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.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

'Leamophants' in Latin

Centum anni fugiunt: illas nunc cernere possis
ante oculos hortis lento agmine procedentes
vespere per mediam frigus sub fluminis undis
corpora mersuras: naso caudaque catenam
inter se nectunt ...

For those of a classical bent, you can now find my 'Leamophant' elephant poem translated into Latin, no less, on my Raw Light writing blog.

Many thanks to my friend and teacher John King, Classics Master at Rugby School, for knocking the poem into a more elegant shape. It provided some amusement at our evening class recently, reading through this line-by-line and seeing how he'd tackled the obvious difficulties of translating 'across the ages'; although the Romans certainly had elephants, they were not known for their silk parasols or shop front glass windows.

I hope those of you with a little knowledge - or even a lot! - will click over to Raw Light and enjoy trying to riddle out the Latin hexameters.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

A new commissioned poem on Leamington Spa Station

God’s Wonderful Railway
thundering through the Chilterns
from the big smoke
to the cool of the Spa.

Below is a poem recently commissioned by Chiltern Railways to commemorate the official opening of the renovated Ticket Office at Leamington Spa Station.

The work was undertaken to improve security at the entrance to the station and also partially to restore the original look of the ticket office area, first built in 1938 in the elegant Art Deco style. Later changes to the station entrance hall had sadly concealed the original granite plinth and Art Deco tiles; these have now been uncovered and restored, with other renovations planned for the near future.

I went along to the station on May 24th 2008 to read the poem out at the grand opening ceremony, which featured many prominent guests such as the Mayor and Mayoress of Leamington Spa, the Coventry-born record producer Pete Waterman, and a whole swathe of train enthusiasts, railway executives and Friends of Leamington Spa Station.

The actual reading proved a little challenging, since although I had been assured that no trains were due for several minutes, as soon as I started to read the poem, a train naturally enough began to enter the station. Fortunately, I have a loud voice, being accustomed to yelling at my children, so I'm fairly certain the poem was heard by most people on the platform!

I would like to thank my next-door neighbour, Bernie, who is a train enthusiast himself and whose help in the loaning of research material was invaluable. Grateful thanks are also due to the various staff at Leamington Station who answered my lengthy questions with great patience, even though they were trying to work at the same time. And to Seona Shuttleworth (Chiltern Railways) who was kind enough to commission this poem from me in the first place.

After all the help I received with my research, I hope even the most hardened train enthusiast will find something to enjoy in this poem!


On the Renovations at Leamington Spa Station, 2008

Art Deco portal, waystation
in stainless steel
and granite plinth, its ticket office
elegant as a scene
from Brief Encounter;
to step into that waiting room
or order coffee
at polished mahogany
is to dip oneself
into a distant age, to hurry past
its potted palms
in pearls and tweed
or trilby and two-tone brogues,
running for the 8.23
from Leamington to Marylebone
or the sleek blue ghost
of the Birmingham Pullman, waitor
in stiff whites
threading those aisles,
silver salver
steady on his palm, serving high tea
with Havana cigars
from Georgian facades to Paddington,
passing red hot pokers
in the station garden, delphiniums
and Michaelmas daisies
opposite this Deco bench
where GWR
is what the legend says:
God’s Wonderful Railway
thundering through the Chilterns
from the big smoke
to the cool of the Spa.


Friday, 30 May 2008

Leamophants: a commissioned poem

Photograph appears courtesy of Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum, Warwick District Council

Exotic, thick-lashed, they arrive
with their entourage
of flap-eared uncles and wrinkled aunts.

As promised, here is the poem commissioned to commemorate the recent re-siting of the elegant 'Elephant Circle' seat by Nicholas Dimbleby in Jephson Gardens, Leamington Spa, which you can see pictured above - with one of my own sons taking an impromptu elephant ride.

I hope you all enjoy it!


(in memoriam Sam & George Lockhart, elephant trainers)

Exotic, thick-lashed, they arrive
with their entourage
of flap-eared uncles and wrinkled aunts.

Flirtatious, on elegant display,
they sashay
the white length of the Parade

and people stare as they pass,
bold debutantes
overwintering at the Spa.

