Archive for May, 2012

Things I Love Thursday #62

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

Things I’ve loved over the past seven days.

…which looked like this:

The Mermaid and the Sailors

Hooping in the Meadows

Barter Books, Alnwick.

Our rental

One of my all-time favourite things:

Whitby churchyard

Lovely Boyfriend

Sunset over Whitby


Whitby in the dusk...

♥ Hawking the second print-run of my book ♥ Hula hooping in the sunny Meadows, learning some new tricks ♥ Visiting Barter Books, one of the UK’s biggest second-hand bookstores, and one of my favourite places, natch ♥ Going to pick up our supposedly-bog-standard ‘economy’ rental and getting a brand-spanking-new jet black Fiat 500 ♥ Paddling in an incredibly warm North Sea ♥ Visiting a major literary landmark and saying hi to Dracula ♥ Lovely Boyfriend being lovely ♥ Hanging out on the beach til late with beers and waves and a sunset ♥ KITTEHS ♥ One of my all-time favourite towns: Whitby

Honourable mentions: Um, this! This this this this this! // I finally finished The Book of Men — I’ve been reading it slowly, savouring each poem. It is incredible. // Goes without saying, but… the sunshine. Oh my goodness, the sunshine. // Driving. I forget how much I enjoy it. Hooray for roadtrips! // Good sleep. Nuff said. // Lovely Boyfriend choosing to make his computer game avatars female. SERIOUSLY, this makes me so happy // Lending my flat to friends and coming home to find they’ve tidied up and left snacks! // Plotting big exciting future travels and possible mega life decisions // Tea, as always // Getting back into doing Wardrobe Remix. So good for my sporadic phases of BDD.

What are YOU loving this week?


You can also visit Read This Press for more poetry (and typewriter paraphernalia!). Alternatively, check out Edinburgh Vintage, our sister site. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at] I reply as swiftly as I can!

One Night Stanzas presents WATSKY x 2 with George Watsky and Paul Watsky

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012


So… he’s appeared in so many One Night Stanzas posts over the years that — if you visit this site even vaguely regularly — you must know by now. I AM A HUGE GEORGE WATSKY FANGIRL. I’ve thought his poems were awesome since his Def Poetry Jam appearance in 2007. I’ve listened to his self-titled album on countless bus-rides to work to keep my spirits up. I’ve shown his poetry performances to students in my writing and literature classes, because they always dig his stuff. He’s one of my favourite contemporary poets.

So, you can probably imagine the level of SQUEE that happened when George contacted me on Twitter in response to an excited tweet I wrote to say I had tickets to his sold-out London show in August. I added the daft, only-half-kidding hashtag #pleaseplayaScotlandgigtoo. He responded, asking if I knew a venue that might host. Naturally, I leapt at the chance to organise the whole shebang myself, and One Night Stanzas presents WATSKY x 2 was born…


One Night Stanzas presents WATSKY x 2: an evening of spoken word with George Watsky, Paul Watsky and special guests.

Tuesday 7th August 2012
Doors 7.15pm
Henderson’s at St John’s
Tickets £7 from the Eventbrite page

One Night Stanzas is proud to present an evening of spoken word starring two very different, very exciting poetic talents from the USA.

This is an exclusive, one-off event to mark the end of George Watsky’s multiple-city summer tour. This is the first time that WATSKY x 2 have performed in Scotland and it is their only Scottish tour date.

Come along and enjoy an explosion of spoken word in the beautiful “vaulted dining room” at Henderson’s at St John’s.

George Watsky is a rapper, writer and performer from San Francisco now living in Los Angeles. He won the Brave New Voices National Poetry Slam in 2006 and appeared on the final season of Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry in 2007. He has subsequently performed at over 150 universities across the country.

Rapping all the while under the name ‘Watsky,’ George self-released the barely-heard jazz-hip hop record ‘Invisible Inc’ in 2007 and the self-titled ‘Watsky’ in 2010, which peaked at #7 on the iTunes hip hop charts. In January 2011 George’s fast rapping went viral and led to two appearances on the Ellen Show, a slot on Last Call with Carson Daly, and an exploding online profile.

George has performed at the Just for Laughs festival in Montreal, the NAACP Image Awards on FOX, three times at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, and has been featured in XXL, Billboard Magazine, and the New York Times Magazine. Find out more about George at his website.

Paul Watsky lives in San Francisco, and earns his living as a clinical psychologist. He began writing poetry while he was a teenager, and his work has been widely published in literary journals over the past eight years. In 1996 and again in 1997 he was awarded Second Place in the Haiku Society of America’s Gerald Brady competition.

Paul published a full length book, entitled Telling The Difference, in 2010 (Fisher King Press, available through Amazon UK), and in 2006 he was co-translator with Emiko Miyashita of Santoka a collection of work by the well-known 20th century haiku poet (PIE Books, Tokyo). He has a couple of poems in the current issue of The Carolina Quarterly, and online in The Puritan, which is published out of Toronto. Find out more about Paul at his website.

