Monday, May 02, 2016

Thanks to Paul Clyne for interviewing me for Poetry Spotlight. You can read the interview and many more interviews with poets on the website here.

I'm so pleased that the Hannah Frank estate have given me permission to use one of Hannah Frank's drawings for the cover of my new collection. Hannah Frank was a Glasgow artist whose Art Nouveau style black and white drawings I've been a fan of since I came across them a few years ago.

I've always particularly loved this drawing which is titled 'Out of the Night a Shadow Passed' and felt it would fit perfectly with the themes in my collection. You can check out more of Hannah Frank's work here.

So here's the prospective cover of Madame Ecosse, which I'm completely delighted with!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Happy that my Polphail Village poem is now up on the Scotia Extremis website which you can find here. It's been paired with a poem about the town of Cumbernauld by Irene Hossack.

I've just received and gone through the proofs for my Mary Stuart poem which will be published in Poetry in the June issue. I'm so excited about it, the proofs look great!

It's a strange feeling having submitted the new collection and now thinking where to begin again. When Tree Language was published I was in the middle of being mentored by Vicki Feaver which forced me to keep writing and was invaluable for helping me to open up my poems.
I have the ever pressing desire to work on something bigger. I so enjoyed writing the longer poems and sequences in Madame Ecosse - of really being able to throw myself into a theme / subject.
At the moment I'm rereading The Golden Bough by James Frazer - doing a close reading of it, plus Roethke's Collected and D.H Lawrence. Also reading The Divided Self by R.D. Laing which is a fascinating study, published in the 1960's, of mental illness through existential philosophy.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Unable to resist the urge to wordle my new collection!

I've been pruning my manuscript and ordering and re-ordering the poems, reading the full collection straight-through aloud to see how the poems sit with each other. I've also been trying to get as many of them into print before the book comes out. Only nine poems in the collection haven't yet been published or been accepted for publication in the next six months - I'm hoping to hear back about some of them soon!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Madame Ecosse

I'm delighted to say that Eyewear Publishing will be bringing out my second full-length poetry collection, Madame Ecosse, this September!!!

I've been working on putting together a second collection manuscript for a while but it wasn't until I wrote what is now the title poem of the collection last week that I felt I was able to bring the poems together as a cohesive whole.

'Madame Ecosse' was a nickname given to Winnie Ewing, mother of the Scottish National Party. She was the second SNP member to sit in the House of Commons and she represented the Highlands and Islands at the European Parliament for 24 years where she gained her nickname for never missing a chance to speak up for Scotland.
I knew immediately that I wanted to write a poem about her and when I did I realised it brought together the main themes of my manuscript.

I'm so completely delighted, I never expected that the book would come out this year and I'm so happy that the excellent Eyewear Publishing are bringing it out. It's such an innovative press and the sheer quality of their books - every Eyewear book or pamphlet I've bought is genuinely a beautiful object in itself.

So now starts the process of ordering, pruning and proofreading the collection - exciting!!

Thanks to Gillian Prew for showcasing my 'Rose Hips and Thistles' poem, first published in Paris Lit Up Magazine, on her blog here.

Also happy to have my 'Magpies', 'Night Poinsettias' and 'Owl Girl' poems published in the new Glasgow Review of Books which you can read here.

Monday, January 04, 2016

Well that's the whole festive shebang out of the way and I've been absorbed in reading so many books - I find myself always going back to certain poets - Roethke, Transtromer, Lawrence, H.D., Bhatt.  More recently Linda Gregg's Collected which I picked up a couple of months ago, and Niedecker Collected which I've sat aside for now. I've been reading a variety of folklore and mythology books too, the latest is Healing Threads: Traditional Medicines of the Highlands and Islands by Mary Beith.

Tree Language is on Christmas sale for a mere £3.99!!

As part of a Scottish poet's project I'm working on a poem about Polphail - a ghost village on the banks of Loch Fyne about an hour-and-a half-drive from Dunoon. The housing estate was built to house oil rig construction workers in the 1970's during the Scottish oil boom but for practical reasons no workers were ever housed at Polphail. Despite the site being fully functional and furnished with kitchens, laundrette, bar and leisure facilities it was left to vandals and natural decay. A few years back an artist group gained permission to brighten up the place with graffiti-style art work which the occasional visitor has added to. It's a fascinating place to visit and I have plenty notes for the poem - not sure yet which direction to take it but many possibilities.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

It's been the usual chaos month of birthdays, anniversaries and then Christmas events on top of it all. I ordered the collected works of Lorine Niedecker for my birthday - a book I've been wanting for a long time - and after the initial speed read through the entire book I've been slowly devouring the poems. Such an interesting person and her poems are so fresh they could have been written yesterday.

