Monday, December 31, 2012

A wordle of my Jerusalem poems.

Not reading any poetry at the moment but reading my way through the rather large (but thankfully on my kindle!) 'Jerusalem: The Biography' by Simon Sebag Montefiore. A wonderful history of Jerusalem with all the gory details, feel like I'm living in a permanent Jerusalem apocalypse of mass murder, terror and seige... all excellent reading!

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

So I've had my first meeting with the lovely folk at the Scottish Book Trust. They took a mug shot for the website... :)
I received my cheque of £2000 and was terrified of losing it all the way home. I confess the first thing I bought was a kindle having been sold on the idea since Israel where I was the only person in the airports lugging around a bag of books to read and everyone else had a dainty little e-reader. Since, I've barely put it down. It's like having access to an instant university library in my home, so many free books and books for a pittance. I am loving reading through Virginia Woolf's diaries at the moment, I been wanting to read them for years. 

The plan is to set me up with a mentor for a series of meetings over the next year. I'll be meeting up with some people from the Scottish Poetry Library next month to talk about what I'm hoping to get out of the mentoring so they can find a suitable mentor. I'm looking for someone who will challange me in my writing, give me critical feedback and hopefully help open new directions for my writing. Since the point of the money is to 'further my writing', I'm thinking of using the rest of it to go back out to Israel for a week or so myself this year and spend the time solely in the old city in Jerusalem writing. 
Other good news is that someone has requested to use a poem of mine in a tree poetry anthology, look forward to seeing that!

It's been a year of the most unexpected ups and downs!
I wish you all a wonderful, peaceful Christmas.


Friday, December 14, 2012

I'm now allowed to shout it from the rooftops (and believe me I am)...

I've won a New Writers Award for poetry from The Scottish Book Trust!!!!!

The Scottish Book Trust annually out  gives out  eleven New Writers Awards: four for fiction, two for children and young adult writing, two for writing in Scots, two for poetry and one extra awarded in memory of Callan Gordon.
The Award is an amazing package of a whopping £2000 cheque to further my writing, a year's worth of mentoring with PR and publishing advice and a week at Cove Park which is a residental retreat for artists, musicians and writers and is, funnily enough, just across the Clyde from me!

I head up to Edinburgh on Monday to pick up my cheque and hopefully find out about what kind of mentoring I'll get and who I will get to work with over this next year.

I am so blown away by it all, never in a million years did I dare hope that I'd actually win an award!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

I have the most exciting poetry news but I'm not allowed to reveal it until the end of the week which is driving me crazy!
Thanks to Josephine Corcoran for showcasing an old-ish poem of mine a few days ago on her great poetry blog And Other Poems.

A draft poem inspired by James Owens' wonderful photographs which can be viewed on his blog ein klage-himmel.

first draft

(poem removed)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

In case you're not on facebook or twitter...

I'm pleased to have a poem in the gorgeous Moon Edition of New Linear Perspectives, an Edinburgh-based online literary magazine, alongside poems from Sammi Gale and Anne Rouse.
You can read the magazine here.
I've not been blogging much recently, shock-horror - I've actually been writing poems instead of moaning on here about the lack of poems!

Back to that thorny issue of whether putting draft poems on the blog for a short period of time counts as self-publication. More and and more poetry mags seem to be stipulating that they cannot accept submissions that have previously been published in print, on the web or appeared on a blog. As anyone who reads this blog well knows, my usual practice is to put up first drafts for a limited period of time as a form of workshopping. But this is becoming more problematic in limiting where I can submit my poems to. When I first started putting draft poems on the blog, the end result poem was often dramatically different but I have to admit that now the changes are mostly minor between the first draft and the final poem that I submit for publication. I'm not posting my latest poem on here because I want to submit it somewhere which counts blog appearances as publication. This isn't to say that I'll never again post a draft poem, the workshopping element has been essential to my writing in the past but perhaps just not every poem or only the poems I'm really struggling with.

