Archive for September, 2008

Poetry readings: prepare to preamble!

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

I recently received an email from an ONS reader, with this question:

“Hi Claire,
I’ve been really enjoying your articles on One Night Stanzas, and the poetry reading stuff has all been really helpful to me. I’m trying to build up the courage to get out there and read my stuff at the local open mics, so “I Want To Read My Poetry In Front of An Audience… But I’m Terrified!” was very useful! But I have got a question: in his guest post, Simon mentioned preambles, and I’m pretty clueless about what he means. Are these introductions to your poems? Should I be doing that… and how do I do it?! Please write a post to help me! Thank you… and keep up all your writing!
x Naomi.”

Well, worry not Naomi (and anyone else who might have been wondering)! I have the ultimate guide to preambling right here for your viewing pleasure!

What is a poetic preamble?
A preamble is basically a little introduction that you give to the audience before you read - you can either give one before you read the set, or a little one before each poem. They usually only last about 30 seconds, and generally just give a little bit of insight about the poem that your listeners might not otherwise have known.

What do you put in a preamble?
A preamble can be really, really useful. First and foremost, it settles the audience down and gets them listening - the more interesting and snappy your preamble is, the more curious your listeners will be about your poetry. If you’re reading a poem that works better on paper than aloud, or that has a foreign word or tricky-to-understand phrase in it, you can use your preamble to just say “by the way, that bit means X”. A lot of people use their preamble to give a little bit of context to their poem - to flesh it out a bit, as they say. You could tell your audience what led to the act of writing the poem, what inspired you. A little light-hearted introduction can also take the edge off a particularly sad or heavy poem.

What shouldn’t I put in a preamble?
Don’t “explain” your poem; let it do that itself. Don’t say “this poem is about my ex boyfriend and basically in it he and I break up and then I burn all his posessions,” for example, because then the audience will already know what’s coming and won’t be too bothered about listening to the poem. Better to say “I was in this relationship that ended and I decided to get my revenge - that’s what this poem’s about”… that way your audience will be thinking ‘what did she do?!’

OK. Anything else to avoid?
Yes: try not to make your preamble too long. The last thing you want is for it to overshadow your poem, or to have your listeners thinking “yeah yeah, get on with it!” Try to limit yourself to 30 seconds, or, say, three or four sentences. When you’re onstage and you’re nervous, it’s easy to start wittering: if you find yourself doing this, just stop and say “OK, sorry, I’ll just get on with the poem now!” It should get you a laugh from the audience and it’ll stop them from getting bored with you!

Should I practice my preamble?
I’d say yes. Some people like to deliver them off the cuff, but I reckon that that way lies disaster! Personally, when I get up to read I get so flooded with adrenaline (what can I say? I’m naturally nervy) that I often get off the stage and have no idea what I just said. For that reason, I always make sure I have a vague idea of what my little intros will be, and I stick to that… it avoids blushes, and it keeps your time down!

Just I just do one big preamble first, or a few little ones before each poem?
It depends on how you feel. I like to introduce each poem in turn, but it varies from person to person, and I’ve noticed a lot of people just introduce the set. I think if you’re reading more than five, little intros before each are a good idea to give the audience a bit of a break between poems… you have to remember that audiences are witless things, you need to give them time to keep up!

Do I have to preamble?
Nope, absolutely not. It’s just like reading from memory - some people advocate it, but there’s nothing wrong with reading from the page if that’s what you do. Similarly, if you want to just read your poems and get the hell out of there, no worries. Getting on stage to read your work is tricky enough, so just do what you feel comfortable with, that’s the most important thing!

Other stuff to read:
What’s the deal with poetry readings?
“I Want To Read My Poetry In Front Of An Audience… But I’m Terrified!”
Preparing for a poetry reading
Guest post: Which poems work best live?

Got any poetry reading tips? Or do you have a question like Naomi? It doesn’t have to be on this topic, any queries or suggestions are welcome. Get commenting!

(Photo by Olivia Bee)

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Featured Poet #2: Heather Schimel

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

This week’s ONS Featured Poet is Heather Schimel. She is 25 years old, originally from New York, but now lives in Arizona. She has a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Oswego and currently works as a writer for Textnovel. One day she was swept off her feet and onto an airplane. She also collects insects in an old bean jar, and wears sunglasses all year round. She dedicates everything she does to her fiancé JNB: mostly writing, but also occasionally boot-shining, being a kayak-partner,
and loving forever. You can see heaps more of Heather’s brilliant, inspiring poetry here. Feel free to leave comments for Heather in the comments box below!

