Sunday, 17 September 2023

Poetry trends - Metaphors

In Acumen 107 (Sep 2023), Andrew Gleary writes "There are poets who would use metaphor had not all metaphors been workshopped out of their writing because metaphor is presently unfashionable".

Maybe so. Metaphors go in and out of fashion. There are extreme views about their value -

  • "the damn function of simile, always a displacement of what is happening ... I hate the metaphors", Robert Creeley
  • "Metaphor is the whole of poetry. ... Poetry is simply made of metaphor ... Every poem is a new metaphor inside or it is nothing", Robert Frost

20th century UK Poetry had Surrealism, [political] Realism, The Apocalyptics (Dylan Thomas et al), The Movement, and Martian poetry (Craig Raine, etc). One could interpret each as a reaction to the previous movement, though no doubt influences were more complex than that.

If metaphor is unfashionable nowadays, it may be because the poet and the poem's subject matter have a higher priority. It feels to me that we're in an age where previously suppressed voices are being given space. Minorities (by virtue of race, sexuality, mentality, etc) are out of their niches and have something to say which can be as important as how it is said.

Wednesday, 13 September 2023


Some bookshops I've seen in my travels -

  • Dublin

  • Holland

  • Turin

  • Edinburgh

  • Istanbul

  • Sweden

  • Egypt

  • Glasgow

  • Nottingham (5 leaves)

  • An ex-bookshop, with pictures of books

Wednesday, 6 September 2023

Stockholm and Lombardy

In Sweden I went straight to the university town of Uppsala before having a little taste of the archipelago - Artipelag, Vaxholm, etc. I've read a novel about the second-home life-style in the area. I can see its attractions. Back in town I went to the Photography museum and a smart suburban university campus. I went to 3 big charity shops. One had an Alan Titchmarsh novel in English. I resisted.

From there I flew to Bergamo where I visited some places in Lombardy that I've known for 30 years or so. 10 degrees hotter than Sweden. We had beer and a meal on a hill overlooking Lecco. We dropped some donations off at the museum of local history - a ration book, a sewing machine, a wooden plate. In a village I found a book-exchange cabinet with just the sort of page-turner thriller I can cope with in Italian. So I've enough reading material for a while.

Sunday, 27 August 2023

Stephen Hammond

I was a literary co-executor for a friend, Stephen Hammond. He didn't use e-mail or the web as far as I know. Now, thanks to his brother, he has a posthumous web site - and his "Selected Stories" are on Amazon. His brother John wrote "The stories are humorous and entertaining, sometimes biting social satire taking on fairy tales, children's thrilling adventures, recent alternative history and fantasy."

I think Terry Gilliam (Monty Python) might be another point of reference. I've seen 2 books which reminded me rather of Steve's stuff -

  • Spaghetti Fiction (Phil Doran) - very "small press". Disappeared without trace I think. There are many passages that Steve could have written - e.g. "Sergeant, pull over into The Eagle. I need a pint of beer, not to mention a decent bloody writer with a plot and a purpose in mind other than this bloody awful post-modernist drivel with deliberate withholding of meaning instead of properly thought out structure", etc
  • Mostly hero (Anna Burns). Published by Faber, but only after the author had successfully published something more conventional - "It is a rather curious post-modern subversion of fairytale and comic-book storytelling."

Tuesday, 15 August 2023

Flash Fiction trends

Since attending the Flash Fiction Festival I've had a chance to read the books I bought there, and to think about the state of UK Flash. Among those at the conference were people who've helped to promote and popularise Flash. I think they're doing a good job. I feel that Flash is expanding its scope and that influences/sub-genres are being clarified.

Last year at the festival I felt that I could identify some people who had clearly come from the poetry side, and people who had previously written short stories. At this festival there was more explicit recognition of these two directions, with workshops looking at the influence of poetry on Flash, etc. Anecdotes are at one end of a spectrum whose other end might be the prose-poem or formalist prose.

This year I talked to more scientists/programmers than I did last year, and Tania Hershman was one of the speakers. Maybe that's another influence that's making inroads.

The Novella-in-Flash (NiF) has been around for a while. This year it's really taken off. I've not read one yet. Michael Loveday was at the festival. His craft guide "Unlocking the Novella-in-Flash: from Blank Page to Finished Manuscript" came out last year.

