I was born in Bradford, Yorkshire, on New Year's Day 1945 and brought up in a village on the edge of the city.
Next door was a dairy farm; behind the house, a meadow stretched up to a reservoir beyond which lay a steep hill.
On the further side of the ridge lay a wood that, to my child's eyes, seemed to stretch on forever.
When I began to write The Book of Lowmoor, I set the action of the trilogy in a distorted version of this landscape.
Back to top ^
From local infant and primary schools I moved on to Bradford Grammar School where I started to write poetry and took to
cross-country running. Then for five years it was the University College of North Wales, Bangor where I eventually
swapped running for writing for the college newspaper, playing the guitar and morris dancing. After a brief period
teaching at a Grammar School in Lincolnshire, I taught Literature and - latterly - Creative Writing for more than thirty
years at Coleg Harlech, Wales's Residential College for Adults. Given the opportunity to retire early, I determined to
attempt to live as a full-time writer.
In the 1970s, I began publishing poetry, book reviews and critical articles in English-language Welsh journals.
My poems have appeared in magazines and anthologies in Wales, England, Ireland and the U.S.A., and between 1978 and 1994
I brought out four collections with a variety of presses.
Much of my literary critical work focussed on Welsh writing in English (then known as Anglo-Welsh literature) and I became
an expert on the writings of Richard Hughes, author of A High Wind in Jamaica, whom I was privileged to know in the last years
of his life. Hughes died in 1976, and I edited two posthumous collections of his work. Poetry Wales Press published my
critical biography of Hughes in 1987. I have written literary documentaries for radio and television on Hughes and Robert Graves.
Between 1992 and 1996 I edited sixteen issues of Poetry Wales magazine. Also in the nineties I began to translate poetry from
the Welsh, notably - in association with the author - the work of Gwyneth Lewis. I did a lot of work for The Bloodaxe Book of
Modern Welsh Poetry, and in 2003 Shoestring Press brought out That Fool July, a selection of my translations from the twentieth
century Welsh poet T. H. Parry-Williams.
I wrote a novel for adult readers in the 1990s, but it didn't find a publisher, so in mid-2002 I started to think about something
quite different - a fantasy trilogy designed for teenage readers upwards. The result was Jewel and Thorn, the opening volume of
The Book of Lowmoor. From time to time I've written poems for young readers, though I've never tried to publish any, and when
Nick Jr invited me to write some short pieces for animation, I was happy to do so. These became Teeny Tiny Creatures.
I'm married with a grown-up son, and I live in North Wales. When not writing, I read avidly, watch films, play the electric
guitar, listen to classical music and explore Europe.
Writing Teeny Tiny Creatures
Poets normally write to please themselves, following the dictates of the imagination; if a reader likes what they write, well
and good. Writing for a particular audience changes the nature of the undertaking, bringing a narrowing of scope and a
concentration of focus. Teeny Tiny Creatures were written for a very young audience. They were also written to be animated.
They had to be simple and they had to be visual. This wasn't a case of poems illustrating already-existing images
(as an illustrator, say, might draw pictures for a new edition of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland); rather, what was in the
poems would suggest ideas to the animators.
Back to top ^
Simplicity and visuality were basic requirements, then. Four other necessary qualities I divided in my own mind into pairs
whose terms seemed rather at odds with one another. On the one hand the poems had to be brief - no more than six lines long.
But on the other they needed to have variety, to give the animators something to work with. So the poems would have to move
fast, and they'd have to be concentrated. The other opposing pair was humour and realism. The creatures could only do what
their real counterparts could do in life - they couldn't behave like cartoon animals. At the same time a light touch was in
order - there couldn't be any violence.
All writing is about making choices. In the case of Teeny Tiny Creatures, many choices were obviously already made for me.
But I still had room for manoeuvre, and of the choices left to be made, three were particularly important. First, I could
choose what creatures to portray. Second, I could determine how to present them. I decided to have them speak in the first
person, chiefly because I've always liked this approach, but also because it would then be natural for the creature not to
give its own name in the poem. Third, I could determine the form of the poems. I settled on six lines divided into rhyming
couplets, which gave me three structurally separate thought-units to work with. Free verse I dismissed out of hand, believing
that children are naturally disposed to respond to rhythm and rhyme - pattern in language.