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Right. Been tagged by Sarah Salway. Uh, to list six random things about myself. Love it. I wonder if the ‘random’ is of the real type (here) or of the slang type used by my nephew, my students, and now my son, as in ‘that’s so random man’.


1) I used to have a recurring nightmare when I was young which involved me riding in a tiny toy-like car away from people who were chasing me. All during this ride the world was in tunnel vision, with strange creatures and sometimes very ordinary life lining the sides of the road. Sometimes as I’m falling asleep I still get this tunnel vision, which makes me feel like I’m falling.

2) I absolutely adore frosted brown sugar cinnamon Pop Tarts. Only available in the States. At a push the frosted strawberry ones available in the UK are okay.

3) One of my ideal situations is being driven down a highway with the windows open, road music on, and my bare feet hanging out.

4) I’ve never read Moby Dick. This may only mean something to Americans. But I have read Ulysses. And loved it. Does this mean anything to anyone?

5) I’d like to ride in a hot-air balloon again. A lot. The one and only time I went, I was a secretary in a real estate agency in London, going along for an early morning client-pleasing ride. It was completely thrilling. And silent. And hugely poetic. And I had to keep everything I felt about it to myself.

6) One of the most formative creative pursuits of my life has been translation. At Oberlin College I translated poetry from around 15 different languages (using trans-literations). My very first publication was a translation of a ‘creative non fiction’ essay by Miroslav Holub, Shed Blood, which was later collected into a book (The Dimension of the Present Moment, now out of print). Translation seems to speak directly to the intangible, the bit before words, beyond words…and I find that fascinating. It has made me acutely aware of the creative transformation of coming to the page: you may think you know what you want to write in your head, but the page, the process, changes all of that. The process of translation is like high-intensity editing of your own work: you wait for it to dawn on you, to talk to you in your own language. I love it, and everytime I think of it, I miss it.



Now it falls to me to pass the baton, along with the rules:

Link to the person that tagged you – i.e. me.

Post the rules on your blog.

Write six random things about you in a blog post.

Tag six people in your post.

Let each person know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Let the tagger know your entry is up.

So now I tag… Caroline, George, Danny and Alis.




Okay, the truth can now come out: the night of my last post was the actual launch of Messages and Your Messages…only I couldn’t say it because the event was mega-oversubscribed and even one more person would have popped the place like the fabled ‘wafer thin mint’ (it would have).

What a night. Buzzy from start to finish, and the work was top notch: hilarious, thoughtful and moving by turns. Thank goodness I wear waterproof mascara, let me put it that way. I was particularly struck by the pieces read by Oz Hardick, Caroline Smailes, Bob (erroneously Bill!) Merckel, Clare Grant, Mary Rose Rawlinson, Gina Benson, Ken Elkes — and of course Alex Johnson (of shedworking)’s final Your Messages riff. And actually, now that I look at the book, I know there were others I thoroughly enjoyed, and many more fine examples held in the pages. Once again, well done to Lynne and Sarah. A hugely successful and generous project, a catalyst for so many.

Gina Benson had come all the way from TEXAS for the occasion. It was her first published piece and by common consensus, a doozie. She and her friend were wonderful, as was Bob M, another American…We exchanged home thoughts, raining-in-Britain observations etc, and, as always happens in these situations, my all-time favourite Texas bumper sticker spread itself across the backwall of my brain, like some kind of flypost. I saw it the last time I landed in Houston, on the freeway back to Beaumont:

Texas bumper sticker

As a native Texan, my heart thrills to this. It encapsulates everything but everything about that simultaneously overblown and self-deprecating state. Love it.

I like things with a certain…symmetry? weight? Presence. I like things that come into the world already artefacts.Messages cover Messages and Your Messages are two such things. The original Messages project, between Lynne Rees and Sarah Salway, grew out of a collaboration, just an idea that both of them stuck to. The result is hugely neat and satisfying: 300 pieces of 300 words each. Deep sigh.Your Message cover

Now it’s launching into a smaller format, along with the culmination of the Your Messages project, another brilliantly conceived and executed collaborative project. Lynne and Sarah collated the work, choosing at least one piece for each day of the month, and bluechrome have produced an anthology from it: all proceeds to charity. Talk about art. Yes, let’s talk about it: art as in making from materials, where process is valued as much as product. Where something emerges which moves the eye, the mind and the heart, fully occupying its own space.

Longer term readers of this blog will remember the fun I had doing my first one, on 8 November. It’s the one in Your Messages. Which I can’t wait to get my hands on.

And hooray! Thrilled to discover over the weekend that one of my pieces has been chosen for publication in Your Messages. As some of you may remember (or maybe not…), the blast of doing it was long-lasting. When I was in the Lakes in late November, I felt quite bereft of the whole project, having wanted to do at least one a week to keep my hand in….Alas, to venture to Hawkshead and try to find a computer would have been breaking my pact with the Land of Long-hand. So I didn’t.

However. It’s turned out more than all right in the end. The launch for Your Messages goes like this:

Messages coverDate: Thursday 31 January 2008

Time: tbc

Venue: The Poetry Cafe, Betterton Street, London WC1

I’ll be reading, along with maybe 20 others! Sounds fabulous. I’m very honoured. Thank you to Lynne Rees and Sarah Salway for thinking of it, and for running such a tight ship. A wonderful, enriching and utterly sound idea which created a strong community, and will produce a fine artefact. Not to mention make some good money for a more than fine charity. Hats off to you, ladies!


From January 2010, my new blog is Waving and Drowning


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Who am I?

A writer born in Texas, who grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia (yes, like the song), and who's been living in the UK since 1988. I've published two books (see below), and teach creative writing at the University of Kent. I'm married to a composer, and we have two young children. See About for my full profile.