Monday, September 29, 2014

I've been on a roll of garden poems for a while now, in fact I think my garden has taken on a bizarre life and mythology of its own which I'm happy to tap into for as long as the poems last!

I've been knee-deep in reading some wonderful books recently. I had a buying splurge and bought a bunch of books I've been dying to read for ages:
Airmail: The letters of Robert Bly and Tomas Transtromer, Fauverie and Heart of a Deer by Pascale Petit, and the excitingly amazing African Folktales and Sculpture by Paul Radin.

Any Plath fan will recognise the Radin book which according to Ted Hughes had a huge influence on the poems Plath wrote at Yaddo. I've been wanting to pick up a copy of the book for ages and managed to get a second-hand ex-library copy. The book is huge and full of wonderful stories and large photos. It was exciting to come across The City Where Men Are Mended - a Hausa folktale, and see how Plath weaved the African mythology into her own personal mythology in her Poem for a Birthday.

I read Airmail very quickly, it wasn't quite as good as I was hoping it would be. Very much a friendship played out in letters and particularly good if you're interested in translation but otherwise I didn't find it to be particularly revelatory about either Bly or Transtromer's poetry.

It's so good to have Pascale Petit's new collection (with an absolutely gorgeous cover) and catch up with one of her older collections. I'm happily reading them slowly and continually and probably will be for the next while. Still also reading Roethke and Bhatt - which have become my staple reading and I don't see that changing for the foreseeable future.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

It may have been a no vote but I think 'not yet' is more accurate...

Anyway, very pleased to be in the Sunday Herald magazine at the week-end for the Be The First To Like This - anthology of new Scottish poetry. Can't wait to get my copy of the book - such an eclectic range of poets in it and of course many more fine Scottish poets not in it - definitely think Scotland is going through a bit of a literary renaissance!
If you want to keep up with the news about the anthology follow here on twitter and check out here for the facebook page.



Sunday, September 14, 2014

Hello blogger, my old friend. I've come to talk with you again...

It's been rather busy since I've updated. The most miraculous news is that after all these years of writing alone on my little peninsula I've finally come across some other local poets and we have formed a monthly poetry work-shopping group. Wonderful to get a chance to meet up and talk poetry with real live people - there are four of us and bizarrely we all live within two streets of each other!

Dunoon hosted it's first Mini Book Festival which I read at with Tariq Latif - it was a good opportunity to try out some of the new poems. Hoping it'll be the first of an annual local book festival which would be wonderful. Tariq and I also did a poetry reading in the summer in the local bookshop which seemed to go down well - it's so good having someone else locally to read with!

I put together a book list for the Scottish Book Trust of some of my favourite contemporary female poets which you can read here.

I was pleasantly surprised to come across a lovely five star review of Tree Language on Amazon. It feels wonderfully good to get the feedback and simply that my book has found a happy home in some complete stranger's life!

Very pleased to have some poems in Be The First To Like This, an anthology of new Scottish poetry with a foreword written by Liz Lochhead. Colin Waters from the Scottish poetry library (editor of the anthology) has put together a great webpage for it here. It's being launched next week in Glasgow and Edinburgh and tomorrow we're all getting our picture taken at the Scottish Poetry Library for the Saturday Herald and Sunday Herald Magazine, so that's quite exciting!

Next month I'll be reading and chatting at the Portobello Book Festival in Edinburgh as part of a Scottish Book Trust event along with two other recipients of the SBT New Writer's Award. Check out the dates of the book festival here and if you're around please come along - I've heard there will be wine!

Finally, good old Highland Mary's voting yes and so am I. Only four more days until the referendum and it's all up for grabs!!

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Book love



Some of my favourite poetry books are the big fat volumes of Collected or Selected poems - how wonderful to have all those poems by a single poet contained within one book. When I won £300 in a poetry competition in my early twenties I was so excited to have some money to spend on some of those huge expensive volumes. Back then I bought the Collected Emily Dickinson and the wonderful Complete Akhmatova along with some other books well outside my usual budget then including a large volume of modern Russian poetry.

