Things I Love Thursday #91

April 24th, 2014

In the past week or so, I…

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14
…met a friendly pig!

Spring '14
…spied on a kitty surveying his lands!

Spring '14
…appreciated public transport!

Spring '14
…welcomed spring to my street!

Spring '14
…appreciated smartassery!

Spring '14
…breakfasted like a queen!

Spring '14
…had my first cook-out of 2014!

& perhaps most importantly, this happened:

Spring '14

What are YOU loving this week?

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Like shiny things? Check out Edinburgh Vintage, a totally unrelated ’sister site’ full of jewels, treasures and trinkets. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!

Writing advice from Mary Oliver.

April 21st, 2014

Swanpy

I want the poem to ask something and, at its best moments, I want the question to remain unanswered. I want it to be clear that answering the question is the reader’s part in an implicit author-reader pact. Last but not least, I want the poem to have a pulse, a breathiness, some moment of earthly delight. (While one is luring the reader into the enclosure of serious subjects, pleasure is by no means an unimportant ingredient.)

[...] Take out some commas, for smoothness and because almost every poem in the universe moves too slowly. Then, once the “actual” is in place (the words), begin to address the reason for taking the reader’s good and valuable time — invite the reader to want to do something beyond merely receiving beauty… Make sure there is nothing in the poem that would prevent the reader from becoming the speaker of the poem.

[...] The poem in which the reader does not feel himself or herself a participant is a lecture, listened to from an uncomfortable chair, in a stuffy room… The point is not what the poet would make of the moment but what the reader would make of it.

Mary Oliver, from ‘The Swan.’

…and here’s a poem written using ^these rules. See what you think.

(Image credit)

Procrastination Station #123

April 18th, 2014

Have I really not done one of these since Christmas? Well, OK then…

Seattle gum wall

Have you guys heard of the Seattle gum wall? It’s right around the corner from Pike Place Market’s iconic neon sign, and Lovely Boyfriend and I visited it by accident while we were there. I could only get a crappy phone pic, so I liked scrolling through these cool shots on Flickr… US road trip nostalgia!

“If you’re a woman, writer of color or queer writer, there are probably more barriers. Know that. Be relentless anyway. Strive for excellence.”

If you read nothing else from this post, read this: How To Be A Contemporary Writer, by Roxane Gay.

Sleeveface, only with book covers.

A Lawrence Ferlinghetti poem, anyone? (More US road trip nostalgia!)

“The rape joke is that you were crazy for the next five years, and had to move cities, and had to move states, and whole days went down into the sinkhole of thinking about why it happened. Like you went to look at your backyard and suddenly it wasn’t there, and you were looking down into the center of the earth, which played the same red event perpetually.”

This poem by Patricia Lockwood carries a trigger warning, but it’s completely brilliant.

Scottish Book Trust’s Young Adult Team (which includes me!) have just finished work on this super cool graphic novel: “John Muir: Earth-Planet, Universe.” You can read a free PDF copy — and if you’re a teacher, download lesson plans and support materials — right over here.

Speaking of SBT… they were kind enough to feature one of my poems on their site! You can also submit your story of home.

Flavorwire’s “50 Essential Poetry Books” makes a pretty good to-read list, as I’ve only read 14 of these! Hooray!

Are you a female poet? You should submit poems to this cool anthology.

I enjoy the struggle of making a new object to present to the world, a gift made from scratch—whole, unique, edible as bread. And I want that gift to travel well, packed into an old boat on calm water or hidden inside a greased body diving into a blue pool, a sleek arrow that leaves a feathered silence and wonder in its wake. I like moving, word by word, toward a sense of discovery, toward an awareness of self—a curious, energetic, intelligent, sacred, baffling, depthful, heartful self. I work to find my subject, something I can sink my teeth into. I live for that flaring up of language, when the words actually carry me, envelope me, grip me. And all the above is why I read poetry, to hear the truth, spoken harshly or whispered into my ear, to see more clearly the world’s beauty and sadness, to be lifted up and torn down, to be remade, by language, to become larger, swollen with life.

The utterly brilliant Dorianne Laux, everyone.

There are some pretty sweet things listed at Edinburgh Vintage right now, if I do say so myself. A stunning estate ring, an unusual 1950s powder compact, and some classic pearls in their original display box, to name but a few…

I agree with barely anything Caitlin Moran says. But I agree with this.

The Unfollowed Pie.” Funny, accurate.

If the Earth had rings like Saturn. Cooooool.

I am kind of obsessed with A Single Bear on Twitter. The story of the baby bird a few days ago made me genuinely sad.

