Eight Poems…with Marianne MacRae

Eight Poems That, If You Had To Be Trapped In Some Way For a Prolonged Period of Time With Little Hope Of Rescue is a series that demands people imagine some place they could never escape from where they only have eight poems for comfort. We tend to find that each person’s poems bring out the isolation situation within themselves, but also it’s a good excuse to talk about poems we like. Where possible, I’ll link to a copy of the poem or a place where you can buy a hard copy within the UK. However, it’s always worth remembering that your nearest library might be able to get a copy for you.Eight Poems logo

‘A Quiet Poem’ by Frank O’Hara

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Frank O’Hara is a poet I never lose interest in. ‘A Quiet Poem’ (one of the first poems of his I read/fell in love with) is exactly that; a soft decrescendo to a final point of absolute stillness. It is a long, satisfying exhalation. I become the coin, floating to the bottom of the ocean and I don’t even like the sea, which should indicate how relaxed I feel when I read it.  I realise that sentiment sounds a little end-of-life-desire, but I mean it more in a mindful, taking-a-moment-to-be-alone-with-my-sense-of-self sort of way. I mean hey, maybe it is about dying? But I prefer to imagine it as going for a nap on a pleasantly warm beach. So, the perfect accompaniment to my exposed body baking on the sandy ground of this planet that it too close to the sun.

‘Melanchthon’ by Marianne Moore

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Send Ezra Pound to hell and push T.S. Eliot into a boiling sea, so that Marianne Moore can take up her crown as Modernism’s Absolute Hero. She’s dark, she’s funny, she’s inordinately intelligent; her images, her tone, her form are all complex to the point of vexation, which I love, because it means I can read and re-read her work for years and still not necessarily have any idea what she’s talking about.

‘Melanchthon’ is…kind of about an elephant, but maybe also about the poet disguising herself as an elephant so she can be more honest about life. It’s definitely about nature, with some strands of cultural appraisal thrown in for good measure. It’s about animal spirits and human souls, about religion and a questioning of religion (even though Moore was a devout Presbyterian, there’s strong evidence to suggest she supported the theory of evolution). It might also be one of her exacting appraisals of poetry and criticism. We’re invited to question the self in relation to others, to The Other, while at the same time trying to ascertain “what is a self?” …I think? In all honesty guys, the focus shifts on a line-to-line basis and it all gets a bit obscure just like the muddy skin of the elephant, whaaaaat?!

‘The Solex Brothers’ by Luke Kennard

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I’m not sure there’s another poet to have more influence over my work than Luke Kennard. I first read The Solex Brothers back in 2007, when I was but a tender undergraduate and was genuinely astounded that poems were allowed to be this way.

I chose ‘The Solex Brothers’ simply because it was the first poem of his that I read, which means, as well as being brilliant, it’s intrinsically nostalgic. “The Solex Brothers, twice the size of ordinary men” feel like old friends. Worryingly odd friends, yes, but friends that offer a route out of a humdrum life. The world they inhabit is strange, of course, and Kennard shifts between time and space with a vertiginous speed, but within a few stanzas, it feels completely natural to find oneself sitting in the back of a chauffeur-driven Mustang, singing songs about inedible vegetables while “[t]he roadside diners [glimmer] like bookshelves, little glowing bookshelves” (amongst my favourite similes of all time).

‘Morning Birds’ by Tomas Tranströmer

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Move over Ted Hughes’ ‘The Thought Fox’ (TTF), there’s a new (still pretty old) kid (poem about the process of writing poetry) in town (the collected works of Tomas Tranströmer). ‘Morning Birds’ is amongst my fave poems about process. However, like TTF, it goes beyond this more overt theme to suggest that an engagement with nature is vital to human enrichment. But Tranströmer wasn’t responsible for any of his wives’ deaths, so…

I’ve been obsessing lately over the idea of art as a means of immortality and I think this poem touches on that. In it, the magpie comes “[t]hrough a backdoor in the landscape”, sneakily foregrounding itself in the same way the initial impetus for a poem might do. By the end, the poem “throws [the speaker] out of the nest”, which I find endlessly interesting, because it implies that the poem itself is the creator, the mother bird, and the artist is the little naked fledgling who better find its wings quickly or it (they?) will die. There’s no poem without the poet and no poet without the poem. And I’m sure I’m not alone in wishing I could explore this idea ad infinitum in the lonely, burning hot heat of a distant desert planet. (See me after class for a more detailed exploration of this poem, because there’s so much more to say!)

