Archive for the ‘Being A Writer’ Category

Someone else’s porn.

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

fire-breathing trig-substitution integral

“There’s a truism that a bad film is one that’s been made only by watching other films, where good films are made from someone who has read books as well. There’s something to that, but not from some notional generic hierarchy that goes (in ascending order): tv, films, novels, poetry, the latter being politely excused from the complications of being alive because of a sicknote from Dr Stevens. Better works don’t come from tapping the genre directly ‘above’; they come from an awareness of a world outside the one of its acquaintance. One, dare I say it, that barely involve books at all. To be perfectly frank, I have taken more from films and television in the past five years than poetry. You want to breathe the rarefied air of Parnassus? Fucking earn it.

Of course Parnassus isn’t up a mountain, if it ever was. [...] It’s sitting across from you, going about its day. It’s your cold flat. It’s your internet connection. It’s the attractive older man on the early 36 bus. It’s someone else’s porn in the post. It’s you. It’s me.”

Dave Coates, being damn sensible about poetry over at Dave Poems.

(Photo by Kirsten McKee)

Some writing advice… from my gran.

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

My late maternal grandmother was one of those seriously formidable northern women who smoked like a chimney, swore like a stevedore and always called a spade a spade. She also loved to dole out sayings, proverbs and advice like doses of medicine, as so many grandmothers do. I was recently writing a poem about her, and about her propensity for advice-giving, and realised that a lot of her ‘life advice’ also makes pretty good writing advice. See what you think.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
This is a saying all grans use, I think — and plenty of other people besides. But it was the saying that got me thinking about writing this post. Ever since I started taking control of my own future and deciding what to do with my life, this saying has been floating around in the back of my mind, and it’s something all poets need to consider. Basically, don’t think you can rely on poetry to pay your bills — you can’t put all your eggs into poetry’s basket because it just doesn’t have the space! If you’re serious about writing poetry and sticking at it, you need to realise that some of your eggs need to go elsewhere — you’ll probably need to spend some of your time doing something other than writing in order to keep a roof over your head. Sad but true. (More on this here, by the way.)

Fine words will butter no parsnips.
This was a saying my gran was fond of, and one I always found rather weird and confusing as a child! Now I understand how adamant my grandmother was about honesty, plain speaking, and not ‘putting on airs’ — a good attitude to have towards your writing. The voice you use should be your own… all too often I see young poets attempting to emulate their literary heroes and use voices that clearly don’t really belong to them. Don’t use fine words if they’re not yours. Speaking as someone else will do your work no favours.

Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Another popular saying and an obvious one for young writers. The need to progress, get better, get published and get on with it is really strong in less experienced writers — getting a book out into the world as soon as you can seems utterly imperative (I know, I’ve been there myself). But it’s better to take your time and make sure your work is as good as it can be before you start pushing onwards to the next stage. Don’t feel rushed into submitting to magazines if you’ve only written one or two poems you’re properly pleased with; don’t scrape a pamphlet together without making sure you’re totally cool with a) what’s going into it and b) the fact that heaps of people are going to see it. Don’t try and build your poetic Rome in a day. Take it easy.

You’ve been brought up in the bottle and seen nothing but the cork.
My grandmother — like most of the women in my family — was a determined and ambitious woman who didn’t believe in waiting in for opportunity to walk up to the front door and knock. To her, waiting for life to happen to you was not an option. She was all about getting out there into the world and attacking it head-on! For me, this saying suggests that you need to get off your butt and go have some life experiences, particularly if you want to be a half-decent writer. After all, how can you write about life, the universe and everything if you haven’t seen any of it? For me, this also applies to books. If you’ve only ever read one poet’s work or one type of novel, you’ve been brought up in a literary bottle. Get out of there! Get thee to a library!

One man’s rubbish is another man’s treasure.
In other words, not everyone is going to like your poetry. There will always be someone who comes along and tries to pick holes in your stuff. Don’t take it personally — take it professionally. Appreciate and accept the criticism. For every reader who comes along and thinks your stuff is rubbish, I guarantee there’ll be another one out there somewhere willing to argue that it’s treasure. If you never stop reading, writing and working to improve your stuff, rubbish ratio should dwindle and shrink in time.

