Posts Tagged ‘young poets’


Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

(Photo by Tim Macfarlane)

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, it’s pretty much a given that you’ll know what The Forest Cafe is… you will at the very least have heard me mention it/wax lyrical about it/praise it to the skies. Forest is an Edinburgh institution and a place that carries a great deal of meaning for myself and many other Edinvarians. And unfortunately, it is now under threat. Please, please read the following and help us to save this very deserving Edinburgh landmark.

What is Forest?
Forest is a unique access-all-areas arts initiative which works to provide space, resources, funding and encouragement for artists and creatives of all walks of life in the Edinburgh area and beyond. It “aims to advance access to art and cultural activities amongst the general public of Edinburgh and the wider community“, basically. The Forest Cafe is the base of operations for this initiative: housed in a former church and inhabiting a maze of rooms over several floors, it offers a variety of vibrant, unusual and versatile arts spaces to anyone who wants to use them. At the heart of things is the veggie and vegan kitchen, which not only helps to fund Forest‘s other activities, but also supplies hungry visitors with the best vegan burritos and chocolate brownie this side of anywhere. The cafe is also Forest‘s performance hub — if you want to watch, play or organise a poetry reading, an acoustic gig, a play, a film night, a gramophone evening, a reading group, a recital or any other creative endeavour, this is your place. Events are free to stage, free to perform at and free to attend. They’re pretty much always brilliant, too.

But Forest isn’t just a cool cafe that also holds events. Alongside the cafe space is Total Kunst, Forest‘s very own art gallery, which hosts traditional, experimental and installation artists from all over the globe. Anyone can exhibit and it’s always free. Also always free is Forest‘s downstairs space, which provides facilities such as a dark room for budding photographers and a rehearsal space for bands and musicians. For a small fee — or sometimes for free, depending on your event — you can also hire out the cavernous Forest Hall, which will accomodate anything from a small group of amateur filmmakers to a full-scale ceilidh band and a hundred guests. Forest also has its own shop, selling a variety of crafts; its own successful publishing imprint, Forest Publications, which I really cannot praise highly enough; it even has its own hairdressing salon. And I haven’t even got started on their monthly free shop, library facilities or free fringe antics

Forest 'o' Flash
(Photo by digiphotoneil)

How you can help.
Now, Forest is in danger of being evicted from its current home because the building has been put up for sale. Forest are currently tenants, and have been for many years — and although it’s very ambitious, they want to try and secure their future by raising enough money to buy the building outright. The current target is a massive £500,000, so they really need YOU to give as much as you can. The main way in which you can do this is by clicking here and donating via their simple Paypal form. For other ways to donate, or to get involved in other fundraising activities, just get in touch with them — they’d love to hear from you.

Why you should help.
Given all of the above, I don’t think I really need to tell you why you should donate to Forest. If you’ve ever been there, you already know what a special, unique place it is and what excellent work they do every day within and beyond the arts community in Edinburgh. If you’re local and you’ve never been there, now is the time to start — Forest desperately needs your support, and your life will be better for it. Even if you’re not an Edinvarian — hey, even if you’re not a Scot — you should still consider giving up a few of your hard-earned pennies for this very good cause. Like Shakespeare and Co and The Beat Museum, this is an arts initiative whose work resonates far beyond its small home city. If you donate to the Forest you’re helping hundreds of artists and creatives, and you’re making a stand for independent arts organisations the world over. Please think about giving as much as you can spare, even if that’s only a couple of quid.

