Archive for January, 2012

Me, my “writing room”, and our weird relationship

Monday, January 30th, 2012

A Room Of One's Own

As some of you may know, I have just gone into my third year of study for a PhD in Creative Writing. As well as putting up with being told numerous times that Creative Writing can’t be taught, much less turned into a legitimate subject for postgraduate study (a whole other story), this means I have to do a lot of writing. And a lot of reading. And some more writing. By the end of my studies I must produce 70 pages of poems, and an academic thesis, which I have chosen to write on contemporary female poets (primarily Scottish contemporary female poets) + history, tradition, identity (personal, social, political, national, international) + Margaret Atwood. All that stuff = a lot of writing.

However, it was only a few weeks ago that Lovely Boyfriend and I agreed that it might be a good idea for me to have “a writing room.” And frankly, I’m already finding the whole thing a bit weird.

Well quite. How pretentious and hipster-y of you,
says the cynical voice in my head. A bit like the eighteen typewriters and piles of records and CDs I own, a writing room feels like a horribly privileged, self-indulgent and, let’s face it, rather hipster-y thing to have. Have I really come so far in five years? I used to live with The Artist Formerly Known As The Boy in a tiny one-room bedsit: a flat so small that if one of you threw something you were pretty much guaranteed to hit the other person (we tested this theory sometimes when there was nothing on TV). I barely had a cubic foot of space to call my own, let alone an entire room (although, I did have a kick-ass roof garden), and yet I managed to get my writing done just fine. These days I have a great big living room with a huge bay window complete with panoramic view. Why can’t I just sit there and write?

But then… what about Virginia Woolf?
She did, after all, pen the immortal line, “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” OK, so I’m not writing fiction, but bear with me for a second. Good old VW claimed that the lack of women’s writing in the canon was down to the fact that women were never given access to the time, space or means to write in the same way that men were. If a man decided he wanted to become a poet, he was admirably committing his life to serving the Muse. If a woman decided she wanted to become a poet, she got a straitjacket. For the big bad Woolf, a room of one’s own in which to write was something women ought to demand. I daresay if she caught me feeling sheepish about my “writing room,” she’d give me a damn good dressing-down.

So wait… having a writing room is a radical gesture of literary sisterhood?
No, not really. I think Virginia Woolf’s ideas about building designated women-only spaces as a way to facilitate female creativity are still pertinent, but if I’m honest, I don’t think those ideas really apply to privileged college grads converting their lofts and filling them with cushions and “inspiration boards”. We should still be demanding that creative women have rooms of their own, but women who are homeless, impoverished, deprived of education or otherwise unfairly disadvantaged are more the kind of people who should be first in line for these kinds of spaces. If anything, I have a room of my own and then some: I should be offering up some of the space I’m hoarding to women for whom the idea of “a room of one’s own” is nothing more than an indulgent daydream.

Oh come on… like anyone would want that space anyway!
Well, true. It’s pretentious of me to refer to it as a “writing room” anyway, as actually, it’s just the spare bedroom and it’s not exactly inspiring. It’s a handy place to keep all my piles and piles of academic books, but it’s also kind of handy for hanging laundry and storing boxes and clean bedding. “Writing room” is a pretty glamorous term for a glorified boxroom with a lot of damp socks hanging in it. We’re back to the pretentious thing all over again.

Er yeah… not to mention the fact that it’s “your” writing room.
This bothers me too. Lovely Boyfriend pays exactly half of the rent on our flat, but he doesn’t get a space of his own. And what’s he supposed to do when I shut myself in the spare room with a big stack of books and a warning not to disturb/distract me? I guess he probably welcomes the opportunity to play Assassin’s Creed. But when The Artist Formerly Known As The Boy turned our then-boxroom into a “boy room”, into which he would retreat in order to spend hours focussing on his F1 sim, I got kinda resentful. What makes my “writing room” any different?

So why have a writing room at all then, you weirdo?
Well… it’s handy to have all my academic books in one place, within reach, and sitting at a desk rather than on a comfy chair makes me feel more productive and focussed. Our wi-fi connection is patchy in the spare room, which means that trying to distract myself with Twitter is very annoying rather than very appealing. And I can control how light/dark or quiet the room is: Lovely Boyfriend doesn’t have to turn off the TV just because I’m working, and I can seek out poetry readings on Youtube without bothering him. Also, I’m a terrible procrastinator and would sometimes rather clean my skirting boards than devote a full day to writing my thesis. So by giving myself a space to go into and write, I’m trying to make it feel like “going to work” — like it’s something I have to do whether I like it or not.

