rock|salt project launched!

I’m delighted to point you in the direction of a new collaborative project I’m working on with mixed media artist Elspeth Knight. Our project, entitled rock|salt, will explore the heritage and voices of South Fife’s coast through poetry and visual art. We will host an exhibition at the Glisk Gallery in Burntisland, Fife, in Autumn 2022.

You can follow our collaboration as it unfolds on Instagram [at]rocksaltproject, on Facebook (search for Rock Salt) and through my own Twitter feed @ammonitesandstars.

Burntisland from the back of the Binn hill, Fife

An ambition achieved

For many, many years, I have been inspired by a poet from Orkney, George Mackay Brown. I first met George Mackay Brown’s words whilst studying Scottish Literature at Aberdeen University, and his stories and poems have woven their way throughout my life ever since. I have written several poems inspired by GMB, and I was astonished when one of my pieces, ‘The Wound and the Gift’, was selected for a new anthology celebrating the centenary of GMB’s birth.

The anthology, entitled ‘Beyond the Swelkie’, is edited by Jim Mackintosh and Paul S Philippou and is available now from the Tippermuir Books website:

Something a little different…

Earlier this year, I took something of a leap into the unknown, and decided to try my hand at creative non-fiction. More specifically, I had a story to tell from my own past – a story of complex miscarriage and the psychological aftermath of that trauma. I was honoured when Epoch Press selected my essay for their second issue in spring of this year. Trigger warnings: miscarriage, grief, psychological trauma.

You can find my piece, entitled ‘Capella Rising’, in Epoch Press’ issue 2, Aftermath.

There is also a Q&A with me on their website:

Update: recent publications

Hello folks, it’s been a fair while since I’ve put some updates on my News feed here. Apologies for that – the second covid lockdown at the start of this year was quite a challenge, and then sadly after an amazing summer break I contracted covid myself at the start of September 2021. Thankfully I am slowly on the mend.

Here are a few links to recent published poems. I have been so pleased to be included in Northwords Now issue 41 (May 2021), and the George Mackay Brown Fellowship project Words into Music (May 2021).

Black Bough Poetry: Deep Time project

My poem ‘Cyclic’ recently appeared in Black Bough Poetry’s astonishing second volume of their Deep Time publication. The poem itself began life on the Isle of Skye in 2016, and resided, buried, in a notebook for a few years, before resurfacing and being remoulded for the Deep Time submission call.

All the poems in this beautiful series have been inspired by the book Underland by Robert Macfarlane, and chart the wonders of geological time, the hefty weight of dark spaces and the transformations that occur within. I am delighted to join so many fantastic poets in this publication, and I’m indebted to the wonderful poetic community that Matthew MC Smith has built on Twitter in recent months. A genuine lifeline of support and positivity that never fails to bring a smile to my face.

I was thrilled when Matthew asked me recently to host Black Bough’s #TopTweetTuesday on Twitter. What a privilege to spend a whole day immersed in high quality, powerful writing by poets from right across the world.

Thank you Matthew and the whole Black Bough Deep Time team!


Old post recycled: The Silence inside Sandstone

Whether or not it is the done thing, here is an old post from my blog ‘as was’ – sometimes it’s useful to look at older writing with fresh eyes. This one still resonates, so I’ve resurrected it.

The silence inside sandstone intrigues me. We have squeezed our way in, through a sideways split on the shore 10 or 12 feet back. It takes all of my inner-strength to persuade myself not to panic. It’s safe. It feels safe, in the sense that this cave has been here for hundreds if not thousands of years and is unlikely to change suddenly and trap us now. No loose rock, no ceiling to fall, just a narrow vertical opening large enough for a small adult to side-step through. It was likely a natural layer-break in heavily-tilted sandstone, though I don’t remember the outer landscape clearly now.

I’m relieved when we enter a wider space and can stretch out our arms a little. I look down and in the torch light I’m glittering, covered in tiny sand crystals brushed from the cave walls. Time feels different in here. It could be day, night, winter, summer; these sand grains – laid down when Scotland was part of a vast arid, mountainous landscape – were deposited in the bottom of a lake, Lake Orcadie, that extended for kilometres across what is now Morayshire and Caithness, sometimes reaching as far north as Orkney and Shetland. Covered in sand grains hundreds of millions of years old; grains that ancient fish shoals would have swum around in, hidden in, died in. And before that? How did their original crystal structures form? How far around the world had they travelled to land on my sleeve, here, now? 

The torch illuminates a dark red space before flickering and going out, and hush settles as we stop trying to examine our sensations in speech. The dark is soft, calming, all-consuming. Again, I get the feeling of extensions of time both within and around me. The only light is a glimmer at floor level, stemming from the entrance to the cave. The rock presses inwards, encasing me momentarily as though I’m to be fossilised. I wonder why I’m comforted rather than frightened by this thought.

I had been cautious outside, blue sky above and curlews calling, wondering why I would want to slip away into the rock’s interior. I was sure of claustrophobia; I could feel it taking shape around me, shadowing me even in sunshine. I didn’t really comprehend why I was now at peace, at home in the silence of sandstone.

I kneel, tilt my head to the sandy base of the cave to look out. It could be feasible that centuries have passed; I could step back out into the distant future or a past before human footfall. I forget you’re there with me and wander off in my mind, examining what these alternate future spaces might hold.

You break into my thoughts with a story of childhood, of hiding in the cave from your parents because you didn’t want to leave the bay to return home. As we move through millions of years’ worth of sand crystals to resurface into light and air, I consider doing the same. Returning to hide out, to remove myself from time entirely, to be encapsulated.   

Silk and Smoke: ‘Fusion’

I’m delighted to have a new poem, ‘Fusion’, published in Silk and Smoke issue 2:

Silk and Smoke is a beautiful publication, and I had them in mind when I was working on the final draft of ‘Fusion’. It’s brilliant to be a small part of a fairly new, local (Edinburgh-based) online magazine. One of my favourite elements of the publication is that they include both notes from the authors and a chosen piece of music to accompany each work. For my poem, I selected the ethereal ‘Ophelia’ by Karine Polwart (linked in the above). Karine’s gorgeous voice and stunning talent for song-writing has frequently lifted my spirits during 2020. It’s lovely to share another female Scottish voice, too!

Not yet spring

Last weekend the temperatures here in Fife dropped from 18C to 2C overnight. It snowed again in the hills, and for several days we have been shivering in blasts of arctic air flows – the last gasp of winter: the lambing snows.

The third of my poems for the #Cateran100 project is now up online:

It was written as I sat shivering in ‘my’ writing hut (a bird hide) in the Glen Tilt woods, last May.

River Tilt at the tail end of winter, flushed with snow melt, Scotland


The second of my #Cateran100 poems is now available to listen to online:

This poem was first published in the autumn 2017 edition of Northwords Now, issue 34. I was honoured to have three poems appear in this particular edition, Herringbone, The Crow Road and Skye-light. All are available to read here: