Archive for January, 2009

Featured Poet Charlotte Runcie Interviewed

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

You can find Charlotte’s poems here and here… and you should definitely also check out Pomegranate, her zine (my write-up here!). But for the time being, here’s a bit of info about Charlotte, her poems and her creative process.

Tell us about your poems.
My poems are my babies! They are my best friends and, until I’ve finished them, my worst enemies.
Because I’m only 19, I think I’ve still got a lot of experimenting to do before I settle down into any one style that could describe all of my poems – if that ever happens. At the moment I seem to go through phases of writing in different styles. I’m just emerging from a painful and prolonged dramatic monologue phase. It seems easier to write about some subjects when I assume the voice of someone else. For example, I’ve written quite a few poems from the point of view of men, or from people with strange experiences and occupations, just because it’s interesting to find out what my voice sounds like coming from a completely different kind of person’s mouth. My friend Dan says that my work drives him crazy because I keep using asyndeton in all my poems. I never even realised I did it before, but now I’m very aware of it every time I do it, and it’s a habit I’m trying to break. I’m not sure yet what the next poetry phase will be - I’ve had a sonnet phase, a love poem phase, a fantastical creatures phase… But I’ve certainly become more interested in fiddly formal poetry lately, so maybe some villanelles and sestinas are on the cards. I like the idea of exploring weird situations and fantasies within tight formal constraints; it’s like strapping a unicorn into BMW and watching what happens.

How long have you been writing?
There were lots of cheesy and sentimental poems I wrote for my school magazine, and I wrote some abysmal songs for a band I was in when I was about 13. I only started writing poetry a bit more seriously when I read some of the poems written by the winners of the 2005 Foyle Young Poets of the Year competition. They were so original and different from anything I’d read before, and I was amazed by how honest they were. Then I started thinking that maybe I could work up the courage to make poems out of all the weird things that went on in my head too. So I gave it a go and entered the competition. I ended up being one of the fifteen winners, and the Arvon creative writing course run by Paul Farley and Kate Clanchy that was the prize was an amazing experience, and it made me write more and more. That was nearly two years ago, and I’ve been writing solidly since then. I owe a lot to the Poetry Society.

Do you have any publications to your name (apart from this one)? What’s the next stage for your work?
I’ve been published in magazines like Read This, Shit Creek Review, Magma, and Brittle Star, which are all run by lovely people and to which I’d encourage everyone to submit. Hopefully I should have a pamphlet coming out later this year, so I’m working on that at the moment. I also spend a lot of time going to readings (including loads of open mics) because you never know what you might hear or what sort of people you might meet. Hopefully the next stage is just to do more readings, keep improving, and meet more great people writing and publishing poetry.

What do you think is your biggest poetic achievement to date?
Setting up the Pomegranate ezine. It started out as just a “hey, wouldn’t it be cool if…” conversation with some poetically-minded friends, and it just grew and grew. I’m so proud of everything we’ve done with it.

What’s the best thing about writing poetry? And the worst?
The best thing is being able to create something small and whole and succinct. If writers were carpenters, novelists would spend years making big beautiful pieces of mahogany furniture, while poets would spent a week at a desk whittling a tiny, perfect little sculpture of a mouse. You could spent a day just carving its little whiskers. Okay, so that allegory falls apart very quickly if you think about it too much, but what I mean is, I love the detail you can get with a poem, and the art of saying something immensely complicated using just a few words and a careful structure. That’s one of the more obvious attractions of poetry I suppose, but it’s worth repeating.
The worst thing is that everyone thinks you’re a pretentious emo kid. Such is life.

Got any suggestions for young, upcoming poets?
Yes! Submit to Pomegranate! And to Read This, where the lovely Claire and her pals will give you great feedback [editor's note: this is not a paid endorsement!]. Read proper poetry – Wordsworth and Auden and Shakespeare and Eliot but also Luke Kennard, Paul Farley, Jean Sprackland, Frances Leviston, Inua Ellams, Ciaran Carson, Jen Hadfield… Everyone on the shortlists of the big poetry prizes. Read things you hate, work out why you hate it, and then make sure you don’t make the same mistakes. And don’t be afraid to party with the grownups – it can seem like Andrew Motion and crew run the show, but there are plenty of opportunities for upcoming poets if you look hard enough. Your poems are no good to anyone if they’re kept in a notebook under your pillow, so get them out into the light – show them to friends, go to open mics, and send them to magazines. And listen to advice – I showed one of the first poems I ever wrote to my friend Amy, and she told me most of it was rubbish. I was disappointed at the time, but she was spot on. It was horrendous. I ended up using one tiny phrase from that poem in something else I wrote later, and scrapping the rest. Did I mention submit your poems to Pomegranate?