Like heroines from a Regency romance,
come here to acquire
‘a little town bronze’,

they admire themselves in shop fronts,
twirling Oriental silk parasols
in their dusty trunks.

One hundred years on, you can
almost see them
in the park each dusk, walking

single file in the cold,
taking themselves down to the river
to bathe; daisy-chaining,

trunk-to-tail, their vast
delicate feet
like scallop-edged drums

thumping the concrete,
always just missing the civic pinks
and marigolds.


Thursday, 22 May 2008

Commissioned poem for Leamington Spa Railway Station: official reading Friday 23rd May

Leamington Spa Station,
"Official Opening"

12pm at Friday 23 May 2008

After months of hard work, the newly refurbished Leamington Spa station is ready for its official reopening.

The Railway Heritage Trust, The Friends of Leamington Station and Chiltern Railways have all invested in the future of Leamington Spa station to restore the station’s Art Deco features. The refurbishment includes the booking hall and subway area.

Adrian Shooter, Chairman of Chiltern Railways will be unveiling the plaque, followed by Jane Holland, Poet Laureate who will read a specially commissioned poem about the station.

Pete Waterman, Chairman of the Friends of Leamington Spa, Sir William McAlpine, Chairman of the Railway Heritage Trust and the Mayor of Royal Leamington Spa, Kailash Chander will also be attending the event.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Circus Elephants in Leamington Spa: this Saturday, May 24th 2008

Some months ago, I mentioned that I had been commissioned to write a poem on the history of circus elephants in Leamington Spa. The poem has been written and will be read aloud to the public this coming Saturday in Leamington's Jephson Gardens to celebrate the new site of the 'Elephant Circle' seat, as follows:

The Official Unveiling Of ‘Elephant Circle’ in Leamington Spa

Saturday 24 May, 12noon – 3pm

On Saturday 24 May at 12noon the seat sculpture, ‘Elephant Circle’ by Nicholas Dimbleby will be officially unveiled by Councillor Chris White at its new location in Jephson Gardens. The sculpture has been relocated from its former position outside the northern entrance to the Royal Priors shopping complex in Leamington Spa where it was first installed in 1988 and will include a newly recast bronze elephant made by the artist.

The unveiling will be celebrated with a series of events and activities for all ages:

* At 12noon in Jephson Gardens Councillor Chris White will officially unveil ‘Elephant Circle’.

* From 12noon to 2pm events in Jephson Gardens will include a poetry reading by the Warwick Poet Laureate, Jane Holland, readings from a written anthology by local writers which celebrates Leamington Spa’s connection with circus elephants and photography workshops lead by Anand Chhabra, Spencer Yard Artist in Residence.

* From 2 – 4pm at Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum in the Royal Pump Rooms there will be elephant mask making workshops for families, and from 2 – 3pm outside the Royal Pump Rooms children can meet ‘Snowdrop’ the life size mechanical elephant who will offer rides around the Royal Pump Rooms Gardens.

All activities are free, just drop in and join in! All children must be accompanied by an adult. For further information about the events please call Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum on 01926 742700.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Punjabi Poetry Recital by Amarjit Chandan and Daljit Nagra

Herbert Gallery, Coventry
15 May 2008

£2.00 on the door
Suitable for all, children are welcome at this event but must be accompanied by an adult. Indian buffet provided.

Amarjit Chandan’s poetry collections and essays have been published globally, he has edited and translated 30 anthologies of world literature, and brought the work of Brecht, Neruda, Ritsos, Hikmet, Cardenal, Martin Carter and John Berger into Punjabi. He has received lifetime achievement awards from the Punjab Government’s Language Department (2004) and from the All-Party Parliamentary Group ‘Panjabis in Britain’ (2006).

Daljit Nagra’s 2007 ‘Look We Have Coming to Dover!’ has been the most acclaimed poetry debut published in recent years, as well as one of the most relevant and accessible. Nagra, whose own parents came to England from the Punjab in the 1950s, draws on both English and Indian-English traditions to tell stories of alienation, assimilation, aspiration and love, from a stowaway’s first footprint on Dover Beach to the disenchantment of subsequent generations.