As someone who likes reading about such things, here are my current personal poetry stats:
I have thirty-six A4 pages comprising of twenty-eight poems to either cherry-pick from for a pamphlet collection or build on for a full-length collection.

Of the twenty-eight poems, seventeen have been published:
6 in Shadowtrain
5 in Northwords Now
2 in From Glasgow to Saturn
1 in Starry Rhymes Anthology and Ink, Sweat and Tears
1 in Gutter Magazine
1 in Ink Sweat and Tears
1 (about to be) in New Linear Perspectives

Ten poems I'm waiting to hear back about and one I haven't sent out yet.

I've now written seven pages worth of Israel poems and I'm sure there are more to come so it looks like that will be a bit of a focus in whatever future collection I manage to put together.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A few notes on Jerusalem.

First impression on leaving Ben-Gurion airport, a wall of of heat, dryness and smell of ash and spice.
Our hotel was on Saint George Street in East Jerusalem at the heart of the Arab part of the city which meant I got to know that area fairly well. It was a ten minute walk to the Old City, approaching it via the gorgeous Damascus Gate. A new tram system handily takes you from one end of the new city to the other so if we didn't feel like walking we hopped on the tram and got off at the Jaffa Gate.

On the main road at the top of Saint George Street is a historical monument marker where previously stood the Mandelbaum Gate, the checkpoint dividing Jerusalem between Israeli and Jordanian forces between 1948 and and 1967. On our side of the former checkpoint the streets are populated with Arabs and Muslims, lots of little Arab-run shops and stalls where you can buy sweets galore. Goods from the main shopping areas spill from little shops and stalls, fruits, sandals, headscarves,  mobile phone accessories, clothes, clothes, clothes, cheap tat, plastic toys. The pavements heaving with well covered-up women, cars beebing incessantly (you stop hearing it after a while) and reversing up entire one way streets.

On the other side of the former checkpoint is the ultra-orthodox Jewish area (of the Mea Shearim street where they tried to pass a law that would enforce men and woman to walk on opposite sides of the street) where the men where black suits and black fedora-looking hats with ringlets falling down the side of their faces and the women wear a different style of headscarf to the Arab women. It's a surreal scene to get off the tram at the top of our street and see the ultra-Orthodox Jews cross over to their neighborhood and the Arabs cross into theirs on the other side.

The Old City itself has to be seen to be believed. The current walls of the city were built by Suleiman the Magnificent in the sixteenth century. The City is split into four quarters - Muslim, Jewish, Armenian and Christian. Each quarter is an amazing display of of its own identity mingled with the fanfare of tourists passing through. The Old City isn't just a place of astonishing historical beauty, it's a proper lived in city where small kids play football up and down the narrow streets. Every building is build with the distinctive Jerusalem stone which takes on the hue of the sun at its every shade from sunrise to sunset. The highlights for me were the Western Wall, we happened to be there on Simchat Torah which is the celebration of the end of the annual reading aloud of the Torah. They sure know how to rejoice, the Jewish men danced and sung under large Torah scrolls on their way down to the Wall and back up again. Stupid me, didn't notice the Western Wall was split into a men's section and a women's as I made my way towards the men's section. Thankfully someone politely informed me to go to the women's section before I offended someone!

Other highlights were the Garden of Gethsemane where two thousand year-old Olive trees reside, a really moving experience for me. I loved walking through the Kidron Valley, away from all the tourists and churches. The valley is the oldest area of human habitation in Jerusalem and is basically bit of a mud track valley between the Old City and the Mount of Olives leading you past ancient tombs and eventually ending up at the incredibly poverty-stricken-looking Arab village of Silwan. We wandered through the village, the locals were very friendly and helpful, it was only afterwards that I noticed that tourists are generally advised not to go there because of high tensions because of prospective Israeli archaelogical projects which would include the demolition of some eighty odd Arab homes in the area. All I can say is that the locals were very nice to us.
We travelled to many wonderful places north and south in Israel but Jerusalem, for me, is the most incredible place I've ever been to. I already dream of going back...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

An online literary mag published by Glasgow university, edited by students of the Glasgow Creative Writing Programme and publishing creative writing by Glasgow uni students, staff and alumni.
I'm happy to have two poems in the latest issue!

