On Rogue Strands…tee-dah!


Just a little crow!   This blog you’re reading now appeared on the list of Best Poetry Blogs 2018 on Rogue Strands.  Thank you all for reading this blog and to all the Featured Writers who lend their work so generously.

Matthew Stewart wrote: “Rebecca Gethin’s blog is another to have caught my eye this year. Her wide range of featured poets provide a treasure trove of original work.”

So happy about this as I have always experienced a pang at never being even mentioned before.  Thank you to Matthew.  There are lots more blogs on his list which would be interesting to explore.

If you can’t find the whole thing, here it is:

The Best U.K. Poetry Blogs of 2018

This is Rogue Strands’ incomplete, partial and inevitably subjective round-up of “The Best U.K. Poetry Blogs” of 2018. There are several significant newcomers to the list, as we’ll see shortly, but this has mainly been a year of consolidation and development, as many blogs are progressing along with their writers, branching out, finding new focus or homing in on key concerns:

– Richie McCaffery has moved his blogging home from Copy Cats to The Lyrical Aye to reflect his move back from Belgium and the launch of his second full collection.

– Wood Bee Poet is Chris Edgoose’ new poetry blog. Serious, ambitious and packed with critical knowledge, his posts are worth discovering.

– Angela Topping’s blog might have been around for a fair while, but it only came to my attention this year. I’ve been missing out on a lot, as a browse of her archive soon shows.

– Rebecca Gethin’s blog is another to have caught my eye this year. Her wide range of featured poets provide a treasure trove of original work.

– Matthew Paul’s blog might seem something of a journal at first sight, but it branches out and develops interesting arguments on a regular basis.

– Sue Ibrahim’s My Natural World is another newcomer to the list. Sue combines nature, photography and poetry in a personal blog that’s full of warmth.

– Giles Turnbull’s blog continues to be unique. This year he’s telling us his story of embarking on an M.A., living in student accommodation. This is made remarkable by the way Giles embraces the challenge of doing so in the context of his blindness.

– Liz Lefroy’s blog is the chronicle of a highly personal journey through life and poetry. Her posts move me, her poems deserve the platform of a full collection.

– John Field’ Poor Rude Lines keeps its powder dry for long periods, but every single one of its reviews is to be savoured, word by chiselled word.

– The Poetry School’s blog. The Poetry School pay their reviewers and bloggers, concentrating on up-and-coming critics. The results are excellent.

– The Rialto’s blog. Whether homing in on a specific poem from the magazine or discussing the editor’s art, The Rialto’s blog is always worth a read.

– Paul Stephenson’s blog. Paul’s interviews are exceptional. His generous self-effacement and close reading of this subjects’ poetry mean that he manages to draw out insightful replies to his scrupulously tailored questions.

– Helen Mort’s Freefall continues to chart her journey through life and poetry, interweaving wider issues with personal anecdote.

– Tim Love’s litrefs are irreverent and highly relevant. They look at poetry from an idiosyncratic, scientific perspective. U.K. poetry wouldn’t be the same without them.

– Martyn Crucefix’s blog demonstrates a keen critical eye. His annual reviews of the shortlisted books for the Felix Dennis Forward First Collection Prize have now become not just an institution but a point of reference and departure for debate.

– Kim Moore’s blog is personal, honest and an excellent reflection of the intensity with which Kim lives and writes.

–  As most people will already know, I’m completely objective when declaring that Helena Nelson’s weeklyblog for HappenStance Press is essential reading, while her lists of poetry snags also offer a perfect excuse for many delicious debates on social media.

– Todd Swift’s name is inherently linked with Eyewear.This is the long-running blog that preceded the publishing house.

– Sonofabook is Charles Boyle’s blog. As such, it reflects the distinctive, thought-provoking furrow that he ploughs through U.K. poetry and literature in general.

– Abegail Morley’s Poetry Shed provides us with a point of departure for the discovery of untold poetic riches, be they calls for submissions, original poems or excellent reviews.

– Josephine Corcoran is indefatigable. Not only does she run And Other Poems and Trowbridge Stanza, while working as a poet in residence and giving regular readings from her excellent first full collection, but she also keeps her own personal blog.

– John Foggin’s cobweb  showcases excellent poets and sculpts personal posts of searing honesty, insight and emotion.

– Robin Houghton’s blog is a great place for newcomers to learn about the U.K. poetry scene. It’s packed with tips and anecdotes that remind us we’re not alone in the struggle for publication.

– The Stone and the Star is Clarissa Aykroyd’s poetry blog. She shares her discoveries with her readers and I regularly learn from her posts, with the inevitable consequence of buying yet more books.

– Katy Evans Bush’s Baroque in Hackney was always fabulously written. However, this year she’s moved on toFar Cry from Hackney, a chronicle of her courage and wit in the context of personal upheaval.

– Anthony Wilson’s posts are shot through with honesty and clarity of thought. He’s long been one of my favourite poetry bloggers.

