Tag Archives: Coventry

INKSPILL Guest Poet Interview with Antony Owen



I talk with Antony about his latest collection The Nagasaki Elder, his work as an Ambassador for CND Peace Education in the U.K, The Coventry Hiroshima Society and his hopes for this incredible book.

1. How did the idea for writing The Nagasaki Elder come about?

It was less of an idea and more of a promise to a Hibakusha that I would do all I could to raise awareness through poetry about the ghoulish consequences of nuclear weapons.
The seed was planted in 1984 when I watched Threads by a hugely overlooked writer called Barry Hines.

Threads was a BBC docu-drama that caused much controversy about its graphic portrayal of a one-megaton bomb being dropped over Sheffield. This was a working-class city like the one I was from and the people who became victims were my kin, toolmakers, mechanics. Cleaners, wives, mothers and fathers all decimated from the multiple faceted horrors of a nuclear weapon. The bomb depicted in Threads was around 70 times more powerful than the one that detonated over Hiroshima.

By today’s standard of nuclear weapons the one megaton bomb shown in Threads can be made 50-100 times more powerful. It is truly frightening and we cannot bury our heads in the sand. The idea for writing it is to show people what these weapons do and we will not get a 2nd chance to prevent them from ruining the human race and innocent blameless species that have been around long before us.


2. How long has this collection taken to write?

About 2 years. I work full time (not relying on poetry for an income) so all my free time was spent pretty much in researching, writing, re-writing etc. An old friend told me once that poetry is endless revision trailing through miles and miles of slush to find the purest, whitest snow.

One of the poems called The Fisherman’s Daughter in The Nagasaki Elder is about writing war poetry and the danger of doing so, if you go too far into the darkness you forget what light feels like. This happened to me and I think it is inevitable when writing about something so devastatingly sad.


3. Can you tell us about being an ambassador for CND Peace Education in the UK?

It is a role I take very seriously. The payment is not fiscal but active participation. CND Peace Education exist on minimum funding but maximum collaborative passions. All the people who work there make me very proud and make a pivotal difference to peace education and allowing tomorrows generation to make a difference today.

School students deserve to express themselves, there is no right or wrong answer in peace education, just the route we choose from being informed in a balanced way.

We plan to spend over 150 Billion pounds on weapons of mass destruction yet invest a pittance into peace education resources and peaceful weapons of mass instruction. It is wrong, places like CND Peace Education and the PEN Network deserve more sustainable funding so they can plan for legacies instead of day to day survival. It makes me very frustrated so I am pleased to help CND and will do so to the last.

carousel-cnd© Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

More information on CND Peace Education can be found here.



4. How did the Coventry Hiroshima Society help support your peace work. Can you tell us about The Coventry Hiroshima Society?

They nurtured my social conscience with encouragement to pursue a path of peace and express it through poetry. It has helped further tighten the peace links between Coventry and Hiroshima.

The founder, Hideko Okamoto, has done more for peace than anyone else I know. The Coventry Hiroshima Society was a labour of love for Hideko after her time at Warwick University she was impressed with Coventry’s international links and advocation of peace and reconciliation. It moved her, particularly how Coventry which was badly bombed in WW2 remembers the anniversary of the atomic bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The Coventry Hiroshima Society is a beacon of reciprocal remembrance that burns bright through all this human darkness in the world at the moment.

Coventry Cathedral-Statue of Reconciliation

Coventry Cathedral-Statue of Reconciliation  © gcgi.info


5. What are your hopes for the collection?

That it touches people, inspires them to research more about nuclear weapons and do something rather than nothing. I want the collection to break down walls and build bridges because we need them more than ever.



INKSPILL BOOKSHOP Check out the INKSPILL Bookshop for more information and links to Antony’s Poetry Collections including The Nagasaki Elder.

November – Cork Poets, Fireworks, Book Launch, Performances, Workshop, Work, Getting Published, Writing & Wild Fire!


