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In this podcast I am going to read “Welshman”, a short story included in my collection “Secrets & Wisdom”.Perhaps the best job I ever had - and certainly the one I enjoyed the most - was working in a bookmakers during university vacation-time. These were in the days before computers and banks of tv screens; the odds were written up by hand on an enormous white board, continually changing throughout an afternoon (my favourite part of the job!), and all bets were settled manually.The events in “Welshman” are entirely fictitious, at least in my experience - though I daresay that somewhere they are likely to be close to either truth or legend…
In many respects my 2020 collection, The Myths of Native Trees, is my most ‘complete’ volume of poetry to-date - even if it is not my latest.After coming across a series of legends in relation to a number of native UK species of tree - some of which more folklore than anything else - I was taken with the idea of using some of these myths as the basis for a series of short poems. Soon I had a small copse of twelve poems.In parallel, of course, I was writing other pieces, and when the ‘trees poems’ were complete found I had sufficient material overall to pull another volume together. It seemed only natural - no pun intended! - to make the trees the ‘heroes’ of this new collection, hence the title of the book and that the myths take centre stage.In this podcast I will read three tree poems - Alder, Ash and Cherry - without further comment, and then four other pieces from the book.
It is not too melodramatic to admit that, in many respects, I had a very difficult childhood. The most tangible evidence of this is the fact that, by the time I went to University aged twenty, I had already lived in seventeen different places and had effectively been homeless three times. These days I would have undoubtedly been taken into care.Although I had previously written the odd piece in relation to my pre-University history, I had never tackled those formative years in any concerted way. Then, at some point in 2020 - and without any specific trigger I can recall - I decided the time had come to do so; hence the idea for The Homelessness of a Child was born.Initially I had considered autobiography as the logical route to unpack that chunk of my past, but soon settled on a collection of poetry as the most appropriate vehicle - partly because I already had a little material in that genre, and partly because I doubted who could possibly be interested in my life story.The Homelessness of a Child contains eighteen poems which specifically relate to my experience growing up; the rest of the collection does not - though without doubt there will be echoes and reverberations throughout. How can there not be?In this podcast I am going to read four of those autobiographical pieces plus three others selected from the remainder of the book.
Downsizing - a gentle and poignant short story
This is my short story which won first prize in the 2022 Swanwick Summer School short story competition.
"Walking Thru Fire"

"Walking Thru Fire"

2022-08-2414:31

The title of this podcast comes from a piece I wrote many years ago and which, in some ways, proved something of a touchstone for much of the poetry that has subsequently followed.With some of its source in found poetry, the poem Walking Thru’ Fire represents a fusion of both the curated and the original, a blend of images loosely sewn together to form what is hopefully a cohesive - if impressionistic - whole.Undoubtedly because of the nature of its construction, the piece has enjoyed multiple incarnations over the years as I found I was able not only to create abridged versions of the poem, but also to re-sequence sections of it and in doing so permit the ‘meaning’ to flex and morph accordingly.What follows is the complete version of Walking Thru’ Fire as included in my first volume of poetry Collected Poems, 1979-2016.
My second 2018 volume of poetry, After the Rehearsals, was entirely different to anything I had attempted before. Initially the collection wasn’t meant to be poetry at all but was in fact the beginnings of a novel.I had written around thirty-four thousand words of the narrative and arrived at, what is for me, a critical juncture in the creation of a work of fiction i.e. that point at which I have to decide whether or not I believe in the project.In this particular case, although it transpired that I had little faith in the novel, I still liked the story, and so I decided to see if I could create a sequence of prose poems to carry the narrative. Those thirty-four thousand words were soon edited in a somewhat radical fashion and, when the story was subsequently seen through to its conclusion, the end result was After the Rehearsals.My intention was to create a cohesive story told in prose poem format, but with each element strong enough to stand alone. I hope I succeeded. In order to get the most from the book, it is, I’m sure, a volume of poetry which needs to be read from beginning to end as if it were a novel.In this podcast I will read just three pieces from the book; one from early on, and two from later in the narrative.
Life weaves its magic of triumphs and disappointments everywhere, and often those burdened with more than their fair share of tragedy can feel lost and alone. Even in a quiet backwater like Maunston Quay people struggle to come to terms with their personal suffering and grief - yet Maunston Quay may offer the kind of second chances that gives hope to all.
The Myths of Native TreesIn many respects my 2020 collection, The Myths of Native Trees, is my most ‘complete’ volume of poetry to-date - even if it is not my latest.After coming across a series of legends in relation to a number of native UK species of tree - some of which more folklore than anything else - I was taken with the idea of using some of these myths as the basis for a series of short poems. Soon I had a small copse of twelve poems.In parallel, of course, I was writing other pieces, and when the ‘trees poems’ were complete found I had sufficient material overall to pull another volume together. It seemed only natural - no pun intended! - to make the trees the ‘heroes’ of this new collection, hence the title of the book and that the myths take centre stage.In this podcast I will read three tree poems - Alder, Ash and Cherry - without further comment, and then four other pieces from the book.
"Once Significant Others" is my new novel, currently out for pre-publication reviews.Comments thus far:"The opening line ‘She hadn’t meant to die,’ opens up a world of liminal spaces, where past and present relationships co-exist. One character is the lynchpin, holding together a complex web of relationships. Six lives had converged in their youth during ‘the summer of ’84’. The death of one  is the catalyst for a group of people, now in their fifties, to come back together and uncover some uncomfortable truths. The reader must decide whether or not this character is the heart and soul of the group or  simply the puppet master. Here is a story that questions the whole idea of friendship and the notion that we can ever really know anyone, no matter how intimate the relationship or how much time passes in the making of it.""A deeply engaging book, addressing pressing issues of ageing and memory. The characters are caught in an intricate dance of time. Every moment of dialogue and recollection is thoroughly believable. Past secrets explode into the present from a multitude of viewpoints.""I find the premise, structure and writing of this novel intriguing, as is the character development. I especially love how the reader is invited to participate as a member."
Welshman

Welshman

2022-07-0512:36

Many years ago, whilst studying at University, I used to work in a bookmakers during the holidays. It was a wonderful, mind-broadening experience.'Welshman' is a short story set in that environment. Although it is not a depiction of a specific event or specific individuals, it is the kind of scene that could quite easily be played out anywhere in the country.The story is from my collection 'Secrets & Wisdom'.
Park'n'Ride

Park'n'Ride

2022-06-0610:11

In this podcast I am going to read “Park’n’Ride”, a short story included in the 2022 international short story anthology “Making Marks in the Sand”, and to be included in my collection “An Irregular Piece of Sky” which will be published later this year.Living not far from Nottingham for nearly two years, taking a ride into the centre of the city on the tram was always a fascinating experience. Although the dialogue in the story is entirely fictitious, “Park’n’Ride” relates to an actual experience I had one day returning to my out-of-town parked car…
Downsizing

Downsizing

2022-06-0611:25

In this podcast I am going to read “Downsizing”, a short story to be included in my collection “An Irregular Piece of Sky” which will be published later this year.Sometimes short stories can surprise you, emerging not from specific ideas or experiences, but growing organically from a seed which you are, later, unable to identify or remember. “Downsizing” is one such story…
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