Sunday, December 27, 2009

1st draft


Snow flowers
decorate the riverbank.

(post removed)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Well it's that time of the year again - time to stock up on poetry books.

With it being my birthday last week I bought the lovely big volume of the Collected Poems of George MacKay Brown which I've been keen to purchase since watching the GMB programme as part of The Poet's Guide to Britain series on the BBC a while back. I'm absolutely delighted with it.

I ordered Sarah Sloat's chapbook In the Voice of a Minor Saint which I'm really looking forward to coming in. If you haven't already, check out her blog - one of the funniest, original and constantly surreal writer I've come across.

I'm also waiting on Claire Crowther's The Clockwork Gift to come in. I bought this off the back of reading her poems in several magazines and thoroughly enjoying them.

And today I ordered several chapbooks from HappenStance. I cannot recommend enough Happenstance publishing. It's a fantastic, mainly pamphlet, publisher. Scottish poets such as Rob MacKenzie and Andrew Philips had their first publications with Happenstance. This year Alison Brackenbury joined the author list by publishing a chapbook with HappenStance.
A great range of high quality poetry at SUPER CHEAP prices, really!

For under £30 (including postage) I have just ordered -
A HappenStance Subscription (which includes a free chapbook of my choice and discount on all other chapbooks)
For my free chapbook I chose -
Slug Language by Anne Caldwell

Other chapbooks I ordered are -
The Body of the Green Girl by Paula Jennings
Embracing Water by Deborah Trayhurn
Shadow by Alison Brackenbury
a Three pamphlet lucky dip

and three issues of Sphinx magazine - 11, 8 and 7. Sphinx magazine has features about and interviews with independent poetry publishers, self-publishers and poets. Also it reviews pamphlet publications.

So all in all that's one subscription (which includes postal undates with sample extracts of new publications), seven chapbooks and three issues of Sphinx magazine all for less than thirty quid, how can you beat that? And they're all beautifully produced.

But it's not all poetry, I did buy a work of fiction - Jim Murdoch's first novel Living with the Truth. I've been following Jim's blog for quite a while now and he always surprises me with his very interesting and very well researched posts / essays. I've always enjoyed his writing so I thought it was about time I bought one of his books and this is what I'm currently reading.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

So it's not been a great year for poetry writing - pregnancy and babies and toddlers haven't helped at all!

However this month is pretty good for me - I've got the three poems coming up in the Edinburgh Review plus three poems in the next Poetry Scotland, due out very soon.

Also Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust are publishing a ‘Carry a Poem’ anthology to be distributed free throughout Edinburgh next February which I have contributed to. Here's a quote from the website of what the anthology is about:

"As part of our ‘Carry a Poem’ campaign, we’re collecting people’s tales about poems that matter to them. We’re encouraging everyone to think about their vital poems and the stories that lie behind them, and we’re keen to learn about the poem choices of people all over Scotland, from all walks of life."

A fun idea! I wrote about WCW's To A Poor Old Woman which I memorised during my pregnancy (as challenged by Rachel!).

Monday, November 30, 2009

Looking for recommendations for poetry collections to read??

Michelle McGrane on her blog Peony Moon has asked a number of poets to list their favourite collections of 2009, it's great for suggestions if you're stuck on what to read next.

The one's that I'm particularly interested in and just haven't got around to purchasing yet are -

The Clockwork Gift by Claire Crowther
Weeds and Wild Flowers by Alice Oswald
In the Voice of a Minor Saint by Sarah J. Sloat
The Missing by Siân Hughes

Friday, November 13, 2009

A quick post to say that StAnza's Virtual Poetry Festival - Distant Voices - is taking place tomorrow from 1pm. Poets will be reading live from all around the world and this will be broadcast online available for everyone and anyone to listen into. I'm particularly looking forward to hearing Andrew Philip read from 2.30pm (his collection The Ambulance Box is an excellent read) and Meg Bateman read her work in Gaelic and English from 6.30pm.

Life is pretty much baby and toddler chaos at the moment hence the lack of poetry.

Friday, October 23, 2009

First Draft


What did you do to her, you swallowed her whole.

(post removed)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Issue 3 of Horizon Review is now available online here.
As usual it contains a great range of poetry, interviews and essays which I hope to get stuck into over the next few days. I'm particularly pleased to see there's an interview with poet Pascale Petit whose work I discovered recently and very much liked what I read.

Baby Ruby

Some pics, as requested!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Had the baby and glad to be back!

Baby Ruby arrived on her due date (26th Sep) and my wee boy broke our computer the day after. Just had it fixed and this is my first time online since. It's great to be back online and even better to have the birth over and done with!!
The baby is doing really well and I'm looking forward to catching up with all of your blogs and poetry news and maybe get a bit of writing done also!

Monday, September 21, 2009

First draft of the first poem I've written in what feels like forever:

Bramble Street

They ripen to mosaics,

(post removed)

Monday, September 07, 2009

Really missing keeping up with my blog and with all you bloggers out there, it's very awkward for me to sit the 'computer room' (i.e the hall cupboard!)at the moment - to write at the computer requires sitting at a funny angle which makes my ankles swell up like balloons!
However soon it will all be over and then the question will be: 'will I be able to fit and feed a baby in here and type at the same time' - ooh to own a laptop!