November – Cork Poets, Fireworks, Book Launch, Performances, Workshop, Work, Getting Published, Writing & Wild Fire!

to do

Just taking a deep breath to read the title of this post makes me realise how busy this first week of November has been, especially as I used my only writing day (Monday) to catch up on household chores and laundry. The laundry was a bit of a mistake, 3 loads, it started raining, we have just enough airers for this amount, discover our central heating does NOT work. Fortunately Mr G called up our insurance company and they sent an engineer out – we have a new thermostat and more importantly, a warm house! We were beginning to ice up on the inside! Unfortunately the engineer wasn’t here until Friday so the clothes are only just dry. inkspill laundry We do have a tumble dryer mode on the washer but it seems to make everything several sizes smaller, so we avoid it for clothes.

Hard to believe it was sunny back at the beginning of the week, after the monsoon of recent days. I accepted way too much work this week but it was all at places I have worked before so at least there were no extra miles getting lost or classes I wasn’t prepared for! It did result in two 5pm crash outs Wednesday and Friday though.

Writing Work

I have an ever-growing list of current writing projects, 3 of which now come from workshops I have attended over the past fortnight. None of which I have managed any time on this week. All of which I want to get my teeth stuck into this weekend, well Sunday now. I have used today up in a flurry of road systems, motorway junctions and a gallery workshop.

In writing the reviews of these events this week I have decided to go back to the old format of posting separate events.

Here are some links so you won’t get lost (unlike me)!

Tuesday 4th November


Nightblue Fruit – Antony Owen, with Guest Poets from Cork; Adam Wyeth, Cal Doyle & Kathy D’Arcy.

saleha Adam saleha cal saleha kathy

Photos by Saleha Begum.                                                                                                    Saleha Begum © 2014


Wednesday 5th November was Guy Fawkes Night and despite it being a work night Mr G planned our first ever Bonfire Party. Last year we had a fire in the firepit, some sparklers and watched everyone else’s fireworks in the sky.

This year we invited neighbours, friends and Mr G’s God children, who loved it. Was great to see them work through fear of sparklers and fire and before the end of the evening they were (under supervision) throwing more wood on the fire and writing in the air with Sparklers. We took photos but have not uploaded any yet. Many of our neighbours celebrated on the 5th so there were lots of other fireworks to watch as well as our own.

The fireworks still whiz, pop and bang as I write this, families waiting for the weekend to have a party. Mr G and I have always gone to public displays – nothing beats your own garden though, the fairy lights looked great on the summer house and a great night was had by all. At least 4 hours of fun in layers in the cold, before the rain came. fs fireworks Big thanks to Mr G for buying the fireworks and for Leyton for lighting them!

I was exhausted after work and had gone to the supermarket too (I planned to cook burgers and had bought refreshments for the kids). I fell asleep watching teatime TV and could have happily gone straight to bed. By the time I woke up Mr G had the fire going and the garden was all ready for our guests. It was a great night, even if I was too tired to cook and the kids had all the Sparklers!




Thursday 6th November – Fergus McGonigal launched his first poetry collection.  Fergus Tatty Truth


fergus book launch © 2014 Gary Carr Gary Carr © 2014

I was invited to read at his launch, I forgive him for making me go first!



If you would like to buy the book directly rather than through Amazon, here is a link:



By Friday I was so tired it was a struggle to survive work, but I did and then slept for a few hours when I got in. Mr G and I had planned a quiet night in and that’s exactly what we did.imagesCAUYQ41E

I had hoped to manage some writing but I was too tired to think, let alone type. I had the night off completely. Except for checking emails on my phone – and thank goodness I did, as I received one from an editor telling me they were publishing a poem of mine in an upcoming print anthology.


Saturday Last week I discovered a call out for people to take places on a workshop run by Emma Purshouse at Bilston Art Gallery, they currently have an exhibit called ‘Craft & Conflict’.

I got extremely lost and it took twice as long (and then some) than it should have and even though I ended up on the motorway 6 junctions further away than I should have been on my way home, it still only took 35 minutes to make the 15 miles back, although probably more miles owing to the junctions, really need to get my Sat Nav mended.

Anyway it was totally worth the extra petrol and road stress. This was the 2nd session of the day and the Arts Services had advertised it as intergenerational, which it was this afternoon. Children have great imaginations and I was impressed by the writing of younger members of this workshop. The Gallery collection was more than I expected, more pieces. There was so much that grabbed me that I plan to continue producing work from this workshop.

