Posts Tagged ‘geekery’

Procrastination Station #145

Friday, August 28th, 2015

A trip to Askham

How long has it been since I last did one of these?! I’m sorry, my friends. Feast your eyes on this handful of goodies…

In the US and the UK alike, the dominant culture means middle/upper class white people, like myself, and if I know poetry culture round these parts, very likely yourself too. And it doesn’t take much research [...] to see that poetry in these islands have a serious problem acknowledging and supporting work by black and minority ethnic poets. The message runs: white people have won prizes and are taught on the curriculum, thus are culturally central, thus constitute the category ‘good poetry’, thus white people make the prize lists [ed – the Forward Prize has done sterling work in this regard as of late]. White people are the default and will be met with little/no critical objection; BAME poets are other, their presence requires justification. If they write in a way that does not fit within the existing poetic norm, they are very easily ignored, filed away in pre-made and ill-fitting categories that diminish their intellectual work; note how much easier it is for academic white poets to pick apart these aesthetic prejudices. I truly don’t imagine, however, that these decisions are made deliberately (that would be relatively easy to deal with); they seem to uncritically follow the kind of social imperatives that (at one extreme) make us call human beings seeking refuge from international warfare ‘swarms of immigrants’. It takes a huge and conscious effort to identify and expunge ourselves of the reflex prejudices our culture wants to imprint on us; note, for example, the way the term ‘identity politics’ has been appropriated as a means of dismissing the very discussion of those complex and fraught relations.

If you read nothing else in this post, read Dave Coates’ review of Claudia Rankine’s Citizen.

Then, if you need cheering up, you can read Every Scottish Novel Ever (it’s good).

There’s a new literary journal in town: it’s helmed by women, its first issue is out now, and it’s open for submissions as of October. Introducting Banshee, everyone!

Gretchen Rubin’s tips for actually getting writing done are pretty good. She seems to’ve plagiarised most of them from Write Like A Grrrl! workshops, though!

Having looted and hoarded some food and filled their bathtubs with water, people would hunker down in their houses, creeping out into the backyards if they dared because their toilets would no longer flush. The lights would go out. Communication systems would break down. What next? Open a can of dog food, eat it, then eat the dog, then wait for the authorities to restore order. But the authorities — lacking transport — would be unable to do this.
Other authorities would take over. These would at first be known as thugs and street gangs, then as warlords. They’d attack the barricaded houses, raping, pillaging and murdering. But soon even they would run out of stolen food. It wouldn’t take long — given starvation, festering garbage, multiplying rats, and putrefying corpses — for pandemic disease to break out. It will quickly become apparent that the present world population of six and a half billion people is not only dependent on oil, but was created by it: humanity has expanded to fill the space made possible to it by oil, and without that oil it would shrink with astounding rapidity.

Margaret Atwood’s vision of an oil-less world is bleak, but yaknow, not necessarily fiction. Go read the whole thing, it’s frightening and brilliant.

Stop self-promoting, authors! Because shut up. Also, it doesn’t work.

Here’s a list of poetry contests with deadlines coming up soon. You’re welcome.

Competition for even the most menial jobs is fierce. I’ve applied up and down the coast, Victoria to Nanaimo. Colleges, pharmacies, hardware stores, hospitals, clinics, tourist information centres, campgrounds, airports, BC Ferries, administrative positions, landscaping companies, a paper-shredding business, liquor stores, a bookstore, consignment clothing shops, homestays, magazines, ad agencies, radio stations, newspapers, and technical writing positions are a few that come to mind.
I quality for Welfare Wednesdays at the special store where on the last Wednesday of each month, food’s sold at extra low prices. I qualify for Income Assistance (aka Welfare) but have been too determined to support myself to apply. After all, I do have a career. It just doesn’t pay.

A very eye-opening article on why having a writing ‘career’ doesn’t necessarily mean having any money at all.

Warsan Shire - "For Women Who Are Difficult To Love" from MovingOn on Vimeo.

A beautiful poem by Warsan Shire

Here’s the always-excellent Roxane Gay giving advice for female creatives.

An extract from the aforementioned Citizen, by Claudia Rankine. Amazing.

You’ll probably have heard about Amandla Stenberg being awesome all over the internet, but if you haven’t yet watched her video about hair politics, you really should.

I was lucky enough to work with Maryhill Integration Network and media co-op on the Making It Home project: now they’ve teamed up again to make this great short film with a group of refugee men who’ve settled in Scotland.

Would you like to be frightened out of your wits by the amount of stuff we STILL WASTE even after recycling? Watch The Story Of Stuff. No really. Watch it.

Rethink the way you talk to artists! Like, now!

And finally, Serena Williams’ take on Beyonce’s 7/11 is just. superb.

Have a great weekend!


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] I reply as swiftly as I can!

A trip to Millom… and a poem for Norman Nicholson.

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015

I don’t usually post my own poetry on this blog*. To do so would be considered ‘publication,’ and mean that any poem I posted here would be one less for me to send out to magazines, journals or contests. That’s not me being over-protective, I promise: I just write slowly. I need all the material I can get, if I am to successfully follow the Jo Bell Method!

