International Women’s Day


To celebrate International Women’s Day I asked you for your thoughts and inspirations. ENJOY! 

int wo 5


POETS/POEMS – Recommended Reads

Rachel Curzon – Scan poem – highly recommended (Faber and Faber) – Michelle Diaz

Julia Copus any of her spectacular poems, just so very cleverly constructed but the form is always appropriate to the meaning. – Nikki Fine

Colette Bryce who I was lucky enough to do a workshop with last year as part of a local literary festival. – Penny Blackburn

Gillian Allnutt – Ode. I read poetry on my Sociology/Social Policy under graduate course. – Rachel Burns

Mary Oliver I’m reading more of her work and folding over the corners of so many favourite poems in each book…when I run out of post-it notes! I grew up in inner city Birmingham & moved to London at 18, and it’s only in my 40’s that I discovered nature and now understand what all the fuss is about  & love the way she writes about it. – Charlie Jordan 

(Who I forgive for folding corners as it is International Women’s Day!) 

Carol Ann Duffy – Mean Time – Sue Johnson


Fiona Benson, Cheryl Pearson, Karen McCarthy Woolf, Jo Bell, Greta Stoddart, Joanne Stryker, Natalie Burdett, Sharon Olds, Maggie Smith, Pascale Petit, Liz Berry, Hannah Lowe, Carol Ann Duffy  Hilary Robinson

Maggie Smith – Good Bones 
Jo Bell – Lifted 
Sharon Olds – Looking at them asleep 
Carol Ann Duffy – Prayer & Anything from The World’s Wife – Hilary Robinson

Gillian Allnutt, Pauline Stainer, Mimi Khalvati, the lovely Imtiaz Dharker – all marvellous poets and teachers. – Jean Atkin 

Adelaide’s poetry scene is one of the best in Australia and one I’m proud to be a part of. I’ve many extremely talented poet friends from whom I’ve learnt so much and one who jumps to mind is Rachael Mead. Rachael’s poetry is simply stunning – a rich kaleidoscope of feeling, place and insight, which captivates – and I’d highly recommend reading her first collection ‘The Sixth Creek’. Her words will stay with you. – J V Birch

I recommend the poet Anne Michaels. Her beautiful collection called ‘Correspondences’, which also featured portraits of famous literary people that had experienced suffering and loss during WW2 was published in 2013. – Raine Geoghegan

Penelope Shuttle, Geraldine Green, Polly Atkin, Victoria Field. – Lisa Rossetti

Dorothy Molloy, who only published one short collection before she died and was the first poet I read (OK, I was way behind!) who could make something beautiful as well as punchy, from abuse. – Jinny Fisher

Clare Shaw, Joanne Key, Selkirk Ayres, Wendy Pratt and Angela Readman – Sarah L Dixon 

Clare Shaw, Joanne Key, Selkirk Ayres, Wendy Pratt, Helen Ivory, Angela Readman and Jill Munro. In the US, Natasha Trethewey, who writes so eloquently about race. – Susan Castillo




Sylvia Plath for her ability to stir the senses and shock with words. – Michelle Diaz

All the women I know who give help and support to each other by consoling in the hard times and joining in with the good ones (both writing and non-writing related for that). – Penny Blackburn

Gillian Allnutt who became my tutor at an evening class – at the time she won a big poetry prize Northern Rock – she said she was going to use the money to buy a washing machine as still using an old twin tub. Says a lot I think! – Rachel Burns

Satya Robyn, a Buddhist writer whose work is witty, human, warm, honest & profound at the same time. She runs some great month-long online writing courses I’d recommend. – Charlie Jordan

Helen Dunmore has always been an inspiration because as a poet and novelist she remained true to what she wanted to do until the end of her life. – Sue Johnson

Liz Berry, I’m inspired by the gentle and tender poems of Liz Berry who proudly writes in her native dialect. She’s also a strong advocate of encouraging children in their use of their home language. – Hilary Robinson

Abegail Morley inspired me to write my first collection and continues to inspire me. I remember being completely wowed by her award-winning collection, ‘How to Pour Madness into a Teacup’. Abegail has an incredible ability to convey beautifully haunting images with clarity and I thought, I want to write like that! I’ve got all of Abegail’s collections, including her most recent ‘The Skin Diary’, brilliance. – J V Birch