(Photo by acb)

Let me tell you why I donated to ForestWhen I first came to Edinburgh, I didn’t know anyone. I was vaguely aware that a few people I went to high school with also lived in the city; that was about it. I was living in Uni halls with chilly rooms, unreliable internet access, and I was broke. Forest provided me with huge pots of tea for next to nothing, a quiet and comfy place to sit for as long as I liked, and totally free access to the internet. Later, when I got more acclimatised, I started getting interested in the Edinburgh literary community. Forest — and the fabulous Ryan Van Winkle, one of its most famous staff members — provided heaps of support for my writing, via their brilliant writing groups, workshops and events. One of the first Edinburgh readings I ever did was The Forest Golden Hour, and the crowd was huge, warm and wonderfully supportive. Later still, I decided I wanted to start my own literary magazine, and yet again Forest was there to help me. For two full years Forest gave us the space and resources we needed to print, hand-bind and distribute our own zine — all totally free. We ran Read This events in the Forest Cafe, we used their fabulous website, noticeboards and Facebook group to promote ourselves and call for submissions. As things progressed, Forest also supported Read This Press (in particular, Chris Lindores’ collection You Old Soak) by providing printing facilities and carrying our titles in the shop, cafe and online. Forest Publications have published and promoted my work and the work of my various projects on numerous occasions. I genuinely believe that without Forest I wouldn’t be the writer I am today. And I’m just one young artist of the thousands who make use of Forest‘s services and resources every year.

I implore you to help keep this incredible project afloat. Please go here, and donate now. As much as you can — it will make a difference.

Thank you!

Morden Tower

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

ABOVE: Allen Ginsberg at Morden Tower with Basil Bunting and Tom Pickard in 1965 (AG’s account here).

BELOW: Me at Morden Tower with Kevin Cadwallender, September 2010.

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Poems for Eddie: an Edwin Morgan Memorial

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

I’m very happy to hear that, following the recent passing of the truly matchless Edwin Morgan, Swiss Lounge Productions are planning a tribute to him. It will take the form of a collection of poems in memory of the great man, and submissions open on 21st September. For more information on the publication and how to submit, visit the site here.

(Photo by Scottish Poetry Library)

(Photo by goforchris)

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Edwin Morgan 1920-2010

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

I’m sure it’s news to no one here that the inimitable Edwin Morgan passed away last week, and tributes have been flooding in from all over the UK literary community, the blogosphere and beyond. I feel there’s very little for me to add — Morgan has been universally acknowledged as a literary giant, a truly unique intellect and a wonderful man. However, I couldn’t let such a momentous event pass without adding my own small tribute here.

Edwin Morgan has been a massive influence on my work. I started reading his work at a very young age — I was given an anthology of poetry for children edited by Michael Rosen, and one of my favourite poems from it was Computer’s First Christmas Card. I first got my hands on a book of Morgan’s own poetry at the age of 12, when I studied the Stobhill series at high school, and basically fell in love with his work. At that point, I hadn’t begun writing myself — so he was undoubtedly partly responsible for my transformation from reader to writer.

My all-time favourite Morgan poem is definitely When You Go, which I spoke about as part of the Carry A Poem project last year. However, Morgan produced so many incredible, magical works throughout his life. He also touched the lives of readers all over the world, but particularly here in Scotland. Over the past few days I have spoken with so many people — friends, fellow poets, readers, Festival visitors and strangers alike — who all have the same story as me. Edwin Morgan wrote something that touched them, changed them; so many people cite a line or a stanza or a whole poem that they carry around with them like a talisman. In Scotland, Morgan was a literary rockstar — endlessly innovative and challenging, inspiring fans of all ages and walks of life. His departure is the end of an era not only for our literary community, but for our national identity. Personally, I feel I’ve lost a great influence, a mentor and an old and dear friend.

Goodbye Eddie. Thank you.

(Photo by goforchris)

Don’t forget to visit The Read This Store, and its sister store, Edinburgh Vintage!

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Writing for theatre masterclass with Douglas Maxwell

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

Hello there, ONS-ers… long time no speak. You may have noticed that the scenery hasn’t changed much lately here, or perhaps you’ve spotted some of the heaps of spam comments beginning to clog up some of the posts. Sorry, and sorry… I’ve been insanely busy these past couple of months. Right now, I am teaching creative writing at the Scottish Universities International Summer School, based at the University of Edinburgh. I’m loving every second, but it doesn’t leave much time for updating ONS… or indeed, anything else. However, last week my students and I were treated to a brilliant masterclass on ‘writing for theatre’, given by Scottish playwright Douglas Maxwell. I know, I know, this is a poetry blog — but he came out with so much brilliant stuff that I felt I had to share just a few of his pearls of wisdom with you…

“Being a playwright is a bit like being in The Who. We’re wild, we’re messy, we’re all over the shop… but we’re great live.”