Jerusalem ~ City of Longing

Jerusalem is a port city on the shore of eternity  ~ Yehuda Amichai

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

First draft

(poem removed)

And another short poem, though I really should be packing...

First draft

(poem removed)
Though I should be packing for Israel, I wrote a wee poem this morning, the first in two months!

Had two poems accepted for the next issue of the Glasgow Uni journal, From Glasgow to Saturn, which I'm pleased about, I so miss the big old lecture halls and gorgeous cloisters of the Gilbert Scott Building.

First draft

(poem removed)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

It's been a busy month or so with poetry events, kids birthday parties and now the trip of a lifetime to Israel in two weeks time to plan for. When I was talking to Donald S Murray, he said that there are two ways he approaches writing a book: (1) ask a question and then the book aims to answer that question (ie for The Guga Hunters he asked himself why do men from the small community of Ness continue the centuries-old tradition of hunting baby gannets). (2) Use a metaphor or image and keep it in mind whilst writing the book, so for Donald's book about the building of the Italian chapel in Orkney he had in mind the image of Pinocchio, the wooden puppet coming to life.
I thought this was all very interesting.

 I've been reading through my collected Ingeborg Bachmann and she has some gorgeous turns of phrase, though because I'm reading in translation I guess I'll never know how much of my translation is Bachmann or the translator. Either way, it's very good reading, very Celan-like which is to be expected but much more nature-orientated or grounded in which is definitely up my street. Here's a wee taster from 'Borrowed Time':

For the entrails of fish
have grown cold in the wind.
Dimly burns the light of lupines.
Your gaze makes out in fog:
the loan of borrowed time
will be due on the horizon.

There your loved one sinks in sand;
it rises up to her windblowh hair,
it cuts her short,
it commands her to be silent,
it discovers she's mortal
and willing to leave you
after every embrace.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Poems for Pussy Riot

"Both the example set by Pussy Riot — fierce, feminist champions of freedom — and the example being made of them by the Russian judiciary has fired something in writers around the world. The band’s punk prayer, a poem gorgeously translated into English by Carol Rumens and Sasha Dugdale, uses language precisely and powerfully — and it’s inspired the poets who’ve contributed to do the same."
Want to get involved? Check out this page.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Does anyone have any tips on moving from poetry pamphlet collection to a full-length collection?
I said in an earlier post that I'm ready to put my post-Vintage Sea poems behind me and start working towards / focusing on a full-length collection. I feel so ready to work on something bigger than a group of random poems. But working out what theme/subject-matter I want to focus on and how to approach the bigger project of a full-length collection is a different thing entirely! So any experience or wisdom that could enlighten me at all would be much appreciated!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Well that's it all over! Saturday at Callander was great, it was nice to hear Richie McCaffery read again and another Happenstance poet, Margaret Christie. The Filmpoem sequence was excellent, great film and photography work by Alistair Cook with poems by Morgan Downie, Elizabeth Rimmer, Andrew Philip, Jo Bell and many others. Many of the films are available to watch freely on the Filmpoem website, well worth checking out. I really enjoyed readings from the Split Screen poems too, a brilliant anthology of 72 commissioned poems based on film and tv. Sally's appearance with her makeshift Yoda hat as she read Colin Will's Yoda poem The last of the little green men was priceless! I sold enough pamphlets to buy myself a copy of the Split Screen anthology and grab a Burger King on the road home, so that wasn't too shabby either!
Then on the Sunday, Donald S. Murray arrived in town and came to dinner so we had a lovely evening chatting to him. A genuinely really lovely guy, it was such a pleasure to meet him and hear him talk about his writing. And it's such a small world that it turns out that as well as other family connections, Donald used to hang around with one of my uncles when they were young, they even shared a flat together in Glasgow! I tagged along while he read some of his work and talked to the Gaelic and English students at the local secondary school and then had the privilege to read alongside him in the evening to a small but friendly audience. It's the first time I've read my own work in Dunoon so that's a milestone crossed! I've done a write-up of the event for the local paper and I'm hoping, through it to make contact with any other like-minded poetry people in the community and raise interest for possible future poetry events.

