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Raw Light: poetry & opinion since 2005

Updated: 2018-03-05T22:06:31.332+00:00




Okay, here's something to make those of you who know me well stare, point, and probably snort loudly with laughter.

I have published a new novel with Hodder & Stoughton, out now, called BERTIE'S GIFT.

It's written under the pen-name Hannah Coates.

It's the first person narrative of a beagle called Bertie who is separated from his beloved sister Molly at a dog shelter. He's adopted by a dysfunctional family with two grumpy cats, plus a mad poodle who lives next door. Can Bertie find poor Molly again and somehow 'fix' his dysfunctional family, despite only being a small dog?

A feel-good Christmas tale for all the family!

Hardback editions are in larger branches of Asda and WHSmith High Street, and also can be ordered from any bookshop or Amazon.


GIRL NUMBER ONE hits Top 30 in the UK Kindle store


This is just to thank everyone for their support of my self-published novel, GIRL NUMBER ONE, and let you know that, less than eight weeks after publication, it reached number 27 in the UK Kindle store today.

I am still pinching myself, wondering if it is a dream ...

And since I appear to be rather good at selling thrillers, I have a new, dedicated website for mine:


GIRL NUMBER ONE: new fiction out this week


Girl Number OneThose who know me well will agree that, as a novelist, I am a genre-hopper. I hop from one genre to another with scant regard for market positioning, or what publishers and retailers like to call 'author branding'. This is one explanation why, despite having written several dozen novels, I am not a star in any one genre. (I will leave the other possible explanations for you to guess at on your own.) But that does not mean I would not like to be!About a year and a half ago, while I was still knee-deep in an historical fiction series, it was suggested to me by a senior editor that I should write a contemporary thriller. A crime novel, but not a police procedural. Being a rabid fan of Lee Child's Jack Reacher novels, I embraced the idea with enthusiasm and excitement. At last, a chance to show what I could achieve as a contemporary writer within a popular mass-market genre.But of course it's also an over-crowded market, and the novel I produced over the next year did not appeal to the editor who first suggested it. It went through several laborious redrafts, then was sent out to other publishers. Nobody wanted it. The rejections differed as to detail but the overall message was the same. Like the three bears' porridge, it was too hot, too cold, too salty, too sweet etc. for the market.The project was then handed back to me, with the suggestion that I should self-publish. To say I was disappointed is grossly to understate the matter. It was a serious blow to my self-confidence as a writer, especially as I was by that stage out of contract with all my publishers. After some years in traditionally published historical fiction, that book represented my calling-card script as a contemporary writer. A calling-card that had been handed back to me by a disdainful majordomo, and the door slammed in my face.After some time nursing my wounds - I wish I could say 'downing tequila on a desert island' but I'm not that cool - I sorted through all the rejections I had seen and picked out the main thrust of their issues. I worked out how I could rewrite the book to 'fix' it. One key change was making my main protagonist older. A simple enough change, on the face of it. But of course that involved rewriting every single page of the book, because in the process of recasting her character, her narrative voice had to change, to mature, to harden. Rather like me as a writer ...I really wish I had not chosen to write this scary scene so late at night ...The main differences I noted between writing GIRL NUMBER ONE (the title of my thriller) and my previous novels, mostly either historical fiction or romances, were as follows:Pace - a contemporary thriller is fast and furious. It has to be, to deliver the requisite thrills and keep an easily distracted reader turning the page. So introspection and description take a back seat, and action comes to the fore. The verb becomes king here, the adjective and adverb have to be rooted out. Not 'I thought' or 'I saw' (I chose a first person narrator) but 'I did'. Dialogue can take the place of internal monologue, which means it has to work harder, to underline character, drop clues and turn the plot.Tone - the narration of a contemporary thriller is terse, or at least that's how I prefer it. It's also highly self-aware. This is someone who observes everything around them, whether a trained or natural detective, constantly noticing, examining, deciphering, unravelling, understanding. And often without an excess of emotional response, as emotion tends to hamper that process. (Emotional response being the sine qua non of the romantic novel, I often found myself working at the opposite end of the narrative spectrum to my other books.)Character - the characters in a contemporary thriller are not, in general, those you might encounter in other genres (though that rather depends on the writer). They have to be boldly drawn, sometimes even starkly and at speed, because a thriller is about action an[...]

