Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Of Beasts and Beauties // where is my glass slipper?

I have a momentous and grand announcement!

[insert title here] has turned three!

If you do persist in living beneath a stone and ignoring my advice (why? I am a benevolent and wise queen) you may still have failed to note that [insert title here] is the blog of Ashley, whom you should go and follow pronto. She is a top gal, marvellous writer and all round great human type thing, and I am sure you will join me in a rousing chorus of Happy Birthday to her blog.

~rousing chorus of Happy Birthday to her blog~

Like all the best birthdays, this one has a party involved. And like all the best parties, it is fairytale themed.*
*It is also the only fairytale themed party I have ever attended, virtually or otherwise. But the point stands.

As well as many fabulous fairytale themed posts, there is a ball!

Incidentally I'm enjoying the colour scheme, which also matches her blog. Didn't I say she was fab?
As ever I'm extremely late to the party, but midnight has not yet struck!

1. What would you wear to a fairytale ball?

| Ellen Terry as Lady MacBeth, by John Singer Sergeant:
Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth by John Singer Sargeant
This has everything to do with the fabulous gown and nothing to do with my desire to be Lady Macbeth and my occasional wont of walking round the house reciting her speeches aloud.
Seriously, though, green is my favourite colour, and look at the material. And the sleeves.

OK but this is amazing. Chartreuse is not only a beautiful colour but a beautiful word. And the neckline?? <3
Instagram:GraterolKaren Twitter:GraterolKaren Pinterest:GraterolKaren Polyvore:KarenGraterol Ask:Whoiskaren:
My style, my colour, I love it.
Krikor Jabotian Couture:
Right OK but this???

I really wish I could get a dress like this and wear out somewhere. | Princesses follow us here! --> http://www.pinterest.com/thevioletvixen/princess-for-a-day/:

?wedding dress:
And finally this. I'm done.

(And no, I obviously wouldn't wear them all at once, don't be facetious.)
2. What shoes? (I don't mean to be tedious, but this is Cinderella's Ball.)

Women's Victorian Boots:

3. What is the most necessary accessory? 
A. Shoes!
B. Your royal signet ring.
C. Wildflowers for your hair.
D. This beauty doesn't need accessories.
E. A red cape.
F. Your crown.


4. What is your favorite fairytale?
Good question. Probably Beauty and the Beast, because it actually has good morals about a) not judging by appearances and b) maybe talking to someone before you decide to marry them? I love the other fairytales but when you break down their messages they're at best silly and at worst dangerous.

5. At the ball, you would
A. Eat cake.
B. Dance.
D. Find a nice quiet corner from which to Sherlock people.
E. Spy out your rival's resources.
F. A combination of B and C. 
I like dancing A LOT. I was a cripplingly shy twelve-fifteen-year-old and I was really self-conscious about EVERYTHING -- my body, my face, my voice, my smile, my eyes, my nose etc etc etc [list every trait here] -- and would rather have died than dance in front of anyone. So I think I have like a store of dancing I didn't do for three years that I must now use?

This is what I look like but the good news is I NO LONGER CARE I JUST LOVE DANCING.
Then there's talk to ALL THE PEOPLE, which again I was once too shy to do and now do copiously. (Everything day I'm thankful I'm no longer fourteen. What an awful age it was.)

I'm not sure whether this is a ball avec beverages, but I have found that when other guests/friends are a little (or a lot) inebriated it is easy to have very candid conversations. Last party I was at, I had two Jesus conversations with slightly tipsy pals. (Obviously I am never drunk because I am a Christian, but I'm just saying, when others are it can be an opportunity to evangelise.)

In conclusion, friends at parties = good.

6. You see a dwarf with his beard wedged under a boulder. He's mistreated your help before, so you
A. Leave him. He deserves it.
B. Point and laugh.
C. Steal his gold.
D. Help the little folk out.
E. Trim his beard. It's obviously a nuisance. (And whilst I am keen on such beards as displayed by Johnny DeppBen Whishaw and James Macavoy, they are not good for practical purposes.)

7. Do you know anyone who reminds you of a particular fairytale?
Um. I like this question but it's hard. One of my friends quite recently shaved her head to raise money for the refugee crisis so ... Tangled, anyone?

8. If someone asked to marry you when they first met you, your reaction would be
A. Um, yes. Nobody's cuter than them.
B. Depends. Do they have a lot of money? Are they a serial killer with a lot of money?
C. RUN! They're clearly a lunatic.
D. Love at first sight means wed at first sight.
E. You can't say 'yes' to everyone who asks to marry you. They should get in line.
F. You fly solo.

9. Your true love will
A. Give you a library.
B. Fetch your shoes for you. 
(I choose both, they're both very very important.)
C. Be a shallow walnut head. They're easier to manipulate.
D. Find you immortalized in a glass casket. They're too late.
E. What is this strange concept called true love?
F. Oh, right. You fly solo.

10. Name three big events in your life, or something that took you three tries to get.
All right. 
Event #1: following Jesus
Event #2: falling in lurve for the first time
Event #3: deciding to be a writer and finishing my first novel.

I'm sorry that Event #2 is so 

buuut I am reading Les Mis at the moment (about Marius and Cosette) and planning a post on the topic of insta-love, first love, true love etc etc (hey, it is February), AND SO whilst in Heathrow Airport this morning (I travelled back from Chile yesterday and today) I was meditating upon my youth and that is why that one is in there. As a part of my misspent youth. I was trying to pick three events that shaped the person I am today so ... yeah.

A postscript: you guys may be interested in Event #4, which is that I got an offer to Durham University! I need to get 3 As in my exams with an A1 in English and if I do I am sure as heck going!

11. Name something that you have seven of.
Harry Potter books!
I have eight, because I have the (freaking beautiful) illustrated Philosopher's Stone ...

I have seven Skulduggery Pleasant books, because I have six of the nine novels (and if you want to send me number one, four or five, go ahead) and the short story collection.

And if you're thinking I could've considered items that weren't books, you obviously don't know me very well.

12. Who is your nemesis?
A. A step-mother
B. A giant
C. A wicked witch (Bellatrix Lestrange)
D. A dwarf who's name is either unknown or impossible to enunciate without a glossary
E. The Big Bad Wolf (Not just any wolf, The BBW)
F. That insufferable youngest step-daughter of yours

13. When you meet your nemesis, you dress
A. As formidable they.
B. Innocent and sweet.
C. Like a warrior. Let's weapon up!
D. Rags; it's all you've got.
E. Like a huntsman.
F. With the intimidating superiority of an evil queen. (What one needs to face up to Bellatrix. Esp. if Narcissa is in tow.)

14. Who are your allies?
A. Seven dwarves
B. Your fairy godmother
C. Jack the Giant-Killer
D. ALL the forest animals
E. Not to be obvious, but dragons are the way to go
F. Your prince charming. . . or knight in shining armor, your preference

15. Do you have any retelling recs for us to either watch or read?
I absolutely love Enchanted.

I recently watched it again for the first time in years and I love Amy Adams and wow, it's so beautiful and funny and life-affirming and the songs are great and gee, I just love it.

I also LOVE Penelope, which I don't think is a retelling but has a fairytale-esque theme. Quite aside from the fact that I'm in love with James Macavoy, it is a wonderful film.

(And, can Edward Scissorhands get a shout-out? It's sort of a Beauty and the Beast retelling, and it's Johnny Depp and Tim Burton and amazing cinematography and just-- yeah. I have a lot of emotion for that film.)

16. What is your favorite song from a Disney princess movie?
Is Mulan a princess movie? I know it's counted as one, but she isn't a princess, and nor does she become one. That withstanding, it's got to be A Girl Worth Fighting For. 
Honorable mentions must also go to A Whole New World, How Does She Know You Love Her?, Love is an Open Door and For the First Time in Forever.

You know you want to.

That was hugely enjoyable!

There is still time to link up -- click here.
Thank you massively to Ashley for a great ball (though I may have to get up and do some dancing now, I've been in this chair for a while) and for being a great friend. *cue touching music*

Happy blogoversary and many happy returns!


Saturday, 20 February 2016

SS#5: The Song and the Singers

I write this from Santiago, Chile.

Right now the best words I have are beautiful and really really hot. I have, however, taken a lot of pictures, so if you are at all interested I can show them to you.

In other news, I have actually written my Starting Sparks story.

