Tuesday, 31 July 2018

A trip down river with the writing group

As it was the last meeting of the writing group I  go to before the summer break we took a boat trip down the River Thames from Kingston to Hampton Court. There we had a picnic lunch before borrowing some spare cafe chairs to arrange in a circle under a nice shady tree and then we each shared the writing we brought before offering feedback. It was really nice because for once there was no time restriction. Usually we have an hour once a month and it goes way too fast. This was leisurely and in lovely surroundings. Today we had quite a selection of work - part of play, a short story with a wonderful twist, two short novel chapters, the beginning of a very promising story and some poetry.

Afterwards we treated ourselves to ice creams and wandered around some of the gardens before the boat ride back. It was a lovely end to our meetings. We don't meet again now until the end of September when it's back to the local library.

Friday, 20 July 2018

Three short pamphlets (review)

I am having a renewed loved affair with poetry right now and have been buying up some pamphlets that have been on my list. The following three are all from Happenstance Press and are complete delight.

1. Some Women by David Kinloch is a superb collection of Bible Stories written from the point of view of the women who never get heard. This is brilliant, funny, scathing and contain the odd rude word. The little booklet is split into two. The first half is women from the Old Testament and the second half is from...yes, you got it.... women from the New Testament. We meet Cain's wife (all the things she was before the murder and all the things she is now) Lot's wife in the poem Salt, Rebecca who lived for food, seeing poetry in pita and questions why she is nasty -

but Jacob looked good in jeans/ while Esau was ginger and hairy.

I was pleased to see the story of the Levite's Concubine here. I've always been appalled at this story - the way she is cast out to the men who take a fancy to a young man who is a guest in the house. Instead the poor women is thrust towards them for their pleasure.

I suppose for this collection having a knowledge of Bible stories helps and while I flounder with poems about Greek Gods etc., I'm in my element here. David does a fine job teasing out these normally silent women and putting words into their mouths. I wanted to shout YES in several places. I adore this collection.

I was particularly interested in the stories of Sarah and Lot's wife as I've written poems from their point of view myself. Mine are different but it was lovely to compare our takes on things.

In the second half I found Martha's last line just wrapped things up with that humour I love:

Says, I, well help me resurrect this bucket for the well/ It has a hole in it/ and Lazarus will need a bloody good wash/ when you've finished with him.

This is both thought provoking and different and a collection I shall return to time and time again. Brilliant.

2. Instructions for Making Me by Maria Taylor. This collection is about every day feelings and people - family and friends in different situations. Role Model lists who the narrator does not want to be like such as Thelma and Louise, Julie Andrews, nor a mistress with a dozen married lovers. No, she wants to be like the woman next door with a walk that says I know where I'm going.

Poem in which I Lick Motherhood made me smile, the thought of children with tongues made of soap/ and PVA glue running through their veins is great, as is the line I am fascinated by bunk beds,  head lice and cupcakes. Also Ran is about overhearing a conversation that lets you know just what that person thinks of you.  Then there is the wonderful Hypothetical which is stream of conscious over one question a friend poses - would she sleep with Daniel Craig? A journey from one scenario to the next, getting sillier, but such fun, ensues. Each poem is a gem, as is this pamphlet.

3. The Long Hall by Alan Buckley was my chosen freebie as a subscriber to Happenstance Press. Another excellent pamphlet. Flame is delicious in it's simple lines from a man to his lover. He brings no fireworks, but hey, strike a light from this box of matches and see what happens. Lovely. Loch Ness is an alternative story about the monster and what people are more likely to believe. Clever thinking. Sherbet Lemons took me back to a sweet shop I used to visit as a child - very nostalgic.  Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy looks at David Hockney's painting of the same name, how the viewer sees it, what he likes. It's a painting I know well so I get this. Little Machine is a poignant moment of differences between father and son - the father good under a bonnet with a wrench, the son awkward longing to get back to writing. Then in the last stanza the father reveals something that brings them together.

An enjoyable threesome, these were. Happenstance Press send out sample poetry flyers with orders luring you towards another pamphlet collection. I can see I'll be indulging again!

Friday, 13 July 2018

Poetry Book Review

I came across The Art of Falling in a heap of poetry books and pamphlets I have sitting on my sideboard. When I picked up I couldn't remember if I'd read it. Nearly all the books there I have read. As I nosed through the first pages some poems felt familiar, but I was hooked and sat down to read on through to others I don't remember. I'm guessing I started reading and then got waylaid. I have finally read the whole book and really enjoyed it.

What I like about Kim Moore's book is that the poems are accessible. I don't have to work out what she is talking about. Another thing I like is her approach - very direct, sometimes with repeating words. The book is split into three sections and my favourite is the first section. Here I found Harley Street Spiritualist Church where the first hymn is I Believe in Angels by Abba, only without the music because Jean has forgotten the tape. It goes to describe who is in the room and will anyone claim her. There is also Boxer, a poem with the idea of undoing what has just occurred, so a sort of backwards poem. Clever. There is humour, joy and surprise in this collection.  The last poem in the first section is The Art of Falling describing all the ways of falling from rain fall and falling stars to the correct way to fall and leaves in Autumn and dropped coins. Brilliant. The second section is headed How I Abandoned My Body to His Keeping and includes several darker poems of remembering or trying to forget. It includes the poem When Someone is Singing  where each line begins when I  and lists various things until the last line when we find out what all this has to do with remembering a name.The third section is a mix of poems, mainly to do with people. There is a poem about John Lennon, and another about Graham Short who engraves things onto tiny objects like the Lord's Prayer onto a pin head (The Master Engraver).

This is a delightful book, one I will return to. The book is published by Seren Books.

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

National Writing Day

To celebrate National Writing Day here's a little fun flash for you featuring my favourite film! Happy writing.

What’s in a Name?

‘Did I get an invite?’ Lucy asks, her eyes searching the mantelpiece for a card.
               Figures flicker across the television screen. Lucy knows this. It’s Strictly. She hates Strictly.                ‘Turn the TV over. There must be something else on.’
               Leo leans forward for the remote and begins to channel hop.
               ‘Stop!’ Lucy waves her arms like a swan with wing co-ordination problems. Leo stares at the old lady. ‘I like this.’ She sits back and smiles.
               ‘Die Hard.’
               ‘Yes. I have a soft spot for Bruce Willis and that….German.’
               ‘He’s not really German. That’s Alan Rickman.’
               ‘I know who he is, young man. I’ve not lost it yet.’ Silence. ‘Where’s Emily?’
               ‘Making tea, remember?’ Leo rolls his eyes and then hopes she hasn’t seen.
               ‘I met your mother yesterday.’
               ‘She seemed stressed.’
               ‘It’s all the wedding stuff.’ Boredom crept into his voice.
               ‘She used to go to school with my Brenda. Did you know that?’
               ‘Yes.’ Leo sighs. He was marrying Brenda’s daughter. Of course he knew that.
               ‘I’m glad I’ve lived to see Emily settled.’
               ‘You’ll go on for years.’
               Lucy looks at him sharply then laughs. ‘He’s a nice young man she’s marrying.’
               ‘Thank you.’
               Lucy turns away. ‘Oh. I don’t think it’s you.’
               Leo’s heart stutters. ‘Yes it is. Don’t you remember? You offered to pay for the honeymoon.’
               ‘Did I?’ Lucy stares hard at the TV. ‘I do like that German man.’ Then, ‘Alan, that’s his name.’
               Leo groans. ‘Yes. I told you. Alan Rickman.’
               ‘No, not him. Alan’s the name of the man Emily’s marrying. Hasn’t she told you yet?’

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.