Pretty Pretty Colorado City by Heather Schimel
Colorado City is the kind of girl
who takes her peppermint schnapps
with a little bit of coffee. She smells of
coconut oil and incest. She smells of blood sweat and
coupons. Her legs are Krazy Glue, her arms are

warped windows and the construction workers
never returned after she was sold. Colorado City

milks children, pays for the good habits with bicycles
and the bad habits with Sinatra. She places
a belt in the dog box. She places
a crash cart next to
the weak and weary.

Colorado City is big houses and heels. There is
gin in the trunk of her car. There are tunnels

hidden under her thighs. There is daylight
as a gift, in her underpants. There are

her father’s hands,
now just
her father’s hands

as she turns the wheel,
crosses the small war
that is
the state line.

Want to see your poetry featured at One Night Stanzas? If your submission is successful, I’ll feature a selection of your work over the course of a week, and then interview you at the end of it all, so readers can get to know you better! If that sounds cool, check this out… and remember, I’m also on the lookout for guest-bloggers.
(Check out the work of last week’s Featured Poet here, here and here!)

(Photo by Dani0010)

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This week’s Featured Poet interviewed!

Sunday, September 28th, 2008

For the past week, ONS has been featuring the work of Chris Lindores, Edinburgh’s answer to Charles Bukowski, and the newest member of the Read This editorial team. Chris poetry is gritty, urban and darkly comic, with a definite Beat-esque flavour. You can see his previous features here and here, and check out more of his work at his deviantART site. Here, Chris talks about what and why he writes, what inspires him and what he wants to do next…

Tell us about your poems.
My poems are mostly based on stuff I see just going when I’m just going about my business, things that happen to me, a nice phrase or idea I hear; anything really. I usually note down the event/phrase/scene in a notebook so I don’t forget it and let the idea stew in my brain for a bit before I actually write the poem. My poems of late have been mostly about stuff that happens to me, hence the omnipresent theme of everyday stuff, and alcohol.

How long have you been writing?
I began writing 3-4 years ago, when I was doing Advanced Higher English in my last year of high school. We were encouraged to write some poems for it, and along with having to read Edwin Morgan, (the first poet I had ever properly read and cared about) that was me.

Do you have any publications to your name? What’s the next stage for your work?
Read This Magazine has been kind enough to publish me a few times, as have Student, the University of Edinburgh student paper, and The Journal, a student paper that covers all universities in Edinburgh. I’m waiting to hear back from The Delinquent about a few poems I submitted, and have a huge list of places I keep meaning to send poems to, but never get around to it… Brittle Star, Spark Bright, The Beat, Pomegranate, New Leaf, Open Wide, and Dash (with thanks to this blog for the recommendations, as I’d be completely lost otherwise). Also hoping to read at the Golden Hour at some point, along with possibly helping to arrange readings for Read This and Tontine.

What do you think is your biggest poetic achievement to date?
Getting published for the first time was my ‘proudest’ poetry moment. Doing my first reading was also a big thing, and really spurred me on to wanting to do many, many more…

What’s the best thing about writing poetry? And the worst?
Best thing: It’s all good. Getting an idea that you know will turn into a poem, letting that idea stew and develop for a while, the act of actually writing, and then having a finished poem.
Worst thing: Probably editing. If good ideas end up in a terrible poem, I always go back to try and salvage them and turn them into something worthwhile, and, while it’s worth it in the end, editing on that scale is a very boring and arduous task.

Got any suggestions for young, upcoming poets?
Keep writing, all the time, about everything. Don’t be afraid to write a shit poem now and again; it gets it our of your system and you can always (and should!) try and rescue the good bits of it.

Who/what influences your poetry?
I’ve only really got into Edwin Morgan, Charles Bukowski, and William Carlos Williams with bits and pieces of other poets; I’m in the process of reading more, but I’ll get there in time. Other influences come from music, random conversation, novels… everything influences how I write; how could it not?

(Chris has a great new poem forthcoming in the next issue of Read This, so keep an eye out for that… and for more of his work popping up in the future! In the meantime, check out this final poetic offering!)

A Problem, by Chris Lindores
Her foot
touched mine
for a second,
which should have been no bother,
but I had forgotten
how warm
people are,
and now I’m trying
so hard
to rid myself of it,
every night,
up late.

Want to be an ONS Featured Poet? Get a selection of your work featured on the blog over the course of the week, and we’ll interview at the end of it all to get an idea of what you’re all about and where you want to go with your work. If you’re interested, check this out, or drop me a line for more details!

(Photo by Fanfaron)

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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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Procrastination Station #5

Friday, September 26th, 2008

Here are the best bits from the web this week!

As a collector of old typewriters, this collection of funky vintage ribbon cases thrilled me…

…and as a nosy person, I was also fascinated to hear what Marilyn Monroe kept in her drawers!

