How to be a Poet

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I received my contributor’s copy of what I suspect will be a very important book — for me, surely — and perhaps for others. How to be a Poet strikes me as not only “a twenty-first century guide to writing well”, but also a guide to living well as a writer.

I also quite like the alternative title proposed in the introduction: “A Poem-Writer’s Guide to the Galaxy.” After all, we contain multitudes.

It features the wisdom of two of my favourite poetry people: Jo Bell and Jane Commane, interspersed with excellent guest contributions by Mona Arshi, Jonathan Davidson, Clive Birnie, and many other well-known names in UK poetry. I thought I’d spend a moment or two thumbing through it on the couch when it arrived. I couldn’t put it down.

My own essay represents a manifesto of sorts — again, not about how to write, but how to be as a writer in this mad, mad world. It is called “Making Peace with Poetry”.

If you’re writing poems, or have secretly wanted to, know someone who writes, or are just curious to lift the curtain on the writing life — I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

The book is available from Nine Arches Press, with options for international shipping.

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The Book Launch Tour Continues

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What a pleasure it was to launch my debut full-length collection The Knowledge alongside Jo Bell, UK Canal Laureate, who launched her second collection Kith. Coincidence of timing brought us together, but complimentary styles and mutual respect has made touring together a delight.

IMG_4536We started in the small Shropshire village of Much Wenlock, birthplace of the Olympics, a place steeped in ancient Mercian history and happily overrun one weekend each year by poets. We read in a modern theatre space to an appreciative and full audience, many of whom were proud supporters of Jo’s excellent 52 project.

The next day we spoke on a panel with Jane Commane, our publisher at Nine Arches Press, and Simon Thirsk, her mentor from Bloodaxe Books. We dug into the details of editing a collection, peeling back the curtain on this sometimes hidden art. Re-living the past year of working on the manuscript with Jane only deepened my appreciation for her artful support.

IMG_4567We then drove down to Cheltenham for an evening reading in a warm, friendly pub. Again the audience was full and receptive, as well as keen to buy our new books. Several of us set the world to rights afterward over good Thai curry, reflecting on what a strange way around it is to get to know someone first by their poetry — that being often such a deeply intimate route — and then to get to know them socially afterward.

Valerie and I trundled back to North Hertfordshire today to draw breath, do laundry, and repack as we are off to New York tomorrow. I will be giving a workshop and reading at Walt Whitman’s birthplace this coming Saturday.

The book is launched. The book is launching. Houston, we have liftoff.

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