Epithalamium by Rebecca Johnstone

At the weekend I attended the most gorgeous wedding of two people I’ve known for a long time.

Epithalamium, Rebecca Johnstone

It was in a castle in a quiet, rural setting. Rowallan Castle.

There were fairy lights and candles and delicate foliage and a crackling fire. Portraits and birds lined the walls and a Highland Cow head guarded the door - a nice alternative to a stag?

Epithalamium, Rebecca Johnstone
Epithalamium, Rebecca Johnstone
Epithalamium, Rebecca Johnstone
Epithalamium, Rebecca Johnstone

The bride read her vows with emotion and feeling. When she welled up, so did I. I couldn’t help it.

It feels like such an intimate and vulnerable moment to witness two people declare their love in front of family and friends. Pressure almost: not to make a mistake, not to stumble over lines. Love is quiet and secret, and apart from a wedding, doesn’t usually require or demand an audience - quite the opposite.

My own wedding was very small, like a dozen other people, which makes 13 - lucky for some?

Whenever I attend a wedding now, I recall how I felt on my special day and fall in love all over again.

I think it should be mandatory for couples to attend a wedding at least every few years. I’m sure it would lower the divorce rates exponentially. How can you not fall in love (again) at a wedding?

Even a heart in the lichen outside!

Even a heart in the lichen outside!

We had one of the amazing suites at the castle, which seemed bigger than some houses. I particularly loved the ‘study’ which the husband took over for the assemblage of his outfit - the traditional kilt and associated paraphernalia. (Wedding outfits are so easy for men!)

Epithalamium, Rebecca Johnstone

There was something else very special about the day - one of the readings which really struck a chord with me. It was called EPITHALAMIUM and at first I assumed that to be the title of the poem. (And it seemed like such a tongue-twisting title I was relieved not to be reading it!)

Often it’s hard to take in the words of a poem when it is read out to you. I find that as a visual person, I prefer to read things myself to really understand it, as though it unfolds from the page as my eyes rest on the words.

A few words and phrases were unique enough to stand out straight away: songbird, berry blossoms, luminous constellations, moonshine, universe of stars. - but I knew I wanted to read this poem again. Coincidentally, my husband and I were seated next to the friend who had delivered the reading, and she let me read her copy again.

this is your new garden, a whole wide

world of it, so green and songbird fresh,

all yours to map and fill with luminous

constellations of fruit and berry blossoms

this is your new garden, tend it as if

all the young shoots that promise

a succulent harvest of root and ear

will be young and tender for all time

this is your garden, there will always be

much hoeing and raking, the clearing

of weeds and sowing of seeds will ask

patience, attention, forgiving laughter

this is the garden you want to live in, it's not

all sunshine - there's moonshine too, all earth

needs storms, but when dark clouds peel back,

see your garden bloom into a universe of stars

It was written by Aonghas MacNeacail and is included in ‘Handfast, Scottish Poems for Weddings and Affirmations’, published by the Scottish Poetry Library in association with Polygon (2004).

Each of our tables was named after a tree or plant (we were ‘Willow’), and I realised just how perfect this poem is for my friends who are both interested in nature and gardening. The lines are simple yet so evocative, especially the part about ‘all earth needs storms’ (I think marriage can be likened to a multitude of weather systems as well as a garden!).

When I had memorised the word ‘Epithalamium’, I tried looking it up and discovered that rather than the title of this particular poem, it is a literary form describing a lyric poem written for a bride on the way to her marital chamber. I can’t believe I had never heard of this before now, but am so happy I discovered it in the midst of such a wonderful occasion (where better?).

Thank you to Chloe and Paul for this gem of knowledge.

Whenever I hear or see mention of epithalamia in the future, I will be forever transported back to their special day, Saturday 18th May 2019.

Epithalamium, Rebecca Johnstone

Book Spine Poetry by daintydora

Next month is NaPoWriMo - National Poetry Writing Month - and I've been neglecting the poetic form for too long. I love all the experimental methods of finding new ways to connect words and make language interesting, so when I read about the art of 'Book Spine Poetry' recently on Brain Pickings, I knew I had to try it for myself.

Book Spine Poetry literally means to use the title on the spine of a book as a line of a poem. So simple yet so clever.

And it makes me feel a lot less guilty about my Tsundoku habit. I have plenty of fodder to work with.

Inspired by the art of Nina Katchadourian, and also the experiments of Maria Popova herself, author of Brain Pickings, I decided to have a go.

