Tag Archives: Poetry

Here’s One I Wrote Earlier

10 Dec

Hello, dear reader!  (I’m assuming I only have one left now, so long have I been gone).  I’ve been busy since September and here’s an article I wrote, first published in October on the Write Out Loud website, to explain why:

                             My student ID pic

Since graduating with a BA in literature in 2008, it has been my dream to complete an MA in creative writing; specifically, poetry. I knew I needed to mature as a writer, and that happened to coincide with having no money. I was able to apply to Manchester Metropolitan University this summer, however, because a couple of years ago the government introduced student loans for a second degree.

Reader, I was accepted. I was overjoyed, particularly as the news came at the end of Freshers Week, when I was wondering why I hadn’t yet received my rejection email.

A welcome email arrived on the Thursday, from the writing school’s manager; followed by the offer email on Friday, around five pm. I was excited and panicked at the same time: I have to apply for student finance? (You certainly do!) When do I start? (Monday?!). Will I be allowed to attend class if my finance isn’t in place? (Yes). Where do I go? (The old Cornerhouse). What do I do? (Not panic…oops, too late).

My first degree was with the Open University so I was excited to go to a “real” i.e. brick university but, oh, how at first I wish I hadn’t bothered. Two weeks in and it was all YOU OWE US MONEY GIVE US MONEY YOU WILL BE SANCTIONED IF YOU DON’T PAY THE MONEY SHOW US THE MONEY.

I understand that education is big business these days, but please, MMU, don’t invite me at the last minute so that I miss out on the helpful information; leave me to flounder; and then nag me to the death of joy. Truthfully, at this stage I’d be happier with my notebook and pen and just the one degree, thank you very much.

From the ridiculous to the sublime: three weeks in, the course is fabulous. It is challenging and difficult and I am surrounded by so much talent I can’t help feeling they made a mistake when they sent out the offer letter. But you’d have to pry it from my cold, dead Gmail account first.

You know you’ve never had it so good when one of your professors is Michael Symmons Roberts and the other is Carol Ann Duffy. And when the poet laureate hands out free books, takes you across the road to the pub and buys you a drink and, when you ask for some advice says, “That’s what I’m here for,” you know you’ll say: “Here’s the money! I had to sell my children to get it, but it is totally worth it!”

Excited? Yes. Terrified? Yes. Fed up with officialdom? Always. Would I want to be anywhere else? What do you think?

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The Value Of A Good Blog Title

12 Sep

This is a slightly edited repost from 2013, but I’m out of ideas so I thought I’d share it again.  It contains some good advice for new bloggers.

Let’s start with a poem I wrote some years ago:

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The Thing About Poetry IsEnglish: Groucho Marx & anonymous blogging

Titles
are
vital

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The same is true of blog posts.  Titles are vital to lure unsuspecting readers to your blog, where you will dazzle them with your wit and wisdom and encourage them to waste time they could have used for eating, watching TV, and sitting on the couch.

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How Not To Write A Post Title

From my blog:

  • Joke 648

Unless you are looking for 648 jokes, it’s rather dull.  However, it does tell you exactly what you will find: a joke; the 648th joke in a long line of jokes.

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Be Specific

  • The Value Of A Good Blog Title 

is not particularly interesting but it will attract people looking to improve their blogging.  I know this because

  • Seven Tips For New Bloggers 

still attracts readers, years after being posted.  List titles like this are also popular, for reasons I’m sure psychologists could tell you, though I can’t.  

A word of caution, however: don’t be tempted to make it 147 Tips For New Bloggers, because nobody’s attention span is that long.  I know this from experience.

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Be Topical

  • It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

Posted in December, it’s seasonal and likely to attract Christmas fanatics like me. In November, it makes me the blogger who’s ahead of the game; in June, it makes me quirky and will, hopefully, make the reader curious.  But beware: posted in January, it’s the blogging equivalent of the guest who won’t leave when the party’s over.

