Archive for November, 2008

Procrastination Station #14

Friday, November 28th, 2008

Checkkit, yo.

Who was nominated for the Bad Sex Award this year? And who won?
We the people get a say in who the new poet laureate is! And apparently we’re incapable of picking someone goodbut can anyone be as bad as Andrew Motion?!
Also from the Guardian Books Blog: The good side of bad books // Iain Rankin’s secret life // Poster poems: water // Quiz: how well do you know TS Eliot? (I got 11 out of 14!)

Great stuff from Daily Writing Tips this week: do you know the difference between ‘un-’ and ‘dis-’? What about words that use the three-letter ‘i’? And this article on split infinitives caused The Boy (a closet Trekkie) to get a bit defensive…

Check out this brilliant bookish art installation in North Beach, San Francisco (anyone live near there? Send me pictures!)

You’ve heard of “last words” - what about last photographs?

Dear Santa: spotty-lined trench coat! Andy Warhol colouring book! Tattoo paper dolls! How cool??

Or how about this? Emily Dickinson becomes a t-shirt pin-up girl!

Fascinating stuff: what people write on their money // Marilyn: before and after // aren’t death scenes in Disney movies kind of violent?! // how long could you survive without a job? // the next Dalai Lama could be a woman // can you spell “dictionary”? // and this is so going to be my dying wish, too!

Thanks: to Gala, for putting me in her Carousel… and to Annie for her mention of ONS, and Featured Poet of last week, Simon!

And speaking of Simoncheck out this video of him reading at Poetry Unplugged a couple of weeks ago. You can also read an in-depth interview with another former Featured Poet, William Soule, herewith some questions from me!

Hope you all had a Happy Thanksgiving, for those of you who celebrate it! Now, tell me what you’ve loved this week!

(Photo by Of Tales and White Lies)

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Inspiration Tips #2

Thursday, November 27th, 2008

I can’t believe it’s so long since my last Inspiration Tips post! Here are some more, anyway…

Grab a book at random - no careful choosing! - turn to a random page and then focus on a random line. Write down that line (or the most coherent part of it) and use it as the first line of a poem. Don’t think about it too much - just use your first line as a starting point, and then write. Keep writing without trying to “shape” your poem too much. Just let ideas fall onto the page… save the editing for later. You might not create your greatest masterpiece… but you’ll probably create something a bit different to your usual, and that’s always a good thing!

Go to the library. Not necessarily to write… libraries are great places for all kinds of creative activity. Wander around until you spot a title that intrigues you, and check it out. Grab a heap of poetry books and work your way through them. Look for notes in the margins of textbooks (they’re surprisingly easy to find), and write a poem about the person who might have scribbled them there. And when you get bored… go find another section to look at. Take out a book of maps or tattoo designs, something you wouldn’t normally read. Peoplewatch.

Check out the Visual Poetry group on Flickr.

Read the thesaurus. Well, OK, not cover-to-cover or anything. Just flick through, stop every so often at a random page and see what’s there. Note the connections between words and the connotations that run through your head as you read them. It sounds weird, but try it… and keep your notebook handy. It’s the word-geek equivalent of clicking onto Wikipedia and hitting “random post.” Try it!

Generate ten metaphors or similies using The Halfbaked Metaphor/Similie Generator! List them, then fill in the gaps. Do you have a really weird and wonderful poem in front of you?? Probably!

(Photo by Beth retro)

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Books That Matter.

Thursday, November 27th, 2008


I just discovered For Southern Boys Who Consider Poetry (When Soul Food Isn’t Enough), the blog of poet Saeed Jones. One of his recent posts was a list of Books that Matter, and he’s also posted some responses he’s got from his readers. I thought this was a pretty sweet idea, so here are my Books That Matter. I really hope you’ll tell me yours, too - whether it’s one book that particularly touched you or twenty that you think changed your writing. I’d really like to do what Saeed did and post your responses on the blog, so please do respond. I know you’re all reading - you need just to comment now and again!

