Currently Reading: ’20 love poems and a song of despair’ by Pablo Neruda. I am getting through this very slowly, as I am reading them in Spanish first. It’s my first experience of reading non-English poems in their native language, and it is bringing a strange new dimension to a poet I have always loved.
Recently blown away by: Bernadine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other. Look, I knew this book would be good. It won the Booker prize. But OH MY GOD IT IS SO GOOD. I loved and hated every character, lost myself in each setting, and thought about it for days. The way the characters intertwined but were each so unique and flawed blew me away, and it’s the first book I’ve read in quite some time that made me desperately want to write a novel.
A Burns Night Book: The Ninth Child by Sally Magnusson. This is for Burns night only in the sense that it is set in 18th century Scotland. I have a soft spot for books that combine historical accuracy with something like fairies, so this novel was perfect. I gasped so much reading this that it felt like there was no air left in the room, and never thought I would care so much about civil engineering.
Poem of the month: Address to a Haggis. I forced my lovely poetry friends to read this, and we discussed its elements of class and nationality, as well as parallels in different stanzas, and the seemingly varied speakers. Suffice it to say, I will be UNBEARABLE at my next Burns night.
My stuff: Aloe published a silly little list poem of mine, among many wonderful poems and short stories, in a beautiful little book to raise money for UK and Ireland health services.
Currently Reading: Leonard Cohen’s ‘Book of Longing‘. Cohen’s sketches add extra spark to this already original collection, filled with sex, music and politics. I’m shocked how few of these poems I’ve read! My highlight so far: The Collapse of Zen.
Recently blown away by: ‘Hollow Kingdom‘ by Kira Jane Buxton. This is the most original book I’ve read in SO long; I absolutely couldn’t put it down. If you’d asked me a week ago I would’ve told you I was sick of apocalypse fiction, but a foul-mouthed crow was the narrator to change my mind on this.
Poem of the month: C. M. Taylor’s Bird Bodies. This delicate, snowsoaked poem has many standout lines (hello, ‘my kindness / is wounded again’!), but the one that really ached my heart was “that absent snow is a metaphor for all the ways / he & I invented to be wrong for each other.”
Lit mag of the month: Selkie Magazine. The Selkie is the only lit mag I’ve seen that has a New Voices Workshop, to assist emerging writers. Alongside this, there are excellent poems by underrepresented writers. Tess and Friends Try on Selves Like Swimsuits by Dia Roth is a perfect example of the amazing queer poem made so welcome by the Selkie.
My stuff: ‘A poem about going climbing (and falling in love with you)‘ in Royal Rose: The Castle. Being in love has made me disgusting and sappy, but I’m proud of this poem.
An update on me: I am now Skye Wilson, MSc! I received my dissertation grades this week, and have passed my Masters with merit. Despite graduation being cancelled, it’s an exciting time and I’m very proud of myself and my classmates.
National Book Week is approaching here in Scotland, and the Scottish Book Trust has chosen my poem ‘Hopes for a New Decade’ to close out this year’s book, “Future.” This means not only will my writing be sent to people all over the country, but my work is also sharing a home with Val McDermid! If you’d like a free physical copy, let me know and I can organise one for you.
Currently Reading: This is usually a book of poetry, but in my effort to avoid thinking about my dissertation results I’ve been reading more novels than usual. My current read is Abi Daré’s debut “The Girl With the Louding Voice“, a book that makes my chest hurt. Written from the perspective of a 14-year-old third wife, it is achingly sad, with moments of hope and joy making the darkness even more potent. A brilliant read, but not a lighthearted one.
Recently blown away by: I adored Oyinkan Braithwaite‘s “My Sister the Serial Killer”. Touching and surprising in equal measure, but most of all funny, this is a book I’d recommend whether you’re an avid reader or not.
Poem of the month: Maggie Smith’s Good Bones. I’m trying to avoid mentioning any upcoming elections, but this poem, like much of Maggie Smith’s work, is infused with hope – something we could all do with at this time.
Lit mag of the month: The Chestnut Review. They advertise themselves as being “for stubborn artists” and as a tenacious little poet this appeals to me. Check out their beautiful issues, and particularly the poem ‘Fathers’ by Rick Rohdenburg.
My stuff: ‘Cooking‘ and ‘Demolishing a Kitchen Wall with My Dad and His New Girlfriend’ in Another New Calligraphy. I’d like to clarify that these are both fictional poems, as my mum’s friend very gently pulled her aside to ask if things are okay between her and my dad after reading. Knocking kitchen walls down is just rich with metaphor!
An update on me: I’ve been working 40-50 hours per week as a breakfast server, and have started rugby training again! This means I’ve had less time for the website this month, but I’m slowly getting used to the early starts, so I’ll be back on form soon.
Currently reading: Kathleen Jamie’s Selected Poems. Having read many of Jamie’s more recent poems, it’s fascinating to see her development on the page. I love the poems in Scots scattered through without apology, and although there is a surprising variety of themes in the book, it is clear why she is best known as a nature poet. After I have read this book through, I’ll dip in and out of it for years.
