Getting Lost: A Poetry Essay for The Lonely Crowd

‘To enter a wood is to pass into a different world in which we are transformed. It is no accident that in Shakespeare’s comedies, people go into the greenwood to grow, learn and change. It is where you travel to find yourself, paradoxically, by getting lost.’

Roger Deakin, Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees (Hugo Hamilton, 2007)


At poetry workshops, when a writer has finished reading their work and the rest of the group are still re-reading and processing, four words are often blurted into this space:

‘And that really happened.’

Perhaps it has to do with the discomfort of a silence, the unease of waiting for a response and a need, conscious or unconscious, to reinforce the credibility of the work. To me, factual basis is irrelevant in a poem. The rendering of events as they occurred may be good journalism or memoir, but a poem requires something more. To become a poem, the facts must pass through a crucible, they must be transformed.


This month, I have four new poems published in The Lonely Crowd, a wonderful literary journal based in Wales. To mark the occasion, editor John Lavin invited me to write a short essay about these poems – you can read the full essay at The Lonely Crowd website, along with lots of other writers discussing their work, and also listen to me reading the poem, ‘Root’.

The journal is beautifully produced, a surprisingly hefty tome packed with great poetry, fiction and interviews including new work by Irish writers Caitriona Lally, John McAuliffe, Kevin Cahill, Meadhbh Ni Eadhra, Arnold Fanning, Kevin Graham, Kathleen MacMahon, K.S. Moore, Grahame Williams and Paul Whyte, plus gorgeous cover photography by Jo Mazelis. Lavin is zealously active in his sharing of the work on social media and I’m hugely grateful for all his hard work in selecting and promoting exciting new writing from the UK and Ireland.

From a writer’s perspective, The Lonely Crowd is such a generous and rewarding place to be published – I’d highly recommend getting a hold of a copy and considering them for your work when they open for submissions again in 2019.

You can buy this and other individual issues of The Lonely Crowd or a yearly subscription at their online shop.

And if you’re looking for places to send your work right now, check out the current list of poetry competitions, submissions and opportunities open or with deadlines in November.

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Featured Images © Jo Mazelis, 2018.


Abridged 0-37: Torquemada – ‘Aokigahara’

With all the other shenanigans going on at the moment, I’m still trying to catch up on recent news, here on the blog, including the publication of my poem, ‘Aokigahara‘, in the Northern Ireland poetry & art journal, Abridged’s Torquemada issue.

The themed issue is the first of a trilogy, loosely based on Dante’s Divine Comedy, focusing on:

…the confessional and faith; the lies we tell and the secrets we keep, the hypocrisy of love and hate and the pointedness and pointlessness of the penance we ascribe ourselves and others, the faith that keeps us going and makes others suffer.

The art chosen for the Torquemada issue is dark and evocative, as are the poems – I particularly love Aoife Mannix‘s ‘Disappeared‘ and Benjamin Miller‘s Torgelow Iron Foundry series (2013), obscure figures who could be henchmen, working furnaces in the fiery depths of Hell.


Aokigahara is a forest in Japan, near Mount Fuji, the second most common suicide spot in the world, after the Golden Gate Bridge, and unusually dense, with a maze of exposed tree roots that make it dangerous to navigate. I first discovered Aokigahara through a series of ink drawings by a Japanese artist and, intrigued by the name, decided to dig a little deeper. In Japanese legend, during times of famine, the sick and elderly were brought to the forest and left to die; their spirits are now said to haunt the woods.

Abridged is a really beautiful, high-quality journal, placing poetry, art and photography side by side – I’m delighted to be a contributor to this issue alongside poets like Gerard Dawe, Nuala Ni Chonchuir, Afric McGlinchey, Kate Dempsey, Dylan Brennan and more. The printed journal is limited edition, distributed for free at various art venues in Northern Ireland, and if you’re in a position to pick one up, I highly recommend it. For everyone else, Abridged 0-37: Torquemada is available to view online.