Who/what influences your poetry?
I’m actually really influenced by songwriters. Owen Pallett, Colin Meloy, and Joanna Newsom have influenced me a lot. I have some lyrics from Newsom’s song “Emily” taped up above my desk: “I dreamed you were skipping little stones across the surface of the water, / Frowning at the angle where they were lost, and slipped under forever / In a mud-cloud, mica-spangled, like the sky’d been breathing on a mirror.” I wish I could write like that.
Music and art are big influences – I love to write poems about people in paintings and who they might be. Or sometimes a phrase of music will stick in my head and I’ll want to turn it into words. Something else that sparks my writing is finding out about stories and characters from history, or just from family legends – people with unusual lives. For example, I wrote a poem about Chung Ling Soo, the magician who was killed when his bullet catch trick went wrong on stage, and the Chinese persona he had assumed all his life was revealed to be a fake when he cried for help in English. Stories like that are just crying out to be told as poems, and they can also serve as useful vehicles for exploring an idea that at first seems difficult to tackle.
As for actual poets who influence my writing, at the moment it has to be Norman MacCaig, Charles Simic, Paul Farley, Luke Kennard, as well as all the medieval and Renaissance poets I’ve been studying at university.
The young poets I work with on Pomegranate influence me a great deal too. Everyone on the team takes turns to workshop each others’ poems, and we write each other anonymous poems as Christmas and Halloween presents. It’s geeky but it really gets the creative juices flowing; I think being part of a poetry circle improves the work of everyone in it. It worked for the Romantics…

Glassblower

I have learned to hold a star on a post.
I can spin one end of an axis,
control a magnetic north of a creature
as slow and hot as a nebula,
create and shape cages for tiny suns.

And when I comb the sands for scallop shells
I find one mist-green stone licked soft
by rocks and storms. Maybe one
of mine, a shattered spirit bottle
beaten out of sharpness, lost its clarity.

I sense we’re both a long-rung note that wanted bells
and vespers, to sleep in arches and to stain
a monastery floor with weightless day,
forever holding up our faces to the light.

Want to be featured here? Drop me a line to claire@onenightstanzas.com with a few of your poems… it’s that simple!

(Photo by Br44_03)

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Procrastination Station #23

Friday, January 30th, 2009

Love link list link love.

The Guardian Books Blog are listing the 1000 novels everyone should read… how many have you read? (I have read 22 of the 100 sci fi ones, but only 9 from the love category which is mostly classic literature… which means I am a bigger geek than I thought!)
Also… Poster poems: sport // Literature mash-ups // How well do you know Edgar Allen Poe? // Poetry workshop: the elegy (deadline 4th Feb!) // Can you read and listen at the same time? // Is it possible to lose the will to read? // and I was really pleased to hear that Neil Gaiman won the Newbery Medalyay!

A tongue-in-cheek guide to publishing your prose.

8 tips for dealing with criticism from The Happiness Project.

These are apparently the 100 most beautiful words in the English language.

Heaps of cool stuff on a handful of stones recently! Former Featured Poets, McGuire and Shirla White, were published next to one another… and today I was greeted by this little gem. LOVE this zine so much!

The future of books on the Tube (or any other public transport really)… thanks, Annie! + some other underground shenanigans (which I think are v. cool).

Experimental typography (I am turning into a bit of a typography geek lately. Sorry)!

How’s about this for a weird and awesome workshop exercise?

You guys should definitely check out the blog of poet Kevin Cadwallender. His work is awesome… and he’s a lovely guy, too!

Lovely, lovely Hamlet tattoo from Contrariwise… and another that’s just freakin’ awesome! Kind of related: robots!

Are you enough of a Tolkien geek to order a Lord of the Rings cake? What about Poe’s Raven?

Cool idea. But beware… TIME WASTER EXTRAORDINAIRE.

Amazing, amazing sculptures… and I was informed about them by the lovely and talented Hilary Dawson, stellar tattoo artist.

I adored this post. (Steve!)

Do you know anyone who can pull off a ruff — yes, a ruff — as well as homemade-clothing-queen Kirke?

+ finally: want.

Have a lovely weekend, writerlies!

(Photo by ☂c r a c k e d m i r r o r)

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More from Featured Poet Charlotte Runcie.

Friday, January 30th, 2009

You’ve already met Charlotte (hopefully you’ve visited her blog and had a look at her zine as well!), and you’ll find out more about her when I interview her here tomorrow. In the meantime, here’s another of her poems!

Juggler

This is how life must have started;
a curving dance of ripe mathematics.
The wristflick, arc, exchange, and the way
the ratio tricks the eye. The way you pluck
balls from the air like fruit, and set them
in a mess of continual spirals,
darting like fireworks, or fish
working in their mutual sense.

My delighting hypnotist,
you’re not one for illusion.
Watching you is like
the reassuring rocks of a pendulum, the
shush and sway of parents’ arms,
the various, exact dialogue of kisses.

(Photo by Roidrage)

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Things I Love Thursday #23

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

List of love… link ye back.

