Deranged Poetesses: Space / Exploration

Saturday July 20th 7-9pm

ARC Theatre, Stockton Arts Centre

Deranged Poetesses? That’s quite a title. Must be ironic, I thought. A reflection on how poets have traditionally been associated with madness, from poor Thomas Chatterton and Lord Byron, ‘Mad, bad and dangerous to know’, to female poets like Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton. Isn’t this a stereotype my generation of women struggled to leave behind?

Well, maybe it’s time to re-examine those ideas. Last year Apples and Snakes performance poetry group Deranged Poetesses presented three events at ARC Theatre, Stockton, all about female identity: Maidens, Mothers and Crones. This year, they’ve invited ‘female-identifying or non-binary poets’ to take part in an event to celebrate Space and Exploration, on the 50th anniversary of humans landing on the Moon. I’m old enough to remember that historic event, which didn’t seem so extraordinary to a child who had grown up watching blurry black and white TV images of Apollo spacecraft. There were no women astronauts on any of them.

I’ve never defined myself as a ‘poetess’. When I was the only female among four winners of the Gregory Award from the Society of Authors in 1989, an interviewer asked me how it felt to be a woman poet. I couldn’t answer. I thought of myself as a poet before I thought of myself as a woman. But my female identity has become more important to me as I’ve aged. There are many more women poets writing and publishing now than there were 30 or 40 years ago, and sex and gender are explored with greater complexity and fluidity than I remember from 1970s feminism.

As for ‘deranged’, I’d refer you to Emily Dickinson: ‘Much madness is divinest sense’. Creativity always resists the constraints of convention, or perhaps rather subverts convention, using it in unconventional ways. Poets don’t always fit well with society when it’s difficult to be paid for our work. The value of what we do is not commensurate to the price. So perhaps it’s time to reclaim that word, ‘deranged’ – at least to think about why and by whom it might be applied.

I’m thrilled to be performing as part of Deranged Poetesses in Stockton ARC Theatre on July 20th. My work has always been for the ear; it occupies the edge between the page and the cave-fire, or the hearth, or any theatre space. I write to be heard out loud, to share with a group, which is why I love writing for radio, and working with musicians. But I’m new to the Performance Poetry circuit. What will the audience and other performers think of my work?

The Space / Exploration evening blends poetry, performance, music and projected visuals in the Japanese PechaKucha tradition. There are six performers, and each creation lasts 13 minutes. In Lunar, Manchester Theatre Award winning Keisha Thompson mixes space exploration with afro-futurism. Other performers include Isabelle Kenyon, with a piece about women in space, Hannah Lasagne, Lisa Louise Lovebucket and Katie Greenbrown. You can read about their presentations HERE.

I’ll be performing Field, an astonishing blend of poetry, music, science and space photographs which explores the strange quantum worlds created at the Big Bang. This is a reconfigured version of a piece which I made with computer music pioneer Peter Zinovieff for the Planetarium at Life Science Centre, Newcastle in 2015. You don’t need to know anything about physics to enjoy it – Field is about the mysterious, beautiful realities which underlie the world as we understand it, and the music and visuals are awesome. Please come along on July 20th to experience it.

Turquoise-tinted plumes in the Large Magellanic Cloud

Photo: NASA Hubble Space Telescope

Astonishing that, across
Immense distance,
It should speak,

Cold and articulate
As zigzags of light…  

Deranged Poetesses: Space / Exploration

Saturday July 20th 7-9pm

ARC Theatre

Stockton Arts Centre

TS18 1LL

Age 14+

Free but ticketed. Book HERE

The Wund an’ the Wetter

IRON Press Festival of Words and Music

Iron Festival

Peter Mortimer has been running the excellent IRON Press for 46 years, and he writes that the IRON Festival is ‘As far as I know…the country’s only literary festival built around a small press.’ June 20th – 23rd will be a fabulous weekend, packed, not with celebrity names from a national touring list, but with real working writers associated with the press or the region or both.

I’m lucky to be one of them. Twenty years ago, IRON commissioned me to write a poem in Northumbrian dialect, to celebrate the launch of the collected works of the Northumbrian Bard, Fred Reed. At the same time, they commissioned Chris Ormston to write a pipe tune. The result was The Wund an’ the Wetter, a collaboration in the dialect of the dwindling fishing community of north Northumberland, which was published by IRON Press as a book and CD with the support of the Northumbrian Language Society.

Please come along to St George’s Church, Cullercoats, on Saturday June 22nd, to hear me perform the poem with Chris, together with some of my other locally-based poems and Chris’ music, old and new. It will be a night to remember!

More info and bookings HERE

The Wund an’ the Wetter at The 4th IRON Press Festival of Words and Music,

Saturday June 22nd, 7.30pm

St George’s Church,

1 Beverley Gardens,


NE30 4NS