“Upstate”

James Wood's "Upstate" is my kind of book. Not just the kind of book I like to read, but the kind of book I'd like to write. In many ways it is the kind of book I do write. It's modest, undramatic (in terms of no false and phoney events and cliff-hangers); it's about people,... Continue Reading →

Grief

Grief there is a space where you used to be   I see it on grey station platforms and in shuffling supermarket aisles   strange how it is never occupied despite the throng   I feel it during countryside walks my forlorn hand abandoned constantly surprised to find yours not there   a voice   ... Continue Reading →

“Surge”

Jay Bernard's collection "Surge" is rooted in the New Cross Fire of 1981; a birthday party that went tragically wrong, and where thirteen young black people lost their lives. Whilst "Surge" never strays too far from its source material, it avoids becoming a 'one trick pony', the same song sung time and again, and in... Continue Reading →

Protest

Protest   the banners were hand-made crafted from garage leftovers and worn out felt-tips      or their kids’ ancient painting sets letters shadowed in highlighter orange for emphasis      and fire colours running in the rain   they stole chants from the terraces recycled      repurposed they stole chants from the home... Continue Reading →

“Everything Under”

"Everything Under" is a modern delight. Not always an easy read - both in terms of theme and style - it is one of those modern contemporary novels (like "Elmet" perhaps) that simply stands out as being really good. There are two things I particularly love about the book. The first is the way the... Continue Reading →

What I think about when I’m running (with apologies to Haruki Murakami)…

Mostly I think about running. Having just started again some nine years - and one knee operation! - after I ran the London Marathon, the predominant current thought is "this used to be easier"! There was a time when I'd think nothing of a fourteen-mile training run, over two hours non-stop, at a pace these... Continue Reading →

Something new, every time…

I'm now thirty thousand words in to my latest expedition in fiction. That's probably about a third of the way through, though I'm not sure yet. If my rough plan's about right, I should be done with the first draft around October. What I said in a recent post about that magic tipping point when,... Continue Reading →

“The Salt Path”

It was too late when I realised that Raynor Winn's "The Salt Path" was autobiographical non-fiction. These days I rarely read non-fiction; the days of racking up books on sports, history, biography are something of a distant memory. "The Salt Path" being in my possession was, it seems, an example of me not reading the... Continue Reading →

What a wonderful review….

I have just found this 5-star review for "At Maunston Quay" on Amazon (UK): This is a beautiful book, slow-paced but deep, about some very believable people who come to Maunston Quay, an undistinguished seaside place, with its suggestion of 'mourning', and find the possibilities for hope and change. I really liked the way the... Continue Reading →

Tense about tense…

I don't know about you, but when I grew up and learned to write all my stories were in the third person past tense. Perhaps that's the easiest way to teach children English. Later, as we become more sophisticated and get a greater sense of self, we move on to first person narrative - but... Continue Reading →

So, Simon Armitage…

So, Simon Armitage is to become the next Poet Laureate. A Yorkshireman following in the footsteps of Ted Hughes and Alfred Austin (who?!); the three Laureates since Wordsworth (a Cumbrian, obviously) to hail from the county. Well that's the next ten years taken up, then. Which means they should be short-listing in about eight or... Continue Reading →

Free book offer

I would like to offer a free ebook copy of my collection of short stories "Secrets & Wisdom". Unfortunately I cannot embed an ebook file into the site, only a pdf which is not great. But the offer stands. So if you would like a copy of "Secrets & Wisdom" please let me have an... Continue Reading →

“Philip Larkin: Poems” selected by Martin Amis

Larkin's one of those poets who divides opinion. I wonder how much of it is because of that famous line about "your mum and dad"..? The way he doesn't shy away from 'the vernacular'..? The thing that strikes me most about him though - so ably illustrated in Amis' selection - is how he can... Continue Reading →

“The Only Story”

I really like Julian Barnes. He's one of those authors - like Haruki Murakami - who I just do. We all have them, don't we? Whether it's Austen, Swift (Graham, in my case) or Grisham (not in my case!), it doesn't really matter. "The Only Story" is another super effort from Barnes. Typically low-key, happy/sad,... Continue Reading →

Vocal | Chords

Vocal | Chords I want a voice of my own. | A rasp like Dylan’s -| two bars, you know it’s him. | A voice is not what you say | but how you say it; | Dylan could wring agonies | from Mary and her little lamb. | And don’t get me started |... Continue Reading →

At some point it becomes serious…

I don't believe you can set out to write a book. Not really. And I suspect many people who set out to do so in a conscious, act-of-will kind of way, are deluding themselves, and are either unlikely to complete the task or in doing so produce something sub-standard. Setting out in this premeditated way... Continue Reading →

The language of stream of consciousness

Has it ever occurred to you that stream of consciousness writing has an intimate language dependency - even if it's written in your first language? Obvious really. I have just started reading Jack Kerouac's "Visions of Cody" which, the blurb said, was an 'experimental' novel written largely in the manner of stream of consciousness. Fair... Continue Reading →

Curtain

Curtain   between the valley and the peak a slab of light sliding through the clouds flickers like a scrap of confetti easily slipped into stillness   breathing hard through an open smile his eyes see with specific literacy ancient waterfalls carving in slow motion a ribbon of majestic beauty one side of a mortal... Continue Reading →

“Turning for Home”

It is difficult for a man to write in the first person as a woman - I know, I've tried. And I it's difficult the other way round, too; I've certainly read female writers who have tried to be a man and failed - badly. But Barney Norris succeeds. Not only that, in his "Turning... Continue Reading →

Always asking questions…

This evening was the fourth meeting of the new Stanza group which I have been facilitating just outside Derby in the UK. A Stanza is a gathering of members of the Poetry Society who meet - usually monthly - to 'do' poetry, one way or another. For our group, it is the opportunity for its... Continue Reading →

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