Posts Tagged ‘books’

You should read this: The Naming Of Cancer by Tracey S Rosenberg

Monday, January 19th, 2015

Hospital

The Naming of Cancer by Tracey S Rosenberg
Neon Books, 2014

I’m going to do a Dave Poems style disclaimer here and say that Tracey is someone I know well – she’s a fellow SBT New Writers Awards alumna and a fellow Shore Poet! I have also been following her work for a good few years now, since her novel, The Girl In The Bunker, was published by Cargo in 2011. Since then, she’s also published a debut poetry collection with Stewed Rhubarb, who specialise in giving performance poets a space on the page (that collection was called Lipstick Is Always A Plus – it was published in 2012 and comes highly recommended by me). She and I see each other pretty regularly at poetry events – usually, Tracey is kicking butt onstage and I am in the rapt audience. But I promise I did try to read The Naming Of Cancer (a slim pamphlet published in November last year by Neon) with an open mind and a critical eye.

This is a skinny wee collection weighing in at just fourteen poems, none of which go over a page – but they’re poems that really pack a punch. The book follows the myriad journeys that people go on when their lives are affected by cancer – I say affected, because there are poems in here from the point of view of partners, offspring, friends and doctors as well as poems more directly about the patient herself. This is one of the pamphlet’s great strengths. By looking at this devastating subject from many different angles, it avoids many of the potential pitfalls that come with writing about sickness and human mortality: it avoids melodrama and sentimentality, and steers also steers clear of motivational, life-is-short cliché. It’s a poetry collection that says it like it is.

Take, for example, ‘The Oncologist’s Nightmare,’ a poem that pops up to mess with your expectations just as you’re feeling “settled in.” This poem – in which the oncologist replays all of the frightened and angry questions that have been thrown at them that day – is a stark reminder that doctors’ lives are also affected by exposure to terrible illness, albeit in a slightly different way.

A couple of pages later, ‘Touch’ examines the strange and intimate relationship between doctor and patient. This small poem of only seventeen lines pulls into its clever web the doctor, who must work with extreme care as he invades the patient’s privacy; the patient’s lover, recalling his own worries that “she might find him intrusive” when he touches her; and finally the patient herself, waiting for “the blade: it will remove her.”

Several of these poems deal with the more mundane aspects of living with and alongside cancer: the fearful boredom of waiting around in hospitals is captured beautifully by repeated references to hospital trappings: “a six-bed ward,” vending machines and posters in faceless corridors. This sense of constant and perhaps doomed repetition is also captured in the form of several of the poems: the opening poem is a villanelle in which “needles plunge” in almost every stanza, and elsewhere, echoes and refrains abound.

The book opens with a snippet from TS Eliot’s Four Quartets (“East Coker,” to be precise), and there’s something rather Eliotean about the whole thing – I don’t think it’s a coincidence that “Cancer Vilanelle,” the opening poem, comes hot on the heels of that epigraph with its refrain, “consultants come and go.” Certainly, many of these poems exist in a space of isolation, fear and decay that calls to mind the anguish of Prufrock.

The Naming Of Cancer is not a cheery read, but it is by no means depressing or hopeless. Rather, this is a collection in which hope is faint and distant, but not gone. For example, in the final poem, “Bait,” the scraps of a dead body are used as bait on a fisherman’s hook. It’s a stark and violent image, but there is the promise of goodness in it: the body is not only still useful, not only luring a new, live catch. It is also being “restore[d] to the ravenous sea” – a thought that, after the long, grey corridor of illness, seems truly comforting.

The Naming Of Cancer is available from neonbooks.org.uk for the bargainous price of just £4.

(Photo credit)

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Like shiny things? Check out Edinburgh Vintage, a totally unrelated ’sister site’ full of jewels, treasures and trinkets. 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!

Almost all the books I read in 2014 and the things I thought about them.

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

So, for the first year ever, I actually kept a book journal, and wrote down in it almost every book I read throughout the year. I say almost, because towards the end I got really bogged down in — and vexed by, as you’ll see — DeLillo’s Underworld, and forgot to document some of the poetry books I read. But this is about 98% of what I read this year, along with some often-bitchy miniature reviews. Hooray, books!

#58 of 365
(Photo credit)

JANUARY

Fiction
Patrick deWitt The Sisters Brothers
(Didn’t expect to like this. Loved it. But then, I loved Ablutions, so…)
Terry Pratchett Soul Music
(Re-read for about the one millionth time. This book is like an old friend.)

Poetry
Mary Oliver West Wind: Poems and Prose Poems
Helen Mort Division Street
(I’m afraid I didn’t get the hype. It went to the charity shop.)
Rebecca Elson A Responsibility To Awe

Gossip from The Forest - Sara Maitland
(Photo credit)

FEBRUARY

Poetry
Patricia Pogson The Holding
Patricia Pogson A Crackle From The Larder

Non fiction
Sara Maitland Gossip From The Forest
(I abandoned this halfway through. I feel guilty, but sorry, I found it a bit dull.)

93/365 American Wife
(Photo credit)

MARCH

Fiction
Curtis Sittenfeld American Wife
Christos Tsolkias The Slap
(I abandoned this because it is a book that seems to be entirely about men walking around objectifying women and getting angry erections. Literally the most misogynist book I have ever read… and the few women characters who are allowed to have any kind of meaningful narrative are so badly written it’s painful. I actually dumped this book on a train. I didn’t want the charity shop folks to even know I had read it.)