I know, it's a big surprise; normally I am hastily posting on the 29th of the month or whatever (I have even been known to miss the deadline of my own link-up). I'd love to tell you that I've just become amazingly organised, but the truth is that I'm merely between second and third drafts of my novel and therefore have more time for other projects. I actually wrote this story like, last week. (Applaud me.)

It's an interesting area, the question of taking-a-break-from-your-WIP. It's hugely important to do this in order to flex your writing muscles, jump character and genre and person, but I also know that it makes me a lot lazier. When it comes to The Novel, I write every day, but when I'm just drifting through short story projects I'm a lot more likely to sit back and wait for “inspiration" -- whatever that is. My time in Chile has been very busy and I've not had the chance to write daily -- in fact, yesterday I wrote for the first time in an entire week. This is the longest I've gone in probably about two years, which is kind of scary. However, on the other hand it's important not to burn yourself out, so maybe my week off was a good thing. What do you think?

Starting Sparks is a writing link-up hosted by Ashley from [insert title here] and me from this very spot. We post a prompt, and you respond however on earth you'd like. You post your story -- or scene or poem or monologue or snippet or idea or whatever it is -- and add the handy button to your post. You then link up with us and read everyone else's stories, and a good time is had by all.
February 16:
You have until the end of the month to link up, if you'd like! Click here for the original post.
For a long time I've been thinking about mermaids, and so when Ashley sent me the February prompt (we alternate choosing them each month) I knew I had to jump in there. Disney's Little Mermaid is one thing, but the original story is about how mermaids and humans can't be together because humans have eternal souls, whereas mermaids live for three thousand years but have no soul and therefore vanish into oblivion. So when the Little Mermaid (Ariel to you and me) wants to marry her prince, she has to forfeit her long life in favour of brief human life and a soul.

Which raises the questions: what are mermaids?

I wrote a story last year based on the premise that mermaids are the (transformed, obviously) women who are thrown overboard because they're “bad luck" on ships. This is something I've been thinking about; or, are they actually evil soulless creatures (a la Peter Pan film/Pirates of the Caribbean)? Might Jesme, our MC, fall in love with a mermaid? I already have heaps of backstory for him and the other characters, so ... novel, anyone?


The Song and the Singers

When the moon shimmered on the glassy sea, the sirens came calling.

Their song floated through the still night below deck, sighing with untold longings and half-suppressed hopes. It made the hairs rise on Jesme’s arms. Those were the nights he would toss in his hammock, sweating and fighting the urge to get up and peer overboard. They were beautiful, the stories said, scales flashing in the moonlight, long hair braided with pearls or the fingerbones of those they had taken. They would sing your wildest dreams back to you, a mirror of melodies. Jesme had never pinned down his wildest dreams, flighty shadows that they were, but he knew that the mermaids’ song made them surge within him, like a beast from the depths of the sea.

The morning after one such night he clambered onto deck, blinking in the sun. It was hot, unseasonably. Further north, Champ promised, they’d sail between icebergs that loomed like huge ghosts, but for the now the sea and sky were azure blue and the days were warm.

Brice was leaning against the rail drinking tea.

“Bad night?” he said as Jesme came beside him.

Jesme grinned ruefully. “How’d you know?”

“It was flat calm last night,” Brice said, “and you look terrible.”

“Thanks, mate.”

“You’re welcome,” Brice said, flashing a smile.

Jesme took the mug from his hand and downed it.


“I need it more than you do,” Jesme said. “Do you honestly not hear them?”

Brice shrugged. “It’s not about hearing. The question is, do I listen?” He tapped Jesme’s forehead. “They bother you because you let them.”

Jesme sighed. “I don’t know, Brice, I just feel … they open something inside me, you know? Like all these thoughts that I don’t really know how to think, dreams and – wishes, I don’t know, that sort of thing, the song threads it all out of me, somehow. All the things I don’t know I want.”

“How poetic,” said a light and sarcastic voice behind him.

Jesme jumped. Silhouetted against the sun, a figure leaned sardonically on the rail.

“That’s who Jesme was, wasn’t it?” he continued. “A poet, singer, all-round swashbuckling romantic type? You have the hair for it, anyway.”

“Morning, Dristan,” said Brice.