Seeing Edinburgh with fresh eyes. Before we met, The Boy went travelling in Canada, and while he was there he happened to meet the lovely and talented Ms Miriam Parker: artist, writer and Rapunzel-haired wonderwoman. This past summer I also met her, and since she is a restless globetrotter, I easily convinced her to come and spend some time in Edinburgh. Last week she arrived with her lovely boy Lukasz, and they quickly decided they wanted to stay for quite a while, so I got to work showing them round, helping them to look for flats and jobs, and introducing them to all the cool places in the city. We spent a day wandering the streets I’ve lived among for over five years, with me jumping up and down like a kid pointing and squealing “and that’s an awesome restaurant, too… and you have to go to that store… and that place has the best chocolate brownie in Midlothian (Forest, of course)!” It made me realise all over again what a freaking awesome city I live in, and it made me grateful for the life I have here, too. Seeing Edinburgh with fresh eyes made me want to show it to all of you, too — hence my literary tour of Edinburgh! I might be coming to your city soon, too, you never know!

Gil Elvgren’s pin-ups. I’ve always loved this guy’s work — particularly his witch, who I’ve been thinking of adapting in some way for a tattoo… we’ll see! Anyway, The Boy is a huge Elvgren fan (he already has an Elvgren-inspired pin-up tattoo on his lower left forearm) and just bought a really cool Elvgren page-per-day calendar, which displays a different pin-up beauty on every page. I’m not just into the kitschy cool of these paintings, I love what they represent. Although some people see them as smutty and demeaning, I actually think that in this day and age, when unnatural female body ideals are held up far too high, they’re empowering. Real curvaceous women are hard to come by these days — we need a new Gil Elvgren!

Dining in a treehouse. For my sister’s 21st, we went out for a family meal last weekend, but not just to any old restaurant… we went to this place. Yep, that is a treehouse… and inside it is a lovely wholefood restaurant… blazing open fire, cool carved chairs and tables, heaps of fairy lights and candles and amazing food. It was a freezing cold day and it was lovely to walk into the coziness of every kid’s dream treehouse! We all got dressed up for the occasion, too… pics on my Flickr soon!

Read This Issue 14. Yep, I already said this, but… I think it’s our best issue ever. It’s decorated with these brilliant illustrations by the amazing Amy Bernays, and it also contains a piece of short fiction she wrote. We’re also featuring new poetry by Samuel Prince, Tamarisk Kay, Andrew Burke, Ryan Lamon (future ONS Featured Poet!) and the fantastic Howard Good. I always think our latest issue is our best, but… grab a copy, you won’t be disappointed!

The Read This store. I can’t believe it took us so long to set it up — so many of you have asked how you can get issues of RT outside the UK, and finally we’ve sorted something out! The store looks great and although Etsy is not totally ideal, it’s a pretty cool place to be. Go have a look, guys… you can get single issues, 6 month subs, 12 month subs and retroactive subscriptions, too. And all the money you spend goes into making RT bigger, better and more beautiful!

Honourable mentions: big warm duvets // impromptu poetry workshops // reading novels and being surprised by their amazingness // friends’ achievements // sweet emails from total strangers // silly action movies // spending time with my ‘rents // writing successful poems // nosying around other people’s flats // clearing out old posessions // birthday candles // Blackwells final January sale reductions

Now you, guys!

(Images uploaded by cambie a flickr.com/CONABILLY ! :), originally by Gil Elvgren)

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This week’s Featured Poet Charlotte Runcie

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

Charlotte Runcie is a tall curly-haired girl from Edinburgh who has loved writing since she was six and wrote some alternative lyrics to “Good King Wenceslas”. Over the subsequent years she has moved away from Christmas carols and into the world of poetry, after winning the Foyle Young Poets of the Year competition in 2006. Since then, she was awarded first prize in the Christopher Tower poetry competition run by Oxford University, and has had her work published in magazines including Magma, Shit Creek Review, and Brittle Star. Along with some fellow winners of the Foyle award, she co-founded Pomegranate, the online poetry magazine, last year. It’s a zine for writers under 30, which also features articles written by young people about the current state of literature. She is currently working on a first pamphlet of poems to be published by tall-lighthouse in summer 2009, and studying English at Cambridge University. Apart from poetry, she loves tattoos, photography, and exotic varieties of tea.

Star-Crossed

I kiss you and I taste the weightless spike
and sponges of the ocean; love, it sends
me to the tentacles. I think you’d like
the fizz of it, and you give me the bends
on land so maybe in the sea the air
is easier to breathe. You’d be my line
up to the morning. Rays and seaweed hair
would touch our toes. Your crinkled hand in mine.

Marine biologists and astronauts,
they say, are not compatible, but I
have heard you slip your oxygenless thoughts
into the quiet water of the sky,
and Lizard Island’s just as grand as Mars.
Its waves are filled with skeletons of stars.

