Sunday, 11 September 2016

Day 11 Tattoo

 Image result for pattern of light on water

Tattoo - Wallace Stevens

The light is like a spider.
It crawls over the water.
It crawls over the edges of the snow.
It crawls under your eyelids
And spreads its webs there-
Its two webs.

The webs of your eyes
Are fastened
To the flesh and bones of you
As to rafters or grass.

There are filaments of your eyes
On the surface of the water
And in the edges of the snow.

And similar to this, I love the tattoo that the shadows of leaves in summer create on the ground: 


Image result for swallow tattoo on wrist

Tattoo ~ a mark of freedom, free spirit design, a stamp/statement of individualism, a moment of fleeting impetuosity forever captured in ink...

A tattoo can be many things, metaphorically speaking. A mark of some kind, one you maybe regret, but have to learn to live with. or a declaration of personal intent, a peekaboo glimpse of personality, a permanent accessory that proclaims who you are.


(for World Suicide Prevention Day)

You didn't ask for it,
this inscribed dark matter.
Its ink runs in you, black,
night after night.

But the world will return soon
with its story of colours.
Shadows only make
for temporary tattoos.

Image result for heart tattoo


Your love has etched itself in my life
like a tattoo
I never wanted;

pierced my heart
in a painful flair
of permanence

I wasn't ready for.
At first it looked
like the trembling shadow 

leaves cast on sunny ground -
arabesque intense truth. 
Now, it's a wizened scribble,

deep dark scar tissue
of how keenly I felt,
how deeply I lost.

When I love, I feel its needle sting.
When I write, I use its ink. 


Tattoo Ideas

I've always wanted a blue butterfly on my wrist
to flick and flicker if life should get dull and flat.
The colour of creativity, the spark of a whim
to carry as a totem, blue and deep as a dream.

Or a swallow with outstretched wings,
visual footnote stamp of what it means
to be free, to swoop and glide through days,
an inked charm against being tied down in any way. 

Or in eloquent script, a favourite quote noted, 
spiral of words invoking the body to take heed,
a spell realised as the letters bleed into skin.
What's on the inside clearly marked from without

(You see why temporary just won't do.)

 Image result for small blue butterfly wrist tattoo

Poems (c) Siobhán Mc Laughlin

Friday, 9 September 2016

Day 9: Dance

Image result for don't walk dance

 Image result for famous art about dance
 'Dancers in Blue' ~ Edgar Degas

"How can we tell the dancer from the dance?"
 ~ WB Yeats, 'Among School Children' 

 "Couldn't possibly tell you how I feel, but I can dance, dance, dance..."

"Put on your red shoes and dance the blues..."

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Day 8: Coffee

Image result for famous poems about coffee

~ T.S. Eliot, 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufock'

Oh, there are so many things to say about coffee. But coffee itself is a fragrant poem in its own, a grand event, a work of irresistible delicious art!

For now:

Coffee Love Triptych


My coffee love. A flat white is drinkable art if you ask me.  An instant hit of heart highs. 

Image result for poems written on coffee cups

Monday, 5 September 2016

Day 5: Cats

Image result for hemingway and cats 

"yet here and now many/fine cats/with great style/lounge about/in the alleys of
the universe."

~Charles Bukowski

"I have lived with several Zen masters - all of them cats."  
~ Eckhart Tolle 

"Thousands of years ago, cats were worshipped as gods. Cats have never forgotten this."
~ Anonymous

Cats. The writer's totem animal?  Clearly cats are much more revered in writing than 'the cat sat on the mat, with a hat, after a rat' mono syllable rhyme would let us know.

Le Chat Noir, the iconic Bohemian club for writers and artists in Montmartre, Paris, at the turn of the 19th century:

 Image result for chat noir original poster

Hemingway with one of his beloved cats:
Image result for hemingway and cats

"A cat has absolute emotional honesty: human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings, but a cat does not.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

And another cat lover...

cats and you and me - Charles Bukowski
the Egyptians loved the cat
were often entombed with it
instead of with the child
and never with the dog.

and now
good people with
the souls of cats
are very few

yet here and now many
fine cats
with great style
lounge about
in the alleys of
the universe.

our argument tonight
whatever it was
no matter
how unhappy
it made us

remember that
there is a
adjusting to the
space of itself
with a calm
and delightful

in other words
magic persists with
or without us
no matter how
we may try to
destroy it

and I would
destroy the last chance for
that this might always

Image result for charles bukowski fine cats poem

my cats - Charles Bukowski

I know. I know.

