Archive for December, 2008

This week’s Featured Poet: Josh Seigal

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

I first met this week’s Featured Poet at the London Poetry Festival, where I heard him read his distinctive mix of page and performance poetry — he’s since featured in Read This Magazine. He’s been published in a heap of places and I reckon he’s destined for great things. Here’s his bio, and one of his poems… more in a day or two!

Josh Seigal studies philosophy at University College London. He has had poetry published in several journals both in print and online, and regularly performs in and around London. He is currently working on a book of childrens’ poems to be illustrated by his grandfather, Michael Kitchener, and is obsessed with the music of Tom Waits.

Posh School

I went to a posh school.
We didn’t deface books
by scribbling cocks all over them,
we defaced books by putting
them in parentheses,
with a negation sign in front.

Want to see your poems featured here? Just drop a line — with three or more of your pieces included — to!

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In 2008, I…

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

So guys, if you’ve been following this blog with any kind of regularity, you’ll know that I am a HUGE believer in the power of positive thinking — and KARMA! I genuinely reckon that if you focus on the positives and make time to say thanks for the breaks the Universe hands you, you’ll not only be happier, you’ll automatically get more of those good breaks. Call me insane if you want, but this is the thinking behind my Things I Love Thursday posts… and here’s some “thanks, Universe”-thinking on the grand scale. This is basically my Things I Love 2008 list, so without further ado, here goes! IN 2008, I…

— Wrote a huge, spiralling dissertation on the early works of poet and personal guru Allen Ginsberg… which got a first!

— Became a tutor of English, Creative Writing and Drama, and had the priviledge of guiding nine smart, sweet and talented young people from bad grades to brilliance in the space of one academic term… I was so, so proud of them all.

— Won three writing prizes: The Grierson Verse Prize, The Sloan Prize for Writing in Lowland Scots Vernacular, and the Lewis Edwards Award for Poetry… totalling £1,900.

— Performed at my first ever poetry reading… in front of a room full of terrifying academics at the University of Edinburgh!

— Went on to do a huge tour of the Edinburgh poetry readings, appearing at Poetry at the Great Grog, Golden Hour (twice!), MeadowsFest, the Scottish Arts Club, Voxbox and the West Port Book Festival.

— Turned 22 and celebrated at my sister’s house in Newcastle (Italian food, pub, vintage stores, late night chattering), then went on holiday with The Boy to a tiny remote cottage on the plateau above Scarborough, cold, windy, wild and amazing.

— Kept my literary magazine running, celebrated the first six months with a huge and fabulous poetry reading

— Sat my final exams

— Started learning the art of poi!

— Spent a sweet long weekend in the Lake District with The Boy, exploring bookstores, drinking great beer, buying records and crazying about on open top buses.

— Attended a huge end-of-degree bash at which all my tutors got riotously drunk and several risked some serious impropriety! Hilarious!

— Graduated with Honours from my MA in English Literature… dress-buying, first haircut in seven years (!!), robe fittings, huge ceremony in the devastatingly grand McEwen Hall, photoshoot, afternoon tea at the Balmoral Hotel, sunset champagne on the beach = the. best. day. ever.

— Went to see the amazing Mr Eric Clapton at a one-off gig in the grounds of Harewood House… a beautiful balmy summer evening, The Boy and his lovely Dad at my side, a beer in my hand, and 200,000 other crazy fans all singing along… perfect.

— Spent a month living in Victoria, Canada with my Boy. I met the beautiful and talented Miriam Parker, swam in the Pacific Ocean, slept under the stars in a field full of elk, ate the most amazing food, drank loads of great beer, got tattooed for the first time (and started a lifelong love affair, I reckon!), read a huge stack of books, wrote some great poems, loved every minute.

— Went on an awesome road-trip / caravanning extravanagza with my poet besties… campfires, castles, hiking, lake-paddling, beer-drinking, marshmallow-toasting, song-writing, poem-writing, mixtape-making, open-top-bus-riding, up-late-staying loveliness.