“It is morning, Brice, how observant of you.”

Jesme’s face was flaming. It was true the famous Jesme was a poet of legend. His mother had told him the stories: the handsome, noble singer with the flowing russet locks. Jesme was normally more tongue-tied than not, and his locks were neither flowing nor russet. Carrot-coloured was more accurate.

“What do you think about the mermaids?” Brice said.

“I think it’s pathetic, all that soul-speech drivel,” said Dristan. “They’re just human-esque creatures with fishtails that sometimes swim around ships. There’s nothing magical about them. As for men who go mad for them and dive overboard, they’re just lamentably hormonal. First flash of skin and off they go, arms flailing. That’s’ the sort of dreams Jesme, means, I’d wager, not that I imagine he knows how to act on them.”

“I think that’s a little unfair,” said Brice pleasantly.

“Do you now?” Dristan fixed his eye on Jesme. “What do you have to say?”

“Um,” said Jesme.

“Articulate as ever,” Dristan said. “Let me know if your musings are ever published, I’d be fascinated.”

He turned on his heel and walked away.

“What is his problem?” Jesme said, when he was sure he was out of earshot. 

Brice shrugged. “Jealousy, and awkwardness. He wants to be our friend but he doesn’t know how.”

“Or he’s a nasty git?”

“Don’t be unkind. We’re lucky, after all.” He smiled. “Not everyone has a best friend.”

Grudgingly Jesme smiled back. “Do you always have to be so annoyingly reasonable?”

“Morning, lads,” Champ said, crossing the deck towards them. He was the first mate, a bear of a man with eyes like stars in his huge, leathered face.

“Rough night, Jesme? You look terrible.”

“I wish everyone’d stop saying that.”

Champ barked a laugh. “I heard them too, lad. That’s the curse of the sea, it makes you dream, and the sirens are dreams given shape and form. Some say they come because there’s no women onboard, to try and lure sailors. But some—” he looked around, and grinned as if divulging a great secret – “some say women onboard makes them worse, because they’re jealous.”

“And what do you say?” said Brice.

“I was on a voyage years ago where the captain brought his wife with him. I’ve never known sirens to sing so loud. There’s other tales, too … some hold that the women who get thrown overboard, because they’re bad luck, they become sirens, and hunt sailors as payback.”

“Is that possible?” Jesme asked.

Champ grinned, eyes twinkling. “If it is,” he said, “then my name isn’t Champ Matthews.” He winked and walked away.

It was a joke onboard: his true name was not Champ, and it was unknown to him, like his true parents. Yet, reflected Jesme, did the birth name matter? A name was a soubriquet, an accolade or an insult, important only on the lips of those who used it. Were Champ to discover the name his mother had given him, it would, arguably, be of no use. But perhaps the name did carry an indelible stamp, to mark its owner from birth. Could he drop Jesme, the name he hated, if he chose? Was it part of him?

“Penny for them?” said Brice.

Jesme blinked. “Sorry,” he said. “Not important.”

His friend regarded him for a moment. “All right,” he said. “But don’t get hung up on the mermaids, all right?” He tapped his forehead. “Banish them up here.”

Jesme summoned a smile. “Will do.” He looked across the ocean, gently rolling under a cloudless sky, and thought its blue looked friendly and freeing. It was hard to picture it by night, with white-limbed creatures scything through the water, singing songs of death. The sea had its secrets.


Three nights later they came again.

The wordless song slipped over the starboard side and around Jesme’s sleeping body. His eyes snapped open in the dark, skin covered in goosebumps. The hairs on his neck prickled, as if they too were standing up to listen to the voices. The song danced under and above him, weaving like ocean waves, and sweat broke out on his skin. The music made him think of vastness, a void too big to comprehend, and of the smallest pinprick of feeling, atoms dancing over themselves, waves of light oscillating out like constellations. He rolled over. Brice was asleep in the next hammock. Jesme squeezed his eyes shut, grasping the tune of a sailor’s ditty to sing in his mind. The sirens’ song looped through the cracks, glistening.

It was very hot below deck. Jesme’s throat was parched. He thought of the water barrels, fresh water rolling in time with the ocean, and swung his legs out of the hammock. The sounds of the sleeping crew smothered him. I need a breath of fresh air.