Craft-and-Conflict-web-210x200 wolverhampton art orguk

Saturday 8th November a Workshop with Emma Purshouse, Bilston Art Gallery, Craft & Conflict


SUNDAY 9th November

With such a busy week of work and events by Sunday my tiredness caught up with me and once again I didn’t make it online to complete my planned schedule, nor did I find time to write my Wild Fire poems from David Calcutt’s wonderful Community garden Workshop. My list of writing projects is growing faster than the first scarf I knitted, when I forgot how to cast off! caldmore david-portrait-1

Needless to say I didn’t make it to the Community Garden Bonfire to read my non-existent fire poetry,  I barely made it to getting dressed!

caldmore bonfire

Caldmore Community Garden Bonfire with Poetry readings with David Calcutt.

With work booked the next day, I had an early night. Sure this was a great night I missed and I look forward to hearing all about it.

Book Launch: The Year I Loved England By Antony Owens & Joseph Horgan

© 2014 meco

© 2014 meco

I had a great night in Coventry last night (Thursday 17th) at the book launch of ‘The Year I Loved England’. I had been looking forward to it for some time and have seen Antony a few times reading poems from the collection, I almost pre-ordered my copy.

The venue was perfect, the night was balmy (hot), the crowd were attentive and all the poets were fabulous. I have been to a fair few book launches and this one was really an uplifting experience, or maybe that has to do with where I am at the moment, my recent post about dips and writing and all, this evening was perfect for lifting me out of that mire.

I had never been to Coventry so my adventure started before hitting the motorway. The Inspire Café was a great venue – with plenty of outside seating and a few pews inside – as well as huge Church windows. inspire

Joseph and Antony started collaborating after a twinning scheme with poets in Cork, Ireland. This book has been a 2 year project, Antony wanted us to all know it hadn’t just happened overnight. It is published by Pighog Press and is an amazing collection of thought provoking and sometimes raw, poetry. The thing that I was touched by was this, unlike many other poets who collaborate Joseph and Antony have decided not to name the poems, as you read you can only speculate if you are reading Owen or Horgan.

Another lovely touch of the evening was watching Antony’s pleasure in supporting other poets, the evening was a true celebration of talent.

© 2014 Antony Owens

© 2014 Antony Owens


© 2014 Joseph Horgan

There were many people involved in this lovely launch and I took great pleasure watching the faces of Antony’s family members enjoying the night as well as the publisher and fellow poets and some people who hadn’t had anything to do with poetry since Junior School – as Antony said ‘Poetry for the people’.

The night started with the stage being warmed up by the talent of Adam Steiner of Silhouette Press, Mal Dewhirst who was a Stafford Poet Laureate and Janet Smith, who I had seen perform before. Each poet delivered a feast of words and I particularly enjoyed the music world Mal took us too.

Then the main event – the book launch – but not just Antony & Joseph – No – the book is about England and there are a rich mix of accents and cultures in our country – this was demonstrated by other poets performing some of the works from the collection. Personally I think there is something very special in giving your words to someone else – hearing them from another mouth and I hope Antony and Joseph enjoyed it as much as we did.

Barry Patterson, a poet from the North East, played the tin flute (an antique one, no less) and read PADDIES and THE SUBJECTS, Leanne Bridgewater read VANISH and CANDY CANE, Saleha Begum read I THINK OF ALL THE MOONS I HAVE SEEN which was a tribute to Malala Yousafzai who was shot by the Taliban for continuing her educational rights in Pakistan.

You cannot fail to be moved by this collection and if you grew up anywhere in the UK I urge you to treat yourself to a copy! Spend the whole summer reading it!


The Year I Loved England – in the words of others;



The product of a highly successful collaboration, this anthology voices the experience of living in the rapidly changing urban landscape of 21st Century Britain. The poems explore changing attitudes and identities attributed to immigration, conflict, loss, unemployment.

The pages of the book loosely represent the house numbers of a street where people of different ages and different backgrounds co-exist with each other. The poems range across a timespan from an industrial Britain in the shadow of the Second World War through to the modern day.

Approximately half of all the poems have already featured in highly respected literary magazines including The Echo Room, The Stinging Fly, Abridged, The Meadowland Review, Ink Sweat & Tears, Brick, Ancient Heart, Turbulence Kumquat, Poetry Nottingham International, Weary Blues, The Stony Thursday Book, The Lake, L’Allure des Mots plus many more.


