Archive for December, 2010

In 2010, I…

Friday, December 31st, 2010

This has become a bit of a ONS tradition, as I did it last year and the year before, too. It helps me reflect on the past year and prepare for the next one, as well as reminding me to be grateful for all the awesome stuff I’ve seen, done and been involved in over the past year. I recommend you make your own list too! Here’s mine for 2010. In 2010, I…

* worked as a reader for the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for the second year running, and one of the novels I recommended — Strangers by Anita Brookner — made the shortlist!

* was commissioned by The Body Shop Plc to write a poem for their Dreams Unlimited fragrance range — that poem is now on packaging and merchandising in every UK store… and beyond!

* came third at the inaugural Is This Poetry? Slam at Edinburgh’s Jazz Bar

* completed training at the University of Edinburgh to become a postgraduate teaching assistant, teaching undergraduates

* continued my work as a Lecturer in Literature & Communications at Edinburgh’s Telford College, and began a PDA in Adult Education

* broke up with my boyfriend of four and a half years, Leon — also known in these parts as The Boy — on mutual and genuinely amicable terms

* helped the lovely Stefa to organise and run a poetry/filmmaker speed-dating evening at the Scottish Poetry Library as part of the this collection project

* helped showcase this collection’s work so far at a two-day film-and-poetry extravaganza at the McEwan Hall –details here and here!

* got to be birth partner for my lovely friend Amanda as she went into labour with her beautiful daughter Evelyn Waverley — born 3/4/2010!

* passed the first year review of my PhD in Creative Writing and Contemporary Scottish Poetry, nervously, but apparently with flying colours!

* judged my first ever poetry competition — the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Contest — my thoughts here and here!

* moved house, from swinging Stockbridge… about six blocks down the road to Comely Bank!

* proudly saw my little sister graduate from her BA (Hons) in Graphic Design from the University of Northumbria

* was featured in The Herald Newspaper’s weekend “Lifelines” column, and photographed by the gorgeous Julie Howden

* was taken on as a Tutor in Creative Writing for the University of Edinburgh’s “SUISS” summer school, and worked intensively with eight fabulous and super-talented students — check them out! And I’ll be back next year!

* tried my hand at online dating, no less (I’ll try anything once!), and thank goodness I did… met the utterly gorgeous Steve, who, I’m happy to say, is now my new partner in crime!

* won the 2010 Virginia Warbey Poetry Prize!

* attended the Traquair Fair 2010!

* visited gorgeous Paris for the first time ever, with my beautiful new boyfriend… and went for dinner with the legendary Jim Haynes

* dressed as the green absinthe fairy for Halloween 2010

* proudly attended the launch of my lovely and talented friend Ryan Van Winkle’s first book, the Crashaw Prize winner Tomorrow, We Will Live Here (buy it!)

* was invited to be part of the brilliant Dualism: Poets and Portraits project (more on this soon!)

* FINALLY completed work on my long-awaited first pamphlet collection, The Mermaid and the Sailors, due from Red Squirrel Press — watch this space!

* read at: FemSoc ShoutOut at the University of Edinburgh // Hidden Door January 2010 // Is This Poetry? // Word of Mouth LGBT Open Mic // Poetry at the Bowery // A Terrifying Ordeal at Henry’s Jazz Cellar // Shore Poets May 2010 // Scottish Universities International Summer School // Utter! at the Edinburgh International Festival // film x poetry II at the Edinburgh International Festival // Chaos Raging Sweet at the Edinburgh International Festival // Origins at Morden Tower // Inky Fingers at Forest // 100 years of Norman MacCaig at Poetry at the GRV, October // Word of Mouth Open Mic, October //

* published in: The Guardian // Cleaves // YM: New Work In Poetry // Anon 7 // Etcetera // nominated for Best of the Web for this poem

* gigs of 2010: Callel at CabVol, May // Callel at Leithfest, May // Broken Records at Liquid Rooms, August // Miagi at Voodoo Rooms, September // Music Like A Vitamin, September // The Hollies at Usher Hall, October // Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, HMV Picturehouse, December // Aberfeldy at Liquid Rooms, December

* favourite photos of 2010 (click to enlarge):

mcewanhallbw mcewanhall brokenrecords
newroom molegrad suiss
traqfair Morden Tower bodyshop
jimshouse shakespearenco perelachaise
halloween 75802_10150310694760573_663035572_15785629_7675191_n claireandstevexmas
Also this one of Ryan’s launch by Chris Scott

Here’s to 2011!

(Photo by Pablo Alfieri)

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Procrastination Station #84: New Year edition!

Friday, December 31st, 2010

Happy New Year! Here’s a celebratory mixed bag of link love for your enjoyment!