Here's what I came up with after a 5-minute bookshelf grab:

Book Spine Poetry, inspired by Nina Katchadourian

Primrose Hill

Summer of Love.

London Calling:

The Secret History

Book Spine Poetry, inspired by Nina Katchadourian

She Came to Stay -

The Black Dahlia

D.I.Y Magic

Book Spine Poetry, inspired by Nina Katchadourian

White Teeth

In Cold Blood:

The One That Got Away

So much fun!

I'll definitely experiment further with this technique using more of the books that are waiting patiently to be read on my burgeoning shelves (thanks Nina), and I'll finish with this quote:

I am always paying attention to the physical qualities of the books, and I try to work with their particular attributes as much as possible. The size of a book carries temperament and tonality, as does the way the text sits on the spine. A heavy volume with large text on the spine, for example, might be exuberant, urgent, pushy; a small typeface might communicate a voice that’s exacting, shy, insecure, or furtive.

Nina Katchadourian

You can sign up to receive free daily poetry prompts from The Poetry School throughout April. I'm thinking Book Spine Poetry might be a good way to go!

Midweek Poetry: Snow on Mars by daintydora

Does it...could it ever...snow on Mars? Snow on Mars

I don't know but this is another poem from my week-long Arvon retreat at Lumb Bank.

We wrote 'stream of consciousness' style for 10 minutes, with the trigger 'I remember when...' which took me bounding back to childhood (of course it would). The twist was it also had to include 'an impossibility' - thanks Stevie!

Snow on Mars

Sometimes there's snow on Mars:
grey, red, navy blue.
It comes in slow shapes
like the colours inside a kaleidoscope,
each day a different intensity
(though Monday's have always been brown).
I didn't like gravy at school,
murky water creeping around the side of the plate
urging to escape, like the un-dry damp
in the kitchen, obvious; a slow
Concorde cruising the wall between the cooker and the fridge.
And I'm knitting a scarf for the cat
in layers of blue and not quite black -
thank god I'm wearing my winter tights.

Just like The Etymology of Azure, this is the kind of poem I would never have come up with on my own, though using this fun and clever technique I found all sorts of interesting words and phrases that have taken me somewhere new and different, exploring the wonders of our galaxy and the impossibilities of science.

I enjoyed exploring a childhood memory, including my first piece of knitting after the obligatory 'square' that came out like a tattered rectangle. And Monday's are still very brown when filtered through my synaesthesia-tinted mind. How many others experience this?

And with Mars a world away, it feels like the real question is: will it snow for Christmas?

Midweek Poetry: The Etymology of Azure by daintydora

I haven't written much (any?) poetry this year, so my experience recently at Lumb Bank was a jump-start to my poetic creativity. Stevie Ronnie was our tutor for the poetry element of the Book Art & Text course (check out the amazing paper books I made under Rachel Hazell's tutelage), and he immersed the group in language and words (my very favourite kind of lesson) through ingenious tasks and short games, even making up new poetic forms - the snake poem anyone? - encouraging us to inject a bit more freedom and fun into our approach to poetry.

For one of our lessons we had to write down our favourite word ahead of time, allowing Stevie to research the etymology of it and present us with the findings (though at the time we didn't know where the word was going to take us).

From there, we had to construct a poem using only the words that featured in the etymology.

My word was 'AZURE', chosen because of its colourful connotations and how it makes me feel - turquoise-y blue and free, like I'm swimming in the sea, the Med perhaps; the Côte d'Azur...

'Azure' in watercolour
'Azure' in watercolour

And the etymology was fascinating - more like a history lesson through language, culture and geology via the Mediterranean and Turkestan.

Azure is so much more than 'the blue colour of the clear sky'.

Some of the words that jumped out at me from the etymology were words I would never have thought to include in a poem, and I loved how they related back to the word (obviously) but could be jumbled up to create the story of the word, as well as a story through the poem.

These are some of my favourites:

  • Middle Latin lapis
  • false separation
  • molluscs which stick to rocks
  • Persian Lajward
  • cognates in Greek
  • the unclouded sky
  • French article
  • lapideous
  • heraldic colour blue
  • complex silicatea stone
  • a pebble
  • spangles of pyrites

They make it sound so much more complex and glamorous. I love that.

Words and phrases all with their roots in one word, but intensifying the meaning, shifting it, elevating it.