— Won the William Sharpe Hunter Memorial Scholarship for Creative Writing… worth £4600!

— Was Poet in Residence at the 4th Annual London Poetry Festival; read at and compered the event for a run of three nights.

– Made my first ever trip to London (really!); spent a long weekend there with my sister, being crazy on the Tube, bouncing on hotel beds, eating sandwiches and being mobbed by pigeons, exploring Leicester Square and falling in love with Camden Town.

— Enrolled (thanks to the scholarship!) on the University of Edinburgh’s MSc in Creative Writing.

— Set up my own blog (you’re reading it) with loads of support, brilliant submissions, great reviews and incredible reader-contributions. I love you guys so so much! Thank you!!

— Teamed up with gorgeous artist Lizzy Stewart for the “Two Heads” creative writing/illustration project… more info soon!

— Was interviewed by Jim! Hardest interview questions EVER, but worth it!

— Worked as a Poetry Terrorist for the opening week of the Scottish Poetry Library’s Scottish Poetry Gardens.

— Spent Halloween stalking the Newcastle suburbs dressed at Medusa, alongside Black Frost, Sweeney Todd and a very vampish Helena Bonham-Carter!

— Celebrated the first birthday of Read This in huge style with an amazing poetry-and-music bash and a special, beautiful anniversary issue!

— Watched on in joy and with huge pride (up until 6am, and so worth it!) to see Barack Obama elected as President of the United States.

— Watched on in further joy as the truly legendary Lewis Hamilton became the first black Formula 1 Champion, the youngest ever Formula 1 champion, and basically the luckiest ever Formula 1 champion… nail biting! (yep… closet motorsport geek!)

— Became Poetry Co-ordinator for forthcoming poetry-and-film festival “this collection.”

— Was employed as a Fiction Reader for the James Tait Black Memorial Prize… a stack of free books to read, and paid to do it? Hells yeah!

— Was offered a book deal by the lovely Kevin Cadwallender of Red Squirrel Press… and accepted! My first collection will be available soon! Eeee!

Publications in 2008: Pomegranate Issue 3 // The Journal // The Herald Newspaper // Poet’s Letter Magazine // The Delinquent Issue 5 // Dash Literary Journal Issue 1 // Snakeskin, May ‘08 // The 4th Annual London Poetry Festival website The Edinburgh Review 123 // Scottish Poetry Library Reading Room // Poetry News Summer ‘08 // Gloom Cupboard Issue 43 // Bottom of the World Issue One // Textualities // Bolts of Silk // BBC Radio Scotland: Days of our Lives // Poetry Scotland Issue 57 // Spark Bright Issue 1 // The Positivity Blog a handful of stones // The Scottish Poetry Library’s 20 Best Poems of 2008 Anthology

I seriously recommend that you make a huge long list of all the cool stuff you’ve done in the past year. It can be something as trivial as writing a poem you were really proud of or something as massive as winning the lottery. Everyone’s list is different but we all have things to celebrate and be thankful for… so try it! It’s seriously cathartic!
(and, of course, link back if you can. I am Little Miss Nosy!)

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Taking the plunge: sharing your work with others.

Monday, December 29th, 2008

“Hi Claire… Basically I have noticed that on Onenightstanzas you write a lot about people who want to publish their work in magazines [...] but I have only just started writing and I just want to know if it is OK first. Shall I show my poems to people? I don’t know which people to show them to and what to say.”
That’s a bit of an email I received the other day. And it’s a good question! Beginning to share your work with other people — even if those other people are just your very nearest and dearest — can be as terrifying a prospect as getting onstage at a poetry reading for the first time or sending off your first submission to a magazine. So if you’re feeling a little uneasy about the whole situation, I hope that the following may just help…

