Thursday, 13 August 2009

Another quick plug for my pamphlet: ON WARWICK

My recent pamphlet On Warwick contains poems written during my year as Warwick Poet Laureate, including the long poem 'On Warwick Castle', and shorter commissioned pieces such as 'Leamophants' (on the history of circus elephants in Leamington Spa) and the highly entertaining 'On the Renovations at Leamington Spa Station 2008'.

On Warwick Castle
: a "modernist pièce de résistance" (David Morley) and "one of the more ambitious works of public poetry generated through a local laureateship" (David Floyd, Sphinx 10).

'On Warwick' has been reviewed with approval both online and in such well-established print journals as Poetry Review and Tears in the Fence.

This beautifully presented pamphlet is available to buy for only £5 from Amazon and Nine Arches Press.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Review of 'On Warwick Castle'

Tonight, I found a rather lovely review of my Nine Arches Press pamphlet 'On Warwick' - which contains my long poem 'On Warwick Castle' - at the excellent Happenstance Press site.

The poems in 'On Warwick' were the result of my year-long stint as Warwick Poet Laureateship, from October 2007 to October 2008.

The Warwick Laureateship was great fun, if occasionally wearying, and I produced some interesting work as a result.

The pamphlet of 'On Warwick' is available from Happenstance, above, as well as the other usual online places.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Healthy Food Riddles, Part II

Following on from the riddles in my previous post, you can find some interesting readers' comments on them below this post on Raw Light, my writing blog: Raw Light: Riddle Poems.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Healthy Food Riddles for Tescos

As promised, here are the riddle poems I wrote for the Tescos competition that took place over the weekend of the Warwick Words Festival at the Warwick branch of Tescos.

I took the traditional Anglo-Saxon riddle poem as my model and worked from there, trying to choose healthy foods as subjects. This was one of the last projects I did as part of my commitment to the Warwick Poet Laureateship.

The riddles are aimed at children between about 5 and 10 years old, so shouldn't be too difficult for adults to solve!

Feel free to print these off and use them for your own kids, or as a school resource if you're a primary teacher, but please be polite and do make sure my name appears on the sheet(s).

If you like, you can suggest answers for the riddles below, by clicking on Comments. If you're absolutely desperate to make sure you got the right solutions, you can email me. But they're not that difficult, honest!

One or two have alternative answers, where either can be correct. The final riddle is particularly slippery that way ... ;)

Green and round
and big and red.
Deliciously tempting.
When I fall, gravity
is discovered.
I keep every tooth
in your head.

What am I?

I could be a triangle.
Or a square.
Full of holes.
Round, thin as a string,
or shaved like hair.
I can peel like a banana, too.
Terribly good for you.
And yes, I’m afraid that’s me,
not your socks: I pong!
But I’m really tasty.
If you were a mouse,
I wouldn’t last long.

What am I?

Sometimes I run and drip,
sometimes I’m still and cloudy.
You may have seen me with a bear.
I wish I could fly
like those who made me.
I’m the only comb
you mustn’t put in your hair.

What am I?

It was dark and warm
where I began.
I could have been anything:
a stick or a plait,
a pocket or tin.
Rectangular, I’m thick or thin.
You can fill me
and take me most places.
Pull off my coat,
I fall to pieces.

What am I?

Turn me around for a tasty meal!
I’ve trained the best,
I build muscles of steel.
I may be green
but don’t leaf me alone.
If you want to be strong,
healthy and lean,
you’ll have to take me on.

What am I?

Sweet and fresh
I can go out alone
or get mixed up instead.
I’m easily embarrassed,
a shocking red.
At the table, I make people shout.
(Not my fault!
When the chips are down,
I’m all squeezed out.)

What am I?


Leave your answers below, if you like!

Friday, 10 October 2008

The End of my Laureateship

From left to right: Matt Nunn, Jane Holland (me!), Jane Commane, at the Warwick Castle launch of Matt and Jane's new Nine Arches Press, whose first publication is my Laureateship poetry pamphlet, "On Warwick"

So, about a week ago, I very cheerfully handed over the Warwick Poet Laureateship to Cathy Whittaker, who will hold that post from 2008-09, and am now free as a bird. She says, ironically. In fact, I have so many irons in the fire right now, I'm in serious danger of burning my little pinkies.

I'm now studying at Warwick part-time (part-time has actually worked out as four days a week though, so it's more like full than part-time), sending out my teen fantasy novel in the hope of finding a buyer, continuing to work on new poems, editing issue two of Horizon Review, and possibly adapting my long poem "On Warwick Castle" for the stage.