Thimblerig Books website


Since a large number of my independent titles are published under Thimblerig Books, I've set up a new website where you can find all of them under one roof, as it were.

The new site provides details for digital-only indie titles by Jane Holland, Elizabeth Moss, Beth Good and Victoria Lamb. It's still in the process of being put together, but there's enough online now to give you a sense of where I'm going with it.

Kind of a one-stop-shop for my independent books, with covers and blurbs and author details for browsers, and quick-click links through to Amazon for those who decide to buy!

At some point in the future I may decide to publish other writers under the Thimblerig Books imprint. Who knows? Meanwhile, here it is:

digital books with attitude

21 Ways To Write A Commercial Novel


I'm delighted to announce that my first non-fiction title is now available digitally. Kindle only, I'm afraid, for those who don't own Kindles, though you can access it via free Kindle apps on other devices like laptops, iPads or computers. Just go to the book page on Amazon and try to buy it - Amazon will then guide you through the process of installing one of these Kindle-reading apps on whichever device you are on.This new book is based on my Creative Writing blog, and is called 21 WAYS TO WRITE A COMMERCIAL NOVEL. 21 WAYS TO WRITE A COMMERCIAL NOVEL: UK link[Find this book on Amazon. com]A 'How To Write' guide based on the first twenty-one weeks of award-winning author Victoria Lamb's 52 WAYS TO WRITE A NOVEL blog.Bursting with up-to-date information and entertaining anecdotes from the world of writing and publishing, this guide also features helpful comments on writing from both new and established writers, including Rowan Coleman, Katie Fforde, Judy Astley, Lesley Cookman, Nuala Ni Chonchuir, Alison Morton, Elizabeth Moss and many, many others. A goldmine of advice for writers from an author of over twenty commercial novels, covering these general topics: BeginningsFake It Till You Make ItCommercial IdeasResearchPlanningHooks And Teasers How To Open ChaptersHow To Close ChaptersWriting A Commercial SceneLocation, Location, LocationWriting Complex CharactersStaying CommercialNovel Avoidance SyndromeWriting The Commercial SynopsisDealing With RejectionOther WritersFour-Point Commercial ChecklistChanging IdentitiesTen-Point Guide To The Commercial NovellaWriting Your NovelRowan Coleman’s Advice To New Writers [...]

FLASH BANG: New & Selected Poems


I'm thrilled to announce the publication today of FLASH BANG: my New and Selected Poems 1996-2014. Almost twenty years in the making!

I've been hanging on for the past few years, wondering what to do about a Selected, which publisher to approach. But my experience with self-publishing - and my disposition in general! - has made this the best choice for me at the moment, as I explain in my previous post.

I hope those who have enjoyed my writing in the past will take this opportunity to pick up, at a very reasonable price, a selection of my best work to date, along with some brand-new poems. It's been a big step for me, publishing this selection of old and new poems, and I would be extremely pleased if some of you at least wish to come along on the journey.

All profits to the author!

FLASH BANG: New & Selected contains extracts from the following books: 'The Brief History of a Disreputable Woman' (Bloodaxe, 1997), 'Boudicca & Co.' (Salt Publishing, 2006), 'Camper Van Blues' (Salt Publishing, 2008), and 'On Warwick: Poems of the Warwick Poet Laureateship' (Nine Arches Press, 2008). 

Previously unpublished work includes extracts from: 'Gawain', a new version from the Middle English poem; 'Hango Hill: Poems of Illiam Dhone (Manx Martyr)'; 'The Dream of the Cross', translated from the Anglo-Saxon; plus a clutch of new poems. 

‘Extremely powerful and varied … Holland has both the clarity for the reader and the mastery of language to say what she means in a way that makes the brain tingle with both shock and pleasure … This collection is outstanding.’
 ANGELA TOPPING, Stride Magazine

'I reached the Boudicca sequence, and everything went electric … There’s a touch of Vicki Feaver about the violence and the cool delight in blood and innards, but the work is quite distinctive. I was dashing from poem to poem, completely compelled.'

