My first published book was what was then called 'travel biography'. It was the description of a journey round China with a backpack in 1986, when China was just opening up to solo Western travellers. It's hard to believe now, but this global economic superpower, with its high-speed trains and glass skyscrapers, was then a land of slow diesels with mournful sirens (plus the odd steam train), bicycles and Mao suits. Yet the seeds of modern China were there... Other China travel books of the time seem to be weighed down with the pain of that nation's past. I certainly encountered that, but also met young Chinese who had visions of the future and were determined to make them real.
The book is also a description of an inner journey: I learnt a lot about China on this trip, but also a lot about myself.
Why did I not write more travel books? I never went to anywhere as interesting ever again!
Journey to the Middle Kingdom
"Vivid and lyrical." Robert O’Brien, Hampstead and Highgate Express
"Christopher West’s first book is a gem." Michael Wigan, The Scotsman
"A broad canvas, vividly illustrated by a man who travels with his eyes open and has the talent to put it all down in an absorbing manner."
Grant Dean, Yorkshire Post
I'm not a 'rhyme snob', insisting that if it doesn't rhyme, it's not proper poetry. There's some brilliant blank verse out there...
...But I do love rhyming poems, and enjoy writing them. There's something about the challenge of having to find a rhyme that, actually, creates new ideas.
By extension, the discipline of the sonnet, with its 14 lines and its 'turn' in the middle, seems even more restrictive but actually gets ideas flowing even more.
I particularly like the turn, which means that the sonnet becomes a kind of inner debate.
Here are twenty composed in 2020. I've presented them a bit like those vinyl albums I loved as a young man. Side One is more of a random collection. Side Two is a sequence with a theme - the sonneteer's favourite since the dawn of the genre, love.