1. Be ready.
Yes, I know, this is ‘the number one piece of advice’ for everything (actually, no, the real number one is “read the submission guidlines”!), but it’s very important. Poetry is personal stuff, no matter how many alternate voices you employ, and if you’ve never even shared the fact that you’re a poet with anyone before, it’s a big deal. And you do have to be prepared for some potentially unpleasant stuff: there’s more to the phrase “I’m a poet” than three little words… it carries a lot of baggage with it. I’ve had people laugh in my face in response, or throw their hands up in shock, or tell me I’m an idiot. And that’s before you even show them any of your poetry! Make sure that, if people react this way, you’re ready to bounce back from it. The best way to deflect any kind of attack is to be cool, and to just point out that writing poetry is as worthwhile an activity as playing football or campaigning for charity or digging the garden. And anyone who reckons it’s “gay” or “emo” (standard responses from some young’uns!) doesn’t deserve any of your time.

2. Choose carefully who you share your work with.
Fair enough, you might feel ready to take on every poetry-basher in the world, but it’s still better if your first response is a good one. Therefore, pick someone who’s likely to be supportive and, more importantly, geniuinely interested. It doesn’t have to be someone particularly close to you — sometimes a former English teacher is a better bet than a best friend. If you guess wrongly and the person you approach is a skeptic or couldn’t give a monkeys, try elsewhere. Not everyone has a dismal opinion of poetry, I promise!

3. Voice your fears.
If you don’t want people to be too harsh when they first respond to your stuff, don’t be afraid to say “I feel a bit vulnerable.” If people know that your poetry is important, personal stuff, and that you’ve trusted them to see it in spite of the fact that you’re a bit wary, they’re more likely to be civil and hopefully even encouraging. Many people don’t realise quite how personal poems are to poets — I’ve heard a lot of people say that their poems are like their babies. While you don’t have to be quite this honest, putting things in context can be a good idea, so people don’t unwittingly steamroller your feelings!

4. Get an honest response.
Everyone is a reader, whether they read poetry regularly or not, and every reader is valuable on some level… so no matter who you get to look at your poetry, make sure you do listen to what they think (unless, as I say, all they think is “poetry is gay”). Sometimes, asking your mum or best friend might seem like the best option, since they’re less likely to be cruel, but they’re also unlikely to be honest with you either. Someone who’ll say “it’s OK but it could use some polish here and here” is infintely more useful than someone who’ll say “it’s all perfect.” And even an “I don’t know much about poetry but I liked the way you did X” is a useful response.

5. Ask for specifics.
Once you’ve got someone to agree to read your stuff over, you can try asking them some specific questions that will help you improve your work. There are questions that anyone — no matter what their knowledge of poetry — can answer, and often the answers will be more useful than grilling a poetry professor on iambic tetrameter might be. Ask “did you understand what was going on?” — that’s important. Sometimes, things can seem insanely clear in your own head but insanely confusing to anyone who’s not you. “Does it sound convincing?” is another good question, as is “did you get bored anywhere?” If you ask people to respond honestly then the answers may sting a bit, but this information is the stuff that makes your poems perfect, so take it on board.

6. Filter the feedback.
HOWEVER, you don’t have to take the advice you get, no matter who gives it — even if your favourite poet tells you to, you don’t necessarily have to take out that hard-wrought stanza. There’s a fine line between utilising constructive criticism to improve your work and just handing your poem over to someone else for them to pull to bits. Often, when you first get feedback on your poems, your immediate reaction will be HOW DARE YOU QUESTION MY GENIUS THIS STUFF IS PERFECT AS IT IS, but you have to learn to strike a balance. Retain the things you worked hard on, liked, and want to keep… be willing to sacrifice things that other people say they don’t understand, or which you don’t think really work. It takes time to get the balance right and it can be hard, but learning to take criticism — and to know what criticism to reject — is a really valuable skill, and the sooner you master it, the better your writing will become.

