Sunday, 26 October 2014

The big entry push

I've been dithering and down in the dumps because of it so action was the only way out of it. A couple of days ago I decided that the collection of themed poetry I've been writing might as well go somewhere instead of sitting in my computer. So I picked what I thought was the best and sent 16 off to Templar Poetry Pamphlet competition. This is third pamphlet competition I've had a go at and the second with Templar. It's a chance worth taking as I actually had over twenty poems on a theme (one is out somewhere else so I decided not to use that one just in case I had to withdraw it).

Then more dithering over the National Poetry Competition. I said I'd never enter again but I've sent three poems! Then while I was on a roll I also entered three poems to Magma Poetry Competition!
I feel good that I've done something. I've written quite a few new poems lately which I really like but when I come to enter competitions I doubt myself and tell myself my poems are not good enough. Then I get down about my writing and it's a slippery slope. I probably won't get anywhere but at least I've tried and it's relieved that feeling of hopelessness that's been hanging around for the last week or so. I guess I should be pleased I have so many poems I can send out. Somehow I've increased my writing output this year which can be no bad thing.

Before I forget, I watched the drama about Dylan Thomas, A Poet in New York, last night on BBC2 (I missed it the first time around). Of course I like Tom Hollander (he was great in Rev) and I thought he portrayed the poet well as his self-destructive lifestyle caught up with him. I found the end very moving.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Experimental Poetry (2)

What makes a poem when all the traditional forms or rules or what we think of as poetry is not there? I began to think about this more after my art history class when we discussed performance and conceptual art and I realised the same questions applied to poetry. These questions include (now adapted for poetry!) who decides what is poetry, the poet, the reader, the critic, the publisher? How do you display it/sell it/perform it?

Performance art and conceptual art was a huge break from tradition. Art works were no longer confined to a gallery and became 'street entertainment' using new skills and media coverage but even artists had to make a living so they had to film the performance or do other works that could be shown in a gallery. Conceptual art often had explanatory notes, some quite long making it more a piece of writing than art.

Experimental poetry is similar. It break boundaries and uses new skills. At the Poetry Fair in September there was a free guide which contained a page each dedicated to the different publishers attending, their website and details of their history/what they publish and alongside one poem from one of their collections. Here I found several experimental poems - one was done as a sort of art work which I couldn't understand, a picture with different shaped 'boxes'. If it was meant to represent words I couldn't see it. What was I looking for? This was art in my book, not poetry. Another poem featured a sort of text-speak which I gave up on. Another was in signs such as  @&£>. What's that all about? It can't be read, makes no sense to me and could be just randomly put together by anyone on a computer, even a child. Now someone tell me if I am wrong! If I have to decipher codes I at least need an explanation on how to do it. Perhaps it's clever and I'm just dumb but this is like modern art gone mad. Anyone can throw paint at a canvas and say they did it when their subconscious was at work. We only have the artist's word for this and some art works done in this way could be done by a kid in nursery (and sometimes their imagination is better!). Some poetry seems to be going this way. I'm all for new ideas but I fail to get this. How do you perform a poem in nonsense language of signs? Who buys it? Can anyone make any sense of it? And what about the publishers? What are they seeing in this that I can't?

It's hard enough getting into print. I wonder how these 'poets' do it. I bet if I tried something off the wall no one would look at it twice.

I am reminded of the scene in an art gallery. There is a chair which looks a little like the one in van Gogh's painting with sort of basket weave seat. On it is a book. Now is this a piece of installation art or the chair for employee from the gallery who watches over the room?!

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Experimental Poetry (1)

Ooo I've had great trouble getting into my Blog this morning. Phew, deep breath and relax and hope what I wanted to say is still there behind the frustration!

Once in a while a poetry collection comes along where you return again and again to certain poems or you discover a new writer who's work you really enjoy reading. Unfortunately I can't say that about the collection I am reading at the moment. I am struggling. No disrespect to the poet because she obviously knows her subject but it all goes way over my head.

Ephemeris by Dorothy Lehane (Nine Arches Press) is technical. Her background is in science and I guess it would inevitable that she would write about these subjects. If I had read the page from the link highlighted I probably would not have bought this collection.  But I was drawn to buy a copy because having learned a little about planets in the days when I drew up astrological birth charts and knew what an Ephemeris was, I thought I'd enjoy this collection. But I knew early on that this was too scientific (math and science are a whole new language I don't get!) so I have been unable to appreciate her poetry. I'm still plugging away (I've read about half) but it's like reading a text manual when you have no idea which wire goes where!

I guess we all make mistakes in our purchases. I was disappointed though and it did get me thinking about how popular this type of writing is. How well would it sell? My own view is that this would only appeal to those who understood space and galaxies and the cosmos as a whole in all its technical ways. This is not mainstream poetry but experimental. It does actually say that on the back cover! I just wonder how a poet gets this stuff into print when the subject matter is only going to appeal to a few. Maybe I'm wrong - do tell me if I am missing something here because this interests me.