Books that influenced my poetry:
Dreaming Frankenstein by Liz Lochhead // Mean Time by Carol Ann Duffy // Ruin and Beauty by Patricia Young // Nine Horses by Billy Collins // The World’s Wife by Carol Ann Duffy // The Boy Who Taught The Beekeeper To Read by Susan Hill // The Unswept Room by Sharon Olds // Another Country by Jane Griffiths

Books that taught me things I didn’t know about poetry:
Why I Am Not A Painter by Frank O Hara // Howl and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg // Somebody, Somewhere by Alan Gillis // Kaddish and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg // The Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes // Love is a Dog from Hell by Charles Bukowski

Wow… that’s weird. All my ‘teachers’ are men, and all but one of my influences are women. What does that say?

Tell me your lists - which books made you the poet you are? Which books changed your poetry, influenced your poetry, or helped your poetry? Which books matter to you? (Don’t forget to check out Saeed’s blog!)

(Photo by Mintlips)

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Things I Love Thursday #14

Thursday, November 27th, 2008


Thanksgiving Things I Love Thursday!!

Cheesy pop songs …you know, the kind you’re really not supposed to like. It’s Alesha Dixon’s fault. I’ve had that song stuck in my head for a week, and why? Because, like it or not, it’s a great pop song. Great pop songs are the ones that you can’t stop humming to yourself - they’re the ones you eventually have to buy because they just won’t leave you alone! (I have managed to resist buying Alesha’s single so far, however, despite the fact she was awesome on Never Mind The Buzzcocks - alongside, by the way, the incredibly hot Kelly Jones - the other night.) So for the past few days I have been listening to loads of great quality, dreadful pop music, like this (major product placement in that video!), this and - perhaps worst of all (the costumes! The miming!) - this. Music snobs, take your best shot! Just bear in mind that these guys were considered bad and cheesy once upon a time, and this was actually labelled “a novelty record”. Muaha!

Photoshop disasters. The Boy and I discovered this a couple of days ago and we’re now pretty addicted. Some of this stuff just beggars belief! This one is particularly lame!

My new project. I’ve just got on board with a big new poetry project that’s set to explode onto the Edinburgh scene in about mid 2009, and I am pretty darned psyched about it. I can’t really say too much as it is still very much in the formative stages… looking for funding, budgeting, all that boring stuff. However, the planning so far has been great fun and it looks like it could all work out really well. It’ll provide a really good opportunity for unknown poets to get involved, so I’ll be calling on you lot to pitch in at some point in the future. Exciting!! Watch this space!


Talking to artists. I seem to be doing a lot of this lately - in fact, I just got off the phone with Laura Mossop, artist of the ONS title-image fame! Talking to artists is great and I should do it more often - they really do see things differently to other people. My sister is a graphic designer and always incredibly busy, but she still makes time every day to scribble in her sketchbook and make visual notes of stuff she’s seen that day. She lives with another artist and their flat is like a crazy little gallery - they have their own artwork, friends’ artwork and even artwork they found in skips, just scattered all over the place… they also have a wall covered in clocks which they found in thrift stores, and the kitchen walls are covered in collages of pictures of food they’ve cut out of magazines! Artists always seem to be visionary, optimistic and brave people, I always feel inspired (although sometimes intimidated!) talking to them. Befriend one and see if you can see what I mean!

Free time. Term is winding down, and I am really looking forward to having a whole month of free time when I can hang out with my parents, and get some writing done. I plan on just reading, writing and blogging over the holidays and hopefully I’ll get some good poems down. With things at Uni slowing down a bit this past week I’ve already had a chance to write some new stuff, so hopefully that’s a good omen. Fingers crossed!

Thanksgiving. For the past two years I’ve kind of got into the habit of celebrating Thanksgiving despite the fact it’s not a UK festival - I have a friend who always cooks a huge Thanksgiving dinner and invites all her friends over! Sadly, she just moved back to the States so Thanksgiving this year is a smaller affair for me… but I still think that taking time to think about what we’re grateful for is something we should all do. That’s partly what TiLT is about after all, so I hope you’ll all write a TiLT list this week… and hopefully check out my Thanksgiving “what are you thankful for?” contest, too!

What’s on your Thanksgiving list?

(Photos by KT Lindsay)

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Featured Magazines #8

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

Bottom of the World Magazine
Editors: Frank M Vorassi
Established: 2008
Based in: UK
Website: http://www.freewebs.com/bottomoftheworld
Submit via email: fm.vorassi@gmail.com

OK, let me start with this statement: Bottom of the World is awesome. It’s pretty much the best-looking print-on-demand magazine I have ever seen, it’s full of really great writing from all over the world, it’s a really reasonable price for what you get, AND it’s named after a Tom Waits song. What more could you ask for?