Friday, September 07, 2012

I'm banning the word 'blood' and its variants from my poetic language. Going through my poems trying to pick a reading list for tomorrow and I can't believe how much blood is in them. I've got - blood clots, bloods of Christ, blood-rock, blood waves, blood-birds, bloodied skins, Blood, under the blood... and so on! Not quite sure what this says about me but it has to stop!!

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Unusually for me I have a week of poetry events coming up... well two events anyway!
Sally Evans' Callander poetry weekend begins this Friday, I'm reading on the Saturday morning alongside Kemal Houghton, Robin Cairns, Juliana Greer, John Coutts, Katy Conrad, A. C. Clarke, Richie McCaffery and Morelle Smith. I'll be staying for the afternoon readings which will be from the Split Screen anthology and the Filmpoem project, so really looking forward to that. And then on the Monday night I'll be introducing Donald S Murray to read in Dunoon and, hopefully, have some music from a Gaelic singer. Hoping it'll be a good turn out. I've been running around town today putting up posters for it!
The photographer whose picture illustrates my poems in the recent Northwords Now has said that she would like to do a collaborative pamphlet witth my poems and her pictures. I really like the idea of this but actually getting it published is looking like it could be pretty tricky, neither of us being famous and photos being costly to print, which is a real shame.

Friday, August 31, 2012

I'm delighted that Donald S. Murray is coming to Dunoon and will be reading from his latest poetry collection, Weaving Songs, at the Dunoon Baptist Church Centre on Monday 10th September at 7pm.

Weaving Songs is a collection of poems and short stories inspired by Donald's childhood growing up in Ness, the northernmost part of the Isle of Lewis. His writing is accompanied by illustratory photographs by Carol Ann Peacock. Donald is the author of the renowned book The Guga Hunters and his poetry, prose and verse has been shortlisted for both the Saltire Award and Callum Macdonald Memorial Award.

I'm pleased to be organising this reading and finally getting a chance to meet Donald. I know Dunoon is out the way for most people but I'd love to meet up with anyone who fancies coming to Dunoon for the day and I've no doubts the reading will be a memorable event.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

I've decided to start thinking about putting together another pamphlet collection.
I was originally working towards a full-length collection but I feel I've been writing in a limbo-period over the last year-and-a-half and now I've come back to myself and I want to put the post-Vintage Sea poems behind me into their own wee pamphlet home and start on something new and focused. It's very exciting / exhilarating starting to put a submission together, I already have a provisional title for a collection and I only really decided last night. Of course, there's no guarantee that anyone will publish it but at the start of the process, before all of the rejections, it's all good fun! :)
The Mahmoud Darwish Selected came in yesterday and what started out as a quick flick through, sucked me right into the book. The poems are just amazing. Packed with gorgeous language and imagery. Not sure what forms are at work but there's much mantra style line repetition which works almost hypnotically and suits the themes perfectly. The book is prefaced with a couple of lines from Lorca -
But now I am no longer I,
nor is my house any longer my house

and there is definitely a Lorca feel to the poems - the exotic land imagery for one. But the poems aren't sentimental. Despite the beautiful language and imagery they can be hard-hitting as they deal with difficult themes in opposites - love/hate, being at home/alienation, peace/war, identity/loss of identity, individual/ the people, and of course, life/death. These constant dualities are explored, painfully, in the first person. However the poems aren't political treatises, they are always, and above all, poems.