I've done very little work on the poem since I returned - it didn't feel right because I worked on it amidst the special magic of Lumb Bank (in snatches of time between meals!), presenting it on our final night by reading it out as though it was complete. And it is complete, for now. (Completely azure?)

The only thing I've allowed myself to change is the line structure - it's my area of weakness - and the title.

I thought it fitting to call it Lapis Lazuli at the time, because azure is literally 'a genitive of lazulum', but then I realised the title of this post says it best.

The Etymology of Azure

Pyrite mountains stand unclouded, proto-Italic and

essentially complex: dripping-rich

with limpets clinging to sticks.

A false sky beckons, blue, azure;

a genitive of lazulum

spangled pewter and gold.

Heraldic? Arabic?

It's the Persian Lajward

borrowed from before -

Marco Polo's short French mention:

semi-precious symbols

loaned from Latin

and archaic silicates

cognated in stone.

Midweek Poetry: The Thought Fox by daintydora

I used to post a poem every Wednesday here; either one of my own or a choice in celebration of another poet's work. I've not done that in a while, so it felt like time. This week I stumbled into Ted Hughes's 'The Thought Fox', and was overcome by the

"sudden sharp hot stink of fox".

Yes. Like that.

Even better, The Poetry Archive has an audio recording of Hughes reading this poem in his own distinctive timbre. *Listen here*.

That's all. I just had to share. I love foxes. The Thought Fox made me think.

Meanwhile, is it autumn yet? I always associate autumn with the season of the fox...

The Thought Fox


Midweek Poetry: Letters to Other Mothers by daintydora

I'm reading a moving anthology at the moment by Bashabi Fraser titled Letters to My Mother and Other Mothers. In the first section of the book Bashabi's poems describe memories and conversations with her mother as 'a conversation that would have flowed', from the time before her mother had a series of strokes and subsequently died.

In the second book the poems take on different voices, 'a natural stream that flows in the same strain.'

Her words are careful and evocative and you can feel and taste all the vivid sensations of love, pain, hope, distress and wonder at this magical being that is 'ma'.

I find human relationships infinitely interesting, and as a daughter myself, I can relate to her words (not least because my own mother experienced a sudden and debilitating condition a few years ago).

I know what it is to have thoughts that flow in a stream of conversation; blossoming in that unique and intimate manner between a mother a daughter.

White Flower
White Flower

There is a reference to 'Sheuli' (a single petal white flower with an orange stem, which blooms in autumn), in the poem 'She was my mother':

She was the Sheuli in my wonderlandDiscreetly tender, fragrantly appealing.

I love this melding of language and culture as Indian and Scots influences pepper the work.

These lines from 'I am your daughter' are particularly striking when considering the cultural expectations of what it means to be 'a good Indian mother':

You invested thousandsto make that one journeyto clear the pathfor your dreamt-of son.

The poem that has particular resonance for me (so far) is called 'Urban Gothic: London during World War II'.

Here's an extract of my favourite lines:

...In this stone forest of silhouettesthe wan moon swoons in pirouettes...And girls from factories' smart retreatsWill click red shoes in rhythmic styleA ghost army marching in, to a soundless Doric tuneWill partner each dancing dream, unfolding beneath the moon.

I'm delighted I discovered this beautiful collection.

(And it seems a bit 'serendipity' that while writing this post I had an alert about a local photography exhibition titled 'Girls and their Mothers'.)

Friday Diary: Spoken Word Poetry at Jupiter Artland by daintydora

I didn't post a poem on Wednesday of this week because I knew all my thoughts of poetry would be centred around reading my poem Set in Stone at Jupiter Artland last night, as part of their Inspired to Write competition.

When I found out I'd been shortlisted and invited to read my poem, I felt very honoured, if a little nervous. (A lot nervous...)

The event was held in the ballroom of Bonnington House, which is not usually open to visitors of the art park, but was made available by the owner, Nicky Wilson, who was also a judge in the competition alongside current Poet in Residence, Marjorie Lofti Gill.

Jupiter Artland Inspired to Write Competition

Marjorie read some of the poems for shortlisted entrants who were unable to attend (some entries came from as far away as Egypt, Bolivia and America!), while refreshments of chocolate brownies and hot, spiced mulled wine were the perfect accompaniment to the evening.

My poem didn't 'win', but that in no way detracted from my excitement and enjoyment of the evening. In fact, some of the other poems that I heard really resonated with me and moved me and would have been deserving winners in my opinion, ahead of my own poem.