I’m still not 100% sold on the idea. What do you guys think? Do any of you have specific spaces set aside to write in? How do you feel about that? What are the pros and cons? I want to hear your thoughts — get thee to the comments box!

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One Night Stanzas loves mail. Say hello via claire@onenightstanzas.com. NB: I am physically unable to reply to non-urgent stuff unless I have a free afternoon and a cup of tea in my hand. Please be patient!

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Procrastination Station #99

Friday, January 27th, 2012

color my life with the chaos of trouble

Lovely links of lovely loveliness.

I’ve got really, really into Terrible Minds after discovering it only recently. I love it because the posts are often spit-flecked with anger, which is how I like my writing advice! Check this out:

“I hate to bludgeon you about the head and neck with a hammer forged in the volcanic fires of Mount Obvious, but the only way you can finish something is by not stopping. That story isn’t going to unfuck itself.”

That’s from 25 Things Writers Should Stop Doing Right Fucking Now (thanks to the supertalented Heather for the link) — I also loved 25 Things Writers Should Know About Agents.

“At the dinner party we didn’t talk about books, I tried not to talk at all. People talked about AA meetings they had gone to–with friends, not for themselves, we all drank a lot at that dinner party. I forget what else we talked about. Places you live in New York. Real estate, this is a thing everyone talks about here, it’s sort of charming. Where is your apartment and how big is it and how much is your rent and how awful is your landlady, oh my god, she goes through your trash, are you serious. I looked at all the books on the shelves, which is another thing I do. This year, like every year, I resolved to be less hateful, and this year, like every year, I am failing.”

The Rejectionist wrote this long, melancholy piece about being an arts blogger and attending parties with lots of artists. I think everyone feels this way sometimes. I loved it.

“I know that a lot of writers would kill to be called a squashed bug or a despicable pig, if only because it beats not being called anything at all. But… many readers seem to be approaching their commenting privileges like teenagers with newly minted driver’s licenses. Belted in by anonymity and often distracted by the equally reckless ravings of their peers, they take potshots, spread untruths, and, at their worst, spew racism and bigotry that would put a professional writer out of business in a nanosecond.”

A long article, but a good one: Meghan Daum on “haterade” below-the-line.

“I do a lot. I eat grapefruit, for example. I begin to read books and then put them down when I’m 90% through and then never pick them back up, for some reason. I read emails, too, or I skim emails, especially the ones that come from my grandfather. My grandfather checks his email like, once a month and then goes on a forwarding spree, and before I know it my inbox is full of CAPS LOCK subject lines and I’m reading a checklist to determine whether or not I grew up in Brooklyn in the 1950s. (Spoiler alert: I didn’t).”

This is super cool. It’s an alternative response to the question, “What Do You Do?”, which all writers rightly dread.

““I just gave a homeless man outside a 20 pound note, and now I’m worrying he’d have rather had it in two tens,” she says, huge eyes widening in a luminously fresh face, as she puts down her vintage handbag and leather-bound copy of Anna Karenina (“I’m obsessed with Tolstoy, it’s a weakness, I need to widen my contemporary reading”) in a flurry of activity that lights up the room and makes all heads turn. “Oh, no. I hope he’s OK,” she says, fretting extravagantly over this act of incredibly charming philanthropic spontaneity I’m choosing to include here for colour but that she obviously had no idea could end up in the article.”

A damning indictment of contemporary “glossy” journalism and celebrity culture. If you read nothing else from this post, read The Ultimate Celebrity Interview.

“A strong woman is strong
in words, in action, in connection, in feeling;
she is not strong as a stone but as a wolf
suckling her young. Strength is not in her, but she
enacts it as the wind fills a sail.”

The breathtaking Marge Piercy.

“My job is not to judge, but to teach, and I can’t teach if the students in my class are distracted or uncomfortable. My job is also about preparing students to be a part of our society, ready to work and play with all kinds of people. I found that teaching about gender stereotypes is another social justice issue that needs to be addressed, like racism or immigrant rights, or protecting the environment.”

This teacher kicks all kinds of ass. Inspiring!

If you’ve been reading ONS for any amount of time you’ll already know I am fascinated by urban decay. Therefore, this photo project about a disappearing element of life in New York City was obviously a must-read for me!

Anyone with a brain knows the Oscars are a huge steaming bag of hetero- and white-normative stereotype-reinforcing consumer-porn. Therefore, I quite liked this.

Thanks to Chris for reminding me of the awesomeness of this series of videos:

SO CUTE IT WILL MAKE YOU WEEP.

