Wednesday, 31 May 2017

How To Understand Poetry

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As much as I love reading and writing poetry, I'm not about to sit here and say it's the easiest thing to understand and enjoy. Sometimes, it isn't. Sometimes, I will read a poem through and I'll scrunch up my face before exclaiming, 'you what?!'. 

If that confusion sounds familiar to you, I'm here to share some advice that I've picked up along the way as to how to understand poetry. 

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With each read, poems tend to reveal a little more of themselves and, in all honesty, sometimes poems make absolutely no sense without a little time to ponder them. I always read a poem a few times over before I come to any conclusion about it. 

Once you've read it in your head a few times, read it aloud! Reading poetry aloud helps to illuminate the whys and wherefores: What does it sound like? Why were certain word choices made?  What's the rhythm like? 

creative writing blog vivatramp how to read poetry


I discussed the benefits of marking up books earlier this year and I really think it comes into its own when it comes to poetry. The marks you make don't have to be overly insightful either, you could go back to basics and just start by underlining words you like or ideas that you feel are integral to the poem. 

You could also mark ideas or words that you don't yet understand in order to come back to them.

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The way a poem is presented on the page can be just as important as the content. Look at the way it sits on the page. Does it look 'traditional' to you? Does the poet play with white space? Leave gaps between certain words? How many stanzas are there? 

Use of space in a poem could allude to certain feelings that the poet has about what they're writing about and it can also be their way of letting you into their world a little more. 

Looking at a poem as a whole can be very intimidating though, I realise that. So, alternatively, you could try and break it down into sections. Take it a sentence at a time or take it image by image. 

If breaking it down so much doesn't work for you, try putting it into a context that you feel more comfortable with. Do you like to take photographs? Consider the poem as a series of separate images. What do those images convey? If you listen to music, think about why the poem sounds the way it does. Is it pacey and rhythmic like your favourite pop banger? Or is it dull like a Coldplay song? If you like theatre, consider the different acts of the poem. Who or what is the antagonist? Is it a Shakespearian-esque tragedy or more farcical and light? If you like going to the cinema, why not visualize the poem as a short film? 

vivatramp blog creative writing poetry

You could also pop it into your own personal context! Look at the setting, have you been anywhere like that before? If so, what did it look like? How did you relate to your surroundings at the time?

Think about the poem's subject. Have you come across it before in your own life? 

Or, think about the feelings the poet is trying to convey. When did you last feel them? How did you process them? What would it be like to feel those feelings in the context of the poem? 

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So far, my advice has been very insular. However, I also think one of the best ways to understand poetry is to talk about it with other people. Pass it along to someone else and see what they think. Come up with a few ideas together. You're both going to be coming to the poem with different life experiences and different ways of interpreting things, utilise that! 

I also like to research the poetry that I read. Find out when and where it was written and why. Look up what was happening in the world at the time and think about how that may have influenced the poet. You may also stumble across the poet's intent, too, which can be extremely insightful.

You could also research wider ideas relating to the form and craft, such as 'white space in poetry'. That's, of course, digging a little deep though so you don't need to do that if you're just wanting to read poetry on a surface level!

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And those are 6 bits of advice that I have to give you when it comes to understanding a poem. Poetry isn't the easiest thing to get on board with but I hope my advice has in some way opened up more ways for you to interpret it. Do you have any other tips for those wondering how to understand poetry?



Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Book Reviews feat. Emma Cline & TBR

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I have been slack with my reading of late. I've not been in the right headspace and I think it's kind of making me a bit miserable. I'm hoping to turn that around by the end of the year but first lets discuss what I managed to turn my attention to in April!

Last month, I read the latest installment in my favourite comic series, last summer's 'it' novel and a newly translated novella. 


the girls emma cline book blog vivatramp book review
FINISHED: 05/04/17 | PAGES: 355  | ISBN:1784740446 
Evie Boyd is desperate to be noticed. In the summer of 1969, empty days stretch out under the California sun. The smell of honeysuckle thickens the air and the sidewalks radiate heat. Until she sees them. The snatch of cold laughter. Hair, long and uncombed. Dirty dresses skimming the tops of thighs. Cheap rings like a second set of knuckles. The girls. And at the centre, Russell. Russell and the ranch, down a long dirt track and deep in the hills. Incense and clumsily strummed chords. Rumours of sex, frenzied gatherings, teen runaways. Was there a warning, a sign of things to come? Or is Evie already too enthralled by the girls to see that her life is about to be changed forever?

