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.
Smokestack books published Wall, Ellen's novel for teenagers written in poems; her second novel, Hom, is 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," and she has been posting new episodes twice a week. Read more about Hom here, or use the monthly archives to start at the beginning (read from the bottom up!
Inspired by Julia
Diamond Twig Press was founded by Ellen Phethean and Julia Darling: 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 is the 10th anniversary of Julia's death, and Live Theatre, New Writing North and Newcastle University are all putting on events in her memory and to celebrate her work and life.
Ellen has 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 poets night
In addition, on Friday 5th June, Ellen Phethean and Diamond Twig will host a reading at Live Theatre by poets inspired by Julia. Come along to hear some wonderful poetry, share memories of Julia and be inspired.
Meanwhile Ellen continues her regular monthly selection of a poem that she finds wonderful, interesting, challenging, and fresh: April's poem reflects some of Julia Darling's themes, with Christy Ducker's Suggestions, please.
Ellen's film, Recollection was shown in 'The Poetics of the Archive: Creative and Community Engagement with the Bloodaxe Archive' as part of the Newcastle Poetry Festival; watch it online. Ellen is also one of the poets who have been commissioned to write a new poem for The Poetry Cure, an event in celebration of Julia Darling's work on poetry and health (to be held at the Great North Museum on 29th May.
The Poetry Virgins would like to invite you to an evening round the kitchen table:
Charlie Hardwick, Kay Hepplewhite, Fiona MacPherson and Ellen Phethean
Saturday 30th May, time to be confirmed - upstairs in the Studio, Live Theatre
The The Poetry Virgins used to gather round Julia Darling's kitchen table with bottles of wine and nibbles, laughing and bouncing around ideas for poems and performances. We wrote about cars, bras, birth and politics and much more.
- We will revive the bonhomie and creativity for one more night: - come along prepared to join in, make suggestions, write, share and listen -
- we will eat and drink, talk and reminisce, run writing on-the-spot games: poetry consequences and limericks - the best will go into the final reading, when we'll run a poetry jukebox - audience can request favourite poems for the Poetry Virgins to read to round off the night. We may have some surprise guests too.
- Open to anyone.
Ellen will be telling tales at Blakes Café, 53 Grey Street, Newcastle, (5 minutess from Monument Metro) on Wednesday 10th June at 8.00 pm (doors 7.30 pm): Tickets are £5.00 on the door. This regular spoken word event, hosted by Jeff Price and Aidan Clarke, goes from strength to strength. As well as Ellen, the fabulous Kate Fox, Alfie Crow, Jo Colley and Rosie Anderson have already been announced, and more names will be added to the list.
More information about Ellen Phethean here.
Portrait of the Quince as an Older Woman
Ellen Phethean's Portrait of the Quince as an Older Woman has been picked by New Writing North for their Read Regional promotion 2015. Look out for Ellen at events across the north, throughout 2015.
"I'm absolutely delighted," she says. "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.
Ellen has more to say about this, her second collection, on the Read Regional website.
In it, she 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.
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'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
Information about Breath on the Flambard Press website.
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. 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.