The devil makes work for idle hands.
My gran was always doing something with her hands — a trait I in particular have inherited from her. She was an expert seamstress and made everything from full three-piece suits to wedding dresses; and when she wasn’t rattling up garments on the sewing machine she was knitting, doing embroidery, cooking, assaulting a crossword puzzle, etc. Procrastination just didn’t figure in her universe and I think if you’d explained the concept to her, she’d have given you a lecture on how it was some new-fangled invention that should be done away with. She’s right of course — we’ve all built, bought and acquired so many procrastination devices for ourselves that it’s a wonder we ever get anything done. So next time you’re playing computer games or vegging in front of the TV, think — idle hands. Pick up a pen and paper. Write instead.

I’d be interested to hear your handy sayings and proverbs, particularly if you relate them to writing… but I’d also be interested in hearing about your grandmothers! I think grandmothers are the coolest — they should run the world!

(Photo from captainslack)

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this collection poetry/film showcase: the write-up!

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

this collection day one

So unless this is your first visit to this blog, you’ll know that last Thursday marked the first half of my side-project this collection’s two-day March film and poetry showcase at Edinburgh’s magnificent McEwan Hall

…and what a first day it was! We flung open the doors at 10am and greeted the good people of Edinburgh as they came in to escape the swirling haar. Our DIY flags, posters and flyers drew a crowd made up of all sorts of people — some told us they’d had the date marked in their diary for weeks, while others just wandered in for a look and seemed to like what they saw! The film screenings were spread across four screens within the main hall space, with each screen housing around five or six films. These were subtly grouped by theme — warm, cold, stop-motion, palimpsest — and accompanied by their respective poems either on-screen or in DIY pamphlets for viewers to pick up and read. Sound engineer Simon Herron provided a spectacular non-stop city soundscape which played throughout the hall, and Glasgow-based experimental orchestra CRA:CC provided an improvised musical soundtrack in response to the films as they played out. Visitors were also able to congregate around our free press merchandise table: a source of books, pamphlets, magazines, journals, promotional materials and all manner of other poetry- and film-related paraphernalia, all of it completely free!

Through the afternoon we saw a steady stream of visitors, all of whom responded positively to the installation and the project as a whole. Documenting their reactions to the films was almost as enjoyable as the films themselves — watch this space for photos, video and stop-motion footage of the event in due course! We were particularly happy to see people who’d never heard of this collection, but who left raving about it and asking how they could come on board and get involved!

this collection McEwan Hall showcase

The next day, following the success of Thursday, expectations were high for our poetry-film finale on Friday 26th…

The evening kicked off at 6.30pm when we flung open the doors of the McEwan Hall, and were delighted to find an already-sizeable gaggle of keen poets, filmmakers and enthusiasts waiting on the doorstep. We quickly uncorked the first of many bottles of free wine and sat back to watch the influx of visitors. Once the crowd had gathered, I kicked off with a speech welcoming everyone to the event, giving a potted history of this collection and explaining what the evening had in store. Stefa then gave a brief round of thanks to all the wonderful people who’d helped make the event happen, and then without further ado, the party got under way!

The first four poets to read were Dan Mussett (a late addition, stepping in to replace Morgan Downie who sadly couldn’t be with us), Russell Jones, Anita John and McGuire. Russell was spotted brandishing copies of his pamphlet, The Last Refuge (Forest Publications), which would suggest his reading went down very well with those who gravitated towards Poet Station #1. At Station #2 Dan Mussett gave a beautiful reading in spite of his late addition to the bill, and Anita John gathered a sizeable audience in the upper gallery at Station #4. Meanwhile at gallery Station #3 McGuire was a total triumph — even gathering a crowd in the main hall below! These four poets were followed by Tom Bristow, Juliet Wilson, Simon Jackson and Andrew C Ferguson respectively — Juliet brought along copies of her hot-off-the-press pamphlet ‘Unthinkable Skies’ (Calder Wood Press) and read a particularly lovely poem about a sycamore tree, among others. Simon Jackson was multi-tasking, as two of his films were also showing in the hall below, and Andrew and Tom both received rapturous rounds of applause from their respective audiences.
The third sets were provided by Rob A Mackenzie, my good self (standing in for Aileen Ballantyne who also sadly couldn’t make it in the end), Christine de Luca and Chris Lindores. Rob and Christine both read excellently and Chris Lindores was a tour de force, gathering the largest crowd of the evening — and the most glowing feedback! — and shifting a fair few copies of his pamphlet, You Old Soak (Read This Press) over the course of the evening! The poetry was wrapped up by Andrew Philip, who read from his critically-acclaimed book The Ambulance Box (Salt); Jane McKie, whose film adaptation of La Plage (courtesy of Alastair Cook of DISSIMILAR) played in the background as she read; Hayley Shields, who entranced a small but attentive audience with her ghostly tales and accounts of Edinburgh’s darker side; and Mairi Sharratt, whose audience were asked to pick her set themselves, by shouting a series of numbers which each corresponded to a poem.