Just some rather amazing photos of the world.

WORLD! LONG HAVE WE NEEDED THIS ITEM!


This video of a reviewer playing Goat Simulator is one of the funniest things I have seen in a long time.


Kevin Cadwallender saying it like it is.


This woman is so excellent. Just watch.

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Like shiny things? Check out Edinburgh Vintage, a totally unrelated ’sister site’ full of jewels, treasures and trinkets. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!

30 before 30 / Things I Love Thursday #90: adventures in Wordsworth Country

April 17th, 2014

Point 6 in my 30 by 30 post was “get out more,” and I thought I’d start right away. So I went on a writing holiday, to the countryside that’s inspired some of the real greats. Here’s some stuff I got inspired by:

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

What are YOU loving this week?

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Like shiny things? Check out Edinburgh Vintage, a totally unrelated ’sister site’ full of jewels, treasures and trinkets. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!

30 before 30.

April 15th, 2014

30

Hello everyone. Sorry for the post drought lately. I’ve been busy doing a lot of exciting things… including turning 28!

Yes, that means I have been privileged to live on this planet for 28 full years… but it also means that in two years I’ll be 30. This isn’t a bad thing… in fact, if you ask me, it’s a handy deadline. I love a good to-do list, and frankly, 30 is a nice milestone to Achive Some Stuff by. Therefore, I am taking inspiration from a variety of bloggers, including Yes & Yes and Lion & Sloth, and creating a 30 before 30 list. 30 things I want to achieve in the next two years. And…go!

1. Graduate from my PhD.
OK, full disclosure: I am starting with the ones that are most likely to happen, and — hopefully I’m not jinxing anything by saying this — this one’s pretty much in the bag. I’ve passed the viva, I’ve submitted the corrections within my alloted three months, now all I need to do is print the fancy hardback version and order my graduation gown. Nevertheless, this has to go on the list, given that, you know, it’s probably going to be one of the bigger milestones in my life!


^ Getting my MSc in November 2009. More of this, please.

2. Find a publisher for my poetry manuscript.
Thanks to the aforementioned PhD, I now have a huge stack of finished, polished poems. You’ll remember that in early 2013 I was starting to turn that huge stack into something that looked more like a manuscript? Well, it took longer than I expected, but 14 months and two brilliant mentors later, said manuscript is now sitting somewhere in the office of the first publisher on my wish list. (I say “somewhere” — I’m really hoping it’s on someone’s desk, not, you know, in a bin.) I’m happy to acknowledge that the person who eventually publishes this manuscript might well be me, or it might be someone else. I want to find that out in the next two years.

3. Knit a cardigan.
I started working at Scottish Book Trust in October last year, and quickly realised that I was surrounded not only by fellow book geeks and delicious cake, but by a rather impressive bunch of knitters! After I made wistful noises about how I’d always wanted to be a knitter, Lovely Boyfriend took the initiative and bought be a starter kit of yarn and needles for Christmas. Since then, I have become well and truly addicted, and have exhausted all my easy-peasy square (blanket), rectangular (hoop scarf) and triangular (cosy shawl) options. It’s time for a proper project, and since “I could knit my own cardigans!” was one of my main reasons for starting to knit, I need to put my money where my mouth is.

4. Do more community work.
Making it Home, which I’ve written loads about here already, was my first proper introduction to community work — that is, putting my writing and teaching skills to good use as part of a community outreach arts project. Getting involved in MiH was one of the best things I have ever, ever done — and since then, I’ve dipped my toe into a few other, smaller community arts projects and become properly addicted to this kind of work. In the next two years, I hope to find other cool grassroots and outreach activities to get involved in. Gone are my days of sitting hunched over my laptop in my flat! I want my writing to be part of something bigger.


^ Some of the wonderful women of Making it Home, at our brilliant farewell party. More of this, too.

5. Finish doing up my house.
Remember this? Well, early ten months on, our little house is looking really quite different. We have: removed every single scrap of flecked wallpaper from every single room and re-decorated most; re-wired everything; sanded nearly every floor using a terrifying belt-sander; had a brand new kitchen fitted; tiled that brand new kitchen; had a wood-burning stove fitted and used it all winter (OMG) and collected enough furniture from Freecycle and friends to furnish the entire house for free (all except our dining table, which is IKEA’s finest. But still!). However, we still need to: tile the kitchen floor; get new front and back doors fitted (gah, draughts!); carpet the staircase; sort out some plumbing in the loft; re-do the ancient and rather grim bathroom, and most importantly, find somewhere for all our books to live! Ten months since we moved in and there are still boxes of them in the bottom of the wardrobe. This must be fixed!

