Inertia, and Prize Nomination News

There’s 27 days left to listen to my new story, ‘Inertia’ on Radio Four iPlayer. Tim McInnerny reads the story which was produced by Jeremy Osborne and first aired on Sunday night. I was at the studio recording and was simply astounded by Tim’s ability to bring the characters to life, and I felt on listening to the show on Sunday that the finished piece was very much a team effort and the whole thing came together so wonderfully. I’m incredibly proud of the result, and grateful to have been able to work with such an astounding actor, and with such a wonderful producer. It is a dystopian story but very rooted in the all too real struggles of this era in political history.

Inertia: Radio Four

I also have some news to share. My poem, ‘i am very precious’ which was originally published in Prac Crit magazine has been nominated for the Best Single Poet category for the Forward Prize this year. The awards evening will take place on September 20th. You can see the poem, my interview by Michael Conley relating to the poem, and an essay on my work by John Clegg, here:

i am very precious by Melissa Lee-Houghton

The poem also features in Salt Publishing’s Best British Poetry 2015 Anthology, edited by Emily Berry, and will be a central poem in my forthcoming collection, ‘Sunshine’ which will be published by Penned in the Margins in September.

And the list of other shortlisted poets, poems and collections is on the Forward Prize website here:

Forward Prize Shortlists/Website

Please do follow me on twitter @MLeeHoughton

Photograph by Jinez Creative from ‘Reading The Other’ at Chorlton Proof 24th May 2016


Limited Edition Valentine’s Gift

I’ve recently collaborated with artist Alexandra Gallagher to produce Limited Edition signed prints of an original poem which are now available on Folksy. They are available both framed and unframed and would make an excellent gift for Valentine’s day!






On Thursday night, I read at an awards evening for The Preston Guild. I won the Jackie Hayes award for my poem Dancers, Avenham.

It was a lovely evening, with a reading from Michael Symmons Roberts with a particularly moving sequence he wrote as a commission one year on from 9/11. I even got a shiny silver trophy, which I am most proud of.

I was also thrilled to find out I won The Cinnamon Press mini competition. You can read my piece Summer Decay here.

There’s a brilliant new resource for readers and writers alike, at I don’t call myself a poet…The poet Sophie Mayer began the project at the University of Middlesex in Spring 2012 and was inspired by Angela Rawlings’ The Great Canadian Writers’ Craft. Students were each assigned to interview a poet and originally produced 68 interviews with poets such as fellow Penned in the Margins authors Emily Critchley, Siddhartha Bose, Roddy Lumsden, Chris McCabe, Hannah Silva and Ross Sutherland. I was interviewed by Laura Hackshaw. I find interviews a very daunting experience, and I almost can’t stand to read my answers back. But reading others’ interviews is always inspiring.

Why I Write

A poem I’ve always loved by Stephen Dunn, Happiness, is particularly poignant for me at the moment:


A state you must dare not enter

  with hopes of staying,

quicksand in the marshes, and all

the roads leading to a castle

  that doesn’t exist.

But there it is, as promised,

with its perfect bridge above

  the crocodiles,

and its doors forever open.

I am happy. I don’t know how I got to the castle but I did, and the crocodiles are nowhere to be seen! I don’t expect it to last, after all I am a manic depressive and it’s never been in my nature to be purely happy. I think I am contented though, and I think that will last because things lately are so much easier, and I love my family and we are having a lot of fun.

Something I am finding very difficult, however, is how to explain to people what it means to me to write poems, to read poems, to understand poems and to be an author. I don’t know many writers personally, I’m very much cocooned in my own world, my own castle. I find that people most often want to know if you’re making money or expect you to have done and are therefore puzzling to them because you are poor. I try to tell people that there’s no money in writing poetry and that it isn’t the point, but if not for money why would I waste so much time writing poems that aren’t even worth pounds? I never talk about this with anyone, it seems indecent for me to have to explain my art to people who have never even read a poem since highschool. I am feeling the tension about the book for next year with people who have just got the wrong idea. There’ s no wealth, no fame, no success worth having, and it cannot be achieved as a primary goal if you love to write. You write because you love. You write because it connects you to ideas, and readers, and life. You write because you are concerned for life and take interest in the minutae and have a huge heart. You write because you don’t know what else to do. It doesn’t always work, it doesn’t always mean anything at all, but you do it because you are human, and you want to feel human and you want to make an expression of humanity. You make a commitment to humanity when you write it all down, you make a little pledge with the world and with your emotions. You get somewhere, you explain things to yourself you would never have arrived at without poetry and thought. It is deeply pleasurable to write, when it feels right it feels amazing. You hold it all in your mind and in your body and then one day something snaps inside and you say, that’s right, and you put it all down, all that tension, all that language. It’s more often that not disappointing, because most things you want to say are so difficult and basic English doesn’t do them justice. But that spurs you on to try. How can you create poems and want there to be any other reason than you can’t stand it when you don’t write and you love to think that way and describe life and love in that way. This is not naivety, this is what I’m up against. I have the mental health team employment support coming round on Friday. Do you think they’ll be at all interested? They will get me a job at tesco in a flash. Even I, with no self esteem whatsoever, knows that I’m worth more than that.