My favourite recent collected or selected books have been Roethke, Selima Hill and Sujata Bhatt. Usually one of these volumes can be found in my handbag where ever I go (though Hill's selected is  rather large for my bag!). Pascale Petit's new collection, Fauverie, is due out soon but I really can't wait for a collected Petit to come out which surely must be on the cards.


Tuesday, August 05, 2014

random photo - eagle carving at Arrochar!
I've been reading Theodore Roethke over the summer and though I'd read some of his poems before it's only now that they've really gripped me. The use of imagery from the natural world to intensely explore the psychological inner world, the adoption of folk beat and childish rhymes and language in order to break through to the deeper recesses of the mind I've found to be utterly fascinating and in line with what I'd been trying to work towards without really knowing that's what I've been trying to do!

It's the last week of the summer holidays and it has been a full-on summer of trying to keep the kids busy and entertained which has meant little time for writing though I've been working on a few poems and managed to read quite a bit. This year Ruby goes to school and everything changes for me - for the first time in seven-and-a-half years (since my eldest was born)  I'll no longer spend the majority of the day with a young child at my heels. A bittersweet feeling, didn't realise how much my subconscious was dwelling on it until it came out unexpectantly in a recent poem.
Much has changed in the last seven years, back then I thought when the kids went to school I would go back to studying and do a phd in political philosophy, but now all I really want to do is read and write poems! I will have to get a job though and had in the past had been involved in one-to-one tutoring in adult literacy which I really enjoyed and I'm looking to get back into again - I've spoken to the local community adult learning centre about doing some sort of creative writing class and they're very keen on the idea. But initially I guess I'm going to have a lot more time on my hands!

I was delighted with this brilliant review of Tree Language from Kirsten Irving which you can read on the Sidekick Books website here.

I went through to Edinburgh last week to record a podcast at the Scottish Poetry Library with Colin Waters, really enjoyed it - very much like a conversation rather than an intense interview, and Colin asked some really interesting / thoughtful / challenging questions - I only hope I didn't waffle too much in my responses! Wonderful to be in a library of entirely poetry-related books, so difficult choosing just six to borrow! Plus they have a good number of poetry mags and journals and I'm such a fan of Sujata Bhatt now that despite reading and re-reading her decent-sized volume of collected poems over the last four months I was so delighted to come across four new poems by her in the latest PN Review!

So the books I got out the library are -

  • Theodore Roethke: The Journey from I to Otherwise - Neil Bowers
  • The Terrible Threshold - Stanley Kunitz
  • Translations from the Natural World - Les Murray
  • Collected Poems - Lynette Roberts
  • Selected Poems - Laura Riding
  • Abyssophone - Peter Redgrove

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

So pleased to have a poem from Tree Language and a lovely wee write up in last Saturday's The Scotsman newspaper. Colin Waters from the Scottish Poetry Library contacted me last month to say that he wanted to pick a poem from the collection for the newspaper and that he wanted to arrange for me to do a podcast at the Scottish Poetry Library which I plan to go through to Edinburgh next month to do.
Colin has also taken three of my poems for an anthology of new Scottish writing he's putting together and which Liz Lochhead is writing the foreword for. I'm really pleased about it as an American professor at StAnza was bemoaning to me the lack of anthologies of new Scottish writing!
The lovely Australian poet Julie Maclean has featured a couple of poems from Tree Language on her blog here. I met Julie on Pascale Petit's wondeful poetry course in France last year and so enjoyed her poems. 
The very nice people at Transmission Magazine asked me to record a reading of one of my poems for their website which you can listen to here.
I have, I think, a solid seventeen poems towards a new collection so far. Quite different poems to the ones in Tree Language - much more expanded with the help of Vicki Feaver and Sujata Bhatt's Collected poems which have made these new poems possible. 