He drank the water hunched over his cup, sweat trickling between his shoulderblades, pretending that it satisfied the longing welling inside him. 

Go back to your hammock, Jesme.

But the song whispered on, a voice from a side street beckoning to him, and with three steps he found his hand on the rope ladder up to the deck.

Cool air floated to him from the hatch above his head. Jesme shut his eyes. He was drenched in sweat. The breeze traced his skin – but it was not a breeze at all, rather the song, murmuring through his hair. He gripped the ladder and pulled himself up.

Banish them, Brice’s voice said.

The song overpowered it.

On deck, the smell of the sea hit Jesme in a burst of the familiar: an honest smell, known. He breathed it in, telling himself to go back to bed, but the song was shimmering in the moonlight. The moon watched him like an eye, burning amidst cold stars. On the sea’s flat surface its watery twin rippled, a splash of silver on a black sheet.

The sea lapped at the ship’s sides like liquid glass, and the song intertwined with its melody, drawing Jesme to gaze over the side.

Beneath him the water shone with promises and half-flashed suggestions.

Would it be cold?

As he watched the blackness separated itself into hues, shades of silver and grey with white flashes of light like the scales of a fish. Among them a shape was appearing, long like a musical note, light gleaming like stars in the darkness.

Jesme leant, transfixed, as her face rose below him.

Her lips were not moving, but the song thundered in his head.

He stretched out his arms, unknowingly.

The song wrapped itself around his consciousness, a tapestry of wishful stars. Its music was the sea’s music and its poetry was Jesme’s heartbeat and he had never wanted anything so much as to fall to the song’s embrace.

He pulled himself onto the railing, pushing a leg over the side.

The face was not human, but it had a star’s ethereal beauty, the glory of the distant and unknowable. Jesme was enthralled; he was in its thrall. 

The song gathered strength, a silver future swimming through the present.

Somebody shouted his name.

With a crack the song’s chords shattered, wailing like a frenzied storm, and Jesme cried out, falling backwards. Hands were grabbing him, yanking him onto the deck, and his mind fell with him, ricocheting into confusion. He lashed out, foot hitting the ship’s side with a pain that made him gasp, and sat up, shoulders heaving, soaked in sweat, his hair falling in his face.

“Brice,” he gasped.

“No such luck,” said the figure in front of him, letting go of his arms.

It was Dristan.

“You!” Jesme exclaimed.

“Me!” Dristan snapped. “You are a prize idiot, Jesme, what the hell were you doing?”

“I was – I don’t know—” He stumbled to his feet, lurching to the side. The sea rustled black. A wind was picking up.

“Where—?” Jesme’s head jerked back and forth, searching for the silver gleam, but the moon’s reflection was breaking up, and the only sound was that of the wind.

“It’s gone,” Dristan said. “We need to get below deck, now.”

“I – I—”

“Save it for the morning, poet!” Dristan pulled him to his feet and stalked off towards the hatch.

Jesme gaped after him, trying to fit him into place, but he could not think. The song still echoed somewhere in his mind. He looked back over the water, its unrevealing black surface, the moon’s candid reflection. What had happened? The song had sunk, swimming away in the depths. What was its secret? The sea said nothing.


Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Dragon Loyalty // the great game

I am the blood of the dragon*, and for this reason my loyal serf Ashley tagged me for the Dragon Loyalty Award.

*I'm actually a Stark ... to be honest I don't care what I am, as long as I marry my true love Jaime.

Because I am a benevolent ruler I decided to comply.

The rules are as follows:

1. Give seven facts about yourself
2. Tag other bloggers (dragons only)

I was ready to take part in this amusing diversion, when I remembered an important truth: that dragons are not loyal.

Consider Smaug. Consider Drogon. Consider Norbert.
So I shall not pander to the puny rules of this puny award.

Instead, we shall play a game.

Seven, the rules say, but I do not bow and scrape to the rules. Instead, of seven, I make it nine.

Nine facts, then, but are they true? 

You do not know.

I will deign to tell you one thing: that I shall split them four and five.

Four are true, five are false; or five are true, and four are false. This is the first thing you must decide.

Then tell me in the comments: what is true, and what is not? 

