Posts Tagged ‘writers’

Procrastination Station #147: Halloween edition

Saturday, October 31st, 2015

Lake District bank holiday '15

Happy Halloween!

To accuse intelligent, independent or pleasure-seeking women of immorality and corruption is as old as Eve herself, of course. To prey on the vulnerable to assert your own authority is just as ancient. To smear your own fears about female sexuality, sin, and insubordination across the women around you is just an extension of this two-pronged attack.

This candid article about our traditional image of the broomstick-riding witch is just brilliant. Thanks to Alice for sharing.

Woman convicted of witchcraft gets a retrial, 300 years after the fact (thanks, Russell!).

These old names for herbs are such good poem-fodder.

Old women villains are especially scary because, historically, the most powerful person in a child’s life was the mother. “Children do have a way of splitting the mother figure into … the evil mother — who’s always making rules and regulations, policing your behavior, getting angry at you — and then the benevolent nurturer — the one who is giving and protects you, makes sure that you survive.”

Why are witches always old?

A few witchy rituals and omens for your Halloween night!

You know that garbage people spout about how humans are superior to animals because only we know about death? That’s cobblers, and crows prove it.

The first Halloween at Dad’s house was the closest I’ve come in my life to having a wish come true. Everything my brother and I talked about was there, made real, in Dad’s yard. The stuff ran up the tree, across the porch, nearly encroaching into his neighbor’s yard. There was Dracula, sitting up in his coffin, his eyes flicking open and shut. Frankenstein froze mid-step on the corner of the porch supported by fishing wire. Bats and cats and pumpkins adorned the mailbox, the flagpole, the base of the tree. My brother and I were blown away.

This touching story about one kid’s relationship with his dad, as told through Halloween decorations, is absolutely lovely.

I would like to go and live at the Bealtaine Cottage, please. Or better, build my own.

Required reading for Halloween: Anne Sexton.


Just a damn fine Halloween tune.


You can now get more content from me — and help me pay the bills! — by supporting my Patreon. Get a monthly writing support pack for just $5 a month! It’s like buying me a pint.
You can also support me by checking out the many sweet and sparkly things at Edinburgh Vintage, my Etsy-based store for jewellery and small antiques.
If you just want to say hi, you can find me on Twitter, or email me via claire[at] You’ll get a fairly good sense of the kind of person I am by checking out my Tumblr.

Procrastination Station #146

Friday, October 16th, 2015

Kendal sunset

First thing’s first: are you wondering why this PS post is shorter than the usual? The answer is, I have moved some of my blog content over to Patreon, which means it’s now behind a (fairly tiny) paywall. Fear not! I will still be posting free content here, but I also need to pay the bills… and you can help. For just $5 per month (around £3!) you can access my monthly writing support pack, read poems and stories of mine that are FOR YOUR EYES ONLY, and download free assignments and resources to help you to write. Sound good? Sign up here!

Alright, now for the good stuff…

Accept the fact that you must change your program. Accept that you have not done enough to support writers of color. Accept that it will take time to rebrand and rebuild trust. Accept that you may not be ready for us. Accept that the passion, fire, and talent of writers of color might burn your program down. Accept that only we can help you rebuild this broken system.

This by Craig Santos Perez, on the white-and-male-ness of MFAs and how they can be fixed, is bloody great.

Here’s a lovely essay by Marlon James, written pre-Booker-Prize-win (yay!), on how writing factored into his decision to keep on living in spite of everything.

As you may already know, I am not usually a huge McSweeney’s fan. However, their Interactive Guide to Ambiguous Grammar is important and excellent and must be read to the end.

There’s a miniature silver ball, a black button, a blue paper clip, a yellow bead, a faded black piece of foam, a blue Lego piece, and the list goes on. Many of them are scuffed and dirty. It is an odd assortment of objects for a little girl to treasure, but to Gabi these things are more valuable than gold.

The girl who gets gifts from birds is a beautiful true story, and I may have to turn it into a poem.

11 things you probably didn’t know about the Brontes.

Incredible literary jack-o-lanterns. Are these even real?! The Hunger Games one. I just. OK.