I had the interesting experience earlier this week of judging at the regional heats for the national schools Poetry by Heart competition. Students from fourth through to sixth year reciting two poems each one from pre-1914 and one post-1914. There was a great selection of poems recited and all of the students did amazingly well! I was judging with the lovely poet Sheila Templeton. It's so good to see this competition (run by the Scottish Poetry Library) filling a gap in contemporary education of poetry memorisation, Sheila and I were very impressed with all who took part.

Feeling once again the need for a big project to work on - something to really get my poetry teeth into. I've written the occasional poem since my long Trident poem but find them so unsatisfying. I've realised I love having a big theme / project to work on - something with a real challenge and something I can really get absorbed in.

Friday, October 30, 2015

On writing a Trident poem

To make up for the usual rubbish Scottish summer we had a gloriously long, warm, dry autumn which meant spending many hours sitting by the Clyde Firth writing streams of images.

I've used all this material to write a poem in three voices about Trident nuclear submarines - a common sighting on the Clyde. 
It many ways it was a real challenge to write. Technically, writing a poem in three voices was for me a new experience. I started by separating the material into three distinct personas which I initially based on archetypal projections of  mother / daughter / wife.  

These projections were disbanded when the writing became staid and I pretty much got stuck on the poem. The initial idea was to write dramatic monologues in the voices of women anti-nuclear protesters. So I did a lot of fascinating reading up on and watching youtube clips of women peace protesters and some of the approaches they took. And although I used some of the material the voices in my poem tended much more towards lyric than dramatic writing which I felt would have required a more narrative approach that was non-existent in my poem.

I also did a lot of reading up on and watching documentaries on the atom bomb / nuclear testing / Hiroshima etc. I've always been anti-Trident and also always been fascinated by nuclear power. Reading up on it all has just enforced the horrific reality of nuclear weapons and how the only right and rational response is disarmament.

Anyway the poem approaches this in a very understated way, I think of my voices as Cassandra's - prophets of disaster - rather than being an overtly political poem. 

I found the drafting process more difficult than usual and still feel the need to hear it read aloud by three voices to see if it's actually working.
Whether it does work or not it's certainly been a 'stretching' process in writing it!

Sunday, October 04, 2015

So Dunoon now has its own annual book festival!

I so enjoyed hearing Liz Lochhead read in Dunoon Cinema on Friday night, Vagabond Voices fiction and TV drama writer (including writing for Taggart!!!) Chris Dolan read with Vagabond Voices publisher Allan Cameron last night. Today I heard Jess Smith tell stories about her life and about the Scottish travelling community as well as sing a couple of traditional gypsy songs. I also read today to a super friendly audience with Tariq Latif - it was good to try out my new Dunoon pier poem and Mary Stuart poem.

I was pleased to be mentioned in The Scotsman the other day amongst writers reclaiming childbirth as a legitimate source of inspiration!

I've been doing a lot of unedited writing - just writing pages and pages of images and lines - without cleaning them up into poems. I'm waiting on a new theme, bigger picture to work on and bring all of these images and thoughts into. I'm always looking to move onto something hopefully bigger and better, to really expand my writing.

I'm so enjoying reading and re-reading Theodore Roethke's On Poetry and Craft - so many great quotes from him which I've been twittering occasionally!

I received my contributors copy of Paris Lit Up in the post the other day - what a gorgeous book and collection of poems, stories and artwork!

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

I really thought of it as a lucky fluke when I managed to place three poems in POETRY magazine last year, so you can't imagine my face when I got an email last week from Don Share to say he is going to publish my six-part Mary Stuart sequence in an upcoming issue!!

To say I'm delighted is an understatement. I'm so thankful to Don Share for his willingness to give new and unknown writers like me publication in POETRY - his support of new writers in the hallowed (to me!) pages of POETRY magazine is so incredibly encouraging and surprising in the often closed and cliquey world of poetry publication.

I have a couple of poems online in The Lake - a great monthly poetry webzine, I also have a poem coming out this month in the autumn issue of Paris Lit Up - one magazine launch party I so wish I could make it to! I have a poem coming out in a Scottish issue of the Atlanta Review next spring, I think, which I'm also excited about.
So many more poems submitted and of course many many many rejections have come in...

Four weeks of the kids being back at school and I'm only now feeling the stirrings of poems, again I want to work with a theme / themes to explore through many poems rather than jump from isolated poem to isolated poem. I have a few ideas but nothing as concrete and exact as the pier sequence. Still reading D.H. Lawrence, whose poems I love the more I read! 