6. Get out more…
I don’t have a car, and some months I also don’t have much cash. These things — added to my general prediliction for being as warm as possible and as close to tea-making facilities as possible at all times where possible — often result in me scuffing around all the same old places I always go. Problem is, I know full well that when I get out more, I write more, and I write better and more interesting stuff. Therefore, it’s time for me to stop saying “I need to come to Glasgow more, it’s only an hour away!” and actually do it. I need to start actually going to all the cool places in the UK that I love — or am curious about — instead of just daydreaming about going [back] to them “some day.” Over the next couple of years, I want to get better at snapping up Advance train tickets and going places.

7. …and travel more.
For me, visiting places in the UK isn’t really “travelling.” I’ve been to a lot of England, Wales and Scotland before, so I know what to expect. Most people speak the same language as me. I can get everywhere within a day.
“Travelling” means outside the UK… and I want to do more of that, too. My last trip abroad was Munich last October, and I also did Barcelona and Oslo in 2013. I’ll happily go back to any of those places, but I’d also happily explore pastures new, too. At present I have no firm plans, but I look forward to seeing where I end up over the next two years!


^ Paddling in the Pacific off Vancouver Island in 2007. And yes, more of this.

8. Hit 1,000 sales on Edinburgh Vintage.
Since last September, when I turned Edinburgh Vintage into a jewellery shop and moved away from the clothing, my sales have sky-rocketed (my orders went from 4 in September 2013 to 36 in November 2013!). EV is now a nice little pocket-money-earner and I really love hunting for new trinkets to list. Over the past six months or so I have developed a brilliant relationship with an amazing supplier, S, who helps me source cool stuff from all over the UK. I recently broke 500 sales, so 1,000 is the next obvious milestone — wish me luck!

9. Enter more poetry contests and Submit More Poems To Things Generally.
I am so bad at this. Last year, I let every single deadline whiz past me — the Eric Gregory, the Mslexia, loads and loads of smaller ones — all except the Bridport Prize, which is rather random. I am rather better at submitting to magazines and journals, but I could still try harder! Over the next two years, I need to pull my socks up and pay attention to deadlines. I may not get anywhere, but at least I will have tried!

10. Eat something I grew myself.
See No. 5 up there? All that house stuff? That’s before you even get to the garden, which currently consists of two scrubby bits of grass on either side of the house, and some paving slabs. By the time my 30th birthday rolls around, I want to have turned these scrappy patches into [the start of] an edible garden, and I want to have eaten at least one thing that’s grown there. It might be a sprinkling of thyme to put on my takeaway pizza, or it might be a whole salad. Anything, as long as it’s tasty!

11. Learn more about, and do more, foraging.
Last autumn I took advantage of a) moving to suburbia and b) acquiring this book, and grabbed myself a pretty impressive haul of autumn berries — including wild raspberries, elderberries and of course, brambles. But berries are easy to spot, easy to harvest, and easy to cook with. I want more of a challenge! I’d like to find out more about edible wild plants, find some, and eat them!


^ Tasty.

12. Adopt a dog.
Once that house stuff is done, Lovely Boyfriend and I are going to adopt a pup. I’m already so excited about this that I can barely contain myself! Look out for lots of excited posts and tweets about visiting cute staffies, greyhounds and Border terriers (my top three!) at rescue centres!

13 Build a book nook.
This should maybe come under the general banner of finishing my house-flip, except my desire for a book nook is something that way pre-dates any notion of owning my own house. There are loads of amazing book nook ideas out there, but this is the one that really got me thinking about the totally pointless cupboard that my house just happens to have… watch this space!

14. Commit to the next Next Big Thing, writing-wise.
OK, so the PhD’s in the bag (terrible unexpected things permitting), and the poetry MS is off visiting publishers. I have no massive project to work on WHAT IS MY LIFE?! Seriously, you’re looking at the girl who did her MA, MSc and PhD back-to-back while working full time and writing as much as spare time (ha!) allowed. Being busy is how I roll, and I especially like having something big and scary to chip away at. I don’t know yet what that will be. It might be a second poetry collection, or I’m even — whisper it — having ideas about a novel. Whatever emerges, I want to put the next two years towards making a good start.

15. Create a space I love writing in.
At my last rented flat before the house-flip began, I had a spare room that I sort of turned into a writing room. I was shocked to find that creating this space for writing was really effective in changing my thinking about writing. At this new house, the spare room is currently a storage facility for all the things we can’t yet unpack because we still need to do building work and DIY. However, I have my eye on it as a potential zen-like space for writing. It’ll be a communal space — Lovely Boyfriend is halfway through a novel, you guys (!!) — but I’m keen to also make it light and bright and productive and full of exciting books. Yipee!