7. Keep writing.
No matter how careful you are, eventually, it will happen: you’ll show your poem to someone who’ll steamroller your self-esteem. Whether it’s a lecture on how poetry is a useless pasttime, or a harsh critique that rubbishes everything you always thought you were good at, eventually someone will burst your bubble. HOWEVER, when this happens, it is ESSENTIAL that you don’t allow it to stop you writing. There will always be people out there who hate your work, and who always will no matter what you do… it’s impossible to please all of the people all of the time. So, as hard as it may seem, keep ploughing on — keep writing, and keep showing your poetry to other people. For every jerk there will be whole bunch of normal people who want to help and encourage you rather than flatten you. Keep seeking them out… and see the (often unwitting) jerks as an unfortunate part of the job-description.

If you’re really freaked out, you can always share your poetry with me. Drop me a line to — I’m always happy to hear from you!

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This week’s Featured Poet Wendy Kwok Interviewed

Saturday, December 27th, 2008

You’ve seen Wendy’s fantastic poems… now find out a bit more about her, her work, and her creative processes…

Tell us about your poems.
They have a funny way of saying everything I cannot. They are my feelings, the world through my eyes; they are a train of thought chased to the extent of my literary legs. But they are never as beautiful as the real world. They are only echoes.
I write them because it feels natural. Sometimes they are a good place to put the great weariness that comes with thinking too deeply about everything; sometimes they are nothing more than a glorified coping mechanism, a vessel in which I place my life so it can be examined from all angles. Sometimes they come about because everything I feel is threatening to spill over - whether that be joy or grief or peace or loneliness - but mostly I write because I love to.

How long have you been writing?
I have written ever since I knew how to; my family loves books and I have been surrounded by paper and ink my whole life, so writing is as natural to me as breathing. I was introduced rather unceremoniously to poetry by my English teacher when I was twelve, and ended up writing in grossly exaggerated rhyme that stole all the meaning from the words. I was rather put off as a result [though I did continue writing prose] and didn’t rediscover poetry until I turned sixteen and fell in love [what love I was capable of then, anyway] and the feelings had nowhere else to go.

Do you have any publications to your name? What’s the next stage for your work?
I’ve been published in three volumes of my old high school’s yearly literary magazine, as well as Soul Disclosure; Poetic Expressions - a series of books representing the richness and diversity of the poetic form. I don’t really know where my work is going because writing is not a means to an end for me, but I would sincerely love to reach out to more people and maybe show them a little of myself; maybe even touch them and transfer across oceans and continents the sentiments I am surrounded by.

What do you think is your biggest poetic achievement to date?
Learning how to critique and revise my own work, and learning to receive the critique of others with grace. It is hard to get perspective on your own writing sometimes because it is so close to you; sometimes it feels like an extension of yourself and it can sorely sting when your poems are read critically. But in order to improve as a writer you must be able to look at your words and see how they can be bettered.

What’s the best thing about writing poetry? And the worst?
I can write the beauty in my life into words so I can share it with others, so I might touch something in somebody I may never meet. It is a place I can put all the weight of the world into, so I may walk lighter without losing mass. The worst is that I can never really express what I mean because words can only say so much.

Got any suggestions for young, upcoming poets?
Live. Absorb as much as you can from life and live it well because poetry is above all a reflection of all that is human, and in order to write well you must be aware of the world and feel with every part of your heart. Be thin-skinned and susceptible to everything because that is how you get the most out of all that we have, and by extension your writing will benefit for it is a richness of spirit that makes poetry so wonderful.

Who/what influences your poetry?
It can be anything. A thought, the way light falls on the lawn, the morning, running taps, limbs, lace, frost, windows, electrocardiograms, apple juice, soap, pistachios, nocturnal whispers, ovine viscera, flight, birdsong, love, loss, longing… anything that makes me feel or think is likely to find itself somewhere in my writing. As for people - everyone I interact on whatever level will influence what I write, because I am quite porous to the emotions of others (and it is the things I feel that make me write.) I am also influenced by my favourite writers; Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the Romantics, Doris Lessing, Seamus Heaney, Roald Dahl, Rainer Maria Rilke, Blake… but I am most inspired by the poets I know personally. I love them best of all, because they lift me up when I am low and I am able do the same for them; we are travelling this odyssey together, and I couldn’t have asked for better company.


fill me with words so i’ll
spill the essence of sea
onto the sun-spots skipping
in your eye, full of ghostly
flowers and spectral towers
tight with pretended words
awash in the underside of
waves dancing your doubt
for the fish to read.

you forgot we are mostly
water and we have learned
our translucency from wilder
climes. stranger times remind
me of moments i did not know
and suddenly the lee of cloud
lathers the sea so you no longer
show what i am to you

Want to be a Featured Poet? Just send at least three of your poems to I am always happy to hear from you!