“Everyone in the world has an unfinished novel or screenplay under the bed. But they’re not in the game. That’s not doing it; that’s pretending.”

“You need two personalities to be a good writer — you need the sensitive artist who’s a satellite to the rest of the world… but you also need a kind of ‘fuck you’ attitude — you’ve got to have the steel and not let this destroy you.”

“Day One writing is always good — everyone likes the first day. day Two: not so good. You get up in the morning and go ‘what the fuck? Someone’s messed with this! This was great yesterday!'”

“You’ve got to remember what it’s like when you’ve paid to see the thing… audiences really want it to be good, at the beginning. They want to help you.”

“You must, must protect yourself from bitterness. It’s a talent-eater. It’s like cocaine, it destroys lives. You’ve got to keep your enthusiasm and your openness, or you’ll never get anywhere.”

“Your main character must make a big decision — the ‘to be or not to be’ moment where they can go one way or the other. And the way they go will take them, and you, to the end. And they either get or don’t get what they always wanted.”

“Even on the very worst day, just get to the place where you write, and wait.”

Douglas Maxwell’s Decky Does A Bronco is currently showing in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

(Photo by Eric Lafforgue)

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Everybody loves poetry.

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

Idris Goodwin (writer, performer, teacher, idea man) on the truth about poetry:

“Actually, everybody loves poetry. They’re listening to poetry on their iPods. They spout poetry on the basketball court. They watch poetry on their television. A lot of people don’t realize that poetry is all around them. Poetry is the root of all forms of non-literal expression. But most people don’t think about it this way.”

via Facebook.

(Photo by SReed99342)

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Some writing advice… from my gran.

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

My late maternal grandmother was one of those seriously formidable northern women who smoked like a chimney, swore like a stevedore and always called a spade a spade. She also loved to dole out sayings, proverbs and advice like doses of medicine, as so many grandmothers do. I was recently writing a poem about her, and about her propensity for advice-giving, and realised that a lot of her ‘life advice’ also makes pretty good writing advice. See what you think.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
This is a saying all grans use, I think — and plenty of other people besides. But it was the saying that got me thinking about writing this post. Ever since I started taking control of my own future and deciding what to do with my life, this saying has been floating around in the back of my mind, and it’s something all poets need to consider. Basically, don’t think you can rely on poetry to pay your bills — you can’t put all your eggs into poetry’s basket because it just doesn’t have the space! If you’re serious about writing poetry and sticking at it, you need to realise that some of your eggs need to go elsewhere — you’ll probably need to spend some of your time doing something other than writing in order to keep a roof over your head. Sad but true. (More on this here, by the way.)

Fine words will butter no parsnips.
This was a saying my gran was fond of, and one I always found rather weird and confusing as a child! Now I understand how adamant my grandmother was about honesty, plain speaking, and not ‘putting on airs’ — a good attitude to have towards your writing. The voice you use should be your own… all too often I see young poets attempting to emulate their literary heroes and use voices that clearly don’t really belong to them. Don’t use fine words if they’re not yours. Speaking as someone else will do your work no favours.

Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Another popular saying and an obvious one for young writers. The need to progress, get better, get published and get on with it is really strong in less experienced writers — getting a book out into the world as soon as you can seems utterly imperative (I know, I’ve been there myself). But it’s better to take your time and make sure your work is as good as it can be before you start pushing onwards to the next stage. Don’t feel rushed into submitting to magazines if you’ve only written one or two poems you’re properly pleased with; don’t scrape a pamphlet together without making sure you’re totally cool with a) what’s going into it and b) the fact that heaps of people are going to see it. Don’t try and build your poetic Rome in a day. Take it easy.

