Monday, 30 April 2018

Sunday, 29 April 2018

National Poetry Month 2018: Blackout Poetry #29

Blackout Poetry #29

a streak of red
across the body
a smoking gun
   forgive me
glassy eyes

He's dead.

crying over this man
who'd made life
a living hell

I got the job done. 

Saturday, 28 April 2018

National Poetry Month 2018: Blackout Poetry #28

Blackout Poetry #28

after a time
I had to
or go crazy

it tells you why
once were
my heart

a bad age
not really caring
constantly drinking
you get the idea

I chased them out
all it did was
kill the next years
but I survive

a drinking problem then
this is now
I don't look
with rose-colored glasses

Friday, 27 April 2018

Thursday, 26 April 2018

National Poetry Month 2018: Blackout Poetry #26

Blackout Poetry #26

I hate this.

I don't want to be
overly emotional
in need of a box of tissues.

I left my problems
to him.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Thirteen O'Clock Press Call for Submissions: DARK TRANSITIONS

Dark stories about how someone goes from point A to point be and things go horribly wrong or they change horribly along the way.

Submission guidelines:
Please submit your manuscript as a *.rtf, *.doc or *.docx file.
The email subject line must read: “SUBMISSION – Dak Transitions – ‘your story title’”.
No headers, footers or page numbers.
Reprints are OK as long as all rights have been reverted back to you.
Up to 5000 words preferred, no minimum.
No extra lines between paragraphs and all new paragraphs and dialogue indented using the TAB key.

Rie Sheridan Rose will be presiding over this anthology.
Submit to:
Deadline: until full
Payment: Exposure and Royalties
60% of profits received
50% off RP paperback contributor copies (cost)

Thirteen O'Clock Press is an imprint of Horrified Press.

National Poetry Month 2018: Blackout Poetry #25

Blackout Poetry #25

I've been bad.

gun in hand


Monday, 23 April 2018

National Poetry Month 2018: Blackout Poetry #23

Blackout Poetry #23

three pills a day
hiding in food
time and time
take the pills
I tought I'd try
to trap the pain
the bottle diluted
almost felt
nice and easy

National Poetry Month 2018: Blackout Poetry #22

Blackout Poetry #22

cure me
I want to be human again
or at the very least

it's too late
the hard edge of panic
held my destiny

I am

I wanted to die
everything seemed dark

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Movie Review: The Deep (1977)

When I asked Jay why he thought I should watch The Deep (1977), he said, "There seemed to be a glut of maritime movies at the time The Deep was released. They were all very similar -- but not this one. The Deep is a proper action film. You can think of it as a predecessor to the likes of Indiana Jones."

Seemed like a pretty good reason.

I didn't know that The Deep was an adaptation of a Peter Benchley novel. Totally not surprised, though. It has that feel. The Deep came two years after Jaws but is just about as forgotten as Jaws is remembered.

Although The Deep isn't really a horror movie, there are some quite creepy moments. There's a particularly effective one at the beginning, when something grabs Gail Berke's (Jacqueline Bisset) leg and tries to drag her under a shipwreck. It gave me high hopes for the movie.

It probably shouldn't have.

Just a few minutes into the film and I was pissed off. Berke and her boyfriend, Nick Nolte's David Sanders, are both supposed to be compitent divers but (of course) Berke freaks out and has to be saved from herself. Does that sound like sarcasm? You mean because women always have to be saved from themselves by men? Gee, of course not!


This is going to be the dominant theme of this review so, if you have some kind of issue with feminist rants, you should probably go ahead and leave now.

As if to prove my point, this was about the time that Jay said, "You know, the whole movie was sold on Jacqueline Bisset in that clingy white top but this is the most you see of it."

That might be why I was kind of preoccupied by watching what they dressed Bisset in through the film. Every single outfit she wore, except one, was white. Even that one was a pale yellow. Maybe that was a coincidence... or maybe they were trying to use the white to suggest some kind of feminine purity bullshit?

Let's hope for coincidence.

I'm gonna be straight up with you here. There's a very good possibility that I didn't give The Deep a fair chance because I was already pissed off about the damsel-in-distress crap. Or, you know, the patriarchy in general. What I'm trying to say is that I know this review is totally biased and sorry, not sorry.

The reason I'm explaining this now is that I'm going to spend some time bitching about Sanders. I freaking hated his character so much. Sanders and his girlfriend, Berke, are supposed to be on holiday together when they come across this wreck (that they weren't supposed to be anywhere near, anyway.) He becomes obsessed with it, even though she repeatedly asks him to forget about it -- which is really all you need to know about his character.

Sanders says it himself, "I feel things so I do them!" Basically, he's a selfish ass who does what he wants and screw the consequences. He shows no empathy. He isn't considerate or even polite. There is absolutely nothing likeable about Nolte's character.

Part of the reason for that, I think, is the fact that there's no backstory. I'm guessing they skimped on the character development because the movie was already over two hours. (It really feels it, too.) They shouldn't have, though, because it's impossible to give a damn about whether Sanders is successful or not.

The little bit of character development that happens as the movie goes along is completely turned on its head later when Berke is attacked. (I say attacked... stripped naked -- surprise me -- and smeared with blood.) Suddenly, and without any explanation, their roles reverse. She's determined to stay and find the treasure while he's determined to take her to safety. Why? For the love of the gods, why?!