Anyway, just realised that the lovely Titus tagged me ages ago to: "Collect the book that you have most handy, turn to page 161, find the 5th complete sentence, and cite the sentence on your blog."

So here it is:

"The Palace's little windows glow,
remote in the stillness."
From Anna Akhmatova's poem 'Verses About Petersburg' which is in the fantastically wonderful Complete poems of Anna Akhmatova translated by Judith Hemschemeyer - one of my desert island books.

Just in case I was supposed to pick a prose book:

"One of her most instinctive compulsions was to make patterns - vivid, bold, symmetrical patterns."

Ted Hughes' essay 'Sylvia Plath: Ariel' in his book Winter Pollen: Occasional Prose, the nearest prose book to hand.

Works out nicely - two main poetry obsessions of mine, Plath and Akhmatova!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Good news in this dry spell - I've had three poems accepted by Edinburgh Review...and they pay!!! My first paid acceptance, I'm very excited!

Six weeks until the baby's here and I've started reading poetry again after literally going off it over the last few months. Started a poem last night about slugs of all things, scrapped most of what I wrote but there's the odd line worth keeping that I'm sure will spur me into more writing - it's good just to be writing again, even if it is mostly mince, feeling rather rusty but you have to start somewhere!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Just a wee note to say to any Sylvia Plath fans or anyone with a general interest in Plath that issue 2 of the academic journal 'Plath Profiles' is now available on-line and can be found here. It contains a fantastic range of essays, poems, art, reviews etc.

Still no poetry going on here I'm afraid, I'm hoping I'll get back to writing soon after the baby's born otherwise if anyone's on facebook drop by and say hello, it's about the most I can manage these days!

I did send off a submission to the Tall-lighthouse pamphlet competition, the closing date is the end of this month in case anyone is interested in submitting.

Friday, July 03, 2009

I know I'm a rubbish blogger at the moment, I'm sorry.

Just been revising old poems and trying to pick and choose which ones to put together and post off for a chapbook competition that's coming up.

Also think I need a change of tack for writing. I've grouped together 20 of what I think are my best poems for this competition and almost all of them contain water imagery of some sort or another. I think I really need to break away from it or risk forever repeating myself!

Not sure how to keep water / the sea from infiltrating my poems, anyone else got experience of how to beat or move on from obsessive imagery taking over their poems?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Still taking notes for poems but don't have the mental energy to actually turn them into poems. Doing lots of reading instead.

Just finished a bizarre short book by the wonderful Czech writer Milan Kundera, Identity. As the title suggests the book explores the theme of human identity through the relationship between two lovers. It's quite a psychological book - full of mind-games and manipulation. Kundera doesn't like being referred to as a philosophical writer but his books are definitely books of Ideas, existentialism in this case. One of my favorite bits in the book comes out of the mouth of the character Jean-Marc when he describes a visit to his dying grandfather :

"I had just turned fourteen, and my grandfather – not the cabinetmaker, the other one – was dying. There was a sound coming from his mouth that was unlike anything else, not even a moan because he wasn’t in pain, not like words he might have been having trouble saying, no, he hadn’t lost speech, just very simply he had nothing to say, nothing to communicate, no actual message, he didn’t even have anyone to talk to, wasn’t interested in anyone any more, it was just him alone with the sound he was emitting, one sound, an “ahhhh” that broke off only when he had to take a breath. I would watch him, hypnotized, and I never forgot that, because, though I was only a child, something seemed to become clear to me: this is existence as such confronting time as such; and that confrontation, I understood, is named boredom. My grandfather’s boredom expressed itself by that sound, by that endless “ahhhh”, because without that “ahhhh” time would have crushed him, and the only weapon my grandfather had against time was that feeble “ahhhh” going on and on."

I'm also reading a series of essays on feminism by Virginia Woolf. I've long been a fan of her novels but the essays are excellent, very sharp, insightful, a wonderful writer.

Still waiting (forever it seems) on replies for poetry submissions, some I've given up on.
So on a happier note here are some of the reasons why I love Poetry Scotland:

i They were the first to publish my poems
ii I've had poems in the last two issues and three poems coming up in the summer issue
iii The response time is usually about a week (bliss)
iv It's only a quid an issue
v It's a broadsheet packed with poems and only poems

Some non-poetry news - I'm having a girl!!! This was a surprise - I was convinced I was having another boy! So now I'm dreaming of rows and rows of little dresses and very excited about what having a little girl is going to be like!

I can't resist puting a scan photo up. It's the first time I've had a 3D scan, we only paid for a normal one but the very nice lady gave us 3D pics to take away as well as the normal. My wee girl smirks and smiles in the womb.

Monday, June 08, 2009

De-Cabbage Yourself!

I'm delighted to welcome Scottish poet Rob A. Mackenzie to Poetry in Progress for stop two of his De-Cabbage Yourself Experience - Rob's virtual book tour for The Opposite of Cabbage, his debut poetry collection from Salt Publishing.