However, I have been aware that new folks coming to this blog will easily get a sense of things like how much I love cake, what kind of books I read and how often my writing time is interrupted by procrastination… but they might not get a sense of the sort of poet I am. I ought to give people at least a few hints. Also, this weekend I wrote something I thought might especially suit this blog, which often acts as a place to recap my adventures. This poem is partly about a recent adventure, so… here it is!

This weekend I visited Millom for the first time. Cumbria is one of the places I call ‘home,’ yet I’ve spent very little time exploring anything west of Coniston Water (partly because I often rely on public transport). But West Cumbria — although geologically very different to the lake country, and much more industrial — has many charms, and I have been particularly keen to visit Millom as a pilgrimage to one of my now-favourite poets, Norman Nicholson. Norman was a self-identified ‘provincial poet,’ who fought his entire life to be recognised by a literary establishment that scoffed at him for staying in his little Cumbrian town and writing about the concerns of the working class people — mostly iron miners — who lived there. I find his life story, as well as his poetry, extremely inspiring, so went looking for him, and wrote this. Bear in mind… it’s still new!


A day’s work
for Norman Nicholson

I drive through villages
called The Hill and The Green,
by the prison, follow
the sandbagged, tidal river

and arrive in Millom.
From owert top in a hot
May, Black Combe was not
the Mordor you’d described.

The estuary lopped off the land
in a big V. My mother had warned,
it’s still a bit spit
and sawdust out that way.

My ancestors, the not-all-that-
long-ago Coles, lived locally
for the ironworks your poem
dismantled famously.

From the pavement, I see
the brickwork in your window’s
shot; the cafe now living
in your shopfront is shut;

your blue plaque a bit gubbed
with rust and gull shit;
the library’s Norman Nicholson Room
one shelf and a sign.

This is Cumbria, like you
always said: keep your daffs,
your Windermere, your slim
white boats and Londoners,

this is it. The women
in the churchyard say
he never did a day’s
work in his life
, when I

mention your name, their town’s
most famous son. I looked
for your grave so I could say
Norman, nothing’s changed —

the Coles all died young,
and pattern this hillside
like earthworks, stubborn
old roots — but the women

don’t know exactly where
you are. Just that you’re off
up the top somewhere,
in a plain spot, looking out.


Some of the Nicholson-related things I saw on my Millom trip…

Norman Nicholson pilgrimage

Norman Nicholson pilgrimage

As well as being ill-received by some in the literary establishment, Norman also pissed off council officials and local hob-nobbers by writing candidly about things like the Windscale disaster and the closing of the Millom ironworks. As a result, a posthumous campaign to name the Millom Reading Rooms after him was repeatedly denied… but a compromise was reached in the form of the Norman Nicholson Room, which is inside.

Norman Nicholson pilgrimage

Iron mining was hard, horrible work that killed a lot of people. This monument in Millom’s town square recognises this fact… and includes a plaque to Norman Nicholson, too, though the townspeople do (or at least, did) think he was a layabout who needed to do a day’s work! (Probably true of most poets, right?)

Norman Nicholson pilgrimage

I really did fail to find Norman’s grave, in spite of the vague directions given to me by a gaggle of local ladies who were manning a flower display in the churchyard! However, I did get to see his memorial window, which is absolutely stunning and includes lines from his poems.

Norman Nicholson pilgrimage

Here’s the house Norman lived in from his birth until his death. He wrote all his poems in the little stick-up room at the top. The blue plaque describes him as ‘a man of Millom.’

*you can see a list of my poems in other places, though, by clicking here.

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] I reply as swiftly as I can!

Procrastination Station #141

Friday, March 6th, 2015

Page by Page
(Photo credit)

I question it all. If no one is going to read it, why did I put so much energy into that book? Why did I agonize over the phrasing that takes place on page nine or the metaphor on page ninety-nine? Why did I choose that topic or story and why did I think it would resonate? I even begin to question my passion. What am I doing this for? Why do I spend so much time contributing my thoughts and words for so little monetary return? Am I any good at this?

What Happens When (Virtually) No One Buys Your Book?

Things You’ll Never Hear An English Literature Student Say < — this post contains truth.

Here’s a great poem by Kwame Dawes.

Some of the best science fiction out there has been penned by women.

True fact: here are some examples (though Woman On The Edge Of Time should totes have been on this list).

Scottish Book Trust’s latest Book Talk podcast is a YA special!

A slightly more unusual ‘bookstores you must visit!’ list than the million other usual ones. (I’ve been to two of the eight!)

Parallel Universes run parallel to each other with slight alterations that change fate in time. Whoa. Multiverse is when there are many parallel universes. Usually this has something to do with black holes and time travel. More than likely, Spock is traveling through all of them. When you toss metafiction in here, it’s a little odd to compare it, but kind of important. Metafiction is when a story becomes aware of itself. It’s kind of like parallel universes colliding. Authors often join in on their own stories- literally.