Monday, August 24, 2015

"Brimming with images of body, blood and flowers, this sequence politicises and analyses the purpose and process of birth"
Nice to get a review of Our Real Red Selves in the Scottish Review of Books which you can read here

It was a pleasure to read again with Harry Giles and Jennifer Williams as we read in Edinburgh from Our Real Red Selves at the Edinburgh Fringe Book Festival run by the amazing gem of a bookshop Word Power Books. There are free book events going on there every day till the end of the month, well worth a visit.

I was invited by the editor of Berfrois to contribute a poem to an e-book collection of poems called Poets for Corbyn. I submitted a poem that was originally published in my pamphlet collection, Vintage Sea, called The Red Road. I wrote it in 2010 after reading about a triple family suicide - three Russian asylum seekers who leapt to their death from one of the infamous multi-storey flats on the Red Road in Glasgow, their application to remain in the UK had been refused. 
You can read Poets for Corbyn here - it's free and includes poems by great poets such as Pascale Petit and Michael Schmidt.

When I was at Word Power Books I was delighted to pick up a signed copy of Kathleen Jamie's selection of essays Sightlines which I've been meaning to get for years. The writing is even more beautiful than I had imagined, delighted with it. This morning, inspired by Jamie's writing, I wrote the first draft of a reflective essay on visiting Culloden last month. It's the first such essay I've written and so very much enjoyed writing it. I feel it's possibly a new doorway opening to me. 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Unsurprisingly I've done little in the way of writing over the school holidays, and there's still two more weeks of it to go! We visited Culloden on our wee holiday to Inverness and I have some images and thoughts for a poem but it's impossible to get into the 'writing zone' with the kids about!
I had an incredibly vivid dream with Ted Hughes in it last week and so have been reading his early work, essays in Winter Pollen and a biography of him by Elaine Feinstein that I've had for years.
Continually feel the need for something bigger to work on though no idea what. All I want to read poetry-wise at the minute is Ted Hughes and D. H. Lawrence!

I'm excited to be reading at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival next month with Harry Giles and J.L. Williams from Our Real Red Selves. We'll be reading at Word Power Books, Nicolson Street, Edinburgh on 22nd Aug at 1pm. It's a free event!

Tariq Latif is launching his latest pamphlet, Smithereens, from Arc Publications at Dunoon Bookpoint on the 12th Aug at 7pm. I'm privileged to be reading one of his poems written in a female voice.

Something that has been a pleasant surprise is how far my Wild Poppies poem has travelled - it's certainly traveled far further than any other poem I've written. It pops up in gardening blogs, wedding pages, eco travelling websites, paired many times with poppy pics on instagram, it's even been put to music and reshaped into a sculpture poem! Every now and again I do an online search to see where it will make an appearance next! It's made me think about why it's so popular, it certainly helps that it was published in such a high profile mag - I think it comes up high on results for anyone doing a search on poppy poems. It's been described as an ode to poppies or a celebration of poppies. The poem itself was whittled down from three pages of notes from intense concentration on the poppies. It was originally three times the length and a three part poem and eventually pruned down to what is left. I think flower poems are generally popular anyway as they cover so many bases emotionally and symbolically. But it's such a pleasure to see how my poem has made its own way into the world!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Well that's the kids now on holiday for a whopping seven weeks!
I managed to write my pier poem sequence which was a relief and now I intend to have a mythological summer reading mainly Robert Graves and a few other folktale / anthropological books.  I've recently been blown away by Matthew Dickman's poems and can't wait to get one of his collections. Here he is reading with his twin brother Michael, who is also an acclaimed poet.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Three new poems from Our Real Red Selves online: -

Iceland Poppies and Dinner are up at The Ofi Press (Mexico)
The Un-Mother can be read at Ink, Sweat & Tears!

I'm working on a long poem about Dunoon's Victorian timber pier. I've no idea where I'm going with it and haven't worked out the heart of it yet. All I know is that it's the only thing I've been drawn to writing about over the last few months. I'm building up ever expanding notes and have a few sections that seem complete in themselves but not knowing the overarching theme is annoying!

Monday, June 01, 2015

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Some post-first full-length collection thoughts  -

It's now been a year since Tree Language was published though it feels much longer - I suppose the whole, long process of putting the manuscript together and drafting drafting drafting makes it feel so.
The last eighteen months has been, at times, a bit of a whirlwind. I'm certainly much more used to doing readings now and very happy to do them.

