Thursday, June 30, 2011

Review of Vintage Sea here!!

Many thanks to Jim for this detailed and insightful blog-review, I'm absolutely delighted with it!
Anyone who reads Jim's blog, The Truth About Lies, regularly, knows the research, preparation and effort that goes into each of his blog-essays which make them a constant source of fascinating information and philosophical discussion into, among other things, writers, creativity and the writing processes.

Jim's next blog post is dedicated to a series of questions and answers on my poetry and will be published on his blog next week.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

"I have nothing to say and I am saying it and that is poetry" - John Cage

Unfortunately my nothing to say is not poetry. I've been feeling pretty weary over the last few weeks, it's been enough to keep up with daily life. So although I'm a bit more back to normal now I've still no new poems to work on. I did get a poem acceptance email from Gutter Magazine a few day ago which I'm really happy about, Gutter is one of my favourite literary mags.

The last few days I've been working on answering a series of questions about my pamphlet set by Jim who is going to publish them on his blog along with a review of Vintage Sea. I really had to think hard about the questions, Jim likes to get down to the heart of the matter so they were particulary thought-provoking.

I'm currently wading my way through the rather giant Penguin Book of Women's Lives. The snippet of life I've enjoyed reading the most so far is Simone De Beauvoir's taken from one of her autobiographical volumes The Prime of Life. It recounts the start of her relationship with Jean-Paul Sartre. It's a wonderful read, how the two young philosophers approached their life together attempting to live out  rationalist principles in their relationship. Trying to imagine the great Sartre as a young man facing off De Beauvoir's father during a confrontation. I love the personality of their relationship that comes through in the reading. Here's a paragraph taster:
"We were both as healthy as horses and of a cheerful disposition. But I took any setback very badly; my face changed, I withdrew into myself and became mulish and obstinate. Sartre decided I had a double personality. Normally I was the Beaver; but occasionally this animal would be replaced by a rather irksome young lady Mademoiselle de Beauvoir. Sartre embroidered this theme with several variations, all of which ended by making fun of me. In his own case, things very frequently got him down - especially in the morning, when his head was still foggy with sleep, or when circumstances reduced him to inactivity: he would hunch himself into a defensive ball, like a hedgehog. On such occasions he resembled a sea elephant we had once seen in the zoo at Vincennes whose misery broke our hearts...when Sartre's face took on an unhappy expression, we used to pretend that the sea elephant's desolate soul had taken possession of his body. Sartre would then complete the metamorphosis by rolling his eyes up, sighing, and making silent supplication: this pantomime would restore his good spirits."

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Thanks to Colin Will for organising a fantastic dual launch for Geoff Cooper and myself. It was a great night. I enjoyed hearing Geoff read from his pamphlet collection, Songs the Lightning Sang, after picking it up at the Callander poetry festival last year, the music and singing from Pauline Vallance was simply gorgeous, and the audience were a super-friendly bunch, a real pleasure to read to.

Other highlights included meeting fellow writers and bloggers JoAnne McKay and Jim Murdoch. So good getting to meet them finally in the flesh! Also lovely catching up with poets Jack (Andrew P Pullan) and Amy Anderson whom I've met at previous events.  The CCA is such a nice venue and it was great to be reading in Glasgow, the city of my heart!

It's taken me all day but I've finally managed to work out how to upload and edit videos so here's a clip of me reading three of my poems:

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The launch, the launch!! It's nearly here and I'm mostly prepared for it. I have my reading list and have been practicing reading my poems to the walls. All I need now is little sticky markers for my pamphlet so I won't  be (hopefully) fumbling about trying to find the poems.  It will be the first time I'll be reading from my pamphlet which is exciting in itself. It's funny to think of my little pamphlet being so public, it's hard to imagine other people reading it. The local secondary school librarian bought a couple of copies for the school library and apparently a student was reading it in the playground today which makes me very happy but also realise that my little bundle of poems have taken on a life of their own which feels very odd!

I'm really looking forward to hearing Geoff read his beautiful poems from his pamphlet Songs the Lightning Sang and I can't wait to hear Pauline on the Clàrsach, thanks to Geoff for booking her! It's going to be a really great night!
Calder Wood Press Glasgow launches

Geoff Cooper’s pamphlet, Songs the Lightning Sang, came out last year. His poetry is vivid, passionate and profound. Whether read on the page or heard in performance, the emotional impact is astonishing.

