Saturday, April 29, 2017

Last month a poem from Madame Ecosse was Poem of the Week in The Scotsman Newspaper (thanks to Colin Waters of the Scottish Poetry Library!).

I've been plodding away working on some occasional poems alongside some ballads. I have four poems on the go at the moment and finding it good to be able to switch between poems when I get stuck on one.

Reading-wise I've been enjoying reading Siren by Canadian poet Kateri Lanthier and I've just got around to picking up a copy of Jane Kenyon's Selected poems from Bloodaxe. Still enjoying Kinnell's Selected - some stunning poems in there. I re-read Jay Parini's book on Theodore Roethke which truly is a wonderful read.

I'm between odd jobs at the moment and hate the lack of routine and uncertainty though all should be resolved in the next month. I've applied to do Counselling Skills - a part-time course at Strathclyde Uni starting later this year. My plan is to train as a professional counsellor part-time over the next three years which I'm excited about but a little daunted by the thought of juggling - work, family, study plus finding and clocking up the necessary volunteer counselling hours to qualify - and preserve my sanity by having writing time! I guess we'll see how it'll go!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017


Well it's been a busy month. A flying visit to London for the launch of Madame Ecosse - the launch went well, it was good to hear the other Eyewear poets read. I got to spend a few hours in the British Museum and in the British Library between train journeys.


Then it was a week up at beautiful Moniack Mhor with nine of this year's Scottish Book Trust New Writers awardees. It was an interesting week - we spent two of the evening reading some of our work. I particularly enjoyed hearing the prose writers as mostly I only go to poetry readings - lots of beautiful work being written.



It was great having access to the Moniack Mhor library and the northern branch of the Scottish Poetry Library which is there also.

My favourite discoveries were Anne Carson's Antigonick which is a gorgeous hardback with illustrations by Bianca Stone. Carson's translation of Sophocles' Antigone is hilarious, darkly comic and hard hitting. I loved it.
I also loved reading through the Selected Poems of Galway Kinnell and have since bought my own copy.

Between all of this, followed by a wee camping trip with the kids, I'm looking forward to not going anywhere else anytime soon!

Very happy to have my 'Twilight Sleep' poem showcased on Abigail Morley's The Poetry Shed which you can read here. It's from Madame Ecosse.



Tuesday, March 14, 2017

***********EYEWEAR SPRING LAUNCH************


I'm very much looking forward to launching Madame Ecosse in London this Friday - 


17th March  7pm-9pm 
London Review Bookshop





There will be readings from Mariela Griffor, U.S. Dhuga, Kate Noakes, Jason Lee, Isabel Rogers, and Dick Watts of Post-Punk band The Passage.

Of course I'll be reading too! All welcome - there will be wine and beautiful books!!!

Plus it's St Patrick's Day! 

Snapshots of Madame Ecosse!!

I love to see pics of my collection out there in the big wide world - a little piece of me lives inside each one.














Thursday, March 02, 2017

I've written my first ballad sequence based on Scots ballad 'Clyde's Water' also known as 'Mother's Malison'. You can read the original ballad and variants here.
It was collected by Henry James Child in his anthology of traditional ballads from Scotland and England published in the late 19th century, and is indexed as Child ballad 216.

It was challenging to write - bringing together the narrative aspect, incorporating ballad tropes and yet making it thoroughly my own poem.
The basic narrative is -  
Willie wishes to visit his lover. His mother bids him stay, and curses him to drown in Clyde if he goes. Willie, trusting in his horse, goes anyway, but his lover's mother bids him away. Returning, he drowns in Clyde; his lover drowns as she seeks him." 

I wrote it as a sequence of three poems in the voices of the three woman involved - the first is in the voice of William's mother, the second the voice of William's lover (May Margaret), and lastly in the voice of May Margaret's mother.

I used Lorca's Gypsy Ballads as inspiration,  and also especially his long sequence 'Lament for Ignacio Sanchez Mejias' which is a stunning poem. I used some repetition and some stand-alone rhyming quatrains, and incorporated some lines from a traditional Scots folk / childrens song.
So at the moment it's around 140 lines long and needs to be put away for a while so I can gain perspective on it.

I've just finished reading A Lucid Dreamer: The Life of Peter Redgrove. I started reading it a few years back but didn't get too far, this time I thoroughly enjoyed it. The biography was pretty thorough regarding the details of Redgrove's life, but I'd like to see another biography written better with more analysis and insight. I'm a good bit of the way through Redgrove's collected poems and thoroughly enjoying them. It's funny how you can approach different poets at different times in your life - I couldn't make head nor tail of Redgrove a few years ago.
Sometimes it feels like there's no end to feeding the poem-monster - if I'm working on a poem I'm trying to finish it, if I'm not working on a poem I'm trying to write one and so on it goes.

Monday, February 20, 2017

I'm excited to be working on a new series of poems based on old Scottish ballads. It's an idea I've been toying with for a while but just didn't have the time to throw myself into.
Now is the time and after much reading and absorbing (finally finished my close reading of the Golden Bough) I'm in writing mode.

There's something about working on a project / theme over several poems that very much attracts me - I can really get absorbed in as opposed to writing occasional poems here and there.
I hope to be working on this intensely over the next couple of months.

Thanks to the wonderful Scottish Book Trust I'm going to Moniack Mhor for a writer's retreat at the end of March with this year's intake of New Scottish Writer Awardees. It's 14 miles outside Inverness and sounds/looks amazing. It will be wonderful to have a week in the Scottish highlands away from all responsibilities just to write.

However before then I have a quick jaunt to London for the official launch of Madame Ecosse which will be at the London Review Bookshop on Friday 17th March. Also hoping to plan over the next few months reading/launches in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017



Signed copies available from myself (UK only) if you click on the 'buy now' button on the left!


Delighted to have the book finally in my hands and I'm over-the-moon at what a beautiful object it is! Eyewear Publishing have done a wonderful job with it - thanks especially to Todd Swift and Edwin Smet at Eyewear!




Thursday, January 19, 2017

She's nearly here...



After much toing and froing Madame Ecosse is finally at the printers - I'm so looking forward to seeing the book jump out of my head (off the page) and come to life as a real thing!

I did a phone interview for Napier University student magazine about my writing which you can read the write-up of here.

I'm enjoying having time to read and start to write again. Tentatively writing notes, odd lines and images - slowing feeling my way back into writing mode. I've been reading James Wright and today I started reading Adam Zagajewski's Unseen Hand collection - wonderful wonderful poems.