Want to be a Featured Poet? Just drop me a line and let me see a poem or two! Send your work to claire@onenightstanzas.com — I’m always happy to hear from you!

(Photo by Trixiebedlam)

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10 Commandments: How NOT to conduct yourself in a workshop!

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

I’ve attended a lot of workshops in my time and they’re pretty much always awesome — you should try workshopping yourself if you haven’t already! And generally, workshops run themselves pretty smoothly… but just occasionally something happens and you realise that actually, it’s easy for things to go pear-shaped. If you’re not a workshop regular, or if you’re unsure about workshop etiquette, check out this list of “don’ts”… and make sure you don’t find yourself doing any of them!

1. Don’t interrupt.
Actually, my current workshop group are terrible for interrupting one another, so I need to learn to take my own advice here! But basically, what you have is a roomful of people giving their opinions, and that can often lead to some jostling for position! You need to bear in mind that it’s not just about having your say, it’s about helping the poet whose work you’re discussing… and if the poet can only hear a cloud of voices, they’re going to get nothing out of it. If someone else is making a point and you’re just bursting to agree or disagree or add something, wait til they’re done for goodness sakes! And if someone else interrupts you, wait until they’re finished and then just say “and just to add…” or something — don’t go along the “AS I WAS SAYING BEFORE I WAS RUDELY INTERRUPTED!” route… it won’t do you any favours.

2. Don’t argue.
Sometimes (OK, often) you need to agree to disagree when it comes to suggestions for improving a poem or piece of work. Whether it’s your piece or someone else’s, other people in the workshop will always have their own ideas, and they might not always match up with your own. If the poem in question is one of your own, let people make their suggestions — if you don’t like them, keep it to yourself… you don’t have to use them! If you’re talking about someone else’s poem and it’s suggested that they cut out a line you really like, allow the poet to take that suggestion on board, before offering your counter-argument. Once both points have been made, that should be it — neither party should be allowed to start a slanging match over it! At the end of the day, you are there to provide suggestions… it’s up to the poet which idea (if any) they choose to go with.

3. Don’t hog the limelight.
There’s always one person in every workshop who likes the sound of their own voice, whether they’re aware of it or not. They’re generally the first person to jump into a discussion and they’ll often have a laundry-list of points they’re determined to make. Sound like you? If so, you might be unwittingly annoying the hell out of the rest of your group. If you have a heap of points you want to make, that’s cool — it’s helpful to the poet and it stimulates discussion. But don’t expect everyone else to sit back and say nothing for ten minutes while you pontificate. Make one point, open it up to the floor, and then when there’s a lull, come in with another. That way, every point gets dealt with in detail and the poet isn’t struggling to keep up with your quick-fire suggestions… and no one ends up resenting you for hogging the limelight!

4. Don’t be a wallflower.
At the same time, there’s always one person in every workshop who likes to say as little as possible and let everyone else do the talking. This isn’t allowed either! If you’re expecting other people to give feedback on your work, you need to be willing to give feedback too. It may be that you think your points aren’t worth making, you’re not sure if what you say will be “the right answer,” or someone else (probably the person mentioned above!) always ends up saying what you think before you get a chance. All of these situations are workable, though. Your points are worth making — you don’t have to be TS Eliot in order to comment on someone else’s poem. In a workshop, the poet wants to hear what their readers think, and you’re a reader like everyone else, so your opinion is totally valid. By extension, therefore, there is no right or wrong answer… and if someone else raises your point before you get chance, just say “I thought about that as well,” or “I agree with [insert name here]’s idea.” That might not seem very earth-shattering, but it means the poet in question knows that two readers had the same reaction to their work, rather than just one.

5. Don’t nick someone else’s time slot.
Workshops are generally one or two hours long, and in that time you usually have to discuss the work of several poets. Ideally, the time should be split up equally between each poet, so everyone’s work gets a fair shot. Unfortunately, there are people out there who — consciously or not — abuse this time-division system. Some people insist on submitting more work than can realistically be discussed in, say, fifteen minutes… others draw out discussion by dwelling on certain points or arguing with suggestions. Yes, sometimes you have a million new poems that you’re desperate to workshop, and sometimes someone will say something you need to clarify before you can move on. However, try to hold back and be curteous — watch the clock, and if your time’s up, admit defeat.

6. Don’t raise irrelevant points.
This really gets my goat (yes, I am grumpy, sorry!) and it happens a lot. You’ll be in the middle of a workshop and someone will pipe up “what were you doing when you wrote this poem?”, or something equally irrelevant! This is always a bad idea, as most poets love nothing better than talking about themselves, and particularly their creative process… and you then end up with ten minutes wasted while said poet waxes lyrical about the poem’s conception. Some questions that relate to the poem itself are still irrelevant — “who is the speaker of this poem?” is one that comes up a lot, usually needlessly… “what happens next?” is another, and “did this really happen?” is another. Unless the voice, final line or historical context of the poem is confusing or genuinely problematic, the answer to all of these questions is usually “it doesn’t freaking matter!” Save it for the pub afterwards, people!

