Cutting the Green Ribbon

Katy Wareham Morris has written an astonishing debut. It is unashamedly feminist and confronting, asking questions about male power, sexual desire, motherhood and the poems consider how a woman is defined and how they occupy their place in an often hostile society.

book fair 2

Sometimes I get sick of poetry that doesn’t address political things, rather it skirts around issues. I’m not saying I am any better at this, because I saturate my poems in symbolism, metaphor and ambiguity so that my discussion of certain issues are buried under layers of voices and imagery. It satisfies my poetry to create in this way, however, I admire the unapologetic lens and fire of poets like Antony Owen, writing about conflict in The Nagasaki Elder, or Wareham Morris writing about gender politics and identity.

This collection looks straight at some uncomfortable realities about being a woman in society and examines them with innovative use of form and tender, lyrical lines that made me re-read each poem after I had finished it.

Cutting the Green Ribbon is immediately intriguing from the cover design, where there is a refusal to conform to expected realities. There is no green ribbon but a blue feather, rendered against a stark, white cover.

The poems are rich with inventive, clear imagery and there is a strong sense of playful musicality. I particularly love Karaoke Sing Song and the sequence of ‘From’ poems.  There is a beat poetry connection threading through the poems, and Diane Di Prima has a dedication. Wareham Morris connects to the Beats with her bared truth and expression, her willingness to step over the conventional moral boundaries and write poetry about the lines drawn between lust, desire and female pleasure vs exploitation and abuse. Wareham Morris asks the reader to consider womanhood with varying perspectives and assumed voices; she uses some complex longer forms that are successful in their attempt to echo the use of breath and sense of performance, but despite this experimental craft, what rises most clearly from this collection is a direct, unapologetic female voice.

Published by Hesterglock Press, £8.

There is a really interesting review of CTGR here, that is a poem in itself.

Read this poetry collection if you want a feminist voice and visceral, burning imagery.


Saboteur Awards: Inheritance

It’s a wonderful feeling to have been shortlisted in the Saboteur Awards, with Katy Wareham Morris, for our collaborative piece Inheritance (published by Mother’s Milk Books). Thank you to people who voted for our pamphlet.

This sequence of poems was written at a time when both Katy and I were under various life pressures, but we found a break from all the stress by working on the poems together. I started the sequence off with the first poem and then we would write in response, incorporating a word, phrase or feeling from the previous poem to create an echo across the centuries. After working on my book, Queen, Jewel, Mistress, it was absorbing to explore just one imaginary character in the 19th century. In contrast, Katy was working on poems that examined the current experience of modern motherhood.

“2016. Nights of no sleep, new infant to feed and soothe; a woman reaches for an old box of papers to read. Letters, diary: fragments of a life long gone. The writing of a forgotten relative from the 19th century that she had always meant to do something with. Archive. Study. Yet, she never had the time, until now, when her baby ‘murmurs in the blue slate light’. The woman from the past is suddenly in her life, ‘soft as the nook between neck and ear’. Two voices trying to find their way through motherhood and marriage, whilst still clinging to their own identities.

Inheritance brings together two poets, Ruth Stacey and Katy Wareham Morris, to create an unforgettable sequence of poems. The poems follow each other with echoes from the past, images that re-surface and bring with them a feeling of universal emotion, irrelevant of the century.”

If you have enjoyed Inheritance … 9th April-9th May: Voting on shortlist opens: Vote Now!

It is also brilliant to have two V Press Poets nominated for best pamphlet. Claire Walker and Romalyn Ante. Edited by Sarah Leavesley, who runs V Press, they are very different in style and showcase the variety of excellent work Sarah selects.

As usual, my part of V.Press was designing the hand-sketched covers (Sarah does the photo covers for the flash fiction).  Below is one of the stag images I drew for Claire, one of many as it was a very vivid sequence set in the countryside. It wasn’t chosen as the final cover but it remains a favourite of mine. Claire chose a tremulous, cautious deer peering out of the trees, which suited the pamphlet perfectly. Romalyn’s design was plain and one of those perfect combinations of the words becoming the image. I really enjoy reading each new poetry pamphlet or poetry book and working on the covers; sketching the pamphlets (where I include the word poetry somewhere)  and bolder designs for the books. For example, Kathy Gee’s Book of Bones had a striking, white image of a skull on the cover. Antony Owen, recently shortlisted for the Ted Hughes, had a plain blue cover with a repeating classical pattern bordering the name of the book: The Nagasaki Elder. Antony is an incredible ambassador for peaceful protest against nuclear arms and one of the things that sums up his kind, generous nature is the request he made to me to make his name hardly stand out on the cover as it was the names of the people in the poems, those interviewed in Hiroshima and Coventry, that mattered.


Finally, the incredible, monumental, heartbreaking, upsetting, vital #metoo anthology has been nominated. I am very proud to be included in this book. It has been so carefully and considerately edited by Deborah Alma and published by Nadia Kingsley at Fairacre Press. The work in this book will not be an easy read, but it is necessary, and ultimately creates a feeling of hope and solidarity. You can hear Deborah discuss the anthology at the Hive, Worcester 17th April.