2015: The Best Of


In the face of floods,and the most ideologically regressive government of my lifetime, it’s good to look at the good bits. And there have been so many of them. What I want to do is to say ‘thank you’ to all the folk out there in the world of the arts and literature, and, especially, poetry, who have made all the good things possible. You can’t write a post week after week without that sense of solidarity and the purpose it brings. So, this week, no rhetoric, but a load of lists of the kind the end of a year will bring to mind.

*Guest poets.

Thankyou to all of you who’ve generously let me riff around your poems this year.

Thank you to Roy Cockcroft, Anthony Costello, Wendy Pratt, Keith Hutson, Lindsey Holland, Clare Shaw, Yvonne Reddick, Gordon Hodgeon, Jane Clarke, Martin Reed, Julie Mellor, Steve Ely, Gaia Holmes, Roy Marshall, Maria Taylor, Martin Malone, Hilary Elfick, Maria Isakova Bennett, and Kim Moore. What a line-up!!!!

*Best cobweb moments (my best cobweb moments, that is)

Writing the 100th post.

Finishing the hardest post, which was trying to do justice to Clare Shaw.

Writing a guest blog for Anthony Wilson.

In that same blog, writing about writing poems about real people.

(By the way, the most visited post was the one on organising poetry open mics. It was the easiest to write. If you want a lot of readers, write a ‘how to’ post. I think)

*Best poetry collections of 2015

Bear in mind that I’m up-front about not reading a huge lot of poetry. But these were all memorable. I re-read them. I read them aloud.

Christy Ducker: Skipper [Smith/Doorstop] ;

Steve Ely Englaland [Smokestack Books] ;

Fiona Benson Bright Travellers [Cape Poetry];

Jane Clark The River [Bloodaxe];

Gordon Hodgeon Talking to the dead [Smokestack Books] and Old Workings [Mudfog];

Jonathan Davidson Humphrey Coningsby [Valley Press]


Kim Moore The art of falling [Seren]

*Best residential course moment of 2015

Seeing Kim Moore’s face as she signed and sold copies of her collection the day it arrived from the printer

* Best books I’ve read that fed my writing in 2015

Clive James’ Poetry Notebooks;

Don Paterson on Shakespeare’s sonnets;

Ovid The metamorphoses,

Robert Macfarlane Landmarks, Mountains of the mind, and The old ways.

Hilary Mantel Bring up the bodies;

Simon Schama Landscape and memory;

Dominick Tyler Uncommon ground.

Oh, and rediscovering Bronowsky The ascent of man.

*Places that moved my writing along in 2015

Grange over Sands, with tutors Kim Moore and Carola Luther.

Rydal Mount . with tutors Ann and Peter Sansom.

Almaserra Vella in Alicante in June

Whitby in a cold raw December.

And eleven Poetry Business Writing Days inb Sheffield. Every month but December.

*Best personal moments of 2015

Entering competitions and being given prizes by Liz Lochhead, Julie Mellor, Carole Bromley, Simon Armitage, Billy Collins and Blake Morrison.

Hearing Liz Lochhead read one of my poems, and drinking coffee with Blake Morrison. Asking him to sign my copy of ‘The Ballad of the Yorkshire Ripper’

Having a meal with Simon Armitage, and reading a poem in seafront reastaurant on Arran…and going to a writers workshop the next morning in a village hall on the shore below Goat Fell.

And, finally: yesterday, New Year’s Eve, collecting a box full of fresh-minted copies of my new pamphlet ‘ Outlaws and fallen angels’ from my friend Bob Horne, publisher of Calder Valley Poetry


I can’t think of a category other than that of Things that have given me confidence this year for all the other things I’m grateful for…too many to mention, but thanks to Under the radar and to The Compass for letting me try my hand at reviewing; thanks to Paper Swans Press and Beautiful Dragons Press , to And other poems and Clear Poetry for providing a public platform for so many poets this year. and to small presses everywhere, but especially to Martin Malone, and to Brett Evans of The interpreter’s house, and Prole,respectively.

I’m looking forward to 2016 (when I’ll be judging a poetry competition for the first time!!!!). I’m looking forward to meeting you all again. Go well. Be well. Stay well.






6 thoughts on “2015: The Best Of

  1. Dear lovely John – Thanks for the mentions, and the blog last week. You really are generous and kind – the great thing is generosity and kindness has a way of coming back to you so I hope you are ready for it all in 2016! See you in a couple of days.


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