Tag Archives: David Morley


A week today, the poetry pamphlet Sarah James and I have collaborated on will be launched in a special reading at Cheltenham Poetry Festival. It is the first in a new series of Poetry Duets, to be published by Mother’s MIlk Books. Hearth is themed around the idea of using objects to write about family life, memory and how these affect the way we see the world.

Apart from the opening and closing poems, which are wholly collaborative, the rest of the poems are paired. Either I wrote a new poem to go with one Sarah sent me, or she wrote one in response to mine. It was uncanny how close we were at times in the objects which had significance, although we are from different regions and of different ages.

The collaboration culminated in a very enjoyable visit from Sarah. We worked for two days to go through all our poems, select the strongest for the book, and give each other much more intensive feedback than we had been able to do by email in the previous months. The poems are all new ones for both of us.

We were delighted to discover that ‘Crow LInes’, one of the joint poems, was highly commended in Cheltenham Poetry Festival’s Compound Poem competition, a fantastic idea which has encouraged poets all over the country to collaborate with one another. I am excited to hear the winning poems at an event the poetry festival is planning.

Please do consider attending the launch, which is on 26th April at The Playhouse in Cheltenham at 11 am. Our reading is followed by David Morley and Adam Horowitz, both of whom I admire, so if you are going to that, do think about coming a bit eariler and hearing the poems from Hearth get their first ever outing. .

Here is the stunning cover:

SJ & AT Hearth front cover scaled

And here is a taster poem.

What became of the Black Piano
The piano is huge against the wall,
black and steadfast, polished shiny.
The lid is shut, heavy, sound.
Pedals are silenced tongues
put out for holy communion.

One day the piano left the room,
dragged outside for the burning,
sentenced to death for its unsharp sharps,
its dumb keys and broken ivory.
They had to take an axe to it first.
Angela Topping


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My Personal Rules for Poetry Editing

Since this is a new year, I decided to share my most recent set of rules for editing. I never worry about rules when I am writing a poem; I believe in letting the poem do its thing. But editing a poem is a different matter and requires a different set of skills. These rules come from what I have noticed what flaws there often are in my first drafts.

Angela’s Rules:

1) Watch out for tautology

2) Take care to avoid unknowing repetition

3) See whether you need ands, yets, buts and articles

4) Let the darkness in

5) Don’t be scared, say what you really mean

I devised this version of them after the recent Lumb Bank course with David Morley and Caroline Bird, a course which made me braver in my work. I do recommend their work, and also the work of Liz Berry, whose enchanting collection Black Country has won critical acclaim for its orginal use of dialect.

If you want to create your own set of reminders, look at the things you have to keep working on in your drafts. Hopefully your own guidelines will prevent you from doing the same things in future, when a new set of rules will need devising. I keep mine to a maximum of five, otherwise it all gets unweildy.

If you are stuck for ideas, I recommend Nell Nelson’s fantastic blog. You can see the link in my blogroll listing.




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