Tag Archives: Hogmanay

The last day of the old year

2015 has been long and full and amazing and difficult in all sorts of measures.

 

I went to American twice, after not having been in four years. Once for a wedding, the second time for a Kickstarted Book Tour – which you can read of here, if you haven’t already.

My first book came out in August – On the Edges of Vision. It was put out in the world by the small and lovely Queen’s Ferry Press. I’ms so very glad of everyone who has supported the book and me. If you read it, blurbed it, reviewed it, talked about it with friends (or enjoyed it silently), if you’ve been meaning to read it but haven’t yet (I understand completely!),  if you donated to the Kickstarter, or encouraged me to do it (thanks Toby and Maris!) came out to see me read in New York or Philadelphia or Athens or Atlanta or DC. If you hosted me – thank you. Thanks to Georgia and Elizabeth and Dan and Tess. Thanks Erin. Thanks to family and friends.

 

There’s a saying that publishing a book of poetry is like dropping a rose petal down the Grand Canyon, and waiting for the echo – and I think it’s sort of true for a collection of experimental or unusual forms like flash fiction (and prose poems). But beyond the petal-drift, the quiet of the world, there has been more of a response than I could have hoped for. In November, On the Edges of Vision won the prestigious Saltire First Book of the Year. I was completely blown away. A book barely available at the time in Scottish bookshops, winning this. I feel optimistic about where things might go from here. Hopes that the book will pick up steam and be wider read and reviewed. A new edition, perhaps. Against the odds, it’s a small echo coming back up the slopes.

 

It’s been a disrupted and disrupting year, in terms of health and career. I am unsure what 2016 will bring on both counts. Amongst that, I found time to read quite a few books. Some dazzling, moving, clever, poetic. Some, less so. But a good year for reading, for me. And writing too – I’ve almost finished a draft of my novel-in-progress, which I started as a witchy novella in September 2014, and decided to expand, after it was a runner up in two competitions. Close to 70,000 words are down, but I’m thinking it will be much shorter, pared to the bone. I hope to finish by October 2016. That’s the goal, anyway. Between writing and edits, it was a production year rather than a publishing one (aside from the big one!) but there were still three pieces published –

 

The Bohemyth – ‘What Can Be Endured May Yet Be Unbearable’

Barrelhouse – ‘Overwinternight’

 

and from the novel – on  3:AM Magazine – ‘A Formidable Etiquette’

 

What will 2016 bring?

No one can know, of course. But there are some things budding – my first novel is due out from CCM Press at the end of October. There’s the witchy novel to finish, and a new collection of flash fiction which is well under way. I hope for new work, new challenges, good health to those I love. I wish for a less violent world – a welcome for refugees, fewer people harmed. Justice and mercy and enough food and shelter and warmth with it, of both sorts. Is that too easy for me to write? Too trite? Possibly. What can any of us do, except try to keep the windows open and the politicians aware of our anger, our hunger for a kinder world.

 

Tonight, on Hogmanay, I hope to spend some time with friends. I hope for fireworks, but I’m still very snuffly. I hope whatever you’re doing the new year finds you well (it may have found you already, depending where you are).

 

Thank you for reading.

Here’s to everything we have ahead of us. The joys and pains and dull parts. The books, the sunlit spots, the snowstorms, rain, arguments, poetry, the music drifting in the window from some place across the way.

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Happy January, Live The Dream

fireworks

 

Happy 2013 everyone! This picture was taken at the Edinburgh Hogmanay celebrations last night. Not visible past the fireworks is the castle up on the hill. There were about 80,000 people in the city centre, according to the BBC, but I think that was on Princes Street alone.

 

The title of this post comes from something an enthusiastic drunk English man said to my friends and I as we were walking home – he informed us that January is the best month of the year, his favourite month, anyway. Happy January, he said, and he seemed convinced.

 

In the spirit of celebrating the new month, I’m going to be announcing the winner of the ‘place’ photo competition later today – I had so many good entries that I’m going to have to defer to my family as judges. They’re coming over for the traditional Scottish New Year’s Day meal of steak pie and clootie dumpling (one of these I’ve made gluten free for me – I get salmon for a main course). After the meal, I’ll show them your pictures and we’ll take a vote. So come back later on to admire/be jealous of the winning entry.

 

 

 

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First Foot/First Book

D and I were cold-stricken, and for our health were going to stay in quietly for Hogmanay. That is, until five minutes before the bells – D urged us outside, and up the short walk to the Royal Mile, to be with the crowd, to see the fireworks.