Sometimes, being topical leads to dumb luck:

  • Some Snow Facts

A fun factual post a year earlier led to my best-ever day – 4,720 hits – when Google Doodle celebrated the 125th anniversary of the discovery of the World’s Largest Snowflake.  I’d have been happier if just one of those people looking for the Google Doodle had left a comment but, hey, I’m not one to look a gift spike in the mouth.

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Reference Popular Culture

Here are some posts of mine which still receive hits:

  • Twilight: I Hope Bella Remembered To Shave
  • Seven Of Nine, And Not In A Good Way
  • Robert Pattinson With Small Hairs

Being up to date with the news helps:

  • What Really Happened To Gaddafi

brought in hundreds of people who thought a housewife in Stockport could tell them what 24-hour news channels and thousands of dedicated reporters could not.

Adding the word ‘Review’ to a title is another good way to attract readers. However:

  1. It irritates them if you use the word ‘Review’ and then don’t review whatever it is you claim to be reviewing.  I know this from experience.
  2. Reviewing books and movies four years after they’ve been released is unlikely to make your post a bestseller (I was surprised to discover).

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Use Keywords And Phrases

Here are some posts that still receive hits.  One was written six years ago:

  • You’re Only As Old As The Woman You Feel – old jokes and clichéd phrases are popular searches as ageing people begin to lose their memories (I know this from experience).
  • Smile And The World Smiles With You – the word ‘smile’ is the top search that finds this blog, with over 10,000 visits.
  • A Is For ‘Arguments’ – the key word here is ‘A’.  Bizarrely, the letter ‘a’ comes in at Number 7 on my search list, with 1,044 hits.

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Sweaty Armpits

Sweaty Armpits (Photo credit: mricon)

Have Fun!

After all, if you’re not trying to change the world, it doesn’t matter who reads your blog so long as you are enjoying yourself.  

Here are some of my favourite titles from posts that I have written:

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  • Famous With Sweaty Armpits  
  • Okay, Tesco: I Forgive You
  • So Many Jokes, So Little Class   I like this one for its searing honesty.
  • If I Break Wind, I’ll Write About It  The previous title refers.
  • I Have To Kill My Kindle
  • Love Many, Trust Few And A Canoe
  • I’m Three Mugs Of Tea Away From Becoming A Feminist
  • It’s Time To Give Up Food   I like this one for its absurd premise.
  • Ten Don’ts For When I’m Dead  Another list post.
  • Bring In Arms Fat Mummy
  • Hula Hoops. Very Proud Of The Queen.   I can’t claim credit for this one as it was from a comment by another blogger.
  • Vasectomy Dog And A Frog Disease Called Awesome
  • Camping: The Art Of Staying Wet Indoors
  • Flying To Spain In A Manky Cardi
  • A Labled Easy To Follow Leg
  • Sandra Bullock Has A Sex Change And Retires To Norfolk

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A Final Tip

Related to blogging but not to titles in particular: ask an open-ended question. A question as title will pull in the curious and the opinionated (I know this from experience).  You don’t have to use it as a title, however; you can use it as a closing sentence.  It never fails (I know this from experience).

What are your blogging tips?

Manchester 22.5.17

23 May

I Looked At Evil

 

I looked at Evil: it wore a suicide vest

My cause is just, it claimed

your murdered children my price

Kill me, and a thousand martyrs fall in behind

You cannot kill me, it smiled

for I am dead by a tug of this cord

 

You cannot kill me, Evil declared

You cannot buy me off

You cannot reason with me

Don’t bother to plead with me

for my ears are closed

my mind bankrupt

my heart already a corpse

You cannot kill me

for I am already dead

 

You cannot defend your children

for I am Evil

and I wear a suicide vest

 

 

 

Now I Get It

8 Feb

Before I begin, let me just say that this is the first time I’ve used the new-look New Post feature and I HATE it.  It’s all white space and missing or moved buttons.  Wassup with that, WordPress?