Meant to post this ages ago: Tom Waits + poetry = WANT.

I’d already recognised Lawrence Ferlinghetti as a genius, buy hey.

Edinburgh folk! How cool is this Cameo Cinema flickr set?

I love Hark! A Vagrant!

Ampersands rock.

Don’t you just want to know what James Franco’s favourite poems are? What do you mean, ‘not really’?

Amazing vintage Japanese tattoo art

In typewriter-related news… want and want.

I love Alphonse Mucha, and Doctor Who, so… this is perfect.

This lady is my heroine.

Stewart Lee’s thoughts on Harry Potter are basically mine… he’s just funnier than me.


Happy New Year!

(Photo by euan_pics)

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Things I’m Reading Thursday #24

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

Expletive Deleted by Heather Bell

Heather has been featured a lot here at ONS. I first came across her stuff a good three or so years ago, as a young deviantART-er, and since then she’s been a ONS Featured Poet, and I reviewed her fantastic debut chapbook, Nothing Unrequited Here, when it came out. Heather is also the author of the sold-out collection How To Make People Love You and the chapbook Facts of Combat; her work has been published in Rattle, the Columbia Review and Grasslimb, among others, and she was the winner of the New Letters Poetry Prize 2009.

So, you may have gathered that I kind of love Heather’s poetry. I’m the proud owner of all the books she’s produced to date, and I’m always excited to read anything new she publishes. But I’m going to stick my neck out and say that I think Expletive Deleted contains her best work thus far.

This is a visceral, honest, disturbing and touching book about love, anger, loss, frustration and guilt. Bell looks candidly at the themes of depression and mental illness — documenting the weird and complex places that the mind can take you, from the first twinges of anxiety right through to the decision to fire your therapist. I’m no stranger to depression, or to therapy, and so many times in Expletive Deleted I found myself thinking “yes — yes, that’s it exactly.”

“How to explain

that I spent the last two years as a mad
woman? Everyone suggests that I refer to
that time as a “personal matter”, instead
of strange, or drowned,

or tailed by men with hound faces.”

But this is not a wholly bleak collection — one of the best things about Heather’s work is the dark and self-referential humour that runs through it. Take, for example, ‘The Male Poet’, which begins with the lines:

“At first I am not sure what to name my
new dog. Collins, Eliot, Whitman? I
finally decide on Basho because of his
constant peeing on my banana

However, Heather’s greatest talent is her ability to craft an absolutely showstopping end to a poem. Time and time again these narratives leave you breathless, shocked, moved.

therapist evaluates

the situation like it is a police report:
woman’s face is a tight shiny surface of
worry. Woman’s hands keep moving over
the disappointment. Woman

says she hasn’t told the truth for years,
and we have to believe her.”

Buy your copy here. Read more of Heather’s poems here. Do one or the other — or preferably both — as soon as you can. This poetic star is definitely on the rise.

(Photo by alshepmcr)

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this collection & Tollcross Community Centre: call for pitches!

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

Edinburgh's Barclay Kirk from a wet bus

this collection are teaming up with the fantastic Tollcross Community Centre and their Adult Learning Programme, and throughout Spring 2011, we’ll have access to the centre’s space and resources for three days of every working week. We’re hoping that we can fill this time with exciting collaborative opportunities, providing a space for artists of all walks of life to come together to create and discuss under the umbrella of this collection.

And that’s where YOU come in. We are throwing open the doors to allow access to anyone who’d like to join us in organizing an activity for local artists and/or writers. We’re looking for people to:

– host workshops in anything from creative writing to sculpture
– lead meetings, panels or discussions in the space
– host and co-ordinate events (remember our poet/filmmaker speed-dating?)
– give readings, performances or recitals in the space
– use the space for anything and anything artistic, collaborative and creative!

What’re the conditions? We don’t ask for much in return. Only…

– that your event MUST be inspired by or related to the this collection project
(e.g. you could give a masterclass on writing poems of 100 words or less, host a filmmaking workshop to adapt some of our poems, get together and discuss the concept of community collaboration, etc)

Interested? We’re looking for suggestions, proposals and pitches, and nothing is too small, too big, too weird or too ordinary. If there’s something you think you’d like to organise and you like the sound of a totally free space, get in touch!

Stuff to bear in mind:

– your event can be one-off, or one of a series. Let us know what you’re planning, and we’ll do our best to accomodate you.
– some materials/resources we may be able to provide; others you may have to bring yourself. Again, let us know.
– the space is available from 10am to 8.45pm every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Want to use the whole day? No problem. Just want an hour or two? No problem. We can be flexible!
– the space is ours to use until at least the end of March, so if you’re busy for the next little while but still fancy doing something, fear not! We can fit you in!

