small, secretive animal of self, trembles.


Thursday, 18 February 2016

For the day that's in it

There was a taste of Spring in the air today and I was thinking about my mother, Nessa and her sister Muriel, now also gone. The daffodils are starting to bloom and it reminded me of these two poems.

The first I wrote when my mother was going through the hell of late dementia and the second is more recent. They are the same daffodils in both poems.



The Vertues: The roots stamped with hony, helpeth them that are burned with fire. They have also such wonderful qualities in drying, that they consound and glew together very great wounds.*

Gerard’s Herbal



I thought it was a fool’s errand, thought

we’d never find the place,

my mother trying to navigate

with only a vague address to go by –

a farm somewhere outside Millisle.

My children bored, fighting in the back seat,

my nerves on edge, my hands too tight

on the steering wheel, stress levels high.


But we got there, loaded sackfuls of bulbs

into the car’s boot, and paid the man.


For weeks afterwards, I’d look out the window

and see my mother on her knees, digging,

planting daffodils behind hedges, among trees.



My mother has descended into hell

(these biblical allusions haunt me),

and daffodils are the only colour in this Easter,

yellow incongruities across the dull fields,

painfully there, like the resurrection of love.


I cut them against despair, bring

huge bundles of them into the house,

beacons burning in vases, on windowsills.



It’s trespass time.

I’ll take my scissors

across the fields

to where my mother

planted her daffodils.


It’s not really stealing is it?

Anyway I feel no guilt,

there are so many drifts

a few dozen blossoms

won’t be missed.



Sunday, 13 December 2015

Crazy Knot

I'm hoping to write a series of pieces about my identity as a Northern Irish person and poet - this is the first of them, sparked by a recent visit to Dublin.

I was pleased to be invited to read at this year’s Dublin Book Festival and after a lovely event with a warm and receptive audience, I went for some food with my husband and then back to attend the launch of the Windharp, an anthology charting the history of Ireland through poetry since 1916, edited by poetry commentator Niall MacMonagle. It was a great reading, with poets such as Paula Meehan and Moya Cannon reading both some of their own work and the work of others, from Yeats, Easter 1916 to a poem about a post-crash ‘ghost estate’ and Paula’s wonderful The Statue of the Virgin at Granard Speaks. However as the evening went on, I found myself becoming more and more aware that this did not feel like my history or my life. The cultural references were not mine. I was in a foreign country. The next day, as we walked around Dublin, there was a sense of the whole city’s tourist machine gearing up for the centenary next year of the Easter Rising.

I grew up in a Presbyterian family in Northern Ireland through the worst years of the ‘troubles’. It sometimes feels to me as if my history has been made up of nothing but grim news flashes, bombs, shootings, horror and despair. This is what we have inherited, here in the North, and we are still struggling to find a way through to the future. Even now, sectarian gangs hold huge swathes of people here to ransom, fattening on the communities’ fears. In a recent article by Glenn Patterson, he stated that in the twelve months to February 2015, there were 347 incidents where bomb disposal experts were called out. This is our peace. Fear and pain is in the fabric of our society, politicians rely on it. It is difficult for me to regard Pearse without also seeing the shadows he left behind, that we’ve had to sleep with for forty years. I feel very far away from notions of Romantic Ireland and the Celtic Tiger neither boomed nor busted in my neck of the woods.

I have struggled to find a sense of my own identity in Northern Ireland. In the early 90’s, when I helped to found the Creative Writers’ Network, it was at least in part to explore the idea of an alternative ‘Ulster Voice’. At the time another poet was so vehemently opposed to the very idea of that voice, that she said that the word ‘Ulster’ made her feel physically sick.

I have no time for hatred, guns and flags, for narrow-mindedness, or that mind-set that seems so prevalent here and that will always and forever argue the opposite from the ‘other side’. I have grown into a sense of myself as being Northern Irish, not Orange and not Green; not one thing or the other. It continues to feel as if there isn’t a lot of room for people like me in the North; when the chips are down and the votes counted, our society still falls into its tribal lines.

So who am I? Though I’m not defined by the Battle of the Boyne neither am I by the Easter Rising; neither the burning bush or the sacred heart; not the sash, nor the shamrock – or England’s red rose. To quote a great Ulster poet, John Hewitt, ‘Time and this island tied a crazy knot.’


Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Keeping Busy

It has been a busy year for me with readings and workshops. I love having these opportunities to connect through poetry, so I'm looking forward to facilitating a workshop as part of the Irish Writers Centre Masterclass series on 28th October

Also really delighted to be appearing at Dublin Book Festival in some great company on November 14 in Smock Alley Theatre, so get booking:

And I've been speaking to Headstuff about my latest collection of poetry 'The Goose Tree':
Thanks to Alvy Carragher for the opportunity and the interesting questions.