Do not change a character's behaviour without explaining it, dammit.

Oh, right. Treasure.

Okay, so here it is. You know that wreck that they found? Well, it's the wreck of a ship filled with weapons ready to go boom at any minute but holds a buttload of morphine that every crooked dude on the island wants to get their grubby mitts on. It also happens to be sitting on top of a much older wreck that's hiding massive amounts of treasure.

It's interesting that Sanders is hot for the treasure because everyone else just wants the morphine. There's an interesting social commentary there -- drugs are worth more than gold. The Deep shows how messed up our priorities can be.

Talk about priorities... Sanders almost dies at one point because his desire for the treasure is greater than his desire to breathe. It almost made me angry that he got what he wanted at the end. He was so annoying that, rather than not caring what happened to him, I actually wanted him to fail, just to knock him down a peg.

Sanders always does what he wants and GETS what he wants. How is that sending the right message?!

But I'm repeating myself. Let's look at what I did like about The Deep: Robert Shaw. I thought it was a nice touch to have Jaws's Robert Shaw in The Deep as the lighthouse keeper, Romer Treece. The crazy thing is that, even though it's two years later, Shaw looks younger in The Deep than he did in Jaws. If it hadn't been for that incredible voice of his, I might not have recognised him.

Shaw is The Deep's saving grace. He's a renegade because he just wants to do the right thing. Treece agrees to get the morphine from the wreck, to give Sanders a chance to find the real treasure, but he doesn't want to keep it for himself or allow the baddies to have it. His solution is pretty bad ass, too.


I'm going to let you in on one of my big fears. (There are a lot. I'm a wuss.) Underwater views scare the shit out of me. Seriously. I can't even handle it in video games. There's something about the murkiness, I think, that unsettles me. The Deep was good at creating underwater atmospheres that freaked me out.

Underwater, shapes are uneven and unclear. They could be anything. There are no clear lines. The filmography here is really effective because the camera moves with the current. It feels like you're there -- which isn't so great if there is scary as shit. I'm not joking, y'all. I nearly broke Jay's hand, I squeezed it so hard.

Do you have any idea how freaking scary moray eels are? Do you?! The way they move is sinister and those teeth! *shudder* Thanks for the nightmares, man.

The score to The Deep was done by the legend that was John Barry. It's so important to the film because, underwater, you've got that muffled sound. Although the silence is broken by bubbles and breathing, it would be too much without the score.

If we ignore the way Berke is constantly left behind to play the victim, the fact that they managed to get her naked three times, the fact that Sanders can't even answer a simple question like if he wants to marry his girlfriend, or the fact that the film's baddies are all black guys and voodoo is dismissed as "garbage" -- I'm asking you to overlook a lot here, I know -- The Deep isn't so bad. It's not great, but it's watchable.

Not that I'll be watching it again any time soon.

Next time... I'm not sure! Should be a surprise for us all.

National Poetry Month 2018: Blackout Poetry #21

Blackout Poetry #21

   then drink
   my mouth
drink now
   my tongue
   my teeth

our last night
   I tremble at the memory
      faded to nearly nothing

Friday, 20 April 2018

National Poetry Month 2018: Blackout Poetry #20

Blackout Poetry #20



good or bad

by yourself
   with me

you'll never know me

Thursday, 19 April 2018

National Poetry Month 2018: Blackout Poetry #19

Blackout Poetry #19

exterminate my voice

a few words first

condemn the horrible things
and people

let me have my word

sheath the audience

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

20 Blog Post Ideas for National Poetry Month

I've thinking about all the ways bloggers can get involved in National Poetry Month 2018. There are so many interesting topics related to the art of poetry and lots of ways to include your readers in the process. Here are just a few.

If you're an educator, most of these ideas also make excellent discussion topics for class!