they are limited, have different
needs and

but I watch and learn from them.
I like the little they know,
which is so

they complain but never
they walk with a surprising dignity.
they sleep with a direct simplicity that
humans just can’t

their eyes are more
beautiful than our eyes.
and they can sleep 20 hours
a day
hesitation or

when I am feeling
all I have to do is
watch my cats
and my

I study these

they are my

Not to mention many more writers who were cat lovers!11 Writers Who Really Loved Cats

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Curating Inspiration: September Daily Scrapbook


Well it's been a long time since I've posted here! A combination of reasons: no time, (isn't that always the excuse?!), not lack of inspiration but a kind of overload, where I've never been able to decide on just any one topic to go ahead with and post and hence a kind of crippling uncertainty, that and slow Internet (really frustrating). 

Anyway to remedy all that. A local Arts magazine Art Dogs has come up with a delightful 30-day September art challenge in which I am partaking.   It consists of a theme given every day for a piece of art to be produced and shared - be it poem, scribbling, painting, photograph, or anything creative, so be it. What a great way of breaking the September routine of back to school (ie work) and autumn seasonal slump! I'm all in, as best I can. I have been trying to do something every day (it's hard, but I love a challenge, especially an inspiring one) but I've been feeling the need to post the extra bits somewhere, the preparation parts that the finished product leaves behind the little tidbits that are footnotes to the said theme (anything from songs to quotes to famous offerings) alongside, or sometimes not, my creative piece for the day.

So all of these I've decided to record here, in a kind of keepsake scrapbook of musings. Curating the inspiration, so to speak. 

Alrightey then. 

Interested in joining? Have a look at the site here

(I've just caught up to the challenge in the past few days so I will be subsequently back-dating posts here for the first week. After that, posts are fresh off the press, yippee!)


Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Letter To A Young Writer

I want to share here this letter that writer Colum McCann posted lately to The Story Blog, in which he offers his advice to young writers. I'm posting it here because:
1/It offers brilliant, no-nonsense advice.
2/He's one of my contemporary favourte writers.
3/I could do with some writing advice right now - as could no doubt you, fellow aspiring writers tuning in...  Honestly, we can never have too much of it....
4/It is also a lovely nod to Rilke's 'Letters To A Young Poet' which contains some of the most beautiful lines of advice ever written about writing. 

Every sentiment of this is reflective of McCann's own writing style which is bold, unique,  poetic and powerful.  (I had the good fortune of meeting him once, and after asking him a question about his book, he immediately responded off-the-bat 'Are you a writer yourself?' to which I was pleasantly surprised, chuffed even, and still am. Well, if you're going to get recognition from anybody, lovely that it's a writer, one of your favourites and most highly regarded at that. (So thank you for that Colum.)  And by the way, he is such a nice guy in real life, highly intelligent and talkative, modest and courteous and kind.  

Anyway, he would know a lot about advice as he teaches Creative Writing at Hunter College in New York. He is by all accounts, not just a brilliant writer but an inspiring teacher as well. Anyway, words to  remember, to engrave into your writing heart:

'Do the things that do not compute. Be earnest. Be devoted. Be subversive of ease. Read aloud. Risk yourself. Do not be afraid of sentiment even when others call it sentimentality. Be ready to get ripped to pieces: It happens. Permit yourself anger. Fail. Take pause. Accept the rejections. Be vivified by collapse. Try resuscitation. Have wonder. Bear your portion of the world. Find a reader you trust. Trust them back. Be a student, not a teacher, even when you teach. Don’t bullshit yourself. If you believe the good reviews, you must believe the bad. Still, don’t hammer yourself. Do not allow your heart to harden. Face it, the cynics have better one-liners than we do. Take heart: they can never finish their stories. Have trust in the staying power of what is good. Enjoy difficulty. Embrace mystery. Find the universal in the local. Put your faith in language—character will follow and plot, too, will eventually emerge. Push yourself further. Do not tread water. It is possible to survive that way, but impossible to write. Transcend the personal. Prove that you are alive. We get our voice from the voices of others. Read promiscuously. Imitate. Become your own voice. Sing. Write about that which you want to know. Better still, write towards that which you don’t know. The best work comes from outside yourself. Only then will it reach within. Restore what has been devalued by others. Write beyond despair. Make justice from reality. Make vision from the dark. The considered grief is so much better than the unconsidered. Be suspicious of that which gives you too much consolation. Hope and belief and faith will fail you often. So what? Share your rage. Resist. Denounce. Have stamina. Have courage. Have perseverance. The quiet lines matter as much as those which make noise. Trust your blue pen, but don’t forget the red one. Allow your fear. Don’t be didactic. Make an argument for the imagined. Begin with doubt. Be an explorer, not a tourist. Go somewhere nobody else has gone, preferably towards beauty, hard beauty. Fight for repair. Believe in detail. Unique your language. A story begins long before its first word. It ends long after its last. Don’t panic. Trust your reader. Reveal a truth that isn’t yet there. At the same time, entertain. Satisfy the appetite for seriousness and joy. Dilate your nostrils. Fill your lungs with language. A lot can be taken from you—even your life—but not your stories about your life. So this, then, is a word, not without love, to a young writer: Write.'

