In 1963, a sixteen-year-old San Diego high school student named Bruce McAllister sent a four-question mimeographed survey to 150 well-known authors of literary, commercial, and science fiction. Did they consciously plant symbols in their work? he asked. Who noticed symbols appearing from their subconscious, and who saw them arrive in their text, unbidden, created in the minds of their readers? When this happened, did the authors mind?
To balance our emphasis on nonfiction in this issue, we have new poems from Fred D’Aguiar, Kemar Cummings, Nicolette Bethel, Yannick Giovanni Marshall, and dub poet Malachi Smith with an audio sample of Smith performing “Papine”. We are also happy to announce in this issue the winners of the 2011 Small Axe Literary Competition:
I’m also working, with Sonia Farmer and Nic Sebastian, on a nanopress project. We’re calling it Lent/Elegies, and it’ll be ready to go soon. But more on that later.
So here’s the thing.
I mentioned a while ago that my husband, who doesn’t give frivolous gifts like jewellery or flowers (*stop changing my spelling to American, WordPress!!*), does give gifts that DO stuff. Like computers. Like iPhones. Like iPads.
I mentioned that he had given me an iPad. Not exactly against my will (who could turn down such a gift?) but far earlier than I thought I ought to get one.
I have been enjoying it as an e-reader, having finished both The Girl who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest on it, and dipping into Ulysses off and on, reacquainting myself with Winnie-the-Pooh, even importing PDFs to read in the iBook app.
The internet, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, websites, iPad, iPod, podcasts, digital video and who knows what else. What do they all mean for the poet qua poet? For Poetry? Is it still pretty much where the Gutenberg press left it? Is Poetry technology-proof? In our fearless ongoing quest to exploit other people’s wisdom on poetry-related subjects, we are posing ten questions to a group of illustrious contemporary poets on this topic. This week’s responder is Ren Powell.
via Very Like A Whale.
The internet, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, websites, iPad, iPod, podcasts, digital video and who knows what else. What do they all mean for the poet qua poet? For Poetry? Is it still pretty much where the Gutenberg press left it? Is Poetry technology-proof? In our fearless ongoing quest to exploit other people’s wisdom on poetry-related subjects, we are posing ten questions to a group of illustrious contemporary poets on this topic. This week’s responder is Collin Kelley.
via Very Like A Whale.
The internet, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, websites, iPad, iPod, podcasts, digital video and who knows what else. What do they all mean for the poet qua poet? For Poetry? Is it still pretty much where the Gutenberg press left it? Is Poetry technology-proof? In our fearless ongoing quest to exploit other people’s wisdom on poetry-related subjects, we are posing ten questions to a group of illustrious contemporary poets on this topic. Our first responder is none other than our very own Amy King. Thanks for kicking off the series, Amy!
So. This blog (Scavella’s Blogsphere) is now going for five years old, having been established sometime in 2005 over on Blogspot. In that time much has changed. In the beginning, I walked anonymous in cyberspace, using my Scavella moniker as a cloak to my real identity, not sure how to use the blog, nor what for (it was mostly for poetry back then). Since then, this has become one of five blogs that I administer, each of them for a different purpose, and each of them more and more time-consuming.
This being a new year, and time being one of those commodities that is easy to waste and impossible to keep, I’m changing the way I deal with this blog. What was once a refuge is becoming a burden; I really don’t have the time to write down the cool things I once put here on Blogsphere, and I don’t have the application to develop the poetry of the blog in a way that can rival Rob’s Surroundings, or Aditi Machado’s Blotting Paper or the fascinating trivia that can compete with Harry’s Heraclitean Fire, or the confessional-made-great-reading of Julie’s Carter’s Little Pill.
I just don’t have the time.
Geoffrey Philp has a cautionary tale on the dangers of unregistered creative property:
… a few years ago, my son and I were walking through Blockbuster and we saw this movie, XYZ, that was set on a Caribbean island, so we decided to rent it.
As we settled back in our seats, a sickening feeling overcame me. This was my movie. A few changes had been made, but it was my movie. I’d been ripped off.
