Things I Love Thursday #99: getting out more!

November 20th, 2014

Remember my 30 before 30 promise? #6? Get out more. I already started out pretty well… and I am keeping it up! I’m just home from two back-to-back autumnal jollies:

First, to York!

York Nov 14 (1)

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I’ve written about the magic of York — and my favourite places there — before. Unsurprisingly, I returned to all those places on this trip, too! I also scoffed my own weight in amazing vegan food, trawled the thrift shops (of course), and perused many a bookshop. Basically my typical weekend.

…then London!

I didn’t take many photos in London, and I’m kinda kicking myself. I wish I had photographed the super-cute sleeping pod-room we stayed in at Z Victoria, for example, or some of the millions of cute dogs we saw all over the place! Still, here’s a tiny taster of what I got up to…

London weekend, Nov 14

This was the main reason we headed south in the first place: to see Speed-The-Plow. Yes, that is Lindsay Lohan’s face (and yes, I look like a madwoman). It’s her West End (in fact, her stage) debut. However, she is in no way the reason we went. The reason is her co-star, the amazing Richard Schiff, aka Toby Ziegler, my favourite character from my favourite show ever, The West Wing. Here’s my favourite nine seconds of Toby, to give you a flavour of his character:

Needless to say, he was bloody excellent in this role. I may be biased, but even in spite of my bias, he was excellent. I believe that critics have been needlessly snotty about the play — and especially backhandedly unpleasant about Lohan. (If your whole review boils down to “it wasn’t as good as when Kevin Spacey did it,” then you’re a shite critic — especially if only sentences beforehand you’ve been rude about the casting of movie stars as a ploy to get butts on seats.) Personally, I absolutely loved it. But then (perhaps surprisingly, for those of you who know me) I love Mamet. Not everyone does.

London weekend, Nov 14

London weekend, Nov 14

Many of the cute dogs we saw were in Kensington Gardens. I had never been to Kensington before but holy wow, it is swanky. Everyone there has really good shoes.
(I went there to have afternoon tea in a pOAsh hotel, wearing my moth-holed skirt and a charity shop t-shirt that I’d sawed the hem off. Fortunately, they seemed to take pity on me and did not throw me out.)

London weekend, Nov 14

Finally, here is a photo of me with a plushie Moomin I found in Foyles on the South Bank. I really wanted him, but I’d already bought a megaton of poetry books and there was just no space in my hand-luggage. I will just have to stare sadly at this photograph instead.

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!

My top 5 recommended Book Week Scotland events!

November 19th, 2014

FREE TO USE - BOOK WEEK SCOTLAND 2014 LAUNCH
(Photo by Ann Giles)

Book Week Scotland is only DAYS AWAY, you guys! It starts on Monday 24th November and has the power to fill your whole week with exciting reading-related fun and games! Does this sound like something you want to get involved in? Why, of course it does! But in case you feel overwhelmed, here’s a handy guide to my top 5 Book Week Scotland events of 2014:

1. Waverley Care’s Inside/Out exhibition at the Traverse Theatre Bar, Edinburgh, free to access from 25th November

In a nutshell, it’s: an open exhibition of art and writing by people affected by HIV and/or Hep C. For several months, Waverley Care has been engaging its service users with photography and creative writing, and the participants have been using these to respond to the question, “what is it like to live with a blood-borne virus?” This amazingly rich, eye-opening exhibition of photographs, poems, stories and journal entries is the result!

2. Creative Skills Exchange at Scottish Refugee Council, Glasgow, 10am on 26th November, free

In a nutshell, it’s: an opportunity for people with a background in the creative industries who would like to share their skills with others. Says SRC, “whatever your specialism, we would love to welcome you to our community.” For one half of this particular session, myself and some colleagues from Scottish Book Trust will be coming in to talk about creative map-making, so if that sounds like your cup of tea, please do come and join us!

3. Christine de Luca at Taigh Chearsabhagh, North Uist, 7.30pm on 27th November, free

In a nutshell, it’s: a poet you should absolutely go and see if you possibly can. I am a huge fan of Christine’s and always love to hear her perform her own work. Don’t be put off by the fact that this reading is “in the Shetland dialect,” which, says the event listing, “is a blend of Old Scots with much Norse influence.” Christine imbues her performances with such power and emotion that you understand perfectly even if you’ve never heard a word of Shetlandic in your life!

4. Scottish PEN Banned Books Club: Edwin Morgan’s ‘Stobhill’ poems, Project Cafe, Glasgow, 5.15pm on 28th November, free but ticketed

In a nutshell, it’s: me, leading a book-club-style discussion about this famous poem sequence. The poems tell the story of a young woman who is raped, and then has a late-term abortion. In the 1990s, a group of campaigners tried to have the poems banned from schools, calling them “pornographic.” We’ll be chatting about the poems themselves (it just so happens that I read them in school in the 1990s myself), as well as about the banning of literature and censorship in general. Places are limited, so sign up quick!