It's something isn't it? Well it has been a motivating force for me to post here in the past three months. [Apologies for that...]  

I think my absolute favourite line in this letter is: 'Be vivified by collaspe.' Indeed! An audacious concept. Collaspe is not the end, rather a means to reanimation. An aha revelation. The very notion of letting collaspe, exhaustion, failure vivify you is heartedly reassuring. And coming from McCann's voice, I believe it. Also: 'prove that you are alive' - couldn't that be the  core raison d'etre of writing? And, 'read promiscuously', oh yeah. Think I'm guilty of that alright. Finally  - 'Fill your lungs with language'. Inhale deeply: yes, yes, yes :)

And if you enjoyed what you've read here, then I implore you to check out Colum McCann's novels - powerfully affecting, linguistically brilliant. He has that mark of a great writer - the ability to wield language to his own thematic desires, until the technical telling becomes the story, the story itself life not just as we know it, but as it could be known.  Transcending, tremendous. 

~ Siobhán 

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Summer Reading Bliss: A Retrospective

 "There is a temperate zone in the mind, between luxurious indolence and exacting work;    and it is to this region, just between laziness and labor, that summer reading belongs."  
~ Henry Ward Beecher 

Now that summer is drawing to a close I realise I am really going to miss my reading time.

There is nothing more definitive of summer for me than lying in the garden with the sun spotlighting the pages of a book (or indeed, as the case was most of the time this year - indoors at a window brailled with rain...) Summer may be the best time ever for reading. All that light. All that time outdoors. All that sense of escapism - of time unfolding in front of you as a wide golden berth, an endless horizon to fill with all kinds of dreaming and imagining, books the perfect propellers to imagination's engine.  Whole days to read, late nights and lazy mornings, and as such, the ability to immerse yourself completely in different worlds, uninterrupted. Bliss, in a word.

'One benefit of summer was that each day we had more light to read by.' ~ Jeanette Walls

This summer I have been gluttonous in my reading, navigating narratives on rainy days, sunny days, early mornings and late nights. There is always though, one defining book for me each summer, one that the whole summer seems to hang upon and reverberate from. A book that I can tell you exactly every nuance of what weather was doing while I was reading it; a book that led to more books of its kinds and countless imaginings; a book that dragged me hook, line and sinker into its world and still has not let go. That book for me, this year has to have been the recent Pulitzer prize-winning 'All the Light We Cannot See' by  Anthony Doerr. 


“The brain is locked in total darkness, of course, children, says the voice. It floats in a clear liquid inside the skull, never in the light. And yet the world it constructs in the mind is full of light. It brims with color and movement. So how, children, does the brain, which lives without a spark of light, build for us a world full of light?”  
This book is, as the title declares, a story full of light. Light in its most essential essence - revealing every little detail so as to illuminate this particular period in time, this particular story of life. The story is set during WWII in France and Germany, following the fates of two characters whose lives are intertwined -  Marie-Laure, a young blind girl who flees to St-Malo with her father when the Germans invade Paris and a young German boy, Werner, as he leaves the orphanage of his younger years to join the Hitler Youth and from there, the war. It is a story of war, but also of fate and character, of beauty and light. The writing, as I've come to expect from Doerr, is crystalline, rich in metaphor and image, sparkling with a poetic delight. The characters are all so memorable, so well-drawn that it was hard to close the page on them and leave them behind. It's a big novel, 500+ pages, but I sped through it, riveted by the dual narrative, the simultaneous plotting, the suspense, the beautiful language, the stories within stories.

