Monday, 29 August 2016

Peter Hughes at Litter

There are four poems by Peter Hughes, after Giacomo Leopardi, in the latest edition of Litter. Take a look – some other very interesting stuff there too, as always.

Friday, 26 August 2016

The Forward Book of Poetry 2017

The 25th annual Forward Prize anthology is out on September 15th – it contains all the poems shortlisted for this year's prizes, plus a selection of those highly commended by the judges. Those featured include Vahni Capildeo, John Clegg, Maura Dooley, Ian Duhig, Leontia Flynn, Kathleen Jamie, Luke Kennard, William Letford, Melissa Lee-Houghton, Hannah Lowe, Roy McFarlane, Helen Mort, Alice Oswald, Denise Riley, Carol Rumens, Ian Seed, Julia Webb and Luke Wright.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Magma 65

Issue 65 of the always excellent Magma is out now - you can find further details here.

Reviews include Kathryn Gray on Ian Duhig, Andy Willoughby and Claire Askew; Ian McEwen on Martin Stannard, Matthew Caley and Barbara Cumbers; Rob A Mackenzie on Judy Brown, Lisa Matthews and Adam Crothers; and Pippa Little on Anne-Marie Fyfe, Martin Figura and Andrew Shields.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Summer sale at Nine Arches Press

There's a summer sale on at Nine Arches Press, with 50% off lots of their poetry books, others available for just £3, and free postage – the offer ends on September 1st, though, so hurry. There are collections from the likes of Daniel Sluman, Tony Williams, Mario Petrucci, Jo Bell, Bobby Parker, Angela France, Richie McCaffrey and many more in there, plus several anthologies.

My own The Elephant Tests is there for £4, while my previous collection, hydrodaktulopsychicharmonica, is still available at £8.99.

After a long sojourn in the land of prose these last couple of years, I'm finally getting back to writing some poetry at the moment. Not entirely sure where it's going, but then that's half the fun, isn't it?

Monday, 22 August 2016

A Sky Full Of Birds in Bournemouth

I'll be reading from A Sky Full Of Birds (and who knows, maybe a poem or two), at Bournemouth Natural Science Society and Museum this Saturday (August 27th), at 2.30pm.

The talk takes place in the Lecture Hall of the building at 39 Christchurch Road, and there's a suggested donation of £3. There'll also be the chance to buy copies of the book, and of my poetry collections, at discount prices.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

A Sky Full Of Birds reviewed in the Times Literary Supplement



Very pleased to have been reviewed in the latest Times Literary Supplement, alongside Mike Dilger's Nightingales In November, and very grateful to Richard Smyth for his thoughtful and generous reading of A Sky Full Of Birds.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Birdfair reading

I'll be reading from A Sky Full Of Birds at the British Birdwatching Fair, at the Egelton Reserve, Rutland Water, this Saturday at 9.30am. It takes place in the Author's Forum (next to the main Events Marquee), and I'll be signing books afterwards.

I'll be at Birdfair all three days, as usual – the Bird Watching Magazine stand is in its usual place in Marquee 6, so if you're there, pop by and say hello.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

A Sky Full of Birds at Wigtown Book Festival

I'm going to be reading from A Sky Full Of Birds at the Wigtown Book Festival, Dumfries and Galloway, on Thursday September 29th. The event takes place at the Main hall of the County Buildings at 1.30pm, and you can find more details, including how to book, here.

Wigtown Bay is a pretty great birdwatching spot itself, especially at that time of year, so it will be great to combine the reading with some time in the field. Might just be too early for the geese to be back on the Solway, but there should be plenty of waders going through.

Friday, 12 August 2016

Autumn anthology


It's not often I get the chance to say that a poem of mine is appearing in an anthology alongside poems and nature writing by the likes of Gilbert White, Richard Jefferies, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Patrick Kavanagh, Shelley, Tennyson, Yeats, Edward Thomas, Dylan Thomas, Thomas Hardy, Coleridge, John Clare, Ted Hughes, Helen Macdonald and Alison Brackenbury, so you'll have to excuse me being quite excited today.

