On the Cautious Road

The Hitchhiker holds his sign hopefully.
It is such a sad little sign;
limp and with a spelling mistake.
Yet it is the way I am going.
If this was 1943 I would stop.
If I was a man I would stop.
Why is he standing there, they ask.
I answer. My children look at me and say,
Well, we could give him a lift?
I can’t admit that I imagine the worst
that could happen, the things
they don’t know about yet;
rare and unlikely but possible
chance of him snuffing out our lights,
their miniature bones lost in the earth.

So I quickly reply that this car is too
noisy for that traveller,
he looks like he has a headache.
We drive straight past.
The children wave.


Spinning flax into gold

Humans are emotional creatures; we react. It could be a flush of desire, or a tremble of fear followed by a roar of anger. Perhaps it is disgust, boiling in the stomach, or obsession clouding the mind like swirls of cream in black coffee: everything is diluted into sweetness and anticipation.


When you get cut up on the road and all the obscenities you know explode from your mouth, remember that feeling and distil it into an imaginary bottle. (I picture the kind of hand-blown glass bottle that has bumps and imperfections within the glass) Then paste a white label and write on it in dark ink,’this is the exact shade of road rage.’ When you get jammed into an elevator with five men all wearing intense aftershave and it brings a roll of nausea to your mouth, bottle the feeling and label it, ‘this is the overwhelming feeling of male vanity.’ As you watch your neighbour stealing your apples and you imagine all the lost apple pies, bottle that feeling and label it, ‘this is indignant-stolen-apple flavoured anger.’

When I say bottle it, I mean write it down. Write it in a file or book and call it: The exact taste, shade, feeling of emotion.

Now you can remember and use those emotions and the metaphors they inspired when your character needs a specific detail. Raid your shelves and pull the right bottle off, fall back into that moment. The more annoyed you are the better the description will be.


Berkeley Castle reading


I will be reading from Queen, Jewel, Mistress at Berkeley Castle on 11th September. Look out for me in the Small drawing Room or wandering the gardens. You can hear some poems or chat to me about the queens in the book.

The castle is traditionally the scene of Edward II’s murder so I shall certainly be reading the poem from the perspective of his queen, Isabella of France. This poem stands out as the most rage-filled poem in the book!

Sudeley Castle


I will be visiting Sudeley Castle on Sunday 4th September. I will be reading poems in St Mary’s Church which houses the tomb of Katherine Parr. The whole day at the castle is a celebration of Katherine Parr. I wrote the poem about her whilst I was staying at The Hurst during my Arvon week. I can remember walking through the ice shrouded woods, snow on the horizon, thinking about the lines that became the poem. I can’t wait to read it at Sudeley and other poems from Queen, Jewel, Mistress that also link to the history of the castle.

Sudeley Castle Website

NPG 4451; Catherine Parr attributed to Master John

attributed to Master John, oil on panel, circa 1545

© National Portrait Gallery, London



“Mark Fisher was delighted to be asked to open the first Ledbury Poetry Festival in 1997 as Labour arts minister, and has maintained his support for the festival as an active Patron over many years. His anthology Hwaet! brings together 200 new poems by a wide range of poets who have delighted audiences at Ledbury Poetry Festival over 20 years as well as poems by some unforgettable visitors no longer with us who will always be remembered in Ledbury. Scattered between the poems are anecdotes contributed by poets and others offering a sense of the diverse flavour of an international poetry festival which is possibly unusual in being created, nurtured and loved by the community in which it is based. 


The poets saying ‘Hwaet!’ include writers from all parts of Britain and Ireland, from North America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. They include writers who’ve been poet-in-residence or worked on popular community and schools projects in Ledbury along with winners of the Ledbury Poetry Competition.”

You can purchase the anthology HERE.



Reading ‘Actions Speak’ at the launch of Hwaet! at Ledbury. It was a brilliant evening of poetry and I felt grateful to Ledbury Poetry Festival (especially Chloe Garner) for including me and for always supporting me as a writer. Watch it HERE