‘Planet of the Apes’ by Hera Lindsay Bird

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In general, I love juicy imagery. Something that leaps off the page and makes me go “oooo yeah!”. ‘Planet of the Apes’ is overflowing with the stuff. In fact, everything I’ve read by Hera Lindsay Bird so far sings with luscious metaphors and fresh descriptions that wish they were citrus fruits, so everyone would immediately be like “ahhh yes, juicy”. There are lines in this poem that makes me really jealous I didn’t write it myself. For example, I would love for my face to be described as a nineteenth century cornfield. So pure, so pure.

‘A Part Song’ by Denise Riley

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Denise Riley’s Say Something Back is an important collection, not only for people who have been bereaved, but for everyone. ‘A Part Song’ is sort of a compact version of the collection as a whole, and the motions of grieving that Riley goes through are startingly raw; there are no hidden messages, this is a very genuine pain, felt deeply by the writer and distilled into the twenty short sections that make up the poem. But as the title suggests, getting to the end of the poem doesn’t mean the grief is over. This is only a brief exposé of a loss that, for the speaker at least, cannot be neatly resolved to a final coda. Whenever I come back to it I find this poem just as exhilarating as the first time I read it. There is a multiplicity of voice, tone and form that do different things for me on different days.

In basic terms, it makes me weep, and if poetry’s job is anything, it’s to move us deeply, as someone or other has said a million times over the years. And yes, when I’m lonely and dying on a desert planet, I do want to read about the fact that we’re all lonely and dying, thankyouverymuch.

‘At the Fishhouses’ by Elizabeth Bishop

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 I’m sure we can all agree Elizabeth Bishop is simply excellent. And just in case I happen to survive on the planet, and find some local, humanoid creatures to mate with (oo-er!) her work would be a vital part of the canon that I would want to pass on to whatever hybrid offspring we might produce.

There were tons of poems I thought about choosing. ‘The Map’ or ‘Crusoe in England’ might be good for someone stranded in unknown terrain. And ‘The Man-Moth’ is one of the cutest, most tragic poems about loneliness which might serve a lonely spacewoman well, particularly if I end up spawning some part-human/part-sand insect babies. But I went with ‘At the Fishhouses’ because it has a little bit of everything I love about poetry. There’s an evocative description of place, (so transformative I feel like I’m having a flashback to this place that I’ve never visited); there’s an almost cartoonish interaction with a seal who seems to know more than he’s letting on, and there’s a subtle suggestion of death throughout that culminates in a transcendental reach towards a deeper understanding of what life is…you know, all the best things.

‘On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous’ by Ocean Vuong

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 So, this is another choice where, really, I would want to bring the entire collection. I think Ocean Vuong is pretty much incomparable to any other poet of the moment. In fact, it’s almost basic that I’ve chosen a poem by him, because of course I would have to bring something by one of the hottest tickets in Poetry Town.

‘On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous’ is by turns shocking, desolate, beautiful, though in the end the residing feeling is one of hope. The language is so precise, so sensitively utilised that the poems drips with implications and unsaid things. It’s a long poem that doesn’t feel long because it morphs from section to section, changing pace to maintain absolute immersion in the poem (yes, I admit it, sometimes I find long poems really boring). Also: “Dusk: a blade of honey between our shadows, draining” – yes! This. Is. A. Juicy. Image. Lads! Take a moment to yourself and unpack it (I’m running out of words so can’t do it here). The poem is full of descriptions like this; the whole collection is, so don’t waste anymore time not reading it.

Marianne MacRae is a poet and academic based in Edinburgh. Her work has been widely published in journals including Magma, Ambit and Acumen. In 2017/18, she was the inaugural poet-in-residence at the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow. She holds a PhD in Creative Writing from The University of Edinburgh. You can find her on Twitter @MarianneMacRae

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Headset #9- Rachel Plummer

We’re delighted to introduce our ninth Headset, nineteen minutes of spoken word from Rachel Plummer. You can buy it from our Bandcamp page, or get it by subscribing to our podcast via the links on the right.

 

 

Lies, Dreaming #18 – The Night Shift at McDonalds

We are delighted to announce the contributors for our eighteenth podcast, which has as its theme “The Night Shift at McDonalds”.

You can subscribe to the podcast using the links on the right.

Here is a rundown of our contributors:

Jenny Lester is an Edinburgh based writer and a frequent performer on the city’s scene. As an ex waitress, frozen yoghurt sculptor, and Christmas elf she has vast customer service enduring experience. She is currently organising Any Woman, Anywhere, an open mic for International Women’s Day at Summerhall on Thursday 7 March.