Marion McCready’s pamphlet, Vintage Sea, was published in May. Widely recognised for her originality and strength of voice, these poems are visionary, elemental and magical. She paints pictures in words, describing landscapes, real and imagined.

These contrasting voices will be augmented and enhanced by the music and singing of Pauline Vallance, who plays the Gaelic harp.

Introductions will be by Colin Will, who will also highlight some of the outstanding poetry published by Calder Wood Press in recent times.

The event will take place in the CCA – the Centre for Contemporary Arts, 350 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow, on Friday 17th June, 6.30 for 7pm. It will be open to invited guests and to members of the public.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

"It is as if the art of poetry, of all things, were the blind spot in the cultural memory of modern man" - Durs Grünbein, from 'The Poem and its Secret'.

I've mentioned Grünbein a few times now since I picked up his Selected Poems: Ashes for Breakfast, almost by chance, at StAnza this year. I don't mind admitting that I've been neglecting my chosen poets and focusing my reading mainly on Grünbein and Claire Crowther over the last few months. What I've learned from the reading experiment is that for me to be able to progress in my writing means having to stop reading my old favourites (mainly Plath, Akhmatova, Eliot). It's been hard, so many times I've wanted to wallow in the old familiar, adored, poetry. Of course that wasn't the only poetry I was reading but I hadn't realised I was reading other poetry slightly disingenuously, not giving it the level of focus and attention that I automatically reserved for the old favourites.  In denying myself the big three and in order to satisly my poetry fix I've definitely learned to read other poetry with a deeper focus. So, for now, Grünbein and Crowther have become my Plath and Eliot. I'm still reading other poetry but at the moment returning, with joy, to these two poets. I know at some point I'll have to give them up the same way I've given up the other three in order to move on but it's been an interesting lesson to learn. I'm also looking forward to the point where I'll have (hopefully) developed my writing such that I'll come full circle and be able to wallow in my old favourites from a new perspective.  I'll be coming back to Grünbein's Selected Poems in another post.

I was delighted to read these lovely thoughts on Vintage Sea on the swiss lounge blog, made my day!

Starry Rhymes, the pamphlet launched at the Allen Ginsberg event is now available for purchase here. A limited print run, every pamphlet handmade with love! It includes poems by Sally Evans, the Gaelic poet Aonghas MacNeil, Morgan Downie, Eddie Gibbons and li'l ol' me! And if you haven't heard enough about the Ginsberg event already...there are photos!! One of me looking like I'm singing a solo from a hymn sheet here, honestly I was reading poems!!

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

I'm glad I made it through to Edinburgh for the Allen Ginsberg event, it was certainly an interesting night with a wide range of poets reading. We read in the chronological order of how our poems appear the lovely Starry Rhymes chapbook launched at the event and as my poem is the first one in the chapbook I was first up to read. A bit unnerving but also good to get it out of the way which meant I was able to focus on all of the other readings. Poets came from as far as Dublin and Manchester to read and it was a right mix of readings. I think I was lucky to get one of Ginsberg's earlier poems to respond to, I think I would have struggled to get a foothold in his more prominant and political poems. Each of us read the Ginsberg poem we were assigned followed by our own response poem. Some of my favourite readings of the night were Ryan Van Winkle's reading of America and  Colin McGuire's reading of Howl part II.

This is the Allen Ginsberg poem I wrote a response to:

The Bricklayer's Lunch Hour

Two bricklayers are setting the walls
of a cellar in a new dug out patch
of dirt behind an old house of wood
with brown gables grown over with ivy
on a shady street in Denver. It is noon
and one of them wanders off. The young
subordinate bricklayer sits idly for
a few minutes after eating a sandwich
and throwing away the paper bag. He
has on dungarees and is bare above
the waist; he has yellow hair and wears
a smudged but still bright red cap
on his head. He sits idly on top
of the wall on a ladder that is leaned
up between his spread thighs, his head
bent down, gazing uninterestedly at
the paper bag on the grass. He draws
his hand across his breast, and then
slowly rubs his knuckles across the
side of his chin, and rocks to and fro
on the wall. A small cat walks to him
along the top of the wall. He picks
it up, takes off his cap, and puts it
over the kitten’s body for a moment.
Meanwhile it is darkening as if to rain
and the wind on top of the trees in the
street comes through almost harshly.

