Then spree

Website of Nia Davies, poet, editor, writer, performer

Tag: london

Poetry from Shingle Street

Shingle Street coastguard cottages

Shingle Street coastguard cottages

Tomorrow I will be in London at the launch of the Poetry School’s Spring term. Myself and Amy Key will be reading and discussing poetry made at our residency at Shingle Street in Suffolk. Thanks to the Poetry School we spent a week there in November 2013 in one of the tiny coastguard cottages which are right out on the shingle beach in a remote but extremely atmospheric spot. The week was very creatively invigorating with lots of time to edit existing poems, write new work and also to discuss and think through ideas, techniques and poetics. We started with cut-up text exercises and moved on to discussing feeling, the problem with poetry of place, teen noir, friendship, childhood memory and more.

You can read our blogs which present drafts of poems and discuss their process on the Poetry School blog Campus. Firstly there is a Q&A, then there is my blog about ‘Feelings’ (with a poem draft and brief discussion of Clarice Lispector’s novel Near to the Wild Heart) and the poem draft and reflection ‘people on the beach’ which considers the shifting sense of place,  ‘nation’ and the militarised nature of the landscape. These poem drafts are very much works in process rather than finished articles, designed to open up the process for people to see inside it. Amy’s blogs include a reflection on writing poems in response to scent How I did it: Violet-among-the-harpsichord and a short interview about the residency which includes tips for poets who want to go on their own residencies.

And finally you can even listen to the music of our residency on this playlist! (Though unfortunately it lacks a vital contributor: Joanna Newsom, whose back catalogue we sang along to in the car on our various excursions around the Suffolk countryside).

The event takes place at the Tea House Theatre in Vauxhall from 7pm.

Shingle Street residency

View from the coastguard’s cottage at Shingle Street

‘Half-articulated wailings’ – a blog on the Electronic Voice Phenomena website

abney park cemetry

The first of two blogs for the Electronic Voice Phenomena project website explores ‘sinister resonance’, hearing voices and the work of David Toop and others.

The Next Big Thing

I’ve been invited by the poet Amy Key to take part in this blog series where writers answer the same set of questions then pass them on to four other writers. You can read Amy’s interview here and find your way back along the trail of writers.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Many of the poems in the new pamphlet Then Spree were written without a book in mind, but some of the origins of some of the ideas and impulses include:  things seen from night-bus windows, the glitches, fissures and blooms of language and the world as experienced by a diver. As well as… things my friends say, unusual auditory environments, off-record histories,  folk song and story, watery places and the up hill struggle to learn a foreign language (Turkish!).

What genre does your book fall under?


What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

There is perhaps one distinct character (other than myself) in Then Spree – the man (or creature) in ‘Periphylla Periphylla’ who is trapped in a submerged world which is part deep sea, part London street.

I had already written this drunk lonely character’s voyage on the number 38 bus and was half way through writing the second part of his walk through Canonbury when the man himself staggered up to me. On seeing me he stopped, looked me in the eyes, (I was sitting on a garden wall writing by street-light), then he stumbled on. I would like this man to play the Jelly man, but it’s most likely I will never see him again.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

Song’s outer reaches

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

I’ve been writing poetry seriously since I was a teenager and the poems in this pamphlet date back to around five years ago. The manuscript took around 4 months to bring together and edit.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I am incredibly lucky in that I have been able to travel and meet people who have opened up the world for me.

The poetry of Lutz Seiler, Sarah Gridley, DA Powell, Denise Riley and others have been vital to me – especially in the last few years of writing the poems in this pamphlet.

A book of Manley Hopkins poems given to me at secondary school by my teacher Mr Martin seems to have had long-range impact and so have nursery rhymes sung to me in Welsh and English, recordings of Michael Rosen’s poems for children and perhaps most importantly for all my writing – folktales from all over the world, told by my grandmother Liza Watts who is a professional storyteller.

From early on the poet and editor Roddy Lumsden encouraged me, challenged my writing approach and provided me with an ever-evolving and inspirational reading list.

And I recently read this which I love: “It’s necessary to maintain a state of disobedience against . . . everything. One must remain somehow, though how, open to any subject or form in principle, open to the possibility of liking, open to the possibility of using.” Alice Notely in the Poetics of Disobedience.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

In Then Spree there are secret staircases, vengeful saviours, a man with a jellyfish heart, nudism, white noise, stray ballerinas, singing bowls and obsolete instruments.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

The pamphlet is published by Salt in the Salt Modern Voices series.

You can order a copy of the pamphlet on the Salt website

Have yourself a melancholy Christmas…

Cities with a certain wintry hüzün, poverty-stricken children’s book characters, Roddy Lumsden’s grumpy thesp in Terrific Melancholy and how to survive Christmas by the radiator (books!) – a post from me on the New Welsh Review blog  (originally published in the Western Mail last year) is now available to read online at

Merry Christmas, Ernest and Celestine by Gabriel Vincent

Then Spree featured on Peony Moon

Periphylla Periphylla

Periphylla Periphylla

My pamphlet Then Spree has recently been featured on the Peony Moon blog. The feature includes two poems from the pamphlet: Periphylla Periphylla and I Want To Do Everything. Go to the Peony Moon website to read more. (The photo above is of the deep sea Jellyfish Periphylla Periphylla which the poem is named after. Credit: David Wrobel).