The next day, I noticed a scratch. Surely we have the technology to fix this. Maybe some buffing process? 1 week later, it looks like it’s been scraped on the ground. Observing friend’s wedding rings, they don’t look perfect and shiny at all. They look like they’ve been through some small war.
Just for curiosity, I enquired how much one might be able to sell a slightly used, but well loved Platinum wedding ring on the open market. From my limited search, I may be able to recoup as much as 20% of what I paid. If I melt it down, I could sell it for $130.
If the ring isn’t worth much in the first place, why is it important to spend tons of money to some company for a token piece of rareish metal that wraps around a particular finger? It’s stupid.

As the CEO of an (infinitely affordable) online jewellery store, I approve this message.

The brilliant PANK are closing their doors, which is super sad. BUT they are still open for submissions for a short time!

The great Amy Key wrote a response to the BBC’s “Poetry Season” — well, it’s more a list of demands, really. And it’s great.

I love the Tales of Mere Existence, and “Procrastination” just went to the top of my list.

The Dark Horse turned 20 this year! Warning: this video features my stupid face.

I may be just a tad obsessed with this ethereal cover of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Landslide.’

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!

Opportunities for writers! Come and work with me!

Friday, September 4th, 2015

Hey! Are you a writer, or would you like to be one? Are you looking for any of the following: guidance, community, self-confidence, advice, resources, mentoring, fun? This post is for you. I’m doing lots of exciting stuff at the moment and I would love for YOU to be part of it. Come along…?

Alison Gibson reading at Storyshop

Write Like A Grrrl!: the new semester
6-week all-female fiction writing course — starts 21st September

See that gorgeous woman in that photo? That’s Alison Gibson, an alumna of Write Like A Grrrl! March. Way back in March, I nagged a somewhat-uncertain Alison into submitting one of her short stories to Edinburgh International Book Festival’s prestigious StoryShop programme. Six months later, I sat among a gaggle of Write Like A Grrrl! alumni watching Alison read that story to a rapt crowd in the EIBF’s Spiegeltent theatre. I don’t mean to take all the credit, obviously. But I’m pretty sure that my nagging — and the support she received from the rest of the WLAG! group — was a big factor in Alison getting onto that stage!

Seriously, Write Like A Grrrl! is magical — I’m biased, yes, but I’m also pretty sure that I aint wrong about this! The course is open to women writers of all stripes, no matter where they are in their writing journey. Some folk start WLAG! with half a novel under their belt… they just need to get it finished. Some folk start having done absolutely no writing, ever… they just want to check it out. And many of the women I meet on WLAG! have had their confidence knocked in one way or another — they want to write but they just can’t find the strength.

Write Like A Grrrl! lunch outing
^ A meeting of just some of the WLAG! alumni — from January, March and May — last month.

WLAG! is all about strength. It’s strength in numbers — you’ll meet eleven other like-minded women writers and trust me, you’ll soon end up down the pub together, geeking out about writing! It’s also about strengthening your routine — making writing a natural part of your life and never a chore — and strengthening the words themselves, making them really sing. To date, women who’ve completed Write Like A Grrrl! Edinburgh have gone on to do things like writing for the Huffington Post, writing for the F Word, winning a major new short story writing prize, and hooking up with a top agent!

You can read some testimonals from the January group (aka ‘the Edinburgh guinea pigs’ — first ever course!) by clicking here. You can read some from the March group by clicking here. And there are some from the May group on this page here.

If all of this sounds good, and you want to find out more, head over to the Write Like A Grrrl! Edinburgh page. The course runs over six consecutive Monday evenings, and costs £72 in total… what’s that? The price of a pair of party shoes? Put on your scruffy old ones and come do some writing instead!

Edinburgh Aug 14

Creatrix Women’s Poetries for the 21st Century: an online Poetry School course
10-week online poetry writing course, open to everyone — goes live 16th September

Just as there are many ways to be a woman, so are there many ways women have written about the female experience. On this course, you’ll look at the ways in which writing by women and about their lives has been traditionally categorised, and find ways to explore and subvert those categorisations in your own writing, exploring within and beyond the dominant narratives and common grounds. You’ll look at feminism, poems that might be called confessional, domesticity, poems about the physical body, the natural world, family, love and relationships. The course will also have an intersectional bent, examining women’s experiences which deal with race, class, sexuality, disability and masculinity. Oh, it’s also taught by me!