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Procrastination Station #18

Friday, December 26th, 2008

Hey guys, hope you all had a fabulous Christmas Day no matter what you were doing… here’s my (quite short, natch) linklovelist this week…

The Christmas Worldwide Flickr Group

The Top 10 Christmas Books

Want!: 2009 Poetry Calendar

Creative ideas to ring in the New Year

How to stick to your New Year’s Resolutions!

Quiz: night and darkness in literature. (I scored dismally!)

Awesome pics of London shopfronts.

Don’t eat too many turkey sandwiches!

(Photo by AlbinoFlea)

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More from this week’s Featured Poet Wendy Kwok

Thursday, December 25th, 2008

You met Wendy yesterday, and I’ll be posting an interview with her in the next couple of days, so you can find out some more about her. For now, here’s a Christmas poem she sent me… enjoy!

Blind Faith

The mass of Christ is in our mouths, we
are consuming him in our fire. We forget
the child found by stars inside us all; a little
drop of weekend wine made longer by
thought. We are weaker than wrapping for
the stronger something we can never
crucify with words; we can only grow,
spirit evergreen as trees, and follow the sky
wherever it may lead us.

(Photo by David_M.Aster)

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Things I Love Thursday #18: Christmas Day Special!

Thursday, December 25th, 2008

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE! OK so as you can imagine, this is going to be a fairly short and sweet post, my apologies! Here we go with a very festive lovelist…

Beautiful frosty mornings running up to Christmas, waking up with Christmas carols on the radio and feeling excited!

The Boy being done with work and officially on Christmas holiday! I have been at the ‘rents house for nearly two weeks now and feel like I haven’t seen him in months… poor boy.

Christmas Eve. This year my poor sister was slaving away in Waterstones til 8.30pm (her new name is Bob Cratchitt, apparently), so my Dad and The Boy leapt in the car to drive down to Newcastle and whisk her away from the last-minute-shopping hideousness. My aunty Jude and her dog Mouse (yes, really) arrived from Kendal in the Lake District to spend the next few days, and of course my Mammie and I instantly cracked open the Martini! We basically sat in the living room chatting away and sipping cocktails in front of the fire (bliss) until Dad and Boy arrived back with my poor, bedraggled sister. We revived her with chocolate and settled down to watch Carols from Kings, then just before midnight we opened our Christmas Eve presents… small, silly joke presents, basically! We then snuck off to bed leaving a mince pie (home made by me!) for Santa (or, erm… for Mouse to steal in the night!)

Christmas Day: up early, turkey in oven. Fire lit in living room, because it’s baltic in there. Tea and toast with Scotch whisky marmelade (yum). Present-opening in pyjamas. More tea, Foxes biscuits (we always get a box of these from some wrinkly member of the family), then Martini / Lycheeni (vodka, white rum, cream of lychee) / Snowball / Pom Fizz (pomegranate juice, ginger ale, vodka) / Sherry / boring old wine, depending on your taste! We all get dressed up to the nines (like, really. Pictures soon!). Jude, Mammie and I do the dinner while Dad, Boy and Sister veg out… as usual. Dinner is massive and amazing (turkey + all the trimmings, plus meat-free delights for the veggies). “The Corset-Buster” pudding (chocolate shortcake case, coffee ice cream filling, butterscotch topping, made by me) very good but basically lethal. Much sitting around and trying not to move after dinner, + more cocktails. Very late tea of turkey sandwiches, Wallace and Gromit and Strictly Come Dancing. Much chattering, more cocktails, probably very late night. YAY.