7. Don’t be favouritist.
Workshop groups are generally small, so you get to know each other — and each other’s poetry — pretty quickly. There will always be people whose work is stronger than others, and there will always be people whose work you like better than others. However, you should not allow this to impact on your participation in workshops. If someone whose work you don’t particularly like is presenting, treat them the same way you would treat everyone else — the same goes for someone who’s work you really like. There’s no excuse for favouritism, particularly from workshop leaders (something I have experienced), and it’s counterproductive to the whole process. Make sure you’re always fair, and that whatever comments you make are based on your thoughts about the poem… not your thoughts about the poet.

8. Don’t be rude.
No brainer? Maybe, but when opinions are being chucked back and forth, it’s easy for your sweet voice to slip away and be replaced with a sour one. Rude things I have genuinely heard said in workshops: “this is way better than your other stuff”, “you can do better than this”, “why did you write even write this?”, “do you actually know what this word means?”, “what did you think you were trying to do here?”, “I think you should scrap this and start all over again.” With the possible exception of the latter, these are all things that should not be said — or at least, which should not be said in this way — in a workshop. Yes, people are offering up their poems to be criticised, but saying “do you actually know what this word means?” is not exactly constructive (”I’m not sure this is quite the right word, you could maybe try X” is constructive). You’re not being given carte blanche to say whatever you like about someone’s work — you’re being invited to help them. Being rude and denting their confidence is not helpful, and you wouldn’t want to have it done to you… so be nice!

9. Don’t patronise.
However, at the same time, if a poem is majorly flawed or something about it really needs changing (in your opinion), don’t go pretending everything about it is dandy. Saying “this is 100% perfect” is unhelpful and probably patronising, too! You are allowed to say critical things about a poem — you just have to word them in such a way that they’re constructive. You should avoid other patronising (and pointless) phrases like “your work is getting soooo much better!” or “there’s a good poem in here, you just need to bring it out!”, too. If a poet’s work has improved, tell them what you think they’re doing better — is their voice stronger? Are they experimenting with forms successfully? Don’t say “you’re so much better than you were” — apart from anything else, they’ll go home and bin all their old poems! And if the “good poem” needs to be “brought out,” don’t state the obvious — suggest how it could be done instead!

10. Don’t take it too seriously.
Some people find workshopping hard going at first — when you’re not used to criticism, it can feel weird and even hurtful to have people nitpick at your poems. But stick with it! Workshopping is a really valuable exercise in becoming a better writer, and almost everything you hear at the workshopping table is based on opinion and personal taste. Don’t get upset if people make suggestions you don’t agree with… just ignore ‘em! You don’t have to compromise your artistic vision just because one person out there doesn’t like your line breaks! But bear in mind… if you’re finding that you disagree with all or most of the comments you get, you maybe need to loosen up a bit and allow yourself to try out the suggestions that are made. At the end of the day, your workshop group is there to help you, and chances are they want what’s best for your work as much as you do. It should also be fun. If you’ve been there a month or two and it still isn’t, find another group.

Are you a workshopper? A former workshopper? How have you found the whole experience? Got any workshop tips for the uninitiated?

(Photo by Vagabond~ in dreaming mood)

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Books that Matter: your lists!

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

So, you may remember that quite a while ago I wrote this post… and promised to share YOUR ‘Books that Matter’… but I forgot. But it’s not too late! Here are some of your responses!

“Important to me personally:
The Front Runner by Patricia Nell Warren
Punainen Erokirja by Pirkko Saisio
Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
Moonwalk by Michael Jackson.

Writing related:
On Writing by Stephen King
The Diary of Virginia Woolf, Part 1 by Virginia Woolf.”
Katja, writer.

“Books that have influenced my writing:
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald // The Boy From The Chemist Is Here To See You by Paul Farley // The Harbour Beyond The Movie by Luke Kennard // Selected Poems of T. S. Eliot // Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys // Ariel by Sylvia Plath (though sometimes I wouldn’t like to admit it…) // Beowulf // Sir Gawain and the Green Knight // A Shropshire Lad by A. E. Housman // Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis by Wendy Cope
Probably lots more, but basically I have realised I am a plagiarist! “Influence” is a very forgiving word!”
Charlotte Runcie, Editor of Pomegranate

“1. Poetry Collections that are important to me:
Harmonium - Wallace Stevens
Collected Poems - James Schuyler
New Collected Poems - Tomas Transtromer
New Collected Poems - W.S. Graham
The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations Millennium General Assembly - Denis Johnson
Collected Poems - T.S. Eliot
View with a Grain of Sand - Wislawa Szymborska
Collected Poems - Edwin Morgan
Selected Poems and Prose - Gerard Manley Hopkins

2. Books about poetry that are important to me:
The Truth of Poetry - Michael Hamburger
20th Century Pleasures - Robert Hass
Lives of the Poets - Michael Schmidt
Best Words, Best Order - Stephen Dobyns
After Confession - Kate Sontag and David Graham
The Sounds of Poetry - Robert Pinsky”
Rob Mackenzie, poet and critic.

