How I Did It

How I Did It: ‘the Interrupters’

the Interrupters no two can meet the way we have met WS Graham a foyet like the day of the dead for it is full with missing children this is how violence starts, first the perception of a slight of an insult within the context of a culture that has taught the imperative that you…

Read More

How I Did It: ‘The Ballad of the Small-Boned Daughter’

Shafilea Ahmed died in September 2003 aged 17. She was a British Pakistani girl from Warrington, Cheshire. She was a beautiful and spirited girl who was murdered in a so called ‘honour killing’ by her parents. Like so many others I watched the long gruesome trial in 2012 when her parents were finally convicted of…

Read More

How I Did It: ‘Mort-Dieu’

It’s tempting to look at the title poem of An Aviary of Small Birds, as it not only expresses a literary influence (in particular, the poem references a mythical bird the Octobrine as coined by Pablo Neruda) but also encapsulates the high note I was reaching for, as a lyric and an elegy. However, the…

Read More

How I Did It: ‘witchbundle’

Creating the premise for your poem is a tricky enough task on any given day. Besides the obvious self-critical murmurings of ‘is this worth writing about’, once you have an idea you then need to conjure your pen (or fingers) to create some magical syntax that relays your thoughts to the reader. How many hurdles…

Read More

How I Did It: ‘On Ninjas’

I don’t really know why I decided to write about ninjas–I knew about them in a general pop-culture way, like most people, but I hadn’t read up about or studied them in particular. I liked the fact that, as a subject, they were non-realistic, not part of everyday life. I also thought it would be…

Read More

How I Did It: ‘Poem in which the girl has no door on her mouth’

In Anne Carson’s essay The Gender of Sound (from Glass, Irony and God, printed as Glass and God in the UK edition, and strangely omitting The Gender of Sound altogether) she writes of ‘…the haunting garrulity of the nymph Echo (daughter of Iambe in Athenian legend) who is described by Sophokles as “the girl with…

Read More

How I Did It: ‘The Cattle Farmer’s Tale’

Imagination, being by definition un-willed, often comes in unexpectedly, the result of some chance encounter or coincidence. We can’t will ourselves into a genuinely imaginative space. We can work with what imagination provides – uncover the form, improve the syntax, work to complete the poem – but imagination itself is uncanny, unbiddable. Imagination always takes…

Read More

How I Did It: ‘On First Meeting Margot’

One Thursday afternoon in May 2014, I left my Poetry School class and headed to Waterloo for the train home. On Lower Marsh, I bumped into my friend Alice, who I had not seen for quite some time. With her was Margot, her small daughter whose father is a close friend of mine, the poet…

Read More

How I Did It: ‘How to Renovate a Morris Minor’

I was having a conversation this week with a brilliant Welsh poet, who’s currently at work on his second collection. He said something about his creative process which resonated strongly with me: he was working hard, he said, to get to the stage where the poems wrote themselves. That’s always been it for me: the…

Read More

How I Did It: ‘Sow’

Like many of the poems in Black Country, it took a long time for ‘Sow’ to travel from its first notes to its final form.  It began as a scribbled note in my diary in May 2010. I was walking along Highgate Tube platform in a new pair of black boots and, hearing them trip-trapping,…

Read More

How I Did It: ‘Burnt Rose’

I wrote ‘Burnt Rose’ in Newsham Park in Liverpool, on a nature-spotting walk with my son. Sometimes we take our notebooks to the park, along with a football and some snacks, and write down — or draw pictures of — what we see.  That day we found, under a tree, a rose that had been burned: it was…

Read More

How I Did It: ‘Fat Dandy’

Most people know me as a “performance poet”. I don’t like the term, it’s rather restrictive and plenty of what I write ends up in books, not on stage. Sound is very important though. I want the poem to sound good, to rattle off the tongue, or fall on the ear like a big, soft…

Read More

How I Did It: ‘The Shipwrecked House II’

I wrote ‘The Shipwrecked House II’ at my grandmother’s funeral. I know this because this image is my contribution to her funeral book. A few weeks later I met Tom Chivers for the first time to discuss my yet untitled collection. I wanted to go with ‘Hook’ in memory of my grandmother (her maiden name)…

Read More

How I Did It: ‘As they pulled you out of the oxygen tent / you asked for the latest party’

This is the last poem that made it into my new book, just as the publishers and printers were calling time. It’s a definite Summer of 2013 snapshot. When I wrote it, all these things were in the air: the David Bowie Is exhibition at the V&A; BOWIEOKE (David Bowie karaoke) at The Betsy Trotwood,…

Read More

How I Did It: ‘Violet-among-the-Harpsichord’

I was commissioned by Claire Trévien to write a new poem for her Penning Perfumes Christmas Special. In the Penning Perfumes projects you are sent a mystery perfume to write a poem about. Once you’ve completed the poem, the scent is revealed to you. The idea is that you are able to work with the…

Read More