20 Blog Post Ideas for National Poetry Month

1. types of poetry 
Did you know that there are more than 50 types of poems? Teach your readers some basics this National Poetry Month (and maybe learn something in the process!)
2. what poetry means to you
Poetry means something different to each of us. Spend some time exploring what it means to you.
3. why we read/write poetry
Why are we, as a society, enamoured with poetry? Why do you read and/or write poetry? 
4. a poem you wrote
It doesn't matter what kind of poem it is, or how long it is. Don't worry about people might say. Just get it out there!
5. a list of prompts
If you're not feeling the poetry bug yourself, why not help someone else get into it? Think up some fun, crazy, scary, or thoughtful prompts and share them with your readers. (You can find my list here.)
6. poetry exercises
Sometimes people need more than a nudge to get started. Sometimes, people need to be taken through the process of writing a poem from start to finish. Or, they might just want to hone their skills. Either way, some simple poetry exercises can come in handy.
7. your favourite poem
What is your favourite poem? Why? Help others fall in love with it, too.
8. illustrate a poem
I wish I had enough artistic ability to do this! Chose a poem that inspires you, then create an illustration (doesn't matter if it's computer generated or hand drawn) to accompany it. 
9. your favourite poet
Who is your favourite poet and why? What can you tell us about their life? Their work? 
10. a letter to a poet who inspired you
Whether that poet is alive or deceased, thank them for their inspiration. If your letter is to a living poet, why not share the link with them? Authors love to hear how their writing affects readers.
11. your least favourite poem
Hey, we're not all going to love every poem we read. There are some poems that just annoy the heck out of me. You've probably got some too, right? Don't just list them, though. Actually explain what you don't like about them. It's important to know what does and doesn't work for you.
12. your least favourite poet
Just be sure to keep it civil, okay? It's alright to say that you don't like a poet's style - it's not alright to personally attack them. 
13. your favourite type of poem
Let's go back to number one. When you were learning about the different poetic styles, did you find one that spoke to you? Do you have an example of that style? Have you tried writing one of your own? Share, share, share!
14. or one that you hate
What type of poem do you absolutely hate? Why? 
15. a poem you know by heart
When I was a child, I learned "Paul Revere's Ride" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow for school. I've never forgotten it. Is there a poem you know by heart? You could even share a video of yourself reciting it.
16. rap/song lyrics as poetry
Poetry, in its earliest form, was spoken so it's not that hard to see the connection between song lyrics and poetry - especially rap lyrics. Do you agree or disagree? Get a debate going!
17. nursery rhymes you remember from childhood
I grew up in America but worked in a school here in the UK. It's interesting how different nursery rhymes are from country to another. Which nursery rhymes do you remember from your childhood? Why do you think they've stayed with you?
18. poetry, elitism, and snobbery
I believe that many people are put off poetry because they think it's elitist. That only a certain type of person reads or writes poetry. What do you think? Do you think we can change these misconceptions? How?
19. review a poetry collection
Hopefully, you're spending this month exploring some of the brilliant poetry collections out there. Why not take a few minutes to review them? It helps authors and potential readers. 
20. links and other resources
It can be time consuming and frustrating to find what you're looking for online. Help other poets and bloggers by providing a list of handy resources for National Poetry Month. Don't forget to link back here if this list helped you!

National Poetry Month 2018: Blackout Poetry #18

Blackout Poetry #18

to kill you
to kill us
   killing ourselves

poison the blood
   no antidote

   to die

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

50 Poetry Prompts to Get You Through National Poetry Month

Poetry comes easier to some than it does others. I'm one of those people who needs a little nudge to get them started. If you are too, this should help.

Here are a few ideas to get your poetic juices flowing this National Poetry Month. They range from simple, to thoughtful, to fun and quirky. If you've got some ideas of your own to share, be sure to drop them in the comments below!

50 Poetry Prompts to Get You Through National Poetry Month

1. write a poem about each of the seasons
2. explore the seasons through the 5 senses
3. write about the life of a flower or tree
4. write a rainbow poem, where stanza is a different color
5. write about the colors as if they were people
6. write a poem about each of the 7 deadly sins
7. write a poem about a lonely monster
8. write about a monster who loves their job
9. write about a forgotten memory
10. write about a half-remembered dream
11. write about a recurring nightmare
12. write about what a nightmare fears
13. write a poem about hope
14. write a poem about fear
15. write about birth
16. write about death
17. wite about the day life and death met
18. write about a reflection that isn't yours
19. share a secret that's not a secret
20. write about a voice you remember
21. write about a voice you can't remember
22. write about a sound you wish you'd never heard
23. write about a sound you wish you could hear again
24. tell the reader about something you lost
25. tell the reader about something you found
26. write about your favourite food without saying what it is
27. write about your favourite food without using the sense of taste
28. write about sadness as if it were a person
29. write about hapiness as if it were a person
30. give the weather a voice
31. share a day in the life of a cloud
32. explain why a thunderstorm is angry
33. paint a famous picture (with words)
34. write a poem about earth
35. write a poem about air
36. write a poem about fire
37. write a poem about water
38. welcome a newcomer to earth
39. write about the inside (from the outside)
40. what does _____ (anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, surprise) taste like?
41. what sound does the sun make?
42. what song does the moon sing?
43. what do the stars dream of?
44. write about a person earning their stripes
45. write a poem about numbers
46. write about home
47. write about leaving home
48. write a poem about someone you love
49. write a poem about something you hate
50. write a poem about poetry

National Poetry Month 2018: Blackout Poetry #17

Blackout Poetry #17

really great

Canon in D started up

"They're playing our song."

my heart sank

Monday, 16 April 2018

Monday's Meme of the Week

This is one of those laugh-or-cry memes:

Too soon?

National Poetry Month 2018: Blackout Poetry #16

Blackout Poetry #16

I couldn't go home.
I could be alone.
   I'd have to think.

      so guilty
      it was eating me up inside

         He'd been killed by me

I wanted to stay
but there was no place
   out the door
      and it hurt
   I turned away

The door opened
I ran inside
   and closed the door
Finally I released him

You weren't supposed to come here

Sunday, 15 April 2018

A Song for Sunday: Gary Numan - My Name is Ruin

I didn't know much about Gary Numan when Jay took me to see him earlier this year but I was instantly hooked. I was sort of expecting a lot of Eighties synth-pop (this is Jay we're talking about), not rock, which is what I got.

One of my favourite songs from the show was "My Name is Ruin". Check it out:

Not only is it an awesome sound, it's a wicked look, too. I love all things dystopia. (Except, you know, the state of American politics at the moment.)

Why am I talking about a concert we saw months ago? Because someone just got the good news that she's going to see Gary Numan again this winter. Whoot!

National Poetry Month 2018: Blackout Poetry #15

Blackout Poetry #15

for life
   finite days
a long, long time
   for a moment
   another one
   bites the dust

"He always thought he was going to live forever."

