2018 Year Review – a big thank you!

The Secret of the Tirthas books

2018 was a very full year for my books and writing. In July I published the final volume of The Secret of the Tirthas, The Unknown Realms. Following Lizzie’s journey from her initial move to the Herefordshire cottage with its strange garden of rooms all the way to her final showdown with the demons and their followers at the Fountainhead has been a real delight for me. I never knew just how much the story and characters would grow, and particularly how much I would come to love Lizzie, Pandu, Raj and Ashlyn. A huge thank you to all of you who have joined me on this journey, especially everyone who let me know what they think through reviews and emails. Your support means a lot to me!

Whilst the publication of the final novel might mean the end to readers in English, it’s just the start for readers in China and Taiwan, as the series is being translated by Mandarin publisher Fiberead. In September The City of Light came out on Amazon’s Chinese site and a range of other Mandarin retail sites, followed quickly by The Book of Life and The Dreamer Falls. The final two books are also being translated, so it’s a very exciting time for me.

The City of Light Mandarin CoverBook of Life Mandarin Dreamer Falls - Mandarin cover

And on top of all that, I have an Argentinian friend who is now translating The City of Light into Spanish. It’s great to see the series opening more portals in the real world!

In October I also brought out my first book of poetry, Up in the Air. I’ve been writing poems since my twenties, and had quite a few published in magazines such as Poetry Ireland, The New Welsh Review and Poetry Scotland. Up in the Air brought the best of these together, alongside a few unpublished poems. I was over the moon when the collection reached no.8 in Amazon’s Inspirational Poetry category!

I love this quiet period between Christmas and New Year. It’s the perfect time to do some thinking – and in my case, some plotting of the next novel, something with a very different twist.

I hope you have a fabulous New Year – and many thanks again for your reading and support!

Image: Paintings and Poetry in Up in the Air

Up in the Air poetry book

My new poetry book, Up in the Air, is divided into five sections – Air, Love, Water, Air (again) and Image.

The Image section consists of eight poems inspired by paintings, photographs, a display, a poster and a line drawing. In this post I’ll identify some of these pictures and talk about how they inspired my poems.

First off, the paintings.

The section begins with On Justice, inspired by the painting of Margareta van Eyck by her husband Jan van Eyck. The painting hangs in the Groeninge Museum in Bruges. When I saw it, I was mesmerised by the character in the woman’s face. I could see her intelligence and what I thought was a hint of sharpness, possibly even bitterness. My poem (check it out here if you don’t have the book) wanted to capture that, as well as meditate on the failure of even the greatest art to transcend mortality.

Image: Margareta van Eyck Portrait

The next poem, Self-Portrait, is based on one of Van Gogh’s paintings. There’s a lot going on here, as you can see, plenty of light, colour, chaos and energy. This painting is a gift to anyone’s imagination, so I just let mine run riot.

Exhibition, Merton is a long poem based on the paintings of the artist Jocelyn Merivale. I used to work with her husband, John, and so had the pleasure of studying her paintings in their home. Jocelyn’s main theme was water and especially the sea – but she also painted birds and portraits. Jocelyn died a few years ago and her website is currently down whilst her paintings are being professionally photographed, but below is a close up of Field of Birds. You can see more of her paintings here.

Image: Field of Birds, Jocelyn Merivale

The other poem based on a painting is Looking at it Now. Paolo Uccello’s Saint George and the Dragon in the National Gallery is a masterpiece. But, as with the poem that follows it, Beast (based on a gallery drawing), I wanted to re-imagine the relationship between man, woman, and ‘monster’, to reflect more modern sensibilities.

Image: St George and the Dragon

The Ogrw-Garw Display was an exhibition about one of the valleys in South Wales, created by a friend. The exhibition comprised beautiful photographs of the ancient oak woodland scattered across the mine-scarred landscape. But in the middle of the display was a single black-and-white photo of… a group of school children.

I wrote Ugandan Bestiary after a safari holiday with my wife in 2007. Back home, I studied the photos of the trip, mulling over the animals we’d had the good fortune to see.  In doing so, I came up with this series of short, vignette-style poems.

Image: Ugandan Bestiary

Finally, Christ in the Crowd was randomly inspired by this poster for Jesus Christ Superstar. As they say, inspiration comes from anywhere and everywhere.

