lizbrownlee – poet

Poems, animal info and Lola the labradoodle!

National Poetry Day, Lightship

One of the obvious places to film a person whose job is connected to light was at a lighthouse. I knew there wasn’t one of those around – but when I mentioned this on Facebook, amazingly, I was told by Dru Marland that there is a lightship in Bathurst Basin, Bristol Harbour.

An email or two or in fact quite a few later, I had learned quite a lot about the John Sebastian, the only wooden lightship left anywhere in the world.

It has quite an extraordinary story – built in 1885, and with no engine, she was towed out into the Bristol Channel and anchored to warn sailors about dangerous rocks – she saved many lives.

At the end of her life she was sold for scrap, valuables taken and then she was set alight, but though burning for days she did not burn out entirely – and was left to rot on the waves.

This was when the Cabot Cruising Club, in need of a new clubhouse, bought her, refurbished her, and have been looking after her ever since.

Her lamp has been relit.

I felt she deserved her own poem, and Dru Marland once again stepped in to the breach and wrote a wonderful poem about The English and Welsh Grounds Lightship , as she was known when she was at work.

Later, Dru also painted a picture of her, that we have used in the film.

Three members of the Cabot Cruising Club that look after her and meet in her today read the poem.

Thank you so much to Dru for writing the fabulous poem and for use of her wonderful painting, and to Jacqueline Corcoran, Stuart Lees and Sarah Allen, of the Cabot Cruising Club, who read so well.


The English and Welsh Grounds Lightship © Dru Marland

Painting © Dru Marland

Filmed on and by the John Sebastian, formerly the English and Welsh Grounds Lightship, at Bathurst Basin, Bristol Harbour

Facts about the John Sebastian © Jacqueline Corcoran

Film by Chew Valley Films


National Poetry Day Films, Supernova

Film number eight today in the series of National Poetry Day films where people whose ways of life or jobs are connected with light read poems incorporating light.

When I was researching people whose jobs were connected with light, the obvious choice was an Astrophysicist/Cosmologist. Consequently I wrote to the Physics Department at Bristol University, and received several offers of readers for a poem.

I chose Furqaan Yusaf, whose information was given to me as ‘I work with data from Gravitational Lensing’.

I had no idea what this meant, but decided I’d read about it and find out.

It’s about light – objects that are and events that happen very, very far away in space can be seen by ‘Gravitational Lensing’.

Gravitational Lensing is the effect of gravity on light over massive distance. Any matter has a gravitational field, even you do, although it is very small.

In space, there a lot of matter and way more dark matter in the vast distances, so much that their combined gravity can bend light.

If a supernova (the death of a star) happens over the far side of the universe, it could be seen here a long, long time later, millennia perhaps, when the light given off has travelled between the supernova and us, even though there might be galaxies galore in between us, because the light could be bent around the intervening objects.

The light will go in all directions around the supernova, and some might take a different path and be bent around different objects – so take longer to get to us. So you might see the same event happen one day, and yet again in a week, month or years from now.

I decided to try and write a poem about this. It was tricky.

This is Dr Furqaan Yusaf, Teaching Associate and Researcher in Cosmology, Extensions of General Relativity, of Bristol University Physics Department, who kindly agreed to read my poem, Supernova.

Thank you Furqaan Yusaf for a fabulous reading, and to Malcolm Bremer and Helen Heath at Bristol University for their help.


Supernova © Liz Brownlee

Filmed at Bristol University Physics Department

Film by Chew Valley Films

Light Poems on Bunting Event!

Light poems read by people with light in their lives is not my only project this National Poetry Day!

On October 10th I’ll be at Waterstones, The Galleries, Bristol, with my GIGANTIC magnetic poetry sets – 120 cm boards with giant words.

This is an event FOR ALL AGES! Come along to play with the words and write your resulting thoughts, lines or poems onto bright yellow card.

These will be added to the bunting ‘beams’ of light poems we want to send as far round Waterstones as we can get!

