Monday, January 22, 2018

Thoughts on Acceptance & Rejection

So far this month I have received two rejections and one acceptance.
I began to think about the position that writers, poets in particular, put themselves in - to be accepted or rejected.

No one forces us to write and submit ourselves to the mercy of editors. Most of us believe something inside of us forces us to write and subsequently submit ourselves to the mercy of editors.
Rather than considering the drive to write and where that comes from, which is where this line of thought usually goes, I've been thinking about the drive to put ourselves in a position of acceptance or rejection.

For me, and after many years of hardening myself or conditioning myself not to associate the rejection of a poem as a rejection of myself as a person, although I do believe this to be true I think still on an unconscious level the two are inseparable. So why do I do it?
The other side of the coin is that every acceptance of a poem is an affirmation of my worth, of my being, my existence even.

I wonder if by submitting poems and inviting the inevitability of rejection I am playing out my fears, or past experiences, of rejection in 'real' life.  And maybe if I can experience rejection in the confines and under the control of my writing life it will somehow magically save me from rejection in my interpersonal relationships. Also if my universal human need for acceptance is also met through my writing then I am not quite so dependent on having that need met in my personal life.

In this sense writing becomes an emotional buffer zone where the feelings of acceptance and rejection are experienced in a safer and more controllable space than in real life.

On a different note...
I think there is something mythical about writing poetry - admired poets past and present become absorbed in the greater project and historical continuum of 'poetry'. When I am reading poems, the authors of them, whether dead or alive all exist together in the otherworldly arena of poetry. So when I received an email from Eavan Boland taking a poem for Poetry Ireland Review it was as jolting as receiving an email from Seamus Heaney would be - someone who lives and exists in the great realm of poetry. That's my way of saying I'm very happy not just to have a poem in PIR, but to have one accepted by Eavan Boland is very special to me.

Also this finally arrived through the door the other day!



Saturday, January 13, 2018

So I finished reading the biography of Lorca last night - raced through the final hundred or so pages to get to his inevitable death and cried to read about it. I was thoroughly miserable all night. How utterly sad that his life should end that way.

Ironic the fact that he was barely a political person to have been shot by fascist militia on supposed political grounds. He didn't try to be a hero - he was terrified of death. When told he would die he attempted to recite a prayer his mother had taught him but in his terror and anguish couldn't remember the words. So terribly human and so terribly sad.

Some more quotes from the book that struck me -

“the tragic, the real, is what speaks to people’s hearts, and that’s why artists who seek popular success always create Christ figures full of purple sores.” 
"The artist, and particularly the poet, is always an anarchist in the best sense of the word. He must heed only the call that arises within him from three strong voices: the voice of death, with all its foreboding, the voice of love, and the voice of art." 
"In art, you must never let yourself remain quiet or complacent … You must have the courage to hammer your head against things and against life … and then we’ll see what happens.… Another thing that’s essential is to respect your instincts. The day you stop fighting your instincts—that’s the day you’ve learned to live." 
"Success never satisfies me. Success is almost always a momentary stroke of luck that has nothing to do with a given work’s intrinsic value." 
“I don’t believe a poet should produce too much,” he had said in 1935. “One should be demanding. Scrutinize what you’ve written, take a close look at a book before hurling it out into the market.”




Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Always fascinating to learn about the journey of a poet. As writers we are always evolving, every new book / new poem must push beyond what we have previously written.

I've been writing in this blog for over a decade, intermittently over the last number of years but still keeping record of my progress and development as a writer. I've kept this blog for that purpose - it's why I started it.

In my early days of writing and publishing poems I was obsessed with trying to understand the mysteries of how poets find their 'voice', and desperate to deepen my own poems and understanding of how poetry 'works' beyond the observable mechanics and tools of writing a poem.

It's something every writer has to work out for themselves with a kind of dedication and perseverance in the face of constant rejection and failure that seems idiotic from an outside perspective.  It has always been a help to me when I caught a glimpse into someone else's struggle and at times shone light on how I myself might move forward. I have always been grateful when writers have been open about the mysteries of their progress.


Right now I'm absorbed in Lorca's struggle through a wonderful in-depth biography about him by Leslie Stainton. Lucky for us Lorca was a prolific letter writer and many of his friends kept detailed diaries of their lives with him so the biography is incredibly informative. Despite being a huge fan of his work, I knew very little about Lorca beforehand and it is wonderful for me to read how each of his collections - poems that I so love - were brought into being - his struggles, his obsessions, his influences, his evolving philosophy of poetry.