I do have more to say on experimental poetry but time now has slipped away. I will return to this subject next time.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Inspiring writer

I have been reading Iona, a book of poems by Kenneth C Steven. In fact I took it away with me when I was on retreat. His poems are a beautiful representation of nature. The words he uses to describe scenes are surprising and I find that I am inspired to get writing myself.

It has been a long time since I wrote much nature-inspired poetry but Kenneth's visual portrayals of Scotland's desolate shores, communities and nature are so breathtaking that it made me think. Having been on retreat and walked the country lanes in Surrey where virtually only the farmer and the post van visits, I came across God's abundant nature in a big way and found beauty in odd things like the stumps of sawn trees and reflections in puddles. I had written a few short poems mainly about the sheep field (I was so drawn to those sheep!) but I hadn't written anything about the lanes I had walked. This morning I sat down and remembered what I had seen and ended up with a poem I am pleased with. It's possible that I wouldn't have even written it if I hadn't been so absorbed by the poetry of Kenneth C Steven. I don't think I can emulate him and wouldn't want to because we all write in our own way but he has made me think about my writing and that there are more poems to be written about my experiences over the retreat days.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Poems by Anne Boileau - a lucky find.

I am still reading through poetry books I bought at The Poetry Fair earlier this month and one I have enjoyed very much is Shoal Moon by Anne Boileau. I was attracted to it because there were moon poems included (I have been trying to write a series of such poems myself), but also I liked the art work on the cover! I had never heard of Anne Boileau before but she has won me over. I love the way she uses internal rhyme and her subject matter clicks with me. Her description of the birth of a male calf is so well crafted and it is only in the penultimate stanza that I realised where this poem was going. Anne's poems stem from the countryside and our ancient past with stories unfolding. I was drawn into her world completely. This is one poetry book I will return to again and again. A short imprint (30 pages) from Grey Hen Press, who are also new to me but having just quickly checked them out I am pleased to see they publish poetry by older women - definitely worth my while reading their web site again!  At the fair they had several interesting looking books on their stand and I was tempted to indulge further but finances said otherwise!

Do take a look at one of Anne's poems called Pete's Forge which is from her small collection.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

I'm in an e-book!

My poem Night Feasting is now published in the Anthology Spooky Tales and available on Kindle from Amazon. The link is here.
Also great to be published along side my friend Lynda Bullock.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Where do poems come from?

Working draft
I'm sure I've spoken about where poems come from before but something happened this morning which made me think about it again and to share it with you.

I was reading an article in acumen  79 by Dannie Abse entitled Poet in a White Coat when a line suddenly hit me and I stopped reading. The line was about the German poet Rainer Marie Rilke who 'related how he would worry about a piece of soap left behind in his hotel lest it become lonely!' Wow! I understood this.....because some years ago I wrote a poem about something similar! It is somewhere written in pen on a sheet of yellow paper, probably buried under magazines under the coffee table (see I even remember where it is....hopefully). Anyway, I was amazed someone else thought about these same strange things.

Having read the line I immediate had to write. So I left the article which I hadn't finished and grabbed my notebook. Just from that one line came the bones of a poem. And ta dah! I'm going to share it with you. Written very quickly with an even quicker edit this is how it is now. The last two lines took me the longest and were re-written several times. (I admit I edited a little more as I typed it up to show here. There is more still to do!)

Of Things Left Behind

The strand of hair on the dressing table,
a flake of skin on the bed sheet,
the lone banana meant for the lunch box,
a garden cutting going solo on the lawn.

The crumb brushed absently away,
the last square of chocolate in its foil,
the one cup draining in the kitchen,
the bulbous tear hanging from the tap.

The lone sock in the washing drum,
the book discarded now its read,
one flower in the dead heads,
a single item in the rubbish bin.

I wonder about the loneliness
of all those things left behind,
abandoned to the silence,

parted from others of their kind.

(©Heather Walker 2014)

When people know I write poetry they usually ask me two questions - what do I write? and have you had anything published?

Thinking about the last two poems I've written (before this morning's effort), one was written about something I observed while I was sitting in the garden and the other went right back to the time I was in my late teens doing something I didn't want to do and wishing! Why I went back to that time I don't even know. It was a stray thought. 

So, inspirations comes from everywhere. Something will happen, like the line I read this morning, and I will have to write. Next time it might be a picture, something overheard, music, an experience (mine or someone elses), a prompt from a book or workshop. I never know what my next poem will be about. I don't write only about nature or love. To me there is nothing off limits, even the most terrible things in life. Poetry can be comforting, funny, clever, disturbing and everything in between. If it causes a reaction in you, it is doing its job. Like art and music, writing is to be experienced, sometimes on many levels. It is also a personal thing and you will bring those experiences with you when you read.