Up in the Air makes the perfect Christmas present! Get a copy here:

Guest Interview with US Author Hoang Chi Truong

Hoang Chi Truong

I first connected with Hoang Chi Truong, the author of Tigerfish, on social media. We quickly built up a rapport. I read Tigerfish and thought it was a beautifully told, often harrowing, memoir of Chi’s escape with her family from the Vietnam war to America. You can read my full review here. Chi interviewed me in the summer on her website and now I’m very pleased to return the favour. In this interview Chi tells me about her life as a refugee and how she came to write and independently publish Tigerfish. She speaks about her mission to promote her timely message of compassion for refugees.

Hi Chi, first can you tell us about why you decided to write your memoir Tigerfish?

Hello Steve, thanks for giving me the opportunity to share my author journey as a Vietnamese refugee in America on your blog. I’ll retrace my steps to publishing Tigerfish for your readers and perhaps afterwards they might consider sharing their own stories of struggle so others won’t feel they’re alone.

I wrote Tigerfish for my children in 1992, with the sole purpose of preserving our family history. I never intended it for public consumption. However, the Syrian refugee crisis in 2011 changed my mind. I published Tigerfish in 2017 as I felt I had a moral obligation to speak up for the Syrians from the perspective of a former refugee.

TigerFish

I felt that, as I’d received my US legal status as a teenager to achieve my American Dream, I now had to use my voice to raise awareness of what it means to be a refugee. I wanted to appeal to readers to have compassion for the plight of refugees, like others did for my family. With this new mission, I dusted off my manuscript and decided to self-publish TigerFish.

Recently, I received a request for an electronic file of TigerFish on behalf of a student with a print-disability at Santiago Canyon Community College, California. My book is going to be converted to an accessible, unencrypted format for his History class! I reread this request several times to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. Two years ago I would never have imagined this as a remote possibility for a first-time, independent author like myself.

Can you tell us what it was like to be a refugee?

I was born in Vietnam to a high ranking military officer and lived a protected and privileged life, but all that disappeared when we fled from political persecution. As refugees, we were conflicted between our overwhelming gratitude to be in America and our struggle with our suppressed and delayed grief, anxieties, and survivor’s guilt. We didn’t have the luxury of grieving for the siblings, relatives, friends, country, and culture we left behind. Instead, we forged on stoically to learn the language, excel in school, and better ourselves economically. Our family suffered discrimination, racism, and assaults but we persisted, convincing ourselves it was the cost of freedom.

Thank you for sharing that Chi, it’s very insightful and moving. Can you tell us about how you became an Indie Author?

I had a steep learning curve going from Chief of Emergency Response Mapping to being an independently published author. I was now a team of one, assembling editors, cover designers, formatters, beta and advanced readers, proofreaders, and a launch team. I relied on online resources as I designed a website and created a social media platform to share my story with my modest following. In the end, my debt is to the online indie author community and my social media followers who made my publishing dream come true. I can’t pay it forward enough to all the generous friends and writers for their support.

After publication how did you let the world know about Tigerfish and its key messages?

I used a number of ways to connect with readers and promoters including:

Press Release:  Before I launched Tigerfish I crafted emails, ready to send them to local radio stations, TV stations, newspapers, schools, libraries and bookstores. I persisted with the Sacramento Bee until Stephen Magagnini featured my story Vietnam’ documentary opens old wounds, offers new lessons for Sacramento author when my book became timely and relevant to the U.S. Administration’s Travel Bans in 2017 and the Vietnam War Series by Ken Burns and Lynn Novak. My recommendation when contacting the press is to emphasize how relevant your book is and why it’s important to feature your story.

Social Media:  I made online friends through social media, learning by trial and error. These friends became my most ardent and enduring supporters and promoters. I didn’t consider myself an extrovert and had to put on a brave face on various platforms. I always stayed accurate and authentic with my audience.

Blogging:  Before I published Tigerfish, I blogged about Minimalism to share my journey from my  first day sitting down to work on my book to its launch date and thereafter. I chose Minimalism as a subject to create an online following because at the time I couldn’t focus on my author’s job working from home until I’d minimized my household tasks. I shared my tips with readers. This process gave me the inner calm to dedicate 12 hours a day to reach my goal of publishing by May 2017.