Bondi… the bulldog in the pic above! How freaking cute is he?! I want to keep him!! More pictures here.

Honourable mentions: Huge cozy duvet // Hearing sleet-flakes against the window at night // Seeing my lil’ sister… even if only for three days :( // Christmas paper scattered all over the floor in a huge crazy rainbow nest (lots for the recycling!!) // Making exciting plans for 2009! // Making decisions about my forthcoming collection (eee!) // Long talks with my Mammie // Christmas lights in all the little Border towns // Peace and goodwill to all men!

(Photo by Heidi and Bondi)

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This week’s Featured Poet: Wendy Kwok

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008

I’ll let Wendy introduce herself!

“I’m nineteen and sometimes I fear this defines me; it is a cusp cradling everything that I know, telling me I am too young to know better. Sometimes I fancy I am growing out of my own skin because I am like a beanstalk shooting up to a place I do not understand, and I have been replanted half the world away from home and I fear I will never find a place to belong to. A lot of what I do is worry. I like to worry at my thoughts, at my fingernails, at the corners of books, at my bottom lip - I am the picky tactile sort and I don’t know what more to say about myself, because I am still not looking in the right places for myself and I am turning up bits and pieces under stones and broken bricks and finding a piece of myself there. I am not totally found, but I don’t think we ever will be. We are constantly looking for ourselves. But this is a biography and it is supposed to be about me, but my mind works in such a way that I go off on a tangent and forget where the circle was [not that divergent directions aren't valuable in themselves.] I am told I think too much and sometimes I believe it; but I can’t say I’m unhappy with that.”

You can see Wendy’s work at her deviantART site. Here’s one of her poems…


there is yearning
in the way light falls
on your face.

the parts of my heart
you have not touched
are grabbing onto wisps of
wistful wishing, handfuls

of dreams in heads
full of hoping, every word
a grain of millet
in unforgiving wind.

there are traces
where i have walked,
footprints and heartstrings
you will not remember and

i wish you would look at me
and see how i am leaving myself

so you might pick up the pieces

Want to see YOUR poems featured here? Drop me an email, and include at least three — send it to, and I’ll do my best to get back to you about it as soon as I can!

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2008: The Best Of, Part II

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

Here’s the second part of my 2008: The Best Of list! Remember I want to see yours, too!

Favourite place of the year
Undoubtedly Victoria, British Columbia. We went there last summer as a kind of detour before Greyhounding it down to San Francisco, and we loved it so much that we wanted to go back and spend longer there. This summer we went for a full month and it was bliss. We lived at the very funky Ocean Island Hostel, hung out downtown in bookstores and the fantastic Lady Marmalade Cafe, sat reading all day on the harbour or in Beacon Hill Park, ate pancakes, drank great beer, went to open air jazz concerts and attended a spectacular SkaFest! Oh, and I got my first tattoo there! We also ferried out to Sidney Spit, a tiny uninhabited island were we camped under the stars in a meadow full of elk, swam in the Pacific and, er, fell down a cliff-face… but escaped unharmed (pretty much. I broke my toe, but didn’t realise til I got back to Scotland)!
We also spent a day wandering around James Bay (see picture above) and fell in love with the sweet coloured clapboard houses and amazing houseboats. We now intend to go and live there some day…

Best events I’ve attended
My graduation in June has to be at the top of this list… but seeing Eric Clapton live — on a gorgeous sunny evening in a field near Leeds with about 200,000 other people and a beer in my hand — has to come a pretty close second. Other great events of the year were Read This‘ six-month anniversary and of course, our huge first birthday bash; the various Golden Hours I’ve attended at Forest over the course of the year; the Blackwells Best Scottish Writing Event where my dear friend Hayley Shields made her reading debut — so proud!; basically a million poetry related things!