Poetry
Mary Oliver Thirst
Dorianne Laux Smoke
(Re-reading)
Kathryn Simmons The Visitations
Kerry Hardie Selected Poems
(Re-reading. I am a mega Kerry fangirl.)
Patricia Young More Watery Still
(Re-reading)

wild geese
(Photo credit)

APRIL

Poetry
Michael Conley Aquarium
(I also reviewed it!)
Mary Oliver Wild Geese
Patricia Young Summertime Swamp Love
(OK, I love this woman. I have read everything she’s ever written. I was so excited that she had a new collection out, pre-ordered it, waited impatiently to get it from Canada… and was so utterly disappointed. It’s a book where every poem is about the sex life of a different animal… and you can tell she got really caught up in the gimmicky concept and let the writing slip a bit. Or in places, a lot. Sad times!)
Karen Solie The Living Option
(Thank goodness for Karen Solie! The best poetry book I have read for years. Everyone, go out and get it and read it and marvel. She’s amazing.)

Copies of The Luminaries being prepared.
(Photo credit)

MAY

Fiction
Roxane Gay An Untamed State
(Beautifully spare, very harrowing, utterly amazing. Read it.)
Nina de la Mer Layla
(Most inventive use of second person I have ever seen, but… let’s just say I’m curious to know what real sex workers make of this book.)
Eleanor Catton The Luminaries
(Ugh. She’s so talented it’s obscene.)

#100HappyDays Day 148: Enjoyed hearing Eimear McBride talk, upon winning the Bailey Prize, about how this should be a wake-up call to publishers to take more risks after receiving years of rejections not because they didn't like it but because they didn't
(Photo credit)

JUNE

Fiction
Curtis Sittenfeld Sisterland
(Yeah, I love Curtis.)
Eimear McBride A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing
(I hated this. I’m afraid I ditched it halfway through. Am I broken?)
Hilary Mantel Beyond Black
(My first foray into the world of Mantel! I liked it! Though it could have been 150 pages shorter.)

Talye Selasi, Author of Ghana Must Go
(Photo credit. Taiye Selasi is stunning.)

JULY

Fiction
Paul Auster Man In The Dark
(Meh. Auster is Austerish.)
Taiye Selasi Ghana Must Go
(I was ready to hate on this with all the hate I could summon… this woman was helped to publication by her personal friends Toni Morrison and Andrew Wylie, but it turns out? Not nepotism. She actually deserved the hype! Mind you, I agree with the reviewers who said it didn’t really hit its stride til Part 2.)

Poetry
Mary Oliver West Wind: Poems and Prose Poems
(Yep, re-read it in the same year.)

& Sons
(Photo credit)

AUGUST

Fiction
Janet Fitch White Oleander
(Re-reading for about the fifth time, because I just love this book.)
David Gilbert & Sons
(I expected this to be really macho… and it is, but in a brilliant, self-aware way. One of my favourite novels of the year.)

Poetry
Jean Sprackland Sleeping Keys
Colin McGuire As I Sit Quietly, I Begin To Smell Burning
(I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: McGuire is Scotland’s most underrated poet. Read it. Read it now.)

Gone Fission
(Photo credit)

SEPTEMBER

Fiction
Jennifer Egan The Keep
(She is the writer I would like to be. That said, this was not quite as sublime as Look at Me or Visit from the Goon Squad.)
Don DeLillo Underworld
(Holy crap this thing is a slog. Notice how I only got round to one other novel all year after this?! And sorry not sorry: it is so not worth it. It’s like Infinite Jest. The length of it is just male posturing (as is the dudebroish waxing lyrical about how this or Infinite Jest is like the totes best evar. So you read a long, smartypants book. Big whoop). Male GANs (Great American Novelists) have an obsession with size which just isn’t healthy. Stop it DeLillo, DFW, Franzen! You’re just showing off, dammit! My advice? Skip this one and read Cosmopolis. It’s the stunning DeLillo prose without the bullshit.)

Poetry
Katherine Larson Radial Symmetry

Reading Blue Horses by Mary Oliver
(Photo credit)

OCTOBER

Poetry
Austin Smith Almanac
(A poetry collection all about farms. Shouldn’t be good. Is amazing.)
Nancy Kuhn The Wife of the Left Hand
(This was less accessible/more abstract than I usually like, but this collection actually made me think differently about poetry. Gobsmacking!)
Mary Oliver Blue Horses
(New collection! And it’s delightfully “IDGAF” in tone. Mary Oliver, be my surrogate auntie?)
Matthew Dickman Mayakovsky’s Revolver
(Hipstery poems about Portland! Read it while drinking artisan espresso and twirling your moustache!)
Dionisio Martinez Bad Alchemy
(This dude has the best name ever.)

Untitled
(Photo credit)

NOVEMBER

Fiction
Michael Chabon Wonder Boys
(If you hate the fact that male novelists dominate the world of SRS LITERATURE and are often pompous windbags, then this book is for you. It’s about one of them getting a series of hilarious come-uppances. I actually LOLed in public at this book.)

Poetry
Thomas Lux Selected Poems
Kerry Hardie The Zebra Stood In The Night
(Another new collection I waited impatiently for… but this one did not disappoint.)
Alan Gillis Scapegoat
(I second what Dave said about this one.)
Leanne O’Sullivan Waiting for my Clothes
(I did Leanne O’Sullivan wrong. I had never heard of her and read The Mining Road, liked it well enough, but didn’t know til last month that in the early 2000s she’d been this 20 year old writing prodigy genius person. Holy wow.)