The named winners were Jonathan Bay, Rafael Torrubia and Jean Taylor.

As Marjorie suggested last night, poetry is a very personal, intimate medium in which to convey thoughts, ideas and visions, and so we all left with our own 'winner', or few, in mind.

My poem was inspired by Laura Ford's Weeping Girls,which inspired a number of other entries too. Their haunting lair under the trees is just so evocative.

Weeping Girls at Jupiter Artland

I particularly enjoyed seeing Nathan Coley's installation 'You Imagine What You Desire' lit up at night, which was in full view from the ballroom during the event.

I tried to get a photograph but only had my phone camera to work with so the illumination of all the bulbs resulted in a flood-lit blur against the black sky. It was just magical to enjoy it while I was there.

Nicky suggested some of the poems would be added to the Jupiter Artland website next to the images and descriptions of the works, and the recording of the evening is apparently going to be broadcast on Australian radio - how fabulous!

With it being a permanent art collection, the different tangents and interpretations of each piece that inspired a story or a poem have created a whole new buzz, and I can't wait to return and experience the wonder of it all again once it reopens in the Spring.


Midweek Poetry: The Raven by daintydora

An attempt today at a poem in Triolet form, where the eight lines follow the repetition ABaAabAB. I like repetition in a poem because it serves to emphasise particular words and create a rhythm. I think the Triolet would usually feature iambic tetrameter too, but one step at a time...

I chose the raven as the subject of the poem because I always feel birds are so intuitive and carry messages through the skies. Ravens particularly are also harbingers of fate (doom?), destiny and magic.

January feels like a somewhat fateful, dark and brooding month.

The Raven

The Raven
The raven came for you today
He stayed a while, then flew away.
(You wouldn't wish him to stay?)
dreich  silhouette above the city's decay
strutting back and forth in my window bay.
The raven came for you today -
He stayed a while then flew away.

Let your life be a poem by daintydora

Wednesday slipped by without a poem, yet it's OK, because, you know, life. It wasn't so much that there was nothing to share, more that the holidays have jangled up days and dates and routines.

Yesterday I saw this beautiful quote and I thought it was a good vibe to start the year on:

When I say be creative, I don’t mean you should all go and become great painters and great poets. I simply mean let your life be a painting, let your life be a poem. —Osho

Let your life be a poem. I just LOVE it.

Those few words feel magical. Simple, but magical.

A distillation of thoughts into a single focus of flow. Just let your life be a poem, and see where it takes you on a sea of simile, metaphor, imagery...

I'm currently reading The Siege by Helen Dunmore (Leningrad is surrounded and food rations are dwindling. I've had this book for over a year but I've never been able to get by the first few pages - because the right time to read it was not then, but now).

'Let your life be a poem', Osho

This short extract from page 143 is the protagonist's father recalling poetic verse from Puskin's Eugene Onegin:

...Tatyana is lost in her dream. The plains, the fir trees, the ghostly light and the creak of her footsteps in the snow: all these come to me so powerfully that it's as if I'd never really read about them or thought about them before. I almost say aloud that I'm sorry I didn't understand until now. My eyes fill with tears, and I don't know why. But I know that it's by these things, and nothing else, that we survive. Poetry doesn't exist to make life beautiful. Poetry is life itself."

I can almost hear 'the creak of her footsteps in the snow', and that indeed is poetry.


Midweek Poetry: A Sonnet of Tweets by daintydora

Using the site Poetweet, my final poem of the year is an amalgamation of my year in tweets in sonnet form. Clever and fun, it's such a great way to remember the things I tweeted about (with a smattering of smiley faces to boot!)

Poetweet: Wood Sticks


The path… by Rebecca HJ

Loving this season of adventure! :) Inseparable from my knitted hat...) Perpetual beauty in nature Thanks - will try that ;)

So much for the shout-out! :) A festive stock-take: December 2015 Late!) I love how this turned out! Poetry: One night in November

Collage Club: What is beautiful? Great topic & discussion :) Colourful & delightful!

Void of your head:/inconsolable." The Autumn Pages Matcha makes mornings manageable!

I've never composed a sonnet before, and I think this one is a perfect insight to my Twitter feed and the exclamation mark of excitement that is often my internal world. The final stanza is my favourite.