Basically the message is, if you’re interested, GET IN TOUCH! We’d love to hear from you. We’re hoping to gather as many proposals as possible before the space is opened up to us, so if you’d like to be involved, drop us an informal line by 15th January and let us know what you’d like to do.

Get thinking, get emailing, and have a fantastic New Year!

PS: we will also be holding community meet-ups in the space on Friday nights, as of the middle of January — more on this soon! So if you want to talk to us about your thoughts for the project rather than emailing, drop us a line and we’ll let you know more!

PPS: A few T&Cs before we go…

this collection and the Tollcross Community Centre ask:
– that you take responsibility for the majority of the organisation and promotion of your event. this collection is anti-curatorial, which means we won’t do any of the tricky stuff for you, like making sure that people show up! We will, however, happily plug your event as widely as possible, put you in touch with helpful people if we know of any, and provide resources if we have them to hand.
– that, if you need to cancel your event for any reason, you let us and the venue know as soon as you possibly can, so we can try and give someone else your spot
– that you’ll credit any references to this collection in work that comes out of your time in the centre
– that you’ll allow the this collection crew to attend, promote, talk about and document your event if we want to
– that all work produced at your event is produced under creative commons (i.e. the artist retains the right to their work, but the work can be shown/referred to by this collection with their permission and with due credits)

(Photo by allybeag)

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Procrastination Station #83: Festive edition

Monday, December 27th, 2010

Festive (and, er, short) edition of PS — the last of 2010, and er, rather a mixed bag! (NB: may contain silliness.)

Was your Christmas like this?


Lucy Baker is the cutest (and she gave me a shoutout! ♥)

You guys know how much I love photos of urban decay, so… OMG.

Call yourself a poet?

I loved Cassandra’s shiny happy Christmas post!

Check out Howie Good — at a handful of stones AND PoetHound!

& Regina Green’s published too!


Helen’s latest snowy film!


& finally…

Enjoy the rest of the festive season, all! x

(Photo by Made by BeaG)

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Procrastination Station #82

Friday, December 17th, 2010

Been a bit quiet around here lately, aint it? I have no decent excuse, I’m just loved up. What can I say? Anyway, this week I have managed to look at some other nice things… here are a few of them.

From the Guardian Books blog: does poetry have a role in protest politics? // books + protest // poster poems: poverty // what is the literary legacy of the “old boys’ club”? // the (Beat) literary history of Tangiers

NaSmaStoMo — get involved!

this collection needs YOU to adapt its wintry poems into short films — no prior experience or fancy tech necessary!

I loved this from Verbatim

ONS fans and friends — what they’re up to lately: Juliet Wilson’s “Bolts of Silk” blogszine got a shout out at PoetHound // Bolts of Silk hosted a fabulous poem by Regina C Green // Howie Good appeared at a handful of stones // Caroline Crew talked to Ryan Van Winkle // thanks to Harry Giles for giving ONS a shout at his Inky Fingers events // and new stuff from Lucy Baker makes me happy…

Have I mentioned that I love Melissa McEwan at Shakesville, and her Conniving and Sinister webcomic in particular? Because I really do.

Hannah Radenkova’s Christmas illustrations are cute-tastic.


True. (LotR FTW!)

Can’t believe I’ve never shared this before. Film by my sweet little sister, poem by my bestie Struan. Very topical, methinks.

And since I’m going in for topical…

& finally… these two are the cutest thing you’ll see all week!

Have a great weekend!

(Photo by Charlotte Runcie)

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Things I’m Reading Thursday #23

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

What I’m reading this week…

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

OK, I’ll admit it. This is one of those books I don’t think I would ever have chosen to read if it had been left up to me. When it comes to prose, I’m horribly lazy, and I always assumed Russian = difficult. I remember my better-read flatmate (and fellow Englit undergrad) reading this when we were in first year of Uni, and rattling on at me about how awesome it was, but still I remained unconvinced. I didn’t know much about the book other than it was Russian, early 20th century and damn weird. Therefore, far too much effort for me to ever bother with.
So what happened? Come on, are you not seeing a pattern in my recent reading? That pesky Gorgeous Crush of mine — now promoted to Lovely Boyfriend no less!!! — made me do it. Yes, yet again, I am reading a novel To Impress A Boy.

Or at least, that’s why I started reading it. Lovely Boyfriend really likes Russian literature. Like, really likes it. And he’s not just a pretty face, so I grudgingly started thinking that maybe my whole Russians-are-difficult thing was maybe a bit… premature. And of course, I was right. The Master and Margarita is absolutely bloody brilliant.

