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.
It’s just another gig
I keep telling myself.
Just another gig.
Except – I haven’t had a gig – I mean, no one has,
for almost a year.
Who knows when my next one will be?
It’s just me: top of the bill.
It’s just me: a whole pamphlet of me.
(I’m starting to wonder why I’m trying
to convince myself it’s just another gig.)
It’s not just another gig.
I’ll be a little box
(or a big box, depending on your Zoom settings)
on a screen
in my house
in a room
none of the warmth of an audience
none of that pin-drop silence
more a tumbleweed silence.
So I do what I always do –
I breathe, and stretch,
I record myself,
watch it back (that’s the hardest part!).
I take notes.
It gets better.
I’m super late to the party, but me and Mr HB have finally started watching West Wing on All4. So, of course President Bartlett has filled the role of ‘favourite fictional character,’ previously held by Atticus Finch.
One of his signature phrases is ‘what’s next?’ It’s meant to show his enthusiasm, his thirst for everything he can fix.
I can do that, too. With this pamphlet coming out, I’ve already got my eye on the next thing. What would be a good next step for me? How can I build on this success?
But I don’t think this is the time for that. This is not the time for ‘what’s next?’ This is a time to acknowledge my achievement, and the recognition of the quality of my work. I need to hold onto this feeling, however fleeting it may be.
Following on from last week’s introduction to Parent. Worshipper. Carrion. this week’s blog is about the wider themes of the pamphlet. I write in the domestic sphere, so expect lots of laundry references! Nature also inspires and informs my work. Something you may not have seen from me before is the inclusion of religion and church-going. Lastly, as a person who has recently embraced the title of ‘fat,’ I write a lot about bodies, especially the invisibility of older cis women’s bodies.
There is no point in telling you the pamphlet is an easy read, or full of positivity. There are glimpses of light in a landscape of brutality and pain. I am nervous about putting so much of myself out into the world, but I’m proud of these poems and hope readers can find something they recognise within them.
Folk who follow me on Facebook will know I’m publishing a pamphlet of poetry this year. It’s something I’ve been working towards for a long time, so I was delighted when algia press took on my work. I thought I would take the opportunity to tell you a little bit about the poems here.
The pamphlet is called Parent. Worshipper. Carrion. It’s made up of previously published and/or award-winning poetry, and some newer work. I didn’t know this until recently, but pamphlets are supposed to follow a loose theme or narrative arc – the ‘story’ of this pamphlet begins with my parenting journey, moves through my child coming out as non-binary, the trauma of our community’s response, and ends with reference to our recent house move. So, super cheery stuff!
There is more to it though. I will continue next week.
Mr HB and I went for a walk the other day, and for once he wanted to talk about my writing (this never happens). It turns out he wanted to check whether I still wanted to be a writer. ‘It doesn’t seem to make you happy. At all,’ he said.
I was a bit shocked! But then I remembered. His perception is based on me whining: another rejection, another novel that will have to go in a drawer because it doesn’t quite work, another opportunity that went to someone else, another year with not much or no money.
So I reminded him that I don’t do this for money (just as well!). And I told him that, contrary to appearances, I love to write. It keeps me sane. That feeling, when I get into flow and an hour goes by …
Delighted to announce that Lanterne Rouge: The Last is now available online!
The fabulous people at St Columba’s Hospice have added the anthology to their web store.
Lanterne Rouge: The Last is a collection of twenty poems on the theme of ‘the last.’ There are poems by Claire Askew, Catherine Simpson and Nadine Aisha Jassat, as well as two budding poets from the local Primary School.
All profits from the sale of the book – which is all money it makes from now on – will go direct to the Hospice, who provide free palliative care across Edinburgh and East Lothian. Thank you, again, to my Kickstarter supporters who made this possible. If you hadn’t paid the poets and the print fees, none of this would exist.
You can still buy books direct from me, or from the Lanterne Rouge Cafe, Gifford.
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. 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!
So, the submissions period for the anthology has come and gone. I only got two poems a day too late!
I’m delighted – I received over 70 poems for consideration. I have been in touch with everyone who submitted, so if you’ve not heard from me, please let me know.
It has been a real joy to read all your submissions. From funny poems to heart-breaking ones, poems that were super inventive with the theme, to poems that seem to have forgotten there was a theme in the first place! Thank you all for trusting me with your work.
Please remember if your poem wasn’t selected, it doesn’t mean anything in terms of its quality. Some amazing poems didn’t make it into the book – there just wasn’t enough space for all of them.
Whatever the outcome, you are a poet – keep writing!
There is no news about my second novel.
Here is the news about my second novel.
I was very fortunate to meet a lovely agent who read the whole thing, and she really liked it. This was beyond exciting! She had loads of great feedback too, including ‘what’ it is (a comedy) and what the main themes are (parenting insecurity, female rivalry, the pressure felt by, and put on, children).
I re-wrote the draft with all her comments and observations. This is draft 15, but it’s very similar to drafts 7 and 8, (except draft 7 was in the present tense, of course).
Then I did that thing I always do when I’m nearing the end of a redraft. I slow right down because I’m afraid to finish. But I did finish. It’s 10k words longer and it’s back on submission. Wish me luck!