I called all my friends and then we contacted a lawyer, who after reviewing the case told me that because we couldn’t prove a “material connection” between he agent and the production company, we couldn’t bring a law suit. Plus, he added with the costs of expert witnesses, etc, the costs made it impossible to win.
I asked him about “Poor Man’s Copyright.”
Rob A. Mackenzie is a Scottish poet currently living in Edinburgh, and The Opposite of Cabbage is his first full collection of poetry. Published at the same time as Andrew Philip’s The Ambulance Box — and by the same publisher, Salt — The Opposite of Cabbage is currently on tour, and today One Night Stanzas is receiving a visit!
What goes on inside poetry editors’ heads? is a burning question for publishing and wannabe-publishing poets everywhere. With this third Ten Questions series, we are showcasing weekly answers from a diverse group of poetry editors to Ten Questions for Poetry Editors. Each editor’s responses will appear as a separate blog post and all posts will be linked back to the series’ standing page.Our responder this week hails from the UK: James Midgley, editor of the UK print journal, Mimesis.
What goes on inside poetry editors’ heads? is a burning question for publishing and wannabe-publishing poets everywhere. With this third Ten Questions series, we are showcasing weekly answers from a diverse group of poetry editors to Ten Questions for Poetry Editors. Each editor’s responses will appear as a separate blog post and all posts will be linked back to the series’ standing page.
I will not be writing much about it on this blog.
If you want to know what I think about it, go here:
But if you want to know what it’s like, go buy it.
I recently bought Jack Gilbert’s new book, “The Dance Most of All,” and on first glance it seems to be more of the same. He’s one of my favorite poets and I’m certainly looking forward to reading his new poetry (it’s all so comfortable), yet I can’t help feeling as though he discovered one way to do something and hasn’t varied since then. His poems all look the same: like a herd of horses, they’re different colors and even breeds and beautiful, but still, all HORSES. I’ve noticed that other poets tend to do this, never changing that one style that works, that brings them recognition and awards. It’s a trap.
Both beginners and old-hands fall into this trap, in which there are two sides. On one side you write only for yourself, on the other you write only for other people. The best work of any poet straddles the sharp line in-between: where you understand how much information a reader needs to relate to your poem and you also understand that you must push the boundary of sameness and move into artistry. Continue reading
From Geoffrey Philp:
The deal is to name 25 writers who have influenced you, and then tag 25 people.
Hear ye the gospel according to Fragano: “Influence” does not mean the same thing as “enjoy a lot.”
(Just to note — this has been cross-posted with Blogworld so I can cross both my writing networks)
As with everyone else, before, in no particular order:
- T. S. Eliot – for blowing my mind
- Kamau Brathwaite – for blowing my mind again
- Ngugi wa Thing’o – for inspiring me to write plays
- Chinua Achebe – for Things Fall Apart and A Man of the People
- Toni Morrison – for just being
- William Shakespeare (no, for real) – what I said about Morrison
- W. B. Yeats – for channelling ghosts and writing great verse
- C. S. Lewis – for Narnia and concision
- Bronislaw Malinowski – for participant observation, the Trobriand ethnographies, and theory I can believe in
- Claude Levi-Strauss – for Tristes Tropiques Continue reading
We wanted to have some fun.
Several of us took up the challenge. This month, I’m returning full-time to academia, so I got sidetracked.
Still. I thought I’d share a little of the work I’ve done so far. It’ll flash up and disappear, in time, because, you know, this is a blog and one day I might want to publish one of them, but in the meantime.
Here: watch this space.
I’m sitting in Starbucks, making the most of the fact it’s a Saturday, with the sun shining through the window onto the computer screen, which makes the text harder to see and therefore easier to write.
I didn’t now what to write at first, but it’s going to be another Jazz mystery after all.
Almost 3000 words down. I am NOT, repeat NOT like the NaNo loonies who churn out 10000 words at a sitting. If I get to 5000 I will be over the moon.
It’s been a different year.
Yes, I’m gearing up for NaNoWriMo. Yes, I’m planning to write this November. Yes, it’s the same as it’s been for the last several years, only I have made less preparation than ever before. We’ll see what happens.
The main thing, though, is that this is the year for change.
