About how I came to write poems
September 1989, Liverpool. I was 22 and had just begun an accountancy course that would guarantee a secure career in NHS finance for the next 40 years. It all felt wrong. I should have been in a lecture but was walking up Ranelagh Street towards the Adelphi Hotel when it suddenly occured to me. I'm a poet. It struck me with such a blow of truth and clarity that I walked straight down Lime Street to the Central Library, found a place at one of the big reading tables and wrote my first poem. I didn't really know what I was doing. I hadn't studied English at A Level or degree level and the only poem I remembered from O Level English was Philip Larkin's 'Toads'. A couple of years before though, trying to make up for what I'd missed at school, I'd bought The New Golden Treasury of English Verse and read everything in it (even the Dryden poems). I think it had given me something that I'd been looking for (and only partially found) in music since my early teens, a playful delight in words and a communion with others who noticed and celebrated the little things in life and made them part of the bigger thing, not letting them slip into that great wheelie bin of the past. Since writing that first poem in Liverpool over 30 years ago (it was called 'The Mast'), I've tried to learn from as many poets (dead and alive) as I can and have almost always had a poem on the go. I must have written well over 300 poems now (most of them unpublished) and I suppose I'll keep at it for as long as I keep noticing things and for as long as I get that little thrill from making something out of nothing and saving it from that wheelie bin.
In early 2021 (in the middle of the third Covid 19 lockdown), award-winning young filmmaker Emmanuel Li made a short film, Moments In Margins, about the creative relationship between me and our elder child Sofia - you can hear more of my thoughts on what poetry means to me in the film.