Over at The Guardian books blog, things are happening. Esther Freud gives a podcast on her brilliant book (one of my favourites), Hideous KinkyWendy Cope and Lavinia Greenlaw give you a run-down on How To Write Poetry (with great advice from Simon Armitage and Bloodaxe’s Neil Astley, too)… and find out how some people are solving their “reader’s block” - by visiting a reading therapist!!

Think being a poet is a bizarre profession? How about being a professional mermaid??

I was also majorly inspired by this video, brought to my attention by none other than the awesome Kanye West!

Two of my all-time favourite poets have new books out! Allen Ginsberg’s collection of letters (gathered posthumously) looks great, as does Billy Collins’ new collection. (If anyone fancies making an anonymous donation of either from my Amazon wishlist, be my guest!!)

In more depressing Ginsberg-related news, the Howl film is probably going to really suck.

Some people ONS has made friends with recently: first and foremost, the great Ron Silliman featured us earlier this week (thanks to Jim)! We’ve also hooked up with the brilliant PoetCasting site… I’d really recommend you check it out to hear some up-and-coming poets read their work. Poets Char Runcie, Aditi Machado, David Floyd and Andrew Philip have also given shout-outs about ONS.

And finally… some stuff for you all to submit to!
Michael Symmons Roberts is looking for self-portrait poems for his latest online workshop… Coconut are currently accepting submissions there’s a newly-launched poetry forum here, just waiting for you guys to get over there and fill it with goodness… and publishers of emerging writers CR Press have launched their 2008 De Novo Prize!

What’ve you found on the web this week?

(Photo by Lisa Kettell)

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Things I Love Thursday #5

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

What is TiLT? Why have it here?

Read This turning 10. Last week saw Read This issue 10 hit the shelves around Edinburgh, and the net, here. If you’d told us last October when we set up the magazine that within a year the magazine would see double-figures having attracted literally thousands of submissions… we’d probably have laughed at you!

Being back at Uni. I’m back into the new semester (my first semester as a postgrad), and it’s weird and great. I’m quickly learning that a dedicated creative writing course is very different to the academic literature courses I’m used to; that finally the focus is on how good you are at writing, rather than on how good you are at remembering information (99% of exams are useless)! Everyone on the course seems lovely so far, and (apart from the fact that I have to do a presentation on symbolism in To The Lighthouse on Monday - all tips welcome!) everything is really chilled out. Whee!

Tacky Weddings. I really am sadly obsessed with this blog. Cake Wrecks, too.

Tattoos. I really, really want a new tattoo. After my first one (well, technically it’s actually two), I was suprised that I didn’t feel “bitten” - people always say that as soon as you get one, you want another one, and you have to be careful or you’ll end up covered in them. Well, it took a while to kick in, but now I’m pining for a new tattoo. I’m thinking about another matching pair, possibly one on each foot. Obviously I am far too poor right now and have very few design ideas at all, but… want!!

My friend Martyna. Martyna and I were thrown together in halls in first year, and lived together for about 10 months, during what was probably the most stressful year of our lives! Martyna is a tiny, gorgeous Polish lady, covered in tattoos herself; a committed vegan and a studying lay-Buddhist. She’s also probably my best friend in this cold, cruel city, and after five years here, she’s going home to Poland! I love her to bits, and I’m going to be bereft when she leaves next week :(

Halloween. Only about a month to wait now, and I’m excited! Halloween is one of my favourite festivals, and though I hate Christmas commercialism, I kind of love it when it comes to Halloween! One year I really will have to spend October in the USA, in order to fully experience the getting-dressed-up-and-behaving-like-an-idiot-ness of it all. Watch out for me trick or treating dressed as Minnie Mouse, everyone!

Mods. They were/are the coolest people ever.

and finally, the work of Chris Lindores, this week’s Featured Poet. Check his poems out here, here and here!

OK, now you! Leave your Things I Love lists in the comments box!

(Photo by E_chihuahua)

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More of this week’s Featured Poet.

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

This week’s featured poet is Chris Lindores. See some more of his work here, or check out this trio of haikus…

Doner Martini
Some gin and vermouth
A sliver of kebab meat
Best served vomiting

Long Night In At The Circus
He died in his pants,
while snorting custard powder
with a fellow clown.

Business Management
I misunderstood
They wanted a huge profit
I got them Buddha.

Feel free to leave comments for Chris on this post. Want to see YOUR work here?

(Photo by Premasagar)

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Featured Poet #1: Chris Lindores

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

What is this Featured Poet business?
Now that One Night Stanzas has become reasonably established, I am going to try to feature the works of young and emerging poets here, hopefully on a weekly basis. Each week I’ll feature 3 -4 poems, along with biographical information, and then round things off with an interview with the featured poet. ONS readers are welcome to read and comment on the works, as well as submit their own for consideration. Being featured on a blog counts as publication and definitely looks good on your literary CV! Sound good?

