Sunday, 7 October 2018

Bed bug poem therapy

I want to draw your attention to the amazing poem by Jacqueline Saphra - Cimex Lectularius, which you'll find here if you scroll down. I love how Jacqueline purposefully meanders through ideas, starting with the bed bug of the title and wandering to seemingly unlikely destinations, before turning back and bringing it together. I particularly love the callousness of the last line which applies to everything and so much more besides. That poem is a stroke of genius.

I'm not a genius, so I figured I'd use a technique borrowed from Kamsin Kaneko, using some of the words from the original poem to craft one of my own. I did it a few weeks ago in this post, creating a library themed version of Mary Oliver's Wild Geese.

The words I chose to pinch from Cimex Lectularius are as follows:
I have learned this week that...and that...which reminds me of...which causes me to that...which leads me back...Perhaps...
As you can see, they're the directional words, and I have so enjoyed using them for what I've been learning that I've made it a weekly thing. I've given up having the words make poetry (although sometimes they do), and instead I'm focusing on bringing together the things I'm getting fascinated by, turning them over in my words and finding out what it's all about.

That's where the therapy comes in. I am loving doing this. This week I've been writing about the destructive nature of secrets, previously it's been the changing packaging of meditation, even about historical political manouevering and its relationship to Brexit.

I don't think any of them are good poems, but good work is coming out of doing it, because doing it is helping me get my ideas straight, and that's blooming awesome, so thanks to Jacqueline, and Kamsin, and to bed bugs.

Fancy giving it a go?

Sunday, 23 September 2018

in First Literature Review East


Another day of good news! My poem, 'The times that don't happen' is in First Literary Review East today! You'll find it here but keep scrolling - it's the penultimate one.

And that's it. No more news. I have no other plans. Well, I do, but they're secret, and possibly nefarious, stay tuned!

Friday, 21 September 2018

In Picaroon Poetry

Hi all,

There's a poetry magazine that I love - Picaroon Poetry - I love its style, I love that it's easy to access, and I love the poetry choices the editor, Kate Garrett makes, so I've been trying to get one of my pieces in for a while now, and I'm delighted that I've managed to get one in at last, especially just now, while she's on a reduced output because of her maternity leave.

I'm particularly delighted because the poem she's picked was one inspired by a postcard my friend Rose gave me to inspire some creativity (pictured here). Like Rose, I'm keen to point out that it's not based on any real feeling, although maybe it comes out of jealousy - that kind of poetry does sell! Mind you, it's also the kind of poetry that I get the impression people are talking about when they tell me that they don't really like poetry, which I can understand. I don't really like crime novels, but I think that's because I'm reading the wrong crime novels, not because they're all bad... Speaking of which, I recently read Claire Askew's crime novel, All the Hidden Truths, which is actually awesome.

Anyway, I wrote a poem entitled Your Poetry, imagining myself as a begrudging beta reader, and I really liked that poem, so I kept hold of it, taking it out and polishing it, moving words around, totally rewriting it, and putting it back together again, and from time to time I'd send it out into the world, and it would come back, a little sad and tattered and unwanted. I was wondering if anyone would ever love it like I love it, and how many times I should send it out, before I give up on it and punch holes in my copy, relegating it to the folder where poems go to die. One last time I decided to send it out, and off it went to Kate (with some other poems that she decided weren't quite right this time), and Kate wanted it. Hallelujah.

So now it's out in the world, in issue #13 of Picaroon, which is good, because I love the number 13 too, and it's in great company. You can read Picaroon online, just go here for issue 13. Kate has also opened submissions for the next issue, coming out in March, so if you love Picaroon Poetry too, then send her your work.

Monday, 18 June 2018

You do not have to be good

Kamsin Kaneko has just started a new poetry prompt over on her blog HERE, and for the first one she chose this poem, Wild Geese, by Mary Oliver, to provide inspiration. I hadn't come across it before, but it's widely available on the internet, here it is again for you, if you've not had the pleasure:

Wild Geese - by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

For her prompt Kamsin has asked us to use some of the words and structure from Mary's poem to write our own.

I wouldn't normally share this because I think Mary's poem is stupendous, and I am in a dark wee world at the moment, noticing the edges of things, but I want to support Kamsin and join in the conversation, so here we go. BTW I do like working in a library - honest!

I'm trying different things with line breaks, I have a feeling this isn't the final draft of the poem (tbh it's never the final draft!).

You do not have to be good

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to smile at the people as they call you girl.
You do not have to fit yourself into anyone else's space or form.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body be soft
be vulnerable, know when it needs to hide the soft places
pulling the curtains against the world.
You do not have to be hard, or strong, or anything that isn't you.
You can be you, now.
Meanwhile when I click the green flag begin a forever loop
bring the books in take the books out shelve the books
remember your alphabet, love the stamping, close the loop.
Meanwhile the toilet floor will not clean itself.
Meanwhile he will take water and music and more water later.
Meanwhile it will not matter that she never finds a job in this life
if she finds a place in heaven.
Meanwhile nothing will stay this way though it seems it never changes.
They will not always call you girl and then what will you do?
The world flows as your place flows and for all your jobs in this world
there need be no heaven.

Ⓒ Cara L McKee 18/6/18

Wednesday, 23 May 2018


The above quote comes from a writing exercise provided by the Glasgow Women's Library at their most recent, online, Open the Door event. The exercises were inspired by the work of Muriel Spark who was born 100 years ago, so I'm guessing it is a quote from one of her works. 

This is from the first exercise. You have to use one of the quotes provided to start a story, and just keep going until you're done. You can have a go too, you'll find the exercises here.

This is mine (with links to The Literary Gift Company and Etsy stores to buy the things in my imagined shop). Let me know if you do one of the exercises too, I'd love to see it.

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Fantastic Poetry

A lot of people tell me that they don't like poetry, and to be honest, I get it. I was at a thing at the weekend where a bunch of people were sitting around sharing poems and lots of those poems were by dead white men and although I could say they might have had literary merit they were for the most part old and stale and boring (sorry, dead white men).

The thing is that there is a massive explosion of poetry going on right now, that isn't stale, that isn't particularly male (although you wouldn't know that looking at some publications ahem), and that isn't always pale.

At the thing I was at at the weekend only two people (both of us women) read poems by women and I was pretty fed up about the whole thing. I didn't want to just stamp my feet and tell the men to read more women, more living poets, just something new! That's only going to prove to them that women aren't particularly reasonable, so I figured I would do something positive instead.

That's why I've set up an Instagram account to share some fantastic poetry. You can expect lots of women, because that's mostly what I read, and I'd appreciate it if you could share with me anything that really speaks to you, because obviously I can't read everything, and I would really like to have lots of different poets there.

I'm not going to promise a poem a day, but I'll try, and I'd love it if you'd join me HERE, dm me on Insta if you'd like to tell me about a poem, or contact me in the comments below (if you can).

There's some fantastic poetry out there.

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Peeking Cat update

Hi all

Just to let you know that the May edition of Peeking Cat magazine is now available (with one of my tankas in it). It's not yet on their website (here), although you will find details there for submissions to their 2018 anthology (poetry, flash fiction, and artwork/photography). You've got ages to put a submission together as the window closes on 31st August.

You can buy a hard copy of May's Peeking Cat magazine for just £2.99 from here, OR you can download it for free from here. It's got a gorgeous wee cat on the cover too.