‘So, is this women only too?’, you’re thinking? It is not! The course is, in fact, open to all women, all men, and all non-binary people. I’d really like to get a diverse bunch of students onto this course, in fact… men ought to read women, too, after all!

The Book Week Scotland/Inky Fingers Dead Poet Slam: the scary judges, Edith Sitwell, Aphra Behn and Vita Sackville-West
^ Me, Alice Tarbuck and Jane McKie, dressed as great female poets of the past (can you guess which ones?) for the Inky Fingers Dead Poets Slam in 2013

You can read more about the course by clicking through to this interview I did with the Poetry School blog… also contains witches and oversharing about my second collection!

Come along, be inspired by amazing contemporary women poets, find new favourite female writers, meet fellow poets online, and produce new writing of your own that — I hope — moves you out of your comfort zone. The course costs are detailed on the right hand side of this page and the whole thing runs for ten weeks.

Morden Tower
^ Me with one of my own mentors, Kevin Cadwallender, at Morden Tower in 2010

Get mentored by me no matter where you live!: my very own Patreon

OK… with much trepidation, I finally joined the Patreon crowd. However, I’m not asking you to fund me to write poems. Instead, I thought I could use Patreon to extend my ability to teach and mentor new and stuck creative writers. How?, I hear you cry…

Well, I was thinking: if folk are pledging to pay me a little something every month, then why can’t they be buying some of my teaching time with that money? I have a fair few writers from Edinburgh and the surrounding area who I help with line-by-line edits and feedback on their written work. I then meet them for a coffee, or we have a Skype chat, about how they’re doing. This is work I really, really like and the writers seem to get a lot from it. So, I thought, why not extend that to THE WHOLE WORLD? Patreon has helped me do that!

It works like this: you pledge a little bit each month ($5, or the price of a coffee), and I come to your inbox once per month and give you a swift kick up the butt, writing-wise. You’ll receive a pack of electronic goodies from me that will include writing prompts, exercises, useful articles, pointers and words of wisdom, submission calls, job opportunities, commissions… anything I think might help your writing get started, get good, get published. Pledge a bit more, and each month I’ll give you line-by-line edits on one of the pieces you’re working on… top up your pledge and I’ll look at two or three pieces per month. Pledge a little more, and we can have regular Skype chats to see how you’re doing and discuss how you can grow and improve. And so on. It’s a pay-what-you-can mentoring scheme, basically!

I only just set it up, and I haven’t entirely got the hang of it yet, and because I’m British it’s all a bit too much like marching up to people and asking them for money for my liking. So even if you’re not interested in pledging right now, I’d super appreciate it if you’d help me promote it by sharing my Patreon link on Twitter, Facebook, your blog… wherever, really! Thank you!

I hope some of you will join me on these adventures! As always, if you have any questions just drop me a line to or head over to @onenightstanzas on Twitter!


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 #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!

Where is Claire? Readings & events for Summer 2015

Monday, June 1st, 2015

Poet Claire Askew
^ Yeah, that’s me! From a photoshoot for the Herald Newspaper, photo by Julie Howden!

Still not sick of me after my various Spring 2015 outings? No? In which case…

The Dark Horse: 20th Anniversary Issue Launch
Thursday 4th June, 7pm, The Voodoo Rooms (Edinburgh)
I am so excited to have poetry featured in The Dark Horse once again, and this time in the sure-to-be-amazing 20th Anniversary issue! I’ll be reading alongside literary GIANTS Alasdair Gray (yes, really), Douglas Dunn (OMG) and Vicki Feaver (I am not worthy) at the Edinburgh launch.
UPDATE: sorry, it’s now SOLD OUT!

