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Postcard poems

Poetry on Loan – Postcards.

Here you’ll find my poem on the subject of Onwards, Upwards, Freedom which was chosen to be put on a postcard during the last round of Poetry on Loan.

It was amazing to see the illustration that appeared showing a pile of books leaning towards a window – and to see postcards and posters appearing in libraries all over the West Midlands. Not only that but I got to read with the other poets in libraries across the area.

Now I’ve been lucky enough to have been chosen again for the 2019 postcards. The eight poems this time are on the subject of Anniversary and will be appearing in time for National Poetry Day on 3rd October.

I can’t wait to see how they’ve illustrated my poem this time and to get some postcards to send to unsuspecting friends and family – not to mention reading again in libraries with the other Poetry Postcard poets.

Not King Lear

When lockdown first started there was a lot of talk of projects which came about due to enforced quarantine. King Lear was mentioned, and Paradise Lost, which Milton wrote in his cottage in Chalfont St Giles. Those rich or famous enough to ‘escape to the country’ did so. Others wrote, less ideally perfectly, in jail. Concentrated and uninterrupted work. It sounds like the perfect recipe for genius to emerge. But there’s more than an edge of anxiety to these times, too. What’s going on in the wider world can’t easily be squeezed out of what is written. Often what emerges in that time is allegorical or straight dystopia.
Who knows what new work will come out of the current crisis? There will be new plague novels (there already are) and there are already good websites and magazines publishing poetry as experience of where we find ourselves now.
Maybe it will take time for it all to shake down before commentators really start to make sense of it all. Will our coronavirus literature be in response to it, in protest at it or something else? Only time will tell.  Watch this space.

Coming Up

Some writing events I’m involved in over the next few months:

Sunday 2nd Feb. 2020, 10.30am – Square Routes. As part of Wolverhampton Literature Festival I’m leading a walk to look at some of the city’s squares and public spaces. What is there to see that we might have overlooked? How might we start to write about them? Tickets from Still Walking and Overhear. £5.

Poems including mine have been geo-cached to various venues in Wolverhampton. Go to Overhear to download the app and pick up the newly commissioned poems for venues such as The Lighthouse, Asylum Studios, The Posada.

Tuesday 11th February, 7.30pm – reading at City Voices, The Lighthouse, Wolverhampton. £3 entry on the door.

Wednesday 26th February, 3.00pm – with Horatio’s Garden reading group as part of Poetry-on-Loan at Robert Jones, Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital, Oswestry.

Thursday 27th February, 5.30pm – with Southwater Library, Telford reading group as part of Poetry-on-Loan.

Saturday 7th March, 11am-4.00pm – workshop at Pant Village Hall with Simon Fletcher of Offa’s Press. We’ll be looking at poems, walking and writing about Climate Change. £20/ £15

Saturday 25th April, 11am – reading at Stoke Central Library with poets Brenda Read-Brown, Emma Purshouse and Sarah James. An event with Poetry-on-Loan poetry postcards.



Poetry Postcards

It’s the twentieth anniversary of Poetry on Loan and to celebrate PoL commissioned poets from across the West Midlands to write on the subject of Anniversary. Poems had to fit on a postcard – so not too long in the lines!

Poems were chosen by librarians and now there’s a whole set of colourful postcards available free in public libraries across the West Midlands with photography and design by Gregory Fisk.

Why not pick some up? Surprise someone you haven’t been in touch with for a while – send them a postcard.

Look out for readings by poetry postcard poets across the region too as well as appearances at library reading groups.

Poetry Bus Magazine

Delighted to have two poems in Poetry Bus Magazine, Issue Eight. This magazine from Ireland really looks great. I loved the clear type face. The cover is The Crown by Carl-Martin Sandvold, which was runner up in the 2019 BP Portraits Award.

River Passage app

River Passage, the poem set on the river Severn is now available as a downloadable app. from the i-tunes store.

‘If there is such a thing as a perfect poem, this must surely be it’ – Neal Leadbeater in writeoutloud

The app features a reading of River Passage by the poet, backed by original piano music by Dan Phelps.

