Category Archives: News

Flash, I love you!

Here are 34 extremely short stories in an anthology of flash fiction published by Paper Swans Press. My submissions didn’t cut the mustard: they were prose poems in disguise and didn’t have that important story arc.

cover flash fiction

I’ve made a handful of resolutions.  One of these is to write more short stories and get into writing flash fiction. Many years ago I had some success with short stories: published in anthologies and broadcast.  I got a cheque from the BBC for £5, that’s £1 per minute broadcast for Diving at Calypso Bay.  I’m a total novice at flash fiction and will study the form closely.  That’s after I’ve submitted some poems to issue 3 of Strix…

The Haiku Calendar

I’m not that superstitious, but I never open a new calendar before January.  I came back from a wonderful traditional Dutch family New Year’s Eve yesterday.  The small desk calendar sits on my dining table.  I gave several as Christmas presents.  I’m keen to support small publishers: John Barlow has published the haiku calendar since the start of the century, along beautifully produced anthologies and single-author collections of haiku and tanka.

Each month has one haiku with that month’s dates and on the back are three or four more seasonal haiku.  Billie Wilson from the USA has the January slot with a haiku that mentions “winter stars”.

John has an annual competition to select the haiku for the calendar and submitting some is on my Writing To Do list…

Very best wishes to you all and happy blogging…

Finding the Words

I enjoyed my final reading of the year, at York Explore last week.  For almost ten years I used to come to York often, to facilitate on the accredited EMDR trainings, running at either the Bar Convent (a “live” convent with nuns still living there) or Kings Manor.  So, it felt a little strange to travel to York in a different capacity.  Also reading were Nairn Kennedy, an expat Scot who’s lived in Yorkshire for many years, and Laura Potts.  She is twenty-one years old, has twice been named a London Foyle Young Poet of the Year and Young Writer.  This year she received a Shadow Award in the US, and became a BBC New Voice.  Her first BBC radio drama Sweet the Mourning Dew will air shortly.  She is definitely someone to look and listen out for!

Building Bridges: an International Anthology of Ekphrasis

Building Bridges cover

The cover of Building Bridges, published by Ek Zuban, 2017.

Yesterday was the Manchester launch of this anthology, edited by Bob Beagrie and Andy Willoughby of Ek Zuban.  It’s truly an international anthology: work by poets from the UK, Finland and elsewhere – several poems have been contributed by asylum seekers.  Many of the poems have been inspired by well-known art work, but the book also contains pictures of contemporary art.

Before the reading some of the contributors took part in a short workshop where I learned a new form – triadic gnome.  There are some examples in the anthology.  Apparently, it’s usually in four lines, where the first line gives the explanation and the following three lines extend on this.  Kieren King’s Three Things I Never Said To You was a clear example.

I took one of the illustrations (Waiting Nightmare) and came up with the following:-

Three ways of keeping the nightmare waiting
Keep walking, skipping over the bulldog, the mastiff, the dead pigeon.
Do not, under any circumstance, take a body-builder to bed.
Keep your crop circles small.

It was good fun practising with this and I’m almost sorry that I’m going to miss the next launch.  That will be Helsinki in January 2018.


Vahni Capildeo

Vahni Capildeo is one of the guest poets at the next reading organised by Peter Barlow’s Cigarette.  She’ll be reading here in Manchester, UK, on Saturday 25 November.  Her collection Measures of Expatriation was a Poetry Book Society Choice last year.  Leafing through the book, I found it rather daunting at first: all these huge chunks of text and long prose poems.  Once I got reading I was totally taken with it, and have written several poems inspired by it.  To me it is experimental but still approachable.  And I like the way she uses other languages and plays around with the shape of the poem on the page.  Such a treat to hear her read just down the road….

The following story…

I am back in the Wassenaar library and have paid my 40 cents for returning two books late.  Yesterday it rained heavily non-stop – it could have been Manchester, so I sorted through my books here in the caravan, and put a dozen or so in a bag for the recycling (Kringloop) shop.

Het volgende verhaal by Cees Nooteboom has been translated into many languages.  I’ve read this novella several times over the years.  This edition comes with a glowing introduction by David Mitchell.  I savoured it this week one evening, finishing just before 1am.

When I was an adolescent in Holland I wanted to be Cees Nooteboom.  It seemed marvellous to get paid to travel and write about it… Back at home in Manchester I’m sure to have written a poem on not being Cees Nooteboom…

Body and Soul

I’m blogging in the Wassenaar Library while the The Dutch Dixieland All Stars are playing in the corner!  Just after I arrived last week I dashed to the Museum Beelden aan Zee in Scheveningen – my annual museum card was going to run out the next day and the replacement hadn’t arrived.  Body and Soul is the first retrospective in Europe of Zhang Dali: the Chinese sculptor, graffiti and performance artist.  Visitors enjoying coffee and cake on the terrace faced the 18 marble nudes of ordinary Chinese people sitting, kneeling, some of them in contorted poses.  Inside were the white sculptures of the so-called urban peasants, all of them with white doves attached to them.  I found them deeply moving – their bent backs, little rugsacks, small caps, socks, plimsolls.

For Zhang Dali they represent the 300 million or so people who worked in the construction industry in the run-up to the 2008 Summer Olympic Games and who were sleeping in sheds or containers.  I visited Beijing in late 1990 when the demolition of the old urban districts and historic housing had just started; people being cleared, often at short notice.  Zhang Dali has given each of these sculptures a number.

My new card arrived this morning, so I’ll be going back to Beelden aan Zee soon and (if the weather is good) will go for a walk on the beach afterwards.