Aaand finally, this was playing in Scotmid yesterday and I ever-so-nearly broke into a frenzied 90s-tastic wiggle-dance in the bread aisle. This is the anthem of my tweenage years! Crank it up!

Have a great weekend!

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One Night Stanzas loves mail. Say hello via claire@onenightstanzas.com. NB: I am physically unable to reply to non-urgent stuff unless I have a free afternoon and a cup of tea in my hand. Please be patient!

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FYI

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

Because I’m tired of having to get cranky at people on Twitter, here are some Things You Should Never Say when I am around. Or preferably, at all. Good luck!

“Don’t be so hyper sensitive, I was just joking!” (or indeed, any of this or this.)

“But creative writing can’t be taught.”

“I hate [insert minority group here] because [insert reason here].”

“It’s not poetry if it doesn’t rhyme.”

“…but animals are so tasty!”

“The government is right to cut arts funding — we don’t need artists!”

“You look great, have you lost weight?”

“I’m supporting anyone but England.”

“I don’t buy clothes from charity shops because someone might have died in them.”

“Who pays for you to eat?”

What are the things no one should say around YOU? Answers in the comments box!

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One Night Stanzas loves mail. Say hello via claire@onenightstanzas.com. NB: I am physically unable to reply to non-urgent stuff unless I have a free afternoon and a cup of tea in my hand. Please be patient!

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Procrastination Station #98: a little slice of my work life

Friday, January 20th, 2012

The Hub Space, Edinburgh's Telford College
^^My lovely work canteen!

So, normally for my not-really-weekly Procrastination Stations, I give you a big list of links I’ve liked over the past week or so. These usually come from the absolutely EPIC list of bookmarks I keep on my little pink netbook at home. However, this week I was looking for inspirational articles (and posts, videos, etc) to discuss with my students and realised that, although a little different to the usual, my bookmarks folder at work is also pretty shit hot. So here’s a slightly different list of links for you, all from my ‘work’ folder… see what you think.

“Don’t talk about how, as a child, you loved to read and write. Everyone says that. For perhaps the first time in your life, you’ll be with your kind of people! I know that it’s important to YOU that your journey started when you were a kid, but it is not as important to me as what happened to you from that point on.”

Making a personal statement for a MFA programme: some excellent DOs and DON’Ts.

“Dinosaurs rule our house.”

Poet Ian McMillan talks to the Guardian for Pieces of Me.

“When I am sitting with a writer friend at dinner and he tells a story about running a porno magazine rental service as a child, I acknowledge that he might use this for a story at a later date and thus, I should not take it for my own work. I could view it as fair game and try to get to it first, but that would just be kind of a dick move.”

What happens when all your friends are writers.

Are YOU a geek when it comes to pie charts and bar graphs?
This site is so for you.

“She has perfect hair, she wears great dresses, and who cares if she has thick ankles? Certainly not her paramour, Kermit, who would sleep on railroad tracks if she asked.”

Miss Piggy: Style Icon

Natural disasters, protests, Steve Jobs and Snowpocalypse: The 45 Most Powerful Photos of 2011
(Trigger warning for police brutality and violent scenes)

“As a conventional dad, hunter, and former Republican, it took me longer to understand that I never had two sons.”

The remarkable story of a young woman who always knew she was inside the wrong body.

Miss Representation Trailer

Miss Representation 8 min. Trailer 8/23/11 from Miss Representation on Vimeo.

Carlsberg stunt: assumption and inclusion

Geoff Trenchard prose-poem: The Long Holidays At Denney’s

How you start a movement

Have a great weekend!

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One Night Stanzas loves mail. Say hello via claire@onenightstanzas.com. NB: I am physically unable to reply to non-urgent stuff unless I have a free afternoon and a cup of tea in my hand. Please be patient!

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Things I Love Thursday #53

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

Strawberry Fields

So folks, as part of my brand new, reclaim-my-life-and-stop-being-a-zombie programme, I have decided to reinstate Things I Love Thursday. Here’s the basic premise in case you’re new, and here’s what I’m loving lately:

The West Wing
Actually, “love” is not a strong enough word to describe my feelings for this show. My long-time readers will know that, in general, I really do not dig TV: I associate it with being too tired to do anything productive, and with self-loathing. I really could live quite happily without a television, even if it did mean never getting to watch the F1. So perhaps unsurprisingly, I have never been the kind of person to get “hooked” on a TV show.
This whole West Wing things is all Lovely Boyfriend’s fault.