This event will also feature special guests — details TBC.

Henderson’s at St John’s is a fully licensed vegetarian and vegan cafe, and is open until 1am.

Tuesday 7th August 2012
Doors 7.15pm
Henderson’s at St John’s
Tickets £7 from the Eventbrite page

TICKETS from Eventbrite

TICKETS from Eventbrite

TICKETS from Eventbrite

TICKETS from Eventbrite

TICKETS from Eventbrite


You can also visit Read This Press for more poetry (and typewriter paraphernalia!). Alternatively, check out Edinburgh Vintage, our sister site. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at] I reply as swiftly as I can!

(Photo credit)

Dear Poetry Newbies: Rejection Therapy

Monday, May 28th, 2012

Photo by Didrooglie.

An earlier version of this post appeared at One Night Stanzas in September 2008.

What are the eight words no writer ever wants to hear? “We are not using your work this time” of course! Most of us see that sentence and silently translate it to “you’ve been rejected, therefore you suck,” and for some people, that’s enough to throw their writing off track for days, weeks, months or even years.
However, if you want to be a writer, you need to accept that rejection is as much a part of the writing game as inky fingers and writer’s cramp (or, these days, repetitive strain injury). But if you’re still finding the rejection pill hard to swallow, then read on…

Everyone gets rejected.
The first thing you need to realise is that you are absolutely NOT alone in your rejection misery. I don’t think there’s a single writer alive who hasn’t felt the sting of rejection in one form or another - even the most famous, successful and established writer will be able to tell you the tale of their worst rejection experience (or experiences)! Basically, rejection comes with the poetic territory… so don’t allow that nasty, negative voice in your head to do the whole “what’s wrong with you? Everyone else gets accepted” routine. Don’t believe me? Join a writing group, workshop or forum and just mention the R-word… I guarantee that everyone will have a story to tell.

It’s not personal… or it shouldn’t be.
Why is it that your confidence takes a massive nosedive when you hear your work has been rejected? Probably because you make it personal - and don’t get me wrong, that’s not unusual, but it’s also not a good way of dealing with it. It’s important that you realise it isn’t personal - chances are, the rejection has nothing to do with who you are as an individual. The editor hasn’t turned you down because they have a personal vendetta against you, or because they hate young / old / gay / straight / male / female writers like you, or because they could tell from reading your stuff that you sometimes surreptitiously listen to Cliff Richard. And if they DID turn you down for personal reasons, then they’re just a bad editor - no two ways about it - and you’re better off not being associated with their publication. So there!!

It does NOT mean your writing sucks.
There are heaps of factors that can influence an editor’s decision. First and foremost, they have to find pieces that will physically fit into their publication - it might be that your poem exceeded their maximum length, or the formatting was just too tricky for them to work with. And your work also has to “fit” in a more abstract sense… so just because one magazine perhaps doesn’t think your work belongs on their particular pages, that doesn’t mean every zine in the world will turn you down. Reading submission guidelines is really important, because knowing what kind of place you’re submitting to and making sure you follow their rules to the letter can eliminate these possible-rejection factors. You also need to bear in mind that any successful magazine has a rigorous selection process, because only a small percentage of submissions can be accepted. Sometimes, editors are even forced to reject work that they actually really love.

All editors are different…
…and this is important for two reasons. One: there are some editors out there who will reject you for something as minor as a typo, or an uncredited reference to another writer. Others are more forgiving when it comes to the little details, but draw the line at things like an absent cover-letter when they specifically requested one. And there are some editors who’ll forgive you just about anything as long as your poems are good enough - problem is, you just don’t know what kind of editor is on the other end of your submission!
And two: at the end of the day, the editor you’re sending your work to is just another reader - and you can’t expect every single reader to love you, can you? Admittedly, a bigger, more democratic editorial team makes for a better magazine, and so most publications have a kind of “panel” system by which they decide who to accept. Lone editors often have to base their choices on personal taste, which seems unfair, but it’s the way the cookie crumbles. And just because one person - or even a four-person team - didn’t love your work, that doesn’t mean there won’t he heaps of people out there who do!

Rejection is no fun for anyone.
Believe it or not, most editors hate the whole rejection thing as much as you do. Sure, you meet the odd sadistic weirdo who loves to put eager young poets down (I’ve met with one of these so far), but generally - unless someone’s been really annoying, ie, ignored submission guidelines or been rude - sending the rejection letters is considered one of the least fun parts of the job. I used to HATE sending out the Read This rejections, because I know all too well that awful sinking feeling you get when your personal turn-down reaches your mailbox. So take comfort in the fact that, somewhere, there may well be a magazine editor squirming with guilt as they imagine you reading your rejection letter!

Or… you could just do this*:

*Don’t do this.

