I WAS BORN in a place called The Green in Wallsend, Newcastle upon Tyne. My Dad was the foreman of a paint factory on Westgate Road that only made blue and yellow paint. When I was five, the owner decided to move the business to Poole in Dorset and we went South with it.
To make myself understood, I had to forget how to talk Geordie and construct for myself a new mongrel language that both did and didn’t declare its not-belonging anywhere identifiable. It was something in this experience that probably made a writer of me (Read 'North and South', from my poetry collection Red).
I went to an all-girls Grammar School, which I loved and hated. My favourite subjects were English, History and Latin. Drama was another passion and I acted in several school plays (The Miracle Worker, The Crucible, Murder in the Cathedral). When I said I wanted to try for Oxbridge, it was suggested I might not be from the right class.
Leeds was the furthest North I could imagine going at eighteen so that’s where I ended up, studying English and History and a bit of History of Art. I remember spending a lot of time listening to music in dark smoky rooms, cultivating a disdain for the academic.
A series of adventures took me to London, Amsterdam and back to London before I decided to move up to Northumberland to raise my two sons. We lived on a beautiful hill overlooking the North Tyne valley in a cottage with no road or electricity for over a decade.
In 1995 I had a riding accident that left me with two broken vertebrae and a cracked hip. This experience has had a profound effect on the way I see the world and continues to send ripples inside and out.
I’m currently based near Hadrian’s Wall, embracing the delights of central heating and open fields. Even though I’ve lived here for over 16 years, I still see something new every day.
It’s hard for me to imagine being settled anywhere else, in this country at least. The house I live in is an old gamekeeper’s cottage high on the fell, but I can still see the city lights on the horizon so I have the best of both worlds and can move between the two.
I am happy to find myself held within the loose triangle formed by three Buddhist monasteries – Harnham to the East, Throssel Hole to the West and Samye Ling to the North.
And here I am, still feeling like I’m doing the same thing I had to do back when I was five – finding out what words can do and what they can’t.
Six years since writing this not a lot has changed. Life seems fuller as I get older and move through it more slowly. I am more and more grateful for the fact that poetry at least doesn’t have to obey the rules of time or space.
I recently went on a Breathworks Living Well with Pain Course at Newcastle Buddhist Centre, which I heartily recommend, and what I’m left with, always, is the reminder to stay in the moment and not make up a story about it. An interesting line to walk for a poet whose business is translating experience into words.