Thursday, 10 October 2019

Learning To Have Lost

The following review, first appeared on my magic realism review blog here:

Oz Hardwick’s collection of prose poems Learning to have lost  the passing of time, memory, old age, illness, death and how these resonate and move within and around each other . True to form, Hardwick achieves a sense of a musical refrain and rhythm underpinning and connecting this absorbing collection. While the subject matter is weighty and the pain from the litany of loss candidly expressed, a resolute humour asserts itself throughout that is sometimes sinister, sometimes surreal, often surprising and enormously engaging.
Goodreads description

I was fortunate to hear Oz Hardwick read from this collection and from his most recent book The Lithium Codex at the Poetry Cafe Refreshed in Cheltenham. Both are collections of prose poems - put simply poems without line breaks, or prose with the rhythm and sensibilities of poetry. But that definition does not do prose poetry justice, it combines elements of both prose and poetry, existing in some sort of liminal space, not unlike magic realism. Maybe that is why I found so much magic realism in these poems. 

In Graduation a man opens his old school bag and sees that the books had all grown back into trees, with damp grass all around, and there were birds, like notes on telegraph wires, singing a song he'd written in an abandoned bandstand. The Universal Petting Zoo opens with the words Every time she returns from feeding the animals, she is smallerI could go on quoting sublime bits from every poem, where reality shifts as you read and suddenly you are somewhere else, somewhere no less true. I love the way Oz Hardwick's poems riff. It isn't a surprise that  Hardwick is also a musician. Nor was I surprised to hear that Hardwick is influenced by Richard Brautigan ( I reviewed Brautigan's Sombrero Fallout in this blog here). 

I love this slim book of poetry. Do buy a copy, but guard it. I lent my copy to my husband and had to fight to get it back! 

Friday, 27 September 2019

New on the blog - recordings

As a follow-up to my last post I have recorded readings of four of my poems. They are to be found in the Recordings page here:

If you are interested in booking me for a reading, please get in touch. My email is

Thursday, 5 September 2019

Speaking Poetry

A young Zoe reading poetry at the Young Arts Centre

I have always believed that poetry is primarily a spoken art. It certainly is for me and has always been. My mother told me that I composed poetry before I knew how to write it down and the same is true of poetry historically or should I say prehistorically. 

I still like to see the poem on the page and indeed usually buy a book if I have enjoyed a reading, but listening to a good reader of poetry can be an awesome and illuminating experience. Alas not all poets know how to read well. A good reader will reveal the poem's structure and music, giving it another dimension.

Now that I am back on the poetry scene, I have started reading to audiences again. The other day at Buzzwords, Anna Saunders complemented me on how I read and I replied that I learned young. Last Friday I went to Alison Brackenbury's party to launch her new book Gallop*, where we met up with an old friend, Christine Whittemore. Both Christine and I read in the open mic and frankly you could tell that we both had been trained in reading. When I say "trained", I don't mean taught in the conventional way. We both went to Cheltenham's Young Arts Centre, where we were active members of the EOS poetry group. Every year the group would put on at least two public poetry readings. Those readings would include our own poems and those of famous poets. I don't recall being taught how to read or project my voice, but then the Centre's director, Elizabeth Webster, was a teacher with such skill you weren't aware that you were learning from her. 

When I moved to London, I started reading with Michael Horovitz's Grandchildren of Albion crowd, which included some amazing poet readers. And now here I am again reading and loving it. Anna has asked me to read at next year's Cheltenham Poetry Festival. I am so looking forward to it. You can hear me reading four poems here.

*Alison is an excellent reader and Gallop, a selection of some of the best poems over her long career, should be on everyone's Christmas list. There is currently a discount on it on Carcanet's website:

Thursday, 15 August 2019


My mother died at the end of June. I have been spending a lot of my time caring for her and before that my father over the last three years. As she was 89 and had Alzheimer's we knew her death was coming, but nevertheless it was a shock. But the blessing was that the disease did not take from her the awareness of who we were, she was still our mum.

Mum was very important in fostering my writing, especially my poetry. She had wanted to study English at university and would have done so had not her father's death meant that she needed to earn money for her family. When it became clear that I was naturally talented in poetry, I was given poetry books. I still remember poems from Happenings, and Junior Voices. But perhaps more importantly Mum encouraged me to look and to imagine. We would go on long walks and she would point out flowers, trees, animals. "Look, Zoe. Do you see that tree root? What do you think it looks like?" When I replied that it looked like a witch or a dragon's claw, she would be delighted.

When I sat with her in the last few months, I sometimes read poetry to her and she loved it.  Poetry has that power.  Despite her Alzheimer's she beamed when I showed her a magazine with one of my poems in it and a spark appeared in her eyes. 

