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

About Me

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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

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.

Thursday, 15 October 2015


This is the second Beautiful Dragons project with which I've been involved. The first was 'Heavenly Bodies' where 88 poets wrote a poem each to represent each of the 88 constellations. My constellation was Triangulum and the eventual poem was A Dream of Three.
In this new anthology poets were invited to pick an element from the periodic table and I chose Silica.

Dreamt up, organised, edited and masterminded by the wonderful Rebecca Jane Irvine the projects are not only great fun but also a challenge and I love being involved. The launch of the new book will be in Manchester on the 27th November and the book will be available at the link below, where you can also see a picture of the lovely production.

Friday, 28 August 2015

Dis-Ease moves to Bangor

As part of Aspects Literary Festival, the Dis-Ease exhibition opens on Wednesday 2nd September in Sync Space, Dufferin Avenue. Opening at 6.00 pm and a short reading at 7.00pm.

Friday, 22 May 2015


Very pleased that the exhibition of Dis-Ease is part of the Belfast Book Festival. The result of my collaboration with photographic artist Victoria J Dean, the exhibition consists of a series of images combined with poems or extracts from poems. It opens on Monday 8th June at 7.45 - everyone welcome.


I’d take you back into myself,

every cell, each chromosome.


I’d have you back, before birth,

before conception, all


your future still ahead. I’d hold

you as an imagined thing, safe.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Irrevocable Things

I was fortunate enough to recently have a poem win the North West Words Poetry Competition. Here it is - for anyone who would like to read it.
It is also included in the Spring edition of the North West Words on-line magazine

Irrevocable Things

We lead him to the chosen spot.
A bright day, without clouds,
autumn sun still holding its heat.
He trusts us; we’ve never
given him reason not to trust us.

The sky blue drug goes in,
we see him feel it hit
and then we watch helpless

the violence of his falling and terrible
tumbling over himself, his desperate
lurching refusal to stay down though
unable to stay up; it goes on forever,
until he’s prone at last and Claire
puts her hand over his eye and
he gives in to the shuddering darkness.
A bullet loudly, thankfully, finishes it.

 It has dragged the heart from me;
I want to cry wait horse, wait,
come back,
we’ll do it better, it was a kindness
that we meant.

 All the regret for every hurt I’ve ever caused,
sadness for everything I’ve ever lost,
is pouring through this rent, that wound,
his drawn back lips, his emptied eyes.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Time's winged chariot

I first became involved with social media a number of years ago when I received the ACNI Artist Career Enhancement Award. Sites such as Facebook and Twitter were recommended as a way to increase artist profile and keep in touch with what was happening – and it’s true – I have built up a network that allows me to hear about a lot of submission opportunities and competitions. On one level, it’s great; never miss a thing and I do love to hear about other poets’ successes and new books. But on another level it induces great anxiety in me. I write very slowly and sometimes long periods of time go by when I don’t write at all. I simply don’t have enough poems to keep up with the opportunities.


Time is a strange thing. In my career as a poet I have always juggled writing with a full time job that pays the bills, with bringing up a family, with other interests and with all the stresses and strains that are part of life. I always seemed to be able to find the time, even if it meant sitting up into the early hours. Even when traumatic things were happening, there always seemed to be time to write. Now time seems to have shrunk – or maybe it’s my energy levels.


I had imagined that as I got older, life would become less frantic, less emotionally demanding, less of a roller-coaster ride. Not a bit of it – if anything it’s more intense. I probably have more time to myself than I used to have – in fact I know I do – but it seems to drift past me in ways it never did before.


Which brings me back to all those opportunities for publication - I’m frustrated with myself that I can’t be more disciplined with myself, that I can’t focus more on my writing. I’m never going to be prolific, but I should be doing more. Time is running out.


So – what can I do? Energy foods? Throw out the TV? Employ a muse that wields a cattle prod?