Archive for July, 2009

Procrastination Station #46 & #47

Friday, July 31st, 2009

Look! A link love list! I know I haven’t done one of these for two weeks, so this is a bumper edition. Look out!

SO much good stuff on the Guardian Books Blog recently! It is such a time-eater: Bonding through books // Famous Seamus at 70 // Happy words // a very tricky debate… // Quiz: how well do you know your literary spies? // Faber’s cover archive // Poster Poems: History // I agree with a LOT of this! // Poem of last week // …and this week! // a portrait of the wonderful Michael Rosen // Yet more reasons why e-books are the spawn of the devil // & Viv! I love her.

Awesome alert: Colour Me Katie’s Rules for a Creative Life. I also love her photos of people dancing! Follow this blog… it’s definite inspiration fodder!

It’s official: rejection = brain damage.

I love this picture of the Scottish Poetry Library staff! That’s my mate Dave on the end!

Why big-headed lit mags kind of suck.

As a crafter, I thought this post on crafting motivation was really interesting.

Poetry inspiring fashion…?

Do stories add value? I love the idea behind the Significant Objects project!

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie @ Vulpes Libris

Hello, pretty book cover!

Amazing picture.

Found online this week: Chris Lindores started updating his blog again! Hooray! Plus, a new poem from him! // Former FP Rowena Knight at the Cadaverine // Col gave a shoutout to the London Poetry Pearl, which I helped edit! // at a handful of stones: Howie Good, Colin Will, Regina C Green, & a rare stone from creator Fiona herself! // Speaking of Regina C Green — she’s everywhere! She also had a great piece at Bolts of Silk recently, and gave ONS a shoutout on her blog. Thanks, doll! // Also mentioning me this week: Ms Aiko // I loved this new piece from the ubertalented McGuire // & regular reader/contributor Jim got a mention on PoetHound. Congrats!

I love this gallery of firepoi photos and flash animations!

Beth Ditto rocks my socks right off (aaaah!).

Yet more cool from Rock n Roll Bride! & a sweet story too!

Landlord of the Flies is hilarous. Read from the bottom up, though, or it’ll make no sense!


& finally, if this doesn’t brighten your weekend, I don’t know what will…

Happy weekend!

(Photo by Ilaria (I hate Illinois nazis))

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More from Featured Poet Jess Winch

Friday, July 31st, 2009

You can see Jess’ previous poem here, and her interview will be up tomorrow. In the meantime, enjoy this sweet haiku!

Saturday Morning

Bed fresh white washed sheets
Sun glinting through the curtains
Legs locked lazily

Want to see your poems featured here? Drop me a line to!

(Photo by Eqqman)

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Things I Love Thursday #47

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

Look, I’m back on track with TiLT! & a Procrastination Station (the first in three weeks! Sorry sorry sorry!) is on its way tomorrow, finally! Basically, I’ve been having some family troubles — both my grandfathers are currently in hospital, and they’re both over 80, so it’s a bit worrying. I’ve been finding it hard to put on my positive inspiration face to post here, but over the past couple of days I’ve realised that at times like these, you need that face more than ever! So I’m back with a vengence! Here’s some of the stuff that’s been cheering me up recently…

Rachel Fachner has to come first! Apparently, Rachel is one of you secret readers who never comments on posts, so I was blissfully unaware that she existed (if you’re one of these, say ‘hello’ sometime… in this very comments box, perhaps?). A bit of a creative powerhouse (she’s a director, choreographer, writer and general all-round creative nut-job, obviously a woman after my own heart!), Rachel runs the Project: Transparence blog, which is how I sniffed her out! And she’d given ONS a hell of a write-up… it made me blush! Check this out:

“This woman is my inspiration for productivity… there is almost too much to love about her. she teaches poetry, writes consistently on two blogs, makes jewelry, gets awarded grants… oh, and writes amazing poetry that gets published (all the time). my favourite part of her public life is her commitment to hosting, and participating in, the conversation about her art form. there is a transparent honesty about her… a confidence that leads toward being uncompetitive which I find refreshing.”