As a bonus today, we have a surprise from my best friends, who made this blackout poem in honour of National Poetry Day:

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Album Review: Evil Spirits from The Damned

Here at Castle Vanian, we've been eagerly awaiting the release of The Damned's new album, Evil Spirits. We weren't disappointed.

There's nothing worse than waiting ages for an album and then being disappointed. 

You all know the hubs, right?


The Damned were one of the first things Jay and I clicked over when we first started dating. Jay shared The Shadow of Love with me and I fell for The Damned. Well, him too, but that's beside the point.

When Jay met me at the airport fifteen years ago, he had a present for me: a stack of CDs he thought I might like. One of them was The Damned's Smash It Up: the Anthology 1976-1987 and that sort of set the soundtrack to our time together. Our first concert was The Damned's 30th anniversary tour and here we are, over ten years later, still going strong.

The Damned are, too, but you know... let me have this moment. 😉

Aww. Look, there we are, leaving for the concert...

You might accuse me of being biased when it comes to reviewing a new album from The Damned -- I did roadie for them back in '86, after all -- and you're probably right. I guess I am biased. After all, I didn't start life as Jay Vanian.

I don't think so. I mean, I know how you are. If the album was terrible, you'd come down harder on The Damned because they're your favourite band than you would any other band.


Before we get into Evil Spirits, let's give a little introduction to The Damned for people who aren't as familiar with the band as we are.

The Damned started over 40 years ago in London, England. They were the original punk pioneers -- despite the Sex Pistols being more widely (and wrongly) given the moniker. The Damned have been going strong for more than four decades, gigging and releasing new material regularly.

They are the original punk band. Forget the Pistols. The Damned were the first band to everything. First single, first album, first everything.

I hesitate to call The Damned a "punk band", though, because their music has progressed so far from those roots. It's a sound that's too changeable to fit under any one category. One minute their sound is old school goth and, the next, they could be Sixties crooners. You don't get that kind of diversity often in a band's sound.

How do you categorise The Damned? The Damned are very diverse. There's such a huge diversity in their music and the way they perform that a lot of bands can't compare to. They've always gone against tradition.

Punk was supposed to be hard and fast but, when The Damned did "Curtain Call" -- a song that was like 17 minutes long -- people were like, "That'll never work." But it did. They've constantly been told that this won't work or that won't work but they do it anyway because, fuck it, they're The Damned. And it works.

I know that The Damned sound you love most is that Phantasmagoria era. (Personally, I prefer the So, Who's Paranoid? stuff) What were you hoping for with Evil Spirits? Did you have any expectations?

I just wanted something to entertain me. I was hoping to listen it and go, "Wow. That's The Damned." What about you?

Hm... A lot of times bands will release an album with one or two amazing songs on it. I wanted more than that. I wanted an album I could listen to and enjoy all the way through.

I guess we'd better start doing the actual review then.

Yup. Better had.

To start with, we should talk about the cover. I love the album cover. It's like an old movie poster.

It is. It reminds me of a couple of horror movies. There are similar scenes in Halloween and even Thing from Another World.

I think Dave (the lead singer of The Damned) has always been into horror. Is that right?

That's right. Dave was a gravedigger, once upon a time, you know. His fascination with horror infuses a lot of The Damned's music and imagery.

Like "Plan 9 Channel 7"?

And "Video Nasty".


Do you think that the cover for Evil Spirits fits the album? That it prepares you for what you're going to be listening to?

I do. It has that old fashioned horror vibe and that's the feeling you get from Evil Spirits.

It feels very rockabilly to me. Like horror... but with a cheeky grin. Creepy, but fun.

I think that's fair.

Before we go any further, I want to just whack the tracklist on here, so people will know what we're talking about when we refer to certain songs.
Evil Spirits Tracklist:
1. Standing On The Edge Of Tomorrow
2. Devil in Disguise
3. We're So Nice
4. Look Left
5. Evil Spirits
6. Shadow Evocation
7. Sonar Evocation
8. Procrastination
9. Daily Liar
10. I Don't Care
So, from the ten songs on the new The Damned album, which was your favourite?

"Devil in Disguise". I love the lyric, 'Cause I'm the devil, a complicated rebel.

That's definitely one of my favourites, too. I love that sort of growl that it starts with. That's a freaking great sound.

Some of my favourite lyrics came from your least favourite song on the album, though.

"Look Left."

That's right. It's more melodic than some of the others but it's also a lot more political. I love the line, When everybody's looking left, what the hell is happening right? It's a song for people who are fed up with the state of global politics at the moment.

Masterful illusions
Digital magicians
Guided by the hidden hand
Lies become the facts
Righteous in the wrong world
My shackles, they are bound
Censorship is slavery
History is found
("Look Left", The Damned)

If that's not two fingers up at the likes of Trump, May, and Putin, I don't know what is.

"We're So Nice" was also one of my favourites. It's got a rockier sound. I think we both enjoyed that one.

The first three and the last one were the best songs on the album.

"I Don't Care" was a great song to finish on. I love the slow, heavy start and the way it kicks it up a notch later.

I could have done without the bendy sex straw at the end.

*snort* What?!

The bendy sex straw.

...the sax solo?

Isn't that what I said?

Why don't you go ahead and tell the people what you thought of Evil Spirits before I have to beat you?

