Sunday, December 27, 2020
Saturday, December 19, 2020
Each poem in my sequence is ten lines long with an ababcdcdee rhyme scheme. I can't remember the last time I worked in such a regular form and although I'm not keeping to a regular meter or syllable count in each line, all the lines are fairly long and roughly the same length. It's been a mental pleasure to work within the rhyming scheme and great to move away from the more intensely lyrical poetry I normally write.
I absolutely love Porcelain, translated by Karen Reeder. Aside from the actual poems, it's a beautiful book inclusive of notes on the poems by Grunbein himself. It's a sequence of forty-nine poems about the destruction of Dresden by the allied forces during WW2. The poems of course are wonderful, fascinating, intriguing, informative, elegiac, questioning, all in Grunbein's stylish and ironic way of writing. It also includes photos of Dresden and artifacts mentioned in the poems. Only now translated into English, the poems are not recent works of Grunbein and proved controversial when they were first published in German in 2005.
Thursday, November 26, 2020
My idea earlier this year of splitting the collection into three parts each prefaced with a quote has been abandoned! I have come up with a new book title (and feel fairly set on it) - googled it and checked on Amazon to make sure there were no other books by that title.
The spirit of Transtromer has been my guiding poet through many of these poems - in fact I wonder if I'll ever be able to write a poem again without having his work open in front of me for inspiration!
Undoubtedly I'll probably add a few more poems to it between now and eventual publication - whenever that may be - but right now it feels pretty complete.
And I feel set free to do something different...change direction...have a new focus in my poems. Perhaps a large scale project of some sort...I like the idea of having a specific book-length project for my next book.
However, the immediate focus is on submitting my manuscript to poetry publishers, tricky... as many are not accepting submissions at the moment because their publishing schedule has been disrupted by Covid.
However, my baby is ready to be sent out into the world, and it's an exciting place to be!
Monday, November 02, 2020
I recorded my poem 'Apple Trees' for a new podcast - Salon B- produced by Berghahn Books. The poem was first published in the academic journal Critical Survey and was inspired by folklore associations of the life of a newborn being inextricably linked to the fortunes of a newly planted tree. You can hear me read my poem at around 50/51 mins here.
I've been enjoying reading through the new biography of Sylvia Plath: Red Comet by Heather Clark. You'd think there couldn't possibly be anything left worth saying about Plath and her life that's not already been (excuse the pun) done to death. However, and I'm only about a third of the way into it, my feeling is this will be a fairly definitive, balanced, more objective and fuller examination of Plath's life in the context of her time than has been previously achieved. Plus it's always a pleasure to escape into a literary biography especially during these weird times.
Tuesday, October 06, 2020
I was delighted to read a very kind review of Madame Ecosse in the latest issue of The North magazine. The reviewer, John Killick, very kindly sent me a copy of the magazine via my local bookshop as it turned out he had bought my book actually here in Dunoon during a visit to the area! Anyway it was a very pleasant and unexpected surprise since Madame Ecosse has been out for over three years now.
Thursday, September 03, 2020
I recorded another video poem for Hugh McMillan's fab #plagueopoems series which are now being showcased weekly by Dumfries & Galloway and Renfrew libraries.
A poem I wrote for my daughter, 'Her Hair is a Landscape of its Own', is in the recent issue of the London Grip and can be read here.
It's been a slow return to writing after effectively a five-month summer holiday for the kids. And summer holidays have never been a productive writing time for me. I've been reading Wendell Berry's The Peace of Wild Things and I'm enjoying the quiet simplicity of the poems, the drawing back to silence as I get to experience silence at home again. I've also been re-reading Michael Hamburger's excellent book The Truth of Poetry which I've written about before. It's helping me come back to writing and thinking about what kind of poems I want to write, for what purpose, and how I conceive of my writing in terms of the tradition of poetry and how that translates into poetry of the present. I wrote a poem about cobwebs this week - my first completed poem since April!
Thursday, July 30, 2020
My poem 'Glasgow Nights' was written about my journey to work last year when I was working night-shifts in a homelessness unit. My other poem 'Written on Board MV Coruisk' is another commute poem - the short ferry ride from Dunoon to Gourock is usually part of my travels several times a week. Though I can hardly believe I've not been on the ferry for nearly five months now!
You can read my poems online here.
For anyone interested in acceptance / rejection stats - both of these poems were rejected three times by other mags/journals.
I've kept a record of every poetry submission, acceptance, rejection I've ever sent - my records date back to 2006! I've had 117 rejections - not individual poems but full submission rejections which often contain several poems.
My first acceptance came in 2008 - so two years after I started submitting. I've had 67 acceptances, again, not individual poems but often more than one in a submission.