Community Engagement:  The initial emails and phone calls brought immediate support from libraries, schools, and indie bookstores. Word of mouth brought more speaking engagements with colleges, rotary clubs, churches, book clubs, and nursing homes. Over the past 20 months, I’ve presented to an audience of one just as respectfully and enthusiastically as to 122 people. I’ve welcomed requests to write to me with follow-up questions.

Hoang Chi Truong Map

Most of all, I’ve been grateful that readers have valued my message of empathy and compassion to refugees. I hope I’ve helped to humanize instead of demonize millions of helpless and vulnerable people fleeing violence, hunger, and persecution.

That’s very inspiring, Chi. What are you working on now?

I’m currently living in Northern California with my husband, and we’re empty nesters of two grown children. While I continue to speak at libraries and book clubs I’m working on my next book, a continuation of TigerFish with a hopeful publication date of Summer 2020.

Thank you so much for your time, Chi, and for sharing your amazing story. Lastly, where can readers find out more about you and your book?

You can find out more about Tigerfish here:

Paperback: https://www.chibeingchi.com/about-my-book-tigerfish/

Kindle: https://www.amazon.co.uk/TigerFish-Vietnamese-Colonels-Daughter-America-ebook/dp/B071YMS2GS/

Audiobook: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hoang-Chi-Truong/e/B071H73G6V/

And you can find out more about me here:

Website: www.ChiBeingChi.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ChiBeingChi

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/chismith/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/hoangchitruong.author/

Facebook: https://facebook.com/beingchi

And finally, here are my PBS (Public Broadcast Station) interviews:
Valley PBS
PBS KVIE

My Top Ten Books for Children and Young Adults in 2018

So, I’ve already told you my best reads for adults in 2018 here. Now it’s time for my Top Ten books for Children and Young Adults that I’ve read this year.

La Belle Sauvage: top ten books for children and young adults 2018

A quick note. I have two boys aged 7 and 9 and this collection includes several I’ve read to them at bedtime. When we finish I discuss the story with them and ask them to rate it out of 5. I then give my own rating and we average it for Goodreads.

La Belle Sauvage (The Book of Dust #1), Philip Pullman

How great was it for those of us who followed Lyra Belacqua through His Dark Materials to hear Philip Pullman had written another book about her? But the twist is… it’s a prequel and this time she’s a baby being cared for by nuns! Lyra lives in a Priory opposite an Oxfordshire riverside pub run by our hero Malcolm’s parents.

La Belle Sauvage is an interesting read. The first half – nearly 300 pages – follows the steady life of Malcolm. He learns handicraft, serves at the pub, and gradually comes within a circle of revolutionaries who dare to criticize the Authority. In the context of today’s high-octane novels it’s quite an innovation, a return to old-fashioned slow-build storytelling with a low level of peril. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it, and how quickly I read it. The second half – when Malcolm and a local girl have to save baby Lyra following a massive flood – is more action-packed and exciting. 4 stars

Tigerfish: top ten books for children and young adults 2018

Photo courtesy of Linda Lou Oliphant

Tigerfish, Hoang Chi Truong

I was fascinated by Hoang Chi Truong’s memoir of her family’s escape from war-torn Vietnam, and how they sought refuge in the United States. A very powerful story, with a message more relevant than ever in today’s world. You can read my full review here. I will be interviewing the author soon – watch this space. 5 stars

The Mystery of the Silver Spider, Robert Arthur

I loved The Three Investigators adventure mystery series as a boy. They’re now out of print, so it was a huge pleasure to stumble across this title in a second hand bookshop. In this episode, Jupiter Jones, Pete Crenshaw and Bob Andrews find themselves working as spies on behalf of the CIA, trying to maintain the integrity of fictional Eastern European country, Varania. I read it to the boys at bedtime and they adored it. We’re now on to our second book in the series, The Mystery of the Stuttering Parrot. 5 stars

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis

Another one that I read to the boys at bedtime. As it had been with me as a child, it was very popular with them. The seven-year-old did however have a delayed-action burst of tears in the scene with Aslan on the Stone Table. It’s a fairly gruesome and sustained horror scene, as far as middle grade fiction goes – be warned when reading to younger listeners! 5 stars