16. Develop a proper regular writing routine…
…a thing I am putting off because I don’t have No. 15 yet (which, I know, is basically BS). I just finished a life-changing (not hyperbole) year of mentoring with the brilliant Sarah Ream, and one of the things she forced me to do was write regularly, to deadlines, and send her what I’d done. She says this is something I must keep up… especially now I’ve also finished my PhD and have total free reign and no deadlines at all (OMG first time in nine years!). So by the time I hit the big 3-0, I want to have sorted out Writing Time from Work Time and Housework Time and Dicking Around On The Internet Time. Eek.

17. Go on holiday with my sister.
My sister Helen (more commonly known as “Mole”) and I used to go off on adventures all the time when we were teenagers. Then we both went off to Uni and ended up living in different cities, and although we still see each other a lot and get on famously, our Megabus-ing, Youth Hostel-ing, campfire-building, countryside-stomping opportunities have diminished somewhat. However! I am determined to do something about this! We’re in the process of plotting a mega-exciting trip even as I type, so… hooray!


^ This was taken on Granton beach. Clearly we need to have better adventures.

18. Read for fun!
When I started my PhD, everyone was like, “OMG, you’ll have so much time to read books! You’ll be living in the library! I am so jealous!” However, the reality of writing a thesis — even a thesis on a subject you really like — is that quite quickly, reading becomes work. I mean, I absolutely love this textbook and it was my bible throughout the process, but re-reading the same essay for the sixth time trying to find that perfect quote that you keep forgetting to highlight is not exactly “reading for fun.” Over the next two years, I want to do as much fun reading as I can… and report back. Recommendations of great fiction, non-fiction and (of course) poetry are welcome!

19. Build a blog for Edinburgh Vintage
Ugh, OK. This one seems like a huge chore, but I have decided to put it on this list in order to make myself do it. I mean, the business is ticking along quite nicely, and I have both a Twitter and a Facebook page for EV, but I know from observing other vintage traders who sell almost solely online that having a blog makes a big difference. I know I’d enjoy it once I got it up and running… I’m just very busy, and it always drops to the bottom of the to-do pile. Time to get it done!

20. …and get better at doing my books.
This is another one I’m putting here to make myself do it. I’m terrible for selling an item, and then going to pack it up for dispatch and having no idea where it is. I’m also terrible for not filling in my tax return until two days before the deadline, and having to do all my year’s books in one sitting. These things are not fun, why do I do them?! It’s not exactly a sexy, exciting goal… but it’s a good one, and I am pretty sure my business will benefit!


^ I sell shiny things.

21. Discover new vegan eats.
As you can see, going to vegan restaurants and raving about the amazing food is one of my hobbies. And as you can see, I’ve been to a fair few cities in order to do so. I guess this item shouldn’t really be on my “goals” list, as it’s something I am sure to continue to do, likely forever. But let’s see how many exciting new eateries I can discover in the next two years!

22. Throw a kick-ass housewarming party.
I know. We’ve been in our “new” house for ten months. However, it’s been a building site for most of that time, and also… our next door neighbours are a lovely sweet old couple who totally wouldn’t want to put up with my friends and I quaffing wine and playing records into the wee hours. Therefore, the housewarming, when it comes, is going to have to be strategically planned (my sweet neighbours go on a big overseas holiday once a year). And if our partying opportunities are few and far between, we’d better make it a really, really good one… right?

23. Celebrate big time when Lovely Boyfriend finishes his novel.
OK, this is totally not my goal to be getting. But it matters to me so much that LB, currently 40,000 words in, finishes his novel… not least because I desperately want to know what happens! I don’t mean to suggest that I’m going to bully him into it, or anything. But something I’ve learned from watching him write what he’s written so far is: it’s hard. It’s really hard. Lots of times you don’t want to go near it, and then other times you’re really anxious to start but you get to the keyboard and there’s just nothing there. Being the partner of another writer means respecting their process, but it does also mean cajoling (/nagging), praising (/offering crit) and generally providing whatever support they need to get the words out of their brain and onto the page/screen/whatever. It also means holding a freaking parade for them when they’re done. I can’t wait for that bit!