In other words, life is challenging at the moment (especially when it comes to finding somewhere to park at Warwick University!) and far more pressured than before. Hence the absence of blogging in recent weeks.

Indeed, I've had to turn down several offers of work this month alone because I simply don't have time to squeeze in any more commitments. But no doubt as the year moves on I'll grow accustomed to this more rapid pace of life and feel able to take on new projects. For which, watch this space!

During my Laureateship, I wrote my long poem, "On Warwick Castle", and published that last week in pamphlet form along with other Warwick-related poems in a pamphlet from Nine Arches Press, plus wrote several locally commissioned pieces, as well as six riddle poems for Tescos and sixteen poems to accompany Anand Chhabra's photographs in the Warwick Words Poetry & Photography Exhibition. I also visited a few schools in the region as Poet Laureate, and performed at a number of social events, including a rather delicious fish and chip fund-raising supper at the medieval Lord Leycester Hospital in Warwick.

Meanwhile, although I shall miss being so closely involved with poetry in the Warwickshire region, I'm excited to be turning back to my own personal writing projects, and wish the new Laureate, Cathy Whittaker, all the very best in her year ahead!

Friday, 19 September 2008

Horizon Review: online now!

Last week Salt Publishing launched a new arts magazine, Horizon Review, of which I am the editor.

The first issue contains work by numerous past and present Warwickshire and West Midlands-based writers and artists, including Colin Dick, David Morley, Richard Yeomans, Zoe Brigley, Jon Morley, Jane Commane, George Ttoouli, Liam Guilar and Steve Haynes.

This, with thanks, from the Booktrade site:

"Salt has launched Horizon Review, its second online literary magazine and part of its planned expansion into free-to-view Web journals. Novelist and poet Jane Holland takes the helm of the magazine for the next three years. Holland is currently Warwick's Poet Laureate.

Featuring a new regular column from Daily Telegraph blogger Peter Robins, as well as new fiction from Elizabeth Baines and poetry from T.S. Eliot award-winning poet George Szirtes. The first issue is diverse, feature rich and contains an interview with award-winning fantasy writer China Miéville, alongside reviews of art and a translation of a newly discovered fifth branch of the Mabinogion, the Amaethon Uab Dôr.

"We're delighted with this first issue, Jane is a gifted editor who is firmly focused on building online readerships. This edition of Horizon provides solid content for our online audience and is a significant step forward in the development of our online offering – and a key part of our publishing strategy," says Chris Hamilton-Emery.

"The magazine had over 5,000 page views in its first 48 hours and we intend to build on this in coming months. We're getting around 14 million hits a year to the Salt Web site now; about 80,000 visits a month."

You can find Horizon Review online at:"

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Birmingham Book Festival: the Poetry Events

All events are in the Birmingham Conservatoire unless stated otherwise.
Box Office: 0121 303 2323
Please visit Birmingham Book Festival for more details.

The Poetry Events…

8 October, 6pm – 7.30pm, New Poetry with Roz Goddard: Roz Goddard introduces new work by three other poets based in our region: Meredith Andrea, Myra Connell and Jane Seabourne. Tickets: £7 (£5) – includes a glass of wine

Thursday 9 October, 5.30pm – 6.30pm, Roz Goddard on the poetry of Carol Ann Duffy: A Festival Seminar on some of Carol Ann Duffy’s poems led by poet Roz Goddard, £7 (£5)

Thursday 9 October, Library Theatre, Central Library, 6.45pm – 7.30pm, Birmingham Poet Laureates: The Inaugural Reading by the new Birmingham Poet Laureate and Young Poet Laureate 2008/09, free but please reserve tickets

Thursday 9 October, Library Theatre, Central Library, 8pm – 9.30pm, Writers Without Borders: Writers Without Borders and friends push back the borders of perception in a performance that goes beyond poetry, free but please reserve tickets

Tuesday 14 October, 7pm – 8pm, Poetry Translation Centre Tour: Noshi Gillani (from Pakistan ) and Farzaneh Khojandi (from Tajikistan ) read their poems in translation, also featuring Farzaneh’s translator, poet Jo Shapcott, £6 (£5)

Tuesday 14 October, 8.15pm – 9.30pm, Sibyl Ruth – Poems of a Survivor: Sibyl Ruth reads her translations of poems written by her great-aunt, Rose Scooler, in Theresienstadt concentration camp, £6 (£5)

Wednesday 15 October, 8.15 pm – 9.30pm, David Hart: A Life in Words: one of our region’s finest poets talks about his life and work, £6 (£5)