No, I’m not talking about the US election, though I could be, couldn’t I? I’m talking about my career. The five years I promised to give to my current job, which is a government job, ended last week — I recognized the fifth anniversary of my first day. As a public servant, and as someone who entered the public service to make a difference and not to have a difference made in me, the time has come to, well, go.
That takes up some time.
That being said, check back next month. I’ll be NaNoing as usual, and I’ll also be gearing up for the Caribbean Reading Challenge.
Thanks to Rob McKenzie, I’m going to return to the discussion regarding self-publishing that I engaged in earlier, in a different life.
Self-publishing has become a controversial topic in recent times. Anthony Delgrado (at least I presume the blueblog is written by AD – if not, I’ll make a correction) asks what has driven the change in attitude over the last few years, given that organisations like Lulu are now seen as “cool rather than seedy.”
This is just too good not to link to.
Bad news for American writers hoping for a Nobel Prize next week: the top member of the award jury believes the United States is too insular and ignorant to compete with Europe when it comes to great writing.
Thoughts? Comments? Thoughts?
(hint: I don’t happen to agree.)
Having work accepted to places like qarrtsiluni and Anti- has had the effect of my paying closer attention to the way literary journals work, especially online. The above two make some use of the technology at hand, qarrtsiluni publishing a piece a day, and Anti alternating between issues and featured poet series.
The possibilities are endless, spreading before one like a sea. The lure of the internet as a space for publication sends up the kind of thrill that frontiers must have when they were frontiers.
So here’s the thing. If you were starting up an online literary journal, what features might you include?
She sing a song of eye and hill and help
that come from God.
Thanks, Dave and Beth!
There’s a rocking going on in the poetry blogosphere (hate that word! Hate it! hate it!) that’s been caused by the unexpected and premature death of Reginald Shepherd, who was two weeks younger than me. PFFA poets have made their comments — here, and here, and here, and in this thread on PFFA, here. Like Rob, if it weren’t for the internet I may not have heard of him, but I may — he lived in Florida, and was a colleague of colleagues. The thing is, unlike my fellow poets, I hadn’t read his poems till the day he died.
I had read his essays, had looked at his blog, had been moved by his prose. Now that I read his poems, though, I’m struck by the lyrical nature of them. Lyric poetry is something I have fought for some time, landing strangely in the world of narrative and dramatic verse, not terribly moved by the lyric efforts of most of my contemporaries.
I’m not sure but I think I may be changing my mind. Will I be writing any lyrics in the near future? Unlikely, though who can tell. What goes on inside me is nobody’s business but mine, I’ve decided. Let me give you fragments instead and shore them against my ruins.
I’m reading (listening to) Ian McEwan’s Atonement, having watched the movie long after buying the book years ago, when I was recreating my home library after returning from eight years abroad. There are always differences between books and films, clearly, and what’s missing (what has to be telegraphed) is always the inner life, the thought, the meditation.
But more on that later.
Now that I’m halfway through the Africa Reading Challenge, including the works of young female writers alongside the spaces filled in my mind by Ngugi and Achebe and Soyinka, something else is growing clearer as well. It doesn’t seem to matter that the generations have changed and the gender is different. The stories we’re writing and publishing continue to be coming-of-age stories, by and large.
It’s becoming commonplace to observe that the internet and print-on-demand revolutions are changing the world of publishing, shaking the centrality of publishing houses and agents, and creating a more democratic relationship between reader and writer. But how is that supposed to work? The following article gives some ideas:
Years ago when the world was young a writer who couldn’t get a book published turned to ‘vanity’ publishers who, for a fee, would set and publish your book for you. Vanity publishing has always been sneered at because the books so produced tend to be poor, and without a publisher’s imprimatur, it’s hard for purchasers to know if they’re buying a pup.
POD fulfils the same need, but uses modern technology to cut out virtually all the cost. Submit your files online to the POD provider’s conversion engines, design a cover, set a price, and you’re done. Send the link to all your friends, and you have a book.