I first discovered BOTW before it really existed, and as soon as I heard the editor’s ideas about the magazine I was excited. The team are a really friendly, approachable bunch - they’re all writers themselves, they all do the submitting-to-magazines thing and they all know the pain of rejection and the awesome feeling of being accepted. They are you: young, struggling to write and keen to get published. As a result, you won’t get any snobbery or “we’re very busy so don’t email us”-type stuff from BOTW - the submission guidelines are pared back to the bare minimum and made as accessible as possible. That said, this is a pretty professional outfit - the magazine comes out roughly quarterly and the team work under reading periods with short breaks in between while they put each issue together. Submissions are accepted from all over the world but whittled down to around twenty writers per issue. The quality of the writing is always great, but the choices aren’t predictable - the team will take you on if you’re good, regardless of whether you’re a bit weird or not…

I really admire what the BOTW team (technically only two people) have achieved with their first two issues. I’d really encourage you not only to submit your work to this magazine (because I’m pretty sure people are going to start hearing and talking about it soon), but also to buy yourself a copy. You get such a great product for your money, and this is a publication that really deserves your support. So what are you waiting for? Get over to their site and check them out!

Know a magazine that deserves a mention? Let me know!

More Featured Magazines here:
Featured Magazines #7: Read This Magazine
Featured Magazines #6: Clearfield Review & Bolts of Silk
Featured Magazines #5: Tontine & New Magazine
Featured Magazines #4: Gloom Cupboard
Featured Magazines #3: Brittle Star & Spark Bright
Featured Magazines #2: The Beat & Pomegranate
Featured Magazines #1: New Leaf & Open Wide Magazine

(Photo by *lemonade*)

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What are you thankful for?

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

The lovely, lovely folks over at Modcloth recently posted their Top 10 list of things to be thankful for, in honour of Thanksgiving Day 2008! And, since I did something like this for Halloween, I thought I’d run another little contest here. Post a list of things (it doesn’t have to be 10 things, or anywhere near as lengthy as mine!) YOU are thankful for in the comments box, and if there are enough entries, the best one will win a poetic prize!
This is open to everyone, not just those of you who celebrate Thanksgiving, although you lot may well be better versed at this kind of thing… You have until this Saturday to write your lists, so get on it!

My own list is as follows…

1. My flat. This is up there with all the other big stuff - you know, running water, being born in a safe, stable(ish!) country, my education etc. Having a roof over my head is a big deal, and although I whinge about how small it is (The Boy and I live together in a one-room studio apartment), it’s a pretty decent roof. My flat is on the fourth floor of a converted warehouse on the super-trendy (apparently) Grassmarket, right in the centre of Edinburgh’s Old Town. It has sunny yellow walls, posters, plants, my prized stereo and space for all my books and records. It’s easy to keep warm and clean because it’s so small; it also has a balcony and a communal roof garden right under the magnificent Edinburgh castle! It’s also stupidly cheap; I love it really.

2. The Boy. Cheesy but inevitable. Like I say, we’ve lived together in a tiny one-room apartment for over two years now, and so far we haven’t even come close to murdering each other — for that alone I am grateful. Probably because he’s 5′4″ of tattooed loveliness… apart from the fact he doesn’t seem to know how to hang up wet towels in any way at all.

3. The Read This team, past and present. I nag these guys endlessly, but I couldn’t do it without them, and I love them to bits. They all bring something different to the magazine (Dave is the serious, literary one; Struan is the nice one; Chris is the cynical, scathing one and Hayley is always the casting vote!) and they always ensure that there’s never a dull moment when it comes to editorial meetings!! I’m particularly grateful to them now that we’ve reached one year in publication: I never thought it would happen… but between them they made it happen!

4. My sister. Because no matter what I do or say and regardless of the fact that no one else wants to talk to me or help me out, she’s always around and she’s always ready to forgive me for being stupid or annoying. She’s also freaking hilarious, crazy, spontaneous and great to spend time with. She produces some pretty sweet artwork too!

