Archive for January, 2013

Featured Poem, ‘Song,’ by Stephen Nelson (also, a review!)

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

Banjo

Song

1.

Pu oot yer banjo, boy, n strum
at yon fu moon

till ye nip the prood violet’s
wheezy reek

fae teeth n nose n mooth.

2.

Pu oot yer banjo, boy, n pluck
the fucker

till ma hert strings snap n whip
the raw rank erse ae the wirld

wi memory like the putrid seas ae Jupiter.

3.

Pu oot yer banjo, boy –

lazy bam in yer lazy bed wi yer
sweetened songs n yer honey dream rhymes.

Ah wull dance, dammit! - n let the rollin waves
spill oan the frozen shore,
till midnight wirds
ir whisperin tendrils ae shivering
ecstasy nae mair.

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If you’ve been reading this blog for any decent amount of time, you’ll know I love the work of Stephen Nelson. One of the best and most prolific concrete/vispo poets working in Scotland today, Stephen’s been published in a wide variety of places, including the wonderful anthology The Last Vispo, which I’d highly recommend to anyone (especially if you’re not sure what all this vispo fuss is about, but you think you’d like to try it). Most recently, he’s brought out a collection with the wonderful Knives Forks and Spoons Press, who are soon to close their doors — sad times, indeed. But they’ve really gone out with a bang by publishing Lunar Poems for New Religions, a collection which, prior to publication, was shortlisted for the prestigious Crashaw Prize… and I can see why.

Lunar Poems for New Religions is a book inspired by the moon, in every sense. Its second section, Crescent, mimics the rhythm of the lunar cycle, beginning with a very simple concrete piece:

mo( )on

Thereafter, the poems wax and wane. Some are sparse, concrete pieces that use the white space of the page to great effect; interspersed among them are short, prose-style poems that seem lush and full alongside their neighbours. Stephen has arranged — I almost want to say timed — all of this to perfection, though, as it never feels jarring. Rather, it is smooth and organic. And the poems are filled with confident, powerful lines. In ‘Ask Tracey’, for example, I was struck by, “Whenever I touched you who felt the shock but us.”

The first section of the book, The Moon from my Windowless Heart, is a totally different beast. ‘Song’, the poem above, is the first to appear in the section, and it is followed by ‘LOOK UP!’, one long, two-part poem that in places is almost theatrical monologue. This section is in Scots, which I found surprising and wonderful. ‘LOOK UP!’ reminded me very much of poems from the Beat Generation — lines like:

Next mornin up tae tantric storms aboot ma heid,
dark mind clouds explodin brain sparks ae lightnin,
cartoon hero cut fae technicolour dream cloth,
rinsed oot & hung in the sky like a sinkin moon.

The whole collection pulses with a weird and brilliant energy, combining Stephen’s expert knowledge of the page’s potential as shape, as canvas, with strong, rhythmic phrasing and pin-sharp imagery. It’s only January, but I’ll be shocked if I find a more original, enjoyable collection to top it this year. I’m calling my Top Poetry Read of 2013, folks! And you can buy it right here!

(You can — and you really, really should — also visit Stephen’s great blog, afterlights, to see more of his work.)

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

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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]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!

The Next Big Thing: my first collection

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

huge_typewriter

You’ve probably seen this meme/questionnaire thingy doing the rounds of literary blogs lately? I have, and was kind of dreading my inevitable tagging. However, I found that filling in the answers below actually made me feel quite uplifted and hopeful about the scattered, half-finished MS that is my forthcoming first collection of poems (it has a working title, but it has a kind-of rude word in it. I’m not sure if I’ll have the bottle to keep it, or if a publisher could stomach it, so I’ll keep it secret for now). Thanks very much to Andy Philip for the nudge! You can see his answers here, at his blog Tonguefire.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
It’ll be my first full-length collection, so I feel a bit like I’ve been working towards it ever since I began writing. However, the central themes that are coming to define the working MS really started to emerge last summer, when I did a writer’s retreat on the Greek island of Hydra. It was July, and much too hot for me to be outside between the hours of about 10am and 5pm, so I was almost literally walled inside this one-room cottage with the Selected Poems of Adrienne Rich, and a notebook. I think it’s the most productive I’ve ever been.

