Monday, April 30, 2007

Another NaPoWriMo Over

I wrote my final poem for NaPoWriMo early this morning, so that’s three years in a row of April madness for me. The first poem was a play on Alastair Reid’s poem, Scotland, so I came full circle and finished off with one called Scotlands.

I always feel a sense of loss when it’s over, but I’m not daft enough to attempt to continue through May. Click on the little yellow and black NaPoWriMo button on the top right if you want to read any of my poems.


I entered a poetry competition a few days ago, the Poetry on the Lake one, which is based in Lake Orta in the north of Italy.

And in the next day or two, I’ll send in my entry for a new competition organised by the Times Literary Supplement.

This latter competition is interesting because, if you get on the shortlist (a big if, I know), the winners are decided by the votes of TLS readers – both the paper version and online. I don’t know of any other competition that is decided in such a way. The danger is that people will vote for their friends, or for famous names, or for people who can attract lots of Internet votes. But the idea of judging being done by people interested in literature, and not necessarily having contemporary poetry first on their list of likes, is worth trying. Especially if the poems are good and help poets gain new readerships.

I suspect the competition will attract many thousands of entries, so getting on the shortlist of 10 or so will be a hell of a job.

I don’t enter many competitions, but now and again I feel the need to have a shot – just in case.

NaPoWriMo Pick of the Day 29

The imagery in this one is so imaginative.

Disconnect by ADK.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Shore Poets Tonight

This is where I’m going to be tonight - from 7.45pm at the Mai Thai bar just down from the Scottish Poetry Library in Edinburgh. I don’t know Anna Davis’s poetry, but I’m looking forward to hearing her. With Helena Nelson and Stewart Conn on the bill, this event should be really good.

On the last Sunday of next month, Kate Clanchy, Andrew Philip and myself, will be reading at the same venue.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Aftermath

The photos I took at Alyssa's 5th birthday party didn't come out well, so I'm left with this one, taken just before we drove home. She is so tired, she hardly has energy to explore the contents of her party bag, although we allowed her to eat the lot for breakfast this morning..

Friday, April 27, 2007

Alyssa Turns 5

It’s my daughter’s 5th birthday. She has a party early this evening, and has invited 12-16 other 4 and 5-year-olds. We have hired a soft play area, but are busy making up snack packs (food for the party) and party bags (to take away afterwards) etc.

The party lasts 90 minutes, probably the most exhausting hour-and-a-half of what's already been a really busy week. I'll try to post a photo tomorrow.

Literary Agents

What are literary agents looking for? It’s hard to know. They all say they’re looking for something different, something to wake them up, something that stands out from the thousands of other identical submissions they receive every week. But that doesn’t explain why so much of what is published is bland, formulaic, and jumping on the back of existing trends.

Here’s one agent to avoid, but a very fun article to read!

NaPoWriMo Pick of the Day 26

The Lung-Sponges by Jee Leong, packs a real punch, asks questions that matter, and is a fine piece of writing.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

NaPoWriMo Pick of the Day 25

I like the juxtaposition of normality and weirdness in this one.

Neighbors by bigbadbeth.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

ABBA, Olivia Newton-John, and Andy Gibb

I can’t get this video to insert itself in my blog, so here’s the link. Believe it or not, it’s ABBA, Olivia Newton-John, and Andy Gibb singing two Beach Boys covers live, and then Frida singing a few bars of opera.

I don’t know about you, but I find it amazing that this collaboration actually happened, let alone that it was broadcast on television. It’s so unslick that it becomes quite charming. A similar project just wouldn’t happen these days.

NaPoWriMo Pick of the Day 23

Today’s pick is short but sweet.

As the waves break high… by Harry Rutherford (second poem on page).

Monday, April 23, 2007

Don't Vote for Me! Vote for Someone Else!

I have been nominated for Poet Laureate of the Blogosphere.

I’ve no idea what it’s all about or why I have been nominated, but I better start a campaign. So here it is.

Don’t vote for me! Vote for someone else!
I would be a crap Poet Laureate of anything. I would shirk all my responsibilities, and if I had none, I would make some up and impose myself unnecessarily on people’s lives.

I’m saving my vote until the end of the week for the person most likely to finish one ahead of me. I’d urge all my readers to do the same. So I’ll repeat my slogan – Don’t Vote For Me! Vote For Someone Else!

NaPoWriMo Pick of the Day 22

I’ve missed out on a lot of NaPoWriMo reading from being away for a week, but my favourite from yesterday was Clear Water by Matt Merritt.

Back from Robin Hood Country

I’m back from holiday. We were living in a cabin in Sherwood Forest, not far from where my in-laws stay, but about 460 miles from here. My wife’s parents hadn’t seen our daughter for about 18 months, so it was good to bring them together again.

There was plenty for children to do – lots of play parks, nature trails and other children, so we could relax and the weather was good. It’s easily the most stress-free holiday we’ve had since our daughter was born. We had a log fire, which was fun to light (brought back old memories of scouting with two twigs and a single match), and we drank wine or beer in the evenings, read books, watched movies, and gaped at the fire burning. There’s something hypnotic about a real wood fire.

I wrote poems for NaPoWriMo in my notebook – I had no access to a computer. The drafts were such a mess! Scorings-out everywhere, along with arrows, asterisks, and big red circles to denote various ways I felt a given poem should be messed about with. A computer is much cleaner, but it reminded me that what I would produce as a first draft by computer is anything but a first draft on paper.