Confused by sci fi? BookRiot can help.

English PEN are recruiting!

Jonathan Franzen continues to be a total prick. In other news, water is wet.

Eric Ries, a lecturer on entrepreneurship and innovation, went on a “pre-book” book tour to drum up interest before his work, “The Lean Startup”, even had a firm name, and started selling it online more than a year in advance of its publication. It worked. The book’s cover is now able to boast “the New York Times bestseller” above the title.

Want to be an author? You also need to be an entrepreneur.

I am currently reading Kathleen JonesThe Whistling Poet, a brilliant biography of Norman Nicholson, who I love. Here’s a great recording of him reading one of his poems, ‘Wall,’ at the Poetry Archive.

How many Edinburgh bookstores have you been to? (I have, of course, visited all of these.)

…and speaking of bookstores, here’s a (hilarious) little insight into the lives of booksellers.

From 2nd to 15th March, the imprint will be open to accept fifty pages, an outline and an author biography from previously unpublished writers of fiction. Short stories will be considered, in addition to novels.

Tinder Press wants your submissions! (Thanks, Heather!)

Here’s a VERY useful and interesting list of open submission calls. You’re welcome.

Also… do you write erasure poems, or want to? Are you not a cishet white dude? This is a submissions call just for you and it looks GREAT.

Have a great weekend!


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] 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)


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.)

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)


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)


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.)

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

wild geese
(Photo credit)


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)


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)


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.)


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.)

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

& Sons
(Photo credit)


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.)

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)


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.)

Katherine Larson Radial Symmetry

Reading Blue Horses by Mary Oliver
(Photo credit)


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.)

(Photo credit)


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.)

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.)


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


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)


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


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] I reply as swiftly as I can!

Dear Poetry Newbies: 10 Poetry Myths You’ll Probably Have Heard

Monday, January 7th, 2013

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

When I was a just-starting-out poet, I used to avoid telling anyone what my hobby was. Why? Well, because whenever I told anyone, all I ever seemed to get was negativity and disbelief. (”You write poetry?! Why?!”) Later, I realised that people react this way because over the years, they have come to believe in a whole load of poetic untruths… strange myths that have built up around the craft of creative writing, and poetry in particular. You’ve probably encountered some of the poetry myths below, so read on to see how you can beat them.

1: All poetry is boring.
You hear this all the time, and OK, it’s partly right - yes, some poetry is boring. I mean, I’m of the view that even the most notoriously “dull” poets (even my less-than-favourite, Mr Keats) were and are still capable of producing brilliant work, but that’s beside the point. The point is that most poems - and I mean at least 85% of all published poems - are far from boring. Some poetry is interesting because it addresses an issue, some because it uses language, form, rhythm etc in original and fascinating ways. Some poetry is interesting because it’s funny, some because it’s experimental. Some poetry is interesting because it’s just plain bad (check out William McGonagall’s greatest work, for example - it’s gained a reputation for being a really good bad poem… if that makes sense). But no one will ever know how interesting poetry really is unless they get out there and read it. So here’s a challenge: go forth and read poems, until you find one - any one - that you think is really interesting, for whatever reason. Buy the book, copy the poem out, or print it. Next time someone says to you “why do you like poetry? It’s boring!”, show them your ‘interesting’ poem, and explain why you think it’s awesome. Hopefully, it’ll open their eyes a bit!

2: Poetry is difficult.
When people say this, what they generally mean is that they’ve found a lot of the poetry they’ve encountered hard to understand. This may well relate back to their English class experiences, where pupils are generally taught to break down and analyse a poem, rather than just enjoy it. When people don’t know any better, they assume all poetry has hidden layers which need to be ‘de-coded,’ and that poems are designed to be a challenge. I like to point the ‘poetry is difficult’ crowd in the direction of Philip Larkin’s “This Be The Verse” (warning: strong language!), because it’s one of the most plain-speaking poems I’ve ever come across… I mean, what’s difficult to understand about that?! You might also want to keep a straightforward, what-you-see-is-what-you-get poem to hand, so you can easily bust this myth when you hear it!

3: Poetry is full of “deep meanings” and stuff.
This one is really popular, and can be tricky to bust. Because poems are so strongly associated with this process of studying and analysing, people don’t realise that, when they’re written, they’re supposed to be like any other piece of art - something for the reader to enjoy, essentially. There are a lot of poets around today who deliberately write poems that require no ‘analysis’ whatsoever - ‘accessible’ poems, where you can take just about everything at face-value. (The most high-profile writer and promoter of ‘accessible’ verse is probably Billy Collins, who writes poems about smoking cigarettes, forgetting things and listening to “Three Blind Mice”, among other things!) But you don’t necessarily need to hunt out a simplistic, accessible poem in order to bust this myth - any poem can be interesting and enjoyable, whether you know its deeper meanings or not. T S Eliot’s epic The Waste Land is stuffed with weird references and metaphors. If you don’t know what some of them are, that certainly doesn’t make you stupid… but it also doesn’t make the poem a total dead loss either. It is fine to read poems simply in order to enjoy the weird and wonderful sounds, words and phrases they make (”The corpse you planted last year in your garden, / has it begun to sprout?” or “at the violet hour” or “what the thunder said”, for example), even if you have no idea about the meaning. A poem is supposed to be enjoyed, so don’t sweat it!