this collection McEwan Hall showcase

All the poetry readings were accompanied by a continuous stream of beautiful, dark, inspiring and moving images courtesy of our many talented filmmakers. Adaptations by Helen Askew, Sean Gallen, Abhinaya Muralidharan, Alastair Cook, Ginnetta Correli, Diana Lindbjerg Jorgense, Dominique De Groen, Hans Peter, Heather Bowry, James Mildred and Francesca Sobanje, Laura Witz, Lewis Bennett, Rawan Mohammed, Rose Creasy, Simon Jackson, Stefanie Tan and ThatCollective all graced our projector screens as the evening progressed. Although some of the films included audio (piped through headphones at each station), the McEwan Hall had its own soundtrack for the evening. This took the form of a mercurial city soundscape, put together by the super-talented Simon Herron of ThatCollective; as well as improvised music and ethereal sounds from the CRA:CC experimental ensemble.

this collection McEwan Hall showcase

The evening rounded up just before 9pm, but the festivities continued well into the night at various alternative venues around the city! Altogether, the this collection team worked out that over 200 people had come along to be a part of our showcase, and so far we’ve received glowing feedback from poets, filmmakers, musicians and visitors alike. Thanks so much to everyone who came along, everyone who helped us organise, set up, take down, fund, promote or otherwise realise the event, and of course to all the brilliant artists who lent their creativity to us for the evening!

Here’s to the next…
Love,
Claire and Stefa

this collection showcase photos by Tom Bishop and Marzieh Jarrahi.

Don’t forget to visit The Read This Store, and its sister store, Edinburgh Vintage!

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Sharks Don’t Sleep: now available to buy from Read This Press

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

Sharks Don’t Sleep is the title of the brand new chapbook from New Jersey-based spoken word poet Eric Hamilton, and it’s published by Read This Press. Described as “a book that crackles with life,” and “a grimy, romantic and fucking funny look at the world,” Sharks Don’t Sleep is a beautiful 32-page chapbook, hand-made with high quality cardstock covers and embellished with a black ribbon bookmark and original artwork.

Once the book goes on general release, it will be priced at $10 (£6), but right now you fabulous ONS readers can get your hands on a copy of Sharks Don’t Sleep for the bargain price of just £4 ($6.50). If you’re in the UK, you can check out the Read This Press Artfire site for listings in GBP, or if you’re in the USA, you can check out our Etsy shop for listings in USD. If you’re from elsewhere, don’t worry — you can still buy from either of these sites. And if you have any queries about the book, the press or purchasing copies, just drop me a line to claire@onenightstanzas.com

You can also buy a copy of Sharks Don’t Sleep at this special reduced rate (just £4 + £2 P&P) by clicking the button below!


Eric Hamilton is a deranged artist who paints everything from canvas to freight trains. He also writes poetry and enjoys sharing his spoken word at slams or cafes everywhere from NYC out to LA. He was born and raised in Las Vegas, spent a lot of time living in east Los Angeles, and is now unemployed and attending college as a journalism major in New Jersey, where you can find him at art galleries and coffee shops politicking with the poets, art-fags, and random transient folk. He’s a bit of a broken man who receives a lot of undeserved attention from women, smokes cigarettes, and stumbles in and out of short-term relationships looking for love. He spends most of his time waiting for lung cancer and responses from publishers, and has been known to occasionally set fire to a booklet of poems aged with the experience of time.

Remember this is just one of the Read This Press titles — we’ve also published a fantastic anthology of poems on the subject of tattoos and tattooing, Skin Deep, which you can buy here. And the last Read This Press single-poet chapbook was from upcoming Scottish poet Chris LindoresYou Old Soak, also available to buy. Both these titles are also a bargainous £4. Please do support our small press and make a purchase!

Don’t forget to visit The Read This Store, and its sister store, Edinburgh Vintage!

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Useful advice from writers and editors.

Saturday, September 27th, 2008

For those of you who have just arrived, this is an advice blog. I use it to help young and confused writers with everything from writing a cover letter and submitting to magazines to protecting their work from copyright theft and dealing with rejection. However, I’m not the only one out there who wants to help you guys with your writing, reading and publishing… so I’ve been scouring books, magazines, blogs and sites to find the best advice from poets, writers and industry insiders. Check it out!

