My book Wild Track: poems with pictures by friends was published by the artist Sian Bonnell at Trace Editions in 2005. 

I have given readings in the ‘New Voices’ series at the Poetry Library in the Royal Festival Hall (with Susan Wicks, 1992) and at other venues in the UK and US. My poems have been seen on London buses, in the calligraphy of Stephen Raw and in anthologies. 

My poem ‘The Anthropocene’ (inspired by Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction, 2014 and Wilfrid Owen’s poem ‘Exposure’) was highly commended by the judges of the Wilfrid Owen Association poetry prize and appeared in the association’s journal in summer 2015. The poem was reprinted in Poems for Jeremy Corbyn, edited by Merryn Williams (Shoestring Press, 2016). In February 2017 Tessa Traeger published a book of her North Devon photographs, Wild is the Wind (Impress, limited edition) with ten of my North Devon poems. 

The poems below include ‘The Anthropocene’, which has been published as above, plus  ‘Fernald Point’ my prizewinning poem from 2006, followed by the title poem from Wild Track and other poems including my elegy for Helen Chadwick, ‘A hand of feathers’.


The Anthropocene

Everything’s mobile in this time of global flows:

money, people, goods, bacteria and disease.

Something’s affecting frogs, bats, bees and now the trees –

too set in their ways for new climates and viruses.

How were we to know?


A fungus gnaws away at bats in hibernation

in New England: ‘White-nose’. The bats wake up and fly

in search of prey in mid-winter. Six million die.

A European fungus – a probable extinction.

We were not to know.


Have all the Golden Frogs now gone from Panama?

When an African fungus smears spores on their skin

it closes down their osmo-regulation system.

Watch them wave goodbye to Sir David and his camera.

How were we to know?

Great Auks were favoured by the early mariners,

easy to catch as picking fruit and good to eat.

Birds were used for fuel, their fellows fried with the heat –

the last Great Auks were killed in Iceland for collectors.

We were not to know.


We’re still working our way through the planetary menu,

just finishing the ‘charismatic’ megafauna –

why take an aspirin when there’s White Horn Rhino powder?

Just one last slice of Bluefin Tuna – then adieu.

How were we to know?


We are as Gods so, of course, we’re having a blast:

the first species to enact, wilfully or not –

and as effectively as some vast meteorite –

a mass extinction. It’s the sixth. Our first and last.

We were not to know.

Nearing the climax of the climate wars, our slow

commanders somehow can’t provide decisive orders –

the attrition goes on with chainsaws and Toyotas.

There’s a soughing in the trees: You were not to know?

               How could you not know?                                                                                


Fernald Point (For Robert Dudley)


Flash grey black

glimpse white patch

scissoring the air

in a new design

past the corner of the sun-room

gone beside the spruce

fast over Fernald Cove

up to Flying Mountain

leaving a shape a look a thrill

I try to fill from the bird-book –

I stare at the silhouettes

and can’t find what fits

as I fumble through the pages

of habitat and plumage

for the beauty of a wing-beat

passing through the heart –

and searching possibilities

stumble into memories

find instead my mother’s kiss

my father’s young man voice

my lover’s belly

the scent of our babies –

all from the sacred scrapbook

into which I place my Goshawk.

Fernald Point is on Mount Desert Island, Maine. My prose piece, ‘Homage to Mount Desert Island’ (2006), can be viewed on the Granta website by subscribers.


Magnolias shake in the Spring sunshine.

It is Good Friday and three days

after we heard that our friend had found

her son dead in his bed at 35:

all of which makes the trees shake harder,

the April gale testing each twig,

harrowing branches, bole and roots,

tossing and buffeting the leaves to frenzy.

The trees are sprung like towers or yachts

and sway all ways, the boughs so buoyant –

the tattered white winecups surging up

to meet each mighty blow with such bravado.

We don’t know how our friend can bear it –

unless the heart was engineered for this.


Wild Track

Filming’s finished for the afternoon

but the soundman wants another minute.

He needs to tape for atmosphere.

So we sit on in the Sussex glasshouse –

the floor a mess of cables, wires,

DAT machines, reflector screens and mikes –

and start picking up those under-sounds

we edit out of normal hearing:

first an expectant, surreptitious hiss,

like a stylus kissing glossy vinyl –

or a kettle’s quiet sigh towards the boil –

then something hushing from the wainscot.

There’s the sound of the town and the downland,

the lull of a faraway train. The dusk

is settling like dew, deep inside the head.

It’s time to wrap but we’re still here,

holding the shell of the earth to our ears,

listening for the death and birth of stars.


English women in a New York lift

 i.m. John Szarkowski


It’s not that I don’t like your US English

because I do – I love your gruff New York,

your downhome Deep South drawl, the lilting

musics out of Minnesota and Wisconsin,

adore your roiling, feisty, scuzzy words,

your deep-lunged, sometimes snarling emphasis

and no, it’s not a ‘cut-glass’ English accent

I hear by chance in 57th Street:

it seems quite shy and post-imperial,

as innocent as bluebells and – unlike

that green ground-cover grown in Central Park –

as fine and fresh as English grass.


A Hand of Feathers

In memory of Helen Chadwick (1953-96)

A feather floats across

the station concourse


on imperceptible

puffs of breeze

surfs and skiis

round QuickSnack Kiosk

Thomas Cook and KnickerBox

planes and careens

above the ticket machines


around the World of Flowers


among the coats and cases

and the racing faces

almost ceases to exist

until it dances on a draught

rides a thermal

from a burger joint

and rises to the roof beams

*          *          *

The blind designer

of the quill, the shaft and vane

for robin, falcon and crane

engineers the tiny tools

of barbs and their barbules

and knits

the million slots and hooklets

of each feather

elastically together.

*          *          *


What is as lucky as a feather –

or as strong?

asks the artist Albert Chong

*         *          *

In The Voyage of the Beagle Darwin

writes of Calodera maculata,

a bird which builds a vaulted passage-way

beside its nest, a kind of gallery

of landshells and seashells, bones and feathers

chosen for the brilliance of their colours.

This early form of installation art

Charles Darwin called a space ‘for playing in’.

*          *          *

In the rectory

an eagle’s primary

found 40 years before

on Rannoch Moor

soars across

the mantlepiece –

a shaft of highland sky

stooping to the study

with hope

for the microscope

and grace

for the Greek Concordance.

*          *         *

Cloud, darkness and dew, a lamp or phantom,

lightning flash, spark or shooting star –

the world’s a bubble, a mirror, a dream

sings (or hums) the Diamond-Cutter Sutra.

Life’s iridescent, billowing balloon

swoons without warning, unaccountably

collapsing in a crowded lecture room

and every laughing spring day memory

is trapped forever somewhere in the skull.

Give me your hand again, show me your rings,

shake the dagger on your left lapel

and tell me darling what to die in.

Before I plunge through the escalator

pluck me a daisy, blow me a feather.