Over ONE HUNDRED poems have already been sent by famous poets far and wide from this country and abroad.

These will be put on the beams to start us off – so your poem may be next to one by Kenn Nesbitt, the last children’s poet laureate of the USA, or next to one by Pie Corbett, Ian Duhig, Roger Stevens, Philip Ardagh, the CLPE award winners Rachel Rooney or Joseph Coelho, Jan Dean, Bill Sherman, Celia Warren, Coral Rumble, Philip de Vos… or even by me. The list is VERY LONG!

I’m also thrilled to have poems sent by our excellent local poets – Carrie Etter, Dru Marland, Alan Summers, Deborah Harvey, David C. Johnson to name a few.

So see you on the 10th October to shine beams of light poems all round Waterstones!

Here are two poems to keep you going – one by me and one by another Bristol poet, Trevor Parsons. Both will be on the bunting!


Fairy Fly


A fairy fly’s

so very light,

a breath of air

disturbs her flight,


so light, so slight,

so that is why

you’ll never see

a fairy fly!


(Fairy flies are in fact minuscule parasitic wasps, the smallest found in Costa Rica has been given the scientific name Tinkerbella nana. It is only the size of two human hairs wide.)


And here is Trevor Parsons’ poem:


Scientific Thinking


If I could see as far as ever

and light could bend like lead,

I could stand upon a hill and see

the backside of my head.


But light won’t curve that much

and my eyesight’s pretty rotten,

and I’d only see myself that far

if the sun shone from my bottom.


© Trevor Parsons


Yes, it’s true, we have serious poems, beautiful poems, animal poems and also fun poems for you at Waterstones on the 8th of October!




National Poetry Day Films, Battling Fire

Film number SEVEN in the series of National Poetry Day films where people whose ways of life or jobs are connected with light read poems incorporating light.

Today’s poem is a rather exciting – Paul Cornelius, fire fighter for Avon Fire and Rescue, reads Battling Fire by Mary E. Cronin, from her future collection for children, Trucks, Boots and Bells.

We were thrilled to have a fire fighter read for us!

Thank you Mary E. Cronin for use of the poem, to Paul Cornelius for his fabulous reading, and to Avon Fire and Rescue for their help.


Battling Fire © Mary E. Cronin

Filmed at Chew Magna Fire Station, Avon Fire and Rescue

Film by Chew Valley Films

National Poetry Day Film, Snow Geese Solstice

Film six in the series of National Poetry Day films made by Peter Brownlee and me.

People whose ways of life or jobs are connected with light read poems incorporating light – today, an actress in the ‘spotlight’, Slavka Liskova, reads Snow Geese Solstice by Susan Richardson.

Thank you to Susan Richardson for use of this beautiful poem, to Slavka Liskova for her wonderful reading, and Holly Newton at the Alma Tavern Theatre, Bristol for use of their stage!


Snow Geese Solstice © Susan Richardson

Filmed at The Alma Tavern Theatre, Bristol

Film by Chew Valley Films

TWO National Poetry Day Films!

Another two poems in the series leading up to National Poetry Day on October 8th.

The first film is one of our people whose way of life or job is connected to light reading a poem about light.

Bob Guscott, photographer, of Clifton Colour, Bristol, reads Writing Light, for a photographer, by Lesley Saunders.

Thank you very much Lesley Saunders for use of the poem, and Bob Guscott for the reading.

The next film is a ‘mash’. This is a series of people all reading the same poem, Pie Corbett’s After Rain, Light, edited together.

The people are a varied group of all ages approached over a couple of days in the City of Bristol, during July.

Thank you very much Pie Corbett for the use of the poem, and to our readers (in order of appearance): Gemma and Sophie Skelley, Luke Lovell, Amy Berry, Bethany King, Wendy Francois and Kevin, Charlie Shaw, Vicky Soper, Sarah Roberts, and Lindsay and Malcolm Sadler.