I was very fortunate in having the mentoring with Vicki Feaver which forced me to keep writing after Tree Language when I almost certainly would have had post-collection block. So this last year has been extremely productive for me and I'm now starting to think about putting together a second collection. I'm writing much more themed sequences now rather than jumping from poem to poem which gives me room to really explore a subject such as the birth series and the Mary Stuart poems.
And now I feel on the verge or something new and the need to order the masses of poems into a collection home to be able to move on - whether or not I submit them as a collection anytime soon I've no idea. But it feels good putting them together, I feel and hope it's a much stronger collection of poems than Tree Language and I have a working title which I'm excited by!

Also I have copies of Our Real Red Selves which will be launched in Glasgow next week!


Friday, May 15, 2015

*New readings coming up in Dunoon and Glasgow* - 

I'll be reading and discussing books with Vagabond Voices writers Chris Dolan, Gerry Loose and Allan Cameron at Bookpoint, Dunoon on Wednesday 20th May at 6 pm. I'll be reading from Our Real Red Selves and copies of Tree Language will be available also.

The actual launch of Our Real Red Selves will be in the CCA in Glasgow on June 4th at 7 pm which I'll be reading at alongside JL Williams and Harry Giles.

I've not been writing much lately - stuck in a bit of a rut after my Mary poems and endless family illnesses. However I have been reading lots - the mammoth Collected Ted Hughes which has been a wonderful and, well, huge read! A complete mythological  world to get lost and roam about in! Also been reading Jim Murdoch's new book of poems, Reader Please Supply Meaning, always a pleasure to read Jim's questioning and thought-provoking poems. Picked up a copy at Aye Write of Glasgow Makar Jim Carruth's verse novella, Killochries, which is beautifully written. And lastly couldn't resist getting Sujata Bhatt's latest collection, Poppies in Translation.

Very excited to be going through to Edinburgh next week to hear Pascale Petit read from Fauverie! What a privilege it was to hear Pascale read some of her Fauverie poems to a small group of us a few years ago now at Chateau Ventenac in the South of France. It seems quite a lifetime ago! I'm delighted that she's reading in Edinburgh with Scottish poet Niall Campbell and that I'll get a chance to hear her again. The event is run by The Scottish Poetry Library and will be on 21st May, 6.30pm at The Saltire Society, 9 Fountain Close, High Street, Edinburgh.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Poems, Podcast and Video...

I can't believe it's this Saturday myself, JL Williams and Harry Giles will be reading in the beautiful Mitchell Library as part of the Aye Write festival. We'll be reading from Our Real Red Selves anthology from Vagabond Voices on  Sat 18th 6-7 pm. Do book a ticket from the Aye Write website if you fancy it!

There are video interviews of JL Williams and Harry Giles on the Vagabond Voices website. There's one of me too - a short, wind-blown interview of me reading poems from the anthology in the Castle Gardens, Dunoon!

Also the interview-podcast I did last year with the Scottish Poetry Library is now available to listen to here.

And I have three poems from Our Real Red Selves featured on Josephine Corcoran's wonderful poetry blog here!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

I have a three-part Lot's Wife poem in the new New York based online literary magazine TRANSMISSION which you can read here. There is a lot of really interesting work in the magazine, this edition has a particular focus on Detroit-based writers with a few non-Detroit 'core creatives' of which I'm very happy to be one!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Easily the most entertaining poet's letters I've read so far. I thoroughly recommend the selected letters of W.S. Graham.

Probably shouldn't be a surprise that the letters are so good since Graham wrote excellent letter poems! The letters are in a sense poem drafts - he says in one that he writes the letters as much for himself as for the recipients. Wonderful early and a few late letters to Edwin Morgan discussing his writing, wonderful exuberant letters to Elizabeth Smart, Michael Schmidt gets a telling-off letter for a review he wrote about him, letters about writing, begging for money, his poverty-struggles, all packed with personality and most of all humour. Letters I'll go back to.

I'm excited to have just finished a seven-poem sequence on Mary Queen of Scots! I was keen to write about her after I came across and read some of her letters on-line. What surprised me was how human she seemed as opposed to the distant stock character queen from history. I read the well-written and in-depth biography of her by Antonia Fraser. There are many surviving letters written by Mary and many recorded first-hand accounts that it is possible to build up a reasonably accurate picture of her as a person. Plus there are so many mythological aspects to her story which is a gift to write about.

Glasgow's Aye Write Book Festival programme in now available on-line here. I'll be reading on Saturday 18th April 6-7pm with J.L. Williams and Harry Giles.