5. The Shore Poets vs Be The First To Like This Quiet Slam!, at Henderson’s at St John’s, 7.15pm on 30th November, £5/£3

In a nutshell, it’s: a smackdown between a few poets who were featured in recent anthology Be The First To Like This, and a few poets from elsewhere; an epic competition for fame, glory, and book tokens! OK, not really — it’s going to be a fun, silly, slam-style event where shyness, reading off paper, speaking quietly and making mistakes are encouraged, and slam virgins are warmly welcomed. There’ll be a merch table groaning with exciting books and Book Week Scotland freebies, a raffle in which you could win books, CDs, or our infamous lemon cake, and of course our usual warm Henderson’s welcome. I’ll be resuming my erstwhile role as Scotland’s Most Socially Awkward Literary MC, and hope to see you there!

You can easily search through all the events across Book Week Scotland by clicking right here! If you can’t attend any events but fancy getting involved in some online activities, you can do thinks like make a reading pledge, write a love letter to a library, or vote for your favourite Scottish literary character! Have a great week, and be sure to share what you’re up to by using the hashtag #BookWeekScot!

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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!

Procrastination Station #137

November 14th, 2014

87/365: The Hippest
(Photo credit)

If you click nothing else in this post, click this: as you already know, the legendary Amelia’s Magazine is trying to get back into print for their 10th anniversary. Please please please please please help by backing the Kickstarter!

“You can only do so much in a short-form poetry review, and it’s hard enough to identify a book’s aesthetic ambitions at all, let alone in 400 words. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest this might create a feedback loop in which more experienced poets learn exactly what kind of poetry wins prizes, swooning Guardian reviews and another book deal. Slam poetry in North America has such rigid means of understanding creative success it actively stifles work that doesn’t fit the template, and mainstream UK poetry seems to be doing likewise.”

My ol’ mate Dave Coates was interviewed by Sabotage and talked SO MUCH SENSE.

…and if you liked that, you’ll like this:

Despite the handful of decent collections nominated for the TS Eliot prize this year, it is a deeply conservative shortlist, and Connolly is right to point out the ludicrous situation in which John Burnside can step out as a PBS selector long enough to be selected then step right back in. It would be laughable if it wasn’t a ticket to a 1 in 10 chance at twenty grand in a notoriously unlucrative genre.

Dave again, this time at his own blog, reflecting on his reviewing work so far.

“A (now former) friend of mine who was a bookie and rather the drinker was convinced I’d based the main character in a short story of mine (‘Pocket’) on him—to the point that we got into a bit of a drunken shouting match, most of it him repeatedly demanding that I give him (in cash, right then) at least half of my ’royalties.’ To which I replied, ‘Fine, bro. They gave me two contributor copies—take one of them off that shelf’.”

I loved this: You’re So Vain, You Probably Think This [Work of Fiction] Is About You.

Want to see inside the world’s smallest at-home library? Of course you do.

Barack Obama’s second inaugural poet, Richard Blanco, is basically the coolest guy ever.

Whether or not you are conscious of it, you are always looking for an excuse to stop reading a poem and move on to another poem or to do something else entirely. Resist this urge as much as possible. Think of it as a Buddhist regards a pesky mosquito. The mosquito, like the poem, may be irritating, but it’s not going to kill you to brave it for a little while longer.

Twenty strategies for reading poems.

What’s your favourite movie? There’s a book for that.

I also like to finish a book once I’ve started but hey, no need to be a dick about it.

It’s hard to talk in a clear-headed way about genre. Almost everyone can agree that, over the past few years, the rise of the young-adult genre has highlighted a big change in book culture. For reasons that aren’t fully explicable (Netflix? Tumblr? Kindles? Postmodernism?), it’s no longer taken for granted that important novels must be, in some sense, above, beyond, or “meta” about their genre. A process of genrefication is occurring.

This in-depth article on ‘genre’ vs ‘literary’ is really worth reading.

Meanwhile, this guy is a fluff-piece-writing jerk who wants to tell you where you can and cannot read books. Go and pour your pint over him in the comments.

Fancy-ass book editors being forced to give up their corner offices? It’s a hard life, eh?