Pretty much as soon as we met, he (a massive, massive advocate of TV “as an artform”) started harrassing me about various incredible shows that he couldn’t believe I’d never seen. The more I protested that TV was really not my thing, the more he became determined to find a “gateway” show that would get me addicted to the genre. He knew I’d had a brief fling with The X Files, and so he started with Twin Peaks, which I did really enjoy. But what he didn’t fully grasp was my need for at least one awesome, well-rounded female character — it was only ever Scully, on whom I had a massive girl-crush, who kept me watching The X Files. Twin Peaks may be brilliantly written and dark and weird and fun, but Donna, Norma, Shelley &co are all kind of drippy (I do like Audrey, but she was criminally underused in the show).

However, LB struck gold when he bought me the complete West Wing box set for our one-year anniversary in October. There is so much good stuff about this show: incredibly smart, witty writing, brilliant storylines and plot arcs, and a cast to die for. With every new episode we watch, one or the other of us will spot someone on the Special Guest Star credits and squeal, “ooh, [name of excellent actor] is in this episode! Zie’s so cool!” I’ve also developed the theory that you can tell a lot about someone’s personality by asking them which of the regular characters from The West Wing is their favourite (just as you can by asking them which their favourite Beatles album is. True story).
Personally, I am totally and utterly in love with CJ. I’m really spoilt for choice in terms of strong, well-rounded female characters, which is so refreshing: I also love Donna, Abby and Ainsley Hayes (I can’t stand Amy Gardner’s character and regularly yell at the TV during her episodes, simply because I’d like to think that a woman that shallow, back-biting and frankly dim would never get to be anything senior in any kind of feminist NGO, but hey). There is even regular, sensible talk between characters about prominent women’s issues and gender roles. But to be honest, I’d keep watching just for CJ. She’s strong, feisty, extremely funny, but also flawed and vulnerable. I want to be her.

My students
I’ve been looking back over my old TiLT posts, and I was surprised to see just how often I made mention of the pesky critters in front of whom I am forced to spend my days standing up and saying words. Since I suspended my TiLTing activities over two years ago, I’ve clearly started to take these guys for granted a little bit (in my defence, I reckon it’s understandable considering that well over 50% of them openly admit to having no interest in my subject, but I have to get up at 6am every day to go and teach them regardless). I reckon I need to start cutting the meaner ones some slack, and getting back to seeing each one as an exciting challenge, rather than something to put up with. Here’s an apology to all those of you who’ve received less compassion and understanding from me than I should have given. I promise to be a better teacher from now on. Most of you still passed, so hopefully there’s no hard feelings!

The February mid-term break sees a brand new term roll around. I found out recently that I teach seven lectures a week and have 103 active students on my books. Many of them are heading off into the world in a couple of weeks and I won’t be seeing them again, which does make me a little melancholy. This term I’ve had some great classes and some really lovely students: I was lucky enough to teach Communication in one form or another to two groups of Engineers this year, and they were all fantastic guys. The best classes are the ones where the students are sharp, focussed and want to learn, but who also bring the craic and are willing to have a bit of banter with you. I had an embarrassing first this semester: I’m not a fan of just standing and talking in lectures, but sitting down is awkward when you need to get up and write on the board every so often, so usually I compromise by propping myself up with one hip against a desk. A few weeks ago I was in the middle of saying Something Very Important to my Access to Engineering class when, mid-lean, I realised I had misjudged where my desk was and ended up toppling into the floor, making a not-totally-dignified noise as I went down. In front of certain classes, this would have been The End of All Respect, but the guys were totally cool about it… although obviously they did howl with laughter, as did I. So here’s to my engineers, and all the other cool students who’ve handed me happy moments over the past academic year. Thanks, you guys.

Honourable mentions: Lazy weekend breakfasts // mooching around York // starting a new Moleskine planner // plotting Lovely Boyfriend’s Christmas present for next year already (I’m. so. organised!) // still having tons of Christmas cake left // my netbook (it’s pink and covered in stickers) // the Zombies!!! boardgames // Disney movie marathons with my sister // thai food // getting some sleep after weeks of battling with insomnia

What are you loving this week?

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One Night Stanzas loves mail. Say hello via claire@onenightstanzas.com. NB: I am physically unable to reply to non-urgent stuff unless I have a free afternoon and a cup of tea in my hand. Please be patient!

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King McGuire says nice things about me!

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

Bokeh fun

It’s been ages since this happened, but as you know, I haven’t been keeping up with ONS very well lately. But I can’t let this go by without mention: I got a bloody lovely review from The Great McGuire, over at Cheeky Little Article.

