Saturday, 27 March 2010

Launch of What the Water Gave Me – Poems after Frida Kahlo

The London launch of my fifth collection, What the Water Gave Me – Poems after Frida Kahlo (Seren), will be on Thursday 17 June, 6.30 – 8.30pm, at The Horse Hospital in Bloomsbury. If you would like to be added to the guest list please email me at

The Horse Hospital is in central London, one minute's walk from and just behind Russell Square Tube. Full address is: Colonnade, Bloomsbury, London WC1N 1HX. It's an atmospheric arty venue with a screen so I'll be able to give a short reading with projections of Frida Kahlo's paintings. There will be free wine and refreshments.

Further launches are at the Hay Festival Wednesday 2 June, Lancaster LitFest Wednesday 23 June 7.45pm (at the Storey), Ledbury Festival Saturday 3 July 10.30am–12noon, Birmingham Book Festival Thursday 7 October 7.15 – 8.15pm, Manchester Literature Festival Tuesday 19 October (a lunchtime event at Manchester Art Gallery), and more to be confirmed. Most readings will be with a slideshow of the paintings.

To pre-order the book from Seren and for more details about the collection please click here.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

The Female Poem

Is there a Female Poem? And if so do women write it? To mark International Women's Day 2010 – Monday 8 March – The Poetry Trust have produced a new podcast. This is an edited version of the discussion chaired by Jo Shapcott during the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival 2009. Maureen Duffy, Annie Freud and I discussed, amongst other things, the horror of being labelled a 'female poet', whether the male poem is the default position, the importance of 'outsider art', why ‘miserable guys stalk the poetic world' and whether Donne, Keats and Wyatt wrote 'female' poems. The discussion took place at 9am on a Sunday morning, in front of an audience of over 200.

Here is a link to the podcast:

The event was supported by The Poetry Society, so it was appropriate that Jo should chair it. I've long been an admirer of her poetry, and look forward to reading her forthcoming collection Of Mutability (Faber, July 2010)
, influenced by the sculptor Helen Chadwick, whose installation Of Mutability I saw in the 80's and also much admired.
I'd heard Annie Freud read at the King's Lynn Festival and loved her originality and boldness, and had just met Maureen Duffy for the first time that morning at the breakfast table in our wonderful B&B with its vast panoramas of the sunny Aldeburgh seafront.

The event was so popular that it sold out as soon as tickets went online and had to be moved to a larger venue, the
Jubilee Hall. The above photo of Jo was taken by the festival photographer Peter Everard Smith.
If you're thinking of going to the 2011 Aldeburgh Festival (5–7 November) I urge you to book as soon as the programme goes online as many events quickly sell out.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Giuseppe Penone tree poetry at Tate Modern

Tonight, my Poetry from Art group of 27 poets will be working in the Giuseppe Penone room at Tate Modern. It's our second week of the spring Poetry from Art course. I call it the Penone room because although there are many other intriguing works in that hub room of the 'Energy & Process' display, it's his Tree of 12 Metres (in two parts) that draws me. I first saw it in the 80's and it left a haunting impression. All last week I have been reading Penone's Writings: 1968 – 2008, a thick cream book with tree thorns on its cover, living in his world, a deeply focused place. There are poems, contemplations, texts, translated from Italian; none are meant to be literature, but they have a cumulative power. He is obsessed by trees and forests, and our relationship to them.

The Tree of 12 Metres in the Tate is carved out of a huge block of an American Larch to reveal its younger self. He has sensed around the knots to reveal earlier branches. The first photo shows his process from another installation elsewhere. Here are some other works of his I've discovered around the web:

Skin of Leaves


Here are two extracts from his Writings:

Tree tuning fork; the ear resting on the trunk of a tree
to hear its years of growth, to hear the noise of the wind
that runs in the branches, in the trunk, in the roots down into the earth.
Resting the ear and striking the trunk of a tree.
Each species of tree a sound, each day of the tree a different sound,
a sound of summer, a sound of autumn, every season a sound, every day
a sound depending on the heat, the cold, the dryness, the water in the air.
Propagation of the sound, propagation of the wood,
roundness of the sound, roundness of the tree.
On the fingertips the drawing of the sound.


Eye, axil of the leaf.
Tree, eye of the earth, trap of light, glance of leaves.
The sphere of light, the sphere of the eye, the sphere of the tree.
The eye full of light.
The thrust of the tree in the light of summer.
The pressure of light leaves imprints of leaves on the eyes.
Crystal, light of the earth that transports thought.
Marble, bone of the earth.
Calcium, thought of stone.
Brain of crystal.
Flute of vertebrae.
Back of glass.
The tree of vertebrae.

Last week we worked in the Joseph Beuys room in 'Poetry & Dream', sitting between The Pack and Lightning with Stag in Its Glare. Poems from that session are streaming in. I will have more time to study them next week when my schedule isn't so hectic, but I'm very excited about them. Next week we'll look at Robert Therrien's Red Room, the week after, at the new Arshile Gorky exhibition.