On writing and publishing:

“More often than not in poetry I find difficulty to be gratuitous and show-offy and camouflaging, experimental to a kind of insane degree—a difficulty which really ignores the possibility of having a sensible reader.” - Billy Collins

“The impulse to write has to do with making something, with capturing, recording, preserving, honouring, saving…” - Sharon Olds

“I wish I was better at ignoring praise and criticism in equal measure. I’d be a better poet.” - Anonymous, from Magma magazine.

“The first draft of anything is shit” - Ernest Hemingway.

“Follow the submission guidelines. To the letter.” - from Happenstance Press‘ “Dos and Don’ts”.

“Keep resending! I had one poem accepted on the 15th attempt.” - Tim Love

“Today there are thousands of poetry blogs – ranging from the completely serious to the completely not. It provides for a more effective & diverse way for poets to discuss matters of direct interest to one another without going through the funneling influence of an academic review process… This is really an absolute necessity.” - Ron Silliman

“Sooner or later, if you don’t give up and you have some measurable amount of ability or talent or luck, you get published.” - Neil Gaiman

“Be ambitious for your poems. Aim to make them better and better and better. As good as you can get them in a lifetime.” - from Happenstance Press‘ “Dos and Don’ts”.

“Poems are not easy to start, and they’re not easy to finish… But I’d say the hardest part is not writing.” - Billy Collins

“f I had to give young writers advice, I would say don’t listen to writers talking about writing or themselves.” - Lillian Hellman

“There’s little point sending to [major book publishers] unless you have won some major competitions and/or have appeared in some major magazines. Even then, it may well be better to try a smaller publisher first.” - Tim Love

“Don’t give up hope. If you believe in your writing, keep on reading and developing your skills. Keep on building your profile. Spread your enthusiasm.” - Chris Hamilton-Emery of Salt Publishing.

“Once it’s done, to put it away until you can read it with new eyes… When you’re ready, pick it up and read it, as if you’ve never read it before. If there are things you aren’t satisfied with as a reader, go in and fix them as a writer: that’s revision.” - Neil Gaiman

On poetry readings:

“Turn up at writers events. Be seen. There are quite a few free or reasonable events. Be seen buying books!” - Sally Evans of Poetry Scotland.

“[Poetry readings provide] companionship. And pleasure: musical pleasure, in hearing it… And recognition: ‘Someone else has felt what I’ve felt.’ And surprise: ‘I never thought of that.’” - Sharon Olds

“At a poetry reading you get one shot at it and it’s never enough.” - Jim Murdoch

“I hate when poets over-read [at poetry readings]. Anyone can time themselves reading (including intros and asides). It does them no good as the audience become first bored then annoyed. Better to leave them wanting a little more.” - Anonymous, from Magma magazine.

“It’s an unnatural act, getting up in front of a crowd of people. It’s what a lot of nightmares are made of, whether your pants have fallen down or not.” - Billy Collins

“In the States they have a term, Poetry Sluts. These are people who leave after they’ve read their own poems and aren’t polite enough to stay for the others [at the reading].” - Anonymous, from Magma magazine.

On dealing with your fellow poets:

“It’s hard to give out negative comments…without generating a lot of ad hominen tsouris [without sounding prejudicial and causing upset] in return. There are so many good books of poetry, that I see very little need…to focus on the negative.” - Ron Silliman

“Don’t give loudly critical opinions of other poets. It’s not possible to be objective, as we’re all competitors in some respect. And it sets you up for a helping of the same.” - Anonymous, from Magma magazine.

“The world of poetry can be a bear pit, and like any industry it is competitive and has moments of confrontation and even dirty tricks. Be prepared to take some knocks along the way.” - Chris Hamilton-Emery of Salt Publishing

“Never write ill of anyone. It will come home to roost.” - Sally Evans of Poetry Scotland

“The writer’s job is not to judge, but to seek to understand.” - Ernest Hemingway

“Courtesy gets your name remembered. You want your name to be remembered. You want to be a person, not just print on a page.” - from Happenstance Press‘ “Dos and Don’ts”.

“It’s so easy to sneer, so easy… [but] much better to just get on and DO something, WRITE something.” - Rachel Fox

Other stuff to read:
Find more advice from Ernest Hemingway at The Positivity Blog.
There are more words of wisdom from Ron Silliman here, and on his brilliant blog.
Billy Collins offers up more poetry know-how here and here.

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