Thursday, 28 January 2021

Missing Pieces


I bought this jigsaw puzzle a few years ago from a charity shop. When I put it together I found that it had a piece missing, just by wren's throat. This reminded me of the many hours I'd spent with my parents as a child, completing jigsaw puzzles. Every time, my father always hid one piece, so that I always thought there was a final piece missing. After a few moments he'd reveal the piece he'd been keeping in his hand, so pleased with himself that I'd fallen for his trickery one more time. 

Yesterday I decided to put the puzzle together again. It has sat in its box on a shelf since the last time, so I was surprised to to find a second piece missing, this time from the outer circle. This is another level of incompleteness. The circle will never be whole. And yet I feel fine with the imperfections.

The wren was revered by the Celts, who admired its fastidiousness and were inspired by its song. The symbolic meanings of wren include freedom of spirit, joy and connection. Wren reminds us that it's the quality of the relationships that we forge that enriches our lives. What does a missing piece or two of a jigsaw matter when you have spent time with those you love completing the bigger picture?

I wrote this poem after the first time of doing the puzzle with my partner.

Wren Jigsaw

From the start I'd said there could be pieces missing.
We went ahead, unmoved by incompletion. Just let
her eye be whole, you said. 

And so the bird grew in her frame of green and grey.
What I remember most is your small hand holding
the pieces, our fingers brushing.

The wren held us in time, gathering  and garnering
to make her complete, as she in her own world would
do with song and nest.

You found her eye, put it in place. The missing piece
was at her throat, and yet she sang out unaware one
part of her was lost.

Monday, 26 October 2020

WINTERING - How we survive and thrive in challenging times

A four­-week online writing course

with Jill Teague



November 09 - December 06, 2020

Cost: £125

'In the middle of winter I at last discovered 

that there was in me an invincible summer' 

Albert Camus


Using Katherine May’s latest book “Wintering” as inspiration, and Winter as a metaphor, we will use poetry and visual images to explore ways and means of supporting our mind, body and spirit, through “wintering” - those challenging times that are a natural and inevitable part of being human. 

(NB the book is not required reading for the course)


     The course will comprise of:

 -  Weekly resources and writing prompts via email with the opportunity to  share your written responses with the group

  -  Weekly 90-minute group sessions via Zoom, where we will come together to write, discuss and share

  -  PDF Workbook at the end of the course


Work at your own pace, in a supportive and creative forum. 

Previous experience is not necessary, just an open heart and mind.



For further information and to book a place, please contact me at


Sunday, 15 December 2019

The Family of Things

“Untitled” by Kim Whan-ii

There is something deeply poignant about the call of wild geese as they fly overhead. I am brought back to the breath of a present moment by their haunting cries. With outstretched necks, muscular with the desire to be elsewhere, the sight and sound of these geese reaches a visceral place inside. I am moved by such strength and determination.

I also admire their solidarity. Their flight formations enable the intense effort involved in migration to be shared out for the benefit of the whole flock. And if a single goose comes down to land, whether from exhaustion or sickness, two other geese accompany it. They will wait there with it until it recovers or dies. 

In Mary Oliver’s poem “Wild Geese” she speaks of how, through the call of the wild geese, the world offers itself to our imaginations. It is often through a connection with nature, through its unwavering mirror, that I find my authentic self reflected. And at this current time -  a time that feels particularly divisive, it is vital for me to be clear about who and what I feel connected to.

Friday, 22 November 2019

Grey Areas

                                                     Grey Glove on Manhattan Sidewalk

Some time ago a friend gave me a copy of  Han Kang’s “The White Book”, described as “a lyrical and disquieting exploration of personal grief through the prism of the colour white”. I had  enjoyed reading the book and engaging with Kang's unique explorations of the colour white and so I suggested to my writing group that as our next project, we could each choose a colour and, over the course of six weeks, make our own explorations of our chosen colour.

The colour I chose was grey - a favourite colour of mine. I began by mapping the associations that came to mind from thinking about the colour. I then turned these ideas into a list poem which in turn became the focus of further exploration.

Rhondda Grey
River grey




Bedroom Paint
School Uniform


Grey Areas
Grey Matter
Grey Mare

Moon Rocks

Grey Sidewalk
Grey Glove
Grey feather

Sloughed Snakeskin

Vacuum Cleaner Hose

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

"Across the Evening Sky..."