My inspiration comes from many sources, writers like Anne Michaels, Mary Oliver, Sappho, Ruth Padel, Alice Oswald and Mimi Khalvati all inspire me to stretch the boundaries, to take risks and to believe in myself. – Raine Geoghegan

Jo Bell, for her boundless encouragment and down-to-earth advice. Tania Hershman, for her authentic personal voice, in lined and prose poetry. – Jinny Fisher

Anyone who feels comfortable enough to share their darkness and their fears. – Sarah L Dixon



My English teacher Joy Blott who always believed in my ability as a writer and encouraged me to enter competitions in my early teens. – Michelle Diaz

Jenny Lewis poetry tutor on the Oxford Continuing Education department Creative Writing Diploma, who encouraged me in both writing and submitting. – Nikki Fine

A lady called Jennifer C Wilson who I knew before she became a writer and who now has 2 published novels, 1 novella and another novel on the way. Not only did she show me that “ordinary” people can be writers (though she is far from ordinary)! She started a writing group in my area last year and this has led me to rediscover my own love of writing. I don’t think I would be writing now if it weren’t for her – everything would still be a fuzzy idea swirling about in my head! – Penny Blackburn

Jo Bell, who is brilliant on the page or in person as a poet or mentor. Julie Boden & Lucy Jeynes both fabulous poets and amazing women. Maggie Doyle, Lorna Meehan & Laura Yates are 3 women whose work I love, as much as I love their friendship. I’m also eternally grateful that when I emailed them years ago with a last minute idea to write a show together for Artsfest without a clue what I was doing – they said yes! We did it, and loved writing and performing together, including an amazing one at Ledbury Festival.

It’s the best fun to share a page and stage with friends, especially those far more talented than yourself, so you can sit back & enjoy watching them excel. Slowly starting to write a new show together now…our sessions are mostly about tea, soup, toast & hummus and supportive friendship, and the writing… – Charlie Jordan

My friend Mig Robinson who was a psychic medium and sadly died in 2008. She convinced me twenty five years ago when I was in the grip of an abusive marriage that I should write for fifteen minutes a day minimum and stick to it ‘because there were people on the other side who wanted me to succeed.’ I’ve been too frightened to stop! – Sue Johnson

I’m indebted to my great friend, Rachel Davies, who took me under her wing at a local writing group a few years ago when I was recovering from serious illness. She invited me to the Poetry Society Stanza group she runs and through her I entered the wonderful world of poetry that I never knew existed. I’ll always be grateful to Jo Bell for her inspired 52 online group. She got me to write at least a poem a week throughout 2014 and encouraged me to apply to do an MA in Creative Writing. I will graduate in July. – Hilary Robinson

Creative writing was always my favourite subject at school and my English teachers encouraged me to take my writing further. One piece of homework in middle school was to write about our life so far, which scored an A from Mrs Owen. Mrs Colley was another teacher who described one of my essays as Excellent writing. Vivid, descriptive and in an effective style. I’m so glad I’ve kept these from school, such memories! – J V Birch

My English and Drama teacher in secondary school, Heather Dudley as she was known then was hugely influential. She helped me to express my creativity and to pursue acting work. In later years she encouraged me to do a degree as a mature student in English Lit and Theatre Practise. Also Dr Susan Painter, my tutor at Roehampton University influenced me in a very positive way. She was always there to encourage me and to develop my skills as both a writer and an actor. Finally my mother, Phyliss, the biggest influence in my life. She took my sister and I to dancing school at an early age, she taught us songs and dances and was always supportive, loving and caring. – Raine Geoghegan

Carrie Etter, for scooping me up from an inappropriate M.A. and not letting me get away with anything! My daughter Miranda, for doggedly insisting I’m not too old. – Jinny Fisher




I have grown wise to the fact that I am not responsible for anyone else’s happiness.  ~ Michelle Diaz

It’s taken a while but I now know that poetry is such a very personal thing, every poem is worth reading to someone. ~ Nikki Fine