Which books have influenced you? Which are your all-time favourites? What is it that makes a book matter?

(Photo by Tja’Sha ♥)

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5 more weird and wonderful movies about writers… suggested by you.

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

This was my five… here’s yours.

The Lost Weekend, suggested by Col.

A proper movie where the writer in question is a heavy drinker who carts his typewriter from scene to scene and chases his Muse through dodgy bedrooms and bars. Thanks for the recommendation, Col!

Sideways, also suggested by Col.

I can’t believe I forgot this one — I love this movie and basically have a crush on poor, rejected Miles. What can I say? I have a soft spot for writerly geeks.

Educating Rita, suggested by Rachel.

I can’t believe I forgot this one, either! As an English Literature student myself, this is a huge favourite movie of mine. See it, guys!

The Player, also suggested by Rachel.

I only saw this movie for the first time recently, but it is absolutely amazing. It’s really, really clever in so many ways — check out this incredible one-shot opening scene. Plus, you can play spot-the-movie-star… so many cameos in one place!

Wonder Boys, suggested by Katja.

I’ve never seen this, but I really want to — horrible trailer (shut up with the quotes already!) but it looks brilliant. Thanks, Katja!

Any other movies about writers I should check out?

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Writing through crazy times.

Monday, January 26th, 2009

I hear from a lot of people who claim that they can’t write unless ‘the mood is right,’ or unless ‘the Muse smiles on them.’ Not a good situation to be in… and what’s more, it’s largely psychosomatic. Just because you like to write when things are calm and quiet and you’re feeling inspired doesn’t mean that you’re incapable of writing when things are hectic and crazy. And in the interests of variety and just being more prolific (never a bad thing), we should all learn to write even when we don’t feel like it. But how? Here are some tips…

1. Be willing to change your habits.
In all the ‘how to write well’ books, you’re told to set up a strict routine and stick to it — I’ve heard “write for two hours every morning” reeled off many a time, for example. I’m not doing these practices down — getting into a writing routine is definitely a good idea, but it can also get you into a rut. Hauling yourself out of bed when you know you have to sit right down and write for two hours can turn writing into something you resent, and it can also leave you feeling like you can’t write at other times of day or in other situations where the conditions are perhaps not exactly the same. If things get hectic and you find that your writing is taking a back seat, change your routine. Try writing at the opposite end of the day, allocate yourself a small amount of time (say, your lunch break) and see what you can get down on paper, or think of the time you’d least want to spend writing (on the bus with everyone looking over your shoulder, maybe?), and force yourself to try it. This doesn’t just give writing a different importance within your day, it can also make a difference to the words that are formed. A piece written late at night when you’re used to writing first thing in the morning will probably be radically different to your usual. Try it and see what happens.

2. Don’t censor.
When things are calm and collected and we have the time and the right conditions, writing comes more easily, we think. Poems come out better formed and need less editing, sentences are more original. True? Maybe, but probably not. When everything feels ‘right,’ we’re just more relaxed and willing to go with the flow, whereas when things are hectic and the setting isn’t 100% ideal for writing, we’re more on edge, and our internal censor’s voice seems far louder. So if you’re sitting down to write in the midst of a crazy patch, you’re going to have to force yourself to ignore that annoying voice. Yes, you’ll probably sit thinking “this is all going to be rubbish because I never normally write at this time of day and I know I’m going to get distracted” or “I have too many other things on my plate to be sitting writing”, but tough — push those thoughts to one side. The writing you produce when you’re stressed or busy will be different to the writing you produce when you’re calm and relaxed, but it won’t necessarily be any worse… that’s just a myth you’ve created for yourself. So no matter what your inner censor says, resist screwing up your piece of paper and chucking it in the bin. No matter how you feel about the material that emerges, hide it away somewhere and come back to it later to see how it measures up. You might be surprised by how much it seems to have improved while it’s been in storage…

3. Don’t feel guilty.
Crazy times come in all different shapes and sizes — you might just be stressing about a task you’ve been putting off, or you might be going through a massive house-move. Either way, if you’re a writer, you should not let your work fall by the wayside, no matter how mad the situation. If you need half an hour’s study-break to write a poem, or a couple of hours off from boxing up your posessions to scribble something down, just do it. Feeling guilty about the other stuff you should be doing is counterproductive — because what you should be doing is writing. It’s not like you’re sneaking off to watch some tacky TV soap or something — your writing is a perfectly worthwhile activity… possibly more worthwhile than the stuff you feel guilty about not doing! Too many writers see their writing as something that just has to be squeezed in around the rest of their lives, only getting a spare five minutes’ attention when there’s nothing more important to be done. This could be most important thing of all, you lot! No guilt allowed!