Monday, June 02, 2014





Delighted to receive the summer bulletin from the Poetry Book Society with a nice wee review of Tree Language.
A long poem of mine about Jerusalem is in the current issue of Envoi and I have three poems in a New York based online multi-media journal called Transmission (which you can find here) alongside poets Amy King and Elizabeth Spires. 
I have a good fifteen poems towards a new collection, quite different from the ones in Tree Language. Trying to stay disciplined about reading and writing and on the look out for some new reading inspiration. I've finally got around to ordering Selima Hill's Selected collection - Gloria -  which I can't wait to arrive as well as W.S Merwin's new collection, The Moon Before Morning

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Wine and books at the Eyewear Spring Launch!!

Wednesday, 21st May at 7pm

I'll be reading alongside Penny Boxall, Mandy Khan, Rufo Quintavalle, SJ Fowler and this year's Melita HUme Prize winner - Amy Blakemore who will be introduced by Emily Berry. If anyone is in the London area it will be a great night in the fantastic London Review Bookshop!



Monday, May 12, 2014

Reaching the dizzy heights of euphoria here!!!! My books have arrived for this Friday's Glasgow launch of Tree Language. Just can't describe how elated I am, may sleep with a copy under my pillow tonight :) Todd and the team at Eyewear really know how to produce simply gorgeous books, it really is Beautiful - designed by the excellently talented Dutch designer Edwin Smet. What an utter pleasure to see all my poems in these pages - feels like they've finally been brought together like a little family reunion!! 

launches Marion McCready’s Melita Hume winning debut Tree Language
Tell It Slant, 134 Renfrew Street, G3 6ST
Friday 16 May 7 p.m.
Just before her launch in London. Marion McCready will be joined by several guest readers.
Other readers: Samuel Tongue, Katherine Sowerby and Ross Wilson.


Thursday, April 24, 2014

It's coming up to the end of my nine months of being mentored by Vicki Feaver which was part of the very generous package put together by the Scottish Book Trust. It's been a wonderfully encouraging, stretching experience.

When asked by the SBT who would be my dream mentor (within travelable distance), I mentioned Vicki Feaver without genuinely expecting to be paired with her and was utterly surprised and delighted when I found out that she had agreed to do it. Every couple of months since last July I've been making my way through to Edinburgh to Vicki's flat and spent the afternoon with her poring over the poems I had written for our meeting as well as some poems by contemporary poets that we had brought to share.

Apart from the week I spent on Pascal Petit's course this was the first time I really had any experience of face-to-face thorough input from someone on my work so it was initially incredibly nerve-wracking. What I wanted from the mentoring was help to extend, open up my poems and develop the voice in my poems. It's been so good to have someone there to check with what exactly is and isn't working in my poems and it's given me the confidence to expand my writing knowing I'll get the all-important feedback on it.

Vicki herself is incredibly intelligent and astute as well as being a very generous and good-humoured mentor - I really don't think I could have had better. The pressure to keep writing in order to produce poems for our meetings has helped to make me much more of a disciplined reader and writer. Regular blogging is one of the things I've had to let by the wayside in order to keep my creative energies focused on writing. The challenge after our last meeting will be on keeping up the momentum and self-discipline.

The exciting news is.... my book has come back from the printers and now I'm just waiting for my author copies to be posted up to me.
Now that Paris is out of the way I'll be planning the Glasgow launch which will be held in Tell it Slant - Glasgow's new poetry bookshop on Renfrew Street, 7pm on Friday 15th May. Also reading at the launch will be Ross Wilson, Katherine Sowerby and Samuel Tongue - very much looking forward to it!

I have a poem from Tree Language up on Colin Will's Open Mouse here.

Saturday, April 19, 2014


Paris was an absolute dream! We flew there, childless on the Sunday and enjoyed the sheer beauty of Paris in springtime, the sights, food, wine etc etc for a few days before the poetry reading on the Tuesday night.