10Red (or TenRed… I am never quite sure!) July
Wednesday 1st July, 8pm, Persevere Function Rooms (Edinburgh)
UPDATE: After a bit of a last-minute diary reshuffle, I am no longer reading at 10Red June, but 10Red July! My feelings about 10Red, below, have of course not changed in the slightest!
I am always happy to be invited to read at 10Red, one of Edinburgh’s most reliably excellent live literature nights. I don’t yet know who else is on the bill, but please do come along to see me, and doubtless 9 other bloody excellent people. There’s also the increasingly famous mega book raffle, and entry is a very reasonable three quid.

Launching “Shoreline of Infinity“, a brand new Scottish sci-fi magazine
Thursday 2nd July, time + venue TBC (Edinburgh)
Remember the brilliant science fiction anthology Where Rockets Burn Through: Contemporary Science Fiction Poems from the UK? I had a couple of silly poems in it, and wrote about the launch here? Well, the editor of that publication, the esteemed Dr Russell Jones, has set up his own science fiction journal, Shoreline Of Infinity, and is holding a summer shindig to introduce it to the world! I’ll be reading at it, alongside Ryan Van Winkle, and probably Russell himself, as well as some other fine folks TBC. More information when I get it, but for now, put the date in your diaries!

Just Festival: contemporary women’s writing event (chaired by me!)
Thursday 20th August, 4pm, St John’s Church
This is all very TBC… I can’t tell you yet which women writers are going to be involved but, like anything that’s part of Just Festival, it’s going to be good. And I am going to be chairing it! Make sure you reserve this particular Thursday afternoon because you’ll want to be at this event, I promise!


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 #144

Friday, May 29th, 2015

New 70D Pan Edinburgh Castle - 01
(Photo credit)

How many stories and ideas aren’t being told - or aren’t being shared with the depth, clarity, or complexity they could be - because their creators don’t have the time or funds to make them? Who gets to have that “room of their own” where they can peace out and write at the end of the day? Who gets to not worry about paying the rent for three or twelve or thirty-six months… or in the most extreme cases, forever?

Who Gets To Be An Artist? is really excellent.

Useful truisms that might help people remember you… and your writing.

Feeling a bit crap? Unable to write? Try asking yourself these few useful questions.

If no one hates you, no one is paying attention. If attention is what you want for vanity, confidence, or, hell — to make a decent living — then know that it’s not instantaneous. Every single person that you’re currently paying attention to, at some point in their lives, was in your exact position. They kept at it and worked enough so that others started listening.
Also know that if no one is watching, you can experience true freedom. Dance in your underwear. Write entirely for yourself.

This is long, but you really should read it.

Advice for creatives from the creator of Mad Men.

Here are some cool poems by Jess Schouela, who edits Hot Tub Astronaut!

The lovely Harry Giles wrote a really interesting post about code-switching in and out of dialect, which you should definitely read

So, London has loads of bars that are in libraries!

I’m black, gay, and 29 years old. I had just published my first book of poetry. In retrospect, standing there with champagne in hand, I wish I’d felt proud rather than grateful — intensely, almost exhaustingly grateful to just be there. It’s the kind of gratitude that, I suspect, is very familiar to those whom our culture has a habit of reminding they should be happy “to just be here.”

This piece by Saeed Jones is totally necessary reading.

ICYMI: Frida Kahlo’s wardrobe was and is stunning.


Want to read a lovely short story? Shirley Muir’s ‘Out of the Blackness,’ submitted to Scottish Book Trust’s Journeys project, is pretty great!

Piracy as subterfuge, as an especially legitimate way to create art for the Caribbean —I could just about stretch my mind to accommodate that, but Mack’s plagiarism is not so thoughtful or intellectualized; it requires no such stretching of the mind. In her own words, it is just ‘carelessness’. Mack uses her poetic skills for euphemism. She apologizes for the work she has ‘unintentionally appropriated’. The whole apology… I’m afraid is worth a hearty guffaw. As one Facebook poster said in a conversation happening amongst West African poets, ‘Isn’t this what we know as mere stealing in Nigeria?’

The best response I have read to the recent Sheree Mack story is this one by the great Kei Miller.

