Archive for June, 2009

Procrastination Station #43

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

Sorry it’s late!! I’ve been on holiday and away from my trusty Google Reader (800+ messages waiting for me when I returned… after four days! Not to mention 1000 emails…) But this is a big one, to make up for it!

Michael Marks Pamphlet Award winner // Twitteraturecan YOU write it? // Literary threesomes!! // Poem of the week // The pain of publicity // The Hughes/Plath effect… // Fantasy readers are people too! // Why you should read Burroughs

Brand new bracelets in the RT Store — don’t miss them!

I absolutely love Classic Literature Reimagined

Andy P on poetry sales…

A cool writing exercise from Rachel McKibbens

Found online this week: I love this new piece from former Featured Poet McGuire // Phillipa’s been visiting some literary blue plaques… // A poetic miscellany from former FP Juliet // new poems from reader Lindis, and former Featured Poets Eric Hamilton, Ryan Lamon, Morganne Couch and William Soule // a great new poetry blog run by a young Kenyan poet // reader Annie responded to my What’s In A Poet’s Bag? post // Andy gave me a mention // so did recent FP John Ecko // so did the lovely and talented Lewis Young! Thanks guys. //

I recently became addicted to Rock’n'Roll Bride — some favourites here and here!

I also loved — and really appreciated — this article on starting out as a runner.

The trouble with young people today? Words printed on the ass of your jeans! So true!

Octopi!

Cassandra makes passes at girls who wear glasses!

More cuteness from Rare Bird Finds

Weird: find-a-note on Flickr

& finally… love this — creepy and well done!

Hope you had a great weekend, all!

(Photo by Superkimbo in BKK)

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The Ambulance Box Blog Tour: stopping at One Night Stanzas!

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

The Ambulance Box is the debut collection from Scottish poet Andrew Philip. Andrew was born in Aberdeen in 1975, studied linguistics at the University of Edinburgh, and spent a short while living and writing in Berlin in the 1990s. Happenstance Press published his first pamphlet, Tonguefire, in 2005, and in 2008 also released Andrew Philip: A Sampler. The Ambulance Box was published earlier this year by Salt, — now, it’s on the road, stopping at various literary sites all over the blogosphere. This week it’s One Night Stanzas‘ turn, and I took the opportunity to ask Andrew a few questions about how he became a writer, how he got from his first poem to his first collection, and why he thinks literary blogs are a good thing…

Hi Andrew, welcome to One Night Stanzas. As you know, this blog is all about ‘getting started’ in the poetry world, so that seems like a good place to begin. A lot of poets claim there was a “trigger” that started them off writing poems — an enthusiastic English teacher, a particular poem or book of poems they read and were inspired by — what was the trigger that got you writing poetry? Or did you just fall into the habit, as it were?

Many thanks for having me, Claire. Poetry was there from very early on. I distinctly remember standing up in play group making up a cowboy song on the spot. It was undoubtedly awful. Thankfully, it vanished in the performance! I also wrote little rhyming poems in my later primary school years. Somewhere, there might still be a video of an 11-year-old Andrew Philip reciting an anti-nuclear weapons poem at a Boys Brigade camp. Got a lot of stick for that, but it didn’t kill the urge.

My teens were the crucial time. I started writing songs, which gradually and naturally turned back into writing poems, which were more interesting and better than my song lyrics. The poetry we read at secondary school probably exerted some influence on that shift. I have vivid memories of reading Wilfred Owen, Jon Stallworthy’s “The Almond Tree” and, for Higher English, Norman MacCaig.

MacCaig opened me up to the idea of free verse. In sixth year, I decided I wanted to take this a bit more seriously and had to read more poetry for myself. I’ll never forget lifting my dad’s Faber Book of Modern Verse off the shelf and reading Hopkins’ “The Wreck of the Deutschland” for the first time. I felt like I was swimming in colour. It’s the closest I’ve come to synaesthesia. And my dad hasn’t got the book back.

The most influential teacher was actually my history teacher, whose class was a general education in the life of the mind. He always said he was out to create a generation of poets, heretics and philosophers.

Before publishing The Ambulance Box, you released a pamphlet, Tonguefire. It seems that nowadays, releasing a pamphlet prior to a first collection is an attractive choice for a lot of emerging poets. Do you think this is a good idea, based on your experience?