The best book I bought was Christopher Allen's "Other household toxins". I wouldn't recommend it to novel readers, or even short story readers.

Sunday, 6 August 2023

CB1 is back!

CB1, Cambridge's live poetry gathering, has returned at a new venue - the Town and Gown in the city centre (where the Arts Cinema used to be). Over 30 people were there, and there's room for more. No guest poet this time - it was all open mic, with no shortage of people willing to perform.

Perhaps this is what people really want - a place where once a month they can perform for free, free of criticism, with a chance to have a drink and a chat afterwards with like-minded people.

Maybe guest poets put people off - why pay to listen to someone you don't much like and who uses up valuable open mic time? Open mic evenings are easier to organise too, I should think.

The room is goth/cellar style with a glitter-ball, which is becoming rather standard for poetry venues. I like it. My only worry is that there aren't enough chances to chat (i.e. exchange poetry information) with people. Open mic evenings are all very well, but they don't have the edge (or quality control) that Slam Competitions do.

Monday, 31 July 2023

Tori Amos

Until a couple of years ago I knew little about the singer-songwriter Tori Amos. She's now responsible for more of my earworms than any other performer. I watch her often on YouTube, comparing performances.

People used to tell me she was like Kate Bush. My favourite Kate Bush song is "Under the Ivy", which is one of her more Amosish pieces. I think that she has the artistic aspirations of Amos. Bush is less confessional though, and sexuality isn't her topic or vehicle. Janis Ian in "Watercolors" has some of Amos' anger, self-criticism, and social awareness. Joni Mitchell's "Blue" album (perhaps still my favourite record) has the reflection and self-questioning that Amos displays. Amos has more control over her voice than all of them.

Janis Joplin and Bjork throw themselves into their songs. Amos sometimes does too, in her own way. The tremble in her voice may be an act, but sometimes I wonder if she's going to get to the end of a song in one piece.

How much are my judgements affected by the fact that I'm a heterosexual male? Pass. My favourites are "Hey Jupiter", "Baker Baker", "Winter", "Icicle", and "Precious things". "i i e e e" from "Live Sessions 1998" showcases her singing and playing. "Putting the Damage on" is sometimes earwormy. I'm not so keen on "Crucify", "Pretty good year" or "Cornflake girl" though they show her versatility. And I like most of her covers too.

All of the pieces I like are over 25 years old. More recent songs like "Speaking with Trees" sound like re-hashes. I'd rather have a new rendering of "Precious things". Writers who use their early life as source material can run out of inspiration. Some other writers, even if they're not always autobiographical, get their best ideas early and spend the rest of their lives raiding their early notebooks - I think Dylan Thomas did that. Such artists in their later years sometimes produce themed, committed work (concept albums, etc) to compensate for their lack of inspiration, it seems to me.

I've read Janis Ian's autobiography, which I found interesting. She was praised on TV by Leonard Bernstein when she was about 16. She's one of the few live acts I've seen. She wrote that when she first heard Don McLean's "Starry, starry night" she played it dozens of times non-stop thinking it the most perfect song ever. I recall having a crush on that song too. I've read a biography of Joni Mitchell, and I liked that. I've not read an Amos book yet, though I'm looking out for one.

Monday, 24 July 2023

Writers HQ

I've noticed that several recent prose prizewinners have something in common - they belong to UK-based WritersHQ - You can use many of their resources without joining them - e.g.

Donations are welcomed, though joining needn't cost anything - the reason for joining is that passing stories around for comment by members count as "private communication" so they can subsequently be sent out to magazines/competitions. Joining also gives you access to "Swipe Write for beta readers" - a way to find like-minded writers to swap stories with.

They run "retreats" too. For example, in Milton Keynes one Saturday a month, 10-4, there's a gathering (no workshopping or teaching, just a chance to claim some "me time") for £45 (which includes lunch and bottomless coffee).

If you want professional support, see - one option is an 8,000 word critique + Zoom session costing £250.

Sunday, 16 July 2023

Flash Fiction Festival, 2023

I liked last year's conference so much that I went again this year, seeing many people I've met before. When I set off at 5.30 on Saturday morning for Bristol, I saw a snail on the car roof - an omen of weather to come. After a useful day of workshops I slept in my tent while a storm raged, waking in a puddle, and having to do some bailing. On Sunday I went to more workshops that showed me how much I need to improve my close reading. I read at the launch of "51 and a half games and ideas for writers with example responses".

