Tuesday, December 10, 2013

When the lovely folk at Poetry magazine asked if I would be happy to record my poems for the podcast to go with the magazine I thought I would probably record my poems into my phone or tablet and email a soundfile off to them. Well I got that wrong - they booked a slot for me at one of the BBC recording studios in Glasgow!!!

So today I went up to Glasgow, found my way to the BBC and was escorted through tight security to a recording studio with a very helpful sound engineer. It was an odd experience reading into the mic with the headphones on, the sound engineer waving at me from the next room through the glass window and the American guy from Poetry on the phone listening in and chatting to me inbetween reading my poems! It was actually quite nervewracking at first until I got used to the sound of my voice through the headphones. However they were so friendly and helpful that I soon relaxed and enjoyed the process.

So! My poems will be in January's issue of Poetry magazine and I'm not sure how many of the poems they'll have on the podcast. It's been mind-blowing for me this last month or so - filling in contributor info for Poetry magazine, filling in US tax forms which I must say are Very complicated (Poetry mag pay VERY well!!!), reading and checking proofs for my poems and now recording my poems at a proper recording studio! I really am wondering whose life I've suddenly fallen into!

The programme for StAnza 2014 is now online. I'm excited to be reading on the Saturday along with three other New Writers at the New Writers Award Showcase event, my profile is up here.

I've had three wonderful mentoring meetings with Vicki Feaver who has been very generous with her help and advice. I think I have one last meeting with her in January which I'm desperately trying to come up with new poems for - all this other exciting poetry stuff has been quite distracting plus I've finalised and handed in the manuscript for my collection which has been a completely mind-consuming process.

I also have two new poems published - 'The Animal in the Pot' in Northwords Now which you can read online here (p7), and 'View' in Ink, Sweat &amp & Tears here.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Just had the most utterly amazing news, I can barely believe it...

Poetry magazine have accepted three of my poems for publication!!!
I could never in my wildest dreams have imagined being published in that most amazing and historically significant magazine.

I met Don Share, the editor of Poetry, at the Eyewear launch in London last week, where I read my Arrochar Alps poem. He liked it so much he wanted to publish it plus another couple of poems from my forthcoming collection.

I'm gobsmacked to say the least. It was great to hear him read plus hear and meet some other Eyewear poets. We all went for dinner afterwards at a lovely, cosy Italian restaurant where I had a good chance to chat with the other poets.

No more poetry plans for the next couple of months so I'll be able to start catching up with blogs and blogging a bit and maybe even some housework too!!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Pascale Petit reads from 'Effigies' from The Mosaic Rooms on Vimeo. Pascale Petit reading some of her wonderful new poems based on the artwork of the Syrian artist, Lawand.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Life has been pleasantly busy on the poetry front:

Writing poems, re-drafting poems, filling in author questionnaires, sorting out an author pic, putting together a sampler for the Scottish Book Trust, reading in London, meeting with my writing mentor in Edinburgh and so on...

I so enjoyed the reading in London at the Eyewear event and super pleased to be back down in a few weeks time to be a guest reader at the launch of four Eyewear collections. Aside from the excellent poetry I just LOVE the Eyewear books!! They are all beautifully designed hard-backs and I'm so looking forward to mine coming out in the spring.
It seems things have been on a non-stop roll for a while now and I intend to make the most of it while it lasts!  I've been asked to participate in a reading showcase for the New Writers Award event at StAnza in St. Andrews next year and also been invited to read in Paris (!!) in the spring as part of an Eyewear poets reading night!

Originally the focus of my mentoring was going to be on putting together my first collection and obviously that's now not needed, so instead Vicki is helping me to extend my voice / exercise more control over voice and imagery and think about themes for working towards a second collection, which is tremendously exciting. It's so wonderful (and nerve-wracking) getting input from an amazing poet like Vicki Feaver, such a wonderful opportunity to push my writing further and escape the post-first-collection-slump. 