Your worst rejection? Care to share?


You can also visit Read This Press for more poetry (and typewriter paraphernalia!). Alternatively, check out Edinburgh Vintage, our sister site. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at] I reply as swiftly as I can!

Things I’m Reading Thursday #33

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

Remembering What Is Found There



As you probably know, I am a huge fan of the great Adrienne Rich, and was truly saddened to hear of her death a few weeks ago. Last Wednesday would have been her 83rd birthday.

I’ve been writing about Rich’s ideas — specifically, her ideas about the lack of a literary tradition for female writers — in my PhD thesis, and so when I was given book vouchers for my recent birthday I decided to spend them, partly, on a Rich-penned collection of essays I’ve been wanting to read for ages:

What Is Found There: Notebooks on Poetry and Politics.

Thanks to my other reading of books by and about Rich, I already knew that she has the uncanny ability to take something you’ve never really thought about — because you thought you understood it — and to make you see it in such a new and different light that you feel your head might turn inside out. That happened so many times for me, with this book. Rich’s writing on the process of creating poetry is also among the best and truest I’ve ever seen from anyone — only Margaret Atwood’s Negotiating With The Dead can beat this book for sheer, “yes! That’s exactly what it’s like!” value. Rich is great at taking what you or I might see as guilty little writer’s habits — procrastination, self-doubt, unwillingness to start on a project if we’ve got other things on our minds — and legitimising them, saying “this thing is a necessary part of the writing process and we must embrace it.” From start to finish I was edified — this book made me so happy. It all felt so utterly relevant me, as a poet, as a teacher, as a politicised person. I found myself repeatedly folding over pages to return to later, grabbing my neon-pink highlighter to block-mark huge passages that just made so much sense.

Instead of gushing further, I’ll share just a few of those block-marked passages with you now, and you can see what you think…

On the invisibility of poetry
“Poetry itself, in our national life, is under house arrest, is officially “disappeared.” Like our past, our collective memory, it remains an unfathomed, a devalued, resource. The establishment of a national ‘Poet Laureateship’ notwithstanding, poetry has been set apart from the practical arts, from civic meaning. It is irrelevant to mass ‘entertainment’ and the accumulation of wealth — thus, out of sight, out of mind.” (p. 20)

On why poetry being invisible is a good thing
“And perhaps this is the hope: that poetry can keep its mechanical needs simple, its head clear of the fumes of how ’success’ is concocted in the capitals of promotion, marketing, consumerism, and in particular of the competition — taught in schools, abetted at home — that pushes the ’star’ at the expense of the culture as a whole, that makes people want stardom rather than participation, association, exchange and improvisation with others. Perhaps this is the hope: that poetry, by its nature, will never become leashed to profit, marketing, consumerism.” (p. 40)

On free time as a necessary ingredient in the making of great poetry
“Most of the poets I know, hearing of a sum of money, translate it not into possessions, but into time — that precious immaterial necessity of our lives. It’s true that a poem can be attempted in brief interstitial moments, pulled out of the pocket and worked on while waiting for a bus or riding a train or while children nap or while waiting for a new batch of clerical work or blood samples to come in. But only certain kinds of poems are amenable to these conditions. Sometimes the very knowledge of coming interruption dampens the flicker. [...] Most, if not all, of the names we know in North American poetry are the names of people who have had some access to freedom in time.” (p. 43)

On why the idea of poetry as ‘academic’ is a lie
“It’s a lie that poetry is only read by or ’speaks’ to people in the universities or elite intellectual circles; in many such places, poetry barely speaks at all. Poems are written and absorbed, silently and aloud, in prisons, prairie kitchens, urban basement workshops, branch libraries, battered women’s shelters, homeless shelters, offices, a public hospital for disabled people, an HIV support group. A poet can be born in a house with empty bookshelves. Sooner or later, s/he will need books. But books are not genes.” (p. 206-7)

On good poetry as a rejection of hatred and competitiveness
“To celebrate, to drive off evil, to nourish memory, to conjure the desired visitation. The revolutionary artist, the relayer of possibility, draws on such powers, in opposition to a technocratic society’s hatred of multiformity, hatred of the natural world, hatred of the body, hatred of women and darkness, hatred of disobedience. The revolutionary poet loves people, rivers, other creatures, stones, trees, inseparably from art, is not ashamed of these loves, and for them conjures a language that is public, intimate, inviting, terrifying, and beloved.” (p. 249-50)

Go buy this book.


You can also visit Read This Press for more poetry (and typewriter paraphernalia!). Alternatively, check out Edinburgh Vintage, our sister site. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at] I reply as swiftly as I can!