I'm also starting to record rough reply times by mags/journals so I can better gauge how long I want a poem/poems potentially unavailable for.
Wednesday, July 15, 2020
Anyway this is all very much at the thinking and early days planning stage but I'm excited to see the manuscript coming together in what feels like a satisfyingly cohesive manner.
I have a couple of poems coming out in the next issue of The Manchester Review and one in the next issue of The London Grip. I'll be working on trying to get as many poems from my manuscript published as possible.
Thursday, June 11, 2020
What I've badly missed is my commuting / travelling time - as a non-driver who lives in little town out of the way; on a weekly basis I'm used to a lot of travelling via boat, train and bus. And I enjoy it! It's my reflective time, my reading time, my jotting down images and thoughts time. I've also missed coffee-shop writing time! The business and bustle around me helps me write at the early stage of working on poems and then when I'm in the pit of the poem I need the peace & quiet and my own space to write it.
I'm delighted to have my poems 'Look to the Crocus' and 'The Complicated Sex Life of Primula...' in this month's issue of Poetry Magazine which you can read here!
I also have a lockdown poem, 'The Solitude Stone' on Andy Jackson's and Bill Herbert's brilliant Postcards from Malthusia series of poems written in response to the pandemic.
And...I have a poem about Spanish orange trees - 'The Orange Trees of Altea' on Atrium Poetry!
Sunday, May 17, 2020
Eight weeks of lockdown now here in Scotland. I've avoided working on poems over the last two to three weeks. I had fallen into overthinking mode and badly needed to get out and stay out of my head for a while in order to cope with and make it through this time. So I've cooked (and eaten!) a lot, watched tv a lot, and generally otherwise stuck to the practical - walking, knitting, homework and general activities with the kids etc. And it's paid off. I feel much more myself, have a healthier perspective on things and have let go of what I cannot change.
However, poetry never entirely escapes my life! I've been enjoying reading a biography of Robert Lowell by Ian Hamilton. It's been a fascinating, at times hilarious, read! It's good to get a background to the poems and the biography quotes large chunks of Lowell's letters so I'll probably re-read his poems soon and when I do have more of a sense of his 'voice' and the character behind the poems. I've also been reading a book on the Black Mountain poets. Olson, Creeley and Duncan have never been high in my awareness and I've never really been drawn to the later Language poets so it was good to be reminded of the poetics behind it all.
I'm very excited to have two flower poems coming out in next month's issue of Poetry Magazine. It's always an utter surprise and more than a tiny bit miraculous to me to have poems accepted for this amazing magazine (for the fourth time!!!) . And my flower poems are generally my favourite to write, there really is no where else in the world I would rather have them 'homed'!
So I feel ready to go back to working on poems and have notes for a bat poem beckoning...!
Monday, April 20, 2020
And I've been doing some writing! Not a huge amount but I've written a few poems and have been enjoying using this time to leisurely read in the garden - weirdly, since the lockdown, the longest stretch of sunny days without a single day of rain in the west coast of Scotland I can remember!!
Anyway I'm delighted to have my long poem 'Horse Loch' published in the latest bumper edition of Northwords Now. Based on Child Ballad 233 which is an old Scottish ballad also know as Andrew Lammie or Mill O' Tifty's Annie. You can read my poem online on pages 8 &9 here!
Sunday, March 29, 2020
How much the world has changed in a month. I've been through, and watched others go through, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross' five stages of grief - denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance - which is applicable to significant loss of any kind. And we've all been through significant loss in the last month, in the very least any sense of normality and trust in the world as we know it.
However we are amazingly adaptable creatures and poetry is thankfully a stable and safe place to return to in these unstable times. I was happy to contribute a video poem recorded from self-isolation in my bedroom to be showcased as part of a 'Plague of Poetry' series blog run by the ever cheerful Scottish poet Hugh McMillan. I've been enjoying the daily dose of the plague and you can see my contribution here. Stay safe out there, this time will pass.
Tuesday, February 11, 2020
Yesterday I came across a poetic form invented by Robert Bly called 'Ramage'. It's an eight-line poem where each line is built around the repetition of a specific 'union of consonant and vowel' such as 'ur', 'in' or 'ar' for example. It allows the sounds of the poem to lead the meaning, imagery and metaphors of the poem. Since I naturally allow sonics to direct, to an extent, my writing this seemed like a fun exercise to try. So I've written one so far and it was incredibly fun, throwing up unexpected and fresh imagery and reaching into the recesses in a different way. I think I'll be writing more!
