Monday, 30 June 2008

Shall we play a word game?

Well, it's not really a's a thing I've nicked out of the paper. In-house mother likes 'The Independent' so that's the paper we have in the house most. Like most papers they do endless celebrity questionnaire-type features and whilst these are...a pain...they're also the kind of thing I seem to end up reading whilst I'm waiting for something to boil or someone to be ready to go somewhere.

Last weekend I was reading the 'My Secret Life' column filled out by Dave Stewart (he of Eurythmics and other bands) - no doubt I was at the kitchen table watching a kettle whilst it took its time about boiling or something equally life-shattering. I'm not a fan of Stewart's particularly but I liked him more by the end of the questionnaire even with some of the unnecessary name dropping taken into consideration. Anyway, the last section in the feature is 'My life in seven words' and I do like to think about words and I particularly like trying to hone ideas* and use words economically**. So can you sum up your life to date in seven carefully chosen words? Here's my go...some of the words (if not all) can and do cover a multitude of sins:


Obviously this is my life up to now...who knows what words are waiting for me next! I look forward to reading all your 'so far sevens'. Have a go - it's interesting and a little bit fun.

*It does say 'trying'.
**This may seen unbelievable when you read some of my rambling blog posts and comments (and you should hear me talk!) but it is something I try to do in poems quite a lot of the time (although not always). What is life without the crazy contradictions and the unexpected after all...

Saturday, 28 June 2008

They're called films, by the way

Here are my answers to the Movie Questionnaire that was on Ken Armstrong's blog just lately. Except I call movies 'films' (sometimes even in a slightly geordie accent fi-lum) and I'm not changing now!
Just to be annoying I've added on some I remembered later.

1. Name one film that made you laugh
Recently with Small Girl 'Shrek the Third' but recently on my own 'Spanglish' (Tea Leoni's spoilt-rich-wife character is hilarious). I quite often like films that kind of miss the big 'must-see' promotional ride but are lovely little films just going about their business.
Also 'Festival' - the Annie Griffin film - that's very funny as is 'Shaun of the Dead' but the film I remember laughing like a drain at years ago is 'A Private Function'.

2. Name one film that made you cry
'Brokeback Mountain' – just this week. I'd been putting off seeing it as I expected to hate it...and then halfway though there I was blubbing like a ....well, like a big old poof. I love poofs by the way...always have done. In fact I have a masters degree in fag haggery.
I forgot 'Billy Elliot'. I don't like the whole film but I love a couple of its scenes. Jamie Bell was brilliant in it.

3. Name one film that you loved when you were a child
'Bedknobs and Broomsticks' is one I remember enjoying at the cinema. To be honest I watched much more TV shows than films as a child so I had to think about it for a while. Mostly my older brothers were in charge of the remote* and we didn't go to the cinema much so if I did watch films it was ones they chose. This meant lots of war and cowboys and unsuitable films for small girls...I remember for example enjoying 'Marathon Man' and 'The Ipress File' (I think it was that one). Also as a teenager I liked 'Scum' (in so, so many ways).
Can't believe I forgot 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid' - we watched it whenever it was on. It was probably one of the only films we all liked in our family. I loved 'Calamity Jane' too.

4. Name one film that you've seen more than once
'The Big Chill' – one of the best screenplays about human behaviour and relationships and everything ever written. Plus some great actors doing great acting. Plus great music. Plus Chinese food in those little cardboard boxes we don't have in Britain. And some funny jokes.
I've seen 'Rainman' a lot too and 'Educating Rita'.

5. Name one film that you loved but were embarrassed to admit it
I'm quite hard to embarrass but...every time Small Girl watches 'High School Musical' I do really enjoy it. I'm not sure I love it but I cry at the right bits ('oh look, they're both doing what they really, really want'), I laugh at the right bits...and I quite enjoy the gay boy who nobody knows/admits is gay. Disney has its moments...I loved 'Enchanted' too.
I liked bits of 'Forrest Gump' and that's pretty naff.

6. Name one film that you hated
There are loads I dislike but hate is quite a word so I've tried to think of one that deserves it. Mostly I hate films that use rape and suicide for effect/shock but I think I blank a lot of them out afterwards. I dislike 'Love Actually' et al but I don't think I really HATE them. I watched all the Porky's films as a young teenager and I'm pretty sure I would hate them if I saw them now. I may have to get back to you on this one.

