‘Igniting The Spark’ creative writing sessions in Halifax, with Gaia Holmes

•September 28, 2021 • Leave a Comment


‘Igniting the spark’ is a weekly writing workshop held every Tuesday night  at Dean Clough, Halifax and run by local poet, Gaia Holmes.

The workshop is informal, covers many literary genres (such as autobiography, biography, creative non-fiction, poetry and fiction) and involves stimulating exercises to generate poetry or prose. The sessions will feature lots of writing and relaxed group discussions.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a novice or a seasoned writer. The ‘Igniting the spark’ workshop welcomes writers of all abilities and is the perfect place for you to exercise your creative muscles, be inspired and put pen to paper.

The Details

When: Tuesdays 5.30-7.00

Where: The ‘Mies Van Der Rohe’ room (which is right next to the main reception desk), D mill, Dean Clough, Halifax (but ask at reception for the room number as occasionally we’re in a different room).

Booking: Places are limited so please book in advance via phone, text or email.

How Much: It’s £3.50 per session if you’re on a low income, and £5.00 per session otherwise…To enable to manage numbers and bookings I’m asking participants to pay for 4 blocks…so

4 weeks =£20

4 weeks (unwaged) =£14

You can pay via Paypal, or by cash/cheque at the start of the session

What to bring: A pen and something to write on.

For more details: Contact Gaia Holmes on (01422) 369575 or(mobile) 0772 4620842 email : gaiaholmes@hotmail.co.uk

website: gaiaholmes.wordpress.com

Autumn Selection Box

•September 8, 2022 • Leave a Comment

‘Igniting The Spark’, weekly inspirational creative writing prompts delivered to your inbox

•September 8, 2022 • Leave a Comment

I run a weekly creative writing group in Halifax, West Yorkshire. As well as this, I also offer weekly inspirational prompts sent to your inbox in PDF for people who are physically unable to attend the sessions due to work, travel, logistics, etc.

The weekly prompts feature texts, images and links to accompany the exercises. Subjects are diverse drifting from the mundane to the arcane. In recent sessions we’ve looked at bricks, umbrellas, sink holes, mythological birds, Victorian ice fairs, alchemy, bridges and Tupperware! I believe that every subject, no matter how mundane, can offer inspiration if you look for it. And also, exploring these ‘random’ subjects might lead you away from your usual topics. Here’s what the writer, Raymond Carver, has to say about the matter:

“It’s possible, in a poem or a short story, to write about commonplace things and objects using commonplace but precise language, and to endow those things– a chair, a window curtain, a fork, a stone, a woman’s earring– with immense, even startling power.”

I offer this weekly prompt service for a small donation payable to me via paypal.

If you are interested in subscribing, please email me at gaiaholmes@hotmail.co.uk

Below are some examples of the inspirational prompts I send out.

Prose Poem In Which I Bottle-feed The House With Freshly Mixed Cement

•October 7, 2021 • Leave a Comment

This house is distressed. At night when I feel it twitching and trembling, hear it whining in its sleep, I get up, go and try to find a good place to rub some calm in.

In the corridor the air is black with fruit flies and some giant orange has shed its pith and peelings in piles all the way up the steps. The night beneath the wood-wormed rafters smells of blown fuses, soft apples and bad luck. The bats are no longer here.

I would rub vick’s vapour rub into the house’s bones if I knew where they were, but instead I lie on my belly in the hallway of the West wing, where the servants used to live in cold rooms without hearths, and I whisper in to the place where the house’s ears might be. I tell it about new windows and clean carpets. I tell it about varnish that will lacquer its wounded banisters, sweet oils that will soothe all its rusty locks and creaking hinges. I promise it soft-footed tenants who do not swear or kick and burn things. I tell it soon there will be snow and the world will seem softer, quieter. I tell it the rats are tamped down, sleeping curled beneath the flickering meters in the cellar head. I tell it that tonight no wires will be gnawed. There will be no chip pan fires in any of our tinder-box kitchens.

I dream of the house and in my dream it is puling. In my dream I bottle feed it a smooth formula of WD40 and wet cement then I lay it over my shoulder and sing it lullabies about red brick and granite as I pat its back to bring the wind up.

Making Sunday Dinner For Elvis

•October 1, 2020 • 2 Comments

Making Sunday Dinner For Elvis

I started making Sunday dinners for Elvis in March. I feed him mashed potato, pulped banana or cold, cooked macaroni cut into tiny pieces. Elvis dines on these mushy meals, tottering with the weight of his plump Christmas pudding body, almost too big to fit on the narrow windowsill of my tiny top-floor flat.

Elvis is a wood pigeon with a deformed beak also known as a ‘cross beak’ or ‘scissor beak’. He might have been born with it or he could have damaged it by flying into a car or a building. Due to this condition, Elvis struggles to pick up small seeds, worms and berries, hence my soft Sunday dinner service.

Elvis is just one of the many feathered friends I’ve made since I started feeding the birds on my windowsill.