With Mum gone, I have the freedom and time, and perhaps the emotional energy, to really pursue my poetry career. It is what she would have wanted. I am preparing a collection for submission to publishers. I have a publisher in mind already. In fact looking over the body of my work, I have enough for several books and I continue to add more poems, including one recently about her death.

Today would have been her 90th birthday. Happy Birthday, Mum.

Monday, 6 May 2019

Update on Submitting to Magazines

Today I had an email telling me that I have just had a poem accepted by another magazine (Northampton Poetry Review), which reminded that I really should write about my progress with magazines and how I approach submitting to them. Since October I have had eleven poems accepted by seven magazines.

The magazines that have already published are:
The Dawntreader issue 45:
Obsessed with Pipework issue 85 :
The Curlew Crataegus issue:
Prole issue28:

The magazines who have accepted but not yet published are:
Fenland Reed:
Dream Catcher:
Northampton Poetry Review:

Update to this update: Confluence has accepted three poems, making it fourteen poems accepted by eight magazines.

How I approach submitting to magazines
As so far my approach seems to be working, I thought I would share it with you.  It goes without saying that the most important thing has to be having poems ready for publication, so nothing goes out unless I am happy with it.

I did a lot of research into poetry magazines before I sent out anything. This included combining a trip to London to see my son with an afternoon in the Poetry Library, which is on one of the upper floors of the South Bank Centre in London. The Library has a large selection of current magazines on display as well as back copies. It also produces a list of magazines, which you can download from its web site; But I did find that the list included some magazines that no longer are in operation, which goes to show you do have to check with the magazines and their websites. What I was looking for was poetry magazines that I liked and wanted to be in and in which my poems would fit. I made a note of the number of lines on the page (no point sending poems which would be either too long or too short). I always make a note of the current editor's name (not always the same on the Poetry Library list), so I can write a personalise email/letter.

I drew up a shortlist and proceeded to buy copies of the magazines I was interested in. As I am a carer for my mum I don't have a lot of free cash, but I consider it a good investment, plus I really do not think that I can ask magazines to publish my work without being willing to buy at least one copy. I continue to buy magazines when I can afford to do so.

Most poetry magazines have websites or blogs, where I find advice on submitting my poetry to them. I follow the guidance to the letter. Different magazines can have very different requirements and it is very bad manners not to do what they ask you to. I also subscribe to their blog feeds and Facebook pages, as sometimes they will announce submission deadlines, themes for the next edition etc. through these.

I have a spreadsheet to keep track of my submissions. When I first started submitting back in the early 1980s, I didn't have a spreadsheet or a computer for that matter and it was easy to get lost and send to two magazines at the same time, which is a no no. In my spreadsheet I have one worksheet which lists the poems down the left side, against that I put the names of magazine I send them to and date. When the magazine replies I enter the response. If it is a no, I send it to another magazine and enter that info into the worksheet. Another worksheet lists the magazines with useful info e.g whether they take email submissions, number of lines per page, maximum number of poems allowed per submission, and of course the website address. Another worksheet is a monthly calendar showing which magazines are accepting submissions when.

If you are thinking about submitting poems to magazine, I hope this information helps.

Sunday, 28 April 2019

Buzzwords Poetry & Cheltenham Poetry Festival.

Buzzwords happens every month, usually on the first Sunday, at the Exmouth Arms in Cheltenham. The website is here:  The meetings consist of a workshop led by a guest poet, readings by the guest poet and an open mic session. The guest poets have all been excellent. The group have been really welcoming and full of lovely people. I go to all the meetings I can. I always read as part of the open mic.

This weekend saw the opening of the Cheltenham Poetry Festival, which will go on until the 4th May. I have plans to go to at least five events and would like to go to more, but my care responsibilities make going to day-time and early evening events impossible.

Last night I went to a reading by students on the University of Gloucestershire Creative Writing Course. The course director is Angela France, who is also responsible for Buzzwords. Angela introduced her students to a sparse but appreciative audience. There were some good and accomplished poets in the group, as well as those who are just learning their craft.

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Poem - My Grandfather and Uncle

This poem was first published in Pennine Platform magazine. It remains one of my favourites.


My grandfather and uncle
both returned to the earth
with untimely haste.
Although they worked it,
broke its back
for snow to bite into,
dragged sedge from ditches,
clawed back
lambs from snowheaps,
they did not inherit it,
unless it was
in the length and width
of a man's form.
And it claimed them
reaching up through the chest,
pain filling the arms,
which had gathered harvests.
And still they loved it
and still they cursed
on cold wet mornings,
as it worked
like ringworm into their hands.
In death
they shall inherit the earth.
Until this time
they have been living
on borrowed land.