5. Forest Cafe. Forest is without doubt the coolest place in the whole of Edinburgh, and sometimes I feel like I practically live there. It’s a cool, cozy cafe and venue-space with bright orange walls, murals, crazy painted table-tops, a tiny stage with a piano, and incense burning everywhere. They serve delicious veggie and vegan food (soup, burritos, cake) and loads of different kind of tea, and the kitchen is totally staffed by volunteers. Forest also has its own art gallery space, a music practice studio, an action room, a library, a free shop (where people take stuff they don’t want/need any more and other people are free to take it away), a hairdresser (£10 for a haircut with a free shot of vodka!) and a shop selling the art, crafts and music of Edinburgh locals… all under one roof! They also run Forest Free Records, their own recording imprint, and Forest Free Press & Forest Publishing - publishing initiatives which, among other things, put together chapbooks for poets and produce Read This! Forest is basically my second home and I love it!



RT eds Dave, Chris and Struan, and Tontine ed Julia, in the Forest!

6. The Universe being kind to me. Just small things like finding out that one of my neighbours had a bookcase going free-to-a-good home, just when my book collection was starting to spill off my old shelves (and the fact that it fit perfectly in a space in my flat!). Sweet emails from you guys, finding awesome stuff by chance in charity shops, writing a great poem… stuff like that. Cool, small things happening.

7. Edinburgh. I love my home city to bits, and having lived here five years, I really feel like a part of it now. I can give directions to just about anywhere, I’m officially a regular at the Blind Poet pub, I know all the cool poetry events and such that are going on and I’ve managed to keep a literary magazine going here (in the UNESCO World City of Literature no less!) for a year. It’s cold and windy here but it’s also beautiful, friendly and there’s always something going on. It’s possibly the best place in the world to be a writer, too… so much inspiration and encouragement. Thank you Edinburgh!

8. Secondhand stores. Because I am a poor and smelly student (and have been for the past four years!) most of my stuff - clothes, shoes, records, books - comes from thrift shops and vintage stores. To anyone who’s turning their noses up at the thought: think again! Pretty much all the coolest things I own were once thrifted… and anyway, I am sick to death of reading all these look-at-my-brand-new-designer-shoes, look-at-the-outfit-I-wore-today-it-cost-£300 type blogs and sites. They seem to place so much value on labels and spending. Thrift, guys! It helps your pocket and it helps the environment.

9. My parents. I’m so lucky to have parents as supportive, accepting and generally cool as mine are. They’ve supported me all through my degree and continue to do so in all kinds of ways. They are totally behind me in terms of my poetic projects, they help me out financially when I need them to and their house is always open for me at all times. The only slightly disturbing thing is their habit for Googling my name to find out what I’m up to!

10. You: my ONS readers! ONS has been going for about three months now - it took a bit of a leap of faith to set it up, but thanks to all your support and help, I’ve been reassured that it was a good thing to do! It would be pointless if no one read, if no one responded, so thank you guys! You keep ONS going and you are the reason for it!

OK guys - what are you thankful for? You can list the big stuff, the small stuff, or anything else in between. The best list will get a prize, so get listing!

(Image by BlueRidgeLady)

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Beware: meme questions!

Monday, November 24th, 2008

Someone sent this to me and I thought I’d post it here. It’s only seven questions, but if you don’t like these things, scroll down quickly now!

1. Do you play an instrument?
Until the age of about ten I had piano lessons, but I reckon I was always disastrously bad. My Dad has been playing piano and organ since childhood and is really darned good, so I think it was a bit of a disappointment to him when I turned out to be rubbish. I took up the violin for a few months in primary school but quit because I hated my teacher (she hated me too because I didn’t practice)! But here’s a confession: I do play the recorder. I took it up in primary school like everyone else, but just never really quit - I played all through high school and ended up in the school orchestra. I played descant, treble, tenor and bass and got to about grade seven. Recorders really can sound nice when played properly and the stigma they carry really upsets me! I don’t play too much anymore but I still dig all my recorders (including a transparent blue plastic one!) out every so often!

2. Do you like your name?
No… in just about any British accent it sounds like someone spitting something out. I don’t really relate to it, and I don’t always answer to it because most other people call me by a nickname, including pretty much every member of my family! The Boy calls me Bob (it’s a long story) and I feel like that’s more “my name”, oddly!
Because I don’t like my name (and because my sister got a much nicer one!) I am determined to give my children interesting names (but not too interesting; no Apples or Xaviers or anything). My all-time favourite boys’ name is Dashiell (as in Hammett… pronounced “Dash’l”) and I am determined that, if I ever have a son, that’s his name. No one else is getting any input… it’s Dashiell.