I've been reading lots of the two WS's (WS Graham and WS Merwin) and listening to podcasts from the Poetry Foundation website. I especially love the Lorine Niedecker podcast (she has such a beautiful voice) and the Stanley Kunitz podcast who I could listen to all day.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Can hardly believe it....

And this lovely write-up from Jon Stone, the competition judge -

“I chose Marion McCready’s Tree Language as the overall winner for two major reasons: firstly, the poetry is incredibly dark and rich and bloody (blood is a particular theme), with frequently brilliant lines and almost Celan-esque word pairings: ‘blood-cut son’, ‘snow-eyes dressing’, ‘death fruits’. Or how about a poem that opens, running on from its title:
Like a dead shrew
the baby lies comically still.
Secondly, as a collection, it’s superbly structured. Repetition within and between the poems is used to haunting effect; often, a motif or image returns in the manner of a memory resurfacing, or a recurring dream. The loosely held themes allow her to cover a range of territory, including war poems, over four distinct chapters, without seeming to stray from the direct path established in the opening pieces. This is assured, disconcertingly potent work with a sharp and distinctive flavour.”
Todd Swift, Publisher of Eyewear said “We are thrilled to be publishing Marion in 2014.  Tree Language is an extraordinary collection from a debut poet of rare ability and vision. This collection is a real find and I am ecstatic that through the Melita Hume Prize we are able to celebrate such a strong talent. ”
Tree Language will be publishing by Eyewear in Spring 2014.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Can't believe it's coming up this Sunday!! I've been practising my set all week, it's been a while since I've done a reading so I'm a little nervous but really looking forward to it! It's nice getting an opportunity to read in London though I won't get much of a chance to do any touristy stuff as I'm flying down on Sunday morning and flying back up on Monday morning.
I've been doing so much reading lately and trying hard to focus my writing and instead of the proliferation of image-making, which has always been my first love in poetry, trying to develop a stronger narrative voice in a way that is natural to me and my writing. A new discovery for me has been James Dickey. I'm really enjoying reading his poems, reading up about him and interviews with him and his entertainingly catty comments about his contemporaries (check out the Paris Review archives interview with him!).
Been reading Selima Hill's People Who Like Meatballs on and off over the last couple of months and it's really staying with me. I'm still obsessed by the Imagists and I'm back re-reading Imagist Poetry by Peter Jones and constantly go back to H.D.'s Sea Garden (which is free on the kindle!).
Also keep going back to W.S. Graham, trying to learn how to do 'voice' from him since his 'voice' is so familiar to me coming from Greenock which is just across the Clyde from me and where I spent many a weekend staying with my grandparents as a child and walking the hills and streets with them. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

School holidays are over and it's bucketing down outside and everything feels comfortably back into normal routine. So I get the books out, poetry collections, folders of poems and I am glad for some quiet to work on a poem again and even to catch up on some blogging!


I've picked my set to read at the Melita Hume Poetry Prize reading event for those shortlisted which will be in London on Sunday 8th September and at where the winner will be announced! I would be delighted to meet any fellow bloggers there, it will be at the Betsy Trotwood Pub on Farringdon Road, 3pm. The event will be hosted by the poet Tim Wells.

Pleased to have a poem in the latest Gutter mag. A great issue which also features poems by Janette Ayachi, Rob A Mackenzie, Colin Will as well as poems from fellow New Writers Award poets Samuel Tongue and Kathrine Sowerby. There are also a couple of terrific poems by Jen Hadfield. Lots of prose too including short stories by Carol McKay and an old philosophy lecturer of mine, Paul Brownsey!

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

It's Official!

Here it is in black and white, well pink and brown! Very pleased to be alongside such good company, particularly the very talented Richie McCaffery! I'm hoping to make it down to the shortlist reading in London in September where the winner will be announced. You can read more about the shortlisted poets here.

Poetry prize!!