May your 'path' for 2016 be paved with happiness, good fortune and gold. Happy New Year :)

Midweek Poetry: A Festive Haiku by daintydora

I love the nostalgia of Christmas, and particularly the memories of Christmas past, however rose-tinted they may be. Christmas tree street scene

Last year I posted my thoughts on the increasing commercialisation of Christmas, and I still feel sad that a festive holiday has become associated with over-spending on electronic gadgets. (And that some people - not just children - are confused about the purpose of Advent as it has become so tangled up with chocolate calendars...)

But instead, I'd like to focus on my happy, nostalgic memories of Christmas:

Huge fairy-light lanterns in bright colours
The cat eating the tinsel
The smell of pine needles from the tree (especially in the early morning darkness)
The anticipation of waiting for 'Father Christmas' to visit on Christmas Eve
Hanging my stocking each year as a child
Making snowflakes from sheets of white paper
The magic of snow falling on Christmas Eve/Day

I always wrote a huge list asking for all sorts of wild and wonderful gifts, like any child, but it was never just about the presents.

A festive haiku of baubles

For my penultimate poem of the year, I've chosen to revert back to the beautifully simple structure that recalls the heady Spring/Summer days earlier in the year of my 100 day project, with a *festive* haiku:

Red lips and mince pies
sing of icy winter skies:
magical Christmas.

Merry Christmas to one and all!


Midweek Poetry: Broken Boughs by daintydora

I know it's nearly Christmas and everyone is doing happy, festive, fun things. But last week while in Krakow I had the opportunity to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest of the Nazi concentration and extermination camps built in the isolated suburbs of Southern Poland.

Auschwitz Concentration Camp, Poland

I already knew a lot about what happened there: from history lessons at school, from books and from films, but seeing the physical spaces that bore witness to the shocking crimes against humanity, and hearing the gruesome details of the tortures while standing in those same spaces, numbed me as I tried to process it in my mind.

There was a guide who pointed out key buildings and locations - she was Polish and her own Grandparents had been arrested and deported to Auschwitz.

I wondered how she could cope with going there every day (her job for almost 17 years), but then I realised I already knew the answer: everyone must know; we must never forget.

I didn't cry while I was there despite the deep sadness I felt. It is only with the luxury of time and distance (which the people who were killed there were so cruelly denied), that I can reflect back on my experience. It's haunted me ever since.

Trees at Auschwitz Concentration Camp, Poland

The trees outside the camp were stark and barren and I wondered if they were old enough to have been there when the camp was occupied? Perhaps some of them.

Trees at Auschwitz Concentration Camp, Poland

I love trees and the language of branches. They were beautiful despite their barren state and the location. I saw birds though I didn't hear their call.


Broken Boughs

A broken bough, twisted in pain
weeping cold tears
salty in the cracks
and it hurts, it stings.
Limbs stretched apart, to breaking point
split in two. An irreparable split.
Leaves, branches, twigs, thorns
falling down and
the net cast wide
but it won't catch us side by side -
not now there's a split in the bough
on a battleground of lies.
"Bend not break."
But how?
Then, us, now: a different sound
beating from a bitter drum.
Hope is gone
though it leaves a mark, a stain
that could never be washed away.
There is no sound.

I was still reading Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky while I was in Krakow, and although I knew she had died at Auschwitz (in August 1942), I hadn't realised that the book was never finished. It made the whole experience that much more poignant and sad because it was like a personal, intimate link with her having read her evocative words.

The image below is near the Market Square in the Old Town of Krakow; a tree-lined park/walkway on the way to the Wawel Royal Castle.

Tree-lined walkway, Krakow, Poland

The dark branches personify the trees giving them an energy that was lacking in the previous images.

The line of the path symbolises journeys and the journey of life, the transience of life.

There is no way to ever lighten the darkness that is the spectre of Auschwitz.


Midweek Poetry: I am the apple by daintydora

Something a bit different this week, moving on from last week's haunting stone statues to the temptations in the Garden of Eden. (Eve had a lot to contend with, what with all that 'forbidden fruit' just going to waste...surely one bite would be OK?)

I am the apple


I am the apple
shiny and red
consuming your thoughts,
filling your head.
One bite is tempting
a temptation too far;
unpredictable, dangerous
the start of a fire.
Just one bite: I dare you -
taste me on your lips;
I come with no warning
just a promise of bliss.
(My bliss is the truth
but truth is a liar)
fanning the flames
of a latent desire.


Quite spicy for a Wednesday!

In fact I love spiced apple...


