The Far Off Places hot air balloon takes off!

American Adventures, Edinburgh Expeditions

Far Off Places, the literary magazine I cofounded with three friends from Edinburgh, launched on 9 March at the StAnza Poetry Festival in St Andrews, Scotland.

We’re currently selling single issues and subscriptions on our website. They’re digital copies, and coming soon, an iOS subscription as well (and we’re hoping to release a Kindle ebook version, starting with issue 2).

We hope to release a printed edition and pay our contributors! So that’s why we’re selling it.

Not content to take a break after our launch (or, more accurately, DURING production of issue 1), we opened submissions for our second issue, with the theme of the back of beyond. Submissions are due on 31 March!

Poetry should be no more than 40 lines (though we do accept short poetry as well), and short prose of 1,200 words. No serial novels/stories, etc, as the theme changes with each issue.

I did the graphic design/layout for the magazine! Like making our spiffy hot air balloon logo.


One year as an expat.

Edinburgh Expeditions

(C) Bethany Wolfe 2012

I’ve lived in the UK for a year now. One year, with only a brief sojourn back to the States. One year.

One year. One year. Living on my own. Responsibilities. Education. Academia. Heartbreak. Making friends. Seeing these friends move away. Interviews. Starting jobs. Design. Worrying. Worrying about if the government will let me stay here, or if I’ll have to return to the States. Will I get to immigrate? Will I have to return to the land of my birth (I don’t call it ‘home’)?

Trips to London. Trip to the Highlands. Pilgrimage to Manchester. Concerts. Theatre. Adventures. Swing dancing. Saying hello. Saying good bye. Moving. Leases. Commutes. Thoughts too complex to be expressed as any more than phrases. Moments. Music. Friends. Poetry. Film-making. Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Fish and chips. Forays into vegetarianism. Bacon beckons. Tea. Biscuits. Brie. Late night chats. Early morning conversations. Sometimes the same thing. Mistakes. Regrets.

Laughter. Tears. Sobs into the night. Loneliness. Frustration. Disappointment. Elation. Love. Token American. Belonging.

The (formerly) Non-poetry Fan’s Adventures at the Edinburgh International Book Festival

Edinburgh Expeditions

They say that Edinburgh is the Festival City. Well, it’s true. And if it’s the Festival City, then August is the Festival Month. The Fringe, the most famous of the (four? five?) festivals running this month, is loud, obnoxious, and rather in your face. Tourists course through the streets, making each trip twice as long as it needs to be (my legs are in great shape now that I’ve taken to the hills to avoid them. Really. Hilly streets run parallel to the main ones). Drunks sing outside my window at all hours of the night and morning. And it is really, really loud.

Within this manic, energetic, mildly obnoxious madness, there is an oasis of calm. Located on the far side (for me) of George Street in Charlotte Square is the International Book Festival, the ultimate place for a book-toting, pen-wielding blogger and former English major. The white tents, the deck chairs, the yurts, the green, the books…oh the books. There are at least three book stores. Everyone clutches at a book, one they have purchased, one they have had signed, or one that they wish to leave for another to enjoy.

I’ve only attended two events so far at the Book Festival. The first was last Wednesday. It was an improv poetry slam, the first of its kind I’d attended. Not being a fan of poetry (or so I thought until this May’s Poetry Marathon), I had never even been to a slam. I loved it. I laughed. How I laughed! I drew portraits of the poets, chatted briefly with them after, generally had a lovely time.

Another day I just hung out at the Festival. A friend was interviewing a writer for her magazine, and I tagged along for a bit (not for the interview–I stayed in the Spiegeltent and drew). While waiting for her to get out of an event, and for another friend to arrive, I simple sat and read from the latest 44 Scotland Street book, before having a lovely conversation with two sisters in their 60s who sat at my table. You meet such wonderful people when you smile.

Today, I attended a presentation by Liz Lochhead, Scotland’s current makar (national poet). She spoke about her work, about her background, about the importance of learning poetry in schools. I felt rather embarrassed, not really knowing her work but knowing her name. Doubly embarrassed because, as a former English major, I had never studied poetry in a university setting. Triply embarrassed because I have an appalling memory and cannot remember any of the poems I ought to have memorized as a child. Also felt a bit silly as I didn’t have much to say when I met her after, apart from “I really enjoyed the presentation” and “My name’s Beth…no, short for Bethany.”