I know, you’re sick of celebrity memoirs, you’re sick of female celebrities talking about feminism, blah blah blah. Well, that’s just fine because Poehler’s book is so much more than that. Poehler is the only person in the world other than Nora Ephron who can be funny about divorce (and she is so funny about divorce), and she is definitely the only person in the world from whom I will accept sex tips (and her sex tips are great). But most of all, she’s super smart about what she calls “women-on-women violence” (when women are mean to one another), which is always an expression of female self-loathing. Poehler knows that she’s good at what she does, but she’s also an insecure human being, and what she does in this book is show how to balance those insecurities with self-respect. When Poehler self-deprecates, she doesn’t do it in a charming, cutesy-wootsy way, but rather an honest way, and then counters it with some self-pride and self-awareness.

Just your regular reminder: Amy Poehler is a total badass.

Who out there thinks that NaNoWriMo never results in any good writing? Well, here are a bunch of NaNoWriMo novels that got published!

Some of these tips on entering writing contests surprised me — have a look!

Joyce and Woolf were writers who transformed the quicksilver of consciousness into paper and ink. To accomplish this, they sent characters on walks about town. As Mrs. Dalloway walks, she does not merely perceive the city around her. Rather, she dips in and out of her past, remolding London into a highly textured mental landscape, “making it up, building it round one, tumbling it, creating it every moment afresh.”

Walking & writing, writing & walking.

Looking through old bookmarks I found this cool book-like dress!

Is Mary Oliver not perfect? Mary Oliver is perfect.

Or consider the way that Kelman uses the word “but”: “One thing I’m finding but it makes it a wee bit easier getting a turn.” The man is saying that, although he dislikes having a dog tag along with him, he has found that it helps to bring in money. So the sentence, written out formally, would be something like: “One thing I’m finding is that it makes it a little easier to get a turn.” In the formal version, though, the musical pitching of “but” and “bit” disappears, as does the sentence’s weird, hopping rhythm, where the unexpected incursion of “but” forces a caesura.

This man a) has clearly never heard anyone speaking Scots b) does not know what the heck he’s on about and c) is a member of the very literary elite Kelman rails against. All very entertaining!

Authors who got their first big break after age 50. So don’t panic!

Typewriters and their humans. Thank you to the zillion people who brought this to my attention!

The cornerstone of my comedy is to make people laugh and examine social issues with the goal of improvement. Change doesn’t happen overnight. We all know this. There is a dialogue that needs to continue amongst both men and women on how to improve how we interact with each other in this day and age. What this video going viral did is it opened up that conversation to the heart of the issue, “Why do men still feel that women are to be the proud receptors of their advances/greetings/compliments at all times?”

Amanda Seales: my new hero.


Here’s Twinkle Baroo the greyhound enjoying the first frost of the year. You’re welcome!


Haha, Lovely Boyfriend thought this was real! (Worth watching the Making Of, btw.)


What it’s like to work with cats. (Related: proof that cats are master thieves.)

Have a great weekend!

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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!

ONS Featured Magazines: Amelia’s Magazine

November 12th, 2014

amelia's magazine
(Photo credit)

What is it?

Amelia’s Magazine was printed biannually for 5 years from 2004-2009 across 10 issues, but it is now an online publication described as “the place to come for exclusive articles on the best underground creative projects in the worlds of art, fashion, music, illustration, photography, craft and design.” Amelia is a passionate promoter of all things creative and has been working for ten years to bring brilliant, original content to both print media and the interwebs.

Why feature it?

We’re rapidly approaching the 10-year anniversary of the creation of Amelia’s Magazine. And to mark this auspicious occasion, founder Amelia Gregory wants to do something super special. Enter the Amelia’s Magazine Kickstarter: an exciting campaign to produce a truly beautiful, ambitious and one of a kind print book featuring artworks, writing and, well… magic. Here’s the campaign video to give you a taste:

Why should I back this?

OK, for one, it’s going to be an amazingly beautiful book and I know that I, for one, want to have one of these babies on my bookshelf. Two, for your money you get to help create a publication that will promote the work of artists and writers at every stage of their careers — and a linked three, you’ll get to discover many brand new exciting names you might not otherwise have come across. Four, Christmas is a-comin’ and if you’re anything like me you know about a million people who’d just love to have something like this to unwrap when Santa visits them. And a not-unimportant five, if this book comes into being, it will contain at least one of my poems! Is that in itself not reason enough? *pauses to buff nails*

What should I pledge?

I am a great believer that no individual should ever feel pressured into giving up their money, so you should give whatever you can afford to give. It might be that that is not money: if you’re trying to choose between backing this Kickstarter and making sure you pay rent this month, then stop trying! However, if you can’t afford to give you can still support Amelia and her amazing book by sharing the campaign on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or any of your other networks.
If you can afford to give, then hooray! You should definitely check out the rewards Amelia is offering for the various pledge options. I was blown away by how generous they are — your average Kickstarter-er is far too keen to offer only symbolic rewards, in my humble opinion! Amelia’s are far from that: for a mere £20, for example, you get a free copy of the book delivered to your door before Christmas!

