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.

Embarking and EdFringe

(This is my new blog. I’m hoping to update it weekly and will use it as a means of documenting my life as a poet, researcher, dog owner, comedian and artist. Doing this because I read that Marianne Moore wrote 5 personal essays a week while she was a student and while I can’t really say that these posts will be “personal essays”, I’m trying to get more general writing done on a week-to-week basis and a blog seemed like a good way to do it. Plus Mazza Moore is one of my research subjects and she was a stone cold poetry babe master, so hers isn’t a bad book from which to take a leaf. I also want to use it as a means of perseverance  – life is kinda tough right now, but hopefully recording small achievements regularly will provide much needed encouragement, even if I’m the only one who ever reads them. Okay, here’s goes!)

Good afternoon, world, this is your captain speaking. When I say captain, I mean captain of this website/blog, rather than anything fancier like an aeroplane or a volleyball team. I was never very good at sports and can barely drive a car let alone a plane. However, I’m going to maintain this plane captain style of speaking in the hopes that it might encourage you to sit back, relax and enjoy what will no doubt be a turbulent, rambling flight through my life.

So right now the weather in Edinburgh is fine and sunny, a smooth 16°C for this, the first day of the Fringe Festival (I think the official first day is tomorrow, but there are a ton of shows already on, and I’m going to see my first one this afternoon (Ben Target: Imagine There’s No Ben Target (It’s Easy If You Try)), so we’ll call it the first day and have done with it; anyone who disagrees can see me after the flight. JK, of course you can’t mix with the captain! I’ll be busy moving through the airport in slo-mo, wheeling my tiny, perfect-square suitcase along behind me. I mean, what can I fit in there, really? Like one pair of pants and a toothbrush?)

This Fringe is quite novel for me because it’s the first one in all of (my own) Fringe history that I’m NOT doing a show. Admittedly it’s only my fourth Fringe, and I get that other people have been coming for a lot longer and have done more shows than I probably ever will, but I’m already enjoying the stress-free atmosphere that is abuzz in our little flat*. Up until about a month ago I was in fact scheduled to do TWO full-run shows, one as one half of Me3 Comedy (more about that later) and one as a cast member of a show called F-Holes (every day (except the Wednesdays) at Paradise Palms, 13:10 – go see it, it’s genuinely going to be great!) HOWEVER I’m also trying to juggle a PhD, a new puppy, a fledgling career as a fledgling poet and a haunting past, so decided that this would be a Fringe worth dedicating to something besides comedy/an inevitable nervous breakdown.

Am I sad about it? Slightly. Lots of friends are doing shows and it’s tough to watch them getting ready and excited about performing – there really ain’t nothing like the thrill of a successful stage appearance, folks. But at the same time, I don’t envy the high octane anxiety that they’re definitely going through – don’t lie, guys, you know putting on a show is really worrying. Also, big crowds of people make me super sad. I’m a fast walker, crowds are slow. I’m a polite person, crowds are RUDE. I understand that taking up an entire pavement to get a selfie with a statue of a dog is idiotic, crowds do not get it. So I am zooooo happy that I have the option to avoid it all this summer and see whatever the heck shows I want without having to plan it all around days off and my own performance hours.

Marianne MacRae
How did this get here?!

That being said, I am making a few guest appearances (that makes me sound so famous and in demand, so I’m sticking with it, but FYI, I’m the least famous/in demand person you do or do not know at this point). Me and my comedy/life partner Richard Hanrahan will be doing Backrow Presents… on the 8th and 15th, 21:45 at Banshee Labyrinth (we watch a bad movie and say shit over the top of it); I’m on at the Blind Poetics Big Night of Spoken Word event on the 10th (it runs from 8pm til 1am, and I’m on in the 9pm-10pm slot) and I’ll also be doing Chutney Exhibition’s Poets Against Humanity on the 21st , 20:40 at Chiquito on Frederick Street. They’re all sure to be good fun in spite of my presence at them, so do come along if you’re free and in Edinburgh**.

And now this blog is over. Here’s brief a roundup of my week thus far:

PhD Stuff
Read a bunch of essays on representing animals. Became very interested in the idea of animals representing the dead, so we’ll see where that goes.
Poetry
Started 2 new poems, finished 1 poem. Met with Poetry Gang to discuss last week’s poem; not gonna lie, it needs work. Put some work in an envelope to send to Mslexia. Have yet to buy stamps.
Puppy
No bites for me, one bite for Hitch. Slowly realising we’re in charge, but taking his sweet time about it. Balls off next week, promise to keep y’all posted on our dogs genitals!
Comedy
Me3 Comedy released TWO new podcasts; one about Disney and one dedicated to the Great British Bake Off. Listen here!
Exercise
Made it to 20 lengths in the pool, spent the next day in bed exhausted. Diagnosed myself with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
Drawing
Working on some new things…I’m sure there will be hilarious/amazing illustrations to accompany these posts at some point.

*It’s clearly not stress-free, we have an excitable, five-month old puppy in our midst.
**This works on the assumption that anyone is actually reading this…if you are, hiiiii! Thanks for spending your virtual time with me ❤