Thursday, 14 November 2013


A little over a year ago I was flipped by a retreat with Deryn-Rees Jones and David Morley. While I was whingeing to Deryn about how my current writing felt irrelevant and naive she tore off a piece of paper and gave it to me. It was the above. We both laughed. And yet it seems to have underpinned my latest small publishing project. I took the permission to heart, trusting what I wrote so much I've collected ten of them together and made another pamphlet for them.

I am a bit nervous because some of the poems follow well-trodden ground: basking sharks have been written about by Kathleen Jamie and Norman MacCaig, mackerels by Mark Doty, jellyfish by Doty and Marianne Moore, to name just a few from the top of my head. What more do I think I can add?

I fear there's arrogance in presenting these poems. But what I suspect has driven me to do so is the fondness I have for them: their simplicity, and how they encapsulate encounters with these remarkable creatures I've had over years of sailing. I couldn't continue to write about the sea and not its inhabitants. Or those I've imagined I've seen. There are more sea-creature poems than those I've collected in this pamphlet, but these, well, they're my favourite memories, which might not be the best rationale to give to an editor, but, since I'm editorial director of this particular publication too, what I say, goes.

Sea-Creatures takes a different form from Lune. Obviously: they're different poems. Although I enlisted the help of Hugh Bryden again, sending him a rough what what I'd done so far and he sent back suggestions as to what he'd do if it were his pamphlet. Which included some lovely ideas I've encorporated. I've also passed the selection through a couple of colleagues (as well as individual poems being milled by my writing group) who I trust to give fulsome feedback, so it has been through an editorial process.

The binding is more fiddly than Lune. So I've made only 16 copies for starters, which might suffice. Hymas&Lewis have a local outing next week, which will be a low-key launch for the pamphlet and I'll get a sense from then how they'll go down. That I'm pleased with them is a great start. Trying to fix a monetary price to them is a whole other ordeal.

The pamphlet is available to buy, at £6 (inc p+p) or £5 if you come to the gig :/

Tuesday, 5 November 2013


I wrote a while back about Hymas&Lewis's new work in progress. The piece is almost finished, with the more limbo-inducing name Sealegs - that phenomena of our brains adapting to motion, which induces dizziness, disorientation and sometimes seasickness, the transition into the other world of being at sea.

We're performing a 20 minute excerpt of it in Lancaster on Thursday 21 November, which I'm all a jitter about. The whole piece is approximately 50 minutes so it was an interesting exercise to extract 20 minutes that held a sense of the narrative, without giving everything away, and was coherent enough to pull the audience into our seaworld.

It's the first long piece we've made together, and while it has very different componants (of poetic styles and instruments - voice, guitar, concertina and shruti) the themes, refrains and loose narrative do ensure a journey through the piece.

The connecting narrative is of my first encounter of sailing, a baptism by fire in the South Pacific. This was over twenty years ago, so it's interspersed with shanty-like reflections on other sailors, a maritime legacy as it were, and the detail of life on board: the claustrophobia, expanse, freedom, comradship, and bloody hard work; anxiety, boredom, tension.

All this is delivered, we hope, with a strong dose of humour, synchronicity, passion and empathy. Certainly these were present in the devising, so should be present in the performance. Like actually having sealegs, the show's intention is to be consuming and illusory, playful and intense, an experience once felt not forgotten.