I enjoyed the poem when I first read it but now I've really come to love it. I found it challenging to read at the event, so different from reading my own work and quite unnatural in that sense. I deliberately didn't listen to any recordings of Ginsberg reading his poems, I decided the best way I could read was by making it mine and so I read it aloud until it became perhaps not quite natural to me but certainly a lot less strange and the more I read it the more I naturally emphasised the beats and the rhymes that gave it a rhythm I could comfortably read with.

When it came to writing my response poem I spent a lot of time reading the Ginsberg poem backwards to disassociate myself from the narrative and the familiarity of the poem and focus instead on the words themselves and imagery. It quickly became clear to me that the key point in the poem that was going to spark a poem in me was the narrative between the kitten and the bricklayer and the tension of the threatening rain and wind. So my poem is called "The Kitten and the Bricklayer's Cap'! I initially attempted to write a fatrasie, the form I learned from Claire Crowther's fantastic workshop at Stanza this year. I've kept the spirit of the fatrasie in the poem but couldn't contain it within eleven lines however I did use an introductory couplet which combines the first and last lines of the poem, a part of the fatras form that I really enjoy working with.

So it was a very enjoyable evening and now only two weeks until my pamphlet launch!

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Really looking forward to heading up to Edinburgh on Friday for the Allen Ginsberg event. I'll be reading the Ginsberg poem I was allocated (The Kitten and the Bricklayer's Cap) and my own poem written in response to it. Sounds like it's going to be a great night of poetry, film and music, more details below in case anyone is interested and in the area.
I'm staying over in a youth hostel and spending Saturday in Glasgow with a friend, we plan to wander around the west end reminiscing over the good ol' student days, so it's going to be good! Providing I don't get lost, I'm not all that familiar with Edinburgh but I shall go armed with print-outs of google maps!!

I've been pretty lazy about writing recently, a mixture of excitement about the pamphlet and also been busy with domestic stuff. I think once the launch is out of the way I'll have the head space to work on poems. I've been reading quite a lot though but I find myself coming back, time and time again, to the Durs Grunbein Collected that I picked up at St. Andrews this year. I'm not entirely sure why, the poems are just so immensely enjoyable, fun, playing with language and ideas, and yet striking deep, unexpectedly so. I'll aim to do a review of sorts of it sometime.


HAPPY BIRTHDAY ALLEN GINSBERG, Friday 3rd June, 7.30pm, Bristo Hall (Forest Cafe)

Friday 3rd June this year would have been the 85th birthday of legendary Beat Generation poet Allen Ginsberg, and to celebrate the occasion, Read This Press are teaming up with Edinburgh's Forest Cafe to throw a massive birthday bash in his honour.

Read This Press editors Claire Askew and Stephen Welsh have spent the past few months compiling an anthology of contemporary poems which respond to Ginsberg's original works. Poets from all over the world got in touch to request one of Ginsberg's poems to respond to, and the editors were overwhelmed with hundreds of submissions. From these, just 33 were chosen to be included in a limited edition, handmade chapbook of poems, named Starry Rhymes after one of the great man's lesser-known poems. Poets whose works have been selected include Sally Evans, Kevin MacNeil and Eddie Gibbons, whose latest collection was shortlisted for the 2011 Scottish Book of the Year award.

The HAPPY BIRTHDAY ALLEN GINSBERG event will take place on Friday 3rd June, in the Forest Cafe's cavernous Bristo Hall. As well as marking the official launch of the Starry Rhymes chapbook, it will also host a rare screening of Ginsberg's 1967 London travelogue, Ah! Sunflower, and feature a solo set from the brilliant Withered Hand, taking time out of his UK tour to play for Allen's birthday. Poets whose works are featured in the chapbook will perform their pieces alongside Allen Ginsberg's, and other literary folk are invited to step up to the mic and offer their birthday tributes to the great man.

The event begins at 7.30pm and is totally free to enter. Forest operates a BYOB policy, and donations to the Save the Forest fund will be encouraged. Attendees will be able to purchase copies of Starry Rhymes at the event, and it will also be available for purchase online thereafter.

Loved by readers since his emergence onto the literary scene in the mid 1950s, Ginsberg was one of the foremost figures in the Beat movement, and as well as producing seminal works such as Howl and America, he was also responsible for the promotion and publication of some of the great Beat novels including William S Burroughs' Junky and Jack Kerouac's On The Road. His most famous work, the volume Howl and Other Poems, was the subject of a high profile obscenity trial upon its publication in 1955, and this trial and its eventual outcome was recently depicted in the movie Howl, which starred James Franco and David Strathairn.