'a true craftswoman, a supple and graceful thinker with an effortless grasp of line, at the heart of the English lyric tradition.'
FIONA SAMPSON, former Editor of Poetry Review 

Available as an ebook (can be read with free Kindle software on Kindles, iPads, iPhones and most other devices and computers) at:

Self-Publishing: The Last Great Adventure in Poetry?


What do Walt Whitman, TS Eliot, Shelley, ee cummings, Thomas Kinsella, Rose Kelleher, Alexander Pope and RS Thomas have in common?Apart from being well-respected poets, they all self-published their poetry at one stage or another.The practice of self-publishing has never been easier nor more widespread. Yet the stigma of self-publishing, perhaps especially where poetry is concerned, still exists. Why is this?Many readers of contemporary poetry - almost invariably poets or writers themselves these days - assume that poetry which is self-published was not good enough to stand the rigour of editorial choice. They imagine such books must issue from self-indulgent or desperate souls whose last resort is to self-publish their dubious poems, unable to find a readership elsewhere.But of course this is no longer the case. And probably never was.Yet the idea persists that self-published poetry is not worth the same money you might happily fork out for a traditionally published book. After all, how are you supposed to know if it is any good? You may be completely taken in by a nice cover or interesting blurb, or another poet's recommendation, and spend your hard-earned cash on rubbish.Whereas everyone knows that traditionally published poetry, the sort that is shortlisted for prizes and published by sober and respectable places like Faber or Picador, for example, can only ever be excellent. Perhaps even brilliant. And certainly worth paying for. Otherwise why would those clever editors, with their flair and good taste in poetry, have selected them for publication above all others?Besides, why would any poet whose work was good enough to be traditionally published actually choose to self-publish?Well, there are many reasons. One is that it is pointless to send poetry to traditional publishers in the sure knowledge that you do not write work which will fit into their very list. I am bored by the seemingly endless struggle to fit into boxes designed to showcase one type of work and exclude all others, work which is increasingly bloodless, uninteresting and limited. This is not about a lack of talent - though for some, that is indeed the unfortunate reason they have not found favour with mainstream publishers - but a total failure of interest in what is currently considered 'good' poetry. I used to enjoy that struggle to fit in, and engaged with much highly praised contemporary work, hoping to find something there to excite me. But no longer.Contemporary British poetry feels horribly sterile at the moment, at least in the higher echelons. It's an exercise in stifling personality and freedom, and keeping everything tight and restrained. The adventure of self-publishing, of striking out on your own and making public precisely what you wish to make public, without reference to an editor whose taste almost certainly will not match your own, and whose suggestions you will feel obliged to follow - this is perhaps one of the last great adventures left to us in poetry.Of course, along with self-publishing comes the necessary abandonment of any hope that you will be noticed by critics or recognised for your work. That is a tricky one, because every poet has an ego. But it's an acknowledgement that some goals are simply unattainable. A wide readership is out of my reach now. But I can still rebel and enjoy kicking over the traces!So maybe only a small handful of people will buy my self-published book. But they will at least be readers who have gone out of their way to find it and actively wish to read my work. They will not have bought it because of who the publisher is, or because the poet is well-known or just appeared at a big festival, so 'must be good'. These are intelligent, discerning poetry readers who wish to engage with work that isn't any of those worthy things, but which might still prove interesting for any number of reasons.I am not well-heeled enough to pay for a paperb[...]

Horizon Review Archive Project


Random poetic image. Enjoy.
I edited Horizon Review from 2008-10, a lively online arts magazine owned by Salt Publishing. We published reviews, articles, comment, publishing news, poetry and short fiction in an eclectic tangle, big names and new writers in together.

I left the post when my own writing commitments grew too much, and the magazine was later edited by Katy Evans-Bush.

The magazine folded a few years later, and sadly has since disappeared from the internet. In the interests of 'rescuing' some of the fine contributions to that magazine, I have been given permission to republish a selection here at Raw Light.

If you had work in Horizon Review - either under my editorship or Katy Evans-Bush's - and would like to see it archived here, please get in touch. I do not have access to work featured in later editions of the magazine, so you may need to send the files as well.

The work will appear in no particular order. It is unlikely dates of original publication will be included, as there is little access to records - apart from the odd cached post.

This is an on ongoing project, heavily reliant on tracking down individual contributors in order to seek permission to republish their work, so it may take place over several years. Do let people know about this project if you think they may have been involved in the magazine.