Oh my goodness, thank you thank you thank you!

Discovering new blogs. As well as Rachel’s blog, I’ve also discovered a bunch of new stuff this week that’s keeping me from getting on with my tasks! ChickenDinnerCandyBar has a seriously healthy attitude to consumerism, fashion, body image and life in general… plus, with a gorgeous old typewriter as her header-image, how could I not love her blog? Blue Horse Poetry is the blog of ONS reader Matt Haigh and he posts his poetry, opinions and TiLTs (yay!) there. I’ve already geeked about The X Files and got bolshy about Carol Ann Duffy in his various comments boxes… sorry, Matt! And sad but true, Book Covers Anonymous is basically bordering on a fetish for me. OH MY GOODNESS beautiful books (expect a post on this soon, maybe)!

The Formula 1! OK come on, I’ve been good recently and not geeked about motorsport for at least two TiLTs, so bear with me. I can’t resist a quick mention of everything that’s happened recently! I’m really not a fan of Mark Webber (I think he’s an average driver and he’s been lucky enough to get a good car… I know that can be the nature of racing, but schmneh!), but I was happy to see him win his first Grand Prix after years and years of racing. Nice one! I’m also not a fan of Ferrari and therefore Felipe Massa figures low on my list of F1 favourites, but his terrible crash during qualifying at Hungary was a real blow for the sport, particularly coming so soon after the tragic death of F2 driver Henry Surtees. I’m glad to hear Felipe’s condition is improving though, and despite being a Ferrariite, I hope he’ll be fit enough to come back to racing soon… not least because he’s been replaced by none other than the Schumachersaurus! (Cue Luke-Skywalker-style “nooooooo!”)
There is the issue of How The Season Is Going, though. Boy had managed to convince me that Jenson was deserving of a Championship title (I have never been a big fan of the Magic Button, but I conceded)… but after his performance at Hungary, wailing on the team radio and sniping at the mechanics, he has totally lost my support! Other drivers get oversteer and hot tires all the time, and they deal with it… they don’t behave like divas! Now I’m backing Seb Vettel for the title, though I think chances are slim. However, I reckon 09 has been the best season for years… great racing, great cars, plenty of suspense, scandal and drama. Hooray! (PS: you think this is geeking? Look out: I have just started watching the MotoGP as well and really enjoying it, plus I’m developing an interest in the BTCC. It can only get worse!)

Tattoo ideas. Right now I am very much in the mood for a new tattoo/tattoos! Unfortunately you need money for such things, but it doesn’t stop me looking into cool designs and getting excited about heaps of ideas! At this moment in time I am really loving punctuation tattoos… Contrariwise just posted a great semicolon, and I am also loving this funky ampersand (and its placement! Brilliant!), speechmarks, and this punk questionmark. Nice!

Wardrobe remix. I’ve been having to explain to people recently why I’ve chosen to do this, and it’s tricky as a lot of people think it’s just vanity. I guess taking photos of your outfit is a bit narcissistic, and I really hate the commerical and pro-consumerist way it’s done on a lot of big famous blogs these days. However, I have a lot of good (I believe) reasons for doing it. One: I have really shitty body image — it varies, but generally I pretty much hate how I look. I’m 5′11″ which makes me rather awkward to start with, and although I know I’m not “fat,” like most women I carry more weight than I’d like. Until recently I avoided creating or even seeing full-length images of myself, which actually led to a lack of awareness about what I really look like. Seeing my wardrobe remix photos has a) made me realise that actually, what I look like and what I think I look like are two very different things, and b) if I accept what I am rather than fighting it, I actually do look better. I was inspired by this lady to embrace and celebrate myself rather than trying to change myself, and wardrobe remixing — a technique she also uses — is really helping. I’m also a big believer in thrifting, recycling, found clothing and second hand shopping, and I’m very much against large-scale consumerism and the buying of ridiculously expensive designer label goods (particularly when you only buy them to put on a shelf, because they’re too valuable to actually wear). That’s why I put the prices/estimated prices of my garments alongside my wardrobe remixes… some entire outfits cost as little as £10, but they don’t look cheap or crap (weird, maybe, but not cheap or crap. I hope). I’m also a bit of a lazy mare and will wear the same outfit over and over and over if I like it. This is making me more adventurous and encouraging me to wear clothes that were previously gathering dust in my wardrobe. All good, right?