For excerpt of the poem/ music click here 

For excerpt of the piano music click here


River Passage app costs 99p in the UK and 99c in the US. It is designed for iPhone and iPod touch. River Passage 1.0 requires iOS 9.0 or later. Produced by William Gallagher for Dark Ride.

River Passage won second prize in the Stand International poetry competition in 2000 and is also available as a pamphlet with illustrations by Jayne Gaze. It is also included in Wolverhampton Madonna (Offa’s Press, 2016) and as a CD (Offa’s Press)
Links to more information about the contributors can be found at:

Link to Dan Phelps

Link to William Gallagher






Poetry pamphlet

This review of Wolverhampton Madonna  is by Neil Leadbeater on :

Jeff Phelps has been writing and publishing poetry for more than 30 years. He is co-editor of The Poetry of Shropshire (Offa’s Press, 2013) and has had two novels published by Tindal Street Press. He lives in Bridgnorth.

The title of the collection, Wolverhampton Madonna, refers to the painting Madonna and Child by the Austrian artist Marianne Stokes which is currently in Wolverhampton Art Gallery. The painting is reproduced on the front cover of the pamphlet.  In his poem ‘Madonna and Child’, Phelps brings her down to ground level. The poem is provocative because of the way in which he chooses to position her in the context of the 21st century.

At the centre of this collection is the long poem ‘River Passage’. The narrative moves seamlessly from one character to another, rather in the manner of one relay runner passing the baton to another, starting and ending with a schoolteacher but travelling outside the classroom to the schoolyard and then on to the river. Phelps uses mathematical imagery to hold the taut narrative together. Despite its length, it is fast-paced and always holds the reader’s attention. If there is such a thing as a perfect poem, this must surely be it.

His poems are full of wisdom  and they address for the most part the big issues in life. This is a poet who treats his readers on equal terms so that we can readily identify with what he is saying and feel engaged with his words. Beneath the surface his poems run deep. There is a wry sense of humour at work in poems such as ‘Cooking in a Bedsitter’ (a nod to Katherine Whitehorn’s classic Penguin book of the same title) and ‘Note of caution for a son going off to university’. These are counterbalanced by the serious tone of ‘Blackberries’ where Phelps quietly makes the connection between his subject matter in the opening and closing lines, just as he does in ‘Oxygen’ where he compares and contrasts two very different situations to dramatic effect.  The clever wit displayed in ‘Angry Haiku’ rounds off the collection with panache.

Stone steps I can’t help taking

These are the wonderful stone steps leading from the chapter house at Wells Cathedral in Somerset. The chapter house is at the top of the flight, flooded with its own light. Look at the way the steps from the right flow and merge into the ones coming straight down. They are almost fluid – a real visionary feat of construction.



When we write about places – just looking

These beautifully ploughed fields on the way to Wolverhampton have always caught my eye, but I’d normally been driving past and hadn’t been able to look at them properly. So an assignment to write a poem in the voice of a ‘place’ was a perfect excuse to take a closer look. (more…)

Sometimes it’s good to be a learner writer

We did a writing workshop on Saturday 24th September at Morville village hall in deepest Shropshire. Ruth Cameron led us through the story of Ceridwen, the powerful sorceress of Welsh legend, and we took turns to imagine ourselves inside the heads of the different characters:

Why did I mix up that brew, what did I think of the other characters, how did I get on with my husband, was I jealous or angry? Exactly how did it feel to be transformed into an otter?
It turned into a deep exploration of motives and story, but there was comedy and high drama, too, with a wonderful transformation and chase scene.
Of course, being writers, we: a) had coffee, tea and biscuits and b) wrote about it, then c) talked about what we’d written.

And of course everybody made something different of it. Thank you, Ruth, for taking us on this journey. It feels like a rich seam of inspiration with lots of potential. It would be fascinating to have the motives of fictional characters and situations analysed, for instance. I hope Ruth manages to run more of this type of workshop. There’s so much potential.
It felt good to be stretched and to try new things among supportive friends. It’s great to be a learner sometimes.