I am hoping to include poetry and fiction as well as articles and reviews, but obviously it will depend on what people are willing for me to republish. Please note, no one's work will be republished without permission. There are no fees for republishing, the archive project is a non-profit-making attempt to establish at least a partial record of what was in the magazine. But those who do choose to be republished may wish to update their bios and photos at the same time, i.e. promoting newer work.

This project's success will depend on people sharing this information and helping me out with locating writers and seeking permissions. So thanks in advance!


Horizon Archives: Jane Holland reviews Plumly on Keats



A Poem: Women's Prayer Group, Coventry



No Poet Is A Sentimentalist


The poet W.B. Yeats, photographed by Alice Boughton, 1903.

Last night, reading Cleanth Brooks' book of critical essays, A Shaping Joy (1971), I became intrigued by this quotation from W.B. Yeats' 'Anima Hominis' (in Per Amica Silentia Lunae): 'no fine poet, no matter how disordered his life, has ever, even in his mere life, had pleasure for his end. Johnson and Dowson ... were dissipated men ... and yet they had the gravity of men who had found life out and were awakening from the dream ... Nor has any poet I have read of or heard of or met with been a sentimentalist. The other self, the anti-self ... comes but to those who are no longer deceived, whose passion is reality.'

Every time I attempt to articulate why I enjoy this description and find it important, I fumble it. So I'll just put it out there, for others to read if they wish, and perhaps some clearer thoughts will arrive in time.

Though I have a suspicion Yeats might have found it relatively easy to meet poets today who are 'sentimentalists'. Unfortunately.

UNCUT POETS: reading at the Phoenix, Exeter


I'll be reading some of my poetry tonight at the Phoenix, Exeter, for those in the area. The reading series is called UNCUT POETS.

Here are the details.

Starts at about 7.15- 7.30pm if you're thinking of coming along, and it's £5 on the door.

I'll be reading from several of my published books, along with new work.

Hope to see you there!

Publication Day for ROSE BRIDE, written as Elizabeth Moss


Can Margerie ever escape her wrongful reputation as a courtesan? ROSE BRIDE: out now

The final title in the Lust in the Tudor Court series: scorching Tudor erotica for fans of Sylvia Day, The Tudors and Philippa Gregory's White Queen.

She is a fallen woman, an object of men's lust...
Margerie Croft yielded up her virginity before her wedding, and then fled from her eager suitor - knowing that she could not marry a man she did not love. Now she is viewed as soiled goods, fit for only for the role of courtier's plaything.

He sees something in her that others don't...
Virgil Elton is King Henry VIII's physician, working on a tonic to restore his sovereign's flagging libido. But first it must be tested. Who better, then, than the wanton Margerie Croft? But as he gets to know her Virgil discovers someone as intelligent and passionate as she is beautiful - someone who has been gravely misunderstood.
For her part, Margerie finds Virgil irresistible - with or without the help of his special medicine. But she knows she could never make Virgil a respectable wife. And yet, despite herself, Margerie can't help but wonder... 

Will they find the formula for a lasting love? 

ROSE BRIDE: available TODAY as an ebook, paperback in July 

The Song of the Hare


She sang the song of the hareand the trees responded  She sang the song of the hareand the wind trembledShe sang the song of the hareand the stars oscillatedShe sang the song of the hareand the earth drummedShe sang the song of the hareand the hanged man hungas the god in the treeput forth branches of sorrowand the lark climbed highin an ecstasy of cloud The Song of the Hare by Jane Holland was published in Boudicca & Co (Salt Publishing) 2006. A poem to celebrate the coming-in of summer! Photos: Jane Holland, May 2014. Cornwall, near Bodmin Moor.(Couldn't spot a hare, sorry.)[...]

Notes Towards Authenticity



Alison Lock gives us Three Hares


Alison Lock performs from THREE HARES[...]

