What Caroline Carver and Helen Mort are reading…

M1Merion Jordan – Renaissance man

Quiet, quiet: do not dream
it is the owl parting fronds
of starlight, the water
muttering in abandoned mines …

from Moonrise. A Horse in the Dark

I heard Merion read at Ledbury this year and was blown away by him – witty, varied, fun, and astonishingly erudite for someone who’s still only 30.

Rather than limp along trying to give him due credit, here’s his write-up from the Seren Books page –

Meirion Jordan was born in 1985 in Swansea, Wales, read Mathematics at Sommerville College, Oxford, where he won the Newdigate Prize in 2007. He holds an MA in creative writing from UEA, where he is finishing his doctoral degree. His début Moonrise was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection, and his pamphlet, ‘Strangers Hall’ was shortlisted for an East Anglia Book of the Year award. Meirion has been published in Poetry Wales, the TLS, and Gallous, amongst other places. He is influenced by poets David Constantine, Andrew Waterhouse, Gillian Clarke, Geoffrey Hill, Byzantine & mediaeval art, music and science fiction. Meirion’s second collection of poetry is out now, Regeneration.

He’s also a musician, editor and director of Gatehouse Press.

I recommend both his first collection, MOONRISE, and the interesting double book REGENERATION.

Caroline Carver

untitledThe Headscarf Revolutionaries
Brian W. Lavery
Barbican Press

This is a non-fiction book, but the much-overlooked story it tells has inspired me to write a sequence of poems which will feature in my next collection ‘No Map Could Show Them’. ‘The Headscarf Revolutionaries’ is a detailed account of the 1968 Hull triple trawler disaster and its aftermath, exploring the life of revolutionary campaigner Lillian Bilocca – dubbed ‘Big Lil’ by the press. After three trawlers from Hull’s fleet sank in rapid succession during a fierce winter, fishwife Lillian put down her filleting knife and took her demands for better shipping safety to Downing Street, despite the death threats and media slurs she faced along the way. Brian W.Lavery’s account is dramatic, but never melodramatic. He tells Lillian’s story with compassion and nuance. Though this isn’t a novel, it immerses the reader in its narrative completely, bringing the harsh realities of life for the men at sea and life for their families back home in Hull into sharp focus.
Helen Mort



Winter by Caroline Carver


Artwork: Karen Dennison

Fire road cutting

People say   it’s too cold to snow
but when I set off at midday    snow was falling

I waited for you so long   my love   but you did not come

Dark came early
creeping through trees like a visitation of black-cloaked women
so I bivouac’d beside the cut
digging a hollow lining it with branches    as you’ve taught me
I know you’d be proud at the way I’ve set my fire
See how it leaps and claps its hands!
See how carefully I’ve placed it away from overladen branches

Now I’m your frugal housewife again
heating snow to make a pot of tea

Northern Lights came early tonight
hesitant at first  tiptoeing onto the skyline
soon they’ll be confident enough to dance for both of us
everything will shine green and red and mauve
add diamonds to my cheeks

You haven’t asked how I am     Cold is the answer
it sinks into my bones    until even marrow congeals
I’ll keep the fire burning tonight
and I won’t falter         I know I’m not alone
elk and wolves surround me     and I found
blood on the snow   signs of a scuffle
prints of frightened snowshoe rabbits

How quiet it is!     Nothing between us and the North Pole
except the silent boreal forest
with its guardian angels in coronets of green . . .

I’ve waited for you so long   my love   but you have not come

First published in Poetry Salzburg


Poet-in-residence – is this for you?

I’m currently Poet-in-Residence for the National Trust at Scotney Castle. I decided to do this after my last collection as a way of exploring something new and also to shift the direction of my writing. I’ve spent a lot of time there, either on my own or with friends – it’s a good way of getting extra ideas, especially from friends who ask a lot of (difficult) questions. I’ve chatted to volunteers, employees and pounced on visitors. My work focuses on the ruins, the moat in particular. I recently read about Jacques Benveniste and his theory about water (which later became known as the “memory of water”).

It’s known as the “memory of water”.
When you add a substance to water and then dilute
the water to the point where there are no more
molecules of the added substance left in the
water, you can still measure effects of the water
as if the originally diluted substance were still present.

Jacques Benveniste

As part of the residency I am collaborating with poet and artist, Karen Dennison who is working on photographs based on my poems. We’ll be exhibiting both in the ruins this summer. Oh yes and then there’s the pamphlet which I am currently working on and today I’m thinking about readings by the moat on hot summer evenings (yes, they will come), a glass of wine, the gentle breeze in the trees … A residency can be what you make it.


