Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Update and Book Review - All the Relevant Gods

I think I'm just about recovered. I've had a whole month or so of not feeling quite myself. I came home from holiday in May with a hacking cough, and though it's still there I'm coughing less. I've been through almost three bottles of cough medicine, spoke to my Pharmacist, had to deal with workmen (partly when I had a raging temperature) and the dust they caused. I just wanted to curl up somewhere, preferably away from home, and come back when it was all over. But I just got on with it and was just about well enough for a joint birthday do with a friend and then a mini break to the Cotswolds with my birthday buddy. I coughed my way through it all!

Yesterday I went to see my brother who lives just outside Eastbourne and I noticed I was hardly coughing. Maybe it's coincidence or maybe it was the sea air. London is so polluted. Anyway, I had a lovely day in the sunshine and I think that was my first visit to the sea this year.

Eastbourne Pier

Writing? What writing? All the disruptions haven't been conducive to writing and I've accomplished very little. Reading, on the other hand, I've done a lot of.

One of the books I read was a poetry pamphlet collection entitled All the Relevant Gods by Robin Houghton. This is a nice collection and I enjoyed The Long Haired Girls, just the way girls are over their hair They examine for split ends daily and I love the ending with the dip and drop of curtains across one slow eye. Another favourite is Four Star about how we pass through hotel rooms and In half an hour all this will be my historyEltham looks back to a past time and London Bridge to Waterloo East rang true for me as I know that journey so well - done it loads of times, everything so close up, the clang and screech as the train pulls into the station. I'm always fascinated by that stretch of track and this poem brings all that to life for me. I also enjoyed Performance and I am told I sing through my teeth. This latter one made me smile as I sing in two choirs - I must open my maw/let fly the scales it says. Yes, I know that one! The summer we went to funerals and Two Honeymoons I liked too - the latter is in two parts, the first three short stanzas and the second one long stanza, prose like. The pamphlet contains poems I can identify with and it was an enjoyable read. The little book is available from Cinnamon Press and Robin's blog can be found  here.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Inspiration drawn from reading poetry

I am present reading Simon Armitage's collection The Unaccompanied which I bought last year and enjoying very much. I often find the poetry of others inspiring and this morning I was reading one poem from this collection and thought it was about one particular thing. Oh clever, me things! Actually the poem wasn't about what I thought it was but the idea of what I thought was planted in my brain and now needed dealing with. So that idea was written down there and then in the form of a poem.

Writing happens that way, don't you think? And ideas that come like this often make the best writing. This poem came really fast and as I was typing it up just now I realised the form it would take on the page - unrhymed couplets. The poem naturally fell this way but I couldn't see that from my handwritten scrawl which was just one long piece of writing with some crossings out. I'm sure there will be some edits to come but I am rather pleased with it, so thanks Mr Armitage for unknowingly giving me that idea!

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Thoughts on the NaPoWriMo experience

I cannot believe a whole month has gone by, that I managed to post something everyday and now it's all over.

Let's unravel that. There was one day when I didn't post because I couldn't understand the prompt but we had an amnesty day when we could catch up, revisit a prompt we missed or post another poem we had written during April. Strangely, that was the poem that caught the most attention. I didn't think it was that good. Seems I cannot be the judge of my own work!

I've taken part in NaPoWriMo twice before, I think, but working with The Poetry School was the best experience ever. I got feedback on every poem and had the chance to do the same with my fellow writers. It felt as if friendships were forming. They were a great bunch to work with.

Occasionally I posted rushed pieces due to my own time constraints. Writing a poem in around ten minutes is really scary. There's no time to edit properly, no time to let it sit. When there was time I tried to write and then leave it for a while and go back for a last look and edit before posting. I must say I was pleased with what I wrote last month. Some of my favourite prompts included writing a Pantoum - see example here. Basically a Pantoum is a series of quatrains where the second and fourth lines are repeated as the first and third of the next. Drove me crazy but the result was great and worth the effort. There was another (forget the name of the form) where you rearranged the word at the end of a line to anagram of it at the end of the next! Good on them The Poetry School supplied an online anagram site which I used as I am hopeless at anagrams. I ended up with a very crazy poem about sleeplessness involving Klingons eating fruit pies! It made people laugh anyway.

My work ranged from the downright stupid to love, loss, nature and Gothic darkness. Blank verse completely floored me and I ended up with something people liked despite my metre hiccups. There was also the random word poem (I use this when I get stuck for ideas). A list was supplied but the difference here (to the way I've done this before) is to then think of the first word that comes into your head on reading each word. The words you thought of are the ones you use in the poem. Then there was the writing a poem to music . I write to music about 90% of the time so I thought this would be easy. Ha! Strange, when you have to do it seems my mind goes blank. I often choose music to suit the mood/atmosphere I'm trying to convey when I write and this time I started with a music I used for the draft of dark novel I wrote. The poem was....dark! Tried again. Still not happy. All doom and gloom. Switched to Pachelbel's Canon on D Major and I got something very different and this was the one I posted.

Yesterday was the last day and the challenge was to take one poem, brush it up and submit it to a magazine! Well, I did submit yesterday to two different places. Two poems were ones I wrote as part of NaPoWriMo. However, I have yet to find somewhere suitable for the one everyone raved about. I need to choose wisely.