(Photo credit)

Eavan Boland on inspiration, the writing process, and failure

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

Cathedral Quarry, Langdale

“I have never been sympathetic to the idea of inspiration. [...] I always think of myself as working at a rock face. Ninety days out of ninety five, it’s just a rock face. The other five days, there’s a bit of silver, a bit of base metal in it. I’m reasonably consistent and the consistency is a help to me. It helps me stay in contact with my failure rate, and unless you have a failure rate that vastly exceeds your success rate, you’re not really in touch with what you are doing as a poet. The danger of inspiration is that it is a theory that redirects itself towards the idea of success rather than to the idea of consistent failure. And all poets need to have a sane and normalised relationship with their failure rate.”

– Eavan Boland, from Sleeping with Monsters: Conversations with Scottish and Irish women poets, Polygon, 1990.


You can also visit Read This Press for more poetry (and typewriter paraphernalia!). Alternatively, check out Edinburgh Vintage, our sister site. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at] I reply as swiftly as I can!

(Photo credit)

Featured poem, ‘King Water’ by Kevin Cadwallender

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

River Clyde in New Lanark

King Water

King Water opens himself
Tips his transparency into the day
Doodles a river on the landscape
Blots lakes and spills oceans.

Apologising for his absence
In desert and in drought,
Offers no explanations
His smile dangerous,
Tidal, sweeps us away.

Greeted like a god
He takes our worship,
Our need, and ignores it.

Moving off ,
Head in a cloud.
His memory only
Returning when he is gone.

He takes us for granted
And we take him if we can.

Kevin Cadwallender is an enigma wrapped up in a mystery except on the days when he is a puzzle shrouded by questions. He lives and writes in Edinburgh often at the same time. Google him!


Want to see YOUR poem featured on ONS? Read this post first: submission guidelines are at the bottom. Good luck!

You can also visit Read This Press for more poetry (and typewriter paraphernalia!). Alternatively, check out Edinburgh Vintage, our sister site. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at] I reply as swiftly as I can!

(Photo credit)

Dear Poetry Newbies: a checklist for submitting work to magazines

Monday, May 21st, 2012

An earlier version of this post appeared at One Night Stanzas in August 2008.

Last week I wrote a post designed to help you start submitting your poetry to magazines. Avoid missing out a vital step in the process by reading over this checklist - print it out and stick it on the wall if necessary; that way, you’ll stay in the good books of every editor you submit to!

1: Choose your publication.
Read any info you can find about your chosen magazine, journal or anthology carefully. Consider: does your work belong there? Would you be happy for your name to appear in the publication?

2: Choose your poems.
Make sure you’re not sending too many (most places specify a limit which could be anything from 3 to 15) - and if you don’t know how many is too many, limit yourself to 4 or 5. Also to bear in mind - have your poems been sent off to or published in another place? If so, is the publication you now want to submit to OK with this? If you’re not sure, ask.

3: Read the submission guidelines…
…and read them carefully! Make sure your poems are presented and sent to the publication according to their rules. You should ALWAYS read the submission guidelines - and not only because editors love you for it - the guidelines often give you a wealth of information about the place you’re sending your stuff to as well.

4: Write your cover letter.
Your cover letter should always include your full name (or pen name), and a return email or mailing address… at the very least! It’s also a good idea to drop the name of the publication you’re submitting to. This sounds weird, but it’s not unheard of for editors to use submission email addresses for multiple projects. Also, naming the publication shows eds that you’re not just cold-calling every literary magazine you can find.

5: Check for typos and spelling errors.
Better still, get someone else to cast an eye over your submission. I’m really bad at spotting typos - after a while you can just stop seeing them. Make sure you check your cover letter, too!

6: Send your submission with care.
Make sure the editor will be able to contact you if they need to (this is particularly important for those of you submitting by post). Remember, it is YOUR responsibility to provide a SAE if you want your poems back - it is NOT the job of the magazine staff to buy sufficient postage for you (even if you do send them the money - go and get the stamps yourself, lazy)! With email submissions, make sure your return address is fully functioning, and be sure to add the publication’s email to your safe list or address book to prevent any replies from disappearing into your Spam folder.

7: Be patient.
After you’ve sent your work, there’s little you can do - just cross your fingers and wait. Bear in mind, you may need to wait up to 3 or 4 months. While some people like to send nagging emails to try and find out what’s going on with their work, I’d strongly advise against this. Generally, if you haven’t heard anything after 3 months, you can send your work elsewhere - and if a magazine wants to publish you after that point, just be sure to let them know if you’ve since sent elsewhere any of the pieces they want.

8: Deal with the fallout.
Rejected? Feel miserable for a bit, have a cup of tea, then chalk it up to experience, and try again. DO NOT EVER EVER email the editor back in response to a rejection. EVER.

9: Alternate your poems.
So, you’ve painstakingly sent a bunch of poems to a magazine, having chosen carefully, and read all the guidelines… hopefully you’ll get a positive response! Now you just need to give those poems a rest for a while - if you’re submitting to other magazines, try to avoid submitting the same poems simultaneously until you know the outcome.