Marie Howe
(Photo credit. That’s Marie Howe, btw.)

DECEMBER

Poetry
Melissa Lee-Houghton Beautiful Girls
(Once upon a time, I published Melissa in my tiny, Xeroxed poetry zine Read This. I am so chuffed to see how far she’s come since then… she deserves all the praise, her poems are great.)
Marie Howe What The Living Do
Mary Oliver Dream Work
(I am an Oliver addict.)
Tiffany Atkinson So Many Moving Parts
Helen Dunmore Recovering A Body

Non-fiction

Robert Boice How Writers Journey to Comfort and Fluency: A Psychological Adventure
(This is long-winded as hell, out of print and a hard copy will rush you at least £60. But holy wow, it’s very, very, very useful.)

A few final stats:

Total fiction: 17
Total poetry: 32
Total non-fiction: 2

Books by men: 16 (7 fiction, 8 poetry, 1 non fiction)
Books by women: 35 (10 fiction, 24 poetry, 1 non fiction)

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What did YOU read this year?
(Related reading: my top 10 independent bookstores of 2014)

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Like shiny things? Check out Edinburgh Vintage, a totally unrelated ’sister site’ full of jewels, treasures and trinkets. 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!

My Top 10 Independent Bookstores of 2014: a northward bookish road trip!

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

PhD grad weekend adventures (12)

Withnail Books, Penrith

Range of books? Excellent for such a small place.
Specialism? Lake District related, and all things Withnail & I.
Prices? About right (all the books are second hand).
Easy to find? Not really. A bit off the beaten track and hidden away in an antiques/restoration salvage yard! You’d be better off looking for Booths supermarket… it’s across the road from there!
Accessible? Accessible-ish… it’s ground level but in the middle of a salvage yard so there may be obstacles.
Cafe? No.
Best bit? There’s a vintage clothing store upstairs, and this aforementioned antiques salvage yard right outside which is also brilliant for a poke about in!

Beckside Books, Penrith

Beckside Books, Penrith

Range of books? Again, excellent for such a wee place.
Specialism? Lake District.
Prices? About right (all the books are second hand).
Easy to find? Yes, it’s in the centre of Penrith and well signposted.
Accessible? Partly — it’s on two floors with stairs to the first floor.
Cafe? No.
Best bit? It’s a place to find hidden gems… and it’s a very, very cute building.

Bookcase Books in Carlisle.  Place of dreams.

Bookcase, Carlisle

Range of books? Massive. This place is absolutely huge. You want it? They have it.
Specialism? Being unapologetically huge and maze-like.
Prices? Cheap (all the books are second hand).
Easy to find? Yes, although not signposted it’s two minutes from Carlisle’s market square and any local could direct you there.
Accessible? No.
Cafe? No, but there’s a tea and coffee machine and lots of posters encouraging you to make use of it!
Best bit? I have been four times and still not seen it all. It’s that big.

Word Power Books

Word Power Books, Edinburgh

Range of books? Great. If I can’t find a book anywhere else, I can usually find it here.
Specialism? Politics, and Scottish writers.
Prices? Almost all the books are new, so RRP or above.
Easy to find? Yes.
Accessible? No.
Cafe? No.
Best bit? Marshall, the friendly Rottweiler-cross who follows you around as you browse and appreciates a good scratch behind the ears!

Looking Glass Books, Edinburgh

Looking Glass Books, Edinburgh

Range of books? Modest, but carefully hand-picked. (I do sometimes find them hard to browse, though… there’s a funny categorising/display system going on!)
Specialism? Scottish writers.
Prices? All the books are new, so RRP.
Easy to find? Yes. Well signposted from Middle Meadow Walk!
Accessible? Fully! Go LGB!
Cafe? Yes.
Best bit? Vegan flapjack. Sorry not sorry!

Glasgow Aug 14

Alba Musick, Glasgow

Range of books? Surprisingly wide for a bookshop that calls itself a music shop!
Specialism? Music.
Prices? About right (all the books are second hand).
Easy to find? Nope. It’s in a yard behind some flats. Although if you know where the similarly-weirdly-placed Glasgow legend Tchai Ovna is, start there… it’s one yard over.
Accessible? Yes… although the yard outside is cobbled and sometimes cars park across the doorway.
Cafe? No.
Best bit? Surprisingly excellent poetry section!

Glasgow Aug 14

Voltaire & Rousseau, Glasgow

Range of books? Very wide… but this bookstore is famous for having absolutely no logical cataloguing system whatsoever. If you’re looking for something specific, be prepared to rummage. For a long, long time.
Specialism? Intimidating, haphazard piles of books!
Prices? Cheap (all the books are second hand).
Easy to find? See above. This one’s in the same yard as Tchai Ovna. Get off the Subway at Kelvinbridge and then ask someone!
Accessible? Theoretically, yes. Realistically, no.
Cafe? No, but the aforementioned Tchai Ovna is a couple of doors down.
Best bit? Rummaging.

