Archive for January, 2009

Procrastination Station #22

Friday, January 23rd, 2009

Link x love x list (and yes, I am obsessed with cute dawgs)!

Apparently I am not the only one who was pretty unimpressed by the inaugural poet… sorry, Ms Alexander, but… FAIL.

But! Amazing pictures from the inauguration — clicky clicky (I love #10)! // Poems for Obama (video) // The real show-stopper was that hat.

How Jen Hadfield won the TS Eliot Prize (wait, I already know this — by being awesome!)

A little something from Marilyn Hacker… & Anne Sexton

I just found the Flickr Phoetry group… some pretty good stuff there!

Re: this posthere’s a list of poems, poets and poetry quotes that appear in movies. How many do you recognise?

Need motivation? Just ask The Good Doctor!

Or, you could just make more hours in the day.

Gala has written a cool post on surviving Mercury Retrograde could also just apply to crazy times.

Inspiring quotations from the incredibly sweet Society of List Addicts blog

“We got plague all up in this bitch”: impressing women through the ages!

I am a huge fan of Beatles illustrator Alan Aldridgemy first tattoo is based on one of his illustrations. And now you can get STUFF with his art on it!

(Photo by Defekto)

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More from this week’s Featured Poet Kinga Bryzek.

Friday, January 23rd, 2009

You’ve already met Kinga and found out a bit about her. You can find out more tomorrow when I interview her, but for now, here’s another of her poems.

Chinks

you write, you’re asleeping days, Marta
you know how well I know this from those years…
and I know it’s getting harder and harder
to walk beautiful and straight
and I don’t do anymore sifting through what happens
for good and wrong
in moral terms

I’m listening in patience
I’m not an oracle
if it’ll help you
do this how you want

because not everything must always be
as it should
in the opposite even
it hardly ever is

and if you’ll only be happy
take what you have right here at you
cause loneliness hits like ice on the snout
and I will also probably
lead me to some stupid roads
because I’m shaking far already
pretending that I don’t know

because we come only once
and still fighting
because every man has his weakness
like every cross has its chinks.

(Photo by Ronald Hackston)

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Things I Love Thursday #22

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

A bit short this week (busy!), but still… l o v e l i s t o f l o v e l i n e s s . Keeping up, you new listers? Link back!

21sts. My sweet little sister turned 21 this Tuesday, and we’ve been celebrating like crazy to mark the big event! Last weekend The Boy and I jumped on a train to Newcastle, Metro-ed out through the suburbs to her house, and spent our Friday night chilling with her and her sweet flatmates, eating chocolate and watching movies. The next day, while Sister hung out with her college mates (and the poor boy sat in bed with the tail-end of a nasty flu bug), I went paper-shopping (see below!), and then Sister’s flatmates and I decorated the living room with paperchains and balloons, baked fairy cakes and got dolled up to the nines. The party theme was GLITTER GLAM ROCK and everyone rose to the occasion with big shoes, big hair and sparkles a-plenty. Heaps of people came over and we boogied the night away to glam classics like T Rex, David Bowie, Roxy Music and the nu-glam Scissor Sisters. As the party fizzled out, Sister + a couple of friends and I sneaked out into the backyard to play poi at 1.30am. Sweet!
On Sunday we went out for breakfast (er, milkshake!) at a cool American-style diner, and although The Boy and I had to get back to Edinburgh pretty soon after, Sister followed us up on Monday and spent a couple of days at our flat. We did some cookie-baking, some pub-crawling, some tea-drinking and some thrift-shopping. And this weekend we’re having a family get-together + huge meal to round things off. A week-long birthday? Heck yes!

