Wednesday, 7 December 2016

workshop on dialogue

Updated notes about the workshop on dialogue that I did yesterday are online.

The summary and suggestions are

  • Go back to basics. Think about what dialogue reveals about people - not just in the words they say, but the pauses, hesitations and interruptions.
  • Read about the recent developments in discourse/conversation analysis. They help make explicit the mechanisms of dialogue we all use.
  • Mainstream literary dialogue has become rather formulaic and artificial. The standard notation hinders the rendering of some revealing aspects of dialogue.
  • Non-standard notations are increasingly common in novels. You might for example consider using screenplay notation.

Friday, 18 November 2016

The professionalisation of poetry

Reading the 46 bios in the most recent "Rialto" you'll find about 6 people admitting to non-creative-writing professions - there's a nurse, an editor/translator, a journalist, a dog-whisperer, a Jungian analyst and an RSPB worker. Maybe several others have non-creative-writing professions, but are too shy to admit to them. Some who don't mention their profession (Carrie Etter for example) are creative writing academics. Academics or not, many aren't shy of mentioning their creative writing degrees.

The 57 bios in the latest "Interpreters House" have more variety, the non-creative-writing professions mentioned being artist, acupuncturist, funeral director, librarian, museum advisor, EFL teacher, psychology prof, graphics/web designer - though there are many creative writing qualifications listed as well.

Where are the doctors and lawyers? Where are the bishops, butchers and bakers?

In The Professionalization of Poetry, David Alpaugh wrote "today practically every highly acclaimed poet in America is teaching in a college or university writing program". That was in 2003. He continued "We nonprofessionals need to speak up and make our presence known". My standard bio for UK mags currently reads

Tim Love lives in Cambridge. He's had prose and poetry published in "Stand", "Rialto", "Oxford Poetry", "short Fiction", etc. His publications are "Moving Parts" (HappenStance, 2010) and "By All Means" (Nine Arches Press, 2012). He blogs at

which doesn't help. So I think in future I'll mention that I teach programming at Cambridge University. I could mention that I've taught an astronaut, gold medalists (rowing) and even a "Great British Bake Off" runner-up, but that would be showing off.

David Alpaugh went on to write "We need to remind professionals that the ad-hoc, personalized, dare I say amateur writing process they are striving to replace has produced practically all of the great poetry in the world for over 2500 years! We need to let them know that we expect poetry to continue to be published and honored on the basis of its quality rather than on the professional status or nonstatus of the poet. When you open a literary journal and see what you think is downright prose parading as poetry, write a letter to the editor and ask what it is doing there. When you see poems full of shoptalk, insider references, poetic name-dropping and credential-showing, complain - or, better yet, cancel your subscription.". Well maybe, but one thing at a time. For now, I'll just fix my bio.

Friday, 11 November 2016

Literary web-stats

I started my litrefsarticles site in 2010. It's just reached 250,000 hits. I think much of the recent increase in hits is due to bot-traffic, though particular items suddenly become popular (perhaps when essays are due). The most popular page there is Child narrators in adult fiction.

It's not easy to compare web-stats. On Top 24 Magazines for Flash Fiction - Bookfox there's an attempt to determine how much some Flash sites are read, and which are worth submitting to. The numbers can be low - e.g. the page says that the venerable "Vestal Review" has 2,000 visitors monthly. Perhaps literary web mags aren't read much more than the paper ones are, nor so thoroughly.

I'm more successful with my work stuff -

Search stringNumber of results My page's Google ranking

I think that's more to do with the age of the pages and where they are than what they contain. My old Literary Quotes page (on a university server) regularly attracts 7k hits/month whereas, which has the same material, gets more like 500 hits/month, many of them from Russia.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

The Longer Write-ups (2010-12)

I don't try hard to make my write-ups entertaining, but here are some that are longer - they're almost reviews.

Books read 2010-12

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Launch of Gregory Leadbetter's "The Fetch"

I was passing through Birmingham yesterday, so I managed to attend the launch of Gregory Leadbetter's first full-length poetry collection. There was a full-house (brimming over, in fact). Jo Bell ably compered, and read too. She's an ever increasing presence on the poetry scene, both live, on paper and on radio.

The supporting cast also included Angela France, who did a short reading. I could have listened to more, but she has another book coming out before long, so I guess I should be patient.

They're all Nine Arches Press writers (and Jane Commane was there to kick things off). Gregory's poetry pamphlet came out with Happenstance, so we have that in common. His first degree was Law at Cambridge (irrationally perhaps, I prefer writers not to have a first degree in literature). He read a generous selection from his book, which I skimmed on the train journey home. The engaging, humourous aspects of his personality evident at the reading don't shine through in the poetry (in contrast to Jo Bell), though there's no shortage of poems "about" family. What struck me during the launch (and moreso later) was his control over long sentences (it's tempting to thank his legal training for that) and the sound effects (perhaps influenced by his reading of the Romantics). Iambics haunt many of the poems, and lines like "It brims from the lake/ where a dead fish floats/ white as blind eye." are rich in repeated sounds. That poem, "Gloaming", ends in a way that shows another side to his work - "Now I learn/ how the bats disappear/ through the door of the trees/ to return seconds later,/ though gone for years.". 2.5 pages of mostly etymological notes help with the extensive vocabulary used. I've a backlog of write-ups scheduled for publication, and at my bedside I've a pile of books to read, but I think this book will be floating to the top of that pile.

[Later] Here's my write-up of The Fetch.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

The Longer Write-ups (2013-14)

I don't try hard to make my write-ups entertaining, but here are some that are longer - they're almost reviews.

Books read 2013-14

Thursday, 29 September 2016


We spent 4 days in and around Dublin. Dublin looks after its writers. It names bridges after them, it has a Writers' Museum, a Writers' Centre, and bookshops have sections on Irish fiction and poetry. At least 2 of the bookshops have displays of literary magazines (including British ones like Rialto, PN Review, etc). I bought a "Poetry Ireland Review", "The Stinging Fly" and "Town and Country", a collection of stories edited by Kevin Barry. I've not seen "The Stinging Fly" before, though I've heard about it. In September they tweeted that for their next issue they'd received 800+ submissions including more than 500 short stories. Getting a story published in it is hard work.

Beckett's bridge opens fortnightly. His phone is on show - it had a button to block incoming calls. Joyce is mentioned in many more places around the town. The James Joyce bridge leads straight to the house of the dead.

A literary pub-crawl is available, but the trend nowadays seems to be that bookshops have associated cafes or tea-rooms. The Winding Stair isn't the only shop to sell both new and second-hand books. It features on a 72c stamp.

Dublin has the highest smock windmill in Europe, a Leprechaun museum, and an abundance of tattoo shops and massage parlours. We saw the bog people. We went to Howth (where we saw cormorants, a curlew, and net-mending workshops side-by-side with sea-food restaurants) and Dalkey. We passed several Martello towers, but didn't see the one that's in Ulysses. My wife saw the Book of Kells. Trinity College at noon was just like being in Cambridge between lectures. We learnt that they call a half a glass. Speed limits are in km/h. The weather was too good to be true.