Phil Kirby was born in Chingford, on the border between London and Epping Forest. After an inauspicious school career, he worked in the family business as a carpenter and joiner before going to college and qualifying as an English Teacher in 1983. He subsequently taught around the South East and East Midlands before fetching up in the South West.
Although he acknowledges the impact of studying the Romantics and, more particularly, Yeats, Phil only began writing poetry after starting his teaching career and discovering Larkin’s ‘Mr. Bleaney’ in a school anthology. “When I think back on that first close encounter with Larkin,” says Phil, “it was his skill in crafting everyday language that struck me most.”
The writing ‘bug’ really took hold from about 1987 onwards, though. After placing a couple of journalistic pieces in a local paper in Kent, and the completion of a manuscript for a children’s novel (now gathering dust in a cupboard), his first published poem appeared in 1991, not long after a move to Derbyshire. Soon after that, in 1994, Phil won an East Midlands Arts bursary and a place on their respected ‘New Voices’ reading tour of the region.
He ran Waldean Press from 1994-2000, which also won support from EMA, and through which his first two pamphlets, ‘Third Person Gossip’ and ‘Of Silent Houses’ were published. He also taught many writing classes through the W.E.A. In 1997, Shoestring Press published his pamphlet ‘A Bowl of Sky’, but it wasn’t until 2009 that his first full collection, ‘Watermarks’, was published in hardback by the now sadly defunct Arrowhead Press. In 2016, his first teen novella appeared through Applefire Press. ‘Hidden Depths’ (not the story still in the cupboard) was some 20 years in gestation and is available on Amazon’s Kindle programme.
After too long an interval, his second collection, ‘The Third History’, was published in February 2018 by Lapwing Publications. His work continues to appear in journals and magazines in the UK, as well as in India and the US. Hopefully, it will not be as long before the next one…