Nine Arches – hot off the press

new poetry for 2016
Isobel• Isobel Dixon – Bearings


In this wide-ranging fourth collection, Isobel Dixon takes readers on a journey to far-flung and sometimes dark places. These poems are forays of discovery and resistance, of arrival and loss. Dixon explores form and subject, keeping a weather eye out for telling detail, with a sharp sense of the threat that these journeys, our wars and stories, and our very existence pose to the planet.

Forthcoming April 2016


Julia.jpg• Julia Webb – Bird Sisters


Julia Webb’s Bird Sisters is a surreal journey through sisterhood and the world of the family via the natural world. Fascinated by the “otherness” of things, her poems expose worlds and relationships that are not always entirely comfortable places to exist, featuring transformation – both real and metaphorical: a woman wears a dress of live bees, family members turn into owls and sparrows…
Forthcoming May 2016



• Abegail Morley – The Skin Diary

Abegail Morley’s new poetry collection The Skin Diary confronts loss in its many forms with unwavering and astonishing clarity, yet there’s an incandescent thread running through every line that makes each alive with fierce and steely energy.


Forthcoming May 2016

Also forthcoming in 2016:

Primers: Volume 1.
Due April 2016, featuring poets Maureen Cullen, Geraldine Clarkson, Lucy Ingrams and Katie Griffiths
Penelope Shuttle & John Greening – Heath
Due July 2016
Roy Macfarlane  – Beginning With Your Last Breath
Due September 2016
Gregory Leadbetter – The Fetch
Due July 2016
Angela Readman – The Book of Tides
Due July 2016

‘Daniel Sluman’s new collection explores acute and chronic, emotional and physical pain (and, albeit less often, pleasure) with a raw, compelling urgency. At times playful, at times harrowing, the terrible always brims with life.’ – Carrie Etter‘Vivid and honest poems of intense experience, in which no wound is too deep to be cauterised by language.’ – Jean Sprackland

‘This is a decadent work of painstaking beauty. Its sophisticated chromatic spectrum is fevered with a minimal though striking palette of monochrome and the occasional burst of pure, visceral colour ’ – Melissa Lee-Houghton

‘In this unflinching collection, Daniel Sluman evokes raw truths at the core of personal experience … Each moment of hope they reveal is as fragile and beautiful as a lit match in a cellar.’ – John McCullough

Find out more and buy the terrible


Take 15 poets, 2 actors, 1 lutist and shake…


Much like a modern artist’s response to a classical masterpiece, a range of critically-acclaimed contemporary poets have been inspired by some of England’s most beloved wordsmiths, before responding with new and celebrated works of their own. Actors and musicians will bring both the traditional canon and the contemporary replies to life.

Following the success of last year’s Winter’s Tales, in which actors read aloud stirring short stories under the glorious candlelight of the Playhouse, this series brings a melting pot of classic and contemporary poetry to the stage in what is bound to be a memorable and evocative evening.

Saturday 29 August, 8.00pm

John Donne: The Voice and the Echo

Tim Pigott-Smith
Miranda Raison
Richard MacKenzie (lute)

With new poems and existing poems by Simone Belcampo, Will Burns, Nick Drake, Paul Farley, John Greening, Alan Jenkins, Zaffar Kunial, Glyn Maxwell, Anne Michaels, Abegail Morley, Paul Muldoon, Sean O’Brien, Peter Oswald, Craig Raine and Jack Underwood.



Ekphrasis, the British Library and Alice in Wonderland


Lewis Carroll: ‘Alice’s Adventures Under Ground’
British Library Add. MS 46700, f.19v
Copyright © The British Library Board
A high-quality version of this image can be purchased from British Library Images Online. For more information email imagesonline@bl.uk


We are delighted to announce that our next Ekphrasis event will take place in conjunction with the British Library and the Alice in Wonderland exhibition.

2015 is the 150th anniversary of the publication of Alice in Wonderland and the year will culminate with an exhibition opening in November, which will be exploration of the book itself and the themes it explores in the main foyer of the British Library. Very excitingly our evening event will also take place in the main foyer of the British Library on March 4th 2016 and it will be a cabaret of poetry and song written especially in response to the work on display.

We are inviting poets and songwriters from all over the country to take part but this time we also wish to compile and publish a full anthology of Alice inspired poetry and will commission poets to write their own poem in response to the exhibition or to any aspect of the book.