Writing Light © Lesley Saunders

After Rain, Light © Pie Corbett

Films by Chew Valley Film


Society of Authors Conference

A lovely meeting of like-minds at the Society of Authors conference this last weekend was as usual thoroughly enjoyable. This year we met at Bath University.

We were welcomed by author, editor, translator and Chair of the Society of Authors, Daniel Hahn, and author, wearer of snazzy shirts and Chair of the Children’s Writers’ and Illustrators’ Group, John Dougherty to two-days cram-packed full of fabulous author and publisher talks, culminating in a wonderful poetry performance and an electrifying Royal Literary Fund talk by John Agard.

Also on offer were such delights as ‘My YouTube Story’ by delightful illustrator and Youtube Channel whizz Shoo Rayner (also a snazzy shirt wearer), What are Poetry Editors Looking For? by Janetta Otter-Barry, The Future of Publishing and a spine-tingling account of the real-life personal events that led to author Miriam Moss writing her new book, Girl on a Plane.

Here are some photos – I didn’t take many this year!

This is at dinner on Saturday – we were treated to an interesting live question and answer session between Daniel Hahn and Philip Pullman (who made my day coming up to talk to me about Lola).


And listening in fascination author Sharon Tregenza, poet and story-teller John Rice (indulging in another of his passions, photography!) and author of the Horrid Henry Series, Francesca Simon, whose hilarious talk I missed due to not having quite enough blood sugar to get there!

DSC08859 - Version 2

A lot of wonderful people also wanted to meet Lola, of course. Here are fab authors  Candy Gourlay and Helen Peters taking a photo, and Lola sitting in her photo shoot pose:


The rooms we stayed in were very, very small – so small that poor Lola had to sleep in my suitcase…


And lastly – the wonderful John Agard during his performance, and lovely Valerie Boom who introduced the last section (and also read some powerful poems, as did Grace Nichols) watching him.


DSC08880 - Version 2

I met lots of wonderful people and had a lovely time, thank you so much Society of Authors for all your hard work putting together such a varied and exciting programme.

Thank you Bath University for having lovely staff. But please, if a guest needs a ground floor room, do make sure one is provided. And get those electronic keys sorted out! Three times I had to make a long walk back to the office to get mine re-initialised, and this resulted in me being late for one session, and missing another due to the fact by blood sugar fell so dramatically due to the stress of it all.

Update! My new favourite picture, taken by the wonderful John Rice, and just this moment received. This is me in the Val Bloom’s session, Poetry in Performance. I was getting excellent tips on how to perform better in front of an audience.

06-09-2015 Val Bloom & Liz Brownlee


National Poetry Day Film, Bright Spark

Today it’s time for the third film in the series of poems about light for National Poetry Day, read by people whose ways of life or jobs are connected to light.

This poem is written by Michaela Morgan, and read by Eleanor Trapp, partner, in John Lewis lighting department.

Thank you very much Michaela Morgan – this poem was written for National Poetry Day – and thank you to Eleanor Trapp for a fabulously ‘lit’ reading!


Poem © Michaela Morgan

Film by Chew Valley Films

National Poetry Day Film, Light and Moths

Every Monday and Thursday until National Poetry Day I will be posting a new film of a person whose way of life or job is connected with light reading a poem about light.

Today’s reader is Amar Shar, Optometrist, Bristol – my optometrist, actually, and a wonderful range of frames can be found in his shop!

Amar is reading Angela Topping‘s poem, Light and Moths.

Thankyou Amar Shah for the reading and Angela Topping for the poem.


Poem © Angela Topping

Filmed at Amar Shah, Optometrists, Bristol

Film by Chew Valley Films

National Poetry Day Poem

In the run up to National Poetry Day, I will be posting some poems about its theme, Light!




This word is in a dancer’s spring;

paper aeroplanes in flight;

water spraying rainbows;

an understanding within sight;

a feather floating, slowly;

it is needed in the night.

In a field of swaying sunshine

each buttercup holds it – light!


© Liz Brownlee


If you would like to read more poems about light, here is a link to a page full of them on the Forward Arts Foundation website.



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 942 other followers