Stocking up! So I mentioned paper shopping… but I don’t mean grabbing a few sheets of foolscap (cool word!) here. On Saturday I trekked out to the Metrocentre in Gateshead to visit The Papermill Shop, an awesomely cheap and cheerful craft supplies wholesaler. While I was there I bought my first load of card and paper for Read This Press — enough card for the cover of Skin Deep and my other pamphlet project, plus paper for the inner covers, a portable guillotine and a load of other bells and whistles that should make the task of putting together several hundred pamphlets that little bit easier. The store had so many great deals and loads of choice, so I spent ages in there, wandering around, filling a huge basket (until, er, the handle bent…) with loads of cool stuff and getting very excited about the whole thing. I even ended up getting £15 off… every little helps when you have no funding! (I did have to drag all this stuff back on the bus in a huge backpack, since I have no car, so my back is still suffering… you guys had better buy these books when they come out, so I can pay for physiotherapy to straighten out my spine!)

a handful of stones. Yes, you’ve seen this blog mentioned here about a million times now, but whatever… I still love it. Everyday it lights up my feedreader with a little splash of poetic sweetness with my morning tea — and this weekend it featured not only one of my poems, but — right alongside it — a really great poem by the inspiration machine that is Amanda Oaks. Glee!

Honourable mentions: learning to bake really good, really quick bread // train journeys spent reading great books // heavy Scottish skies // film+sofa+duvet // false eyelashes, drag-queen-stylee // teaching other people poi! (I only know about five moves!!) // riding the Metro // getting the writing urge // phonecalls with my Mammie // books arriving in the mail! //

(Photo by Chotda)

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Songs about books and writing.

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

So I’ve already recommended some weird and wonderful movies about writers, but then my sister challenged me to do a similar post on songs. In her studio the other day, she and her friends were trying to think of songs about writing, writers or books… and the only one they could come up with was the rather obvious option above! So I rose to the challenge, and here’s my list! Can you add to it?

Eight Line Poem by David Bowie, from Hunky Dory.

Tales of Brave Ulysses by Cream, from Disraeli Gears

Weilder of Words by T Rex (then Tyrannosaurus Rex), from My People Were Fair And Had Sky In Their Hair But Now They’re Content To Wear Stars On Their Brows

I flippin’ love this song. It’s a fantastic portrait of a poet, written with incredible dexterity and very hard to sing, I imagine!

The wielder of words
is steeped within traditional verbs,
and curiously, a dented top hat
discovered in the moonlit laundromat.
A busted cheroot
is smoking on the heel of his boot –
His opera-cape is torn through the haste
of operatic, oyster-eating evenings of waste.

You Can’t Judge A Book By Looking At The Cover by The Yardbirds, from Five Live Yardbirds

Temporary Like Achilles by Bob Dylan, from Blonde on Blonde

Science by Paul Weller, from Heavy Soul

I remember being obsessed with this song as a teenager and thinking it was incredibly inspiring…

I’ve got a pen in my pocket,
Does that make me a writer?
Standing on a mountain
Doesn’t make me no higher –
Putting on gloves
Don’t make you a fighter,
And all the study in the world
Doesn’t make it science.

So grab a piece of the air
Try and make it sing –
Try and be who you can,
It’s the real, real thing.

Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush, from The Kick Inside

Martha by Tom Waits from Closing Time (”those were days of roses / poetry and prose / and Martha all I had was you / and all you had was me.”)

Cleaning Windows by Van Morrison from Beautiful Vision (”I went home and read / my Christmas Humphreys book on Zen / Curiosity Killed the Cat / Kerouac’s Dharma Bums and On The Road.”)

Little Blue by The Beautiful South from Blue is the Colour (”You can’t write a novel from a briefcase / you can write a poem from a trench [...] well Bukowski wrote a story from a barstool / and Keats from the top of a hill.”)

Add your literary songs to the list!

(Photo originally uploaded by Marxchivist)

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This week’s Featured Poet Kinga Bryzek.

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

Kinga Bryzek is Polish, and currently lives, works and studies in Ireland. She is 27 and still growing — she loves April (her birth month), green, art, mountains, and coffees in Costa with her friends. She is trying to explore life as much as possible while she’s still young — trying different things, and very busy lately — working and studying accounting. She is also writing a lot, and trying to get her poetry more widely read and published. This is a good start!