At the start of the pandemic, like many others, I obsessively listened to the rising death toll with grief, fear and a feeling of hopelessness. As the tide of horror grew, so did my friendly babbling, cooing, cawing, tweeting, trilling flock. I began to count them and name them: Black Betty and Brown Betty, the male and female blackbirds, Paloma and Picasso, the pale and exquisitely pair of pink-eyed collared doves, Roderick the robin, Duncan the dunnock, Thea the song thrush, Elvis scissor-beak and King Henri, his smooth lady wife. And each day as the death toll rose and I learned of some new tragedy in this poor bruised world, I learned something new and joyful about the birds. I learned that wood pigeons and collared doves mate for life. Mistle thrushes sing in a minor key. Blackbirds sing louder after rain. I taught myself to coo gently, studied the language of birds- that vast, fascinating vocabulary of feather, song, beak and wing.

I was alone for the first three months of lock-down and the birds sweetened my enforced solitude. They made me laugh. They made me look at the world differently. They gave focus and structure to those slack and edgeless early lock-down days. They made me want to get up at 6AM to listen to the rich textures of their dawn chorus as they carol something pure and sweet and light into this dark, fevered season.

I was delighted to have this broadcast on BBC radio 4’s ‘PM’.



A Bag Full of Leaves- an interview by Michael Stewart

•December 8, 2018 • Leave a Comment

I was born in the Calder valley (almost on the potato patch) in a small cottage tucked between two farms in Luddenden Foot. A few weeks ago, I went for a walk with novelist, Michael Stewart,gaia and his lovely dog, Wolfie, around Luddenden Dean, and we talked about the landscapes of my childhood, the Orkneys and my latest collection, Where The Road Runs Out. Here are the results of that conversation, transcribed and smoothed and made highly readable, by Michael: A Bag Full Of Leaves.

‘Where The Road Runs Out’, reviews

•November 20, 2018 • 3 Comments



By Dan Power on scan.lusu.co.uk

“Up here the hours go backwards / and we’re closer to the edge of things.” These lines introduce Gaia Holmes’ meditation on the passage of time with appropriate impossibility. In reality, hours can’t go backwards, but in these poems, they do that and more. We encounter the past as present, and the past as preserved. As we zoom in to the edge between reality and perception, this edge becomes fuzzier and less defined.

The “edge of things” feels crucially ambiguous. These are poems of boundaries and transitions between specific times and places, simultaneously preserved and distorted through memory. They are also poems with an extensive scope. The emotional core of the collection is an intimate account of the poet caring for her father as he approaches death, and from here Holmes moves to discuss modernization, the mind, belonging in space and time, stewardship, and more, all the while maintaining reverence and intense self-reflection…” Read the full review here

From wordmothers.com

” From a poet named for the Mother Earth goddess comes this beautifully grounded collection by Gaia Holmes, where the road runs out. There’s a meditative quality to Holmes’s work which provides the perfect antidote to the frenzy of modern life. These are poems focused on individual moments, each one like a drawn-out breath.

This is largely a collection about loss and grief, but rather than resort to melodrama, it narrows in on specific and even mundane activities and gives them space in which to resonate…” Read the full review here

Review by William Thirsk Gaskill on iamhyperlexic.wordpress.com

“In one respect, this review is easy to write, because it is such an outstandingly good collection.  There is Gaia Holmes’s accustomed craft, and her ability to choose a completely unexpected word or phrase, while reinforcing the meaning of a poem, and not bewildering the reader for the sake of sounding poetic.  There is a secure foundation of universal themes, and a range of overlapping subjects which is very well balanced.  There are lines, and stanzas, and whole poems which will give individual readers back something of themselves and their own experiences, or make them realise that they have just read an articulation of something that has been bothering them for years…”Read full review here

Review from storgy.com

“Gaia Holmes’ third collection with Manchester’s ever-reliable Comma Press is a bittersweet gem. Writing mostly in a kind of disciplined free verse, Holmes runs her eye across a wealth of strange material, exploring the private dreams of pylons, the curious properties of sinkholes and how best to react when transforming into a sea horse. Yet this is no exercise in whimsy. Holmes’ pen is always exacting and her tone refreshingly matter of fact.

