A.W.O.L.

If I’ve been absent for a few months (already?!), I’ve not been idle. I’ve been seeing a steady little stream of poems being published, which is lovely, and I’ve been keeping busy. But if I’m going to have a blog, I really should be updating it, so from now on, I’ll do my best.

I stopped posting poems because having them on my blog meant they were considered to be published and that prevented me from having them published by anyone else. I will only post previously published ones here now.

The last piece of good news on the writing front was that I had a poem and a short story accepted for publication in New Voices Press anthology, due to be launched at the Scottish Poetry Library in November. I am a member of the Federation of Writers Scotland and was delighted when they emailed to say they’d selected the two pieces. The story, Curfew, is the first prose piece I’ve had published. I’ll post both here after the launch.

 

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The story lives…

My wee journey into Young Adult fiction is proving to be immense fun. I’m heading for 14000 words and really enjoying it. I have a few characters I’m getting to know well, especially Jess, my protagonist. I’m starting to feel a bit sorry for her drunken mother. Her back story is grim.

The thing that has surprised me most in writing this story is how the characters direct the twists and turns of the plot. I’ve heard writers say that they didn’t know where their story was going and were allowing their characters to decide the next move. I always thought that sounded like horse manure – but now I realise how true it is.

I wake up thinking about my characters’ world, it’s like a wee snow globe I carry about with me in my head. It’s time I got off my blog now and gave the globe a little shake…

StAnza 2018

Here’s the blog piece I did for Erskine Writers’ group, just a snapshot with my impression of the event.

 

StAnza is an international poetry festival that takes place in St Andrews every year in March and runs for almost a week. Renowned poets like Liz Lochhead, Don Paterson, Miriam Gamble and Douglas Dunn mingle with newbies and poetry lovers from up and down the country, as well as from abroad. I treated myself to two days of poetic heaven, spending every last penny I had on poetry collections and anthologies (plus several coffees).
The highlight of the weekend for me was a workshop intriguingly billed as A Double-voiced Bird, which I had been invited to participate in after a selection process a few months ago that required me to describe my own poetic process involving bilingual approaches. Led by acclaimed Berlin-based poet Ulrike Almut Sandig, the workshop involved the creation of a kind of patchwork poem distilled from members’ prepared lines, complete with bilingual elements in German, Scots, Dutch and Italian. To say that I was surprised by the resultant piece would be an understatement. In just under two hours, a group of seven poets who had only just met – and one was a ten year old child! – spliced, diced, negotiated and rehearsed a brand new collaborative poem, which we then performed before a packed hall of poets, writers, visitors, publishers and editors, some stopping to take photographs and film us performing.
The feedback from audience members who approached us was startlingly positive and encouraging and I left the hall feeling overjoyed to have been part of such a refreshingly novel experience.

Procrastination

How many diversions, digressions and deviations can a writer cram into their day? I’m heading for a world record! And all because I have taken on the challenge of starting a young adult novel. It’s only supposed to be the first thousand words, plus a blurb, for a competition my writing group is doing. Easy, right? I’ve written short stories much longer than that. So why am I tripping over boulders in my head the minute I pick up my pen? I think I know the answer to that one: prose terrifies me!

It’s true. Poetry is like a bubble bath at just the right temperature, immersion in sheer pleasure, and hard to get out of. Prose is more like a freezing cold shower, exhilarating for a short spell but leaves me with a headache if I stay in it too long. Poetry moulds itself to me like a quality mattress, it knows and fits all my corners and hard to reach bits. Prose is a friend’s spare futon by comparison.

But now I really have procrastinated enough. I have conceived my heroine. I now need to give birth to her. Anyone got any gas and air?!

 

Online Auctions

Have you ever been stung on an online real-time auction? There are more and more of these sites springing up every day. I’ve yet to come across one offering genuine bargains. Some auctions last just a couple of minutes and, although you can click on items to read the details, you don’t really have time and you don’t get much detail anyway. The auctions are peppered with meaningless words like “genuine”, “real” and “authentic” to suck in the unwary.

 

I was struggling with insomnia as usual tonight, so I wrote this, for a laugh…

 

Wishful thinking

It’s genuine silver-plated plastic,
a bargain at the price!
The bloody deal’s fantastic!
It’s going once, it’s going twice!
Get in there noo before it goes,
nae time tae check the detail!
Cross yer fingers and yer toes!
It’s the best in online retail!

The other day ah won a jacket,
it was “genuine Armani”.
But the feckin fake cost me a packet
and ah feel like such a fanny.
The thing is, everybody’s bidding,
they cannae all be daft.
Ach, who am ah bloody kidding,
nae wunner ma pals all say ah’m saft.

 

Thoughts on silence…

Today, Björn of dVerse Poets has set the challenge of considering how poetry expresses silence in its own unique way. He got me thinking about a short story I read in my German class at school when I was sixteen. It was by Heinrich Böll and it was called Dr.  Murkes Gesammeltes Schweigen (Dr Murke’s Collected Silences). In it, a man records people speaking, then later cuts out and collects all the little silences between utterances to listen to later. I remember being mesmerised by the concept.

In my poem, Saturation, a young woman searches for the comforting silences of familiar childhood relationships, only to find that they’ve been ‘soaked up’, misappropriated, never to be heard again. Make of it what you will…

 

Saturation

Where should I go
to find the silence
of back then
when Papa was still here?
Before I stopped believing
rain was angel tears?

Where’s the sound of snowfall
on distant mountains, of dew
settling on grass
like a flitting firefly,
while I still sleep?
Where’s the silent sound?

Why can’t I hear his silence
now that he’s gone, beyond
the place of whisperings?

I only hear
the noisy space
between his silence
and yours,
and I’m deaf with it.

Mama, I know
where the silence went
when Papa left.
He didn’t take it with him.
I see it when you look at me.
It’s right there,
in your sponge-like eyes.

Tinsel Tales

Had a very enjoyable afternoon at The FWS Tinsel Tales event at GOMA today. Makar Andy Jackson handed over the makarship to the wonderful Marjorie Lotfi Gill, who treated us to a wonderfully haunting reading from a long poem she wrote about her father’s journey as a refugee.

Such a variety of voices and themes, serious and humorous! A thoroughly refreshing afternoon!

At last…

It seems that my scrap of wallpaper was in demand after all. Three of my poems were accepted for publication in an American poetry journal called The Stray Branch. I’ll have to wait till next Autumn to see them in print but it was nice to have them accepted. I haven’t submitted much so I’m pleased with this result.