A moment to smile

I’m running all through a day
I’m running all through the night
I’m passing by the landscapes
shop-windows
pictures and paintings
and another few
business, allocations, balances
poetry, ironing and shooting
my sisters, my friends and you
so many things to be done
to be fallen in place
I want to give it my all
I always do

Sometimes it’s only
in rushing some way
I’m stopping to open the window
of a smile

(Photo by _silent)

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Self Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing: Part VI — The Road to Self Publication

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

A quick introduction to self publishing
Part I — The Pros of Traditional Publication
Part II — The Cons of Traditional Publication
Part III — The Road to Traditional Publication
Part IV — The Pros of Self Publication
Part V — The Cons of Self Publication
This is becoming quite a series! I hope it’s been helpful — I’ve tried to keep it as balanced as possible. Here’s the next installment: the road to publication, when you’re doing it yourself…

1: Read some poems.
You may recognise this from the other list, but I haven’t gone mad! This is the first step you should take before deciding to publish your work, regardless of how you’re planning to do it. OK, so you don’t have a publisher to impress, but you still want to shift copies of this book. If you’re not willing to read other people’s poetry, you cannot expect other people to read yours. So (and this is becoming my catchphrase) get thee to a library!

2: Get your stuff “out there” first.
Yes, this is lifted from the other list as well… but again, it’s an important thing to do. When you’re self-publishing, you want to get your work into journals and magazines beforehand for slightly different reasons: rather than needing to prove that you have a good “track record” for the publisher, it really is more about building up a CV and getting your name heard. It’s one thing to produce a book and stick a price tag on it, but to guarantee that people will see it, buy it and read it, it’ll need to get some PR. If you’ve already been published in some big magazines, it’s more likely that a reviewer will want to check you out — particularly if, off the back of your previous publications, they’ve seen your name before. Being published previously can also help with write-ups by bloggers — bloggers have to be careful what they say, becaue they want to keep their readers, so they’re much more likely to feel cool about reviewing your stuff if you come with the seal of approval from a zine they know and like. And being able to put an impressive CV next to your book’s ‘buy now’ button on Amazon means that people are more likely to buy it on impulse than if they’re not sure who you are or whether you’re any good.

3. Finish your manuscript first.
If you’ve got a rough collection of poems but you haven’t honed it yet, don’t start looking at your publishing options — if you do, you might well be tempted to just chuck something together in the heat of the moment. The idea of turning your humble scribbles into a real, physical book can be very exciting, and it’s easy to be swept away by it. If you were working with a publisher, they wouldn’t allow you to rush things — they’d help you to edit your collection and make sure it was 100% ready to go before packing it off to the printers. You should try to maintain this discipline even when you’re working alone. Try the poems in a different order and see how they work, put the manuscript away for a couple of weeks so you can look at it with fresh eyes, get an outsider’s perspective, edit edit edit! These are all things you’d do if you were publishing traditionally, and you should absolutely do them anyway.

4: Choose your publishing method.
Huge advantage of self-publishing: you control everything. However, don’t be tempted to go with the first option you come across — shop around, and try to get the best book you can. Do you want to go with a print on demand company? If so, which one? What is your main concern — a good looking book? Something easy to understand and use? Something cheap? Look at all the options, consider the pros and cons of each, and make a careful decision. Also, think about the alternatives — hand making your book, collaborating with an illustrator or book binder. All valid options!

5: Make sure everything is done right!
Particularly with POD, once you hand your manuscript over that’s it… you wait around for a while and then the finished book hits your doormat. So because you don’t have the same level of communication as you have with a traditional publisher, you need to make sure everything is good to go and all the forms are filled in correctly before you commit. You really don’t want to be forever haunted by a typo or end up with your order messed up just because you rushed some online form or forgot to spellcheck. There’s no way of fixing these mistakes once they’ve happened, so prevent them as far as you possibly can!

6: Be patient.
It can take a while for things to happen, even with self publishing. A lot of print-on-demand companies have so much to do that it can be a while before you see your finished book, or even a proof. If you’re hand-making your own books you’ll need to wait until you have a good chunk of time (and I mean more like a week than an afternoon) to sit down and do it. Self publishing is generally quicker than the more traditional alternatives, but it’s still not instant. Be prepared to wait!