Canal Boat Creative Writing Workshop: Bank Holiday Monday

Birmingham Book Festival – Year Round Programme

Canal Boat Creative Writing Workshop
Workshop Leader: Jo Bell
Venue: Gas Street Basin, off Broad Street, Birmingham
2pm – 4.30pm, Bank Holiday Monday 26th May, 2008

Poet Jo Bell ( was Cheshire Poet Laureate 2007, is Co-ordinator of National Poetry Day and the author of new collection Navigation. She lives on a boat and often uses the canals as a source for her writing. Join her on the historic working boat Saltaire for a short trip on Birmingham's waterways and an intensive writing workshop. We will show you the city from a different angle and help you to write about your own urban landscape, drawing on watery memories or unfamiliar language. Bring paper, pencil and an open mind!

NB: you will need warm clothing as you will be in the hold of the boat. We regret that due to the design of the boat (an old coal carrying narrow-boat) this event does not have full disabled access.

With thanks to Peter Baldwin, Skipper of the Saltaire

Tickets: £17 (£14 concession) – to book please call 0121 246 2770 or e-mail

Saturday, 3 May 2008

Literary Quiz and Fish Supper with reading by Jane Holland

I'm pleased to say I'll be doing a reading next Friday in the town of Warwick itself, as Poet Laureate, and getting a few answers wrong in the literary quiz. If you live in the area and fancy a fun night out, with delicious fish and chip supper, grab yourself a few tickets and get down to ye olde Lord Leycester Hospital.

Literary Quiz in association with Warwick Words
We have a fundraiser events for Warwick Words next Friday, May 9th, at the superb 'Lord Leycester Hospital' in Warwick.

Test your knowledge of all things literary! A fun evening including a fish and chip supper, prizes and a guest appearance by the Warwick Poet Laureate, Jane Holland.

Enter a team of up to 6 people. Book individually or as a couple and we will add you to a team if required.

Licensed bar.

All proceeds got towards Warwick Words 2008

Friday May 9th
Lord Leycester Hospital
High Street, Warwick

Tickets: £12.50 each
(£10 for Festival Friends & Volunteers)

Tickets available from:
Warwick Books
Warwick Library
Warwick Words on 01926 427056

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Horizon Review: a new arts magazine

Quick newsflash here!

I've just accepted the editorship of a new online arts magazine called Horizon Review, run under the auspices of Salt Publishing. The magazine will be published twice a year, in March and September, and will feature poetry, short stories, articles and other amusements - including experimental new media for techno-lits such as podcasts, video and interactive poems and fiction.

The first issue of Horizon Review will be available to read online from September 2008. All completely free!

To keep up with the latest developments, visit Hot Metal, my editor's blog at Salt.

To submit work by email, please see the Horizon submissions page for rules, addresses and guidance.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

"Through My Magic Window" by Simran, age 10

Here's a lovely poem I received this week from a young lady called Simran. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I have.

The best poems should always surprise the reader. My favourite thing about Simran's poem below is how she manages to surprise and delight with the variety and imaginative quality of her images. Furry butterfly lions? You can't get much more unexpected than that!

If you'd like to send me a poem, and perhaps see it published here, my email address is



Through My Magic Window

Through my magic window I can see ...
Santa Claus on my roof,
Little Elves in the phone booth.
A strawberry milkshake with a pink straw,
And nobody has to listen or agree to the law.
Walls made of apple pie,
While Pinocchio's nose is growing because he said a lie.
Fairies eating strawberry pears,
While shimmering dolphins swimming in the air,
Through my magic window I can see ...
Cinderella at my door,
While furry butterfly lions are having a big roar,
So babies block your ears,
Because you may get tears.
Come and join
this wonderful journey of fantasy with me!

By Simran
School: Clifton Primary School

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Kenilworth Weekly News features Laureate article

Poets Who Blog
Just spotted this Laureate-related article by Holly Whitmill on blogging, at the Kenilworth Weekly News.

How postmodern can you get? The blogger commenting on the blogger commenting on the blogger.

Many thanks to Holly Whitmill, by the way, for slicing three years off my age. Now that's a reporter I could grow to like!

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Time for another poetry pub crawl?