                                                           "Waiting for the Light"

I spent solstice with friends - two leggeds and four leggeds. We took a picnic down onto the beach that looked across the estuary to Ynys. The sky was reflected in the water and the water reflected our personal ebbing and flowing. We celebrate the longest day, knowing that the light will be less as we turn again on our axis. And we are constantly turning there, each on the pivot of our own axis. There will be goings and comings as some prepare to leave and others return home.

Dusk fell as the swifts swooped and rose again and again above us. Their lively energy felt like a thread that was weaving us together as friends - right there, right then.

We walked through the lanes to the highest point on the hill and watched darkness fall across the last pink of the setting sun. The sea was still and the harbour lights lit up one by one, like tiny beacons of hope. I thought of the song "Who Knows Where the Time Goes?"

"Sad deserted shore, your fickle friends are leaving
Ah, but then you know it's time for them to go
But I will still be here, I have no thought of leaving
I do not count the time
For who knows where the time goes?
Who knows where the time goes?
And I am not alone while my love is near me
I know it will be so until it's time to go
So come the storms of winter and then the birds in spring again
I have no fear of time
For who knows how my love grows?
And who knows where the time goes?"

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Pascal's Coat


The image above is a painting by Rene Magritte called "Pascal's Coat". At the age of 31, the  famous mathematician and scientist, Blaise Pascal is reputed to have experienced an intense spiritual vision. He recorded this vision on parchment which he then sewed into the lining of his coat. He secreted this note in each of his subsequent coats until the parchment was found after his death by a servant who, noticing the unexplained bulk in the final coat, undid the lining. Pascal's "Night of Fire" was a time of personal transformation, and he obviously went to great effort to keep the memory of it in close proximity for the remainder of his life.

The poet Jorie Graham has written a long poem called "Le Manteau De Pascal". Both the poem and the image appeal to my love of poetry and art, and the genre of Ekphrastic writing. This line resonates in relation to that genre - "You do understanding, don't you, by looking?"

Over the next few weeks, I will be exploring the image and the poem in my own writing.

Here are some extracts from her poem:


"I have a coat I am wearing. It is a fine admixture.
The woman who threw the threads in the two directions
has made, skillfully, something dark-true,
as the evening calls the bird up into
the branches of the shaven hedgerows,
to twitter bodily
a makeshift coat - the box elder cut back stringently by the owner
that more might grow next year, and thicker, you know - "

"You do understanding, don't you, by looking?
The coat, which is itself a ramification, a city
floats vulnerably above another city, ours,
the city on the hill (only with hill gone),
floats in illustration
of what once was believed, and thus was visible -
(all things believed are visible)
floats a Jacob's ladder with hovering empty arms, an open throat,
a place where a heart might beat if it wishes,
pockets that hang awaiting the sandy whirr of a small secret,
folds where the legs could be, with their kneeling mechanism,
the floating fatigue of an after-dinner herald,
not guilty of any treason towards life except fatigue,
a skillfully cut coat, without chronology,
filled with the sensation of being suddenly completed —
as then it is, abruptly, the last stitch laid in, the knot bit off —
hung there in Gravity, as if its innermost desire,
numberless the awaitings flickering around it,
the other created things also floating but not of the same order, no,
not like this form, built so perfectly to mantle the body,
the neck like a vase awaiting its cut flower,
a skirting barely visible where the tucks indicate
the mild loss of bearing in the small of the back,
the grammar, so strict, of the two exact shoulders —
and the law of the shouldering —
and the chill allowed to skitter up through,
and those crucial spots where the fit cannot be perfect —
oh skirted loosening aswarm with lessenings,
with the mild pallors of unaccomplishment,
flaps night-air collects in,
folds... But the night does not annul its belief in,
the night preserves its love for, this one narrowing of infinity,
that floats up into the royal starpocked blue its ripped, distracted supervisor —
this coat awaiting recollection,
this coat awaiting the fleeting moment, the true moment, the hill,the vision of the hill,
and then the moment when the prize is lost, and the erotic tinglings of the dream of reason
are left to linger mildly in the weave of the fabric according to the rules,
the wool gabardine mix, with its grammatical weave,
never never destined to lose its elasticity,
its openness to abandonment,
its willingness to be disturbed."