4: Poems aren’t relevant these days.
I’ll admit that when people say this, I generally want to stamp my feet and yell ‘no no no no no!’ at them. This is a blinding untruth - there are heaps of poems which are so relevant to today. In fact, there are poems which even transcend time and space (no, really) - they’ll still be relevant in a million years time!
Firstly, there are loads of poets out there who write about our world and its happenings as they are right now - even as they happen. There are hundreds of poems about major recent events, and loads of poets inventing new styles for the 21st century (how about poetry based on Google searches?!). There are also poems out there which have been around for decades or even centuries, and which can still speak for all of us when we need them to. The film Four Weddings and a Funeral used a poem by WH Auden (written in 1938) to express grief at a modern-day funeral, for example (simultaneously making it one of the most popular funeral poems around), and that’s only one example of thousands and thousands of poems that can still communicate with a 21st century audience, regardless of when they were written. And thanks to the internet and other resources, poetry is more accessible, experimental and relevant than ever before… fact!

5: Writing poetry is a waste of time, because you can’t make a career out of it.
Er… what? Yes you can make a career out of it… people do. OK, not millions of people, but still, it’s not impossible. And not many people make a career out of, say, playing hockey, or knitting, or skydiving… but some people do. And we still play hockey, knit, skydive, and do a million other things, even though we know we may not make a career out of any of them. Would you tell a bunch of guys playing football at the park that they should stop doing it because they’ll never make a career out of it? No - so why is poetry different? Why is poetry only worthwhile if it generates income?!
I can’t answer this question - but I can tell you that it is 100% OK to write poetry, regardless of your reasons. Maybe you need a theraputic outlet for your feelings; maybe, like many people, you just can’t not write. Maybe it’s just a hobby you have… or maybe you do eventually want to try and make a career out of writing. As long as you set realistic goals for yourself and don’t allow other people to pressure or distract you, writing poetry is as natural an activity as playing sport or driving a car or being a compulsive shopaholic. It is never a waste of time. Ever.

6: Writing poetry is “emo.”
Personally, I don’t tend to dignify this kind of thing with a response. It comes in two forms from two different types of people. One: those who reckon that anyone (of any age) who writes poetry must also be histrionic and hyper-sensitive, and two: those who think that any young person who writes poetry is a nitwit, because “youth poetry” is for some reason associated with sobbing goths writing in their journals. Both of these standpoints are equally ignorant and ill-informed.
Basically, saying all poetry is “emo” (whether you mean “emotional” or “to do with emo pop-culture”) is a massive generalisation… and it’s a meaningless one, too. It’s like saying writing poetry is “gay” (even more ignorant!) or, I don’t know… “tall.” Does everyone who falls into a certain category write poetry? Nope. Does everyone who writes poetry fall into the same category? Er, nope. Is applying daft made-up categories to poetry something only done by idiots? You decide.

7: All poems are about love or death.
Or nature. Or war. Or space travel. Or animals. Or ghosts. Or crazy made-up creatures in their own fantastical world. Busted? I think so!

8: Poetry is for old people.
I’ve had cheeky students say this to me a time or two, and, although it’s not quite what they meant, they are sort of right. Sadly, there are people out there in the poetry community who don’t see younger poets as ‘real’ poets… TS Eliot once said that you can’t be a serious writer until you are at least 25, and lot of people believed him.
Viewing age as a deciding factor in how good someone’s poems are is prejudice, plain and simple… it is NOT something you should pay attention to. Poetry is an artform that’s open to everyone - regardless of age, gender, sexuality, nationality or anything else. You do NOT need to be on the planet a quarter of a century before you can write a poem (or understand one). Anyone can write poetry and anyone can read it, and I’m convinced that there’s a poem out there to suit everyone… not just old people!

9: All poetry has to rhyme.
I think this myth is less common than it used to be, but you do still encounter people who genuinely believe that if it don’t rhyme, it aint poetry. People who say this are similar to those who say things like “poetry is just prose with line breaks” (though a bit less annoying), and, as with the “poetry is difficult” myth, the best way to bust this one is just to produce some examples. Find a poem you love that does not rhyme. Tell the myth-confused person in question why it’s a great piece of literature. If you have to, find a dictionary definition of ‘poetry‘ for them to go with it!

