Monday, February 20, 2017

I'm excited to be working on a new series of poems based on old Scottish ballads. It's an idea I've been toying with for a while but just didn't have the time to throw myself into.
Now is the time and after much reading and absorbing (finally finished my close reading of the Golden Bough) I'm in writing mode.

There's something about working on a project / theme over several poems that very much attracts me - I can really get absorbed in as opposed to writing occasional poems here and there.
I hope to be working on this intensely over the next couple of months.

Thanks to the wonderful Scottish Book Trust I'm going to Moniack Mhor for a writer's retreat at the end of March with this year's intake of New Scottish Writer Awardees. It's 14 miles outside Inverness and sounds/looks amazing. It will be wonderful to have a week in the Scottish highlands away from all responsibilities just to write.

However before then I have a quick jaunt to London for the official launch of Madame Ecosse which will be at the London Review Bookshop on Friday 17th March. Also hoping to plan over the next few months reading/launches in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Signed copies available from myself (UK only) if you click on the 'buy now' button on the left!

Delighted to have the book finally in my hands and I'm over-the-moon at what a beautiful object it is! Eyewear Publishing have done a wonderful job with it - thanks especially to Todd Swift and Edwin Smet at Eyewear!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

She's nearly here...

After much toing and froing Madame Ecosse is finally at the printers - I'm so looking forward to seeing the book jump out of my head (off the page) and come to life as a real thing!

I did a phone interview for Napier University student magazine about my writing which you can read the write-up of here.

I'm enjoying having time to read and start to write again. Tentatively writing notes, odd lines and images - slowing feeling my way back into writing mode. I've been reading James Wright and today I started reading Adam Zagajewski's Unseen Hand collection - wonderful wonderful poems.

Monday, December 19, 2016

So the pre-order page for Madame Ecosse is now up on the Eyewear Publishing website here with very kind and generous blurbs for it from Vicki Feaver, Harry Giles and Jane Clarke, which I'm delighted by and very grateful for!

I've finished full-time work for now which means time in my life for some much needed Poetry - reading and writing. I feel like my subconscious is bursting with poems - just need to find the right expression for it all. I want to do something all encompassing, challenging, bigger, something I can really throw myself into, beyond what I've done before. I've carved out a study corner in the house and finally have my own laptop to be able to work on poems without interruption which is wonderful!! 

However the first priority is going through the proofs for Madame Ecosse - it goes to the printers on January 15th which is very exciting! Thankfully I'm sure I made the right choice in changing the order of poems and by scrapping the sections - it feels much more like a cohesive whole.  

After a dearth of poetry this year I'm very much looking forward to being fully immersed in poetry in 2017!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

My short reflective essay on last year's visit to Culloden is in the new Northwords Now and can be read here. It's my first tentative step into non-poetry writing and was a pleasure to write - a descriptive piece closely related to writing poems but communicating something that I couldn't get across in a poem.
I think I'll be writing more pieces like this alongside my poems - in fact I've already begun another
about my visit to the Mary Stuart's chambers in Holyrood Palace last week - an immensely moving place to visit (the chambers specifically, not the palace!). I wish I could have shut out all the other tourists and had the rooms to myself for a while.

So Madame Ecosse is forthcoming February '17 - last week I reordered the entire collection. Originally it was going to be in three sections but the selecting of poems for the first two sections seemed arbitrary with a number of poems, so then I put the collection into two sections - Garden Songs and The Birth Files - but even these sections niggled away at me.
I noticed with Tree Language (which was in three sections) that reviewers would quite happily ignore an entire section in reviewing the book. I guess I wouldn't like The Birth Files poems to be ignored - they are on a tricky subject after all - and I'm suspicious that relegating them to a section at the end of the book would cause them to be easily ignored.
I'm not entirely sure the new order is the finalised deal - I'll need a couple of weeks before I can objectively look at it again.

Like everything else - no readings for ages then they all come at once!
I'll be reading alongside J.O. Morgan, Vicki Husband and Em Strang at -

St Mungo's Mirrorball Showcase 5
Thursday 27th October
CCA Clubroom, Glasgow, 7pm

I'll also be reading at the third Dunoon Book Festival alongside Tariq Latif -

30th October 12.30 pm
Dunoon's Victorian Pier Building

I recently ordered The Literary Impact of The Golden Bough by John B. Vickery - a second-hand ex-uni library book that has clearly never been opened. It looks specifically at the influence of The Golden Bough on Yeats, T.S. Eliot and Lawrence. I can't wait until January when I can really get into my study of The Golden Bough and work out what kind of poem(s) I'm going to feed it all into.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Eyewear Publishing National Poetry Day Event!

