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Critiques & Commissions

Critiques 

I am very happy to be sent work to read and critique, so please get in contact if you’d like some guidance.

As a way of compensation for doing this, I’d ask that you buy one or two postcards or make a donation via paypal.

One on One Critiques 

If you’re based in and around London I’d love to meet up face to face in a cafe (Yum Chaa is a fave) to talk about your work. We can negotiate a fee for this beforehand.

Commissions

If you would like to commission me to write you a poem, please get in touch. I’d love to write poems to celebrate your organisation, poems to chisel onto a rock in your backgarden, poems to put on flyers or banners for events.

Send me an email and we can discuss your ideas for the project and negotiate a price which will include a reading of the poem at a public event.

 

 

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Lunchtimes in Bloomsbury: Gordon Square

I20160509_122052 cross the very busy road at the zebra crossing at the top of Tavistock Square and as I walk the streets get quieter. Crossing onto a quieter corner, I’m in Gordon Square. The gardens here are like a wild meadow, overrun with long grass and flowers. Parts are roped off from the public and allowed to grow tall.

Today is a lovely warm day, with a breeze and I eat my lunch watching the people wandering about. The gardens are full of students sprawled on the grass, stressed out academics (who bring their mugs from their offices into the park) and men who for whatever reason need to sleep in the shade of the trees here. It’s the quietest square in Bloomsbury I know.

Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group met in a town house in the square, now a part of the Birkbeck’s School of Arts. These days the basement of the building is the university creche.

 

There are two statues in the gardens, one to the Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore and another to the incredible Noor Inayat Khan, who was posthumously awarded the George’s Cross and the Croix de Guerre for her work with the French resistence in the Second World War.

After finishing my sandwich, I follow the meandering path around the square. By the cute kiosk which sells hot drinks, I notice a bench with a plaque which reads:

 

“Here beats the happy heart of

our emotional geography

Jack & Rachel

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Paper Bags from Independent Bookshops: Boring Conference

At the weekend I gave a talk at the sixth annual Boring Conference. “Boring” as those in the know call it, is an all day fiesta of mediocrity, an event packed with tedium where subjects which initially seem hilariously tiresome reveal themselves to be fascinating.  I’m a big fan.

My talk was on Paper Bags from Independent Bookshops. Paper bags of all types are a subject I have long held a passion for, but I thought, just to keep the talk short, I’d narrow the scope to those from Independent Bookshops.

I read a poem as part of the talk which I cannot post here as the poem is under consideration for a poetry magazine and publishing on blogs would discount it from consideration. I can assure you, the poem was really good.

 

Here’s the talk:

I’m Edward Long and I’m a poet. Being a poet is a wonderful label to be able to give yourself. It’s a cover-all excuse for all of my curious behaviour.  And it’s something I definitely take liberties with.

I always wear odd socks, I talk to myself in German, and I live in a constant state of wistful nostalgia for the past in general and my own past specifically. My talk is going to demonstrate this last one very clearly.  

I’m here to talk about Paper Bags from Independent Bookshops. I spent a lot of time in independent and secondhand bookshops because big chain bookshops don’t stock the poetry books I want and I like to be surprised when I go into a bookshop, I want to discover something unexpected. I’m going to go through three paper bags and take you through where I got them from.

Whenever I buy books from independent bookshops, I tend to leave them in their paper bags on my desk for a few days afterwards. Almost to keep them as a little present to myself, like bonbons from a sweetshop. As you now know from my poem the paper bags join my other sentimental papers like plane tickets, postcards and museum maps.

 

Here are three paper bags from my collection:
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Skoob Books

I went into Skoob Books on my lunch break due to feeling a bit stressed. I wandered around finding that the poetry nook was full of THREE MEN! I could barely see the anthologies let alone get to the collections. I was shocked, This never happens! Because I couldn’t browse the poetry section I went to the penguin section and bought myself a gorgeous penguin book of Virginia Woolf’s Between the Acts. The bag is very modern with the website on it as well as the phone number. It seems unusually narrow but it has folded side gussets which provide a bit more space. You’d be okay with any other Virginia Woolf paperbacks for this bag, but something over 300 pages might be a bit of a stretch so definitely no James Joyce. The person who served me folded the top over, creating and very pleasing sealed book parcel.

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Stoke Newington Bookshop

So I went to Stoke Newington Bookshop on a weekend when I was feeling a bit sorry for myself. I dragged my boyfriend along to Stoke Newington so we could have lunch and have a wander around Abney Park Cemetery, one of my top five favourite cemeteries of all time. Obviously we had to go to the bookshop. So here I bought three of those black penguin books and a collection of poetry by Alice Oswald called Woods, Etc. FUN FACT I already had a copy of Woods, Etc in my bag but it was a hardback from the Poetry Library and I loved it so much I decided I needed my own copy. I’d say this bag was very spacious. It felt almost like a bag you’d get from a bakery with a seedy loaf in it. I especially love the way they decided to smush Stoke Newington together into a sort of incomprehensible keyboard smash. I love the drawing of the outside of the shop. And I love that it’s a white bag with blue print as usually you get a brown one. It makes it seem even more retro than it is. You could fit a hardback Hilary Mantel novel in here. It’s by far the biggest bookshop bag I’ve ever seen.

