I first read this pamphlet in 2017, not long after it came out, and I’ve returned to it several times since, much because it seems to me a model of how a pamphlet can be an intensely pleasurable reading experience without having to be wholly or mainly dominated by one thematic concern. It contains 25 […]
I created this poem about a year ago. If it seems ambivalent, maybe that’s still the prevailing mood …
Great to be in issue 65 of Streetcake magazine. This is a brilliant online magazine that continues to take risks with the work it accepts, the result being a publication that is highly original and always memorable. I love the redacted poem, lies by H.E.Grahame and also the poem by Seth Crook (perhaps not his real name, but you’ll have to read the poem to see why – and it could be the shortest poem you’ll ever read).
My own contribution, SPAM, is a found poem using comments lifted from the Spam email that finds its way through to this blog. WordPress automatically filters it, but if you have a blog, it’s always worth having a browse through the Spam section to see what’s in there. When I looked today I found the line: This is a classic bilateral facet dislocation. Well, that’s what poetry is, isn’t it – bilateral dislocation.
Just a word of warning though, don’t be tempted to reply to any comments marked as Spam; no matter how intriguing or benign they seem to be, they can cause real damage to your pc. Of course, you already know this.
In the meantime, enjoy Streetcake, and take some risks in your writing. You never know where it will lead.
I’m always wishing I had more time for my writing. However, this year, I’m going to try to be more realistic about the amount of time that’s actually available to me.
Like many creatives, if I haven’t written for a while I become anxious. Sometimes, I get tough with myself and make myself write, just to prove I still can. Lately, what’s really nagged at me is the draft of the novel I wrote last year. I need to edit/ rewrite it, but I feel I need a clear block of time in which to do this. I’d decided to wait until the summer, because I have a few weeks off work then, but recently I’ve started to think this might be a delay tactic.
In his book, Fearless Creating, Eric Maisel talks about completing work for the purpose of showing: ‘It may mean rewriting the first chapter three times so that it is really strong’. He says that work is not ready to be shown if you cannot speak about it clearly, and he also suggests that there is a period of transition between the ‘working stage’ and the ‘showing stage’. It makes me wonder if I’m stuck in the period of transition. I’m avoiding the redraft, perhaps because I’m scared the novel won’t be any good when I return to it. I tell myself that doesn’t matter. What’s important is to complete it, to complete a manuscript that is ready to be shown.
Clearly, this is a lengthy process, but I’m going to go with Maisel’s idea of rewriting the first chapter as a way of easing myself back into it. Given that I never have as much time as I’d like, even this will require some effort. However, it’s a smaller, more achievable target than trying to rewrite the whole thing. In the meantime, I have a short story I need to tidy up, and a small batch of poems I want to send out. I see these as little stepping stones across a torrid river. It’s important to move from one stone to another, otherwise I might freeze, or worse, fall in and be swept away, clutching the unfinished manuscript in my hand!
Fearless Creating, Eric Maisel (Tarcher/Putnam, 1995)
Great to be in Berlin again between Christmas and New Year, and to go to this warm and well-stocked bookshop in Friedrichshain, and with a fantastic café attached. The Rough Guide bills it as Shakespeare and Sons (part of a small chain of bookshops I believe) but as it says Books and Bagels over the door, I’ll go with that.
After much deliberation, I opted for Deborah Levy’s novel, Swimming Home, which I’ve been meaning to read for a while. I confess that I find novels and stories easier reads when I’m travelling. There’s something about the intensity of poetry that doesn’t sit well with hoping on and off tube trains and forever consulting the fold out pocket map.
Don’t be mislead by the cover – Swimming Home isn’t the ‘holiday read’ those yellow umbrellas might seem to imply. It’s a beautifully episodic book, placing a great deal of emphasis on imagery to build up an unsettling drama where so much of what’s going on is glimpsed below the surface. In the afterword, Tom McCarthy says: ‘her fiction seemed less concerned about the stories it narrated than about the interzone (to borrow Burroughs’s term) it set up in which desire and speculation, fantasy and symbols circulated’.