Midweek Poetry: Set in Stone at Jupiter Artland by daintydora


This week's poem comes via the Jupiter Artland website, where my poem (amidst a selection of other entries) is published as part of the 'Inspired to Write' competition. Weeping Girls at Jupiter Artland

I first visited Jupiter Artland last Spring, attending a guided talk by Nathan Coley on the various art works he has created especially for Jupiter, both permanent and temporary. (Here's what I wrote.)

The competition asked for poetry or prose inspired by one of the installations at the park, and I couldn't ignore the lure of Laura Ford's 'Weeping Girls'.

It was mid-afternoon by the time I saw them; a collection of stone statues of little girls with long hair and a certain kind of inherent malevolence like they were attempting to lure people into danger, beguiling sirens...

What made the experience even more surreal and memorable was that a young girl visiting with her family was interacting with the weeping girls, standing in front of each statue as if they were real girls.

This girl looked to be a similar age, was the same height and had long, wavy hair. It felt like part of the installation to experience this interaction, and in the shady setting under towering trees, it made for a strangely haunting experience.

Weeping Girls at Jupiter Artland2

When I heard about this competition (thanks Vikki!), I couldn't wait to enter. When it came to it, I was so busy focusing on my novel, I didn't really leave myself much time.

Reading over my poem again with a few weeks of distance (read: objectivity), although I still like it, there are a few elements of the punctuation I would change that would make the rhythm read better, but I'm still really glad I entered.

"Perfect is the enemy of done"

And not everything can be as 'perfect' as we would wish. (I'm struggling to find who to attribute that quote to; I want to say Ann Lamott, so I will.)

Here's an extract of my poem 'Set in Stone':

Your smile set in stone lichen-lined, sly smirk to the sun wild with echoes dancing, roaming, singing manifesting moss-stitched lies a sundial glowering in the gloam or a wind-chime girl with a high-pitched scream

Read the full poem.

Jupiter Artland is now closed for the winter, but reopens again in the spring.

Weeping Girl against a tree, Jupiter Artland

Midweek Poetry: (Gwenno) Pregnant with Sound by daintydora

This poem was inspired by a gig I went to a month or so ago in Glasgow: Gwenno playing at Hug & A Pint on Great Western Road. https://soundcloud.com/heavenlyrecordings/not-real-gwenno-remix-of-stealing-sheep

I loved the experience of an intimate, basement gig and wrote this poem the next day.

I just re-discovered it and my own words took me right back to that night, the experience of music reverberating, echoing, pulsing all around me.

(It reminded me of how I felt when I saw Future Islands play.)

The lovely Gwenno was rather pregnant at the time (likely due around now), hence the title.

Her dress was sparkly and amazing and reminded me of a beautiful helium balloon that I had once as a child.

The balloon was in the shape of a fish with metallic scales of emerald and sapphire, and my parents had taken me to the London Palladium for my birthday. I don't remember what we saw but I treasured that balloon long after it fell from my bedroom ceiling to loll on the floor.


Colours inspire me and music inspires me and man I wish I'd bought Gwenno on vinyl!


Pregnant with Sound


on brick,
shiny reflections
under ultra-violet lights
and sounds richochet-
ing from walls
standing, hanging
in threads -
long chords
repeating their beats
on a delay pedal
and the key turns
again, again
in mid-air
unlocking secret
alternative beats
vocals cresting
from deep inside
the sparkly dress;
a bright sculpted bump
concealing everything
but the key on the wall
in a basement
with sound.

Midweek Poetry: Ode on a Grecian Urn featured in debut novel 'Follow Me' by daintydora

I wasn't familiar with 'Ode on a Grecian Urn' by John Keats before I read the debut novel 'Follow Me' by Victoria Gemmell. Follow Me by Victoria Gemmell

An extract of the poem appears three-quarters of the way through the book and fits the story perfectly; a story centred around the deadly allure of the 'Barn' which re-imagines Andy Warhol's Factory in the fictional Scottish town of Eddison.

These lines particularly haunted me:

Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare;
...Who are these coming to the sacrifice? To what green altar, O mysterious priest...

The story starts in the aftermath of Abby's apparent suicide - the fifth in the small town within a year - and which her twin sister Kat struggles to believe can be the truth behind her death.

As we step further into the 'deadly allure' of the Barn, into the underground art world constructed by both Michael and Rob, the dialogue pops from every page, rooting the story in action and drawing us deeper into the secrets of Eddison woods until the final twist.