My next adventure at the book festival is this Friday, where I am to hear one of my favourite discoveries of the last few months speak. Carol Ann Duffy, the British poet laureate. Her collection of poetry, Rapture, is one of my favourite works, regardless of genre. I am so looking forward to attending her reading. I really ought to pick up a copy of Rapture this week, a second reward for finishing my dissertation, so that I’ll have something for her to sign, should she do a signing.

London Review of Books tent

(C) Bethany Wolfe

Poetry in the Park

Edinburgh Expeditions

This weekend, a group of my friends and I celebrated May Day a little late. Being of a literary mindset, we decided to hold a late-night picnic complete with good company, decent-to-good wine, and good poetry.

It was a laid-back affair, a gathering of just under twenty crazy cats bundled up against the cold May night. We had stacks of poetry books and an iPad, letting us flip through and find just the right poem for our moods. The poems read were insanely varied, from Tim Burton’s “Match Boy and Stick Girl in Love” to Shakespeare’s “Sonnet No. 2” to Dante Alighieri’s “Tanto gentile e tanto nostre pare” to dirty limericks recited when the mood got too serious. We laughed, we chatted, we decided that “The Jabberwocky” was really written by Robert Burns.

The poetry reading was a success. We sat out in the cold for four hours, leaving just before midnight, carrying the tea lights that had lit our circle as lanterns as we wandered back into the Edinburgh night.

A Girl Who Reads…

The Twirl and Swirl of Letters

A poem by Mark Grist.

I had to share this. Because girls who read are brilliant (if I do say so myself).

I do feel like a bit of a fraud. I’ve only finished one book since January, Barry Miles’s London Calling: A Countercultural History of London Since 1945. In my defense, it was several hundred pages long (and I’m working hard on my degree).

But I am a girl who reads. A reader of fiction both literary and pulp (and where the two crossover), of histories (mostly pop), of biographies, of critical theory, of academic articles. And you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way. As much as I love television, movies, even the internet, I wouldn’t trade reading for it.

Not reading for myself hurts. It aches as my brain grows weak, my attention span dwindling, when all I want is to read and find I can’t.

I still wander through libraries and bookstores, my eyes lusting over the beautiful book covers, the words on the pages…I long for the day where I can read for myself again (I may end up cheating a bit and reading before going to bed. All PHP and no books makes Beth a dull girl). Just today, I found myself at both Blackwell’s and the Edinburgh Central Library, perusing the shelves, holding books in my hands.

And yes, I gave in to temptation. I couldn’t resist. I never can. The printed word entices me, it draws me in, it is irresistible. I picked up a couple at the library, and am considering buying one for myself from Blackwell’s (Catriona Child’s Trackman). Perhaps as a reward for surviving this first round of submissions.

And, as a girl who reads, I have to say there’s nothing sexier than a guy who reads.

Maybe I’ll write a follow up poem.

Book Challenge: Traitors, Inferno, Favoritism

What's On the Bookshelf?

Day 22: Book you plan to read next

I’m going to reread Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John Le Carre! I don’t think I’ll get the biography on Gertrude Bell read before I leave. Tinker, Tailor is going to be my plane read. I’m hoping to reread most of it before I see the movie.

I really like my copy of the book. It’s a beat up, well loved tie in edition from the Alec Guinness mini-series (which I haven’t seen). I picked it up for 50 cents, even better for me!
Day 23: Book you tell people you’ve read, but haven’t (or haven’t actually finished)

Dante’s Divine Comedy. I don’t think I’ve explicitly said that I’ve read it, but I allude to it, quote it, etc. But I haven’t finished. I haven’t even finished Inferno. That’s a constant work in progress. I have trouble reading poetry. More accurately, I have trouble concentrating when I read poetry. I once read one of Tolkien’s epic poems. Wow.
Day 24: Book that contains your favorite scene

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I love the scene where Fred and George decide to leave Hogwarts. Its funny. There’s much mayhem. Fred and George. Love it.