My poem, about Long-eared Owls, appears in Autumn, the latest "anthology for the changing seasons", edited by Melissa Harrison, published by Elliott & Thompson, and in aid of The Wildlife Trusts, who don't always get the same high profile as some conservation organisations, but who do an incredible amount of vital work at the local level.

It's out on August 25th, so order your copy now - it's a wonderful celebration of the season.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Provenance, by David Belbin


I've been reading David Belbin's superb Provenance: New and Collected Short Stories, which pulls together 18 stories dating back as far as the 1980s.

There's a wide variety of subject matter (one which deals with child abuse is particularly effective), but the style is uniformly realistic, economical and exact – David Belbin's particularly good at dialogue. It all means that the stories' impact rather creeps up on you – there's no heavy-handed signposting of significance, or meaning, and you're left, as the reader, with a little work to do yourself (as you should be). Take the time, though, and you'll certainly come away from the book the better for having read it, so precisely does it capture the uncertainties of contemporary life (generally with an East Midlands flavour, too, refreshingly).

It's from the always-excellent Shoestring Press - you can order a copy here.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Falcon, by Helen Macdonald


You probably know Helen Macdonald as the author of the best-selling H Is For Hawk, which was Costa Book of the Year 2014 and also won the Samuel Johnson Prize that year. It combined a moving memoir of the writer's loss of her father with a diary of the training of a Goshawk, the most difficult to handle of all falconers' birds.

This new release, Falcon, was originally published in 2006, but has been reissued with a new preface by Macdonald that brings it up to date. As well as looking at the use of the birds of the title in falconry, the book explores the natural history of falcons, and their role in history and myth. The end result is an absorbing, entertaining and enlightening read (well illustrated, too).

Macdonald is also, of course, a poet of note, and her collection Shaler's Fish is well worth seeking out (although it's not easy to come by). I'm glad to have snapped up a copy a good few years ago – it's a book that repays repeated readings.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Holiday reading

I'm off to lie around in the sun for 10 days, and I'm looking forward to catching up on some reading. In terms of poetry, that will be the new Bernard O'Donoghue collection, The Seasons of Cullen Church, Adam Zagajewski's Selected Poems, and Jack Gilbert's Collected Poems.

I'll also be reading Jonathan Bate's biography of Ted Hughes, and Raymond Chandler's The Little Sister – I've been working my way through Chandler's entire catalogue, and it never gets dull.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

George Mackay Brown

It's 20 years today since George Mackay Brown died – there's some interesting stuff on him here. He's one of those poets I go back to a lot, perhaps because he's really not a lot like anyone else at all.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Blackbox Manifold 16 out now!

Issue 16 of Blackbox Manifold is out now, with work by Matthew Carbery, Imogen Cassels, Adam Hampton, Lewis Haubus, Tom Jenks, Kent MacCarter, Amy McCauley, James Midgley, Peter Mishler, Simon Perchik, Stuart Pickford, Sam Riviere, Iain Rowley, Ian Seed, Afshan Shafi, Rachel Sills, Dale Smith, David Spittle, Catherine Vidler, Corey Wakeling and John Welch.


There are a new series of essays on the sequence and seriality by Dorothy Alexander, James Capozzi, Alan Golding, Astrid Lorange, Simon Smith and Anne Stillman, and there are also pieces by Ed Luker on JH Prynne, Joe Luna on Douglas Oliver, and Adam Piette on RF Langley.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Thank you

I just wanted to say a big thank-you to everyone who has bought a copy of A Sky Full Of Birds. On the release of any book, you're struck by a sudden fear that absolutely nobody, other than your closest family and friends, could possibly want to buy and read it. So, to find out that it has sold over 1,000 copies in its first three months is absolutely thrilling – thanks too to everybody who has reviewed it, helped publicise it, and generally spread the word.