The catch, as ever, is credibility. Why should POD books be any better than old-fashioned vanity products? They needn’t be, of course — except that the increasingly tough publishing market, in which publishers have been stung by paying unrealistic advances on books that weren’t going to be big sellers, means that many good books fail to reach the market, because it’s just not worth an agent’s while (or a publisher’s while) to publish a book that sells fewer than a certain number of copies. My agent tells me that publishers are increasingly “buying conservatively” which means that they will tend to do retreads of tried-and-tested formulae rather than risk anything new. That’s why all books these days are chick-lit or Dan-Brown clones.
Here the ‘long tail’ effect comes into play. There are many good books that would get some readers, if a publishing mechanism existed that allowed for them to be produced without incurring a thumping great loss.
Food for thought, at the very least.
The first of two poems is up at qarrtsiluni:
(ai, it’s hard to post in the middle of the day from here … traffic is high and the connection gets very slow, and weird things happen. Where’s here? Why, Georgetown, Guyana, at CARIFESTA X, and you can follow the story of my/our experiences here, but anyway, we soldier on)
Sevenling: Life is a drying
The Granddaughter Sings Lily Home (1994)
They’ll even be accompanied by sound files. Fabulous!
Thanks, guys. Look for the first one soon.
Rob surveys 12 poetry collections from his bookshelf to find out how they end. He’s basing his research on something he read recently in Douglas Coupland’s The Gum Thief:
“It’s not in every book, but it’s in most books. It’s this: when a book ends, the characters are often moving either towards or away from a source of light – literally – like carrying a candle into a dark room or running a red light at an intersection or opening curtains or falling into a well or – this list goes on. I circled all the bits about light and there’s no mistaking it.”
My immediate reaction is to be sceptical, but I don’t have enough to ground my scepticism in, so I just thought I’d post this up here and think for a little while.
My Sevenling “Leda Wasn’t Alone” was accepted by the American Poetry Journal.
Some gifts just keep on giving.
Some time ago, Rob McKenzie emailed a couple of his writing friends to suggest that we submit work for The London Magazine, which was going through a transition and needed to get material for their next issue pretty smartly. I sent in some stuff. Regular readers of this blog will know that it’s already paid off for me in ways that were unexpected, and that’s all good.
(It’s better than good, actually; getting a publication in a magazine you didn’t query is pretty doggone excellent in my book. Thanks Niki and Sara-Mae and Rob!)
So yesterday the gift kept giving. I got an email inviting me to read at Pencilfest, a literary festival scheduled for the University of Warwick in May. Big stuff, complete with live broadcast by Radio Four, the works.
Unfortunately, they can’t cover international travel, so I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to let the opportunity pass. Tickets to cross the Atlantic are exorbitant (you can get good deals if you book WELL in advance, but a month or two out, not a chance). But it’s the most exciting thing to happen to me and my writing for a while.
Thanks, London Magazine and Trespass!
A poem is an act of memory, first forged out of the need to remember what would otherwise be forgotten – in an oral tradition record-keeping is an art, not an act of administration. Early poems were to be recited, memorised, passed on, and a heightened language lifted by rhyme and beat makes the memorising easier.
It remains true, and always will, that a great poem resists being paraphrased, and resists being reduced to a simple narrative argument. It is another litmus test of quality, perhaps, that new meanings can continue to be found in the poem, and that one can go ever deeper without ever feeling one has plumbed the ultimate depths. This is not ambiguity or clarity at issue, therefore: it is richness, and resonance, and a lifetime of memory folded into a small, densely-worded space: in other words, a true poem.
(both links found thanks to Frank Wilson’s Books, Inq.)
at the end of the day, it’s not really about the number of poems published – it’s about finding the right home for each poem. I’ve been very lucky to have had the poems wind up at the right places at the right time.
Revision for me is in part a consideration of how a body of work is speaking as a symphonic arrangement or as an organic whole. So while I’m not directly thinking about publication while I revise, my revision process does hopefully make individual poems more publishable. I write simply because I love the language and image. I’m interested in challenges. I want to be surprised at the end of my own poems. Publication really doesn’t enter the picture during the early stages of writing a poem — at least, I don’t believe it should.
WTF is a chapbook?
Now before some smartass comes along to say a collection of poetry, understand that I know that.
What’s the difference between a chapbook and a full-length collection?
Explain. In words of three syllables or less (I really mean fewer, of course).