I consciously decided to devote a week entirely (as much as possible) to poetry because my writing has been neglected with so much else going on. It's been so enjoyable spending hours following up my old favourite subjects and coming across poems I otherwise would have missed. I've been working hard at a poem I've sat on the bones of for over six months now - I've managed to add a few lines to it but still nowhere close to getting to the heart of the poem. However, I wrote a surprise poem yesterday about my daughter's hair which I would never have written if I hadn't been in the place mentally to 'receive it' (from the ether?) that all my reading had prepared me for.
Friday, February 07, 2020
"And this fascination with the borders between sleep and waking, with the strange areas of access between an everyday world we seem to know and another world we can't know in the same way but whose presence is undeniable - such a fascination has over the decades been one of Transtromer's predominant themes."
"imagery from and about dreams, speculations about how both past and future can impinge upon the present, investigations into memory, and a fascination with the many ways in which borders, open and closed, may be experienced."
"but you could at least say that I respond to reality in such a way that I look on existence as a great mystery and that at times, at certain moments, this mystery carries a strong charge, so that it does have a religious character, and it is often in such a context, that I write."
Thursday, December 19, 2019
Time for another word-cloud created on here!
So I've written twelve poems this year - not a huge amount, three of which I wrote last week which saved the end of the year for me!! I hate writing less than twelve in a year.
My word-cloud is made up of this year's poems so lots of water (as usual!) making an appearance, flowers and body parts!
My favorite reading this year has been by Anne Carson. I've been sadly disappointed by Sharon Olds' latest collection, Arias - the poems are so hit and miss. Not the spectacular collection that Stag's Leap was at all. Of course I'm still a huge fan of her work but wonder if she felt under pressure to bring out this collection or if she lost some objectivity over the editing process!!
I absolutely loved Kathleen Jamie's Surfacing - so beautifully written, I'll be re-reading these essays several times over.
Thursday, November 28, 2019
My current reading includes Surfacing by Kathleen Jamie - her most recent gorgeous collection of lyrical essays exploring different landscapes and lives. And Sharon Olds' new collection Arias which I'm slowly savouring.
Thursday, November 07, 2019
In the year of the Painted Lady you grew,
body sprawling like red buddleia
When you think you know me
I have magician hands,
I aim to surprise.
I hold up the sky with my many facets.
You need no passport, need not climb border walls
to enter me. I am open and welcoming you
to explore my nooks, my crannies.
I am alive
building and rebuilding myself
in your imagination.
I am a new kind of Edinburgh rock
made from steel rubble.
I am a coastline without water,
a Giant's Causeway on land.
I have travelled all over,
journeyed the Straights of Dover,
Los Angeles, Yokohama,
When the materials of the earth fall apart
and remake themselves, this is my rebirth.
born out of bloomeries and crucibles,
Mach 1 was not formed by hand but strode into the city.
Mach 1 is a whirlwind, a freestyle dance, shape-shifting body.
Mach 1 is a fallen metropolis, a steel jigsaw. It cuts the skyline
with its ragged edges.
Can you taste the ocean? The haulage of whisky,
cat food, bottles, cups, combs, pens, spades, spoons.
golf balls, flip-flops, bubble wands.
We are all caught in the flux of Mach 1.
It is a metal river.
The thrust of containers leap midair.
Every container has a door, so many red doors opening and opening.
Mach 1 is a series of fingers twining and untwining together.
Mach 1 is the enigma of a Celtic knot. Moving
Mach 1 composes its own song. It is a red mantra.
Mach 1 is the cape of a matador waiting for a charging bull.
It is the falling sun turning to blood. Now it is still. Now soundless.
If you tune in you'll hear its song humming between your ears growing louder.
Mach 1 is a flock of red corbies nesting together.
The beauty of Mach 1 is that which was invisible, servant of the seas
has now been made visible.
You are home, who have come from all over.
You chant the names of the seas you have traversed,
from port to port.
of the lives of so many?
You are a sea anemone, your tentacles draw us into you.
The sky sleeping behind you falls away
into every sky above town and city
where dreaming we all lie,
part earth, part rock, iron blood
running through our veins
Wednesday, November 06, 2019
I have, however, been writing occasional poem notes / imagery to go back to when I have the mental space to write. I especially gathered material when I was on a recent family holiday to Skye and the Western Isles and hope to create something meaningful out of it.
Poems that have caught my eye over the last while have been a series by Victoria Chang of 'Obit' poems. They are a fascinating and imaginative range of poem-obituaries that Chang wrote after the death of her mother. The full collection of them is due to be published early next year by Copper Canyon Press. A book I'm very much looking forward to reading.
Monday, October 21, 2019
|Detail from Blaven and Loch Slapin by Jenny McLaren|