Today I’m reading a short excerpt from The Unknown Realms, the last book in my mystery adventure series, The Secret of the Tirthas. It’s the moment a Venetian boy, Alessandro, sees the hero, Lizzie Jones, emerge from one of the magical portals, or tirthas, with a very unusual – and frightening – companion. I won’t give any more away for those of you who haven’t read the previous books!
If you enjoyed this reading from The Unknown Realms click below to find out more; or, if you’ve not yet started the series, click on The City of Light.
To learn about the magical garden of rooms that inspired the series go here, and about the real City of Light in India go here.
I was amazed when I heard ‘Negative Capability’ used in a meeting the other day. People were looking at the ways in which society works, and using the term to highlight the skills needed to navigate increasingly complex systems. It’s pretty impressive, considering Negative Capability was a concept invented by the Romantic poet, John Keats, to describe the poet’s seeking after Beauty without becoming bogged down in reasoning.
I’ve always liked this concept. We can easily get distracted from creativity and even living life itself if we try and keep on top of everything. Negative Capability is not really negative at all, it’s about letting go, about wading right into the mystery and seeking out the things most beautiful and important to you. Hold faith with those things you cherish, even in the midst of doubt and uncertainty.
Many people are not happy with uncertainty. They prefer to make concrete decisions about the way the world is and isn’t. I think I’m the opposite. As part of the universe, I feel fundamentally ill-equipped to make final pronouncements on it. I just don’t know. Why are we here? Is there an ultimate purpose to life? I tend to think not, but given the inconceivable improbability of our own existence, who knows? There are always gaps, always possibilities.
I think in our modern context, Negative Capability really comes into its own. Society is becoming more complex, mainstream views are being overturned, strong-man populists reign, a pandemic rages, and the climate is on the brink of catastrophic change. In a decade or two’s time, most jobs will require digital literacy, or be taken over by robots. The times, in short, are changing. Sometimes it feels like the only way to survive is to ignore the the big picture and double down on what matters most to us. Whatever that may be. Art, Environment, Politics. We need to function, and thrive, in the midst of all this complexity.
So, hats off to Keats. What an amazing poet, creating words and concepts that are just as significant now as when he invented them.
How’s your tolerance for mystery? Are you happy not knowing things or do you like to find rational explanations for everything?
Today I’m announcing a special book sale offer for anyone who wants a paperback copy of one (or more) of my books.
I’ve realised that with the continued impact of Covid-19 on our lives, I’m unlikely to be returning to bookshop signings and other events for a while. This means I have a reasonable stock of paperbacks that I’ve decided to put up for offer.
So here’s the deal… You can order any of my books for the cover price (£6.99 for novels, £5.99 for poetry), with FREE postage and packing in the UK. For the rest of the world, I will deduct the price of the UK postage (about £1.70) and you would need to pay the difference.
On top of that, if you order 3 or more books I’ll also deduct 10% from the total price of the books.
I will also sign copies if you like, and I can do dedications for birthday and other gifts.
To take advantage of the offer, please email your order to email@example.com, with any dedication details etc. You’ll need to pay by a PayPal account – and I’ll need your postal address of course. Here’s a full list of the available books:
This poem from my first book Up in the Air was written a few years ago. I think it’s pertinent to our current coronavirus crisis, where once again we find ourselves reliant on brave and selfless public workers. It’s my first – and only – prose poem and I wrote it after watching a TV programme about the Marriott World Trade Centre hotel, which stood beside the Twin Towers. As you can imagine, the hotel was damaged beyond repair, and there was one guest who spoke in tears and amazement about how a firefighter saved his life. I can’t remember much more than that, but it showed how there’s something more important to us than money and power and status. It’s the ability to feel widely, to be open to everything and have empathy. We’re not talking about being wishy-washy, but about sensing the ‘drunkeness of things being various’, as the Northern Irish poet Louis MacNeice would put it. The world is amazing. What makes us special is the fact that we are able to sense and feel it, in all its fathomless complexity.
I’m posting this poem from The Things We Thought Were Beautiful for World Poetry Day not because it’s a ‘happy’ poem, but because sharing our sadness can also help us to pull through.
Many people think of poetry as a sideline, or even worse, an irrelevance. But for many of us, poems are a source of inspiration and comfort. Losing the possibility to see and hug our close relatives is surely one of the hardest things for us all to deal with at the moment.
This poem, Sorted, heads up the ‘Without Love’ section of The Things We Thought Were Beautiful, and it was written about the frustration and emptiness we often feel when we’re not with a lover. But I think it works just as well in the context of being apart from anyone we love.
I’m excited to announce that The Things We Thought Were Beautiful is out now on Amazon!
The Things We Thought Were Beautiful is my second book of poetry. It includes poems on our changing feelings and connection to nature and the world around us, the beauty and strangeness of travel, and the places we look for meaning. Poems explore the challenges of living without love, as well as the redemption of home and family.
Here’s a taster:
These are some of the things readers said about Up in the Air, my first collection:
“Beautiful and thought-provoking collection of poems that speak of life, death, love and nature…” Amazon UK
“I love this book. I keep it at my bedside to read a passage or two before getting up to start my day or at night before the lights go out.” Amazon.com
Order your copy now:
Note – this link is to the paperback – you need to search in the Kindle store for the ebook as it takes a few days for the formats to link.
I’m currently working on the final draft of my second poetry book, “The Things We Thought Were Beautiful”. Like “Up in the Air”, I’ve divided this one up into sections, the first of which is called “Another World”. The poems in this section focus on the natural world and our desire to see more deeply into it.
One of my favourite poems is Wordsworth’s “Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey”, in which he talks of what the eye and ear ‘half create, and what perceive.’ I’ve always loved that line. It’s as if there really is a transcendent value in nature that we can grasp, or “perceive”.
But when Wordsworth talks about us “creating” it, is that in the sense of making it real – or just us making it up? And how do we know which bits are our own creation, and which bits are real? The true reality behind reality – if there is such a thing – can only ever be understood, or felt, in glimpses. Poetry is one of the best ways of having those glimpses.
To read more about why I love Wordsworth, check out this post.