Angela Topping: A Poetic Manifesto



Simon Armitage: Poetry Beyond the Printed Page


 'Poetry goes back to the campfire, the temple, the theatre.' On Thursday 24th April I took myself off to Falmouth University in the evening, to hear Simon Armitage talk about "Poetry Beyond the Printed Page" in one of a series of lectures he's giving there as part of his tenure as Visiting Professor for the School of Journalism and Writing. Falmouth University is a classy campus with a range of unusual and interesting buildings. This was my first visit and I was very favourably impressed.I was also impressed that Simon remembered me, even though it's almost twenty years now since we met: he co-tutored an Arvon poetry course I attended in the mid-nineties. Sadly, I suspect he recalled me for my pool-playing and my hardcore driving rather than my nascent poetry skills; we all went out to a local pub one night, and he was one of rather-too-many passengers who squeezed into my car on the way back. Those are narrow country lanes round Totleigh Barton, and I imagine the return journey at speed in the dark was memorable.'Radio and poetry are natural bedfellows.''Poetry,' Armitage told us, 'goes back to the campfire, the temple, the theatre.' In its ancient past, poetry was an oral art, so is perfect for the medium of radio. Welsh poet Dylan Thomas's Under Milk Wood (1954) was written specifically for voices, for a radio audience - here is the opening, read by Richard Burton. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="344" src="//" width="459"> allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="344" src="//" width="459">The iconic poem 'The Night Mail' by WH Auden is often cited as the first film-poem. Armitage praised its 'great charm,' suggesting the rhythm of the poem matches both the train's movement and the swift-moving medium of film.In the same way, Tony Harrison made documentaries using poetry instead a standard prose narrative, keeping to simple classical forms for clarity. Here's Tony Harrison's 'V' (1987), part documentary, part poem (scroll forward to about 4 minutes in for the poem): allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="344" src="" width="459">'Leeds. Where the M1 does its emergency stop'                                 Xanadu, Simon ArmitageArmitage also discussed Xanadu (1992), a poem film he made about a council estate in Rochdale with twenty-six blocks of flats originally named A-Z. Later the council tried to improve these names by adding a place name for each letter of the alphabet. When they reached X, they could only think of Exford. Simon says he was horrified by their lack of imagination, and so called his film-poem about the estate, Xanadu.In Documentary in the Digital Age (Focal Press, Oxford, 2006) by Maxine Baker, Simon Armitage is quoted as having been reluctant at first to make the documentary Saturday Night, shot in Leeds, commenting of film poems in general: ‘Sometimes the poetry is used like subtitles for the film. Sometimes the film just illustrates the poems. I like it best when there is a friction between the two.’ But Armitage showed no such aversion during his talk at Falmouth, describing with great enthusiasm how he had been sent the footage shot in Leeds, then written his poetry to accompany it, using a stopwatch to time it perfectly.Simon's books were on sale after the event.Simon Armitage explained that he never meets the subjects of docu[...]

Epicentre Magazine has moved to Raw Light


A few weeks back, I got all excited on social media, and decided to reanimate Raw Light as a poetry and writing-related blog.My first thought, as a vastly busy person, was to solicit a few poems from other people, which would keep the blog going but not take up too much time writing endless new material for it myself. Canny, huh?Random picture of me.But then I remembered Epicentre Magazine.I launched Epicentre Magazine two years ago almost exactly. I wanted an online magazine which would not be too taxing for me to run, and for a while it worked fine. But then I lost track of submissions, and frankly submissions were not brilliant anyway, so I just stopped posting work there.But now, in a flash of inspiration, I have decided to move that idea of an occasional online magazine - updated at my whim, really - to Raw Light. This blog is a veteran of online poetry, after all, having been started back in the misty depths of 2005 and still ticking over today in 2014. It gets many thousands of hits every month, regardless of whether or not I post updates, and it seems like a great platform from which to 'relaunch' my idea of an online poetry magazine.Unfortunately for those now rubbing their hands with glee and sorting out their best poems, I do not intend to load myself down with extra work by accepting unsolicited submissions for Raw Light. Instead I shall be inviting people on the (mainly British) poetry scene to submit poems, reviews or articles, and hope they are generous enough to say yes.Relaunching Raw Light as a quasi-magazine ...I shall also continue to post my own updates on Raw Light. So things will not change particularly, except that you may receive more frequent emails from me if you have subscribed to the blog. You can change this by clicking Unsubscribe at the bottom of any emails that arrive from Raw Light.Meanwhile, I am not very good at asking people for things, having the memory of a flea, and there's every chance that if you're reading this blog AND writing the kind of things I enjoy reading, I may be happy to see your work here too.So see Submissions for details anyway. Just be aware that I have a madly busy life these days and don't expect an instant response.[...]