‘Strong and moving and real. The Year I Loved England has a Jack Kerouac feel of beat beauty.’


“The objectives I wrote down whilst reading ‘The Year I Loved England’: evocative, poignant, surprising, funny, questioning and relevant. The wonderful economy of words remind me of poetry as condensed literature. Great stuff.”

HORACE PANTER (aged ska legend,)

“This poetry expresses poignantly the emotions that I at times find difficult to articulate. The words pierced my soul and brought back the images, emotions and feelings of those days in August 2011 when Britain burnt.”


The Year I Loved England exemplifies the recently rediscovered tendency toward collaboration in contemporary poetic practice. For its authors’ sensibilities fuse and mesh in felicitous synergy, interweaving like helixes in which we find coded not only a most articulate rage but also a dark playfulness, white-hot anger tempered by a delicate lyric touch. In these thrilling poems –unflinchingly bleak but unfailingly alive- a city is manufactured from flames, freedom is figured in a job application and beauty resides in a two-tone urban morning. Horgan and Owen indict England for unforgivable failures both foreign and domestic while hinting at a country that might yet be. This is work marked by fury and frustration but also by a stubborn and beleaguered love.


This powerful collection offers a vision of the middle of England. This is in direct contrast to the Middle England the mainstream political parties and media have made so much noise about for a generation. “My city lost its voice today,” goes a line in Coventry Street. Joseph Horgan and Antony Owen’s poems seek to regain that voice in some sense: a voice that is layered, elegiac, plural, and clear-sighted about the pain that much of this country is forced to endure while others look on.
There is much pain in these poems, and a desire to escape from that pain, “people in the sky are falling up” says the opening poem Address, which turns a midlands street into a Chagall dreamscape. “Tonight I’ll walk you home to the sky…wish upon stars of a 747” says The Dreamer of Samuel Vale House.

For all the dreams of weightlessness, though, “anchors to childhood are heavy/sometimes they drown us” explains the The Little Things Destroy Us. And so they do. And the big things too – economic catastrophe, family history, race, migration, war, the accidents of geography – as these poems show us. The childhood anchors in question come from the 1980s, the decade in which much of the West Midlands, and the rest of the country’s industrial areas, were turned to ruin. Thatcher appears once, she glides “by in a Daimler”, a car made, of course, in the Coventry she attempts to destroy. But the roots are deep, Churchill is here also, an architect of a “city made by flames”; “what will you weave for Dresden from Coventry’s stone elbows?” asks the poem Fat Man. These are voices of England aligned with the powerless on all fronts.

In the beautiful title poem, “…a man left the house/and returned unmade from the smokeless factory.”From Samuel Vale House today we watch, “bored kids re-open the factory/admire their work where there is none.” This loss is the anchor which drowns people in these poems, the landscape too, “hills had their backs broken” explains Ghost Town, a poem that echoes The Specials’ lament, and, with its haiku stanzas, references the Coventry Nissan plant, and a new economic world order. And yet the drowned voices are here. We hear them throughout this collection, which is one of the reasons it is important, The Dreamer of Samuel Vale House or the narrator who tells us “at the back of my house there are wild dogs” in Compline. This voice also tells us “I’ll wait for partisans”, and it is in this sense of defiance and endurance that some hint of redemption comes. “I still have hope between my teeth,” we are told in Place.
The Year I Loved England is rooted in place. The damaged terrain and the battered emotions become one, “a map of everything there’s ever been” says The Curve of Chaos. This moving collection also offers some answers to its own complex, layered question, “Where is here anyway?”, with answers that are both sensitive and vivid, in the voices of an England that it seems too many people have decided is too hard to love.


I am now a proud owner of a signed copy, complete with Limited edition postcards featuring urban photography by Rangzeb Hussain. Who has spent some time photographing Birmingham.

The year I loved England by Joseph Horgan & Antony Owen (Pighog Press Publishing)the-year-i-loved-england

the year I loved © 2014 Rangzeb Hussain

You too can buy a copy of The Year I Loved England by following this link to the press Pighog