It’s a very good idea. It means your name and poetry can reach a wider audience than would otherwise be the case. People take you more seriously when you have a publication to your name and invite you to do more things. (Not that it’s a deluge, by any means.) Some great opportunities came my way as a result, such as appearing at StAnza in 2006 and being chosen as a New Voice by the Scottish Poetry Library later the same year. I’m sure people have gone on to buy the book who bought at least one of the pamphlets.

Don’t rush into it, though; you need to be ready. That is, you need sufficient good poems to make it worthwhile. How you judge that is another discussion. People I respected had started suggesting to me that I should publish a pamphlet, which was perhaps a good indicator I was ready. Tonguefire came out in 2005, when I was 30. Part of me wishes it had been earlier, but I honestly wouldn’t have been ready much earlier than that.

The second pamphlet came about because I was appearing in a HappenStance showcase reading at the Troubadour in London; Tonguefire had sold out and we wanted something of mine to sell there. Helena Nelson, the editor of HappenStance, came up with the idea of the sampler and made me guinea pig, which I was very happy to be.

I’ve also made some good friends in other HappenStance poets, particularly Rob A Mackenzie, whose comments on my manuscript for The Ambulance Box were invaluable.

How do you think Tonguefire informed and influenced The Ambulance Box — was it a natural progression or a great leap from chapbook to collection?

A pamphlet gives you something to build on. In that sense, it’s a natural progression. Several poems from Tonguefire made it into the book, some of them revised and some untouched. I took the order of the pamphlet as my starting point for The Ambulance Box, but I also wanted to ring the changes a bit with the poems that made it from the pamphlet into the book. Working out what should go in a book and how to order the poems can be a daunting task, as well as exciting, but if it started to feel overwhelming, I could always remind myself I’d already done it successfully on a smaller scale.

Again, it’s a matter of judging when you’re ready to move on from a chapbook to a full volume, which is perhaps an even trickier call than knowing when you’re ready for a pamphlet. I went on an Arvon course aimed at those considering putting together a first collection, which was helpful. It was the encouragement of others I respected, including the tutors on that course, that really gave me the confidence to push ahead with it.

The Ambulance Box has been described as being about faith, hope, death, loss, discovery and what it means to be Scottish — among other things! I think these are all fair evaluations, but did you have an overall ‘theme’ or concept in mind when putting the poems together? Did you have a specific intention for the book while you were building it, or did it come together of its own accord?

Although I wrote with the aim of a full collection in the back of my mind for a while, the poems weren’t created to fit a pre-conceived notion of what that book would be like. The thematic threads are simply a natural upshot of what drove the poems. However, when I was putting them in order, I had a rough, overall emotional trajectory in mind. I knew that the death of my son Aidan would be one strong theme in the book, but I didn’t set out to create a clear narrative. Rather, I wanted a looser sense of journey. That also fitted with the “Pilgrim Variations” sequence, which I knew I wanted to be in the middle of the book.

Range is one thing that attracts me to a collection as a reader, so that’s what I hoped to achieve too. I’m pleased that people have remarked on the book’s range and coherence. I like themed books too — such as Michael Symmons Roberts’ marvellous, rich collection Corpus, Ciaran Carson’s For All We Know or Chris Agee’s remarkable Salt collection, Next to Nothing — but you don’t need a theme to make a strong collection. All you need is strong poems. Therein lies the challenge.

Whenever a discussion strikes up on the topic of young Scottish poets (and this seems to be happening fairly regularly at the moment), your name is pretty much always mentioned. It seems you’re a bit of an ambassador for the ‘new generation’ of Scottish poets. Does this feel like a big responsibility?

Yikes! I hadn’t thought of it in quite those terms. This isn’t something I’ve set out to become, but there aren’t many other Scots in my age group published by the leading poetry presses. Cheryl Follon and Jen Hadfield are about it, and some people wouldn’t count Jen as Scottish. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t others worth reading. Some are coming through the magazines and anthologies and are publishing pamphlets. Others are publishing with smaller presses.

Also, I think this “generation” is more diffuse in age. There are several poets in their mid to late 40s who seem part of it to me — Rob A Mackenzie, Gerry McGrath and AB Jackson, for instance.

If focusing too much on youth can miss some of the best new writing, we can’t ignore the fact that there’s also a strong group of developing poets in their late teens and their 20s. I’m really excited to see what comes out of that demographic in the future. People like Charlotte Runcie and Julia Rampen show immense promise, I think. Scotland seems to me to have been doing well in the Foyle Young Poets competition, which didn’t exist when I were a lad. Neither did blogs or social networking sites, which are very much part of the scene too.