Penelope Shuttle and Caroline Carver reading Zeeba Ansari's poetry at Waterstones Truro


Caroline Carver and Penelope Shuttle about to read from Zeeba Ansari's workLast night I had the pleasure of attending a poetry reading at Waterstones Truro, Cornwall, where well-known Cornwall-based poets Penelope Shuttle (on the right, above) and Caroline Carver (on left) were reading from Zeeba Ansari's debut poetry collection, Love's Labours, published by Pindrop Press.The event was part of the Truro Festival. Sadly Zeeba herself could not be present. But here is her book ...And here are some other photos I took of the event ...It was a packed audience, despite being an evening event.Penny and Caroline choosing what to read.Poet Graham BurchellSome of my kids - probably wondering how much longer they would be required to look well-behaved! [...]

Vote for the Saboteur Awards


The SABOTEUR AWARDS are here again: VOTE NOW for your favourite poets, publishers, reviewers, spoken word events etc. 

Key Dates:
Nominations are open 1st-30th April 2014
Shortlist announced 1st May 2014
Voting open 1st-25th May 2014
Winners announced and Awards presented on May 31st 2014, Oxford.

Poetry Wars I & II


Archive Post from March 2008: Poetry Wars I and II: reblogging for fun in April 2014.I'm reading Peter Barry's Poetry Wars: 'British Poetry of the 1970s and the Battle of Earls Court' this week, published by Salt. It's an absolutely excellent read and I highly recommend it for anyone even remotely interested in the politics of poetry, each page containing fresh hilarities and salacious gossip from the world of 1970s British poetry. I'm still only partway through it so will probably blog about this again, once finished, but I couldn't resist a few juicy comments now. Poetry Wars is not a linear read but a satisfying dip in and out read, as recommended by the author, who has constructed the book in several parts. First, you have the linear narrative of how, in the 1970s, the 'radicals' (i.e. those avant-gardists who consider themselves to have descended in a direct line from the gods of early modernism like Eliot and Pound) beat off the 'conservatives' (i.e. the poetic backlash against modernism, advocating a return to normalcy, traditional forms and cucumber sandwiches) to take over the Poetry Society London HQ, then situated in fading gentility in Earls Court. Then you have chapters devoted to various 'themes' connected to that - almost decade-long - battle, with further chapters at the back consisting of dated lists, relevant documents, explanations of terms etc.Reading this book has clarified for me, in a matter of hours, the terrible enmity that still exists between these two main strands within British poetry. Taking the bulk of its material from Poetry Society and Arts Council archives, memoirs, personal statements, plus a full account of the Witt Panel investigation of the Poetry Society's operations in 1976 - think full-blown McCarthyism in Piccadilly! - this book details, often meticulously, who said what to whom and when. There's rather less discussion of 'why' than I would like, but I suppose these memories must still be raw enough in some people's minds for that question to be approached with delicate circumspection. And it's not all one-sided. Although Peter Barry is firmly on the 'side' of the radicals, by his own admission, he has tried to present evidence and anecdote in as unbiased a manner as is possible with such difficult material, not trying to hide mistakes by his own party even as he highlights occasionally underhand actions by the more conservative element as they attempted to get back into power. So here's a quick taster of life at the Poetry Society in the mid-70s, in a marvellous anecdote apparently related by Peter Finch:'We're sitting in the White House, the hotel bar next to the Poetry Society in Earls Court Square. Criton Tomazos is standing on the mantel piece ripping bits out of a book and chanting. Bob [Cobbing] has drunk almost half a bottle of whiskey and is still standing, or leaning. Jennifer [Jennifer Pike, Cobbing's wife] arrives in her small car to take us home. The vehicle is full of boxes, papers and bits of equipment. We push Bob into the front seat but there's no room for me in the back. I climb onto the roof rack. We drive. Somehow we get back.'More of this later. You can buy 'Poetry Wars' online at Salt Publishing.***Poetry Wars PART II Tucked out of sight of the snipers, safe for now under my duvet, I continue my reading of Peter Barry's highly dangerous Poetry Wars: British Poetry of the 1970s and the Battle of Earls Court. See previous post for full briefing.March 13th[...]

