The blog that never was – December 27th 2018

Here’s some of a blog I started in October and never posted, with additions. I can’t remember why I stopped.

October was a month of protests; against the appointment of Judge Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court, the people’s march for a second referendum and, nearer home, the continuing anti-fracking protest at Preston New Road.

I wrote a poem in celebration of the protest in the USA against the appointment of Judge Kavanaugh. The poem was an experiment in the form known as the Golden Shovel that I had read about in Mslexia magazine. Others in my writing group have taken up the challenge with some amazing results.

Looking back on my notes for the blog in October I had written down the words from one of the banners at the big march for a second referendum ‘Stop! You are ruining everything!’ They haven’t stopped yet.

And at Preston New Road, the faithful protesters go every day of every week to log activity and Mother Nature has intervened with earthquakes that have given pause to the fracking.

So My writing life trundles on and my time has been spent recently working with Mike Barlow of Wayleave Press editing my new pamphlet to be published early in 2019.  I sent in the final proof last week.

There were two readings the first at Kendal Poetry Festival in September where I read at Afternoon Tea with the Brewery Poets and then in November I organised and took part in a reading with four other Lancaster poets to raise money for refugees.

My resolution, or promise to myself, for 2018, in terms of writing (I don’t even make any about anything else) was to write a poem a week. The total so far is 32, not bad if you discount holidays etc. but a little short of the target. However there are still three days of the year to go. The thought of writing 20 poems in three days… no perhaps not!  I am still pondering my promise to myself for 2019, it could be more regular blogging?

Hare in the Headlights. Well there are a few lined up; a New Year reading in Ireland at my friend Yvonne’s invitation, the launch of my pamphlet in February, a day at the Poetry School in London in late February, in March a week’s residential at Ty Newydd.and a reading for Brewery Poets in May.

So the world is in a worse mess than it  has ever been in my life time.

And yet …

One October Saturday we went to hear Bach’s St Matthew’s Passion the English Touring Opera with local choirs and a baroque orchestra at a local parish church. The music itself is wonderful and uplifting, but so was the occasion, for the skill and creativity of the soloists and orchestra, for the exhilaration of the singers in the local choir, for the intense silence in which we, as audience, were held. This was the work of a European composer sung and played by people from many countries and described by the vicar who introduced the evening as ‘the pinnacle of human achievement’.

Rays of light in pervasive darkness!

Happy New Year!

An Open House and an Empty Chair

An Open House

Two weeks ago I received a surprise invitation to a poetry reading on Tuesday 14th August at Fealty’s Pub in Bangor Northern Ireland. The event was part of the Open Door Festival which sets out to ‘create a creative town’ in Bangor by hosting arts events all through August.

The small room was packed and there was good poetry and beer. It gave me an opportunity to read for an audience consisting (almost) entirely of strangers and see how my work was received those who had never heard it before. My friend Yvonne, who invited me, and I were the last to read. Fortunately the audience were not flagging and were most appreciative. Let’s hope it is a good rehearsal for my forthcoming reading at the Kendal Poetry festival in two weeks time.

See you all there!

The Empty Chair

I read with horror this week about poets and writers from the Middle East,  Iran and Palestine in particular, and countries in Africa, who, having been invited to the Edinburgh International Book Festival to take part in events and discussions, have been refused visas by the Home Office.

One of them, a children’s illustrator from Iran, was reported as saying the grounds for refusal were given as ‘she was a single woman’.  The publisher who had invited her said that if the writer did not get here by Thursday 23rd August, she would place an empty chair on the stage during the event at which she was meant to be speaking and sharing her work, as a gesture of protest against the mean-spirited actions of our government intent on pursuing their hostile environment policy.

I intend to reiterate this gesture in support of all  artists who have been unjustly excluded by the current immigration policy here in the UK. I would like to invite all of you who read this blog to join me in this act of protest and solidarity with our fellow artists.  In my view a government which calls itself a democracy and yet which excludes artists and writers in this way has lost its way in a very serious and frightening way.