And you are still wondering if I will make any money. Well it’s hardly vanity publishing but I assure you, the money is not even close to being worth anything to me, if indeed I sell any books, which I’m quite sure is not easy.

I wish I could say how much it means to have my work accepted and published. It is a justification, it is an honour, and it is a happy dream, you have always liked to think that your work would be liked and would be wanted and would be valid. It’s very hard to say what that means. It’s not about vanity, it’s about acceptance and belonging, it’s about being part of something really energetic and new that makes a change from being in your little house with your little notebooks and your little voice. And of course I always wanted to connect with others, I just found it easier to be alone. I feel like I can now call myself a writer, instead of always replying dimly,’ I’m a housewife.’ Screw housewife. I am a writer.

There’s been some setbacks with the schedule for Bite Your Tongue.. so I will announce as soon as it is available. I’ve been reading another Chipmunka writer’s memoir, Victim of Dreams, by Jeremy Gluck, who has a huge amount to say and to offer to anyone wanting to read an expressive account of mental illness. He has a distinctive prose style and is a unique voice on challenging mental health issues. Buy his ebook and help fight the stigma.

M x

Poem: Engulf

A poem I am working on: 


I was watching a tv show about sharks.

When I was little I would tell everyone I wanted to be a marine


mostly because no-one else had thought of it and it had a fancy


but also because I loved tv shows about sharks.

I want to see the whales in the sea, because big things can’t be

     easily comprehended. I want

to be next to a whale and so I can see how small I am, how


You went to the top of the Empire State Building years ago,

and listened to Goddess on a Hiway by Mercury Rev looking out.

That always impressed me.

The biggest thing I’ve ever known was a tourist cruise liner in my

    early twenties

when I had a bit of money to spend.

The only problem was that every time I was on deck I wanted to

     throw myself

violently into the swells,

and so I had to stay away and try to breathe properly.

It’s impossible to write.

I’ve been thinking things over too much,

I have been weighing things up and nothing’s on my side. Did

     you know that sharks

can stop swimming, it’s just a myth that they can’t. Inertia

will kill them eventually, but it takes time.

All my actions prior to March of this year have been dangerous,

subtle, but taken with the unsteady mind of a madwoman.

I have a shaky reputation.

One woman fed a great White Shark a fish off the edge of her

     boat, stood with the water lapping her

 feet. She said if the shark had wanted to

it could’ve pulled her straight into the sea and eaten her, but it

     had a decent personality,

as all sharks have their own personality.

Many sharks have their tails and fins sliced off for soup

and their bodies just fall

to the bottom of the ocean bed and lie there,

taking several days to die.

I am sorry for being so fallible.

The feeling engulfs me, inside my skin.

The white-tipped reef shark is the most dangerous, it is


for the majority of shark-related human deaths;

people need statistics for things like this, even if they’ll only ever

     make it to Torquay.

We’re not really afraid of sharks, we’re not even afraid

of cars or the ordinary killers, like age and heart attacks.

Do you often think about death? I don’t believe you.

The mega mouth shark was only spotted in the seventies.

It is so beautiful no-one could bear to see it alive.

We have to kill those beautiful things to keep them alive.

When I look at you, I see nothing of me.

When I look at you. The sea is older than love;

there are so many skeletons at the very bottom with

fishes swimming in and out and sharks gliding in the darkness.

You are older than me, but when I look at you I see

my youth, what little there was of it, climbing into your arms

     curled up

and hanging on your every breath

with an ear pressed to your heart.