Thursday, November 28, 2013

Years aren't Novels but December's feel like last chapters

It's December on Sunday, and busy as I will be then with hauling out the advent calendar, I thought I'd write a pre-emptive blog post. I didn't think I'd blogged much this year, but a quick glance at the side bar sees that I've blogged slightly more than last year, and pretty consistently over the last couple of years - once a week, and then a few.The last three years I've travelled a lot with work - thirty three trips by my rough calculation - which might have something to do with the numbers coming down from when I blogged every few days. Though I sometimes wonder, when looking at Facebook debates, what role the blog has nowadays. I find I like having a bit more of a considered approach to a subject than in a FB status - ironic, really, as Blogs started as a way to be quicker and less formal than the essay. The other thing is that FB is "public" but only to your network whilst Blogger lasts out there in the real world.

The poetry community seems to prefer FB than blogs to comment -and I've sometimes wondered why. Hermetic sealing? A tendency for brevity? (Though you should see the length of the posts.) Ironically, I don't actually see a massive amount of UK poetry blogs out there. I suppose that though anyone can have a blog, by keeping one going you do pretend to some sort of "authority", though from my own Point of View, I don't think I've ever set myself up to comment on each and every literary issue out there. George Szirtes, Katy Evans-Bush and Todd Swift, practising poets all, are the longrunning blogs I still go to for any sort of poetry summing up. Occasional blogger only, but always thought provoking, is Steven Waling, who, like me uses it as a bit of an extension of his FB musing; whilst Michelle McGrane's "Peony Moon" does the very simple thing of publishing contemporary poets on a regular basis.

Plenty more places to go for the poets, poetry and poetry magazines themselves (see some in the sidebar) though I think we slip into our busy little communities and stay there a little bit. Though I'd probably suggest a novelist might be best avoiding social media, for the time it eats up, for poets its perhaps a little different - an online version of the letters pages of the little magazines. What we lose in a written correspondance we gain in a dialogue. The edifices of poetry's castle remain pretty unaware of all the activity outside the walls of course. I've read some good stuff this year, but in pamphlets, magazines and online rather than in monolithic books from major publishers. The rash of recent anthologies (concentrating on the young mainly) hasn't really done a lot to define where we are with poetry one hundred years after the Imagist anthology, but the public image of poetry only really has room for a few, not the many. There's a slow, steady accretion I think from being in "Grandchildren of Albion" to co-curating a bash for the Queen at Buckingham Palace (Carol Ann Duffy.)

I'm not retiring from the poetry fray as such, more rounding up my depleted resources, and gathering them together for a full assault in the new year. (Ok, I'm at the state of preparing a collection. No publisher as yet, so get in touch if you are interested!)

2013 has been a difficult year. It began with an offer of redundancy, and it ends with us moving offices back into the Town Hall. I've worked for the council for over ten years, but its been far removed from being a council job. We'll have to see how that pans out. In the midst, I had an emergency eye operation which scuppered a few plans; made me reappraise a few things; and then, as ever, go back to the helter skelter of my normality. It feels that 2013 is a novel that is not coming to an end, so much as had a missing middle section (two months of impaired sight does that to you).

Yet in the midst of this I have written some of my finest poems (though yet to see the light of day, so that may be to be decided), recorded a new album (again, still not made public, as there are some final production tweaks required, but something of which I am inordinately proud), and may even have started a new novel (though that also got halted.) I had a story published in a book for the first time, "The Cat" in "Unthology 4".

Writers need reflective time - and I've had very little of that lately. A longer break over Christmas, and a shorter one this weekend, will hopefully move things along a little.


Jim Murdoch said...

One can only do so much, Adrian. I find myself agreeing with much of what you say here especially your final paragraph. I have more free time than most of my online friends and yet it vanishes—pfft!—just like that. My father told me that time speeded up when you got older and I thought he was talking nonsense but now I’m not so sure. I think what happens is our efficiency slows down and things that would’ve taken us an hour once now take us half a day. I despair about how little I get done. Yesterday I read fifty pages, wrote a short book review on Goodreads and drafted an e-mail to a friend which I’ll probably not send (at least not as it stands) because all I do is moan and she’s got enough going on in her life without me moaning at her. The rest of the day sort of vanished.

I agree totally that writers need reflective time. We need to be bored but the right kind of boredom, the kind where our minds are active but nothing is being asked of them and so they turn inward: time to think. The Internet is a wonderful resource. Were it not for the Internet we wouldn’t be talking now so, thank you Internet. I really appreciate it when I come across a post like this one where someone is talking about something real, something that makes me think. Facebook makes me think. It makes me think: What the hell am I doing here? I like the idea of Facebook but you have to wade through so much tripe every day, still we work with what we have. In the mornings after breakfast I go down the list once and that’s me. I follow a fair number of poets but I don’t see many of them doing much different to anyone else. Maybe in their groups they do but not on the main page.

For a while now I’ve been finding the rewards for scrounging around looking for good stuff online are not worth the efforts involved. As a research tool I still love that it’s here but the social side of it wears me out. I have no intention of stopping blogging in fact I’ve started blogging for two other sites, McVoices and Rob Mackenzie’s review blog Elsewhere since my own blog now focuses on book reviews but I’m still doing a monthly article and a lot of these have been on poetry like the whopping great 10,000-word essay on Cavafy which got more feedback than I expected to be honest but I suspect it’ll find its readership over time.

I’m glad you’ve been writing well this year. Takes the sting out of everything doesn’t it? I dashed off a novella at the start of the year—which came completely out of the blue—but other than that I’ve only written a handful of poems but all quite respectable. I don’t write bad poems anymore. I start them but no one ever sees them. I have shorthand notebooks lying all over the flat with scraps of poems in them that’ll never get finished. I do sometimes wish I was only a poet. I have to make friends with allsorts and it’s wearisome. But since you’re a multi-disciplinarian you get that.

In ten or twenty years you’ll shrug off 2013. It’ll get reduced to a paragraph and that’ll put everything in perspective. I see this in biographies all the time. Whole years—often gaps of several years—get skipped over. It’s all grist for the mill though. Nothing gets wasted. Who knows when this year’s experiences will resurface and in what form?

Adrian said...

Yes, to the time speeding up, though probably it is as we slow down in some ways. The positive is that you don't tend to have to spend the time on what's not working. Had hoped I might be able to give myself more time for writing this year, but life gets in the way etc.