The Midnight Heart

Poetry: why experiment?

I heard today that some of my poems are going to be included in the anthology The Edge of Necessary: Welsh innovative poetry 1966-2016. I started thinking about the particular kind of experimentation that I enjoy, and where that urge comes from. It put in my mind a particular moment.


In 1985, when I was 4 years old, my mother and I came back to Wales. My mother had been teaching in the Midlands, but now we were living a house at the top of Hendredenny Hill where sheep blundered from the fields into our gardens, and horses leaned their long, inscrutable faces over the fence. I didn’t speak like anyone else, so I tried not to speak at all unless I had to. I started writing at 4, perhaps half-hoping that poetic language could be more perfect than everyday speech. My mother and father were separating, their marriage collapsing but I knew that to talk about it would cause too much pain, so I would write euphemistic rhymes about toads, or the moon.

This particular moment explains everything about how and why I want to experiment: the desire to accommodate a language that is not mainstream, to allow space for silence too, and to find a slanted way to speak about the most intimate subjects. Later studying Creative Writing at University of Warwick (the Midlands again), I encountered the Surrealists, L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets, psychoanalysis, Modernism, OULIPO techniques like N+7, and experimental poets like Medbh McGuckian who in her poem ‘Slips’ uses Freud’s footnotes to tell a woman’s story. Now, as a Visiting Assistant Professor at the Ohio State University, I teach my students how to replicate dream language: how to garble a disturbing thought, still leaving behind an unsettling trace of what is being avoided.

warning:curves ahead

Vintage style for the modern dame


Words Fail

Sheila McMullin: A Poetic Feminist MoonSpit Blog

MoonSpit Poetry of Insights, Resources, Activism, and Art

The Wales Poetry Junction

Poetry and comment from Wales and beyond


blog | The International Literary Quarterly

gairnet provides: press of blll

distorted mouthings, as if through thick perspex scored over and over with fine lines, perhaps from the diamond-tipped hairs of space centipedes.

I Don't Call Myself a Poet

Interviews with Contemporary Poets Living & Working in Britain

The Bell Jar: Jo Bell's blog

"She lives the poetry she cannot write" - Wilde

Helen Calcutt

'all the while, her poetry is alive and attentive to the voice's unique, powerful music.'

Ricardo Blanco's Blog

Reflections on the mutable universe

International Journal of Welsh Writing in English

Bibliography, announcements, M. Wynn Thomas Prize

%d bloggers like this: