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Frost Fair at York

Friday, 29 November 2019 at 13:32

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Mary Aherne and I are reading at York Frost Fair, at 12.30 pm.

Sunday 1st December.

Do come along if you're in York. It's free! Mary and I will bring some of our books for sale. And also some freebies, including the latest issue of The Critical Fish.

Thin Ice Press Frost Fair

Sunday 1st December 2019, 10am – 4pm

King’s Manor, University of York, Exhibition Square, York YO1 7EP

Thin Ice Press invites you to our first festive Frost Fair, hosted in the historic King’s Manor. Join us to celebrate York’s printing heritage, find out more about historical adventures on the frozen Ouse, do a little bit of pre-Christmas shopping — and try your hand at letterpress printing.

In 1715, a London Frost Fair boasted nine-pin bowling, ‘Cripple Atkins roasting an Ox’, boys sliding, a printing booth, a music booth, a shoulder of mutton roasting in a string, a tavern, a rolling press, a geneva (gin) booth, a gingerbread stall, a goldsmith, ‘Huffing Jack’, and a husband-and-wife team of poets, ‘rhyming on the hard Frost’.

We’ve done our best to recreate that spirit. Join us for
– letterpress printing from Thin Ice Press and The Print Project, including a chance to print your own souvenir of the day;
– lino prints from Joanna Lisowiec, who has been working on some magical new prints for the occasion;
– gorgeous jewellery from Karen Ward;
– a pop-up bookstall from Fox Lane Books, with titles chosen by University of York English Department staff and students;
– gingerbread made to an eighteenth-century recipe;
– ninepins, children’s activities (including story times), poetry readings, and talks;
– the King’s Manor refectory, open from 10-4; serving mulled wine, mince pies ánd other refreshments.

Programme for Talks and Readings
11.00am Children’s story time I
12.30pm Poetry reading from Cliff Forshaw and Mary Aherne
2.00pm Talk on frost fairs and ephemeral printing from Professor Gillian Russell
3.00pm Children’s story time II

King’s Manor is off York Exhibition Square, next to York Art Gallery. The Frost Fair will be held in the Huntingdon Room and Anteroom.

Tables are free and we do have a couple of spaces still available. If you would like to know more, please email

Critical Fish

Friday, 22 November 2019 at 11:17

Critical Fish

The second issue of The Critical Fish has just swum off. It is free, in that it has been liberated from the printers, but also in that it costs nothing. The journal is an artist-led collaborative project which promotes critical and accessible writing about the arts and visual culture. It's centred on Hull, but also looks outward. The Fish supports creativity throughout the region and invites contributions and ideas from further afield. The second issue is "Brill"... each issue is named after a fish...  and has a couple of my poems in, one accompanied by my painting of Paragon Station, the other by my aquatint of the Truelove sculpture.

The Critical Fish is interested in creative, critical and collaborative writing. Insde you'll find essays, painting, poetry, photography, illustration, interviews and conversations.

The commissioning editors are Jill Howitt and Lauren Saunders, and you can get in touch with them via thecriticalfish on facebook or at hello@the



Smart Devices

Sunday, 3 November 2019 at 15:41

Smart Devices - Guardian Poem of the Week anthology

Smart Devices, an anthology of 52 poems from The Guardian website "Carol Rumens's Poem of the Week" has just been published by Carcanet. Each poem appears with Carol's original commentary. She's been choosing the poems, noting how they achieve their effects and leading lively discussions on them for over a dozen years. As the cover puts it:

"Do the maths: that's more than 624 blogs!" No wonder she has a large and devoted following. She's a poet reader, not an academic. She is fascinated by the new, but her interest is instructed by the classic poems she has read. They make her ear demanding: when it hears that something, it perks up. She perks up."

I'm very pleased to have my poem about the Tasmanian Tiger ,"Loop", in there, alongside poems by Peter Didsbury, John Ashbery, Denise Riley, WS Graham, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Yves Bonnefoy, John Kinsella, Marilyn Hacker and many others.

For Carol Rumens's Poem of the Week:

Ink, Sweat & Tears: vote for a poem

Thursday, 10 October 2019 at 19:49

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A new poem of mine 'Ice', has been shortlisted for the Ink Sweat & Tears 'Pick of the Month' for September 2019. You can vote for my poem - or, in the interests of fairness, one of the others. To see the poems and more information please go to
Voting closes at 9pm on Friday 18th October.