Rob was born in Glasgow. He studied law and then abandoned the possibility of significant personal wealth by switching to theology. He spent a year in Seoul, eight years in Lanarkshire, five years in Turin, and now lives in Edinburgh where he organises the Poetry at the Great Grog reading series. His pamphlet collection, The Clown of Natural Sorrow, was published by HappenStance Press in 2005 and he blogs at Surroundings (

(Rob Mackenzie photo © Gerry Cambridge 2009)

(1) Something I'm very curious about in your recent collection, The Opposite of Cabbage, is the conspicuous absence of religious poems considering that you are a Church of Scotland minister. God does gets a mention in the odd poem but only in the same fashion as your, if I may say so, rather cynical if not nihilistic portrayal of modern life. Is your personal faith something you consciously avoid writing about?

I compartmentalise my life – family, friends, work, poetry, other stuff – but now and again the compartments intersect. I do write about matters of faith, but not usually to my satisfaction. For instance, at Umbrella magazine (, you’ll find nine poems on the subject, none of which made my cut for the book, although a few came close. A few weeks ago, I wrote a poem called ‘Pentecost’, which I read during a fairly large interdenominational church service. I quite like it. Maybe it will be in my next book, unless I get fed up with it in the meantime.

Most attempts at religious poetry express something important for the writer and for readers who relate directly to the thoughts expressed. Nothing inherently wrong with that. But heartfelt subject-matter doesn’t make for good poetry in itself. It can do, but only within the framework of a good poem. Religious poems are often bland, abstract, badly written, clichéd and over-sentimental. Sorry, but it’s true. It’s very hard to write a good poem, but it’s even harder to write a good religious poem.

Most religious poems that work well have tension at their heart – Donne, Herbert, Hopkins, RS Thomas, Eliot, Geoffrey Hill. They all struggle to make sense of belief, as if they’re continually at war with themselves. Suffering, loss, doubt, guilt and rationality all put pressure on standard religious words and images. Religious poets have to find new ways to express what often can’t find complete expression. Good religious poems contain certainties, moments of rapture, but are rarely short on ambiguity.

There are a few poems in the book which touch on religious themes e.g. ‘While the Moonies…’, ‘The Preacher’s Ear’, In the Last Few Seconds’, and a few others. The first suggests an oblique sacramental presence within ordinary life, even within the poem’s chopped green pepper (just as theologian, Paul Tillich, referred to God as ‘the ground of all being’). The second is like a psalm, one of those brooding, angry psalms of prayer and protest. The third is a poem of resurrection, albeit an ambiguous, double-edged one. In several poems, I use religious imagery in very non-traditional ways.

When I was in my twenties, I became an existentialist, which meant dressing in black clothes and drinking lots of coffee. What appealed to me most was Sartre’s advice on train travel i.e. assume the train is going to crash on the way to its destination because, if it ever arrives, you’ll feel a sense of happiness and relief. Later, I dropped the black outfits (OK, I met a woman who knew about clothes) and cut my coffee intake, but kept the attitude. I assume the train is going to crash (and for ‘train’, you can substitute ‘society’, government’, ‘relationship’, ‘financial system’, ‘European elections’ – whatever), but I’m not really a nihilist. I am often surprised when the train arrives and yet I feel delighted when it happens. Real nihilists feel a sense of despair when things go right because it means they’re wrong!

(2) I know that you are a fan of the work of Czech poet Miroslav Holub, and being a fan of Holub myself I enjoy seeing moments in your poetry which remind me of Holub though this may be my perception only (thinking particularly of your poem 'Berlusconi and the National Grid'). Would you say Holub has influenced your writing, and if so, in what way?

I love Holub’s work. He surprises me with every poem. It’s impossible to guess where he’s going and how he’s going to finish. I learned a lot from him and read his translated selection from Bloodaxe from end to end several times. As well as a sense of the unexpected, I enjoy his absurd humour, the underlying political charge in much of his work, his sheer intelligence and clarity of thought. There’s a strangeness about his poems, but I never feel he’s indulging himself in being odd for the sake of it. I learned from all of these things. I wish I could have lived inside his brain for one day, which would no doubt have been enough...

(3) The majority of the poems in this collection are city-based; packed with observations of city life and the crowd mentality. Yet a few lovely nature moments make the odd appearance. Have you written much in the way of nature poetry, and is it an area you might consider moving into in the future?

I haven’t written much nature poetry. I’ve always lived in cities and write about them. I admire poets who successfully write poems about nature without becoming boring, because mere description of nature is incredibly boring. Sam Meekings, in his 2007 collection, ‘The Bestiary’, observed animals closely and found in them fascinating ways to explore human nature. It’s a book full of surprises, a real achievement. Jen Hadfield is incredibly good at transforming the way a reader might expect to see a landscape in the space of a short phrase. She is never boring. I can’t do these things well, so I don’t. I can’t see myself writing much in the way of nature poetry in the future.

(4) How much is your body part of the process of creation? Does the body plays a role in the creative process for you? Many poets talk, for example, about a certain freedom the hand seems to acquire during the writing, like 'the hand writes by itself', before even the mind grasps an idea... or the need to say the words loud and 'taste' them on your tongue. (Roxana’s question)

Of all the questions I’ve been asked, I didn’t see this one coming! But it’s an intriguing question. I don’t really know the answer. I tend to write poems on the computer screen. Once I have a draft, or hit an impasse, I print what I’ve written and carry it around with me. I jot down ideas and images, and then come back to the poem later.