What genre is the book?
Poetry. I’ve been experimenting, writing much longer poems than my usual, but I’m still not sure of them. They may yet end up on the cutting room floor.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
I’d love to see a poetry collection — though not necessarily mine! — become a series-of-vignettes movie, like Jim Jarmusch’s Coffee and Cigarettes, one of my favourite movies ever. Like The Mermaid and the Sailors, this book is going to contain a lot of strong women. I can totally see Annette Bening “playing” one of these poems, she’d be great.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Oh dear, I’m really crap at this. I remember people sending blurbs for The Mermaid and the Sailors that said things like, “these are poems about x, y and z,” and I thought, “are they? Oh yes, I suppose they are.” So you may have to wait until the book exists properly, and ask someone who’s read it. The closest I can get right now is, “a collection of poems about women… and maybe anger.”

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
See my first answer! There are some poems going in here from as long ago as 2007. But there are also still some to write. I never, ever think anything’s finished. I’ll probably need someone to prize it out of my hands at some point and say, “for goodness sakes, it’s done.”

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
In the past two or three years, I’ve widened the focus of my life. I’ve forced myself to get out of my comfort zone in my work, in my slowly-growing activism, and also in my cultural intake: what I read, watch and attend. I always used to tell my own stories — old family anecodotes nicked and turned into poems, experiences I’d personally had. Now I want to tell stories about bigger things. I’m really interested in class now, and privilege. I feel a real desire to write more about those things.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
The MS isn’t finished yet… I’m still not sure what’s definitely staying in, and what’s going. But there might be a poem about donkeys. There’s a poem about Allen Ginsberg’s mum. There’s a poem where I answer back, quite cheekily, to Carol Ann Duffy. I’ve also written a series of haiku set in the knicker department of Marks & Spencers in Carlisle… but I’m pretty sure I’ll chicken out with that one!

Will your book be self-published or represented by a publisher?
That remains to be seen! To be honest, getting a first collection placed at the moment seems to be a bit of a nightmare, so I’m not really thinking about it too much. I’m keener to end up with a collection I can be really proud of.

The writers I have tagged are:
Colin McGuire
Helen McClory
Char Runcie

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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]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!

(Photo credit)

Featured Poem, ‘Reducio Ab Absurdum,’ by Colin McGuire

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

Poetry @ The Rag Factory 14/12/12

Reducio Ab Absurdum

Shakespeare’s more a performance poet
a throat poet, a fire and tongue type.
A poet of larynx, a diaphragmatic breathing poet
Not a serious poet in a gentleman’s jacket.

I’m a page poet; a take the time and consider
the exact length and breadth of the line poet.
I am an architect with form but never formulaic.
I am a master of design but not mastered by design.

Heaney’s more a performance poet;
a wave-your-arms-and-gesticulate-wildly-and-know-it.
A show it all and throoooooow it at you poet.
Not a serious poet who reads the classics and shows it.

I’m page poet, a literary allusions and allegorical conclusions poet.
A lay subtle structure which unravels a slow-burning conundrum poet.
I take the time to make something so delicate even a breath could break it
yet it withstands that breath, and you cannot fake it.

Sexton is more a performance poet; a shout at the top of your soul poet.
A rant in the mirror solipsistic I-alone-exist-and-will-prove-it-poet.
A should have been an actor instead but never knew it poet.
I wrote this on the loo and you can whiff it poet.

I’m a page poet with stable demeanour and quiet composure.
I build poem liners out of the thin matchsticks of words
and they set sail quietly on calm waters across oceans of eyes.

Rimbaud is more a performance poet.
A of the internet-attention-deficit-quickly-type-it-with-no-edit-poet.
A scribbler of slapdashery, a knee jerk reactionary bound to be burned
as waste under the well read eye of reality.

I’m a page poet. An on the crusade poet. Here to explode
the false dichotomy of page and perform it, show and tell it poet.
Let the words carry the weight we carry. Let tastes divide.
Quality lingers upon the shelf life longer than the debate will have it.

(In the jungle the soul’s wild eyes glare white in the shadow.
The cauldron of the heart sounds like a warm drum.
We continually reach out to that which is comprehensible.)

McGuire: A thin 30 year old Glaswegian man, touch giddy in the head, sometimes poet of mangled form and dirty prose, sporadic drummer, drunk grammarian, waffler, painter using crayons, lover, hater, learner, teacher, pedestrian, provocateur, wanderer, confronter of shadows, irritating whine. He mines the darker regions of Scottish Culture and Psychology. McGuire has produced a collection of poetry and short stories, printed by ClydeSide Press called - Riddle With Errors - and is currently working on a pamphlet due for release in 2013 with Red Squirrel Press. He reads regularly in Scotland and England. Find out more at: http://a-glaswegian.blogspot.co.uk/

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

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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]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!

(Photo credit)