How can I find out more?

First and foremost, watch the video and read the information on the Kickstarter page. But also, make sure you check out the project’s hashtag, #TWWDNU (that which we do not understand, the theme of the book). On that hashtag you can get a sneak peek at some of the amazing work being produced by visual artists to help make this publication extra-specially-gorgeous. You can also use the hashtag to spread the word about why people should pledge to back this great project.

So what are you waiting for! Go give!

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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!

Procrastination Station #136

November 7th, 2014

Mmmisty
(Photo by chrisdonia)

Oddly, in British culture, some people DO actually believe that words are more important and more worthy than pictures. They believe a ‘proper book’ is one that lets them create all the images in their head, with no picture crutches. They might assume pictures are for children, a means of luring them into the REAL business of reading words.

Illustrator Sarah McIntyre explains why she hates the word ‘author.’

The idea of a post full of dating tips from Mr Darcy is a good one, but WTF BUZZFEED the Keira Knightley P&P is a pile of crap. This should have been entirely BBC version! Harrumph.

Ever wondered which words were used most in your favourite piece of classic literature? There’s an infographic for that.

I did a cursory search of Jane Austen sequels to see how many had been penned. One website counted over 70 sequels, while another went up to 180. If you add in out-of-print titles and fan-fiction written online, the number explodes. Titles include Mrs. Darcy’s Dilemma, A Wife for Mr. Darcy (not to be confused with Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife, Pemberley, the Fitzwilliam Darcy: Gentleman series, and sequels to all five other Austen novels, as well as many mash-ups, pastiches, and re-imaginings with or without zombies and vampires). There are several authors who have made their entire careers just writing sequels for one Austen novel after another.

Why oh why are we so obsessed with Austen?

Another day, another list of bookstores you’ll want to visit. (This one is really good, though!)

Fancy making your own bookends? Of course you do.

The best stories don’t hit a single note; they chime resonant chords. Don’t settle for a narrative that illustrates violence. Revisit it until that violence is laced with regret, love, or fear. Work until your capacity for complexity surprises you.

Fancy some writing advice you won’t have heard before? I loved this article from Amy Jo Burns.

Fancy reading a poem in response to #Ferguson by June Jordan? Yeah, you do.

The great Harry Giles made A Wishlist for Scottish Spoken Word, which I wholeheartedly endorse. Especially Point 3.

“Pizza…” Is that an invitation? An opinion? It sits there waiting for a response. This brings awkwardness into the equation, and the ellipsis (or even the written words “dot dot dot”) is another way to say “well this is awkward.” The conversation is not over, but someone has to make a move.

The secret emotional lives of punctuation marks.

Cats make the best librarians. Here is proof!

These mobile libraries are freakin’ amazing! There’s even a DONKEY LIBRARY!

Don’t listen to all those authors who say ‘I meditate, then write for eight hours a day at my immaculate desk, and then go for a jog’. Listening to them made me feel like I was doing it wrong because I spend 80% of the time having nervous breakdowns, 15% eating crisps, and about 5% writing, often in bed. I’ve come to believe that most other writers actually have a similar routine.

I really, really, really liked Amy Mason’s author confessions.

I loved these weird and wonderful converted buildings.

ONS fave dorkymum is involved in a whimsical new blog project, Folklings. It’s lovely!

& Glasgow Women’s Library are organising a massive march of women, and they need your help!


Frank! I admire his “IDGAF” reading style.


My sister showed me this epic dancing video and now I utterly love the totally uninhibited dude in it.


& finally, I am basically obsessed with this song at the moment.

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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 should come to this: the Shore Poets ‘Be The First To Like This’ Quiet Slam for Book Week Scotland

November 4th, 2014

Cat Dean
(Cat Dean performing at the this collection all-female Quiet Slam in 2011)

Yep, OK… as event titles go that one’s a bit of a mouthful! BUT I am very proud to be part of the Shore Poets committee, which is organising and hosting its first ever Quiet Slam in association with brand new, very exciting Scottish poetry anthology Be The First To Like This (which I am also included in)! It’s all part of Book Week Scotland 2014, an annual festival of reading created by Scottish Book Trust… where, er, I work. Basically, I am three-times-duty-bound to promote this event… which incidentally, is going to be great.