Honourable mentions: Boy… off work for a while, and painting again for the first time in years, literally! // Emails from Crazy People, from the makers of FAILblog. This is freaking hilarious, while this — as a teacher myself — just shocked and saddened me. // this picture // Everyone who’s bought a copy of Sharks Don’t Sleep so far — you guys freakin’ rock! // Getting my millions of projects a bit more under control and actually looking forward to working on them! // Driving. Don’t get to do it often, and I love it!

And you…?

(Photo by ~aspidistra~)

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This week’s Featured Poet is Jess Winch

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

So, you may have noticed that there was no Featured Poet last week… don’t worry, the concept is still going strong! The week’s poet just postponed in order to coincide his appearance here with his forthcoming book launch… exciting! So, back to the schedule, and I am very pleased to announce that this week’s Featured Poet is Ms Jess Winch!

Jess Winch is in her final year studying English Literature at the University of Edinburgh. She has just returned from a year abroad in Barcelona, where she spent a lot of time drinking coffee and was bitten by the poetry bug. While in Spain, she enrolled on an online writing workshop, which gave her the confidence to continue writing poetry on her return to Scotland. Her goals now are to graduate, write at least five memorable poems, and work out how to combine a job with a Masters degree with a year in France.


all in white
with feet bare

a cracked hand
that tousles
your hair

a jazz beat,
low like
a heartbeat

the smart rush
of sea salt
in air

i am silk
lying rich
on your skin

on your tongue

the promising
step to

And the smile
in your heart
when it’s done

Want to see YOUR poems featured here? Drop me a line to!

(Photo by Boy_Wonder)

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How to be a poetry ninja.

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

Recently, I’ve started thinking that we poets — and a lot of our non-writerly supporters in the wider poetosphere — spend far too much time whinging about the negative, incorrect assumptions and attitudes that poetry seems to inspire in people, the lack of time given over to poetry, the lack of poetically-minded readers, etc etc. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a crying shame that not everyone in this world is smart enough to realise that Philip Larkin or William Carlos Williams should obviously beat JK Rowling or Dan Brown in a what-to-read-next deathmatch… but let’s stop moaning about it, and be proactive! Teaching sixteen-year-olds has made me realise that even the most stubborn poetry preconception can be shifted by finding creative ways to inject amazing poetry into the lives of cynics. I’m basically talking about quietly ambushing your favourite poetry naysayer with great literature that they can’t help but love, sneaking great poetry into other people’s lives and seeing what happens. Even those pesky one-paperback-per-year-type readers can be converted. The trick is stealth!