At a recent poetry group meeting one of the other poets remarked that it is difficult in these troubled times to write without an undercurrent of unease. This unease has been my preoccupation  in poems I have been writing recently. I have tried to capture the sense of normality, ordinariness and delight in hot weather, alongside an underlying feeling of uncertainty discomfort and dread, as well as a healthy dose of anger, as our country spirals downwards into political chaos and lurches to the Right following others already going that way. My poetry has always been political and at the moment it needs to stay that way.

You may notice I have changed the format of my blog. It is still primarily about my writing life but I felt it was time for a change.

Also time for a new poem of the month for August.


Rain at last and I’m blogging …

Having abandoned my (very dry) vegetable garden which is now being drowned and blown to bits, here I am at the desk about to write my rather late July blog! Well, I know I never managed May and June, but that’s life in a heat wave. ‘I’m blogging in the rain, just blogging in the rain… ‘

My writing life

on the other hand, has not been in abeyance at all. In May I was pleased to receive my copy of Envoi with my poem The Jargon in it. This poem is one of a group of five I wrote about the experience of working in a night shelter for the homeless. It took a while after I stopped doing that work before I had processed the experience enough to write about it. That happens sometimes and at other times something you’ve just done leaps out at you in the middle of the night and you jump up to write a poem about it there and then. That doesn’t happen that often, but it has …

I have  managed to write fairly steadily over the last few months, more or less a poem a week, shoved along by the writing group, which meets weekly, and by A Writers’ Book of Days which I turn to regularly for prompts. I sent some poems off to Happenstance for the July window and have just received encouraging feedback. This is the second time I have done this, and on both occasions it has pushed me to get my poems out there. So the poems are, after further editing, going out to magazines to try to make their way in the world. I’ll let you know how they get on.

My Reading Life

What? This is holiday time… I’m allowed to read detective fiction and gardening magazines… back to the serious stuff in the autumn.

 Hare in the headlights

I have just received a huge pile of leaflets for the Kendal Poetry Festival to distribute here on behalf of Brewery Poets, 6th to 9th September for your diaries. Visit for further information. Oh yes, I nearly forgot it’s in Hare in the Headlights because I am reading on Friday  at 4 as part of Afternoon Tea with the Brewery Poets (complete with scones and jam  and cream).

See you there!

It’s always nice to know that someone’s out there!

My Writing Life.

Every Tuesday I go to sing with my local women’s acapella choir, Dot Crochets and the raging Harmonies, ( It’s been going for  over 20 years) and a couple of weeks ago one of the members of the  choir came up to me for a chat and told me that she read my blog. I felt dead chuffed!  Sometimes when I write these things I wonder if any one reads them… and I hope that I am not writing into a void. Occasionally people post a comment and I know I have some faithful friends who read, and it is very nice when they do. So thank you to all of you out there..and read on.

Writing life has been busy recently  as I spent March working on  my pamphlet entry for the Cinnamon Press competition. It felt like a marathon task to get it all together in time even though it was only 21 poems. Also in March two readings popped up for me; the first at Words by the Water at Keswick where I joined contributors to the anthology Write to be Counted. The second was at the most recent Poem and a Pint at Greenodd village hall where I read on the floor spot at a reading by Jacob Polley. In case some readers don’t know Greenodd is a little village in the South Lakes, just this side of Ulverston.

Since the beginning of this year I have been convening a writing practice group once a month at a local cafe to write to prompts offered by the Writers’ Book of Days. These have been very informal sessions with just two or three of us, but they have kept me writing… which is always good.

March also saw the Lancaster Litfest and poetry day was excellent with a wide range of poets to enjoy. The Litfest this year focused on Indie publishers, talking about their businesses and showcasing their poets, and I found that both very useful and fascinating.

The next few months will, I hope be a relatively quiet time when I can just write and write without too many deadlines and challenges. I am sure I am not the only writer to long for such times.

My Reading Life

Well, I finished the marathon reading of Sapiens, mentioned last time and since then  have enjoyed some good fiction including Tracey Chevalier’s The Last Runaway and Joanna Cannon’s Three Things about Elsie. I am almost ready to embark on the sequel to sapiens, Homo Deus. I’ll let you know how I get on.

Hare in the Headlights

Quite distant headlights this time; I’ll be doing another workshop in Ambleside this coming July in the newly refurbished library. Look for details on my website nearer the time and in September I’ll be reading at the 3rd Kendal Poetry Festival at Afternoon tea with the Brewery Poets. Look out on their website for further details.

