#atinylife blurb

This week’s blog is a sort of guest post – I’d like to share this blurb about my pamphlet.

Parent. Worshipper. Carrion. is a powerful collection of poems that touch on core but often under-represented aspects of what it is to be human. From parenting to gender, religion to mental health to the natural world, the themes of this pamphlet may be specific to Stella Hervey Birrell’s own life but they are also universally recognisable. Stella has a gift for finding the quiet truths in moments when the balance of life is shifting. These poems are skilfully crafted while still retaining that rawness that makes you sit up and say, “This is it – this is the real thing.”

Rae Plummer, author of Wain.

A link to Wain, which you should buy if you haven’t already.

A link to Parent. Worshipper. Carrion.

#atinylife wisewords

Lockdown, kids, school, bullying…

all fading away now as I listen to your

wise words, your tone steeped in kindness, experience and love,

as you tell me I am doing everything I can

to keep everything balanced –

all these plate-spun needs

crashing down in a pile of sad children

and distant partner, (and cat that still needs to go to the vet)

and am I thinking about my own needs, my own self?

Your friendship saturates this digital space

between us – the space hollowed out between

me and you, and you, and you – without these electrical signals,

these sound waves,

how alone would all of us be feeling, now?

I put out the distress call

and like a bat emoji in the sky

you see how much I need you.

And you call

and you say ‘Hi! How are you?’

#atinylife the other stuff

In between the published works –

the novel that did OK

a story in that collection put together by MA students,

a poem here, a poem there

the joy of a short-listing

the folder of ‘no longer on submission’ scribblings

there is the ‘other’ stuff.

I couldn’t fit it all into the bookshelf:

hours spent tinkering with broken friends, instead of broken sentences;

days spent with Netflix, instead of cutting, instead of copy-pasting;

weeks spent holding the cat, instead of the pen

piggy-bank empty and smashed. All spent.

the other stuff

Tears leaking from the hot water tank

shredded text messages used for mouse nests

reams of progress stacked, dormant

still in their polythene. Sterile blank pages.

Where is all the work I could have done

if other people had been

kind? accepting? loyal?

had trusted my life had to be lived this way?

 

 

 

 

#atinylife thanksfornothing

Someone suggests an update to some legislation. It’s kind of controversial, from some angles, so they do a consultation. Over 70% of people respond and say ‘yep, sounds good.’

They decide not to update the legislation.

And if it was just this, I would be fine. I mean, it’s paperwork. It’s disappointing, it’s not surprising.

But it’s not only this. It’s the 18 month wait for your kid to be seen by someone who knows less about gender than you do. It’s the four emails a week to school because people are deliberately misgendering your child and then claiming they are entitled to their opinion that there are only two genders. It’s the memories of the times you couldn’t walk down the streets of your own village. It’s watching your child become more and more withdrawn. It’s news like this.

#atinylife cactus

A cactus can be a type of person.

Soft on the outside, spikes on the outside.

cactus

I didn’t used to be a cactus. But, y’know, life happened.

I used to push it all inside, instead of allowing my feelings. It was like filling myself up with poison, breaking from the inside out.

So if you tell me I’m not being kind or patient, I might not listen.

And I’m sorry about that.

I had an incident with one of my plants the other day and I know it stings.

I suppose, if I’m arguing with you, it’s evidence that I care enough about you to try, as a wise friend of mine clarified recently.

Because if I think you don’t care enough to recognise my spikes act as protection,

I will walk away,

in case you poison my soft parts.

#atinylife VIPoet

Since my residency at Lanterne Rouge ended, I hadn’t been back to the coffee shop. ‘I’m so busy!’ I told myself.

Bluff.

I was scared that it might feel different. Less mine, somehow. That I wouldn’t be a VIPoet anymore.

At the time of writing, I am back. It’s just the same. Although there are some very lovely new sugar bowls! The box where folk could ask for book recommendations has been replaced by a Cyclist Café of the Year award. There’s a collecting tin where I used to put my poem of the month.

very important poet

And the best bit is the welcome. It always has been, here. I still feel like a VIP – everyone who comes to this wee coffee shop in this wee part of the world is welcomed, made to feel important and special.

Because we all are.

#atinylife Listen Softly²

Listen S Feature SetI’m back at Listen Softly Edinburgh on Thursday 16th January.

Not as an open mic guest.

Not as a new voice.

Not as a co-host.

As a FEATURE PERFORMER!

For those who aren’t obsessed with spoken-word, a feature performance is the sort of thing you can put on your CV – it puts your name on the listing with, other, frankly, much more successful (and indeed intimidating) poets and writers.

I get to prepare six whole poems to read – not two, or one long one. I’m even able to include a short work which I’ve not read before. I’ll also be reading a new version of my most successful poem to date, Cauterise, which was short listed for an international award last year.

If you’re in the area, it would be great to see you. Tickets are available from this link.

#atinylife The Last

This is one of those weeks where 140 words won’t be enough.

I launched my first anthology this week: edited and printed in East Lothian, part of my residency of Lanterne Rouge, cycling cafe of the year UK(!) in Gifford, East Lothian.

The book has twenty poems, some from East Lothian, some from further afield.Lanterne Rouge The Last All proceeds from sales go to St Columba’s Hospice.

It was printed with excellence (a five star service) by East Lothian Council’s print unit. Wendy Neill is amazing!

We hosted a daytime and an evening event on launch day. Both were packed.

Many, many people told me how well I had done.

I am not used to hearing that.

There are copies of the book available at the cafe. I am working on getting them online so people further afield can purchase one. Watch this space!

 

#tinylife write like a grrrl

For the last six weeks, I’ve been escaping from the teatime/bedtime routine and driving myself into Edinburgh.

I’ve been learning how to build a character, a setting, dialogue, and how to put these elements together into a short story, all under the magnificent captaincy of Dr Claire Askew.

WLAG

But by far the best part has been meeting the rest of the group. My WLAG colleagues. Writing with them, sharing with them. We have already started championing each other’s work and projects – a meet up is planned at my next spoken word gig! I can’t wait to see what each of them go on to do next. I’m looking forward to saying ‘yes, we did Write Like a Grrrl together.’ 

Writers work alone. But we need that community, too. That encouragement. The busy silence of a roomful of writers, writing.

#atinylife gonefishin’

gone fishin'As I scuttle off for the summer months, I just wanted to say some ‘thank yous.’

Thanks for sticking with me.

Thanks for telling me you read tinylife every week.

Thanks for the likes and comments: here, on Facebook, on Twitter.

Thanks for letting me whine, ramble, rant, figure things out as I go along, say very little, say far too much, say things in a roundabout way, say things in a direct way, say things with brutal honesty, and talk on a range of disparate subjects.

Thanks for putting up with my God-awful drawing skills.

Particular thanks to Cheryl for not being cross when I forgot (again!) to post her guest posts.

Thanks to Cheryl for her guest posts.

Thank you for supporting my writing, my poetry, my novels, and my creative life.

tinylife will be back in September.