Not all poetry is like Keats.
For most people, poetry was something you hated about school (personally, I loved every second of English but dreamed about throttling my PE teacher with the gnawed-off hem of my gym skirt. Everyone’s different). My parents frighten me with horror stories of having to recite Keats’ “Ode to a Grecian Urn” by heart (with skelps across the knuckles if they got a line wrong), and people who are about my age whinge about Carol Ann Duffy’s infamous onion poem and the stupid essay questions dreamed up by the exam board. However, thinking about poetry as nothing more than a boring school subject is plain daft — French is a whole complex language spoken by millions of people, it’s not just a series of exercises in a textbook, is it?! Poetry is the same, it’s a huge, living, breathing entity, and if you’re a canny poetry ninja you can show the people around you that there’s so much more to it than the dusty old (non-)favourites. For sufferers of school-room dread, try these tactics:
– Take ‘em out to an open mic that you know features poetry. You don’t have to tell them that the P word might be involved, just convince them it’ll be a good night and get them there. Poetry at open mics can be wonderful, or it can be terrible, but one thing you can pretty much always guarantee is: it’s different. This’ll be a good way of a) showing your cynical friend that there’s more to poetry than just textbook exercises, and b) it’ll be a good springboard for a poetic discussion. Ask them what they liked, what they didn’t and why. They might just think differently about poetry thereafter.
– Find out which poem really terrified them at school, and write a parody of it. Even better: there are heaps of poems out there about the horrors of high school English… find a couple out. Billy Collins is a good place to start for this.
– Challenge your friend to write a poem, and if they refuse, offer a reward. It might just be that you’ll do the washing up for them or give them a lift somewhere, or they might need more encouragement… you can always just bet them that they can’t, get them feeling competitive! Writing a poem can really make you realise how much goes into the process, and it can bring new respect for people who do it regularly.

Not all poetry is boring.
Some people have no reason to dislike poetry, they’ve just heard it’s boring and/or difficult (probably from someone in the tortured-at-school category) and decided to believe that, because there aren’t too many people around fighting poetry’s corner. These people are the easiest to convert, mainly because their preconceptions are just plain wrong, and all you need to do is show ‘em that! Things to try:
– Something I’ve learned: the way you talk about poetry influences how the people around you see it. The best teachers are the ones who can speak with real zeal and passion about their subject, so you can’t help but be interested. If you can speak about poetry in a way that makes it sound exciting and intriguing — but without ramming it down the throats of your listeners — that can be half the battle. I always talk about Allen Ginsberg as a literary rockstar, for example… I really love his work and his fascinating personal story, and because of that I can’t help but talk about him like he’s a hero. I’ve converted heaps of people — they’ve just “checked him out” after hearing me talk about him.
– Speaking of great personal stories… if your cynical friend discovers that poets themselves can be far, far from boring, they might get more interested in their work. Throw a fancy dress party with a Byronic theme, so your resident cynic has to read up on Byron’s wild and wicked ways. Lend them a copy of Simon Armitage’s great Gig, or Jack Kerouac’s On The Road, or Charles Bukowski’s Factotum. Lend/buy them Barfly or The Dead Poets’ Society or The Lost Weekend or Educating Rita. Show them literature is cool.
– Mix your media… trick your friend into reading/hearing poetry! Play them the Clash songs that feature Allen Ginsberg, send them a funky animated movie from Youtube (which just happens to have a poem read over it…), or introduce them to poems by musicians like Tom Waits or visual artists like Yoko Ono. Don’t ask them what they think to this stuff, just let them see it!

Not all poetry is irrelevant flowery nonsense.
Plenty of people think all poems rhyme, are full of thees and thous and devote stanza after stanza to describing flowers… naturally this stuff is just for funerals and greetings cards and not relevant to them in any way, they say. Obviously, you and I know this is not true, but its a common misconception! Again, this is a fairly easy one to deal with… just show your cynic the evidence!
– Host your own informal poetry reading. Just do it from your living room — invite all your friends to find a poem they like (not necessarily one they’ve written) to read out. To make sure your cynic shows up, offer a prize for the best reading — the chance of a free bottle of wine will entice people to do all sorts of things! Ask your cynic why they chose the poem they did. It’ll make them think about what it’s really about and why they like it.
– If your mate reckons poetry is just for greetings cards, hold them to it! Any time you send them a birthday, Christmas, thank you or get well card, stick a poem in it… but make sure it’s one you’d never normally find printed in a card! Think Philip Larkin’s This be the verse (”they fuck you up, your mum and dad…”), or a snippet of John Cooper Clarke’s Evidently Chickentown.
– Find a poem about something your cynic loves, and give it to them in some form. Whether their passion is football or Formula 1, knitting or baking bread, chances are there’s a poem about it. Show them it’s not all flowers.

