Four Poets and a Harpist

My writing life

What a night! At about 7pm on Saturday 26th September people started to arrive at the Storey Institute in Lancaster to attend the launch of my recently published pamphlet, Gardening with My Father.

I read a wide selection of my poems, some from the pamphlet and some other more recent ones. The themes of my pamphlet are my family and reflections on their characters, and my relationships with them; my interest in gardening and in travelling, especially in former Yugoslavia, and a few at the end from a current collaborative project with photographer Sid Barlow called ‘Ways of Exploring Morecambe Bay.’

One of the really great things about a poetry launch is that it can offer other writers an opportunity to showcase their poems. Two of the three poets who read with me were local. Elaine Trevitt, coming from a medical background, writes funny and touching autobiographical poetry and read, among others, poems from her pamphlet Caught in the Net. Angela Christopher’s book The Memory Tree was published last year. As a visual artist, Angela writes wonderful descriptions of places and people. Yvonne Boyle came all the way from Coleraine in the north of Ireland to read. Yvonne’s poetry is sharply evocative of a country and a countryside she loves and expresses her emotional relationship with it.

The evening was made even more special by the lovely Celtic harp music from local musician, Celia Briar. The Nice cafe at the Storey provided food and drink and we all had a fantastic evening. Poetry, music, food and wine, could there be a better recipe for celebration? And the poets even sold some books as well.

As with all poetry publications this one has been a while in the making. The process started more than a year ago when Joy Howard, the editor at Grey Hen Press, agreed to publish. From then on it was hard work as the editing process is detailed and meticulous, but I found it most enjoyable. It was lovely to have someone else scrutinise my work in this way.

After weeks of planning and preparation I found that on the day I was relieved it was actually happening and surprisingly nervous. Mind you, I have always suffered from stage fright and on the whole I think it’s a good thing. However, once I got started I was fine and everyone was very appreciative, and as the evening wore on I became more and more relaxed.

Since last Saturday I have received cards and messages of appreciation and congratulation from many people who said they enjoyed the event. I now feel well and truly launched!

I cannot conclude this account without saying that without my partner, Pat, who was the M.C., and helped me so much with all the organising, and my friend Vanessa, who ran the bookstall, it would not have gone so smoothly.

Reading week

As you can imagine I haven’t found much time to read in the last week, so here are two forthcoming reading intentions. I am going to buy two books of poetry. Yvonne brought over with her the poems of Hannah Lowe, whom she had heard reading at the John Hewitt Summer School this summer, and whose collection is called Chick. I haven’t bought it yet, but I went to The Poetry Archive and listened to some of her recordings. Try it and let me know what you think.

Secondly I discovered that one of my favourite poets, Mimi Khalvati, has just published a new collection The Weather Wheel, also on my must have shopping list.

Hare in the Headlights moments

Lots this week…but here are the two most scary:

Arriving at the Storey on Saturday to find no wine had appeared for my guests! (Don’t worry it came!)

Ready to start the evening and the harpist had not arrived. (Don’t worry she did! The traffic is dreadful in Lancaster.)

Till soon!


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