Two minutes or so to midnight, we join the north bridge contingent

There is a sense of anticipation, amiable, drunken. There are premature shouts of ‘happy new year’. We can’t see the castle from here, but the bridge overlooks the gardens and Princes St, where some band are playing, lights flashing on the wall of the museum on the mound.  Beside us, a group of men dressed as Edwardians (complete with genuine waxed moustaches) light up their pipes. There is a clock on the far side of the bridge, on clock tower of The Balmoral Hotel, but no one seems sure whether to trust it. It is the fireworks that will tell us –

The golden halo behind The Scotsman building

On the other side, facing the invisible sea - a traffic cone is carried in jubilant procession

Part of the final bloom of light - and following it, the crowd spontaneously bursts into applause and staggering cheers

And then, as if at a signal, the crowd moves back up the bridge, dispersing. The New Year seen in, time to go back to the pub (or the flat, in our case)

And, as part of my wish for the moment of the year change, I read a little of my first book of the year, Bhanu Kapil’s Humanimal: A Project for Future Children.

Endless Reads 2012 off with a bang

A confession: I couldn’t resist starting it an hour before the bells. I’ve now finished it, 36 minutes into the new year.

So this is my review, which will probably be typical. Impressionistic and lacking in any great insights:

This is a prose-poem hybrid of a novel describing the writer’s journey to India as part of a film crew making a documentary on the true tale of two girls raised by wolves from infancy and recovered, somewhat, into the human fold by a minister who kept them in an orphanage until they died. It is a haunted text, haunted by the lost faces of the girls (apparently never successfully captured in a photograph together, except once, in sleep, entwined in a kind of nest comprised of themselves), the writer haunted by their fleetingness, their unreal realness. The texture of the landscape of India adds a weight that the absence of the girls, the unreliability of memory and record lack.

21. Slow, wet orange sun and such a bright full moon over the jungle’s horizon Looking down from the lodge, there are long saffron scratches where the sun has caught a mineral vein. Notes for film: “A girl emerges from a darker space into the upper rooms of the jungle. Blurry photographs/transitions of light.” How does this sentence go into animals? Notes for an animal-human mix: “reaching and touching were the beginning actions.”” Humanimal, Bhanu Kapil.

In repetition of colours, yellows, pinks, reds, browns, blues, whites,  we have echoes of the bodies of the girls. We have touchstones of familiarity. The attempt is to find out something, not to crudely expose in the manner of a carnival. To probe the experience of being so ‘other’ but human at the same time. Overlap, blurring, membranes. If it sounds unclear, then it is – until the text is read. There is a lot going on, but the words on the page are not deliberately obscure. They are reaching to unite observation, difficult concepts, into art.  Details of malnutrition and tangled hair and troubled feeding are not concealed, smoothed away in language, but held up for examination, turned in various directions. In other places, Kapil talks about her childhood, growing up in Britain as an outsider, demarcated by her skin colour, her father’s terrible scars.  Humanimal is a short, rich book – one I hope to return to at a later time to re-visit its vivid, yearning nature.

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Listing

Books in golden light, unread

1. It’s Hogmanay at last and time for many traditional things – fireballs, fireworks, Auld Lang Syne, First Footing tall dark men (never blonde men, who may be Vikings coming to ruin the party), Black bun and Whisky. If you are not Scottish, you may be a little confused, but Wiki will come to your aid in that link. Here in Edinburgh, we have the fireworks all around the castle, and the sound can be heard from one end of the city to the other.

 

2. It’s also the time of list making, looking forward with one eye and back with the other, and trying to mesh them into a perfect unity using paper and the tip of a pen, or a screen and the tips of your fingers.

 

3. I have come to realise that I’m not terribly proficient at lists. I like the idea of them, the cleanliness and order, but in practice, my mind just doesn’t enjoy working from point to point, outlying intentions so they can be carefully picked out later and put into effect.

 

4. Things inevitably get forgotten.

 

5. Or the lists themselves seem lopsided, and when I go back to make them shorter and clearer I don’t really know what to do. Shopping lists are the exception, but it’s hard to motivate yourself with a shopping list. Perhaps it’s also that I am not wedded to the idea of units of progression through life? Memory intruding and mucking things up, and the tangling of tangential threads, and periods of intense work, and periods of distraction.

 

6. The language of lists is too simple, but conversely, too precise.  Or perhaps I need to start writing and reading more poetry, which can be a clever form of list.

 

7.  Despite this, I do have my list, all book related. The picture at the top was taken a few days ago. I am struggling not to try and break open the new year early and open one. In fact, I think I will try to do that at the stroke of midnight, in between toasts and hugs and singing. I have a mild superstition that what you are doing at midnight on the 1st day will somewhat dictate the flavour of the rest of the year. So in 2010, it was a challenge of a year, because I was out in the cold to watch the show in Princes St Gardens, put out by the lack of tread on my boots, and nervous about slipping over on the frosted hill I was standing on. 2011 saw D and I quietly watching the fireworks over the East River in New York City from the roof of our apartment building in Queens – a sense of awe, and careful footing over the tar above our neighbours houses, so they wouldn’t be too disturbed by our movements, and happiness – and so it turned out to be, perhaps –

 

8. As it’s all in the interpretation, of course.

 

9.What ever 2012 brings to you, I hope the balance falls in the favour of goodness, whether orderly or mildly chaotic.  And so I wish you all a Happy Hogmanay in what ever way it is your custom to celebrate.

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