Poem of the month for May is coming soon. I missed April, I’m afraid. It will be Bosnian Coffee as I am not long returned from a holiday in Sarajevo.

Long time

My Writing Life

I know, I know, six months in fact, but I’m back now, not before time.  I hope I have still got some loyal readers out there who enjoy this blog? Over the last few months life has caught up with me big time and unfortunately my writing life and with it my website and blog has gone on the back burner. But not entirely so ..

In November, to start the catch up, I went to Tyn Y Coed near Conwy on the writing course run by Cinnamon Press. Five days of very persistent Welsh rain and poetry. I highly recommend this course and its parallel one in the spring as a good writing retreat. There are workshops, but not too many or too long, a very good variety with something for every genre of writer. There are individual sessions with the course tutors and a chance to take some work and have it critiqued by the (small) group. There are readings in the evenings and the good company of other writers. Most importantly for me there was time to write, and plenty of it. I learned a lot and perhaps more importantly was given great encouragement.

The course was followed in January by another kind of writing retreat, in the form of online and telephone mentoring from Katrina Naomi. Katrina lives in Cornwall so it had to be done at a distance. I sent her six poems on which she gave excellent feedback and the phone conversation really pushed my work on and encouraged me.

I really feel that these two very different experiences have turned a corner for me in my writing and I am now writing more adventurously and with more attention to technique.

At the course in Wales two books were recommended which have become my ‘work books’ week on week ever since. They are The Writer’s Book of Days by Judy Reeves and 52 by Jo Bell. The books offer very different opportunities and challenges and I recommend you give them a try. Inspired by the Reeves book I have started a Writing Practice group once a month where a few of us meet with a nice coffee in a local cafe and write to  a prompt from the book and share our writing.  We have had two sessions so far; very informal and a chance to write outside the solitude of the laptop or the constraints of the workshop.

Finally it is Lancaster LitFest this month and I’ve just come back from hearing Heidi James read from  her novel, So the Doves, fab! Reader, I bought it..

 My reading (six months!)

Apart from the usual detective novels, I have been, and am still, engrossed in Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. It is a long challenging and absorbing read. I have the real book and read it before going to sleep in order to cut down on screen light, and it is taking me time but that means also time to absorb it and reflect on the new ideas, and perspectives.

Some while back I particularly enjoyed reading Kim Moore’s sequence of blog of her domestic violence poems. Worth visiting her archive for that, I think.

Hare in the Headlights  

Plenty coming up: Next Tuesday 13th March I am to read with other poets the poem that was published in the anthology Write to be Counted, at Words by the Water in Keswick. I have had one of my night shelter poems The Jargon accepted by Envoi magazine, look out for it in May. And I am at present preparing for a last minute entry to the Cinnamon press pamphlet competition.

Enough for now



‘Theatre is a protected space …’

‘Theatre is a protected space in which we may tell the stories of our shared humanity ‘

(Sir Nicolas Haytner artistic director of the new Bridge Theatre in London)

My Writing Life

So too is poetry, or any art form for that matter. But poetry offers an intimacy that the play or the concert doesn’t. It is an intimacy we share with the painter, and like the painter it is an intimacy of absence. Someone reads my poems and thinks about them and I am, more often than not, not there to see how they react, yet somehow it remains a very personal encounter.

This last Saturday I travelled to Penrith to read at the northern launch of Write to be Counted, an anthology of poetry to uphold human rights. (The Book Mill 2017). Those of us who read at the launch were duly applauded but I found myself thinking about the poets  who contributed from other countries, such as Lebanon and Cambodia? Those poems will be read in sitting rooms and at kitchen tables in moments  of reflection.  The poets will not ever know how their poems are received and understood, but during the time that it takes to read a poem they can rely on the intimacy of the readers’ concentration on the page with their words, on the readers’ respect and attention, to tell a story of our shared humanity.

The inclusion of my poem If Only (2013) in this anthology is a great privilege and actually also very exciting because it is the first time I have been anthologised!

