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Dharmavadana / David Penn

Website of writer & poet


In The Press


Dharmavadana (David Penn) is a writer, reader and critic equally at home with poetry and prose. A voracious reader himself, he has published in both fields, as well as tirelessly - for decades - helping others to hone, develop and appreciate their craft. 

The three chief qualities that Dharmavadana brings to the work of critiquing another’s writing are  

  • informed sensitivity to language; how it already works; how to make it work better

  • keen appreciation of natural strengths and ‘what the writing is seeking to express’

  • an abundant generosity with time, with percipient attention, and with thoroughness of detail 


When I send him work in progress, Dharmavadana brings a fresh eye and limpid clarity to my efforts that surpass almost all of my experience of others’ critiques. What Dharmavadana thinks about a piece of writing can be as much of an exciting journey as the original piece!


My opinion, based on experience, is that if you do decide to send Dharmavadana your writing for appraisal, you will not be disappointed.


Poet and Creative Writing Teacher

author of Cursive (Happenstance, 2015)

First-prize-winner of Poetry London competition

Twice commended in the National Poetry Competition 

When I read over the critiques Dharmavadana has written for me, what impresses me most is his focus on character. He always wants to know what each person looks like, how they feel as an individual, whether they go on an interesting journey, on which the reader will wish to accompany them. He is also thorough, combining the big picture with attention to detail. 


When I receive one of his critiques I find I respond in two stages. First, a series of quick amendments dealing with typos, mistakes, poor word choices etc (often with the thought 'of course!' or 'oh… yes') in my mind. Second, step back and look at the big picture. Re-read the critique after a few days or a week. Make sure I’ve heard everything, understood everything being said. Then I mull over the points and decide what needs to be done. 

What is the character’s motivation? What makes them tick? Where is the resistance coming from? How do they overcome it? By the end of the story, has the character made a satisfying transition? Will the reader still be with me at the end?


These are questions not only for the story, but for life, and a Dharmavadana critique will help you to answer them.

David Steele

Writer and researcher

London and New Zealand

Dhamavadana is a very attentive close reader of poetry.

What I have particularly appreciated about his poetry critiques is that he is able to be both very encouraging but also to push you to scrutinise various creative choices you have made in order to make the work as good as it can be. Dharmavadana is able to both respect the stylistic quirks and idiosyncrasies of the individual writer when giving his thoughts and to bring his deep knowledge of the field to make helpful insights and suggestions. 


I have attended his Wolf At the Door writing workshops and found them very inspiring and produced some interesting work as a result of it. However, I have garnered the most value from Dharmavadana when we were exchanging poems and I was privileged to have his unique sensibility review some of my work. Dharmavadana has the knack - something all writers need - of seeing in your writing what you are perhaps blind to. In one of his critiques he wrote: 'You have a real and unusual talent for describing forensically how moment by moment experience feels, in minute but important detail.' This helped me become aware of this as a strength of my writing I should seek to cultivate.


As a Buddhist, Dharmavadana brings a blend of kindness, insight and wisdom to his encounters with creative writing.  I heartily recommend him.

Chris Arning
Poet, performance poet and fiction writer



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Though I have two names - or more! - I am one person. I publish poetry and general fiction under the name Dharmavadana, genre fiction and genre poetry under the name David Penn. I was publishing weird fiction, SF and fantasy before I joined a Buddhist order and was given a Buddhist name, and have kept the same byline for that side of my writing. As Dharmavadana, I am also poetry editor of the Buddhist arts magazine Urthona.

I have been writing in one way or another most of my life, but have applied myself a little more seriously over the last twenty years. My poems have appeared in The North, Under the Radar, Prole, Brittle Star, Ambit, Poetry Salzburg Review and other magazines and anthologies. My short fiction has been published in Litro, Scribble, Midnight Street, 96th October and 365 Tomorrows, as well as in a few Midnight Street Press anthologies.


Urthona magazine

I am poetry editor of this magazine which looks at the arts, old and new, and from all cultures, from a Buddhist point of view.

My mindfulness website

I am an accredited mindfulness teacher. I have a separate website as a window on those activities.

Wolf at the Door writing workshops

I am one of a group of friends who offer Buddhist-inspired writing workshops.

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