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Gay’s the Word

Gay’s the Word is an amazing bookshop in Bloomsbury which focusses on books for the LGBTQ community. Lots of politics and identity theory, lots of art books, magazines, and hands down the best second hand gay and lesbian erotic novel section I’ve ever seen. I cannot recommend them highly enough. I work close by and go there on my lunch breaks just to really fulfil my destiny as a bookish gay nerd. They do not have branded paper bags there. They do offer plain brown bags. To protect anonymity I’ve used a stunt paper bag from a Swedish bakery. The absence of a branded paper bag says a lot about the power of a branded paper bag. Gay’s the Word is a specialist bookshop for a community whose members may not always wish to be advertise that they have been there. Instead of a branded bag they will slip a discrete bookmark into your book. I have several of these knocking about and, as you can see, they’re a bit fabulous. I bought Andrew McMillan’s poetry collection, Physical, which is filthy.
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Conclusion

Of course there’s something incredible about paper. It feels right to hold paper in our hands. It feels right to open a book, turn the page and feel it between our fingers. The paper bags are a part of that too. They cover the books in this crinkly skin that makes the books special. The bags are souvenirs, little testaments to your visit to them. For me going to bookshops is so personal and so important that every aspect of it has become ritual.

I love that the designs and the sizes of the paper bags vary. It makes me sad when I see that bookshops only offer plastic bags. It’s just not the same, Waterstones! There’s something so gorgeously tactile about the paper bags and their printed designs, each completely unique to the shop, probably designed by the owners decades ago and left unchanged.

I can encourage you all to visit your local independent bookshop as I can guarantee they’ll have books there you won’t expect to see and when you buy something make sure you get a paper bag and keep the books in there for a bit, like bonbons from a sweetshop, keep them as a little present for yourself.

Poetry Postcards

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Aren’t they lovely? This is my first set of Poetry Postcards with extracts from my collection The Letters We Sent.

The postcards are very much up for sale! 

If you would like ONE/TWO/THREE/FOUR in particular paypal me £1 each, let me know your address and which postcards you’d like and I’ll post them to you.

If you would like ALL FIVE paypal me £4.50, let me know your address and I’ll post them to you.

These fees include postage!

Send the cash via this:
www.paypal.me/EdwardLong

Message me which one you’d like:
edward.longma@gmail.com

Thank you so much!

 

 

 

 

Red Lights, Zebra Crossings and Pavements: Cyclists in London

 

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A Zebra Crossing in London

 

I wish these things didn’t bother me but they do. Sitting on the bus in traffic on the way into work in the morning. Red lights at Kentish Town, a flurry of cyclists, some in high-vis jackets, lycra and sleek helmets, some on vintage bikes with wicker baskets on the front, some on those fold up bikes pedaling twice as hard and others on third-hand mountain bikes, they all just keep riding across the busy intersection, jumping the red light. The pack of them weaving in between the scattered pedestrians trying to cross the road before the Green Man flashes back to red.

 

I wish I could cycle in London. I used to love cycling back home in the countryside, but as a country person transplanted to the city four years ago, I’m still scared of crossing the road sometimes, much to my boyfriend’s amusement, so cycling on it would scare me to death. 

I cannot help myself, I get angry about it all. Tutting with the fervency of a woodpecker and rolling my eyes like a bowling ball rolling languidly down the gutter.

When I tweeted about what some cyclists do I got a few random haters (with bikes as their profile pics) telling me I should be complaining about car drivers who drink drive, run red lights, cause accidents through stupidity. With only space for 140 characters, there’s just no room to tweet about everyone who is awful. The use of the word some to qualify I wasn’t talking about all cyclists let me off the hook (I was told by another twitter user with a bike as their profile pic). That aggressive attitude says a lot. Searching twitter for mentions of the word “cyclists” and then jumping down that person’s throat for tweeting something is a bizarre thing to do.

The fact is, I don’t know what it’s like to be a cyclist in London. I’d love to have that freedom, but I don’t have the confidence to take those sorts of risks. Ultimately cyclists aren’t really supposed to run red lights are they? And they are supposed to stop at Zebra crossings when people are crossing aren’t they? Like cars (mostly) do. And cyclists aren’t allowed to cycle on the pavement are they? Especially weaving through a crowded pavement at speed. In the short walk from my bus stop to work I see all of this behaviour most mornings. I also see people rent Boris Bikes from a stand right near Euston Square station and then either cycle on the pavement or cycle the wrong way down a one way street.