You’ve been brought up in the bottle and seen nothing but the cork.
My grandmother — like most of the women in my family — was a determined and ambitious woman who didn’t believe in waiting in for opportunity to walk up to the front door and knock. To her, waiting for life to happen to you was not an option. She was all about getting out there into the world and attacking it head-on! For me, this saying suggests that you need to get off your butt and go have some life experiences, particularly if you want to be a half-decent writer. After all, how can you write about life, the universe and everything if you haven’t seen any of it? For me, this also applies to books. If you’ve only ever read one poet’s work or one type of novel, you’ve been brought up in a literary bottle. Get out of there! Get thee to a library!

One man’s rubbish is another man’s treasure.
In other words, not everyone is going to like your poetry. There will always be someone who comes along and tries to pick holes in your stuff. Don’t take it personally — take it professionally. Appreciate and accept the criticism. For every reader who comes along and thinks your stuff is rubbish, I guarantee there’ll be another one out there somewhere willing to argue that it’s treasure. If you never stop reading, writing and working to improve your stuff, rubbish ratio should dwindle and shrink in time.

The devil makes work for idle hands.
My gran was always doing something with her hands — a trait I in particular have inherited from her. She was an expert seamstress and made everything from full three-piece suits to wedding dresses; and when she wasn’t rattling up garments on the sewing machine she was knitting, doing embroidery, cooking, assaulting a crossword puzzle, etc. Procrastination just didn’t figure in her universe and I think if you’d explained the concept to her, she’d have given you a lecture on how it was some new-fangled invention that should be done away with. She’s right of course — we’ve all built, bought and acquired so many procrastination devices for ourselves that it’s a wonder we ever get anything done. So next time you’re playing computer games or vegging in front of the TV, think — idle hands. Pick up a pen and paper. Write instead.

I’d be interested to hear your handy sayings and proverbs, particularly if you relate them to writing… but I’d also be interested in hearing about your grandmothers! I think grandmothers are the coolest — they should run the world!

(Photo from captainslack)

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this collection poetry/film showcase: the write-up!

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

this collection day one

So unless this is your first visit to this blog, you’ll know that last Thursday marked the first half of my side-project this collection’s two-day March film and poetry showcase at Edinburgh’s magnificent McEwan Hall

…and what a first day it was! We flung open the doors at 10am and greeted the good people of Edinburgh as they came in to escape the swirling haar. Our DIY flags, posters and flyers drew a crowd made up of all sorts of people — some told us they’d had the date marked in their diary for weeks, while others just wandered in for a look and seemed to like what they saw! The film screenings were spread across four screens within the main hall space, with each screen housing around five or six films. These were subtly grouped by theme — warm, cold, stop-motion, palimpsest — and accompanied by their respective poems either on-screen or in DIY pamphlets for viewers to pick up and read. Sound engineer Simon Herron provided a spectacular non-stop city soundscape which played throughout the hall, and Glasgow-based experimental orchestra CRA:CC provided an improvised musical soundtrack in response to the films as they played out. Visitors were also able to congregate around our free press merchandise table: a source of books, pamphlets, magazines, journals, promotional materials and all manner of other poetry- and film-related paraphernalia, all of it completely free!

Through the afternoon we saw a steady stream of visitors, all of whom responded positively to the installation and the project as a whole. Documenting their reactions to the films was almost as enjoyable as the films themselves — watch this space for photos, video and stop-motion footage of the event in due course! We were particularly happy to see people who’d never heard of this collection, but who left raving about it and asking how they could come on board and get involved!

this collection McEwan Hall showcase

The next day, following the success of Thursday, expectations were high for our poetry-film finale on Friday 26th…

The evening kicked off at 6.30pm when we flung open the doors of the McEwan Hall, and were delighted to find an already-sizeable gaggle of keen poets, filmmakers and enthusiasts waiting on the doorstep. We quickly uncorked the first of many bottles of free wine and sat back to watch the influx of visitors. Once the crowd had gathered, I kicked off with a speech welcoming everyone to the event, giving a potted history of this collection and explaining what the evening had in store. Stefa then gave a brief round of thanks to all the wonderful people who’d helped make the event happen, and then without further ado, the party got under way!