Over on Nic’s blog, there’s a post that refers to two articles that discuss the theories that attach to poetry these days. One is written by Reginald Shepherd, who’s answered her 10 questions this week. The other is an interpretation and a clarification of what Shepherd wrote, by Chris Tonelli.Now I wouldn’t normally get worked up about this kind of discussion. It has to do with titles and movements and a bunch of stuff I thought I’d left behind when they pinned the hood on me that allowed me to use the title “Dr.” without committing fraud. But Nic brought it up, and so I’m pursuing it. In brief, it’s a discussion of types of poetics, ways of defining oneself in a broader context. It’s an academic discussion, one that probably has more meaning for those poets who reside in academic circles — and who want to be published in the journals that are connected with academic circles — than for pretty well everybody else. And I wouldn’t have taken it up except for the fact that Shepherd refers to “inside” and “outside”, and where one falls in relation to “inside” and “outside” has fundamental bearing on one’s impact in this world, even beyond academics. Witness the discussion about Southern writers further down this blog. The trouble with the whole discussion is that it is pretty largely irrelevant to what I think is happening in the world of poetry today. What one calls oneself — which, as I say, has a whole lot to do with carving out a niche for oneself and one’s style or focus in an academic world — really doesn’t seem to matter to a whole heap of very interesting poets, who are not only writing, but who are communicating through media that are far broader and less controlled than they ever have been before. Granted, it’s going to be a while before this shift is reflected in the establishment — among that group of people who think of themselves and their work in terms of schools and theories and titles — but just how long that while is going to be is unclear. For those of us who are beyond the academy — and I say “us” even though I have qualified myself to be in the academy, because I qualified myself in the wrong thing, and even there (anthropology) I tend to regard all the schools, the posts and the symbols and the whole shebang as window-dressing. And it’s more important window-dressing in the world of anthropology, which exists really only within the academy; there are very very few amateur anthropologists of any great worth. In literature, which interacts with the public on its own — well. But I digress. As I was saying, for those of us beyond the academy, for me, I cannot think of anything more stultifying to my work as a writer than trying to squeeze it into a box that reflects a particular literary movement that may or may not fit me. The latter’s more likely than the former, anyway; how many Bahamian writers are there in the academy anyway, and when has any of them affected a school or a movement? I’ve been there, done that, and shaken it off. I’ve spent a lot of my adult life chafing because I’m not a full-time writer, even though I want to be. (By that I mean because nobody PAYS me to be a full-time writer.) But I cast off cloaks of expectation when I slipped out of fundamentalist evangelical protestantism. And I don’t intend to go back again. So here’s a thought. Here’s what I’d prefer to do. Rather than trying to master the divisions and the fences in poetic theory (because thank heaven, no university is paying me to have to try), I’d much rather write what I need to, the best way I know how. I’d rather let what I have to say tell me how it ought to be said, rather than having some school of thought tell me what I’m supposed to be saying and trying to squeeze into its contours. I’d rather be part of a movement that sets critics trying to find a word to describe it, rather than squishing myself into shapes other people have already defined. Cheers.
Over on Very Like a Whale.
Here’s an excerpt:
I first sent out poems in high school in the late Nineteen-Seventies (it was an independent study project, to research literary journals and submit work to them—a useful exercise), and then desultorily did so while I was a college dropout working menial jobs in Boston in the Nineteen-Eighties. I started submitting seriously after my belated college graduation in 1988. I sent out about three hundred individual submission packets of four to six poems before I had my first poem accepted in 1991. (I am nothing if not persistent, not to say stubborn.) I’ve been working at it steadily ever since, and have now published over four hundred poems, mostly in leading journals, as well as five books of my own poetry (after submitting versions of it to contests and publishers for five years, my first book, Some Are Drowning, won the 1993 AWP Award), two poetry anthologies, and a book of essays. But for most of my publishing career I have been rejected far more often than I’ve been accepted, even after publishing several books. But I am, as I said, very persistent.
I wrote this for another blog and another personality, but since I’ve begun talking about theatre (my other love) on this blog now, I thought I’d edit it a bit and post it here.
