» Poetry » Stinging the Sepia


The second full-sized collection of poems, developing greater depth and greater technical confidence than the pieces in 'Perspectives and other poems'. This represents twelve months of work, from summer 2008 to summer 2009. Special thanks to Mollie Baxter, Ron Scowcroft, Ron Baker, Sarah Fiske, Jo Powell and Simon Kurt Unsworth of the Monkeyrack writers' group for advice and feedback in the creation of these pieces.

As this book was launched, I was interviewed by the wondrous Jenn Ashworth of the Lancashire Writing Hub. Here is an extract from our chat.

Finding a reader or an audience is important to most writers. You're a published poet and author as well as an experienced performer. Which way of communicating your words to others do you prefer, and why?

What's the thinking behind selecting poems for a collection? Can you give poets who might be reading this, and who have a whole shoe-box or hard drive full of poems, any insight into the process you went through in making the selection, and deciding on the order, and so on?

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Performing live is a syringeful of Sunny D - it should definitely be a banned substance. The feeling of human connection when you get an audience on your side is intoxicating and I can easily understand why musicians keep gigging four decades after they were rich enough to retire. I like experimenting with different voices and gauging reactions, so I can do shouting-at-pigeons crazy for one poem and see the audience do the step-away-from-the-loony routine. Then I can do a whispering-Ted-Lowe delivery for the next piece and it's great when you can see people leaning forward and engaging with the ideas. That said, I'll never be a full-blown performance poet. If I ever came on like a dumbass white rapper, the audience would likely wet itself with derision. In any case, I'd like to think there's enough fibre in my poems for a second and third chew so that's where the books come in..

My poems range from syllabub-light rhymers all the way through pensive haiku and sepulchral free verse. I especially like to conceal stones in tissue paper; to convey a serious message in a playful vehicle. I've tried to make all three collections as eclectic as possible. I measure everything on the axes of length, seriousness and form and aim for a broad spread of those parameters. Even the Pendle Hill collaboration; although all six pieces are ostensibly about the same subject, they're all very different in form and voice. Selecting pieces is akin to deciding which toes to cut off. People tell you to murder your darlings but I've got a whole mausoleum of darlings in my hard disc. As regards running order, Stinging the Sepia has been broken down into chapters by theme, such as Landscapes and Portraits. That's as sophisticated as it gets.

Hanging On

I plummeted from the summit

Scattering boulder-scutters

Swishing snow smears

The winter whistling in my wake

The slope was steep, a headlong rush

Through layers of air grown warm and dense

Hung prehensile from the back of the bike

Reluctant to brake and risk a gymnast's vault

A season passed in a finger-snap

To Hartsop's clustered cottages

Where daffodils drowsed in cat-sunned corners

And titmice busied in the birch-branched sky

So suddenly was Spring upon my senses

Such is the rhythm of recent years

Snapping awake to an urgency of falling

And time a roaring in my ears

Video extracts from the book

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