Sunday, 28 February 2010

Help III

I read somewhere recently, a writer whose name I can't remember, saying that poetry uses a different part of the brain to prose. I concur. Until I get these poems out of the way I can't work on my prose which is, as my supervisor says, my bred and butter. And I still have two stories that need to be completely rewritten, and several others that require major changes. Then I have a covering essay to write, a title page to invent and once that's done I have to decide on the order and get it to the printer. I'm currently working about fourteen hours a day, until 4am last night. I feel slightly sick all the time. I can't imagine what it must be like trying to get a real book ready for publication.

But you are helping enormously, so thank you, and here's the next one followed by a photograph of the working out:

The Good Wife

Dry as a throat today
so I thought to launder
all the big stuff, air
the unwashables.

Get things gently drying,
stirring, in the summer air,
gather some freshness
to fold in the evening.

But as I pegged with my new
rot proof pegs, the sun biting
at my neck like a desperate lover,
the line snapped. Oh, the gravity.

Progress update:

Here, in audio format so you can hear it, is 'Water Butt' reworked after your comments.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Help II

Your comments on 'Water Butt' have been beyond my expectations helpful. I now know I need to put some serious thought into the first verse, so I have written it up on my wall

together with a tentative alternative, so that I have to look at it.

Meanwhile here is another:


Head in a spread-sheet you put
her electric kettle on the hob, lit
the flame and moved away.

Unseen fibres bubbled and oozed
out across the stove top
like road-tar in a heatwave.

The element didn't pop
like a firework on the fourth of July, or burst
like a water-main on a a summer day,

but split like a twig
in a well trod wood.

Friday, 26 February 2010


I am no poet. The only poem I've ever written that I am not entirely dissatisfied with was five years in the making (you can hear me reading it, somewhat squiffily, here), so it's safe to say I'll never get a book of verse out. Unfortunately I have to include ten poems in my final portfolio, which is due a month today, so I've had to try and write some.

Thus, in the spirit of extreme panic, I have decided to share my tragic efforts here in the hope that any poets, English teachers, critics, or anyone at all, might take pity on me and tell me what to do.

I'll only put one up at a time, here's the first, and apologies to those of a sensitive poetic nature:

Water Butt

All winter it takes
in rain and saves
it for the dry season.

I had seen a summer
ripe with stripy gourds
and salad crops,

sweet-peas climbing
home-grown willow
wigwams. Jam jars filled

with asters glinting
on our sunny sills,
and pickles in the pantry.

But, carefree as a toddler
playing with a hose, you
let the water seep away,
while trying to be of use.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Blooming Joy

Über broke at the moment: new business, you know how it is. So life's little luxuries have had to be cut from the budget, and flowers, being merely decorative and apt to dying, are a luxury I can't justify even to myself.


Kim came over a couple of weeks ago and, as well as two or three hours of great company, brought

which after a few days became

and I only had to throw them out a couple of days ago. Yesterday my sister-in-law and her family stopped over night here on their way to Glasgow, and as well as a hangover I now have

I feel quite spoilt.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Ways of Seeing

I've always loved fashion. Real, you couldn't wear that to pick the kids up, fashion. The sort the tabloids love to mock, but whose influence will add to the fragrance and colour of our lives, whether we notice it consciously or not.

Fashion, like any creative activity, has the potential to be art. Unfortunately it takes a dogged spirit and a bloody mind for a designer to keep pushing artistically under commercial pressure to turn out wearably bland whatevers. Thus, such people are rare.

And today they got rarer. And that's sad for all of us, even those who live in trackies.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Cliché: The Director's Cut

Journey; battle; box of chocolates; garden; menu; narrative.

I have, on occasion, thought of life as a journey

but journey implies destination which is fraught with problems –" where am I going!?", "how did I get here?" – and the only destination I can think of anyway

is oblivion. And we're all going to get there whatever our travelling plans.

I've never thought of life as a battle,

though I've known several people who have and they never seemed happy;

a box of chocolates – you may never know what you're going to get but you can bet it'll be sweet;

or a garden.

Though I quite like that one. It implies nurture, fresh air and muddy carrots.