During this last month my writing has been laid aside while I have been returning to theatre work, having been invited by the associate director at the Duke’s Theatre here in Lancaster where I have been working on the latest production ‘Blackout, their latest community/ professional combined production which retells stories of the blackout and flooding which storm Desmond brought upon us in December 2015. It has been great fun to go back to performance work after eight years. So no blog until now…

My Reading Week(s)

My poetry writing is still being guided by Glynn Maxwell as I find time every now and then to read a chapter in his book On Poetry.

When I think about politics, which is far too much and makes me  feel profoundly depressed, I have found some consolation and food for thought in Naomi Klein’s inspiring book No is Not Enough. She is a very accessible and excellent writer and journalist, giving a terrifying, but also cogent and enlightening, analysis of how the whole Trump phenomenon came about. Read it! It won’t cheer you up but it will leave you feeling you understand a bit more about what ‘s going on out there!

 Hare in the Headlights

I am looking forward to a full programme for the long dark days of winter ahead. On the 4th of November I am off to Tyn y Coed for their five day writing course, a real treat and I am looking forward to it. Then as soon as I am back I have next in my series of writing workshops to teach in Ambleside. This one is about memoirs and full details are at the end of this blog. There are still paces left. And then in November I have my first online mentoring session with Katrina Naomi…

Bye for now and scroll down for workshop details below

 Fancy a day out in the Lake District?

Then why not come along to a creative writing workshop on Memoirs?

On Saturday 11th November 2017

From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

At Ambleside Parish centre

Tutor Dr Elizabeth Hare

Cost £8

For more information and to sign up for the workshop please email

[This workshop is subsidised by Learning Plus Ambleside, a self-help, learning and community support registered charity.]

What is a memoir?

The dictionary says  A memoir is a book or other piece of writing based on the writer’s personal knowledge of people, places, or events: Or A written record of a (usually famous) person’s own life and experiences

Come and explore some other definitions and try writing a memoir yourself. You don’t have to be famous to take part!




The will of the people

My Writing Life

This blog starts with an unashamed political rant. I don’t so them often but this week it really got to me, so here goes…

I am sick of hearing ‘we can’t betray the will of the people’ as the reason/excuse for continuing down the path of Brexit to the cliff edge of March 2019.

This reasoning about Brexit is hypocritical because of what is happening here in Lancashire. Let me explain.  In 2015 our duly and democratically elected County Councillors in Preston rejected the application for planning from the company Cuadrilla to start drilling for fracking at Preston New Road, near Blackpool and in two other places in Lancashire. This seemed at the time to be a clear expression of the will of the people of Lancashire, lawfully debated, voted on and agreed by the County Council.

However, in May 2017 a government order overturned this democratic decision and gave permission for fracking to go ahead in direct betrayal of the clearly expressed will of the people. This would seem to suggest that the government pleads the ‘will of the people’ as a reason for doing things when it suits them and ignores that same will when it doesn’t.

So fracking has started at Preston New Road and the demonstrators are out against it. (I’m going down soon for the day!)

This blatant flouting of the democratic process makes a complete nonsense of the government’s often repeated excuse for not reconsidering Brexit and all its ghastly implications.

However now at last the Labour Party have made up their minds where they stand and I am very much encouraged as one of the 48% by their grown up proposal for an extended transition period, instead of the endless throwing the toys out of the pram we are being subjected to at present.

My guess is that the next few weeks in politics is going to be very exciting and full of surprises!

Reading week

I have been reading lots of poetry lately, always inspiring. I’ll put more details in the September blog. I have just started on Glynn Maxwell’s On Poetry: so far lots of really interesting ideas.  In terms of fiction I am now stuck into Do not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien (2016). I recommend it as a good, but not an easy, read as it pulls no punches in the description of the reality of Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Also I have recently finished The Essex Serpent (Sarah Perry 2016). It is good once you get into it and in places really funny, another good read.

Hare in the Headlights

14th October see the launch of a new anthology, Write to be Counted, and one of my poems, If Only is going to be in it. I’ll be reading at the launch in Penrith. There will be more details in the September blog.

Poem of the month for September is from my pamphlet, and entitled Days.

Also a new venture ‘voice coaching’; I am now offering poets, and writers generally, the opportunity to improve their public reading skills and do their work justice at readings and open mics. Please contact me if you are interested.