3. Who’s the most famous author you’ve ever met?
Margaret Atwood. She came to Edinburgh to do a reading with Lewis Hyde, and I went along with a couple of people who sat through the reading and then scarpered. I bravely waited to meet The Atwood and then rather embarrassed myself by getting starstruck and garbling at her. But she was lovely - very smart and arch and a little bit scary, but also quite sweet… and very very small, with huge wild white hair like a dandelion clock.

4. What qualifications do you have?
I have an MA with Honours in English Literature from the University of Edinburgh, which I got onto by working my butt off in high school and bagging five Highers (English, History, Art, French, German) at A grade. I also have two Advanced Highers (English and History)… well, three technically - art, too. Except I failed, so I keep it a secret! I got a 2.1 in my degree, and I’m now chipping away at an MSc in Creative Writing, also from the University of Edinburgh. If I do OK and I can find the ca$$$h, I might also do a PhD. Watch this space…

5. What’s the weirdest job you’ve ever done?
When I was in high school I worked a couple of seasons as a day-lamber and general farmhand. We lived in the middle of nowhere at that time and I somehow got roped into doing some farmwork for a friend of my mum’s who ran a sheep farm with her husband. I became an expert at catching lambs (they’re fast little critters), working out where ducks hide their eggs (in the most hard-to-get-at places) and driving a quadbike and trailer. I also delivered a baby cashmere goat, which was named Askew in my honour! It was a pretty awesome job but very bizarre and more than a little mucky…

6. What’s the worst thing you’ve had to confess to doing?
The worst confession I ever made was when I had my first tattoo, and had to tell my mother. I was in Canada at the time and wanted to call her straight away after I’d had it done, and get it out of the way, but the time-difference meant that I had to lie awake all night worrying about what she’d say before I could finally call her! Her reaction wasn’t too extreme so it was OK in the end, but I’ve never felt so guilty and awkward in all my life… cringe.

7. When did you feel really, really daft?
Erm… a couple of years ago someone told me Paul Newman had died (he actually just died recently - RIP Paul), and I went around saying to everyone “did you hear Paul Newman died?” only to discover it was total rubbish. I also though that Washington DC was in Washington State for a really long time… then I went to Washington State and felt like a twit. Geography is really not my strong subject!

OK guys, I want YOU to jump on the meme bandwagon, too!! Post your answers in the comments box, or if you have your own blog, post them there and link back!

(Photo by Tokicat)

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“Help! My family don’t want me to be a writer!”

Monday, November 24th, 2008

I got an email the other day from an ONS reader, containing this little paragraph:
“[...] The problem [is], my parents are not very supportive when it comes to me writing poetry. They think I should stop because I will never make any money or get any success or find a job. They really don’t like me doing it and they don’t like me sending my work to magazines and things, they think I should stop and focus on college. I really love to write and I don’t know what to do. [...] Thanks, from Alex.”
This is a fairly common thing - whether you want to be a poet, sculptor, ballet dancer, actor, singer… whatever! If your passion is something creative, or if you choose a creative career path, it’s not unusual for parents and loved ones to be worried… and sometimes, they’ll even try and stand in your way. It’s a really, really tricky spot to find yourself in, but here are a few tips for dealing with the situation. Hopefully they’ll help you, Alex! Good luck!!

1. Get clued up.
OK, first of all, if you think that you’re going to become a world-famous poet overnight and never have to do a day’s work in your life, then you do need to listen to your nay-saying family a bit. Parents are often worried that creative career prospects are unrealistic, and with poetry, that’s kind of true. Chances are you will never be able to pay the bills by just writing poetry - but that doesn’t mean you have to give up writing altogether and get a 9-5 desk job. Admit to yourself that you’ll never be a millionnaire poet, and put together a plan B. Think about career paths that appeal to you, and work out how to follow them. Tell your parents what you’re plotting, and assure them that you have got rid of any rich-celebrity-poet ambitions you might have had. Show them that you’re thinking realistically, and that you’re willing to commit to a “proper” career… as well as writing poetry on the side.