Some lines from 'Another Road in the Road'

There is yet another road in the road, another chance for migration.
To cross over we will throw many roses in the river.
No widow wants to return to us, there we have to go, north of the neighing horses.
Have we yet forgotten something, both simply and worthy of our new ideas?
When you talk about yesterday, friend, I see my face reflected in the song of doves.
I touch the dove's ring and hear flute-song in the abandoned fig tree.
My longing weeps for everything. My longing shoots back at me, to kill or be killed.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

"The voice of the sea is seductive; never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wanderfor a spell in abysses of solitude; to lose itself in mazes of inward contemplation. The voice of the sea speaks to the soul. The touch of the sea is sensuous, enfolding the body in its soft, close embrace" Kate Chopin

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

I've started reading the first of my recently ordered poetry collections - Into the Deep Street: Seven Modern French Poets 1938-2008 

Also waiting to come in the post is:

Sea Room: An Island Life - a biographical book about a young man, Adam Nicolson, who inherited the Shiants, a group of uninhabited Hebridean islands beween Skye and Harris. I've been wanting to read this book for a long time.

Darkness Spoken - The collected poems of Ingeborg Bachmann

Unfortunately, it Was Paradise - Selected poems of Mahmoud Darwish

I really enjoy reading European poetry, my favourite poet last year was the wonderful German poet, Durs Grunbein. When I'm going on holiday I like to read up on some poetry from the place I'm going, the last two books should give you a clue about where I'm going in October! :)

Saturday, August 11, 2012

I'd like to highlight another couple of poetry blogs I've being enjoying following for a while now.

The first is HG Poetics blog by Henry Gould.
Gould has a particular interest in / affinity with a group of early twentieth century Russian poets called the Acmeists (Gumilev, Akhmatova, Mandelstam). He regularly posts sections from his exceptionally long poem Lanthanum and also occasionally posts video recordings of his guitar playing, which I absolutely love. Gould writes occasional essays on his, and Acmeist, poetics which are extremely interesting. You can watch a video of Gould reading a selection of his poems at a recent poetry reading posted on his blog.

Also worth a visit is Clarissa Aykroyd's blog The Stone and the Star. Clarissa writes regularly on poetry and, at times, poetry in relation to film, art, travel and anything else that takes her interest. I think we must have similar poetic tastes as she seems to mostly write about poets I extremely like. She even got to attend a celebration of Transtromer's work with not only Transtromer actually physically present but none other than Wallander star, Krister Henriksson reading the poems in Swedish. I'm still confounded by jealousy over this!!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Less than a week until the holidays are over. It's been a busy but good time with the kids, catching up with friends and general hectic summer holiday life. I'm looking forward to calmness and routine and poetry, all have which have pretty much gone right out of the window over the last couple of months.

Though my poetry reading has been limited I have enjoyed reading Alan Stubbs' poems. There are several on his blog all of which have been published in Poetry Review and a fantastic essay on John Burnside which was originally published  in Agenda. Alan has put together a first poetry collection manuscript which he thinks he'll struggle to get published because of the current publishing climate, though judging by not only the quality of his poems but also his impressive magazine publishing credits, I don't think he'll struggle much at all!! It's definitely worth checking out his blog.

I'm still in shock at the cheque I received this morning for the Northword Now poems, who says poetry doesn't pay!!! I'm making up a nice list of desirable books to purchase, it's been a while since I've had a book splurge! Candidates include The Sea Room by Adam Nicolson, Weaving Songs by Donald S Murray and Contemporary World Poetry - An Anthology. I'm open to suggestion, particularly for current poetry in translation.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Delighted to see the online version of the summer issue of Northwords Now is now available and very much looking forward to the actual magazine arriving in the post!

P12 is a gorgeous photo by the photographer Barbara MacAskill which illustrates my poems on P13. I'm loving the cover pic too which is by painter and fellow Argyllshire resident, Sian MacQueen.
There's a great interview with the wonderful John Burnside and plenty more poems and short stories inside!