Because I am perhaps the laziest poet in the cosmos, I haven’t really done much to market my pamphlet, The Mermaid and the Sailors, which was unofficially launched at StAnza in March 2011 (my laziness is so all-encompassing that I never even got round to an “official” launch… oops). Somehow, I managed to sell out the first run by August just with a few Facebook status updates and the odd mention on my beloved Twitter. As a result, not many reviews have been forthcoming… in fact, this is only the second (the first is here) I’ve received. (I really don’t mind. The idea of being reviewed is kind of scary.)

But McGuire’s smashing, thoughtful, in-depth review is worth a million shorter, more general responses. I love the fact that he starts out with the etymology of my second name (or rather, the adjective “askew”) rather than just leaping in to analysing the book… I particularly like the fact that by the end of the first paragraph I’ve been somehow promoted to Lady Askew (expect this to stick, folks). And he compares me to Neruda. NERUDA. Do reviews get any better?

However, I’m ultimately grateful to McGuire for this: he has totally “got” what it was I was trying to do… what I’m always trying to do. These days, the poetry scene is such that poems like this are what get praised and published. Now, everyone’s different, and to some people, that’s a great poem — but I just aint the kind of writer who could bring myself to keep a straight face while writing a phrase like “jimmies the diasphora,” let alone while shoving it on a line-break so it draws a ton of attention to itself. I’ve started to realise lately that I write the kind of poems that some people look down their noses at, because they’re poems that are, sometimes, as McGuire so sweetly puts it, “wholesome as a loaf.” But that’s my schtick. To some poets, “wholesome as a loaf” might be an insult. My first response to this review was more, “I want to find McGuire right now and hug him!”

So thanks, dude. I owe you a beer!

(The Mermaid and the Sailors is currently, sadly, sold out. A new print run is coming… once I get my butt in gear and send off new proofs to correct the first run’s inevitable typos. Sorry for the delay! You can read more about the book here, though.)

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One Night Stanzas loves mail. Say hello via claire@onenightstanzas.com. NB: I am physically unable to reply to non-urgent stuff unless I have a free afternoon and a cup of tea in my hand. Please be patient!

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In 2011, I…

Monday, January 16th, 2012

365/365: And Finally..

I’ve already written about how 2011 was a bit of a tricky year for me, and as you can probably tell from the date on this post, I almost abandoned the idea of doing my now-customary “In [year], I…” run-down. However, this is my fourth year of blogging at ONS, and not only have my year-end lists become a tradition in these parts, they’ve also prompted loads of other people to write their own. In spite of some wobbles during 2011, things did happen last year that deserve to be remembered and celebrated. And I stand by the idea that this kind of cataloguing exercise is useful for all sorts of reasons. You can see previous years’ lists here: 2008, 2009, 2010.

So. In 2011, I…

… saw in the New Year at a massive house party hosted by Lovely Boyfriend, and met pretty much everyone he’s ever known in his entire life at the same time. If you’re nervous about meeting your new partner’s friends, let me advise you: getting it all overwith in one night with lots of alcohol involved is a really good way to go!

… worked as a reader for the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for the third year running.

… had my portrait, and my poem “The sailor”, featured in Chris Park and Thom Laycock’s “Dualism” project, which launched in Forfar in January and is now touring nationwide!

… went to see Daniel Watkins‘ brilliant debut pantomime, Robin The Hood (though I still insist they should have gone with the working title; The Hood, The Bad and The Ugly), and utterly loved it (in spite of the fact that I “got” very few of the inside, Northumberland-locals’ jokes)!

… dressed up as Susan Sto Helit for Lovely Boyfriend’s 26th birthday party, the theme of which was “characters from your childhood.” In her usual “EPIC WIN!” kind of style, my sister went as a Pacman ghost.

… inspired an entire slam! My oft-performed poem, “If You Don’t Want To Be In A Poem” lent its punchline to the Don’t Fuck A Poet slam, organised by Inky Fingers and won by Caitlin Cummings!

… survived the HMIe inspection at my place of work, which threw all of my colleagues into a (totally unnecessary) guddle for about five months. (It all went fine, obv.)

… placed fifth in the Scottish Slam Championship Finals at Aye! Write.

… turned 25, and held a fabulous afternoon tea party at my flat, surrounded myself with friends and ate a LOT of scones.

… worked on my first ever translation project, with the gorgeous Ellen Deckwitz and Alex Bengtsson, for City2Cities‘ “poetry tripletting” project.

… organised my first ever slam, the this collection “friendly” slam, which brought together page and stage poets and gave the poets themselves control over the scoring! Responses came in from all over. Just a few: McGuire // Andy Philip // Russell Jones

… was interviewed by The Observer about typewriters and poetry, and spent one mad March evening climbing trees and power-lifting heavy typewriters as part of my eventually-unused photoshoot with Murdo McLeod!

