Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Two Things...

Tonight's homework...

1. I'm getting less keen on poetic buzzwords. Every time I hear the word 'emerging,' I wonder if it's a  misnomer. Emerging from what precisely? Surely you either write or you don't write; you've either just started, been doing it for a few years or donkeys years. Get something half decent on a page and the 'emerger' (for the purposes of this blog post that word exists) has emerged. Just a thought.

2. On this emergent subject I am currently the keeper of 5 painted lady butterflies. I've nurtured them from the caterpillar stage in May; watched them turn into chrysalides and right now they're 3 days into butterflyhood. I help out in a Primary school on Wednesdays so I took them in and the children were fascinated. I'm keeping them in a sort of netted basket. While walking to school, a few members of the public wanted to have a look at them because they are stunning. The difficult bit will be having to let them go, adult butterflies only live for 2-4 weeks, so they're already some way of the journey. Rather than push this 'emerging' thing till it snaps, I don't feel there are any hidden metaphors. My advice to you is simple, keep some butterflies, it's wonderful and you'll make new friends. Don't worry so much about writing.

2a. The butterfly net's covered in red splodges because they drip meconium when they push out of the cocoon, apparently it's left over from the colour in the wings. The other thing that happened today was 'Hinterland' magazine appeared online. It's a brand new magazine which features work on a particular colour, this issue happens to be red. Editors Ian Parks and Becky Bird asked me for a poem which you can read here. Have a read. Submit! Red is today's colour! QED.

Monday, 17 June 2013

1) When is a Poem Finished and 2) Is it any good?

Sestina Production, mid 1960s
Hello again. How many times have you heard someone say, 'oh here's something I wrote last night?' Having been to many readings and being a 'social networker' in my case it's heard it quite a lot. I'd say that most poets drafted assiduously, cutting, re-shaping, re-ordering until they've either got something good or something which has been so heavily edited that the goodness has been sucked out of it. It's become a mouthful of over-chewed Hubba Bubba. Paul Valery said 'a poem' is never 'finished', only 'abandoned.' I'd agree but also say there's such a thing as an optimum draft.  Knowing when this is can be difficult, especially if you keep tinkering with the piece. 'Ah, but the competition deadline is tomorrow, who cares! They won't notice!' This probably isn't a good way to think about it. They will notice. It's easy to think you've written something brilliant, but give it a little rest in your notebook or hard drive. Things take time.

I haven't written much of late, but I'm hanging on waiting for something to happen. A poem takes as long as it takes, sometimes this is 3 hours and sometimes this has been 18 months. Most of the time I draft something for a little while, feel my eyes hurt, lose the will, abandon it for a while and then go back. Not all the time though. As I pursue this poetry thing more and more I am sure there will be many 'abandoned' drafts at the back of drawers that might come in for more editing at a later date. Some people, who are either very skilled or fibbing will say, 'oh I can write poems that come to me very nearly complete.' Maybe. Even so, you'd still need a bit of time to figure out if it was any good or not.

Don't force yourself to write if it's not working, STEP AWAY from the poem, go out, take a walk, clean a window, skip. Don't force it. I know I've sent off things too early and that's part of the learning curve I suppose. At least when you send something out it can stop you tinkering, and when it comes back your eyes and brain may be able to deal with it afresh. Here's Helena Nelson:

Fast or slow, it’s hard to see a poem properly when you’re close to it. They need a little time and emotional distance. Although fresh rolls are the only rolls worth eating, this analogy doesn’t work for la poé not send out fresh poems. Put them in a drawer. Read them again when you can read them like a reader, not a poet. Then see how the little bastards shape up.

Helena's full post can be found here. Read it. It's very interesting.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

The Michael Murphy Memorial Prize

I have been meaning to update the blog recently, but here's a short entry with some good news! Yesterday my book 'Melanchrini' was shortlisted for the Michael Murphy Memorial Prize. I'm really excited to be on a list with some incredible poets and also really happy for my publisher Nine Arches Press who also have Alistair Noon on the list as well. They have been wonderfully supportive. Also honoured to have been shorlisted for an award in memory of the poet Michael Murphy, who died in 2009.

The official website is here

Here are all the shortlisted poets:

  • James Brookes, SINS OF THE LEOPARD (Salt)
  • Oli Hazzard, BETWEEN TWO WINDOWS (Carcanet)
  • Judith Jedamus, THE SWERVE (Carcanet)
  • William Letford, BEVEL (Carcanet)
  • Alistair Noon, EARTH RECORDS (Nine Arches)
  • Michelle O'Sullivan, THE BLUE END OF THE STARS (Gallery)
  • Maria Taylor, MELANCHRINI (Nine Arches)
  • Ahren Warner, CONFER (Bloodaxe)