Inverness 2014 (8)

Leakey’s, Inverness

Range of books? Huge! Although surprisingly little fiction and poetry in comparison to other stuff.
Specialism? Scottish travel/antiquarian.
Prices? A bit on the dear side (all the books are second hand).
Easy to find? Yes.
Accessible? No.
Cafe? Yes.
Best bit? Just hanging out in this place is really cool. It’s a converted church and every surface is covered with books. There’s also a woodburning stove!

Gairloch 2014 (2)

Hillbillies Bookstore and Trading Post, Gairloch

Range of books? Amazingly great, considering this place is down a 60-mile-long, single-track cul-de-sac in the Highlands.
Specialism? Politics / social science, book-related geeky gifts, and really, really good coffee.
Prices? All the books are new, so RRP.
Easy to find? Once you’re in Gairloch, yes. But first you must gird your loins and drive to Gairloch!
Accessible? Yes — although it’s split-level with stairs, both levels are accessible via their own outside doors.
Cafe? Oh hell yes.
Best bit? The place is papered with political slogan posters, and the cafe’s coffee is great. This place is basically like a little piece of North Beach, San Francisco… in Gairloch.

Thurso 2014

Tall Tales, Thurso

Range of books? Modest. It’s a wee place!
Specialism? None… but lots of Scottish titles.
Prices? Super cheap.
Easy to find? Yes, it’s in the middle of Thurso and Thurso is, well, pretty tiny.
Accessible? No.
Cafe? No.
Best bit? Tall Tales is the best thing about Thurso (although Thurso also has a surprisingly cosmopolitan health food store). Hooray!

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Like shiny things? Check out Edinburgh Vintage, a totally unrelated ’sister site’ full of jewels, treasures and trinkets. 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!

Attention women writers! Brand new writing opportunity in Edinburgh!

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

Writing ♥
(Photo credit)

Hello, friends!

I am very excited to announce that from January 2015, I will be delivering the innovative all-female fiction writing class Write Like A Grrrl.

Write Like A Grrrl is already established in London, and a Manchester class is starting up shortly. But I thought it would be very sad if all the brilliant female writers north of the border were unable to take part, so I pitched myself to the lovely people at For Books’ Sake as a potential Scotland-based tutor. After some very excitable chats — and some training in the ins and outs of the course, natch — they signed me up! Now all I need is for YOU to come and join me!

Write Like A Grrrl is open to any self-identifying woman who writes fiction, or would like to write fiction. As well as helping you make your writing as brilliant as it can be — focussing on the essential stuff like characterisation and dialogue — the course also empowers women writers to beat procrastination and create that precious thing, productive writing time!

The Edinburgh course begins on 24th January and runs for six weeks — so if you’re planning to make “do more writing” one of your New Year’s Resolutions for 2015, then Write Like A Grrrl might just be perfect for you!

The venue is the cozy back room at Boda, which — for those of you have never been there before — is full of comfy couches, and a perfect space for chatting about writing and sharing ideas. The course is six weeks long and runs for six consecutive Saturdays, from 24th January 2015, between 12.30pm and 2.30pm.

The Write Like A Grrrl: Edinburgh website has all the info you need, and you can book your place using the drop-down menu, too!

Please do join me! I’d love to see you there!

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Like shiny things? Check out Edinburgh Vintage, a totally unrelated ’sister site’ full of jewels, treasures and trinkets. 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!

Things I Love Thursday #99: getting out more!

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

Remember my 30 before 30 promise? #6? Get out more. I already started out pretty well… and I am keeping it up! I’m just home from two back-to-back autumnal jollies:

First, to York!

York Nov 14 (1)

York Nov 14 (2)

York Nov 14 (17)

York Nov 14 (18)

York Nov 14 (33)

York Nov 14 (36)

York Nov 14 (38)

York Nov 14 (42)

York Nov 14 (45)

I’ve written about the magic of York — and my favourite places there — before. Unsurprisingly, I returned to all those places on this trip, too! I also scoffed my own weight in amazing vegan food, trawled the thrift shops (of course), and perused many a bookshop. Basically my typical weekend.

…then London!

I didn’t take many photos in London, and I’m kinda kicking myself. I wish I had photographed the super-cute sleeping pod-room we stayed in at Z Victoria, for example, or some of the millions of cute dogs we saw all over the place! Still, here’s a tiny taster of what I got up to…

London weekend, Nov 14

This was the main reason we headed south in the first place: to see Speed-The-Plow. Yes, that is Lindsay Lohan’s face (and yes, I look like a madwoman). It’s her West End (in fact, her stage) debut. However, she is in no way the reason we went. The reason is her co-star, the amazing Richard Schiff, aka Toby Ziegler, my favourite character from my favourite show ever, The West Wing. Here’s my favourite nine seconds of Toby, to give you a flavour of his character:

Needless to say, he was bloody excellent in this role. I may be biased, but even in spite of my bias, he was excellent. I believe that critics have been needlessly snotty about the play — and especially backhandedly unpleasant about Lohan. (If your whole review boils down to “it wasn’t as good as when Kevin Spacey did it,” then you’re a shite critic — especially if only sentences beforehand you’ve been rude about the casting of movie stars as a ploy to get butts on seats.) Personally, I absolutely loved it. But then (perhaps surprisingly, for those of you who know me) I love Mamet. Not everyone does.

London weekend, Nov 14

London weekend, Nov 14

Many of the cute dogs we saw were in Kensington Gardens. I had never been to Kensington before but holy wow, it is swanky. Everyone there has really good shoes.
(I went there to have afternoon tea in a pOAsh hotel, wearing my moth-holed skirt and a charity shop t-shirt that I’d sawed the hem off. Fortunately, they seemed to take pity on me and did not throw me out.)