2. Talk up the positives.
Just because you can’t make a living out of poetry, that doesn’t mean writing it is pointless. With just about any job, great writing skills are highly desirable, and a good track record of writing fabulous poetry might just swing it for you against a less creative candidate. Poetry publications make good CV fodder too - they show that you’re fearless, confident, and that you can write a good cover letter! Also, in a time when everyone seems to be as qualified as everyone else, an extra-curricular hobby or activity can add a little something in your favour… poetry included! Tell your parents that writing poetry could really improve your job prospects, no matter what job you’re going for. It really could make a difference to your future… so you should definitely keep doing it!

3. Show you’re passionate.
It may well be that your family don’t realise what a big deal poetry is for you. A lot of poets - young poets in particular - keep their work very private, and even if they’re sending work out to magazines, they don’t like to show those close to them what they write. If you feel like you can, show your family some of your work. Tell them why you like to write and what inspires you. Let them see how important your writing is for you - be honest. A lot of people have only really experienced poetry at school and as a result think it’s something boring and analytical - show them why you get excited about it and they might have a better understanding of where you’re coming from!

4. Redraw the lines.
Redefine your family’s idea of what you’re doing - tell them that you see poetry as a hobby, rather than a life-path. It’s just like any other hobby - some people play football, others do cross-stitch, you write poetry. And submitting your poetry to magazines isn’t really any different to taking part in a football tournament or exhibiting your needlework in a gallery. It’s a way of showing off the fruits of your labours… it’s not something you necessarily do because you want to “get ahead” in poetry (although it helps with that, too!). You might want to point out that writing poetry is a safe, cheap, low-maintenance hobby that improves your mind and looks good on your CV. If you’re feeling really brave, point out the alternatives - expensive dance lessons? Dangerous karting or climbing? Mindless arcade-gaming? Surely poetry is preferable, at least where worried parents are concerned?!

5. Compromise.
You might have to admit to yourself that actually, your parents have a point. If you have a hectic college schedule or a load of work-experience to worry about, then that really ought to take priority. If you show your worried family that you are willing to work hard and you do care about the stuff they’re pestering you about, they’re more likely to go easy on the poetry writing side of things. If you can, timetable yourself - even if it’s just loosely. Set aside a good chunk of time to do the important stuff, and once that’s done, you can work on writing/editing/submitting. Show your family that you’re doing this - make sure they know you’re willing to compromise and you’re serious about your studies/work/whatever. Meet them halfway; generally it’s not that painful once you do it!

6. Get creative.
OK, it might well be that you’ve read and/or tried all of the above, and nothing works. The answer? It depends. If your family are going to cut you off without a penny/anywhere to live/any further contact if you don’t stop writing poetry, you need to really think about how important poetry is to you. If it’s more a case of ‘what the family doesn’t know can’t hurt them,’ then be willing to get a bit creative. The good thing about writing is you can do it pretty much anywhere, and if you have a spare half-hour at work or on campus, why shouldn’t you scribble a few lines? And when it comes to submitting your work to magazines, you can don a pen name so the fam never find out. It’s a bit sneaky, but really, it’s not like you’re doing drugs or soliciting on the streets, is it? A bit of poetic subterfuge never hurt anyone!

Do you have a poetry-friendly family, or have you had trouble convincing your ‘rents that writing poetry isn’t all that bad? Do you have a question you’d like to ask, or a suggestion for an article? Leave a comment below, or email me at claire@onenightstanzas.com

Also to read
Writing in the face of adversity
How do I know when I am ready to publish my work?
Do I need a creative writing qualification?
To blog or not to blog?
Dealing with negative criticism

(Photo by Hamed Saber)

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Featured Poet Simon Freedman Interviewed.

Sunday, November 23rd, 2008

You’ve seen Simon’s poems featured (here and here), and hopefully you’ve also checked out his website. Now find out a bit more about his creative process and his plans for his work in the future…

Tell us about your poems.
I think if there’s one thing my poems have in common it’s that they’re rather varied. I used to worry about this meaning that I hadn’t found my ‘voice’, but have since discovered it’s one of the things people like most about what I write! If I find any poems I write in succession too similar, either in form or content, I feel that I am committing the cardinal sin of repeating myself, and boring myself, which I try to avoid at all costs. So it could be love, sex, loss, loneliness, putting myself in the shoes of someone who has nothing to do with me, whatever.

How long have you been writing?
Since February 2008.