I read some excellent poetry, mainly from chapbooks:

Smoke – Jenni Daiches (Kettillonia, 2005)
When Now Is Not Now – Alastair Reid (The Poetry Trust, 2006)
Three Little Ninjas – Chloe Morrish (Dreadful Night, 2005)
First Blood – Patricia Ace (HappenStance, 2006)
Heaventree New Poets vol. 4 – Patrick Gilmore, Gregory Leadbetter, Jonathan Morley (Heaventree, 2006)

All of these were good in different ways. I’ll try to say more soon.

Saturday, April 14, 2007


I will be without my computer for a few days, so there will be no posting during that time. But I'll start again when I'm back in touch with the world.

Friday, April 13, 2007

NaPoWriMo Pick of the Day 12

Just think. If it hadn’t been for NaPoWriMo, this poem might never have existed, and my experience of life would be poorer for it.

Litany by ren.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

NaPoWriMo Pick of the Day 11

This one was just so unexpected. It kept surprising me all the way from start to finish, and it's only eight lines long!

In lieu of a speech impediment, a poem by Julie

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Daffodils Rap

Wordsworth’s famous poem, Daffodils (below), has been revamped as a rap tune and video, featuring a man in a giant squirrel costume known as MC Nuts. The idea is to connect the Cumbria Tourist Board with the “YouTube generation.”

I don’t mind the idea of setting the poem to music, even though they’ve mangled the words in the process. But I wish they hadn’t used the mascot squirrel. That’s just naff.


I wandered lonely as a Cloud
That floats on high o'er Vales and Hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:-
A poet could not but be gay
In such a jocund company:
I gazed-and gazed-but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude,
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the Daffodils.

NaPoWriMo Pick of the Day 10

Yesterday, I picked out this edgy sevenling.

Sevenling (Invisible Man) by Scavella

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

NaPoWriMo Pick of the Day 9

There was no number 8.

For yesterday, I couldn’t really look past this one; “Raw unfiltered genius. Also geekdom.”

How William Shatner Cured My Stutter by Gabriel.

Archie Gemmill vs. Holland 1978

At this stage of NaPoWriMo, I'm in desperate need of inspiration. And where does any Scot look for inspiration?


Monday, April 09, 2007

NaPoWriMo Pick of the Day 7

I didn’t read any poems on Easter Sunday, so I’m skipping over yesterday.

But this was just what I needed on Saturday. All the poems in his NaPoWriMo thread this year are worth reading, but I’ve chosen this one because it is both very clever and funny.

The Problem of Peace in our Time by Tony Hoffman

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Scotland Revisited

Brian Johnstone, director of the StAnza festival has blogged about Alastair Reid’s Scotland poem.

It’s a good article. I like the quote from Alasdair Gray, "work as if you were living in the early days of a better nation", itself a quote from Canadian poet Dennis Lee. Although I don't think I want to be quite as "free of it" (i.e. the attitude of the poem) as Alastair Reid and Brian Johnstone do.

The other day, I was in a car. One woman said, "It's such a beautiful day." The guy beside her, who was certainly no Calvinist in a religious sense, replied, "Ach, by next week it'll likely be snowing." Anyway, I turned round, gestured to the sky and said, "Yes, we'll pay for it!" and they all laughed.

NaPoWriMo Pick of Day 6

Really close yesterday, with several really good pieces. I found it difficult to pick a favourite, but in the end went for this one.

Various Degrees of Disintegration by Pearl.

Friday, April 06, 2007

NaPoWriMo Pick of Day 5

I didn't manage to read much yesterday, but I enjoyed what I did read, and this poem, particularly the second stanza, made an impression on me. Not perfect, but perfection isn't what NaPoWriMo is about. There will be time for all that afterwards.

Rusting Drum by josh_q.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

NaPOWriMo Pick of Day 4

Here's my favourite poem from yesterday. It was posted on Day 1, but I didn't get to it until yesterday.

Take-off by Arun.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

NaPoWriMo Picks of the Day 1,2,and 3

I thought I'd post a link each day to the poem written for NaPoWriMo that I most enjoy reading. They are all written under time-constraints of course, so they may have rough edges. But they impressed me! Here are links for the first three days. I'll do it daily from now on:

Day 1: Strike Me Down by avalanche.

Day 2: The Mall by Sorella.

Day 3: The Fence by EParsons

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

NaPoWriMo Button

Thanks to Ivy Alvarez for the snazzy yellow and black NaPoWriMo button (known as the "bumblebee") on the right-hand column. NaPoWriMo is an annual April event in which participants write a poem every day through the month. If you click the button, it will take you to my poems. Of course, it will (should...) be updated every day.

Olive Dehn (1914-2007)

Poet and writer, Olive Dehn, has died aged 92. At the age of 91, she published her first collection of poetry, Out of My Mind on HappenStance Press.

She led an incredible life, as is reflected by the obituary in the link above, written by Anne Karpf in The Guardian.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Parody on Alastair Reid's Scotland

I'm not going to post all my NaPoWriMo poems on this blog. But I thought I'd post this first one, a parody of Alastair Reid's iconic and justly admired poem, Scotland.

You can read Alastair Reid's original poem and the story of its dramatic burning, at the StAnza website.

after Alastair Reid

It was a day common to this corner of the planet,
when daffodils bent double in the sleet and wind,
and black umbrellas shattered in the hand.
Spring lay buried in dirt. Greyness entered
the skin. I pressed through empty Sabbath streets –
the nation was shopping in the malls, or choosing
Swedish furniture to compensate for the woodchip
on its walls. I found a Starbucks and a woman
of uncommon beauty behind the counter.
‘What a morning!’ I cried. ‘Why not try an extra shot
of espresso?’ she replied. ‘It’s just the day for it.’
Her smile brightened the hour, and meant
‘Now pay for it, and pay for it, and pay for it.’