All posts by Marie-Bernadette Rollins

Things that every poet is tired of hearing

That’s right, I’m going on a rant again – because everybody should do what they’re good at. Which brings me to today’s topic: Things that I as a creative writing student am absolutely tired of hearing.
There are these lines, repeated over and over again, sometimes by friends, often by family, mostly by acquaintances, always tedious. And, by the way: never funny.

Here’s what I mean:

North American Friend: So, how’s your studies going?

Me (refraining from correcting their English): Very stressful, there’s only two weeks left in the semester, and…

North American Friend: Ahh, c’mon, it can’t be that hard, it’s only writing, right? Don’t you mostly sit around and get drunk? That’s what being a writer is all about, I don’t think you’re doing it right!
One-sided laughter follows.
Maybe you should’ve went with a more challenging programme!

Me (now pissed and no longer seeing any reason to control my non-native grammatical arrogance): First of all, not your most original moment. Secondly, it’s “should have gone”. And lastly and FYI, we are all working our asses off!

North American Friend: Yeah, right. Why are you doing this anyways? You know, in order to be successful as a writer, you’d have to be, like, so lucky…

Me: Not lucky. Just good.

North American Friend: It’s so unlikely though, I mean, to make a living of it, you’d have to become a star or something!

Me: Maybe I will, maybe I won’t. At least I know I won’t ever have to get up in the morning thinking that I didn’t try. Or that I’m stuck in mediocrity doing something I loathe. How’s life as a nine-to-fiver?

North American silence.



Grandmother (translated from German): How are you doing with your studies, sweetheart?

Me: Well, it’s a lot of fun and very enriching, but there is also a lot of pressure.

Grandmother: Really? Do you have so many exams?

Me: Oma, I don’t have exams, I’m becoming a writer. I write.

Grandmother: Oh, well that doesn’t sound too bad…

Me: It’s not bad, it’s just very demanding.

Grandmother: And what exactly will you do with this degree when you’re done?

Me (after a deep, calming breath): I don’t need to know that yet, Oma, what matters is that this is what I want to do with my life. I have always wanted to write, you know that. I am doing it because I have no other choice if I want to be happy. I am doing it for very good reasons. Everything that I’ve done up until this point has been leading me here. There’s no turning back. I’m all in.

Grandmother: But you have such a good, useful degree, you could make more money in…

Me (interrupting, as I have heard this many too many times before): I’m not in it for the money, Oma, I’m in it for the challenge of my life. And for fulfilment.

German silence.



Acquaintance: So what do you study?

Me: Creative Writing. Postgrad.

Scottish silence.



So, here’s something I can’t just let slide by uncommented:
I was delighted to see that the Lunchtime Concert Series features a rendition of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven on October 20. However, speaking on behalf on my idol, the announcement in which this event is being advertised is a thorn in my side. For anybody who doesn’t like nitpicking, you might want to skip the following lines. For those who take pleasure in literary pedantry, enjoy.

So this is the sentence around which my annoyance revolves: “To coincide with Dundee Literary Festival, Ken Murray (narrator) and Graeme Stevenson (piano) will be performing The Raven, a meldorama [sic] based on Edgar Allan Poe’s story […]” – well then.
Firstly, and aside from the missing quotation marks, can you really perform “The Raven”? It’s not a play, it’s not a musical, and it’s not a Celine Dion song. I would hope for a recital at best. More strinkingly, what is a “meldorama”, and where would one find it? I actually quite enjoyed that neologism. Is it something like the Eldorado for melodramatists? A sanatorium for those addicted to meldonium? I know, it’s just a typo (or typoe?), but one of the more amusing ones I’ve read this week.
Last but absolutely not least, which Poe worshipper could ignore the most ignorant labelling of this brilliant piece of poetry as a “story”? Come on, people. I must say, the thought of “The Raven” being a prose piece made me laugh quite fiercely. How goddamn boring would it be to read a tale about a bird with very limited vocabulary sitting on a Greek bust in a dark room? That would hardly fill more than three quarters of a tormented page. Ahh, the joys of derision. That little article brightened up my morning significantly –  it’s almost as if there was a secret challenge about how many mistakes one can make in a three-line announcement.

Seriously though, it is my obvious obligation to go to that Lunchtime Concert.
And you can be sure I will be in the front row, meticulously following every syllable and mouthing along each word. I will let you know how it turns out, and whether the actual presentation will be as entertaining as the advert.

Do it with passion or not at all!

my name is Marie-Bernadette, I am currently sitting in an IT suite at University and am somewhat at a loss what to write. Having just been asked to spontaneously come up with my first introductory post for this blog, I wonder what would be best to say.
To be honest, as much I enjoy meeting new people, I have never been a fan of introductions, do you feel me? I find them to be rather awkward, almost as if you are desperately trying to squeeze your identity into a few sentences. And therefore, I usually just go with my name (which is long enough) and wait for my conversational partner to ask questions.
If we were sitting face-to-face right now, what would you like to know about me?
Having noticed the ragged accent in my voice, you would probably go with the classic, but uninventive, “where are you from?”, upon which I, rolling my eyes on the inside, would reply with suppressed ennui, “Germany”. Then, depending on what your opinions and knowledge about my home country are, you would ask a clumsy follow-up question or swiftly change the subject. Other than my nationality, what else might come up in such an introductory conversation? I am a compulsive traveller, I am obsessed with Edgar Allan Poe, I enjoy learning languages, I hate ice cream, I have about twenty-five hours of tattooing under my skin so far, I treasure my friends more than anything in the world, and I am “a poet to a T”.

Also, I am a juggler. Literally and metaphorically. I learned to juggle as a primary school student, and found out that anything more than four balls at a time is not feasible for me. At the moment I am juggling the MLitt (full-time), a rather thankless job (part-time), a marriage (full-time), several volunteer positions (part-time) and the question why I am not given more than 24 hours a day (constantly). I am afraid that sooner or later I will actually drop the ball on something.
I have to say though, coming from what lies behind me, I could not be more grateful: For this city, which has welcomed me so sunnily on my first visit and had me from the moment I arrived and that stuns me every morning with its seagulls and the water; for this amazing team of people that I am just in the process of getting to know – no honour could be greater than being your Class Rep (well, there is the Nobel for Literature, but let’s not ruin the moment); for this course into which I was so graciously accepted (I’m not going to say anything sarcastic about being the token foreigner right now); and for life finally letting me back on track.
I look forward to this year more than anything.
Or, as I dramatically wrote in my University application, “a writer is all I ever wanted to be”.
Well then, let’s make it happen.