I am a poet, critic, ‘conversationalist, personal shopper, siren, and housemaid to the gods – at least they think they’re gods’. So it said when this blog first opened back in 2006. Since then the little gods have grown up and are becoming quite impressive, no one does shopping any more, and I’m frankly too tired to be much of a siren; and Baroque in Hackney has a life of its own.
The blog is now a website, and encompasses my poetry, tutoring, and critical activities. It was shortlisted for the 2012 George Orwell Prize for political writing, based on my coverage of the riots, protests & cuts, Ai Weiwei’s arrest, the death of Vaclav Havel, and other related topics.
Just lately, a bit more sparse, but we’re working on that.
Baroque in Hackney
This blog has been running since 1 June, 2006, when I started it because Jane Holland told me I had to. She was right. It’s gone through many incarnations since then and it has made many things happen. The title was a joke, based on the American pronunciation of ‘Baroque': I had just been made (for only the first time, it turned out) redundant. Its slightly deeper resonance was the sadness of having no money and being in Hackney and loving nice things. But Hackney itself is a nice thing, a lovely and wonderful place with a deep rich history. The blog, I hope, reflects its cosmopolitan heritage.
The aim from the start has been to write about poetry, but also about the kinds of things a person who likes poetry might also be interested in. My ideal reader is myself. In practice this has meant I write in a general way, about culture, with a sort of preponderance of poetry news; and that around the year of the cuts (when I lost my last full-time job) the blog waxed pretty political for a time.
As well as Baroque in Hackney, I’m a partner also in the photographic London website, The London Column, run by David Secombe.
See the Poetry pages for my poetry and so on. I write poetry, and reviews for assorted poetry magazines, and features on social media and self-publishing for MsLexia magazine. Essays and opinion pieces have appeared in books and magazines around the place. In 2010 I was editor of Salt Publishing’s Horizon Review magazine for a year, before it folded.
Born in New York City, I have lived in London since I was 19, and know no better.
I have worked variously as a nanny, a bookshop assistant, a stay-at-home mum. I worked at Penguin during the Salman Rushdie affair, and on a housing estate in Stepney with pro-Osama Bin Laden posters on the shops. I’ve edited highly abstruse documents in consumer rights and green energy, and, for a brief unhappy spell a long time ago, was a shopgirl at Liberty (the shop,which bears no resemblance to the civil rights organisation of the same name). After more than a decade in corporate communications I am now a freelance writer, copywriter, editor, poetry tutor, and all-round Writing Shop. Soon (as I write this in early September) my professional website of that name will also be relaunched. In the meantime I am more than happy to discuss consultancies and projects; my most recent work has been a series of funding applications to do with green energy and renewable technologies. Get in touch.
Aside from all that, there are many colourful family stories: my maternal grandmother was both a song-and-dance girl in the 1920s and an honorary Blackfoot Indian princess, and Myrna Loy apparently fancied my grandfather – who, in turn, is rumoured to have been a witness of Queen Victoria’s funeral procession. We are descended on one side from the Boones, whose most famous son was the explorer Daniel; and, through them, from John Milton. (This became something of a joke in the family when my glaucoma was added into the mix. Oh the laffs.) On the other side, our ancestors included the first man to be hanged for murder in the New World, off the Mayflower. This ignominy persists; there are very respectable homes where I gather we would not be welcome to show our faces.
I have lived in and around Stoke Newington for 20 years. My prides and joys are my three children, now pretty much grown up and very impressive. I hang around with David Secombe, and look after Frank O’Hara and Chet Baker, the two hippest guinea pigs this side of the Village.
N.b.: the typographical photographs on this website are ©David Secombe. They feature page details from two books: Warriner’s Complete English Grammar and Composition, Complete Edition (Harcourt, Brace & World), ©1951, in its 1963 edition; and Letters of the Right Honourable Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Vol 1, Printed for Mr T Becket and PA De Hondt, in the Strand, 1763.