Danny the Champion of the World, Roald Dahl

Another classic read to the boys, one of the few Roald Dahl books I have never read. We all enjoyed this saga of a boy and his poacher father. The ending is particularly poignant. 5 stars

Peacock Pie, Walter de la Mare

“Peacock Pie is surely one of the greatest children’s books of the century.” said The Times. I’ve had this secondhand book of Walter de la Mare’s poems for a while and had occasionally picked out a poem or two to read to the boys. But this year I read them a lot more and realised how brilliant this collection is. The majority of the poems are great fun, carried along by a crisp rhythm and rhyme. But many also have a subtle mystery. They appear as simple vignettes of people’s lives, but the more you read them, the more they resonate with darker, more adult themes. 5 stars

Captain Underpants and the Terrifying Return of Tippy Tinkletrousers, Dav Pilkey

My youngest son adores Captain Underpants. Pick any book and you will see why – this is rocket-fueled, imaginative storytelling for kids, full of ebullience, good will and humour! 4 stars

The Explorer: top ten books for children and young adults 2018

The Explorer, Katherine Rundell

Katherine Rundell is one of my favourite children’s writers. I’ve loved all her books I’ve read – Rooftoppers, The Girl Savage, and The Wolf Wilder. The Explorer is the story of a group of children trying to survive in the Amazon after a plane crash, who come across a long-lost explorer in a ruined city. Whilst I found this story more conventional than her others, it still includes her trademark blend of excitement, suspense, poetry and mystery – exactly what I strive for in my own writing. You can read my review of Katherine Rundell’s other books here. 4 stars

Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy, Lynley Dodd

A re-read, because my children love this book so much. It’s a great story, with a colourful cast of dogs ranging from Hercules Morse (‘as big as a horse’) to Muffin McClay (‘a bundle of hay’) and the eponymous Hairy Maclary, from Donaldson’s Dairy. The gang go for a doggy strut downtown – only to be sent packing by Scarface Claw, the toughest tom in town. 5 stars

Finn Family Moomintroll

Finn Family Moomintroll, Tove Jansson

The Finnish writer Tove Jansson features in my A-Z of inspirational authors on Instagram, #stevegreads. The magical Moomins series was the first set of long books I remember reading as a child. This year, I read Finn Family Moomintroll to the boys. They weren’t quite as enamoured with this tale of the magical and tricksy Hobgoblin Hat as I was, but they still enjoyed it. It reminded me why I’d loved these books so much. The author’s gentle, wistful storylines; her delightful, eccentric characters; and above all, her deep empathy and reverence for nature. 5 stars

So that’s my top ten books for children and young adults in 2018. What did you read this year that inspired you?

If you’d like to find more books I’d recommend for children and young adults, check out my post for 2017 here.

My Top Ten Books of 2018: Grown-ups

am an owl, am an owl... Top Ten Books 2018

It’s getting to that time again when we like to think back over what we’ve done in the past year. Or, in the case of us bibliophiles, what we’ve read. So, once again here’s my Top Ten Books for Grown-ups that I’ve read in 2018, each a perfect gift for the Yuletide season!

The Top Ten for Children and Young Adults will be along shortly…

Troubles, J.G. Farrell

Troubles is probably my favourite book that I’ve read this year. It’s about a traumatised British soldier (‘The Major’) who goes to Ireland to meet his apparent fiance, and ends up staying in her father’s hotel for… well, for a very long time. Like the fantastic Siege of Krishnapur, the real subject of Troubles is the decline of the British Empire. But J.G. Farrell’s supreme success is rendering this through exquisite detail and through his wonderful, vivid, and occasionally comic, characters.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Michael Chabon

Another historical novel, this is an absorbing tale of two men who create a Comic empire in war-time New York. One of them is a Jewish migrant, striving to be a real-life hero to save members of his family left behind in Nazi Germany.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Yuval Noah Harari

An astonishing book, giving an overview of the major phases of our evolution. It’s often grim in its rendering of our collective fictions, but it’s also balanced with glimmers of hope, such as the relative peacefulness of recent times, improvements in medicine, and reductions in global poverty. Most unnerving is the ending, which touches on the huge pressures we face to undertake more bioengineering, and where that might lead. Nonfiction such as a Moment on the Earth and fiction such as Hyperion, by Dan Simmons, address some of these issues. But this book wakes you up to the prospect that, in the long view, our turbulent history might just be a staging post in the evolution of intelligent design.