Not every song is gilt and diamond-edged but as long as there are a couple of songs that remind you of how good this band is -- is, not was -- it's worth paying for. And half the songs on Evil Spirits are top-drawer Damned.

It sounded really familiar, too. Even though it's all new, it's like you've always known it.

You really can hear so many of The Damned's earlier songs in this album and that's good because it's what you know.

It's what you fell in love with.


You got a little nostalgic there...

I did. After the first couple of songs I just kept thinking, 'That's The Damned that I know and love.' It is, and it isn't. If anything, they sound better now than they did twenty or thirty years ago.

I just can't believe they still sound so good. That Dave still sounds so good. (Dude's still looking amazing, too.)

Dave hasn't missed a step.

These are guys who are about to draw their pensions. They've got no right be this good still. But they are. They're still pushing it. They're still relevant. They're still raging into the night.

Jay, (his then-girlfriend) Stephanie Slater, 
and other friends with Dave Vanian in 1986.

It's just sad that they only do an album every now and then. Seems like modern bands bring out an album every other year but you get some like The Damned that are somehow still going after 40 years -- most bands would fade away long before then -- but they keep you waiting.

It was worth waiting for.

Absolutely. Evil Spirits is real throwback stuff. Like I said, some bands as they fade away, you're like "Fair enough. You had a good run." But The Damned aren't past their sell-by date. They're not fading.

I think that's a pretty good way to sum the new album. The Damned are still here, they're still rocking, and they're not going anywhere.

Evil Spirits is available now from The Damned's official site.

This review was brought to you, as usual, by Wondra and Jay Vanian.

Do you agree with our review of Evil Spirits? Get in touch and let us know what you thought.

National Poetry Month 2018: Blackout Poetry #14

Blackout Poetry #14

Ever since I met you
I can't stop thinking about you

I shook my head

   Find some other girl

Friday, 13 April 2018

10 Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month with Your Kids

Getting adults interested in poetry can be hard enough sometimes so doing the same for the kiddos can seem impossible. It's really not, though. Promise.

I'm not a parent. Not to any children with just two legs, anyway. But I've spent years training to be a teacher and even have practical experience in elementary and preschool settings so I'm not completely clueless here. (I hope.)

I also have lots of friends who have already started families and have children that I adore. This post is for them, really, but most of these ideas will work in the classroom, too.

Here are some simple -- and, more importantly, fun -- ways to get the kids involved in National Poetry Month.

10 Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month with Your Kids

1. Found Poetry
The poetic version of collage. There are lots of ways to make found poetry but here are two to get you started.
Cut & paste: Go through an old magazine and cut out the bigger words. You can make a little station, with a tub of words, a stack of paper, and glue. Just glue the poem onto the paper. You should end up with something that looks like a letter from a kidnapper but is, you know, a bit more fun. 
Digital: Arm the kids with a camera and drive (or walk) around town, taking photos of words on signs, in graffiti, or billboards. Load them up on the computer, then use a photo editing app to cut & paste them into a poem. Heck, kids are probably better at this these days that the old cut & paste option! 
2. Overheard Snippets
This is a great exercise for bus and/or train rides or even just waiting around for your fast food order. Write down a single line from each conversation you can hear and, when you're back at home, rearrange those lines into a poem. You'll be surprised at how effective it can be! (Shh... I still play this game when I'm out and about!)

3. Blackout Poetry
As you probably already know, I'm obsessed with blackout poetry. It's one of the most fascinating ways to create poetry. Star with a book or a newspaper (I prefer a book -- not as messy.) and a marker. Sharpies are great here but be warned: they do bleed through. If you're going to keep the pages in the book, use a sheet behind to catch any stray blots. Otherwise, yank that page out and get started.

My husband watched me making blackout poetry one day and he asked me something that your kids will undoubtedly ask you: How do you know which words to cross out? Well, I start by imagining all the words on the page as puzzle pieces. I pick out the ones that fit together and cross out everything else.

4. Magnetic Poetry
There are magnetic poetry kits especially for kids now so that can be a fun, worthwhile purchase for your home (or classroom). Personally? I think it's more fun to make your own! Buy a roll (or sheets) of sticky magnets and start chippity chopping your way through a magazine.

My magnetic poetry kit (made in 2013!) is still in great shape. I made it using some of my favourite sci-fi and film magazines so the words are tailored to me. If you want yours to last, do what I did and give the top of those words a quick swipe with some Mod Podge.

5. Poem from a Poem
Here's one I used to do with my writer's club. I handed out the same poem to everyone in the group and gave them each a pair of scissors. Then, I instructed them to cut out the words of the poem and use the words to create a brand new poem. It's fun to compare what each of the new poems are like because, although they all started with the same poem, their personal inclinations and styles resulted in very different pieces.

It can be tricky to find poems to start with that are the right length. You don't want it to take forever, after all, or have any words left over. Think of something about the size of an Emily Dickinson poem. That has worked well for me.

This one works best with older kids but, if you're going to use it with younger ones, think about using the poetry of Shel Silverstein or Dr. Suess.

6. Emoji Poem
Here's a perfect one for Generation Z! In fact, they might catch on to emoji poetry faster than mom and dad! It's simple, really. All you have to do is whip out your smartphone and make a poem that consists entirely of emojis. (Or, if you're struggling, you can go with mostly of emojis or just both emojis and words. Whatever works for you.)

