Saturday 26 November 2022

Too many books

I own quite a few books and magazines. I'm a bit of a hoarder. I keep my worst excesses hidden away in the loft or in cupboards. I've been clearing the flat of someone who liked books too, and had no loft. Here's the main room after a few hours of tidying up

When we emptied cupboards (sometimes with a crowbar), bags of books fell on us. When there was no space in the room for the thousands of books, the kitchen started filling up with tottering piles.

And the bathroom was also used for storage. We found a toilet seat still in the packaging, and toilet rolls. Alas there was no water or electricity.

There were files and files of magazine, letter and newspaper cuttings, sorted into topics (one of the topics being "Tim Love"). Also in amongst the books were £30 of old pound coins. There was no single place for batteries, but at least they were labelled - e.g. "Used. Maybe a little life left?"

Books were of many types and languages. I think this is a bible in Cornish. Books have gone to local charity shops and to rural Africa in a container.

And there were exercise books filled with pages like this, written in a private code. Distances walked? Money spent? Time spent reading?

Monday 14 November 2022

Ornamentation and aura

In the old days writers would iambize their prose and dangle rhymes on their line-endings to make their words seem more significant, adding poetic words as glitter. As Samuel Johnson said, some people think that anything that doesn't look like prose must be poetry. Nowadays writers use strange punctuation, deletions, discontinuities and line-breaks instead.

There's still something about the label "poetry" that writers find tempting. And why not? Poetic license still exists. If you label a piece "poetry", readers will look for hidden meanings. The meanings will expand to match the readers' expectations. It saves the writer needing to do so much. A short text (about doing the housework, say) can go far given a big title like "Death".

But readers might not be so compliant nowadays. They might distrust the label. They might think the shortness is a cop-out.

  • They're more alert to tricks of ads, the lure of mistique, aura, etc. They know how the addition of false eyelashes and tan can trick the eye.
  • They've seen how less pretentious "memes" and "tweets" can do so much in a few words.
  • Flash now offers an alternative vehicle for anecdotes, without recourse to the "poetry" label.
  • Books like "Grief is the thing with feathers" by Max Porter show what can be done with poetic ideas when they're developed. In comparison a slim poetry book with lots of white space looks if not unfinished then certainly expensive.

Consequently I'm on my guard when I read a text that's labelled as poetry. There's less need to label texts as such nowadays (short texts can be prose), so the request for my extra attention had better be genuine.

Sunday 6 November 2022

What the author thinks

  • I'm in a rich writing phase at the moment - Time will tell. If you go through a phase of relaxing immediate self-criticism you can write a lot, and you may think it good, but you may only be postponing the inevitable radical editing.
  • Thankyou for your insightful review. At last someone "gets it" - Years ago I went to a workshop where someone read out a first-person piece concerning first love. It sounded Adrian Mole-like to me, and people commented that they were amused by the main character's naivity - their age unclear, but presumably teenage. Alas, the piece was deadly serious autobiography. Critics should have said it was a sensitive exploration of twentysomething love.
    At another workshop, the poet was praised for their ironic use of clichés. After, the poet admitted that they hadn't realised that the images were clichés.
    Suppose a clever whodunnit by a middle-aged man is packed with middle-aged men who pretty young women keep falling for? Suppose a poem collection has many self-sabotage pieces but the poet's announced theme is about fate being unfair? Suppose the "I" is right in all the poems, though the other characters only realise that later? Suppose the rhyme-scheme goes to pieces whenever the poet has something serious to say? Would these comments ever be considered insightful by an author?
    If the critic dutifully reads the blurb and reports on the intended meanings, quoting the phrases that most emphasise those meanings, the author will be delighted. Maybe that's the reviewer's intention.