How well do you know this dragon queen?

[all images from Pinterest]

1. My favourite colour is blue. It's so peaceful and so calming, and I wear it a lot.

Ravilious - Midnight Sun.:
Midnight Sun by Eric Ravilious
- - -:

2. I really like historical fiction. I find it so interesting; it's one of my favourite genres.


Drawing bottles by Katt Frank:

3. I have intentions of one day shaving my head, because I think it's important for a woman to shave her head at least once in her life.

This cutie, who radiates sweetness. | 21 Gorgeous Women Whose Shaved Heads Will Give You Life:


4. Aladdin is my favourite Disney musical.

Street scene by John Harrison, artist, via Flickr:

henri matisse:
Henri Matisse
5. I recently watched Mulan for the first time and I really liked it.



6. I love frozen yoghurt. Today (in Santiago, Chile!) I had some lovely mango and pineapple fro-yo with my sister.



7. I used to think backpacks were really uncool but this past year I've had one for school and I've been loving the backpack life.

I like the bird interior! Good road trip bag - Herschel Supply backpack:

Egon Schiele:
Egon Schiele

8. I am a selenophile. 


9. I write a lot of poetry.


San Juan Island, WA:
San Juan Island, WA
There we go.

 Now it's up to you. Give your guesses in the comments, and I will know how dragon-ly inclined you are.

As for answers, when will they be revealed? I have wondrous vlog-making plans for the near(ish) future, and in that vlog shall be the Grand Reveal. It will be an award vlog, doing Liebster Q&A, but all other Q&A is welcome and is accepted from now on.

I, too, would like to play, so give me three (or five or seven or nine) facts in the comments, and I shall guess accordingly as to whether they are true, or false.

As for the nominees, for the new and improved Dragon Loyalty Award:

Lauren @ Always Me

Thank you and goodnight.


Wednesday, 10 February 2016

“I imagine this midnight moment's forest"

Poetry is language in orbit."
-- Seamus Heaney

2014 was the year I discovered this; the first book of poetry I read by myself was The Hawk in the Rain by Ted Hughes, which captured my imagination with its startling images and formed the genesis of my love for the genre. To this day, Hughes is my favourite poet, because it was he who took me by the hand and led me into the world of poetry. Since then I've forayed through the world of verse, not as widely, perhaps, as I should have, but more than some, and in particular 2015 saw me falling in love with various poets. In what will essentially be a few mini-reviews, I'm going to share my findings with you.


What is poetry? How does one write it? What is its essence; what is the essence of the poet? Poetry in the Making is a series of transcriptions of radio programmes presented by Hughes, unlocking the enigma of poetry.

Ted Hughes is, as I mentioned, my #1 bae and long-time love. This book was incredibly interesting and helpful. Its various chapters give general writing advice and talk about specific poetic genres/subjects -- the weather, people, landscape. Hughes quotes many poets to illustrate his points, as well as giving his own poems as examples.

Imagine what you are writing about. See it and live it. Do not think it up laboriously, as if you were doing mental arithmetic. Just look at it, touch it, smell it, listen to it, turn yourself into it. When you do this, the words look after themselves, like magic."

One of my favourite bits of the book was that in which Hughes compares writing poetry to hunting. Growing up in rural Yorkshire Hughes spent most of his early life outdoors, and he had a passion for fishing. He imagines a poem as a fish, which the poet -- the fisherman -- desires to catch. The fisherman, he says, must lie very still on the bank holding his line, which has a little coloured float that bobs on the surface of the pond. In the fisherman's mind, the whole world shrinks to just that little float, and when it moves, he says, it is as if an electric shock runs through the fisherman. That's the feeling a truly good poem will give its reader. As the fisherman lies there he enters a sort of trance, and he can almost sense the fish swimming around deep in the pond. Likewise, the poet can sense the words he is using, swimming just outside his consciousness: this is the cloud of words that surrounds any one word, its shades of meaning and shifting connotation. When a poet chooses just the right word, he can catch the fish.

This is, of course, my paraphrase of Hughes' words, and for the truly clear and eloquent description you'll have to read the book. But that idea has captivated me: a poem is like a wild animal, beautiful and elusive and difficult to keep alive, but once caught, marvellous.