Here’s all the info you need, from the Shore Poets website:

What’s the format?
Each of our ten poets will perform twice. We’ll have a first round, in which each poet will read for a skinny two minutes, and be scored by our judges. After a break there’ll be a second round, and each poet will read again – this time for 2.5 minutes. This means each poet gets two chances to wow our judging panel! The top three highest scoring poets from rounds one and two will go into a final, where they’ll get chance to read for three whole minutes.
Interspersed among all this we’ll have our usual lovely music, this month from Various Moons. We’ll also have our raffle, so you’ll still get chance to win the infamous lemon cake!

What’s a quiet slam?
A quiet slam is a slam where loudness is not necessarily a virtue. Participants won’t be marked down for speaking softly, reading from paper, or being nervous (this seems obvious really, because we’re nice people and we don’t have hearts of stone). We also want to encourage slam virgins to take part – have you been intrigued by the whole slam thing but put off by the competitiveness and shouting? This is a good place to cut your slam teeth. Finally, judges will score participants on the quality of their poem and the quality of their performance alone. There will be no score for audience reaction – because it’s not fair for someone to walk off with the top prize just because they brought a lot of friends!

Prizes!
The highest scoring poet of the night will win a £30 book token and automatically go forward to compete in the Scottish Poetry Slam Championship finals.
The runner up will win a £20 book token and third prize is a £10 book token.
All performers will receive a small prize for taking part, too!

Can I take part…?
You can! There are four open spots up for grabs and performers will be selected via a random draw on the night. Just email publicity@shorepoets.org.uk to have your name put in the hat!

…even if I’m not in Be The First To Like This?
Yep! We’re promoting BTFTLT by offering six of our slam slots to poets who appear in that book. We’ll also be selling copies of the book on the night. This is because we feel the anthology is a really lovely recognition of Scotland’s many talented new and upcoming poets, and we want to help promote it. But the BTFTLT poets will also be drawn from a hat to find out who competes, and they’ll compete on the same footing as everyone else!

Judges
We’re happy to announce that our Head Judge will be our very own Jane McKie – you may remember her mad slam-judging skills from last Book Week Scotland, and the Dead Poets Slam at the Bongo Club! Helping Jane out with her very tricky task will be Dr Alan Gillis, Honorary Shore Poet and Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Edinburgh, and Jennifer Williams, Programme Manager at the Scottish Poetry Library.
The event will be hosted by Shore Poet and BTFTLT contributor Claire Askew.

Don’t worry – we’re not changing too much. Our venue is still the lovely Henderson’s at St John’s, and you’ll still be able to buy tickets for our famous raffle (books and other goodies added to the mix this month, as well as the lemon cake)! We hope you’ll come along and support us as we venture into new, uncharted territory!

Here are the most important details:

SHORE POETS QUIET SLAM: NOVEMBER 2014
Sunday 30th November 2014, 7.45 pm to 10.00pm (doors open 7.15pm)
Henderson’s at St John’s, St John’s Church, corner of Lothian Road and Princes Street, Edinburgh
Admission: £5 (concessions £3)

Oh yes, did I forget to mention that I am also hosting the event? Which means I’ll be extra super sad if you don’t come along. See you there…?

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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!

Procrastination Station #135: Halloween edition

October 31st, 2014

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What if instead of asking what characters are running toward, we ask what they’re running from? What deep fears motivate our characters? Perhaps this focus on fear and character is even more helpful when looking at the power of the quiet novel, which is more likely to focus on intense, everyday anxieties. A character may not be able to describe what love they wish to move toward, but they are aware of a deep-seeded unease that pushes them away from the status quo.

Go on, inject a little fear into your writing…

I love that this list of ghost stories for babies and toddlers is entitled Hallo-wean. Nice one, Scottish Book Trust.

SBT also have great suggestions for scary books that are safe for 8-11s, and books that are much more frightening than their film counterparts!

I have gone out, a possessed witch,
haunting the black air, braver at night;
dreaming evil, I have done my hitch
over the plain houses, light by light:
lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind.

You basically have to read Anne Sexton on Halloween, those are the rules. & The Poetry Foundation have put together this list of other Halloween poems, too!

Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heartas told via random gifs.

9 DIY feminist Halloween costumes, in case you’re still looking for inspiration! (I love The Notorious RBG!)

They’re easy to please, just feed them some brains,

They’ll sit quietly hour by hour,

Waiting for you to replenish their bowls,

But if you don’t, it’s you they’ll devour.

Bless… Darren Shan wrote a children’s poem! About er… brain-eating zombies.

…and if you want more Halloween-y poems for kids, I recommend tracking down that Josh Seigal fella. He’s got loads, including this one!

These literary jack-o-lanterns are so good, they look Photoshopped. But they aren’t. I know.

There’s more to scary stories than goblins, ghouls, blood and your general horror — here there be monsters of many kinds, existential and literal, extraordinary and everyday. And remember: like beauty, fear is in the bloody eye of the beholder.