Blown away by: Ruby Tandoh’s Eat Up!. I enjoyed this book on so many levels. It is beautifully written, and puts into words thoughts I have never managed to articulate, as well as introducing me to ideas I’ve never considered. The first meal I made after I read this book was just pasta, but it felt brand new: I savoured the crushing of the garlic, the cheap tin of tomatoes, and the grated bits of cheese I snuck before I served it. Eat Up! is gorgeous, feminist, and mindful.
Poem of the month: Daisies, by Kathleen Jamie. One of her many nature poems with a simple title, but this one has weaselled its way into my brain, perhaps for good. I’ve read it maybe 50 times and keep being stunned by different lines. My current favourite excerpt: “surely it’s better / to renew ourselves than die / of all that openness?”
A childhood favourite I still love: Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. This is one of the first books I actually remember reading, and struggling with, and not understanding, and re-reading, and discussing. My boyfriend bought it for himself, and I thought I would have a quick skim through Chapter Two (the first chapter as they are exclusively prime numbers) and ended up devouring the full thing. As sad, stressful, and gripping as I remember.
Lit mag of the month: Spoken Word Scratch Night Paris, Volume 2. I’ll admit some bias here as the creators are my dear friend Claudia and her wonderful girlfriend Kaitlyn, but this zine is truly an experience to read: breathtaking artwork is thoughtfully intertwined with poetry and short stories to create an inclusive lit mag that retains the fun and variety of in-person readings, but with an added polish.
My stuff: Hyperbole in Emerge Literary Journal. A furious, sarcastic little piece about the harassment and assault women so often face.
An update: I’ve finished my dissertation! For the first time in my life I won’t be in education next year, which is terrifying and exciting in almost equal measures. For the foreseeable future, I’ll be job hunting, sleeping, and enjoying my brief pause before true adulthood begins. If anyone knows of any jobs going, please do let me know!
Currently reading: Staying Alive: Real Poems for Unreal Times. This anthology, edited by Neil Astley, is probably my favourite poetry anthology. I got the short ‘essential’ version for uni, then after reading Arundhathi Subramaniam’s ‘Prayer’ before bed every night for a week, I requested the three longer ones for Christmas, going from 100 poems to 1500. Whatever your mood or your relationship with poetry, there’s something in here that will make you feel what it is to be human.
Recently blown away by: The President’s Gardens by Muhsin Al-Ramli. This book broke my heart all the way through. The prose is stunning and devastating, and the circular nature of the ending, which repeats the beginning but with a novel’s worth of context, is genius.
Poem of the month: T.S Eliot’s ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.’ Feel free to groan, but when I was seventeen, this was the first poem I felt like I really Got, or didn’t Get at all. I read it over and over, and spent hours googling every reference and weeks using each line as the first line of a new poem. I’ve always been a writer but without ‘Prufrock’ it might have taken me a lot longer to realise I’m a poet. Here also, a confession: I hated ‘The Waste Land.’
A childhood favourite I still love: Sabriel. Upon re-reading it this month, Garth Nix’s ‘Old Kingdom’ series grabbed me only slightly less than it did as a child, when I was convinced I could be a Charter Mage if I only tried hard enough. My boyfriend teased me as I gasped at every twist and turn, and laughed aloud.
Lit mag of the month: trampset. They publish on a rolling basis, so it’s easy to get lost on their website for hours. How can you not love a site with such poems as ‘Consider Tender the Orchard of My Heart’, and my favourite, ‘Drunk Dialing God’.
My stuff: ‘The world is ending. It is still springtime.’ My first quarantine poem found a home in the gorgeous Spoken Word Scratch Night zine, a lovely and witty creation that brings all the energy of a good spoken word night to the page. Access it free here – mine is the first poem!
Currently reading: Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz. A beautifully written mix of experiences with race, basketball, and love. Definitely one to re-read a hundred times.
Poem of the month: Alycia Pirmohamed’s My Body is a Forest. Alycia has just earned her PhD, and her work makes it clear that this is extremely well-deserved. Find it here.
Recently blown away by: Madeleine Miller’s Circe. I absolutely adored it in a way I loved reading as a kid, sneaking out of conversations to finish my chapter, reading ‘just one more page’ until my eyes ached. Miller’s prose is beautiful and exciting, and I am fervently hoping the rumours of a tv show are true.
A childhood favourite I still love: I have to cheat here because I’ve recently read The Lord of the Rings trilogy for the first time, after watching the films on repeat since I was tiny (Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn is my first and most enduring crush). Despite the lack of Viggo, I found the books to be a lovely lockdown adventure.
Lit mag of the month: perhappened is a beautiful new mag, with their third issue to be released soon! I’ve been desperately submitting with no luck (yet!) but their themed issues are absolutely gorgeous in both aesthetic and content, and the staff are the definition of kindness. I especially loved Tara Willoughby’s ‘Crows Can’t Talk’ in their Road Trip issue. Check it out.
I can’t wait for: Bolu Babalola’s Love in Colour. A collection of short stories: some modernised fairytales, and some Babalola originals. This book has the most beautiful cover I’ve ever seen, and is released on the 20th of August, the same day my dissertation is due – that must be good luck! Available for pre-order.
My stuff: If you haven’t yet bought my course anthology, From Arthur’s Seat is a gorgeous mix of prose and poetry by talented up-and-coming writers. Find a copy.