I know I would have loved going to the Barn as a teenager, immersing into a more adult world, the heady creativity of the art scene: poetry, music, the smell of paint fresh on a canvas and of mysterious college boys playing in a band, a dark layer of mystery in their eyes.

Oh I wish I was a teenager again! OK, maybe not...but I definitely loved being drawn into this gripping Young Adult story.

I was even able to meet Ida, the designer behind the cover art for Follow Me at the book launch in Waterstones, and get a signed 'first edition' of the novel which feels very special.

Holding a book in your hands, a real book, and having it signed by the author is a tangible modern-day magic in today's digital world.

Follow Me Book Launch - Famous for Fifteen MinutesFollow Me Book Launch Night Napkin

The idea of being 'famous for fifteen minutes' (or even fifteen seconds) is very alluring for many of us, turning the spotlight on today's celebrity-obsessed society. Would you have been lured to the Barn, or stayed away?

Read a Q&A interview with Victoria and get an insight into her inspirations and writing process.

Buy Follow Me (#followmetothebarn...)

Follow Me Cupcakes

NB: I know Victoria personally and am delighted to promote her debut novel on this blog. This is not a sponsored post.


Midweek Poetry: Chop, chop, peel & an 'astronaut' carrot by daintydora

Today I woke with the urge to cook and bake and prepare food. I've been away from home for a few days so perhaps the break inspired this bout of kitchen domesticity?

I started with a pot of soup, scrubbing the carrots I harvested from my own garden. I bashed the earth from the roots, sliced the greenery from the top and scrubbed the bent-up carrots I planted too-close-together feeling an immediate sense of nourishment and gratitude in the pungent carrot-y smell.

It took longer than I thought - to sort the gnarled twists into clean, peeled fodder for my meal. But it was satisfying.

Here's my 'astronaut carrot'; half-eaten by a slug or something else (worse?), all tangled strands incestuous and squirming:

Chop, chop, peel: Carrot Astronaut

I didn't have much else to work with, but...

I had onions and herbs, a clove of smokey garlic, oil and butter and sundried tomatoes and a few potatoes that I added to the mix.

I had flour in the cupboard and porridge oats and oatmeal and a few scoops of light brown sugar and so while the soup was bubbling away on the hob, I measured the ingredients for bread and for oatcakes and the morning was cold, frosty with a dampness in the air, yet my little kitchen was hot and steamy with the creation of lovely autumn comfort foods, made with the scarcest of ingredients.

When the bread and the oatcakes were in the oven I melted more butter and squeezed out a tablespoon of golden syrup and greased a baking tray for the flapjacks.

I don't like to use as much sugar as the recipe suggests (an idea I got from the lovely Lila), so I swapped 75g of sugar for 50g of toasted almonds, and it felt a bit like alchemy because I like to switch things up but I have no jurisdiction in the kitchen; no knowledge of what might happen or go wrong like I do when I'm sewing or writing. And I know that baking is a precise science.

I kept the radio on and chopped and kneaded and rolled, listening to the Stereophonics and Muse and Moby and others I can't remember because I was lost in the flow, and by the time I was finished the sun was coming out and it was time for a cup of tea and I'd made a little feast that filled the house with a cosy warm breath of happiness.

Everything turned out OK, well, better than expected or perhaps just as expected if I'd paused to consider what that might be?

I used a heart-shaped cookie cutter for the oatcakes, and I had the soup for lunch with a hunk of fresh bread and I was going to take a photo but I was too hungry to care.

Here's a poem inspired by the baking and making:

Chop, chop, peel

Smoked garlic and simmered
onions spitting lizards
from the pot,
squeezed through silver pinholes
oiled in neon with seaweed-
salt, sun-dried
tomatoes and mixed herbs
for the stock.


Orange skins
trailing roots piled up by the sink:
chop, chop, peel -
and dirt caught in the plughole
scrubbed black indents
leaving traces in the bark.


Then a circus swirling free
in a sauna of steel
left quietly resting
until the kneaded seeds
are floured, pulled
steaming golden from below.


And how does it feel:
chop, chop, peel -
as the knife cuts through?
Resistance brief
then exposed raw slices
screaming inside.


How could I know?


