Sunday 30 November 2014

Local Poets

The local "Cambridge News" has recently published 2 features -

  • In late summer I went to a poetry workshop in Cambridge. Just 7 of us and 2 tutors. One of the tutors (Emily Berry) was later announced as a Next Generation Poet, and one of the "pupils", Natalya Anderson, later won the Bridport out of the blue (though she's just completed an MA in creative writing). Clear Recent History is the article about her that appeared in the paper. See the bio and judge's report at the Bridport site.
  • I've known Diana Brodie for years. The 29th Nov edition of the newspaper has nearly a page about her. The headline is - "I write about people who lose their way". My interview with her is Diana Brodie: an interview. She's also been interviewed by Cambridge 105's booknight - listen to the podcast

On 25th Nov I went to a "Cambridge Poets" poetry event at Corpus Christi attended by at least 50 people and introduced by Richard Berengarten (formerly Richard Burns, though I only realised that today!). He pointed out that Cambridge poetry is internationalist and varied. 10 poets read - 1 lecturer, 6 pgrads (2 doing Beckett, 1 doing Olson, 1 doing architecture, 1 doing education, and another doing Assyrian/Neo-Aramaic). There were 2 performers (a winner of SLAMbassadors UK, and a slam champion of Macedonia + neighbouring countries). Another's doing a Writing MA at Royal Holloway. Several had been published, but the only publishers' names I recognised were "Knives, Forks and spoons", "Emma Press", "Magma", "Rialto" and "Poetry Wales".

Yes, there was variety. There were poems about nothing much, and a poem about a college porter who'd died. One poem was for 2 simultaneous voices. Another was some Google suggestions for search target completions. There was also some Oulipo (which I think is more suited to page than stage).

Friday 7 November 2014

I'm not giving up the day job yet

In 2010 my pamphlet appeared. In 2012 my book appeared. 2014 is coming to a close with no new book in sight. After a productive September, I've had a barren October. Our courgettes were flowering on Guy Fawkes day, but I've written next to nothing for weeks, and have had no acceptances. On Making a living from writing books: what works, what doesn't Emma Darwin points out how difficult it is to make money from literary writing. If you don't write the right stuff you won't sell. There's money for writers within education, but that involves compromises too. In "A Poet's Work" Sam Hamill writes that "A typical poet in North America finds it necessary to relocate every year for the first few years after college, and every several years for a couple of decades after that. The poet becomes disconnected, never developing a true sense of place or of community outside the community of the printed page. The typical poet teaches". The UK is getting like that too, with budding writers chasing residencies and short-term contracts from place to place.

Having a real job doesn't interfere with my writing. If anything it helps. Maybe it's as well that all's quiet on the literary front because at this time of the year I'm busy at work. The invitation, a reward for 25 years of non-relocating, came as a surprise - is it really that long? The Web was barely around when I started.

I've been to more poetry events this year than usual (most recently readings by Allison McVety and Ben Wilkinson) but generally I don't frequent the literary circuit. Again, I don't think this harms my writing, though it may damage my chances of publication. There's a world outside literature. This year, because of family events, I've been to places I wouldn't otherwise have visited - Newcastle, Sunderland and Durham, but also the "Up the Creek" comedy club in Greenwich, to see a son performing. He says he doesn't intend to do stand-up as his day job.

If work and family aren't distraction enough from writing then I always have the Italian connection. I've recently rediscovered my wedding certificate. I was married in Italy, so we don't know why it's partly in French. My 2015 resolution will be to read a book a month in Italian. I'm not going to set myself any writing resolutions, I promise.