The books I got were "51 and a half games and ideas for writers with example responses" (Vanessa Gebbie), "Scratching the Sands (NFFD anthology 2023)", "Other household toxins" (Christopher Allen), "The yet unknowing world" (Fiona J.Macintosh), and "with one eye on the cows (Bath Flash Fiction Volume 4)". There were well over a dozen novella-in-flash books at the bookshop - a growth sector.

Friday, 14 July 2023

A few acceptances and many submissions

I'm ticking over at about 1 a month. Recently there's been

  • Side effects (And other poems)
  • Pick-up (Flashflood)
  • "A promising writer" (Flash) in "51 and a half games and ideas for writers" (Vanessa Gebbie)

In the post I have -

  • 9 Stories, 3 of them in competitions. I think my best stories remain unpublished so I'll keep plugging away.
  • 9 Flashes. Unlike the stories and poems, most of these were written in the last year.
  • 12 Poems. Most of these go back a long way - decades even.

Friday, 23 June 2023

A quiet time

It's been a quiet few weeks. I've been writing prose. Poetry has dried up, so I've been raiding my old stuff. Early in May I had 36 pieces in the post, which made a month of rejections inevitable. 3 successes (and £20!) kept me going, along with the allotment. Here's what's growing so far -

Potatoes60 plants
Pumpkins/Courgettes15 plants
Berlotti beans20 plants
French beans9 plants
Rhubarb5 plants
Raspberries2 bushes
Redcurrants10 bushes

Wednesday, 26 April 2023

Poetry at Ely, 25th April

I went to an evening of poetry with Sarah Mnatzaganian, Kathy Pimlott, and Ramona Herdman at Topping & Company, Ely. The poets all read accessible, conversational pieces with edgy humour. I don't know how typical that is of their works. Of the three, perhaps I have the most in common with Ramona Herdman - we both have allotments, degrees from UEA and publications from HappenStance and Nine Arches Press. Lachlan Mackinnon was in the audience I think. He's local, but there were people who'd come from Nottingham, London, etc.

The streets were quiet after. I like Ely - the contrast of cathedral, market square and riverside life - marina, boat houses and houseboats.

Friday, 21 April 2023

The reader-writer relationship

I think my attitude to the reader-writer contract is pretty standard. A reader looks at a text and decides on an initial reading strategy, taking into account genre, length, shape, reputation of author etc. Experienced readers are more likely to adjust their strategy, or adopt a sub-strategy. Readers may give up if their strategy isn't working. They may decide that the piece isn't good [of its type - the type the reader perhaps wrongly assumes] or that the author has deliberately misled them. They may find the deception irritating or playful.

Sometimes authors give advice on how to their texts might be read. In her recent "More than Weeds" L.Kiew writes "I do not italicise words because none of them are 'other', 'exotic' or 'foreign' to me ... I believe that all comunication is to some extent partial and problematic; and poetry is to me one of the least dogmatic of the artforms ... readers are curious and able to enjoy the sounds and shapes, to dig out meaning from context, and to explore using the many tools and resources [that] are available online". I like it when authors try to help in this way - I don't think it "collapses polysemy", it makes me trust the author and read on. But I don't think writers should assume that readers will be curious rather than irritated.

Of course, a book might succeed despite an author's intentions (a piece meant to be taken serious may best be read as a comedy) or the advice may be part of the game.

I use obscurity as a device, and I've some understanding about the uses of obscurity (see my poetry and obscurity article for example) but over the years I've come to distrust authors more often. I'm less willing to battle through obscurity if I see no purpose in it other than trying to mask the author's inadequacies - i.e. if I think the author without aesthetic loss could have reduced the muddle, I wonder what their game is. I'd like more authors to appreciate the disadvantages of using obscurity - e.g. that readers might stop reading, might think the author thoughtless, elitist, or rude.

Amongst the newer examples of obscurity I see nowadays is when in the same book a poet uses various alternatives to line-breaks, and sometimes uses inline spaces instead of commas. If a poet makes readers think that there's a purpose (meaning) to something, the poet shouldn't be surprised when readers are frustrated to discover that there is no reason why "/" is used in one poem, "|" in another and line-breaks in another. Poetry layouts can all too easily become obscure - even good old line-breaks are often puzzling enough.