Firstly, it’s about the devil. I am going through a big devil thing right now (see this recent TiRT), so it’s kind of required reading (trivia alert: did you know that the Rolling Stones’ song Sympathy for the Devil was inspired by this very novel? True story). Secondly, it’s about writers. Mostly jealous, paranoid, mad, bad and dangerous writers who spend their time bitching, sniping and backstabbing, no less. And thirdly, it’s really, really funny.

Unfortunately, I have had to abandon it about halfway through. I am yet again doing my mysterious Christmastime sideline job which involves reading a big box of novels in a ridiculously short period of time, so unfortunately the second half of TMAM is going to have to wait. Which sucks, because I was reading that, dammit. You should do the same.

New Model Army by Adam Roberts

One of the books I’m reading for aforementioned Christmastime job. I picked it first out of my box of novels because I thought, if I’m honest, that it looked bloody terrible. It would, I decided, be very pulpy, comprised mostly of words of one syllable and therefore a quick and relatively painless read. I would however, I realised, need to hide it inside my newspaper on the bus, because the cover is so utterly, utterly hideous.

As it happens, I think I was a bit too quick to judge this book. The writing, although terrible in places (there are odd paragraphs where I think Roberts either sat down to write while coming down from some kind of hallucinogenic trip, or where his editor decided to get really, really creative) is actually very engaging, and the premise is pretty interesting. Basically, it’s a work of speculative fiction that essentially asks, “if the UK had a civil war around about now, what would it be like?”

Actually, that’s not quite right — the novel is set in 2030, but the scenery looks about the same. Roberts imagines a series of small, leaderless, completely democratic New Model Armies fighting against the huge, feudal, hierarchical British Army and winning. Civil war, he reckons, would be sparked by the Scots finally dissolving the Act of Union and refusing to recognise the British monarchy. It’s a bit of a far-fetched premise, but it’s an interesting one.

The thing I like best is the attention Roberts pays to technology, and its role in this fictional conflict. The soldiers in the New Model Armies use technologies we all access every day — in particular, Google maps and wikis — to outwit their far richer and better equipped enemy. The thing I like least is the protagonist and narrator, Trooper Block, who was lots of fun in Part 1 but who in Part 2 wakes up after an explosion having suffered a lot of nasty burns and apparently, a personality-ectomy. I haven’t quite finished the book — I’m about two pages away from the ending — but I already wish with all my heart that the explosion had killed Block outright. I’m kind of dreading the final page… but we’ll see, it may yet turn itself around. Anyone else read this one? I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts…

What are you reading this week?

(Photo by kawkawpa)

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Guest post by this collection: adapt our winter poems!

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

this collection is a non-profit collaborative arts project based in Edinburgh. It aims to bring artists from different walks of life together to work on projects inspired by the city. At present, this collection is focussing on an amalgamation of very short poems inspired by Edinburgh, and is working to find filmmakers of all ages and levels of experience to adapt these poems into short films. Find out more here.
As you’ll no doubt have noticed over the past few weeks, winter has now fully gripped Edinburgh, treating us to the heaviest snowfalls the city has seen for fifty years. Rumour has it there’s more of the white stuff on the way, and although this may seem like a good excuse to get your woolies on and stay indoors, this collection has a better idea. We have a whole flurry of winter poems in our collection of 100 that need adapting into films. We suggest you don an extra pair of socks, grab your camera and get out there and make us a short film. No prior experience or fancy tech necessary!
Here are some of our lovely winter verses that need adaptating!
The Piteous Pine by Florian Raith
“So cold despite the solid coat; clenched tightly,
The right fist in the pocket and partly regretful
Not to gorge on the sordid warmth: brightly lit
The stifling, horrid feast promises forgetfulness…”
January by Hayley Shields
A murmur rippling through
the silver edged blades
of grass, as they bathe
in muddled starlight…”
Cables by Kate Charles
“Edinburgh cuts a high moon
Hunkered figures, hands expectant, ask
For reasoning, dulled or blank to your rising rage,
some long gone time come close…”
The Windy City by Kat Maher
“Meadows of ice, deceptive sunlight
So inviting from windows, a kaleidoscope of lies…”
Waking up with Edinburgh by Helle Hang
“Grumpy as always,
Dear as always.
Frost over the Meadows,
Smoke from neighbour’s chimney…”
A Recipe for Whisky by Ron Butlin
“Wring the Scottish rain clouds dry;
take sleet, the driving snow, the hail;
winter twilight…”
A Winter Walk Along Lauriston Place by Laura Barbier
“The street swims by beneath,
Siberia groans aloud in my ears
Shifting the last of the leaves
Into freefall…”
Need some inspiration? Check out Helen Askew’s adaptation of Struan Robertson’s snowy poem, “Where it lies” — first showcased by this collection at the McEwan Hall!
Want to make a film for us? Email film[@] or check out our Submissions page for more info.