10: Take the critique on board.
Very few editors take the time to write even a couple of lines about your work when they send their response. However, on occasion you will get a bit of feedback, usually in the form of suggestions for possible improvement if your work is rejected. If an editor suggests that perhaps your linebreaks aren’t so hot, for example, don’t be angry or offended - chances are they’re only commenting because they can see you have potential. Put their advice into practice and it could mean the difference between rejection and success next time!

Good luck!


You can also visit Read This Press for more poetry (and typewriter paraphernalia!). Alternatively, check out Edinburgh Vintage, our sister site. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at] I reply as swiftly as I can!

(Photo credit)

Procrastination Station #108

Friday, May 18th, 2012

{13/365} Tea, book & bed

STUFF that the INTERWEBNETS hath fruitfully provided this week…

“[N]othing changes here except in memory. I loved the way chimneys cast shadows on sunny afternoons, the way buildings were made to precede you and outlive you while housing you, as if you too will live forever. The haar that crept in from the sea. The cemeteries bumpy with centuries of flesh. The way locals asked ‘Where do you stay?’ and my neighbours invited me for a ‘fish supper’. The way nobody is too interested in you – a great British quality, this live-and-let-live discretion – and yet you end up talking with strangers in shops, because Edinburgh people have time. The worn stone steps that lead to unexpected passages of time. The palatial smugness of Morningside and the smashed-up people of Leith.”

I’m becoming increasingly sick and bloody tired of Scotland thanks to the perpetual winter that seems to be happening (worse than usual) this year. Thanks to Kapka Kassabova for reminding me why it’s actually a magic place.

The image, from this brilliant slideshow, of Hunter S Thompson out partying with Johnny Depp and John Cusack (OMG, dreamteam!) made me extremely happy.

An extra-super-useful list of (mostly North American) print journals that accept electronic submissions (and therefore deserve a cookie. Postal-only submissions are so not cool).

Decide it is time to go on a juice fast, yes definitely, you will get SO MUCH WORK done on a juice fast, but WHICH juice fast, haste thee to the internet, it is certainly not a good idea to go on a juice fast without EXTENSIVE RESEARCH, oh look here is an entire website devoted to funny videos of kittens.

The always-golden Rejectionist: when procrastination strikes!

I really enjoyed reading this interview with fellow typewriter enthusiast Rob of Rob Around Books!

I love this illustrated guide to the favourite snacks of great writers. (Thanks Camilla!)

“I remember after a reading somebody came up to me and said, I love that political poem of yours, and my husband, who was standing next to me, said, ‘Which one? They’re all political,’ and I was pleased by that. I would feel the same if she had said, ‘I love that feminist poem of yours.’ It’s a point of view, it’s a stance, it’s an attitude towards life that affects, and afflicts, everything I do.”

This article is great, but it should maybe be called ‘ten feminist poets you should know before you start reading the squillions of others.’

The Southbank Centre are seeking poets to help them build an arts village!

Dear movie of On The Road: please don’t suck as much as you look like you’re going to. Thanks, love C.

Although I am not a parent — and possibly never will be — I really love Dorkymum’s blog. And I particularly loved her take on Twitter… it is so utterly right-on.

“Somehow I understood it in my bones, as deeply and simply as know I have hazel eyes and cannot sing: I was never going to carry a child inside my body, and I was completely at peace with that. The need, want and drive are simply not there. Nearly three decades later, that hasn’t wavered, though it has hardly gone unassailed by others who have felt compelled to critique or to pry.”

And speaking of possibly-never-having-children and things that are totally right-on — I nodded furiously all the way through reading this article.

Aaaand from calm-and-collected protest to righteously angry diatribe: I love Margaret Cho.

I have greatly enjoyed reading and watching and seeing the various tales of first love over at Something Fine. Friend of ONS Rachel McCrum has a piece up there!

“I like my fat friends. I like my fat family members. I like my fat colleagues. I like my fat acquaintances. I like my fat neighbors. I like the fat members of this community. I like your fat partners and your fat kids and your fat friends, too. I like the fat people I see walking their dogs. I like the fat people I see at the grocery store. I like the fat people I see at the movies. I like the fat people I see at restaurants, on the local trails, at the vet, at the corner store picking up milk. I like the fat lady who told me, when I went out shopping in a sleeveless shirt on a hot day for the first time in my life at 38 years old, “I like your shirt!” And I love my fat self.”

Amen, amen, amen, amen, Melissa! Yet another diamond from Shakesville.

And in case that Shakesville post didn’t warm the cockles of your heart quite enough — here are some hedgehogs taking a bath. You’re welcome. (Thanks again to Camilla!)

Do you have a friend who is like me, and loves vinyl records almost as much as they love books? Yes? Here is an excellent gift idea for you!

Oh my goodness. You’ve got to love Edinburgh!