24. Get tattooed.
This is pretty much always at the top of my mental to-do list. I now have seven tattoos and about five million potential designs worked out “to maybe get next.” I wanted to put “get tattooed into double figures” — i.e. be the proud wearer of at least ten bits of ink by the time I turn 30. But that’s too dependent on factors I can’t always control (like, you know, having cash handy), so I’ll keep it modest. Oh! I’m also interested to hear about cool new tattooists. My current favourite, Gentleman Jim, has moved to Sheffield, so… who’s brilliant and in Edinburgh/Glasgow? Tell me, tell me!


^ This was my last tattoo and it was OVER A YEAR AGO. That’s way, way too long.

25. Bring home my first big project at work.
I’m currently taking the lead on a very exciting, very complex project at work — and I am amazingly grateful to my utterly wonderful boss, Koren, for trusting me with it (also helping me with it when I need help!). It’s all still a work in progress and I’m still not sure what the end product will look like, but I know I have a brilliant creative team gathered round me, and I am super excited to see what we can cook up together. I wish I could say more right now, but you’ll have to read on for the next few months to see if I can pull it off! Watch this space!

26. Get into lotus.
OK… I am still a baby yogi (in fact, calling myself a ‘yogi’ at all seems completely ridiculous… but so do all the alternatives. A baby yoga-er?!). I’m still trying to work out which poses/routines set off a problem with my neck that only doing yoga taught me that I have. Heck, I’m still trying to make myself do yoga regularly instead of being lazy. However, even at my beginner level, I’m frustrated that I can’t get into lotus. I know this is vanity and vanity is kind of the opposite of yoga, but it’d feel like a real mark of yogaish achievement if I could get flexible enough to do it! I can get into half lotus, so I feel like it’s do-able.

27. Learn to cook more things.
I’m sure you’ve all noticed that I like to bake. However, since I moved in with Lovely Boyfriend three years ago, I’ve got really lazy about cooking… because he’s basically my personal chef. However, that means that whenever he’s not around, I end up eating boring pasta. It also means that I’m totally intimidated when it comes to LB’s birthday, or our anniversary, and I feel like I ought to cook him something. I just can’t keep up with his mad skillz! So in the next couple of years, I’d like to learn how to cook a few easy but reasonably impressive dishes that I’d feel OK to feed to other people!

28. Have an amazing 89th birthday!
My birthday is the day before my dad’s, and most years we have some kind of joint celebration. Next year is his big 6-0, so I’ll need to plan something extra, extra special. Obviously I can’t mention much here, but let’s just say… plans are in the works!

29. Set up a pension.
OK, boring life admin this may be, but it’s pretty important. I can’t really claim to be a proper adult if I turn 30 and still don’t have a pension, if you ask me. The whole idea is Greek to me at the moment, but I’ve given myself two years to translate it all and get it done. Again… advice would be appreciated!

30. Have a great two years.
Look out for my “in 2016, I…” annual year-end round up. I hope it’s going to be major.

Things I Love Thursday #89: it’s the small things

February 6th, 2014

A few little things that brightened up my January:

Good cake shared with good friends.

Once again, The Chocolate Tree wins.  #whatveganseat

Good cake shared with a good friend :)

This dragon.

Chocolate dragon!

This sign. And hazelnut spread on toast.

This sign is excellent.  As is the nomlicious spread.

Cutting through the Edinburgh Botanic Gardens as a shortcut when it’s raining.

Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh, January.

Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh, January.

My sister’s brilliant taste in jumpers.

Mole's jumper is better than your jumper.

My sister’s wry facial expressions. (Also, the fact that her hair looks great here.)

I don't know what this means, but Mole's hair looks great.

Fleeting graffiti.

Free your mind

Friends who come to visit, and bring you a little bit of spring!

A little bit of Spring in January!

& finally, knitting! (I just started learning, and I am already addicted.)

Newsflash: I am learning to knit!

What are YOU loving this week?

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Like shiny things? Check out Edinburgh Vintage, a totally unrelated ’sister site’ full of jewels, treasures and trinkets. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!

Where is Claire?: talks, readings, happenings for Spring 2014

February 1st, 2014

Happy Birthday, Allen Ginsberg!

OK, it’s not quite Spring yet, but I am trying to be optimistic.
I’m doing some events, and I would like you to come to them, because it seems no matter how many readings etc I undertake, I still get deathly afraid at every single one. So please come to some of these Things and make me feel better.