Another ICYMI: Charlize Theron’s stunt double Dayna Grant posted some amazing photos from the filming of Mad Max!

Cakes that are delicious, vegan and works of art? Yes please!

I loved these photos of vintage drag queens!

Here’s a happy customer of Edinburgh Vintage who bought some books from me… and then wrote about it! Thanks, Beth!

Warsan Shire, just… gobsmacking.

Deleted Scenes of Women in Disaster Movies Written by Men. Watch it, it’s horribly true (and funny).

I so want to see this… and plan to have all the feels about it.

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 #143

Friday, April 10th, 2015

Most poets don’t write a poem a day. For me it’s a very sporadic activity. Until recently, I thought “occasional poetry” meant that you wrote only occasionally. So there’s a lot of waiting, and there’s a kind of vigilance involved. I think what gets a poem going is an initiating line. Sometimes a first line will occur, and it goes nowhere; but other times—and this, I think, is a sense you develop—I can tell that the line wants to continue. If it does, I can feel a sense of momentum—the poem finds a reason for continuing. The first line is the DNA of the poem; the rest of the poem is constructed out of that first line. A lot of it has to do with tone because tone is the key signature for the poem. The basis of trust for a reader used to be meter and end-rhyme. Now it’s tone that establishes the poet’s authority. The first few lines keep giving birth to more and more lines. Like most poets, I don’t know where I’m going. The pen is an instrument of discovery rather than just a recording implement. If you write a letter of resignation or something with an agenda, you’re simply using a pen to record what you have thought out. In a poem, the pen is more like a flashlight, a Geiger counter, or one of those metal detectors that people walk around beaches with. You’re trying to discover something that you don’t know exists, maybe something of value.

BILLY COLLINS IS MY HERO (thanks Lucy for sending me this)!

Fail Safe: courage and the creative life < - I NEED THIS RIGHT NOW. (Wow. I’m starting out CAPSy this week!)

Give your writer friends gifts that they’ll actually appreciate. They’ll be grateful, trust me!

In 2013 for example The London Review of Books posted reviews for books written by only 72 female authors as opposed to 245 male ones. The New Yorker came in at 253 female to 555 male and the Times Literary Supplement (with far more male reviewers than female) also fared poorly in the equality stakes with male 903 and female 313. This given that over 80% of fiction is bought and read by women.

Get angry about literary gender inequality with the great sense-talker Sara Sheridan.

I’m afraid to say I rather enjoyed Writers You Want To Punch In The Facebook.

Reminder! Scottish Book Trust wants to read YOUR story about an important journey.

Descriptions of my work get more and more diminished until someone at the Library of Congress says that I am “easily understandable.” Actually though, compression is the opposite of what I do: what interests me is so remote and fine that I have to blow it way up cartoonishly just to get it up to visible range. My technique is something like using a hammer to drive a needle through silk.

This interview with Kay Ryan is so good. So, so good. I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed reading something so much.

I love this story of one of the most infamous London book thieves of all time!

There’s a poem by Dan Mussett on the Moth Magazine at the moment. Dan was one of my fav Edinburgh poets… then he went wandering and became one of my fav wandering poets.

I remember I hadn’t read very much, but then the school got a library, and I picked up Joyce’s Dubliners. I remember reading it late into the night. By the time I got to ‘Ivy Day’ and ‘Grace’ I didn’t really know what was going on. It was quite disorientating. But I made it to ‘The Dead’, and something happened. I’d never had an experience like it before. The last pages, as the snow comes in… I know it sounds corny, but it was an epiphany. And I thought: ‘I’m having this’.

Here’s Alan Gillis — great poet, great critic, Edinburgh Review editor and my former PhD supervisor (yay!) — talking about why he writes, what he writes about and lots of other interesting stuff.

…and also from the Edinburgh Review, here’s a wonderful poem from Graham Fulton.

Here are two of my favourite male novelists, Michael Chabon and Neil Gaiman, talking together about another of my favourites, the great Terry Pratchett. As wonderful as it sounds. (Neil Gaiman also wrote a great blog about TP’s passing.)

These kids are super, super inspiring, and made me smile. I want to make a bottle top mosaic for my garden, now!

