My year in poetry (and other stuff)

I have the memory of a goldfish so I decided to trawl through my social media activity and paypal balance to try and work out what happened in each month of 2016. It turns out there are gaps in my knowledge, and books that should be in this list that somehow aren’t.

It’s easy to get the wrong impression of someone through social media – we tend to share the highs rather than the lows, and, frankly, I’m still guilty of that here, though I have tried to be honest about some of the stuff that went on this year!


I spoke at Inpress Festival as part of a panel on ‘full-frontal blogging’, had some of my poems set to a baroque orchestra in New York as part of Body Untied. I also visited South Africa for the first time as part of an Arts Council Artists’ International Development Fund. I was sick for most of the month, including in South Africa, so I had to cancel a couple of gigs, which was frustrating….

Soundtrack of the month: George Michael’s Faith
Books of the Month: Genna Gardini Matric Rage and Les mains fertiles: 50 poètes en langue des signes

Final edits to my second collection Astéronymes before it was sent off to the printer. On the whole this was a month dominated by the wedding of my friend Lucy, and the death of family friend Violette Verdy, as well as my continued quest to collect all the bugs lying around.

Soundtrack of the month: Joséphine Baker’s Don’t Touch my Tomatoes
Book of the month: Sarah Frost’s Conduit

Astéronymes was officially published! Another family friend died, but there were also highlights, such as finally seeing Hannah Silva’s Schlock in Oxford, meeting Leah Umansky, and reading Fiona Moore’s audit of poetry and sexism in the Guardian.

Soundtrack of the month: Janelle Monáe’s Tightrope
Books of the month: Leah Umansky’s Straight Away the Emptied World, Akwe Amosu’s Not Goodbye, Jack Underwood’s Happiness, Zoë Skoulding’s Teint, Heidi Williamson’s The Print Museum.

Death went into overdrive, killing my step-uncle one week after I’d buried my grandmother. I lived out of a suitcase for a fortnight through a mix of funerals in other countries, a pre-planned trip to Dublin, and book launches. It was wonderful launching Astéronymes alongside John McCullough and his Spacecraft in London, Brighton and Oxford. I was also happy to read at the Oxford Literary Festival with Sarah Hesketh and Harry Mann. Outside of poetry, I went to the fancy CIM Marketing Excellence Awards where I was somehow shortlisted for Marketer of the Year (did not win but did drink plenty of bubbly)

Soundtrack of the month: L’Internationale, sung by the Communistes en France choir
Books of the Month: Curtis Sittenfield’s Eligible, John McCullough’s Spacecraft, Noel Duffy’s In the Library of Lost Objects.

No deaths (though one more funeral to attend)! Instead the Saboteur Awards were upon us – probably my favourite yet. I was determined it’d be the last but the enthusiasm of the night is carrying me through to at least another year. I was also privileged to read at the launch of Luke Kennard’s Cain, and to have one of my poems appear in the Sunday Times.

Soundtrack of the month: Boogalox’s Chez les Yé-Yé
Books of the month: Camille Ralph’s Malkin, Kiran Millwood-Hargrave’s The Girl of Ink and Stars, Luke Kennard’s Cain, Abi Palmer’s Alchemy, Tania Hershman’s Nothing Here is Wild, Everything is Open.

Some highlights included reading and delivering a workshop in Swindon, travelling to Leeds to chat about place with Daniel Bye, Dominic Grace and Zodwa Nyoni. Best of all though was treating myself to a DYI writing retreat at home with Tori Truslow, and remembering the joys of freewriting.

Soundtrack of the month: Red Hot Chilli Pepper’s Higher Ground
Books of the month: Seanan McGuire’s Chaos Choreography, Daisy Johnson’s Fen, David Attwooll and Andrew Walton’s Otmoor. Anne Carson’s The Albertine Workout.

Spent a lot of time putting in final corrections to my monograph Satire, prints and theatricality in the French Revolution. Eighteenth Century Escape Tales: Between Fact and Fiction, in which I have a chapter on Marie-Antoinette and Jeanne de Valois-Saint-Rémy, was finally published (too expensive for me to buy, alas). I visited Lyon and bought more books than I’ve had time to digest in its glorious Bal des Ardents bookshop.

Soundtrack of the month: Sister Nancy’s Bam Bam
Books of the month: Rowena Knight’s All the footprints I left were red, Bridget Minamore’s Titanic, Ito Naga’s Je sais, Penelope Shuttle and John Greening’s Heath

Both dads in hospital – one undergoing a quintuple bypass, the other getting the diagnosis of prostate cancer. I ended up working remotely from France for a few weeks to be nearby. The operation for the former was a resounding success, the latter was successfully (as far as we know) operated in October. In other news I returned to South Africa and had a wonderful time reading and interviewing poets in Grahamstown and at the McGregor Poetry Festival.

Soundtrack of the month: The Knack’s My Sharona
Books of the month: Ingrid de Kok’s Terrestrial Things, Harry Owen’s Five Books of Marriage, Antje Krog’s Skinned, In the Heat of Shadows: South African Poetry 1996-2013, ed. Denis Hirson

September was full of events, and I was very happy to read at the Poetry School Autumn Launch, the inaugural Kenilworth Arts Festival, and Jill Abram’s Stablemates event for Penned in the Margins. All wonderful events in their own rights, run with the right blend of passion and savvy. Pretty fab to read alongside poets such as Dante Micheaux, Jo Bell, David Morley, Sarah Howe, Luke Kennard, Jonathan Edwards, Charlotte Newman, and Ross Sutherland.

Soundtrack of the month: Christine and The Queen’s Tilted
Books of the month: the Diane Fallon series by Beverly Connor, Ben Parker’s The Amazing Lost Man, Melissa Lee-Houghton’s Sunshine.

To celebrate the year that had passed since publishing Susie Campbell and JT Welsch’s pamphlets as limited editions – I released them digitally for them to be freely available. You can find links here. My monograph Satire, prints and theatricality in the French Revolution was published at last, after eight years in the making! I visited Coleraine in Northern Ireland for the first time to read alongside Harry Giles and Liz Lochhead – my roadtrip with Liz to the Giants’ Causeway on National Poetry Day was a definite highlight for me! I also read at the memorial service for the family friend who had died earlier that year.

Soundtrack of the month: Jennifer Lopez’s Let’s Get Loud
Books of the month: Helen Ivory’s Hear What the Moon Told Me, Liz Lochhead’s Fugitive Colours, The Good Immigrant, ed. Nikesh Shukla

I enjoyed teaching a repeat of my Deep Diving Poetry course for the Poetry School, as well as getting stuck into various commissions. I returned to Lyon and managed to avoid buying too many books this time…. Otherwise it looks like my time was mostly eaten up by work, and nanowrimo – which I embraced for the first time this year. It was going pretty well until Trump got elected, I swear.

Soundtrack of the month: DNCE’s Cake by the Ocean
Books of the month: Laura Seymour’s The Shark Cage, Jodi Taylor’s My Name is Markham

I gave myself the challenge of creating one videopoem a day in December, a mixture of poems by me and by other poets including Pam Thompson, Wendy Pratt, Lou Sarabadzic, Catherine Ayres, Susie Campbell, Mab Jones, Zoe Brigley, Lynn Pedersen, Kallie Falandays, Milla van der Have, Karen Paul Holmes, Alex Dally MacFarlane. I made it to day 20 and then decided to allow myself a holiday! You can watch the full playlist here.

Soundtrack of the month: Jain’s Makeba
Book of the month: Carrie Fisher’s The Princess Diarist, Genevieve Cogman’s The Burning Pge