7: Plan your selling strategy.
While you’re waiting for your books to be printed, you can sit down and work out your selling strategy. As I pointed out in Part V, when you self-publish, you’re responsible for every single sale of every single book — so how are you going to get those books flying off the shelves, as it were? Just because you’re self-published doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a distribution plan, an idea of where the books will be available from and whether you’ll pay for that, or take on more work by skipping the third-party-seller thing. Don’t expect people to wander up to you in the street and say “can I buy your book?” (and don’t expect to be able to wander up to people in the street yourself, either!) — you have to plan it out and get things moving before the books even arrive.

8: Market your book TO DEATH.
Well, you don’t have to do this, but if you don’t, you’ll never shift your books! Use whatever you have at your disposal — your Facebook account, your eBay messages, your email signature. Set up a blog just for your book and get reciprocal links set up to relevant sites and zines. If you’re selling through a third party, pimp out the shopfront everywhere — make stickers, make ads on websites if you can afford it, ask for reviews from publications large and small alike. Get your handmade books on Etsy, and if you want to, wander around your local bookstores and sound them out, see if they’ll take some copies. You are officially your own PR department… and welcome to the world of PR!

9: Check the legal stuff.
I mean copyright, and acknowledgements. Check that the POD company you’re going to doesn’t demand any of your copyright, and if they work under a creative commons license or the like, find out your own rights before you commit. Make sure you copyright your work somehow before you publish it, even if you just seal it in an envelope and post it to yourself. Acknowledge previous publications of any poems or parts of poems that are also in the book. And if you send poems from the book out for publication in future, be sure to make the journal or zine aware that the poems in question have been previously (self)published.

10: Enjoy it!
Self-publishing can be loads of work, feel like a lot of responsibility, and fail to live up to your expectations. HOWEVER, it is a brand new, revolutionary way to publish, and you have total control of every step. In many ways, it is absolutely what is best for your work, and no matter what happens, your self published book is in no way inferior to any book published by a proper publishing house. So keep your chin up, work hard and make the book as good as you can… and feel proud of it. Publishing your own book of poems yourself is quite an achievement — acknowledge it.

Questions? Suggestions? Email claire@onenightstanzas.com

(Photo by JillHannah)

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5 weird and wonderful movies about writers.

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

I Heart Huckabees

Albert writes poetry to try and save the environment. Caterine writes nihilistic self-help books. Everyone is caught up in crazy existential questions. You probably will be too at the end of the movie…

Adaptation.

Charlie Kaufmann is writing a screenplay about himself writing a screenplay of Susan Orlean’s book which is about John LaRoche, and in the meantime, Donald Kaufmann is just writing the most dreadful screenplay in history. Confused? Wait til the alligators come in.

The Shining

And you feel like YOUR writing is driving you mad? PS: how creepy is this trailer? Hitchcock eat your heart out — Kubrick really was and is the master.

Factotum

Henry Chinaski (better known as Charles Bukowski) drinks, smokes, gambles and fucks his way through a string of dead-end jobs while occasionally doing some writing and half-assed submitting. The writing life!

Dead Poets Society

The moral of this tale? Poetry conquers all!

Tell me your favourite writerly films!

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Five ways to beat Blue Monday.

Monday, January 19th, 2009

A while ago, some bright spark named 19th January ‘the most depressing day of the year,’ and for 2009 it’s been given the nickname “Blue Monday.” I’m not sure what the logic behind this is, but I’m aware that sometimes you just have one of those days. Here are a few ways to banish your Blue Monday, whether it happens to be today or not…

Go back to bed. When you get in from work after a crappy day, your first impulse is just to crawl under the duvet and hide from the world… but you feel like you ought to do something more productive, right? Forget it. Apart from anything else, sleep is really good for you, and it’s highly possible that the reason you feel so rubbish is because you’re not getting enough of it in the first place. Sleeping is not necessarily a lazy or indulgent activity — in fact, if you’re feeling totally zapped and brainless, it might be the most productive thing you could possibly do!