Any more poetry ninja tips? Have you ever converted a friend to poetry? If so, how did you do it?!

(Photo by Robert Couse-Baker)

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A few people to follow on Twitter…

Monday, July 27th, 2009

I’m a regular Twitter-er, but I’m fairly rubbish at finding other good people to follow. I get very bored of “I’m wondering what to do today” type tweets, or “bored, can’t think of anything”, which is always popular but really, why do we all need to know? I want to follow people who’ll actually use their 140 characters to do or say something cool! This is the pick of my followed Twitterers… and I want your suggestions, too!

@Alan_Bennett — legendary writer Alan Bennett, whose tweets are generally literary and often pose interesting questions: “Emails of thanks, emails from banks… Who writes poetry about email? None will see the inbox icon without a quickening of the heart.” He also recently pointed out that writers have become disturbingly easy to spot in public places: “Whither the writer? I am the only one in the carriage with a book. All the other passengers have iPods or laptops.”

@poetrynews A good source of unusual poetry picks and literary links. I always find something interesting here, e.g.: “Katha Pollitt: Byron knew what women wanted. #poetry #poets.”

@BrentSpiner a.k.a Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Oh, be quiet — his Twitter is awesome, really bizarre and funny, and it seems to upset people regularly, for some reason! In recent Tweets he’s claimed “I didn’t say I knew the meaning of life. I just said, I’d take the blame for all things”, and admitted to stealing props from the Star Trek set.

@unpubd_poetry Full name ‘unpublished poetry,’ obviously — this Twitterfeed is written from the point of view of a pile of unpublished poems, slowly mouldering away in a desk drawer. The results are often really funny. “I’m going to fold half my pages into envelopes and submit myself!” and “Cut-ups are painful. No wonder W.S. Burroughs’ manuscript shot heroin” are some recent examples!

@seanbedlam If you haven’t yet discovered Sean Bedlam, the Australian political satirist whose fight-picking on Youtube has become legendary, you’re missing out. His particular brand of unflinching issue-addressing might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but he sure has a way with words: “‘Ascend and decimate,’ I tell myself as I head out into the wasteland, camera at my side, to make a pwny pwnfest of pure pwnularity.”

@handfulofstones If you read this blog, you know what this is! Get more mini-poem goodness from @asmallstone, too!

The Twitterfeed of the brilliant Retro To Go blog, who now have another way of brainwashing me into buying awesome things I can’t afford. Damn them!

@Poetcasting All links to brilliant online podcasts of contemporary poets reading their work. Want an easy (and literary) way to lose an hour? Follow this feed!

& of course you can follow One Night Stanzas right here, and be sure to check out The London Poetry Festival’s feed, too! Know an interesting Twitterer? Let me know who they are in the comments box — I am always looking for cool new people to follow!

(Cartoon by HubSpot)

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Things I Love Thursday (Friday!) #46

Friday, July 24th, 2009

Sorry for the lack of TiLT last week — and the lateness and shortness of this one! I have been rushed off my feet putting together a certain new book which by now I am sure you’re all aware of! Still this is better late than never, right…?

Sharks Don’t Sleep The aforementioned book! I have spent the last few days printing, folding, trimming, stapling, embellishing, and sending out copies. This book looks freaking amazing and is truly full of awesome, I’m really pleased with it and it’s been great to work with Eric (and my sister, who did the artwork!) on it. Find out more about it here and grab yourselves a copy here or here!

Wardrobe Remix. I just started doing this “properly” after doing it on a very on-and-off basis for a while… it may seem vain to some, but it really makes you think and care more about how you look and what you project to other people. I’m finding it very useful! You can see some of my bizarre outfits (and faces!) here.