Theatre and democracy were invented in the same place and in the same decade. When two actors on stage talk to each other, at that moment a different emotion is demanded from the audience. It’s the emotion of empathy. The same emotion that is required for theatre to work is the emotion that is required for democracy to work — the idea we need to care about each other’s experience.
I took that quotation from Wrestling with Angels, a documentary on Tony Kushner, the author of the critically-acclaimed play Angels in America, which Oskar Eustis directed for the Eureka Theatre Company, San Francisco. Kushner’s work is brilliant, and it critiques in every line the ideas that societies take for granted.
Now the thing I like about the USA (there’s plenty I dislike too, so pay attention) is that democracy works, for the most part, there. Or perhaps it would be more accurate is that democracy is given room to work — many American citizens seem to miss the point of their freedom, and spend plenty of time and money trying either to curb other people’s (such as in the banning and burning of books from schools, the banning of public prayer and the like, or — most sinister — the making of legal exceptions against rights to privacy and speedy justice and the like for people who are not American citizens). Be that as it may, democracy can thrive in the US if people want it enough. And Tony Kushner wants it.
His epic play (it’s a single play, split into two movements) examines a whole sweep of things, and for me to try and say what it’s about would be futile. Suffice to say, though, that it examines the deaths from AIDS of two gay men. One of them’s Prior Walter, an everyday, ordinary gay guy, who begins the play happily when he gets his diagnosis, living pretty monogamously with his lover, who’s out and living with his homosexuality in New York, where there’s room for it. The other the closeted, hatemongering Republican lawyer Roy Cohn, who is also dying alone from AIDS. The two men move towards death through a series of visions/hallucinations/visits from otherwordly beings — Prior Walter by the Angel of the title, along with a series of his ancestors, all of them also bearing the name Prior Walter (it’s an ancient family name), and Roy Cohn by Ethel Rosenberg, whose death he was responsible for.
But enough about that; if you’re interested in the play, you can check out the HBO Miniseries version of it and see it for yourself. My point is what Eustis had to say about theatre and democracy.
Both, he says, are inventions of the ancient Greeks and both were invented in the same decade. Leaving aside the ethnocentrism of that idea for the moment, the fact that one group of people formalized both around the same time is remarkable; it’s possible to suggest that there’s a connection between the two. The Wikipedia article to which I linked (and I always tell my students not to rely on Wikipedia articles, because they aren’t guaranteed to be either accurate or unbiased, but never mind) points out a far deeper origin to theatre, one which I would be inclined to accept. The point is, though, that the kind of Western theatre tradition that we in the Caribbean have half-adopted as our own is one that’s all about characters — people — in crucial positions. To succeed, that kind of theatre does indeed depend on empathy. And Eustis is claiming that empathy is fundamental to the practice of democracy as well.
I think I agree. That should come as no surprise to anybody, considering that I’m a playwright and a theatre enthusiast, but I do believe that there is something both powerful and transformative about being in the same space with people who are telling big and epic stories. Theatre is similar to, but different from film, in that the very democratic nature of theatre requires the actors to tell their stories again and again, fresh every time, to different sets of people, without a mediator, whereas film is ultimately the creation of a director. The democratic difference should be evident there. When the director retires from the production the play is set in motion, and it is owned from there on by the performers and technicians, by the whole team that brings it all together, all the time, all at the same time as the audience. But the director (and, of course, the producers) never retires from the film. When the film is finished, it is the director’s — not the writer’s or the actors’, though the actors can make a big impression — it’s the director’s because the director picks what parts of the actor he wants to show.
Lorca, too, appeared to have a similar feeling about theatre. He wrote the following about the place of theatre in the creation of nations:
A nation that does not support and encourage its theatre is — if not dead — dying; just as a theatre that does not capture with laughter and tears the social and historical pulse, the drama of its people, the genuine color of the spiritual and natural landscape, has no right to call itself theatre; but only a place for amusement.
I keep filching zines from her page.
Two of my sevenlings got accepted for Words-Myth, by the way – two that most people probably haven’t seen: “Rock Star” and “Sevenling-Dream”.
I’m running out of finished poems to submit. I have lots on the go, but not so many ready to go.