Here are some quotes from the book so far that I have found particularly interesting -

"As a poet he remained committed to the ideal of “pure” poetry...Poetry must free itself from the “puzzle of the image and from the planes of reality.” It must ascend to an “ultimate plane of purity and simplicity”—the plane of “escape,” poetry’s last and purest realm." 
"To Lorca, the world of the child embodied the same type of “escape” he sought to achieve as a poet. Filled with gentle descriptions of mother and child, and wistful portraits of childhood itself" 
"The child, he said, inhabits an “inaccessible poetic world that neither rhetoric nor the pandering imagination nor fantasy can penetrate.” The child, like the poet or painter who courts pure inspiration, is capable of discovering mysterious and indecipherable relations between things."
"The lullaby, he told his audience, is the bridge that links the child’s magical world to the adult’s more rational one." 
“When I correct proofs, I experience the inevitable sensation of death,” 
"Lorca hoped to effect a radical new synthesis of the traditional and the avant-garde. Stylization, not imitation, was the key to his approach. In his lecture on cante jondo he had argued that artists should never seek to copy the ineffable modulations of traditional material, for “we can do nothing but blur them. Simply because of education.”"


Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Happy New Year!

2018 has gotten off to a perfect start with my Ballad of the Clyde's Water in January's Poetry Magazine which you can read here. Such a privilege having a poem not only in Poetry but also in the same issue as Greenock poet W.S. Graham!

After eight months of working without any time off I'm grateful not to be working over the next few months where I can focus on writing some more Scottish ballad poems.

I've just started reading Lorca: A Dream of Life by Leslie Stainton and I'm looking forward to being fully immersed in the life of Lorca over the next few weeks.

I did manage to get the wonderful Louise Bourgeois: The Return of the Repressed: Psychoanalytic Writings for Christmas and absolutely love it. It's a beautiful two-volume hard-back box set. One book contains her writings interspersed with photos and the other has reproductions of her best known work.




Monday, November 20, 2017

Autumn 2017 - you have been good to me! I've written a dozen poems in the last month - I'm not entirely sure where I've found the time! But I've been in the 'zone' and I'm milking it for all it's worth because, of course, it won't last. 

So I've written 21 poems so far this year, last year was miserable - I only wrote 3. In 2015 I wrote 11 poems, 2014 - 31. And my highest number of poems in a year was in 2013 when I wrote 45. 
The last couple years I've been writing much longer poems and sequences which accounts for some of the number disparity.

Anyway this last month has been a sheer pleasure poetry-wise and Transtromer has been my go-to poet everyday. Through Transtromer I've allowed myself to write mostly lyrical nature poems, it's been nice not trying to force a bigger theme onto them. However I feel that I'm ready to go back to my ballad poems soon.


I'm thinking of a book wish-list for Christmas and so far have:

Louise Bourgeois: The Return of the Repressed: Psychoanalytic Writings  - quite pricey but sounds amazing and I do so love her work.

Antigonick by Anne Carson - not only is it brilliantly written but it is absolutely gorgeous book illustrated by Bianca Stone (I read a copy of it at Moniack Mhor earlier this year). 

Lorca: A Life by Ian Gibson - haven't read a biography for ages and I like a winter escape into another life.




Tuesday, October 31, 2017


I'm officially addicted to writing sequences - I just can't seem to help it!
Autumn has always been a good writing time for me and autumnal poems have been spilling out of me over the last few weeks. So I guess I'm back to writing shorter, imagistic (but in sequences!) poems for now.

I've made Tomas Transtromer my current mentor poet - trying to work out how he comes up with those absolutely perfect metaphors, and how the inner and outer worlds come together so fluidly in his poems.

Transtromer was a psychologist and I've always been drawn to his dream-like poems, I occasionally use dream images / events in my own poems and have started recording a dream diary again. I particularly like how he zones in on the narrator's experience of the here and now - the eternal present. I'm doing a counselling skills course at the moment and it's challenging me very much to think about my feelings in the present - and of course this is all seeping into my poems.

I have a few poems out in submission, it feels good to have a growing number available - though I'm impatient to hear back!



