Monday, 15 May 2017

New book - now available




Today is the official release date of my new collection of poems ‘Turn’. You can now buy it from my (new, improved) website and a few local stockists (current ones listed on the site with more to come). This collection is what poets tend to call a ‘pamphlet’ (a softer-backed, slimmer version of a book) but this seems to confuse non-poets of my acquaintance who look at me like I’m daft and say it’s a ‘booklet’ or just a book (and what am I going on about). I suppose (being more Scottish by the day) I think of it as my ‘wee book’ (as opposed to the last one which was my ‘first book’). This one is quite different to the last one (I think) but I won't say any more than that because commenting on your own work is... difficult (and I said enough about that in the last post). 

And now for some thanks:

Mark Stephenson – for his help throughout, for endless margin tweaking and website rebuilding and constant support and patience.

Steph Masterson – for use of her fantastic artwork ‘Arbor’ for the front cover of Turn’ . Steph’s art career has been hampered greatly by long-term illness but for me she always has just the right image (her work ‘Soundwave’ was on the cover of my first book). Huge thanks Steph!

Early readers – you know who you are… people who said ‘put this in’, ‘why is this here?’ and ‘you are mixing primes with typographer’s quotes for apostrophes and quote marks’. I really appreciate all your time and thoughts and efforts.

Big SkyPrint – for being so professional and helpful and efficient. 


So please feel free to order your copy (or copies) now (see ‘Books’ page). As you will see there is a ‘Reviews’ page on the new-look site – at present it is just reviews of my previous book so it would be great to have some comments about ‘Turn’ (from print or online) to add to it at some point. Anyone who wants a review copy please contact me here or via the site – I’m not sending out many review/promo copies on spec (not in the budget) but I am open to interesting offers.


Many thanks also to regular readers for all your support and encouragement and thanks to any passers-by for reading.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Scratching stones



So, I’ve been mentioning off and on that a new book of my poems is in the offing. Well, it’s now so close that I can almost touch it… in fact I can touch the final, it-all-looks-right-now proof copies because they arrived today. I’m a bit excited.

It’s a smaller book than last time’s ‘More about the song’ (2008) - this one is more a poetry pamphlet (or booklet or even chapbook if you prefer). I will be posting full details about sales in a week or so. Please contain your excitement.

I don’t post much in the way of long rambles on this blog (that was more the old blog style… back in the noughties…) but I might ramble a bit just now about why I’m publishing again at this particular time. The thoughts might be of interest to someone (and if not click away now).


Firstly, it went OK last time. As I said it’s been nearly ten years since my last publication and in that time I’ve never regretted putting out that first collection. It didn’t exactly knock the world off its axis but that might have been uncomfortable anyway. Overall it felt good, some people liked it and I only ever read one bad review (maybe there were others… best not to know by this point). I flick through it now and I still love the cover, still approve of all my poetic choices (even the questionable ones… maybe especially them…), still feel more proud than embarrassed or horrified. There are poems that I think still have good lives left in them. By now it almost feels like someone else wrote them… and in some ways that is true. I think we are different people at different points in our lives – maybe not everyone feels like that, maybe it’s an instability on my part (or maybe a flexibility…). I’m glad though, either way, as I wouldn’t want to stay the same. I like change. This time I’ve even used punctuation.


Partly I put this new collection together because I have a good number of newer poems that feel like they need a place to be – a place out in the open air, as it were (not just cooped up in computers). The recent poem phase started when my Mum died in 2010, took a bit of a break 2011-2016 (quite a break!) and then started up again (with a vengeance) early last year. For me writing poems does go in phases, I certainly don’t write them every day or all of the time. I write them, I suppose, when feelings run high (and high can be up or down) or when I have time (and nothing else getting in the way) or just when I feel I have to or I will explode. The subject matter for this collection includes life and death (of course… isn’t almost all poetry about those?), political feeling, the outdoors, love/hate, loss, getting older, dealing with change. So same as ever, same as most poetry… so why do it?