10: No one reads poetry anymore.
OK, I saved the best til last. People LOVE to do this whole “poetry is dead” speech. Martin Amis even went so far as to say that poetry had died, been buried and had its obituary written. It’s probably the most common myth you’ll encounter on your poetic travels - it’s all over the press, and spun out by just about every miserable, procrastinating writer under the sun at some point. But guess what… it’s not true!
Heaps of people still read poetry. People still buy it, listen to it, go and see it live. And I mean thousands of people. Problem is, a lot of them are all the same kind of people…
Poetry has not died, but it has become a bit enclosed. The people who still take an interest in it tend to be poets, editors or publishers themselves, or people involved with academia - students, tutors and other scholars. Your average bricklayer or bank manager or nurse doesn’t tend to read poetry too often… and why? Because of the other nine myths, of course! People really do believe them!
But it is possible to get more people reading poetry. One: read poetry yourself. Buy poetry books, go to poetry readings. It helps the poets, the publishers, and your own writing, so what’s to lose? Two: keep writing. The more poetry there is, the more choice there is; the more evidence to contradict the myths that poetry is difficult, limited, boring, etc. And three: introduce people you know to poetry. Got a friend who’s fed up at work? Find a short, funny poem and text it to them with a quick ’saw this and thought of you.’ Email your partner a daft love poem. Make up a print-out of a load of your favourite poems as a present for someone you know. Write a poem to scribble in your granny’s birthday card. Hold a poetry reading in your living room and get all your friends to bring a poem each - be it one they wrote, or just one they like. Test people - ask them if they think these myths are true, and be prepared to bust any they say ‘yes’ to. You have the power to poem-ify people’s lives… just squash the myths!


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 #118

Friday, December 21st, 2012


Lovely lovely links to keep you stimulated and inspired this chilly Friday!

Stephen Nelson is just on a roll with his new vispo at the moment! I love these two, and this Zen garden inspired piece!

I CANNOT WAIT to read the debut novel from Sarah McCarry (aka The Rejectionist!). CANNOT. WAIT.

I also really want to read Dora: A Headcase, which may well be in the same vein…

The moral cores of the series are Vimes and the witch Granny Weatherwax, characters to whom Pratchett has returned again and again. Both are feared –Weatherwax’s nickname from the trolls is “She Who Must Be Avoided” and to the dwarves she is “Go Around the Other Side of the Mountain.”

Terry Prachett is a total badass, basically.

In my post the other day I mentioned the GiftED book sculptureshere are some more fabby paper sculptures for your eyeballs to ogle!

Books just never stop being useful. They make excellent insect-homes!

Fan of The Feminist Press? Here’s a cool interview with its lovely founder, over at the City Lights Bookstore blog.

You never know what you might learn about your nearest and dearest if you convince them to be your poetry groupies. I once brought a reluctant friend to an open mic, promising her I’d buy her a pint afterwards. She was so taken by the atmosphere of come-and-have-a-go creativity that she penned her first ever poem during the interval and read it on stage in the second half.

I can’t remember if I posted about this before or not, but hey… along with Harry Giles of Inky Fingers, I helped the great Charlotte Runcie of Toad & Feather to draw up some open mic tips for noobs. Hope it’s helpful!

Can I just say: minature fairy book scrolls.


Have you guys seen these portraits of famous writers “in their own words”? SO COOL!

Walden, or Life in the Woods: UPDATED!

Make a notebook… out of your old coffee cup.

“I wonder what real life wizards think of Harry Potter?” …and other stupid things commercial artists hear from clients!

And speaking of artists… the wonderful Mandy Fleetwood now has a shop! And I particularly love this print, which combines two of my favourite things: tattoos and Joni!

I just jettisoned about 70% of my Facebook friends because of stuff like this!

What if your friends acted like your pets? So funny, so true.

I totally love small builds, tree houses and all other innovative living spaces. So of course, I couldn’t resist including this!

The January issue of Cosmocking is out! Kinda more depressing than funny, though… sadface.

This is one smart seventeen year old.

The evolution of mobile phones (in pictures!) is pretty fascinating.

I am so not a habitual napkin-using kinda gal. But OMG, these!

I plan to look like this when I am 60.

I’m not 100% sure what’s going on, but I really enjoyed this wee stop-motion. Thanks Mandy!

Not as good as the Tumblr, but I still love Texts from Dog.

The Hobbit… BUT WITH CATS!!!

I finally watched Anita Sarkeesian’s TED talk. SHE IS AN INSPIRATION, PEOPLE.

And if you click nothing else in this post, click this. Hilarious, political and important. THIS is how you tell rape jokes, assholes!


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 #70

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

 Bookcase 3 -in Carlisle
(Photo credit)

This past weekend I spent a lovely weekend in Wetheral, visiting my mad-but-wonderful family. I had a great time popping tags with my sister in Carlisle’s excellent charity shops, saw lots of cute animals (Wetheral Animal Refuge is always on my must-visit list whenever I’m down there), visited my lovely Gampy (grandpa), enjoyed a family wine-drinking and pizza-scoffing get-together, and drank gallons of tea. However, one of the biggest highlights of my trip was mooching — and spending more money than I really actually have — in Bookcase, Carlisle’s biggest and best book shop.

the bookcase carlisle
(Photo credit)

According to the website, Bookcase has over 250,000 books in stock, spread through thirty — yes, thirty — rooms. Occupying two fancy townhouses, the bookstore is like a massive — and very elegant — labyrinth, with room after room lined from floor to ceiling with books. It doesn’t matter how obscure your particular subject is — I’m convinced you could find a book on it somewhere in here. Their feminist section holds more volumes than an entire feminist bookstore! This was my second visit to this place, and although I found rooms I hadn’t realised were there the first time, when I finally found the rest of my party again they spoke of rooms I still hadn’t found. You could literally spend days in this place. I could quite happily live there (they have tea, too). If you’re ever in the Lake District/Cumbria area and you’re even vaguely interested in books or bookstore-mooching, this place needs to go on your bucket list! Oh yes — they’re also on Twitter!