This is really very silly, but it also made me LOL, so I thought I would share it with you!

Finally, I love the earnestness and honesty of Edith Zimmerman talking about antique jewellery in this video. A lot of what she said really resonated with me — these kinds of ideas inform my running of Edinburgh Vintage, too.

You should read this! Mixing The Colours: Women Speaking About Sectarianism anthology

Monday, April 6th, 2015

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to be invited to Glasgow Women’s Library’s brilliant Mixing The Colours Conference 2015. Mixing The Colours: Women Speaking About Sectarianism is a groundbreaking project, which has been running for about two years now, funded by the Scottish Government and designed to get women talking about one of Scotland’s most taboo subjects. The conference was an amazing day of discussion, performance and ideas, but importantly, it was also the launch-day of the project’s amazing anthology of women’s writing.

I’ve also been working on a project designed to tackle sectarianism: until just a few days ago, when the project reached completion, I was the Project Co-Ordinator for Scottish Book Trust’s graphic novel project Walk The Walk. I worked reasonably closely with staff from Mixing The Colours throughout that project, and so came to see clearly the various ways in which women’s voices have traditionally been erased from discussions about sectarianism.

Think about it for a second. When you read a newspaper article about a story relating to sectarianism, what is the accompanying photo usually of? Chances are, a stand full of male football fans. Perhaps a line of police personnel in their yellow jackets. There might be the odd female face or two if you squint closely, but traditionally, sectarianism in Scotland is considered a “men’s issue,” and all too often, seen as synonymous with football. I’m sure you’ll agree that this hurts men as well as women.

Thankfully, we now have the truly amazing Mixing The Colours: Women Speaking About Sectarianism anthology to add to the conversation. It features poetry, memoir, fiction and drama, all exploring individual women’s responses to their experiences of sectarianism. My favourite story is ‘Paddy,’ written by Ethyl Smith — a bittersweet tale of a young girl who is unwittingly caught up in the sectarianism that exists between two of her adult neighbours, all because she wants to be friends with a wee dog. But every piece in the book is brilliant, and important, and merits reading, re-reading and sharing.

You can get a look at the book by heading over to Glasgow Women’s Library’s stunning new(ish) home in Bridgeton, Glasgow. GWL is located in what was once the Bridgeton Men’s Reading Room, which I find rather delicious. The Mixing The Colours team have also been steadily gathering a collection of other resources that examine women’s reactions to sectarianism, so while you’re there, you can browse the whole lot.

Finally, the Mixing The Colours film gives a taster of what’s inside the book, and as you can see from my conference notes above, gives plenty of food for thought! Here’s a trailer:


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 #142

Friday, March 27th, 2015

York March 15 (13)

Certainly the PBS still loves it some authoritative dude poetry. I helped out with a criticism workshop the other day and we were discussing a review of Harsent by Michael Hulse, which started out by listing Harsent’s achievements and using words like ‘magisterial’, ‘masterful’, ‘universal’. One of the other folks said she didn’t feel like there was room for the reader to make their own decisions… That’s kind of what I mean when I talk about the ‘aggrandising’ stuff; when the poet’s so big there’s no room for the reader. Why bother having readers when you’ve already decided how you are going to be read? It’s dull and usually comes bearing nostalgia for the time of Great Men. Which is fine if you’re in a position to be a Great Man.

Dave Coates, aka the most sensible poetry reviewer around, was interviewed by Hinterland and he spoke SO MUCH TRUTH. (If you read nothing else from this post, read this. Really.)

The new Scottish Book Trust public participation campaign is now open! The theme is “Journeys” — send SBT your journey-related story and it could end up in a book!

Check out these cheeky book “recommendations” from mischevious Waterstones staff!