I still feel this (poetry) is a thing that I do. It’s not the only thing I do. These days I earn money  from student support (proofreading and such like, no sniggering, I get good feedback...) and I potter about with this and that, try to be a good person and don’t have any great ambitions in most directions but, despite a lack of great accolades or publishing advances, I still feel this is something I should/must/will do. I both don’t care what other people think of the poems and, at the same time, care a huge amount. When someone I respect says a poem is good (that does happen) I feel ridiculously happy and proud. It passes of course… stuff needs doing, things go wrong, the news from elsewhere is shocking… but still, it is a high I won’t give up on just yet. And the lows (that often, but not always, are an equal possibility)... well, you can’t spend your whole life worrying about those now, can you?


If you read this blog regularly you will have read many of the poems in this book already. I hope some people like them enough to want to own a copy printed out on (recycled) paper or to buy a copy to send to a friend. The cover, once again, is brilliant (clever artist friend…). The title is also the title of the poem I wrote when English MP Jo Cox was killed last year. I once read that you should name your collection after the best poem in it and ‘Turn’ has certainly had some very positive responses when I’ve read it out in public or posted it online. Maybe people need something to respond to as the event of her murder was so awful and it’s that, as much as the poem itself, that is powerful. I have yet to read any other poems about that day or about Jo but maybe they are around (or yet to come). There is a strong campaign group working to keep her memory and political will alive.


I’ve dedicated this new book to my Mum (now almost exactly 7 years gone). She really preferred novels… or biography… or even biographies about novelists… but I haven’t managed any of those yet so this will have to do. She was a very supportive parent and person so I’m sure she’d understand. When I put my first collection out I heard her telling people that I had ‘found my voice in poetry’. That was very sweet, very her. I’ve been a fairly gobby person for much of my life so I’m sure at least some people rolled their eyes at that phrase and thought what a softie she was for putting up with all my (what some Scots would call) pish. And she was maybe… but she knew what she was about. She was a tough softie because single parents can’t really be anything else (and survive, and parent well). She’d had a very challenging life and she chose to be positive about things. Most of my favourite people are like that.


Finally, I am 50 now. It is a milestone kind of an age and I feel I need to mark it, at least a little. I haven’t been on a big fancy holiday or had a raucous party or anything. Instead I’ve chosen to mark it (to myself as much as anything) with words on pages. 



There are probably other reasons as well as the above but that is more than enough for now. See you soon with all the details and thanks for reading. x

p.s. the photo was taken at Rackwick Bay, Hoy, Orkney in April this year. I don't know the artist's name... they just left this present on a stone. Thank-you artist.

p.p.s. I've tweaked this ramble a bit since first posting. No-one will notice but me probably but I mention this for full disclosure... 





Friday, 21 April 2017

Another love



Not much blogging here... much working... bit of a holiday... family business... keep wishing I could blog 'hey, my new book is available' but still working on getting it out in quite the right way. In the meantime listening to some music (in and around everything else) and sharing with you my latest love, musically anyway, Rhiannon Giddens (above). Maybe you already know her work but if not resolve that issue right away! I loved the Carolina Chocolate Drops' album 'Leaving Eden' (2012) and then I really loved Giddens' first solo album 'Tomorrow is my Turn' (2015) and now I am pleased to report that her new solo album 'Freedom Highway' is another great collection of songs - fantastic singing, great playing, lovely variety, real strength to the whole thing. Can you tell... I just love her. I've always fallen in love a little with my favourite musicians/songwriters (I think that's pretty common) - some you stay in love with your whole life, others it's just a quick fling and 'never speak of it again'. I used to write about this kind of thing a lot on the old blog... it feels almost nostalgic to be doing it again. More about the song... still quite a ring to that phrase (for me anyway!).

Here is one of the songs from 'Freedom Highway' called 'We Could Fly' (but as I say the album is very varied so don't think it's 8 songs like this one because it is anything but that). Feel free to comment and tell me your latest musical loves... or just enjoy this:






Friday, 10 March 2017

A word matter



A muddy field, last week, near here.