We will also, as before, invite poem submissions from everyone inspired in some way by Alice, two of whom will be invited to join us on stage in the evening, with the publication of a further three other winning poems offered within the anthology.

It is hard to imagine a world without Alice. Reading it today, it still seems fresh and alive. And so we invite you all to consider your own response to this classic, thinking through any of the very many ways Carroll has shaped or freed our imagined world, our perception of childhood, even our very use of language.


Emer Gillespie, Abegail Morley and Catherine Smith, together we share a passion for creating a dialogue between the arts.

‘It’s the exciting bit, really….how arts practitioners in one sphere can take something created by an arts practitioner in another sphere and see something fresh and inspiring in it,’ Catherine Smith

‘I find that what I see and read sets off a chain of thoughts in my own head that can lead to a poem I would never have thought of writing in the first place. The poem furthers my communication with a work of art, I can talk back to it, talk back to the artist who created it, or explore the resonance it creates inside me,’ Emer Gillespie.

EKPHRASIS provides an evening of conversation and exploration inviting collaboration with some of the most original voices working in poetry today.

Exhibition details will be posted up on the British Library site shortly.

Previously we worked with The Royal Academy of Arts:


The Riverhill Effect


The Riverhill Effect

This morning I could count the flowers in my garden:
two yellow roses, three purple irises, seventeen weedy daisies;
tiny tokens from Mother Nature.
Cracker prizes for getting this far.

Riverhill has won more.
Thousands of wedding dresses
drift above the paths with joy and light;
hundreds of silky Gothic bodices
flirt in curtained corners;
and tens of tall, trousered pines
proclaim that they shall not be moved.
Life. Living. Lived.

Because at the end of the day
those tattered, tired flower-frocks are allowed to drop
to the creeping, spidery floor, where they are welcomed
by the stink of compassionate rotting and living decay.
Until, with deadly magic, rips are mended,
hems re-sewn, buttons replaced,
mud washed away, so that
the garden will wear new clothes next year,
harder-wearing, more beautiful, more abundant.

Lying on the grass, nose close to the earth,
eyes blind with pain and fear,
I can just smell the same rich rot in my own soil.
Here too is space for repair; for mending.
Simply let the flowers drop, let the compost work,
and we will both have new clothes next year.

Sara Carroll

Waterloo Cedar

In memory of Henry Buckley of the 15th Hussars

It’s a Sunday afternoon, 18th June 1815. Lunchtime.
The battle of Waterloo. Nobody is quite sure
when it started, watches then were set by the sun.
A shot, a charge. Wellington. Napoleon. Armies
of tens of thousands, delayed by weather, thick mud.

Henry. A brave young man at 18. Had some lover’s
hands once undone the toggles of his tunic, gold braid,
felt his chest before the sword? A hedge of bayonets.
Troop colours: blue, yellow, red and blue. Battle honours,
and yet he died, one of many. Others injured, or missing.

It was to be the end of Napoleon’s one hundred
days in exile – this tree now over one hundred feet high.
Afterwards they built the Lion’s Mound to mark the spot
where the English beat the French, with a little help.
Henry. Futile fields. Was it for this the clay grew tall?

Light cavalry, horses in battle, the conclusion: ‘a close thing…’
In bookshops now, row upon row of military history
every decision recorded, catalogued, codified. Today this
cedar, grown so tall, in spite of further war the world over.
Here now, give thanks for Henry and all who’ve gone before.

Steve Walter


after John O’Connor

Bolt your feet to the ground,
centre yourself in the cavity
of your chest.

Breathe out.
Extend your arms
so they’re rigid as planks.

Right-angle your hands, stretch

fingers like claws, so palms
push imaginary walls.

Turn your back on the vast valley

of sky, the earth below

too deep, too wide.

Look down, let shoulders
take the strain, neck buckle
with the weight of clouds.

Breathe in, limbs quartering

the light. Close your eyes,

let darkness swim.

Karen Dennison


Day Out

The garden of Kent rolls from my feet,
a shift of soil thin as a pauper’s shroud
across shoulders of chalk.

Traffic slurs the space between bird song
and in the distance green shifts to blue.
Azaleas punch fists of glamour at the June sky
and rhododendrons choir open throated song.