Thursday 6th October is National Poetry Day

I'll be reading at the Scottish Poetry Library in Edinburgh from my forthcoming collection, Madame Ecosse, alongside Eyewear poets Paul Deaton, Terese Svoboda, and believe it or not, George Elliott Clarke - the Poet Laureate of Canada!!

Here are more details about the reading from the Scottish Poetry Library website -

National Poetry Day event: Eyewear Publishing

Since 2012, Eyewear Publishing has been discovering and publishing interesting new poets from across the UK and overseas. Join us in welcoming four of their freshest voices, including Scotland’s own Marion McCready, one of the country’s fiercest and most original voices; George Elliott Clarke, Canada’s Poet Laureate; Paul Deaton, whose poems have appeared in The Spectator and PN Review; and Terese Svoboda, American poet, novelist, librettist and translator.


6 October 2016 - 6:00pm - 7:30pm


Scottish Poetry Library


£7 (£5)

How to book

Buy a ticket in person at the SPL or via Eventbrite.

Contact for further details

Email or call the SPL on 0131-557-2876.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Working full-time with two kids doesn't leave much room for writing poetry which is why I've not been updating much. However I hope to be cutting down to part-time work in January which will be much better.

I've been glad to have the break away from writing - I wrote so much last year that it drained my inner resources so it's been good to let them build up again.
Today has been a rare day off without kids around and I have notes towards a four or five poem sequence based on Child Ballad 216 - an old Scottish ballad about a pair of lovers who drown in the Clyde. 

Here is folk singer, Kate Rusby, singing a version of the ballad -

A prose piece I wrote about visiting Culloden last year will be published in the next issue of Northwords Now - it's my first non-poetry publication!!

Instead of this October, Madame Ecosse will now be published Spring 2017 - this suits me much better, feels like less of a rush to get it out and will give me plenty of time for editing and proofreading.

I have a few readings lined up - As part of a National Poetry Day event I will be reading at the Scottish Poetry Library October 6th alongside fellow Eyewear Publishing poets Paul Deaton, Terese Svoboda, and Canadian Poet Laureate - George Elliott Clarke!! See here for more details.
I will also be reading at a Mirrorball event in Glasgow CCA on October 27th.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

I'm now onto book two of Richard Holmes' brilliant biographies of Coleridge. I feel like I've spent the last few weeks submerged in the recesses of Coleridge's genius and wild brain, I'll be sad when I've finished the book!

I'm delighted that The Manchester Review have published my poem sequence on Dunoon's Victorian pier  - 'She Lay Down Deep Beneath the Sea' - in their current issue.

Dunoon's Victorian Pier this morning!

The reading list I submitted to POETRY is now up on the blog here - I've finished reading the Ted Hughes biography and obviously I'm now reading the Coleridge books.

A new magazine of Scottish poetry I've been impressed with is the Glasgow-based Raum. I was pleased to have a poem in their recent issue, a beautifully produced magazine with a broad range of poetry, they're definitely worth checking out. 

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Life is so full of commitments and busyness at the moment that I'm not finding much in the way of writing time.

A couple of weeks ago I was invited into my son and daughter's primary school to introduce poetry to the children. It turned out to be a rather mad, busy but rewarding experience. I took classes from P1 right through to P7 getting them to write odes and riddles on topics such as the seashore to fruit and vegetables. The school are putting together a book including a poem from every child in the school in order to raise much needed funds for the school. Edwin Morgan's 'The Apple's Song' went down a treat as did Pam Ayers' 'Oh I Wished I Looked After Me Teeth'! I used lots of tips from this great article in Poetry from Rachel Zucker and started every class with writing a class poem.

I've just finished reading Jonathan Bates' biography of Ted Hughes and have moved onto Coleridge: Early Visions by Richard Holmes. According to Bates it's the last book Hughes read / was in the middle of reading when he died. It's beautifully written - really makes Coleridge come to life, cleverly weaving Coleridge's own words throughout it. I'm so enjoying going back to the Romantics. I'm also reading through the Child Ballads, I have an idea of writing my own version of some of them as a bit of a long term project - just need time and peace to get on with it!

I'm pleased that the fabulous Irish poet, Jane Clarke, whose beautifully written first collection, River, did extraordinarily well when it came out last year has written me a very generous blurb for Madame Ecosse. Vicki Feaver has also generously agreed to write one for me. It's such a kindness when poets you respect so highly agree to write a blurb for you!!

I'm excited that I'll be launching Madame Ecosse in October in Glasgow as part of Jim Carruth's Mirrorball reading series and also in Edinburgh at the Scottish Poetry Library at an Eyewear event along with other Eyewear poets.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

The 1st of June has never been as sweet as this one!! I can't really believe my Mary Stuart poem is in this month's POETRY magazine (taking up a whole nine pages!!) alongside poetry greats Alice Oswald, D. Nurkse and Sinead Morrissey amongst others, yet here it is -

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.