London weekend, Nov 14

Finally, here is a photo of me with a plushie Moomin I found in Foyles on the South Bank. I really wanted him, but I’d already bought a megaton of poetry books and there was just no space in my hand-luggage. I will just have to stare sadly at this photograph instead.

What are YOU loving this week?

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Like shiny things? Check out Edinburgh Vintage, a totally unrelated ’sister site’ full of jewels, treasures and trinkets. 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!

My top 5 recommended Book Week Scotland events!

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

FREE TO USE - BOOK WEEK SCOTLAND 2014 LAUNCH
(Photo by Ann Giles)

Book Week Scotland is only DAYS AWAY, you guys! It starts on Monday 24th November and has the power to fill your whole week with exciting reading-related fun and games! Does this sound like something you want to get involved in? Why, of course it does! But in case you feel overwhelmed, here’s a handy guide to my top 5 Book Week Scotland events of 2014:

1. Waverley Care’s Inside/Out exhibition at the Traverse Theatre Bar, Edinburgh, free to access from 25th November

In a nutshell, it’s: an open exhibition of art and writing by people affected by HIV and/or Hep C. For several months, Waverley Care has been engaging its service users with photography and creative writing, and the participants have been using these to respond to the question, “what is it like to live with a blood-borne virus?” This amazingly rich, eye-opening exhibition of photographs, poems, stories and journal entries is the result!

2. Creative Skills Exchange at Scottish Refugee Council, Glasgow, 10am on 26th November, free

In a nutshell, it’s: an opportunity for people with a background in the creative industries who would like to share their skills with others. Says SRC, “whatever your specialism, we would love to welcome you to our community.” For one half of this particular session, myself and some colleagues from Scottish Book Trust will be coming in to talk about creative map-making, so if that sounds like your cup of tea, please do come and join us!

3. Christine de Luca at Taigh Chearsabhagh, North Uist, 7.30pm on 27th November, free

In a nutshell, it’s: a poet you should absolutely go and see if you possibly can. I am a huge fan of Christine’s and always love to hear her perform her own work. Don’t be put off by the fact that this reading is “in the Shetland dialect,” which, says the event listing, “is a blend of Old Scots with much Norse influence.” Christine imbues her performances with such power and emotion that you understand perfectly even if you’ve never heard a word of Shetlandic in your life!

4. Scottish PEN Banned Books Club: Edwin Morgan’s ‘Stobhill’ poems, Project Cafe, Glasgow, 5.15pm on 28th November, free but ticketed

In a nutshell, it’s: me, leading a book-club-style discussion about this famous poem sequence. The poems tell the story of a young woman who is raped, and then has a late-term abortion. In the 1990s, a group of campaigners tried to have the poems banned from schools, calling them “pornographic.” We’ll be chatting about the poems themselves (it just so happens that I read them in school in the 1990s myself), as well as about the banning of literature and censorship in general. Places are limited, so sign up quick!

5. The Shore Poets vs Be The First To Like This Quiet Slam!, at Henderson’s at St John’s, 7.15pm on 30th November, £5/£3

In a nutshell, it’s: a smackdown between a few poets who were featured in recent anthology Be The First To Like This, and a few poets from elsewhere; an epic competition for fame, glory, and book tokens! OK, not really — it’s going to be a fun, silly, slam-style event where shyness, reading off paper, speaking quietly and making mistakes are encouraged, and slam virgins are warmly welcomed. There’ll be a merch table groaning with exciting books and Book Week Scotland freebies, a raffle in which you could win books, CDs, or our infamous lemon cake, and of course our usual warm Henderson’s welcome. I’ll be resuming my erstwhile role as Scotland’s Most Socially Awkward Literary MC, and hope to see you there!

You can easily search through all the events across Book Week Scotland by clicking right here! If you can’t attend any events but fancy getting involved in some online activities, you can do thinks like make a reading pledge, write a love letter to a library, or vote for your favourite Scottish literary character! Have a great week, and be sure to share what you’re up to by using the hashtag #BookWeekScot!

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Like shiny things? Check out Edinburgh Vintage, a totally unrelated ’sister site’ full of jewels, treasures and trinkets. 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!

Procrastination Station #137

Friday, November 14th, 2014

87/365: The Hippest
(Photo credit)

If you click nothing else in this post, click this: as you already know, the legendary Amelia’s Magazine is trying to get back into print for their 10th anniversary. Please please please please please help by backing the Kickstarter!

“You can only do so much in a short-form poetry review, and it’s hard enough to identify a book’s aesthetic ambitions at all, let alone in 400 words. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest this might create a feedback loop in which more experienced poets learn exactly what kind of poetry wins prizes, swooning Guardian reviews and another book deal. Slam poetry in North America has such rigid means of understanding creative success it actively stifles work that doesn’t fit the template, and mainstream UK poetry seems to be doing likewise.”

My ol’ mate Dave Coates was interviewed by Sabotage and talked SO MUCH SENSE.

…and if you liked that, you’ll like this:

Despite the handful of decent collections nominated for the TS Eliot prize this year, it is a deeply conservative shortlist, and Connolly is right to point out the ludicrous situation in which John Burnside can step out as a PBS selector long enough to be selected then step right back in. It would be laughable if it wasn’t a ticket to a 1 in 10 chance at twenty grand in a notoriously unlucrative genre.