Tom Fergus Arnott works primarily with lo-fi and analogue productions methods, embracing comedy and a DIY sensibility. His main current interest is urban loneliness and alienation in the age of information technology. He works with spoken-word, sound art, print media and film. Here’s a link to his most recent video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?

Jess Williams used to hide under the duvet when her Mum read her poetry. Now she is a writer and theatre director from Northumberland, inspired by the coastal countryside. Her love for storytelling has taken her through many genres, but poetry started her love for creative writing.

Rebecca Green is a performer and visual artist who lives in Edinburgh.  She writes, performs, paints, makes objects, and messes about with forms in between, showing work in galleries, theatres, comedy clubs and everyday spaces. https://www.instagram.com/rebeccathecrocus/

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Our next theme will be ‘A Falling Piano’. Check out this blogpost for further details.

Call for Submissions #19 – A Piano, Falling

We want your words. Your words inspired by the theme ‘A Piano, Falling’.

When we say ‘we want your words’ we want anything that involves you making noises; it’s only limited by what your mind can come up with and a time constraint: a maximum of five minutes in length (a limit, rather than a target). We’re interested in any style of writing, we want to show off the range of spoken word. We are happy to broadcast previously published works.

Whatever you send, the podcast will be set to an ambient soundtrack, so we ask that the recordings are vocals only. Preferred audio formats are mp3 and wav files. Please save your file with your name and poem title.

Recordings can be sent to lies.dreamingpodcast at gmail dot com by the 30th of April 2019 for a podcast at the end of May.

The theme for the podcast is A Piano, Falling.

We’re looking forward to your responses!

All submissions will receive a response within 10 days of the deadline passing.

Contributors to the podcast will receive a payment of £5.

Lies, Dreaming #17 – Tell me something I don’t know

We are delighted to announce the contributors for our seventeenth podcast, which has as its theme “Tell me something I don’t know”.

You can subscribe to the podcast using the links on the right.

Here is a rundown of our contributors:

Becky Downing is a Liverpool-based, Actor, Poet & Playwright. She began writing for Theatre in the Rough in 2012 and has since created work for various festivals & projects with the Company including ‘A Concept of Beauty’ for the Liverpool and the Titanic Fest (2012), ‘The Jewellery box’ for the Lusitania Exhibition (2015) and a short audio play, ‘Haunted Sefton’ in 2016. Since then, Becky has been writing Poetry for her website, toured with Want The Moon Theatre Company this year playing ‘Joss’ in ‘Other People’s Teeth’,  and has just written & Performed her one woman show ‘We’ve Been Bette’ at theatre 503, London.

Kathryn Thomson is a Scottish poet currently living in Glasgow. After a degree in Scottish Literature and Language, she now works part-time as a freelance poet and has worked closely and written for a number of third-sector organisations. She also produces monthly email newsletters that you can sign up to here. Find her on Instagram and her Website.

Ellen Storey is a writer and editor living in Aberdeenshire.  She has been writing since childhood and edited her mother’s memoirs of post-war Germany which were published in 2009. She enjoys taking part in workshops/projects, and wrote for the EU-funded Dovetail partnership in Nottingham which published an anthology in 2014. She also contributed a biographical chapter to Women’s Voices, Women’s Words published by Global Press in 2016.

Michael McGill is an Edinburgh poet who has recently had work published in Far Off Places, Picaroon Poetry, The Haiku Quarterly, Likely Red Press and Eye Flash Poetry Journal.

Twitter: @MMcGill09

Our next theme will be ‘The Nightshift at McDonalds’. Check out this blogpost for further details.

Call for Submissions #18 – The Nightshift at McDonalds

We want your words. Your words inspired by the theme ‘The Nightshift at McDonalds’.

When we say ‘we want your words’ we want anything that involves you making noises; it’s only limited by what your mind can come up with and a time constraint: a maximum of five minutes in length (a limit, rather than a target). We’re interested in any style of writing, we want to show off the range of spoken word. We are happy to broadcast previously published works.

Whatever you send, the podcast will be set to an ambient soundtrack, so we ask that the recordings are vocals only. Preferred audio formats are mp3 and wav files. Please save your file with your name and poem title.

Recordings can be sent to lies.dreamingpodcast at gmail dot com by the 31st of January 2019 for a podcast at the end of February.

The theme for the podcast is The Nightshift at McDonalds.

We’re looking forward to your responses!

All submissions will receive a response within 10 days of the deadline passing.

Contributors to the podcast will receive a payment of £5.

Lies, Dreaming #16 – Supermarket Sweep

We are delighted to announce the contributors for our sixteenth podcast, which has as its theme “Supermarket Sweep”.

You can subscribe to the podcast using the links on the right.

