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Ellen Phethean Hom The Ropes: Poems to hold on to
Ellen Phethean

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.

She has a second novel in progress, and has ben awarded a Hosking Houses Trust residency to allow her to work on it in Spring 2016. She explained in her diary: "I've been offered a little cottage in Warwickshire, a one up, one down space for free, to write in. What a luxury. It's a charity called Hosking Houses, that's designed to help women just like me: older, in need of peace and quiet, and an escape from financial and domestic constraints. All I have to do in return is acknowledge their support in my published work. The lovely Sarah Hosking was very clear in her conversation with me on the phone, '...and when you go home again, you will continue to write and not fall back into your domestic traps!'"

Every month, Ellen selects a poem that she finds wonderful, interesting, challenging, and fresh: February's poem looks forward to the spring, and back to the continuing inspiration of Julia Darling: it is How to survive the spring without your grandchild by Mary Anne Perkins.

More information about Ellen Phethean here.

Portrait of the Quince as an Older Woman

Portrait of the Quince as an Older Woman

Ellen will be reading from Portrait of the Quince as an Older Woman at Border Crossings, on Friday 4th March, 11.30 am - 12.30 pm at The Town Hall, Queens Gardens, St Andrews (as part of the STAnza poetry festival).

In Portrait of the Quince as an Older Woman, 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.

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 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.

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."

Read the full review on the STAnza website.

Read the title poem.

Order Portrait of the Quince as an Older Woman from Inpress.

Politics & Poetry

Keith Morris Memorial Concert DVD cover

After a very successful launch event at Newcastle's Jazz Café, the CD and DVD of the Keith Morris Memorial Concert are now available to purchase online.

The concert was recorded live on June 7th 2015 at Gateshead Old Town Hall, and features dozens of musicians, a brace of poets and a whole lot of politics!

The CD and DVD are £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.

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Breath, Ellen's first poetry collection

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.

Inviolate, by Sara Park

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.

Read more about Inviolate by Sara Park, including information on how to order a copy; or read Liver Sense, a poem from Inviolate which was October's Poem of the Month.

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.

Diamond Twig publications are supported by lottery funding from The Arts Council England, North East. This website is sponsored by Samara James, diamond engagement rings specialists, Marlows Diamond Rings, and by Purely Diamonds, specialists in Eternity Rings.

Photo © Hogg Photography.

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Last updated 1st February 2016.

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