Two dreamers on the lawn
shut their lids to the view.
Shadows sculpt hidden eyes
that watch the spark and pulse
of tangerine clouds rimmed with lime.

Legs astride, arms wide as a tent
the statue on the hill
pushes open an invisible space,
commands me – Be here now!

Sheena Clover




There’s no river at Riverhill…


Riverhill, June 2015

Riverhill (I)

There is no river
at Riverhill, the name comes
from Saxon: ‘rither’.

Riverhill (II)

Listen to jackdaws
chip at the edge of the breeze
staccato laughter.

Riverhill (III)

I am no gardener
and yet I love a garden
which rises and loves.

Steve Walter

shut the gate

Please Shut the Gate

Open your mind and let the words flow, like water, like breeze, like bees from flower to flower.

Stop once in a while to taste nectar and drink in fragrant morning scent.

Break down walls of daily life to find those private thoughts of yours and mine to listen to the garden as you keep to the gravel paths. Longing to break free from rules, delight in rabbits who cannot read but leave their calling cards written in a code of Hansel and Gretel droppings across worn banks.

Ladies called Rose walk into a secret world of dens amidst Himalayan Rhododendrons back into a childhood before flowers became spelling tests.

Sit on twisted trunks gaze upwards whilst climbing trees with adult shoes to balance words.

Old tiles stacked near the Car Park are nature’s bookcase etched with lichen script.

Gardens filled with nodding Alliums, a remedy to soothe the soul with purple heads of full stops in proliferation. Listen to nature’s placebo for modern life with its soundtrack of summer mistletoe accompanied by kissing bees.

Caroline Auckland


All photos copyright of Caroline Auckland

Glasshouse Occupants
(Remembering the Victorian gardeners)

I arrive as sun stakes her claim
on the top panes − light hangs low −
a pearly thread woven through cloud.

Imagine the frame’s wooden bones creak
with old age, prop themselves up
like shoulder blades loosed from skin,

each beam rasps for the memory
of gardeners long gone.
I hear earth split, spread rumours

about pollen, spit seeds from clumps
of mud unlacing palm leaves
with a single flick of its tongue.

Abegail Morley


Winter and happy Christmas from the Sheditor

akaren Artwork: Karen Dennison



When you text, you said you’d bring a radiator key
and suddenly you’re my knight in shining armour –
you can conquer lands, slay dragons
with your sword. And I fell in love with your words,
the Yes, I have one, and the I’ll put it in my bag.
Here is my hero at the end of a phone,
texting me all the wooing words a girl needs,
now it’s winter and snowing outside.
When you left, the radiator still needed bleeding,
air locked between pipes and room:
a word, a sentence, a message.
I listened to the gasp
when I turned the key,
but couldn’t quite hear what you said.


First published in Obsessed with Pipework


Robert Peake on Reading at the Royal Academy

Stolen from his blog with kind permission: here

Last night I participated in a truly unique poetry reading sponsored by Ekphrasis. A dozen of us poets dispersed ourselves amongst installations in the Sensing Spaces architectural exhibit at the Royal Academy. As patrons wandered through the exhibits, we read poems to them, which we had written in response to these very spaces.

It was challenging. Bursting into poetry as the spirit moved me felt a bit like trying photo-1-300x300to be a one-man flashmob. Having never done any busking, I was unaccustomed to people wandering into or out of a room while I was reading a poem. Based on their responses, I think it was challenging, too, for the patrons. I saw many a bemused and bewildered smile.

Often, when we encounter something surprising like a provocative art installation, we seek guidance–in the placards on the walls, or the words of a knowledgeable guide. Yet we poets were the opposite of guides–raising yet more questions in response to their questions, bringing our own thoughts, music, and imagery to bear. The patrons were therefore simultaneously experiencing their own responses to the installations, and responding to ours. Challenging, indeed.

Yet challenge is not a bad thing in art; far from it. Being of service to an artistic experience, even if it is a bit personally uncomfortable to pull off, is always a privilege. To do something truly original like this is rare. We are so accustomed to the conventions of performance, so comfortable in knowing our place on either side of the “fourth wall”.