I was trawling poetry sites the other day and came across this fun blog post by another local writer and poet, Oliver: Poetry Pub Crawl in Warwick.

Warning: I can't be responsible for colourful language on other sites, so please be aware that you may encounter some by clicking the link above.

Some great photos to enjoy on Oliver's blog, and it certainly looked like a fun night out for the poets ... but all took place about a year and a half ago!

Time for another poetry pub crawl in Warwick, methinks ... perhaps I should check what's going on at this year's Warwick Words Festival and get back to you about that.

Monday, 18 February 2008

Poetry Magazines and How to Submit Work

When I'm not Poet Laureating for Warwick, I write poetry on other topics, run a forum for poets, plus produce articles and reviews for a variety of literary journals and e-zines.

I am also on the editorial committee of an Oxford-based magazine for writers and performers called 'The Nail'. That means I get to read all the poems that have been submitted and to meet with other members of the committee every few months to discuss what's going into the next issue.

I thought it would be interesting for those who have never come across the idea of a small writing magazine before to have a look at one, and maybe even send them some work. There are literally hundreds in the UK, with most tastes catered for if you know where to look.

So if you'd like to find out more about the process of publishing new poetry in magazines, and to see what sort of work one particular magazine publishes - they are all different, often wildly so! - here is a link to The Nail website.

And here is a special message from Sophie, editor of The Nail, dated February 18th 2008:

There are only 13 days left until the submissions deadline for our special Climate Change issue of the Nail. We are still accepting submissions of poetry, short prose, illustrations, photos, and graphics for this issue.

If you need to refresh your memory on suggested themes or have a look at some inspiring articles, please have a look at our Submissions page where you will find more information and some useful links.

I look forward to hearing from you!


Sending Work to Magazine Editors
To send poems to a small magazine, the two most important things to remember are the two P's: presentation and postage. Type everything, including your cover letter - i.e. saying very briefly whether you've been published before - and your poems.

Keep presentation plain and simple. Anything fancy, like odd fonts or coloured paper, turns editors off straightaway; it tells them the work can't stand out on its own but needs to be presented with a flourish to make it memorable.

And postage. If you don't include a folded A4 envelope with the correct return postage on it, don't expect to see your work ever again.

Think of it like this.

Although some magazines receive grant aid to help them pay expensive production costs, the vast majority of small press editors run their magazines unpaid; only professional publications with distribution in the thousands can afford to pay editors for their efforts. If you were an unpaid editor, and you received 25 submissions a day and had to reply to them all, paying roughly 50p postage on each one, you would soon lose patience and start stuffing them in the wastepaper bin instead!

So make sure you enclose a large SAE with your poems.

Do read the magazine before sending work. They may not even publish poetry, or they may only publish haiku.

So you'll be wasting your own and the editor's time by submitting without checking the magazine out first. Find out the cost, then send the magazine a cheque for a single issue or an annual subscription.

You may not want to part with your money just to read someone else's poetry. But bear this in mind. It's vital to support the poetry world, which is one of the poorest of the arts financially, yet one of the richest in terms of emotional and spiritual rewards.

Also, if you don't support it, the magazine you're sending work to may suddenly go under ... before they can even publish your poems!

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Warwick Castle poems

Some of you may remember that one of my major ambitions as Warwick Poet Laureate this year has been to produce a number of poems based around the theme of 'Warwick Castle through the ages'.

In connection with that project, I've been meaning to visit Warwick Castle for several months, and finally found the time to go last week. And it was certainly a splendid visit, highly inspiring, and I took reams of notes in my little black book ... facts, feelings, odd phrases that leapt into my head as I wandered around, and even a few lines ready formed.

But there was so much to see, I couldn't possibly take it all in during one afternoon visit. Especially as I had a small child in tow!

So I intend to visit the castle again on my own before Easter, and probably again in early summer, by which time I'm hoping some of the poems about Warwick Castle should have been written and will only require revisions.

Meanwhile, I have to put my third poetry collection - entitled Camper Van Blues - to bed this month, i.e. prepare it for publication at Salt Publishing.

It's a fiddly and stressful process for a poet to go through, making up to sixty or seventy poems 'public' in book form. Every comma needs to be questioned, every line debated. So I could do without having so many sick children in the house, not to mention being unwell myself this week!