I already miss the daily log on to see what the prompt of the day is, and I miss my friends there, though the course is being left open for people to still use. This course did three things for me - it got me writing daily, it got my poetry seen by more people who gave me constructive feedback and I realised that I can write poetry! I may be struggling to get into magazines and win prizes but people seem to enjoy what I write. I'm someone who needs motivation (I write my best then)  and feedback or I slip into the pit of despair when time and time again I receive rejections (though I know I'm not alone in this). When I signed up for NaPoWriMo I wasn't sure what to expect but it's been a positive month and it's left me with the desire to carry on writing poetry.

Looking at my submissions book I see that I have a steady output of around three or four submissions a month. I don't set out with a target anymore. I do it as and when. Everything I submitted last month was poetry! So, I'd certainly recommend The Poetry School for next year if you want to get writing poetry in a friendly group. It be manic at times but it's also fun.

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Flash Story - free read

I haven't shared any of my writing for a long time. So today here's a little story for you. The idea came from a song I heard a little while back.  Hope you enjoy it.

The Writing on the Wall

He’d seen those scratchings before. He just couldn’t remember when. Raising his hand he rested his fingers against the outline before pushing his flesh into the grooves. An image came to him so hard that he jumped back.
               Down the corridor echoed the sound of keys and chains and his eyes swivelled to the door. Shivering he turned once more to the wall, found what his eyes had been searching for. Scratched into the stone were his initials and a date seventy-five years in the past.
               The door swung open and the guard stood grim faced.                       ‘It’s time son.’ Behind him a priest hovered.
               He let go his breath, touched his fingers to the writing and smiled.
               ‘Would you like me to pray with you?’ asked the Priest.
               ‘It’s too late for that,’ he said. ‘Besides I already believe in the resurrection.’ He held out his wrists and the guard secured them with handcuffs. Then he led his prisoner out of the cell towards his fate.

Friday, 20 April 2018

Book Review - Undressing Stone (Hazel Manuel)

I recently finished reading Undressing Stone which was my lucky dip book from Cinnamon Press. I fell in love with Hazel Manuel's way of writing and absolutely adored this book.  The question If you were able, how would you redesign your life is posed by Sian's shrink. Unable to wangle any leave from work she resigns from the call centre in Wales and moves to rural France to take up residence in a cottage owned by her aunt and uncle. The terms are for one year in which time Sian must bring the cottage to a point where it is salable. Her ex husband tries to dissuade her but with her son working in India she feels there is nothing to stay for.

There are vivid descriptions of the cottage and the work Sian sets to doing. I love the conversations she has with herself (the resident ghost is what Sian calls this other voice). Sian has lots to reconcile from her old life while getting to know her new neighbours, including the odd encounters with a mysterious sculptor who likes to work in the nude.

The blurb on the back of the book doesn't reveal how much humour is within the pages. I couldn't put this down. I like the way there are hints of a secret, something Sian finds it hard to think about let alone explain to her ex husband and son. She carries a lot of guilt and sadness too. Then just as Sian comes to a decision something happens that blows things apart.

Wonderfully written. A thoroughly absorbing and enjoyable book. You can buy ta copy from Amazon or direct from the Cinnamon Press website.

Monday, 9 April 2018

NaPoWriMo - The first week and other stuff

I've survived the first week of NaPoWriMo and we are now into the second. There is a great group of people posting on the The Poetry School Campus site and feedback on my work helps to reassure me that people do like what I write!

I've only missed one day. I didn't really understand the prompt that day (I wasn't the only one). The prompts have been tough at times yet somehow I've found something, either from scratch or delving into the folder of very bad poems on my computer and re-writing pieces. I do find the website of The Poetry School a bit tricky to navigate around. Again, I'm not the only one. Often I'm going round in circles trying to find someone's poem again when I've accidentally logged myself out!

Another move I have made is to join the Retreat West Silver Author Membership. There are three categories of membership. Mine is the middle one. For that I get prompts, articles and some free entries to competitions and a free book (mine to choose). The prompts have helped me get back into writing short pieces of fiction (under 2,000) words. I think I needed this. Often I need a push. It's been a long time since I've written so much.

Cinnamon Press  has a great offer on - send them a fiver and they send you a lucky dip book. I received Undressing Stone by Hazel Manuel. I look forward to reading it soon as my fiction pile is almost at rock bottom, though I have a stack of non fiction and poetry books still to read. I've got to that point where I feel I can borrow books from the library once more and maybe buy a few things on my wish list!

Monday, 2 April 2018

NaPoWriMo 2018

Well, after signing up for NaPoWriMo last year with The Poetry School I don't think I submitted a single poem. So what am I doing? I've signed up again and this time I've found something to say. The first prompt was to write something that teaches. Already a day late I dug out one of the recent 'tree' poems I've been writing. This one really wasn't working but I liked the idea of it. I changed the viewpoint and gave it a good edit, even cutting one whole stanza. I submitted it and have had some very positive feedback already.

Today's prompt is a poem that says sorry. I delved into my murky past and found something I could work with. It's written but I might let it marinate for a few hours to see if I can improve on it.

I don't think I can make promises about writing a poem every day during April but maybe it is the push and the challenge I need now. Let's see. Anyone else taking part this year?