Friday, 30 April 2010

A.B.Jackson's Apocrypha

Thrilled to get a sneak preview at the manuscript for A.B.Jackson's new pamphlet, due out with the very elegant Donut Press in October. It's rare that I recommend poems so fervently, being very hard to please, but these are surreal as sherbert, right as rain, delicious, hilarious, heart-breaking, big-hearted.

Here's the link to Donut Press

And the author's website...

Thursday, 22 April 2010

the lochan in wind's the busy brain
of a computer, its binary of dip and wave
so far sophisticated from the yes/no
of grey or eye-blue/lake-bottom indigo
that forms and faces evolve on its shroud,
and are erased, and gulls on the pasture
shelter from its news. News is never now
plain good or bad white foam gathers
at the northernmost shore.
the lochan in wind's the busy brain
of a computer, its binary of dip and waves
so far evolved from the yes/no
of grey or eye-blue/lake-bottom indigo
that forms bloom upon it like a relic shroud
and are erased
the lochan in wind's the busy brain
of a computer, its rattling binary of dips
and waves, pale/indigo
The lochan in wind's the busy brain
of a computer, a

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Lie Detector

I've always recommended reading new writing aloud, as a test of fluency, as a way to replace those irksome editing commandments, such as 'the use of adjectives is lazy' or 'show, don't tell!' with a reliance on a more abstract, and more instinctive sense for what does and doesn't work. If you read a passage aloud, and it embarrasses you, or worse, bores you, the urge to see if something else might be more successful is pretty irresistible. It doesn't seem to work in your head. Well, it doesn't seem to work in MY head.

You need to...I mean I need to...apply the lie-detector, the tongue tapping away at the palate, prodding the backs of the teeth, wriggling in its soft bed. But I've always thought of this as a negative process, a way of putting wrong things right. What I had forgotten is how the act of animating text in my mouth makes the fictional voice go live, meaning the voice, finally, has begun to make its own demands, and the story begins to write itself. All of a sudden, my characters are jostling to tell the story. All of a sudden, 1000 words a day is easy as breathing, though it takes much, much longer.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010


Home again, and the two bunches of tulips I bought cheap at the end of the Saturday market, kept in the fridge and coddled all the way home through two overheated airports, planes, are stuffed in a too-big too-square glass vase by the side of the sofa I write on. They are red like the inside of a black cat's ear is red when the sun shines through it. This is the most beautiful little room in the sun. My windowsill covered in limpet shells, and some unfired attempts to evoke the limpet in porcelain. I still haven't seen the results of the bisque-firing. Beyond, Mary's roof, with yellow lichens incandescent in sunlight, the shadowed Clift Hills. Hot, happy cat, piled on my ankle.

Thursday, 8 April 2010


I'm in Delft, enjoying the apparent simplicity of my task: to look after three very kittenish cats while my sister is away, to walk about the tilting, tiled streets and canals, learn how to cook some new food, write my 1000 words a day, read, a lot – Landing Light (Don Paterson); Distance and Proximity (Thomas A.Clark); The Complete Writings of Emily Carr; Strong Words (Bloodaxe's Modern Poets on Modern Poetry) and Strong Medicine, a book about the history of general practice on Canada's northwest coast.

It's perverse how much easier these things are, away from home.

The Dutch folk big and small whizz about very upright on their bicycles, and I am accommodating to the generalisation; walking more upright, and feel my lungs unruffling, uncreasing, unrolling like a pair of sails. Sometimes it's a relief to be anonymous, and sometimes, as the other day, it's a treat to have the small-world experience.

When I leave Shetland, I don't expect to run into anyone I know, but in Edinburgh Airport I met a friend, from Edinburgh, who I first met at the Fiddle Frenzy writing course last summer, in Shetland, who was on my flight to the Netherlands with her partner. When I settled into my seat, the woman next to me said "excuse me, I have a feeling I know you, from a reading at the Scottish Poetry Library..."

Squid for my tea...