7. Name one film that scared you
Sexual abuse and related cruelty scare me more than your traditional horror stuff (ghosts, monsters, supernatural etc) so I think I might go for 'Requiem for a Dream' – a film about drug use where the users start off high and end up really, really low. That end sequence...I couldn't sleep afterwards. It was all a bit...'there but for the grace of fate' for me I suppose.

8. Name one film that bored you
'Lord of the Rings III (the Final Tranquilliser)' or whatever it was called. I found all the LOR films just too sub-Monty Python for words (as in they were so like a pisstake...I couldn't watch them without laughing and upsetting all the devoted fans).

9. Name one movie that made you happy
I watched 'Big' recently when feeling low - yes, the Tom Hanks thing from way back when. We had taped it for Small Girl forgetting that in fact it was more adult than you think...luckily she didn't like it and wandered off to do something else but I ended up wanting to watch it to the end, as you do. It cheered me up...and it's always odd when a big Hollywood film cheers you feel a bit easy, a bit lazy, a bit cheap. Oh is honest answers...maybe I just am cheap.

10. Name one film that made you miserable
It doesn't usually take a movie to make me miserable...but anything about cruelty would do it....'Life is Beautiful' maybe...or anything that was a criminal waste of money to make. When you think what could have been done with the money they used to make half the big budget chick flicks (I mean any predictable romance with the painful half-attempts at humour and philosophy)...that upsets me. Most of them you could just watch the same film over and over and nobody would notice. Any suggestions for an award called 'film that was the biggest waste of money ever'?
Other films that brought on misery - 'Nil by Mouth' and Michael Winterbottom's 'In this World'.

11. Name one film that you thought would be great but wasn't
'The Sixth Sense'...twist? TWIST!! People said it had a great twist! And it was obvious from the first stupid is the rest of the world!! All that guy's films are crap.

12.Name one film that you weren't brave enough to see
Someone else mentioned 'Hotel Rwanda' in a different answer but I'll put it in here. I will watch it one day. I just have to be in the right mood for such real-life horror though..and I have to feel there is any point to me sitting through it. I do believe it's important to know about history (recent and distant) and I do believe it's important to know about current events but I can't always deal with the worst bits of life plus I don't want to be miserable depressed parent (and that is always a possibility...'what's for tea Mum' 'Oh, what's the point in having any tea...we'd be better off to starve ourselves off this mortal coil as quickly as possible.'). It's a weird old balancing act.

13. Name one film character you've fallen in love with
Henry Hill in 'Goodfellas' that an odd one? The mafia links, the pock-marked skin? I have to say I've never had a boyfriend anything like him. Maybe it's just that 'Goodfellas' had to come in somewhere and 'The Big Chill' had to be no 4. Or maybe it was all the talk of food...'don't let the spaghetti sauce stick, hon'..I won't Henry, I won't!
I did have a little something for Jerry Maguire in the film of the same name...but I'm over that now.

So that's me...I kept it as short as I could...

* Remote - who am I kidding! When I was kid we didn't have remotes...we had the big dial thingeys. Funny how easy you forget...

Friday, 27 June 2008

Sing it, Cliff

Well, no, don't...but it is summer holidays of 12 midday. I think that's why I've been blog-crazy this week - the beginning of summer holidays from school means I will be more Mum and less poet for seven weeks. I think I'm quite looking forward to it actually. Picnics, days by the sea (we live very close to it), sand everywhere in the house, children everywhere, cousins, outlaws....busy, busy, busy.

Speaking of children, Small Girl is so lovely at 8 - it almost makes me wish I could keep her at this age forever. This morning (when she should have been getting dressed) she called me in. There she was (half-dressed I'm glad to say) lying on the bed with her legs in the air. 'Look, Mum, I'm a V shape, I'm a V shape!' Her smile was as wide as a smile can be. I am very proud of that smile - when you come from a family with a tendency to misery a big smile is pretty much everything you could ever want. I don't expect (or want) her to smile all the time..but I love it when she does.