Favourite people of the year
There are too many to count. The Boy, of course, is always my favourite person, and all my family… but beyond the goes-without-sayings… friends: Martyna, who so so sadly went back home to Poland this year; Hayley, Struan, Dan, Lucy — the old guard!; the new pretender, super-talented superstar Chris, new RT ed Dave, classmates Niki and Natalia. Tutors — Alan Gillis especially — the wonderful Brian McCabe and Kevin Cadwallender. Gentleman and genius Munayem Mayenin; new partners in crime Stefa and Simon; old partner in poetry, Ryan. Everyone (and I mean everyone) who has contributed in any way to Read This or ONS — where would I be without you guys?!

Best meals
Not really a meal, but I went out for Afternoon Tea at the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh with my parents, sister and The Boy after my graduation — it was amazing.
Also, on our Victoria holiday, The Boy and I went twice to Nautical Nellies, basically the best restaurant in the world — I kid you not. Try the white chocolate and blueberry strudel. H e a v e n o n a p l a t e.

Best blogs
Poetry: Poet Hound // The Truth About Lies // this always opens to the story within // The Not Brazilian Blog // Songs to a Midnight Sky // More about the song // travels in the floating elvis // Sunny Dunny
Other: Pin-up Tattoos // Tattoosday UK // Needled // Fish Nor Fowl // Retro To Go

What’s been your Best Of 2008?

(Photo by Alix H)

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Featured Poet McGuire Interviewed.

Saturday, December 20th, 2008

You can see McGuire’s poetry here and here, and I hope you’ll also visit his blog. Here, you can learn more about his life, work, and creative processes… plus, scroll down for another of his poems.

Tell us about your poems.
What: I am a playful poet but also a dark artificer. I write about everyday life, the hundreds of characters we meet, as well as psychiatric darkness. I write informal poetry, filled with flights of fancy, keen observations, philosophy — so anything that snags on my muse or strikes out to me in curiosity or unexpected coincidence. Erratic and temperamental, what I write is ignited with an almost nervous, kinetic energy, if my poems could jump or dance or be drank down in one gulp they would.
Why do I write: because I once went into my mother’s underwear draw and discovered a letter at the bottom which revealed family secrets, real and true. This embodies to some extent need to write and my long literary obsession with secrecy and honesty. I want to write what has been left unsaid, what has been hidden from sight; I want to find private letters beneath underwear smothered in private truth.
How do I write? Dare, I say, I take notes. I write rather slapdash and sporadically. That’s how I approach most of my writing. Write first, think later. I write in bursts of nervous energy, frenzied sessions of typing and diatribe, followed (perhaps days or weeks later) by precise reform and edit. I don’t like to butcher the poem with correction. As Sir Walter Scott reminds ‘many a clever boy is flogged into a dunce and many an original composition corrected into mediocrity.’ I’m not saying I’m great or original simply that I like the unpolished feel of my poetry, down to earth, never seeking professionalism. I like my poetry like my prawns – raw.

How long have you been writing?
I’ve been scribbling for decades. The first story I wrote was in primary school, titled, ‘The Giant Bigg Bigg’, it was a short story about a Fox trying to outwit and evade capture from two large intimidating giants. After writing it, I got out the yellow pages and phoned the first publisher I came too, needless to say, when my call was answered, I was left hanging on the line in silence for quite some time. I’m still holding.

Do you have any publications to your name? What’s the next stage for your work?
I have one publication to my name and I produced it with the help of a man named John Couzin. I was bound at Clyde Side Press. John Couzin is an informative guy from Glasgow who is a self-made anarchist historian; a fountain of knowledge on political individuals and movements in Glasgow. I’m glad I met him when I discovered one of his books in Borders books.
The collection of some 90 poems and short stories was written over the last six or seven years. I call it my ‘juvenilia’ because it is quite simply that. I don’t mean to rubbish it; simply that it contains most of the poems I wrote in my formative years, before maturity, dare I concede. I mean the first thirty copies were riddled with errors (in fact, that might make a better title) but that didn’t annoy me, it seemed highly appropriate. I write about errors as well as being in error. I have much to write about, much to learn, much to live, and crystallise the word with the intention.