Flavorwire have helpfully picked fifty scary short stories that you can read to scare yourself silly this evening.

Quiz: can you judge a scary book by its cover?

What the society’s mission means is that its members are “a community of like-minded people who . . . enjoy the history, culture, & poetry associated with the lives and deaths of poets, their gravesites, and their poetry related to death,” and who are committed to “documenting and resurrecting the dead poets of America” by visiting and archiving as many poets’ graves across the country as they can.

The REAL Dead Poets Society

Not strictly Halloween themed, but here are ten poems about death. Very cheery!

Fancy a Halloween-y desktop wallpaper? You’re welcome.


This is super cute. Thanks to Alice T for sharing!


That’s my [Halloween] jam! Every year.


…well, that and THIS.

Have a great weekend!

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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!

(Photo credit: Chrisdonia)

Things I Love Thursday #98: Halloween Special

October 30th, 2014

I did a particularly spooky tour of Cumbria, in honour of Halloween…

Autumn in Cumbria (3)

Autumn in Cumbria (13)

You remember I told you that Martyna is especially skilled at finding cool adventures for us to go on? Well, here’s another: we went to see Long Meg & Her Sisters, a Druidic stone circle in North Cumbria. It’s the third largest circle in the UK after Stonehenge and the Ring of Brodgar and has over fifty stones. It is also totally deserted — for some reason, barely anyone knows about it.

Autumn in Cumbria (15)

Long Meg (she’s the taller stone that’s sort of the shape of a pointer on a sundial — or a witch’s hat — in the pic above and in the first one in this post) was supposedly the mother to over fifty daughters, all witches. One night they were out doing their witchy thing, dancing in the moonlight and casting spells, when Michael Scot, famous Scottish “wizard,” happened upon their gathering. Scot supposedly turned them all to stone for their evil deeds… which frankly I think was a major overreaction to a bit of midnight dancing.

Autumn in Cumbria (20)

Legend now has it that the stones cannot be counted — that if you try to count them once, but then try again, you will get a different number each time. Another local story says that you should attempt to count the stones, then walk over to Meg and press your ear to her stone. She’ll tell you a secret — or possibly, if you’re really un/lucky, you’ll break the spell and the witches will all wake up.

Autumn in Cumbria (42)

An even more spooky and mysterious circle is Mayburgh Henge, not too far from Long Meg, at Eamont Bridge. Mayburgh is unlike other circles: rather than being made of large stones, its outer ring is made from piles and piles and piles of smaller ones, which have largely now been grown over by grass. The big stones were originally dragged to the middle of the circle and erected next to one another… except sometime between the Druids building the Henge and now, all but one of them have been stolen. We’re talking massive stones here. Why they were taken, and by whom — or what — is a local mystery to this day.

Autumn in Cumbria (46)

But for me the best thing about Mayburgh Henge is the trees: around the piled-up stone outer ring, ancient oaks and ashes are planted. In formation: oak, ash, oak, ash. Both trees have huge mythical significance and are considered very sacred by many. Check out the roots on this hundreds-of-years-old ash I perched on!

(Fun fact: Mayburgh is in spitting distance of the supposed site of King Arthur’s Round Table, also at Eamont Bridge.)

Autumn in Cumbria (52)

Autumn in Cumbria (53)

It’s been one of the hottest and driest autumns on record, and you might have seen in the news that the weather has uncovered some spooky stuff. I’m talking specifically about Mardale, the famous “drowned village,” which recently re-appeared out of what is now Haweswater. In 1934, Mardale village was bought by the water board and evacuated, then “drowned” to create a massive reservoir. Although everyone was safely relocated, there’s still something a little creepy about the fact that every so often, the lakewater recedes enough that you can see the ghosts of the village’s former buildings.

Autumn in Cumbria (54)

^ This sign, by the far end of Haweswater, just adds to the spook factor.

Autumn in Cumbria (55)

Autumn in Cumbria (56)

Lastly, we visited the Lowther Castle Park chapel and graveyard, where a good few of my relatives — who were in service to the Lowthers — are buried. The Lonsdale Family mausoleum is a creepy gothic palace, complete with gargoyles and scary, staring faces. Sitting high up on a man-made defensive escarpment, we found that the cemetery is also a pretty cool place to watch an autumn sunset…

Have a deliciously spooky Halloween, whatever you get up to!

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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!

Zombie (vegan) pumpkin pie: the same recipe as last year, resurrected!

October 28th, 2014

Vegan pumpkin pie!
This post already appeared at One Night Stanzas in October 2012 and 2013. But it’s Halloween, so you need a pumpkin pie recipe… and if it’s vegan, EVEN BETTER.

