a pitch for “Happiness” by Stuart A. Paterson

“Moonlight Camping” by Deidre Lynn (Brush and Bramble Art).
by Stuart A. Paterson

I’ve made my own Museum of
Happiness, which isn’t built of brick
or stone or wood, its walls the thickness
of the day, a flapping tongue of canvass
held in place by rope & peg to stop
it flying off & joyously away
up into everywhere in time & space.

I’ll carry it around with me to pitch
beside the sea, in a field or by
that river, a billowing rickety marquee,
a travelling show of personal delights
performing one night only & forever.

What sights! What wonders! See those things unseen
except in meanwhiles, vivid dreams,
smile, laugh & gasp & live a lifetime
somewhere in between the daily grind
of minutes into hours, be amazed
by happiness’s alchemy
transmogrifying days of certainty
to joyous, raucous aeons of impossibility.

Step right up, pay nothing, be called in
to watch the carnival of you begin,
the show to beat all shows where nothing’s
out of bounds & every good thing goes
around & comes around again, not down
or out & you’re the hottest act in town,
the permanently top display, the troupe
of you booked solid every single smiling day.

~ written for Personal Best (October 2017).

“Juggler” by Dayle Bolton.


“Camping Under a Striped Tent” by Andrea Doss

This poem had me smiling from beginning to end. Sheer delight!

I reveled in Paterson’s choice words, his artful turn of phrase, and his brilliant use of extended metaphor.

Tents are portable; they can be set up just about anywhere. Never a burden, they allow us to travel lightly through life (don’t you love “its walls the thickness of the day”?). We carry our personal museums of happiness with us wherever we go. 

“Camping in the Woods” by Joanna Karpowicz.

The notion that happiness lies within, that it’s something we can all cultivate, is certainly not new, and while I appreciate the reminder, sometimes this message can be cloaked in cliché. Not so with Paterson’s poem. An invitation to “step right up” to watch “the carnival of you begin” takes care of that. Every performance is as unique as the individual; there is no sameness or predictability, not when you’re dealing with “raucous aeons of impossibility.”

“Camping Cat” by Sara Pulver.

Stuart A. Paterson wrote “Happiness” for Personal Best (a Health and Fitness podcast), when he was BBC Scotland Poet in Residence (2017-18). He has a proven track record of initiating and encouraging engagement in creative writing in many sectors of the community – primary and secondary schools, libraries, progressing writers, mental health and wellbeing, the elderly and in the area of Scots language. He has received many awards for his poetry, including Scots Poet of the Year 2020.

I’d love to stay and juggle a few more words, but I must run (this happens when you’re the hottest act in town).


What does your Museum of Happiness look like?


The lovely and talented Heidi Mordhorst is hosting the Roundup at My Juicy Little Universe. Tap dance on over to check out the full menu of poetic goodness being served up around the blogosphere this week. Have a great weekend!

*Copyright © 2023 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

to blurb or not to blurb?

Have you ever been asked to write a blurb for a new poetry book or read one that turned you off? Here’s some light-hearted advice from Scottish poet Helena Nelson.

“Pile of Poetry” by Nichola Martin.
by Helena Nelson

This book is not bad.
A number of these poems feature the poet’s dog: George.
The author’s mother recommends this book.
Boris Johnson recommends this book.
Most of the poems are quite short.
Poetry is not for everybody.
These poems are accessible if reasonable adjustments are made.
Many of these poems were written while dusting.
The poet applied three times for funding to assist in the completion
of this book.
Please buy this book.
The poems in this book have universal resonance some of the time.
Includes five villanelles and three sestinas.
There is a glossary of difficult words for readers new to poetry.
The poet skillfully employs seven types of metonymy.
The main theme is death.

~ from Down with Poetry! (Glenrothes: HappenStance, 2016)


Blurbing new poetry books is a tricky business. Your task is to help sell the book, but how do you do justice to it without sounding too cliché or over the top?

I always read the blurbs on the back covers of new single poet collections and sometimes find them pretentious, intimidating, even unbelievable. I sometimes run away screaming. And I’m someone who actually likes poetry.

At the Scottish Poetry Library, Nelson said this about her poem:

In Issue 25 of The Dark Horse (2011), there was an article called ‘The Blurbonic Plague’ by the late, lamented Dennis O’Driscoll. It was about the awfulness of much of the text on back jackets of new poetry books. This struck a chord close to my heart, and also gave me the courage to form a deliberate policy for HappenStance Press, which ever since has been officially ‘anti-blurb’. When I issue books and pamphlets, the text on the back cover never includes words like ‘new and exciting’, and I don’t commission blurbs or, worse still, get poets to write their own. But then what do you write? The truth? Frequently that won’t do either. It’s easier to say what not to write, and have some fun with that. So I made a list, some of which turned into this poem.

I thoroughly enjoyed her list and her wry humor (some of the suggestions could also apply to things one should not include in a manuscript submission cover letter).

Truly, what could be more enticing (esp. to a potential non-poet reader) than a platter full of shop talk? We all eat metonymy, synecdoche, asyndeton and caesura for breakfast, right? 🙂

And they say poetry is a hard sell . . .

Actually, I think Nelson is definitely onto something with her “anti-blurb” stance. If a blurb can make you laugh, wouldn’t you be more apt to buy the book? Hold the mega hype, please.

Here is Nelson reciting the poem:

How do you feel about book blurbs? How seriously do you take them?


Helena Nelson (Nell Nelson) is the originator and editor of HappenStance Press as well as a poet in her own right. Her first Rialto collection Starlight on Water was a Jerwood/Aldeburgh First Collection winner. Her second was Plot and Counterplot from Shoestring Press. She also writes and publishes light verse – Down With Poetry! (HappenStance, 2016) and Branded (Red Squirrel Press, 2019). In 2016, she published a HappenStance best seller: How (Not) to Get Your Poetry Published, a book that collects the insights and useful ideas she has gathered over the last twelve years in poetry publishing.

She reviews widely, writes a publisher’s blog regularly, and also curates the pamphlet review site Sphinx Review.


The lovely and talented Tanita S. Davis is hosting the Roundup at {fiction, instead of lies}. Waltz on over to check out the full menu of poetic goodness being shared around the blogosphere this week. Happy March!

*Copyright © 2023 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

what is your house dreaming of?

More than just wood or plaster, houses are alive with their own feelings and dreams. Each room has a story to tell.

“The Breakfast Table” by William Ratcliffe
by Jackie Kay

The living room remembers Gran dancing to Count Basie.
The kitchen can still hear my aunts fighting on Christmas day.
The hall is worried about the loose banister.
The small room is troubled by the missing hamster.
The toilet particularly dislikes my Grandfather.
The wallpaper covers up for the whole family.

And No. 115 dreams of lovely houses by the sea.
And No. 115 dreams of one night in the country.

The stairs are keeping schtum about the broken window.
The toilet’s sick of the trapped pipes squealing so.
The walls aren’t thick enough for all the screaming.
My parent’s bedroom has a bed in a choppy sea.
My own bedroom loves the bones of me.
My brother’s bedroom needs a different boy.

And No. 115 dreams of yellow light, an attic room.
And No. 115 dreams of a chimney, a new red roof.

And the red roof dreams of robin redbreasts
tap dancing on the red dance floor in the open air.

~ from Red, Cherry Red (Bloomsbury, 2019)
“Attic Room” by William Ratcliffe (1918)
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