I was wondering if we could talk a little bit about your two publishers — Happenstance, who published Tonguefire, and Salt, who published The Ambulance Box. What attracted you to these publishers, and what did they bring to the publishing process — and indeed to the books?

My involvement with HappenStance was serendipity to a great extent. I was chatting with Helena Nelson — Nell, as we know her — at StAnza 2005 and told her I’d got nowhere in the Smith/Doorstop competition the previous year. She expressed an interest in seeing some of my work, so I sent her the manuscript I’d submitted to the Smith/Doorstop. There wasn’t even a whiff of HappenStance at this stage. Much to my surprise, Nell wrote back to say she was setting up a pamphlet imprint and wanted to publish my MS. After quizzing her on the details of the deal and her marketing plans, I decided to go for it. And I am mightily glad I did. Tonguefire, which was largely the MS I’d sent Nell with only three or four changes, was the first HappenStance pamphlet after her Unsuitable Poems.

As to what attracted me, I liked the idea of being in at the beginning of something and it seemed the right time. Above all, I liked Nell and respected her as a writer. She turned out to be a fine editor too.

With Salt, Chris and Jen’s openness and creativity are great attractions. Those qualities are demonstrated in their “Just One Book” campaign to save Salt from its recent recession-induced cash crisis. The breadth of Salt’s list impresses and excites me too. And the books as objects. You know how so many poetry books have that foustie poetry look, even from the big presses? Not Salt books. The cover designs are stunning and even the covers for their small number of classic titles look fresh and contemporary. Salt’s website is still the best of any publisher’s I know and they keep expanding it, refining it, innovating. There’s a sense of dynamism about the company, and the fact that it’s small — run by a husband and wife team — means you have a personal relationship with the people at the helm.

Personality plays a strong part in a writer’s relationship with their publisher. You’ve got to be able to work together. Nell, Chris and Jen are all passionate about what they do and the writers they publish. That means a lot.

Finally, I’m an avid follower of your blog, also called Tonguefire, and I know you’re very enthusiastic about blogging and the blogosphere! Why do you think it’s a good idea for writers to keep blogs?

Visibility, for one thing. I don’t post my poems on Tonguefire. Some people post all their work on their blogs, but I wouldn’t recommend an emerging writer to take that approach. Why would an editor want to publish a poem if it’s already available online? I’ve only ever posted one or two drafts and removed them after a day or two. However, I know that some people have come across my blog and gone on to buy a pamphlet or a book. They’ve told me so. Therefore, it’s part of building a readership, just as placing poems in magazines and doing readings is. The blog also provides a good way of publicising those readings and publications and it allows you to interact with the audience regardless of geography.

That leads me on to another important strand to blogging: community. I’ve got to know other poets through blogging and reading their blogs. It’s exciting to see those connections grow across the globe. For instance, this tour will be dropping by Robert Peake’s blog and Poetry Hut Blog in the States, as well as Andrew Shields’s blog in Switzerland. Before the blogosphere, it probably took far longer to build such a wide network. That sense of community is important to me; I find it nourishing and stimulating artistically and personally. In addition, it can open up opportunities for publication and readings and so help to build the audience out in the real world.

I also value blogging for the space it gives me to bat around ideas, and not always literary ones, such as my series of posts on rhyme. It helps me to clarify my thinking, though I don’t get as much time for that as I’d sometimes like. Reviewing, either on the blog or for other outlets, could be part of the same process, but I wouldn’t really have time at the moment to do much review writing to speak of. I admire those bloggers who do, especially the ones who also manage to keep writing steadily and carry on a family life!

Thanks Andrew! You can buy a copy of The Ambulance Box directly from Salt’s website, and also from Amazon. As far as I know, Tonguefire is sold out, but you can still get your hands on Andrew Philip: A Sampler at the Happenstance shop — an absolute bargain at only £2.50, and well worth it. Be sure to add Andrew’s blog to your RRS feed for more information and updates on his writing.

(Photo by Gelchy)

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This week’s Featured Poet Kerri Ni Dochartaigh interviewed.

Saturday, June 20th, 2009

You can see Kerri’s other poems here and here — you should also visit her blog to see more of her work! But in the meantime, you can find out a bit more about her creative process and inspiration — there’s also another poem below!

Tell us about your poems.
My work is a bit like what happens when a crow falls in love with a girl after reading her mind. It is a locked box with invalid mathematics, bubbles being blown in an ancient place. It is a hauntingly dark shadow show, maps that you cannot read and a sky that cannot see. My work is yellow and it holds a kite. It lives on brown paper. It wears a diadem and it plays the ukulele, softly.

