You Are Not A Creative Person

So I’ve noticed this term going around in the hip and cool scenes that like to make up nonsense words in order to stay sounding hip and cool. It’s the kind of term that says nothing while taking up a lot of mental space as you decipher what exactly it means. It’s the kind of term government bodies throw onto applications, that councils put on posters full of garish font and bright colours, that people who know nothing about anything say when talking to people who know something about everything.

‘I’m A Creative.’

Once upon a time, there were artists. These were people who produced art. Then we got all post-modernist on the whole thing and started to question what even is art. And that’s fine. You’re allowed to question these things (note, the answer is, of course, that everything can be art, but not everything can be good art.) However, I absolutely draw the line at questioning what is an artist.

The term ‘A Creative’ is a crude post-modern Orwellian word of outrageous propaganda, designed to belittle the intense philosophy of art down into something fun, joyful, and infantile. People who call themselves ‘A Creative’ are the same kind of people who find joy in finger painting. Which isn’t to say there’s anything necessarily wrong with finger painting done by and for five year olds, but you probably wouldn’t want it hung in The Louvre.

In today’s world of Everyone Gets a Medal, we’ve reduced art down to its most basic form: that of being creative, or, the art of creating as an art in itself. But art is, can, and should be, a lot more than just creating something out of nothing. Not everything is good and worthy just because you put effort into it. Sometimes we underperform. Sometimes we let ourselves down. Sometimes we let our art down. And that needs to be said, it needs to be known, and it needs to be quantified. Otherwise we’ll never improve.

Therein lies the crux. Improvement. Maybe you like finger-painting. Good for you. And maybe you can take it to some never-before-seen level: great! I’m on board! Just make it worth both my time and yours. Make it good. (and as the joker says, If you’re good at something, never do it for free.)

You wouldn’t call your plumber A Pipe-man, or you doctor A Bodyfixer, so don’t call yourself A Creative. Don’t sell yourself short. Be proud. Be an artist.


This blog was written by Shane ‘Mister Cantankerous’ Vaughan. The views in this blog are the author’s own and do not reflect the views of Stanzas which as it so happens loves finger-painting and would totally like to see you do some finger-paints in response to our poetry.  If you have a blog of your own, or perhaps a response to this piece, then send it in to us at If we like it, we’ll publish it!

You Are Not A Creative Person

The Good Book Review (Or how I never learned to stop worrying)

Writers are readers. We all have that story of the First Book, the one we fell in love with, the one we still own even now as the cover falls off and the pages are a suspicious shade of yellow. We could talk about those books for days and not be done with them.

Yet being a book lover and being a book critic are two different things. As I’ve grown as a writer, I’ve also grown as a reader. Now, when I read, I search for more than just good characters doing cool stuff in fancy plots. Increasingly I’m searching for something beyond myself, a book which takes me somewhere I had never considered before. It’s a tall ask, I know. This makes reviewing books quite a challenge.

An Opinion, they say, is like a penis: it’s ok to have one but don’t wave it about in front of everyone. A good critic, however, does not just give you an opinion, but rather their honesty.

Honesty is an invaluable resource to any writer, and so here, I give five One-Line Reviews of some poetry collections I have read in the last year. I may not be a good critic, but at least I’m honest about it.


Calamity Joe
Brendan Constantine
Red Hen Press | 2012

“Gets a little lost somewhere in the middle, though not a calamity as one might fear.”


Doireann Ní Ghríofa
Dedalus Press | 2015

“Has the sexiest stamp-licking I’ve ever read.”


Jos Smith
Arc | 2016

“Nature poetry I actually liked.”


A Train Hurtles West
Maeve O’Sullivan
Alba Publishing | 2015

“If you like Haiku / it’s for you. / I do not.”


Bad News, Good News, Bad News
Edward O’Dwyer
Salmon | 2017

“Good news is flanked and outmanoeuvred by bad news, but not by bad poetry.”




