Tag Archive: Cambridge


Cambs 24 Interview

You know how author photos are always about 20 years old? And then you meet the person and it's kind of odd? I'm trying to keep mine up to date.

You know how author photos are always about 20 years old? And then you meet the person and it’s kind of odd? This is a recent photo for my Templar poetry pamphlet, Opera di Cera.

I was recently contacted by Leanne Moden, writer for Cambs 24.

Her blog focuses on ‘those passionate about poetry and fiction in the East Cambridgeshire Area,’ and some of my work has been based in Cambridge.

Leanne was enthusiastic about hearing details of all my latest projects, Cambridge-based or not, including poetry pamphlets Pocket Horizon  (forthcoming, Valley Press, 2013) and Opera di Cera (forthcoming, Templar Poetry, 2013).

It also turned out to be a rather sweeping tale of my work to date, and where all of this writing, teaching, and coordinating might be heading…

Read the interview here.

Here I’m attempting to show off the unusual size of the book…but I’m also really pleased!

I’m absolutely thrilled to announce that my latest project as the Poet-in-Residence at Cambridge’s Whipple Museum of the History of Science is printed and available!

I am proud to be Editor of The Rules of Form: Sonnets and Slide Rules, a book which demonstrates that ‘a proposition of geometry is a fair and luminous parallel for a work of art’.

This art book has been a long-running project, and it is now available to purchase from me, or from the Whipple Museum  (contact: hps-whipple-museum@lists dot cam dot ac dot uk) for £6, an accessible price for the quality and unique contents of the book, if I may say so.

There are only FIFTY copies – it is a limited edition object! (It’s also a real book, as in, it has an ISBN, and will therefore go into the British Library.) If you have an interest in sonnets, slide rules, calculating monkeys, or art books in general, do buy one.

A spread from our collaboration between poet Lesley Saunders and artist Cassie Herschel-Shorland.

Our contributions include poems written for the project by Lesley Saunders, artist Cassie Herschel-Shorland’s response to the Museum’s Maths Cabinet and to Lesley’s poems, illustrator Badaude’s take on the theme (she gives us a taster of her contribution here,) an essay on Consul the Calculating Monkey by Dr Caitlin Wylie, and a brilliant piece on poetry, the Gothic, and constraints, by Dr Joseph Crawford. Original artwork, exclusive to the book, and other pictures are in colour throughout.

Ever since learning about poets and artists collaborating to produce a book, I wanted to create a small, beautiful ‘art book’ – and I’m pleased to consider The Rules of Form: Sonnets and Slide Rules a very special art book.

The form and contents of the object are equally important, and everything in the book was inspired by the Whipple Museum’s collection of mathematical instruments.

A London-based launch is in progress.

Almost pocket-sized, definitely purse-sized, The Rules of Form is perfect for the train…

What changed it all...

I enjoyed a lovely day out yesterday with my friend Tracey, an Oxford-based Massage Therapist (if you need one, I’ll give you her email)!

We went to the Oxford Museum of the History of Science, which is of course the Oxford version to the home of my residency, the Whipple Museum. Whilst the Whipple Museum holds a number of objects crafted by the Herschels (especially by William,) the Oxford MHS has the telescope with which William discovered the Georgian Star, Georgium Sidus, later re-named Uranus. Even though I’ve been to the OMHS a number of times, this was a fresh – and obviously very exciting – discovery. I took a picture. And I touched it. Very lightly (you aren’t supposed to touch it).

The OMHS always runs really interesting special exhibits in their downstairs gallery. The current exhibit is ‘Eccentricity,‘ a great theme, focusing on eccentric characters an/or objects related to the collection.

As relevant to a Museum which houses some of the world’s finest, oldest, and rarest astronomical objects, eccentricity is also an astronomical term:

Definition: eccentricity: The eccentricity of an ellipse (planetary orbit) is the ratio of the distance between the foci and the major axis.In other words, the more flattened the circle (ellipse), the more ‘eccentric‘ the orbit.

I’ve begun to re-draft Double the Stars: The Life and Adventures of Miss Caroline Herschel, and it’s always particularly inspiring to encounter ‘Herschelailia’. It’s everywhere! (Well, particularly if you tend to frequent Observatories and Science Museums…) Caroline’s sweeper, with which she discovered comets, is in the London Science Museum, as well as the giant mirror for the 40-foot telescope, which famously caused the flagstones of the workshop to explode when the molten metal leaked  onto the floor: if you find yourself at the Herschel Museum of Astronomy in Bath, you can see the cracks in the flagstones from the damage.