How long have you been writing?
“She weeps for all that she has wanted to be, for the words that run around inside her all day long but simply cannot fly, for the aeroplane that her paper wants to become. The birthday girl weeps for her paper aeroplane. And at that very moment, she lifts up her pen. The birthday girl writes.”
This was the way I started my writing blog. I have a very deep memory that I just cannot shift of sitting in bed on my eighth birthday (just after Christmas) dying with the cold and holding a beautiful brown book of coloured writing paper my mum had found for me. I remember being close to tears at having so much that I wanted to put down on my pieces of paper and not knowing where to start. So I made paper aeroplanes and wrote on them. There are words inside of me, deep down; on the inside of inside of that wee girl I still am. I still want my words to become paper aeroplanes and so I started my writing blog on my 25th birthday. I just need to re-learn the art of origami . . .

Do you have any publications to your name? What’s the next stage for your work?
I have had my words published by nth position, dash literary journal, The secret attic, Lyrical Ballads, Cutthroat magazine, Birds on the line, Blackmail Press, The Glasgow Review, seventytwo words and fondly sincerely. I still feel a bit like a wee girl at Christmas that has just been given a beautiful yellow typewriter when I read the list of places that have placed my words on a screen or down on pieces of paper. The next stage is to put some poems together and have a little collection; I hope.
What do you think is your biggest poetic achievement to date?
I am going to have two pieces in Caketrain this year which kind of/sort of/maybe had me jumping around the room with excitement as it is a journal I really love and never thought I would ever have work in. There is an image of a horse in woolies on their site which makes life make more sense; somehow. I also see me starting my writing blog as a great achievement as I feel like it is my own wee box and I can fill it with all the words that I never dreamt I’d have the courage to make my own.

What’s the best thing about writing poetry? And the worst?
The best part is the feeling that you are creating your own life; your history is held in the wee teeny moments and what they brought out in you through your words. Hand in hand with that comes the fear that you are dredging up the past in all its darkness, walking alone along a beach that is filled with your own sadness and loss. But that’s what it’s all about for me. I am trying my hardest to interpret my life and our world in all of their kaleidoscopic, scary and mind-blowing colors.

Got any suggestions for young, upcoming poets?
I would say that the best thing I have learned is to write what you know is real. I remember a lecturer that I deeply admired reading one of my pieces and saying he wished that he could read the real piece. One that he knew was darker, more disjointed, rawer and harder to stomach. It’s only been in the last year that I have allowed the real pieces to come out. Sometimes that ache that you get from words that only you could have written reminds you why it is that you are doing it, after all.

Who/what influences your poetry?
“I live in a blue room. Outside of this room there are trees that are brown and green in colour. When I first began to inhabit this place the trees did not have any green. I have watched the green come here-day to day; without even feeling the need to count its dotted numerals. The magpies outside have a somewhat tumultuous love affair and there always seems to be seagull in transit. All of these facts and figures could be recorded on a blackboard that we share the room with but I fear it is up to something dark and these thoughts keep me from covering its surface area with markings. Sometimes pigeons die right in front of the castle but they are still beautiful.”
Or- pigeons, seagulls, magpies, crows, bluebirds (this particular section of the list continues in a similar vein), trees, wolves, the seasons, time, water, an island I know, love, darkness, the ones I love, a certain castle, loss, grieving, identity, ee cummings, mathematics, Virgil, waves, Miranda July, colours, Wallace Stevens, secrets, Dorothy Parker, shadows, Arundhati Roy, histories, Dave Eggers, ornithology, Robert Frost, Sophocles. Mostly my poetry happens when learning to climb trees, though.

lists of collective nouns for birds
the crow watches her with a suspicion that does not acknowledge boundaries. in his mind he plays out
scenes in which they marry, he sings to her and then feeds her to the sparrows. He views her as
a threat to his kingdom; he holds her as close as a bird must hold their enemies in days such as these ones.
he lip reads her unspoken thoughts and is momentarily scared by their shared daydreams;
this girl must be kept within a very tight rein.

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

(Photo by Imageo)

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More from Featured Poet Kerri Ni Dochartaigh

Friday, June 19th, 2009

Hopefully you’ve already seen Kerri’s first poem, and checked out her blog. Here’s another of her pieces — enjoy!

a type of crown

i stand with your head on a stick.
it brings me no joy and yet i cannot seem to
remove your severed body part
from my delicate tree branch.

i deserve all the feathers in the land,
placed upon my head in ceremony.

