I am a poet but also a writer of fiction, mainly for children. You may know of me through a story I wrote 35 books ago called Henry’s Leg. This won the 1986 Guardian Prize for Children’s Fiction because, they told me, ‘it says serious things cheerfully.’ Through the TV adaptation I was able to buy a tiny house in the Yorkshire Dales which has become (as D H Lawrence said of his bit of Nottinghamshire) ‘the country of my heart’.
In 2009 I moved from Oxford to a permanent home in my heart country, reconnecting with my Northern roots. Life is a poem I have written about this move.
I have written poetry all my life but on my 60th birthday I decided to set children’s writing aside and focus on poetry. Writing all those books for children was a good training ground. I have chewed over many millions of words before committing a few select ones to paper (children like directness, pithyness, strong colour and they deserve the best). Emily Dickinson advised few words in a poem then added 'but they must be the chiefest words'. In weaving stories for the young, and the not so young, I sat for many years on my poetic instinct. The poet Kate Clanchy said that my poems have ‘the passion of long-stored speech’ so perhaps waiting for so long to ‘focus’ has had its benefits.
Like me, Thomas Hardy did not turn to poetry until he was 60. Watch this space!
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