Tuesday, October 10, 2017

"Scottish nationalist and feminist perspectives are refracted through a singular imagination drawn to the elemental... McCready is interested in the mysteries of birth and death, the mutability of matter, nature, myth, female experience and history as narrative of women's lives."
Delighted to read a review of Madame Ecosse in the latest issue of Poetry Review. It was reviewed by Ellen Cranitch and paired with her review of Dalgit Nagra's latest collection, which was an honour.

I'm also super-pleased to have a poem accepted for an anthology of poetry commemorating the centenary of W.S Graham - I'm so pleased to see W.S Graham and his work remembered, he is my favourite Scottish poet and I would love to see his work better known and his talent recognised.

A busy season of work and study has left little time for poetry so I'm sitting on the bare bones of at least four poems waiting on serious attention. Thankfully the busy season is coming to an end so I'm hoping to get stuck back into writing soon!

Sunday, August 27, 2017


I've made it past the post-collection doldrums, thank goodness. I've been absorbed in reading Hart Crane's The Bridge and the work of a wonderful Slovenian poet called Ales Steger. I've been reading a collection of his called The Book of Things. It's a collection of brilliantly written object poems. He is often compared to Francis Ponge and is obviously influenced by him but definitely has his own voice and slant. 

I've had a busy summer working as a tour guide at Inveraray Castle since May. It's been an enjoyable experience - I've learned so much 17th and 18th century Scottish history and I've just finished writing a three-part poem sequence about the castle. 

The poem I wrote for the Scotia Extremis project will be published in a collection based on that project. And I'm delighted that a three-part ballad - my version of an old Scottish ballad about lovers who drown in the Clyde has been accepted by Poetry Magazine!!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

It's hard to think of yourself as a writer during the periods you're not actually writing. I've come to realise that no matter how many poems I get published if I'm going through a period of not writing then it all feels very detached from me. The primary motivation for writing poetry is in the experience of the writing itself rather than publication, though it would feel pretty pointless if there was no aim at finding a readership for the work.

I'm a little bit in post-second-collection-limbo just now. I hate being in limbo. I have my ballad project which is on-going and I think will be a long-term project. But I don't feel like I have much of a focus for writing otherwise. I'm looking for new sources of inspiration and not sure where I'll find it. I've ordered a collection by the Romanian poet Marin Sorescu - I very much like the work of his I've read online and I have a tendency towards Eastern European poetry.  So I hope I find inspiration in his work. In the meantime I'm forcing myself to keep writing regularly, unedited stuff which may or may not occasionally unlock the poetry door.


Saturday, April 29, 2017

Last month a poem from Madame Ecosse was Poem of the Week in The Scotsman Newspaper (thanks to Colin Waters of the Scottish Poetry Library!).

I've been plodding away working on some occasional poems alongside some ballads. I have four poems on the go at the moment and finding it good to be able to switch between poems when I get stuck on one.

Reading-wise I've been enjoying reading Siren by Canadian poet Kateri Lanthier and I've just got around to picking up a copy of Jane Kenyon's Selected poems from Bloodaxe. Still enjoying Kinnell's Selected - some stunning poems in there. I re-read Jay Parini's book on Theodore Roethke which truly is a wonderful read.

I'm between odd jobs at the moment and hate the lack of routine and uncertainty though all should be resolved in the next month. I've applied to do Counselling Skills - a part-time course at Strathclyde Uni starting later this year. My plan is to train as a professional counsellor part-time over the next three years which I'm excited about but a little daunted by the thought of juggling - work, family, study plus finding and clocking up the necessary volunteer counselling hours to qualify - and preserve my sanity by having writing time! I guess we'll see how it'll go!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017


Well it's been a busy month. A flying visit to London for the launch of Madame Ecosse - the launch went well, it was good to hear the other Eyewear poets read. I got to spend a few hours in the British Museum and in the British Library between train journeys.


Then it was a week up at beautiful Moniack Mhor with nine of this year's Scottish Book Trust New Writers awardees. It was an interesting week - we spent two of the evening reading some of our work. I particularly enjoyed hearing the prose writers as mostly I only go to poetry readings - lots of beautiful work being written.



It was great having access to the Moniack Mhor library and the northern branch of the Scottish Poetry Library which is there also.