Dave again, this time at his own blog, reflecting on his reviewing work so far.

“A (now former) friend of mine who was a bookie and rather the drinker was convinced I’d based the main character in a short story of mine (‘Pocket’) on him—to the point that we got into a bit of a drunken shouting match, most of it him repeatedly demanding that I give him (in cash, right then) at least half of my ’royalties.’ To which I replied, ‘Fine, bro. They gave me two contributor copies—take one of them off that shelf’.”

I loved this: You’re So Vain, You Probably Think This [Work of Fiction] Is About You.

Want to see inside the world’s smallest at-home library? Of course you do.

Barack Obama’s second inaugural poet, Richard Blanco, is basically the coolest guy ever.

Whether or not you are conscious of it, you are always looking for an excuse to stop reading a poem and move on to another poem or to do something else entirely. Resist this urge as much as possible. Think of it as a Buddhist regards a pesky mosquito. The mosquito, like the poem, may be irritating, but it’s not going to kill you to brave it for a little while longer.

Twenty strategies for reading poems.

What’s your favourite movie? There’s a book for that.

I also like to finish a book once I’ve started but hey, no need to be a dick about it.

It’s hard to talk in a clear-headed way about genre. Almost everyone can agree that, over the past few years, the rise of the young-adult genre has highlighted a big change in book culture. For reasons that aren’t fully explicable (Netflix? Tumblr? Kindles? Postmodernism?), it’s no longer taken for granted that important novels must be, in some sense, above, beyond, or “meta” about their genre. A process of genrefication is occurring.

This in-depth article on ‘genre’ vs ‘literary’ is really worth reading.

Meanwhile, this guy is a fluff-piece-writing jerk who wants to tell you where you can and cannot read books. Go and pour your pint over him in the comments.

Fancy-ass book editors being forced to give up their corner offices? It’s a hard life, eh?

I know, you’re sick of celebrity memoirs, you’re sick of female celebrities talking about feminism, blah blah blah. Well, that’s just fine because Poehler’s book is so much more than that. Poehler is the only person in the world other than Nora Ephron who can be funny about divorce (and she is so funny about divorce), and she is definitely the only person in the world from whom I will accept sex tips (and her sex tips are great). But most of all, she’s super smart about what she calls “women-on-women violence” (when women are mean to one another), which is always an expression of female self-loathing. Poehler knows that she’s good at what she does, but she’s also an insecure human being, and what she does in this book is show how to balance those insecurities with self-respect. When Poehler self-deprecates, she doesn’t do it in a charming, cutesy-wootsy way, but rather an honest way, and then counters it with some self-pride and self-awareness.

Just your regular reminder: Amy Poehler is a total badass.

Who out there thinks that NaNoWriMo never results in any good writing? Well, here are a bunch of NaNoWriMo novels that got published!

Some of these tips on entering writing contests surprised me — have a look!

Joyce and Woolf were writers who transformed the quicksilver of consciousness into paper and ink. To accomplish this, they sent characters on walks about town. As Mrs. Dalloway walks, she does not merely perceive the city around her. Rather, she dips in and out of her past, remolding London into a highly textured mental landscape, “making it up, building it round one, tumbling it, creating it every moment afresh.”

Walking & writing, writing & walking.

Looking through old bookmarks I found this cool book-like dress!

Is Mary Oliver not perfect? Mary Oliver is perfect.

Or consider the way that Kelman uses the word “but”: “One thing I’m finding but it makes it a wee bit easier getting a turn.” The man is saying that, although he dislikes having a dog tag along with him, he has found that it helps to bring in money. So the sentence, written out formally, would be something like: “One thing I’m finding is that it makes it a little easier to get a turn.” In the formal version, though, the musical pitching of “but” and “bit” disappears, as does the sentence’s weird, hopping rhythm, where the unexpected incursion of “but” forces a caesura.

This man a) has clearly never heard anyone speaking Scots b) does not know what the heck he’s on about and c) is a member of the very literary elite Kelman rails against. All very entertaining!

Authors who got their first big break after age 50. So don’t panic!

Typewriters and their humans. Thank you to the zillion people who brought this to my attention!

The cornerstone of my comedy is to make people laugh and examine social issues with the goal of improvement. Change doesn’t happen overnight. We all know this. There is a dialogue that needs to continue amongst both men and women on how to improve how we interact with each other in this day and age. What this video going viral did is it opened up that conversation to the heart of the issue, “Why do men still feel that women are to be the proud receptors of their advances/greetings/compliments at all times?”

Amanda Seales: my new hero.


Here’s Twinkle Baroo the greyhound enjoying the first frost of the year. You’re welcome!


Haha, Lovely Boyfriend thought this was real! (Worth watching the Making Of, btw.)


What it’s like to work with cats. (Related: proof that cats are master thieves.)

Have a great weekend!

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Like shiny things? Check out Edinburgh Vintage, a totally unrelated ’sister site’ full of jewels, treasures and trinkets. 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!

Procrastination Station #134

Friday, October 24th, 2014

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I know all of that like the back of my hand. But that doesn’t mean I’m stiff about rules. I do love to start a sentence with a conjunction,that’s for sure. And I’m awfully fond of the emdash — a little too fond, maybe! But (and there I go again!) those are all purposeful decisions. Here’s what I know now: once you’ve learned the rules, it’s quite fun to break them.

