Category: Poetry

On Cambridge 105 Radio

Photo courtesy of Marcos Avlonitis.

Photo courtesy of Marcos Avlonitis.


During the Cambridge Science Festival, I enjoyed meeting Leigh Chambers of Cambridge 105 Radio.

She asked me to speak about Opera di Cera, as well as tell her a little bit about Double the Stars!

To lead in, Leigh asked me what makes Opera di Cera a ‘verse drama’…

Go to SoundCloud for the audio clip (less than 10 minutes long)

Or: the whole Book Night programme (my clip appears in the middle) is available to enjoy here.



I’m honoured to have been invited to contribute to Rebecca Goss’s blog project, posting poems for Children’s Heart Week, which starts today.

My poem will be part of the Friday group.

Please click on any of the text below to be redirected to Rebecca’s blog, and read the moving poems she’s gathered.

Rebecca writes:

For Children’s Heart Week this year, May 12th – 18th, this blog will be become a blog of ‘Heart Poems’, by contemporary poets, some written especially for the week. Each day, I will post some Children’s Heart Federation information – alongside the poems. I’m trying to raise awareness of the charity and congenital heart disease – and share poems.

Do please check in and read, but also feel free to spread the word on social media:

Twitter: @gosspoems @CHFed #HeartPoems #ChildrensHeartWeek

Opera Di Cera Launch_15 Opera Di Cera Launch_13 Opera Di Cera Launch_11 Opera Di Cera Launch_10 Opera Di Cera Launch_9 Opera Di Cera Launch_4 Opera Di Cera Launch_1

We had a full house at the Horseshoe Pub in Clerkenwell last night for the launch of Opera di Cera – It was a marvellous evening! I couldn’t be happier with the final published book: it is more beautiful than I could have dreamed – and my expectations are darn high! My sincere thanks to everyone who came, as well as to the team who has been an essential part of making this book happen: Jamie McGarry, publisher extraordinaire; Anna Maerker, my generous historical advisor; Tanya Marcuse, who donated the gorgeous cover art from her photography series; Rebecca Tremain and Garry Merry, who have been helping bring the poems to life for the past few months (and more to come, we hope!) and Richard Barnett, who is away in NYC, but was very much there in spirit. Also my thanks to Marcos Avlonitis, Paul Craddock, and Simon Barraclough for their photographic work! More photos here.



A stunning bouquet of flowers from my darling welcomed me at my door on the morning of the launch!



Opera di Cera

Opera di Cera

Opera di Cera is now in hand, and available from Valley Press (where you can read about details of the launch party on 8th April – do join us!) and Inpress Books (who names the verse drama as one of their favourite publications of the year)!

I could not have hoped for a more gorgeous quality of production, and I must thank Jamie McGarry for his fine attention to detail and uncompromising aesthetic. The path to publishing Opera di Cera before it found its proper home with Valley Press was treacherous at times and I’m relieved that I rescued it from a lesser situation and worked to make it a stunning VP book.

Some people have asked about the title: it is pronounced ‘Chera,’ or ‘Chair-ah,’ - Cera has a hard ‘ch’ sound. Ready? Channel that Italian accent: ‘Opera dee chair-ah.’ Opera di Cera. The title translates as ‘wax work,’ or ‘work of wax,’ and I’m ever grateful to Richard Barnett for suggesting it.

The ambition of the book is operatic, and I’m extremely fortunate to have caught the interest of actors Rebecca Tremain and Gary Merry, who joined me at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre on Saturday for a brief dramatic reading as part of the Oxford-Globe Forum for Medicine and Drama in Practise. Our excerpts took place alongside scenes from Selimus and discussions of Titus Andronicus, and fit in well. Rebecca and Gary will also be reading at the launch!

Last Thursday, I was in Cambridge for the Science Festival as well to meet with Leigh Chambers from Cambridge 105 Radio for an interview about Opera di Cera. This should go on the air in the next month or so, and I will post details and links when it’s available.

Following the interview, I joined a distinguished panel of writers – some of whom I know well, some of whom I was delighted to meet for the first time – for ‘Science as the Spark’ – talking about writing creatively about science. The event was sold out, and we had a bright, engaged audience, who listened and contributed to a healthy discussion about historical fiction (from the two female writers on the panel) and science fiction (from the two male writers on the panel) – convened by someone I always enjoy hearing from –  Dr John Holmes, Chair of the British Society for Literature and Science, which sponsored the event. A great night, ending with lively discussion in the pub afterwards about the pre-Raphaelites and their poetry – one of my favourite topics!