Alyson Hallett has just taken up the post at The Charles Causley Trust and Zaffar Kunial has been announced as The Wordsworth Trust’s new resident poet. Caroline Carver has been poet-in-residence with the Marine Institute, Plymouth University, since early 2013, and the University will shortly be publishing her fifth collection, Fish Eaters. Jo Bell has had commissions and residencies with the Canal and River Trust and the National Trust. Heidi Williamson did a residency at the London Science Museum’s Dana Centre for a couple of years and is currently poet-in-residence for John Jarrold Printing Museum. I asked her how she got these opportunities and she told me that she simply wrote and asked! That’s one way. Alternatively keep an eye out for opportunities like these (there are lots more around):

Wordsworth Trust
Gladstone’s Library
Jane Austen’s House Museum
The Charles Causley Trust
Ilkley Literature Festival
New Diorama Theatre
Black Country Living Museum


 poetryschool @poetryschool

Interesting thoughts from @AbegailMorley about poetry residencies, including the advice ’just write and ask’: http://abegailmorley.wordpress.com/2014/05/29/poet-in-residence-is-this-for-you/ 



December poems part 4: Victoria Field, Caroline Carver, Carolina Read


Artwork: Jenny Mielihove

On the shortest day, I walk, reading the birds
Starlings massed on black trees
are hieroglyphs telling the loss of the sun

Blackbird grammar
clatters from chaos of brambles
warning signs written in sharp tongues

High, dense clouds –
a lower-case lesson in how grey
changes imperceptibly

stays always the same,
sky’s flat repetition
of its periodic sentence

Lanes are books of choices –
chapters can’t be re-read
with the knowledge of crossroads yet to come

The buzzard’s
specialist subject is killing –
he’s rehearsing bullet point answers to vole

Pheasants illuminate the fields –
too many colours on one page
tales of beauty, vulnerable

Some instruction surprises the starlings –
they spill from scratched branches
like burning paper, fall on the sky

There’s nothing to read in these lanes
but birds – puddles are clear glass
I am unwritten

On the longest night
moon rises in a curtainless window –
my wordless index of days.

from Many Waters (fal 2006)

Victoria Field

Victoria Field is a writer and poetry therapist now based in Canterbury  after twelve years in Cornwall.  Her latest poetry collection, The Lost  Boys was published by Waterloo Press  in November 2013 and she is currently at work on a new play, BENSON, to be  showcased at The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury in April 2014.  She offers  training and workshops in the therapeutic use of creative reading and writing,  including teaching regularly at Ty Newydd, the National Writers Centre for Wales: http://www.literaturewales.org/ty-newydd/    She blogs at www.poetrytherapynews.wordpress.com



Artwork: Fabian Arts


the language of cold
35° below zero Banff Alberta

Air stands above each chimney
like a battalion of frozen warriors
like libraries of Confucian scrolls
inscribed at the top of the world
by monks whose scratchy pens
sculpt icicles in the thin air

the trees of the forest hold to their long silence

Breath crystallises
into words without sound
lungs heave and sigh
trying to pull something anything
back from chasms of pain

cold wants to force itself on us
pushes ribs apart
bulks in nostrils tugs at eyelashes
crusts any shred of skin it finds exposed

as it sings of frostbite lost fingers and toes
disfigured faces as it invades mittens
creeps unstoppably into boots

Step up step up dear friends!
cold lifts you to the impossible
offers Bigfoot snow queens ice spirits

You must say to your body
Heart be strong! Feet! do not leave me!
no part of you is headed for nature’s dustbin
we WILL be reunited

…………you must believe this …


.Caroline Carver

Caroline Carver is a poet and promoter of poetry and poetry events, especially in Cornwall.  She started her conscious life in Bermuda and Jamaica, came back to school in England, and then moved to Canada. She now lives in Cornwall, rummaging through the memory bank as she writes. She’s a National Prize winner, poet-in-residence at Trebah Gardens, a Hawthornden Fellow, and has published three poetry collections. See more of her work here.  Most recently she has been Poet-in-residence at Plymouth Univeristy.



Artwork: Franz Marc

Winter Flower

No one knows my name.
It is hidden deep
within the seed that spoke of me.
I can reveal the bright wind, wide skies
and be of the lemon Sun –
Winter will strengthen these petals
and make feisty my stem.
I will rise my head to the stars
in these long still nights.

Yet close to the ground, I remain-
in becoming of my name
for this is destiny.
Born to be incandescent
in my inward, beautiful way.

Carolina Read works as a specialist Physiotherapist in learning disability in the NHS. She integrates many healing streams of influence into her work and life, from where she finds her passion for words and their meaning arises. Her greatest love is of the language that lives in all Nature, beyond our understanding and marvel.


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