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Greenlight presents New Scotland: New Culture?
Friday 7th February at Summerhall, 7pm. £5 and ticketed

“What is the role of culture in Scotland, now and in the future?
What can politicians and the state do to support culture and the arts while guaranteeing creative freedom?
As Scotland’s democracy evolves, should we seek to redefine what culture means in a national and international context?”
So, those are some big and scary questions, and I have been given a 15 minute TED-talk-style slot in which to try and answer them. Except erm, instead I am going to go slightly off-piste and talk about my personal favourite cultural issue: diversity and inclusion. I might also read a poem or two.
There will also be a bunch of other excellent speakers, who I imagine will stick to the brief a little better than me (sorry, everyone). There’ll also be music. And there’ll be Summerhall, which is always good. Please come along to this one, folks — my terror levels are significantly more elevated than usual for this event!

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Rally & Broad: And The Beat Goes On
Friday 21st February at The Counting House, 7.30pm. £5.

I’m pretty sure you already all know what the literary juggernaut that is Rally and Broad is all about. If you don’t, I’d like to know exactly where you’ve been hiding. Basically, it’s a massive monthly night of literary and musical delights; a cabaret-style set up showcasing some of the best creative talent from across Scotland and beyond. And if you only know one thing about it, you’ll know it’s hosted by Jenny Linsday and Rachel McCrum. From what I’ve seen on Flickr, they each wear a different fabulous frock every month and always look rather nifty.

I’m chuffed to have been asked to read at the February R&B, and I am already eyeing my wardrobe nervously, because what shall I wear?! More importantly, what shall I read, in order that I am not eclipsed by the very impressive humans appearing above me in the line-up?! Seriously, look at this — and then tell me you don’t want to be there. I’m pretty sure that’s the most EXCITING STUFF you can get for a fiver anywhere.

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Shore Poets: February
Sunday 23rd February at Henderson’s at St John’s, 7.15pm doors. £5 / £3 concessions.

OK, I am not performing at this one, but I will be floating around behind the scenes, supposedly helping out, but probably just being awkward and starstruck around the brilliant performers. This month, Shore Poets brings you the one-and-only William Letford, of whose work I am a major, major fangirl. Look him up on Youtube and see what I mean! And Mr Letford is only the start of it… we have not one but two headline poets this month, honorary Shore Poet Diana Hendry, and honorary Shore Poets president Stewart Conn. Both have brand spanking new books either just out, or coming very soon, so come along to hear (I assume) some exciting new work! On top of all this, we’ll be presenting the annual Mark Ogle Memorial Award, which this year went to the excellent Meg Bateman. AND there’ll be live music from The Whole Shebang, as well as our infamous lemon cake raffle. YOU can also read at this event, by bringing a poem, putting your name in the hat at the door, and then, if your lucky, getting picked for one of our two wildcard slots. Yep, you. Come along already!

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TenRed: April
Wednesday 2nd April at The Persevere Bar & Function Room, Leith, 7.30pm. £3.

Alright, I know this is still a little way away, but I am so excited that TenRed is back among us, and I’ve been asked to perform at it for the third time! April has a great line-up, which excitingly, includes Lovely Boyfriend (billed here as Stephen Welsh)! Never mind me, come and hear him. He barely ever performs anywhere, so take the opportunity to get a rare sighting! Look, there’s even a trailer:

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Photo by Chris Scott.

Like shiny things? Check out Edinburgh Vintage, a totally unrelated ’sister site’ full of jewels, treasures and trinkets. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!

Dear poetry newbies: “why is my work always rejected?”

January 20th, 2014

A version of this post first appeared at One Night Stanzas in November 2008.

1. The standard isn’t high enough.
And by this I just mean that your poems aren’t “fit” for publication yet… but not that they never will be! If you’re sending out first drafts, poems that have only been hastily redrafted or edited, or poems that even you don’t think are all that amazing, then it might well be that you haven’t done quite enough to catch the eye of an editor. It’s easy to write a poem and then be overcome by a fervent desire to get it sent out immediately, but resist! Never send first drafts, and always devote a good chunk of time to redrafting and editing your chosen pieces. If possible, put them away for a while (a week, two weeks…) and then come back to them. And never send anything you’re not sure about. Work on it til you ARE sure about it, or send something else.
(NB: One of the best ways to get your poetry up to publication standard is to read the stuff that poetry magazines actually do publish - and if you can get hold of a copy of the specific magazines you want to submit to, even better!)

2. You’re not following the submission guidelines properly.
Some editors are happy to chuck a submission onto the slush pile for the slightest thing, so it’s always important to read and follow the submission guidelines carefully. Make sure you do everything according to the guidelines wherever you can; it can be a total pain, but it can also make the difference between acceptance and rejection. And don’t assume that one magazine’s guidelines apply to all! Read everyone’s guidelines, and follow them every time!

