Monday, 27 May 2013

The Blog Spot

This week I will be going to (or will have gone, depending on when you read/read this) the “Literary Salon.”  Posh? Pretentious? Puzzling? Not really: it’s just a bunch of folk from all walks of Literary Life, from fledgling to famous, gathering in a pub on The Mound to network and chat.  Since the theme of this month’s Salon is blogging, I thought I’d give a wee ‘shout-out’ to the Edinburgh City of Literature who run this shin-dig (and to Napier University, and the Wash Bar who host it.)

Perhaps I should ask myself a few questions about my bloggery. Here’s one of those self-interviews that these blogger-types do…

Why do you blog?

Why do I write?  Writing is a compulsion; I can’t imagine not writing.  It’s my way of trying to making sense of the world, an attempt to understand life, and connect with people through my writing.  There’s no point in writing in a vacuum.  But if a writer plans to share their writing, whether through publishing, performing, or online, he or she should make the words readable, enjoyable, and well-crafted.  I use my blog, therefore, as a means of disciplining myself to write frequently and hopefully, better.

What do you blog?

Mainly about me; what I am doing in my writing, some examples of my work (usually poetry… I also write fiction and drama), and my views about topical or political issues. Each year I tend to have a theme.  Last year it was 26 Treasures; the year before was phone-boxes, and my dad’s Glasgow Schooldays.  This year, I am posting poems from my sequence, Twelve Tones of Blue on the 12th day of the month.

Is this your first blog; do you contribute to other blogs?

At the end of my 26 Treasures project, I was invited to contribute to The Feast Bowl, the Museum of Scotland’s blog. Here it is: I’ve written and contributed to other blogs that are no longer extant; one on the horrors of Sex Trafficking, as part of a project inspired by Stop The Traffik and Amnesty International’s Stop Violence Against Women campaigns.  There are many other organisations who champion this cause also.  I had another blog called Not Everything in Black and White… on which I posted some of my photography (before the days of Flickr) and quite a lot of angry ranting about the shitty world.  Not good.

How did you come up with the name for this blog?

For a long while, I languished behind the romantic idea of a writer sitting in a turret or an ivory tower playing out the angst of a suffering artist.  This had to stop.  This blog was my way of coming out of a long period of reclusion and saying to my friends: I’m back, I’m okay, I’m still writing. The Tin Angel is a reference to a Joni Mitchell song and the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz.  As the years progressed, I made this blog, and my pen-name, public.

Do you follow other blogs?

I have to confess I’m not an avid blog-reader.  I’d like to mention three lovely writers, regular attenders at the Lit Salon, whose blogs I dip into from time to time.  Emily Dodd writes about her many projects, and how she obtained a joke about otter-poo at a Literary Salon!  Caroline Von Schmalensee,  mentioned me on her website, in a piece about spoken words.  And Lynsey May, who writes about writing and the ‘turreted’ experience for a natural introvert.

All female writers, as it happens… I wonder if this is a trend in blog-land? Perhaps we’ll all find out at Tuesday’s Literary Salon?

Sunday, 12 May 2013

May Magnify

According to Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem, May Magnificat, May is Mary’s Month.  Like him, I also muse at that, and wonder why.  It’s no bad thing that, throughout the year, there are holy days to celebrate the mother of Jesus.  God knows, women get pretty bad press in the Bible, and the Church remains heaven-bent on discriminating against them.  Yet people ought to beware of giving Mary more significance than her simply being an ordinary mother of an extraordinary man.  While I accept her part in history, I certainly don’t buy the miracle-pregnancy in literal terms. A ‘virgin!?’


Why fasten that upon her,

with a feasting in her honour?

The cult of the virgin, along with celibacy and vows of purity, demonstrates that Christianity has long been hung up on sex, and sees women’s sexuality purely in terms of the male domain.  Motherhood, and all its connotations, should be celebrated within its own right.  Hopkins matches this to spring, and portrays Mary’s joyful celebration of pregnancy as a revelation of nature’s beauty:


All things rising, all things sizing

Mary sees, sympathising

     With that world of good,

     Nature’s motherhood.

Today Americans also celebrate Motherhood: it is ‘Mother’s Day.’ And in the Church, it is the feast of The Ascension (now commonly transferred from Thursday – presumably because nobody goes to Church in the week, let alone on Sunday these days.)  This strange event – Christ ascending into heaven, like a puppet on a string – is as unfathomable as the resurrection or the ‘virgin birth.’  Yet it seemed necessary on grounds of equality alone (believe it or not) to proffer a similar trip to Mary.

The doctrine of the Assumption enabled Jung to assert that man’s wholeness comprised both male and female elements. The latter he called the anima. In my Twelve Tones of Blue cycle, 'Canto V' pitches the persona in the female voice, pits the blue sky against the green sea, and lets all five sensory perceptions assimilate the scene.  The poem ends by recalling the annunciation, when Mary sang out with great joy: Magnificat anima mea – ‘My soul magnifies the Lord.’  


The magnifying of each its kind

With delight calls to mind

     How she did in her stored

     Magnify the Lord.

Okay, so Gerard Manley Hopkins says it better than I ever could, but here is my attempt at honouring Mary, and nature, and humanity.

Twelve Tones of Blue


Canto V

Drifting: suspended at the clear blue centre of things

Floating on the surface of a drum, underneath the lens

Of sky; salt on my tongue and the pungent skein

Prick the five fingers of every available sense

Until, rising from the azure profundity sings

An Assumption, out-shadowed by a vociferous paean:

                        Anima Mea, Anima, Anima Mea