My next poetry workshop for Learning Plus will be on Saturday 11th November from 10 am to 3 pm in Ambleside. The theme is Memoirs and the cost is £5 for the day as it is subsidised by Community Development Funding. If you are interested in attending please contact me.

That’s it for now.

Remembering Backwards

Remembering Backwards

My Writing Life

It’s been a month, more or less, and a busy one, since the last blog  and I am trying to remember what has happened to tell you about. Before I got to looking at the diary to prompt me I remembered someone (and I have no idea who) telling me that the way to remember detail is to think backwards.

Here is how it works. Supposing you are trying to remember what you did yesterday; what you do is remember the last thing you did before going to bed and then work backwards.  It works especially well when you have lost something: your glasses, your keys, your phone…

So, having done this and reversed the order (are you following this?), this month started with a ‘poetry marathon’. On Saturday 1st July the prize winning readings for the Poetry Business Pamphlet Competition were held at the Jerwood Centre, at Dove Cottage in Grasmere, where incidentally there is nowhere to park!

On the same day this was followed by Poem and a Pint, a regular Cumbria poetry event, at Greenodd Village Hall, a lovely venue with no parking!  A day of driving round in circles….

However, at the latter event I had a chance to read in the floor spot which was great. The guest poet was Emily Berry. Her work is surreal and fascinating, but not my taste I am afraid. I can’t be the kind of blogger who loves all poets. She is just not one of my favourites.

Next up, after the regular Stanza and writing group meetings, was my poetry workshop in Ambleside on the theme of Journeys. By some weird coincidence the theme of our Stanza meeting the previous Thursday was also journeys. The workshop went well, with seven people who wrote cheerfully all day. It must have been OK because Learning Plus has invited me back to do another one in November (details to follow).

After this first rush and the following Brewery Poets meeting, my writing life went quiet(er)  in terms of events, but I have been busy. I sent off six poems to catch Happenstance’s open July window for submissions for feedback and was astonished and delighted at how quickly they were returned, and very pleased with the feedback from Helena: lots of very helpful criticism and many positive comments. Receiving this has really boosted my confidence and the next thing I will do is send some poems to a couple of magazines. I am now revisiting other poems in the light of what she said about my work in general.

My reading week

My reading is still in the doldrums of detective fiction (some of it very good incidentally; I recommend the latest Peter Robinson Banks mystery) and I even missed my regular reading group this week. So this month’s report definitely has ‘room for improvement’ on it as a comment, and possibly something about doing my homework!

Hare in the Headlights

Two bits of news:

I have had a poem accepted for an anthology of feminist poetry to be launched in October (Write to be Counted) details nearer the time.

And at last, after a whole year without one, a new poem of the month. It is the title poem of my pamphlet ‘Gardening with My Father’, appropriate to this time of year when I am working among my rows of beans on the allotment. Visit the page to read and enjoy it.



A week is a long time in poetry

My writing life

It already seems an age ago. The Second Kendal Poetry Festival has been and gone and yet it was only the weekend before last. However it has not faded in my memory, far from it, indeed it has already had an effect on my writing.

Others have blogged and reported on it and all its splendours and here I would like to highlight what were the best bits for me of a splendid feast of poetry and fun. The Friday night main reading was Hannah Lowe and Billy Letford. Not only was the work of each poet stunning, they also worked together in lots of ways, an inspired combination.

What characterised both readings was the commitment of each poet to their subject matter and a sense of compulsion which drove them to explore it. Alongside this sense of passionate involvement was the sheer virtuoso skill of their use of language. Wow!

Hannah Lowe read mostly from her recent collection Chen and I particularly loved the poems which mentioned her Nan, a person of great character whom I now feel I have met.

I first met Billy Letford at Kim Moore’s Poetry Carousel last year and enjoyed working with him. His poetry, most of it recited by heart, has an admirable intensity and I love his poem The Interview especially the first and last lines. (No I’m not going to quote them; they only work in the context of the whole poem.)

