red botinki

Sunday, 18 January 2015

THE FIRST TELLING, how it came to be

This small collection of mine, a pamphlet published by Happenstance Press in Nov 2014, deals with rape and its aftermath. It is effectively a sequence of poems which are best read in order and at one sitting. And it has taken me 3 years to bring it to the state it's now published in.

Because I love birds I have always been fascinated by the myth of the rape of Philomela by Tereus, her brother-in-law. In the myth all the protagonists, Tereus, Pholomela, Procne her sister and  Itys, Procne's son, are turned into birds. Versions differ but Tereus, the perpetrator of the rape, is turned either into a hoopoe or a hawk, Philomela into a swallow or nightingale, likewise Procne, and Itys into a goldfinch.

When I first began writing these poems I wanted to stick fairly closely to the original myth so that I could use these birds as images. But I found that didn't work. So I updated the myth and made it modern. Keeping the same birds. And that didn't work either. I showed it to trusted writing friends, and they all said it had great power but that it wasn't right. So I went to Hawthornden Castle for an amazing month of being looked after hand and foot and buckled down to it. A lot of the buckling down consisted of walking in the woods and by the river in the glen there, thinking it through. And of course I watched birds as well (peregrines, kingfisher, heron, buzzards, sparrow hawk, goldcrest).

There is a huge amount to be said in praise of walking as an aid to thinking. After 2 weeks of this I began at last to get a stronger feel of how the collection should work. Then when I came home the news seeemd to be full of nothing but child abuse, terrible stuff. It began with Jimmy Saville and shortly after that revelation the skeletons came thundering out of cupboards. It made me so angry. Oh so angry, and there is nothing like a bit of rage for fuelling a piece of writing.

And now it's in print, still with bird poems in, though not quite the mythological choices (but close) and it focuses more on the aftermath of rape - the silences, the self-harming, and then with the help of a counsellor, the steps towards a healing.

The print run is small - Helena Nelson, of Happenstance Press, now does only 150 copies of pamphlets. Should you want one I do urge you to buy one quickly; 150 copies don't hang around long and I've already sold 50 myself.

I feel and hope, and so does Helena, that this is an important collection - so much in it needs to be said and more importantly it also should encourage belief in the real possibility of healing.

It is available from, price £4.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014


Been feeling a little disappointed that more was not made of Lee in his centenary year - bad luck to have the same year as the First World War, and also Dylan Thomas.I know celebrations were held in Stroud and rightly so; I just wanted more!

But my poetry reading group spent a night looking at his body of work, including the radio plays, and I have recently written a sort of response to his poem "April Rise",a thank-you rather for the poem. It's too late for it to go anywhere as the year is heading speedily towards its end so I'll post it on this blog instead.

To Laurie Lee, from Llandudno, with thanks for his poem “April Rise”

(in honour of his centenary)

If ever there were blessing in the air
it’s here, in this quiet evening light,
moonstone-blue at horizon’s edge.
It falls like silk on my tired eye.

The shaven head of the naked moon
peeps from night clouds closing in
as one by one the lights blaze out,
are doubled in the glaze of sea.

The Orme’s great hawk-shape spreads its wings,
scoops up the town in feathered hug;
white gulls slice a path through air,
brightness fills their wake.

Flocks of oystercatchers now
darken the line of salt-flecked sand;
their wistful piping carries loud,
like blessing in the night.

Round lamps gild the esplanade,
lacquered by smatterings of rain.
We look out at the bay and know
if ever world were blessed, it’s now.

Gill McEvoy

Wednesday, 3 September 2014


Spent much of last week watching the pond you can just see through the window here, of The Courtyard House, Pentregall, Wales.It was alive with bees, on the fleabane, loosestrife and mints growing round the edge, and absolutely thriving with dragonflies, from hawkers to darters down to blue damselflies. Many were busy mating, flying in tandem or curled in a wheel. It was one of the best ways to spend a holiday!