– Roy Marshall’s blog has seen him progress from being a novice with a debut pamphlet to an established poet who’s published two top-notch full collections. His posts reflect that progression and provide any beginner with a terrific role model.

– Emma Lee’s blog is a point of reference. She reviews, cajoles and challenges her readers on a regular basis. Again, highly recommended and a very useful resource for anyone who’s starting out in the U.K. poetry world.

– Sheenagh Pugh is one of the best-known poets in the U.K.. She might have published numerous collections, but her enthusiasm for poetry blogging is undiminished and contagious.

– George Szirtes uses his blog as a creative notebook, just as he often does with Facebook. It’s a revealing window into an inquisitive mind.

– Clare Best’s The Missing List is an outstanding memoir. Her blog reflects how her life feeds into her poetry and vice-versa.

– Peter Raynard’s Proletarian Poetry carries on ploughing its forthright furrow.

– Matt Merritt’s Polyolbion has been rejuvenated this year with a personal mixture of cricket, music, birdwatching and a wise perspective on poetry.

– Caroline Gill’s blog brings us personal anecdote and snippets of her poetic life.

– Jayne Stanton’s blog, meanwhile, continues to tell her story. I do hope a full collection might be in the offing at some point…

And that’s the end of the 2018 list, together with renewed apologies to anyone I’ve missed out. As previously mentioned, I do know that horrible feeling of reading through a list, coming to the end and realising you’re not there.

I now just hope this post will hope you make some excellent discoveries. Poetry blogs are going from strength to strength, with a huge range of critical, original and anecdotal material out there. A word of warning, however: they’re highly addictive!


Posted in Rebecca Gethin | 2 Comments

Angela Topping & The Five Petals of Elderflower

It’s a great honour that Angela Topping with her remarkable book The Five Petals of Elderflower is the new Featured Writer.  Published by Red Squirrel Press in 2016, this book is graced with a beautiful cover the colour of sky or an egg-shell, with a tiny understated image of five elderflowers with their five petals.  It immediately makes you think the architecture of this book is important.

The book opens on an elderflower with an intriguing epigraph by John Clare.  The first line Enter through the centre of five petals  brings the reader at once right into the heart of nature:

Leaves far below to catch you if you fall.

But you will not fall: the petioles enmesh.

 Like a spell, this poem, in its five sections, lulls you, holds you, enthrals you and promises you more:

By its green taste, its umbrella canopy,

by the cushion of blooms each with five petals.

By these things I swear to remember you.  

 The you addressed in this book haunts the book like the scent of elderflowers.   But it isn’t  a haunting at all …  it’s more of a resurrection.

The poems proceed from here, lulling you for one minute then alerting you in a small instant to darker undertones and we seem to move, albeit back and forth, from light to dark, from day to night, from summer to winter.  But never letting you feel anything but safe.  She alludes to other poets such as Edward Thomas, John Clare, Robert Frost who lives were deeply troubled by the times they lived in and sought solace in nature.

 Angela Topping is a word conjuror: things are always more than they seem on the surface: for example in Noost she describes a Shetland landscape in a tin:

This is the life you were born for.

Not that narrow place, where you are

pinned like a bug in a specimen drawer.  

 But she is never flashy with her imagery or wordplay, never anything other than totally frank and quietly truthful about mortality, ageing and loss.

This for instance is one of my favourite poems and I will have to give you the whole thing as its unusual in form and the line endings are telling:

Company on the Road

 I was lost

after a diversion

 and in the dark

driving home

from a poetry reading;

you came

as though

death were

 no bar

 to keep

me company

 not by speech –

beyond you now –

but by your scent,

 that musk

of clean sweat

I’d known you by


and a sudden warmth

ran through me

like a flame.   


Having started with the magic of elderflowers you later come across the line – nothing is definite except the dark- (from a poem called Spoken Cartography);  or this – one day there will be no promises to keep  (from Studying the Travel Question); or this –  mist covers fell tops/ settling in for the night like a shroud, (from  Coniston Water from Brantwood) we are deeply unsettled, while at the same time  we feel the poet’s joy in nature,  in human warmth and closeness which comes through in every poem.  In On Ghosts it is as if our lost loved ones are with us all the time creating some of the beauty we see and up to their tricks stealing teaspoons or dropping the petals of the last rose on the lawn.

And then in the next and penultimate poem, The Glass Swan, she reminds us –

Look at this fire in the hearth, feel it.

 Bank it up against the night. It is all we have, these

Corporeal things: these candlesticks, this glass swan.  

 The last verse of the book in the poem called Against the Dark (which you can read again in full here)

Let me think these lights shine on

 – as stars are there by day and night –

after they are snuffed and gone.

 Angela is a poetic force and has had no less than eight poetry collections published



She even has a Wikipedia page here.

I hope you aren’t too late to get a copy of this book if you haven’t already. And if you have, lucky you:

By its green taste, its umbrella canopy,

by the cushion of blooms each with five petals.

By these things, I swear to remember you.

Posted in Angela Topping, Rebecca Gethin | 4 Comments