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

(Photo by Yyellowbird)

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Procrastination Station #42

Friday, June 19th, 2009

Linklist!

The return of Poster Poems! // Carol Ann Duffy get into politics with a new poem // Poets reporting the news // Happy Birthday Leopold Bloom! // The strangest places poets have done it… // How to get out of your library fines // RIP Harold Norse // Do you live in a sci fi city?

Jim on writers and rejection.

Interesting tales of typo errors…

“Grrrl” is in the dictionary?!

Folded Word press are looking for contributors and an Assistant Editor!

Colin’s very wise rules for submitting to magazines.

Are you a feminist if you prefer male writers?

Collective nouns — love this site! Thanks Peggy!

Can’t believe I’ve only just discovered Bookcovers Anonymous! Thanks Nubby!

Found online this week: a great new poem by Swiss — plus, he’s going on holiday and has promised to stop in here!! // Cassandra’s Rules to Live By // and a new piece from Morganne Couch

A typewriter a week? Heck yes!

I love the Fallen Princesses Project — thanks to The Boy for this recommendation!

OK, geeky motorsport stuff: Rubbish spoilers // Weird hotrods // Unfortunate car names (NSFW) // License plates for geeks…

And geeky tattoo stuff: Tattoos for geeks, part 1 // and part 2 // Awesome pin-up // I want this tattoo! // this is kind of cool // and I discovered Owl Tattoos! I particularly like this one, these, this one, this one and this great piece of blackwork!

I also just discovered Rare Bird Finds, which really makes me want to spend money on things like this and this — argh!

Speaking of which… want!

Really want to see this movie:

& this is pretty funny, but NSFW!

Have a great weekend!

(Photo by Salvajada)

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This week’s Featured Poet is Kerri Ni Dochartaigh

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

When she was small, Kerri used to write words down on paper aeroplanes and throw them at her Mum. Then she studied English and Classics at Trinity College, Dublin. She is now 25 and living in Edinburgh. Kerri still writes her words down but she is no longer any good at origami. You can see heaps of her poetry at her blog, She Writes From A Paper Aeroplane.

chickens

i remember you from a time long passed
me by.

you held your hands over my ears
in a market place
where men wrung
chickens’ necks
in a
foreign language.

as if
they were telling one another
the time/
discussing the price of saffron;
their unfamiliar vocabulary
falls outside of my dictionary.

when we first met
you talked to me of
the spice trail in
centuries long,
long
ago;

and
i remembered your chivalry.

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

(Photo by bunchadogs & susan)

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Things I Love Thursday #42

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

A random bundle of things this week!

Clearing out!
Because of a recent new addition to my household, I am feeling the need to clear out some stuff to make space! I have a huge collection of vintage and second hand clothing and so much of it never gets worn, so I’ve set up my own online vintage store to clear some of it out. Everything on there is pretty cheap — there are a couple of designer bits, but everything (except this, which is a bit special) is under £20! There’ll probably be more up there soon so keep an eye out!

Making mix-CDs.
I’m off on holiday with Boy next week — we’re going to stay in the Lake District, with my aunt, who has a shop in Grasmere (she now stocks the RT jewels!). We don’t have a car and usually when we go down there, we use public transport (I love the Lakes Rambler open-topped buses!), but last time it was so nuts with tourists, and so expensive, that this time we’ve decided to rent a car. Which for me of course means road trip: it’s only about a 2-and-a-half hour drive down, but that’s enough! I am making heaps of cool mix CDs (not as good as tapes, but hey), plotting possible stops for cups of tea and exploring, and getting needlessly excited about it. Latest CD? Helter Skelter — The Beatles // Immigrant Song — Led Zeppelin // Rough Justice — The Rolling Stones // Supernaut — Black Sabbath // Louie Louie — Motorhead // Just Fade Away — Stiff Little Fingers // Foxy Lady — Jimi Hendrix // Original Prankster — Offspring // Basketcase — Greenday // I Don’t Like The Drugs But The Drugs Like Me — Marilyn Manson (creepy video — not least because Marilyn looks eerily like Courtney Love!) // Suck My Kiss — Red Hot Chili Peppers // For Whom The Bell Tolls — Metallica // The Pusher — Steppenwolf // Freebird — Lynyrd Skynyrd (short version) // Oh Well — Fleetwood Mac (the ‘Mac, pre-girls!) // Jailbreak — Thin Lizzy.

