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March 2015 – Book Launch – Square Tower

Maggie Sawkins will be launching her new collection, Zones of Avoidance, based on the live literature production that won last year’s Ted Hughes award, in Portsmouth on Saturday 28 March.

Ted Hughes award judge Denise Riley described Zones of Avoidance, which was directed by Mark C Hewitt, as “a challenging, painfully open account of a daughter’s addiction, yet it’s an account which also offers graceful good humour. Beautifully written and uncompromising, it’s a modern story that we felt the writer was compelled to tell; it acts as a vivid witness of harsh experiences which aren’t often described in poetry, and Maggie Sawkins’s illuminating descriptions will prove helpful for others to hear.”

In an interview with Write Out Loud last year, Maggie

said: “The story is very personal.  I’d been gathering draft material on the subject over a period of 20 years. Much of it was in the form of diary entries and some was in the form of unsent letters to my grandson, who’s been estranged from my daughter since the age of three. My motivation was to keep a record for him – when someone close to you is gripped by addiction you’re always expecting the knock on the door. I could have written the story as a memoir and perhaps made a lot of money. However, reading back through the drafts, I realised that the ‘truth’ could be told in relatively few words. I think all of us have the one tale to tell and there are different ways of telling it. Writing in poetry enabled me to tease out the terrible beauty from what, in reality, has been a much darker story.”

The launch of the book, published by Cinnamon Press, is at The Square Tower, Old Portsmouth at 7.30pm. Entry is free. More details and Map

Background: ‘The dramatic material provided by living in a battlefield is a gift for any writer’

Music with Bernard MacDonagh and Claire Ward


Zones of Avoidance

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Review – Zones of Avoidance – Lewes

‘Multimedia live literature production Zones of Avoidance was written and performed by poet Maggie Sawkins and directed by Mark C Hewitt with film sequences from Abigail Norris. Colin Hambrook reviews a performance at the All Saints Centre, Lewes on 29 October.

Winner of the 2014 Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry, Zones of Avoidance is haunting, creating a resonance with my own life struggles. The words within Zones of Avoidance speak to the largely buried, impossible plight of thousands of families from all walks of life, up and down the country.’

Read the rest of the review here:

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My interview with Greg Freeman from Write Out Loud

‘Earlier this year Maggie Sawkins won the Ted Hughes award for innovation, with Zones of Avoidance, a poetic account of a daughter’s addiction that is also an ambitious multimedia presentation using film, voices and sound. Sawkins, a teacher and the organiser of the long-running Tongues&Grooves poetry and music night in Portsmouth, talks to Greg Freeman about teasing out the story’s “terrible beauty”; the “affirming” feedback she has received after each performance; and the difficulty she has had in persuading some theatres and festivals to include Zones of Avoidance in their programmes.’

Click here for the full interview:



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December 5, 2014 · 7:05 pm

13th Annual Service User/Carer Conference – Tuesday 4 November – Southampton University

A Word Dance into the Void of Addiction – Maggie Sawkins

Maggie discusses how writing about her daughter’s dual diagnosis enabled her to reach a place of compassion and acceptance. Her live literature production, Zones of Avoidance, which won The Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry, is described as ‘beautifully written and uncompromising.’ Through poetry, letters and monologues, Maggie manages to juggle the imperative of honesty – how to tell an important story truthfully – and ‘avoidance’ – how bitter truths may be made bearable. The talk will be illustrated by short poem films from the production.

Lecture Theatre 1027 – Nightingale Building

14.50 – 15.50

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Poem films from Zones of Avoidance.



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Zones of Avoidance

Zones of Avoidance now has its own website:

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Zones of Avoidance – Photos from first performance

Photograph taken by Elliot Cranston (one of the voices)

Photograph taken by Elliot Cranston (one of the voices)

Photo by Francis Lovering

Photo by Francis Lovering

Facing the audience!

Facing the audience!