I just discovered the brilliant poet, activist and scholar Minnie Bruce Pratt. I could listen to her talk about this stuff for hours.

Have I posted this before? This man is my ultimate hoopspiration. Breathtaking. And a GREAT track.

This is actually pretty well done and a must for Disney fanfolk!

Have a great weekend!


You can also visit Read This Press for more poetry (and typewriter paraphernalia!). Alternatively, check out Edinburgh Vintage, our sister site. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at] I reply as swiftly as I can!

(Photo credit)

Things I Love Thursday #61

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

OK, it’s another visual TiLT today… but there are reasons. Honest.

Stuff I love this week:

Last week/end I took a trip Southwards across the border, supposedly to perform at a poetry reading in Durham (more on that in a minute). But I took the opportunity to go and visit my parents, who live in Cumbria. While I was there, we decided to go and visit Lowther Castle, which has recently begun a massive, multi-million pound renovation.

At Lowther Castle Gardens

When my mum was a child — and visiting Lowther regularly as many of our relatives lived there — the Castle was a ruin, and the gardens totally overrun by undergrowth and trees. The estate was basically bankrupted in the early 20th century, and the grounds were hired out first for tank testing during WW2, and then later as a conifer plantation. All the beautiful, manicured gardens — the Rose Garden, the Countess Garden, the Japanese Gardens — were lost under tons of soil and overrun by trees and plants.

At Lowther Castle Gardens

Lowther holds a special place in our family. Not only did my relatives live in the village — many of them were also in service at the Castle, across several generations. My great uncle Des worked in the Castle’s sawmill, and my great auntie Vi was the only person the Earl would trust to press his trousers! Further back, we’ve discovered that my great, great, great grandfather, Aaron Lloyd, worked as a joiner at the Castle… which means it’s very possible that he built/helped to build this little house!

At Lowther Castle Gardens

Happily, both the Castle (which has been without a proper roof for several years) and the grounds are now being slowly rebuilt as part of a huge renovation project. I was lucky enough to visit about two years ago, when they opened the place up for one day so people could go and get a “before picture” of the place. It was heartbreakingly desolate — the grounds were swampy and filled up with bracken and brambles. There were a lot of places you couldn’t get to. Mounds and bits of stone poked up here and there, so you could see that there used to be statues, summerhouses, etc — I couldn’t wait for the project to start.

At Lowther Castle Gardens

There’s still a lot to be done. Over the past two years the main work has been making the Castle safe, and opening up a visitor centre space and cafe in the outbuildings. In the grounds, the main work has been to clear the rangy conifers that covered so much of the ground, and to shift out the tons of soil that had covered up many of the landscaped gardens. Now, with only the original, mature trees remaining, it’s possible to see things starting to appear again.

At Lowther Castle Gardens

Above is what was the Japanese garden. When I visited before it was thick with conifers, very dark and without paths. Now, they’ve excavated out many of the old paths and they’ve found little stone shelters, stone seats, ponds, ornamental stream-beds and bridges.

At Lowther Castle Gardens

There are some amazing finds — people are free to wander anywhere on what is essentially an excavation site, so you come across all sorts of things. There are no ‘keep out’ signs or tapes… you can even go into the still-wrecked summerhouses (at your own risk)!

At Lowther Castle Gardens

The plan is for work to carry on over the next few years. I don’t know if the gardens will be fully restored to their incredible, highly manicured original state (you can see some photos of what the Castle and grounds used to look like — as well as a few interior shots of the Castle before its renovation — here).

At Lowther Castle Gardens

Personally, I kind of hope they won’t turn things back entirely. I really liked clambering around and discovering these half-wrecked, half-rescued secret gardens…

At Lowther Castle Gardens


So, the aforementioned poetry reading. It’s one to add to my list of Totally Weird-Ass Places I Have Read Poems. I’ve read poems in a medieval tower, in the Smoking Room of a gentleman’s club, in churches, in muddy fields… but this might be the weirdest venue ever. It was also possibly the all-time coolest: The Old Cinema Laundrette, Durham.

Old Cinema Laundrette, Durham

Once — you guessed it — an old cinema, the space is now a fully functioning laundrette (all of the washers are named after movie stars! We met Errol, Bette, Clark and Grace), a retro coffee shop, and a live events venue, hosting poetry and music nights. It’s run by the truly lovely Mr Wishy Washy, who made us very welcome and acted as an excellent compere for the proceedings.

Old Cinema Laundrette, Durham

Lovely Boyfriend and I were invited to read by the great Mr Kevin Cadwallender (who, by the way, is almost entirely responsible for the existence of The Mermaid and the Sailors), who, in collaboration with the aforementioned Mr Wishy Washy, had cooked up the idea of taking some Scottish poets over the border to read alongside some North East locals. Our reading-mates were Theresa Munoz, Jo Brooks, Colin Donati, James Oates, Aidan Halpin and the one and only Colin McGuire.