Inside the Wave, Helen Dunmore

The final book of poetry by the talented and versatile Helen Dunmore. I read several of her dark and atmospheric novels when I was younger, including Zennor in Darkness and A Spell of Winter. She also wrote some mermaid-inspired Young Adult novels which I’ve yet to read. But she stands out as a poet. She wrote Inside the Wave when she was terminally ill, and the writing has a clear, transcendent beauty.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Shirley Jackson

A brilliant, creepy book that really gets inside the mind and disturbing habits of its teenage narrator – who is definitively unreliable.

The Accidental Tourist, Anne Tyler

It’s taken me a long time to read this classic title. I love A.M. Homes, and Anne Tyler writes in a similar vein. Both give us stories of Americans whose lives have been fractured by trauma but who retain – or recover – a sense of perspective and transcendence. And who still have a surprising decision or two in them.

The Stranger’s Child, Alan Hollinghurst

I struggled at first to buy into this segmented novel that revisits a wealthy British family throughout the last century. But as it went on I grew to love the way it built a textured picture of the ebb and flow of legacy – particularly that of one man, a war poet. I occasionally find myself slowing down as novels progress, getting a little less interested in the set up and characters. But in The Stranger’s Child, I found my appetite and interest increasing all the time.

Dark Entries, Rober Aickman

The second horror entry in my top ten. These morbid, unresolved tales by Robert Aickman are as usual masterfully told. A poet of the tomb, he plants a dark seed in your mind and let’s you grow it however you will. Check out my review of The Wine-Dark Sea here.

Solstice, Joyce Carol Oates

I’d been meaning to read some Joyce Carol Oates for a long time. I wasn’t disappointed with this, a dark and gripping tale of a claustrophobic friendship between a charismatic artist and a dowdy lecturer.

Ten Poems about Birds: Top Ten Books 2018

Ten Poems about Birds, intro Jenni Murray

A beautifully produced present given to me by my wife on our tenth wedding anniversary. Only when I put together my first poetry book, Up in the Air, did I realise quite how obsessed I am by birds and flight. So this was a truly magical present. The poems are wondrous and fragile, perfect little songs. I especially liked Skylark, which I had never read before, and Owl, which I had, but had forgotten.

Am an owl, am an owl…

Want to know more about what I’ve been reading? Check out my favourite books in 2017 and 2016!

Three Reasons to Love Wordsworth

Wordsworth thinking

I’ve been really pleased by the reception of my first poetry book, Up in the Air, which reached the top ten in Amazon’s ‘Inspirational Poetry’ bestsellers category.

I wrote a post about how I started writing poems here. I mentioned it was climbing Scottish mountains and reading William Wordsworth that kickstarted my love for poetry. But citing Wordsworth as an inspiration is hardly hip these days. So I thought I’d tell you why I like him. Then, hopefully, you will too.

There are three reasons I love Wordsworth:

#1 His Idealism

As a young man in the 1790s, Wordsworth travelled on the continent and was excited by the fresh ideals of the politics he discovered. He believed passionately in the French Revolution, that there would be a new dawn of equality and liberty for all humankind. Unfortunately it was followed by the Reign of Terror and Wordsworth ultimately retreated, disillusioned, to his private sanctuary in the Lake District. I’ve got a feeling quite a few of us would like to do that these days.

#2 His Poetry

Obviously. Wordsworth created some of the most inspired and memorable lines in the English language. Look at these for instance:

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very heaven!

That best portion of a good man’s life,
His little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love.

Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers.

Come forth into the light of things,
Let nature be your teacher.

With an eye made quiet by the power
Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,
We see into the life of things.

#3 Above all, his love of, respect for, and insight into Nature

As one of the greatest Romantic poets, Wordsworth described the inner life and value of Nature like no other:

And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man:
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things.
Therefore am I still
A lover of the meadows and the woods,
And mountains; and of all that we behold
From this green earth; of all the mighty world
Of eye, and ear, – both what they half create,
And what perceive; well pleased to recognise
In nature and the language of the sense
The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,
The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul
Of all my moral being.

