Sunday, 25 August 2019


Sorry for silence, I took a quick weekend away. It was so needed, time with friends, beautiful scenery, food and fun to recharge the batteries after the bumpy school start. But I'm back to reality, applying for jobs amidst submitting and writing poems. I forgot what a soul-destroying activity looking for work is, the silence after you apply, never quite knowing why you aren't contacted.

And there's the question of which way to jump. Because I'm limited with what kinds of jobs I can apply for due to my experience and my language skills, I'm trying to give myself as many opportunities as possible to find work, so I'm applying for a variety of editing, writing, teaching jobs in the hope that something will happen. Looking at my work experience from new angles, refresh my CV to highlight different abilities and core skills. 

In poetry news: The Poetry Village has featured my poem 'Unarmoured' on their website this week. Always nice to see my name among other poets whose work I enjoy and respect. 

Some interesting opportunities to look out for: the anthology Poetry on Planes is still open to submissions until September 1, looking for 99 poems on planes. I've been really impressed with the Editors response method: a personalised response upon receipt of your poem, but also a recent status report on their website giving information about the types of poems, the writers (established or emerging, location, job, age) and other titbits. You still have time to join the flight, but please, don't take my seat

Another call that's caught my eye is the Caithness Broch Project. They have a call out for art of any media on the subject of brochs. I was quite chuffed to find this as I had just written a poem using the structure of a broch as the foundation and it saves me having to put a footnote explaining. If you don't know what a broch is check out their website, but if you're on Twitter follow them, the person who tweets for them is quite funny and you might learn something about archaeology, history and well, brochs. Their deadline is 14 Sept, so get researching and creating.

Not much else to say, I'm plodding on. I know I'll get there. I've been here before from reading old journal entries lately has proven. This jobless, not sure what the hell my next step is, phase feels eternal, but it comes together, eventually, usually in some way I didn't expect. So keep your fingers crossed for me. 

Sunday, 11 August 2019

Taking Yourself Out of the Box

A recent essay by poet Bob Hicok in the Utne Reader has caused a minor furore in the poetry world because though he celebrates the fact that more and more poetry is being published, more jobs and awards are being won by minority writers, he feels that he, as a white, male poet, is dying, losing out on recognition and opportunities. I'm not going to pick apart his essay as there are far better writers out there doing so.

I do, however, want to examine more an idea that fellow Poetry Blogging Network writers Kelli Russell Agodon and Jeannine Hall Gailey have brought up - scarcity mentality - which hit home with me. Scarcity mentality is the idea that there is a limited supply of opportunities and if one individual or group get more that leaves less for the rest.

I know I've been worrying on here about where I'm going to find opportunities for my writing as I don't fit in a neat box, living in a country where I don't write in the language. I'm also not getting any younger and miss out on a lot of competitions and calls for younger writers such as those collected by @noentry on Twitter.

I hate to be seen as self-pitying and whining because I'm not really. I learned in publishing that there are always other chances after rejection, but you have to be resilient and stubborn to find them, to keep taking the knock-backs until you find your place. I thought I had found it, then I gave up the country I called home, a developing career to move to Finland and take care of my kids. It was my choice, but now I'm kind of stuck here and trying to get my writing/ publishing feet under me again, starting from scratch and it's scary. I sometimes use this blog as an outlet for that fear and worry.

But the truth, as I'm slowly discovering, is not being tied to one country does open some avenues I may have not considered if I was still in Scotland. Starting over with the wider scope of social media, looking beyond my local network is a benefit I didn't have before. Even though so many jobs and awards specify age, colour, gender, location, I am trying to stop thinking of myself in those terms. I know my writing is good, if I don't fit a certain grant's guidelines, I will look for ones that I do. 

I have tried to push myself forward for things that I don't exactly fit the remit for and sometimes I get accepted. I've recently had some poems accepted for a journal that was looking for essays and non-fiction writing on migration, language and identity. I usually don't get work accepted for immigration-themed issues because I am an immigrant by choice rather than through need or a refugee. As the scope of this issue was looking more at language and identity which my poems often examine, I took the risk. The staff even sent me an email saying this wasn't really what they were looking for, but would give it to their readers anyway. All six poems were accepted. I'm very excited to see the end result, not only because I had my poems translated for the issue as well. 

As writers, we are not limited by the boxes we fit into or those we don't. The pot of opportunities does not have to be finite if we're willing to push ourselves and try new things. More jobs can be created, more books published, more awards, grants and residencies offered if a greater interest is shown by poets, poetry readers and book buyers. If you don't exactly fit the brief, be brave and try anyway. Always follow the guidelines and ask if you have any uncertainties, of course, but sometimes you might be the unexpected that gets noticed because you've approached things a little differently. 

Good luck. 

Saturday, 3 August 2019


I've been lucky enough to be asked by poet Paul Brooks to take part in his poet interview series on his blog site, Wombwell Rainbow. Check it out, he's putting up new interviews every day. He's also looking for poets to interview in the future, so contact him via the website if you're interested.

His questions about the inspiration and motivation behind my reading and writing really got me thinking and were strangely echoed in my Finnish language tutorial this week where I had to discuss why reading is important and how it inspires us. Trying to verbalise this in a second language was just marginally harder than for the interview. That's when you learn you don't know the Finnish for inspire, explore and adventure (inspiroi, tutkea ja mielikuvitus). But I didn't even know the Finnish for vocabulary - sanavarasto, a stock or warehouse of words, so I still have a long way to go.

I love breaking words apart, especially words in foreign languages, and learning their etymology and usage. The idea of having a word warehouse in my head feels like the perfect analogy, the words all stored in various boxes and filing cabinents. I'm sure the organisation is an absolute mess, like most of my real-life storage, items organised by need, use and more random connections rather than some systematic method. When I lived with my parents I kept my library card in a laundry basket in the basement. If someone moved it, I could never think where it should sensibly be, but I could always find it with my way. Our own systems work.

So when I look for the word 'door' in Finnish, I know I'd be shuffling through files of Scottish Gaelic to find it. I was just watching a video of the Scottish Poet Laureate/ Makar Jackie Kay reciting her poem 'Threshold' to the opening of the Scottish Parliament in 2016. She mentioned that in Gaelic they say 'dùin an doras' for 'shut the door' and that took me back to learning Gaelic in Glasgow, so many years ago. 'Open the door' was also one of the first phrases I learned in Finnish when my son shouted it over and over at nursery when it was time for me leave. These memories pile up on top of the word 'door' in a wonderful scrapbook.

It's also how my writing works, I start with a prompt, specific or more general and I just follow it where it leads me, jumping from one image or connection to the next. I might look at crafting a poem from the idea of shutting the door in several languages just from writing that paragraph. My poems have begun to cross over into Finnish and other languages more and more as I shuffle through the collected images and memories in my brain while I write. 

My brain is a bit scattershot today. It doesn't help that we're on the last week of our ten-week summer holidays and I'm tired of having the kids home, of having to organise things for them, they're tired of all their friends being away, of having so much unstructured free time. We're sick of each other's faces, but they also want me to be involved in everything. I can't sit and write for longer than 2 minutes without someone asking me how to pour melted white chocolate into a straw to make a fake pen or for money to buy a can of spray whipped cream for the waffles they must have for dinner even though it's lunch-time.

I know I'll regret losing this time when they go back to school and we have to wake up and go to sleep and do everything to a schedule. When I have to pull out my calendar to slot everything in, even time to write. So I'm trying to enjoy these last unstructured days with them and with my writing by starting another poem-a-day course for August on the theme of summer. 

Best wishes for your summer.