The Bookseer. Wait, you tell this site what book you just read and it tells you the perfect one to read next? Awesome! I tried this and it actually threw up three titles that were already on my next-to-read list. That would suggest it actually DOES know what I would like to read!

Honourable mentions: Getting a new lecturing/tutoring job for the coming academic year. Hooray! // Having my sweet tattooed friend Martyna visiting from Poland for two months! Already my life is full of cool things like visiting tattoo parlours, hair-dyeing sessions and in-depth discussions on the birth of punk. Yes! // Speaking of tattoos, I’m plotting new ones! Need money… // This… snarfle. // Beth Ditto’s Evans clothing range. Love this! // Writing new poems

Et toi?

(Photos by Sarah .K)

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Sharks Don’t Sleep: now available to buy from Read This Press

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

Sharks Don’t Sleep is the title of the brand new chapbook from New Jersey-based spoken word poet Eric Hamilton, and it’s published by Read This Press. Described as “a book that crackles with life,” and “a grimy, romantic and fucking funny look at the world,” Sharks Don’t Sleep is a beautiful 32-page chapbook, hand-made with high quality cardstock covers and embellished with a black ribbon bookmark and original artwork.

Once the book goes on general release, it will be priced at $10 (£6), but right now you fabulous ONS readers can get your hands on a copy of Sharks Don’t Sleep for the bargain price of just £4 ($6.50). If you’re in the UK, you can check out the Read This Press Artfire site for listings in GBP, or if you’re in the USA, you can check out our Etsy shop for listings in USD. If you’re from elsewhere, don’t worry — you can still buy from either of these sites. And if you have any queries about the book, the press or purchasing copies, just drop me a line to

You can also buy a copy of Sharks Don’t Sleep at this special reduced rate (just £4 + £2 P&P) by clicking the button below!

Eric Hamilton is a deranged artist who paints everything from canvas to freight trains. He also writes poetry and enjoys sharing his spoken word at slams or cafes everywhere from NYC out to LA. He was born and raised in Las Vegas, spent a lot of time living in east Los Angeles, and is now unemployed and attending college as a journalism major in New Jersey, where you can find him at art galleries and coffee shops politicking with the poets, art-fags, and random transient folk. He’s a bit of a broken man who receives a lot of undeserved attention from women, smokes cigarettes, and stumbles in and out of short-term relationships looking for love. He spends most of his time waiting for lung cancer and responses from publishers, and has been known to occasionally set fire to a booklet of poems aged with the experience of time.

Remember this is just one of the Read This Press titles — we’ve also published a fantastic anthology of poems on the subject of tattoos and tattooing, Skin Deep, which you can buy here. And the last Read This Press single-poet chapbook was from upcoming Scottish poet Chris LindoresYou Old Soak, also available to buy. Both these titles are also a bargainous £4. Please do support our small press and make a purchase!

Don’t forget to visit The Read This Store, and its sister store, Edinburgh Vintage!

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15 books that have stuck.

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

I got sent this “silly meme” by a poet-friend on Facebook, but thought it was interesting and cool enough to share. The idea is, you make a list of 15 books that have stuck with you, for whatever reason — not necessarily just those you liked, not necessarily those you finished, even. Just ones that have stuck in your head. You’re not supposed to think about it too much, just make the list off the top of your head, and no editing afterwards! My list is below, and I’d be really, really interested to see yours. You know where the comments box is — or if you take it to your own blog, link back!

1. Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by TS Eliot
My Dad used to read this to my sister and me when we were kids, complete with “funny voices.” He used to read more poetry to us than stories. He had this really nice Faber edition with pen and ink drawings. I now have Old Possum’s on vinyl (I collect literary LPs), read by Thomas Stearns himself. He sounds very, very awkward. I know it’s a cliche, but Macavity is my favourite.