Mostly my posts on here have been poem-posts for the past few months or longer - no opinions on anything (other than in poems). Then yesterday I was listening to the radio - Desert Island Discs, as it happens (I listen to that so much these days I wrote a poem about it, back here). The guest was TV presenter and comedian Jimmy Carr - not someone I like (or dislike) particularly but sometimes I make myself listen to guests that I wouldn't choose as friends or dance partners - it can be good to be surprised ('hey, that guy's not a twat after all') and I was ready for one of those experiences. It's depressing to think that the world is full of twats, isn't it - who wants to live in that world? 

And, you know, he wasn't a total twat... he was nice about his Mum... he got a bit excited about having lost his religious faith (for those of us who've never had any this is 'big deal, well done you' kind of a revelation), but the thing he said that most bothered me is something that has bugged me on and off all day. He said "people don't remember what you say - they remember how you made them feel." (He said something like that anyway, it must be a regular theme because I actually took the quote from a recent article online; I have to be honest, I couldn't face listening to the show again...). I suppose it's his defence for jokes he makes that get criticised for insensitive content (a kind of 'well, it doesn't matter - no-one remembers anyway' kind of a defence) but I think it is one of the most stupid, tiresome, Trump-esque comments I have heard in some time. Sure, no-one remembers every word  of a comedy show (especially if alcohol is involved and at comedy gigs it often is, I suppose) but words matter, now more than ever (in comedy, in politics, on the radio). And now we don't need to remember them ourselves anyway because they will be repeated on youtube and dvd and google forever more. So if you speak to thousands, nay millions, of people every week your words really matter - no matter how stupid they are, maybe especially if they are stupid. You have power if you have that kind of audience so don't deny that and pretend it's not there. Don't lie to everyone (including yourself). 

The show left me with a really unpleasant feeling (and that's rare for that show - it's usually a bath of positivity/triumph over adversity/coping with life's slings and arrows to come up with something amazing). No matter how hard the charming Kirsty worked to make him seem interesting I just felt uncomfortable and disappointed (not sure exactly by what... the lack of honesty I think). Words matter. I don't believe in much really but I guess I do believe that. Which is good, what with the poems and all.

Anyway...

Friday, 24 February 2017

Splash





Splash

It came to me like a dream, you see,
There I was - drunk as a sailor,
A sailor who's lost a ship perhaps,
And then it was suddenly slap-bang in front me,
Right sharp where I could see it,
Staring at me, in my face.

I saw you, me and all that laughing,
A lot of blood, a splash of time,
A little your place or mine,
And it was a mess alright, one hell of a mess,
Some folks would tidy up,
But that's not me.

No, love be damned – I'll let it lie,
The full graffiti of our lives,
I'll leave it red, raw as it is,
Stripped back with gusto to see the glory,
For we had everything, amongst our troubles,
We had the best times, the brightest highs.




RF 2010


Busy with this and (very much) that just now so here is an old poem that hasn't been out and about much.  And a photo from summer 2013 too.

Friday, 3 February 2017

What is down

Japanese Tea Garden, San Francisco, May 2011


Missed

Who talks about despair?
It’s boring, a deep hole.
And what to say?
The dance is hard.

You felt it, for sure;
The evidence is stone.
But we can’t talk about it,
Not now.




RF 2017


It's been a while since I wrote anything even remotely about my Dad. He killed himself way back in 1973 and Mum died in 2010 so her loss kind of took over, in the parental bit of my mind, from the very old history of his. But I suppose the fact that there is so much news just now that can depress a decent caring person (i.e. all the people I like online and in the flesh) has brought thoughts of depression back into the foreground for me (what it is, how to deal with it, how to get things done in a world that seems so difficult and... mental at times). I'm not depressed myself, I should point out. I do feel down here and there but usually with good reason. And there is much to feel good about just now too... we join together, we oppose together, we do not let them pass...

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Precious




Precious

Aye, you were that right enough,
Write from the start,
A story once heard,
A presence so light,
Like a pulling together
Of all the best words.

And paths aren’t plans;
We are our own page.
Read us in peace,
Sing us on streets,
As la-la-la-la lullabyes,
Tra-la-la-la love yous.




RF 2017


It's new. First line sounds pretty Scottish (to me) but then we have been living here 14 and a half years now... Photo was taken in Musselburgh in October 2016.