I imagine this midnight moment’s forest: 

Something else is alive 
Beside the clock’s loneliness 
And this blank page where my fingers move. 

Through the window I see no star: 
Something more near
Though deeper within darkness 
Is entering the loneliness: 

Cold, delicately as the dark snow, 
A fox’s nose touches twig, leaf; 
Two eyes serve a movement, that now
And again now, and now, and now 

Sets neat prints into the snow 
Between trees, and warily a lame 
Shadow lags by stump and in hollow 
Of a body that is bold to come

Across clearings, an eye,
A widening deepening greenness, 
Brilliantly, concentratedly, 
Coming about its own business

Till, with a sudden sharp hot stink of fox
It enters the dark hole of the head.
The window is starless still; the clock ticks,
The page is printed.

~ The Thought-Fox, Ted Hughes


John Keats (1795-1821) is one of the most important and best-loved Romantic poets (the Romantics were an English school of poetry). Before his tragic death from consumption at the age of twenty-five, Keats was incredibly prolific, and his voice lives on, generation after generation.

I read the Complete Works of Keats -- a weighty task, but a worthwhile one -- as part of my preparation for Oxford interview. It was unsuccessful in getting me in -- I'm not sure that I've told you guys, but they gave me the Thumbs Down -- but it was wholly successful in introducing me to a wonderful poet.

Emotion quivers in every one of Keats' poems. He was a Romantic in the truest sense -- a dreamer of dreams, a lover of words, a man of great passion -- and, ultimately, he could not survive in our harsh and acerbic world. Within the Complete Works there are some poems that are not of the highest quality -- he was only twenty-five when he died, and the book reproduces all of his work, much of it posthumously, including the low moments -- but all of it has a spark of genius, and some of it is flawlessly stunning. Reading Keats has inspired me to read other Romantics -- I'm going to venture into Coleridge next -- and has given me a new faith in poetry and the world in general. His soul shines through in these poems. They are beautiful works.

 The air that floated by me seemed to say, 
Write! thou wilt never have a better day."

~ from Epistle to Charles Cowden Clarke // my newest writing-inspiration-quotation. I repeat this to myself often!

 The ocean, with its vastness, its blue green,
Its ships, its rocks, its caves, its hopes, its fears --
Its voice mysterious, which whoso hears
Must think on what will be, and what has been.

~ from Sonnet to my Brother George 

 A thing of beauty is a joy forever:
It's loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness

~ opening of Endymion // for me, this resonated with The Goldfinch:“it is a joy and a privilege to love a deathless object". The durability of art is a big theme of Keats', and one in which I'm very interested.

Beneath my palm-trees, by the river side, 
I sat a-weeping: in the whole world wide 
There was no one to ask me why I wept,
And so I kept
Brimming the water-lily cups with tears 
Cold as my fears.

~ from Endymion

No more will I count over, link by link
My chain of grief.

~ from Endymion // these short lines struck a chord with me 

Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!
No hungry generations tread thee down;
The voice I hear this passing night was heard
In ancient days by emperor and clown:
Perhaps the self-same song that found a path
Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,
She stood in tears amid the alien corn;
The same that oft-times hath
Charm'd magic casements, opening on the foam
Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.

Forlorn! the very word is like a bell
To toll me back from thee to my sole self!
Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well
As she is fam'd to do, deceiving elf.
Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades
Past the near meadows, over the still stream,
Up the hill-side; and now 'tis buried deep
In the next valley-glades:
Was it a vision, or a waking dream?
Fled is that music:—Do I wake or sleep?

~ from Ode to a Nightingale // click here to read the whole thing

Scroll back and reread The Thought-Fox, considering it in the light of the last two lines of Ode to a Nightingale. This, this is what truly interests me: the mind and reality; dreams and waking; universes here and universes elsewhere; what is and what could have been. 


The World's Wife by Carol Ann Duffy is a collection of poems that takes famous men and imagines the women behind them. It is witty and perceptive, often funny and always fresh. 

I met Carol Ann Duffy -- who is the British Poet Laureate -- at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August. She signed my books and we chatted about editing. I was on Cloud Nine.