I’m in a bad mood.  I have discovered the point of philosophy, a question which has puzzled me since the summer of 2003.  That was the first year of my Open University degree.  I attended summer school in Manchester – seven minutes away from my house by train; and I chose it for just that reason, having a sick husband and two young children at home.  Plus, I was a wimp in those days. Travel alone in such a lawless country as Britain?  Forget it.

It was a glorious summer (the sun always shines on happy memories) and I had a blast, spending all of my time in lectures and learning, singing in the choir that was composed of almost the whole cohort of students, and playing Medea’s daughter in an amusing stage parody.   I was disappointed not to get two weeks, à la Educating Rita, but loved any break from my adorable family.

I attended a lecture on the piece of music which was the subject of my next assignment and it was so good, all I had to do was transcribe my notes into coherent sentences, giving me one of my best marks that year.  It’s not cheating if you’re just paying attention in class.

Music was not my best subject but Philosophy was definitely my worst.  I just did not get it.  I remember sitting in a tutorial that summer and asking, What is the point of philosophy?  The tutor looked startled and then annoyed, and he didn’t have an answer.  I rest my case.

I wish he was here now, because today I learned the answer: philosophy exists to enable desperate poets to cope with the vagaries of Microsoft.

My Word stopped working.  I don’t know why.  I don’t know what version it is.  I don’t know why I didn’t read the dialogue box that came up every day for a week or more which probably would have told me.  But that doesn’t matter because of course it’s Microsoft’s fault: it is the creator, and we always blame the creator when things go wrong.  That’s my philosophy.

I haven’t been around the blogosphere much because I’m nearing the end of phase three of my second poetry collection: the editing process.  The editing process is my favourite part: the research has been done; the poems have been drafted from thin air; I don’t yet have to brutally cut some of my favourite babies, or put out for a publisher.  All I have to do is neaten, tidy and completely re-write until I’m sort of but not quite satisfied with the work that’s already done.

I edit, therefore I am happy.

I type, therefore I am busy.

I think, therefore I am using the education the Open University gave me.

I stay at my computer, therefore the Hub doesn’t have to see me.

I lose Word and my life falls apart: what am I supposed to do with my time if I can’t edit poems?  I might have to talk more to the Hub [shudder].  What if the world never gets to read my genius because Word owns me?  

Tain’t right; tain’t fitting; tain’t proper (how I miss you, Ross Poldark; please come back to my TV and be gorgeous again).

I may just be losing it…it’s only been thirty minutes since Word said Get lost and I’m babbling like a woman who just lost her Word.

On the plus side, I now have time to read your blogs.  

Sidebar: the architecture block of the 2003 course was fascinating but the only thing I remember is how to identify columns.  To this day, I have a weird finger thing I do to remind myself of whether a column is Doric, Ionic or Corinthian. Identifying a type of Classical architecture is a totally useless skill for me to have but I love that I can do it.

What’s your useless skill?  

A Poem to Mourn a Great Loss

I miss Word.
Word has gone.
How will my work be done?
I’m editless; I’m numb.
This poem is the sum of my madness.
Return, Word, and all will be gladness.  

Now you see how good a poet I am, you’ll understand why I’m going crazy here.

Found In Translation

21 May

Click on image for source

Well I never!  Or I should say, Beh io mai!

I signed in to my blog to visit all of yours, and discovered a comment which needed approval:

You may be interested to know that we have written a review of the anthology In Protest, 150 Poems for Human Rights: http://www.margutte.com/?p=5629&lang=en
We have also translated some of the poems in Italian, including your poem: http://www.margutte.com/?p=5629

Thanks for your contribution.

Best regards,

Silvia Pio (editor)

That’s the same poem which was read at a memorial meeting for Nelson Mandela, and I learned of it after the event.

It seems it’s not just my kids who are going off having lives of their own.

By the way, I’m chuffed!  I love the idea of my poem taking on a life of its own, making new friends, learning new languages.  It has a way more interesting time than I do.

But at least it won’t break my heart when it moves into student accommodation in September.