The Simple Diary.
I am really excited about this and it isn’t even ‘out’ yet — so expect to see it on my TiLT list again when it arrives! It’s the brainchild of artist Phillip Keel, and it’s a way of journalling your day without having to write down the mundane details of your life and/or spend heaps of time scribbling. Every page asks you a question to make you think, gives you a weird and wonderful quotation, and tests your mood with quizzes and brain-teasers. I think it’s a great idea and I’ve pre-ordered three copies (the violent orange for myself, and a green and a blue for friends)! It’s also a gorgeous looking book… I can’t wait for the postman to get it here!

Publication!
The lovely people over at The Cadaverine (see my write-up here!) have published three of my poems, and a photo of my funny face. I also have two poems forthcoming in brand new Edinburgh-based magazine Anything Anymore Anywhere… go check them out!

This!:

& this! One of the greatest songs ever, plus a cute video!:

Honourable mentions: The new baby // eating strawberries on my couch while watching Le Mans — hello summer! // excitement for the Silverstone GP! // finding out I am a vocab genius (I knew the correct meanings of all these!) // this poem at Bolts of Silk // holiday plotting, praying for nice weather // The Big Picture — always brilliant, I can spend hours there // What’s in my bag? photos on Flickr — I am so nosy, I love them! Going to do my own soon, watch this space!

What’re you loving this week?

(Photo by Architekt2)

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Writers to Read Part III — Allen Ginsberg

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

As most of you know, the Writers to Read slot is usually occupied by Mr William Soule, but this time we’re switching places. Rather than him writing a Writers to Read post on my blog, I am writing one on his — Will is a community Gallery Director for Literature over at deviantART and he asked if I’d like to do a short piece introducing his readers to Allen Ginsberg (because, of course, I’m a huge fangirl of his!). Bearing in mind that many of those readers may be totally new to the great man, it was quite tricky, but here’s what I came up with! Enjoy!

Allen Ginsberg was born in New Jersey, spending most of his childhood and early life in Paterson. He was a bright child, but a loner – his home life was fraught with difficulty as his mother, Naomi, suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and was in and out of mental health institutions throughout Allen’s teen years. Allen worried endlessly about the homosexual feelings that plagued him and alienated him from his peers, and to take his mind off things he immersed himself in politics. Naomi was a card-carrying member of the Communist Party (and took Allen and his brother Gene to meetings with her), while Allen’s father, Louis, was a staunch Socialist. From a young age Allen would write detailed letters to national newspapers regarding the political issues of the day. He was also an avid reader and devoured the works of Whitman throughout his high school years.

In 1943, the young Ginsberg won a scholarship to study at the University of Columbia, and enrolled in the merchant navy to earn money to fund his studies, and, according to his journal, to meet potential boyfriends! It was at this time that he began writing poetry seriously, and for a while he was mentored by the great Modernist poet and fellow Paterson resident, William Carlos Williams. Also at around this time, Ginsberg met William Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, John Clellon-Holmes and Herbert Hunke – the founder members of the Beat Generation.

In 1948, Ginsberg experienced a poetic epiphany as he read the poems of William Blake while smoking marijuana – he claimed to have been “visited” by Blake himself, and the experience fired his interest in the study and effect of hallucinogenic drugs. He became a fierce campaigner for the legalisation of hallucinogens like peyote, yage and particularly marijuana, and supported the cause until his death at the age of 70.

In the 1950s, the Beat Generation rose to fame and became perhaps the most popular and influential counter-culture literary movement of all time. Having been expelled from Columbia, and relocated to San Francisco, Ginsberg turned his attention to his writing, and in 1955 he completed his most famous piece – the long poem Howl. The poem was a celebration of the Beat life in Greenwich Village (New York) and San Francisco, and chronicled the comings and goings of Ginsberg and his acquaintances. ‘Howl’ made a lot of bald political statements and contained lines which referred candidly to homosexual practices, the like of which had never been seen before. It was also structurally unique: Ginsberg used the breath-unit techniques he had learned from mentor Williams and inserted them into the long line he had borrowed from his hero Whitman, creating a brand new poetic form. A draft of the poem was first presented to the public at the Six Gallery Reading on 7th November 1955. Ginsberg became infamous over night, and when the poem was published soon after by Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s Pocket Poets, it became the centre of one of the highest-profile obscenity trials in literary history. Ginsberg and Ferlinghetti were eventually cleared of all charges.