The Girls had been lounging around on my TBR shelf for an entire year waiting for a spot of sunshine so, naturally, when the first few Spring rays hit my face I pawed at it and read it in a few days. This character-driven kinda coming-of-age novel is now available in paperback so you can expect to see it in everyone else's hands too! 

I wasn't entirely sure what to expect from this novel, wondering whether its focus would be girlhood or be more centered on wild cult life. It was most definitely the former. Cline, with the lilting poetry of her writing style, captured the frantic desperation of teenhood and the awakening of a million and one desires and curiosities that comes with it. You do even begin to feel intoxicated by the heavy sun and sour stench of the ranch. However, I did have a few qualms with this novel. 

I did find, in particular, that the plot was a little thin on the ground in places, which could either be down to a pacing issue or just the fact that Cline seems to be more comfortable when it comes to poetics which rely a little less on action. I'm also not entirely sure how much present day Evie brought to the story. I understand why she was included, to counterbalance the naivety of youth and to frame the story, but she ultimately became a distraction. It also served to emphasise just how peripheral younger Evie was too. She told a story but the bigger, maybe slightly more interesting, story wasn't hers to tell. This meant the end, for me, felt a little rushed and anti-climatic. 

Weirdly though, despite those issues, I didn't ever find myself struggling to read on. I found The Girls to be compulsively readable and I guess that's down to how delicious I found the writing style...which I imagine will be too saccharine for some. I would recommend this, regardless.

Approach this as a coming of age tale, albeit one in extreme circumstances, and you'll get something from it. If you're looking for a fictionalised account of cult life, maybe opt for something else. California by Edan Lepucki is a good, criminally underhyped, shout. 

This is Cline's debut novel. I'm intrigued to see what she writes next. 


saga volume 7 book review blogger vivatramp

FINISHED: 07/04/17 PAGES: 152  | ISBN: 1534300600 

Saga is my absolute favourite comic series so I was already coming to this volume with high hopes and levels of enthusiasm that are otherwise unseen in my day-to-day life. Volume 7 had everything I have come to love about this series: the mindfuckery, the creativity, the bold humour and the stunning panels by Staples, and then some. 

This volume was particularly heart-wrenching because it was more insular than usual. Saga has always been about identity and otherness and war and what it means to be running from conflict and the place you once called home, but this installment really honed in on the brutal reality of home falling away from you. It was heavy. It was all-consuming. It had passion oozing from every page. 

Still my favourite. Still overwhelmingly invested. If you want to get into comics, start here. If you aren't even in to comics, start here.


ghachar ghochar book review blog vivatramp

FINISHED: 28/04/17 | PAGES: 192  | ISBN: 0571336078
A close-knit family is delivered from near-destitution to sudden wealth after the narrator's uncle founds a successful spice company. As the narrator - a sensitive young man who is never named - along with his sister, his parents, and his uncle move from a cramped, ant-infested shack to a larger house and encounter newfound wealth, the family dynamics begin to shift. Allegiances and desires realign; marriages are arranged and begin to falter; and conflict brews ominously in the background. Their world becomes 'ghachar ghochar' - a nonsense phrase that, to the narrator, comes to mean something entangled beyond repair.

This newly translated novella kept popping up on social media so I requested a copy for review and then read it as soon as it hit the doormat. Shanbhag is seemingly one of those authors whose writing feigns simplicity when it's actually working extremely hard and managing to be highly nuanced. Every detail is carefully considered and serves to create characters and a depiction of middle-class India that lives well beyond its 100 or so pages. 

As someone who comes from a tight immediate family, I loved how Shanbhag explored the ways in which families often work as an entity - where an observation about a family member naturally trails into that of another and how that intense level of closeness suggests loyalty, yes, but also supplies you with the ammo to hurt the most. 

Ghachar Ghochar was incredibly tight, from its well-timed anecdotes to its exploration of lives turned 360 by the pull of new money, but, for me, its biggest strength comes in how unassuming it seems and, in turn, how delicately it delivers its final blow. Haunting stuff.  



I haven't got a lot of spare time at the moment, between my daily existential crisis and watching Poppy's every move, so I only want to try and tick a couple of books off of my TBR list during May.

vivatramp book bloggers booktube in the uk

I featured this in last month's TBR but didn't manage to get round to it so Black Wave is being dragged out again in the hope that I will find some sun-drenched days for it. The blurb sounds so me. I really hope it delivers.

welcome to lagos by chibundu onuzo* 
I've so very nearly finished this (edit: editing Bee has finished this so you can expect to find it in a book review post next month) so this should be an easy one to tick off!

