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!


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…

3 thoughts on “The Longest Nights

  1. Kelley,

    Envying you your gratifying progress and circle of like-minded friends! Also, your ability to knit–my ability is to knot.

    If you need anything regarding pigments and painting technique, I would be happy to share what I have. Ralph Meyer’s book, Artist’s Handbook of Materials and Techniques, is a pretty exhaustive resource. If you want to see some masterful description of old-school painting technique in fiction, try Will Davenport’s “The Painter”–though I’ll warn you, it has a very disappointing ending, reminiscent of a B-grade horror flick, but its descriptions of Rembrandt as a painter are spot-on. Check out for a lot of technical information regarding specific pigments, as well as articles about traditional painting technique, including silverpoint, encaustic and egg-tempera. Website is not as user-friendly as some, but they very readily answer any questions you have if you call. Materials Safety Data Sheets are available for most pigments online, and give a lot of technical information. I could bore you with a lot more resources and chemical details about various historic pigments (and some modern ones)–after all, David calls me the “Paint Geek”–but you might start with the above…

    Emily Smith

    • Thanks for this information, Emily! I’m familiar with Natural Pigments, which is an excellent site, but not with the others…back to the British Library then… 🙂

  2. I’m glad I was able to be a small part of your careening week. I’m also tumbling down to Christmas. I think I’m deluding myself to think I might get some writing done beforehand, but you know what they say…where there’s life there’s delusion. See you on the flip side, I hope!

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