… had my author photo taken by the fabulous Chris Scott.

… represented Edinburgh at the inaugural City2Cities Festival in Utrecht, the Netherlands. This involved staying in a lush hotel, reading a lot of poems at a lot of gigs, meeting tons of truly awesome poetry-obsessed folk, staying in a lush loft, having a vintage typewriter gifted to me by a very sweet old man, joining in with a massive paper-bag-bursting flash mob (seriously), falling in love with Utrecht, hanging out with the aforementioned gorgeous Ellen and Alex, visiting Amsterdam for the first time, writing lots, and eating a lot of chips. The high point of my year, for sure!

… undertook a massive Muppet movie marathon with Lovely Boyfriend, seeing six consecutive movies in two days as part of Filmhouse’s Muppet Season!

… had my photo taken with Lovely Boyfriend by the lovely and talented Ms Sally Jubb, for her “Mimic” project

… saw, and adored, the Howl movie.

… produced, with Lovely Boyfriend, the chapbook “Starry Rhymes: 85 Years of Allen Ginsberg”, featuring 33 poets‘ responses to the great man’s works. We launched the pamphlet at a great event in the Bristo Hall at Forest Cafe, which Chris Scott very kindly photographed for us!

… judged the Swale Life Poetry Contest.

… passed my PhD second year review without a hitch!

… went on strike for the first time ever.

… dressed as “the sea” (meta!) for the 2011 ECA Underwater-themed Art School Revel. The motley band I attended with included an angler fish, a penguin, Ursula the Sea-Witch and two folk who dressed as “polution”. Needless to say, it was amazing.

… moved from rather-too-well-heeled Comely Bank, back to Tollcross, where I lived when I first moved to Edinburgh eight years ago. I’ve always loved Tollcross and pined for living here again. Hooray!

… marched in the Edinburgh Slutwalk, with Lovely Boyfriend at my side! I also gave my comment on the legitimacy of the event in several pieces for the Scotsman.

… spent July backpacking round the Pacific Northwest with Lovely Boyfriend, via the Greyhound bus network. Visited Vancouver, where we swam in the Pacific at Kitsilano Beach, found foodie heaven at the Granville Island Market, and I got a tattoo from the scarily excellent Hilary Dawson of Electro LadyLux! Stopped off in Victoria BC, where we attended SkaFest 2011, before heading to the tiny, super-rural San Juan Islands (mainly Orcas), where we slept in a forest cabin at the edge of the ocean. Then on to Seattle, then San Francisco, then Lake Tahoe, where we stayed with the lovely Lucy Florence. Finally we ended up in Portland, now one of my all-time favourite cities, where we ate amazing breakfasts and stayed at The Crystal Hotel & Ballroom, where every room is themed around a different classic song!

… taught for a second time at the Scottish Universities International Summer School, where my brilliant creative writing students were Alyss, Phil, Freesia, Tammy, Kate, Martina and Penny. Love you guys!

… sold my books and jewels at the Zorras Small Press & Zine Fair at Forest.

… was asked to judge the BBC Edinburgh Festival Fringe Poetry Slam at The Baby Bubble. Congrats to worthy winner Cat Brogan!

… edited a novel, for my former student, Vic. Buy “Rig Moves” here!

… defended my title at the University of Edinburgh LitSoc “Refresher” Slam 2011.

… won the StAnza / Inky Fingers Risk-a-Verse Slam, where I competed against, among others, Lovely Boyfriend!

… had my article, “A Different Beat: 50 Years of Counter-Culture in Edinburgh”, published by The Edinburgh Review.

… entered an article, “Hapless Straight Ladies: the dangerous semantics of pop feminism”, into the 2011/12 FWSA Essay Prize (still awaiting the result)!

… went on strike again.

… won the Mookychick 2011 Feminist Flash contest with “Male Privilege“!

Places I Read Poetry: Words Per Minute, Glasgow, January < -- video! // the StAnza 2011 preview event < -- photographed by the lovely Chris Scott // StAnza Festival’s “New Poets Showcase”, alongside the almost-too-brilliant Billy Letford // iPoetry, City2Cities Festival, Utrecht // Young Poets’ Society, City2Cities Festival, Utrecht // ACU’s DeadBeatSociety’s Music&Madness Night, April, Utrecht // Scottish Universities International Summerschool, August // Blind Poetics, August // SAVE THE FOREST “Reforestation” gig at 3rd Door, September // UoE LitSoc “Refresher” Slam, September // StAnza / Inky Fingers Risk-a-Verse Slam, St Andrews, October // Blind Poetics, October

Gigs in 2011: Broken Records, Liquid Rooms, January // King Creosote, Caves, February // Iron & Wine, HMV Picturehouse, March // Broken Records, Bristo Hall at Forest, April // Rocking for Heroes, HMV Picturehouse, November

What did YOU do in 2011?