For some other viewpoints see -

Tuesday, 18 April 2023

Freston Tower

I had the 5th floor of Freston Tower all to myself for 3 nights. It's said to be the nation's oldest folly. Built in the 1500s it overlooks the Orwell estuary.

From the top you can see Orwell bridge, wading birds (Bar-tailed godwits, Oyster-catchers etc) and, if you're lucky, your own shadow. Not an ivory tower, more a writers retreat with exercise built into the life-style. The spiral staircases and a 30 mile cycle ride kept me fit. Sun, hailstones and lots of mud.

We walked down the coast to see Arthur Ransome's house. I've not read his books, some of which were set in the area.

Further down the coast from Pin Mill was a little village of houseboats. Unlike those I've seen on the Cam some of these had big new superstructures, and didn't look mobile. One was called "The Ark".

Further down still were abandoned boats. 2 men with tripods and cameras were there. I can see the attraction of the setting.

This museum was a surprise - the naval training establishment closed in 1976. The view from it of Harwich container port appealed to 2 men with a tripod and drone.

Sunday, 9 April 2023

Bath to Bournemouth bike ride

A gentle 2 days starting at a mile long tunnel, going via Frome, Longleat, Shaftesbury, Blandford Forum and Wimbourne to Poole and finally Bournemouth Pier.

On the edge of Frome we saw the house of Miss Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell) who also had a part in Stingray. The town centre had a trendy street.

At Gillingham, on the way to Shaftesbury, we saw a bridge that Constable painted. Golden Lane at Shaftesbury has been painted and jigsawed many times.

Bournemouth on Easter Saturday was lively. Saw a fox crossing a residential street at about 5:30pm.

Wednesday, 5 April 2023

Jon Stone at Cambridge Writers

Jon Stone was the speaker at last night's hybrid Cambridge Writers meeting. He told us about the kind of poetry that interested him, and read out a "manifesto" before reading some examples. He's interested in dissolving boundaries - between writer and reader, between authors (hence collaborations), between genres, and between games and poetry.

He pointed out that poetry's more suited to games than prose is - it already has rules, it has units (lines, stanzas) that can be recombined, it already has an audience prepared to put work in, and there's little marketing pressure. He saw himself working in a niche within the niche of poetry, both as a participant and a publisher.

Sunday, 2 April 2023

Cambridge's CB1 is closing

CB1 held its last poetry event - at least for a while - tonight. It's been going for well over a decade. I've attended it at various venues, among them CB1 (an Internet Cafe), The Boat house pub, CB2, and most recently the Blue Moon pub. Among the guest poets have been Patience Agbabi, Emily Berry, Roddy Lumsden, Don Paterson, Hugo Williams, etc. (recordings are online) and the open-mic sessions have always been fun.

Saturday, 18 March 2023

States of Independence (2023)

I went to States of Independence in Leicester today. I caught up with D.A. Prince and Roy Marshall (both as charming as ever), and went to some talks. Most interesting was one about AI and creativity.

  • Simon Perril looked at the history of creativity, asking "Is self-expression all there is?". He mentioned Chatterton, Dada, Oulipo, Flarf, found poetry etc. I hadn't seen "Tree of Codes" by Jonathan Safran Foer. Curation, recycling, and re-contextualing have always been part of the tradition (moreso in pre-copyright times - often the norm). What happens when writers put together pre-existing phrases rather than pre-existing words?
  • Prof Tracy Harwood followed this up by showing milestones in the progression of AI - Lovelace, Turing, Deep Blue - then concentrated on art and writing. The art examples especially impressed me. Photoshop-like effects are where the style/content separation ideas took off. Some artists using AI describe the results as collaborations, which is fair enough.

Before, I passed an axe-throwing place near the city centre. After, I visited West End (Narborough Road) for the first time. I didn't know it existed. I've only gone along the Golden Mile before. I wasn't hungry but next time I am, I'll know where to go.

Sunday, 5 March 2023

CB1 - Peter Daniels

Tonight Peter Daniels was the main act at CB1. He and I have had pamphlets published by HappenStance. There the similarities end - "Peter Daniels has won many prizes including the Arvon and TLS poetry competitions and has published several collections and pamphlets including two Poetry Business prizewinners". Performers often read from their phones nowadays. It was heartening to see that Peter read from real books containing multi-colour post-its. In the first half he read some of his translations of Vladislav Khodasevich. I bought "My Tin Watermelon", his 2109 Salt book.