The other highlight for me was Kathryn Naomi’s wonderful workshop on writing long poems. Like many others present at the workshop I was hesitant about writing more than say, forty lines. She suggested it might be from a feeling that others might think I was ‘going on too long.’ This really struck a chord. I went on to try writing, or rather start writing, three long poems in the workshop. One of these was about my brother who died a few years ago, and this one I worked on and read to my writing group last week. I am still thinking about the other two and will get to them in due course

Last Friday 23rd of June was another important day in my writing life as it was on that evening that here in Lancaster we celebrated the life and work of the late Elizabeth Burns at an event entitled Elizabeth Burns: legacies

Alan Rice, Elizabeth’s widower had asked me a couple of months ago to help him organise this event and it was a pleasure to do so.

The evening included readings from a range of Elizabeth’s work, the showing of the film Painter, Potter, Poet a record of her collaboration with Paul Tebble and Ann Gilchrist in Edinburgh just before her death in 2015. The beautiful film was shot and directed by my friend Sitar Rose. Part of the evening was devoted to readings and tributes from member of the various groups that Elizabeth ran and was part of, here in Lancaster. It was a chance for us as her fellow writers to acknowledge her great influence, contribution and inspiration.

 Reading week

Well if you look at the above you will realise that I have not had a lot of time for serious reading just lately… excuses for reading more detective stories!   I have however, just read the article in the current Mslexia about how to write popular best sellers….  worth a look.

Hare in the Headlights

Coming up; submissions to magazines and may be to a pamphlet publisher and the workshop at Ambleside library next Saturday 8th July  10 to 3 entitled Journeys. There are a couple of spare places if you are interested email me soon at








Now is the time

Blog 29th May 2017

My Writing Life

One week has passed since the attacks in Manchester and the horror is still sinking in as each day there is more detail. I have been feeling too numb to write and hoping to do something for the writing group on Wednesday.

Here the flag is flying at half mast on our Town Hall. Yesterday I heard there were young people from one of our local high schools present at the concert. They all survived unhurt but are traumatised by what they saw as they made their escape from the arena.

In the days immediately following the bombing there were messages from all over the world offering shared grief and expressions of compassion and solidarity. The most immediate and powerful of these came from our neighbours in Europe, many of whom have experienced recent terror attacks and could voice their understanding of what we are going through as a country.

Of all of these messages the image that stays with me is of the newly elected president of France, Emmanuel Macron. He walked from the Elysee Palace a few hundred yards along the street to the Faubourg St Honore to the British Embassy. The television pictures showed him walking along the pavement with the Prime Minister and two security guards. The image was of a man walking along a street in his own city to visit a friend how had received bad news.  It managed to be at the same time simple, touching and statesmanlike.

Images like this bring us back inevitably to the big question. Why, in our time of trouble are we leaving our closest and best friends, leaving the European Union,  walking away in pursuit of a misguided sense of identity and of independence both of which we have already?

Surely after the catastrophic and tragic events of last Monday we should think again. As a country we could do worse than take a leaf out of Manchester’s book.  All week report after report has been about w Manchester is coming together, standing strong against the backlash of Islamophobia, against our real enemies who seek to destroy our civilisation, our belief in democracy, our way of life.

Our European neighbours, and among them those who come here to be members of our families and to live and work with us, are not our enemies. They share our values and our aspirations for a liberal and free society.

Now is the time when we are up against it, challenged by the evil of extremism and fanaticism. Now is surely then the time for us to come together, and now is not the not the time to walk away.

My Reading Week

I am currently reading Helen Dunmore’s latest novel, Birdcage Walk. I have found the story moves slowly, but I do enjoy the way she writes an historical novel in contemporary idiom. The end is pleasingly surprising and dramatic!

Hare in the Headlights

 Lots coming up

Most importantly I am helping Alan rice to organise Elizabeth Burns: legacies on the 23rd June her in Lancaster at the Gregson Centre. It will be an opportunity to hear some of Elizabeth’s poems, .to see the film of A potter, a Painter and a Poet her collaborative venture with artist Ann Gilchrist and potter Paul Tebble  and was the last work  she undertook before her death on 2015, and to hear tributes form poets and writers here in Lancaster who have been inspired by her and had the privilege of working with her in  workshops and groups.

Also gearing up to give a workshop in Ambleside early in July as well as writing on …