• 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, 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.