I ended up then searching out other WWII novels (Suite Francaise, The English Patient, The Book Thief) so enthralled was I in that time.  But the story that Doerr tells is so unique and original, so unusual, that my search I know will be in vain. His shimmers like a fairytale but is also underpinned with a psychology that is so precise, and told in a voice that is so full of poetry and faith and hope.  It's the kind of book that immerses you in its story so much, especially its setting of St-Malo, the sea-swept walled town in Brittany, you will have not left it entirely when the story is over. (I can still smell the salt and see the narrow streets, the snail-lined hideaway, the shell-like house...) Anyway, you can read my Goodreads review of it: here. I highly, heartily, recommend it. You will learn new and surprising things about a time that is well-documented and what is most vital in a piece of fiction, be transported completely and irrevocably to the world of the novel. 

My guilty escapist summer reads (don't you just love those?) included nearly all of American author Sarah Addison Allen's novels. The experience akin to the succulent sweetness of a summer evening, the smell of sugar on the air and thrill of pink in the sky.  Sarah Addison Allen's novels fall under the genre of magic realism, but added to that should be romantic magic realism and whimsy. Her stories are light whimsical concoctions where conflicts dissolve and romances blossom with the help of a few magical stimuli (think floral food spells, eccentric family traits and characters, moon lore, fairy godmother ghosts, animate books and animals, and emotions manifesting in transformative ways.) All set in the lovely surrounds of North Carolina with quaint little towns and endearing characters. The author has often been compared to Alice Hoffman, but I'd say much more sugar-coated and whimsy-orientated. (Garden Spells, is, a bit like Practical Magic, but sweeter and more gorgeously decorative with food recipes and the like.) For me, they are also reminiscent of Nicholas Sparks films, but definitely with more quirky than cutesy elements and more original set pieces than predictable story-lines. Whimsical, wonderful, sensuous, feel-good feasts. 


They are also girly without being chick-lit - i.e. entirely consumed with love-life conundrums. They are whimsical, foody, dreamy and emotional without smacking of sentimentality, light quest narratives of becoming true to oneself. In a word they're lovely, with all its soothing connotations: cushy, cosy, charming and warm-hearted. Delightful reads that will transport you to worlds ruled by the heart. They are books to enjoy lying in daisy-spotted grass, the sun glinting gold lattice light on the pages, books to script daydreams by, all tinged with that rose-tint happy horizon glow of dreams coming true, if you just follow your heart (definitely a selling-point for summer evenings, when the light is long and lovely and softens any hard reality into a malleable dream-able one.)

Sound like the ideal summer fodder to you? Yep, if you need a break from serious literature and are a lovers of all things whimsical, these are my recommended choice.  

Other highlights of my summer reads included the sci-fi thriller (and soon-to-be-movie-release) 'The Martian' by Andy Weir; wallowing in the gorgeous language and light of Hardy's 'Far From the Madding Crowd'; the brutally stunning debut 'The Enchanted' by Rene Denfield; and the lilting and lovely weather-appropriate 'History of the Rain' by Irish author Niall Williams.

They say a great book is like an event and well if that's the case,  a variety of great summer reads makes for an eventful time. Every book I read in summer seems to stay with me more. Maybe it hearkens back to days of school holidays with an open, endless parade of reading time and the freedom of self-chosen material. Days at the beach round-reading with friends or early mornings in the garden trying to unreel the knotted words of classics  into a language that brimmed with gold, in hours that seemed gleefully stolen from life's frantic advancing pace. Reading is perfect for summer as it slows time down, even freeze-frames certain instances. You can press a moment between the pages of a book as well and delicately as you can a flower; there are in every book I've read from summers past, fragments of that time's goings-on preserved in their pages. Each book is a marker and a map of a particular summer's best-kept moments. That's why I savour summer reading. And now that it is coming to an end, there is always a certain melancholy. With it too, all those sunlit moments of endless basking, daydreaming, whimsy, freedom, spontaneity, possibility and panache, that are the hallmarks of summer's narrative. But while it lasted, sheer unadulterated reading/living bliss. 


So what have been your favourite summer reads? What stories have coloured your carefree days with narratives of worlds foreign and afar? Transported you on their magic carpet rides against a backdrop of pink-frilled skies and silken soft hours? What have  been the makings of your storied summer? Here's to holding its stories dear, both read and written, both imagined and real.

~ Siobhán