If you're interested in finding out more, click here.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

A Sky Full Of Birds reviewed in Countryfile magazine


I'm very grateful to Ben Hoare, and Countryfile Magazine, for this very generous review of A Sky Full Of Birds. It's very pleasing, too, that the review is sandwiched between books from Stephen Moss and Edward Thomas.

Friday, 1 July 2016

Geoffrey Hill, 1932-2016, RIP

Very sad to hear of the passing away of Geoffrey Hill yesterday. As I've noted on here a few times before, I can't pretend to know the bulk of his work very well, but Mercian Hymns was some of the first poetry to really grab my attention, and I still love it, while an early Selected Poems is one of my most re-read poetry volumes.

Here's his An Apology For The Revival Of Christian Architecture In England, a wonderful sonnet sequence that appeared in that Selected.

Monday, 27 June 2016

The Seasons of Cullen Church, by Bernard O'Donoghue


I've long been a fan of Bernard O'Donoghue's poetry - his The Nuthatch is one of my favourite bird poems ever - so I'm looking forward to getting stuck into this, his latest collection from Faber and Faber.

It's concerned with family histories and mythologies, as well as touching on some of O'Donoghue's other familiar concerns and subjects - emigration and emigrants, and (pleasingly for me), Anglo-Saxon literature. More to follow once I've digested it further...

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Vision Helmet, by David Briggs


I've enjoyed David Briggs' poetry a great deal in the past (his two Salt collections, The Method Men and Rain Rider, are well worth seeking out) so it was great to receive a copy of his new Maquette pamphlet, Vision Helmet, this week. I've only flicked through so far, but the title poem is terrific, and I'll post a full review in the next few weeks.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

A Sky Full Of Birds at Lowdham Book Festival

I'll be reading from my book, A Sky Full Of Birds, at the Lowdham Book Festival this Saturday (June 25th), at 11am. It takes place at the Methodist Chapel on Main Street, and as well as the reading there'll be time for questions and book signings afterwards.

The full festival programme is here – there's plenty of great events on throughout the week.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

The Migrant Waders


This rather lovely book arrived at the Bird watching office this week - it's a collection of poetry, prose and reportage from Dunlin Press, following the migration routes of waders and shorebirds from the tropics to the High Arctic, taking in the landscapes they encounter, and the people who encounter them, along the way.

Contributors include Caroline Gill, Martin Harper, Samantha Franks, Gary Budden, Colin Williams and Rebecca Moore, and there are illustrations by Ella Johnston.

It costs £12.99, and is available from the Dunlin Press website above. Watch this space, and a future issue of Bird Watching, for a full review.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Coquet Island's Roseate Terns


When I was at university in Newcastle, we frequently had history field trips, or history society drinking trips, to various castles and other sites along the Northumberland coast. Warkworth Castle, near Amble, was a favourite.


I was in Amble this week, ahead of a trip out to Coquet Island, home to the UK's biggest breeding colony of Roseate Terns. The weather wasn't great, the sea was pretty choppy, but it was a memorable experience, nonetheless. The Roseates were present in numbers, along with Common and Sandwich Terns, Eiders, Puffins and Kittiwakes.

And history came into it, too. St Cuthbert, who lived as a hermit on the Farne Islands a little further north, came to Coquet to meet with Aelfleda, the daughter of the Northumbrian king Oswiu. Aelfleda was the Abbess of Whitby by then, I think. Cuthbert, I suppose, would have kept a close eye on the birdlife – he was particularly fond of Eiders, which are still sometimes known locally as 'Cuddy ducks', and ensured they had some sort of legal protection.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Signed copies of A Sky Full Of Birds

I've got a number of copies of A Sky Full Of Birds at home, for anyone who'd like to buy one direct from me – they're £13 including P&P, and I can sign them or add dedications as required.

With the first three orders, I'll also include a unique, previously unpublished bird poem inspired by the research for the book. 

If you'd like a copy, email me at the link on the right.