I think it’s fair to say the interzone is where a lot of poetry dwells too, which is perhaps why I was so taken with this novel. And that other interzone, of being abroad, in a half-familiar city, in a different frame of mind to the one I usually have when I’m in the 9-5 routine of work, that surely impacted on my reading of it as well. So, here’s to the interzone, and the hope that I can visit again soon.
Christmas Eve saw me doing of bit of guerilla poetry, leaving a poem on the comments board in Sheffield’s Millenium Gallery in response to their The Time is Now exhibition. I wrote the poem at a Poetry Business Writing Day based in the gallery, but didn’t want to leave it on the day without having had much opportunity to edit it.
The poem is inspired by James Nares’ short film, Pendulum (images above). Thanks to the kindness of strangers, you get a glimpse of the woman in the film. She makes a very brief appearance, and I wasn’t quick enough with my camera to get a shot, but Eean Richardson captured it on his phone and very kindly emailed it to me. Given that people have so much to do at this busy time of year, I am immensely grateful to him for his help. So, Eean, I hope you and your children have had a happy and peaceful Christmas Day. Many thanks for your help with this post.
And to everyone else who has followed the blog this year, a very Merry Christmas to you all.
Pendulum: James Nares
smiling through the aching air a woman on a swing
captured on 16 mm film flirting with time
the shadows and cracks of Lower Manhattan 1976
litter on the street digitized and looped
blowing towards me in this calm museum room
someone has written on the comments’ sheet
time is living in the moment another reads
time is the cage we push against and
time is what it will take for the country to realise its mistake
the wrecking ball swoops past textile warehouses
skims the metaphors of decline: buckled street signs
an abandoned car the grainy image of a bird
which must be a crumpled piece of newspaper
blown on the stateless wind
not one scrap of nature here
unless you count the man behind the camera
or the woman on the swing
After the tragic events on New Zealand’s White Island, I hope this post, and the poem below, don’t come across as flippant.
I tend not to put much personal stuff on the blog – my rule is stick to the writing. However, in my early twenties I lived in Messina, Sicily, and then on a volcanic island off the coast of Milazzo, which is where the above photographs were taken. Legendary home of Hephaestos, it was a place where the sea boiled, where the rocks reared up like monsters, where there were pools of sulphurous mud you could bathe in to cure all sorts of ailments. Wild and dramatic, yet oddly, I’ve never been able to capture much of it in my poetry. I also remember flying to Catania while Etna was erupting, looking out of the aeroplane’s window and seeing the lava running down the side of the volcano, then after a hair-raising landing, having to wade through ash (it really does fall like black snow) to get to the airport building. All this might seem adventurous and romantic, but the hard truth is that volcanos are incredibly unpredictable. Hearing about White Island made me feel very humble to have had such fabulous experiences and come away unscathed. My heart really does go out to the people who’s lives have been devastated by this terrible event.
And now, here’s the poem. I wrote it a few years ago, but it’s never been published, mainly I think, because I’ve never settled on a final version I was happy enough with. Even today I was tinkering with the order of the lines. I realise, though, that sometimes you have to let go of a poem, even if it’s not quite what you’d envisaged when you started writing it.
after August Kleinzahler
Black snow is falling in the Straits of Messina,
brittle as cinders, sooting the prow of the Georgione,
falling like burnt crumbs on the crow’s nests of tuna boats.
Ash is blocking the sun, drifting against doorways
in the suburbs of Pace and Contemplazione.
It settles on the windscreens of Fiat Unos, grits the runners
of the Hotel Sant’ Elia’s revolving door,
where businessmen drink grappa and meet women
who are not their wives.
On the Corso Cavour they’re pulling down blinds
and asking customers, politely, to remove their shoes.
Signor Ricciardi throws a shawl over his canaries
and on a thousand balconies women reel in their washing.
Behind the gates of Villa Gelsomino,
the Dobermans have given up barking.
The air tastes like stubbed out cigarettes.
In the hills above the city, the cacti are turning to stone.