And if reading my poems doesn't bore you entirely you can hear me read some of them at the audio section of the Northwords Now website!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Thanks to Jim's excellent review of The Jaguars Dream by John Kinsella, a wide selection of non-english poems chosen and  translated by Kinsella, I followed Jim's link to Kinsella's website and came across a fantastic selection of Kinsella's essays all available to read online.
I've never got around to reading much of Kinsella but now I'd really like to pick up some of his work. You can read the essays here and the one's I've read so far have been varied and very interesting.

I particulary like his essay on Plath. It's common knowledge that admitting to being a fan of Plath can be to one's detriment if you want to be taken seriously as a poet but being a young, and specifically male poet, (when Kinsella recounts his youthful introduction to Plath) and admitting to liking Plath is an altogether further take on this strange phenomenon. Kinsella also writes well, I think,  about Plath's 'problematic' imagery, the representation of the 'other' in her poems.

Monday, July 23, 2012

And because I have no news poetry-wise to update on...

British summertime has begun... in theory that is. We're into the fourth week of the summer holidays and the kids and I are surviving remarkably well considering the crap weather! Jamie has spent most of his holidays so far at the old house getting it reading for selling and now we're just waiting on a home report before we can put it up for sale. So if anyone is interested in buying a newly decorated and carpeted two-bedroom flat in (not so sunny but beautiful nontheless) Dunoon, let me know!!

I struggle to get much writing done when we're all out of routine but I have managed to watch all eight series of Spooks available on good old BT Vision. Shocking waste of time I know, what can I say, when I take a notion to something I get a bit obsessed about it and you can't deny it, Spooks is pretty fantastic! I'm being coerced into reading The Natural Navigator by Tristan Gooley (Jamie reads one of my books I have to read one of his). Quite enjoying most of it, it's not unrelated to the Kenneth White Geopoetics, rediscovering our natural selves in nature. The intense study of the humble puddle did make my eyes glaze over but the book gets better and I'm looking forward to getting to the sea chapter.
Apparently the weather is supposed to improve this week so we're planning our first attempt at family camping: all of one night near Stirling so we can fit in a visit to the safari park and Duncarron Medieval Village which should be fun.

I came across the most fantastic dolls of the world collection the other day when we visited Finlaystone Country Park, just across the Clyde from us. The pics don't even show a quarter of the dolls there. The collection was started by Lady MacMillan (Finlaystone estate is the seat of the Clan MacMillan) at the turn of the 20th century. I didn't get much time there so another visit is definitely on the horizon.
Aside from this, life is the usual - potty training, making princess cakes, Skylanders, swimming. Not sure it'll be of much interest to many readers but I've bought myself a new bible, an American Standard Version with Greek and Hebrew dictionaries for keys words at the back which I'm really enjoying using, being able to check up on the translations of difficult words / passages. I always intended to learn Hebrew and started a few times but never kept it up.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

I've just seen the proofs for my Northwords Now poems! They are publishing Tiger Tulips, A Vision of Sula Sgeir,  Orchid, Loch Long and four-section poem called Reflections. On the opposite page to my poems is a gorgeous photograph titled with a line from one of the poems. I love it and can't wait for it to be published!

I'm excited to be reading at the Callander Poetry Weekend in September. It really is one of the best Scottish poetry events and such a friendly atmosphere to read at. Here's the line-up of events and readers here.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Anyone who's been reading my blog for a while knows I'm a fan of the poet/philosopher Kenneth White. He was one of the first poets I ever heard read and no other reading, so far, has come close to that experience. I'm currently reading an exploration of White's life and work, The Radical Field by Tony McManus.