Some other particularly eccentric, and fabulous, objects captured my imagination on the visit to the Museum, including a ‘Logic Piano:’ Photo & caption below…

After the Museum visit, and a break for lunch, I explored the Bate Collection of Musical Instruments, an absolutely charming and off-the-beaten-track sort of place which I highly recommend if you have even a vague interest in musical instruments. It’s free to get in, and you are greeted with the gift of a handset which you can take around while you look at the overwhelming, crammed-in displays of instruments: it all has a bit of a feel of one’s grandmother’s attic. The handset is  programmed to play snippets of music from certain (labelled) instruments. I want a spinet. Or a parlour guitar. Sigh.

The Logic Piano

The Logic Piano

I just heard from my friend Melanie Keene at the Cambridge Sci-Lit Reading Group- they have invited me to do a reading once Darwin’s Microscope is out! Of course I’m very happy to do a reading and I love that I’ll be involved in more than one event at Cambridge, where Darwin himself was a student.

I consider myself a member of the group, though due to life events (such as getting married!) I haven’t been able to attend since last autumn.

Darwin College, Cambridge

That said, this is a fantastic little group of very intellectual people who have a wonderful mixture of knowledge and who love to share.

I enjoyed every meeting we had (and the pub discussions after!) and was very sorry to miss their poetry-and-science themed term this spring, which, I think it is safe to say, was sparked by my own poet-mindedness.

I was sorry to miss Katy Price’s workshop, as I’d had the pleasure of meeting the professor at the Popular Science Day event at Imperial College, London.

Suffice to say I want to get involved again with the Cambridge Sci-Lit Reading Group, and not just because it is held at the aptly named Darwin College.

Here’s a taste of our Christmas Party (2007)…ok, we were being a little Darwin-tastic here…

Here I meet Darwin

Here I meet Darwin

I’m thrilled to say that I’ve been invited to be part of “The Festival,” more specifically the huge Darwin 2009 celebratory festival happening at Cambridge next summer. As I’ve mentioned, I’m trying to get involved with the “Darwin” events coming up in order to promote Darwin’s Microscope and also simply because it’s my cup of tea. I got in touch with Rebecca Stott, who kindly read my poetry and consulted her co-organizers, and I’ve been invited to be on a “poetry panel” with Ruth Padel. I’m a wee bit anxious! Padel is a famous poet and the great-great-granddaughter of Charles Darwin himself. But I’m also honoured.

Cambridge, bikes

Cambridge, bikes

Funnily enough, at the moment I’ve honestly been reading Voodo Shop and Rembrandt Would Have Loved You, both books of poetry by Padel, and Darwin and the Barnacle, by Rebecca Stott. I got them out of the library when I first emailed Rebecca Stott- I swear I’ve read her book before, when I read so many Darwin-related books my senior year at uni- but I’d prefer to brush up. Padel’s poems are seriously good, though her fame probably vouches for that already!

Dr. John Holmes, my friend and a Lecturer at the University of Reading, had recommended I read some of Padel’s work. Little did I know that she’d be on the panel -and John himself will be the orchestrator! Things are coming together…

Interesting to mention, one of the older and perhaps wackier gentlemen I met at the ‘Poetry Unplugged’ evening said that my timing with the Darwin book was ‘opportunistic.’ As if that is a bad thing. I just think it is a combination of luck and smarts- luck that I wrote the manuscript before I realized the big Darwin events were happening (believe it or not) and luck that a publisher was smart enough to recognize the good timing and wants to publish me in time to take advantage of it.

Suffice to say, I would have written the poems anyway. It was one of the most intellectually fulfilling years of my life thus far, though I do hope to carry on in that vein!

‘In that vein’ being poetry, though from what I hear, Ruth Padel’s got a new poetry book coming out called Darwin: A Biography in Poems, and Dorothy Sutton’s got a new poetry book coming out called Darwin’s Scope! I do wonder how poor ol’ Charles would feel about all of this. Also, I hope I’m not grouped in the lump of ‘opportunistic’ writers taking advantage of the great man and using his name…but ah, so be it, if it be so. I know where I’m coming from.

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