Then on the way to school she really did sing 'Summer Holiday' - they've been singing it at school it's not that I am not a closet Cliff fan! It led to an interesting conversation about summer holidays and why it doesn't have to be flying for two weeks in the sun (something we don't do for lots of reasons). I was quite emotional by the time we got to school...but then I'm always emotional...certainly more emotional than intellectual.

Last night's reading/book launch at Dead Good Poets in Aberdeen was a success, I think. Friendly people, a warm evening, some great music (listen out for singer Grace Banks - she was tremendous) and Verona and I weren't bad either. Thanks to Gerard and Haworth and everybody for looking after us. I even enjoyed the poetry open mic - I have more experience of music open mics but this was a great selection of lots of different kinds of poets, all of them good in different ways. I hate to single someone out but...I will. Judith Taylor read a poem about a Barbara Hepworth exhibit in the Aberdeen Art Gallery. I like Judith's poems more and more.

As you might be holidaying here's a few tips for holiday reading...or indeed reading any old time:

'Strange Bamboo' by Hugh McMillan
The man we know as Shug sent me this book as a swap for one of mine. It was a good deal. Mr McMillan has, for me, a fine blend of beauty and dirty old reality, of humour and heart-breaking observation. I'm glad he's not the father of my children with all those tales of bottles of beer and all-terrain prams but I do like his poems. Hope was quite right when she recommended his 'The Man whose Last Kiss was Me' - it is to be adored. How I love it when gruff Scottish blokes show their soft and wobbly don't want to see it too often but now and again it is irresistible. I also have a fondness for 'Oz Aerobics', 'Marked' and lots of others.

'Things the Grandchildren should know' by Mark Oliver Everett
This is the book by the Eels bloke I referred to previously. I'm still only about a third of the way through it but I love it to pieces. It has a lot of subject matter that I know well (the family misery - hello again - the bad living, the music fixation...) but it's the way he tells his anecdotes...the type of human he is that is making the book into a friend for me. I do like good writing but I like good people too. For me the greatest challenge is to be the best writer I can be but also to be the best person too...I'm not sure exactly what that means but I know it involves kindness and gentleness and laughing as often as you can. I don't think this is a very fashionable (or intellectual) point of view. Oh well...

'The kids will be alright' - an interview with Camila Batmanghelidjh in the Independent newspaper from Tuesday 27th May 2008.
I'll try and sort out a link later on...oh, look here it is...I found this paper lying around the house the other day (I don't think it had been used in any puppy training...) and the interview brought tears to my sad old eyes. There's a lot of talk about violence on the streets and young people and our society and all that but here's someone who tries to do something - who does do something. Really, properly inspiring.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008


I know I've already posted today but I feel bad going to bed on an here's a poem. It is a June poem and there's not much left of June for this year so it's now year.

I was reminded of this one because I just closed the blind in Small Girls's room (8.45pm our time - we are laid-back parents...) and it's so light - beautiful sunshine, like the middle of the day. And are we going out to see the beauty of the evening..? Well, the beloved is watching football and I may just get on with reading more of the book by the Eels guy (which is lovely - so far - really clunky and funny).

Plus I've looked at poet's blogs too much this week I think. Some of them just remind me why I never wanted to be part of a literary scene. We all know best all the's very wearing. And wearying. I may just go to that launch in Aberdeen tomorrow too! Better get my head together...

In June

Another light night draws curtains slowly
And we don’t enjoy it as we could
We’re not wandering the hilltops
Or cycling the coast road
Or watching the sun pour itself away

There’s so much more we could be doing
We know it all and yet
We’re tired, hemmed in by something
We watch TV – it’s never-ending
The sun falls unseen again, another day

RF 2006

So excited

I mean... I know small independent bookshops are great and everything but I am allowed to be a little bit excited that huge, massive chain-store Borders has said they will sell my little book in their Dundee store. Well, they'll stock it...I suppose whether it sells or not depends largely on the man (or woman) in the street...whether they come in off the street, look at my little book and choose to buy it...Keep your fingers crossed for me!

...and don't forget, of course, that the book is already on sale in these other places in Scotland and England:

A-M's Books (Montrose), Forest Bookstore (Selkirk), Henry Hogg's (Montrose), Oathlaw Pottery & Gallery (Forfar), Scottish Poetry Library (Edinburgh), Tarts & Crafts (Balmedie, Aberdeenshire), Unique Arts (Bradford, West Yorkshire) and Windsor Gallery (Dundee). Soon to be on sale in Loch Croispol Bookshop in Durness too.