Here are some quotes from the first part of the book:

"Perhaps a mother is like the concentration of a culture. I believe mine was a personification of the conflicts, the contradictions, the problems of Scottish culture." Kenneth White
"I take 'seaboard' (littoral, shore) to be particularly significant space. We are close there to the beginnings of life, we cannot but be aware there of primordial rhythms (tidal, meteorological). In that space, too, we have one foot, as it wew, in humanity (inhabited, inscribed space) the other in the non-human cosmos (chaos-cosmos, chaosmos) - and I think it is vitally important to keep that dialogue alive." Kenneth White
"The Scot is a nomad, like the Scythian, his ancestor. But there is in him also a quietude. It is this twofold delight in movement and tranquility which I feel on the to move in and tranquility to see in. That is the original ground of poetry." Kenneth White
"Those little words like 'God', 'soul' and 'nation' have done a great deal of harm. That's why I use grotesque words which cannot do any harm to anyone: 'erotocosmology', for example!" Kenneth White
"I have never considered myself as 'an artist', defined either as a producer of pabulum for immediate social consumption, or as a public personage in the cultural limelight. In both cases, the artist is caught up in a complex of individual/public relationships, exactly that outside of which I keep myself. In movement, via a process of deconditioning, towards a transpersonal reality." Kenneth White
"It is not a reality, the state of things which is ours today. It hasn't the body of a reality, it has neither the fibre not the tatchiness of a reality. It is a universe of distance and separation, a world where boredom and catastrophe follow each other, deprived of depth and essential continuity. I want real reality. Everything I write is a move towards a little real reality." Kenneth White
"This is about neither idealism or realism. It is perhaps about allowing deep sensations to reach the highest areas of the brain, where they may be deployed in an emptiness which is a plenitude." Kenneth White

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Plath Profiles, an interdisciplinary journal for Sylvia Plath studies, Volume 5 is now published and can be fully downloaded here.
Some really fantastic essays in this one including an excellent collaborative article by Peter K. Steinberg and Gail Crowther on the experience of researching the extensive Sylvia Plath archive material held at Smith College with particular insight into Plath's correspondence with The New Yorker. Also further interesting essays on textual variations in the British and American versions of The Bell Jar, the intrigue of a postcard which survived Plath's 1962 bonfires, the relationship between Plath's Ariel collection and the tarot system and much more. I think this is the best issue so far.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Poetry is an addiction.

When your life feels like one big, long, endless effort to write a poem, you're a poetry-addict. I'm either working on a poem, fretting because I'm not working on a poem, observing life / events / objects with a view to their poem-potential, and worst of all too busy looking for the poem in the experience instead of actually just living the experience.

On the one hand it feels like an inauthentic way to live, as if the poem is cannabalising my life, myself, for its own ends because poems don't stick to the facts they transform experience / objects to suit the poem. However, on the other hand, the constant analysis of myself, my life, experiences mean that life doesn't just blindly happen to me unchallenged or without thought. I'm deeply aware of my life, I constantly examine it which, according to that old Greek guy, means it's worth living but more importantly, for me, means it is an authentic way of living. Poems don't tell things exactly as they are but I think they do tap into deeper truths about ourselves.

I can understand why Wallace Stevens had the view that poetry could replace religion, in the times when I've struggled most with doubt I almost thought this could be possible too. It's a funny old life, but it's the one I've chosen to lead. Although, you could say, with an addiction there's never really a choice.

So I'm sitting here trying to write a poem and constantly checking emails, hoping for a reply from a poetry editor. I'm still reading Stevens and back to Claire Crowther too. Does it sound terrible to admit that while I really love many of Ted Hughes' poems, reading him in abundance bores me senseless? I can't go near Plath at all now, her influence is just too great on my poems otherwise. I read John Burnside's Black Cat Bone a while back and I'm only really now beginning to digest it so I'll be pulling that out again. I borrowed some techniques from Janet Sutherland's  Hangman's Acre for a few poems I wrote a couple of months back so I'll be looking at her collection again too.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Thanks to a friend I've managed to make a few decent recordings of some of my poems as requested for the Northwords Now website. It's always slightly embarrassing listening to your own voice but so much worse when you're reading words that you can't quite pronounce!!! 'Coiffured' was a struggle to pronounce, never mind having to say it twice, then there was 'Laforgue' as in Jules Laforgue. My French accent isn't quite up to scratch!
I still don't have a definitive list of which poems will be in the magazine so I'm really looking forward to finding out which ones the editor is going to pick.

