Wednesday 28 September 2022

CB1: John Greening

On 27th September I went to see John Greening at CB1. Evenings there can sometimes be rather quiet (attendance figures depend on the weather, if it's during term, etc) but yesterday there were well over 30 people - standing room only. For the open-mic I read an updated version of my recent "Oh I do like to be" poem from Acumen, not knowing at the time that I was sitting next to Susan Mackervoy, who'd written a review that was in the same issue.

John Greening was aimable, providing helpful commentary on his poems. As I've said elsewhere, he's published many (20?) books and pamphlets, has done collaborations, and writes some long poems, which are all features which instinctively put me on my guard - irrationally, because he's won the Bridport for heaven's sake. I liked his Egyptian poem, but I still wasn't convinced by his poem (really a list of short poems) about a totem pole, or another list poem involving types of wood.

Friday 23 September 2022

Sloppy writing?

Some phrases from books that I've recently heard/read attracted my attention, not least because some authors repeatedly used them. None of these phrases were in a character's voice. In some (but not all) instances I think the redundant words are helpful.

  • Tears welled up in her eyes - Where else could they well? Isn't "Tears welled up" enough?
  • She let out an audible sigh - Or "She sighed", because all sighs are audible?
  • There was nothing there - Or "Nothing was there"?
  • Outside, the wind was rapping on the window panes - We know the wind isn't inside, but beginning with "Outside" effectively shifts readers' attention.
  • She had a fiercely stubborn look on her face - Or "She looked fiercely stubborn" though I suppose you could have a look elsewhere than on the face. All the same, it sounds more "tell" than "show".
  • He nodded to himself - The person in question was talking to someone and had just come to a conclusion about something - i.e. the nod wasn't a communication. But the expression sounds strange.
  • He thought to himself - Who else could he think to?

Monday 19 September 2022


When someone asked me once how I decided whether to buy a book, I said I look at the acknowledgements. He didn't know what I meant, which is no surprise - he, like most people, only reads novels.

Yes, poetry books and short story collections can contain thankyous to family, teachers and friends, but they also have a list of places where the works were previously published. A glance gives me a fair idea of the writer's standing.

Some authors seem to have focussed on competitions, mentioning appearances in short/long lists. For example, in "Sightings", Elisabeth Sennitt Clough lists 14 prizes and commendations that the poems won.

Others are in some themed/regional anthologies, a market I've never looked at.

Some authors have an extensive list, showing that most if not all of the works have been published before. I view with suspicion books where the list is short - if the pieces haven't gone through the periodical filtering process, I wonder if they're good enough for a book.

Some story writers thank by name the magazine editors who accepted their pieces - not something I've ever done. These editors sometimes suggest revisions so I suppose it makes sense.

The books I'm most likely to buy are those whose acknowledgements page mentions several magazines I've been in, and some I've tried but failed to be accepted in. I'm also tempted by mentions of Bridport and National Poetry Competition shortlistings.

Monday 12 September 2022

Signed books

Buying second hand books means you sometimes get a bonus. Here are a few I've found.