If you're an educator, you could print out and laminate larger versions of emojis and create a poem station with some Velcro and felt. The kids will love it.

7. Alphabet Poem
An alphabet poem is really just the simplest kind of acrostic (poem that spells something down the side.) Write each letter of the alphabet in a line going down the left side of the page and start each line of the poem with that letter. You can make this as difficult or as easy as you want! Each line can be a whole sentence or just a word.

8. Building Blocks
You know those extra large Legos for toddlers? Don't throw them away when the kids grow out of them! Instead, tape words to each block and help your little ones literally build a poem. (Try doubling up and using a different word on each side of the block for a good variety.)

9. Book Spine Poetry
Whether it's in the classroom or the bedroom, every child should have easy access to a shelf of books. (Please, please, please. It's important, y'all.) To create book spine poetry, all they have to do is rearrange those books so that their spines read like a poem. Stack them or line them up, the result will be just as effective either way.

10. Poetry Rocks
Are your little ones into painted rocks? Painting, hiding, and hunting for rocks is a popular activity at the moment so take advantage! Turn your rock garden into a poetry garden by painting words on a selection of rocks (Make them as pretty or plain as you want, just make sure the kids get involved!) and hiding them amongst the rest. The kids will have a riot hunting for word rocks and arranging them into poetry.

I hope this list inspired you to get the family (or classroom) involved in National Poetry month! What was your favourite activity? Get in touch and let me know how your celebrations went!

National Poetry Month 2018: Blackout Poetry #13

Blackout Poetry #13

the crowd
pressed on all sides
I want to die
by unfamiliar faces
the crowd

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

National Poetry Month 2018: Blackout Poetry #11

Blackout Poetry #11

that night
compliment after compliment

charismatic, engaging, electric
it was not to last

I waited
and was killed
   killed with love

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Monday, 9 April 2018

Movie Review: The Black Hole (1979)

After Battle Beyond the Stars, I was ready for a lot of hokiness when I sat down to watch The Black Hole (1979). It was made a year earlier, after all. But, surprisingly, there was very little in the way of hokiness.

The Black Hole is a Disney movie so you can see the hefty budgets and massive production companies behind it. It's clean, the sound is good, and the special effects are actually decent. None of that guarantees a good movie, of course, but it does make it easier to watch.

Jay calls The Black Hole "a forgotten gem." He says that it was "Disney jumping on the Star Wars bandwagon, like everyone else" and it's a shame "you never hear The Black Hole mentioned anymore." Me? I think I could have gone without discovering this "gem." But we'll get to that.

My first thought, as the movie started, was that the effects were very Eighties, despite it being a year early. Jay agreed and reminded me that it was a few years too early for me, too, and that it was "the dawn of computer graphics." Sometimes, I'm really grateful that I can pause the movie and look to him for insights about the stuff BWE. (You know, Before Wondra's Era.)

I was defintely happy to hear a familiar voice as the movie started. Roddy McDowall (uncredited) gives voice to the friendly robot, VINCENT (It's actually "V.I.N.CENT." but, for the sake of my sanity, let's keep it simple.) -- something I took as a very good sign. And, then... I saw him. (Er, it.)

Seriously, though, I laughed every single time VINCENT was on screen. Comical doesn't even begin to cut it. The eyes. THE EYES. *snort* The ridiculousness of VINCENT's appearance really lets the movie down. It's almost as if someone went, "Hey, this is too serious for the kiddies. What can we do to keep their interest?" <Insert VINCENT.>

VINCENT is later joined by BOB, an outdated version of the same robot. Watching them, I was struck by how much they reminded me of Disney's Cars.

When the crew first encounters the black hole, Ernest Borgnine's Harry Booth says, "My God! Right out of Dante's Inferno!" I found that very interesting because he's not just saying that it creeps him out, he's saying it's HELL. It speaks to a theme that runs through the whole movie, that black holes are straight up evil. Just look at the way the crew talks about the massive black hole they encounter:
"The most destructive force in the universe, Harry. Nothing can escape it, not even light." (Durant) 
"...eventually black holes would devour the entire universe." (McCrae) 
"Every time I see one of those things, I expect to spot some guy in red, with horns and a pitchfork." (Pizer) 
"It's a monster alright." (Durant) 
"A rip in the very fabric of space and time." (VINCENT) 
"That long, dark tunnel to nowhere." (McCrae)
Our understanding of the universe has come a long way since 1979 but, with films like this, it's a miracle that we moved forward at all. Demonising black holes in a children's movie? Sheesh. You might as well just come out and say, "Remember, kids: science is bad, God is good." 😒 I can't even begin to count the number of ways that shit's wrong.

Right. Now, before I roll my eyes so hard I choke on them, let's move on.

This is about the time in The Black Hole that you get your first glimpse of Anthony Perkins as Dr. Alex Durant. I don't remember ever seeing him in anything besides the Psycho franchise so it was a bit weird to see Perkins in a family film. Honestly? I find him a bit too intense, too aloof to play the hero. It's the way he moves, I think. Not enough. His movements are minimal and his eyes dart everywhere. It's just creepy.

(Heads up, if you want a fun drinking game, take a shot everytime anyone says, "gravity." It might be enough to get you through the rest of the movie.)

