My proudest poetry achievements are the three poetry collections I’ve published with Bloodaxe: Straight Ahead (2006), Head On (2012) and Flood (2018). I’ve won several awards, including a Northern Writer's Award, an Arvon/ Jerwood Young Writer’s Award, a Royal Society for Literature "Literature Matters" Award, and a Forward Prize Highly Commended. I'm one of the judges of the Ted Hughes Award 2018. As well as poetry journals, magazines and anthologies, my poetry has been published in the Observer and the Daily Mirror, and I’ve performed at festivals and venues across the UK. In 2018, I was commissioned by Children's Society to write the lyrics for a Christingle song which was performed in thousands of venues, including over 30 cathedrals.
The poem below is taken from my most recent collection, Flood, which is one of the 12 new books celebrated by the Read Regional campaign 2019.
The 2015 floods left whole swathes of the UK submerged, including my home town of Hebden Bridge. Flood offers an eye-witness account of those events, from rainfall to rescue. Intimately interwoven with the breakdown of a relationship and wider narratives including the Savile case, flooding serves as a metaphor for wider experiences of destruction, loss – and recovery.
Flood as Redemption.
In knowing the value of light
when it has gone out.
In knowing the true weight of rain:
the carpet will stink
and the fridge will not make it.
In seeing what needs to be done
and in doing it;
wading in up to your waist.
In staring the sky in the face,
in meeting the storm head on
in the drink of it,
in how you were soaked to the skin
in the rain sweeping in;
in how all your rivers were one
in the chemistry of it:
molecules pushed to their limit;
in the moment of pivot
In what you thought
would hold forever:
earth gone to water,
trees turned to river;
the shifting of boulder,
the bringing together of neighbour and stranger
in the swim of it.
In what it did
to our town.
In knowing it will come again
and in singing it.
Writing it down.