If you think you can do a better job at reviewing books than Shane here, then get in touch! We’d love to hear your thoughts. Email us at

The Good Book Review (Or how I never learned to stop worrying)

House Rules, Submission Guidelines, and The Way We Do Things ‘Round Here.

When submitting your work, it is important to read the Guidelines.

Editor’s Note: When submitting your work, it is super-very-important to read the Guidelines.

Always remember that you are competing with hundreds, sometimes thousands, of other writers. And that means someone is trying to process hundreds, sometimes thousands, of poems, stories, and images. So read the guidelines, because the first cull happens right when you click send.

Some Guidelines are really strict. The always-lovely online journal One, for instance, says:

Submit only one poem per issue via email. In the ‘subject’ field put your last name and the word Submit (ex. Krawiec Submit).

Do not attach your poem as a separate file. Copy your poem into the body of the email, followed by a 50 word Bio.

And the guys there are really strict with that. If you don’t follow it to the T, you’ll be asked to resubmit, which is very polite, as most places will just toss your submission in the junk folder.

Southword, for instance, asks you to submit separate files to their Submitable page.

The Stinging Fly, right up until just recently, only accepted entries through Snail Mail! Although that’s now, finally, changed.

It might be annoying to go through the Guidelines and find out exactly what each magazine is looking for, but if you actually want to get published then you better start paying attention. Because you are one in hundreds, sometimes thousands, and that intern needs to cut the submissions in half before sending them to the editor. This is just the harsh truth in the world of writing.

So if that’s Submission Guidelines, what are House Rules?

Well, let’s say you submit a poem (properly!) and it gets accepted (wohoo!). Now the magazine is going to format the piece for their website and print editions, and they’re going to want the whole piece to have a cohesive feel to it. So they have a specific font they’ll use, a size they’ll fit everything to, they’ll know what they want to italicise, when they want to indent, and whether they can live with the oxford comma or not.

Possibly the most famous House Rule is the New Yorker’s use of the Diaeresis. When you get published in the New Yorker, if you write the word Co-ordination, or coordination, they will change it to coördination. You have no choice in this. That’s just the way they do things ’round there.

The only time you should really challenge a magazine’s House Rule is if the change interferes with the meaning of your piece. If an italics or a comma messes with what you’re trying to say.

And so, for reference, here are Stanzas’ Guidelines and House Rules, active as of right now, June 2017.

  • Email your entries to
  • In the Subject Line, add your name, the month of submission, and the Theme. (ie, Shane Vaughan – May, Tension)
  • Attach each piece in a separate document.
  • Clearly label each piece with your name and the name of the piece (ie, Shane Vaughan – My Poemy Womey)
  • Poetry can be of any length (though preferably 40 lines or less)
  • Prose can be of any length (though preferably of 3,000 words or less)
  • Flash Fiction can be Up To 1,000 words.
  • Images Must be in Black and White unless otherwise stated.
  • Images must be JPEG or PNG.
  • Simultaneous Submissions are allowed, but discouraged. Please notify us if someone else takes your work.


  • We write predominantly in Garamond.
  • We use the En Dash (and more rarely the Em Dash)
  • We do not capitalise new lines unless proceeded by a full stop.
  • We use single quote marks for dialogue, or italicise the quote.
  • If a line in your poem runs out of space, we will put it on a new line and indent it slightly.


You may not agree with all that, and that’s fine, we’re not saying any of it is right, we’re just saying… that’s how we do things ‘round here.


This blog post was written by Shane ‘Come Here And I Tell You’ Vaughan. If you have something to say and nowhere to say it, why not send it to us? If we like it, we’ll put it up!

House Rules, Submission Guidelines, and The Way We Do Things ‘Round Here.

Desiccated Music – a review.

This week I went to see Bon Iver. He’s one of the few people in the world I have allowed myself to look up to. I won’t say he’s an idol, but I respect him, I yearn for his music, and I have followed him ever since I first heard ‘Woods’ played off a crackly vinyl at one in the morning on an indie show that’s now, like most things, gone.