George Watsky
As you all know, I need no more reasons to love George Watsky, yet he just keeps getting more and more excellent. He posted the lovely status above a couple of weeks ago, and I screencapped it. I read it again this week and it made me grin.

Ooh, new tattoo?

Daydreaming tattoos
I know what you’re thinking — it really hasn’t been that long since my last tattoo was inked. And yet, I get lovesick for something new quicker and quicker with each new piece. I have a big sketchbook in my house full of half-sketches, doodles, ideas, and some final drawings which now live permanently in my epidermis! This is one of the more-finished designs that I’m really thinking seriously about for The Next Big Thing. I’m not happy with the lettering on the paper scroll (it’s a quote from Ginsberg’s Kaddish), but otherwise it’s basically good to go under the needle. What do you think? Comments box!

Honourable mentions:
People who stick up for you when they don’t have to // my best friend getting a fabulous new job — and the celebratory drinks and chat that followed! // these crisps OH MY GOD // Kat Dennings. She is the coolest and the beautifullest and I love her // my totally weird and eccentric immediate family and all their weirdnesses and eccentricities. Did you know my sister has her own pet t-rex and he has his own Facebook page? // New series of the Big Bang Theory — I love this show in spite of myself // this coffee pot, which I am absolutely keeping as a present to myself if no one buys it by Christmas // Lovely Boyfriend, always // The Forest’s vegan chocolate and beetroot cake

What are YOU loving this week?


You can also visit Read This Press for 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!

How well would Edinburgh survive a zombie apocalypse?

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

zombie attack


Edinburgh might well prove tricky for zombies to navigate — especially the Old Town. The many hills, narrow closes and staircases might not stop them, but they’ll surely slow them down.

Edinburgh is coastal. Travelling by water is a good way to move fast, avoid gridlock on the roads, and lower your risk of attack. Leithers should get themselves to the Shore and find a boat.

Edinburgh has no underground system, which means no chance of getting trapped underground with the ravenous hoardes (unless you’re unlucky enough to work in the Vaults), and no chance of zombies popping up out of subway grilles.

Edinburgh has a lot of high ground. Is there a better urban vantage point than Arthur’s Seat? Not to mention Salisbury Crag, Calton Hill, Blackford Hill and Castle Rock.

Edinburgh is home to a ridiculous number of students, hippies and geeks. Every one of these people has, at some point in their lives, formulated a What I’d Do If Zombies Attacked plan. A large percentage of the city’s population is zombie-ready.

Edinburgh is damned cold in the wintertime. Some zombie experts reckon zombies would probably freeze in cold weather. If they decided to attack in February, they might well struggle, therefore.

Edinburgh’s city centre graveyards are all very, very old. If these are claw-their-way-out-of-the-ground type zombies, then it’s likely there’d be little-to-no action in Greyfriars or Canongate Kirkyards… there’s no one in them fresh enough.


Edinburgh is a small city. If a human can walk its length in a couple of hours, it won’t take too much longer for a zombie. And if these zombies are the result of an airborne virus, well… basically we’re all screwed.

Edinburgh’s a tricky city to get out of. Even more so at the moment thanks to — cue groan — the tram works. Unlike Glasgow, you can’t just get on a motorway and speed on out. Unless you start from an outermost area, you need to drive through a ton of city before you can get into open country.

Edinburgh’s the capital of Scotland. As a nation, we’re generally unfit and have pretty poor health. We’ve never been known for our military prestige. It’s likely that many of our number will simply crack open the best whisky and try to die of alcohol poisoning before the undead arrive.

Edinburgh’s roads are narrow. When the fleeing begins, the traffic’s going to get pretty crazy pretty fast.

Edinburgh is an unusual city, in that its city centre is as much residential as it is commercial. It’s not like Newcastle, where the looters could just be walled up inside the Metro Centre if needs be: almost every shop is in the same building as people’s houses. And looters be crazy.

Edinburgh doesn’t have much of a military presence, unless the Tattoo’s on. Clydebank’s got warships. We’ve got the Royal Yacht Britannia.

Edinburgh’s two big hospitals are a pain in the ass to get to from just about anywhere.


The Castle: a big-ass castle on top of a big-ass slippery rock with only one road entrance. I’m pretty sure there are at least a few soldiers in there at any one time, and there’s at least one huge field gun that works. Get yourself inside that thing and you’re probably dandy.