And meanwhile, the Warwick Castle project has to remain on the back burner, simmering away in my subconscious.

Still, some of the photos I took should act as a visual reminder of my visit and may help to keep my mind focussed once my third collection is safely at the publishers and I'm able to sit down and work on these new poems.

Thursday, 31 January 2008

Circus Elephants in Leamington Spa!

To coincide with the unveiling of a new statue in Leamington Spa early this spring, I have been commissioned to write a poem on the history of circus elephants in Leamington Spa.

I was amazed by the idea that Leamington and elephants were somehow linked, and at first couldn't see an easy way into the poem. But now that I've done some research, and let those ideas and images stew away in the back of my head for the past few weeks, the possibility of a poem is beginning to take shape.

Back in the Victorian era, circus elephants were kept in Leamington by the famous elephant trainer Sam Lockhurst (born Leamington, 1850). A special slipway - nicknamed Elephant Walk - was even built to allow the huge animals to be bathed in the river. You can find out more at this site, detailing the history of Leamington Spa.

It's always hard to get from commission to final poem, but there are so many exciting elements to this particular idea that it's been difficult to settle on a single theme. Hopefully it will now take its final shape in my head and be written over the next few weeks.

Once the commissioned poem has been read at the unveiling ceremony, I shall probably be posting it on this blog for everyone to read.

Friday, 11 January 2008

Raw Edge Magazine: Funding Cut

The Arts Council Cuts Funding to Vital Local Writing Magazine

This week, I received the following email from Dave Reeves, editor of Raw Edge, one of only a very small number of literary magazines operating in the West Midlands area. I decided to reproduce it on the Warwick Laureate blog, as his letter highlights a worrying trend in Arts Council cuts to poetry ventures, projects and journals not only in our own region, but across the whole of England.

Raw Edge is an important magazine. It encourages and features new writing in the West Midlands. Without a magazine like Raw Edge, some evolving local writers might go unpublished and fail to see their work develop as a result. My own work has featured there, as well as promotional material about online resources I administer like Poets on Fire, distributing vital information about the site to the people who need it.

It's inconceivable to me that ACE should have taken this decision to withdraw funding from such a crucial local publishing outlet, especially in the knowledge that it will now be forced to fold.

16000 copies of Raw Edge are distributed free, twice a year, through libraries and arts centres in the region. For details of subscription mailing service, you can send a stamped addressed envelope to Raw Edge Magazine POBox 4867, Birmingham B3 3HD.

I do hope you can support this appeal for help by emailing Adrian Johnson on this issue - - and immediately, before the deadline closes.



Dear subscriber, supporter of Raw Edge Magazine,

Re: Arts Council funding cuts

As some of you will already know, Raw Edge Magazine has been informed by Arts Council England that it will no longer receive funding for publication of the magazine. As this takes effect immediately there is currently no money available for a further issue.

We are allowed an appeal which we have to submit by 15 January 2008, but it has been suggested by Arts Council England that this is kept ‘brief and concise’. As some of these proposed cuts will be reversed, and that such decisions will be taken on the strength of the appeal submissions and the support that the funded organisations are seen to receive, we are asking all of our supporters, subscribers and users of our services to register their support for Raw Edge Magazine with Arts Council England.

We would be grateful if you could send a letter or email as soon as possible in which you might, for example, detail why you have found the magazine of importance as a reader/writer; what value you have found in its articles about writing in the region; how useful the Network section is as a first stop for information and as a round-up of the diverse literary scene in the region; plus any personal stories of the use it has been to you as an individual. Responses should be addressed to Adrian Johnson, Literature Officer, 82 Granville Street , Birmingham B1 2LH or email

We know that these submissions are being read and that they will make a difference both to our own chances of survival and, in the longer term, to the resources allocated to an under funded literature and spoken word community which can be seen to be pulling together and speaking collectively.

Can I take this opportunity to extend my thanks for your support over the years. I will keep you informed of outcomes but this may take some time due to the financial implications for us. In the meantime keep an eye on for any updates.

All best wishes,

Dave Reeves
Editor, Raw Edge Magazine.