Lovely Boyfriend

The gig was amazing — and not just because I was reading, obv. The crowd was small but everyone there was a proper, die-hard poetry fan, and all the readers were on top of their game. Lovely Boyfriend read better than I have ever heard before, I think, with a set including his ‘Benghazi’ poem about the Arab Spring, his four-part poem about the 2011 London riots and his page 3 girl haiku. He finished the set with the now-quite-infamous “Prince Philip poem” which always has me weeping with laughter. I was a proud girlfriend, I must say.

Colin McGuire

My second-favourite reader of the night was — predictably — the great McGuire, for whom my fangirlishness is well known. I was extremely happy to hear him read a poem I’d never heard him perform before, from his self-published collection Riddled With Errors, as well as some old favourites (the “white” poem! I love that poem so much!). He was on last, and capped off a night that was truly brilliant — one of the best poetry nights I’ve been to in, possibly, years.

Old Cinema Laundrette, Durham

As for the venue — if you’re ever in Durham, please go and find the Old Cinema Laundrette (< -- like them on Facebook!) and support it. This is one of those niche small businesses that you just desperately want to survive and thrive. I liked it so much that I'd be tempted to get on the train with my duvets piled around me just to get them cleaned by Mr Wishy Washy! I mean, look at this place. You just have to love it!

My book is well and truly into its second printing and now available for purchase — here or here. It’s the equivalent of buying me a pint! // The Wetheral Animal Refuge. Whenever I visit Cumbria I visit this place. You can wander around, say hello to cute kitties, scratch a pony’s nose and feel horribly sad about the fact that you cannot adopt any of the adorable dogs because you’re always at work and anyway your flat is totally unsuitable, dammit. // Freecycle. The greatest thing ever, officially. I got a new hula hoop from a lady up the road and it’s so perfect for tricks! // The Baked Potato Shop. Edinburgh’s greatest eatery, bar none. Curry rice + baked beans (no, really) = the win.

What are you loving this week?


You can also visit Read This Press for more poetry (and typewriter paraphernalia!). Alternatively, check out Edinburgh Vintage, our sister site. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at] I reply as swiftly as I can!

Dear Poetry Newbies: how to start publishing in magazines.

Monday, May 14th, 2012

foam mag

An earlier version of this post appeared at One Night Stanzas in August 2008. Please note, Read This Magazine is no longer an active publication.

About six months ago, I organised a small-scale poetry event to raise funds and awareness for Read This, and was delighted when a famous poet showed up to lend his support. Unfortunately, one of the young poets who’d come along to read ended up a couple of red wines past her bedtime, and accosted said famous poet while he was outside having a sneaky cigarette. She went in for the kill with something along the lines of “tell me how I can be a poet like you!” and – clearly rather startled, the famous poet could only respond with: “well… send your work to magazines. That’s about it.”
In throwing caution to the wind, the emerging poet voiced an anxiety that plagues many young writers. You want to produce poetry, and get that poetry ‘out there’ to be read – but how the heck do you do it? Where do you start?
Technically, the famous poet is right: the best way to begin, the best way to eventually become ‘established,’ is to get your poems printed in magazines. Magazine publishing – coupled with other poem-honing activities like poetry readings, retreats and workshops – can really help you climb the ladder… but I’m sure even the famous poet would admit that getting into magazines is often far from easy!

Be ready.
The very first thing you need to do is address whether you’re actually ready to send your work to magazines or not. It’s a big step up, to go from just writing for yourself to sending your stuff out into the world for editors – and potentially a whole load of readers – to see. It’s essential that you feel confident your work is good enough, so that when you eventually get that inevitable first rejection letter, you’ll be ready for it – and, most importantly, you’ll be able to grit your teeth and carry on with the process! Unfortunately, no one else can really tell you whether or not you and your work are ready to face the general public – it’s something you have to gauge totally on your own. “Being ready” has nothing to do with age, gender, nationality or anything else – at Read This, we’ve received and published fantastic work from 13-year-olds, but had writing from 33-year-olds who were just not quite ready for magazines yet – and vice-versa! Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it because you’re too young, too old, not good enough, etc. And at the same time, don’t let anyone else push you into it before you’re ready. Mainly, it’s about feeling comfortable and confident in your work and yourself, and being prepared for what is sometimes a long and hard road to publication.