So I can finally reveal that my first full-length poetry collection, Tree Language, has been short-listed for the Melita Hume Poetry Prize!! The prize is £1000 plus publication by Eyewear Publishing headed up by the Canadian poet and editor, Todd Swift.
The winner will be announced in September but it's very nice to be short-listed! 
I'm also pleased to have a poem in the next edition of the gorgeous Glasgow-based Gutter Mag!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

This year is the 150th anniversary of the planting of an avenue of fifty sierra redwoods in Argyll's Benmore Botanical Gardens. To celebrate, Benmore has had its own poet in residence for the month of June. I've been following poet, Sue Butler's Walking with Poets blog with great interest as she's been writing and conducting workshops from the gardens over this last month. She has an exciting project on the go of aiming to collect 150 four-line poems about the redwood avenue. At the time of blogging she has 100 poems, I've just sent three in. So she needs another 50 by this weekend to reach the target. You don't have to be from the area or in the area to write a four liner about the gorgeous trees but if you feel inclined to please do post them in the comments box at the Walking with Poets blog where you can read all of the other poems too!
I been a regular at the gardens since I was a child and it's exciting to see so much poetic activity happening there!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Ready to burst with excitement!
Part of the Scottish Book Trust award was the opportunity to be mentored for a period of nine months. In February I went for an interview at the Scottish Book Trust to see if mentoring would be, I guess, cost-efficient for them to 'invest' in me at my stage in writing. I was asked who I would like to mentor me, someone within reasonable traveling distance. So I mentioned a couple of names of poets who would be great to be mentored by but wouldn't be what I would call 'dream mentors'.
Then one evening, reading online, I noticed that Vicki Feaver now lives in Scotland, something I'd forgotten about. So I fired off a quick email to the SBT to say that she would be a dream mentor for me if it wasn't too late to put in a request. I didn't dare get my hopes up, perhaps she wouldn't be interested in mentoring or available etc but today I received a wonderful email from the SBT to say that Vicki Feaver would be mentoring me for the next nine months and our first meeting will be set up as soon as possible. So I don't know how long this stupid grin will be plastered all over my face but I imagine for a good while!

Friday, June 14, 2013

A powerful and moving short film about a tragic night in 2005, poems by the excellent poet and writer, Donald S. Murray. It was showcased last week on Change Shetland.
 I always knew I would like Alice Oswald's poetry but somehow never got around to picking up any of her collections. However I was so impressed by the Oswald poems we looked at during our workshops in France and especially by her composing method of meditating and asking things in the natural world to tell her their 'names' in order to write about them. It helped me write a poem about the water irises that I'd been struggling to write since I got to France so definitely another conceptual tool to add to my toolkit.
I also came across the typescript of an interview Oswald did for the BBC on 'Poetry for Beginners'. It's an absolutely fantastic read, in some parts I was sure I was reading Ted Hughes. I especially loved this section -

  "Poems are written in the sound house of a whole body, not just with the hands. So before writing, I always spend a certain amount of time preparing my listening. I might take a day or sometimes as much as a month picking up the rhythms I find, either in other poems or in the world around me. I map them into myself by tapping my feet or punching the air and when my whole being feels like a musical score, I see what glimpses, noises, smells, I see if any creature or feeling comes to live there."

Isn't that a wonderful image? You can read the rest of the interview here.
I've since bought her Woods etc collection and thoroughly recommend it.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

 If you live in Scotland and haven't seen this yet, check it out. I've booked my place on it!

