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Monday, 18 May 2015


Did my usual "Sunday Posting" of tweets, mostly about country things, flowers, scenes, trees, quirky things noticed. I love wandering round with my camera taking pics of things that delight me, and tweeting is my way of sharing these with the world. Not that the world is very interested but that doesn't matter!

You can find me on Twitter   @mcevoygill

Thursday, 7 May 2015


I have some readings looming, hoorah!:

Bradford Lit Fest, 16th May: reading with fellow poet/ novelist Mandy Sutter at Bradford library, 2pm.  I'll be reading a selection of my poetry.

Barnton Library Cheshire, Monday 18th May, also with Mandy Sutter. As above.

Much Wenlock,   June 11th, 9.00am-10.00am.  Guest reader at Anna Dreda's Poetry Breakfast, Tea on the Square.

Ledbury Poetry Festival.    Sunday July 5th, 2pm, in the panelled room, The Master's House. I'll be reading from "The First Telling",  my recent Happenstance pamphlet.

Sunday, 3 May 2015


It's the turn of Russell Jones' collection "Our Terraced Hum", the shortest collection in 'Caboodle', consisting of 13 sonnets.
In her foreword to "Caboodle"  Angela Readman suggests the poems  have a slightly voyeuristic quality to them, since they are based very much on observations of other people's lives. I think I would say they are minutely observed by a poet with a very sharp eye for the goings-on of urban lives. In the very first poem the poet states 'I sit watching the lives of others, fan/ whirring, reeling in the sweaty cling/ of life.' But includes himself in that 'sweaty cling' by using the first person - it is 'our terraced hum', not theirs.

"The Flat Opposite" depicts a couple who've long lost interest in each other: the woman goes to take a candle-lit bath and when she reappears dressed only 'in the flowers of white smoke' she finds the man busy flicking through TV channels, oblivious to her presence , though the poet is not - he appreciates seeing this 'goddess' through his window. Voyeuristic perhaps, but you get a feeling of lost opportunity, an underlying wistfulness in the face of human indifference one to the other.

Jones has a good grasp of country life despite these sonnets having urban settings. In "The Back Room" an old mirror recalls for the inhabitant a country childhood rich with the smells of strawberries, memories of ploughed fields, summer bathing with friends. It is relegated to the back room, while its owner 'treads the torn beige carpet... a clock/ marking his exit through vast streams of corn,/ larks screeching'. Likewise in "Garden State" we meet someone who surrounds himself with wild flowers who 'swims/ in the rainbow of life that surrounds him'. Both poems remarkable for their countryside knowledge.

In three of the poems there is a strong hint at desire for escape from the urban scene of 'hot rod bawling down the road ....gaggles of drunks...brotherhood hymns from the football grounds'. Pigeons become angels, the reek and fume of the street become a dragon on whose back you could clamber and  name your destination "Above the 100% Human Hair Extension Salon". "Reflections on the Dog House" has a similar yearning where the dogs are tired of the 'bright and brash' streets, wanting to escape into 'a cradle of stars'. In "Loft Conversion, The Smoking Gallery" an ageing man pours a drink and remembers a stag he shot in '37 with the'old ghost of his gun'. His loft dwelling is a 'haven of eyes in the desert/ of a blind city.' as if he were still out hunting as before. What he has lost 'remains in the art of preservation', a hoof, antlers, a tail.

Russell Jones' language is terse and to the point,with a harsh urban overtone that sometimes peels away to reveal the nostalgic beauty of a far-off remembered world. A short collection but a very fine one.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015


Caboodle, published by Prole Books,  is an interesting and successful collection of the work of 6 featured writers.I am delighted to be one of them. I feel the only way to comment on the collection is to take each poet's work one by one so I'll begin with the first:

 Karina Vidler.

Her included pamphlet of work is titled "Facing", well-named as the poems face up very bravely to many truths about ageing, middle-life angst, the need for love, children grown and leaving home and  elderly parents dying - the classic middle-age sandwich.
In some of the poems there is a strong smack of the ageing cougar,  a woman who knows herself to have 'sags and bags and lines', rejecting men with 'sprawling gut, balding head' in contemplated favour of encouraging a young man to light  'his fuse to an experienced slow burn' Very French, very Collette!  (from "May I have an Arctic Monkey please?", Page 16.)

Vidler is not exactly kind to herself: in "Here we go again" she recalls past misdemeanours at school, and now, menopausal,  rushing to a poetry class she writes 'I am bad./ I have arrived late./ I must wait/ until the good students have read their poems.' A savage honesty is frequently found in these poems, they are like lemon juice without enough honey - shocking but sharply wonderful! And clever as they embrace humanely many experiences common to anyone getting older.