It was so nice to finally meet Pansy, the organiser, and her husband. The reading was in 'the cave' in an Irish pub (!!) in the centre of Paris! The atmosphere was friendly and very welcoming. I started off the reading with a ten minute set followed by dancer Romual Kabore who performed an amazing dance without music, and then the lovely Irish poet, Afric McGlinchy, read her gorgeous poems.

During a short break I met and had a nice chat with a Scottish woman who had been living in Paris for 23 years! Afric started off the second half of the evening reading more poems from her collection - The Lucky Star of Hidden Things -, Romual danced for us again and then I finished by reading another set. We all went upstairs for drinks and chat afterwards. A really lovely night and a nice review of it online here.


Thursday, April 03, 2014

Currently overwhelmed in a good way by Sujata Bhatt and Jane Kenyon's poems. Both been around for some time but both new to me. I picked up Sujata Bhatt's Collected poems at StAnza and what an exciting range and life of work it is. So much sensous detail, it just explodes with life. And I absolutely love the cover painting for the book - I mean, isn't it just gorgeous?!

Vicki Feaver intoduced me to Jane Kenyon and I've been reading and re-reading what poems I can find of hers online and her quiet and exacting voice really resonates. I really loved coming across this gorgeous programme with readings and interviews with Jane Kenyon and her husband Donald Hall.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

St Andrews - Paris - Glasgow - London

Busy times on the poetry front! Had a wonderful time at StAnza which was a couple of weeks ago now. My worries of bursting into bouts of coughing during my reading thankfully never materialised (was recovering from a nasty sinus infection). How strange it was to be one of the 'proper' readers at the festival this year! I read as part of The Scottish Book Trust award writers showcase alongside Tracey S Rosenberg, Kathrine Sowerby and Andrew Sclater. Our reading was in the wonderful St. Andrews Town Hall in front of a very generous and warm audience, I signed a fair few copies of Vintage Sea afterwards and people were very kind with their comments - overall a very encouraging experience!

I went to a number of events, my favourites being Douglas Dunn in Conversation , the masterclass with Paul Muldoon and readings of modern Chinese poets in translation by Brian Holton and Bill Herbert. Chatted to a great many poets in between events too. Favourite book buy of the weekend was Sujata Bhatt's Collected - bought one of her collections when I arrived there on the Friday and loved it so much that I bought her Collected on the Sunday before I left! Sadly I couldn't make it up to St Andrews in time to hear her or Brian Turner read though I saw her wondering around the Byre theatre many times but failed to pluck up the courage to talk to her or ask her to sign her book for me!

You can read a pre-StAnza interview with myself and Andrew Sclater by the online lit mag The Skinny on our experience of winning the new writers award - here

So! Two weeks till Paris!! Last year I was invited by Pansy Maurer-Alvarez to come to Paris and do a reading as part of a monthly reading series she runs called Poets Live. Of course I agreed (Paris in the spring!!!) and I'm excited to be reading with the Irish poet Afric McGlinchey and instead of a usual third reader we are to be treated to a performance by a dancer!


My book is coming out in May - I've arranged to have the Glasgow launch on Friday 16th at Tell It Slant - Glasgow's new poetry bookshop - and I'm excited to have Glasgow-based poets Katherine Sowerby, Samuel Tongue and Calder Wood Press fellow poet Ross Wilson reading at it also.

The London launch is the following week at the London Review Bookshop on the 21st with Mandy Kahn, Rufo Quintavalle and SJ Fowler. Exciting times coming up!  

Friday, February 14, 2014


Had a really good night at the Scottish Book Trust showcase event in Edinburgh. It was great to get a chance to hear the other readers especially the fiction writers who all read so grippingly well that I can't wait for all of their stories, books to come out. I also got to meet and chat with some of this year's New Writers Awardees which was really nice. The Scottish Book Trust produced a great little book with a selection of writing from all of us plus a page of info we wrote ourselves about our writing. You can download the online version of the book for free here.