The World's Wife is an absolutely brilliant book. If you're new to poetry, then I suggest Duffy as an excellent entry point (don't start with Keats!). This book is startling, shocking and hilarious by turn. I love Duffy's style -- she is very clever with rhyme, always new and never predictable -- and her voice is clear and perspicacious. Highly recommended.

Mrs Darwin

7 April 1852.

Went to the Zoo.
I said to Him --
Something about that Chimpanzee over there reminds me of you.

~ a sample of the hilariosity (to use a Georgia Nicolson word) of this book

Anne Hathaway

“Item I gyve unto my wief my second best bed ..."
(from Shakespeare's will)

The bed we loved in was a spinning world
of forests, castles, torchlight, clifftops, seas
where he would dive for pearls. My lover's words
were shooting stars which fell to earth as kisses
on these lips; my body now a softer rhyme
to his, now echo, assonance; his touch
a verb dancing in the centre of a noun.
Some nights, I dreamed he'd written me, the bed
a page beneath his writer's hands. Romance
and drama played by touch, by scent, by taste.
In the other bed, the best, our guests dozed on, 
dribbling their prose. My living laughing love --
I hold him in the casket of my widow's head
as he held me upon that next best bed.

~ my favourite poem in the book. Most of the poems are -- rightly -- condemnatory, but I think this is an absolutely beautiful tribute to Shakespeare. It makes me quite emotional.


Rapture is a collection of fifty-two poems detailing a relationship from its beginning to its end.

This one is also signed. Again, it's very accessible for someone not yet into poetry; you can read it through from start to finish like a continuous narrative, because it's telling a story.

It is also utterly beautiful.

Falling in love 
is glamorous hell

~ from You // I love this 


When did your name
change from a proper noun
to a charm?

Its three vowels
like jewels
on the thread of my breath.

Its consonants 
brushing my mouth
like a kiss.

I love your name.
I say it again and again
in this summer rain.

I see it,
discreet in the alphabet, 
like a wish.

I pray it 
into the night
till its letters are light.

I hear your name
rhyming, rhyming,
rhyming with everything.


Three very different poets, who together made up -- largely -- my poetic journey through 2015. These are three of my very favourites, and I'd so recommend them all (if you're starting out, try Rapture first, or The Hawk in the Rain by Ted Hughes). 

What poetry have you been reading? I stated my Coleridge intentions, but what contemporary poets do you like? Like any ravenous bookworm, I'm always looking for recommendations.

Oh, and one small post-scriptular (that's totally a word) note: I finished redrafting my novel! I am feeling a) tired, b) happy and c) full of knowledge, because I have learnt so much! (In short: I am never ever going to write a book the way I've written this one. But who gets it right the first time, eh?)


Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Starting Sparks: February // a day late because I'm rubbish

It's the 2nd, and I failed at my blogging duties. I'm meant to post Starting Sparks on the 1st. I didn't.


Happy February!

Here in Britain the storms are a-blowing, but no matter the hail and wind, the weather cannot take away the daylight. The days are lengthening, and my soul is singing!

I had an English exam yesterday. I think it went well. At least, I wrote two very passionate essays and quite enjoyed myself.

I finished The Silkworm by JK Rowling. I LOVED IT SO MUCH. I can't even tell you.

I've started reading Les Mis!

Sometimes I forget how attractive Hugh Jackman is. He's about three decades older than me, it's definitely not appropriate but ... definitely true.
I was really feeling the desperate need for a nineteenth century novel, which is not a sentence I ever thought I'd type, but it's true. I'd not read one since Northanger Abbey in, like, August. It was too long!

Les Mis is very beautiful and good. I'm enjoying singing the songs in my head as they come up. 

Starting Sparks is a monthly link-up for writers at all stages, hosted by Ashley and me.
We post a prompt on the 1st of each month (or sometimes occasionally the 2nd) and you respond however you'd like!

Last month we had a whole FIVE linkers not including us -- a new record. I'm really excited!
February 16:
The February prompt!
I'm not sure what form this prompt is going to take for me. I guess the idea is that you use your novel characters for a fairytale, but if you don't have novel characters -- that is if you're not writing a novel -- don't let that put you off! You can just rewrite a fairytale. Or write a story inspired by a fairytale. Or whatever the heck you like. We're just here to start your sparks, and let them flame where they may!

We'd love to hear from you!