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One Night Stanzas loves mail. Say hello via claire@onenightstanzas.com. NB: I am physically unable to reply to non-urgent stuff unless I have a free afternoon and a cup of tea in my hand. Please be patient!

(Photo credit)

Procrastination Station #97

Friday, January 13th, 2012

12/365 (1/366): Hello 2012

Hello 2012! There hasn’t been a Procrastination Station in these parts for AGES. Here’s a bumper round-up of my recent reading…

I know it says 31st Dec, but the James Kirkup Memorial Poetry Competition’s deadline has been extended to 31st JANUARY! If you like free entry (yeah!) and want to get your pamphlet published by my smashing publisher, get entering!

Got writer’s block? Try lowering your standards.

“How to read ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’? Why, very quickly, to begin with, and perhaps also to make an end. Why read it? Presumably, if you cannot be persuaded to read anything better, Rowling will have to do.” — Harold Bloom (and others) brings the snark.

Matt McDonald tells you pretty much all you need to know about writing poetry.

Want to see how much heat you generate when you type? There’s an app for that.

Have you guys ordered your HOT MALE LIBRARIANS calendar for 2012 yet?

Well-read is not a destination; there is nowhere to get to, and if you assume there is somewhere to get to, you’d have to live a thousand years to even think about getting there, and by the time you got there, there would be a thousand years to catch up on.” … and who wants to be ‘well read’ anyway?

I always, always write longhand, so I emphatically get behind this.

& similarly: in praise of notebooks.

Classic Penguin titles’ bookcovers redesigned as tattoo flash. Throw in a typewriter and that is ALL MY FAVOURITE THINGS AT ONCE.

I know I keep saying this, but I seriously cannot understand how I lived my life for 25 years without knowing of the existence of HTMLGiant. Check out these great — and very frank — responses to the question, “how do I get a wider readership for my work?”


Keira Knightley and her evil quest to appear on ALL THE BOOKS.

“All songs ultimately are about love… with the possible exception of Pinball Wizard.” < -- A lovesong for librarians! If you click on nothing else in this post, click this!

What books do when you’re not looking… (Thanks, Sally!)

& I know everyone in the world has already seen this, but because I’m sure you won’t mind… here it is again. (Thanks, Martyna!)

Have a great weekend, everyone!

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One Night Stanzas loves mail. Say hello via claire@onenightstanzas.com. NB: I am physically unable to reply to non-urgent stuff unless I have a free afternoon and a cup of tea in my hand. Please be patient!

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A Poet’s Guide To York

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

Last weekend, I was lucky enough to be whisked away by Lovely Boyfriend for a New Year break to gorgeous, poetic York. North Yorkshire is the land of my birth, and I’ve spent a fair bit of time visiting its principal city over the years, though I haven’t been since I was an impressionable young undergrad visiting friends who were studying there. Back then, I spent most of my time catching up on exciteable chatter in those friends’ living rooms — or in pubs with cheapie student deals — rather than exploring the city. So it was quite nice to head down there as a Proper Adult (oo-er) for the first time, and actually get acquainted.

The first thing that struck LB and I was the abundance of chain stores — York seems to be sadly overrun by big national and global conglomorates. Perhaps we’re just used to Tollcross and Bruntsfield and their brave array of small businesses, but we were a bit dismayed to see the historic Betty’s elbowing for space among so many Costas and Cafe Neros, for example. However, there is weird and wonderful gold in York’s rambling little shopping streets (and beyond!), if you’re willing to dig around. Here are our picks of Stuff To Do:

York
The Evil Eye Lounge, Stonegate
It’s a shop, it’s a restaurant, it’s a bar, it’s a cinema, it’s a live music venue, it’s an internet cafe: it’s amazing. Stop in on the ground floor to buy all manner of delicious alcoholic beverages, including a selection of beers brewed only metres away by fabulous lobal brewpubs. Through the back there’s a cool bar with scary-coloured cocktails and groovy music. Head upstairs for more seating, including street-view booths and two utterly gorgeous hand-carved four-poster beds which you can lounge in (no shoes!) while you embrace alcohol-induced oblivion. On the next floor is the cine lounge, where there are also facilities for all your internet-accessing needs. The kitchen supplies Asian-inspired food to all floors, and although LB and I did not sample any, we saw plenty of it, and rest assured: the portions are huge and the smells divine. Kind of weird unisex bathroom facilities, but hey, get over it. This place rocks.

books
Minster Gate Bookshop, Minster Gate
FIVE FLOORS OF BOOKS. Need I say more? Climb the narrow, winding staircase to the Literature Room, where there’s poetry, lit crit, literary biography and all sorts of other geeky ephemera… or you can dive into the basement where there’s tons of high quality second hand fiction at tiny prices. The poetry selection’s limited, but you will find something to love here, guaranteed. I dug up an epic book on typewriter ownership, for example!