Folks, Halloween is ON FRIDAY, and if you haven’t yet made yourself a pumpkin pie then U R DOIN IT WRONG. Happily, I am here to help you. I stitched together this recipe from bits and pieces of several other recipes I found online but didn’t like 100%. It results in a truly finger-lickin’ pie, even if I do say so myself.

Fiendish all-vegan pumpkin pie
(Serves 8-10.)

Pie crust base:
125g (half a pack) Lotus caramelised biscuits
A quarter of a cup of rapeseed or groundnut oil
A splash of sweetened soy milk

Pumpkin filling:
Half a cup of dark brown sugar
One third of a cup of icing (confectioner’s) sugar
Ground cinnamon
Ground nutmeg
Ground ginger
The zest of one lemon
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
Half a cup of sweetened soy milk
1 tsp cornflour
1 tbsp rapeseed or groundnut oil
250ml soya cream
1 tin of pumpkin puree
Half a tsp vanilla extract

Pre-heat your oven to 220°C, 425°F, or gas mark 8.

Vegan pumpkin pie!

OK, first — the base! Lotus caramelised biscuits are fantastic, because they’re totally vegan and extra super tasty. To make the base, the first thing you need to do is whizz up roughly 125 grams of these biscuits — or roughly half a pack — until they’re broken down into a fine, sandy powder.

Vegan pumpkin pie!

Tip the biscuit crumbs into a large bowl and stir in the rapeseed or groundnut oil (personally I prefer groundnut, but if you’re potentially feeding a person with a nut allergy as I often do, it’s good to have an alternative). Add your splash of soy milk and you should end up with a shiny, sticky, but not-too-wet paste. Press this into the bottom of your pie dish to form your crust base, and stick it in the fridge while you create the filling!

Vegan pumpkin pie!

In a large, clean mixing bowl, sieve and mix the brown sugar and icing sugar together, then add ground spices to taste. If you’re unsure, I’d say one teaspoon of cinnamon and one of ginger, and maybe half a teaspoon of nutmeg. But personally I like my pie spicy, so I’d up the cinnamon and nutmeg, personally! Once you’ve sorted your spices, grate in the lemon zest, and add the salt and baking powder. Mix everything thoroughly!

Vegan pumpkin pie!

OK, slightly tricky bit now: this pie is vegan, so no eggs allowed. But you can mimic the consistency of eggs! Grab your sweetened soy milk, stick it in a pan and put over a low heat. As the soy milk begins to warm, add to it the teaspoon of cornflour and continue to heat, stirring constantly. As the milk heats, it should thicken up. When it gets to roughly the consistency of beaten egg, remove from heat and pour into the dry mix. Add the tablespoon of oil and mix thoroughly. Once mixed, pour and mix in the soy cream, too.

Vegan pumpkin pie!

It’s finally time for the essential ingredient — pumpkin! Some recipes insist that you use actual hollowed-out pumpkin, and yes, if you’re hollowing a pumpkin anyway, it’s smart to make use of the flesh for this. But if, like me, you have three hours before your Halloween party starts and you need to get a move on, then reach for the canned stuff! I use Libby’s myself as it’s relatively easy to get hold of. Pour the can of pumpkin into the mix and add the dash of vanilla. Mix, mix, mix — once you have a thick, gloopy batter, your filling is done!

Vegan pumpkin pie!

To bake, pour the pumpkin batter over your refrigerated base and place in the top half of the oven at 220°C for fifteen minutes. Once that time has passed, and without opening the oven (however tempting!), turn the temperature down to 180°C and bake for another 50-60 minutes.

Vegan pumpkin pie!

Your pie should come out looking only ever-so-slightly wibbly, and golden brown right across the top. It should be allowed to refrigerate for several hours — ideally overnight — to firm up. Then you can carve up and dig in!

Happy Halloween!

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Budding writer? Creative person in need of a fun job? Check out the various resources and services at Bookworm Tutors. Alternatively, 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? Events, readings, happenings for Autumn 2014

October 27th, 2014

Literary Death Match
^ That’s me with Gavin Inglis, about to win Literary Death Match in 2012! (Pic by Chris Scott)

Talking Heids: Sam Small & Claire Askew
Wednesday 29th October, Sofi’s Bar, Edinburgh, 2000-2200
Free entry

Talking Heids is one of my favourite monthly poetry nights in the whole of Edinburgh, partly because it’s run by my old favourite Captain McGuire. Also, it happens in the cozy confines of Sofi’s Bar, a tiny Leith local bedecked with fairy lights and welcoming to cute dogs!
This month, I am stepping in at short notice after the real star act, the lovely Alice Tarbuck, had to drop out due to scheduling clashes. I will try my best to be even half as awesome as she is. I’m appearing alongside Sam Small, who I was lucky enough to see in action at the BBC Slam during this year’s Fringe. If you like your poems earnestly political, come along. Sam and I definitely have that covered!
(There’s also an open mic, which you sign up for on the night by nudging the aforementioned Mr McGuire. You should sign up for it.)