Sometimes when I get stuck, I do something physical unrelated to poetry, which usually (because I’m lazy) involves walking somewhere outside. Ideas tend to come to me during these walks. I can often complete a poem in my head in more adventurous ways than I would have achieved sitting in front of the screen. That may be because I’m no longer thinking directly about poetry and my mind starts working in a different way. Lines seem to come from nowhere and I guess that’s why poets have always given credit to the Muses, especially when a poem tells the writer something that he/she didn’t know before writing the poem.

So, yes, the hand can write by itself before the mind grasps an idea, but I’m doubtful whether that’s anything to do with the hand itself. I’m not a great believer in automatic writing, although the subconscious clearly plays an important role in any imaginative act. The creative process is largely a mystery to me. What I do know is that when I read one of my own poems and have no idea how I managed to come up with many of the ideas and images, these are usually the best poems. The poems in which I felt in charge and directed the course of the poem from beginning to end tend to fall short. If an image or phrase occurs to me that sends a poem spiralling away in an unexpected direction, I usually run with it as far as I can. Geoffrey Hill said that he writes poems “to surprise himself.” If a poem doesn’t surprise its writer, it’s probably not going to surprise anyone else.

This may also have something to do with the rhythm of walking, the exercise of the body. Scottish poet, John Burnside, once said that he often composes entire poems while walking for hours on the beach, and only has to type them up afterwards. Sound, rhythm, chance – the building blocks of a poem – perhaps combine when the feet are moving.

I read my poems out loud when writing, but that’s to gauge sound and rhythm rather than to “taste them on my tongue.” Everyone is different. I can’t even understand the concept of tasting words, although I’m sure many people can. Anyway, thanks for an interesting question, Roxana, even if I haven’t really done it justice.

Friday, June 05, 2009

I'd much rather be de-cabbaged than swine flu'ed!

Not poetry but swine flu on my mind over the last week.

Since last friday the eighteen confirmed cases of swine flu in Argyll and Bute has risen to sixty-five, the vast majority of them in my otherwise sleepy hometown of Dunoon. The strategy is no longer containment but treatment - looks like we're all going to get it, if not now then in the autumn.

However, very much looking forward to Rob Mackenzie's De-Cabbage Yourself Blog Tour arriving on this blog on Monday.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Rob Mackenzie's Cyclone Tour

Fellow Scottish blogger, Rob A. Mackenzie, is setting up a 'Cyclone blog tour' - a virtual book tour in support of his recently published (by Salt) poetry collection, The Opposite of Cabbage. I'm delighted to say that this blog is going to be a part of it.

I've been following Rob's blog Surroundings for as long as I've been blogging. In fact Rob's blog with it's comprehensive list of literary links was very much a guide for me when trying to get my head around the current poetry publishing scene.
Rob also kindly encouraged me in my writing back when I was far less sure of what I was doing. I've met him a couple of times now at Scotland's biggest poetry festival, StAnza, and he really is a very nice bloke.

But more importantly I've been following his poetry with interest since I purchased his now out of print Happenstance produced chapbook The Clown of Natural Sorrow. An excellent chapbook that I genuinely find myself drawn back to and enjoy re-reading. As the title suggests, these are very imaginative poems, witty with an interesting blend of literalism and surrealism that often remind me of Miroslav Holub, one of my favorite poets.

As part of the Cyclone blog tour I get to ask Rob three questions which can be about his new book, his thoughts on poetry, or even about his life and he will answer them on this blog. So I'm open to suggestions if there is anything anyone would like to know about Rob, put it in the comments or email me if you'd prefer.

The cyclone will reach here in a couple of weeks time!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Just to say that my posts are probably going to be few and far between for the next wee while now that I'm nearly six months pregnant and generally feeling a bit weary.

I hoped to have a laptop by now to make things easier but instead I've got a new kitchen! I'm doing lots of reading though and have started keeping a kind of visual diary (inspired by The Faber Book of Diaries that I recently picked up in a charity shop) which I hope to draw on for poems in the future or even start working on some short stories.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Help save Salt Publishing

In recent years Salt has published some of the most exciting new poetry around but due to the current climate they're facing serious economic crisis. Here's a note by Salt director Chris Hamilton-Emery on how you can save Salt publishing -


1. Please buy just one book, right now.

We don't mind from where, you can buy it from us or from Amazon, your local shop
or megastore, online or offline. If you buy just one book now, you'll help to save Salt. Timing is absolutely everything here. We need cash now to stay afloat. If you love literature, help keep it alive. All it takes is just one book sale. Go to our online store (UK and International or USA) and help us keep going.

2. Share this note on your Facebook and MySpace profile.

Tell your friends. If we can spread the word about our cash crisis, we can hopefully find more sales and save our literary publishing. Remember it's just one book, that's all it takes to save us. Please do it now.