Cook something. Some people see cooking as a stressful activity, but it’s something I tend to do when I am stressed, in order to calm down. The key is not to worry about things being done quickly or coming out absolutely perfectly. Cook something you like, for yourself, and take your time over it. I usually bake alpineberry’s cookies (you can substitute the nutella & nuts for choc chips or raisins if like me you live with someone with a nut allergy) — it’s really quick, really easy and there’s no rushing it. You could also try baking bread — it takes a while, but it’s a slow, steady process that involves lots of kneading, a great stress-reducing activity! Find a really simple recipe (I recommend Nigella’s — particularly the quesadillas! — and Green and Blacks chocolate recipes!) for something you really like, make it, and then enjoy it. If you really can’t stand the thought of messing up or getting stressed, try my friend Lucy’s recipe for Christmas candy (er, so what if it isn’t Christmas?). You need white chocolate, mint humbugs, and peppermint essence. Put the humbugs (about a handful or so) in a sandwich bag, and bash them to bits with a rolling pin (FUN!). Melt the white chocolate (about 150g minimum) and mix in the smashed humbugs, then add about half a teaspoon or so of peppermint essence. Spread the mixture into a dish and shove it in the fridge. It sets in 1-2 hours and is freaking lovely… no cooking required!

Write. OK, OK, you’re miserable, uninspired and depressed, and the last thing you want to do is pick up a pen. Well tough — try it. If you’re a writer, chances are one of the greatest pleasures in your life is producing a great piece of writing, and believe it or not, your best writing can come out of your lowest moments. Some of the best poems I’ve ever written came about right after my grandmother’s death, and I’ve also found that some of the supposedly angry and incoherent scribbles I made after a break up or disappointment have turned into good stuff later on. For writers, putting pen to paper can be theraputic as well as productive, so even if what comes out is gibberish, do what you do best. Don’t allow yourself to edit or censor, just write until you’re bored, without paying too much attention to the quality of the stuff coming out. When you’re done, don’t read over it… hide it. Put it away somewhere and don’t get it out again until your blue mood has totally passed. You might find when you look at it again that you’ve produced some pretty good stuff.

Read. Books are all about escapism, so if you’re feeling totally sick and tired of the real world, you can always find relief by reading. Reading for therapy is not the same as other reading — you don’t have to feel obliged to start something new, read something you’ve been meaning to read for ages but haven’t got round to, or even read anything particularly worthwhile. If what you feel like reading is a magazine, no worries. If you want to read a book you’ve already read a million times, there is no need to feel guilty. If War and Peace is sitting on your shelf gathering dust but you really can’t face it, fine… let it sit there a bit longer. The whole point of banishing Blue Monday is freeing yourself from obligation — if you don’t feel like doing something, don’t do it. As long as you don’t adopt this attitude every single day, or for no reason, there is no harm in it every once in a while.

Wwilf. Wwilf stands for “what will I look for?” and the term “wwilfing” originally referred to the practice of randomly clicking around Wikipedia, following links from article to article. Since, it has come to refer to any kind of random internet wandering –a practice that is generally discouraged, particularly in the workplace! I reckon that wwilfing can definitely help you to recover from a crappy day, however, and it doesn’t have to be totally mindless… every day I learn something new by sifting through the hundreds of new blog posts in my feedreader. I highly recommend the Look At This blog, which basically catalogues weird and wonderful links from all over the internet, ranging from the educational to the downright ridiculous. You already know my love of the Guardian Books Blog… it churns out fantastic articles on all things literary, and you can spend hours there, just sifting through them. Ron Silliman’s famous links pages are like a encyclopaedia of literary articles, serious and silly, from around the world… and the rest of the blog contains some good stuff too. I also recommend Contrariwise, DWT, RetroToGo and Gala — happy wwilfing!

Questions? Suggestions? Email me via claire@onenightstanzas.com — I’m always happy to hear from you!

(Photo by Z!KeepeR)

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This week’s Featured Poet Tom Rendell interviewed.

Saturday, January 17th, 2009

You can see Featured Poet Tom’s poems here and here, and now you can find out a little more about him, his work and his creative process…

Tell us about your poems.
I am new to poetry so am yet to figure out my particular style. I like my poems to be off the wall, taking an unusual view of an everyday topic. I write poems because I enjoy it, and because of the wealth and abundance of worthy topics in existence. Life is incomprehensibly complex, but sometimes a good poem can make it seem simple. For me poetry is not something that I sit and concentrate on, I never sit down and think ‘OK it’s time to write a poem’. The idea for a poem will be triggered in my head by something, and will form naturally until the words seem greater than the sum of their parts when put together, their order makes sense. It’s like each object, action, phenomena contains poetry, and every now and again someone recognises this and finds the words to express it.