Aaaand that's what I read in the month of April and what I hope to read by the end of this month. What did you read?  As always, if you have a bit of spare time, you can stick around and scroll through all of my book blog posts. Or, alternatively, you could just flick through my book reviews instead. 

Links to books are affiliate links. If you don't fancy any of these books but would still like to use my link to purchase some books with, please use my general Book Depository link. Thanks, pals! Books marked with an asterisk were sent to me by the publisher for an honest review. 


Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Another Day of Sun, in Somerset

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Adventures used to be a staple on this here blog back in the day and that's something that I really miss. And so, in the spirit of said sentimental longing, I thought I'd share a few hazy snaps from the sunny puppy walk that we went on a few weekends ago and give you a little insight into Poppy's character too! 

Poppy only has little legs, as she's only 17 weeks, so we didn't want to wander too far but luckily enough we've got this ace little walk sat just at the end of our road.  

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Slow summery afternoons are my bread and butter so it's no surprise how upbeat I felt on this particular afternoon. I'm grateful for the mornings where light fills my room and makes my head feel a little less stuffy and I'm hoping to document quite a few of those days as the season progresses...

We scrambled some lunch together, strolled down to the fields, which were thankfully cow-free this time, and let Pops bounce around in the long grass. Long grass, by the way, is one of her favourite things. Here's a few more things that she has taken quite a liking to...

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 kisses. no one is safe. 
2  wearing my shoe on her head. it's a niche interest, granted. 
bird watching, particularly starlings and sparrows. sometimes, seagulls.
sleeping between my knees
her best friend, rocky. a jack russell cross that she meets at the park. he is never without his frisbee and he puts up with the incessant snogs. how endearing!

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I find myself getting so overwhelmed by the 'bigger picture' at the moment, to the point where all of the little things feel colossal, and it's looking back on quiet slow moments like this that make me realise that things will probably be okay in the end, as long as I look at things individually as opposed to a whole. 

It's important to step back and live slowly, particularly in this dawn of the 'girl boss' where everyone seems to try and run themselves into the ground in the name of success. I'm going to strive for further slow living.


I need more afternoons like this. What adventures have you been on lately? It doesn't matter whether they're big or small!

If you want to hang around a little bit longer, you can have a scroll through all my other adventures



Saturday, 6 May 2017

Book Haul feat. Michelle Tea

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A couple of books really took my fancy last month so I placed a little order, promising myself that I would read my purchases sooner rather than later. I'm already halfway there so I have no doubt that I'll honour that pinky swear. 

In April, I bought the latest edition of my favourite comic series, a piece of queer pre-apocalyptic lit and I was sent a book from a publisher. 

It's 1999 in San Francisco, and as shockwaves of gentrification sweep through Michelle's formerly scruffy neighborhood, money troubles, drug-fueled mishaps, and a string of disastrous affairs send her into a tailspin. Desperate to save herself, Michelle sets out to seek a fresh start in Los Angeles. Meanwhile, climate-related disruptions and a string of extinctions are the background noise of impending doom. One day, Michelle wakes up to an official announcement: the world will be ending in exactly one year. Daily life in Los Angeles quickly becomes intensely surreal. Humans begin to collectively dream of the lives and loves they would have had, if not for the end of the world, and the lines between fantasy and reality become increasingly blurred. As the planet nears its expiration date, Michelle holes up in an abandoned bookstore and calmly begins to write—convinced she's finally stumbled upon the elusive "universal story"—a novel about a struggling writer facing the end of the world.

Black Wave had been sat at the top of my 'to buy' list ever since I saw it on the publisher's Twitter page months back. The blurb is so me it's actually ridiculous. Queer pre-apocalyptic lit, tailspins, bookstores. What's not to love?! I haven't been this excited about reading a new-to-me book for ages! Doesn't it sound like the perfect read to accompany the little spate of sunshine I've had in this part of the world of late?! She says looking out at today's overcast sky...

I'm picking this up as soon as I'm done with my current read. I really hope this book meets my ~quite high~ expectations. If it does, it could be on my favourites list come the end of the year! 

saga volume 7 brian k vaughan book blog

Ever since I picked up the first volume of Saga in April 2015, I have been head over heels in love with the series. The thirst has not died down, pals, and I don't think it will anytime soon as I bought this as soon as it was released. I then, of course, read it as soon as it fell through the letterbox. 