Joseph Bottoms (Pizer) is guilty of overacting. Big time. As the ship fights the pull of the black hole, he overdoes it so much I'm surprised he didn't shake the whole set apart. It's even worse when you see him with the other actors who play it much cooler. His acting doesn't get much better, unfortunately. I assume he's suppose to be the cheeky chappy but it falls flat.

Sadly, the same could be said for the rest of the movie. It just falls flat. Again, The Black Hole is a slick flick to watch. I've seen sci fi from the Nineties that doesn't look as good as The Black Hole. It's just too bad the rest of the film isn't as well done.

Yvette's Mimieux's Dr. Katie McCrae has ESP that she uses to speak to VINCENT. Wait. I have to say it again: she's a scientist with ESP -- ESP that somehow is capable of connecting with a robot. A robot who doesn't have a brain and, therefore, doesn't have THOUGHTS. Are we all still okay with this?

You already dislike Maximilian Schell's Dr. Hans Reinhardt before you meet him, thanks to some smack-talk from Harry. But, just in case you didn't get how bad he is, The Black Hole uses its trademark colour-scheme to emphasis it, dressing the mad doctor in red. His evil robot, Maximilian, is also red. We're going back to that whole devil reference.

Keep an eye out for red as you watch. It's obvious enough through the rest of The Black Hole but, when you get to the end, you just want to scream, "Okay, we get it already!" Red, red, red. Red is bad. Black holes are bad. Ambition is bad. Knowledge is bad. Hell is bad -- and guess where you're going if your ambition and craving for knowledge drives you into a black hole?

Ding, ding, ding.

Okay, before I get to the whole Hell thing, let's talk about some of the stuff that happens when the crew of the Palomino boards the Cygnus.

Dr. Katie McCrae is the only woman in the film. Am I surprised? No. Am I annoyed? Yup. Am I even more annoyed that they put the only freaking woman in the film in a PINK jumpsuit? Oh, yeah. Am I seriously fucking pissed off that the only woman in the film, who wears a pink jumpsuit has flawless (and heavily applied) makeup the entire time? Too fucking right.

The fact that they make sure the only female crew member constantly has glossy lips and teary eyes negates her intelligence and position as a scientist. They mention her feelings many times (while simultaneously berating Harry for his), suggesting that she's more useful for those than she is for her mind. Of course, there's also a heaping helping of leering and suggestive body language toward McCrae from Reinhardt but, honestly, I was already so annoyed that it barely registered.

There's a small problem with continuity in the film that bugged me. The colour of Durant's uniform changes often, from blue to green and back again. It's not important, really, but I did find myself watching his uniform more than I listened to his words. (Though that might have been a blessing...)

Backstory (or lack of it) is also a problem for The Black Hole. We know just as much about the crew at the end of the movie as we did at the beginning. We're told that the ship they encounter is the same one McCrae's father disappeared on twenty years before but why should we care about that? If you don't create backstory, you leave the audience too detached to give a damn about what happens to your characters.

Character is also a big issue. Harry's character, for example, changes dramatically for no apparent reason. One minute, he wants to be a hero. The next, he deserts his crew. It doesn't make sense. It's almost as if that was the only way the writers could think of to trap the remaining crew members on board the Cygnus. Character change should never be just a plot tool. It's insulting to the audience.

The Black Hole takes itself far too seriously. It feels more like melodrama than sci fi. There are a lot of profound announcements and heavy looks. Even VINCENT can't lift the spirits of this movie. It's just damned dreary.

I've mentioned how good the graphics are in The Black Hole. This needs a slight amendment. For the most part, the graphics are fab. With a few very notable exceptions. First, there's our friendly robot, VINCENT. It looks like he's made of Styrofoam (and sounds like he's fuelled by cliches.) And, as the Palomino crew tries to escape, there's a moment when you can see that the walls are obviously made of paper. There's also McCrae's tinfoil hat. Seriously. There's no way that wasn't made out of tinfoil. So cringe-worthy.

Then, there's a volley of that meteors collide with the Cygnus. Those meteors are the worst special effects in the whole film. For starters, they glow red (hello, Hell reference) and are mostly transparent. I still haven't decided if it was done that way entirely for a Hell tie-in or if it's because they genuinely had no idea what a meteor ought to look like. I suspect the former. 

Since we're talking about the ending...

The Black Hole should have ended the moment the probe ship got away from the Cygnus. Everything after that is ridiculous tripe. Taking the Hell thing from metaphor to actual Hell was a step too far. The angel shit was a mile too far. The end completely ruined what would have otherwise been a flawed but tolerable science fiction movie.

Science is really an afterthought in this sci fi movie. They make casual reference to difficult scientific principals that they never explain. It shows a solid understanding of some principals while completely ignoring others. This is supposed to be a family, film, remember. If you're not going to educate the little ones, why bother including the science at all?

It's pretty obvious, all the way through, that The Black Hole is more concerned with religion that science. You've got Reinhardt comparing VINCENT and Max to David and Goliath. You've got Durant saying he wants to travel into the centre of the black hole to go "Straight into what might be the mind of God".



I thought the black hole was supposed to be Hell...

This movie just can't make up its fucking mind.

I've come down pretty hard on The Black Hole, I know. Was there anything I liked? Well... there is one moment in the film that I thought worked well. Harry bends to look into the mask of one of Reinhardt's robots and sees his own face reflected back. It's a very subtle, yet telling moment. Best storytelling in the movie.