"How many coats do you think it will take?

The coat was a great-coat.

The Emperor's coat was.

How many coats do you think it will take?

The undercoat is dry. What we now want is?

The sky can analyse the coat because of the rips in it.

The sky shivers through the coat because of the rips in it.

The rips in the sky ripen through the rips in the coat.

There is no quarrel.

I have put on my doubting, my wager, it is cold.
It is an outer garment, or, conversely a natural covering,
so coarse and woolen, also of unknown origin,
a barely apprehensible dilution of evening into
an outer garment, or, conversely a natural covering,
to twitter bodily a makeshift coat,
that more might grow next year, and thicker, you know,
not shade-giving, not chronological,
my name being called out now but from out back, behind,
an outer garment, so coarse and woolen,
also of unknown origin, not shade-giving, not chronological,
each harm with its planeloads folded up in the sleeves,
you do understand, don't you, by looking?
the jacob's ladder with its floating arms its open throat,
that more might grow next year, and thicker, you know,
filled with the sensation of being suddenly completed,
the other created things also floating but not of the same order,
not shade-giving, not chronological,
you do understand, don't you, by looking?
a neck like a vase awaiting its cut flower,
filled with the sensation of being suddenly completed,
the moment the prize is lost, the erotic tingling,
the wool-gabardine mix, its grammatical weave
— you do understand, don't you, by looking? —
never never destined to lose its elasticity,
it was this night I believe but possibly the next
I saw clearly the impossibility of staying
filled with the sensation of being suddenly completed,
also of unknown origin, not shade-giving, not chronological
since the normal growth of boughs is radiating
a system of spoke-wise clubs of green — sleeve pieces —
never never destined to lose its elasticity
my name being called out now but back, behind,
hissing how many coats do you think it will take
"or try with eyesight to divide" (there is no quarrel)
behind everything the sound of something dripping
a system of spoke-wise clubs of green — sleeve pieces
filled with the sensation of suddenly being completed
the wool gabardine mix, the grammatical weave,
the never-never-to-lose-its-elasticity: my name
flapping in the wind like the first note of my absence
hissing how many coats do you think it will take
are you a test case is it an emergency
flapping in the wind the first note of something
overheard nearby an impermanence of structure
watching the lip-reading, there is no quarrel,
I will vanish, others will come here, what is that,
never never to lose the sensation of suddenly being
completed in the wind — the first note of our quarrel —
it was this night I believe or possibly the next
filled with the sensation of being suddenly completed,
I will vanish, others will come here, what is that now
floating in the air before us with stars a test case
that I saw clearly the impossibility of staying."

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Writing in Nature at Coed Aberneint

I belong to a small writers' group who meet regularly. Today we went to Coed Aberneint and did a circular walk, stopping at three locations to write - observing and reflecting for ten minutes each time.

Stop One
There’s a skill to being able to silence the heart and mind in the midst of turmoil, in extremes, like Primo Levi. Some psyches seem more capable of surviving- not quite intact but not completely dismantled either. The persistence of a chainsaw and birdsong dissecting the air. I’d like to pare back, to let the light in on what I love. To take time to notice what matters, to heal with the felled trees and fallen birds.

Stop Two
Beneath an oak tree. Reminded of a conversation about non native trees being “wrong”. What is rootedness? Some things survive and thrive so well out of place. What takes root and what gets blown by the wind? Dispersal, upheaval, displacement. And the wind is up now making all of that possible if not preferable. It seems we survive in such small margins of error. Birds fly over. I think of the solitary curlew that accompanied me across alien moors - the peat paths and granite boulders. The curlew calling was a constant. It sounded like my heart keening.

Stop Three
Waterfall. Water falling. The force of water on the move. It finds its ways through fissures, around stones and drops into itself over the edge. The insistence of it beats into the blood. It carries the fallen along without discernment, sprays upwards on the wind. Where is its source, where is its release? Following streams off mountains in mist. Rowan trees seeded along their sides, their berries blood red. Listening now to what the river says. Feeling more found than lost.