Remembering Sophie Lancaster

I’ve just spent a short time sat in the garden, reading this book:


I read it, quite coincidentally, a week after the ten year anniversary of Sophie Lancaster’s death.

 Armitage created this drama-documentary for BBC4, trying to give voice to the girl with the help of meetings with Sophie’s mother and access to her diaries. It was performed live at the Royal Exchange.

 Living not too far from Lancaster’s hometown of Bacup, where she was killed, I remember the murder well. Reading this just re-emphasises how senseless and sad her death was. She and her boyfriend were attacked by a group of local teenagers when they took a shortcut through a park. Initially friendly, with Sophie passing cigarettes around, they suddenly turned on her boyfriend Robert Maltby. As she tried to protect him, lying unconscious, by cradling his head in her lap, they then turned on her.

Armitage: Oh God he comes back and turns on me/a plague of fists or a swarm of feet/the boot going in again and again/How he hates my demeanour/hates my braids/how he hates my manner/hates my ways/doesn’t know me from Adam/not even my name/but detests every atom /of what I am.

In the media it was speculated that they were attacked because they looked ‘different’, because they were goths. Though Maltby recently said this was an “oversimplification.” 

Both victims were in a coma, but Sophie never emerged from hers. Her killer’s boot print on her swollen face, her life support was switched off thirteen days after the attack.

Her mother Sylvia Lancaster set up The Sophie Lancaster Foundation. (See link below.) Her campaigning has helped violence against what are termed ‘subcultures’ to be classed as hate crimes. 

For her work she was given an OBE in 2014.
Rest in Peace Sophie Lancaster. I also hope that Robert Maltby has managed to find some measure of peace. 

http://www.sophielancasterfoundation.com

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To Read And To Write; The Creative Life

I spent the morning finishing The Innocents by Ian McEwan.

I felt a great sadness when reading a letter contained within it, suggestive of other lives and other alternatives.

Literature, art, has the power to do this.

I find myself more and more subsumed into the creative life.

I’m currently on the second draft of a novel. I’m not a very disciplined writer. I don’t put aside set times to write. I just decide to go over a chapter when I have a window in time. Although this may seem a quite casual approach, from crude, rudimentary beginnings the book is beginning to take shape.

And yet, amidst this deliberate foray into fiction, poetry is beginning to call to me again. I have long had an eye on a second collection. Not one to multitask, I intended to turn to this after the completion of my novel. But words are beginning to nudge their way in, filter through. Single words, combinations of words, predatory lines demanding attention.

Inspiration doesn’t pay respect to timeframes and schedules.

I have a few new poems written: Judas Kiss, Boathouse, My Father As Child, In Brigantia and others. I’ve not posted much poetry recently on City Jackdaw as I’m holding them back for a possible next collection.

At the moment I’m still deliberating the order of my creative endeavours. My procrastination was given a nudge recently  when I received a letter in the post from a great writer and poet that I gave a name check to in the foreword of my debut collection Heading North. Now in his 81st year and still as creative as ever, he wished me luck on my own foray on this open and crafted path.

This path of conjured words, and alternative worlds, that exist long after the demise of their creator.

Songs Of The North

These three books constitute the (current) Songs Of The North poetry series, of which my book Heading North is a part.

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These words are from my editor Michael Kobernus:

‘I am proud of every book we put out, at Nordland Publishing. However, these are special. While they may not be everyone’s cup of tea, they elevate the written word into art, and that is amazing.’

My book, Heading North, is available here:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Heading-North-2-Songs/dp/8283310097/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1491035913&sr=1-1&keywords=heading+north

All three different takes on the inspirational north can be discovered here on Nordland Publishing’s website:

http://www.nordlandpublishing.com/titles/songs-of-the-north/

Isn’t it time you journeyed North? 🙂

The Kingdom Of Memory

I first encountered John O’Donohue when I picked up a copy of his book Anam Cara: Spiritual Wisdom from the Celtic World. (Anam Cara is Gaelic for ‘soul friend’.) It is a beautifully written book that I have returned to time and again. Described as a ‘poetic priest with the soul of a pagan,’ O’Donohue died unexpectedly in his sleep, at the age of 52.

Not so long ago I bought a copy of another of his books, Eternal Echoes: Exploring Our Hunger To Belong.  Although I haven’t read it yet, I recently came across an excerpt from it which I have shared below. As we get older, the number of family and friends that we lose increases. It is inevitable, for that is the natural order of things, the price of life. And, for me personally as an avowed creature of nostalgia, my memories are precious and form a connection between the person I was and the person I am. The people who were, and the people who are.

John O’Donohue:

As we journey onwards in life, more and more spaces within us fill with absence. We begin to have more and more friends among the dead. Every person suffers the absence of their past. It is utterly astonishing how the force and fiber of each day unravel into the vacant air of yesterday. You look behind you and you see nothing of your days here. Our vanished days increase our experience of absence. Yet our past does not deconstruct as if it never was. Memory is the place where our vanished days secretly gather. Memory rescues experience from total disappearance. The kingdom of memory is full of the ruins of presence. It is astonishing how faithful experience actually is; how it never vanishes completely. Experience leaves deep traces in us. It is surprising that years after something has happened to you the needle of thought can hit some groove in the mind and the music of a long vanished event can rise in your soul as fresh and vital as the evening it happened.

So, Tonight’s Conversation . . . 

 . . . between my wife and I.

Me:”I’ve just picked up a book about Julian of Norwich.” 

Jen:”Why?” 

Me:”You know who Julian was?” 

Jen:”Of course I do.” 

Me:”Who?”

 Jen:”A bloke from years ago. See-I surprise you don’t I? I might not know what he did, but I know he lived years ago. So there!”

 Me:”Julian of Norwich was a woman.” 

Jen:”Whatever.” 

New Book: Introducing Mythos

The second of The Northlore Series of books is out today. A planned trilogy of books, the first volume was called Folklore, and this second one is called Mythos. I have two short stories featured in it.


The premise of this one is that since the advent of Christianity 2,000 years ago, the old Norse Gods didn’t just cease to exist but continued on, right through to the present day. These are their stories. There are tales of different times and different places: from the Russian Plains, to the Somme, to a cafe in New York. A varied collection that holds something for everyone, it is a great companion piece to Folklore. 


In Folklore, I had included a poem about a Mara, and a story about a Myling. A reviewer (in a good way), described my story as ‘Murray’s bleak take on the Myling legend’. If he thought that was bleak, wait until he reads my World War One tale in Mythos! Though I liked ‘bleak’. I think I’ll take that. 

The books contain humour, too. There is a good balance throughout: light and dark, prose and poetry.

Both books are available here:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mythos-2-Northlore-MJ-Kobernus/dp/8283310259/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1481633508&sr=1-2&keywords=Mythos

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Folklore-1-Northlore-MJ-Kobernus/dp/828331002X/ref=pd_sbs_14_1?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=ZZVH62QX70FKJ5QQSSRJ

And for American customers:

https://www.amazon.com/Mythos-Northlore-2-MJ-Kobernus/dp/8283310259/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1481636128&sr=8-2&keywords=Northlore

https://www.amazon.com/Folklore-Northlore-Book-MJ-Kobernus-ebook/dp/B00Y14YZRU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1481636128&sr=8-1&keywords=Northlore
Images from Nordland Publishing