Opera di Cera launch

Valley Press

Valley Press

Join us for the launch of Opera di Cera!

8th April, 7pm

The Horseshoe, Clerkenwell Close.

Click here for more information as well as the book.

Valley Press

Published by Valley Press

This title both is and is not what it sounds like – but who can resist such a thing?

I’ve been invited to present a 15-minute talk about creating my verse drama, Opera di Cera, at the Oxford-Globe Forum for Medicine and Drama in Practice, the theme of which, this year, is ‘Amputation and Body Parts’.

This is indeed very exciting, and also, hopefully a step in the right direction towards the possibility of Opera di Cera onstage.

The newly-opened Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at The Globe would be the best possible setting. Candlelight; waxworks; poems about candles and wax…and body parts…after all, I’d like to hold a performance in La Specola itself, but it would make for rather pricey tickets.

Opera di Cera is going to be published by Valley Press in the next few weeks!

You can already order it here.

Watch this space for news about the book launch: all welcome.

February with Venus



Join us at the Museum of London on Valentine’s Day to indulge in this ‘City of Seduction’, including poetry readings – sexy, sultry, stimulating…come find out…

If that isn’t enough of a night with Venus, and you’d like to explore her darker side, come to Bart’s Pathology Museum on 20th Feb. Anna Maerker will give a talk on the wax models of La Specola, Florence, and I will read from Opera di Cera.

It’s been an exciting month, with the pleasure of editing my two forthcoming poetry books: Opera di Cera is due out with Valley Press in Feb, and Atlantic is due out with Cinnamon Press in May. The anticipation of waiting for these books is delicious.

It was a special delight to receive a collection of bookmarks from the artist herself for my birthday – Badaude’s ‘Readwomen2014′ concept that has been a worldwide success – as well it should! It’s an honour to be included on the list.

As my creative writing tutor used to say, ‘Go forth, and write!’ – Or read…

January & Feburary 2014


In the London Science Museum. Photo by Marcos Avlonitis.

Happy New Year! I’m delighted to say it’s looking to be the busiest publishing year I’ve ever enjoyed, due several books being scheduled for 2014. There will be plenty on this blog about all of them in the coming months, so I’d like to mention several events which are happening soon. It would be great to see you there!


Pocket Horizon, our small poetry anthology of poems and artwork on the history of science and medicine, launched successfully in autumn 2013. We’re rolling out several events around the book this year, starting with an evening at Made in Greenwich art gallery.
There will be readings from all of the poets, as well as a Q & A with our artist, Cassie Herschel-Shorland. It promises to be a full and lively evening, with a musical piece, based on PH, being debuted, and guest poets contributing their own science-inspired poems.
The event is Wed 29 Jan, 7:30pm start: Tickets £5.
You can buy the anthology here:
My verse drama, Opera di Cera, a tale about anatomical wax models, is due to be published by Valley Press in the next few weeks!
It has been selected a Top Choice by Inpress Books: 
I’ll be reading from the Opera at Bart’s Pathology Museum in Feb.
Dr Anna Maerker, medical historian and advisor on the project, will be speaking about the history of the wax Venus.
The event is Thurs, 20 Feb, 18:30 – 21:00. Tickets £7.
I’m currently working with The Mustard Club to produce a project for radio based on Opera di Cera.
On 14 Feb I will be one of several poets reading romantic and/or salacious poems at the Museum of London’s Valentine’s Extravaganza.
The whole evening is £10 and runs from 7 – 10pm.
I hope to see you at some events, and thank you for reading!

Valley Press Tour


A tech-savvy reading off of Jamie’s smartphone from the proofs of ‘Opera di Cera’.

The formidable Jamie McGarry, VP Publisher, is currently in the middle of his Valley Press Tour, celebrating the publication of (nearly!) 50 books in 5 years. It’s truly an honour for Pocket Horizon to be part of this prestigious list, and I’m delighted that Opera di Cera will follow swiftly on the heels of these 50 books.

If you’re wondering what to get anyone for Christmas, by the way, the perfect gift is our small and beautifully formed anthology of science poetry and art, Pocket Horizon, which has an introduction by award-winning poet Don Paterson.

It was a delight to help kick off Jamie’s tour at the first date in London, where I had the pleasure of reading alongside VP poets Richard Barnett (Pocket Horizon) and Jo Brandon (Phobia) and Emma Press poets John Stone, Jacqueline Saphra, (both contributors to the Anthology of Mildly Erotic Verse) and Rachel Piercey (The Flower and the Plough).


Richard reading from ‘Pocket Horizon’.