A film crew was on site to record the evening’s antics. Having individuals dressed in black point high-end videography equipment at you pretty well guarantees that people will gather in the form of an audience, and clap at the end. It is a familiar format; it tells us our roles. Yet some of the most interesting moments for me involved a more causal mix of reading, conversing, and admiring the spaces. I also managed to experience several other poets reading as well, which was fascinating, and made me feel proud to take part.

The challenge of it also brought us poets together with a sense of solidarity. For the patrons, I think it added an element of surprise. There was an atmosphere of playfulness last night that I had not experienced in my previous visit. You never knew when you might round a corner, and there would be someone reading a poem. I felt a bit like a poetry ninja.

Ekphrasis also put together a handsome anthology of the poems, which they made available to us all on the night. Hearty thanks are due, and congratulations, to Emer Gillespe and Abegail Morley for pulling this off with such grace, as well as Owen Hopkins of the RA, Kate Goodwin the curator of the Sensing Spaces exhibit, and of course the six remarkable architects who realised these installations for us all to enjoy. Here’s to more layered and provocative artistic experiences to come.

You can read all six poems I wrote in response to the Sensing Spaces exhibit, and listen to audio recordings, on my Sensing Spaces, Wandering Words page.

Robert Peake

Robert Peake is an American poet living in England. His newest short collection is The Silence Teacher (Poetry Salzburg, 2013). His previous short collection was Human Shade (Lost Horse Press, 2011).


EKPHRASIS at the Royal Academy

Sensing Spaces: Wandering Words


Friday March 7 2014 7pm – 9pm

Seven internationally influential architects transform the main galleries of the Royal Academy of Art in London, ten poets respond to their work in an exciting evening of peripatetic poetry.

‘Imagine, feel, share, explore, touch, reflect’ – where we are shapes how we feel, what we hear colours our experience… We are delighted to announce our first event in collaboration with the Royal Academy.

The poets contributing response to Sensing Spaces are:

Patricia Debney Sasha Dugdale Ian Duhig Martin Figura Vanessa Gebbie Emer Gillespie Helen Ivory Maureen Jivani Edward Mackay Abegail Morley Robert Peake Catherine Smith Tamar Yoseloff


Two members of the public will be invited to read as part of the evening alongside established poets. If you would like to take part, please send your work to info@ekphrasis.org.uk

Tickets for the event can be booked on the main RA website.

Sensing Spaces: Architecture Reimagined

25 January — 6 April 2014



Abegail Morley, Catherine Smith and Emer Gillespie, together we share a passion for creating a dialogue between the arts.

‘It’s the exciting bit, really….how arts practitioners in one sphere can take something created by an arts practitioner in another sphere and see something fresh and inspiring in it,’ Catherine Smith

‘I find that what I see and read sets off a chain of thoughts in my own head that can lead to a poem I would never have thought of writing in the first place. The poem furthers my communication with a work of art, I can talk back to it, talk back to the artist who created it, or explore the resonance it creates inside me,’ Emer Gillespie.

EKPHRASIS provides an evening of conversation and exploration inviting collaboration with some of the most original voices working in poetry today.


Launch of Eva and George

The Young Plan: 1929cover eva

Whiteman, your King of Jazz,
dazzles you. Germany cannot pay.
We watch as banks slump,
benefactors bankrupt; you paint
body parts recumbent:
a thigh out of place, a torso
limbless, a breast of lace.

Tonight you play the banjo
and we remember our forgotteness:
Germany pivoting on its wheel
in the darkness and you crossing
through granite to pick and pick
at its city, extracting life
from crystal seams.


Widmung an Oskar Panizza

In this infernal abyss you paint your psychiatrist
and lunatics, bleed them on to paper: Liebeskonzil
syphilis, hellscape. Here in your red world,
the grim reaper rides the coffin, takes a slug
of spirits, drops the dead in some pitiless pit.

There’s no mercy with your marauders, your whole street
clambers through chaos and somewhere in it
you’re trapped opening and closing your sketchbook
like it’s a pair of wings desperate to leave.


