Readings and Risings

It’s been another alarmingly snappy week over here at Marianne Towers, so much so that I am apt to wonder if someone is playing a trick on me – pretty sure none of the clocks in the flat are correct, at least, none of them show the same time and often I’ll settle down for LITERALLY ONE GAME of Candy Crush and all of a sudden three hours have passed and I’m still not a published poet.

Did I say we bought a sunrise alarm clock? Well, we bought a sunrise alarm clock and it’s actually pretty cool. You set the time you want to wake up, then half an hour before the light comes on and gently brightens as though t’were a crisp spring daybreak and you feel like a little bird ready to wake up and sing. I genuinely didn’t think it would work for me, but it’s been a pleasant surprise to say that it does. I usually wake properly about 15 minutes before the alarm goes (you can have a beeper, just to make sure you get up) and get Chumbo up on the bed for a morning cuddle (we held off for months and months before we let him on the bed and now I can’t imagine why!) So yeah, my advice if you hate getting out of bed in the morning, and let’s face it, literally everyone does and if you say you don’t you’re lying to yourself and to us, then I highly recommend investing.

poetry swag
Poetry Swag

Saying that, I had a lie-in this morning because I woke up at 4am after I heard a ghost playing marbles in the empty flat upstairs, and then couldn’t get back to sleep for about a hundred years (1 hour). Also I was out last night at the Shore Poets Quiet Slam, where I took 2nd place, yay! My good pal, Russell Jones won overall with some top notch poems from his new book The Green Dress Whose Girl is Sleeping (buy it here << an imperative). Thanks to Shore Poets for having me along – really enjoyed listening to some fantastic poets and being allowed to get up and read for them in return.

Me and Russell, along with 3 other super duper writers – Lauren Pope, Aileen Ballantyne and Jonathan Bay (we’re collectively and affectionately known as Poetry Gang) – will also be reading at Wash Bar on The Mound this Thursday (4th Feb), so do come along if you’re free! It’ll be really relaxed and fun, and best of all it’s freeeeeee. We’re all Edinburgh University PhD-ers – Aileen and Russell have both graduated into official Doctors and are, I think, running a small GP (General Poetry) practice just outside of Glasgow, while we three others are slogging away in second year.

PG-Poster(small)
Reading Deets (poster designed by Richard Hanrahan)

I’ve been doing quite a lot of editing this week, in preparation for said readings/sending things away to magazines because ain’t nobody gonna come knocking on my door with a publishing deal amiright? I’ve mentioned before that I am ridiculously lazy/nervous/picky about putting my work out there and I think it’s because of this editing process. Sometimes I discover old poems that I wrote years ago and filed under “Fucking Dire Never Read Again” and realise they’re not actually that bad after a few tweaks, but most of the time I wind up editing myself into a corner clutching words like “darkness” and “blood” and “eggs” and insisting I can squeeze them into every single poem if I just keep cutting and pasting. It becomes very boring very quickly and I only have myself to blame. I’m really working on an objective point of view for editing but it’s haaaaaard.

I am, however, finding it so useful to workshop pretty much everything I write with Poetry Gang (did I mention we’re doing a reading this week? Click here for more info). We meet just about every week and share thoughts on one another’s work. Having four voices of reason critiquing my writing in a friendly environment definitely helps to put stuff in perspective – you may have gathered, I can get really surreal really quickly if I’m not kept in check.

Anyway, I’ve spent bloody ages intermittently writing this, singing along to the Les Misérables soundtrack and refreshing my hot water bottle so I should really get back to some actual work. Here’s a round-up of my week:

PhD: Still reading Thinking With Animals and enjoying it. Need to go get the Medieval Bestiary back from the library since it was usurped before Christmas.

Poetry: Turns out I hate Shelley, but I really like Emily Dickinson and Christina Rossetti. I think I’m gonna sub Percy out for Tony Harrison and tap into my Yorkshire upbringing. Elsewhere, I wrote TWO sonnets. Well one and a half…but I’m counting it.

Exercise: Nice dose of swimmer’s ear means no swimming this week, sad faces all round. Loads of walking and yoga instead though.

Puppy: Still super cute and virtually a real dog now, so will probably stop having to call him a puppy. Read something about a dog who died and cried loads and hugged him for about an hour.

Drawing: Errrrm, still not back to this yet. But I did start a new painting at the weekend, so that’s fun. Oh also, I know it’s not a drawing, but me and Hitch had a pottery lesson a couple of weeks ago and went back to glaze them. Super fun and shall share pictures eventually.

Comedy: Brand new It Disney Matter podcast for your listening pleasure! Check it out here

Enough now.

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The Days Tick By

Apparently it’s Monday again already, so time for another blog. As usual, I feel like I haven’t done that much this week, but when I look back through my notes I realise I’ve actually read quite a lot so that’s good!

One of my resolutions this year (yeah, I know I wasn’t going to tell you,
butIMG_0300 it’s relevant now) was to date the pages of my notebook and write down literally any “interesting” thought I might have throughout the day. A sort of pseudo diary, I suppose, because I’m not really recording events as such, just images and musings. So yes, I’m using “pseudo” to mean both “sham” and “pretentious” here…hmm, well done me? Not a particularly novel idea, but I’m finding it quite helpful; I’m certainly getting plenty of creative writing done now anyhow. I’m also toeing the water in terms of research too. Currently reading Daston & Mitman’s Thinking With Animals, which is pretty darn relevant/interesting thus far.