Thursday 16 October, 7.30pm – 8.45pm, Ian McMillan: Talking Myself Home: a very funny man and our first possible (national) Poet Laureate contender… Talking Myself Home is Yorkshire poet, comedian and broadcaster Ian McMillan ’s life story in poems, £8 (£6)

Tuesday 21 October, 7.30pm – 9pm, Library Theatre, Central Library, Yasus Afari and Friends: Yasus Afari talks about the Jamaican best seller Overstanding Rastafari and performs new poetry, £6 (£5)

Tuesday 21 October, 6pm – 7pm, David Hart on the poetry of R S Thomas: a Festival Seminar on some of R S Thomas’ poems led by David Hart, a poet who shares some of his concerns, £7 (£5)

Tuesday 21 October, 7.15pm-8.45pm, Carol Ann Duffy: another (national) Poet Laureate contender; simply one of the best poets of our time and a mesmerising performer of her poems, £8 (£6 U16s £5)

The Writing Workshops…

Saturday 4 October – Sunday 5 October, 10pm – 7am, Night Writer: The Return: an all-night writing workshop in a secret location miles from Birmingham (transport provided); a treat for sleepless writers of all genres, £30 (£25) including breakfast

Workshop Saturday, Saturday 11th October: South Birmingham College, Digbeth Campus

Performance Skills for Writers, 10am – 3.30pm, an Apples and Snakes workshop for writers who want to perform their work, led by Lorna Laidlaw, £25 (£20)

Animating the Voice: Giles Abbott, 10am – 3.30pm, storyteller and voice coach Giles Abbott leads this intensive workshop on using the light and shade of our voices, £25 (£20)

A New Time, a New Place, 10am – 12.30pm: Michael Thomas leads this workshop on writing directly from your own feelings or filtering them through a newly constructed persona, £18 (£15)

How Unwell Does a Poet Need To Be, 10am – 12.30pm: David Hart leads this workshop on how untidiness and the unpredictable and vagaries of our lives can influence our making of poems, £18 (£15)

Radio Writing, 10am – 12.30pm: Stephanie Dale leads this workshop on exploring radio writing techniques, £18 (£15)

Writing for the Terrified, 1.30pm – 4pm: Chris Hoskins helps new writers overcome their fear of putting pen to paper in a variety of genres, helping you take the first steps into writing, £18 (£15)

Character Building, 1.30pm – 4pm: Paul Dowswell leads this writing workshop on how to invent believable, interesting and rounded characters for your book, £18 (£15)

Writing for Performance. 1.30pm – 4pm: Kaite O’Reilly leads this workshop writing for live performance. What is dramatic? Where do ideas come from?, £18 (£15)

The Writers’ Toolkit…

A Conference for the Writing Industry, Saturday 18 October, 9.30am – 4pm, South Birmingham College, Digbeth Campus: an industry day for emerging and established writers to learn about aspects of the business in greater detail, connect with other writers and those working in writer development, £29 (£23) (includes lunch). For more information or to book call 0121 246 2770 or email

Please do book tickets as soon as possible: several workshops only have a few places left and other events are selling well.

We look forward to seeing you at the Festival.

Jonathan Davidson
Director - Birmingham Book Festival
Unit 116, The Custard Factory, Gibb Street, Birmingham , B9 4AA , England

Friday, 12 September 2008

More Festival info: POETRY

Warwick Words Festival: 2-5 October 2008

We have a feast of poetry for you at this year’s festival including JOOLZ DENBY, JO SHAPCOTT, JANE HOLLAND, FELIX DENNIS,and BRIAN PATTEN.

Tickets are now available from the Box Office: 01926 776438
For further information please see our web site

Masterclass – Thursday 2 October from 2.00pm – 5.00pm at the Friends Meeting House
In Conversation with Joolz Denby – Thursday 2 October at 7.30pm at the Lord Leycester Hospital

Imaginative Logic workshop – Friday 3 October from 2,00pm – 5.00pm in Northgate Church Hall

An event not to be missed! – Friday 3 October at 8.00pm in the Bridge House Theatre
Lots of free wine included (over 18’s)!

Gargling with Jelly – Poetry Reading for kids and parents – Saturday 4 October at 3.00pm in the Bridge House Theatre

Growing up Before Your Very Eyes- Saturday 4 October at 7.30pm at the Bridge House Theatre

POETRY CAFÉ with JANE HOLLAND (that's me!)
Thursday 2 and Friday 3 October from 11.00am – 4.00pm in Thomas Oken Tea Rooms, just off Jury Street, Warwick

JANE HOLLAND (and that's me again!)
Warwick Poetry with the Laureate – Sunday 5 October from 2.00pm in the Coach House, Warwick Castle.