What do you think is your biggest poetic achievement to date?
Creating my first book ‘Important Nonsense: Scraps from a Glaswegian immaturity’; I had been threatening to do it for years. It was encouraging to finally combine my young poems into an appropriate book. It’s a modest little number. But a good start.
I also managed to get my poem ‘Pancakes’ accepted into the ‘Ranfurly Review’ next year, and I hope that comes to conclusion.
I would like to get involved in reading poetry (God forbid), even just to give it a try, it’s the next stage. I’m a slow burner. I could have jumped into reading poetry but I’ve always stayed clear of it. Partly out of cowardice, partly because I’m not ready yet, I still have to get a lot of ‘doggerel’ out of my system.

What’s the best thing about writing poetry? And the worst?
Variety! You can write about anything in a poem, you can write a poem in which ever way you see fit, approach a poem any way you like, and then sculpt from there. It’s lightness of touch as a form, its quickness. To say in a few verses or stanzas, what many say in three hundred pages. But, I’m lazy; I want to write in a way that is approachable, dishevelled, yet engaging.
I also like the confessional aspect of poetry, the confessional box, where you tell it all in various disguises and masquerading. Be shameless and startlingly honest. As well as, simply writing to record life, people, city, sky; all that madness. It’s a great thing to read all these lives opening up before you, in secret.

Got any suggestions for young, upcoming poets?
Someone said it better perhaps: ‘if you’re going to go, go all the way, if not, don’t even start’. I don’t think I’m wise enough to spout advice to anyone but I’ll try in note form: Write about what you experience. Experience what you write. Be brutally honest. Do not avoid learning craftsmanship, form. Keep taking notes. Avoid confirming your own bias, seek criticism, and do not dismiss perspectives which are in opposition to your own.

Who/what influences your poetry?
Everything can influence it, wherever the muse may take me, Amen. Privately, as I have a thing for secrets, the private hells and skeletons-in-the-closet, the human shadow. I am fascinated by the human shadow, what darkness lurks in the mind. As a Scottish poet, Thomas A. Clark once question, ‘Who has the courage to go into the dark places where there is nothing but feeling?’ Naively, I imagine, I have a certain amount of courage to face dark places.
Moving away from the psychiatric, I love to write in affirmation of life, as lofty as that sounds, in comic or absurd manner, (lending from the Dadaists or the Surrealists, dare I say, irrationalists). I love to indulge in whim, word play, mock seriousness, farce and scribble. There is a duel edge: psychiatric darkness and seriousness juxtaposed with the spirit of e.e Cummings.
The lives of all the people I encounter in Glasgow in many ways influence me; encourage me to keep on writing, about everyday life, and the chaos and absurdity in the average person.
The poets that influence me are equally important. I started off reading the War Poets. Perhaps odd beginnings really, most discover Ginsberg or Blake or Robert Burns. But, I was sucked in by Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, and a whole host of unknown war poets. I had a typical boyish fascination with war (private secret wars, whether across the globe, or at home, in the wardrobe). I dabbled in imitating the war poets when young and that’s were it all began; in war fantasy!
Years later, as I grew away from being a teenager, I was soon awoken on earth by the almost conversational poetics of (Mainly American) Bukowski, e.e. Cummings, Walt Whitman, Charles Simic, Roger McGough, Pablo Neruda to name only a few. It amazed me. It was so readable, approachable, and understandable. (And, I was never one to shun so called ‘difficult’ poetry). They wrote in a way that seemed to deal with the ‘six inches in front of your face’. And that ethos of ‘everyday poetry’ for the commonality of life has stuck with me and informed all of my writing.
What is left to say? I’m young. I’m determined. I want to put the words to use. I want to read aloud. I have a long to way to go. I’ll see you in the future.

As we see it

My brother and I used to pull down
large writing pads from the shelves
and he would draw a precise earth
and I would scribble bright colours
over the page. We were both drawing
the world in different sizes.

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(Photo by Retro traveler)

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