One way to get past a slump like last weekend’s is simply to go submit some poems somewhere. I’ve done that, and we’ll see.Another way is to start writing something new, as Mary suggested. Good idea, Mary. I still have the conclusion of the second novel to write, and then I’ll have four Nassau Mysteries complete, three of them ready for redrafting.Another one is to get a couple of compliments. Now, normally I’m a little wary of compliments, especially when they’re given to my face (online it’s a little different, because in my experience online communication has an odd tendency to exaggerate the impolite, while — in my country especially — face to face communication tends towards the hypocritical). But here’s the thing. Last week my play opened. We’ve had poor houses, and I’m worried about money — the theatre where it’s being put on charges exorbitant rent. But we’re getting damn good critical reviews. People have also said nice things to me, and while I salt that liberally when it happens right after the show, when people come up to me two or three days later and tell me nice things, I tend to trust them a little more. Especially when it’s the right nice thing — like “I haven’t been able to get the play out of my head since I saw it”. That’s what I’m aiming for. I don’t want people to like the thing. I want them to be haunted by it.And finally, the other thing is to see a profit from one’s writing. The profit I’m seeing is tiny — enough to buy lunch, maybe — but the script of the play’s been on sale at the performances, and I’ve finally done more than break even. Absurd that it makes me smile and lifts the blues, but there it is.So.Now let me go work on the Bridport entry. Nothing ventured, as they say.Cheers.
I’ve been eyeing this one for some time now. As a poetry competiton poetry, primarily, though my interest in it began with short fiction and with prose. Here are the guidelines for entry (sorry — they call them rules):
- You’re 18 or older
- The piece is your own work
- The piece hasn’t ever been published anywhere, not even on a website
- You have to be alive
- £6 per entry
- You have to write in English
- (Some formatting stuff — not really important here)
- £5000 first prize (!!), £1000 second prize, £500 third prize, 10 £50 runners-up
So here’s the thing. Is it worth it? Because in my case I’d have to write something entirely from scratch and to workshop it after the competition’s been judged. I have nothing current that hasn’t appeared somewhere online, even in its roughest form — and that wouldn’t be considered “published” enough to violate the rules of this competition.
How prestigious is the Bridport Prize? Brits? Anybody?
Though £5000 is certainly not sneezable. £500′s hardly sneezable. I don’t know. Help.
Other people do it. I do, sometimes. I submit stuff, sometimes. Not a bad acceptance rate. I’m picky about what and where I submit.
I agree poetry should improve the bare page — or the bare screen, in most of the cases I’m familiar with these days. (Is there such a thing as a bare screen?) Three problems, though.
- “Be sure you read contemporary poetry.”
- “Posting drafts to an online workshop or blog is not previously published provided they’re removed prior to submission.”
- “Anything the editor can Google is previously published.”
Hm. Pretty well everything I consider worth publishing has been workshopped online, and not all workshops purge.
Ah well. I’ll just go ahead and delete whatever it is I choose to submit to Anti-.
In the meantime I have to go think about what I’m against in poetry. How would I know? Do I think about it enough? Is it even remarkable? I’m against unnecessary pretentiousness, but am not against denseness. I’m against sloppiness and too much self-obsession, but who isn’t? I’m against silly forms for forms’ sake, but like formal poetry when it’s really well done (which it rarely is these days). What else?
I dunno. What are you against, my reader(s)?
Well, it wasn’t myself I was googling, but a poem of mine, one I’ve been working for the past 5 years. Not that it’s the most difficult poem to get right, but it hasn’t come right quite yet. It’s undergone all kinds of revision, and has been submitted in a couple of forms (it’s out for consideration as we speak), and sometimes I’m happy with it and sometimes I’m not.
It’s this one.
I found a version of it here, posted on a site I didn’t know existed, and wouldn’t have cared to go on if I did know. It’s in a thread that carries on a conversation of poems that link with one another, rather like PFFA’s Connect the Poem threads (I and II). I was strangely flattered to see a version of the poem there. Flattered, and not too worried; there are several versions of the poem on the web, and as it isn’t finished yet, there may be more before I’m done. So to whomever considers it for publication: be warned. Continue reading
Before I go on, let me say that I haven’t mastered the art of it. Writing in the face, that is.