Here's what I wrote about  about Tree Language


The poems in my first full-length collection, which I’ve been working on over this last year, fall into four distinct sections which I only became aware of when putting the collection together; though the same, generally dark, themes are carried through each section.
My main interest in writing these poems was to explore themes of love, death, sometimes violence and how they are played out, reflected in and contrasted against the backdrop of nature and the landscape the poems are set in. I also have a tendency towards the surreal.
Many of my poems begin from observations in the natural world: the shape of a tree and its shadow, the sun on the back of the Clyde, the flowering orchid on my windowsill. I find that through examining the physical details of nature I’m able to gain a level of distance and objectivity which allows me to explore broader human and personal themes.
The focus on nature also enables me to sidestep the confines of narrative logic, tap into the unconscious dream – like processes but at the same time stay rooted in the physical, tangible world.     
 The next event is StAnza. I'm reading on the Saturday as part of the Scottish Booktrust Showcase. There are four of us reading so we get fifteen minutes each. I'm only able to get to St Andrews by the Friday night so I'm gutted to be missing Sujata Bhatt and Brian Turner reading. However I have booked tickets and will finally get the chance to hear John Burnside which I'm incredibly excited about and also the masterclass with Paul Muldoon. 

My next mentoring meeting with Vicki Feaver is the week after Stanza, I have four poems ready for it so far which I'm pleased about. Really working hard to expand my writing and I feel hopeful that these poems are doing just that.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Finally it has reached Dunoon!! -




I was asked to contribute a recent book reading list for the Poetry Foundation blog which you can read here. Mostly still mulling over the same books with the inclusion of W.S. Merwin's The Shadow of Sirius and Vicki Feaver's poetry. For those not on facebook or twitter you can hear a wonderful series of radio essays here by five different poets doing their own take of Rilke's Letter to a Young Poet. I so enjoyed them, especially (of course) Vicki Feaver's essay to a young woman poet which was amazing for me to hear and read (I was lucky enough to have seen her first draft of the essay). 

It's the end of my year as a Scottish New Writers Awardee and what a wonderful year it has been. I have two meetings left with Vicki Feaver and I'll be sad when they're over. As an end-of-year finale the Scottish Book Trust has put together a Showcase Event where all the 2013 award winners will do a short reading of their work in front of an audience which will include publishers as well as the new 2014 award winners. That's this Thursday (30th Jan) 7.30pm at Summerhall in Edinburgh if anyone is interested (it's free!).

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

I like to read a decent biography over the Christmas holidays. It's become a bit of a tradition, a midwinter escape into someone else's life. This Christmas I read A Lucid Dreamer: the Life of Peter Redgrove by Neil Roberts and Sylvia Plath: Method and Madness, a Biography by Edward Butscher.

I'd been drawn to the Redgrove biography for a while. His reputation for strange visionary poetry and his background in analytic psychology sounded irresistible. I hoped it would help me approach his poetry which I've yet to get a great deal out of. Interesting though it is there is sadly very little in the way of poetry analysis or the relation of individual poems to his life. It certainly doesn't hold back on the many personal details about his life and while I applaud the openness, I feel I probably know more about him than I really want to!
I thought it was about time I got around to reading Edward Butscher's biography of Sylvia Plath. His book was the very first full-length biography written about Plath - published in 1976, thirteen years after her death. I wasn't expecting a great deal from the book having read many more recent biographies of her but was greatly surprised and pleased at the attention given to her poems and her creative progress in the book. In fact I think it's an excellent analysis of her life and writing and his tackling of her poems is insightful and stands up as well as any of the later studies written with the benefit of historical distance.

I daresay any fan of Redgrove would be delighted to read the Neil Robert's biography, if and when I get into his poems I'll probably go back and re-read it and enjoy it more. I'd thoroughly recommend the Butscher biography for those actually interested in Plath's work, rather than just the tragic mythic tale.   

Friday, January 03, 2014

Happy New Year!!