3. You commit minor - but deadly! - submission crimes.
A lot of poets reckon they can get away with sending the same four poems in the same email round to a whole load of editors at the same time - don’t do it! This suggests to editors that you don’t really care who picks up your poems or whether they’re published simultaneously. You also shouldn’t send “speculative” emails out before sending a submission. It may seem like politeness, but if an editor receives an email saying “check out my website and then maybe I’ll submit later”, they’re going to think a) you’re arrogant and b) you haven’t read their guidelines. Just put your submission together and send it! And don’t send snotty or pushy emails to editors until at least three months (yes, really, I’m afraid!) after the date you sent your submission. If you haven’t had a reply, there’s probably a reason, and going “oi, what are you messing about at?” after only a week or so is not going to make you any friends. Basically, when it comes to submissions, put in the work, follow the rules and be patient - that’s all there is to it!

4. Your cover letter needs a rewrite.
Have a good look at your cover letter (if you have one! If you don’t - write one!) and see if there are any of these common mistakes in it: heaps of biographical information (3 - 4 lines should do it); anything that could be interpreted as dishonest or boastful (”my work has appeared in 300 journals worldwide,” or the like); excessive negativity (”you’ll probably just reject me, but…”) anything that criticises or questions the publication or editor you’re writing to (”I found your website really hard to navigate” — keep it to yourself for now!); and of course, typos, grammatical errors or any unnecessary rambling! Exorcise all these things! It may leave your cover letter very short, but a couple of lines is all you need.

5. You’re submitting to the wrong magazines.
There are a lot of creative writing magazines out there and most of them are open for submissions for at least part of each year… so technically, you can submit to any of them. However, if you’re new to the whole submitting thing (or even if you aren’t!), it can be hard to know which are the best to choose. The sad fact is that a lot of editors are wary of publishing people who have never been published before, but fortunately, there are more and more magazines out there whose mission-statement is to provide as many writers as they can with their first publication opportunity. Many others specify that they welcome “unknown” or “emerging” writers, and you’re probably better off submitting to these if you can. You do get “unknown” writers in, say, Poetry Review, but if you want to give yourself the best chance of being accepted, it’s better to walk before you run, as they say!

6. You’re not ready to publish yet.
Only you can really know whether or not you’re ready to publish, but if you’re trying to get your work out there and the rejections are getting you down in a big way, then maybe you’re not 100% ready for the submission process. This might be hard to accept, but it’s better to wait until you’re better prepared than to make yourself suffer every time one of those pesky rejection letters lands in your mailbox. Give yourself six months, even a year. Spend that time writing - and more importantly, reading! - and then try getting back on the horse. You might find you still feel the same and need more time… if so, no worries. Or you might suddenly find that there’s the odd acceptance letter among those rejections; or that the rejections don’t bother you so much. Either way, the “time off” will have been well spent!

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Like shiny things? Check out Edinburgh Vintage, a totally unrelated ’sister site’ full of jewels, treasures and trinkets. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!

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Things I Love Thursday #88: Edinburgh details

January 16th, 2014

2014 will be my tenth year in Edinburgh. It’s not a big city — you can walk around most of it in a day. So every so often I convince myself that I know it inside out now, that I’ve seen everything. Not so! There are always little details to spot, which is one of the things I love about it.

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<3 Edinburgh

<3 Edinburgh

<3 Edinburgh

<3 Edinburgh

If destroyed, true.  If not destroyed, still true.

<3 Edinburgh

Help ma boab!  (Edinburgh)

Bunny, Edinburgh

Pasty ghost, Edinburgh

What are YOU loving this week?

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Like shiny things? Check out Edinburgh Vintage, a totally unrelated ’sister site’ full of jewels, treasures and trinkets. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!

You don’t choose your literary heroes: they choose you.

January 13th, 2014

A version of this post first appeared at One Night Stanzas in November 2008.

I’ve just revisited this article on the Guardian Books Blog, in which Stuart Evers talks about his seemingly rather misguided admiration for the protagonist of George Orwell’s Keep The Aspidistra Flying, Gordon Comstock. He notes that Comstock is really not a nice guy… and the fact that he truly admired this man when he first read the novel makes him feel rather uneasy. Evers admits that upon finishing the novel for the first time, he actually started to emulate Comstock - he started smoking the same cigarettes, spending his money on the same things, and getting interested in the same politics. He ends bitterly, sending out a “thank you so bloody much” to Orwell and Comstock, as though realising with hindsight that, by getting so “involved” with this not-actually-real person, he has somehow done something wrong.

