Category: Readings


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The Sick Rose front cover copyright Thames & Hudson, 2014.

The Opera di Cera launch last week was an absolute joy, and I’m delighted to have positive reviews of the book cropping up already (here & on FB).

Several readers have been in touch to say they couldn’t put the book down – always the best thing to hear!

I’m delighted to say that my partner, Dr Richard Barnett, is launching his latest book this week in Brooklyn, NYC.

The Sick Rose: Anatomy and Art in an Age of Revolution:

‘Between the French Revolution and the First World War, Europe and America witnessed a golden age of medical image-making.

‘The first generation of mass-market anatomical and pathological textbooks and atlases offered crisp, detailed colour illustrations of the human body in health and disease, and in doing so created a corpus of work that is beautiful and morbid, singular and sublime.

Dr. Richard Barnett in the Morbid Anatomy Library. Photo courtesy of Caitlin Wylie.

Dr. Richard Barnett in the Morbid Anatomy Library. Photo courtesy of Caitlin Wylie.

‘Over the past year Morbid Anatomy Museum Visiting Scholar in Residence Richard Barnett has been writing about these images for The Sick Rose, the first in a new series of illustrated books made in collaboration with the Wellcome Library.’

If you’re near NYC, stop in, have some gin, and get your copy signed!

When Richard is back from his NY travels, The Sick Rose will be launched in London – stay tuned for details.

Photo courtesy of Marcos Avlonitis.

Photo courtesy of Marcos Avlonitis.

So, dear readers:

Have you enjoyed Opera di Cera?

Do you love the Wellcome Collection & Library, the Morbid Anatomy Blog & Library, or similar places?

Have you discovered the book thanks to a love for anatomy, dissection, the history of medicine, or the macabre?

You’re sure to love The Sick Rose.

One prose, the other verse; one history, the other fantasy; both dissection and anatomy.

The two books make a fine pair…

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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.

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

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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.

Pocket Horizon, Valley Press.

Pocket Horizon, Valley Press.

Join us at the Cambridge Science Festival on Thursday, 20 March for a lively panel discussion with authors whose work involves equal portions of art and science.

How has scientific inquiry lead to literary works? Why is the literary presentation of science relevant to scientists and society?

A panel including Chris Beckett, Dave Clements, Laura Dietz, and Kelley Swain will skirt the ‘inspiring science!’ cliche to ask illuminating questions, including why scientists and historians who can communicate in any genre, and artists who can draw on any inspiration, choose to structure their work at the intersection of these fields.

The panel will be led by Dr. John Holmes, Chair of the British Society for Literature and Science.

The organisers thank the British Society for Literature and Science for its generous grant in support of the event.

January & Feburary 2014

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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!

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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.
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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.
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The event is Wed 29 Jan, 7:30pm start: Tickets £5.
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You can buy the anthology here:
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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!
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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.
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I’m currently working with The Mustard Club to produce a project for radio based on Opera di Cera.
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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. http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/london-wall/whats-on/adult-events/late-events/
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I hope to see you at some events, and thank you for reading!

Valley Press Tour

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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).

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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!

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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.

Why?

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.

Sick City Talks 9 – ‘Pocket Horizon’.

I’m thrilled to announce that a poetry anthology I’ve edited, Pocket Horizon, published this month by Valley Press, will make its debut at the ‘Science Museum Lates‘ this coming Wednesday, 30th October. It’s a free event!

We’ll be holding three 30-minute slots with a poetry reading and object viewing in each. The first slot (19:30 – 20:00) will showcase Simon Barraclough, whose lovely book, Neptune Blue, engages with the planets. The second two readings (20:15 – 20:45, and 21:00 – 21:30) will feature the contributors of Pocket Horizon. Books and drinks will be available all evening.

Whether or not we have the pleasure of seeing you at the event, please do follow the link at the top to listen to a wonderful, 19-minute podcast featuring the poems, produced by, and thanks to, Dr Richard Barnett.

Finally, get ahold of the book here.

‘Neptune in your Pocket’

POCK cover 4 (final)A talented group of poets are pleased to take part in Science Museum Lates next Wednesday, 30th October, for the free, ‘Space’-themed evening.

Join Simon Barraclough, Lorraine Mariner, Mick Delap, Sarah Westcott, Richard Barnett, Dominic McLoughlin, Malene Engelund, and Kelley Swain to explore space and science through verse.

Find us in the Science in the 18th Century Gallery on the 3rd Floor for the following 30-minute readings:

19:30 – 20:00: Simon Barraclough, reading from ‘Neptune Blue’.

20:15 – 20:45: Poets reading from ‘Pocket Horizon’.

21:00 – 21:30: Poets reading from ‘Pocket Horizon’.

We’ll also have, for your viewing pleasure, several objects including an orrery, a canopic jar, and artificial limbs – come find out what these objects are, and how they relate to these books of poetry…

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