With my best wishes to everyone,
Chris Hamilton-Emery

Check out the website here. There are many exciting poetry books available, I've reviewed a couple of them on Amazon - Jane Holland's Camper Van Blues and Eleanor Rees' Andraste's Hair. I bought a few more recently that I've yet to review but thoroughly recommend: Luke Kennard's
The Harbour Beyond the Movie, Andrew Philip's The Ambulance Box, and Rob Mackenzie's The Opposite of Cabbage.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Poetry on the BBC

Just watched the Sylvia Plath episode of A Poet's Guide to Britain on BBC iplayer, it's excellent. Although Plath is not normally thought of as a landscape poet it's always been her nature poetry and how she manages to reflect her mental state in the landscape around her that that has interested me.
The main focus is on the Yorkshire moors and her Wuthering Heights poem though there is also mention of her other Yorkshire poems such as The Great Carbuncle and Hardcastle Crags. There are snippets of radio interviews with Plath and also footage of a tv interview with her mother, Aurelia Plath. Plenty great shots of the Yorkshire moors while Plath's poems are read, it's a really good programme, go watch it!

Rejection from Happenstance but there's light at the end of the tunnel!

Today I received a very detailed reply to my chapbook submission from Happenstance.
A rejection, yes, but an offer of re-submission and the possibility of working with me over a long period of time if I can see where she's coming from in her comments about my poems.
It's great just getting an editorial crit of a bunch of my poems, to be honest. I agree with around two-thirds of what she says though a couple of poems, if I followed her suggestions, would be completely unrecognisable to me so I just won't be sending those back to her. But for most of them I can definitely see her suggestions as improvement.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

My reading of William Carlos Williams 'To a Poor Old Woman' is now online here thanks to Rachel's technical support team (i.e. her man!).

Monday, May 04, 2009

Last week Rachel challenged us to learn a poem by heart. So I picked William Carlos William's 'To a Poor Old Woman'. Yes I know it's a short one, lol.

Rachel, to her credit, picked 'Inversnaid' by tongue-twistery G.M. Hopkins. I love Hopkins, especially for his tongue-twisteryness, awkward wording and sprung rhythm but I wouldn't like to have to recite him. Rachel's recitation of 'Inversnaid' can be found here. If I could find my MP3 player I'd post my WCW recitation, but I'm still looking for it.

I adore 'To a Poor Old Woman'. I find myself wandering the streets muttering " they taste good to her, they taste good to her, they taste good to her". I did try to add a youtube reading of it to this post but it's not working! So here's the poem on the page instead:

To a Poor Old Woman
by William Carlos Williams

munching a plum on
the street a paper bag
of them in her hand

They taste good to her
They taste good
to her. They taste
good to her

You can see it by
the way she gives herself
to the one half
sucked out in her hand

a solace of ripe plums
seeming to fill the air
They taste good to her

Friday, May 01, 2009

Great News - Carol Ann Duffy is to be our next Poet Laureate!

If anyone can make poetry exciting and relevant to 21st century Britain it's Ms Duffy. She's long been a familiar name on the school syllabus which means she's well know amongst the young folk. Her poetry, for the most part, is direct, accessible, at times controversial and generally very popular. She's the breath of fresh air we need.
Plus I can't wait to read her royal poems!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Amber is fortunate to have a wonderful book which records the opinions of her great great grandmother and grandfather and here you can read the fascinating opinions of her great great grandmother.
I decided to have a go at answering the same questions. Some of the questions are quite hard and I would possibly change some answers but this is how I have answered them today -

The noblest aim in life
to live true to one’s convictions

The Greatest wonders of the world
the terracotta warriors, the internet

The characters you most admire in real life
adventurers / mountaineers

Who do you consider the greatest living politician?

What political questions are you chiefly interested in?
what is the best form of government

The greatest artists and musicians
Picasso, Van Gogh, Jim Morrison, Simon & Garfunkel

Your favourite characters in fiction.
Sherlock Holmes

The time of year you like best

The authors you admire most
Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky

A Brief Definition of love
enduring passion

The scenery you admire most
cliffs and the sea

Your idea of happiness
playing with my son, travelling the world, writing a good poem

Your favourite motto or proverb
know thyself

The wrongs you would redress
rights of asylum seekers

Reforms you would advocate
lowering the voting age

Your favourite recreation or hobby
reading / writing poetry

The true place of woman in society
whatever they want to be

Your favourite topic of study

Your chief ambition
to live without regrets

The Christian name you like be
if only I knew then we wouldn’t still be arguing over baby names!

Your ideas on the subject of marriage
The cornerstone of society

The qualities you respect most in men and women?
honesty, determination and passion

Your favourite flowers, birds and beasts
tulips, herons, otters

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Nothing to do with poetry but I really love this website. It's a kind of fashion blog with daily photographs of ordinary Berliners. The blog says:

"We try to document the urban, cosmopolitan and multicultural spirit of the city, we live in. Fashion can describe what a city is, so we take photos of outfits that stand out and capture that spirit within them."

I love the many crazy outfits and the wee snippets of the city but most of all I love just seeing ordinary folk so expressive in their clothing, reminds me of the personality and range of fashion in Glasgow's West End.
Came across the site via Sarah-Jane's very amusing blog (she also writes great poetry!).