El Piano restaurant, 15/17 Grape Lane, York
El Piano, Grape Lane
If you’re a veggie like LB and I, you might find it a bit tricky to get your teeth into any inspiring meat-free or vegan food while in York. The city has three main kinds of eateries: big chains (Wagamamas, Zizzi, Bella Italia, and of course the usual cheap and cheery likes of McDonalds &co), bog-standard Italian restaurants (and lots of them!), and pubs. Many of the pubs, particularly in the city centre, are also owned by chains and their menus tend to be hearty but very meat and dairy heavy. Thankfully, LB spotted an ad for El Piano in a tourist guide, and it’s a definite must-go for all veggies! We had huge difficulty in picking just one thing each from the splendiferous and extensive Spanish-themed menu. In the end, I went for a vegan burger, which came on homemade gluten-free bread with homemade hummus, homemade pickle and a ton of different salads. It was almost too tasty to bear. Add into the mix lovely, friendly staff, bright and sunny decor and a sweet soundtrack. They also hold writing evenings and host the York “Go” club. Love!

Banana warehouse
The Banana Warehouse, Picadilly
LB and I stumbled across this place by accident: we were meant to be walking the City Walls, but it got dark and they locked the gates at Fishergate, so we had to turn back. We ended up short-cutting down Picadilly and I’m so glad we did! As we drew level with this place, I spotted a full-size Dalek through one of the windows and announced “WE HAVE TO GO IN THERE!”, before marching out into oncoming traffic, such was my hurry. And it’s every bit as amazing as it looks from the outside. An absolutely cavernous place, they keep the valuable stuff in glass cases at the front, but the rest of the warehouse is just haphazardly piled with… everything. As well as the usual fridges, tables, bookshelves and fireplaces, we also saw several rows of plush velvet cinema seats (plus two hipsters loudly fawning over them!), a luxury, seemingly unused (!) satin-lined coffin, and loads of typewriters, including a Smith Corona Zephyr, a Litton Imperial portable and a beautiful LC Smith desktop with green keys that I was heartbroken to leave behind. I did come away with a sweet, rare Diplomat portable from 1950, made in Czechoslovakia… for the bargain price of £15 and some heckling (you can take the girl out of Yorkshire, but…). The staff are lovely, helpful blokes who’ll happily trade jokes with you as you attempt to chip away at their prices. Go there, I command you!

Have you been to York? What were your highlights? Anything I’ve missed?

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One Night Stanzas loves mail. Say hello via claire@onenightstanzas.com. NB: I am physically unable to reply to non-urgent stuff unless I have a free afternoon and a cup of tea in my hand. Please be patient!

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How do I love tea?: a poem.

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

Gill loves tea.

A day or two ago, thinking myself highly witty, I posted as my Facebook status: “how do I love tea? Let me count the ways.” It was a matter of about three minutes, however, before a far superior wit to mine appeared in the form of the fabulous Daniel Watkins, who hangs out over at Nothing to Report. It seems my little quip had inspired him to entirely re-write the original, classic poem as a full-blown ode to our mutually favoured beverage. The parody was so fabulous that I couldn’t help but share it with you. All props to Daniel: send your praise via @danielthew.

How Do I Love Tea? Let Me Count The Ways.

I love tea to the depth and breadth and height
my biscuit can reach, when dunking out of sight
for the dregs of being and eternal grace.
I love tea to the kettle of every day’s
most quiet need, by spoon and candlelight.
I love tea freely, as men strive for right.
I love tea purely, as they stir from praise.
I love tea with the passion put to use
in my old briefs, and with my teapot’s faith.
I love tea with a love I seemed to lose
with my lost milk. I love tea with the breath,
smiles, Digestives, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love tea better after I’ve just got in and it’s really cold outside and I can’t wait to get in and stick the kettle on and have a nice cuppa.

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One Night Stanzas loves mail. Say hello via claire@onenightstanzas.com. NB: I am physically unable to reply to non-urgent stuff unless I have a free afternoon and a cup of tea in my hand. Please be patient!

(Photo credit)