Why it’s important to finish …

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Saturday was fraught with tension as I hurriedly tried to finish a pamphlet submission for the Poetry Business competition. Against my better judgement. I decided to add a couple of new poems. This forced me to rethink the ordering of the other 18. Hence a lot of faffing about, and no doubt, a great deal of over-thinking. But after completing and submitting the manuscript, I experienced an odd feeling of euphoria.

I’ll be honest here; I have little hope of being placed in this year’s competition. Ultimately, I felt my poems lacked the carefree openness that I value in a good poem; you know, that lack of awareness of it actually being a poem. This might sound like nonsense. After all, when you pick up the pen, you intend to write. Poetry or prose, you’ve no doubt decided, on some level, what it’s going to be, before you start writing. So how can a poem lack awareness that it is a poem? Well, I’ve recently returned to Ocean Vuong’s Night Sky With Exit Wounds. It’s full of beautifully rich language and imagery, but what I admire most of all is the sense of the writer allowing thoughts and images on the page without telling the reader what to think, allowing the reader to take part in the poem and run with it. So, in terms of a model of what poetry should be, for me, Vuong’s debut is it, because it’s full of poems that aren’t screaming, ‘Read me, I’m a poem. Look what tricks I can do.’

This is quite nebulous, and very subjective, I know. And being brutally honest and self-critical, my poems fall far short. So why the euphoria? Well, it’s that small but vital ‘hit’ of completing the work. The manuscript will sink or swim, but that’s out of my hands now. I’ve done my bit. I’ve turned up and done the work (see Julia Cameron’s The Artists Way – she’s big on this). There’s something satisfying about completing a task, so much so that I rewarded myself with a trip to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park today, to see Saad Qureshi’s Something About Paradise (photographs above and below). 


Detail from Saad Qureshi’s Something About Paradise

Maybe something about this exhibition will feed into my writing. Maybe it was just because it wasn’t raining this afternoon. Whatever the forces at work, underlying it all  was a feeling of satisfaction with life which was self-induced. I’d submitted 20 poems to a publisher whom I respect, and who has been totally supportive of my work so far. That submission depended on no one else. It was down to me. The judging is out of my hands. I can’t control or influence it. And what would be the job of a judge if no one submitted? You know the saying, ‘It’s not the winning, it’s the taking part.’ Well, there’s some truth in it.





2 thoughts on “Why it’s important to finish …

  1. You’ve reminded me that a) it’s fine sometimes not to write if you’ve nothing needs saying b) that you can do displacement things, c) there comes a tipping point when you realise you’d better start again or you may never start at all, and d) that I need to get cracking again. Maybe, as you say, it’s the return of sunshine. Whatever it is, I really do want to start up the blog again. And good luck with the pamphlet. Whatever happens, I’d like to read it. In another year my 5 year winners embargo on the P B Pamphlet ends. I’m feeling the itch. Good luck xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I strongly relate to what you say, Julie. I submitted something somewhere this weekend as well and also feel a sense of release and space, now that the poems have left the building. I think you need to experience the end of something, the completion of something, in order to create space for something new. The only thing inhibiting any euphoria for me is niggling back pain, possibly sciatica, which is making sitting still in any position (to read or write) too painful. Good luck with all of your ventures and well done for showing up to the page and doing the work! J x


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