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November 1, 2013 · 5:17 pm

Zones of Avoidance – Reviews

Dear Maggie

May I congratulate you on Zones of Avoidance, a major work that tells several moving stories and contains many wonderful poems. It was very impressive writing. Very striking lines about the Higher Power, and about the grandchild. The conception and music and staging were well-judged too. Bravo!

George Marsh

Great performance yesterday Maggie. I’m really pleased I went. It is still affecting me now and making me look at my experiences from the parent’s view point. Thank you x

Adam Lewis

Hi Maggie and Mark,

I just wanted to write to congratulate you both on a really extraordinary performance piece.

It was beautifully presented and had a crystal clear narrative. I genuinely think that the total silence of the packed audience

as Maggie left the stage was the greatest compliment we could pay to it. The storyline has been ricocheting around my head and will continue to do so… .

Caroline Sharman, Director of New Theatre Royal.

it was really nice to be there and was a fantastic perfomance from it was very emotional at times and some funny bits ……thanks for letting me be part of the production and really enjoyed it ….x Elliot Cranston (one of the voices)

Thanku Maggie 4 “Zones of aviodance” Today i managed to experience some feelings that I’d actually forgotten I was capable of…… To you, and to everyone who took part, I am truely GRATEFULL – Daniel Scrivener

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November 1, 2013 · 5:05 pm

Zones of Avoidance

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October 31, 2013 · 10:52 pm

Can Art nurture Empathy?


 A course funded by Portsmouth City Council for people in recovery from addictions and for those affected by addiction.

 One of the requirements of this course was to give a presentation to the rest of the group. Mine was entitled ‘Can Art Nurture Empathy?’ A part of it included this poem that I’d written several years ago:    


            My Daughter’s Habit

A month’s respite doesn’t stop the heart

tilting in the cradle at the knock,

the scene replayed before I open the door.

I know from her expression what it is she wants,

but still she asks, and I fetch,

like a dog, hand over the score,

notice once more the half-moon scar

on the bone of her cheek.

The night swallows her shadow,

catches my sigh as she walks away.

I lean awhile against the door,

listen as the wind worries the trees,

smother the thought: to press

a pillow against my slipping heart.


(from The Zig Zag Woman, Two Ravens Press 2007)

After listening to the poem, one of the group members told me it was the first time he’d realised what his own mother must have been going through.

When I came on this course I believed I had lost the capacity for hope. As a mother of a child gripped by addiction there seems to be only two options. One, the most natural, is to jump in and rescue; the other is to cut yourself off, to demonise the person you love.  I’ve tried both. Neither of them works. If you jump into the well, thinking you can rescue your loved one from drowning, at best all you do is enable them to carry on; at worst you end up drowning with them. Cutting yourself off doesn’t work either – you end up living your life as if it’s inhabited by a ghost.

This course offered a third option. It offered a unique opportunity for mothers, fathers, sons and daughters, to get up close and personal; it offered us an opportunity to face our demons. Of particular interest to me was the course’s existentialist approach.  As well as providing us with a thorough understanding of the nature of addiction, it helped to demolish the ‘them and us’ barrier. It helped us to realise that as human beings we all face the same predicament – how to fill the inevitable void – and that we have a choice. We can fill that void with something that does harm to ourselves and to others, or we can fill it with something that, through acts of altruism, enhances the lives of others.

The Peer Recovery Broker scheme offers those in recovery from addiction, and those of  affected by it, a tangible opportunity to change, not only our own lives, but the lives of others.

Last month I did something I never dared imagine. I accompanied my daughter on her first visit to Narcotics Anonymous. When it came to the end of the evening devoted to newcomers, my daughter remained silent.  I found myself saying: ‘My name’s Maggie. I’m not an addict, but I do like a drink. I’ve come here to support my daughter.’ After that my daughter spoke.  I then watched as she walked towards the front to receive her badge of surrender. This course enabled me to regain the capacity for hope.


Writtten in November 2012 (first published in Flagship magazine).



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