NAWE Presents The Poet’s Compass: a conference for Scotland’s emerging poets

Sat 29 Jun 2013 to Sat 29 Jun 2013
Are you at an early stage in your journey to becoming a poet? Want some insider tips on how to get your poetry seen and heard as well as in print? Live and work in Scotland? (17th June Booking deadline)
Saturday 29 June 2013, 10am – 6.30pm
CCA, 350 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow G2 3JD

In a packed day of talks, workshops and panel sessions, we’ll be looking at:

The state of poetry publishing today and what you can do to make editors sit up and want to publish you (Neil Astley, editor of Bloodaxe Books, is our keynote speaker)

What it means to be a poet today – how you can follow your own path, reach different audiences and be creatively fulfilled

The role of the small press, magazine and writers’ network in helping emerging poets to make their poetry public

Getting involved in spoken word and performance poetry events

The benefits of working across platforms and collaborating with other artists and sectors

Plus workshops on pamphlet poetry, poetry online, doing it for yourself, and poetry residencies

At the end of the day, there’ll be drinks and socialising, and a comprehensive information pack to take away to help you start planning the next steps in your journey as a poet.

Speakers: Neil Astley, editor of Bloodaxe Books (keynote), Gerry Cambridge, Jim Carruth, Harry Giles, Gerry Loose, Kona Macphee, Ali Maloney, Chris McCabe, Elspeth Murray, Helena Nelson and Michael Pedersen

Tickets: £25 (includes lunch)

Booking form (which gives eligibility details) plus summary and full programme information are available to download here – see Associated Downloads to right. Speaker biogs will be available shortly.

The Poet’s Compass is presented by NAWE (National Association of Writers in Education) in partnership with CCA, Glasgow Life, Scottish Book Trust, Scottish Poetry Library and St Mungo’s Mirrorball, with investment from Creative Scotland. It is part of Turning Another Page, a professional development programme for writers living and working in Scotland.

Go to the NAWE webpage here for further info.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Meant to add...

I've finally created myself a (very basic) webpage. Plus had five poems accepted by Shearsman Magazine and been shortlisted for something that I can't say anything more about (for now)! It's been a crazy busy year poetry-wise so far for someone like me who doesn't normally get out much!

Reading at the moment includes Pascale Petit (of course!), Selima Hill, Alice Oswald, Robert Minhinnick and Louise Gluck. I've been on a Jen Hadfield phase since I was at Cove park and still keep coming back to her poems.

In the Chateau Ventenac library I came across this lovely oldish Bloodaxe anthology of women poets which features interviews/detailed bios and comments from each of the women included (Stevie Smith, Kathleen Raine, Denise Levertov, Elizabeth Jennings, Elaine Feinstein, Ruth Fainlight, Sylvia Plath, Jenny Joseph, Anne Stevenson, Fleur Adcock, and Jeni Couzyn) which made fascinating reading as well as a great choice of the respective poets' poems.
I've also been loving making use of the free books on the kindle, particularly enjoying reading H.D.'s Hymen and Sea Garden collections and Men, Women and Ghosts by Amy Lowell.

 It became obvious to me from the very first group workshop in France that I don't pay enough attention to the 'voice' of a poem or fully extending my voice in my poems. This comes mainly from having never been part of a in-the-flesh workshopping group. My poems end up becoming tight little image-strong pieces with little room for the voice to speak. I always read aloud my poems as I write but that's always been to pay attention to sound and rhythm rather than voice. This has been so important for me to grasp a hold of because I feel it's a tangible way I can move forward in my poems and write better. Since I've come back I've been reading poems differently, paying attention to the voice rather than going straight to the images.
So the week before France I suddenly realised I had realistically enough poems for a full-length collection and used the deadline of a first collection competition to force me to put them together and order them and come up with a title. When I spread all of the poems out I found that they fell naturally into four sections which made the ordering job so much easier. I gave each section it's own title and one section title became the whole collection title. All of this has put far too much pressure on the little title poem whose title seemed representative of many of the poems in the collection rather than being picked for being my best, strongest poem. However it is exciting to think I have the possibility of a collection together and a collection structure to work on and of course I want to throw my new France poems into it and other ones I'm working on at the moment.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Irises by the canal
So France has come and gone like a dream and I had the most wonderful time. My first real experience of  real-life (as opposed to on-line) poetry work-shopping and it was terrifying!! Yet everyone was so friendly and it was such a great group of writers and Pascale Petit exceeded my (high) expectations in every way!
The Chateau Ventenac was perfect and gorgeous and comfortable, our host, Julia, was friendly and efficient and wonderful at accommodating our every request. The scenery was like stepping into a painting, the food delicious, the wine too. There's not a single part of it I wouldn't heartily recommend.
 Most mornings Pascale would set up a writing exercise for us and in the afternoons we all had a couple of one-to-one sessions for individual feedback on our poems. One evening Pascale gave us a reading of some of her recent poems which will be published in her new collection due out next year. On the last evening we all had the opportunity to read our poems from the week in front of a small audience followed by champagne! There were ten of us on the course and I feel so lucky to have met them and be part of such a great group of writers. Most of all, what a privilege it was to hear Pascale read her wonderful poems in such an intimate setting and to have her edit my little poems was a tremendously encouraging experience.It was such an incredibly stimulating week, I've learned so much from the other writers as well as Pascale, I think it'll take me a while to process it all and come back down to earth!

