I write poetry, fiction, non fiction and text for performance and my work has been published in anthologies and online.
My pieces have won, been runner up, have reached the top 10, or been shortlisted in major competitions including The Bridport Poetry Prize. Juliet Stevenson read one of my poems live on BBC Radio 3 after it was chosen as runner up in the 2012 Proms Poetry Competition.
I have read my work at poetry nights, at literature events, at competition awards, book launches and in performance and collaboration with musicians and visual artists in Brighton and London.
I have added some examples of my work below with notes about their competition success or publication.
No trace of the trees I used to climb.
No windfalls mashed into gravel.
This lane is a cramp of parked cars.
I inch away in reverse.
I’m heading towards cracked earth
that slips into white craters
of crescendo cricket song
and streams of blackbird obligato.
Fake cobbles in new-build walls
watch me speed without scraping.
Inky films warp on dusty windscreens,
paint the chrome, blur
with that recurring dream
where everything falls
and scatters apart,
Out on the cliff road
driving beside the night,
I glanced across at all that remains
after the casting-off of charity sacks.
A photo album
with most pages blank.
Your old lighter
that still sparks.
I stop the car,
let the dark swoop in.
My arm out the window,
I light your last cigarette.
Top 10 place in 2014 Sussex Poets' Competition
Uncle Bill playing 4’33’’
His shadow burst in ahead of him
and we all cheered.
Uncle Bill, transformed into a maestro,
took a grand bow beside the kitchen table,
his hair huge and wild,
hands like fairy tale twigs
intent on making magic.
The adults groaned, rolled their eyes
as he mimed our favourites
on the dummy keyboard.
Clair de Lune, Toreador, the Minute Waltz
and the theme from Pot Black, just to annoy Mum.
But tonight, his grand finale
spooked us into holding our breath for too long.
While his hands hovered ready to pounce
onto notes he never touched,
he made me listen to the shifting house,
the metallic fluster of the river,
the dog snoring in the hall like a bored kazoo,
the papery riff of my brother’s fingers failing to click,
and a sound in my veins racing like a thrill.
Runner up in 2012 BBC Proms Poetry competition, with poem read live on radio by Juliet Stevenson
The Piano Problem
I found a place on Hove seafront that I could afford alone, only to discover that my piano wouldn’t fit through the front door. No matter which way we turned it or however many men huffed and puffed and heaved, it made no difference. Even when we took the faded blue door off the hinges, the piano couldn’t move in.
A friend offered to have it in her front room, said, “Ooooh, how lovely to have live music in the house.” But when it came to the practicalities, she hated me going round to play it, even if she was out. A month later, we were looking to move again. Friends complained, saying I’d ruined their address books. One said that surely it would be easier to let my sister have the piano back for those photo frames. My sister had fought me over it, said she needed somewhere to display her photos, but I won a long-distance argument about what I do for a living and what a piano is for and paid to have it shipped down to Brighton.
In the flat with silver birches at the bottom of the garden, the neighbours bashed on the walls when I played, even though their nocturnal antics roared through the rafters most nights. The piano was voted out of a shared house in Franklin Street. In a leafy road near Preston Park, the landlord wanted to charge me double because he reckoned we were like two people really, then suggested I should just leave it out in the garage. In a tall house in Queen’s Park Road, I took heart when the next door neighbour asked if it was me playing and what was that piece he heard about 6.15 on Thursday. He told me he turned the telly off so he could listen better.
How many homes in a decade? Too many to count. Some were so short-lived that I can’t remember the house number or if there were steps up to the front door. And all the time, Brighton rents were escalating and my income was staying pretty much the same.
Then, just after I found a place that seemed to offer a breathing space, a small tabby cat started strolling in whenever I opened the door. She’d lie on me or drape herself across the piano whenever I played, treated the place as if it was her own. Now that the piano problem had been resolved, the cat problem began. But that's another story.
One of 2 pieces published in the 2014 New Writing South's Queer in Brighton anthology.
Straight from the stick
She dared me and I could not refuse.
I tasted the fist of coal
that would not be bitten.
I sucked it
staining my mouth
turning my lips inside out
to gnaw at the purple glass edge better.
Surprised, when it tasted of nothing.