Googling Myself

12 Mar

It’s not that I’m vain, or anything, but I do occasionally Google my name (okay, I am vain; but can you blame me with this hair?).  At least I don’t check to see if I’ve got a Wikipedia page – no, really, I don’t, honest…

I have to Goggle myself when I’m submitting poems, because so many editors exclude poems already published online, even if it was on my now defunct poetry blogs which can no longer be accessed.

I Gaggled four poems and my name this morning and I was disappointed to find one of them in the 2010 comments section of a poetry blog, which means I can’t use it.  

The Haggle brought up a pleasant surprise, however – which isn’t always a given when you Giggle yourself; all I’m going to say is tea bags/washing line/shame…. Fortunately, I’m such a prolific blogger that the embarrassing photo is hidden way down in my Boggle listing.  

I discovered that a poem published by English Pen last year in their Dictionary of Made-Up Words was featured on their website earlier this year, as part of an ongoing promotion of the book.  I didn’t know it was there.  I’m chuffed!

Even better – it was retweeted!  It’s nice to be twit.

You may say it was coincidence, but I think it’s strange that I didn’t come across this poem until I had my hair cut.  I’m like an anti-Samson: all of my power was consumed by my long hair; now it’s short, I’m discovering my work in the ether and being invited to take part in poetry events which may or may not come off so I can’t say anything at the moment…except that the invites were issued after the haircut…

So, do you Wriggle yourself?  Or are you afraid to discover dirty little secrets of yours hiding out there in the ether?  Are there photos of you drunk at a party? Taking an illicit beach day from work?  Wearing flares?

I’ll find out, you know, when I Ogle you.

Talking Heads

24 Feb

Last Thursday, I gave another poetry reading at Walthew House in Stockport – my third.  They have asked me back for a fourth visit.   One chap (he’s a chap because he’s from the older generation; if he was my age, he’d be a man; Spud’s age, he’d be a lad.  Isn’t language funny?) told me that they had talked about me long after I left last time; then hastened to assure me he meant, ‘in a good way.’ Hmm.

It wasn’t me so much, but the poetry.  They are a wonderful, lively group called Talking Heads, and that’s what they do: talk.  A lot.  The poems I read caused much debate.  The group leader had asked for poems on the theme of ‘spring’ so I had prepared about forty poems (I was due to read for an hour), including some of my own.  The topics of mine varied from cleaning to seduction to dog poo, but all mentioned spring.

They enjoyed one poem so much – six lines on World War One military equipment – they asked for the name of the poet…which was me.  I was delighted to send two people home with copies of the poem – the first time that’s ever happened.

The chap who asked, Vincent, told us it reminded him of a poem he had written when his son was serving in Iraq during the Second Gulf War.  He wondered if he could read it to us, but the memory of his emotion at the time – the absolute fear from having a child in a war zone – choked him up so much, it was fifteen minutes before he composed himself enough to read it.  It was worth the wait: lovely; touching and heartfelt.

After some talk of Thomas Hardy (none of whose poems I had read, but that will show you the meandering nature of the discussions), Vincent mentioned that his son’s best friend had sent him a collection of Hardy’s poems, underlining The Darkling Thrush in the Contents as his favourite poem.  A couple of days after receiving the book Vincent, unable to stay in the house and listen to war news on the radio, had taken an evening walk and came across a lone thrush, singing a solo symphony in the evening air.  Vincent was entranced.

Returning home, there was a phone call around 11:30 that night.  Shaking, he answered.  It was his son: Dad, I’m home!  He didn’t have time to talk because there were several people he had to call with the news, but his Dad had been first on the list.

Next evening, Vincent took another walk and came across the same thrush, singing in celebration, it seemed.  Vincent said he yelled at it: You knew he was safe last night, didn’t you?  You could have told me!  Neither Vincent nor the thrush took any notice of the people staring at the barmy man yelling at a bird in the tree.

What a wonderful story, provoked by a poem.  And that’s why I love poetry.

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