Plus you can get from the website...but you knew that, right?


Monday, 23 June 2008

Quickly now

We interrupt the long rambling thing below to draw your attention to ink, sweat and where you can see three of my very short poems. The first two are quite old.,,but I still love them. You can't just forget about your old dears and run off with the younger, newer models.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Reviewing – the truth

It's an odd task – reviewing. Someone spends a lot of time and energy on their novel, film or CD and then along comes some smart Alec reviewer with their word processor loaded with attitude (often the same attitude every week, sadly) and sums it all up in witty, pithy, easy little chunks of prose. A reviewer can cut a life's work down to size in 250 words if they feel so inclined. On the other hand, if they want to they can make something a 'must-have', a 'must-buy' – they can turn a person's life around. It's a lot of clout... more in a national paper than in a blog, perhaps... but clout all the same.

I wrote reviews as a job once upon a time (books, music, most things apart from visual art). It wasn't a very well-paid job (small 'radical' magazines mainly) but I did get a lot of free stuff and a lot of good guest list access. It doesn't take long before you get culture overload when you're reviewing though. You have to read and listen to everything so quickly to get it reviewed for your deadline that you can't really give much of it the attention it deserves. You end up with piles of CDs to rush through or heaps of books for Oxfam... plus a huge guilty complex about having all this free stuff and not really appreciating it! I ended up hating reviewing – particularly music – it took all the joy out of listening and I know I wrote some interesting but also some very silly reviews. You get a bit crazy with it after a while. Well, I did... no surprise there.

So it is with some trepidation that I approach anything like a review of Jim Murdoch's novel Living with the Truth... especially as he wrote such a fantastic piece about my book of poems last week. He made lovely comparisons and joined up his thinking and was clear and precise (Jim never rambles!). He didn't make predictable swooping judgements or try and make himself look good at my expense (the reviewer's nastiest trick). So why oh why, I want to know, is he not Professor of Something at University of Somewhere or some equally grandiose personage? He might say that's just not the way his life went and tell me to get on with the review. It is something I think about though... how some people end up doing jobs they're really unfit for whilst other, much more able individuals, do not. One of the first comments I put on Jim's blog was that he 'gives good lecture' and he really does, you know. I had professors at Clever Uni inc. who were nothing like as impressive or good at organising their thoughts. We will just have to crown him Professor James Murdoch of the University of Life and Blogging. And why shouldn't we? University, my arse, as the good Lord Jim Royle might have said.

See how I'm putting off the reviewing... I've been doing it all week. So where can I start, I wonder? OK, the novel is about a lonely guy who gets a visit from the Truth (personified) to help him take a better look at life. There's more than a hint of grown-up fairy tale for me (which I liked)... with Truth as a kind of macho Fairy Godmother come to sort everything out. Beyond that... well, here's a few things that I think are relevant and that I hope are true:

1.Jim Murdoch is a clever bloke. He spends too much time at the computer, I suspect, but who, reading this, does not? He's well-read and well-thought and he has put a lot of this reading and thinking into Living with the Truth. It is a very dense book... lots of information and ideas packed into every page. It gives the reader a lot to consider... a bit like a three year philosophy degree in 181 pages... and it is the kind of book you could read a few times and you would get something different out of it every time. I'm reading it for the second time just now and making lots of connections I missed before. It's not a book to read quickly really. It's more about thinking than the narrative... I think.

2.Jim Murdoch is a funny bloke (as in funny ha-ha). Anyone who reads his blog regularly knows that. There are times in Living with the Truth where the desire to be funny gets, for my taste, a little too much control over the novel and the story – there are lines I would have cut if I'd been editing – but you might not agree. Humour is a very personal matter.

3.Jim Murdoch will want people to concentrate on the novel and not him, the author, so this way of 'reviewing' the book will probably annoy him a bit. Sorry about that, Jim.