In 1956, Naomi – who had been divorced by Louis and permanently institutionalised for her own safety – passed away, and in memory of her, Ginsberg wrote what is arguably his best poem: Kaddish, another long piece built on the foundations of the Jewish funeral rite, the Kaddish (Naomi had been denied a traditional Kaddish at her funeral). Following the Howl trial and his mother’s death, Ginsberg spent several years travelling in Europe, India and Asia with his partner Peter Orlovsky, occasionally joined by other members of the Beat community, including Kerouac and Burroughs. During this time, Ginsberg became increasingly interested in Buddhism. These years also saw a gradual drift in Ginsberg’s strong friendship with Jack Kerouac, whose mother Gabrielle-Ange saw Allen as a bad influence and forbade the two from seeing each other. Kerouac died in 1969, and the breach was never really healed.

Kerouac’s death marked the falling-off point for the Beat Generation. Though many of its members continued to write, the movement itself slowly crumbled, and the Beats were replaced as the movers and shakers of counter-culture by the beatniks and the hippies. Ginsberg was one of the few Beats to stay in the literary spotlight – to this day he is still considered an infamous, popular and highly esteemed poet, essayist and scholar. Ginsberg spent his later life writing and teaching across America and the wider world, helping to establish the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at the Naropa Institute in Colorado, and remaining an active campaigner for civil rights, gay rights and the legalisation of marijuana. He died in 1997 at the age of 70.

For me, his best poems are the ones written in his early years, the Beat Generation years, and the ones I’d recommend reading/listening to are also his most popular: Howl, America, A Supermarket in California, Sunflower Sutra, Kaddish. You can also listen to a reading of several poems – including Howl – given by Ginsberg at Reed College in 1956. Warning: many of these poems could be considered NSFW.

You can read the original article here, and Mr Soule will be back in due course with the next of the Writers to Read — in the meantime, if you’d like to write a guest-post on ONS, drop me a line to claire@onenightstanzas.com!

(Photo by Jurek d.)

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Featured Magazines #14: The Cadaverine

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

Hello, my name’s Claire, and I am addicted to The Cadaverine.
No, seriously — run by young writers for young writers, it’s a friendly and funky space were you can submit work year-round… basically, it’s everything a literary e-zine ought to be.
Why?

One: Like I say, The Cadaverine is run by young writers and literary enthusiasts. They know what it’s like to be you. They don’t have crazily high standards or ridiculous expectations. They want to hear your ideas no matter how weird or wacky they are. They’re incredibly friendly in the responses they send back to submitters and always have a personal word to say — editor Gemma’s comments on my works were really lovely, she’d obviously taken proper time to read and think about them. Not something you get often!

Two: These guys are more than just an e-zine — they accept submissions of works-in-progress and happily offer editorial suggestions and advice, something I have never come across before and was really blown away by. They’ll even make editorial suggestions on poems you might think are ‘done’ — if they think something might work better another way, they’ll let you know. Not everyone likes this, but it’s incredibly helpful and again shows a personal touch that hardly any literary magazines bother with.

Three: This publication is a bit of a big deal. Thanks to the hard work and great attitude of the people who run it, as well as the high quality and great variety of pieces it presents, The Cadaverine has gained a reputation for itself as a publication to watch, read, support. They’ve even achieved the near-impossible — arts council funding for a literary magazine!

Four: They’re genuinely passionate about promoting new British literature and British writers (I’m not sure if non-British writers can submit or not — there’s nothing to say so on the site, but they do specify a commitment to “the new voices of British literature.” Query it with them if you want to submit but are unsure!).

Five: They don’t have a lot of crazy submission guidelines — like I say, they just want to see your work. The only rules for poetry are: no more than 6 poems, send a bio and photo with your submission, and let them know if it’s a work in progress you’re submitting. Nothing else — just whizz your stuff off in the direction of thecadaverine@mac.com!

Six: you can spend hours there perusing the archives and reading all the fantastic writing on offer. While you’re there, look out for former ONS Featured Poets Suzannah Evans, Josh Seigal, Amy Blakemore… and there’s also little old me!

So get over there already — read, write, submit!

Know an e-zine, journal or other literary publication that deserves some love? Tell me about it in the comments box or drop me a line to claire@onenightstanzas.com!

(Photo by Noora Suliman)

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This week’s Featured Poet John Ecko interviewed.

Saturday, June 13th, 2009

Tell us about your poems.
I love to learn and write about many things and in many forms. My poems range from very light and humorous to deeply introspective. I will always consider myself a student of poetry, forever learning, but also an adventurer of poetry as well. I love to explore and push at the boundaries to see what’s beyond and concrete/shape poetry allows me a great freedom to do this. To me, poetry is about writing anything that has what I call “reach”. If a poem can take on many meanings as it passes through the hands of multiple readers, then a poem has promise. There’s nothing worse to me than poetry that falls into obscurity, failing to be understood at all. I’ve written my fair share of those.