The open-mic poems certainly had their moments - "Two years aren't enough to quench the why", "When the rain bongoed ... on the roof" etc.

Wednesday, 1 March 2023

Cephalopress Writers in Conversation: Alexandra Fössinger

Yesterday I attended a Zoom event featuring Alexandra Fössinger. There was discussion between poet and publishers with just a few poems, then a Q+A session. I think the format worked well.

She revealed that there was a significant backstory to her recent book, "Contrapasso". Does knowing the backstory help with appreciating the poems? Not especially, but I was interested to know that she had felt the need to conceal details, and distance herself from the story (by writing in English, etc). She said she hadn't realised that she'd concealed so much and had made an effort during rewrites to be less obscure, but she liked the idea of leaving areas that readers might get lost in. A difficult balance.

Whenever a poem is driven by intense emotion it must be hard for the poet to assess its effect on the reader. I don't trust my evaluation of such poems that I write, and am wary of sending them away - justifiably in most cases, in retrospect. But achieving that objectivity can take years. Might as well let editors make earlier decisions.

Sunday, 26 February 2023


I went to Coventry yesterday. I haven't been there since it was UK City of Culture in 2021. And I've never visited Fargo Village - a bit like a little Camden Lock but with more containers.

I didn't know about The Philip Larkin pub either, or Dippy the dinosaur. But I knew about the roofless cathedral, the medieval (restored) buildings that survived the wartime bombings, the canals etc. It's an interesting city to wander around. The house where my grandfather lived as a children no longer exists. Even the street has gone.

I knew about Godiva of course (there's a taylor's shop named after her) but I'd forgotten about Peeping Tom. On the drive home I popped into Rugby (Rubert Brooke's birthplace; a statue of him's there) and Market Harborough (with its "improve the time" sundial).

Friday, 17 February 2023

Judging short story competitions

The Bristol short story prize in 2022 attracted 2,545 entries. With a word limit of 4,000 words, that’s getting on for 10 million words to read. How is a winner found? It’s a lot of effort, which is reflected in the entry fee for story competitions – often 50% higher than the fee for poetry. And the reading is usually shared out.

Tracy Fells wrote in 2021 that “the hardest part of any competition is getting past the early readers.” First impressions matter – it’s like speed dating. Many entries are eliminated at this stage because they don’t follow the rules. And a weak beginning might be sufficient excuse to dump a piece, especially after a long day of reading.

In the Bristol competition less than 1% of the stories get through to the short-list, so getting that far is worth mentioning in CVs. Given the range of tastes of the judges, and margins of error, there’s no guarantee that all the “best” stories will get through. I recall one judge of another competition, subsequently seeing a non-shortlisted piece in print, saying that if they’d seen the piece as a judge it would have won a prize.

To impress in the final stage of judging, speed-dating tricks alone won’t work – there needs to be more to the story than meets the eye. If there’s more than one judge at the final stage, the winning entry may be a compromise. Long ago in a Stand magazine poetry competition the 2 judges disagreed so much that in the end they each produced a list of prizewinners. More recently a short Flash piece won a story competition, which upset some entrants. Since then, more competitions have a minimum word limit as well as a maximum one.

To check on the first-stage judges, some stories acknowledged to be good could be added to the entries.

The final-stage judges want to be asked again, and the competition organisers want more entries next time, so there’s pressure towards selecting winners that losers won’t object to. Often the more daring pieces are only commended, however good they are.

Monday, 13 February 2023


I like tight plots and neat endings. I like other structures too of course, but not the endings that look as if the author ran out of puff. Michael Donaghy used to get away with tight pieces but they seem out of fashion nowadays, especially in poetry, partly as a consequence of Forms being used less, and partly because more poems are in a voice, and people don't organise their thoughts neatly. There's more ostentatious unravelling than modest attempts to tidy up a little corner of the world. Certainty is suspect. Openness gives readers the chance to think that there's more to it than meets the eye.

Open-endedness isn't easy to do well. Multiple unspecified possibilities are easy to hint at. A character may finally gaze at the horizon, throw away a map, or close the door behind them, pause, then walk on - signifying a new start into the unknown. Or maybe an either/or option is ahead - a character may be deciding whether to say "yes" to a proposal, or to run. Harder is to somehow make the ending shed new light on the earlier content.