A menu? Nah. I tend, more and more, to think of my life as a plotless, intertextual story. I am both the writer-director and a character: part of an ever shifting ensemble cast.

What I like about this metaphor is that I can learn from other writers how to make the story more engaging

and, importantly, I can redraft.

I found the usual suspects picture at this rather interesting site: http://neuroanthropology.net/2008/06/23/encephalon-48-the-usual-suspects/

The Guernica pic came from here: http://new-art.blogspot.com/2005/11/post-guernica-now.html

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

A Cooking Egg

My evenings are currently spent curled up on the chair in my room with young Tom Eliot. He is wonderful company and he loves his mother very much. He is, at the moment, rather worried, now he has a collection of poems coming out in America, about how she will react to certain of them. 'Sweeney Erect' especially. He thinks Americans will find him 'disgusting.' I'm looking forward to finding out.

For now, though, I am pondering:

Whether one writes a piece of work well or not seems to me a matter of crystallisation – the good sentence, the good word, is only the final stage in the process. One can groan enough over the choice of a word, but there is something much more important to groan over first. It seems to me just the same in poetry – the words come easily enough, in comparison to the core of it – the tone – and nobody can help one in the least with that.*

To be on the safe side I looked 'crystallisation' up in my dictionary:

‘to gi
ve definite or concrete form to: to crystallise an idea.’

And I looked up 'core':

'the central, innermost, or most essential part of anything.'

Is he saying that the tone is the core of a piece of writing, or the tone conveys the core?

I looked up 'tone' and now I'm reeling. What does he mean by 'tone' and how can it be separated from one's choice of words?

How can crystallisation – making an idea concrete – be separated from one's choice of words?

What am I missing? I seem to be in a bit of a pickle.

*In a letter to Lytton Strachey dated 1 June 1919, in The Letters of T.S. Eliot (London: Faber and Faber, 1988) pp 298

Earth's core picture from: http://www.oup.co.uk/oxed/children/oise/pictures/earth/earthcore/

Crystal pictures from: http://chemistry.about.com/od/growingcrystals/ig/Crystal-Photo-Gallery/

Monday, 1 February 2010

Don't Scratch

Pat has challenged me to name three classic movie moments that made me buy things, do things, or think things that maybe I shouldn't have.

I'm not sure about the 'shouldn't have' bit, it depends on how you look at things: no movie has induced me to moral reprehensibility as far as I can determine, but these three have, perhaps, encouraged certain weaknesses that tend only to lead to disappointment.

First, Ronin. I searched the internet for the particular moment of influence and couldn't find it, there are lots of clips from the film out there but they're all boring action stuff. So I'm guessing that my idea of a classic movie moment and that of the sort who uploads clips don't quite coincide. Who knows why? Anyway, ever since I first saw Ronin, over ten years ago, I have been searching for this:

not Robert De Niro, but the cup in his hand. It's my perfect coffee cup: gleamingly translucent, hand thrown fine clay; bowl shaped; large enough to hold the necessary quantity, and that wonderful deep foot. Here it is from a, slightly, different angle:

It's a poem of a cup. Every element adds to every other, I want it dead bad, and have seriously considered buying a potters wheel and kiln in order to try and make it myself.

Breakfast at Tiffany:

this whole film has made me buy things, do things and think things: I wore Rayban Wayfarers for years. I bought a Burberry mac, though I could ill afford it, but which, years later, I still wear. And I luxuriate in eating a croissant out of a paper bag as I browse the windows of posh shops I can't afford to enter, whenever I'm in a city. I've never done it wearing a cocktail dress though, yet.

Leon: this is the most 'shouldn't have' of the three. I have on more than one occasion been tempted to layer several mismatching wallpapers in my house and then encourage the top layers to peel off, and I have had my hair cut in a short bob, a la twelve year old Natalie Portman, more than once. But, maybe because I am considerably more than twelve, I can never get mine to look quite so fabulously wild.

So far I've not been tempted to train as an assassin though.

This has been a fun post to do and quite enlightening. Now I know what Tom (the man who got me writing) meant when he said in a workshop: 'Eryl is all surface.' I would now like to invite everyone who reads this, and has a blog, to join in.