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Poet, Novelist, and Critic


Writing poems and fiction has always had the highest priority for me and the criticism I’ve written has been shaped by my preoccupations as a poet.

Dramatic monologue has been a key starting-point for my poems – but tweaked to draw attention to the everyday strangeness that happens when one person is thinking about what is going on in someone else’s mind. The first version of this was in my poem ‘The Great Escape’, whose setting in an old people’s home originated in lines I wrote while I was still at school. That developed through drafts in which an old man was digging his way out of the home, but which didn’t work because they were too simple-mindedly surreal. I was sure I’d solved that problem when I reconfigured the poem by shaping it around the point of view of the old man’s grandson (by analogy with ‘coloured narrative’) so that ‘the great escape’ imagery was now, by implication, in the schoolboy’s mind – not explained away but given a new dimension which was explanatory but also a source of more meanings to do with the boy’s understanding of his grandfather.

Explained like that it sounds complex but the basic idea is simple while, at the same time, opening a great range of possibilities. An expansion of the same idea is behind the title sequence of my 2008 book How We Met, which is based on the feature that used to appear in The Independent on Sunday in which pairs of celebrities described their initial encounters and the friendships etc which emerged from them. In my sequence six pairs of invented celebrities tell stories which interlock, overlap and contradict each other, as it emerges that they all know each other, and their points of view (involving power struggles and all kinds of personal spin) are placed in dialogue.



My first novel, “Not Tonight, Neil” was published in 2011.

“darkly comic psychothriller set on a Manchester Council estate in 1969.”

Read the first chapter here



Home About me Contact me Poems and Novels Critical Books Calendar Projects Related links Ian's Blog Devolved Voices Excerpt from Not Tonight Neil Excerpt from The Crocodile Princess

I was recently interviewed for the Devolved Voices Project and gave a short reading.

Please take a look at the videos here

My poem 'Squawks and Speech' was Guardian Poem of the Week. Click to view

I stood for the Professorship of Poetry - look here to read why.

Poetry is well and truly in the margins – will it ever get out? Click to read my opinion!

My new novel, “The Crocodile Princess” will be published in the Autumn by Cinnamon Press.

Read the first chapter here



I am currently the Featured Poet in the multimedia poetry magazine, The Crunch. Visit and view:

Poems and Podcast


New work

Here is a selection from my forthcoming book of poems to be published by Parthian Press:

The Slasher and the Vampire as Role Models


Read comments  in the Blog by Joan Barbara Simon with another excerpt from The Crocodile Princess