4. Take extra care.
OK, when things around you are crazy, chances are you will also be a little crazy yourself — no offense! Even the most calm and collected individual can be thrown into flux by hectic situations. You’re more likely to lose things when you’re stressed, so keep a close eye on your notebook, and if you get a good idea, write it down straight away, because I can guarantee that it’ll fly out of your head immediately if you have other, bigger things on your mind. Make sure you back up your data, too — there’s nothing worse than hitting ‘OK delete’ when you’re not totally on the ball and then punishing yourself for losing something awesome. Don’t edit too rigorously if things are hectic, and if you do, keep your old drafts — you might make changes that will later seem like too much. Basically, just take your time, and pay attention… and if you do mess up, don’t sweat it. Just make sure you carry on writing!

Do you write all the time, or does the mood have to be right? What conditions do you need before you feel you can write?

(Photo by Marija Majerle)

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Featured Poet Kinga Bryzek Interviewed.

Saturday, January 24th, 2009

You’ve seen Kinga’s poems here and here, now you can find out about her creative process — plus, she has some great advice for young, emerging poet.

Tell us about your poems.
Hm, this is the question I answered as the last one! I never talked much about my poems, I was just writing them, putting my thoughts in some creative ’shape’ as I call it, on the paper. Two days ago I actually got a message from some girl asking me about the meaning of one of my poems. It felt so weird because I never really talk much about it. But sure, I answered her and explained:

I write because it’s a part of me. That’s probably also how I deal with my different sorts of emotions sometimes.
Somehow I feel I have to do this, it’s just some voice inside, the hunger for creation. It helps you deal with things in life, too.
Years ago I used to write at all times, even at night, and I honestly couldn’t fall asleep until I had written this down. I don’t really do this anymore, have more control over it. But sometimes when I write, I write for days and days.
It comes to you in phases sometimes, and then you write until you feel it’s enough — weird but true. You let it all out, more or less.

How long have you been writing?
Since I was 13/14. I was writing a lot of songs starting around that time also as I used to sing and I loved it!

Do you have any publications to your name? What’s the next stage for your work?
No. I was ‘offered’ to publish my poems once when I lived in Germany but I didn’t sign the contract as it involved a lot of money (what happens when your a new writer and it’s a bit risky for the publisher to provide everything by himself) as also I wasn’t very convinced to do it at that stage. And I’m glad I didn’t as I have changed some of these texts now and I’d rather be definitely happy with them before making a publication, after which — let’s be honest — you can’t really change once you send it out.

What do you think is your biggest poetic achievement to date?
I have won a few contests, but to be honest I used to give some of my poems to my friends years ago and they got involved in the contests with my texts (and I let them keep the prize, haha!), which seems bit weird but still I never really thought about publishing them when I was younger or putting them under a critic — now I don’t have a problem with that. Before I think I was writing more for myself, to let things out, give them some shape, to fulfil my artistic hunger for creating. And it was so very personal to me — which it still is, but I think a bit differently now — I am somehow different, as some aspects of your thinking change as you grow up. Maybe it was my shyness, too.

My best achievements ever are comments from the people that read the poems. This is the best thing you can get: when you inspire someone or move them emotionally. I don’t have a big purpose in my writing though. I write because it’s a part of me and it comes so naturally.

What’s the best thing about writing poetry? And the worst?
I don’t know what the best thing is. Definitely it’s good when people want to share any of your passions with you, when they want to talk about it, when it helps them with their own emotions and they can relate to it somehow if they want to. It’s the very same with music sometimes, you know, it’s all human emotions in spite of the style or critical quality of the poems — if peple like it and want to share it, read it again, have it in their collection, it’s the nicest thing.
On the other hand, writing always helps the author to cope with his/her own emotions, good and bad. It’s such a natural reaction when you’re writing. I don’t plan my topics and style, it just goes out of me in many different ways sometimes.
It’s also the hunger for creation I mentioned — it can describe your passions, inspirations, yourself within.
Maybe that’s why it’s such a barrier for me sometimes. My writing is the most personal part of me life, it’s the real me down to my bones sometimes and despite the fact that I would like to keep some of the secrets for myself, I just have to let it out.
I do this very much for myself. Many people would tell you that writing is a sort of revenge on reality. The freedom it brings you is unbelivable sometimes. It helps you not only write of beautiful things and your fullfilments, it helps you write about your fears, your hopes, it helps you deal with the painful experiences sometimes. I used to call writing in one of my poems a drop of blood dried in a soul. It’s just a part of your personality.
When you want to get to know someone, follow their writings, their paintings, their music. That’s not only the way they think, that’s the best way to know how they perceive, it’s the was to understand their deepest emotions and various reactions… it’s beautiful when you can amaze someone with something. If it’s true it means you amaze them with the way you are. I got amazed lately for example with the music of Josh Groban. I tell you, I absolutely love it! I always have a hunger for beauty, for something to inspire me, to give me a new kick. It gives you a drive. It’s absolutely amazing and the influence of it on certain people is so huge. It brings you somewhere else, it opens your brain and your heart, it gets to all your cells and make you boil at times. it makes you FEEL. Your perception rises a lot.