I read somewhere that 2014 is the year of the death of blogging. Whilst I don't think that's true - there are loads of regularly updated excellent poetry blogs out there - the role of blogging, for me, has changed over the last couple of years.

I initially set up this blog under a pseudonym as an outlet for my writing with the hope of meeting like-minded readers and writers and the hope of improving my writing. The results were far beyond my expectations. I found a creative community of people who inspired, encouraged and taught me so much. However because of magazines' stricter conceptions of 'publication' and not being able to post up  first drafts of poems, the blog has turned into an irregular newsy update on poetry publications etc.
I'm not sure of the future function of blogs like these as Facebook and Twitter have taken over the creative community aspect of blogging.

Anyway, my dream start to 2014 of having poems published in this month's Poetry magazine alongside such poets as Jane Hirshfield and Emily Berry has come true, much to my continuing utter amazement. You can read this month's mag here and listen to the podcast here where my poems are described as Homeric (!!!!!!) with reference being made to Yeats (!!!!!!!!). Always embarrassing hearing yourself read and I was pretty nervous but I'm so completely delighted at Don Share's and Lindsay Garbutt's
lovely comments on my poems. The rest of the year can sink into oblivion and it'll still be the best year ever!

 
   

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

When the lovely folk at Poetry magazine asked if I would be happy to record my poems for the podcast to go with the magazine I thought I would probably record my poems into my phone or tablet and email a soundfile off to them. Well I got that wrong - they booked a slot for me at one of the BBC recording studios in Glasgow!!!

So today I went up to Glasgow, found my way to the BBC and was escorted through tight security to a recording studio with a very helpful sound engineer. It was an odd experience reading into the mic with the headphones on, the sound engineer waving at me from the next room through the glass window and the American guy from Poetry on the phone listening in and chatting to me inbetween reading my poems! It was actually quite nervewracking at first until I got used to the sound of my voice through the headphones. However they were so friendly and helpful that I soon relaxed and enjoyed the process.

So! My poems will be in January's issue of Poetry magazine and I'm not sure how many of the poems they'll have on the podcast. It's been mind-blowing for me this last month or so - filling in contributor info for Poetry magazine, filling in US tax forms which I must say are Very complicated (Poetry mag pay VERY well!!!), reading and checking proofs for my poems and now recording my poems at a proper recording studio! I really am wondering whose life I've suddenly fallen into!

The programme for StAnza 2014 is now online. I'm excited to be reading on the Saturday along with three other New Writers at the New Writers Award Showcase event, my profile is up here.

I've had three wonderful mentoring meetings with Vicki Feaver who has been very generous with her help and advice. I think I have one last meeting with her in January which I'm desperately trying to come up with new poems for - all this other exciting poetry stuff has been quite distracting plus I've finalised and handed in the manuscript for my collection which has been a completely mind-consuming process.

I also have two new poems published - 'The Animal in the Pot' in Northwords Now which you can read online here (p7), and 'View' in Ink, Sweat &amp & Tears here.


Monday, October 28, 2013

Just had the most utterly amazing news, I can barely believe it...

Poetry magazine have accepted three of my poems for publication!!!
I could never in my wildest dreams have imagined being published in that most amazing and historically significant magazine.

I met Don Share, the editor of Poetry, at the Eyewear launch in London last week, where I read my Arrochar Alps poem. He liked it so much he wanted to publish it plus another couple of poems from my forthcoming collection.

I'm gobsmacked to say the least. It was great to hear him read plus hear and meet some other Eyewear poets. We all went for dinner afterwards at a lovely, cosy Italian restaurant where I had a good chance to chat with the other poets.

No more poetry plans for the next couple of months so I'll be able to start catching up with blogs and blogging a bit and maybe even some housework too!!

Thursday, October 17, 2013


Pascale Petit reads from 'Effigies' from The Mosaic Rooms on Vimeo. Pascale Petit reading some of her wonderful new poems based on the artwork of the Syrian artist, Lawand.