Sighthill / Wester Hailes: the outlying area that’s closest to the Edinburgh Bypass and the M8. If you can get out of your front door sharpish, you can beat the gridlock and be in open country pretty quickly. However, this area also has high rises, so if you’re more of a stay-put-and-keep-quiet-somewhere-high-up kinda person, there are also suitable buildings to accomodate you.

The Shore / Leith Docks: see the point under ‘pros’ about travelling by water. Even better if you have your own boat and don’t need to shoot anyone in the head to get one.

Comely Bank: don’t panic, just get to the Police HQ building. They have riot vans there. They probably also have a buttload of guns. And their yard backs onto a Waitrose, so posh food supplies for everyone!

The Banshee Labyrinth on Niddry Street: it’s a bar with only one entrance that’s mostly underground and is basically windowless. It’s also staffed/kept in business by the kind of folks who’ve definitely spent a lot of time thinking about zombie attacks. It’s also full of booze.


Any ground floor or basement flat pretty much anywhere. Get up, or get out.

Morningside: I’ve long held the view that it’s not so much the zombies you have to worry about in a zombie attack, but the other people. Morningside has rich people, which means hunting-shooting-fishing type stores and antique shotguns mounted above pub mantlepieces. Don’t think this is a good thing: everyone is looking for a shotgun and not everyone is going to be nice about sharing. Also, if there is such a thing as a smart looter (I’m not sure), then they’re going to head for where the fanciest goods are.

Princes Street: you’re in the open, on the flat, vulnerable from attack from all angles, and in smack-bang in the middle of the city. It’s going to take you longer to get out than anyone else, and everyone around you is going to go crazy looting or panicking. Dude, you’re so stuffed.

The Quartermile: every building in your immediate vicinity is 90% glass, and the artisan bread you might be able to loot from Peter’s Yard aint going to last very long. Hope the overpriced fancy-schmancy flat was worth it!

Happy Halloween!


You can also visit Read This Press for 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 #114

Friday, October 26th, 2012

pumpkin macaron

Procrastination Station has been on hiatus while ONS had a bit of an October midterm slow-down. Here’s a bumper edition to make up for it. Enjoy!

THIS IS GREAT: 10 words you LITERALLY (nooo!) didn’t know you were getting wrong. I want to Pritt-Stick this to all my students’ foreheads.

Received a snotty rejection letter for your work? Rest assured, it really does happen to the best writers!

Check out this cool, illustrated step-by-step guide to Japanese book sewing complete with gif!

Thanks very much to the lovely Swiss for this wee mention of ONS on his blog!

This is deviation:

I had no designs on altitude, knees
flush to the acrylic; all that yellow

was more light than I can speak against.

I utterly love this poem by the lovely Chris Emslie in the current [queer] issue of PANK.

I’m a massive, massive fan of the wonderful Diane di Prima, and she’s sick. She needs help to pay her healthcare bills. Can you help?

Herman Melville says PLEASE WASH YOUR HANDS.

I’m super-extra-mega excited to have FOUR poems in this beautiful forthcoming book, now available for pre-order. Sci fi poetry, OMG!

Kinda spooky, Halloween-y…. mildly morbid. Epitaphs of famous authors.

Point A) “Censuring” is not the same as “censoring.” They look and sound similar, but nope.
Point B) Freedom of speech is not the same as freedom from repercussions. [...]
Point C) Internet anonymity, which, yes, is often a condition of people feeling that they can speak freely, is not a right. And it’s definitely not some kind of Fortress of Solitude…
Point D) People who equate “free speech” with “my God-given right to perpetual access to women’s bodies, no matter how ill-gotten or exploitative” can eat a big plate of Cry Me A River, and then fuck right off.

This article at Bitch is a damn fine response to the whine of “but I’m allowed to be an asshole because FREE SPEECH!” that echoes endlessly off the grimy walls of the internets.

I HAVE A FAVOUR TO ASK YOU GUYS! As one of their community champions, I would love for you to click here and take two minutes to vote for Scottish Women’s Aid to win the Weatherseal Charity Weekend Prize for 2012. They deserve it, they’ll appreciate it, and they’re awesome.

I’m sure you’ve heard tell of the hilarious prank Tube signs that are doing the rounds. Here are some of the best!

6. Challenge homophobia. As a role model for your students, respond to homophobia immediately and sincerely. Encourage in-service trainings for staff and students on homophobia and its impact on gay and lesbian youth.

7. Combat heterosexism in your classroom. Include visibly gay and lesbian role models in your classroom.

Ten simple ways to make your classroom (or hey, any workplace) a safe space for LGBTQ* folks.

This is such a sweet idea… compliment matchboxes full of exquisite art!

A few folk have asked if the Claire of this company is me. It isn’t… but I may soon become a customer!

What not to wear on Halloween.