Although I also went kayaking thanks to the generosity of my family and I have to say I can't decide which wins: that, or the pond, for highlight. The kayaking was wonderful, out on the open sea from Fishguard, managed by Kayak-Kings, Charles and Anthony, who were wonderful guides and instructors. I learned about the lcihens on the rocks, especially the black lichen that looks like oil-stains, as well as edible seaweeds, sponges, barnacles and limpets.

This event was a surprise, and when I realised what we were going to do my heart stopped -  I'm not fond of water and I thought Oh Lord, No! But it was one of the best things I've ever done and not anyhting like as strenuous as I expected (probably because Anthony was my co-kayak partner!0
My thanks to both of them (and to my family) It was excellent.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Bell Foundry at Villedieu les Poeles, Normandy

This is the gate to the bell foundry at Villedieu les Poeles, part of it rather, it's a pretty big gate! I thought this man pouring hot metal was delightful.

Our guide could have entered for Britain's Got Talent, except he was French - he was a real entertainer, leaping about joyously from one item to another and regaling us with stories. We learned that this is one of only 2 bell foundries in France and of course most of the bells made will become part of a carillon, or will simply be tolled: I think it is mainly the British who exercise the skill of ringing changes.
In the courtyard there were plenty of bells available to try out: a friend and I landed a  rather heavy-handed clout  with the hammer on one very large bell and frightened all the waiting tourists with the vast booming swell of sound that shook the area (it frightened us too!).

Thursday, 31 July 2014


I did forget someone - Phil Williams, winner of last year's Cheshire Prize for Poetry - how could I?
Phil's poetry is bright, sometimes odd, and certainly powerful.  And he runs so many events in Alsager...

Monday, 28 July 2014


I have been running Zest!, Chester's Open Floor Poetry night for over 7 years now. When I say I, I mean myself and my team: Judy Ugonna, Leih Steggall and Angela Topping. I have been responsible chiefly for setting up the dates, liaising with Alexander's, our chosen venue, organising the guest poets and compering. I have really loved doing it but now I feel it's time to hand over to someone else and there is someone in the wings.. more anon.

But I would like to say that we have had some wonderful guests: Matt Meritt who, like me, started off as a Happenstance poet, and now has 2 excellent full collections out plus he is one of the editors of  Under the Radar; Mandy Pannett who has several full collections out plus a novel, Pat Borthwick who has won several major prizes including the Basil Bunting and the Keats-Shelley; Joan Poulson who has produced so many collections of marvellous poetry for children; Andrew Rudd, John Lindley, Harry Owen, all previous Cheshire Poet Laureates; Mandy Coe, author of 'Clay' and 'Can you see Laughter', plus her poet friends Sarah Maclennan and Colin Watts who run Dead Good Poets in Liverpool (Colin is published by Headland); Roy McFarlane, former Poet Laureate of Birmingham and a great performer; Chris Kinsey, BBC Wildlife Poet of the Year 2008 and author of three full collections of poetry; Katrina Naomi, widely-known poet;and recently Chrys Salt, who was awarded an MBE in the Birthday Honours list. Congratulations to Chrys, ( it had nothing to do with Zest! alas!) and congratulations to all the above for what they have gone on to achieve. I only hope they remember their performances at Zest! with some affection...

I know I've missed some people out: Jake Campbell who now co-edits Butcher's Dog magazine and has a pamphlet out; Maggie Norton, former Poet Laureate of S.Cumbria; Liverpool's quirky 'poet from kent' David Bateman -  and if I've forgotten anyone please forgive me. (It's the heat!)

It won't be the end of my public life in poetry though: I am still running the Poem Shed, and the Golden Pear poetry reading group, and Poem Catchers' workshops, the latter with Judy Ugonna.. And I want more time to catch up wth my own writing. Organising anything, small or big, takes a lot of energy...

So I imagine Zest! will undergo some changes in the future, changes no doubt for the better, I'm sure.

I am very grateful to all those wonderful people who have come to Zest! nights just to listen. And there have been many of these

Sunday, 22 June 2014


There was a sign on the bottom of the tree saying Boot Sale!