Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Depth and Accessibility

On Eratosphere's Musing on Mastery forum last year there was an interesting discussion on "Depth and Accessibility". Here are some extracts -

Alder Ellis -

  • It might be interesting to survey the history of criticism to see when "depth" became the main denotation of scale or extra dimension of meaningfulness. It seems to me it used to be "height" - i.e., "sublimity."
  • In a rationalizing context (characteristic of criticism) the only difference between "depth" and "surface" is the time or effort it takes to achieve an understanding of it. Once the "depths" are understood, they are no longer depths, they too are surfaces. But of course the poems we value most highly (or deeply) are rarely if ever poems we fully understand.

Chris Childers -

  • In general, I tend to find 'depth' in surfaces that are initially a little opaque, that demand a little more work but invite one in under the surface.
  • As opposed to sublimity, "depth" is a largely subjective notion; Alder Ellis associates it aptly with a "psychologizing bias." Another way of putting it is that "depth" is internal while "sublimity" is external; depth leads down into our own abysses while sublimity scales the heights of the human spirit.
  • In my view, psychological depth is the proper opposite of sublimity. However, poetic depth has to do with the construction of a poem: aspects that pull the reader out of the temporal main stream of the verse, under its surface, or beyond it, and invite her to contemplations of another sort.

Me -

I like to think I write for the intelligent layperson: doctors, solicitors, etc - people who give Tate Modern, art-house film, or the latest highbrow novel a chance. I try to be reader-friendly. If I can, I offer fall-back options when I use allusions, or I spell things out. However, there are problems with both of these strategies.

  • If one offers a non-allusive alternative, readers (even those who might have got the allusion) might only see the most obvious interpretation. They might feel that they "understand" sufficiently to continue reading, unimpressive though the phrase may seem. If they'd been puzzled they might have googled (or read the notes). The friendly surface obscures the allusive "depth"
  • Another problem is that the elegance of the poem may be compromised for the sake of those who'd miss the allusions. I don't want to have to put "Mars (the Roman god of war)" in a poem.

After years of publishing in small mags I realised that only other writers (if that) are likely to read my stuff, so why risk compromises? Nowadays, I often don't, rationalising thus

  • Just because I'm uncompromising in some poems, it doesn't mean I can't be more accommodating in others
  • Not all a poem's allusions need to be understood. I think the writers of the Frasier TV series were happy to slip in jokes that only a minority would get - not all sitcoms work that way though
  • It's easy nowadays to put companion notes on a website

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Forthcoming UK story competitions, 2013

Here are some competitions you may be interested in
CompetitionWordsDeadline1st prizeFeeExtrasInfo
Grace Dieu2000 28th Feb £500£5rules
Mslexia 2200 19th Mar£2000£10women only rules
West Sussex300031st Mar£200£5rules
Exeter3000 31st Mar£250£4rules
Flash 50050031st Mar£300£5rules
Yellow Room 1000 31st Mar£100 £4 rules
short Fiction6000 31st Mar£500£10 for 2free magazinerules
Bristol3000 30th April£1000£8anthology chancerules
Bridport5000 31st May£5000£8rules
Yeovil2000 31st May£500£6rules

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Leamington Literary Salon, 30th Jan

I do quite a few talks at work, but I don't often do readings. My first one was in Nottingham. Henry Normal was the big act.

On the right is my second attempt, in Norwich (I miss those trousers). It was at the "Sixth National Convention of Poets and Small Presses", May 1990. Apparently I shared a session with Eric Alexander. Muriel Bell, Pamela Proctor and Henry Cleverly. Dannie Abse was the star turn.

My third was in Kings College Cambridge, supporting William Oxley.

Then I tried 2 open-mic sessions in 2011 at CB1, Cambridge.

Then there was a HappenStance event at Leicester's "States of Independence" in 2012 with Peter Daniels, Robin Vaughan-Williams and Sally Festing.

Later in the year there was a launch in Leamington Spa, my first attempt at reading prose (photo above).

Next will be at Leamington Literary Salon, taking place on Wednesday 30th January, 7.30pm. It'll be rather different to what I've done before.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Another review of "By All Means"

Jim Murdoch has written a typically extensive review of "By All Means". Even more than Tony Williams' review it homes in on characters and emotions. I'll summarize what I've learnt from the reviews before long. Meanwhile, I've added a write-up of each story on the By All Means site.

Monday, 7 January 2013

The second book syndrome

One way or another, second books (like second albums) can be tough. Partly the urge and ambition goes after the first book, and if you publish your first book late, it might contain the majority of your lifetime's best writing so you'll have little left. Or maybe you've laboured over a novel for years, workshopping chapters before getting it published. You land a 2-book deal, but the 2nd book will have to be written in a way that's totally unlike that of the first, and to a deadline. Or maybe the first book used up all your autobiographical material and you don't know what else to write about.

Having published a poetry pamphlet and a story book (both "first books" in a way) I feel that I'm doubly suffering. But all is not lost. The factors influencing the selection of items for the first books meant that some viable texts failed the cut, and I've added to my corpus since the previous publications. Currently my Acknowledgements sections for my second books are

  • Prose - "short fiction","Staple", "Panurge", "Stand", "Aesthetica", "Journal of Microfiction", "Dream Catcher"
  • Poetry - "Acumen", "Agenda", "Assent", "Cake", "Envoi", "Fleeting", "Horizon Review", "Iota", "Mobius", "Morning Star", "The North", "Other Poetry", "Resurgence", "Seam", "Smiths Knoll","Staple", "Vers Poetry Anthology", "Weyfarers"

I think I need to pump these up with some headliners, which ties in with my 2013 objectives. Winning a prose competition would help, so I'm sending stories off. Poetry-wise I'm targeting a few magazines that I've never appeared in - Magma, Poetry London, etc.

Also, I've decided to get onto Twitter, as @TimLoveWriter, though I've not tweeted yet