A Reading Party at the Troubadour


So when you have thanked Anne-Marie, how do you say ‘thank you’  and who else do you thank for such an amazing night of poetry, music and good company?

Magical from the start because wonderful CLAIRE DYER ( new collection Interference Effects from Two Rivers launched five days ago ) came early, and brought me up to date over supper with her ongoing career as a multi-tasking writer.


mood-indigoWENDY KLEIN was there celebrating her birthday and I was able to thank her for reviewing Safe Passage so thoughtfully in online journal ‘High Window’ earlier in the year.  Wendy’s new collection came out from Oversteps this year and I had the great pleasure of sharing the Oversteps line-up with her at Dartington in July.  Wendy will be reading at the Troubadour in January, on yet another of Anne-Marie Fyfe’s must-be-there Monday nights.

Next delight, downstairs, to find that DOM BURY – whose poems I had admired so much at The Hurst on an Arvon course with Michael Longley and Sinead Morrissey – O LUCKY LUCKY US!!! – was running the book table. Thanks to Dom, Safe Passage sold out which, of course, sends any poet out into the Earls Court rain on a very special  end-of-evening high.

Finding a seat for the evening,  there were JOHN and SUE GODFREY from Ware Poets, long-standing Torbay friends.  By now it cannot be a secret that John has a poem on this year’s brilliant Torbay Competition Shortlist, which launches this Saturday afternoon at the Torbay Festival. I spent many admiring hours this August with the shortlist submissions and had several uncomfortable times feeling that I was about to promote a friend.  (There was a very delightful poem about a bat which I suspected had the familiarly vivid, quirky, articulate Godfrey touch. But it had been written by someone else – I remained in the dark about John’s poem until very much later on.) Ware Poets are a marvellously receptive and enquiring audience and it is a joy to read with them.  I have just been invited back in on February 3rd next year, largely as a result of having Monday night’s opportunity to promote Safe Passage at the Troubadour. Another ‘thank you’ – but still this is not the end…..


wendy-frenchWENDY FRENCH was in the audience.  So was LESLEY SAUNDERS whose intricate, intriguing, erudite and rigorously lateral poems hold her many Bath admirers in total thrall. And after many years, I had the huge pleasure of meeting MARIANNE BURTON again, another rediscovered friend from an Arvon Course at The Hurst.marianne-burton-a4barney-jones-photos-001-e1376350748811-2

And, as RS Thomas said, in a very much bleaker mood: that was only on one island….

So what did I choose to read at the Troubadour, and why? Here is the little list….

A LEISURE CENTRE IS ALSO A TEMPLE OF LEARNING for the 7,500 A level students and teachers who have visited the honey-coloured girl on other pages of this blog in a quest for answers the poem cannot give… and to thank Forward for deciding it was one of their Poems of the Decade.

PAVAROTTI AT THE GROSVENOR HOUSE HOTEL for anyone who has ever fallen under a musician’s spell….

VIEWS FROM THE BRIDGE for anyone who has ever known that they were loved….

imgresTOGETHER WE GET THE NEWS FROM ONCOLOGY for REBECCA GETHIN who mentions it, and writes so generously about Safe Passage on her wonderful blog…

THINKING ABOUT THE SWANS for Wendy French, who gave it a place on her shortlist when she was Judge for the Torbay Festival…

THE VISITOR because it is Devon poet LUCINDA CAREY’S favourite poem in Safe Passage and also for the ghost who inspired those few lines and returns to hear them whenever and wherever they are read…


Lucky Again at the Wonderful Troubadour

On Monday 17th October I have the good fortune to be reading again at the amazing Anne-Marie Fyfe’s evening of poetry at London’s iconic Troubadour.

This will be my FOURTH (!!!) opportunity to share poems with the Troubadour’s fantastic audience.  My life as a poet has been milestoned by those appearances.  I have been remembering them – the poems I read on those spellbinding evenings, their subsequent adventures, the people I met, the way it all fitted together.  Here is how it has worked…..


I remember reading Trust Your Instincts Not Your Baedeker for Magma.  Years later this intricate villanelle was translated, immaculately, in all its formal complexity, in twenty four hours, by my brilliant Venetian translator Giancarlo Caine – thus putting my small skills in having composed it ( over many months ) very firmly in their place.  Trust Your Instincts… appears in my Oversteps collection SAFE PASSAGE , which I shall be reading from on Monday night.

safe passage cover one  copy


Michael Mackmin invited me to read as one of his Rialto poets.  This gave  A Leisure Centre is Also a Temple of Learning its first out-of-Bath experience, since when that poem has wriggled its way up to the FORWARD POEMS OF THE DECADE and the A level syllabus.  It has shed a few lines since Michael published it, and made me a lot of online friends among the students and teachers who are now required to know why there are twelve older women in the changing room, and whether the word ‘temple’ relates to a classical, a christian, a hindu or a buddhist framework of belief.  Also whether the poet envies her honey-coloured girl, or disapproves of her engagement with appearances. So far, my girl has been visited 7,500 times on this blog. She will probably have another outing on Monday night.

Anthony Fairweather


The third time I read at the Troubadour, I didn’t have the protective umbrella of an editor. I was having a Roman phase and read A Place Called Argentina, which appears in  SAFE PASSAGE. Jeremy Sallon liked the lines about the starlings ‘funnelling their black murmurations in among the trees’ enough to invite me to read at the event he and Ernie Burns were running together in the Betterton Street Poetry Cafe , Platform One.  The adventure of that reading introduced me to the talented performance poet Anthony Fairweather who subsequently came down to read at our Week of Good Poetry in Bath. I never read Argentina without thinking of that delightful triumvirate, and in particular what Anthony so kindly taught me about doing my best to memorise poems I plan to read.  I have failed in that, but do my best to have them, if not by heart, at least at my fingertips.


Who knows what poetry adventures and encounters lie in store?  How could Monday evening be anything other than magical when I have the privilege of appearing with Scarlett Sabet, Paul Casey, John Greening, Afric Mcglinchey, Heidi Williamson, Angela Kirby & Michelle Cahill.  SAFE PASSAGE to all……


1916: A Requiem for the World


Exactly a month now to the powerful and moving evening of songs, readings and archival photographs compiled over the past year by members of the Bath Poetry Cafe and the Walcot State Choir to commemorate the third year of the First World War – the war to end all wars. This is a FREE EVENT in aid of The Royal British Legion.


Cambridge singer/musician/ songwriter JONATHAN STEFFEN  singing Parry’s setting of Jerusalem and Bath composer Frederick Weatherby’s Roses of Picardy.

BELLA ELIOT from the Walcot State Choir singing George Butterworth’s setting of AE Housman’s The Lads in their Hundreds  and John Macrae’s In Flanders Fields.

Narrated by Bath City Councillor PETER TURNER

and Bath Poetry Cafe Organiser SUE BOYLE

FULL DETAILS ON THE POSTER1916-for-wordpress