I’m working on a series of crime novels based in my home city, Nassau, New Providence, Bahamas. It’s a project that I take very seriously when I’m at it — when I’m writing as my screen personae of Scavella and Madison Hill — but that in my professional, “real” life, I keep very private indeed.
There are reasons for this privacy. I won’t go into them now. Just think of it this way: when you live in a country with a fledgling literary tradition, you consider very seriously the kind of oeuvre you want to add to the pot. Genre novels, even the best, list towards formula, work within parameters that are global in scope, and tend to be featureless — quite literally, they’re generic.
Today, though, art — or perhaps I ought to call it craft, because it’s more slog and smoothing than a whole lot else — met reality in ways that have unseated me, that have thrown me off-balance and interrupted the flow of words.
A colleague and friend was murdered today in the city of Nassau, and the themes that have appeared in the series over different books have become real.
The grief and misery that I feel right now are compounded by the fact that what has come from what I fondly believe to be my imagination is currently far too close for comfort. The location of his death, the manner of his death — these are elements that appear in different books in the series.And I haven’t yet mastered the art of writing in the face of the resulting confusion.
So I go to open it, thinking, “Who Tom Robbins? Not de Tom Robbins? Cyaan be.”
And I go to read it, thinking the same thing. I read it all the way through, and get to the end, and see:
Tom Robbins is the author of eight novels, including Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, Jitterbug Perfume, and his latest, Villa Incognito.
So yes. It was from THAT Tom Robbins.
My, how we’ve come up in the world!
I’m sitting in New York City, enjoying the Culture, thinking about my so-called career (which has plumped most of the time for jobs which pay me a monthly salary, complete with other necessities, like health insurance), thinking about writing, thinking about getting serious and stopping this dabbling, and then I read this review, by Harry.
Read it. It’s worth it. Trust me on this one.The bit that really struck me was this. Erasmus Darwin was Charles’ grandfather, a doctor and a genius. Nobody’s really heard of him. The reason nobody’s really heard of him was that he took his job — his doctoring, his service to other people, seriously. So seriously that the genius became a hobby, something he did on the side.
Harry puts it this way:
Even so, there’s a touch of defiance in the book’s full title: Erasmus Darwin: A Life of Unequalled Achievement. That’s because almost everything on that list comes with a caveat of one kind or another. For example, many of them are based on a few lines or a quick sketch appearing in his Commonplace Book or in one of his letters; and while it’s undoubtedly takes a remarkably inventive mind to come up with the principle for the gas turbine a hundred years ahead of its time, if it never gets beyond a quick scribble it’s a very limited achievement. Another example is his improved steering system, which worked by just angling the wheels left and right instead of turning the whole axle. This creates a much more stable carriage and is the principle used by all modern cars. Darwin built a carriage on this model, and used it successfully for decades going over thousands of miles of bumpy roads to visit his patients; but he never made a real effort to market the idea and it died with him.Which isn’t to say he had nothing to show for his scientific brilliance. He submitted quite a few papers to the Royal Society on subjects like meteorology and geology; he did the first English translation of Linnaeus, and wrote a major book on medicine. But there is no one major achievement you can attach his name to. Partly that’s because he was a very hard-working doctor. Not only did it take up a lot of time; he was also very worried about his professional reputation. Much of his work was published anonymously because he didn’t want to detract from that reputation, and the biggest single factor that prevented him from achieving more as a scientist was probably that he always put his career first.
If Erasmus hadn’t had to work, who knows what he would have achieved. His medical practice certainly proves he was capable of hard work; his calculations suggest he travelled about 10,000 miles a year, which on C18th roads is a hell of a long way.
Step 1: Start shopping the books (you’ll find their synopses on this page, and you can read bits and pieces of them if you ask me for the password) around agents and maybe publishers. (Well, start shopping the first one anyway. Try finishing the second, and polishing the third and fourth.) Yes, I want to be Published. Sosumi.
Step 2: Rework the opening so it doesn’t let go. It wasn’t bad before but in this day of punchy internet writing–
Step 3: Post a sample of the new opening on blog for feedback. Yes, from you. I’ll leave it there for a while — say a week — and then, poof.
Feedback not only welcome. Feedback actively sought.