Monday, April 20, 2009

I'm now officially devoid of imagination / inspiration and don't particularly want to spent the rest of the month posting old poems that are just going to be rubbish no matter how much I rework them.

I'm not saying I won't be writing any more poems this month, but right now it seems that if I can manage even one more it'll be a miracle. Thanks to those who have persevered reading through my attempts at a poem a day. I feel I've got some good stuff to work on, the poems seemed to come easy the first two weeks, I guess I've got to work out how to hold onto the pattern of just writing each day.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

In a bid to catch up I've cheated slightly and reworked some of my old discarded poems to see if I can get anything worth keeping out of them.

NaPoWriMo 15


Your homes are carved

(post removed)

NaPoWriMO 16

Chance Meeting

I dreamt we would meet
by the Danube at night.

(post removed)

Friday, April 17, 2009

NaPoWriMo 14

That winter she birthed a seal.
The pup slid, blind,

(post removed)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Events are conspiring against me so I'm still behind on my poem-a-day.

NaPoWriMo 13

The cherry blossoms bud bronze.

(post removed)

Monday, April 13, 2009

I'm a bit behind in my poem-a-day due to general life getting in the way and a few bad headaches which made looking at the computer screen impossible. Anyhow I hope to catch up!

NaPoWriMo 11

Blonde sand surrounds me
in minor billows.

(post removed)

NaPoWriMo 12

Wind chimes

Wind chimes sing from the eaves,

(post removed)

Friday, April 10, 2009

A not very good sonnet today!

NaPoWriMo 10

Poppy Fields (Monet)

She walks in lush green fields. The poppies rise

(post removed)

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

NaPoWriMo 7


Under lilac lighting
they flow.

(post removed)

Monday, April 06, 2009

NaPoWriMo 6

Rock Pool

Rock pools are mirrors,
sun reflectors,

(post removed)

Sunday, April 05, 2009

NaPoWriMo 5

The curve of beach wall
is the curve of a mother

(post removed)

Saturday, April 04, 2009

NaPoWriMo 4

At night I listen
to their black hearts pumping,

(post removed)

Friday, April 03, 2009

Thursday, April 02, 2009

It's been a rough week - the boy's got a bad cough which means he's not sleeping much which means I'm not sleeping much, and we've got mice though I'm hoping not any more as all methods are currently in place to get rid of the pesky creatures!

I've just realised it's National Poetry Writing Month. I attempted last year to write a poem a day for the month of April and gave up half way through. So I'm giving it a go this year too. I probably won't have a poem for every day and I'll be away for a few days here and there but for fun and a good excuse to churn out drivel that might awaken a few ideas for poems down the line here's my first two efforts -

NaPoWriMo 2

On barnacled sandstone I lie,

(post removed)

NaPoWriMo 1

The stained-glass town,

(post removed)

Monday, March 23, 2009

StAnza 2009, a bit of a head-rush and I was only there for the weekend!
Left home early Friday afternoon, a ferry, three trains and a bus later and I was at St. Andrews for StAnza.

As I mentioned below one of the highlights for me was getting a chance to meet and spend some time with other poetry people, many of whom are fellow bloggers. I really enjoyed spending time with swiss and his lovely girlfriend T, it was nice to chat with Rob Mackenzie, non-blogger Ross Wilson who has a couple of poems in Horizon Review and Rachel who comes across as lovely in her blog and is even lovelier in person. Though more briefly it was nice to meet Hugh McMillan but I forgot to get him to sign the books I have of his, Andy Philips whom I met the previous year and Colin Will who was run off his feet as one of the festival organisers.
Also said a quick hello to Claire Askew - the ever energetic author of the excellent One Night Stanzas blog, and it was nice to meet the renowned Scottish poet Roddy Lumsden whose book launch I would have liked to attend but all the tickets were sold out.

Okay now for the events. Surprisingly the readings I enjoyed the most were by poets I hadn't heard of before the festival. On the Friday night I went to the Bill Manhire and Simon Armitage reading. Not being a huge fan of Armitage, though I like a lot of his work well enough, I enjoyed his reading apart from the refrain in one poem he read which was really starting to get on my nerves. Bill Manhire, a former laureate of New Zealand, was very enjoyable to listen to, I wish I had bought his book.

After the reading I stayed for the open mic event after being coerced by swiss into putting my name forward to do a reading (only kidding swiss ;)). It was good to get the horror of a first reading over and done with. Now I know never to read that poem in public again as I can't breathe and read it at the same time! It was fun to hear all the different poets and poems, including hearing swiss read one of his lovely poems. By the time it was finished it was after midnight, swiss and T had left for their long drive home and all the men-folk were going out for a pub-crawl and I didn't fancy drooling over their pints whilst stuck drinking irn-bru. So I planned to head down to the beach for a walk but couldn't remember how to get there and instead settled for a kebab shop and a portion of chips - put it down to cravings!