The Canal du Midi
View from the writing desk in my room
Canal du Midi flowing in front of the Chateau Ventenac
Roses in the garden of the Chateau Ventenac

Monday, April 22, 2013

Nineteen poems in twenty-two days, the majority of them draftable and some even fully formed. I'm calling it a day on NaPoWriMo. I'm very happy with what I've written but I've run out of steam now and I'm stopping before it becomes an utter drudge. Lots of short imagistic poems, lots of playful pieces and a few experiments. I've thoroughly enjoyed the push to write daily and I've had fun writing the poems I've written. Now to redraft and send them out! 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

So far NaPoWriMo has been mostly a plant-based affair! Fourteen days down, sixteen to go.

  Here are some pictures of my inspirations for some of the poems:


I think I'll need to come up with a different theme if I'm going to manage to write poems till the end of the month! 

Friday, April 05, 2013

"We and the members of the editorial board have read with interest your submission, and we have the pleasure in telling you..."

Three poems accepted by Poetry Salzburg Review!!

I opened with trepidation the envelope that arrived this morning with Universitat Salzburg printed on the front. An absolutely gorgeous magazine, I'm so excited to have poems in their next issue! Of course they never took the poem I was sure if they would if they were taking any! And I've vastly redrafted the poems I'd submitted to them (as I am in the bad habit of doing!). I will return the proofs today and walk about with a stupid big smile on my face!

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Check out the new Calder Wood Press website. My poetry pamphlet collection, Vintage Sea, has now been reduced to a mere three quid along with several other pamphlet collections. A great variety of poetry for super-cheap prices!

I've decided this year to join in on NaPoWriMo. Haven't attempted it since before Ruby was born and now she's three so I thought it was about time I gave it a go! The most I've ever managed before is fourteen days of poem writing before giving up. I hope to beat my personal record this time round! It's a great way to build up draft poems to work on later.

Had a few poetry rejections in the last couple of weeks which is always deflating but one of the rejections was the nicest I've ever received using the words 'engaging' and 'tantalising' and 'delighted to read more of your work', so it's not all bad!!

Thanks to the heads-up from swiss I've recently been devouring  With Robert Lowell and his Circle.What a fascinating read and a very well written memoir. A must read for any Plath, Sexton, Bishop, Kunitz etc fan. I've gone back to reading my Selected Lowell with a lot more care and attention than I ever read it before.