Just got back from the library, which was, as always, oven-like in its ability to cook me slowly from the inside out. I picked up the complete works of Shelley, Dickinson and Rossetti. Not my usual bag, but I spoke to my supervisor last week who suggested choosing three poets and ONLY READING THEM FOR A WHOLE MONTH. Initially a year was suggested and we was like whaaaaaat?! But we agreed that that’s an inordinate amount of time to only read three poets, particularly when I have a thesis to write about three entirely different poets. It was also suggested that I might like to read some more “traditional” works, since I’m a postmodern, free verse kinda gal and find the very idea of rhyme and metre utterly nauseating. That’s not necessarily to say I don’t like it when other people do it, I just cannot bear it when I try to do it myself.

So these are the three I pick because…you know, I heard they’re quite good. Right now I find the idea of this task utterly arduous, so I’m throwing in John Ashbery as well otherwise I think I’ll go mad. I’m also listening to James Schuyler’s Hymn to Life LOADS because it’s bloody great and ain’t nobody gon’ stop me!

me and john ashbery

I’ll keep you posted on how long I last with this. (NB, yeah, I know I probably should have read all of these poets in more detail than I have thus far, but I planted my roots in linguistics, not literature, so gimme a GD break, would ya?)

Burns Nicht today, obvi, so off for some haggis and poetry reading with pals this evening. This time last year I was taking part in the NLS Burns Night Slam which is worth popping along to if you’re in Edinburgh and at a loose end – lots of great performers taking part in a welcoming environment. I’m sad I’m not doing it again!

Right, back to the grind. JK I’m gonna eat a piece of toast first, and then get back to it. Here’s a rundown of the rest of my week:

  • Poetry – two poems finished, one of which needs major work, the other…is okay for now.
  • PhD – See above, I guess.
  • Exercise – 25 lengths at the pool and an earful of water, which is making me feel a bit sickish tbh.
  • Drawings – Pretty much forgot that this was one of the things I was doing…I’ll pick that back up at some point soon, I’m sure.
  • Comedy – We recorded a podcast yesterday! It Disney Matter (It Does) is officially baaaaack! I’ll get a link up at some point, because I know you’re all dying to listen.
  • Puppy – Got bathed this weekend, looking extremely dapper! Wasn’t going to post a picture of him this week, but he’s just too cute, so I’m sharing: IMG_0295

See you next week, dolls.

Back in Black (I’m wearing white)

Really struggling to figure out how to open this blog so let’s start with a short hello: hi! How have you been? That’s great. I’m alright as well, just hacking away at my little block, trying to make something meaningful out of it.

SO, PALS! I’m officially “back” after a short break from pretty much everything. In September I decided to take some time away from my PhD; a tough decision that wasn’t made lightly, but has been, I think, for the best. Basically I just wasn’t producing poetry because I was dealing with lots of mad life issues (see here for a very brief insight into that). I decided I was ready to work again in the new year, so properly started second year about a week ago.

IMG_0276
Current reading pile

Slowly getting back into a normal flow and trying my very best to stick to a rigorous schedule of research + creative writing every day. Completed one whole poem last week, so how’s that for prolific?! (Bear in mind I challenged myself to write 40 poems in 40 days a few years ago and succeeded…a poem a week be slowwwww, man!) I’m also trying to push my research in a slightly different direction now, but I’m not certain enough of it to form coherent sentences…watch this space though!

I’m also trying to get back to sending my work to magazines/journals, which I’ve never been the best at because I never feel like anything is good/finished enough for the eyes of others. Aaaaand the swiftness with which everything has been rejected lately only serves to reinforce that, but life is in the trying as no successful person ever said.

I took a break from Facebook because I was spending far too much time worrying about what my life wasn’t in comparison with everyone else’s instead of concentrating on what it is, which is not that bad overall. I don’t miss Facebook itself but I do miss out on certain events etc. though I’m undecided on whether or not that bothers me. Hey, what can I say? I’m a massive flake and I never go to anything anyway 🙂

I took a big break from swimming, which I definitely regretted come the new year when all the excellent muscles I’d been honing had shrunk away to nothing and I struggled to do EIGHT lengths, in comparison with the 30 I’d built myself up to previously. Persevering though and up to 20 lengths already, so I can officially tell M People that’s what I’ve done today to make me feel proud.

I took a break from Britain in November and went to Boston to visit one of my besties who just had a divine baby who taught me it’s okay to soil yourself and cry about it. It was also our 10 year friendiversary last year so it was great to be able to actually hang out in person instead of on WhatApp (Boston is just about too far to walk).

Boston pics
A few wee highlights

Obviously being on holiday meant leaving Chumbo behind, which was SO much harder than I thought it would be! I cuddled him and wept for about an hour the night before we were due to fly. Seeing him again when we got home definitely took the sting out of leaving the US. (Oh yeah, so obviously we kept Chumbo! As you might remember a few months ago we were having a lot of problems with him, but he’s had a major turn around and is basically a dream dog now. More posts about him in the future, I’m sure.)

