Do not embrace me until I am Viola…

To celebrate the launch of Viola, the Virgin Queen please join us at our event on 18th August, 7.30pm. To get the link for the event please email me:

To hear some poems from the pamphlet just clink on the YouTube link above.

‘I am all the daughters of my father’s house, And all the brothers too—and yet I know not.’

Actors Emma Keaveney-Roys and Adam Fuller embody the twins, Viola and Sebastian, from Twelfth Night as they ponder poems and images about Elizabeth I.

Viola, the Virgin Queen‘ is an illustrated poetry pamphlet about Elizabeth I as seen through the characters of Olivia and Viola in Twelfth Night. Follow the drama where a woman has to rule the household after the death of her brother and another woman has to act in a male role to survive. Much like Elizabeth Tudor had to do…

Published by Knives, Forks and Spoons Press. Edited by Alec Newman. Buy the book here: Knives, Forks and Spoons Press

Words by Ruth Stacey, illustrations by Desdemona McCannon.

Pronunciation and flustered mix-ups

I have had time now to get over job interviews, book launch and two of my children’s birthdays. It’s been a hectic few weeks and rushing from one thing to the next meant I have had no chance to think about my launch until today. You can listen to an audio recording of the launch on the Ledbury Poetry Festival website.


A kind man emailed me the next day to say how much he had enjoyed the launch and the poems. It was very flattering to receive an email like that, especially as I was still high from the joy of the event. Having my book in my hands after many years writing and finding the space to be a writer as well as mother, worker, wife, daughter was an emotional thing. The second part of the email was some advice that I had mispronounced one of the names and that I had mixed up Shakespeare and Marlowe when I mentioned the play Edward II in relation to his queen, Isabelle.


The pronunciation is something I dread as I am self-taught. I didn’t study history at university, I studied literature and my research has been very much alone, in the library with my head in a book. And as much as you can read a name and know a lot about that queen, it doesn’t teach you how to say it correctly. It’s something I was afraid of getting wrong and now I must seek out some experts to make sure I don’t do it again.

As for Shakespeare and Marlowe, of course I know that Marlowe wrote Edward II. I have read the play a number of times and the collected works of Shakespeare has gone everywhere with me since I brought it from a charity book shop seventeen years ago. Noticeably absent in that collected works is Edward II.


Although there are many theories that Marlowe was Shakespeare so perhaps I was thinking about that without realising it. No, I was flustered and overcome with the emotion of the event. Also,  just before I had left to go the reading, my youngest son hit his brother in the nose with a huge piece of wood and the swelling looked monstrous – I was sure it was broken. I was shaking so much when I got there, thinking I should really take my son to hospital*. It wasn’t an intentional smack in the face with a stick, purely accidental and the result of brotherly love/hate. The kind of brawling Kit Marlowe would have been familiar with in the bar room.

* but poetry is more important than broken bones

Advice on Proposals

Do you like Shakespeare? The Brontes? Jane Austen?

Well, you would probably like these pamphlets by Like This Press. Edited by Angela Topping each pamphlet collects poems about the different writers. ‘The Austen/ Brontë/ Shakespeare Project was inspired by Angela’s interest in text transformations and the timelessness of her chosen authors. No particular genre of poem was sought when inviting contributors, so the result is a splendid range of approaches from lyrical to experimental to humorous.’

I didn’t like Jane Austen for a long time. My poem included in Advice on Proposals is called Jane Austen Hated Me. Many thanks to Angela Topping for selecting my poem to be part of this excellent set of pamphlets. I can’t wait to read The Bronte one. You can read more about them and buy them here


52 Poets in Shakespeare’s town.

52 poets

photo of ’52’ poets in the shade of a mulberry tree at Shakespeare’s daughter’s house: taken by Jo Bell


On Sunday 20th July poets gathered at Shakespeare’s daughter’s house to have a picnic. The interesting part about this was that most of the poets had never met in real life before. We were part of an online community set up by Jo Bell. New Year’s Eve 2013/2014 Jo was thinking about resolutions and she had the idea of creating a blog with prompts aimed at getting people to write a poem a week (52 poems in total). This has been so useful for me. The prompts each week are very interesting and I have managed to do each one so far, which has given me a file of poems to work on. Being able to post them into the group on facebook is excellent for feedback and it also motivates me to keep going. Reading and commenting on everyone’s poems is a real joy as well.

Write a poem a week. Start Now. Keep Going.

Despite going to meet lots of people I didn’t know, I wasn’t a bit nervous. I already felt like I knew the people even though I had only seen a tiny square photo of them next to the poems they posted each week. I had a feeling it was going to be very welcoming.

And I was right; it was a friendly and buzzing atmosphere as people rushed around introducing themselves and eating picnics. Jo Bell has done a marvelous job creating a vibrant poetry community and it has forged new friendships and some brilliant poems.

After the food and chatting we went to the Shakespeare Centre for a reading. Twenty-five poets were chosen from the colander (in place of a hat!) and I was one of them.  I was a little nervous, but I loved the poem I had written so I was pleased to be able to share it out loud. Reading one poem each is also my favourite style of open mic; I enjoy the pace and changing styles. There was a fantastic mix of emotions and images: I liked hearing which prompt inspired each poem. Of course, being the cloud head that I am, I was unsure which prompt had inspired mine (silence or invitation!)

Afterwards, we all went outside and read a sonnet outside Shakespeare’s birthplace, much to the surprise of passing tourists. This was followed by drinks at The Dirty Duck and lots more conversation. A wonderful day indeed!


nina poetry