• 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

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Childish delights

I was contacted a while back by an editor who wanted to use one of my poems in a German book of poetry for children. Just got my copy through the post this week and I'm delighted with the results.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Places for poetry

I love reading in places that are not the usual venues for poetry readings, though the mezzanine level of the Larne to Cairnryan Ferry was almost too much of a challenge as I discovered it is quite difficult to read poems whilst feeling seasick. I also love historical buildings, so I am really looking forward to reading in two fantastic venues this coming weekend as part of the European Heritage Open Days.

 On Sunday 15th I'm reading in the unique Helen's Tower, built by Lord Dufferin for his mother Helen. I'll be in the poetry room at 10.00am and again at 2.00pm. This octagonal panelled room is decorated with poems engraved into metal plates and the views from the third floor windows are simply spectacular.
On Saturday 14th I will be reading in the drawing room at Mount Stewart at 2.30pm. It is a beautiful and sumptuous setting and I'm looking forward to reading my poem about Stubbs in a setting that has an actual Stubbs painting adorning the stairway.

I'm half tempted to go all out and dress the part as well.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Summer Highlights

As August comes to an end I'm just thinking back over the summer months and what I remember most in terms of poetry. Highlights for me have been the reading by Penelope Shuttle at the Hewitt Summer School, performance poet, Holly McNish at the West Belfast Festival and my visit to the Poets' House

Friday, 19 April 2013

The Dark Lady of the Sonnets

I had great fun finding a voice for the Dark Lady of the Sonnets for the Fickle Favours production, Shakespeare's Sisters in the Black Box.
Here she is.



How should a woman better herself,
if not in the bed of a powerful man?
Virtue or preferment: faithfulness
or advantage: to fuck or not to fuck?
That is the question for us women.
So from an early age I do what I have to,
the patron, the astrologer. the playwright,
Of course I am the guilty party,
a woman always is: black deeds and lies,
making men mad, making men sin.

 Men should remember that it is through
a woman’s cunt that they arrive upside
down into the world, screaming for the milk
of mother’s kindness. They should treat us better.



 A man says what he thinks, not so a woman.
I’d be called shrew if I told you Will’s belly
is too big, his head too domed, his hair just silly,
fingers always stained with ink. The number of times
he’s insulted me – my breath reeks indeed! –
and where else should I tread but on the ground.
I resent the constant whinging wringing of his soul
as if his soul is bigger, better, more worthwhile
than mine. My sensitivities are never taken
to account, he’s always only looking for the rhyme.

Poets are no better than the rest, worse perhaps,
turn everything to metaphor, hide behind
the words, suck the life from you for the sake
of a poem. Turn you into a line on a page.

So dear reader, are you interested in what I think,
what makes me tick, what I might want?
Or do I only count because I’m the woman
that Will wrote about? The colour of my breasts,
my raven blackness; I’m his most precious jewel;
false speaking, cruel, taking his reason from him,
making him sin, awarding him pain. Go on,
speculate. Am I this person, or that: who am I?
Still just cipher, just the muse, object of desire,
passive subject – the dark lady has been written about.

Is it a woman’s place, to be content with this?
Many women, many muses through the years
have, will suffer the same fate I fear; for me
at least I ‘d wit enough to hitch my star to excellence.


And he is excellent, my Will, despite my complaints I know
he’s something special. Masked, watching from a gallery
in the Globe, I am willing victim, seduced every time;
for what is sexier than language to a lover of language.
Will’s words run through my mind, my heart, my being,
making me love him, making me jealous of him.
I wouldn’t be surprised if down the next century and the next,
boys still play Ophelia, Desdemona; actors make
their reputations with Hamlet, Lear, Macbeth. Could I bend
thoughts to words as he can, I might be content with that.

At night I light a candle, take out quill and ink, write
my own Gertrude; she is born to say something different,
won’t have to remarry in such haste, might not need
a man at all in order to survive the state we live in.


I have such imaginings in me; I could believe
no daughter would be put to death for
refusing to marry her father’s choice, no wife
sent to prison on a husband’s jealous whim.
A clever woman wouldn’t need to dress up as a man
to make her courtroom argument; each would be
queen of herself, not merely muse or drudge or wife
or whore – let tyrants fear, when we reveal that
every woman has that same strength of heart
and stomach shown by glorious Queen Elizabeth.

 Women could translate themselves; all femaleness 
in loops of verse, loosening form like leaving corsets off;
put paint on canvas to reveal their vision; compose music
that soars as high and wide and splendidly as any mans.


 And what a brave new world it would be
that had such women in it; citizens of an equal
earth, each willing her own destiny, each
governing her own life, and free to do it.
Likely you think I’m mad, bad, a dangerous
drab, to think such things, to attempt
a vindication of the rights of women.
I should know my place, accept my lot;
spare rib, second sex, female eunuch
- as I’m held to be - you’ll hardly listen to me.

Listen, a chorus of voices, future, present,
past, set up a clamour that cannot
be ignored, and I hold fast to dreaming
of this change of world.
There will be another chance to see the whole production on Saturday 1st June in Downpatrick Arts Centre.




Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Do you need a muse?

It had been a quiet time for me after the launch of Selected Poems in December. I had hopes of doing lots of writing, but that wasn't really happening. Then I was lucky enough to be selected to write a piece for Fickle Favours,
as part of an exciting new project. Somehow a deadline always seems to work for me - or make me work - and I managed to complete a piece of writing inside the time frame. Six 'sonnets' in the voice of the Dark Lady of the sonnets.
This got me thinking about inspiration and how if I sit around waiting for it, it doesn't happen. I don't think I need a muse as much as I need a strict overseer. Write a poem or else!
Anybody else feel the same way?