Writing rules: and how women writers break them all!

Do you have an “interesting, engaging and challenging” playscript that you’d like to have rehearsed by real actors? The Trav’s Words Words Words programme is currently open for submissions!

Booktrust (England) is looking to recruit a bunch of bookish people — are you one of them?

I start at the first sentence of a novel and I finish at the last. It would never occur to me to choose among three different endings because I haven’t the slightest idea of the ending until I get to it. [...] Micro Managers build a house floor by floor, discretely and in its entirety. Each floor needs to be sturdy and fully decorated with all the furniture in place before the next is built on top of it. There’s wallpaper in the hall even if the stairs lead nowhere at all.

Have I posted this before? I don’t remember. Anyway, I love it because I love Zadie Smith and because I am also a Micro Manager.

Wondering what you’ll be reading in the next few weeks? Don’t worry — Oprah can tell you.

When the Nobel Prize for Literature was announced recently, everyone on my Twitter — including me — responded with, “who?” Here’s the reason you’ve never heard of Patrick Modiano.

Some of the strongest poems here are those which take a more conventional poetic subject and do something fresh: Claire Askew’s Bad Moon, Russell Jones’ poem about not seeing the stars, Marion McCready in whose poem daffodils “spread like cancer”, Charlotte Runcie’s Pope, Telescope, a complex, controlled approach to a big, timeless theme.

Lookie! I get a nice mention in this review of Be The First To Like This! (Have you got your copy yet? It is STUNNING I tell you!)

Two of my favourite ever libraries are recruiting right now! Do you fancy being Glasgow Women’s Library’s new Museum Curator

…or the Scottish Poetry Library’s new Senior Library Assistant? (I am not even vaguely qualified for either and I am gutted about it!)

“I was just absolutely obsessed with this stuff I was writing, and showing people there was more going on inside me than they would have imagined,” says Tempest. “People have underestimated me all my life. They still do, because I’m unassuming, because I’m a girl, so I had this desperate urgency. I’d go to a gig and instead of watching the person on stage all I wanted to do was get the microphone off them. That feeling lasted for years. It was just blind desperation.”

KATE TEMPEST!

Do you have a finished — but unpublished — debut novel? Enter it into the Caledonia Novel Award and maybe win £1000!

These images and stories from New York’s ‘endangered bookstores’ are really stunning.

What Amazon possesses is the power to kill the buzz. It’s definitely possible, with some extra effort, to buy a book you’ve heard about even if Amazon doesn’t carry it — but if Amazon doesn’t carry that book, you’re much less likely to hear about it in the first place.

Amazon doesn’t have a monopoly: it’s much more sinister than that.

This one goes out to all my librarians!

Hey, writers? Quit buying things and go on holiday… it’s good for your brain!

“If Beast were a chap, he would be a part-time rugby player smelling of Ralgex who’s trying to tell you he’s deep and thoughtful, even though he’ll later be implicated in an incident involving a traffic cone and a pint glass of his own urine.”

I don’t normally read restaurant reviews, but I utterly loved this one.


“People that have difficulty reading are often capable of thinking in ways that others aren’t.” So, this guy is utterly brilliant.


Come on Scotland. Let’s have our wolves back!


And it’s nearly Halloween, so you OBVIOUSLY need this.

Have a great weekend!

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Like shiny things? Check out Edinburgh Vintage, a totally unrelated ’sister site’ full of jewels, treasures and trinkets. 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)

You should read this: “Be The First To Like This: New Scottish Poetry”

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

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Forgive the dullness of my photographs, everyone. I am having a totally jam-packed week — working six and a half days — so the only time I could find to take pictures of this rather excellent book was about 7.45am. The sun was only just starting to come up so the light was crap, but I’d just got back from a wee holiday and was so excited to find this book waiting for me, I just had to share it asap!

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^ Look! Robert Crawford has heard of me!

I was present at the StAnza Poetry Breakfast in 2009, when Stuart Kelly announced that the reason Scottish poets weren’t winning Eric Gregory Awards anymore was because Scotland didn’t have any poets under thirty who were talented enough. I was 23 at the time and halfway through my MSc in Creative Writing (Poetry) at the University of Edinburgh. I was also utterly baffled by his statement. At the time, I was surrounded by talented Scottish poets under thirty — and I was aware that my knowledge of the Scottish poetry scene wasn’t even that in-depth. Back then, I’d never heard of the Eric Gregory Award, but I got the gist that it was apparently the only yardstick worth using to measure a young poet’s potential. (A yardstick invented by the literary establishment south of the border, natch… though of course I drank the Kool-Aid anyway and subsequently entered it.)

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^ Look mum, I’m famous!

Since then, Niall Campbell has of course broken the no-Scottish-poets-winning-the-Gregory streak, bagging one in 2011. (That guy sure does know how to write a ‘yardstick approved’ poem — in their Edwin Morgan Award judges’ report, Jen Hadfield and Stewart Conn called him “a safe pair of hands.” Thank goodness one of us Scots knows how to do this stuff!) But I still contend that Stuart Kelly was wrong in 2009. He mistook “young Scottish poets aren’t being noticed by the London-based literary establishment” for “young Scottish poets aren’t that good.” If only that were the reason, Stuart — if only.

