Thursday 29 December 2011

The year 2011

I was quietly confident about a short-list appearance at Bridport this year - poetry or Flash. No such luck. In other competitions I ended up with 2 commendeds. Magazine appearances continue to tick over.

No new venues, though not from lack of effort - I ended the year with 3 Rialto pieces in the post, 3 Magma, 2 London Magazine, 2 Triquarterly (from March), 3 Weyfarers, 4 Iota, 1 McSweeneys, 1 Riptide and a couple of competitions.

After the publication of "Moving Parts" I had trouble returning to writing. In Autumn I cannibalised my Flash Fiction attempts from earlier in the year, managing to create a decent short story or two. A raid of my notebooks sufficed to get some poems moving. The reception to "Moving Parts" has been fun to follow. Partly as a response to that I've been networking a little - Cambridge, Edinburgh, London - meeting dozens of people who I've only e-contacted before. I should develop this side of things. I'm intending to organise a HappenStance event next year.

I've been expanding my blog activity. A USB microscope Xmas present could be useful - it takes movies. Here's what happens if you analyse too deeply

Our Egyptian holiday was fun and it's beginning to get into my writing. This year I've also visited Italy and Scotland. Favorite books? I'm enjoying Burt's "Close Calls with Nonsense" and have caught up with Jennifer Egan's novels. Salt's Best British series are good news. "The Night of the Day" by David Morley might have been my favorite poetry pamphlet. "The Dark Horse" might be my favorite magazine of the year.

Friday 23 December 2011


We spent a few hours in Torino as part of a holiday. It's more interesting than I'd expected. I found this old bookshop ("Gilibert "?) in an shopping mall which once hosted the Ministry of Finance. Nietzsche lived there for a while. The entrance sign - "Nuovo Romano" - refers to the cinema that's still running.

I took several books to read - "Notes for Lighting a Fire" (Gerry Cambridge), "I Sing the Sonnet" (Duncan Gillies MacLaurin), "Taking Account" by Peter Gilmour, "Egg Printing Explained" (Katy Evans-Bush) and "Close Calls with Nonsense" (Stephen Burt). Connections grew between these as I read them. MacLaurin's sonnets contrasted with Evans-Bush's; Gilmour's Poet/Persona interaction contrasted with the self-construction described by Burt; Burt's description of Tranter helped me when reading Evans-Bush; Cambridge's attention to natural detail made me wonder about the nature of close scrutiny as I peered down from the plane and saw the Mole Antonelliana.

I enjoyed Burt's book the most. It was written "for people who read the half-column poems in glossy magazines and ask, 'Is that all there is?'". It comprises reprints of articles and extended reviews about young US poets, non-US poets, famous US poets and the Ellipticals. They show people like me new routes into poems without sounding too preachy, pointing out the "flaws" I see (e.g. "all [Les Murray's] books include clumsiness and redundancy, masses of lines it's hard to take seriously") while also showing some strengths I'm blind to. A chapter about Wilbur follows one on Ashbery. Armantrout and Gunn each have a chapter.

The non-politician Italian government survived a confidence vote while we were skiing. Pavel and Kim Jong-il died. Nothing much changes in the place we've been skiing in for a few years - the same people behind the supermarket counters, the same barber. The Italians have more types of Panetone than can currently be found in England. Zuppa Inglese ("English soup") is trifle.

Monday 12 December 2011


On 10th December I attended the launch of HappenStance publications by Peter Gilmour and Gerry Cambridge in Edinburgh. Over 60 people attended, amongst them Rob MacKenzie and Colin Will. Though I arrived from Cambridge I wasn't the one who'd travelled furthest. I'd had trouble understanding people's accents so I was relieved that the readers spoke so well. Peter Gilmour (whose poems were described as having "lovely syntax" by the emcee, Helena Nelson) read mellifluously with interesting comments (for example, he suggested that mining the past to write a poem reveals memories that couldn't otherwise be recovered). I knew Gerry Cambridge as editor of the excellent "The Dark Horse" magazine ("it's an honour to be rejected by The Dark Horse", said Helena Nelson) but not as a poet. He said he was interested in Nature and Detail. Both readers seemed to know what an audience wanted and what they could cope with.
Edinburgh of course is associated with some famous writers. Conan Doyle worked in Portsmouth, my birthplace, after having been a medical student at Edinburgh, and JK Rowling started writing Harry Potter in Edinburgh. I explored Edinburgh, its vennels and wynds, finding some traditional little bookshops ("Edinburgh Books" and "Southside books" are illustrated here) amongst the impressive, imposing architecture. If you like traditional Christmas atmospheres - city centre fairgrounds, German markets, and snow - Edinburgh's the place to go. I explored the delights of Ratho Station too. I took "The Best American Short Stories 2010" with me to read - well crafted Realism without a hint of Barthelme, with at least half the stories featuring a death. I jotted a page or 2 of notes and started a story, so I'm happy.
The Scottish Poetry Library, just off the Royal Mile, was the venue for the launches. It compares well with the London counterpart. I picked up a copy of Northwords Now there, which is a good read. The Scottish Storytelling Centre is 5 years old - "the world's first purpose-built centre for storytelling". I think I'll be popping up to Edinburgh more regularly in future. An East Coast train trip's especially tempting.
You'll find more about the event on Helena Nelson's HappenStance blog.

Thursday 1 December 2011

Web statistics

My oldest blog is about 2.5 years old now, long enough for statistical trends to emerge. Low traffic, but it's interesting to see what's top of the charts.


Litrefs gets about 20 hits/day. The most popular pages have been

Fair enough - punctuation and publication will always be of interest to writers.

Litrefs Articles

Litrefs Articles gets about 40 hits/day. The most popular pages have been

"Metaphor and Simile" gets many Google hits in bursts. I suspect it's found by pupils doing assignments.

Litrefs Reviews

Litrefs Reviews gets about 20 hits/day. The most popular pages have been

The first and third are by authors who've been in the news recently (Masters for a new book and Sampson because of the Poetry Society). I suspect that those pages are picked up in random Google searches. Certain reviews seem to attract short-lived attention on the grapevine - BBP2011 was one of them.

Meanwhile, my Literary Quotes web page attracts about 40 hits/day. I'm surprised it's that low - review/article writers should find it useful.