I've had an epiphany with Wallace Stevens. I've always enjoyed his poems when I've read them in the past but reading them now is an entirely different experience. How could I have missed all of those Eliot tones! So I'm currently immersing myself in an old, second-hand Stevens Selected and researching what I can of him amidst the jungle of the internet. If anyone knows of any good in-depth analysis websites of his work I'd appreciate a link.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

  first draft

White Bird’s Homage to its Own

(poem removed)

Friday, June 01, 2012

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Friday, May 25, 2012

Out of the Night a Shadow Passed
 For anyone in Glasgow, Hannah Frank prints, two for the price of one at Glasgow Uni visitor centre until June 13th. I really love her work and I'll be hoping to pick up a couple of prints when I'm in Glasgow in the next couple of weeks.

I've had some poems accepted for the summer issue of Northwords Now, don't know quite how many poems yet and there's talk of perhaps a drawing/photograph or two to accompany my poems. Very excited about this, I've supplied the names of a couple of my favourite Scottish artists / photographers, though ultimately it will be decided by the mag's design editor and money so trying not to get toooo excited!!!!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Well it's been a madly busy few weeks. As well as the removal we had an intruder break into our old home in the middle of the night a couple of nights before we moved, so that's still being dealt with by the police, and on Friday there it was Jamie's 40th birthday! So it's been chaos trying to organise and stay on top of everything.
However that's us now in the new house and it is so unbelievably nice, I feel like I'm living in a holiday cottage! We're still waiting on another couple of bookcases to arrive and when they do, that will be all of our books out of boxes onto shelves for the first time ever! Then I can fulfill my geeky dream of alphabetically arranging all of my poetry books and never lose a poetry book again!
One thing I'm loving is our Charles Rennie MacKintosh rose design glass door. I've always loved Rennie MacKintosh and Art Nouveau. I've already managed to pick up a couple of lovely framed Mackintosh prints from local charity shops.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Friday, April 27, 2012

My three most wanted books at the moment are:

Sightlines by Kathleen Jamie, a book of essays / meditations about her journeys and exploration of the natural world.

Thin Slice of Moon - the newly published New and Selected poems of Hugh McMillan

Weaving Songs, a collection of poems by Donald S. Murray, the collection was inspired by Murray's father who had been a weaver.

The great thing about the new house is that there will be room for more bookcases!!!

first draft

Poem removed

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Series of short poems / fragments

draft work

poem removed

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

I've been too excited about the house to be able to concentrate on writing poetry so it's all a bit quiet on the poetry front.
I'm using this time as a note-gathering season so that when I've got the head-space to write I'll have plenty of material to draw from.
After lots of false starts we'll be finally getting the keys to our new house this friday.

I've been playing about with my new phone, recorded an old poem on it that I've given up on but quite like the sound of. I'm pleased at the quality of the phone recording, so I think I'll be trying out some more on it.
Here is the poem, if you click on the title you can hear me read it.

High Rise

the Rannoch Moor rises from the fifteenth floor of us
a tree grows out from the concrete side of us
playground swings fly far below us
the turf of raging winds adore us
our hearts are black     the city lights extol us
bodies lie broken     twisted at the foot of us
the bog lanterns of their eyes reflecting us
as we rise on every side    storey upon storey of us

Saturday, April 07, 2012

At the top of Blackpool Tower
It's nice to be back home after a busy, blustery week in Blackpool!

It was also nice to come back to a lovely short review of Vintage Sea in the new Northwords Now (p22)
"This poetry is full of confident play with words, deep connections with nature, especially the sea, and vivid images evoking joy and agonising loss."

It looks like a great issue as usual with contributions from Meg Bateman, Hugh McMillan, John Glenday, Rody Gorman, Andrew Greig and many more.

Never had the chance to read any of the poetry collections I took on holiday with me! But we did go up the tower, play on the Pleasure beach, go to Nickelodeon Land, get a ride in a horse-drawn carriage, go to the zoo, see a magic show, watch a 4-D film, walk, walk, walk, and eat, eat, eat....