Poem Titles


A good title gets right to the root of a poemThis is a quirky essay I wrote about poetry titles, and which first appeared in James Midgley's excellent journal Mimesis in either late 2008 or 2009. I republished it here in 2011, and thought it might be nice to spin it out again.My grateful thanks go to James for publishing it in Mimesis, a magazine which sadly doesn't appear to be active anymore. What's In A Title? A title is a title is a title. Right? It’s a simple framing device, a doorway into the world of the poem. The title of a poem is the ‘in’ just as the last line is the ‘out’. It’s about yin and yang. What else is there to say on the subject? Perhaps you’ve read the occasional theory on this, thought about it in passing, frowned over an inapposite choice, made the right one unerringly yourself - or made the wrong one and been unable to do a thing about it. All of which suggests that it’s not so simple. That maybe a title is rather more than a doorway and a framing device, that maybe there’s something compulsive and instinctual about the selection of a title, something deeply linked to the poem’s psyche.In exploring this question further, I don’t intend to look at the titles of collections in this context, because those serve a different overall purpose than the simple poem title. Instead, to kick off the discussion, here are some of the words, phrases and images that occurred to me when playing around with the basic question, ‘How to define the title of a poem?’ Amongst other things, the title of a poem is a handle; a moniker; an entrance; an epiphany; an overview; a hinge; a first glimpse of the narrator; an illustration; a cover blurb; a foreword; a container; a puzzle; a mnemonic; a dreamscape; a proto-metaphor; a clue; a red herring; an impression; a surname; a signpost; a subtext; a précis; a brochure; a ritual; a contract; an escape clause; a souvenir; a programme; a translation; a polyglot; a market stall; an all-you-can-eat buffet; a description; a label; a magician’s hat; the secret name of the muse; an asylum; a safe house: a double entendre; an invocation; a spell; a charm; a warning; a skeleton key; a portmanteau; a joke; a mystery; a gesture; a flashlight; a tablecloth; a plot; a deception; a cast list; a question; an answer; a command; a suggestion; a conundrum; a kiss; a sword; a formula; a surprise.When in doubt, go for the big gesture ... Let’s unpack some of those, and bring in examples to help with that process. I’m going to choose most of these examples at random, by scanning down the contents lists of collections near my desk in search of titles which might illustrate some of the phrases above, but a few of these titles were already in my mind when I sat down to write this short essay.1.         Ted Hughes: Examination at the Womb-door2.         Tobias Hill: A Bowl of Green Fruit3.         Jacob Polley: Votive4.         Joanne Limburg: The Fall5.         Alice Oswald: Dunt6.         Ezra Pound: In a Station of the Metro7.         Don Paterson: The Forest of the Suicides8.         Jane Griffiths: Travelling Light9. &nbs[...]

Last book in the Witchstruck series


Yesterday I hit Send and emailed the third book in my Tudor Witch Trilogy for young Adults to my editor at Random House Children's Books.

Today I am starting a new book.

That's the way I'm writing at the moment. One in, one out. It's high pressure fiction, but there's a rhythm to it which I rather enjoy. Certainly no time to stop and worry about a book's reception. Which can be pleasant or frightening, depending on your perspective.

The manuscript I sent is called WITCHRISE. It concludes the story of Meg Lytton, teen Tudor witch, and her battle against the evil witchfinder. (Are there ever fictional witchfinders who are NOT evil, I wonder?)

Here's WITCHSTRUCK, book one in the series, which is out NOW in the States and the UK. To stick it in a genre box, it's Tudor paranormal romance for all ages.




Warwick Castle, Warwickshire, EnglandToday, another short extract from my long poem ON WARWICK CASTLE, originally published by Nine Arches Press in whenever-it-was, now out of print but still available on Kindle as an ebook.This poem was written during my year-long stint as Warwick Poet Laureate and is about the past and present Warwick Castle.It was described by David Morley, poet and Director of the Creative Writing Programme at Warwick University, as 'a Modernist piece de resistance' - he also wrote the Foreword - and by David Floyd, writing in Sphinx, as 'one of the more ambitious works of public poetry generated through a local laureateship.'So you have been warned ...[...]