Health and Safety?

Sailing over the threshold, I hear Sally give a shout. Ahead of me should be the next carriage of the train. A split-second of breeze on my face and I register the darkness – fast-moving darkness in the shape of Ukranian farmland.

This is the start of my anecdote Health and Safety which has just been published in Parentheses issue 2. Naturally I can’t share the whole thing as there would be no point in the journal being published! You can order a copy by emailing

This is me sharing it at the lovely launch reading at Animal Sospechoso Libreria in Gràcia…




A Note on Facebook Sharing

To share or not to share?

I always feel uncomfortable sharing positive things on Facebook, as they are inevitably the 1% diamond in the rough vs. 99% of many, many failed attempts and difficult days, which don’t get posted about. Facebook can be damaging to our mental health for this reason.

On the other hand, sharing something of myself is part of why I write in the first place and it has led to great conversations, learnings, and community.

On balance I think it’s worth sharing, with the caveat that anything I share is not the work of just me, but of all the amazing people in my life who support me and listen to me and help me create space to write. I have difficult struggles with mental health and I’m reaching out to people all the time to help me get what I need. I spend a lot of time feeling anxious, reactive, and a failure.

I’ve got the help I need, but just wanted to put any sharing I do in its proper context, for the sake of the mental wellbeing of all of us.

Thoughts on writing practice from Erin Brady


Let me introduce you to Erin Brady, a good friend and a poet I’m lucky enough to write with. Check out her work in the links at the end.

Name three books you’ve read recently.

The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst, Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng, and Barbe bleue (Bluebeard) by Amélie Nothomb.

Also, name three poets who’ve inspired you.

Can I pick five poets? Mark Doty, Carol Ann Duffy, Jack Gilbert, Matthea Harvey, and James Richardson.

Why write?

Because you like to. Because you want to understand or process things. Because you want to help people understand each other. Because you’ve had a brilliant idea.

What would you like people to be saying about you as a writer after you’re gone?

That I was observant and original.

Tell me about a moment of pure inspiration that you’ve had (either inspiration to write or just in general).

I once had a very memorable (and terrifying) dream about being chased by someone and planned a sequence based on it. I think it’s the only time I’ve ever had the idea for a complete story all at once. It’s not finished yet.

What gets you up in the morning?

Insomnia. Early flights. Morning deadlines. Coffee or tea. Sun.

What is the shape of your writing practice? How do you get it done, stay inspired, plan time, rework, submit, etc.?

I almost never procrastinate when it comes to translating or writing for work, but I need to be much better about carving out time for my own projects. It helps to have a friend or two who wants to do the same, so you can keep each other in check. I make a list of flexible goals every couple of months so that I keep coming up with new material, revising, and submitting. Finally, I like switching up where I write to stay inspired—I love writing outdoors and I have a few different cafés that I frequent in Barcelona.

Advice for people who want to write more or better?

1) Start out by setting small, manageable goals for yourself (write for 10-20 minutes every day) rather than huge ones (write a novel in a month).

2) Meet up with people who also want to write, but be aware of whether you write better alone, with one or two other people, in larger groups, or some combination of these.

3) If you get sick of something you’ve written, put it aside for at least a week and come back to it later. Keep coming back to it if it doesn’t feel ready but there are still lines you like. I’ve finished pieces years after writing the first drafts.

Links to some of your published work online.

“enough, Enough, ENOUGH!” … and other poems in response to the last Wednesday Writing Prompt

Today 13 million Syrians are still in need of aid, and continue to suffer at the hands of powerful politicians’ war games. More strikes from the West intended to punish Assad are happening right now. Here I reblog a post from The Poet By Day with some poems yearning for peace.

The task was to write a poem about why humans struggle so much to prevent conflict around the world. My poem is the fourth one down. It is about disconnection, or ‘misconnection’ – the word I am appropriating for a new cause. I use it to mean being physically around one another but not truly connecting.

Aiming to show love, care and understanding in every interaction, especially the more difficult ones, is the first step to feeling personally connected in a deep way to the world around us. Without this, we can separate ourselves from others in our thinking in the blink of an eye. I believe that committed authentic connection on a personal level is central to the prevention of conflict on a global level.


The responses to the last Wednesday Writing Prompt, April 4, Where is the will of the cup to overcome the sword?, are marked by compassion, concern, insight, and sadness. A collection of heartfelt works by three poets new to Wednesday Writing Prompt (June G. Paul, Frank McMahon, Siobhan Tibbs – bios included by way of introduction) and by three of our dear regulars (Paul Brookes, Sonja Benson Mesher, and Mike Stone).  As a part of her response, Sonja has treated us to some of her artwork this week.