The Emma Press and Valley Press are ‘engaged’  in a creative, clever meeting of presses – they are sharing publicity, and selling each other’s books (though the respective publishers clarify that despite being friends and business partners, they are not, in fact, engaged in person)!

Marcos Avlonitis, who made the remarkable cover photography for Pocket Horizon was also present at the VP Tour date in London and has furnished us with some more brilliant photos – thank you, Marcos!


Kelley, Jo, Richard, Jamie, Emma, Jon, Rachel, Jacqueline.

Simon Barraclough reading from Neptune Blue.

Simon Barraclough reading from Neptune Blue.

Thank you to all who joined us for Wednesday night’s Science Museum ‘Lates,’ where we enjoyed a brilliant evening of science-inspired poetry in the Museum’s Science in the 18th Century Gallery.

Katie Maggs, our essential curator and contact at the Museum, said they have never had so many people through that gallery on a ‘Lates’ night as we did on Wednesday.

We held the reading at the far end of the Gallery, which has a marvellous mural on one wall of ‘An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump‘ by Joseph Wright of Derby, a famous 18th-century painting which is used on many book covers and in many references to the ‘Age of Wonder’ (about which author Richard Holmes writes so well).

Richard Barnett reading from Pocket Horizon.

Richard Barnett reading from Pocket Horizon.

Simon Barraclough started us off with a fantastic reading from his ‘Planet Suite’ out of his book, Neptune Blue. He also told us about his next project, Sun Spots, which he’ll be working on in the coming year. Neptune Blue was published by Salt in 2011 and was just re-released in hardback this September.

We then had two readings of poems from Pocket Horizon, which is out now with Valley Press. It was a pleasure to have all of the contributors there, including our artist, Cassie, as well as Katie Maggs and her colleagues helping to show objects including an orrery, a canopic jar, and an artificial limb from the Science Museum’s collections.

So, how did Pocket Horizon come to be? A little bit of recent history may help set the scene:

This link is to Don Paterson reading his poem, ‘A Pocket Horizon,’ which he wrote for the Cambridge ‘Thresholds’ project.

Lorraine Mariner reading from Pocket Horizon.

Lorraine Mariner reading from Pocket Horizon.

The story of Don’s poem, and our anthology, is one that runs in parallel, or perhaps one might say it turns in a ‘widening gyre,’ and is down to a combination of serendipity and observation.


When I had the opportunity to meet Don and discuss our collaboration towards what would become Pocket Horizon (the anthology,) we met at the Whipple Museum, where we were given a ‘grand tour’ – as Don had never been to the Museum before. He knew that part of his ‘Thresholds’ residency required him to write a poem. I noticed that he was very keen on a particular object – the pocket horizon.

Eventually, we held the Masterclass workshop with Don and the contributing poets, all of whom are now published in Pocket Horizon.

When it came down to choose the title of the book, as Editor, I thought the name ‘pocket horizon’ would work well – it’s full of mystery, it lends itself to metaphor and poetical interpretation, and

- I thought Don might like it.

Dominic McLaughlin reading from Pocket Horizon.

Dominic McLaughlin reading from Pocket Horizon.

When he replied to my news that Valley Press would be publishing our book, it was with delight and surprise – he said he was writing about the pocket horizon, too!

(Gee, what do you know, I said…)

Though his poem is not part of our book (belonging to the Thresholds project, and our anthology being separate from that project,) I feel it completes the circle, as it were. And, frankly, it is a stunning poem. (It sounds to me as if it was recorded in the Whipple, too.)

So, thanks again, Don, for your generous introduction to our Pocket Horizon, for hosting our Masterclass back in January, and for writing your own poem, ‘A Pocket Horizon’.

Thanks to our contributors who read, including Sarah Westcott, Mick Delap, Lorraine Mariner, Malene Engelund, Dominic McLoughlin, and Richard Barnett -

Who also produced a brilliant podcast of all of the poets reading a selection of poems from PH, which you can listen to here.

Malene Engelund reading from Pocket Horizon.

Malene Engelund reading from Pocket Horizon.

And utmost thanks to our publisher, Jamie McGarry, who stayed on for the whole evening to sell our books, which he made sure are beautiful.

If you didn’t make it to the Museum, we’re planning more readings and events for 2014, including a poetry-reading-and-art-gallery-collaboration in Greenwich in January – so watch this space…

Sarah Westcott reading from Pocket Horizon.

Sarah Westcott reading from Pocket Horizon.

Mick Delap reading from Pocket Horizon.

Mick Delap reading from Pocket Horizon.


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