The child leaving home for example: in "Second" she and her daughter are waiting at Euston for the L'pool train, the mother worrying that nothing is packed in plastic bags and if the zip on the case snaps, there will be 'a fountain of lacy knickers' everywhere. The daughter tells how her boyfriend's mother wept in the car when he left, and they console themselves with the joke that the second child's departure is not so harrowing since the 'furrow' has already been 'ploughed' by the first.It ends with the mother saying to herself 'I can't tell you how this pain is not one bit easier/ not one bit less.' Deeply touching.

The need for love at any age is beautifully written about: in "Impossibility" she describes ' getting by on random scraps of love', the brush of an arm or a leg in a train, until a gay man at work shows her kindness, giving her cash for a BLT when she's left her purse at home, offers her 'virtual hugs' on a bad day etc. And the poem ends truthfully and wistfully "I must understand./Your partner is a very lucky man.'

"My Love Affair with Frasier" carries the same theme; in this witty poem loyalty to a TV series offers a kind of simulated love like the 'virtual hugs' of the former poem. 'I didn't mind when you started to repeat yourself;/ it was comforting knowing what you were going to say next.' And concluding 'as this nest finally empties/ I'm going to need you more than ever.'

The poems also display great tenderness: "Psyche Ranimee par le Baiser del'Amour" deals again with the 'hormone-fuelled cougar' but ends poignantly with reference to Canova's staue of Eros bending to awaken Psyche 'she's all yearning and straining' but the god 'holds her gently/ and there's no humiliation, only love.'

A strong, refreshingly honest collection of poems about what it means to be human. I really enjoyed these.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015


There is a very good review of 'The First Telling 'in the Dundee University Arts Review. (DURA).
Very pleased to read it! It's available online too.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015


My mother, taken on her honeymoon. I do not have many pictures of her as a young woman, and, poor thing, she only just made it to pensionable age, which was then 60. She was diagnosed at 56 with terminal ovarian cancer, managed with the help of (then) brutal treatments to survive for four more years, seeing both the birth of my brother's first child and also the (ill-fated) wedding of Charles and Diana. She died a few days before her own birthday in September 1981.

She had a beloved elder sister who had died of this disease in her 30's. But as people spoke very little about cancer back then she did not recognise the symptoms in herself and by the time she was forced to acknowledge her illness it was almost too late. She was admitted for surgery but they could do nothing, it was so far spread. She had bloating, pain and breathlessness, all of which anyone a little clued in now would understand as very serious indeed. But she didn't know; I didn't know -
I didn't even realise it myself when in 2000, also aged 56, I too had the same symptoms.It was a veterinary friend who bluntly told me I needed to go to my GP pronto!

So I did and next day I was admitted to hospital, stage 3 ovarian cancer,  and shortly after that had surgery, chemotherapy, and became very familiar with the insides of various clinics. But I was lucky; the chemotherapy treatment was better than what my mother had and I survived.

The biggest shock was that, when I was diagnosed, my father told me candidly that my mother's 4 sisters had all died of Ovarian cancer. I knew about Beth, the beloved sister, but I certainly didn't know about the others.My mother's family was large, and I didn't know them all.

But once I had that information to hand I was whizzed off for genetic testing and found to carry BRCA2 . Important information especially if you have daughters: such a gene can predispose to ovarian cancer ( and in my family it has definitely done that) but in men it can predispose to prostate cancer I was told. So everyone should be aware of this. My family all know and one of them has discovered the gene in their own system

It shouldn't be the case though that only where there is a family history you become entitled to genetic testing: I feel any woman with ovarian cancer should receive this - ANY woman with ovarian cancer. It might save herfamily, her daughters, even her sons from a lot of nasty trouble later in life.

And I mean nasty: my mother's own illness was appalling; she shrank to almost nothing but skin and bone; she was constantly sick, nothing tasted right and anyway she couldn't keep it down; her lungs were full of fluid and breathing was very painful.She died in great pain.

If you have any reason to think you might be at risk, check out the signs at Ovacome's website. You can help your daughters to BEAT ovarian cancer if you let them know the signs.

Sunday, 22 February 2015


For ovarian cancer awareness month in March, Ovacome, the UK charity for the disease, are urging mothers to tell their daughters about the tell-tale symptoms of Ovarian Cancer which are:


Eating less (no appetite);

Abdominal pain;

Talk to your GP!

It is, I feel, wrongly referred to here as the 'silent disease': in the USA it is called the 'whispering disease' and this I think is far more accurate.

Here is a poem, which is my way of telling:

Daughters, I need to tell you

about pain each time I bent over,

about being so breathless
I felt my lungs were leaving my chest.

About my stomach
huge as a full-term pregnancy.

About my surgeon’s eyes above his mask,
the brilliant blue of them.

About pressing the button
on the morphine pump –what you thought

was ‘courage/cheerfulness’
was simply outright stoned.

About the nights my body was so full
of knives I couldn’t sleep

and when death came in to tempt me
I almost welcomed it.

About the utter focus of my fight to live.

Daughters, I need to tell you this,

because I want it never to happen
to either of you.

 Gill McEvoy