Well I don’t know what the worst thing is, either.. It’s bit tricky. You see, I am oversensitive, what I find in myself sometimes — that’s what I have been told. It doesn’t mean that I cry a lot. I coped with a lot of things, it’s not that. It’s just being so very easily touched, moved by certain things, situations. You can write, you can feel so much more — you also overreact sometimes, things might hurt you deeply. When you know yourself, it can lead to good works and pay back in absorbing so many simple things on a high level, it brings you higher and makes you happy, rises your spirit. I mean things that some people normally would ignore or not even see. But it when it comes to the tougher part of life, it doesn’t help — it burns you longer, causes bigger holes. I say that about oversensitivity because that’s what it is in my case.
I also am very critical to myself, what - honestly - drives me nuts sometimes! This is how I can answer that question, going around maybe but still.

Got any suggestions for young, upcoming poets?
Yes, I was talking to a few of them recently. I will say what I told them: don’t worry if you don’t feel good enough, I still don’t feel good enough after years of writing. I thought I was writing differently to anyone I knew or read, I couldn’t relate to anything. I followed my inner voice. Don’t try to follow any styles, be yourself, listen to yourself, create your own way, be true with yourself, give yourself the freedom. Don’t compare, everyone is different, people may perceive various things in different ways, they might like different things, they might have had different educational or emotional backgrounds that build them to be that way or made them find the way they write. Let yourself be YOU. This is one of the best things that your art may bring — plus only then it will give you satisfaction. You are your own master and with every few years you’ll write better, with your personal development your writing will develop and grow into many different shapes, I guarantee that. Don’t ever be afraid to have your own style. It’s precious. So don’t stop, it’s a gift, make it blossom.

Who/what influences your poetry?
Yes, a common but a very good question!
I have to say that I was definitely somehow developed and was inspired by the poets and writers I have grown up reading.
I won’t give you names at this stage as there might be so many and couldn’t really tell which of them had better or bigger or smaller influence on me. Because I was writing since I was so young, in my primary school, I think it’s been easier to develop my writing by myself and I don’t follow any particular poets or styles. My writing is still my writing, sometimes better, sometimes worse.
I never attended any lessons of creative writing or similar things and in my case that was a great decision — I decided to do it only my way because it’s more true to me and it gives me more freedom in what I do. As I say - in my case.
The huge things that matter are your personal experiences and the way your life interacts with you, the way you deal with it, how it makes you feel, how you want to let it out, explain and express it. So that would be people I meet in my life, the things that have happend, my fears, hopes, desires. Everything that makes me feel really good or bad. The way I am is what life has made of me and the way I deal with it still, the way I want to write about it and the way I want to let it out.
Then, I have things from the outside world that inspire me and give me some sort of emotions (see “Teotihuacan”, the poem below). I write of myself, of people, of nature, of things generally. Most of all, I write of life and various emotions.
On Monday I left with my suitcase at 4 am in the morning waiting for someone to collect me to drive me to the airport.
For the first time in a long time I ‘perceived’ the nature around me, without running rushing anywhere. I felt the slight cold from the early morning frost but I liked it, I watched the very few lights in the houses around, I wondered what the people in them at that time were doing. I watched the trees. For a long time [in the past] I was concentrating on so many different things (plus I work in accounts which makes you get into quite logical stuff!) and I had so much to do sometimes that I forgot to stop myself for a moment to bring a few moments like that… A month ago I wouldn’t have thought, that at four in the morning I would sit on my suitcase and start writing a poem. It was still dark and if one of my neighbours would see me sitting on my red suitcase and writing stuff they would probably think I’m mad. I will give you my common answer — I don’t care. It felt right.

Teotihuacan

He says he loves being there
and that’s where he comes back
they say
it’s a place where gods are born

can you see the ashes
as they’re all around
can you feel their ghosts
in the wind behind
are they good ones?

I would climb
just to get the feeling
on the Pyramid of Sun
with child’s curiosity
as the winds get through me…

do you feel the strength
as it rises your spirit
and pushes you forward
to light and freedom

cherish
the moment

is that it?
as you stand over there
and opening your mouth
you look ahead…

how does it feel?
it must be just magic
let it in
let it
transform you?

is that where the world was born?
the moon and the sun?
in that corner?
it might be amazing
does it feel like light
is filling you up
forever?

Want to see your poems featured here? Just drop me a line to claire@onenightstanzas.com!

(Photo by Kokosmeli)

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