Thanks to all six poets for generously sharing their work and coming out to play. We hope you’ll join us tomorrow for the next Wednesday Writing Prompt. All are welcome – encouraged – novice, emerging or pro.

The Golden Shovel Poem
The bar brawl began after midnight, blood and wine splattered where
she was sitting and asking herself, Has everyone gone…

View original post 2,875 more words

Natalie Portman and Carey Mulligan as a hero and a human

Annihilation and Collateral both feature badass women in state-sanctioned roles unerring in their determination to complete a complex task. Reason enough to warrant comparison, surely? (Not to mention the fact that I happened to watch them both last week. My watch-rate is greater than my blog-rate, so I’m reviewing two birds with one stone.)

Following in Stalker’s footsteps, Annihilation is a new take on ‘the zone’: an action movie that calls for a traditional driven-though-slightly-reckless hero, Lena, who is drawn out compellingly by Natalie Portman. Collateral, on the other hand – which follows a police investigation of the murder of a migrant in London – is as much a character study of Detective Inspector Kip Glaspie (Carey Mulligan) as it is a police story and a criticism of modern-day immigration rhetoric.

As often happens in sci-fi movies like Annihilation, Lena is mainly a vehicle for revealing the space. The ‘main characters’ are absent: these are the aliens whose presence created this gene-warping hyper-evolving space in the first place. In Collateral, it would have been simple to use Kip in a similar vein: a two-dimensional tool to reveal the quirks and secrets of the characters in the story. But she is much more complex, with Mulligan chewing on the excellent script to weave a web of Kip’s strengths, foibles and attitudes with the utmost finesse.


Motivations are a good example of this difference. Lena is driven by the unexplained loss of her husband Kane to give up everything and embark upon a death mission to the centre of the zone. This motivation, while the action she takes is drastic, is assumed as making innate sense. DI Glaspie’s drive to achieve the goal at each stage of the murder investigation is more intimately constructed. One major aspect of her past, a thwarted sporting background (she was a pole vaulter and crashed out of the Olympics with a broken back), is hinted at with progressively increasing detail throughout the series.

The ‘fatal flaws’ of each character also differ in their complexity. Lena’s flaw is in compromising her own safety to discover what has happened to Kane. DI Glaspie compromises her own safety too, but also that of others. In order to get valuable information, DI Glaspie offers a refugee witness UK residency without the authority to do so. She climbs the stairs to negotiate with an unstable murderer even though she’s six months pregnant. This degree of recklessness would not be acceptable within the confines of the watertight heroism of Annihilation.

According to Mulligan herself, TV shows are an incubator of complex female characters where the big screen is failing. This is why she chose to be in Collateral:

“You can get a TV show like Big Little Lies, which has five or six extraordinary roles for women, while there would maybe be half a good role for a woman in a film. I want to play the most interesting, complicated real person, and interesting, complicated real people in films are really, really rare.” Carey Mulligan to The Independent

Through Collateral, writer-director team David Hare and S. J. Clarkson have certainly helped to bring a fresh vulnerability and complexity to mainstream audiovisual narratives. What put them in the position to move beyond the usual offering for female characters or protagonists in general – was it the small-screen format, somehow? Was it the length of screen time available to TV-writers? The police-show genre? A different gender-relations climate in the UK to the US? Was it a particular drive and vision, which we have seen in ample measure in The Hours and The Reader (both screenwritten by Hare)?

We could ponder over several possible reasons, but the fact is that a hero character in an action movie about a ‘zone’ could be equally complex if enough attention was paid to it. Taking this kind of risk would bring a more honest identification for viewers with the people we see on the screen, a deeper validation of who we are, and greater confidence in ourselves – especially for women, who tend to receive messages from mainstream media that it is best of all to be passive, innocuous, and immaculately manicured. It’s good to have a hero like Lena, but it would be even better if such characters were truly fleshed out, more deeply human.

Hiding (or simplifying) our vulnerabilities is so twentieth-century. With the array of top movie directors overwhelmingly male – as Natalie Portman herself pointed out recently when presenting the Director’s award at the Golden Globes – some serious top-level change is in order before we can reliably find female characters (or, perhaps, characters in general) with the complexity and uniqueness of Kip Glaspie on the big screen.

Annihilation and Collateral are both currently available on Netflix.