4.Jim Murdoch is not much older than me (according to his blog...) but he writes like someone from another era. He uses really unusual words (both in the novel and in his blogs and comments). He wrote to me the other day about someone getting someone's 'dander up' and I don't think I've ever heard that phrase outside of something like 'Jeeves & Wooster' or 'Just William' (neither of which are very Glaswegian... are they?). It's really refreshing, I'd have to say, in this age of 'lol' and 'btw' to read a novel that is so completely uncool... so not at all to do with anything like a zeitgeist. Is it the Beckett, Jim? Is that were you get it all from? Are you really here or just a visiting spirit from a time gone by?

5.Jim Murdoch, you must know by now, is a huge fan of Samuel Beckett. You can feel it in the novel too. I did at times wonder if Living with the Truth wasn't in fact a play (or indeed a TV play or film) masquerading as a novel. As I read I found myself wondering who would play Jonathan (Anthony Hopkins?) and who Truth (please, no, not Jude effing Law!). It would make a good TV drama I think – if TV companies made dramas about things like Truth. Although there was that thing about Christopher Eccleston being the Messiah... it wouldn't be a million miles away from that... in fact Eccleston would make a great Truth... don't you think Jim?

6.Jim Murdoch is not Samuel Beckett. In my eyes this is a good thing – I think he could reach more people or readers than Beckett probably. Personally I have tried to 'get' Beckett a couple of times but it's just so whingey and... overwrought. I find it really empty too. I think Jim has more humour, more of an interest in other people... and it comes out in the novel. There is the bleakness and sadness and alienation of Beckett & Co (but I'm no expert... feel free to defend SB if necessary) but the novel also has warmth and humanity and a touch of sweetness to it too. I think Jim (like another of his favourites and one we both like, the poet Philip Larkin) has it in him to move to a higher level of communication with the reading public than the likes of Beckett (the latter, in my experience, appeals largely to gloomy men who wear a lot of black and could get out more). I'm not sure Living with the Truth quite gets to that elusive higher level... but the signs are there that Jim could do it... I'm pretty sure about that.

7.Jim Murdoch thinks a lot about the man/woman question. This is good... and at least he thinks about it rather than thinking he knows it all already! There is a lot of honesty in this novel about men's views on women and honesty is always a good start. There are some areas that might cause confusion though... for example, I presume that Truth (and indeed 'God') are male in the novel because that is how they seem or appear to Jonathan, the character, but Jim never quite spells that out. It did bug me a little (everyone KNOWS truth is female... as is the future, if you recall) but I gave him the benefit of the doubt and kept on reading. If I hadn't known him via blogs I might not have done and overall I would be interested to know how other female readers react to the novel and some of the issues in it.

8.Jim Murdoch won't slot easily into a genre. This is a good thing of course but it doesn't necessarily help you sell a book in its early days. Maybe it's one reason we get on (a bit…) as I'm neither performance nor literary, neither light nor heavy-going, neither bright young thing nor washed-up old crone. In the same way Jim is not going to fit into young lad lit or posh London lit or academic-writes-a-book-so-all-colleagues-review-it lit or son-of-someone-famous lit... Also his subject is certainly not anything like fashionable... neither is the novel sci-fi or crime or set in any easily recognisable place that will guarantee it a readership of interested parties. I looked back at my list of novels that I have read in past few years (sorry, I do love lists...) and the only book I could possibly see it sitting next to in the non-genre was 'Fight Club' by Chuck Palahniuk and then I'm not even quite sure why. Living with the Truth isn't really much like 'Fight Club' at all (maybe 'Fight Club' crossed with an Alan Bennett play... would that be too weird?) but they are both unusual, both quite male (but not in a crap way), both about feelings and society and how men, in particular, struggle to cope with feelings and survive in our bizarre societies. And 'Fight Club' did pretty well, after all. A cult novel and then a Hollywood movie (and a very good one – I love that film!). In fact thinking about it Edward Norton could play Jonathan or Truth... not sure Brad Pitt's going to get a look in though. Sorry Brad.

And on that rather unusual note... I come to the end of this ramble. I had hoped to get to ten bullet points in a kind of Ten Commandments stylee... but it is not to be. So do I get marks for honesty?

You can buy Jim's very unusual and thought-provoking book here.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Forgotten things

Over at Confident Writing you can read a very friendly little piece about 'More about the song' by the site's author Joanna Young (just scroll down till you see my little green book). As writing about writing is her business she picked out a poem from the 'writing' section of my website called 'What is it all for?' It was a bit of a forgotten little poem up till now but today it is out and fighting!