Do you have any publications to your name? What’s the next stage for your work?
There’s a fair few now, including Read This, The Delinquent (forthcoming), The Recusant and Gloom Cupboard.
Moving forward, I’d like to continue to get published in as wide a variety of publications as I can. Maybe one day publish a collection, but I’m in less of a hurry about this than I used to be.

What do you think is your biggest poetic achievement to date?
Hmm… some very kind words from Alison Brackenbury were a buzz… popping my poetry reading cherry made me a lot more confident… actually I probably got the biggest kick from a fair few friends of mine who have no interest in poetry whatsoever telling me how much they liked one my poems, although ironically I wrote it as a bunch of smutty double entendres for my own amusement and they read it as a love poem!

What’s the best thing about writing poetry? And the worst?
The best thing is it gives me an outlet for my more negative broodings and emotions. Writing music does a similar thing, although oddly enough I am never in a phase where I can write both music and poetry, it’s only ever one at a time. I guess it keeps me on a level. Sometimes.
It’s hard to think of a worst thing… encountering snobbery, finding that other people’s favourite poems of mine are never the ones I rate highest myself, that cold sinking feeling when you review your last five poems and they’re all rubbish… They’re all annoying for sure, but hardly all that bad.

Got any suggestions for young, upcoming poets?
The first thing I’d say is, don’t get hung up on the fact that you’re young. ‘Young’ in the poetry world applies to ages which in other art forms such as music or film or painting wouldn’t be considered particularly young at all. Some of the best poets I’ve come across are really young. Really, REALLY young. I mean still in school. Makes me wonder what the hell I’ve been doing all these years…
Second, use your age as an acid test. If any editor or promoter dismisses you purely because of your age, they’re not worth your time anyway. Your work should speak for itself, and youth can breed such intense emotions and conflicts which make perfect poetic material that it can sometimes be a plus.
On the other hand, please don’t make a specific effort to write about ‘young’ topics just for the sake of it. I personally can’t stand poetry specifically targeted at a particular audience, whether that be based on age (old or young), colour, sex etc. Many poems cover these subjects because they’re important to the poet but are still accessible to all, which is a very different thing.

Who/what influences your poetry?
The more I read, the more I find that I tend to like poems rather than poets. Of course there are a few who tend to be more consistent (Leonard Cohen or Carol Ann Duffy are good examples) but even there I will fall in love with individual poems rather than a body of work.
Some of the verses that have affected me most have been song lyrics. Even though they’re not poems as such some times one or two lines will grab me as tightly as any ‘proper’ poem.
In terms of what, that’s a little more complicated. I tend to spend a lot of time living in my head, and I find a lot of inspiration in what could happen, what might have happened, what I would do in a certain situation, what someone else might think in different circumstances, etc.
Then again, sometimes I’ll think of a short phrase that is so satisfying and pregnant with possibilities that I’ll use that as a starting point to explore what ideas could come out of it.
But mostly it’s all about people (very much including myself), what they are, what they used to be that they are no longer, and what they could end up becoming if they’re not careful…

A Sinner

Slip

and the sky fills with sand.
The roaring stampede of coarse shins
beneath white teeth, white fingernails.

Suddenly blind in one eye
the first one must have hit home.
Surprised by the sound of a moan
plaintive, unnerving
presumably coming from your throat.

When the second one hits
the desert sun blanks
and the lights behind your eyes
take over, pummelling bone from within,
then over with you to the sharp, parched earth;
after that you lose count.

In the lazy quiet that follows
finding you trickling
exhaling in the dizzy heat
you half dream him smiling illicitly
like he did the night they found you together
only this time, he too
clutches a stone.

(Photo by Ciao bella,)

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More from Featured Poet Simon Freedman

Saturday, November 22nd, 2008


You’ve already met Simon, this week’s Featured Poet… you can also visit his website, hear some recordings of his poetry, and read his ONS Guest Post. He’ll be interviewed here tomorrow but in the meantime, here’s another great poem, which was recently published in Gloom Cupboard

Pastures New

When I left home and moved to England
I had a lot to learn.

People in the street would struggle
with my wearing shades on cloudy days.

Oi wanker, they would cheer,
go fuck yourself.

Chianti for breakfast and scrumpy for lunch
is considered a social faux pas.

The dog’s bollocks means that something is good
and What are you like? is a rhetorical question.

And when you received my bow-legged attempts
at flirtation and wit with stinging contempt

I now know that what you meant to say
was take me.

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(Photo by Bethechange21)

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