Julia Bird

Poems, Readings, Projects, Notices

Ever Joyful … April 25, 2016

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Some more Joy Forever events coming up, in which my Keatsian friend Mike Sims and I bring together poems, letters, games and cake on a John Keats theme for a social and bookish get together.

19th May at the Enitharmon shop, London – launching the Winchester Poetry Festival with a short Keats & his Books event (invitation only)

12th June at Bere Mill, Whitchurch – Keats and Flowers

3 July at Keats House, London – ‘Whatever Happened to Johnny Keats?’ – tea and immortality

August – another Winchester event, date and venue tbc


A Swan Prayer October 5, 2015

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I wrote this for a blog for a fashion start-up that – er – didn’t, after visiting the Nick Waplington photographic exhibition at Tate Britain earlier this year. Waplington’s exhibition juxtaposed images of landfills and rubbish heaps with backstage shots from Alexander McQueen’s ‘Horn of Plenty’ Collection – see above, who wouldn’t pray to the goddess in that dress? As the poem is not going to go where it was supposed to now, I’ll recycle it here.



Swan, who’s a bunch of milk roses; Swan

with poppies in your beak, whose feet are lilies

picked to be dyed black – my prayer is more.

More of the cut minerals and dressed pelts

monogrammed with air-miles, worn once

and then thrown; more hot technology,

more haute horologie – still watertight,

fathoms down. Max me out, pile my plate,

let whatever has been mined be burned.

Grant me further, faster, newer, rarer


or if I can’t have this then give me less.

Please. Release us from the weight of what

we own. Strip the dressers and the vaults

one by one, rip the image down,

make all the things that we assert

be subject to the sweet dissolve and rot. Flick

the switch on our light, take the heat from our thought:

Swan – I’ll make my mind a bowl and scrape it clean

for you to fill with more of nothing than anyone.

Oil black, rust red, bone white Swan.


Watch The Horn of Plenty! show

Interview with Nick Waplington


A Couple of Readings

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Three, really.

Tuesday 5 October at the launch of the Emma Press Anthology of Age, in which I have a poem composed only with the words of ‘Ode to A Nightingale’.

Friday 23 October at Torbay Poetry Festival.

Wednesday 28 October at the Bloomsbury Theatre in London, as part of the Firm of Poets Tour.


r for rabbit, a for apple, n for night, t for twins July 23, 2015

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A little something on the New Boots and Pantisocracies blog.


Get Hep to the Beat, Daddio July 8, 2015

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julia cdRemember CDs? I made one once, for the Poetry Archive. Very lovely it was too – I had to take off all my jewellery in the recording studio to stop the jingle. The Poetry Archive is now sensibly selling all its audio via downloads (89p a poem, barely more than a Mars Bar) and is clearing its stock of CDs. I’ve got some of mine. FIver, if you’re interested …


A Guide to the Elements

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So here’s my second poem from my mini-residency – A Guide to the Elements.

During London Open Garden Squares Weekend in 2015 (13th & 14th June), I was a poet-in-residence in Nomura’s rooftop garden as part of a collaboration between the Poetry School and London Parks and Gardens Trust. This is a poem made from the hundreds of conversations and interactions I had with garden visitors over that weekend. People usually wanted to talk about the view, the vegetable garden made by the switchboard staff, the birds of prey keeping the pigeons off the premises, and the strong work-envy that Nomura’s garden provision provoked in them. As the weekend progressed, these topics sorted themselves into the basic elements of rooftop garden life. The Saturday was also the day of the Queen’s Birthday Parade, hence the quick glimpse of the Red Arrows flypast. (The last crowd-sourced poem I wrote also featured the Red Arrows. I might drop them a line and see if they want to give me any airmiles.)

Thank you to all visitors for their contributions, and to Nomura for making me so welcome.


How Does Your Garden Grow? June 15, 2015

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snailsWith Southwark bells and snail shells. The Poetry School (where I work) and the people behind London Open Garden Squares weekend collaborated on a scheme to put 16 poets-in-residence in London gardens over the summer. I was a guest of Nomura International plc, whose 6th floor roof garden overlooks the Thames in the centre of the city. I spent the weekend talking to hundreds of garden visitors, and will be combining their observations into a poem over the next month or so. A drizzly day on Sunday brought all the snails out – and a proper Oranges and Lemons-style ringing of Southwark Cathedral bells.

As well as formal planting, the garden has a veg patch, established and maintained by the three women who run the company switchboard. When I initially visited Nomura’s garden, the first thing I spotted was the corks on the end of the canes, protecting the eyes of unwary produce-pickers. I couldn’t have dreamed up a better metaphor for the garden’s transformative power – and I started to think about what would happen if this power started to spread. What if we could grow skyscraper gardens up and down the entire length of the Thames?



For the Rooftop Gardeners of Nomura plc

Each time champagne shakes on a deal, someone

saves the popped corks for blunting the ends

of the raspberry canes. Once, a banker’s jacket,

left for a lunchtime on a propped-up spade,

kept the fruit unpecked by birds for weeks.


Pea-shoots in polystyrene coffee cups

crowd a trading desk. Outside, the river –

that wild water feature – takes the seed-heads

blown from the roof, the leaf-mould and blossom,

the gold-dust pollen, and deposits them downstream.



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