My favourite discoveries were Anne Carson's Antigonick which is a gorgeous hardback with illustrations by Bianca Stone. Carson's translation of Sophocles' Antigone is hilarious, darkly comic and hard hitting. I loved it.
I also loved reading through the Selected Poems of Galway Kinnell and have since bought my own copy.

Between all of this, followed by a wee camping trip with the kids, I'm looking forward to not going anywhere else anytime soon!

Very happy to have my 'Twilight Sleep' poem showcased on Abigail Morley's The Poetry Shed which you can read here. It's from Madame Ecosse.



Tuesday, March 14, 2017

***********EYEWEAR SPRING LAUNCH************


I'm very much looking forward to launching Madame Ecosse in London this Friday - 


17th March  7pm-9pm 
London Review Bookshop





There will be readings from Mariela Griffor, U.S. Dhuga, Kate Noakes, Jason Lee, Isabel Rogers, and Dick Watts of Post-Punk band The Passage.

Of course I'll be reading too! All welcome - there will be wine and beautiful books!!!

Plus it's St Patrick's Day! 

Snapshots of Madame Ecosse!!

I love to see pics of my collection out there in the big wide world - a little piece of me lives inside each one.














Thursday, March 02, 2017

I've written my first ballad sequence based on Scots ballad 'Clyde's Water' also known as 'Mother's Malison'. You can read the original ballad and variants here.
It was collected by Henry James Child in his anthology of traditional ballads from Scotland and England published in the late 19th century, and is indexed as Child ballad 216.

It was challenging to write - bringing together the narrative aspect, incorporating ballad tropes and yet making it thoroughly my own poem.
The basic narrative is -  
Willie wishes to visit his lover. His mother bids him stay, and curses him to drown in Clyde if he goes. Willie, trusting in his horse, goes anyway, but his lover's mother bids him away. Returning, he drowns in Clyde; his lover drowns as she seeks him." 

I wrote it as a sequence of three poems in the voices of the three woman involved - the first is in the voice of William's mother, the second the voice of William's lover (May Margaret), and lastly in the voice of May Margaret's mother.

I used Lorca's Gypsy Ballads as inspiration,  and also especially his long sequence 'Lament for Ignacio Sanchez Mejias' which is a stunning poem. I used some repetition and some stand-alone rhyming quatrains, and incorporated some lines from a traditional Scots folk / childrens song.
So at the moment it's around 140 lines long and needs to be put away for a while so I can gain perspective on it.

I've just finished reading A Lucid Dreamer: The Life of Peter Redgrove. I started reading it a few years back but didn't get too far, this time I thoroughly enjoyed it. The biography was pretty thorough regarding the details of Redgrove's life, but I'd like to see another biography written better with more analysis and insight. I'm a good bit of the way through Redgrove's collected poems and thoroughly enjoying them. It's funny how you can approach different poets at different times in your life - I couldn't make head nor tail of Redgrove a few years ago.
Sometimes it feels like there's no end to feeding the poem-monster - if I'm working on a poem I'm trying to finish it, if I'm not working on a poem I'm trying to write one and so on it goes.

Monday, February 20, 2017

I'm excited to be working on a new series of poems based on old Scottish ballads. It's an idea I've been toying with for a while but just didn't have the time to throw myself into.
Now is the time and after much reading and absorbing (finally finished my close reading of the Golden Bough) I'm in writing mode.

There's something about working on a project / theme over several poems that very much attracts me - I can really get absorbed in as opposed to writing occasional poems here and there.
I hope to be working on this intensely over the next couple of months.

Thanks to the wonderful Scottish Book Trust I'm going to Moniack Mhor for a writer's retreat at the end of March with this year's intake of New Scottish Writer Awardees. It's 14 miles outside Inverness and sounds/looks amazing. It will be wonderful to have a week in the Scottish highlands away from all responsibilities just to write.

However before then I have a quick jaunt to London for the official launch of Madame Ecosse which will be at the London Review Bookshop on Friday 17th March. Also hoping to plan over the next few months reading/launches in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017



Signed copies available from myself (UK only) if you click on the 'buy now' button on the left!


Delighted to have the book finally in my hands and I'm over-the-moon at what a beautiful object it is! Eyewear Publishing have done a wonderful job with it - thanks especially to Todd Swift and Edwin Smet at Eyewear!