Despite dealing with such big topics, like being a refugee and living through war and experimenting with sexuality, Saga always feels so intimate and that's not an easy thing to pull off. Anyway, there will be more of that when I review it later this month. Until then, give Saga a go yourself! 


ghachar ghochar book blog vivatramp

...A close-knit family is delivered from near-destitution to sudden wealth after the narrator's uncle founds a successful spice company. As the narrator - a sensitive young man who is never named - along with his sister, his parents, and his uncle move from a cramped, ant-infested shack to a larger house and encounter newfound wealth, the family dynamics begin to shift. Allegiances and desires realign; marriages are arranged and begin to falter; and conflict brews ominously in the background...Their world becomes 'ghachar ghochar' - a nonsense phrase that, to the narrator, comes to mean something entangled beyond repair...Ghachar Ghochar is a quietly enthralling, deeply unsettling novel about the shifting meanings - and consequences - of financial gain in contemporary India. 

Ghachar Ghochar was all over Twitter so, naturally, I had to stick my nose in and see what all the fuss was about. A few tweets later and it was winging its way to me via the publisher. Thanks, Faber!  As is custom over here, lets fall silent for a moment as a mark of respect for how stunningly produced this little book is. Is it just me or are Faber killing it with their cover design of late?! Phenomenal. 

I enjoy novellas but, weirdly, I haven't read too many despite enjoying the craft. Novellas are so delicate, requiring intense skill to master the art of compounding multiple characters, histories and narrative threads into so few pages, so this could have gone either way. I have already read this so, again, keep an eye on my upcoming book reviews for my verdict. 

[EDIT: READ MY ghachar ghochar review]

An exciting little selection of new releases! What books have you bought or rented from the library recently? If you'd like to scroll through all of my book blog posts then you can. Or, alternatively, you could just flick through my book hauls instead.


This post features affiliate links. If you buy the books through the links I've provided I'll receive a 5% commission to put back into the blog. *Books marked with an asterisk were sent to me for review purposes by the publisher.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Things That Make Me Happy 70

happy list uk

mountains beyond mountains by arcade fire 
louis theroux documentaries
learning more about my family tree
peach flavour 

(photo credit)

I have been sharing things that make me happy lists for years. If you'd like to read some more, you can scroll through the archive.


Monday, 1 May 2017

My Favourite Things 4

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We are now in May and I am not okay with that fact! The months have, as per usual, shot by and I still feel like I should be sat somewhere in January trying to get my life together before Spring. A hectic month raising a teeny pup and dealing with chronic pain and fatigue meant that I didn't really get things done in April. I want to change that this month. I need to change that this month. Before I wallow for too long, lets look back at April as I ponder my monthly favourites.

In April, I was coveting some new releases, new additions to my wardrobe and family time. What featured in your April monthly favourites? ..,she says into the void. 

monthly favourites blog vivatramp lifestyle bloggers in the uk
*always looking back for her Mama!

Poppy was able to start going for walks, following her vaccinations, just a couple of weeks ago and since then she has been relishing her time outdoors. She kisses every new dog that she meets, bounces around the fields like a little lamb and has demanded everyone's attention. She has been to the field, along the country lanes and has even ventured to the beach alongside Woody and Jessie. It has been really fun to see her learn more about the world, particularly when she stumbles across animals she hasn't met before. I'm talking cows and horses!

I can't wait until she's a little more car-friendly so we can take her on walks a little further afield. Until then, you'll find us bouncing around the park looking for cute new dogs to meet.

saga volume 7 review book blog vivatramp

Saga volume 7 was finally released and, as ever, I bought it as soon as it came into the world. I won't say too much here, as I'll save it for my monthly book review post, but this volume was hard hitting. Even moreso than usual.

If you're looking to get into comics but aren't sure where to start, Saga is a great place to begin. Each volume is fast paced and full of stunning artwork, punchy dialogue and excellent world building. 

paramore hard  times

Paramore are back with a new look and bouncy sound and I, for one, am here for it. Sticking to their new catchy-pop kinda vibe, think Still Into You and Ain't It Fun off the self-titled album, Hard Times sees Zac's return to the band after a long time away. A lot of people, who perhaps prefer the All We Know Is Falling, Riot! and Brand New Eyes eras, are not digging this new incarnation and I can understand that, because it is a departure, but luckily I happen to love it. I'm looking forward to seeing what else the new album, After Laughter, holds. If Hard Times is anything to go by, I'm going to be putting it on repeat. 

I'm also happy to report that my crush on Hayley Williams is still going strong twelve years down the line. 

vivatramp lifestyle blog monthly favourites letter writing tips

I'm always writing cards to my Grandma so when Mum dragged me into a card shop earlier this month I thought I'd pick up a few to add to my stock. These colourful designs caught my eye and I was surprised to find that they were a mere 99p each! Yes, I was so pleased to find beautiful card designs that were also affordable to me that I went and put them in a favourites post. Rock 'n' Roll. 