The next morning I went to the poetry breakfast discussion on poetry and song lyrics with a panel which included Simon Armitage, the very nice Ian Rankin and was chaired by Roddy Lumsden. Rachel has done a thorough write-up on the event here. After that I rushed off to a reading by Ros Brackenbury and Annie Boutelle, neither of whom I had heard before. I loved Annie Boutelle's reading. For me, it was the best reading of the week-end. I purchased her most recent collection which is called Nest of Thistles and I love it. Annie Boutelle is a Scottish born and raised poet who's been living in America for the last forty plus years.
In the afternoon I went to the Ian Rankin in Conversation event which I thoroughly enjoyed. Rankin comes across as a genuinely nice guy, very down to earth and very chatty. He talked about the poetry he wrote as a teenager and undergrad, also about the poets he enjoys such as Eliot and WCW. He talked about his use of poetry in his crime novels which was very interesting.

I should have known after last year that five o'clock readings don't suit me, it's when I start to flag, lose concentration, get hungry (though I'm always hungry at the moment!) need the loo etc. I went to the Jay Parini and Jenny Bornholdt reading at five o'clock and didn't get the best out of it that I should have because they were both excellent readers of their work and both very interesting.

That left me with the Patience Agbabi and Carol Ann Duffy reading in the evening. Although Agbabi's poems aren't, for the most part, really my cup of tea she is an excellent performer of her poems and I very much enjoyed her reading and Duffy read a number of poems from her The World's Wife collection which I really enjoyed.

Sunday morning was my last event and it was the masterclass with Douglas Dunn. There were six of us sitting up at the table with Douglas Dunn with a poem each that we had to read out and which was then discussed by Dunn and the audience. Yours truly ending up being first which was fairly nerve-racking but actually I felt a lot more at home reading my poem in the more, in a sense, academic atmosphere of the masterclass as opposed to the performance feel of the open mic. Mr Dunn was very generous with his comments, in fact he was just lovely! He said some very nice things about my poem and picked up on points that he thought I ought to re-consider. The audience were also lovely, in fact a few strangers come up to me afterwards and said they really liked my poem and one lady gave me her email address with a request that I send her some more of my work.

I had a really lovely week-end, the festival is very well run. Obviously a huge amount of organisation goes into the smooth running of such an event, I thought the organisers did a fantastic job. Dunno if I'll make it to StAnza 2010, by then I'll have a six month old baby as well as a three year old, but then maybe I'll drag them all along for a family holiday!

** books purchased this year included Nest of Thistles - Annie Boutelle
The Opposite of Cabbage - Rob Mackenzie
The Ambulance Box - Andrew Philip
All excellent collections.
Just a quick post to say I'm home and had a really great time at StAnza. The highlights for me were meeting lots of folk - putting virtual names and pics to real live people and meeting lots of other lovely folk also, and the Douglas Dunn Masterclass. Mr Dunn was the loveliest wee man you could ever meet, I wanted to pack him into my rucksack and take him home! I'll post about it all later on, right now I've got a couple of days of playtime to make up for with my little boy.

Monday, March 16, 2009

"Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive"!

Okay so I'm not Wordsworth and it isn't the dawn of the French Revolution but I am very excited and happy that my poem, 'The Cockle Picker's Wife', is now on-line in issue 2 of the excellent literary webzine, Horizon Review!

The issue contains a fantastic range of material. As well as poems by the likes of Fiona Sampson and Daljit Nagra there are interviews, art works, translations, fiction, theatre, essays, reviews, and also a podcast. So jump over and check it out!

***evening up-date****

This is so my week! I sent some poems in to be considered for discussion at the Douglas Dunn Masterclass at StAnza. The great man himself has picked my poem 'Eyewitness' for discussion. Feeling a bit nervous now but very excited and very much looking forward to it!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

first draft

After the Phone Breaks

In the bronze glow of streetlight
my limbs become medallions.

(post removed)
1st draft

Pebble Shores

Mists drag
their foamy nets

(post removed)

Monday, March 09, 2009

Okay, time to come clean! Constant tiredness and permanent nausea is the enemy of writing and whoever called it 'morning sickness' was having a laugh, it ought to be called 'all-day-every-day sickness'. Yes, I'm pregnant. Had my first scan today and everything is as it should be so I thought it was time to tell the world.

Hoping as I head into my fourth month of pregnancy the nausea will wear off and I'll get back to writing. Here's a small poem offering, it's not much but it's all I've got for the moment -


Waves rise from nowhere
like the water pearl

(post removed)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I've been a bit lacking in posts recently, sorry but I'll explain later.

I was pleased to pick up a Selected poems of Wallace Stevens today in a charity shop. Aside from the fact that I've been meaning to get around to reading more of Stevens I just love these old retro Faber editions of poetry collections like this Plath's Ariel which in in my local library and I've often thought of nicking, only kidding, lol!!

The Stevens collection is in top nick and has the bonus of an inscription inside the front cover which reads:

'Allan Anderson
June 1973
Ice-cream is on
page 28'

So guess which was the first poem I read, yep 'The Emperor of Ice-Cream', which is indeed on p28. So here it is to make-up for the lack of my own poetry -

The Emperor of Ice-Cream

Call the roller of big cigars,
The muscular one, and bid him whip
In kitchen cups concupiscent curds.
Let the wenches dawdle in such dress
As they are used to wear, and let the boys
Bring flowers in last month's newspapers.
Let be be finale of seem.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.