Writers at the Pleasance
Thursday 30th October, Pleasance Cabaret Bar, 1900
Free entry

Hosted by The Edinburgh University LitSoc, with appearances from UoE Writer in Residence Jenni Fagan, and Lecturer in Creative Writing (+ excellent TS Eliot Prize shortlisted poet) Dr Alan Gillis. This is mostly going to be a night of readings by exciting new up-and-coming poets, including some who are travelling from south of the border to mingle with us wild northerners. I’ve been invited to provide some advice and guidance to these dewy-eyed young’uns, and maybe read some of my work into the bargain. The Pleasance Cabaret Bar is a great venue, and LitSoc always manage to pack it to the rafters. It’s going to be a great night, I know already! Hope to see you there!

Guest editing “We The Humanities
Week beginning 17th November 2014

I’ll be honest, I have no idea why I was approached for this. I feel totally unqualified to talk to THE WHOLE OF TWITTER about important issues in The Humanities today, and yet that is exactly what I am going to have to do! Things I am mulling over for possible inclusion: diversity and intersectionality in the Humanities, all things poetry-related, and maybe some specific thoughts and questions about the value of postgrad creative writing qualifications. Think that sounds good? Join the conversation at WeTheHumanities, starting Monday 17th November. Think that sounds rubbish? Get in touch on my personal Twitter and tell me what you’d LIKE to hear about!

Scottish PEN Banned Books Club for Book Week Scotland: Edwin Morgan’s Stobhill poems
Friday 28th November, Project Cafe, Glasgow, 1715 - 1830
Free but ticketed

A few months ago the lovely people at Scottish PEN contacted me and said, “we want to run two events around banned books, each with a different author. Cory Doctorow is doing the Edinburgh one. We’d like you to do the Glasgow one.” Cue me nearly dying of shock — Cory Doctorow and… little old me?!
Even better: the discussion I am facilitating is about Edwin Morgan’s “Stobhill” poems — a sequence of poems that many people wanted to have banned in the 1990s. Why? Because they explored the topics of rape and abortion against the backdrop of working class Glasgow.
I read these poems in English class back in the 1990s, and not only was I in no way corrupted by their supposedly “pornographic and licentious” nature, but they helped to make me the passionate intersectional feminist I am today. They were my first introduction to the topic of abortion, and I found Morgan’s handling of the subject fascinating, honest and beautiful.
So come and join me! We’ll be chatting in a cosy, intimate venue and I want to hear YOUR ideas about these important poems — and about what it means to ban books or to call for them to be banned. Come and tell me what you think.

The Shore PoetsBe The First To Like This‘ friendly Book Week Scotland slam!
Sunday 30th November, Henderson’s at St John’s, Edinburgh, 1915 - 2200
£5 / £3 concessions

For our FIRST EVER poetry slam, Shore Poets are teaming up with two powerhouses of Scottish Literature: the all-new shiny anthology Be The First To Like This, and the legendary uber-festival of reading that is Book Week Scotland. We’ve decided to make this a quiet slam, so we warmly welcome self-identified ‘page’ poets, slam virgins and poets who’ve always fancied slamming but think it just looks a bit too scary. Six of our slammers will be BTFTLT poets, and four will be brave citizen authors, picked at random from our open submissions call hat! Prizes will include: oodles of book tokens, free books, free poetry CDs and of course, to the winner of the raffle, our famous-for-a-reason lemon cake. Plus! The overall slam winner will go through to the Scottish Slam Championships! Oo-er.
I’ll be your excitable, probably forgetful, ultimately highly awkward host for this event. Everyone who attends will get Book Week Scotland freebies, so it’s worth every penny and more!

10Red DECEMBER
Wednesday 3rd December, Persevere Function Rooms, Leith, 2000 - late!
£3 entry, includes a free raffle ticket

10Red is one of Edinburgh’s most reliably excellent poetry nights. It is also super laid back and friendly — I’ve read there at least twice before and am chuffed to be going back. Come along and hear from ten very different poets in the comfortable setting of the Persevere Function Rooms. Bring a friend, grab a pint… oh, and prepare to leave with an armful of books! The raffle prizes are all bookish things and there tend to be lots up for grabs!
I am not sure yet who else is reading besides me, but you can keep an eye out on the Facebook page.

Want to book me for YOUR event? Email claire{at}onenightstanzas.com!

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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!

(Photo by Chris Scott)