Here is a rundown of our contributors:

David Ralph Lewis is a Bristol based poet and writer. He is currently working on a book of sci-fi shorts and a blackout poetry collection. He has just released ‘Spare Parts’, a collaborative blackout poetry chapbook which is available through his website: www.davidralphlewis.co.uk

Nalini Paul is a widely-published poet based in Glasgow. She graduated with a PhD on Jean Rhys and postcolonial subjectivity in 2008 and has since developed her collaborative practice (with actors, musicians, visual artists, archaeologists in Orkney and the RSPB). In 2017 she was a Robert Louis Stevenson Fellow in France. Soon after, she was commissioned by the Edinburgh International Book Festival and An Lanntair Arts to travel to Lewis and Kolkata as part of the ‘New Passages’ project. www.nalinipaul.com

Becky Downing is a Liverpool-based, Actor, Poet & Playwright. She began writing for Theatre in the Rough in 2012 and has since created work for various festivals & projects with the Company including ‘A Concept of Beauty’ for the Liverpool and the Titanic Fest (2012), ‘The Jewellery box’ for the Lusitania Exhibition (2015) and a short audio play, ‘Haunted Sefton’ in 2016. Since then, Becky has been writing Poetry for her website, toured with Want The Moon Theatre Company this year playing ‘Joss’ in ‘Other People’s Teeth’,  and has just written & Performed her one woman show ‘We’ve Been Bette’ at theatre 503, London.

Sean Wai Keung’s debut poetry pamphlet you are mistaken won the inaugural Rialto Open Pamphlet Competition 2016 and was named a Poetry School ‘book of the year’. In 2018 he released how to cook, a food-poem pamphlet, with Speculative Books. Find him on twitter @SeanWaiKeung or at www.seanwaikeung.com

Our next theme will be ‘Tell me something I don’t know’. Check out this blogpost for further details.

Call for Submissions #17 – Tell me something I don’t know

 

We want your words. Your words inspired by the theme ‘Tell me something I don’t know’.

When we say ‘we want your words’ we want anything that involves you making noises; it’s only limited by what your mind can come up with and a time constraint: a maximum of five minutes in length (a limit, rather than a target). We’re interested in any style of writing, we want to show off the range of spoken word. We are happy to broadcast previously published works.

Whatever you send, the podcast will be set to an ambient soundtrack, so we ask that the recordings are vocals only. Preferred audio formats are mp3 and wav files.

Recordings can be sent to lies.dreamingpodcast at gmail dot com by the 15th of November 2018 for a podcast at the end of November.

The theme for the podcast is Tell me something I don’t know.

We’re looking forward to your responses!

All submissions will receive a response within 10 days of the deadline passing.

Contributors to the podcast will receive a payment of £5.

Lies, Dreaming #15 – Neighbours

We are delighted to announce the contributors for our fifteenth podcast, which has as its theme “Neighbours”.

You can subscribe to the podcast using the links on the right.

Here is a rundown of our contributors:

Colin McGuire is a poet and performer from Glasgow based in Edinburgh, who recently  won both the Out:Spoken Award for Poetry-in-Film, with his animation collaboration ‘The Glasgae Boys’, and the Out:Spoken overall Prize for Poetry. He is the author of three collections. His first self-published collection, ‘Riddled with errors’ (Clydesidepress, 2003), and his first chapbook, ‘Everybody lie down and no one gets hurt,’ (Red Squirrel Press, 2013), and his first full collection, ‘As I sit quietly, I begin to smell burning,’ (Red Squirrel Press, 2014). He has just released ‘enhanced doom disclosure’ with Speculative Books. www.colinmcguirepoet.co.uk

Edinburgh-based Jay Whittaker’s debut poetry collection, Wristwatch, was published by Cinnamon Press in October 2017.  She writes about transition, resilience, grief, breast cancer, and LGBT+ lives (including her own). Her poems have been widely published and she has performed feature sets at StAnza, Interrobang, Platform Poetry, and Shore Poets. www.jaywhittaker.uk

Catherine Wilson is a poet, writer and performer currently living in Edinburgh. Her work has been commissioned by the National Gallery, TEDx, BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio Scotland. She is one of the main organisers of “Loud Poets”: a collective committed to making poetry accessible to everyone.

Michael McGill is an Edinburgh-based poet who has recently had work published in Rock & Sling, Funhouse Magazine, New Walk, Northwords Now, Obsessed with Pipework, The Haiku Quarterly and Ink, Sweat and Tears.

Twitter: @MMcGill09

Our next theme will be ‘Supermarket Sweep’. Check out this blogpost for further details.