The Midge Hour contrasts the beauty of an Orkney sky with the violence inherent in the landscape, pausing to note the ‘greedy shriek of hungry gulls,’ and the fisherman with ‘his writhing sack full of half-dead mackerel / spilling out, screaming dying silver.’ Holmes knows to paint each picture in more than just one tone…”Read the full review here

By Haley Jenkins on selcouthstation.com

“In Holmes’ Where the Road Runs Out, we are invited into her landscape: Scotland’s remote Orkney Islands where Holmes cares for her dying father, while trying to climb the crumbling edges of her past, present and future.  In her opening poem ‘And Still We Keep Singing’, Holmes illustrates the mentality needed to survive her landscape, she writes ‘Up here you have to know the language of the wind / you have to understand he manners of mist and riptides / in order to go to sleep singing’ (1).  In the first half of this book, this natural harshness is often blended with the dark reality of her father’s cancer. In ‘I Belong Here’ the poet stumbles around in her father’s ‘clay-crusted fleece’ and survives alongside ‘the damp, your denial / the wild and the raw’ (3). In ‘Stone Soup’, her father is ‘landlocked’ and Holmes tries to bring the land to him in ‘old pickle jars’ and ‘pours grains of sand / into [his] cupped palms’ (10). There is suffering in being separated from the landscape we breathe through. Her father begins to hear birds in his own head, a result of the morphine but possibly also an attempt to build himself a retreat, a land, within his body (8-9)…”Read the full review here

By John Foggin on johnfogginpoetry.com

“…Jane Draycott talks about the point where a poem detonates.  Gaia’s poems often put me in mind of Chemistry lessons in the blissfully pre-Health and Safety 1950’s, when to demonstrate the meaning of the word crepitation a teacher would toss a slack handful of crystals (potassium?) into a sinkful of water and stand well back. So many poems in Where the road runs out detonate in line after line, like dangerous Rice Krispies. But because many of her poems are about separation and loss of love or lovers, and in this collection, of a father…..sometimes tender and sometimes vengeful, sometimes wistful and sometimes heartbreaking…….. they also take a reader into dark woods and lose her…” read the full review here

By Wendy Pratt on northernsoul.me.uk

“Gaia Holmes is an expert in her field, and this is obvious in her skilled, careful and beautifully strange poetry collection.

In Where the Road Runs Out the reader is gently pulled through the experience of loss as if watching someone else’s dream. There is a fogginess to the collection in which one can never quite pinpoint what is real and what is not, until, with the deft skill of a craftsperson, Holmes takes the reader’s hand, through the fog, to feel the undoubtable bones of the reality that is loss…” read the full review here

You can buy ‘Where the road runs out’ via the Comma Press website

‘Where the road runs out’.

•August 22, 2018 • 1 Comment

I’m very excited to announce the launch of my 3rd poetry collection, ‘Where the road runs out’, on Wednesday the 12th of September, 7 pm at The Book Corner, The Piece Hall, Halifax. Tickets are FREE but you need to book them here through EVENTBRITE so we can get an idea of how many people will be attending.

‘Where the road runs out’ will be published by COMMA PRESS . 

” Gaia Holmes’ third collection of poetry transports us to the edge of things: to remote, treeless islands, to dark, unfathomable mines, to the gaping maw of grief. With frailty and ferocity, these poems map out the strange absences left in our lives when a rupture occurs like the sudden appearance of a sinkhole threatening to pull everything else down with it. Where the Road Runs Out is a moving, and often witty, portrait of loss, isolation, and ultimately healing. Above all, it is a paean to the landscape, and the myths, magic and mysteries that lie just beneath the surface.”

You can pre-order it HERE

And here’s the poem that the title of the collection comes from:


In Passing
We might have passed each other at Gretna Green

as you headed South and I headed North

up through Kingussie, Aviemore and Invergordon

to where the road runs out at Dunnet Head.


We might have passed each other

on the skinny road through Biggar

you, counting roadkill and clocking the miles,

me, shedding my clothes in the passenger seat,

high on the promise of brack and brine,

stitching my self back in to my selkie skin.


There are some words…

•April 10, 2017 • 9 Comments

I wrote this poem during a month’s writing fellowship at a Scottish castle. It was commended in the 2017 YorkMix poetry competition.



Grief needs feeding.

At first we feed it sweet and boneless things:

memories, halva, meringue,

the songs the gone used to sing.

We feed it whole boxes of Cornish fudge,

honey spooned straight from the jar,

cold custard sucked from the carton


and for a while, we appease it

until it starts begging for blood

and then we turn to the dead things

and though we’ve not touched flesh for years

we find ourselves in the supermarket

filling our trolleys with meat-

the reddest, most visceral kind:

packs of mince and liver,

black pudding, knotty hearts,

plump kidneys, slabs of beef and livid steaks-

things that leak and mourn in colour

in their polystyrene trays


and though we cook without tears

our lonely kitchens smell of dying.

Our garish fridges

stink of butchers’ gutters,

drift-tide rot, things on the turn,

gashes on the brink of gangrene.

Each meal is a little wound. (every meal’s a little wound)

Our plates are holes

we cannot fill.

Like grief, our hunger’s



Kummerspeck is a German word to describe the excess weight gained from emotional overeating. Literally translated it means ‘grief bacon’.




December, Orkney: A poem

•June 2, 2016 • 2 Comments

December: Orkney

Now the nights
are thick and heavy.
They leave their indentations
on our thinning days.

With no trees
to chaperone the darkness
they are wild, brutal,
seething with stars.

They bruise the windows
and kerb-stones of Balfour,
do not knock
before they enter
our houses,
outstay the welcome
of our winter fires.