2. Miss Priscilla’s Secret, by Jennifer Zabel Awesome kids book about a lady smuggler/pirate/schoolteacher. Another one my Dad read to us with ‘voices.’ Our next door neighbour at the time once told my Mum that she used to come out to get her washing in/water the garden at around 6.30pm, so she could hear my Dad doing his funny voices! Embarrassing…

3. The Kingfisher Book of Children’s Poetry, edited by Michael Rosen I got this when I was about five, and still have it — it’s very dog-eared now. It’s the best book of poetry for children I have ever come across, because it doesn’t patronise… there are poems from “serious” and “difficult” poets in here and it’s not just old favourites. It introduced me to Fred d’Aguiar and e.e. cummings, for example.

4. The Great Elephant Chase by Gillian Cross I speculated recently that this is the book I’ve read most times in my life (its closest competitor is #5, below!) — from the age of 6 til I was about 11, I read this book over and over and over. I don’t remember what the appeal was, really (though I still have my copy somewhere) — it was a great story, I suppose, and it sparked my long-standing plot to travel around the entire United States.

5. Soul Music by Terry Pratchett Like a lot of adolescents I was big into the Discworld Series, and I have a lot of favourites (The Truth is a close second…), but this tops the list. I have read it so many times that the cover has fallen off. It’s a brilliant satire on the music industry and music geeks… plus it features Susan Sto-Helit (granddaughter of Death) in her most kick-ass phase! She was my main teen role model.

6. The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien Look, adolescents! This is REAL teen-obsession fantasy reading! No heavily-plagiarised boy wizards or effeminate vampires here. I’m from a family of Tolkien scholars (OK geeks, but with restraint — they don’t go to cons or dress up or anything!) and I got this from my aunt on my 13th birthday. I read it every year til I was about 20, Christopher Lee-stylee. I’m getting the itch to read it again soon…

7. Carol Ann Duffy’s Selected Poems This was my first poetry set-text in high school, and while a lot of my classmates found Duffy too erotic for comfort (lots of red faces in group discussions, particularly the blokes!), I loved her straight away. She’s remained one of my biggest influences so I am really grateful to my brilliant English teacher for teaching her stuff so well (no “what is the poet trying to do?” type questions!)

8. Dreaming Frankenstein by Liz Lochhead I got this just before I came to Uni and fell in love with her. She’s been another huge influence on my own stuff, and was particularly at this point in my life — I wrote a lot of angst-ridden, irony-dripping, ranting-feminist fairy-tale-influenced pieces during this period, which I majorly cringe over now.

9. Second Life by Edwin Morgan I found a lovely first edition of this in the sadly now-defunct Pickerings Bookstore, Edinburgh, for only £2! I’d been reading and loving Morgan since high school but this was the first book of his that I actually owned. I didn’t realise it was a first edition until earlier this year when I took it along to a class and my tutor nearly had a heart attack seeing me bending the spine! I also discovered it used to belong to Angus Calder — it has his name and address in the front. It’s a bit battered, but needless to say I treat it more gingerly now!

10. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold This is in the wrong place in the list as I read it before coming to Uni I think… it’s one of those books you read once and don’t ever really want to read again, not because it’s not good, just because it’s such an ordeal. I remember reading this in one sitting and then just emptying myself out — I don’t think I have ever cried so much reading a novel before or since!

11. The Boy Who Taught The Beekeeper to Read By Susan Hill I was very disappointed to discover recently that Susan Hill is a staunch Republican supporter/campaigner, because I love this book so much and it seems so out of character! This is a collection of short stories which are really poetic and sweet, but strangely dark underneath. I have a really gorgeous hardback edition and it’s one of those books that invites you to pick it up. I got it when I was about 19 and decided I need to read more short fiction.

12. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood Yep, the order of this list is officially shot to hell — this was the book I wrote about for my sixth year high school dissertation. I’d discovered Margaret Atwood from reading Lady Oracle, one of her lesser-known books about a historical romance writer who fakes her own death (I re-read it recently and it is freaking amazing, I didn’t just imagine it!), and The Blind Assassin had won the Booker the year I was 14. I re-read this recently too — I wrote about the theme of sisterhood, it was my first feminist critique! My teacher tried to get me to choose a different book as it’s such a huge tome, but I got a really good grade! :)

13. Howl and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg The book that started my fangirl obsession with Ginsberg and all things Beat. I first read it at the beginning of my third year, and hated it at first — who knew?

14. The Poem That Changed America: Howl Fifty Years Later by Jason Shinder This was my Bible while I was writing my undergrad dissertation, an absolutely brilliant collection of essays on ‘Howl’ from people like Mark Doty, Alice Ostriker and Amiri Baraka. Jason Shinder — who sadly died recently — edited this book brilliantly; he was also a great poet. Really fantastic book.

15. Nine Horses by Billy Collins The first I heard of BC was in a book called Don’t Ask Me What I Mean: Modern Poets in Their Own Words (it’s awesome by the way! Get it!). It wasn’t a poem of his — he was actually talking about the cover image he chose for Nine Horses. I found him so funny and charming that I went and bought the book. Reading his work changed the way I look at poetry (and attitudes to it) for good, basically.

Oh goodess, I’ve run out — I haven’t even talked about The Time Traveller’s Wife, a book that frustrated the hell out of me (I still don’t know whether I love it more than anything or loathe it to death — what the heck?!) or White Oleander, which I wanted to hate but which is the only book I finished and then sat down to read again immediately. There are heaps more… but now tell me yours!

(Photo by {J.})

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Featured Poet Dunja Nedic interviewed.

Saturday, July 18th, 2009

Tell us about your poems.
I’ve had my poetry described as minimalist in the past, but I think it has become more verbose of late. I generally write about my relationships or otherwise add a “personal” element to perhaps more sterile subject matter.

How long have you been writing?
I was put into a few poetry groups throughout primary school but I started writing of my own accord when I was about 14. However, my output was probably about two poems a year until I was 16 or so and I’ve been writing it more consistently since then, depending on what I have going on at the time.

Do you have any publications to your name? What’s the next stage for your work?
I’ve been published in lip and Libertine Magazine in Australia, though usually for creative non-fiction. I love poetry but I aspire to write articles rather than poems; career-wise it certainly seems like a more practical goal!

What do you think is your biggest poetic achievement to date?
One or two people have told me I’m their favourite poet. Couldn’t ask for a greater compliment, really.

What’s the best thing about writing poetry? And the worst?
I’ve always found it a lovely way to document events and feelings, it’s been nice to look back at things and remember what they were really like at the time, rather than relying on my memory (which is always flawed and biased). The worst thing is thinking about the dismal career prospects for poets. I find it pretty easy at times to fall into wondering what the point of writing it is at all.

Got any suggestions for young, upcoming poets?
Think about your audience but ultimately write for yourself. I find there are few people who write poetry for any reason other than they love it, and it becomes very transparent if you don’t mean what you write.

Who/what influences your poetry?
The men who cause the most angst!

without feng shui

because some nights feel too long
and I cannot sleep without the sound

of your arms around my waist, or holding my hips,
telling me it’s a good night, and now,
the day, and the night,
are better because of the way
my back folds against your tattoos;

or at least some promise of your voice
some night soon
because I didn’t want to re-learn lone sleep
even though your bed is too small.

I keep forgetting to write, because I forget
you’ll leave
and there will only be words
vaguely painted into some kind of
cohesive mess, but I want to only think
you are here and I am here
and keep us there, on the same line,
because I am learning too many sad happy songs,
and they are no replacement.

Want to see your poems featured here? Drop me a line to!

(Photo by Surlygrrrl [ELBfoto])

Don’t forget to visit The Read This Store, and its sister store, Edinburgh Vintage!

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