It is ridiculous — RIDICULOUS — that we live in a society where it’s a good guess that a shooting in a place often frequented by women is going to be an extension of a “domestic dispute.” Anastasia Shields pointed out to me that just two days ago in Casselberry, Florida, a man killed three women at a beauty salon in what the police are calling “part of a domestic dispute.” A few years ago, about a mile from my home, a man walked up to his ex-girlfriend in the parking lot of her office as she was walking into work and shot her point blank, killing her immediately. I think about her every time I drive past there, which is almost daily.

A great, rage-making piece at Shakesville about our society’s problem with domestic violence.

Have you heard about Edinburgh’s cringe-worthy new name?

Oh my goodnessss check out this amazing London loft. Bright red kitchen HELLO!

I defy you not to go “aaaaaaaaaaw!”

Definatalie’s Fancy Lady Industries is having a giveaway. I SO WANT THAT STUFF!

The past (almost) four years of my life haven’t been exactly fun, but the thought of still having that $40,000 of debt, of being so financially desperate that I have to pay an overdraft fee for a pack of cigarettes, is much, much worse than anything I went through to pay it off. It’s hard to explain -– in a good way -– but I feel like I can breathe now.

Paying off all your debts on a teachers salary? IT CAN BE DONE.

CAT BOUNCE!!! (Seriously, click this.) (via)

I so wish I had been at this party.

HEY EVERYONE LOOKIE OVER HERE! If you click nothing else from this post, CLICK THIS! My lovely sister Helen has started her own Etsy store, selling her artwork and crafts. It’s brand new and yet it already contains DINOSAURS AND OCTOPI. Why haven’t you clicked yet?! It’s called Rock Paper Lizard, go give it some love!

This — the new anthem of Edinburgh Vintage, by the way — has been stuck in my head FOR THE PAST TWO WEEKS, so I am passing it on. You’re welcome.

Badass performance poet, activist and all-round awesome lady Cat Brogan has her own TV channel! Legend!

Watch. Be inspired. Act.

Aaaand I can’t decide which of these is my favourite mick-take of all the recent US election shenanigans. Both hilarious, anyway!

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)

Procrastination Station #112

Friday, September 28th, 2012

2012-09-21 Kürbisse I

Is anyone planning on getting me a Christmas present? In case you’re stuck for ideas… this this this! (Thanks, Priscilla!)

Aaaand a Christmas present for the OBSESSIVE TYPEWRITER LOVER in your life? (Know anyone in these parts who matches that description…?)

If you want to look thoughtful and melancholy: Wear lots of black. Black pants with a black shirt would be a good idea. Something fun to wear to a poetry reading or cafe is a beret. For shoes, boots or ballet flats would be nice. Don’t go overboard on makeup and jewelry.

I’VE BEEN DOING IT ALL WRONG FOR YEARS! Learn how to dress like a poet in five easy steps! (Or yaknow, you could justbuy this.)

I love this short ‘n’ sweet concrete poem from Stephen Nelson.

And speaking of short ‘n’ sweet — what would YOUR one-line obituary be? (answers in the comments, please!)

Regina has a poem up at Golden Horses!

Avoid cliques, gangs, groups. The presence of a crowd won’t make your writing any better than it is.

THIS! Thank you, Zadie Smith! And your other writing rules are also pretty darned excellent!

A lovely new poem from Mr McGuire!

OK, one more novelty typewriter product which I am coveting, and then I’ll stop, OK? But just LOOK AT THIS FROCK! (Thanks, Ruth!)

Dad, I love your fatness, because your fatness is part of you. Your fat body changed my and my sister’s diapers. Your fat body sat next to me on the couch when I was just a tiny child and watched Star Trek, both the original AND The Next Generation with me, making me the geek I am today. Your fat lap was the one that, when I was a child and computer games were still pretty damn young, would let me sit upon it as you played (for both of us, me shouting directions gleefully), Designasaurus, and, I admit, often I’d laugh so hard that I would pee my pants with excitement, WHILE IN YOUR LAP. And your fat self was ok with it (not thrilled, but it never stopped us from playing again). Your fat body was the body of the man who let me and my sister put scrunchies, elastics, bows, ribbons, and sparkly hair gel in his hair. Who let us give him terrible comb-overs and pig tails, because you loved us. Your fat self taught me subtraction better than I was learning it in class.

This letter to a fat father from his fat trans son is beautiful, sad and brave. Please read.

Gorgeous rainy autumn photos from Katja! (Have you noticed I am totally crushing on her blog?)

I just discovered The Improvised Life blog and now I am in love…

I know I post these all the time here but this might be THE BEST Passive-Aggressive Note ever!

I want to start a clicktivism type campaign called Fire Christina Hendricks’ Obviously-Cruel Stylist And Let’s All Club Together To Buy Her A Cardi.

OMFG it’s a PONYBIKE! (although, did they miss a trick or what by not making it a unicorn?) Thanks Ellie!

This badass 87 year old is kicking Republican butt in the cutest way!

It’s not perfect, but this new M&S ad is definitely a step in the right direction in terms of diversity. (Also, love the fact that one of the top-rated Youtube comments is: “Anyone else reckon the silver haired woman is fit as f**k?”)


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)