I’ve always wanted to belong to the city of ideas, and it seems to me that membership of such a city is often incompatible with the other kinds of membership on offer along the way. Choices, or compromises, have to be made, and I find myself more and more inclined to say no to some invitations as a way of saying yes to to something closer to that ideal. I found it liberating to refuse both the Poet Laureate’s invitation to write a poem for the Queen’s Jubilee in 2012, and the Poetry Book Society’s attempt to include me in its Next Generation promotion of emerging poets this year. It’s not that I don’t want to be read, or that I object on principal to the business of actively seeking a readership. The question is one of context—do I feel happy in those groupings, in those lights? Do I want to be marketed as “young” and “new” and “sanctioned by”? Am I prepared to curtsey to the Queen, figuratively or otherwise? Do these things, these appointments, sit well with the actual poems I’m writing?


I both do and do not agree with Ms Trollope here. Discuss.

Related: In case you’re feeling depressed about the fact that one of the Scottish Children’s Book Awards was just won by a 21 year old (a deserving one — well done Alex McCall!) here’s a list of twelve authors who weren’t published til later in life.

People who complain that creative writing courses produce relatively few writers don’t complain that history degrees produce few historians, that music schools produce relatively few world renowned soloists, that art departments don’t necessarily produce a lot of major artists. I spent 16 years in schools teaching art. Are people asking how many of those are ‘great’ artists now? I sincerely can’t see why writing is different from any other art.

So that guy wrote that article about Creative Writing MFAs, which I [largely] totally and utterly agreed with… but I agreed even more with George Szirtes’ response. (I’m contrary like that.)

I have seen so many lovely, touching tributes to Terry Pratchett online over the last few days… but among my favourites were xkcd’s cartoon and Chris Riddell’s wonderful drawing.

OMFG, Kindle Cover Disasters is… amazing.

Of writing itself, Rilke wrote: “Depict your sorrows and desires, your passing thoughts and beliefs in some kind of beauty—depict all that with heartfelt, quiet, humble sincerity; and use to express yourself the things that surround you, the images of your dreams and the objects of your memory. If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself, tell yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches; for to the creator there is no poverty and no poor or unimportant place.” All writers know this problem. A poor workman blames his tools, and we have only two: language and experience.

This essay on Rilke and ‘writing from the middle of things’ is pretty excellent.

Have you read Barthes’ Death of the Author? Here’s a pretty cool discussion on it.

Calisthenics for writers is pretty hilarious…

Your Chicken Leg Hut Performance Art will explore the idea that women can never win when it comes to their appearance; in a culture of pervasive misogyny, there will always be something “wrong” with how a woman looks. It will also ask its viewers to examine their own internal biases with regards to the objectification of women. Divorced of their context, are the chicken legs simply things? Or are they body parts deserving of love and respect? Remember that there are no right answers to these questions.
Plus you will be running around like the fucking boss of the forest in your hut on legs.

Feminist advice from Baba Yaga is pretty excellent.

You really ought to read these extracts from Citizen: An American Lyric, by Claudia Rankine, which just won a National Book Critics Circle Award.

Do you say “in a weird way”? Do you know why you say it?

It’s critical to understand that this isn’t censorship, but rather that these are amendments not permanently made to an already-published text. But the question is raised: What damage could be done to a writer’s intended vision in the name of this cleanliness?

Someone’s invented an app that will take all the swears out of any book. EYEROLL.

You might have seen this Forty Portraits in Forty Years post floating around… it is wonderful, touching, inspiring.

I LOVE Jessamyn (thanks to Lucy for introducing me to her) and I love this easy morning yoga routine she’s put together for Buzzfeed.

What is a writer’s freedom?
To me it is [hir] right to maintain and publish to the world a deep, intense, private view of the situation in which [zie] finds [hir] society. If [zie] is to work as well as [zie] can, [zie] must take, and be granted, freedom from the public conformity of political interpretation, morals and tastes.

[pronouns changed by me because they were all needlessly male]
^This is Nadine Gordimer on what freedom to write really means. Pretty good, pronouns aside.

I want to be ALL of these people when I grow up. …and related, here are some more excellent women.

Celebrities standing up to fat-shaming. As it should be!

The lovely Jane Alexander is launching her first novel… check it out!

Author Cesca Major created a writing webseries which is now done — this is video one and you can see all the rest here.

And the brilliant Sasha just introduced me to Australian feminist songstress Courtney Barnett and I. love. her.

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!