That’s the pompous, wordy answer to try and make myself look clever. Basically I sometimes write poetry because I find it satisfying and rewarding, like a hobby. If anyone else takes pleasure in it, then that is a brilliant bonus. I enjoy using wordplay and generally keep my poems short as I know that we, as the Internet generation, have very short attention spans and the readers mind wanders. Mine certainly does, which is perhaps why I have never written a poem of more than two stanzas.

How long have you been writing?
3 months.

Do you have any publications to your name? What’s the next stage for your work?
This is my first publication and I am new to the poetry scene. From here I intend to send my poems around to whoever will read them.

What do you think is your biggest poetic achievement to date?
Winning 2nd prize in my family’s poetry competition back in 1998, I was very proud. My younger brother narrowly beat me to the first prize of a bar of chocolate with one of those poems that, when you take the first letter of each line and read them vertically, spells out a word or phrase. His spelt ‘God’s Gift’ and the poem finished: ‘a boy falls from a lift/ No one’s hurt, that’s God’s gift.’ The best man won.

What’s the best thing about writing poetry? And the worst?
The best is the feeling you get when someone enjoys your poem, it’s a really cool feeling, although I have experienced this very few times. This is because of the worst thing about poetry; for me poems are really personal, and I find it difficult to show them to people. This isn’t because they’re full of my deepest inner thoughts and dreams, I just feel that you’re really out on a limb when you read them, especially to people that you know well. A strange contradiction exists in writing poetry because you want to people to read and enjoy your poems, but it’s often too scary to show them. It’s a bit like keeping a diary, they’re very personal but is there a voice in the writers mind hoping that one day they will be read?

Got any suggestions for young, upcoming poets?
I’m young and way too inexperienced to be throwing advice about, I know very little myself. I think all you can really do is write poems that you enjoy and are proud of, not poems that you think other people want to read. If you like them, the chances are other people will as well. Also I think it’s easy to worry too much about the rules of poetry, if people also abided by rules things would never advance. Just as poetry is subjective, so are its rules, what one sees as poetry another may not, but I see no problem with that. If you’re scared to show your poetry to people you know then send it to other poets, magazines, blogs like this one. The internet is an endless resource of advice, information and ideas about poetry, and has made it a lot easier to get your poems read.

Who/what influences your poetry?
Seamus Heaney - ‘Between my finger and my thumb/the squat pen rests, snug as a gun.’

NewLife

We aren’t gonna find hopes and dreams
Hidden in computer screens
How am I supposed to excel constantly seeing
The world through windows
Spread the word, my points hold power
Hotter than a Firefox.

Time to restart from the heart
Shutdown the mainframe
Drive a hard bargain and
Drop down all the menus.
Fuck surfing the web and actually
Swim in a sea of truer blue.

Want to be a Featured Poet? Drop me a line with at least three of your poems included to claire@onenightstanzas.com!

(Photo by RebootYourComputer)

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More from this week’s Featured Poet Tom Rendell

Friday, January 16th, 2009

You’ve already met Tom, and he’ll be interviewed here in the next couple of days. In the meantime, here is another of his poems!

Denis in Space

Denis, has gone for a year out, in Space.
Skating skywards purple boots, heels click kicking high,
A celestial shout heckles the planets, white teeth dazzle stardust,
Parents – dentists, oh so proud of their satellite son.
It’s party time in the galaxy, crystal phantoms chatter by,
Mine sweep green goblets of Beetle Juice, and off,
Soul screaming, wild – eyed,
To run rings around Saturn.

Want to see your poems featured here? Send me at least three pieces of your work to claire@onenightstanzas.com — I’m always happy to hear from you!

Ladies And Gentlemen, We Are Floating In Space (Elvis Version), originally uploaded by Lady Vervaine.

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