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Leave me my name!

Some time back I said I would tell you why I use the name 'crowd-pleasers' (currently it's in my website URL, my blog URL and it's also now my 'publisher'...if blog URL is nonsense...sorry about that - Tech Support is at work...someone has to be...). So would you like to know why I use the name? Sit down comfortably and I'll begin...

In about 1992 I started DJing. It was a pretty bizarre series of wasn't something I had ever thought about doing but I was deeply involved in Raveworld and at times like that (and in worlds like that) the strangest things can seem 'like a good idea'. Just ask Amy least I never married a rubbish gangster. Anyway, a friend and I started DJing on the Leeds pirate radio station Dream FM - mainly because all the DJs were male and it was thought by someone (I can't quite remember who...might have been me!) that a few girls' voices would be a good idea too. We used the names Daisy & Havoc...guess which one I was...We had some records of our own, we borrowed some off my then boyfriend (hello Sean of Smith) and we spent a lot of time buying cheap records in charity shops and at car boot sales.

It was a lot of fun and we ended up getting quite a bit of paid work in nightclubs - particularly the quite trendy Leeds club - Vague. I've never been what you could ever call trendy so it was a new world...great...for a while. It was at Vague that I first came across the term 'crowd-pleaser' I suppose. To DJs it is just a big record, a safe bet, something you know will fill a can also be a 'floorfiller' (clever, eh... no-one ever said DJs had to be inventive linguistically..).If you're a DJ you might want to 'educate' the crowd with new music some of the time but your job is to make people dance pretty much. They have paid for a good time and they come to have to play some big tunes (sorry, that's what they were called!) or your night is pretty painful and so is everyone else's. We were not the most crowd-pleasing of the DJs at Vague (far from it) but we tried to play an interesting mix and we did OK. We worked there for quite a while - had a lot of adventures. It was what was then called a mixed/gay club. It was fairly lively.

Eventually the club lifestyle took its toll on... everything really and I had to retire at the grand age of about 30. I had one or two braincells left. I still have them. I hid in a cupboard (OK, a very small flat) for a few years and then I met the Beloved (not the band!), had Small Girl, generally returned to planet Earth. About that time I started writing more seriously (up till then I'd just written as a small-time journalist) and one of the things I wrote was a collection of stories - 8 in all, some long, some short. I'll post a link to them some time...not this week. They were all about people who work as modern-day crowd-pleasers in some way - one was a club DJ, one a tabloid journalist, one a model, one a film studies lecturer, one a poet (appearing at a reading), one a chick-lit-type novelist, one a conference organiser, one a small-time music journalist going to a dance music convention (yes, they do exist!). They weren't bad stories I don't think - maybe they'll come into their own sometime - but after I'd worked on them for a while I discovered I was happier writing poetry and that I seemed to be able to finish a poem whereas with prose I can sometimes just ramble on..and on...and on...

The stories were up on-line for a while and it was then that I starting using as my website. When I started putting poems on-line a few years ago I decided to stick with the same name. I know 'crowd-pleaser' does get used as an insult sometimes in Poetryworld but that doesn't bother me a whole lot - in fact it makes the awkward bugger in me laugh. Plus after some of the craziness in Raveworld Poetryworld bitching is really nothing to get one's knickers in a twist about. Personally I find it interesting to think about the audience, the reader, the rest of the world...what do they think when they read or hear our poems...what do they like, what do they feel? That's not to say I write to please...I absolutely do not...but I do think about crowd-pleasing as a subject, as a whole. I think about what pleases me when I'm part of the crowd and then I go off and think about it from the other side too. That's why I've kept the name.

So now you know...and you can go back to Jim's and read that lovely review again.

p.s. Anyone know where the title for this post came from? Come on quotation spotters...

Monday, 16 June 2008

All round to Jim's

Good Monday morning! Two weeks till the school holidays....well, in Scotland anyway...but that's not today's, no, no...

Please make your way in an orderly fashion to Mr Jim Murdoch's blog 'The Truth about Lies' (link in column to right...I haven't even fed Small Girl yet...links are beyond me). He has posted his review of 'More about the song' today. It is a lovely review and my favourite bit of all is the piss-take of my blog writing 'style' at the end. He's funny, that Jim!