I think, overall,  I feel most at home in imagist poetry, though the movement birthed and died within a few years in the early twentieth century.
I wonder if there are contemporary imagist writers out there who would define themselves as such.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Delighted to have poems in both of these lovely magazines which the postie delivered last week!
Quietly working away, writing and submitting when I get the chance in between the usual hustle and bustle of family life. Sorley's head teacher has invited me to talk to a primary class about poetry which I cautiously said I would think about! Slightly terrifying prospect but I've had lots of good advice via facebook on how to excite a class of kids about poetry so I may agree to do it after all! Reading Best American Poetry 2012 at the moment and loving so many poems in it. Also reading Pascale Petit's The Treekeeper's Tale, which is fantastic. And enjoying reading Anne Sexton's biography by Diane Middlebrook. The May writer's retreat is slowing edging closer and I'm so much looking forward to it!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

I'm delighted to have a four-part poem, Fatras, published in the latest Ofi Press Magazine, a Mexico-based online literary mag.
You can read my poem here. I love the image with my poem and I really like the other poems in the issue. Plus there are short stories, interviews and artistic collaborations, a really lovely issue!

Cove Park 2013

Looking across Loch Long towards Dunoon
My accommodation, a recycled freight container
from the inside, a self-contained apartment called 'the cube'!
view from my cube
the neighbours

Had an excellent three nights at Cove Park. Spent the days in my cube reading and writing in blissful silence and for a few hours in the evening socialized with five other new writer's award winners who were there. It was a good, productive time for me. I came back with six draft poems to work on and thoughts of how I want to develop my writing. For sheer personal enjoyment and indulgence I immersed myself in Plath's Ariel (the restored edition) reading it alongside Hughes' the Birthday Letters, just because it's fascinating to see a relationship played out in poetry and it's such a great opportunity to see how one poetry collection can respond to another. I also spent a good bit of time reading through a selection of short stories by Kate Chopin, one of my favourite writers. In the Cove Park library I found Jen Hadfield's Almanacs collection which I'd never read before ( I had taken her Nigh-No-Place with me) and absolutely loved it. All the other award writers there were novelists and it was interesting chatting to them and listening to novelist-speak as opposed to poetry-speak! A lovely group of people doing all sorts of interesting writing. Cove Park was just perfect for a writing retreat. We were fortunate with the good weather and although it was pretty cold outside, my cube was so cosy and comfortable and what a stunning view! 

Friday, February 22, 2013

I've decided to start a private blog where I'll post drafts and poems I'm currently working on. I'll continue to post on this blog general poetry news and updates but I'm more than happy to add anyone who wants to, to my private blog. Just let me know if you would like to be added.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

I've been having a busy time of it with family and life in general. I had a meeting last week with the Scottish Book Trust people where they interviewed me to see if setting me up with a mentor was going to be beneficial / worth the money in terms of where I'm at in my poetry and my ability to devote time and energy into it. They're definitely going to provide a mentor for me, which is fantastic, and I'll be paired  up with someone after my Pascale Petit course in May for a period of nine months.

I was back in Edinburgh yesterday for a meeting at the Scottish Poetry Library (SPL) where I got to meet the SPL Director, Robyn Marsack, and the other poetry award winners. It was my first time in the SPL building and it is poetry heaven! I was looking through their old issues of poetry magazines and came across issues of  The London Magazine, where Sylvia Plath published fairly frequently in the 1960's. I was delighted to see the original mags from that period with Plath's poems and stories in them just as how she would have seen them in her contributor copies.

I joined the library and borrowed:


 Next week I'm off to Cove Park for a writing retreat. It's supposed to be for a week but I think I might just manage three or four days without using up all of my babysitting goodwill. Plus it's going to be strange being essentially just across the Clyde. I'll almost be able to wave to my house!

Monday, January 28, 2013

This time last year I lived in a pokey wee flat with an understairs cupboard masquerading as a 'computer room' with simply no where to put down a book and tripping over baby guff at every step. Now miraculously I live in a spacious lower 'villa', have my very own desk and a proper typewriter (albeit electronic). Sure the desk is a mess but that's okay with me! I've not had a working printer for over a year which is why I'm so excited about the typewriter. Now I can finally type out my poems and start sending them out to places that only take paper submissions. Which means I'll have to start writing more poems. Just had another two accepted by Envoi and my backlog of available poems is rapidly diminishing!