The first four poets to read were Dan Mussett (a late addition, stepping in to replace Morgan Downie who sadly couldn’t be with us), Russell Jones, Anita John and McGuire. Russell was spotted brandishing copies of his pamphlet, The Last Refuge (Forest Publications), which would suggest his reading went down very well with those who gravitated towards Poet Station #1. At Station #2 Dan Mussett gave a beautiful reading in spite of his late addition to the bill, and Anita John gathered a sizeable audience in the upper gallery at Station #4. Meanwhile at gallery Station #3 McGuire was a total triumph — even gathering a crowd in the main hall below! These four poets were followed by Tom Bristow, Juliet Wilson, Simon Jackson and Andrew C Ferguson respectively — Juliet brought along copies of her hot-off-the-press pamphlet ‘Unthinkable Skies’ (Calder Wood Press) and read a particularly lovely poem about a sycamore tree, among others. Simon Jackson was multi-tasking, as two of his films were also showing in the hall below, and Andrew and Tom both received rapturous rounds of applause from their respective audiences.
The third sets were provided by Rob A Mackenzie, my good self (standing in for Aileen Ballantyne who also sadly couldn’t make it in the end), Christine de Luca and Chris Lindores. Rob and Christine both read excellently and Chris Lindores was a tour de force, gathering the largest crowd of the evening — and the most glowing feedback! — and shifting a fair few copies of his pamphlet, You Old Soak (Read This Press) over the course of the evening! The poetry was wrapped up by Andrew Philip, who read from his critically-acclaimed book The Ambulance Box (Salt); Jane McKie, whose film adaptation of La Plage (courtesy of Alastair Cook of DISSIMILAR) played in the background as she read; Hayley Shields, who entranced a small but attentive audience with her ghostly tales and accounts of Edinburgh’s darker side; and Mairi Sharratt, whose audience were asked to pick her set themselves, by shouting a series of numbers which each corresponded to a poem.

this collection McEwan Hall showcase

All the poetry readings were accompanied by a continuous stream of beautiful, dark, inspiring and moving images courtesy of our many talented filmmakers. Adaptations by Helen Askew, Sean Gallen, Abhinaya Muralidharan, Alastair Cook, Ginnetta Correli, Diana Lindbjerg Jorgense, Dominique De Groen, Hans Peter, Heather Bowry, James Mildred and Francesca Sobanje, Laura Witz, Lewis Bennett, Rawan Mohammed, Rose Creasy, Simon Jackson, Stefanie Tan and ThatCollective all graced our projector screens as the evening progressed. Although some of the films included audio (piped through headphones at each station), the McEwan Hall had its own soundtrack for the evening. This took the form of a mercurial city soundscape, put together by the super-talented Simon Herron of ThatCollective; as well as improvised music and ethereal sounds from the CRA:CC experimental ensemble.

this collection McEwan Hall showcase

The evening rounded up just before 9pm, but the festivities continued well into the night at various alternative venues around the city! Altogether, the this collection team worked out that over 200 people had come along to be a part of our showcase, and so far we’ve received glowing feedback from poets, filmmakers, musicians and visitors alike. Thanks so much to everyone who came along, everyone who helped us organise, set up, take down, fund, promote or otherwise realise the event, and of course to all the brilliant artists who lent their creativity to us for the evening!

Here’s to the next…
Claire and Stefa

this collection showcase photos by Tom Bishop and Marzieh Jarrahi.

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In 2009, I…

Monday, December 28th, 2009

I did a big post of this ilk last year — basically a TiLT on the grand scale, saying “thanks” for all the cool stuff that happened in my life in 2008. It got a great response from all of you, and some of you even followed suit and made your own lists, which I loved reading. So without further ado, here’s my love-letter to 2009. In 2009, I…

* Started up my own small press, Read This Press, and have so far produced four chapbooks: Skin Deep: An Anthology of Poems on Tattoos and Tattooing; You Old Soak: Poems by Chris Lindores; Sharks Don’t Sleep: Poems by Eric Hamilton; and Masters: an anthology of poems by the University of Edinburgh Creative Writing MSc Poetry Class of 2009.

