Tag Archive: Where Rockets Burn Through


Reading at the SPL.

Reading at the SPL.

Everyone jokes that, in Edinburgh, ‘if you don’t like the weather, wait a minute’. We say the same thing in New England. However, I have to say that I don’t think I’ve experienced quite the dramatic and rapid meteorological changes that I did over the past few days: rain, hail (proper chunks of ice,) and sun, all at the end of April! Maybe this was appropriate for a reading of Science Fiction poetry?

Russell Jones and the wonderful Scottish Poetry Library hosted a handful of readers and a short film, all to celebrate Edwin Morgan’s poetry, and the anthology (edited by Russell,) Where Rockets Burn Through.

It was particularly nice to see many familiar faces at the SPL – the last time I was there was to read from Darwin’s Microscope in 2009! Ron Butlin, Edinburgh Makar, read, as did Andy Jackson, who performed a wonderfully touching poem based on the ‘Clangers’ characters (I had to have this explained to me and then was shown film clips of this children’s TV series later in the evening, just to be sure I understood how influential this show was to a particular generation! The fact that I loved Andy’s poem and performance nonetheless speaks highly of its ‘translatability’.)

Pippa & Andy read 'The First Men on Mercury'.

Pippa & Andy read ‘The First Men on Mercury’.

Pippa Goldschmidt and Andy co-read ‘The First Men on Mercury’, which brought out the fascinating and unsettling shift that happens as the poem goes along. Ian McLachlan and Claire Askew read entertaining and very different sci-fi and also quite ghostly pieces. The reading was broken with a short, eerie film by Dan Warren based on Morgan’s poem, ‘In Sobieski’s Shield’ – I found Dan’s explanation of climbing into abandoned bomb shelters to film particularly interesting when he introduced the film. Watch it here.

I took the plunge and read ‘The Loch Ness Monster’s Song,‘ which was inspired by hearing Dr John Holmes perform it wonderfully back in 2009 as part of a reading from his book, Darwin’s Bards. It’s a challenge, but I was very pleased when not a few people expressed their thanks afterwards – so it seemed to go well. The poem is a pleasure to read again and again, and difficult to read aloud (try to roll those ‘r’s!) I interpret it as if the Loch Ness Monster has popped its head out, takes a look around, gets quite peeved that the Diplodocus is getting all the attention, and sinks back under the water…

It was special to be able to congratulate Pippa Goldschmidt on her novel, too, which was launched the night before (I was sorry to miss the launch)! The Falling Sky, published by Freight Books, looks beautiful and I was pleased to buy a copy while in Edinburgh. Pippa used to work as an astronomer, and I met her through our mutual friend, the Royal Observatory’s Public Astronomer, Marek Kukula. Pippa and I are pleased to be able to commiserate and celebrate while writing novels about female astronomers – mine historical, hers modern.

Congratulations to those involved with Where Rockets Burn Through, and thanks to The SPL and Russell for a lovely evening.

The Longest Nights

Sir Andrew Motion, and just how close we all were. Glad everyone was friendly!

Sir Andrew Motion, and just how close we all were. Glad everyone was friendly!

My goodness, this year is careening towards an end at breakneck speed. I’m hanging on. To be fair, I’ve spent this evening reading poetry in front of a log fire, eating popcorn, and knitting, so it isn’t all outrageous excitement.

Some of the things I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy:

Last week, I heard Andrew Motion read from his in-progress Selected Poems (for the US) at the Peirene Salon. Actually, I practically sat on him, because the room was insanely full. He was very good about it. Thank goodness there wasn’t a fire or we all would have died. I’m not very familiar with the recent Laureate’s work, so it was the perfect opportunity to hear a range of it – he has a lovely gentle voice, and I found myself closing my eyes to listen (and to allay the awkward nearness).

Reading from Where Rockets Burn Through.

Reading from Where Rockets Burn Through.

The poetry group of which I’m proud to comprise one-sixth, Nevada Street Poets, read for the first time together in public at Made In Greenwich, a wonderful little gallery that is hosting a series of readings into next year by local groups.

In related news, Lorraine Mariner, Sarah Westcott, Malene Engelund and I (all Nevada Street,) have had poems recently published in the gorgeous anthology Where Rockets Burn Through: Contemporary Science Fiction Poems from the UK. (Purely by chance, the other two poets in Nevada Street are also the men in our group – Mick Delap and Dominic McLaughlin.)

I had the opportunity to give a second poetry reading this week at the launch of the anthology, along with Sue Guiney and the delightful Simon Barraclough, who kindly gave me a copy of his book Los Alamos Mon Amour, because one of my poems (‘Celestial Navigation’) shares a title with one of his. (I pointed out, upon reading Los Alamos, that we share not one but two titles, also both having a poem called ‘Apologia’. Great minds, and all that.) I’m really looking forward to reading his Neptune Blue and the fabulously-entitled Bonjour Tetris!

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It was tasty, really. Chocolate and raspberry!

That’s two poetry readings and one book launch – and I went to another book launch this week, too, in one of my favourite spaces in London: The Old Operating Theatre and Herb Garret. The launch was for the Halloween-esque-ly named, The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones, and the launch came complete with a 3-piece band with an appropriately creaky, haunting tone, an oversized heart cake, and a cravat-wearing, charmingly enthusiastic author. I love London.

Last night was my friend Cassie’s birthday party (happy birthday, Cassie!) and I was delighted to catch up with her brother, William Herschel-Shorland, and meet his wife, Sarah, and be inspired by their enthusiasm for my progress on the novel about their ancestor, Caroline Herschel, which was incredibly encouraging – not least because I was able to share the exciting news that Cinnamon Press recently accepted my manuscript of Double the Stars for their mentorship scheme, and so I’ll be working with the Press in the coming year to edit the novel! I’m really looking forward to the new things I’ll learn from the mentoring.

Meanwhile, I’m cracking on with The Naked Muse, and spent Friday in the British Library reading about painting technique and pigments, especially fugitive colours – I think I’m going to use ‘Fugitive Colours’ as a title for my next book…

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