Now I've got to get my act together and write something as well-structured and well thought-out about his book (though it may take me a little longer...). The pressure!

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Fluffiness required! I am lightening up a bit.

There's a sick bit of me that really loves proofreading errors. Alternative versions of my own book title are coming in thick and fast...I have typed 'More about the snog' a few times already and I love that - like a set of handy tongue tips from a 1980s 'My Guy' magazine! Also a printing firm sent me out a quote with the title 'More about the dog'. How surreal...except how real... now that I seem to live in that bloody magical kingdom of dogs after all...and boy, what a filthy kingdom it is!

Other suggestions welcome..

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

The Dead

People keep saying 'you must be excited about your book'...and I am...but of course there are lots of other feelings too! I won't share them all with you...we'd be here all week...but here is one of the recurring ones.


Awkward pause.

Why sad, little girl? PMT? Probably...but that on its own is not worth writing about is it? No. I think instead (or as well) it's the dead relative question that never really goes away round these parts. It doesn't help when other poets title their books-to-be things like 'Me and the Dead' (see Katy Evans-Bush and her blog Baroque in Hackney in column to the right). My dead are particularly active in my imagination just now for the pretty straightforward reason that my Dad (remember him...died by his own hand, 1973) always wanted a book of poetry published (so the family stories go) but never managed it. And now here I am with my own...some 35 years later. It feels a bit weird - a bit like a Danielle Steele novel or something. Will he come and talk to me in dreams and say 'well done' do you think? No! When I was 10 I was convinced he talked to me in code through the chimney...I realised some years later it was most likely just trapped birds. And you know how I feel about birds...(not mad keen...).

I'm not surprised he didn't live to see his own book in all honesty - he wrote poems mainly whilst very ill (in the head - of course) and I've seen them and they are (a) illegible (no computers!) and (b) pretty dire (from what I can make out....lots of horsemen in the rain...a bit Bonnie Tyler). Plus he had a good career...he was a popular GP, looked after a lot of people, loved by many, couldn't fit all the mourners in the church etc. Not that I went to the funeral but my brother did (and got told off for messing about).

It's still sad though...suicides can't help but paint everything sad (no matter how cheery I try and make it...ho ho ho). I have his rejection letters from Faber & Faber and they're pretty sad. I have my own too...if I was one of those young (ha!) Brit art types I would make them into a...what do you call them...ah yes, an installation...about success and failure and mental illness and society...blah, blah, blah...But thank heavens I'm not! No, sod it.I've just published my own book instead and used habits and ideas that will make Faber & Faber editors weep with embarrassment on my behalf (should they ever care to look)! We all try to make our books different in our own ways...I like something a bit rough and ready...take from that what you will...

But for now... sad it is (except when I get a 'someone just bought a book' email from Paypal...that's a great feeling!) but poets are sad a lot, I think. It goes with the territory. I'll feel happier next week.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

And another book

My books are here, all the pages are in the right order, cover looks great, website is updated...So if you want to purchase a copy please go to and head for the link cleverly marked 'book'.

Details are 'More about the song' - Poems by Rachel Fox (Crowd-pleasers Press). Prices, stockists etc. all on the website. I have had one order through MySpace already and I only put it up a couple of hours ago! See all that time online hasn't been wasted...

I am quite excited...and a bit freaked usual state really...

Anyone wanting to blag a free copy for any reason (reviewing purposes, swap me something, poverty...) feel free to contact me through here or my email - .

Thanks for reading this far...

Friday, 6 June 2008

Books, books, everywhere

It's all about the books just now. Mine are due to arrive from the printer today - much excitement...Plus also this week I received my copy of the new anthology from Aberdeen's Koo Press. It is called 'There's a Bairn in my Broth' and it is raising money for Children 1st (NSPCC). I have two poems in it and there is fine stuff from a whole range of poets (mainly local to this part of Scotland). On first read I particularly liked 'Generations' by Roger Barnett (that would be a great postcard, I think), 'Warning' by Judith Taylor and 'Ladder' by Catriona Yule but there are lots of other good ones too. The book also includes a range of soup recipes and the illustrations are drawings by children. It really is a lovely thing and you can buy it from the shop Books and Beans in Aberdeen (price £6.45 plus postage) by calling them on 01224 646438 or emailing to I'm going to buy a few to give as presents. Even if the recipient doesn't like any of the poems...they can always make the soup!