* Was nominated for the Scottish Variety Young Scottish Writer Of The Year Award.

* Kept Read This Magazine going throughout its second year — now plotting a total overhaul to (hopefully) turn it into a far superior publication!

* Started making recycled and upcycled jewellery out of a variety of bits and pieces (but mostly typewriter keys) in order to financially support Read This Press somewhat. I have now found that I love doing this, and set up shop.

* Helped my friend Stefa to set up the this collection project — a collaborative project designed to bring together poets and filmmakers. It’s still in the works so watch this space!

* Celebrated my 23rd birthday by moving flats (yes, I am insane) — I relocated from Edinburgh’s very central Grassmarket to Stockbridge, a little community on the outskirts of the New Town. It feels like living inside a Shirley Hughes book, I love it!

* Went to StAnza Festival for the first time, to see the tall lighthouse poets, Kevin Cadwallender, Alan Gillis, and attend a talk on young Scottish poets. All good stuff!

* Went on my first writerly retreat on the shores of Loch Tay with my MSc classmates.

* Read at five nights of the Utter! PBH Free Fringe Poetry Festival and two nights of the Underword PBH Free Fringe Poetry Festival, as part of the 2009 Edinburgh International Festival.

* Read at the Edinburgh International Book Festival 2009

* Also read at: The Bowery Book Club, VoxBox, The Golden Hour, The Golden Hour Book 2 official launch, and a bunch of other places.

* Took up the post of Residency and Education Director at the London Poetry Festival and helped to organise readers and visitors for the 2009 festival.

* Celebrated One Night Stanzas’ first birthday.

* Set up a second shop to get rid of some of my huge vintage clothing collection: Edinburgh Vintage

* Continued my work as a Lecturer in Literature and Communications at Telford College, and did some freelance English and Creative Writing tutoring in my spare time.

* Graduated from my MSc in Creative Writing with distinction, and celebrated by going for high tea at the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh.

* Started my PhD in Creative Writing and Contemporary Scottish Poetry — if anyone has any info on William Burrough’s stay in Haddington or the Edinburgh Beat scene, let me know!

* Took Read This Press to the StAnza Poetry Market, the Scottish Poetry Library By Leaves We Live fair and the National Library of Scotland Christmas Poetry Pamphlet Fair.

* Started working on a super-top-secret but absolutely huge poetry project… I can’t wait to share it with you!

Magazine publications in 2009: Tontine, Issue 15 // Moloch, Issue 3 // Veto Magazine // Thirteen Myna Birds // The Glasgow Review // The Clearfield Review // Form.Reborn // Stop Buying Stuff // The Cadaverine // a handful of stones // The Chimaera // Tattoosday // Oxypoet // Trespass // Anything Anymore Anywhere // Umbrella

Other publications in 2009:
The Scottish Poetry Library’s 20 Best Scottish Poets of 2008 Anthology // The Scottish Poetry Library’s 20 Best Scottish Poets of 2009 Anthology (forthcoming) // 5Px2: An anthology of poetry in English and Italian // StAnza Festival’s Homecoming Haiku anthology // The Golden Hour Book Vol. 2 // Poetcasting Podcast for Pomeranate Magazine // Edinburgh College Of Art’s “DUO” anthology (collaboration with artist Lizzie Stuart) // Poetry Podcast for the Scottish Poetry Library // Poetry Podcast for Anon Magazine (under “Day 4”) // Vicious Verses and Reanimated Rhymes: Zany Zombie Poetry for the Undead Head // Edinburgh & South East Scotland: A New Edinburgh Travel Guide, ed. Vivien Devlin // The London Poetry Pearl Anthology // The Positivity Blog, // The Secret Society of List Addicts

(Image by Esther Aarts)

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This week’s Featured Poet Daniel Watkins interviewed.