They're made my Art Market Cards, if you're interested. 

lifestyle blogs vivatramp uk asos boots spring summer

I ruined my old ankle boots running around after Poppy so I needed to buy a new pair that would see my through social occasions outside of the house. I opted for the RANA boots from ASOS and after a month of wearing them out and about, I am happy to report that I love them. I'm not one for going full-femme with my outfits, preferring to team a dress with a heavier boot or jacket, and this pair help to toughen up whatever I'm wearing. They're also extremely comfortable and accommodate my big-feet-but-tiny-ankles which is a near miracle. 

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I feel a bit silly saying how much I've been enjoying the 'better weather' this month because as I\type this the rain is beating down on the conservatory roof but, nevertheless, April did bring sunny days and they were so welcome. We were able to lounge in the garden, construct a windbreak maze to keep Poppy in the shade, and had our first BBQ of the year. I also ate ice-cream from the tub and lathered on suncream like it was going out of fashion. 

Let's hope that sunny weather returns soon so I can cross some more things off my spring and summer manifesto...

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I saw this gingham New Look dress on Twitter and it felt apt for me to own something with poppies as a focal point so I bought it. I wore it to a few social things this month, including a meal to celebrate our engagement and a 21st birthday party, and it felt really comfortable to wear. The detail makes it look like you've put more effort in to your look that you actually have and, pals, IT HAS POCKETS. What a dream! 

I have been pairing it with my new boots, nude matte lip, loose waves and my faux-leather biker jacket for a more me look.

monthly favourites blog vivatramp

We tried to take a nice family photograph together but I'm the least photogenic person on Earth so it just wasn't happening. Later that day, however, once I'd got into my comfy baggy pjs and taken off my make-up, I decided to ask my sister to take a couple of relaxed family instant photographs and I was very happy with the results. They're more us, for sure. 

I love having little instant photographs to flick through, particularly as I only really bring that camera out for my most favourite moments that I want to capture and hold in my hand there and then. 

lifestyle blog vivatramp uk cruelty free beauty mascara

I've decided to try and go cruelty-free with my make-up, where animal testing is concerned, because I don't wear a lot of it and I figured it's the right thing to do. I'm aiming to buy from companies that don't use animal testing, making sure their parent companies also don't take part in it. It's a learning curve so I'm not expecting to get it right every time to begin with but I'm going to give it a go. I will be using up the make-up I already have because I don't have the money to replace everything straight up. 

I took to Twitter to ask for animal cruelty-free mascaras, as that was the first product I used up, and everyone seemed to speak highly of Essence False Lash Effect so I made a note to pick it up when I was next in a town with a Wilko. At £3.30, I was more than happy to give it a go. I have used this a fair few times this month and I have to say I am loving the results. It separates my lashes, making me appear more bright-eyed, and doesn't clump. I'll definitely be re-purchasing this in the future. 

guardians of the galaxy 2 blog vivatramp

I went to see the latest Guardians film yesterday and I am happy to report that it was  a lot of fun. There were a couple of things that I was a bit meh towards, like the re-occurring and entirely unnecessary disabled joke that Rocket seems to make and I was a bit over the will-they won't-they tension between Gamora and Peter. But, for the most part, I really enoyed this film. It's the most innovative and creative film in the MCU so far and it felt infinitely re-watchable. Baby Groot tho, pals!

If you're into the Marvel films, this is a must-see. 

• Bethany's interview with Bustle was wonderful - 'A Body Project: Bethany Rutter on her Belly'
• Charlie has started doing couple portraits. She has just taken a break but keep an eye out. Her artwork is stunning!
• Swapping social media for newsletters - ft. some recommendations
• Mercedes shared some recommendations for books on girlhood
• Ella released her new collection of stunning floral vases
• This Is My Life Now - Rosie's ability to write beautiful creative non-fiction always blows me away
• Christiana's cover of dodie's 'Sick of Losing Soulmates' absolutely floored me. I want to marry her and her voice.
• How 'body positivity' lost its true and radical meaning. Bethany was on fire this month!
• How ebooks lost their shine

•  my monthly things that make me happy list
•  more book reviews & a tbr
  listed my spring & summer manifesto
•  book haul ft. review copies from publishers 
•  more creative prompts with examples of my own work inspired by the prompts 

And those are a few of my favourite things! What have you been enjoying lately? If you'd like to, you can scroll through a selection of my other favourite things.

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