Learn about the process.
Knowing what happens to your poems after you release them into the world can really help you to decide whether or not you’re ready for the world of magazines or not. Of course, every magazine is different, but generally the selection process for poems is roughly the same. When your poems land in the magazine’s mailbox, chances are they’ll be surrounded by many, many others. (Even Read This, which has a print-run of only 150 per month, receives submissions by the hundred.) When your poem is read, it will be held up to the magazine’s personal benchmarks - see ‘Do Your Research’! - as well as being considered alongside the many other hopefuls. In some cases, poems will be rejected outright because of factors like length or subject matter, but most of the time, the editors really will sift through all the poems, reading each and every one before deciding what will make it into the issue. As you can imagine, this can take absolutely ages, so expect a delay of anything up to three or four months before they get back to you. (Some magazines don’t respond to the people whose work they’re not using, but you should still wait at least eight weeks before sending the same poems somewhere else.) Also, most magazines can only publish a very small percentage of the poetry they receive (as little as 2% in the case of some larger publications), so if you do receive a rejection letter, you have to be aware that space is a massive deciding factor.

Learn to love rejection (if you can!)
Because of the huge numbers of submissions that most magazines receive, you do have to accept that rejection may well become your new best friend as you delve into the submission process – that’s something that even established poets have to learn to live with! Don’t get me wrong, that “we will not be using your work this time” line really stings, no matter how many times you hear it – and no matter how many times you’ve been accepted in the past, it’s guaranteed to knock the wind out of your sails just a little. However, it’s important to find a way of dealing with it, so you can move on, get back to the grind, keep writing, and hopefully get published! (Need some Rejection Therapy?)

Do your research.
OK, so you’re sure you’re ready to send your work to magazines, you know all about the process and you’re totally ready for rejection to come along and bite you on the ass. Can you start addressing envelopes yet?
Well… not quite. First of all you need to do some research, which might sound boring, but it’ll pay off. Obviously, you need to choose which magazines you want to send your work to – some will be better for you than others (check out my list of featured creative writing magazines). Once you’ve chosen (and here’s the important bit!) read the submission guidelines for every publication very carefully, and - unless you have a really damn good reason not to - follow them to the letter! Nothing gets an editor’s goat more than someone who wants their poems to take up valuable space in a magazine, but who can’t even be bothered to read or follow that magazine’s system for submitting. Each magazine has its own guidelines and they vary greatly – some ban adult content, some refuse science fiction, some only take work in translation, some reject single-spaced poems. Although Read This just says “send us ANYTHING!”, most magazines are very specific about their requirements, and for this reason, you need to check the guidelines every time you submit. It’s time-consuming, but it’s a must!

Send your work wisely.
So, once you have the reading-guidelines-obsessively thing down, you can finally start sending your work out to editorial teams far and wide! The final thing you have to remember is just to send your work wisely – for example, while the occasional zine or two are cool with it, most magazines prefer you not to send work that has been published elsewhere, or that might be under consideration by another magazine (this will probably be somewhere in the submission guidelines, but if it isn’t, it’s best to assume they don’t accept simultaneous submissions). Send all your poems in one email or envelope rather than flooding the poor editor’s mailbox, and if you do email, make sure all attachments are in a standard file-type and will open at the other end. If you’re sending your poems by post and want the poems back, include a SAE with enough stamps on it – do NOT send cash or cheques in the post and expect the magazine staff to buy the postage themselves! Always be sure to include your contact details with your submission, and be courteous and lovely in all your correspondence – karma might well reward you!

Other stuff to read from elsewhere:
A quick cautionary note: there are LOADS of sites all over the internet which claim to help you publish your work. Be viligant! A lot of these are scams or money-making exercises. You should always be able to publish your work without paying anyone, so NEVER part with “reading fees” – if a magazine’s submission process is not free, it’s not worth getting involved with. Also, even the free and legitimate poetry-publishing-advice sites often leave a lot to be desired. For example, the first four my search-engine found were these: are a massive, corporate and non-poetry-specific site, but their guidelines are actually OK – though they don’t really take email submissions into account, so I suspect they’re a bit outdated. Also, I do NOT agree at all with what they say about cover letters – read their views, then check out this to get a balance.

Empty Mirror Books’ advice seems to be one big ad for a writers’ directory book, which makes me suspicious – they reckon it’s essential, but only part with your cash it if you think you’ll really use it. A lot of the info the book provides is probably available online for free.

There’s nothing wrong with SoYouWanna’s suggestions per se, but again, they’re a massive corporate site and they don’t specialise in poetry or publishing at all. The tone of the article is rather aggressive and they resort to mass generalisations like advising all poets to edit their work down to “the fewest words possible.” Altogether now… ARGH!

The best of the lot is probably Tim Love’s guide to publishing in the UK – its biggest flaw is obviously that it’s UK specific. Also, the advice is coming from a long-standing, plain-speaking poet who has weathered a fair few rejections – just don’t let the cynical tone put you off, young ‘uns!

Basically, if you want advice, click around. Read up. Don’t part with any cash unless you’re totally sure. Don’t be intimidated or put off. Take everything with a hefty pinch of salt. Follow your instincts. Go for it.


You can also visit Read This Press for more poetry (and typewriter paraphernalia!). Alternatively, check out Edinburgh Vintage, our sister site. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at] I reply as swiftly as I can!

(Photo credit)