In fact, young Scottish poets are great — and there are loads of us. We may not be doing the sort of work that wins Coveted Prizes from Established Institutions, but if anything, that makes us all the more exciting. Be The First To Like This, edited by Colin Waters and published by Vagabond Voices, is a hugely varied, deliciously riotous gathering-together of Scotland’s fearsome gaggle of new and upcoming voices. I’m utterly delighted and genuinely humbled to be part of this colourful crowd — and guess what? All the poets I’m joined by in this volume are SUPER FUCKING TALENTED.
(Pardon the swearing. It had to be done.)

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^ Thanks to my talented baby sister for taking my classy author photo!

Some of my all-time faves are here. People whose writing careers I’ve been keeping an eye on for years, watching their stars slowly rise: Colin McGuire, Ryan Van Winkle, Marion McCready, Theresa Munoz. Some of the people here are not only talented poets but also, like me, gobby fighters for the rights of minority poets: I’ll admit, I’m thinking especially of the excellent Jenny Lindsay. Some folk I only discovered more recently, but I’m loving the fact that BTFTLT gives me chance to see more of their work: Nuala Watt, Sam Tongue, Billy Letford. And there are also names here that I didn’t know at all — I’m excited to make brand new discoveries!

Be The First To Like This proves for me, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Scotland is in fact a land rich in talented young poets. As the product description itself says, throw a stone in Edinburgh or Glasgow and you will hit one. Believe me? Buy the book. Don’t believe me? Still buy the book: you clearly need to be educated.

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Like shiny things? Check out Edinburgh Vintage, a totally unrelated ’sister site’ full of jewels, treasures and trinkets. 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!

Procrastination Station #133

Friday, October 10th, 2014

Subtle graffiti

For the average book, you figure $7 will go to overhead, and that leaves the last $1.50 as profit. For the average book, the expected contribution to overhead could be $50,000 to $150,000. That’s why most editors have a minimum number of copies they have to aim for with any book. (At some imprints, that’s 10,000 copies. At others, it’s 25,000 or even 50,000.) Random House can’t sign up a thousand $3,500-advance novels because each of those books has to carry the weight of all that overhead.

An excellent answer to the question, “why did Random House pay $3.5m for Lena Dunham’s stupid memoir instead of paying 1,000 novelists £3,500 each?”

Cool signs outside independent bookstores.

Struggling to find time to read? Read this.

Chris Abani once said in a workshop that readers will always wonder if your characters are you–even if your main character is a Chihuahua. There’s not much to do about this wondering except write the characters you want to write with complexity and empathy.

Your characters are all you. Here’s how to make it less obvious.

Reading makes you happier: fact.

What’s the difference between riches, wealth and success? Might be interesting to penniless writers!

Part of the reason it took Fitzgerald so long to finish Tender is the Night was Zelda’s worsening condition. But you’d think that his haphazard, alcohol-fueled creative process wasn’t doing him any favors, either.
Yet recent research has shown that messy, dark, noisy, booze-filled environments like the one Fitzgerald cultivated at La Paix can, in fact, help stimulate creativity.

Good news, writers! Writing in the pub is a good idea!

I really like Kanye West (or aspects of him… please read this before coming to kill me), so I really liked this.

I’m a sucker for literary tattoos.

You should probably spend a lot of your twenties doing art from the time you wake up to the time you go to sleep, and turning down a lot of unnecessary commitments in service of that. First, because that’s what you need to do to be good enough so that when you have inspiration, your inspiration will lead to something; and second, because it’s almost fucking impossible to make a living drawing pictures, writing words, or playing music. Just the fact that we think we can do these things for a living is an intense act of hope and arrogance. If you want to be able to do that, if you decide to stake your claim on that path, then oh, my God you have to do such hard work! If you’re the sort of person who fucking whines about being motivated, like some of the art students I lecture, then just fucking stop. I’m not interested in speaking to anyone who wonders how to motivate themselves. If you need to talk about how to get motivated, then go get a normal job in the normal scheme of the world and just do art as a hobby so you still love it. Stop clogging up the field for the people who need this like a drug.

Molly Crabapple is great.

Here are 16 photos of Margaret Atwood looking like a badass and saying super smart things. You’re welcome.

My reading speed is 236 words per minute! Find out yours.

I don’t think writing the truth makes you strong by default. I think it makes you vulnerable, which in turn can make you strong. It’s a naked feeling, both writing about yourself and writing about those you once loved, still love, and some you never loved at all. And though we may highly value the opinions of our loved ones, that doesn’t always mean we must ask their permission to write our stories in full.

If, like me, you steal details from real people’s lives for your writing, you should read this.

Hey, authors? Don’t be this desperate.

I genuinely enjoyed this: 50 Facts about Sex and the City you probably didn’t know.

Today, in politically correct 21st-century Britain, you might think things would have changed but somehow the Great White Male has thrived and continues to colonise the high-status, high-earning, high-power roles (93 per cent of executive directors in the UK are white men; 77 per cent of parliament is male). The Great White Male’s combination of good education, manners, charm, confidence and sexual attractiveness (or “money”, as I like to call it) means he has a strong grip on the keys to power.

Grayson Perry is a bloody legend.


Why we need poetry. (More literary TED talks here!)


HOLY SHIT Danny MacAskill!!!

Have a great weekend!

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Like shiny things? Check out Edinburgh Vintage, a totally unrelated ’sister site’ full of jewels, treasures and trinkets. 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)