Has he done something wrong? Are we only supposed to like, admire and emulate the “good guys” in literature? Sure, there are a lot of admirable goodies out there - I’d be the first to stand up and say that I truly love and admire Atticus Finch, for example. But surely, as normal human beings, it’s OK for us to be drawn to the “bad guys” - the flawed characters, the dishonest characters, the downright nasty characters… right? Hamlet, for example - arrogant, selfish, murderous and slightly insane, and yet he’s a big favourite. I personally rather like Milton’s Satan, and perhaps even worse, Alex DeLarge. I know for a fact that the normally sugary-sweet Gala Darling has a dark side - she’s forever in love with Patrick Bateman. It’s not necessarily logical - you don’t choose your literary heroes: they choose you. They reach out to something within your personal being and speak to you. Just because they happen to be a “baddie,” that doesn’t necessarily make you one too!

At the end of Evers’ article, I felt like standing up and cheering, because the other day I experienced exactly the same discomfort that Evers feels, talking with some friends about Beat-Generation-era literature.
As many of you will know, I am a huge Allen Ginsberg fan. I first encountered Ginsberg about halfway through my four-year Masters degree, when I had to read “Howl” for class. My first reaction was “what is this absolute rubbish?”, and when I read some background information about Ginsberg, I was even less impressed. Loud, arrogant, misogynistic… he did not seem like a nice guy at all. Who does he think he is, I thought, this man who wrote this epic, spiralling, meaningless poem that everyone seems to love? It’s garbage!
But then I had an epiphany - I heard a recording of dear old Allen reading “America.” I loved the poem, and his reading - with all its humour and seriousness and liveliness and weariness all at once - and decided to give him another chance. I read about Ginsberg’s life, I read his annotations on “Howl” and discovered what every cryptic line really meant (and every line really does have some correlation to his life, things he experienced, or things that were going on at the time), and probably most importantly, I read “Kaddish.” I bought an album of readings which included all these poems, and more, and listened to it from beginning to end, which exhausted but thrilled me. By now, the poems had turned on me, and they’d convinced me that this man - who I’ll freely admit was still loud, arrogant and misogynistic - was one of the greatest American writers of all time. He was not always nice, he was not always fair, and he wasn’t even always all that good. But he was brilliant, and in spite of myself, I will love him forever and ever.

So imagine my horror when, at a party a few years ago, a friend of mine came out with this:
“I don’t get it with Ginsberg. I’ve read ‘Howl,’ which was… ridiculous, and then everything else just looks like a poor imitation of ‘Howl.’”
I won’t lie to you - I felt like I’d been slapped. I couldn’t believe the enormous feeling that welled up in me. This was my friend, and I found myself wanting to grab him and shake him and scream, “why don’t you read ‘Howl’ properly and then you’ll see it’s not ridiculous, like I did?! How can you say everything else is a poor imitation of ‘Howl’?! Have you even read anything else?! Have you read ‘Kaddish’?! And how can you say that anyway?! The man wrote for 50+ years in a million different style on a million different subjects! Saying you don’t like Ginsberg because of ‘Howl’ is like saying you don’t like the Beatles because of ‘Hey Jude.’ Aaaargh!”
Obviously, I did not do this. I tried to express myself in a quieter way, and just said that actually, Ginsberg was my all-time favourite writer and I loved him very much. All I got was (quote), “well, good for you,” which didn’t make me feel much better.

My desire to shake my friend and scream in his face rather troubled me. After all, I knew all this stuff, and I’d thought it and said it myself once upon a time. But it also brought home to me the fact that you really can’t choose your idols - and when they choose you, they can really cling on, dig in. I’m sure the friend in question has literary heroes he’d gladly defend by shaking and screaming at me, if I were to criticise them. I know one guy who deeply loves Iago, and gets the same strange rage when people try to tell him “but Iago’s a really bad guy.” I know someone else who is a big fan of William Carlos Williams, and nearly had to walk out of a seminar recently when one woman in the group said “but it’s all just rubbish really, isn’t it? The Red Wheelbarrow - my children could write poetry like that!”
The fact is, Stuart Evers seems to be worried about admiring Gordon Comstock. Why? Because he’s worried that he’s going to be judged, probably. But I’d be interested to know what his reaction would be if anyone were to actually turn around and say “Comstock’s the worst character I ever came across,” or “that book’s crap, Orwell couldn’t write to save his life”. Personally, I am not worried about admiring Ginsberg for fear of judgement. It’s the defensive rage that’s the truly worrying thing…

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Like shiny things? Check out Edinburgh Vintage, a totally unrelated ’sister site’ full of jewels, treasures and trinkets. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!

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