About Chris.
Chris Lindores is 20 years old and lives in Edinburgh, Scotland. Currently in his final year of an MA in English Literature, he is a student of the University of Edinburgh and recently joined the Read This editorial team. Chris has had work published and read his poetry here and there, and he’s currently looking to expand his literary CV. One of his all-time favourite poets is the late, great Charles Bukowski, and the influence of Bukowski on Chris’ poetry is subtle but certainly apparent! Chris writes honest, gritty narratives about urban boredom, decadence and hedonism, and will happily recite poems for cigarettes. See some more of his work here.

Flaccid pish by Chris Lindores.

smells like under an old fridge

a song called rude or nude
on the radio

if this place had a bar
I would have been here before

Want to see your work published here?

(Photo by tae.rhee)

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Featured Magazines #3

Saturday, September 20th, 2008

Brittle Star
Editors: J Gabbitas, L Hooper, T Tse, D Floyd, M Parker
Established: 2000
Based in: UK
Submit via email:
Submit by post: Editors, Brittle Star, PO Box 56108, London E17 0AY
Copies: £7 for 2 issues, £19 for six. Sample back issues can be seen here and here

Brittle Star is a well-established literary zine, now approaching its 21st issue, and it’s gained a bit of a reputation for publishing the work of impressively talented unknown writers. Run by writers for writers, its print issues are crammed with great stuff, well-put together and illustrated simply and effectively. Though the editors encourage you to read a copy first, Brittle Star seems to accept work of all styles and from all kinds of people, always offering up a diverse selection of poetry, prose and articles. Young writers are welcome to submit and the magazine accepts work by writers from all over the world.
The website promises a response to submissions within six weeks, but they can be much faster, and they’re always a pleasure to deal with. The whole team seem friendly and approachable, and they’re keen to stay on the cutting edge of the literary community. Brittle Star is a well-known name, particularly in the UK, so it’s worth sending them some work and seeing if you can get your name on their beautiful pages!

About Brittle Star snippet: “Alongside poems and stories from new writers, we continue to bring inspiring interviews and close readings. We’ve added ‘Star Questions’ a regular new Q&A of the heroes of the literary world and over the coming months we hope to include other new features.”

Submission guidelines snippet: “Poetry: 1 – 4 poems… Editors would prefer to have submissions by post. Please submit two copies of each piece, with a covering letter… All contributors will be notified if they are successful or not within 6 weeks of the final submission deadline. See news/events for deadline dates. Please also include a short biography.”

Spark Bright
Editors: Emily Smith, Ami Scott, Hans Femrite
Established: 2008
Based in: UK/USA
Submit via email:
Copies: Available here from December 2008

Here’s your chance to get in on the act with a brand new, hot-off-the-press online literary zine, edited by a trio of rising writing stars. Spark Bright was born only a matter of weeks ago, and yet already the team have set up a simple but impressive website and have begun spreading the word far and wide! They’re garnering interest and submissions from all corners of the globe, but they still want to hear from you! The zine is currently open to submissions of poetry, prose and artwork (in fact, they’re running an artwork contest here) from absolutely anyone, regardless of your age, experience or nationality.
The Spark Bright team are a plucky bunch who laugh in the face of no funding and are proud to be a not-for-profit publication. Editor Emily Smith decided to start the zine after receiving rejections on her own work and coming to the conclusion that there needed to be more space for writers to exhibit their stuff! The whole team seem to be lovely, friendly people who know exactly what it’s like to be in a hopeful writer’s shoes. The first issue of Spark Bright is being put together as we speak, so what are you waiting for?

About Spark Bright snippet: “Spark Bright [is] a free, online literary magazine featuring new poetry and prose from all over the world. Though the project is only in its infancy, the eventual aim is to publish quarterly, with each issue being available for free download, making it accessible to everyone - so tell everyone you know!”

Submission guidelines snippet: “Only email submissions please…three poems per submission. Pieces should be copied and pasted into the body of an email… Previously published work will be considered, as long as details of the previous publication are given along with the submission.”

Know a literary zine that deserves some love? Do you run a journal or webzine… want to see it featured here? Let me know!

Photo by Nando ^.^.

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5 Ways To Create A More Productive Workspace

Friday, September 19th, 2008

One Night Stanzas and The Positivity Blog have come together, and created a beautiful fusion of… positivity & poetry, I suppose!

Basically, one of my articles is currently featuring on The Positivity Blog… it’s an exclusive and can’t be found anywhere on One Night Stanzas! It gives you 5 Ways To Create A More Productive Workspace, and you can comment on it here, or at the original posting.
Please do swing by and have a look at the article, and at the rest of the blog… it’s top of my Google reader list and definitely worth a look!

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