“By the time you start to compose, more than half the work has already been done.
The crucial part of the business is what happens before you face the empty page.”
– Seamus Heaney
I grew up on the West Pennine moors in the 1960s, and that part of the world, especially around Cumbria, remains special to me. I’ve written creatively ever since I was a child and enjoy all manner of different writing forms, but consider myself, first and foremost, to be a poet. For me, poetry offers the perfect synthesis between ‘right’ and ‘left’ brains: from the un-charted imaginal, where nothing is out of bounds, to the honing, crafting and editing of words that creates the finished poem (which is never truly finished).
My first degree was in English Language and Literature (St. Andrews) but, for most of my working life, I was a poet on the sidelines, neglecting to give this love of mine the attention and time it deserved. After all manner of different jobs (waitress, gardener, teacher, trainer, actor) I became interested in the field of mental health and trained as a psychotherapist (Metanoia, Middlesex), earning my second degree in this profession. I worked as a psychotherapist in both voluntary and statutory sectors for many years before deciding to leave the NHS in 2011. By then I had completed a third degree in Creative Writing (Bath Spa) and, finally, writing poetry became central in my life. Now, writing is what I do.
I live in South Devon and, when I’m not writing, love wild swimming, kayaking, walking the coastpath and experiencing the endless beauties of this part of the world. At the heart of my writing – and my spiritual practice – is a deep love and respect for the more-than-human: the sea, moors and un-peopled spaces around me, and for the animals, birds and plants who live on this planet with us. For me, the Earth is animate, conscious and our greatest teacher, and all life-forms on Earth are ‘my relations’. This sense of the interconnectedness of all life informs me, and everything I write.
My poetry is my voice; I don’t want to shy away from confronting the challenges we are facing of potentially catastrophic climate change, and our psychological and emotional disconnection from the Earth. I often hear people saying that we are ‘destroying the planet’ and it’s true that we’re wreaking immense destruction on innumerable life-forms and ecosystems. But the Earth will survive us: in evolutionary terms, we’re a momentary phenomenon, and what the planet always seeks to do is restore homeostasis. For our own survival as a species, we have to come back into balance with all life on Earth. If we don’t, the Earth will do it for us, one way or another.
In my writing, I’m never far away from thinking about this, and my first collection, Open After Dark (Oversteps 2017) is an exploration and meditation on the beauty and mystery of the natural world, as well as a witnessing of the complexity of human beings’ relationship with it, and with each other.
Another, recent, preoccupation of mine has been our relationship, as humans, with identity and memory. For ten years I was intimately involved in supporting my mother through her diagnosis of dementia, until her death in 2016. It was a harrowing time in many ways but taught me so much about what it means to live only in the present moment, and what is left when personality, memory and identity have all gone. This forms the basis of my second collection, The Lock-Picker (Palewell Press), which is coming out in February (see News for further details).
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.