Window – Clement McAleer

Northern Irish painter, Clement McAleer, has done a lovely series of paintings, themed as windows.


“Glasshouse Shadows” 


“Attic Room”

The attic room reminds me of a poem by Seamus Heaney – another wellknown Northern Irish man – who wrote about something as mundane as getting a velux window in his study.  (At the moment, I can’t locate it to pass on to you, unfortunately).





Cold? Try garlic mushroom macaroni cheese

Today’s creative prompt is “cold” – my creative response is cooking a garlic mushroom macaroni cheese, recipe courtesy of the fantastically named food blog “Amuse Your Bouche”.


As made by “Amuse Your Bouche” on her blog

Here’s the story….. today being a crisp, autumnal day, I visited my favourite cafe at an art gallery (what’s not to like).  However, today I had no lunchtime companion – and I’ve discovered that the number one rule of an enjoyable eating experience, as laid down by food critic Jay Rayner in an earlier post is true….. i.e. have a good eating companion to hand.

So, I dashed home with the aim to recreate the cafe’s glorious smell and sight of plates piled high with “garlic mushroom ‘n’ mac”.  A google search later, right off the bat, a new to me blog popped up “Amuse Your Bouche”.  I know that mine won’t taste so well as the creator’s – I accidentally tipped too much unweighed pasta twirls into the saucepan of hot water – so the sauce to pasta ratio is very low.  (I comfort myself that the fat content is lower).  All in all, best to use the blog cook’s own photo.

Why I love the blog’s name is that it’s a play on words – in very expensive restaurants, there is an extra course called an “amuse bouche” – literally something to amuse your mouth/tastebuds.  (it’s in French).  But this down to earth blog is cheery and declares that is is all about “simple vegetarian recipes”.

And my dining companion?

Jan-Michel Basquiat.  I’m watching the end of a recent BBC documentary on him, called “Rage to Riches”.  If you live in the UK you can catch it on BBC i-player.  I recommend this documentary – I have seen others and this is the best – it draws widely on primary sources – Basquiat’s sisters, his early galleryist, the girlfriend he was with when he changed from very poor to very rich and several other key friends – and there’s the video he was in with Blondie (Debbie Harry importantly bought his first painting – wonder where that is now).


Another incentive to Write That Book

If you’re aiming to dive into writing That Novel in November – here’s yet another incentive: a £10,000 prize for previously unpublished writer: the Deborah Roger’s Foundation.

Deborah was a literary agent, and so this prize continues her life work of supporting new, emerging writers.  The entry level isn’t too strict about not having published before – the odd short story in a magazine or even poetry does not exclude you.

Read the rules.  Thank you, Deborah Rogers.  As someone commented, even if you don’t win the award, you will have written most of a book, to qualify.  Win-win!

typewriter, poem

Getting poetry published (3) in Poetry Magazines

Some excellent advice for new poets here, from Claire Askew, in the Scottish Poetry book trust post here.

1. Write lots of poems – Claire chose 41 poems to put in a book from an original pile of 150 poems.  That improves the quality of the chosen ones.  Also, when submitting to a journal, and waiting to hear back, you can’t send those same poems somewhere else so…. you need a lot of poems ready to send.

2. Best piece of writing advice she was given – “You can only have a first book, once”. There are literary prizes for a first poetry collection – so you want to wait until you’ve got a really strong first book put together.  Don’t rush into publishing too early!  Some famous writers have spent their lives trying to buy up all copies of their first book, to destroy because the style is so unlike their true voice (Norman MacCaig did this).

3. Get into the poetry community.  Claire got early opportunities because she met people in a writing group or someone heard her performing her poetry.  Join a good workshop group, go to open mic nights and perform, and hear about other opportunities through getting to know other writers.

Here’s one of Claire’s poems, set to video (the first 41 seconds are scenesetting, unsettling experiemental noises – you can skip ahead to the poem if you prefer).



Getting Poetry Published (1) Little Magazines

Been Musing (geddit?!) on how to get poetry published in magazines: large magazines, zines or little magazines.

Little magazines are poetry journals of small circulation or which were only printed for a few issues – a run of 2 years would be extraordinary.  Circulation numbers could be as small as 7 (a student writing group which grew to be a campus-wide mag) or up to 500.

Sounds not very impressive.  But when you look at the history of 20th century poetry, especially in America, they had significance wildly beyond the statistics.  This is because issues were shared around friends, the circulation was concentrated on the deeply interested, and copies would be available in bookshops (great placement).  Also, poets would ‘try out’ new poems in these small audiences, before printing them in a book – helpful for creating advance interest and the readers were getting to read poems like T S Eliot’s “The Wasteland” before it was in a book.

Can you tell that I went to a talk on this subject, yesterday?  I was hoping for a sparky sense of small magazines, and zines, and ideas to make them.  Disappointingly, it turned out to be an academic paper on literature, read out (although well) and with few illustrations.  However, it revolutionised my thinking on how important small, shortlived publications are to the production of new writing and art.  Why not produce one yourself?  (Step one was to get a rich benefactor who would provide funds as you can’t attract adverts for such small circulation).