He understood the mysterious interplay that our thoughts, our minds, have with Nature. Lines composed a few miles above Tintern Abbey is my favourite poem, and I think the lines about what the eye and ear ‘half create, and what percieve’ is a revelation.

I often re-read Wordsworth’s poems, when I arrive in the mountains, or see a new, inspiring landscape. We can never be sure about the inner life of Nature, the force that through the green fuse drives the flower as Dylan Thomas called it, and what our part in it is. But many of us believe that there is something really there beyond dim, blind, mechanics. And we see that, in a semi-objective, semi-imaginative way, we are not only created by it, but have a mysterious role in creating the world ourselves.

UP IN THE AIR poetry book out now!

Up in the Air poetry book

Up in the Air poetry book interior

My new poetry book, Up in the Air, is out now!

An Amazon bestselling collection, Up in the Air brings together 50 poems that I’ve written over the last 25 years, some published, others new. If you want to read how I came to write poetry in the first place, there’s a post about it here.

I hope you’ll consider buying and reading it. I would be over the moon if you could also write a short review for Amazon (one line will do!). And remember, nothing makes a better Christmas present than some poetry…

Here’s the link, available all over the world as a paperback and Kindle version thanks to the wonders of Amazon:

Happy reading!

 

 

Up in the Air – new poetry book out soon!

Up in the Air poetry book cover

My new poetry book, Up in the Air, will be out later this month. I am sooo excited!

This book brings together 50 poems I’ve written over the past 25 years. I got into poetry properly in my twenties when studying an MSc in Environmental Management at Stirling University in Scotland.

I love the big outdoors, and it wasn’t long before I began climbing some of the legendary Scottish mountains. Ben Lomond was the first, done in thick snow and cloud after a late night out on the tiles. It was a struggle, but I remember an amazing moment near the summit when the fog lifted and there was half of Loch Lomond on dazzling display. I’d studied Wordsworth before – but it was in the Highlands that I really became inspired by his poetry:

‘Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive
But to be young was very heaven!

From there, it was a short step to writing my own poems. My first publication was in a regional anthology. It was really a clever piece of vanity publishing – everyone’s family and friends bought copies – but it boosted my confidence as a writer. Next, I had two poems accepted by a much more high profile magazine, Orbis International. One (Old Man) was inspired by a walk on the Old Man of Coniston, a mountain in the English Lake District.

After that, I began to write poems on nature, love, and all the other things that inspired me.  Many got accepted in literary magazines, such as Poetry Ireland, The Rialto and The New Welsh Review. I did readings in places such as The Troubadour in Old Compton Street, London (in the cellar where Bob Dylan once performed!)

I always thought one day I would get them published – but along came work and other things. I stopped writing for a while, and when I came back to it I was bursting with ideas for my adventure series, The Secret of the Tirthas. Whilst I continued to write the odd poem, I focused on that for the next decade.

When I finished The Secret of the Tirthas this summer, I realised it was the ideal moment to get the poetry into shape for a collection. So now, after many hours of work, sifting through dozens of poems, whittling down the best, sorting everything into themes, designing a cover (always there in my mind’s eye, with the title decided upon years ago), I am finally there.

It was a revelation choosing the themes, as it showed me how almost unconsciously I kept returning to certain subjects. Birds and flight are a major inspiration, as are paintings, love, and water (particularly ice).

I hope you will consider buying and reading my first poetry collection. And remember, a poetry book makes a fantastic Christmas present for family and friends!

Happy reading!

 

It’s National Poetry Day! To celebrate, here’s a poem…

Bird Garden, Hong Kong

A big pastime for old men in Hong Kong is keeping songbirds. There’s a large garden in Kowloon, where many go to feed birds in return for songs. I wrote this poem about that garden when I visited it in 2001.

Old man and songbird

The poem was first published in Poetry File by the Belmont Arts Centre, for teaching in Secondary Schools in Shropshire. It will feature in my forthcoming poetry book, Up in the Air (out later this month). I’m posting it today because it’s National Poetry Day.

Isn’t it great we have a day to celebrate poetry!?