NEW PAINTINGS 1: Fountains, Queen Victoria Square, Hull

Thursday, 10 October 2019 at 19:00

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I've not posted anything for a while, so here are two new paintings. First, the view of the Ferens Art Gallery across Queen Victoria Square, Hull, with its relatively recent City of Culture fountains. It's another large oil (102 x 127 cm) in the cityscape series, I'm thinking now more of people within urban environments... and also moving away from the focus on Hull.

One of the reasons I've fallen behind with the blog is that I've just started a new post as Royal Literary Fund Fellow, based in the English Department at York University. This, together with other commitments, means I'm spending a fair amount of time travelling, often at railway stations. The second of my recent paintings is of King's Cross, though I think York, its station, the university or town, might start to figure in new work.

NEW PAINTINGS 2: King's Cross Station Concourse

Thursday, 10 October 2019 at 18:28

King's Cross Station

I've been working on this view over the concourse of King's Cross Station for a few months on and off. It's a sort of companion piece to, and the same size (102 x 127 cm) as, my painting of passengers at Paragon, the Hull station from which I leave and return to at the other end of the line.

I started this very early in the year. During the time I was working on it, the large TV screen at the end of the departure boards was added. I noticed this almost by accident as I passed through the station in a hurry to get somewhere else. The light also changed dramatically as the days lengthened and cast stronger patterns on the brick. I added the screen and made much more of the light on the brick. The biggest challenge throughout was rendering the almost organic structure - part-tree, part-web - that rises up and spans the roof. 

Now I want to think more about people, singly, in couples, families, or crowds, in public spaces. Perhaps aiming at a sense of flow as people move past and through large urban structures. Maybe more stations, but also streets and parks. 

French Leave 1: Baudelaire

Thursday, 22 August 2019 at 12:09

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I've just come back from a trip to France: a couple of days in Paris and a week in a little village in Burgundy near Chablis, with the obligatory trips to vineyards for tastings.

I've been thinking again about French Leave: versions and perversions. This project of loose translations and variations on French poems started a few years back on a residency at CAMAC at Marnay-sur-Seine, and over the years I've added the odd piece. At the moment it moves from Théophile Gautier (1811 - 1872) to variations on themes in recent work by Michel Houellebecq, and includes work by Gerard de Nérval, Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Tristan Corbière, Jules Laforgue, Apollinaire and Raymond Queneau.

A couple of variations on poems by Baudelaire and Rimbaud originally appeared online in the Literateur. Unfortunately that publication has now disappeared, so I'll post them here and add them to the porfolio pages.

It seems apropriate to start with Baudelaire, in a version considerably more wine-stained than the original.

Vin Voudou

two variations on Baudelaire’s “Sed Non Satiata”

1. Vendange d’outre-mer

Odd goddess, whose skin’s a smoky musk
still redolent of opium and Havana.
You may be some obi-man’s opus, some savannah
saviour’s ju-ju, or child of the Bayou dusk.

Forget your Grands, your Premiers Crus, your Nuits;
for tenue, what lasts long on my tongue’s your mouth.
You are my full-bodied beaker of the South;
you slake, yet provoke thirst better than any Burgundy.

I note the rich robe, as you hold me with your eyes:
the worm goes through the cork, I’m mesmerised
to breathe the botánica’s bouquet and, as I taste

your voodoo vin gris-gris, too late, I’m lost;
my palate echoes with santería; head
with your blanc de noirs, those lives I never led.


2. Déjà-bu

No wine is fine enough; no drug can do
the tricks you (turn and) do, my wine-dark sea,
my nest of mermaids, my girl in every port,
the witchy Circe of this odyssey
who dulls all thoughts of fine Penelope.
My mind’s your glass. You take my stem and twirl.
I’m half a world away: moly, oily swirls
of sea-serpents, sargassos. Shipwrecked, all at sea,
washed up on some calypygian Aphrodite’s
shore, whose wily Calypso I discover to be you.
Have we lived and loved in other lives?
You always my stormy siren. Me, saoul
…drunk, rudderless, compass-less, (compassionless
for that good – still faithful? – wife.) Lost. Déjà-bu.

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