This is a book launch event - launching "On Warwick" from Nine Arches Press, a year's worth of poetry written for the Laureateship by Jane Holland, including her long poem "On Warwick Castle".

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Warwick Words Festival ... Coming Soon!

Don't forget to visit the Warwick Words Festival site as soon as possible and book tickets for your favourite events.

During the long weekend of October 2nd - 5th, there will be plenty of outstanding performances, stimulating talks and interactive workshops to choose from in central Warwick including:

Literary Lunches
Afternoon Teas
Guided Walks
Children’s Festival
Poetry and Photography Exhibition
plus my very own Laureate-led Poetry Cafe
and much more!

Special guests this year include: Jo Shapcott, Felix Dennis, Alexander McCall Smith, Frances Fyfield, Louis de Berineres, Gerald Scarfe, Celia Rees, Brian Patten, Andrew Davies, Tony de Saulles, Catherine O’Flynn, Jane Wenham-Jones and others.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Now where did I put that crown?

Warwick Words is on the search for Warwick Poet Laureate 2008/2009!

Jane Holland, 2007/08 Poet Laureate will hand over her literary crown to the new Laureate at the Festival Launch event at Warwick Castle on Wednesday 1 October 2008.

The position of Warwick Poet Laureate is an honorary one, for which there is no payment. Candidates must be from Warwickshire and capable of writing good poetry and willing and able to perform their own work. The Laureate must be willing to get involved in key events and activities throughout the year and will be commissioned to write poems about Warwick. To apply, visit the Warwick Words website for more details.

Warwick Words, one of the country's newest literary festivals is taking place in various venues around the historic town between 2 – 5 October and promises to be a lively and entertaining weekend with something for everyone. During the weekend there will be lots of performances, talks and workshops to choose from including; a Literary Lunch, Afternoon Teas, Children's Book Festival, Poetry Café and much more!

Special Guests include: Felix Dennis, Alexander McCall Smith, Frances Fyfield, Louis de Bernieres, Gerald Scarfe, Celia Rees, Brian Patten, Tony Hawks, Andrew Davies, Tony de Saulles, Catherine O'Flynn, Jane Wenham-Jones, Jo Shapcott plus lots of other guests.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Warwick Words Festival Poetry Cafe 2008

The Festival Poetry Cafe
Thomas Oken Tea Rooms
20 Castle Street (Off Jury Street)
11am - 4pm
Thursday & Friday, 3rd & 4th October

As part of my Laureate duties, the exciting task falls to me this year to organise the annual Poetry Cafe during the Warwick Words Festival. What that basically entails is roping and steering together some 30 or 40 poets and poetry-lovers in one continual wild extravaganza of poetry reading and - I have no doubt - discussion. Tea and cakes will also be consumed in large quantities, as the event itself is traditionally held at Warwick's excellent Thomas Oken Tea Rooms near the Castle and this year will be no exception.

For 2008, I will be asking poets to stay at least an hour where possible, so that we have plenty of listeners as well as readers, and also to bring a poem or two with them which is by someone else - as well as their own, if they write poetry - so that we can all enjoy as wide a selection of poetry as possible.

Interested in listening to some great poetry?
Just turn up whenever you like, order some tea, and grab a comfy chair.

Want to perform?
If you're a poet with work to share, or feel able to read some favourite poetry aloud to a room of appreciative scone-devourers, email me on to arrange a suitable time slot.

The Poetry Cafe takes place from 11am to 4pm on both Thursday 3rd and Friday 4th October, kicking off this year's Literary Festival in poetic style.

Monday, 14 July 2008

Poems & Photographs: a Warwick Exhibition

A much-discussed project will be going ahead this summer, namely a poetry and photography collaboration between myself and the Leamington Spa Artist in Residence, Anand Chhobra.

Anand will be taking photographs around the town and castle of Warwick over the next few weeks, and I will then write some poems to accompany them. We expect there to be between 15 and 20 poems in total at this stage, but that figure may change as the project moves ahead.

The resulting collaboration will be exhibited at Art & Wine, a new and vibrant Warwick art gallery, during the weekend of the Warwick Words Festival in early October. The exhibition is being run in connection with my year-long Warwick Poet Laureateship which ends that month.

It's a challenging but exciting concept, having to combine my words with someone else's images. I've written poems about individual photographs before, of course, but never experienced quite the same collaborative spirit from the inception of a project. So anything could happen ...