'Echoes' from William Ernest Henley for National Poetry Day by daintydora

In celebration of National Poetry Day 2015, I've chosen to feature a poem from a beautiful old book I discovered last week in one of my favourite charity shops in Glasgow. The collection is titled 'London Voluntaries' by William Ernest Henley, and the paper is satisfyingly thick and creamy with that lovely whiff of rich literary history...

Book of Poems by William Ernest Henley




THE sea is full of wandering foam,
The sky a driving cloud;
My restless thoughts among them roam...
The night is dark and loud.


Where are the hours that came to me
So beautiful and bright?
A wild wind shakes the wilder sea...
O, dark and loud's the night!

These words speak to me as much now as they might have done when they were first written in 1876.

Poetry has no use-by date. Words live on.

The sage and gold copy I have was published in London in 1907, but the first edition was published in January 1898.  Something I particularly love about books - old and second-hand books -  is finding a hand-written inscription, like this one:

Book of Poems by William Ernest Henley

A Kindle can't ever hope to convey this kind of personalised message; the fading, often illegible script of someone taking the time to inscribe good wishes or friendship or love, and write the date, marking that moment forever in time.

For me, there is a beautiful poetry to that simple act, all in itself.

Henley also made a dedication to his wife, itself a poem.

Reading these words more than a hundred years later does nothing to strip them of their intimacy and intent, which leaps from the page as if the ink were still wet or the words being spoken by Henley himself, right now.

William Ernest Henley 'Poems' inscription to his wife

So I suppose, this post is a celebration of both poetry and books. Words handwritten or printed on carefully chosen paper.

Works of art, words of art, undiminished by the passing of time.

Thanks to National Poetry Day for reminding us to celebrate the poems of our time and the poems of the past, while nurturing the poets of our future.

On that note, why not dedicate a poem to someone you love?

Or revisit this beautiful ode to the lakeside solitude of Cadenabbia, Italy by Henry Wordsworth Longfellow.

Or my own ode to the Supermoon.

Poetry is the salve of the soul, capturing meaning and emotions, and deciphering the puzzle of life.


Midweek (Blackout) Poetry: Perfectly Spent by daintydora

It's the 'Season of Words' with Get Messy Art Journal, and I usually post my journal pages here. WORDS are my passion of course, especially on this blog, so I'm posting my latest attempt at blackout poetry, inspired by the work of Austin Kleon.

I 'found' it on a random page of an altered book.

Blackout Poetry - Perfectly Spent

The book is a hardback edition of 'Elegance' by Kathleen Tessaro, which I've reworked into 'The Elegance of Words' for my own #getmessy purposes.

I turned the first few pages, scouring for attractive adjectives, nouns, adverbs.

And then I tapped the page with a retractable pencil, eyeing up the inspiration until I was ready to scratch out superfluous words with a gold Sharpie.

Last night. In the living room. By the glow of a paper IKEA lamp.

Perfectly Spent: A blackout poem


Sophisticated rows
of photographs,
aloof gazes
animated, silent, dazzling.
waves turning
cigarettes pass
abundant in a chignon -
eyes feline;
perfectly spent.

Blackout poetry is SO much fun - it's amazing what you can find inside the words of others, the hidden poems waiting to be discovered, especially from the kind of text you might not usually read.

Check out my other experiments with found/blackout poetry using an article from a fashion glossy,  Linux magazineTolstoy's Anna Karenina, Tarot-etry and the amazing fun of Paint Chip Poetry.


Midweek Poetry: White Cloud Dreams by daintydora

I had this dream the other night that I wrote down as soon as I woke up in a crazy, scribbled, early-morning-handwriting. The vision of it is still so strong in my mind as if it were a calling, some kind of prophetic message. A sense of something... higher, or a veiled message from my subconscious.

And the aerial view of it was so different to any dream I've ever had before.

White Cloud Dreams

A white cloud is hanging above the mountains - the Alps or the Pyrenees or the Himalayas - and the pin-pricks of the mountain peaks appear tiny: icing bobbles on a cake, snow, edible baubles; picturesque, white and frosty.
The cloud is high up above the world, spiritual and all around me, white and blue and green.
White mists, white snow, blue skies, a river below and green trees peeping up through the white, their green tips just visible.
And then crystal rain-drops sprinkle down slowly on the mountains, but not enough that it melts the snow.
I am the light, twitching, bright, sparkly. I am the cloud. I know just before I wake up that I am the cloud.

It all felt very poetic and silent and beautiful. And the image was very specific to the point I would recognise it if I saw it again (in a dream or reality).

But I'm not sure what it means?