Welcome to the website of Ellen Phethean, poet, playwright and editor and co-founder of Diamond Twig press. Ellen's first full collection of poetry, Breath was shortlisted for the London New Poetry Award. It is now back in print, from Red Squirrel Press, who also publish her new collection, Portrait of the Quince as an Older Woman.
Ellen talked about Portrait of the Quince... to Laura Fraine in the Journal.
Smokestack books published Wall, Ellen's novel for teenagers written in poems; her second novel, Hom, was published in installments on this website. She says "It's unusual in that it is written in poems but it uses dialogue, monologue and dialect and is meant to read like mini installments of a novel." Read more about Hom here, or use the monthly archives to start at the beginning.
In spring 2016, Ellen spent six weeks on a residency at Hosking Houses Trust, in which she managed to get a final draft done on the first book of her trilogy (50,000 words) and do a second draft of the next 50,000. "So I'm extremely pleased," she says, "and feel my time here has been most productive. I'm extremely grateful to The Hosking Houses Trust for this opportunity and wish it success in the years to come. I appreciated the hard work it takes to find funding and keep running such an enterprise, but it is vital work, offering women a room of their own to write. Long may it continue."
Every month, Ellen selects a poem that she finds wonderful, interesting, challenging, and fresh: July's poem recollects the dark side of a summer pleasure, Skinny Dip, by Kris Johnson.
More information about Ellen Phethean here.
Portrait of the Quince as an Older Woman
In Portrait of the Quince as an Older Woman, Ellen writes about her life in a world made alien with loss and absence. She acknowledges aging but also the pleasure of grandchildren and the recompenses of writing. Her poems explore the older woman's place in contemporary culture.
Ellen has more to say about this, her second collection, on the Read Regional website.
Reviewing the book in his Poetry Talk, Keith Parker wrote: "In many ways her new book is a hymn of praise to the older woman, toughened by the experience of life, but who can be burnished to rose. She exists, a contrast of sugar and pips, capable of enticing new forms, some with the promise of a 'honey kiss'. As you progress through the book so you progress through the stages of life that culminate in this woman of experience. ... Ellen Phethean has indeed the richness of the quince. This collection is generous, varied, intelligent, tolerant. But isn't this the Ellen Phethean we have come to know?"
Ellen Phethean's Portrait of the Quince as an Older Woman was picked by New Writing North for their Read Regional promotion 2015. "I'm absolutely delighted," she said at the time. "This is a great boost for my work and recognition for my publisher, Red Squirrel Press. I look forward to touring the region next year and meeting people who want to hear and talk about poetry and the writing process."
Portrait of the Quince as an Older Woman was reviewed for the Dundee University Review of the Arts by Beth McDonough, who said: "There are indeed big life and death issues here, but many of these poems also brim with sly humour, with witty observation. Consider the marvellous picture of the gathering of patients in the hospital grounds 'feet eaten by fluffy dogs', and again after all that fun, the delicious finish -
Imagine if one kept on wheeling
up the road, going home.
"Imagine indeed. Take that journey."
Politics & Poetry
The Keith Morris Memorial Concert: Politics and Poetry at Gateshead Old Town Hall has won the 'Performance of the Year' award in the Journal Culture Awards 2016.
The concert, on June 7th 2015 at Gateshead Old Town Hall, was recorded live and features dozens of musicians, a brace of poets and a whole lot of politics!
The CD and DVD are now available to purchase online, at £6 each or £10 bought together. Use the drop-down lists to say how many of each you want, we’ll do the sums. There is a flat charge of £1.50 per order for postage and packing.
Ellen's first poetry collection, Breath, was first published by Flambard Press, and has now been reissued, with a new cover and ISBN, by Red Squirrel Press, and can be ordered from them. This work is largely the result of her part-time creative writing MA at Newcastle University, which helped her through the last few years, after the death of her husband Keith Morris, and Julia, within two months of each other in 2005. To quote the book cover: "These poems explore love, loss and the life that insists we carry on", but Ellen says they also contain candid observation and humour.
Breath was shortlisted for the London New Poetry Award, 2009.
"The core of the book is an extraordinarily brave and painful sequence recording the journey through grief which Phethean travelled after her partner, the composer Keith Morris, was killed by a hit-and-run driver in 2005... great poems by any standard..."
Andy Croft, Morning Star
"The handling of these bereavements, the skillful restraint of words which let the anger and pain just shimmer through, is breathtaking."
Valerie Laws, Mslexia, April 2010
Diamond Twig Press
Diamond Twig is a small press, launched in 1992 by Ellen Phethean and the late Julia Darling to publish vibrant new writing by women in the North East of England. They both passionately believed in encouraging new women writers. With her work and her expansive personality, Julia inspired and encouraged writers wherever she went. April 2015 was the 10th anniversary of Julia's death, and Ellen asked poets - women and men, new writers and experienced published writers - to contribute a poem to Julia's memory, and write a few words about how she inspired them. These poems are being published online throughout the year in our new Inspired by Julia pages.
Diamond Twig publications include twenty titles in the Branch Lines series: pocket sized books in stylish black-and-white livery, launching new women writers into print. In October 2011 the twentieth title was added to the Branchlines collection, Inviolate by Sara Park, edited by Kathleen Kenny from Sara's extensive writings, and published posthumously in her memory. At the same time, Red Squirrel Press published Sara's short story collection, Edith Popkiss Laughed Out loud.
Diamond Twig's previous publication, The Ropes, an anthology of new poetry for young people, was shortlisted for the CLPE Poetry Award. Read Ellen's account of the awards ceremony in her online diary.
Read more about The Ropes: Poems to hold on to, including how to order a copy.
Use the diamonds to find your way around this site: and if you can't find what you are looking for, check the Site Map, which includes a full list of our authors, and our publications, which we hope you'll buy.
Diamond Twig regrets that we are unable to accept new submissions, until further notice.