Also out this week is the new issue of The Ugly Tree (printed by Mucusart Publications ) which contains three of my poems (including 'History at 40' and 'Musical chores' - both on this blog in the last few months). I haven't seen my copy of this yet but it is a great open-minded publication that prints poems from right across the spectrum. I wish more poetry publications had that attitude. I hate to open a magazine and know just exactly what I'm going to find in it.

I have also read Jim Murdoch's book ('Living with the Truth') this week. I'll tell you this much I didn't have to force myself to read it like 'The Famished Road'! I will probably write a review-type-thing in a little while but for now...go and get your own copy here

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

End of the road...

I like to finish a story so I am pleased to be able to tell you that I did finally finish Ben Okri's 'The Famished Road' this Sunday morning past. It wasn't a book I found easy to get through...often I just didn't feel like reading it, often I couldn't see where it was going or why...but I really do hate not to finish a book (wouldn't you always be wondering what the rest was like?) so I kept going and I got there... in the end... to the end (page 500!).

It wasn't hard-going because I hated it or thought it wasn't any good. I suppose in some ways it just isn't 'my type of book'. All the crazy scenes full of half-man/half-animals, are-they-dead-or-alive spirits...all that kind of thing has never been 'my type of book' - not up to now anyway. All that stuff reminds me of is heavy metal album covers and T shirts (some Iron Maiden covers, once seen, never forgotten). And also I wasn't a child who liked fantasy fiction particularly - I've never read a word of Tolkien...can you believe that...not one word! Sometimes I do wonder how much of that 'me', that 'my type', is inherited from or influenced by my Mum (who doesn't like anything that could be called fantasy fiction with the exception of 'Peter Pan'). Might I have been more tolerant of the undead if I'd been raised on Tolkien, myths and fables (instead of Enid Blyton and Noel Streatfeild's 'Ballet Shoes')? But then, in all honesty, looking back I chose those books myself, to a point. I don't remember being guided to particular books at all and my Mum didn't read to me (that I can remember). I was very happy reading to myself. I was a strong-minded, ambitious, independent child who wanted to grow up...who wanted to be out in the modern world (and I very quickly discovered it wasn't much to do with Enid Blyton..more beer than ginger out there..). Then of course once I'd been out in the grown-up world for a bit I ended up weak-minded, terrified and useless...but that's another story...

All this makes me watch Small Girl very carefully. She is much less independent than I was but much more open-minded. She has a wild imagination and loves any story about any creature. I have read to her a lot and each day on the walk to school I make up a little story for her too. She loves it and it is good for me - makes me use my imagination more than I do when left to my own devices. Today's story, you might be interested to know, featured the Magical Kingdom of Dogs (copyright Small Girl from several posts ago).

There is a connection here. Last weekend I was still struggling to get through 'The Famished Road' and Small Girl wanted to read what I was reading. OK, why not, I thought, she's 8, after all. So she read out one chapter aloud. Apart from having to explain what a prostitute is (I did it as truthfully as I could without being too bitter or twisted about the difference between the sexes...) it went very well. In fact I got more out of that chapter than I had the rest of the book up to that point. Maybe listening to her and going slowly and looking at it carefully word by word made me concentrate better. Maybe just listening suits the story is the kind of thing you feel should be read aloud late at night...Whatever, I girded my loins and got on and finished the book on my own...and I'm glad.

I still can't say it's one of the best books I've ever read or anything. I've read much better on poverty, for example, and that is one of its main themes (some of the scenes showing desperate poverty from Garcia Marquez' 'No one writes to the Colonel' which I studied in Spanish, for A level, have never left me). I did wonder too if 'The Famished Road' might not have been a better collection of stories or long poems - the characters seemed quite vague, the setting was vague, the story meandered in a looking-for-an-editor fashion, it was quite repetitive, the poetic language was...a bit over the top for me at times...but did win the Booker Prize so someone rated it as a novel! And it wasn't all bad or hardgoing. The final chapter is marvellous (and how many novels end badly or limply or not at all?) and somewhere in the final third I learned a new word - 'threnody' - 'lamentation esp of person's death'. Now that is a good word!