Copies now available from

Pindrop Press

“These are fine hard-bitten poems with the imaginative strength and resonance to stand alongside the work of George Grosz without    being in any way diminished by it. The realisation of Eva Peter’s voice is a triumph, and introduces Abegail Morley as one of our most impressive and rewarding poets.”   Peter Bennet

“Abegail Morley’s sequence Eva and George: Sketches in Pen and Brush, marked by both  authenticity and originality, impresses with startling imagery and the striking juxtaposition of the private and the public. Her poetic  account of George Grosz and Eva Peter’s life in the Weimar Republic is at the same time a compelling panorama of a whole era characterized by struggle, violence and radicalism.” Wolfgang Görtschacher, Poetry Salzburg Review

“Morley skilfully captures the rawness of George Grosz’s acerbic images of despots and outcasts in post WWI Germany,while tenderly evoking a portrait of the man behind the art. In lucidly-voiced poems spoken by his wife, Eva Peter, she explores the passion and compassion that drove him. In doing so, she reminds us of the casual and calculated malice we are capable of inflicting on each other in daily living, and that ‘We are those passers-by’.”

Heidi Williamson



Caroline Carver reviews Snow Child

carolineSnow Child, Abegail Morley, Pindrop Press, 2011.£8.99, ISBN 978-0-9567822-4-3

It’s a real pleasure to review Abegail Morley’s recent collection, starting with the delightful cover by Jenny Meilihove, – and you might say a cover isn’t the right place to start but, let’s face it, it’s a powerful make or break part of any book, especially poetry. In the case of Snow Child, the image reflects so exactly the delicacy of the writing, with its gentle and attractive style, which only gradually reveals itself as something not quite, in fact not at all right, in the world Abegail inhabits through her writing. Like her first prize-winning collection How to Pour Madness into a Teacup, the work is beautiful but unsettling. It’s no coincidence that the very first poem is called Unstable, and immediately shows the surreal way things are going: “Quite unexpectedly this morning / I splashed my inner light / on the hallway floor …”

Although most of the poems are sombre, there is wry observation as well. The small irritations of sharing a home with someone are illustrated, not by major problems, but the last-straw incidentals which get you when nothing in a relationship works any more. In Moved in she says: “He’s the type of bloke who hisses through his teeth, /whistles in the loo when it’s dark. / His alarm clock/makes a rowdy din at 6am. “ Yes, well, clearly this man’s on his way out. But be warned, there’s explicit pain to come: Mud, “I wait for you, one hand over my mouth” (what an image) and Family album, are almost too painful to read … ‘On the scan you are tiny – a whiteness / in a dark sky ….. You stitched yourself to me with fisherman’s nylon,/sharp needles where your nails should have been. / But even in my warm belly you were unformed” … when I first heard this poem read aloud I involuntarily blurted out that it was “terrible”. What I meant was that the subject and the way it was expressed were almost too much to bear.

How to deal with pain, one’s own, or someone else’s, is always a perennial question, although many poets, especially women, manage it in a hugely impressive way. I’d put Abegail Morley into this category, she’s laid poems of pain on the page without complaint, with the gentleness that the best poems can find, which allows them their own roads into the reader’s mind.

It’s particularly compelling when the poems dip into the surreal again. In Breaking up, someone “steals the sense from her sentence”, “Last week in Starbucks / he snatched away the letter L / …….. when he starts on the vowels,/she’ll disappear completely”. I love the way the fantasy world mixes with the reality of Starbucks. A few pages on, and we’re having coffee in Costa, but still nothing’s straightforward … “We drink here because of the rain forests,/ We’re saving them.” Although in Body she’s more relentless, … “I am certain someone said / the dead grow larger at night .. “

Oh Abegail. Further on, and I’m in the poem Hospital ward with you, I’ve been drawn so deeply into pain … “I brandish my scars at the moon; they are no deeper than its seas, / not struck thick like impact craters, not a patchwork of black and white …”

“If we die, just for a little while,” says Abegail in Against the rain, “we see ourselves running onwards, / we can close our already closed eyes / and watch the white in the light of our lids.” and at the end of this same poem: “We need to die for a moment / and watch our present greet us, / like a stranger in the street / mistaking us for someone else.”

In Snow Child, love occasionally holds out the hand of hope, although nothing’s ever fulfilled. But they are the least sad of all the poems, and one hopes some may develop, in future, into a kind of happiness. In Make me love you, Abegail says: “You taught me how to pinch the sky / and let a gap breathe through the crack, / slowly pulling apart our thumbs and fingers / to capture a person at great distance.” Perhaps such distance will lessen in the next collection.

Caroline Carver