I also like that you can see parallels with 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. The Cygnus is the Nautilus, Reinhardt is Nemo, and Durant is Aronnax. (Too bad Pizer ain't no Ned Land...) There are also nods to other sci fi, such as Star Trek, Star Wars, and Alien. I appreciate that. Everything else? Meh.

I'd love to hear what you think about The Black Hole. I hope you had a better experience with it than I did. (Better yet, I hope you had the luck not to sit through it!)

Next time, my friends, Jack Nicholson's best film.

National Poetry Month 2018: Blackout Poetry #9

Blackout Poetry #9

I remember being thrilled.
I'd be thrilled to be thrilled again.

   here goes

So, that was it.
The countdown began.

"I'll feel alive again."

Sunday, 8 April 2018

10 Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month

We're a week into National Poetry Month already! I've been busy playing with my magnetic poetry kit, reading poetry, and writing poetry. How are you getting involved?

If you're not sure how you can get involved, I've come up with a few ideas to help.

10 Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month
(Even if You're "Not Really Into" Poetry)

1. Re-read your favourite poet or discover a new favourite. 
If you're not sure what you like, start with the classics. You can find the 10 Greatest Poems Ever Written on The Society of Classical Poets website. That should give you a feel of what works for you. Remember, you don't have to love the classics, just because they're classics. National Poetry Month is about finding your own love of poetry.

2. Support a poet by buying their book.
I don't need to tell you how hard it is to be a writer. The phrase "starving artist" covers all the arts, after all. We're not just celebrating poetry this month; we're celebrating the hardworking, underpaid people creating it as well. Show your appreciation by buying a book!

Looking for a suggestion? Why not try The Beauty of the Bohemian Life or The Chaos that is Living by Meagan Earls?

3. Take a class or join a poetry workshop. 
Not into the whole being-around-a-group-of-strangers thing? I feel ya. If you're not comfortable at a physical class, why not try an online one? Sites like FutureLearn offer free, online poetry classes, many of which you can do at your own pace.

4. Watch Dead Poets Society.
There are plenty of movies out there that are either dripping with poetic influence or are based on the lives of poets. Dead Poets Society is my favourite but why not try Basketball Diaries too? Or even Shakespeare in Love? If you've got a favourite, don't forget to share so we can give it a go!

5. Attend an open mic night.
Put on your black turtlenecks, grab your berets and shades, then head down to your local open mic night. (Or, you know, just wear whatever. That's cool, too.) Read a poem of your own creation or just sit back and listen to others read theirs.

6. Read or write haiku.
Haiku has got to be some of the most accessible poetry there is. There's a strict format, which helps people who are a bit nervous about what poetry is "supposed to look like", but it's so simple to create at the same time.

Haiku is written in three lines:
1st Line: 5 syllables
2nd Line: 7 syllables
3rd Line: 5 syllables
They're mostly inspired by nature but aren't strictly limited to it. Visit for plenty of examples to inspire you.

7. Recite or write a limerick.
Limericks are just straight up fun -- so fun, in fact, that it's easy to forget limericks are poems, too. One limerick will inevitably lead to another and, soon, you've got a whole group of people laughing themselves silly. (And yet, still poetry.)

Limericks are a bit harder to tackle than haiku but their rhyme schemes make them a lot of fun to write.
1st Line: A
2nd Line: A
3rd Line: B
4th Line: B
5th Line: A
Corona Books UK have a few great limerick books to get you started. Try The Great British Limerick Book, The Oxbridge Limerick Book, or  The Scottish Limerick Book to get you started. (Currently available on Kindle Unlimited.) They're right saucy, though, so be warned. 😉

8. Enter a poetry competition.
Because why the hell not? Remember, it's about embracing poetry, not proving that you're better than everyone else. But, if you can win some fun prizes on top? Bonus.

Keep an eye out for free competitions. Unfortunately, there are a lot of poetry comps out there that charge fees and, sometimes, some of those fees can get quite steep. Submittable has a feature that lets you narrow down your search to competitions that have no fee, if that helps.

9. Listen to famous people reading famous poetry.
Listening to poetry, rather than reading it, can help if you're struggling to get into it. It really does help when you can hear the flow and cadence of the verses. I recommend this video, which offers a wide variety of poems (50!) and celebrity narrators:

10. Get busy on Twitter.
Twitter is full of tweets, posts, poems, pictures and more celebrating National Poetry Month. Head on over and get involved! Oh, and don't forget to use #NationalPoetryMonth!

National Poetry Month 2018: Blackout Poetry #8

Blackout Poetry #8

   in the mirror
      before me

cover up my choice

in the
   blinding light

Saturday, 7 April 2018

National Poetry Month 2018: Blackout Poetry #7

Blackout Poetry #7

don't explain where you've been
and why you haven't returned

   I've been around
   feeling sorry for myself

Maybe it was my fault?

   My hell.

   I backed away from friends

Friday, 6 April 2018

National Poetry Month 2018: Blackout Poetry #6

Blackout Poetry #6

It's nature
To find innocence

I would be
your whore
   for a moment

Thursday, 5 April 2018

National Poetry Month 2018: Blackout Poetry #5

Blackout Poetry #5

midnight monster-movie marathon
   on my sofa
   in pajamas
      and fangs