White wine is not an appropriate mixer with vodka! ~ Penny Blackburn

It’s been fascinating for me how important female friendship has been, in life and writing. I was always a tomboy, at 6 ft tall, wore men’s clothes mostly as women’s didn’t fit, and pretty much all of my friends were men. I’ve always worked in the male dominated world of DJing in clubs, or on radio, and it’s only the last 10 yrs that I’ve stopped being such a ‘lad’ and really treasure my female friends. I don’t act as tough all the time anymore, and am amazed how soppy I’ve become and that I’m fine with that and privileged to know so many brilliant, talented women. ~Charlie Jordan

I wish I’d had more faith in myself at a younger age. ~ Sue Johnson

In womanhood (really, since I retired 6 years ago) I’ve learned to stop giving a damn about what others might think. I’ve changed the way I dress — now I wear bright and sometimes zany clothes to suit me and no-one else. I’m learning to let go of stuff I have no control over and am feeling happier for it. I’ve learned that the world doesn’t end if the housework doesn’t get done! ~ Hilary Robinson

I have endometriosis, a debilitating condition affecting 1 in 10 women. I wasn’t diagnosed until thirty-one when I decided to stop taking the pill because of the increased risks associated with long term use. I was prescribed it at a young age to help manage my periods, which were excruciating. Had there been more awareness back then and I’d been diagnosed earlier, there may have been fewer complications and less medication required to manage it now. ~ J V Birch

I wish I’d known to listen more closely to what my mum used to say, things about her childhood and my ancestral Romany roots, picking herbs and cooking.  She was very wise. I also wish that I didn’t feel the need to please others all the time. maybe its having a chronic illness and disability as well as getting older but now I know that it is important to please myself first. To give to others, we must first give to ourselves. ~  Raine Geoghegan

Don’t let people tell you how to be, because who you are does not fit with who they think you should be. ~ Sarah L Dixon


Thank you to all the poets who contributed to this special post for IWD.


I have far too many favourite female poets and poems to recommend (I bought a new bookcase rather than buying fewer collections).

POETS/POEMS – Recommended Reads

Many have been named already in addition I would add Sarah Howe, Kim Moore, Sasha Dugdale, Helen Mort, Wendy Cope, Rita Dove, Angela France, Emily Dickinson, Sarah Leavesley, Ruth Stacey, Claire Walker, Jane Burn, Kate Garrett, Carole Bromley and Jane Hirshfield and from the other side of my poetry life, the Spoken Word of Hollie McNish, Candy Royalle & Jess Green. And I can’t pass go without leaving a poem or two, so…

Jane Hirshfield – The Decision 

Carol Ann Duffy – Little Red-Cap


I have been lucky to meet many inspirational poets early in my career. I am still held in awe at how giving most poets I have met have been. Of time, of life, of their passion for word. Jo Bell has been a huge inspiration (set before the days of 52), her positive energy and boundless encouragement are a joy. I am inspired by many poets who seem to have an endless bookshelf of their own publications. I take notice of what they are writing, but also how, where the ideas came from, how the process formed. 

I am still getting used to that moment when two poets I know and love meet – and I think I thought you all knew each other. This makes me realise how lucky I am to know so many fantastic poets and I only wish I had time to write a list containing you all… because someone is bound to feel left out now. 


My mum. The most amazing, strongest woman I know. Who is delighted to see her daughter finally living. 

Sarah Leavesley (who is one of those amazing poets who produces many fine collections at supersonic speed), for seeing something in my words and giving me the opportunity to have my debut collection with V. Press. 

All the poets I have met, there is not one who has not left a trace, a spark, a trail of glitter. 


When your heart says jump, do it.


I would love to be breezy enough to leave it at that ^…

When your heart says jump, do it. If you don’t there will always be an unhappy part of you that spends days watching your passion being caged. Follow your bliss and make your own dreams… because without you in them, they are nothing. Fear is a figment of your imagination, push fear into that same corner as your writing gremlins and GO FOR IT!


Watch out for the next IWD post with former female Worcestershire Poet Laureates.


  1. What a lovely post. I have to second Penny’s shout out to Jennifer C. Wilson – I only met her properly a year ago and she and The Next Page (Elaine & Sandy), The North Tyneside Writer’s Circle and Penny herself have been so helpful and encouraging of my own writing over the past year. Jenn keeps gently but firmly pushing me towards my goals, keeping me focused and writing. And Penny was my particular partner in crime the day we painted chapbooks & I created the sinister seal-ravens of doom (quite by accident!).


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