How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing short stories since I was old enough to read and write. But poetry became my first passion. I started writing poems at fifteen but really started exploring poetry when I was in my twenties. I enjoy writing sonnets and villanelles and anything that has a rhythm that “dances”. I’m still dabbling on and off in short stories and have recently started picking that up again.

Why do you write under the pseudonym, John Ecko?
Two years ago I was coming out of a major poetry drought and writing poetry like a damn bursting open. At some point I saw a visual in my mind and began writing my first shape poem. What surprised me more than anything was that the poem I wrote was so unlike anything I’d written previously. It was a political piece (which I, as Scott Scherr, hardly ever write) that came together rather quickly. It was like tapping into a well I’d never known was there about myself and that’s when I decided to create the John Ecko persona. I was unsure at the time where these types of poems were headed, so I let that side of myself pursue his own road. As it turned out, John had quite a bit to say. I still write many forms of poetry under my given name but decided to let John remain as something separate, for my visual poems often feel that way to me and I’ve come to believe it is essential to let John retain the breathing room he had from day one.

Do you have any publications to your name? What’s the next stage for your work?
I’ve recently published a book of visual poems, or shape poems, called “Signs of Life” and I’ve enjoyed the whole experience of putting this collection of diverse shape poems together over the past year. I’ll be promoting this book all summer while putting a collection of traditional and free verse poems together that I’ll publish under my given name, Scott Scherr, sometime in the Fall. Next year, I hope to have a second book of visual poems finished and hopefully released by the spring or summer of 2010.

What do you think is your biggest poetic achievement to date?
Aside from completing my book, I would have to say that my biggest poetic achievement was stepping out for the first time and sharing my poetry with others. Up until that point, poetry was always a personal and very private affair for me and not something I ever dreamed of sharing with others. If I hadn’t risked that first important move to stick my poems out there on the chopping block for others to see, my growth as a poet and my understanding of poetry would have been severely limited. By doing so I’ve learned that poetry can be an incredible form of communication that reaches deep into the heart of matters and reveals one soul to another. Poetry to me takes on its greatest form and purpose when we learn to share those words with others. These words we pen carry incredible potential and power that can tear down barriers, lift up weary souls and perhaps even unite people on a level beneath so many superficial differences that really do not matter.

What’s the best thing about writing poetry? And the worst?
By far, the best thing about poetry to me is the discovery. I often start a poem that heads in one direction, and then the poem simply decides to go it’s own way. I think our best poems often do this, if we get out of the way… So for me the best part is that uncovering of the dirt to reveal what’s been buried, which to me is like reading a poem for the first time, even though I was involved in the whole process of it’s creation. The worst part is always the same for me: The dry spells. I am never aware of my own addiction to writing until I reach a point where nothing comes and I’m struggling to find words. I have learned to appreciate those “pauses” from writing to pursue other things until the well is full again but it’s still the hardest part.

Got any suggestions for young, upcoming poets?
The day I forget that I will always be, in part, a young poet and forever learning, is the day I hang this up and go home. Watch out for those arrogant attitudes that snatch an honest poet right off the ground just to strand him or her on a lonely mountain with words no longer fruitful to anyone. We would all love our names to be known and our poems remembered. But I think it’s absolutely essential that we grow into an understanding that this may or may not ever occur, and that it should not matter in the end. Poetry is not a destination we strive to reach, but the journey itself. Let the rest take care of itself. What I would suggest to aspiring young poets is to never lose sight of the “why” you write. Once your poetry’s purpose loses this simplicity, one runs the risk of writing to the beasts of frustration rather than the “whisper” of inspiration. We must always stay in tune to that quiet voice inviting us into every moment. It is those moments that make us alive and breathe life into our words.

Who/what influences your poetry?
I am primarily influenced by subtle moments that often catch me off guard. I receive many of my poems in fragments that linger like splinters in the brain until all the pieces come together. Other times emotions simply seize the reins and I’m overwhelmed with words.

Tell me again how the oceans will end as I sail off the edge of your world. Next you will lie, say a man cannot fly, as I soar off the edge of your world. Spit in my face while you laugh, “outer space?” as I land on the moon off your world. Why do you doubt every dream someone shouts, can’t you see past the clouds and the fearful frowns of your ever insisting small world?

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

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