Saturday, August 15th, 2009

Tell us about your poems.
I’m going to make myself really unlikeable straight away by beginning with quoting Ernest Hemingway. He once said “my aim is to write down what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way” and that just about sums it up for me too. I’ll confess that sometimes when I read contemporary poetry I haven’t got the faintest idea what the poet’s actually talking about, and that’s influenced me to try and make what I write as accessible as possible, so that even people that don’t like poetry might glance at one of my poems and think “actually, that one’s alright”.

How long have you been writing?
I co-wrote a story about a silly sausage when I was four, if that counts.

Do you have any publications to your name? What’s the next stage for your work?
There’s Read This!, and that’s about all so far. The next stage is yet to reveal itself, but if I happen to ever write a line or come up with an image that makes someone think “yes! That is exactly what that’s like”, then that’d be a big box ticked in the creative checklist of my imagination.
Yes, I just answered a straightforward question with a weird metaphor. You’d never guess I wrote poems, would you…

What do you think is your biggest poetic achievement to date?
Through Read This! I had a poem featured in a newspaper in Edinburgh. Other than that, it’s probably the feeling you get when you read something in a workshop and everybody else there agrees about liking a particular bit of it – it’s always nice to hear that you got at least one part as right as it could be.

What’s the best thing about writing poetry? And the worst?
The best thing is that it sorts out my head – whether I’m writing about a situation or a thought or a feeling, once it’s down on the paper (or the screen) then … I don’t know, I just feel like it’s been sorted, and it doesn’t need to confuse, frustrate or concern me anymore. Worst thing is probably when I have a brilliant idea that I just can’t turn into anything half-decent. I know that it should be this amazing, wonderful thing, but what I have in my head just won’t translate itself into real words. Argh.

Got any suggestions for young, upcoming poets?
I’m a young, upcoming poet myself, but I’d probably just reiterate my first answer and say write as accessibly as you can – if what you’ve written can resonate with someone who doesn’t usually read poetry, while retaining appeal (even if it’s just an image or two, or an interesting structure) to someone who does, then you might be on to something…

My other tip is something I picked up from Sean O’Brien. It is, essentially, this – when you have written a poem and typed it up and printed it off, no matter whether you think it still needs a bit of work or think it’s all done, do this – leave it for a few weeks, then come back to it and write it out again by hand. Little things that you would never otherwise have noticed come leaping to your attention. Scribble the changes then write it out by hand again. Make any further changes that have become apparent, then write/type it up properly again. You’ll have a much more finished-feeling poem.
I was sceptical of this approach myself, to be honest, but I tried it out recently and it bloody well works! I am now using it for every poem. Sometimes it’s just an odd word or comma that’ll be changed, but sometimes that’s all a poem needs. Sometimes huge changes occur, and again it’s what the poem needs.
Hey, it worked for Andrew Motion – he does this for all his poems, and he became Laureate…

Who/what influences your poetry?
Well, in terms of what, it’s really just the everyday – stuff you might see, think about for a couple of seconds, then move on from. In that couple of seconds, I’ll probably scribble down a little note before I forget, and then later on I look back at it and see if it can become a poem. I explain it a bit better in my bio. For who, the best (well-known) poet who comes to mind is Matthew Sweeney, but if I’m honest, prose writers actually influence me more – mostly for their use of language. I find Cormac McCarthy’s style of writing incredibly powerful and poetic (if you haven’t read The Road, please, please, read it), and I also find myself influence by the likes of CS Lewis and Terry Pratchett, who both seem to have the knack of explaining something through metaphor using very straightforward, everyday language, but getting the essence of that thing absolutely, perfectly, that’s-exactly-how-that-is spot-on. Which brings us all the way back to the Hemingway quote. If I can try my best to live up to that aim, I’ll hopefully be on the right track.

Last morning

In the distant centre of my mind
I see it approaching
like headlights on the other
side of the road.

Routine, normality,
everything we got away from
for a few days
is rushing back,

waiting to wrap us up
like a worn-out towel.

Want to see your poems featured here? Drop me a line to!

(Photo by seanmcgrath)

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