Take from the dresser of deal,
Lacking the three glass knobs, that sheet
On which she embroidered fantails once
And spread it so as to cover her face.
If her horny feet protrude, they come
To show how cold she is, and dumb.
Let the lamp affix its beam.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

My poem 'Mother Nature House Hunting' is now online at Nthposition!
It's a great literary webzine, the poetry editor is the Canadian poet Todd Swift who also runs the literary blog Eyewear.

I've been tagged by Roxana to post 'a phrase: a few lines from a poem, a song, or an overheard sentence that rings important inside you'.
When I read Anne Sexton's poem, 'The Black Art', the first verse very much stuck in my head. I love these lines.

"A woman who writes feels too much,
those trances and portents!
As if cycles and children and islands
weren't enough; as if mourners and gossips
and vegetables were never enough.
She thinks she can warn the stars.
A writer is essentially a spy.
Dear love, I am that girl."

I would like to tag, if they want to play along, Rachel, Shug, Swiss, James, Jim and Dave.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

A month ago everything around me seemed to inspire possibilities for poems but now it seems nothing can. I'm bored by my every attempt to write and wondering if I've exhausted my local landscape. The only lines I have and have had for the last month that seems to me to have possibilities are:

She waits for the birds,
they come daily.
Bringing news from Delphi
and the Middle East.

Yet I can't make anything of them.
So I been baking cakes, watching anything vaguely interesting on tv and even having early nights! This no writing lark is not much fun.

Two rejections last month, one made into the final selection but just not picked in the end - seems to be a common theme with my submissions, the other was a very nice - 'I like your work but they're not quite right for this magazine', however the editor was kind enough to suggest a couple of other mags that he thought would take my work.

On a positive note, I've booked my tickets for StAnza 2009.
Here are the events I'm going to:
Reading by Simon Armitage and Bill Manhire
Poetry Breakfast discussion on Poetry and Song Lyrics
Reading by Ros Brackenbury and Annie Boutelle
Ian Rankin in conversation
Reading by Jay Parini and Jenny Bornholdt
Reading by Carol Ann Duffy and Patience Agbabi
and best of all - a Masterclass with Douglas Dunn

Sunday, January 25, 2009

250th Anniversary of the Birth of Robert Burns

Mary Campbell, better known as Highland Mary, was born on a farm just outside Dunoon, my bonnie hometown on the west coast of Scotland. A Bronze statue of Burns' Highland Mary dominates the skyline as she gazes forever southwards down the Clyde waiting for her love.

Song - Highland Mary

Ye banks, and braes, and streams around
The castle o’ Montgomery!
Green be your woods, and fair your flowers,
Your waters never drumlie:
There Simmer first unfauld her robes,
And there the langest tarry;
For there I took the last Farewell
O’ my sweet Highland Mary.

How sweetly bloom’d the gay, green birk,
How rich the hawthorn’s blossom,
As underneath their fragrant shade,
I clasp’d her to my bosom!
The golden Hours on angel wings,
Flew o’er me and my Dearie;
For dear to me, as light and life,
Was my sweet Highland Mary.

Wi’ mony a vow, and lock’d embrace,
Our parting was fu’ tender;
And, pledging aft to meet again,
We tore oursels asunder;
But oh! fell Death’s untimely frost,
That nipt my Flower sae early!
Now green’s the sod, and cauld’s the clay
That wraps my Highland Mary!

O pale, pale now, those rosy lips,
I aft hae kiss’d sae fondly!
And clos’d for aye, the sparkling glance
That dwalt on me sae kindly!
And mouldering now in silent dust,
That heart that lo’ed me dearly!
But still within my bosom’s core
Shall live my Highland Mary.

Robert Burns (1799)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

If this looks familiar it's beacause it's a reworking of a section from an previous draft poem.

She Moves Among Buttercup Fields

Buttercups stain the heels

(Post removed)

Monday, January 12, 2009

So Jen Hadfield wins the T.S. Eliot prize with her second collection Nigh-No-Place. Not bad for a Shetland-based, down-to-earth sounding poet whose previous jobs include working in a fish factory and being an occasional shop assistant!

I bought the collection just before Christmas and have only dipped in and out of it so I can't say much about it but what I can say is that what I've read so far is fresh, energetic and fun. I could imagine a lot of non-poetry-reading people as well as poetry-reading people enjoying it.

The sad news is that a Scottish poet short-listed for the T.S. Eliot prize, Mick Imlah, died today, aged 52. He was diagnosed with motor neurone disease just over a year ago.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

It's that time of the year again - the winner of the T.S. Eliot prize will be announced tomorrow. Thanks to stars sliding blog for this link where you can hear those on the short-list read some of their poems.

The only collection I've read is Jen Hadfield's Nigh-No-Place and I've only really dipped in and out of it, yet I have enjoyed what I've read. But listening to the poems at the link the only one that really strikes me is Glyn Maxwell's reading of his poems. In fact I like what he read so much that it's convinced me to add his book to my future purchase list.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Monday, January 05, 2009

Okay, the latest versions, just for Hugh!

Town Song

Taxis haunt the highways,

(post removed)

Saturday, January 03, 2009

A very rough draft of two poems written side-by-side.

New Year

Taxis haunt the highways,

(posr removed)