Please watch this blog for further details of when you can view the resulting exhibition.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

At the Godiva Festival: Cov's answer to Glastonbury!

I performed on stage last night at the Godiva Festival in Coventry's Memorial Park, two tents down from Cov's favourite band, The Enemy. I also happened to be in the Artist Liaison tent, getting my free food voucher, at the same time as some of the young band members and their families were picking up their backstage passes. My teenage daughter, who's a big fan of The Enemy, now apparently 'hates' me for not arranging a backstage pass for her too!

It was an excellent reading to a massive and appreciative crowd - if a bit 'Glastonbury' at times, thanks to the heavy rain, mud slicks everywhere, and a sudden electrical short in the generator part-way through the unfortunate performer's set immediately before mine. There was a ten minute pause, while people danced about in the noisy semi-darkness and slow-clapped, then the lights came back on and suddenly it was my turn at the mic.

I warmed up the crowd, now rather frisky, with two short poems from my next book, Camper Van Blues (Salt Publishing, 2008): 'Day Tripping', about drug abuse, and 'Neighbours' (just published in Mimesis 4) about the downside of being a lone female traveller.

I then read two pieces from my first collection of poetry, The Brief History of a Disreputable Woman (Bloodaxe, 1997): 'Baize Queens', about my days as a semi-pro snooker player, and 'Not a Love Poem'.

To finish the ten minute set, I read my party piece - an extract from The Lament of the Wanderer, my version of the Anglo-Saxon poem, just published as a chapbook by Coventry's Heaventree Press, who were hosting last night's event.

Other readers in the poetry tent included the great Linton Kwesi Johnson and such stalwarts of the British poetry circuit as Dreadlockalien (aka Richard Grant), Mario Petrucci, Kei Miller, Mike McKimm, Yusra Warsama, Coventry's own Scrubber Jack, plus two excellent Irish poets visiting from Cork, Paul Casey and Billy Ramsell.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

A Visit to 'The Rainbow Room' at Bawnmore Infant School, Rugby

Yesterday morning, I was asked to speak to Year 1 (Herons and Robins) at Bawnmore Infant School in Rugby. The school has just built a large new extension for special events of this kind, known as The Rainbow Room, and I read some poems there and spoke to the Year 1 children about writing poems (ages 5 - 6).

Questions from the children included:

Q: 'How do you make a poem?'

A: With plenty of glue, scraps of old paper and glitter.

(Giggling from the kids, who apparently don't believe me!)

Seriously though, I sit down with maybe one word or a possible first line in my head, and try to build a new poem around that little spark.


Q: 'Do your poems rhyme, and if so, how do you think of the rhyme?'

A: Sometimes my poems rhyme in the middle of the line instead of at the end, and sometimes they only half-rhyme.

I come up with the rhymes by going through all the obvious rhymes until I come to the less obvious ones, which I prefer. The less obvious rhymes tend to take poems in a more interesting direction ...

Then I read some of my own poems to the children, including 'Watermelon Seeds' and 'I Want to be an Explorer'. One of the teachers very kindly asked for a copy of 'Watermelon Seeds' for the Bawnmore School website. So I thought I'd reproduce it here as well.

Watermelon Seeds

If I eat watermelon seeds
will they grow
into watermelon trees?

Will they grow in my tummy
and make me feel funny?

Will my face turn red
with a watermelon head?

Will I splish and splosh
and swish and swosh

wherever I walk
with my watermelon talk?

I think I'll leave
my watermelon seeds

but I might eat one -
just for FUN!

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Warwick Words Writers Group: Wednesday 18th June

I shall be reading and discussing my work, plus leading a poetry workshop, at the next meeting of the Warwick Words Writers Group. Here are the details:
Wednesday 18 June
The Meeting Room at The Social Centre, St Mary’s Immaculate RC Church,
West Street, Warwick
7.30 – 9.30pm.

WORKSHOP: Writing Poetry
(delivered by Jane Holland – current Warwick Poet Laureate)
Facilitator: Pauline Brooks
Free refreshments.
£2 per person (to cover venue costs).

Connected to the annual Warwick Words festival of literature and spoken word, this dynamic and friendly group meet in Warwick once a month to share their work, discuss ideas and to develop their creative writing skills. The format of the monthly sessions is determined by the group itself, with the emphasis on creating an informal, yet supportive and productive network.

What members say about the Warwick Words Writers Group:
“refreshing”, “stimulating” and “enjoyable”, “fabulously organised” and that it “attracts a wide range of people with different levels of writing skills and styles”.

Please feel free to forward this information to anyone you think might be interested.