Later, I craved
treacle burnt crisp,
ink dripping from the fountain of my pen,
seaweed clawed from a popping rock
an acorn sucked all the way to school
kept under my aching tongue for a whole day,
grass cuttings that clung inside my cheeks
that reached across my desperate throat
like they were breathing instead of me,
chip papers licked
and licked again by my ecstatic twirling dog,
sloe juice pricked and urged
from unyielding skin,
the disappointing end of
a match still warm,
sand that I knew
could one day be glass,
poppy seeds shaken
from the dry rattle of a casket,
bouncing off my tongue.
on a corrugated roof
that burnt the skin of my knees
when I knelt to scoop them up,
I tried the creosote
straight from the stick.
Shortlisted for 2009 Bridport Poetry Prize and published in the competition anthology.
The day I did it with just one match,
the kindling wheezed,
spat in the grate.
Applewood whined, reluctant
to warm the moss green room
before dusk and damp
and the six o’clock news.
Home for the Shipping Forecast,
the gate, a wagging tongue
at your drenched back,
you grabbed our coats,
told me to bring just one thing.
We left the radio on.
Silenced the door.
In my pocket,
a small box of sparks.
Top ten place in 2011 Lightship competition and subsequently published in their anthology
Not rickshaw ratrun
every girl mute
and selling something
lost the knack of counting
Not alien abduction
wild night flight
knowing they will one day
come back for you
Nor salon taster day
when you came home
orange and hairless
and scarred in odd places
Not from swimming in Crete
in an ink black sea
a soup of seaweed dye
with oyster sauce
Nor seafood delirium
where your fever convinced you
you were that oyster
Not proof that you ate
the corner of the dictionary
swallowed way too many words
Nor evidence of torchlight
damaging your eyes
under the blankets
reading through the night
They came before dawn
branded my fists
in the spiked cage of the typewriter
left a strange tattoo
of love and hate
knuckle pressed qwerty
upside down, in reverse,
through to the bone.
Part of script/text for Typewriter tattoo, a live literature collaborative performance piece which was rehearsed and performed in 2011 and 2012
After the wind cleave had bruised the panes,
she came with hand tools to hack through the thicket,
sat for a week on the back step
while storms pushed puddles into shallow tides.
Poked eyes of cobbles kept watch from the corners of old walls
as she wrestled with brambles,
scooped out the knotted ivy from taking root,
let the air soothe the clawed knuckles of frost-blunted stems.
She dug in compost, decanted bone meal like grains of moonshine,
folded leaf-mould in like it was a precious linctus to tempt back the worms,
lined up worn slates to edge the gritty path,
hammered them true, to a rhythm I half remembered.
Fennel seed was ground by the pestle-dance of her heel.
Skeletal stalks were swept into a smoking mound.
Every rose that tried to hold her tight was pruned back, hard.
She cut holes into the blue, let me see the sky.
So when the world lurched towards the sun,
I was greening, budding, bursting, though only she knew.
First to show, a lone snowdrop lantern.
Weeks of grey before the next.
First prize winner in 2011 Moss Rich Pighog Poetry prize
The library is rarely silent. The humans make sure of that. But behind all this surface noise, another sound runs through as an endless thread, day and night, regardless. See, the books can’t help it. They recite their favourite lines to each other.
Polite, taking it in turns, leaving appreciative silences between each quote, the books read to each other from the hidden darkness of their closed pages.
Sometimes, if you sit still long enough without a hundred thoughts racing through your head, you can catch the whispered lines of something you learnt by heart long ago, and still remember.
Published on Paraxis Library Wall in 2011
I am long letters of love,
the flow of ink on paper.
I am the steam train pulse of passion,
quiet afternoons of waiting.
I am the heart enfolded treasure,
the candlelit rereading.
I am the final crush of parting,
the pages never written.
I am the chest of words, unspoken,
plum blossom, rain, confetti.
Published in Writ on water anthology, in association with Keats' House, London.
And in the Winter roar, I dreamt of Blackthorn blossom. Of lying, meadowed, beneath the lace it cuts into the blue. And later, spinning towards the high skies of a Summer's end, gathering the dusky purple cheeks of Sloes, hiding between shining spikes that could stitch together a lifelong bed. I was gazing at the slow trail of juice that drags reluctant in the gin, before the snap of collar, before the season, cellared in the dark.
First published in Flashquake in 2009 and subsequently in my own limited edition pamphlet in 2010