I get very angry about this these days and it’s making me sad. I’m starting to say things to cyclists in the street if they’re breaking the rules. Recently when I was crossing at the zebra crossing right by my office building’s front door, I was half way across and a cyclist clearly wasn’t paying attention, she managed only just to stop before hitting me. She was very apologetic but I was grumpy and said to her, “JUST FORGET IT”. As I walked onto the pavement and into the entrance hall, she cycled up onto the pavement and FOLLOWED ME INTO THE ENTRANCE HALL OF THE BUILDING. I didn’t realise this was happening until I got into the lift in the foyer, turned around and saw her sitting there on her bike saying sorry as the doors closed.

I don’t hate cyclists. At all. I just don’t like rule breakers of any kind. I am essentially still the kid from primary school who would start up the chorus of “UMMMMMMMMM” when someone else said a naughty word. I am the person who will give people dagger looks if they don’t respect the bus queue, or the Pret queue or the Starbucks queue. My rage at impropriety on the Underground is well documented.

The other day I was coming up to a different zebra crossing with two cycle lanes on either side. I could tell this particular cyclist was not going to stop but there was a woman and child already crossing from the other side. Because there were cars on the road, they couldn’t see that someone was cycling towards them. The cyclist could see that I was waiting to cross, but had decided not to stop for me and obviously not considered that someone might already be crossing. I shouted “WATCH OUT!” to the cyclist, who completely ignored me and cycled on through, luckily the woman and child had heard me as well and stopped. It could have been quite a bad accident.

All I want to say is that the selfish-driven-blinkered way we are all forced to behave in London should not extend to road safety.  We need to all look out for each other. Cyclists especially. If cars have stopped at a zebra crossing or a red light that means you probably should too. Cars don’t tend to drive at full speed down pavements either, so perhaps you should reconsider that one too. And my fellow pedestrians, perhaps if we all nag cyclists who we see aren’t behaving, that might make them stop? Maybe they’ll follow us up onto the pavement to offer a face to face apology.

Why are we so weird about being Middle Class?

 

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A Mini Mezze Pack from Waitrose

 

Twice last week I had a Mini Mezze Pack from Waitrose as part of my lunch. The first time I got it, I sat in the park on my lunch break looking at it. Unsure why I’d be drawn to it. Olives, dried tomato and cheese were all things I liked but why did I feel weird about getting it? Then a gut reaction kicked in, Olives, manchego Cheese, “Mezze” …  it’s a bit Middle Class, isn’t it?

For those who are not English, I have some explaining to do. There are generally three classes in contemporary English society. The Lower/Working Class, The Middle Class, and the Upper Class/Posh People. We spend our lives in constant anxiety about our position within this continuum, feeling guilt whenever we meet somebody who is not from the same class as us (or even the same section within the same class). Middle Class people will put on a posher voice when talking to posh people and a more working class voice when talking to working class people. It’s a bloody nightmare.

Food, accents, fashion, work, hobbies, interests, television programmes can all be markers of what class you belong to and these need to agree with what class you belong to otherwise people feel uncomfortable. Posh people don’t watch TOWIE, or I’m A Celebrity, or anything on ITV (HOW BASE!) Working Class people don’t watch BBC4 or Sky Arts (why would they be interested in CULTURE?!)

I grew up in a comfortable home, but my parents were self-identified working class (Mum always says Dad grew up more Middle Class but he disagrees) and they both had to work hard to raise us, always trying to give us the best they could.

Now back to the Mini Mezze Pack. There’s a lot to be said about food as a marker of class. Just going to Waitrose alone is a mark of someone who is Middle Class. Olives are a number one Middle Class food (along with foreign cheeses and wines that cost more than £7.99). I like olives, but I’ve had to get used to them. This is another marker of being Middle Class, the process of olivifying yourself so as not to look out of place at a party or work function where all you have to eat are olives.

My parents have always wanted the best for me (and as with most parents) they wanted me to have opportunities that they didn’t. I definitely pass as someone who is middle class, I have the RP accent, the education, I drink soya milk, I know my Assam from my Lapsang souchong, I read poetry. That’s all a bit *sharp intake of breath* Middle Class isn’t it? I guess I am middle class now, but this is only due to my parent’s hard work and aspirations for my upbringing to be a bit more comfortable than their’s. Surely its a bit rude to feel guilty about this since our parents worked so hard?

Why are we so ashamed of being comfortable and affluent, to the point where we can have slightly expensive food for lunch? It’s something about being English, where no matter what happens, we’ll feel guilty about it. I mean, we don’t need to be all showy about it (we’re still English, come on) but maybe we should cut out this guilt about being Middle Class, labeling stuff as middle class as if that’s a negative thing and just enjoy eating our bloody olives?