Photograph by Dariusz Dziala

I have been writing poetry since I was nine, an age when anything seems possible. At primary school I learned John Masefield’s Sea Fever by heart and never forgot it. Now I forget a lot of things including the word I want most, and struggle to see clearly, but my early realisation that words were so much more than functional still lights the way.

In 1997 I started to write regularly and have published poems in numerous magazines, including Acumen, Ambit, The Frogmore Papers, The Interpreter’s House, Magma, Orbis, The Oxford Magazine, and The Shop. My poems are included in the anthology East of Auden (Backroom Poets/Poetry Direct) and Three Voices (Frogmore Press). I self-published a pamphlet Foot-breathing on the Coast Path in 2003 and a new ‘slim collection’ The Stars Inside was published in 2012 by Waterloo Press. A full collection of poems, One Stop Before Black, is seeking a publisher.

I won third prize in the inaugural Davoren Hanna poetry competition (judged by Sean O’Brian and Medbh McGuckian) for my poem Truth and Beauty and was also a prize winner in the 1997 Orbis Rhyme International competition with Unoriginal Sin. In 2010 The Little Mermaid Looks at the Stars was a runner up in the Troubadour International Poetry Prize.


“She lay on her back between two worlds”. Photograph (Jeannie at Marloes) by Bruno Guastalla


The Little Mermaid looks at the stars

What will you have for your birthday?
asked the sea-king of his favourite daughter,
remembering when she was quick and silver as a minnow,
trying not to look at her breasts.
I would like a star, she murmured,
plaiting his kelp-forest beard.
I could keep it in a cage of abalone.
I would polish it with my hair
till its song loosened.
He gave her many warnings about stars.

Stars are too hot – you will get your fingers burned,
they are cold and you will never get over the rejection,
they are sharp and will slice your heart fine as smoked salmon and pinker,
they are too tiny and will get lost among the sand grains of your pillow,
they are too big and you will drown in the tides they engender,
they are too bright and will sear your eyeballs
and your weeping will raise sea levels by metres
and I will get the blame.

Still, she had permission to go window shopping.

Her birthday fell in winter, when the sky is hardest,
the stars swollen and overripe.
She imagined their fizz on the tongue, their chime in the gullet,
the rush. She lay on her back between two worlds,
hammocked on the sea’s black skin.
She thought it terrifying – the way the sky went on forever,
she thought it unnecessary.
She began to dream about Orion:
his broad shoulders and unconscious swagger,
his sense of style and independent streak,
the way he wore his sword, hung left and slightly out of focus.
Pining for the constellations she grew wistful, pondered cosmology,
life’s stardust origins. And, to resonate more closely,
she gave up eating, till she quivered like a tuning fork
and perched all night on a seamount
practising her scales.

She felt a passing sorrow for the shipwrecks.