Me3 Comedy took a break from comedy, although we did perform our very first live gig back in October! It was really good fun and I think people enjoyed it…I certainly laughed on stage when I wasn’t meant to, so I suppose at least one thing must have been funny. Here we are with Norris & Parker and Planet Caramel:

hot bed
Comedy creatures

We’ll be back to podcasting as of next week and (fingers crossed) will be filming a brand new sketch the following week, which I’m quite excited about.

I think that’s all my breaks so here’s a very quick round up of literally everything else I did in the last three and a half months:

  • Re-watched all of Grey’s Anatomy like a total LEGEND (loser)
  • Got really into ironing?
  • Rediscovered Shrinkles
  • Got shortlisted for the Bridport Prize and didn’t win
  • Developed a taste for coffee
  • Gave up sugar
  • Started eating sugar
  • Gave up sugar again
  • Chilled the flip out

So dat’s it. I was meant to write a blog last week to talk about all my new year’s resolutions, but it’s too late baby now it’s too late, though we really did try to make it, so they’ll just have to stay between me and my conscience.

Peace and love x

 

Adventures in Dog

Well, what a jumbled week it’s been. Very nearly decided to can writing a blog since I wasn’t sure I had that much to say, but then the ghost of Marianne Moore haunted me, waving myriad personal essays in my face and I was thusly compelled to take up my keyboard and type for my life.

me and mazza moore
               JUDGEMENT IS SERVED.

We got our puppy neutered this week. In all honesty, he’s been a bit of a shit towards us of late. The growly, barky, bitey kind of shit that you really don’t want to be around. You really come to see yourself as ridiculous when you have your head in a dog cage, growling loudly in order to take back a sock from the jaws of a tiny animal that’s baying for your blood. What’s a girl to do? Cut his balls off, apparently. Not sure at this point how much of a difference it’s made.

I’d say about 85% of the time, owning a puppy is as joyful as everyone is led to believe. In the morning, for example, seeing your tiny puppy’s face pop up at the side of the bed, tail a-wagging and more excited to see you than your mother ever has been, that’s really great. When you hold out your hand to him and he puts his little paw in your palm? Yes, you feel your heart break because you know you’ll never be that cute. But when your puppy comes to you, seemingly seeking affection, which you duly offer only to be snarled at? Not so hot.

Guys, I know what you’re thinking. I’d like to point out that we haven’t just allowed him rule the roost. Our vet told us golden-coloured cocker spaniels can be temperamental and aggressive (Chumbo is a cockapoo, but may as well be a spaniel – see picture). She advised us to keep him off the furniture, serve our meals first and speak to him the way we would if he was a naughty toddler.

The unconvincing terror.
                The unconvincing terror.

So we are trying super hard to assert dominance. Remember? Me? Head in a cage? Growling? It’s hard for two completely non-aggressive wimps to have to morph into alpha-males in order to control a puppy who thinks he’s in charge. But like I said, we’re trying. Chumbo is now on a strict schedule of short walks followed by play and training sessions with plenty of sleep and alone time thrown in. If he so much as curls his lip at us these days, we use our newly acquired “tough” voices, all privileges are swiftly whipped away and he’s in time out until he calms down.

I’d also like to point out, he is NOT like this with other people. We’ve had friends look after him who say he’s the best behaved dog they’ve encountered. So maybe he just gets bored of our company. Or he’s turning into a teenager. Or he knows we’re his pack and he wants to be the leader, which is almost endearing considering how much larger we in comparison. Almost.

Basically what I think I’m trying to say is, he’s certainly no Cujo, but we’ve been slightly taken aback by these instances of bad attitude. I thought that by 5 months he’d be speaking fluent English and able to tell us exactly what he requires, but nay. Instead, it seems we’ve had to learn to speak dog. Might be useful for my research; I’ll keep you posted. (Any suggestions, are, of course, very welcome!)

Besides dog days, here’s a rundown of my week:

• PhD Stuff
Investigations into taxidermy. Not a big fan of the practice, but it’s extremely interesting to read about and has led to a number of new ideas. Also started reading Debra Hassig’s Medieval Bestiaries. V. interesting so far, hopefully more on this next week.
• Poetry
Started 1 new poem and tweaked a couple of older ones. Finally bought stamps. Two envelopes now in transit.
• Comedy
Episode 2 of the Great British Bitch off available here. Episode 2 of the Disney podcast is still being edited – small technical disaster has delayed its release. Hang tight, folks, we’ll be right with you.
• Drawings
Did this guy and have another one I’m finishing up.
• Exercise
Swimming buddy is currently knee deep in the Fringe. Could have gone myself but didn’t because I’m scared of facing the world alone. Lots(ish) of walking instead.
• Puppy
See above.

(I also want to quickly say I’m dealing with some big life stuff at the moment, which is another story for another time, but if I’ve blown you off or made you feel like I’m ignoring you this week, I’m not, I’m just not really myself right now. Peace pals, peace x)