Justin Vernon, the Bon Iver of Bon Iver, is a composer, orchestrating all these moving pieces in a way that makes for compelling and creative music; seeing him on stage felt how it must have felt to see Mozart.

Bon Iver’s music began by testing the boundaries of the human ear using a mix of electronica guitar and vocals. His first album, For Emma, Forever Ago, was one man and his cabin just trying to get it all out. Since then Bon Iver has followed electronica down its many hybrid paths, from the 80s synth styles of Holocene to the crunchy marching band drum of 10dEAThbREasT.

His studio music achieves an extremely high standard of technical and artistic finesse, but seeing him live reminded me what I love most about him: the voice.

At times Justin changed pitch, elongated or shortened phrases, or moved entirely away from the familiar studio feel. Although there is joy is singing along to your favourite song, knowing the words and trying to replicate what you love about the artist, in this moment of watching him experiment on stage I remembered the music belongs to him, and is merely given to us for a time.

Ultimately, Bon Iver’s playing cascaded into a cacophonous dissonance when his vocal experiments ran up against a bucket full of rain and faulty equipment. The playing came to an end as his music stuttered, staccato, fractured. It was a surreal moment to hear his voice come out over a soundsystem in a reverberated crackle, but right before the lights went out Justin kept going. Somehow, this modern Mozart took a faulty speaker and made it work. As the rain pummelled into his sound system, he took the desiccated music, and made it happen.

I think that’s what defines the artist. Whatever life gives, turn it to your advantage. Even if it’s not quite the same as hearing that first song for the very first time. Just do it. See where it takes you. Even when the lights go out.




Today’s review was written by Shane Vaughan. If you’d like to write something for us, send it in one het in touch at 

Desiccated Music – a review.

When Is a Poem Not a Poem?


Do you remember in school when you were given a poem and told to dissect it, like poetry is a lab rat waiting for the vivisection of your biro?

Last night I went to see Bill Moran in Chez Le Fab. It was a nice event, with some good poetry, and a very interesting use of mixed-media. Afterwards, myself, the guest, and a few of the audience went to Mickeys (for a change) and got discussing.

We talked at length about art, life, and poetry.

In school, poetry was something to be picked open like a carcass, and inside that carcass was the ‘gem of hidden meaning’ which the poet had layered under metaphor, imagery and between lines. This Gem of Hidden Meaning was the ‘True Poem’ which had been hidden from you until you were wise in the ways of alliteration and articulation.

There is another school of thought that suggests interpretation itself is art, and that each audience member, each reader, each viewer, is an artist of themselves, and that these interpretations are fractals of art repeating into infinity, each knowable only by the observer. In this school of thought, it doesn’t matter what something means, it only matters how it made you feel. Thus, as an artist, you no longer have to care about your work because it’s not up to you to put any feeling in, that’s the job of the audience.

I struggle with these ideas in my own life, as an artist, poet, and audience member.

In the first, why bother writing if you’re going to be so cryptic? You write because you have something to say. So say it. Be bold. Don’t hide behind layers. Sure, you can be multi-faceted, you can have several meaning if you’re very good, but each layer should have its own independent meaning. Don’t write something and then hide it until the reader follows your breadcrumbs of academia.

In the second, the artist has made a piece of work and then abandoned it to the whims of the audience. If you took the time to make something, then you should have a reason for why you made it. Your art cannot just be a floating idea of ephemeral nothing-ness waiting for each audience member to interpret it into life. Audiences pay to be manipulated. It’s your job to make them feel something. Yes, each piece can and will be interpreted differently, but you should be in conflict with those subjective interpretations, not giving in to them.

Good art has intent. That is, art which knows not only what it is, but why it is.

So when is a poem not a poem?

When it has nothing to say.

After all, if you don’t have anything to say, why are you saying anything?




This blog was written by Shane ‘The Ranter’ Vaughan. If you have something to say and nowhere to say it, why not send it in to us at We’re looking for essays, reviews, ideas, or just general rambling.

When Is a Poem Not a Poem?