Wednesday, August 25, 2010

"Writer's block is a fancy term made up by whiners so they can have an excuse to drink alcohol" - Steve Martin

Unfortunately the business of life has taken over poetry and blogging recently, plus zero inspiration hasn't helped. Hopefully things will settle down soon.
I'm doing a poetry reading a week on Saturday at the Callender poetry weekend along side Chris Powici, Tom Murray, Kona McPhee, Bridget Khursheed and Andrew P Pullan. So very much looking forward to it, the full programme for the weekend can be found here.
I received my contributor's copy of Gutter Magazine and even got a wee mention in the forward which was nice.
This is the lovely cover of the Cinnamon Press anthology due out next month and which I have three poems in, plus I have a poem in one of the weird and wonderful Sidekick Books micro-anthologies(produced by Jon Stone and Kirsten Irving, editors of Fuselit Magazine which is due out next month also.
So hope to get back to blogging better soon! I hope even more that I'll manage to write even one poem, soon!!!!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The great Scottish Makar, Edwin Morgan, has died, aged ninety. A sad day for Scotland, poetry lovers and all those who knew him. I was lucky enough to meet him a number of years ago when I won a poetry competition organised by the RSAMD in honour of him.
An amazingly eclectic poet with a huge output of works. Despite his age and battle with cancer, Morgan published his last collection just three years ago.
Tributes by Carol Ann Duffy amongst others can be found here.

**edit** oops Morgan amazingly published his last collection, Dreams and Other Nightmares, on his 90th birthday!

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Exciting news for Plath fans: the academic and literary journal,
Plath Profiles issue 3  is now on-line!

Packed with numerous interesting essays such as 'Plath's Legacy for a Male Poet' and 'Sylvia Plath and Edvard Munch: Mindscape of Chagrin', it includes a range of (some excellent) Plath-inspired poetry and artwork.
Essential reading for any Plath and Hughes fans.

(Right - detail from bedroom wallpaper from 3 Chalcot Square, London, 1960)
Getting back to writing a little about some of the poetry books I've purchased over the last year, here are some thoughts on Colin Will's latest poetry collection, The Floorshow at the Mad Yak Cafe. It's a collection of forty-one poems which range in setting from the Scottish mountains to, as the title suggests, Tibet. The last eight poems in the book are a sequence of Tibet poems.

What I enjoy most about Colin's poetry is his sonic awareness. As readers of this blog will know by now, I love explosions of words, repetitions of sounds, tightly compact syntax. So I love to read a couple of lines such as: "...Felled for fires, / fodder, frames for shelters, sod-clad" in Colin's poem 'The Long Walk In', it makes my tongue tingle! I think this is a lovely poem, it's about the walk in to the base of a mountain before the climb. It ends: "...A bare glen, deserted, / yet full of things that bustle, whistle, rustle, wrestle / with thoughts of getting up, never coming down". 
Another example of the density of language in Colin's poems comes from 'Old Campaigner': "Seasonal fogs drift inland, / tock-tocky beetles genuflect / to tip condensing drops mouthward".
I like the vein of humour in Colin's poems too, the last few lines of his poem 'Hide and Find' made me smile: "Below a grizzled crag I'm checked out / by a falcon, who can see / my inner pigeon".

Colin's background is in science which, I believe, contributes to the sense of precision in his use of language and imagery. My favourite poem in the collection is 'The To-Do List'. Each verse begins with  "I must...", following an interesting sequence of things on the narrator's to-do list from purchasing a supply of Post-It notes, beginning a history of the rice cake, arranging the flowers in an alphabet of colour to "I must start to cut you / out of my life". I love the sequence of the poem from the beautiful imagery in the first verse of the walls covered in post-it notes being likened to tree trunks in Mexico "smothered in a million motionless / Monarch butterflies", the intriguing second and third verses of the narrator beginning his history of the rice cake and flower arranging by letters to the slightly diorientating introduction of  'you' in the fourth stanza which then goes on to state "I'll begin with forgetfulness, those little acts of careless negligence" and ends beautifully with - "sooner or later / I'll introduce the closed door, / the unanswered knock, / the separate wing".
Relationships, landscapes and tightly knit language in abundance, an enjoyable collection.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

I was hoping to fit in a lot of writing time this summer with Jamie being on his 6/7 week holidays (teachers eh!). But instead not only do we have a very active and excitable three year old, a fully weaned ten month old but now also a new puppy. So while he's keeping the mutt in a strict routine, my days are filled with endless hoovering, cooking, amusing, feeding!

However I have been reading, and been pleasantly surprised by, Roddy Lumsden's New and Selected book of poems Mischief Night. Having not been particularly excited by poems of his that I've read on-line, I just happened to see it in the local library and picked it up. I've thoroughly enjoyed it, particularly his love poems, of which there are many. Plus last month I purchased Eleanor Ree's brilliant latest collection Eliza and the Bear, I wrote about her previous collection, Andraste's Hair, here.

I've also been re-reading Kate Chopin's short novel The Awakening, which I absolutely love, with its wonderfully exotic (to me!) 19th Century New Orleans setting and Creole culture. The novel is rich with gorgeous description, here's an extract:
"How still it was, with only the voice of the sea whispering through the reed that grew in the salt-water pools! The long line of little gray, weather-beaten houses nestled peacefully among the orange trees. It must always have been God's day on that low, drowsy island, Edna thought. They stopped leaning over a jagged fence made of sea-drift to ask for water. A youth, a mild-faced Acadian, was drawing water from the cistern, which was nothing more than a rusty buoy, with an opening on one side, sunk in the ground. The water which the youth handed to them in a tin pail was not cold to taste, but it was cool to her heated face, and it greatly revived and refreshed her."
I've also got a desire to re-read Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse, all that sea imagery... Keep meaning to pick up a copy of her diaries to read as well.
Being a big Sherlock Holmes fan I've been loving the new series on BBC1, not to everyone's taste - Sherlock in 21st Century London - but I'm loving it, quite Jeremy Brett, I think. And Jeremy Brett is Sherlock Holmes!
Reading opportunity at The Fringe!

Anyone living near Edinburgh and looking for an opportunity to read their poems: - The Captain's Bar, snuggled between Old College and Bristo Square, is running a daily spoken word event from now until 21st August, check out the webpage here.

I'm pleased to be reading at the Callander Poetry Weekend which runs from Friday 3rd to Sunday 5th of September. It's a yearly festival hosted and organised by Sally Evans, editor of Poetry Scotland. Packed with poetry readings, book launch parties and interesting events such as book collating, sewing and bookbinding demonstrations, a talk on Byron in Albania by Morelle Smith and a presentation of Red Squirrel Press poets. Sounds like it's going to be a great weekend! Checkout the link to Sally's website from Poetry Scotland for more info.