Good Intentions….

31 August 2013


I like writing and have decided I am going to try to do more if it.  Yes, yes, I know I’ve said this before.  I used to write a blog post every day and did that for nearly a year and for some reason I stopped, just fell out of the habit.  I have decided latterly that writing a blog post every day . . .  forever. . . is quite a commitment, so perhaps something just once a week is more realistic. We’ll see.

So what’s shaking Helen?  Why this sudden lurch back?  Well, it’s funny you should ask that because I was thinking the same thing myself.  Ok, Waiting for Bluebeard was flung into the world at the end of May.  And?  Well, what do you write about when you have already written your life?  Wait up, so you think all of your poetry writing is done and dusted and you’re making your laurels into some kind of seating arrangement? Would you ever stop talking to yourself?

New paragraph.  So, what I am focusing on now is a series of poems based on tarot cards.  I needed to get out of the space of my head and into more of an ekphrastic space, in order to get myself writing again.  After I’d handed in the manuscript of Bluebeard last year, I wrote a handful of tarot poems.  To my horror, a few weeks ago I noticed I hadn’t actually written anything save a couple of commissioned poems since last December, which is probably the longest I have gone without writing a poem since I’ve been writing poems.  So as well as the blog-keeping horse, I am now also getting back onto the poem-writing horse.  Oh, if only horses could write poems…Syllabics, I reckon they’d be into syllabics.

I’ve led myself into a blind alley with a syllabic horse.  It’s night time and I can hear it meting beats with its hooves.

Waiting for Bluebeard

9 May 2013





























I started writing this book in 2008, but I didn’t really know I was writing this book.  I found myself writing some poems based on part real, part imagined events of my childhood, and I was interested in how to get at a metaphorical truth of how parts of my childhood felt.  After a couple of years I thought I’d finished that book and started writing poems about a person called Bluebeard (the wife-murderer, not the pirate –  just to clarify!)  and it slowly dawned on me that this was part of the same narrative. The book is in two parts – the childhood bit, then the bad relationship bit and the blurb I wrote for the back of the book (I hate the word ‘blurb’ but this is commonly used) …anyway, the blurb I wrote for the back of the book reads:

Waiting for Bluebeard tries to understand how a girl could grow up to be the woman living in Bluebeard’s house. The story begins with a part-remembered, part-imagined childhood, where seances are held, and a father drowns in oil beneath the skeleton of his car. When her childhood home coughs up birds in the parlour, the girl enters Bluebeard’s house paying the tariff of a single layer of skin. This is only the first stage of her disappearing, as she searches for a phantom child in a house where Bluebeard haunts the corridors like a sobbing wolf.”

The cover image, photographed by my husband-photographer-poet in residence Martin Figura, is of things which I made using found and cast objects  placed into Kilner Jars, which I call Preserves.  The mouse is called Mouse, and he lives on my desk.

If you read it, I hope you like it.  It’s the closest to autobiography I have come, so it’s all terribly exposing…..


There are a few poems on Poetry International from the collection here

And here’s is a link to the book on Amazon


And here’s a video of me (Heaven forfend!) reading from Waiting for Bluebeard and my third collection The Breakfast Machine.


In Their Own Words

30 October 2012

I first had the idea for this anthology about a year ago  As a poet and a teacher of creative writing, I have always loved hearing writers talk about their writing; about the differences and similarity of process and craft.  I mentioned it to George Szirtes and he said he would be interested in working on it with me.  I had a meeting with Chris Emery at Salt the day after and abracadabra, we had the makings of an anthology. I can’t believe it has all been turned-around so quickly – I was expecting, if anything for it to come into publication next year.

As ever, it was a joy to work with George on this project.  It was remarkably easy to collate. The book is by no means comprehensive and not everybody we asked took part, as we say in the Introduction.  Not everybody likes writing about about their own writing, and some didn’t have time to turn the piece around to meet the deadline. As we say in the blurb ‘This book is not a retrospective but a representation of poetry as a living breathing, evolving art.’  It is a celebration of variousness; an attempt at mapping poetry in the UK today and we are grateful to everybody who contributed to it and made it such immensely exciting  and enjoyable read. We are delighted with it.

Here is the link to the book on the Salt website for more information about our 56 wonderful contributors.

A post about not posting, and then posting again

11 October 2012

Oh, Lordy – where does time go?  When I first started writing this blog in January, I thought I wouldn’t want to be one of those people who updates it once a year, or even less.  There is documentary evidence to the right of this that I used to be very good at writing something every day, then a couple of times a week, and as the romance wears off less and less….

Ok, it’s not just the romance thing.  It’s more to do with only posting something postworthy, and wondering who really cares about my random ramblings, and suddenly getting all self-conscious on you, dear reader.  At first the things I thought postworthy were new poems – somebody might be interested in those.  But it turns out you cannot post new poems on your blog if you want to send them anywhere for publicaton, so I stopped doing that.  Then I thought, I would post new artwork.  Since I was making quite a lot till about June, I considered those images postworthy.  And then it all got rather busy and I had nothing, zilch, zero, zip  creative to show for my time.

But hear this!  Two things of postworthy merit!  Firstly I have updated the ‘Images’ gallery on this site to archive all of the images I have been posting on this blog.  Also here is a link to a film made by Tom Bloor based on my book ‘The Breakfast Machine’  Also, Crow has arrived.  I’ll tell you more about him later.

Scary Monkey Assemblages

17 June 2012

Well, I’ve been busy making new assemblages for the open studios, then taking part in the open studios.  I sold a fair amount of work, and heard myself talking about my work seriously, like I was a proper artist.  This has spurred me on to open a shop on Etsy, which I have called Scary Monkey Assemblages.  Scary Monkey (pictured below) came from Spitalfields Market, and followed us home to Norwich a few weeks ago.  He only has one eye and his  clockworks are fairly unreliable – sometimes he moves unprovoked – some of the reasons he is called Scary Monkey.  Here is the link to his shop Please drop by and see him, if you have a minute….



5 May 2012

In a world where news travels slowly, I usually catch up with the weekend paper through the week.  This morning I was reading Carol Ann Duffy’s commissioned Sixty Years Poems, and was reminded of my 1999 poem.  I was asked to write a poem to commemorate 50 years of the Eric Gregory Awards for project Roddy Lumsden organised.  A group of us stood in a pub in London and read our poems, which were inspired by the year we won our Gregory Awards.  These have never been published as a group, so my poem has only had one outing.  Thought I’d put it up here rather than leave it to languish in my computer’s memory any further.  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you 1999, with not a hint of Prince in sight.


These are the days before
the days of counting backwards;
planes wait to fall from the sky
as birds eye them suspiciously,
measuring the year
in leaves and twilight hours.

Deep in the heart of every computer
a disease waits for the stroke of midnight
for white mice to turn their wheels
widdershins, and unborn us
without so much as a twitch
of a whisker.

So fireworks will draw hieroglyphs
in the sky, so a dog will bark
from its chained-up place in a yard.
And night-roosting birds
will cast out like swimmers
in a broad open sea.



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