Thursday, January 19, 2017

She's nearly here...



After much toing and froing Madame Ecosse is finally at the printers - I'm so looking forward to seeing the book jump out of my head (off the page) and come to life as a real thing!

I did a phone interview for Napier University student magazine about my writing which you can read the write-up of here.

I'm enjoying having time to read and start to write again. Tentatively writing notes, odd lines and images - slowing feeling my way back into writing mode. I've been reading James Wright and today I started reading Adam Zagajewski's Unseen Hand collection - wonderful wonderful poems.


Wednesday, January 04, 2017

After having spent Christmas in the hyperreality that is Disneyland Paris - where the initial dream-like cartoony fantasy-joy of sweet childhood nostalgia turns eventually into some Kafkaesque nightmare where every time you close your eyes magnified shapes and colours turn endlessly, cloying disney music burns on your brain and Cheshire cat smiles grow grotesquely larger on every princess' face. 'The Happiest Place on Earth' - where everyone is happy whether or not they are happy (sounds more like North Korea). However I did enjoy it - an experience truly of our age, and of course my kids had a blast though after four days they too were glad to get away from it.

Now is the time to break back into that distant memory of writing poems - put an end to post-holiday fatigue and discipline the days again.  

Plan - 

Spend an hour a day close reading The Golden Bough, making notes
Start working on random poems to break the inertia - read Lawrence and Bhatt for inspiration
Read Read Read
Continue this until the bones of a theme start to reveal themselves

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 19, 2016

So the pre-order page for Madame Ecosse is now up on the Eyewear Publishing website here with very kind and generous blurbs for it from Vicki Feaver, Harry Giles and Jane Clarke, which I'm delighted by and very grateful for!

I've finished full-time work for now which means time in my life for some much needed Poetry - reading and writing. I feel like my subconscious is bursting with poems - just need to find the right expression for it all. I want to do something all encompassing, challenging, bigger, something I can really throw myself into, beyond what I've done before. I've carved out a study corner in the house and finally have my own laptop to be able to work on poems without interruption which is wonderful!! 

However the first priority is going through the proofs for Madame Ecosse - it goes to the printers on January 15th which is very exciting! Thankfully I'm sure I made the right choice in changing the order of poems and by scrapping the sections - it feels much more like a cohesive whole.  

After a dearth of poetry this year I'm very much looking forward to being fully immersed in poetry in 2017!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

My short reflective essay on last year's visit to Culloden is in the new Northwords Now and can be read here. It's my first tentative step into non-poetry writing and was a pleasure to write - a descriptive piece closely related to writing poems but communicating something that I couldn't get across in a poem.
I think I'll be writing more pieces like this alongside my poems - in fact I've already begun another
about my visit to the Mary Stuart's chambers in Holyrood Palace last week - an immensely moving place to visit (the chambers specifically, not the palace!). I wish I could have shut out all the other tourists and had the rooms to myself for a while.

So Madame Ecosse is forthcoming February '17 - last week I reordered the entire collection. Originally it was going to be in three sections but the selecting of poems for the first two sections seemed arbitrary with a number of poems, so then I put the collection into two sections - Garden Songs and The Birth Files - but even these sections niggled away at me.
I noticed with Tree Language (which was in three sections) that reviewers would quite happily ignore an entire section in reviewing the book. I guess I wouldn't like The Birth Files poems to be ignored - they are on a tricky subject after all - and I'm suspicious that relegating them to a section at the end of the book would cause them to be easily ignored.
I'm not entirely sure the new order is the finalised deal - I'll need a couple of weeks before I can objectively look at it again.

Like everything else - no readings for ages then they all come at once!
I'll be reading alongside J.O. Morgan, Vicki Husband and Em Strang at -

St Mungo's Mirrorball Showcase 5
Thursday 27th October
CCA Clubroom, Glasgow, 7pm

I'll also be reading at the third Dunoon Book Festival alongside Tariq Latif -

30th October 12.30 pm
Dunoon's Victorian Pier Building

I recently ordered The Literary Impact of The Golden Bough by John B. Vickery - a second-hand ex-uni library book that has clearly never been opened. It looks specifically at the influence of The Golden Bough on Yeats, T.S. Eliot and Lawrence. I can't wait until January when I can really get into my study of The Golden Bough and work out what kind of poem(s) I'm going to feed it all into.