Broadcast reading in London 27th November 2012 and other events

Following on from the launch of my debut pamphlet Then Spree, I will be doing several readings in the UK. The first is with Broadcast – the poetry event series organised by Emily Hasler and Roddy Lumsden. The line-up also includes Matthew Caley, Oli Hazzard and Luke Kennard and takes place on Tuesday the 27th of November at the Betsey Trotwood pub in Farringdon, London. More details on the event are available on the Broadcast website. Also on the Broadcast website you will find a new poem by me – 4 rooms, which is inspired by the sound artist Jacob Kirkegaard’s 4 rooms – recorded at Chernobyl.

Other upcoming readings include: a new Penning Perfumes at Clerkenwell Tales Bookshop, London on the 28th of Novembera reading alongside the fantastic Aurelia Lassaque, Amy Key, SJ Fowler, Jessica Pujol and others at Housman’s radical bookshop in Kings Cross, London on Thursday the 13th of December and  a music/poetry night at the Full Stop in Brick Lane London on the 16th of December. Events in Sheffield, Bristol and Wales to be announced soon.

You can find out more about Then Spree, and place an order for the pamphlet  on the Salt website.

Three poems in Poetry Northeast

Three poems in Poetry Northeast

I’m pleased to have three poems, Born in a moody basket, His glorious and Ocean Nomad, published in the second issue of Boston-based magazine Poetry Northeast.

The Gun

One of my poems – The Gun – about the pub in London’s Docklands – was published in the Morning Star’s Well Versed column yesterday. You can read the poem here. The pub is said to be one of Horatio Nelson and Emma Hamilton’s secret meeting places and there is a hidden staircase which leads to a mirrored room overlooking the Thames. Apparently one of my ancestors was a landlord in the 19th Century and when I visited with my family last year we were treated to an enthusiastic tour from the manager. I’ve since written a poem about Emma and Horatio themselves which will be published in September in Poetry Northeast.

The Gun – from their website – where you can find out more about this wonderful pub!

Penning Perfumes

Penning Perfumes

I recently wrote a poem ‘A Palace’ for Penning Perfumes – a project set up by poet Claire Trevien and Odette Toilette which explores the connections between poetry and scent. After a visit to Les Senteurs in West London, poets were each given a perfume in a blank atomiser and asked to respond to the perfume in poetry. After writing our poems we discovered the names and ideas behind the perfumes. Mine was ‘Incense Extrême‘ by Andy Tauer, which is meant to smell like a night in the desert. Interestingly I responded, without knowing this detail, with a poem that takes place in a tent in the desert – albeit in the middle of the day.

In another project strand, perfumers made scents in response to poems. A series of events and a mini-anthology has come out of Penning Perfumes. ‘A Palace’ is included in this pamphlet – which you can buy from the website. Please visit to read more about the poems and the perfumes.


When I was 14, as a vague rebellion against my ski-mad father, I took up snowboarding. I put up with the sore bum-cheeks and burning biceps, I made regular trips to Sheffield’s dry scratchy ski village, I tumbled over repeatedly and had some knee-swelling encounters with ice. But I learnt to love the curving turns and slippery movement over the snow when eventually I reached it in one piece.

But it’s not an easy relationship with the sport. I am uncomfortably aware that ski resorts do a great deal of harm to the alpine environment. And I have a strong dislike of the preening, chortling upper classes that pile into the resorts every winter to splurge on an expensive and extravagantly wasteful pastime. I’m not keen on the over-heated apartments that pump out heat inefficiently. The way the trees are uprooted to plant ugly lifts from which pleasure-seekers flick their cigarette butts. Then there’s the carbon emissions of all the people who fly to the Alps to find the snow that has disappeared from lower slopes closer to home in the new warmer climate.

But I still love this deceptively simple activity.  The exhilaration of speed and curvature, the alpine breath fast in my throat and the glint of sky on snow, the view of god-big mountains all got up in their clear white finery.

I spent the last week with a group of friends in Risoul – a budget resort in the southern French Alps, full of students from the Sorbonne behaving in a surprisingly stereotypical Britishly drunken way. It was not the lavish get-up of Val d’Isre or Courchaval and on a quiet week we spotted red-black squirrels in the conifer and crested birds nibbling seeds on the decks of the empty après ski bars. The sun shone and I had the most raucous week. I read and wrote not a word and was tremendously happy.

On my return to London I picked up a copy of David Abram’s The Spell of the Sensuous. Back in the city, jumping through tubes and over road works, making angry phone calls to my internet company demanding to be reconnected, I began to recognise the disconnection from the sensuous non-human world that Abram writes of. I missed the snow, I missed the connection with the mountain.

And I wonder if I’m behaving like the bourgeois who experience their physical connection to the non-human in one short sharp burst only to return to their over-rich London lives for the rest of the year, craving snow for 5 months then heading to some seaside place to spend more of their mindlessly-made earnings. I hope not. I’ve lived in London for nearly 3 years now and I still miss my old home by the sea in Wales. But I love this city and its human surprises. In the meantime, until my next adventure, Hampstead Heath must be my reminder of our ‘contact, and conviviality, with what is not human.’