I am a freelance author and journalist based in Wales and London. Born in Liverpool I am the author of several literary biographies including lives of Franz Kafka, Aldous Huxley, Bruce Chatwin, Andrew Marvell and Matthew Arnold, five collections of poems, and two novels. My biography of Matthew Arnold was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year in 1997 and my biography of Aldous Huxley was shortlisted for the Marsh Biography Prize in 2003. My biography of Franz Kafka has been translated into nine languages.
I am a regular contributor of poems, essays and reviews to a wide range of newspapers and literary magazines. In 1996 I was the inaugural Gladys Krieble Delmas Fellow at the British Library Centre for the Book and I am a Fellow of the Welsh Academy and a member of English PEN. I have lectured at literary festivals and universities in Britain, Europe and the United States. From 2003-2007 I was Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Queen Mary, University London and again at King’s College, London in 2010-11, where I later ran seminars on the fundamentals of good writing. I have also been a tutor in biography, travel-writing and creative non-fiction at the City Literary Institute in London.
So Spirited a Town: Visions and Versions of Liverpool was published by Liverpool University Press in 2007 and a book about the Victorian Travellers, A Corkscrew is Most Useful was published by Little, Brown in 2008. In 2010 my book about Bloomsbury in the “Real” series was published: Real Bloomsbury (Seren). My book about the British poets of the First World War, The Red Sweet Wine of Youth (Little, Brown) appeared in 2011 and my verse broadside against the British coalition government, Get Real! also appeared in February 2011. In April 2012 Acapulco: New and Selected Poems appeared from Melos Press and in August 2013 my poetry pamphlet collection Of Earth, Water, Air and Fire: Animal Poems was also published by Melos. My most recent book is Bloomsbury and the Poets (2014) and the verse satire Trench Feet (2014). In 2015 I won the Basil Bunting Award for Poetry. My latest collection of poems, The Secrets of the Sea, was published in 2015. My most recent poetry collections are The Migrant Ship (Melos, 2016) and A Dog’s Brexit (Melos, 2017) and The Museum of Truth (2018). Bloomsbury and the Poets (Rack Editions) was published in 2014 and Crossings: a journey through borders (Seren) in 2016. The Yellow Wheelbarrow (Melos) a full length poetry collection was published in December 2019.
I run the poetry pamphlet imprint, Rack Press, which in 2014 won the Michael Marks Award for Publisher of the Year and I write the Bibliophilicblogger literary blog.
Awards and Fellowships
- Inaugural Gladys Krieble Delmas Fellow British Library Centre for the Book, 1996
- New York Times, Notable Book of the Year, 1997 (for A Life of Matthew Arnold)
- Marsh Biography Awards, 2003 (shortlisted for Aldous Huxley: an English Intellectual)
- Royal Literary Fund Fellow, Queen Mary College University of London, 2003-7
- Royal Literary Fund Fellow, King’s College, University of London, 2010-11
- Literature Wales Writer’s Bursary, 2013
- Robert Graves Prize (formerly Ruskin Prize) 2015 (joint second prize)
- Basil Bunting Prize, 2015 (first prize)
- New Welsh Writing Awards 2018 (runner-up)
- Poetry London Clore Prize 2019 (highly commended)