Tuesday, 31 January 2023

Hardy Country

I visited Hardy's Wessex last weekend. His National Trust cottage wasn't open, but I managed to visit his Casterbridge (Dorchester) and some other locations.

Weymouth (Hardy's Budmouth). This is a Bathing Machine (a changing room that could be wheeled in and out of the water). There are many palm trees down there.

Puddletown (Hardy's Weatherbury)

Wareham isn't in Hardy's book, though it's on the Hardy Way. My father was born there. The Quay is the subject of more than one jigsaw.

Corfe Castle, on the Hardy Way, isn't in his books either. It's another popular jigsaw and photography subject. It's halfway between my father's birthplace and Swanage, my mother's. A car like the one in the jigsaw was parked down the road towards Swanage.

Swanage (Hardy's Knollsea). Here's a concrete pillbox, crab and lobster pots, and a folly from London. The ships that took Portland stone to London were ballasted with odds and ends for the return journey - bollards, etc.

The Globe, on the edge of Swanage. Sudan is huge.

Thursday, 12 January 2023

Portsmouth Jigsaw

I'm into jigsaws, so I was pleased when I got a jigsaw of Portsmouth (where I was born) for Christmas. I left the place long ago. I don't recognise all the features on the jigsaw. Here are some that I do

Dickens' birthplace (my birthplace is only a few hundred metres away).

The school I attended for 7 years has changed its name to Portsmouth College from (elitist?) Southern Grammar School.

The Guildhall where I came 3rd in the UK U-18s chess championship

South Parade Pier, where I had a vacation cleaning job that I cycled 5 mile to, early in the mornings.

The Victory, which my father was responsible for. He was invited to a Buckingham Palace party.

The hospital where my father died.

Fratton Park - I went there just before Xmas. Two of my siblings are season-ticket holders

An end-of-the-beach snack bar which is open all winter. The jigsaw was bought there.

Saturday, 7 January 2023

Origami and poetry

In "The Dark Horse" issue 46, Michael Longley says that this is one of his best poems -

Why shouldn't they make use of my failures,
Early versions, outlines, my granddaughters
Conjuring frogs and birds out of scrap paper
And laying my lost words on a swan's wing?

It's from his new book. The interviewer Matt Howard enjoyed it too. Longley goes on to say "as I've grown older, I think my sense of timing is better. I know that if I have to labour over a poem, it's not going to be any good" and agrees that "every mark on the page needs to be doing something of value in service of the poem." I note that

  • Origami is a familiar theme in poems - see for example allpoetry's origami page or "Reckless Paper Birds" by John McCullough. I wonder how original this poem is. I've used the making of paper planes in poetry and prose to indicate giving flight to failure or making light of sad things (bills, etc). A bin is the plane's most common destination.
  • Each line starts with an upper case letter. What are those marks on the page for? And what do the line-breaks do?
  • "they" in the first line turns out to be the granddaughters. Redundancy?
  • the "scrap paper" of line 3 is what's listed in line 2. Redundancy? HN pointed out that the girls just see the "scrap paper", not the poetry.
  • Why "early versions" (4 syllables!) rather than "drafts"? HN pointed out that versions, unlike drafts, can be valid and final.
  • Why "make use of" rather than "use"? Because there had to be 10 syllables per line? But why?
  • Sonically "lost" is useful (the "L" echoes the earlier "L", and "lost words" chimes with "swan's wing") but what does it mean?
  • Maybe the final line's an allusion or quotation - "laying words" sounds odd. You lay eggs or bricks. "layering words" would give the origami idea of folding and the idea of propagation.
  • Why "granddaughters" rather than "kids"? In the interview he says that the poem was inspired by his granddaughters' antics, but "granddaughters" is 3 syllables!

So playing devil's advocate, let's do some labouring and eliminate the putative redundancy, thereby removing nearly half(!) of the syllables -

Why shouldn't my kids conjure frogs and birds from my drafts, laying my lost words on a swan's wing?

How much worse is this version? Half as good?

  • If the original's bloat is only there for the sonics, I don't think it's worth keeping (though I'm rather cloth-eared)
  • In the original we might at first think "they" has a more general meaning - future generations, for example. And "my early versions" can be read as versions of himself rather than just poetry drafts. I think that's an interpretation worth preserving.
  • In the original, the line-breaks encourage the idea that "my granddaughters" belong to the list of failures, which seems odd.

The best version is somewhere between these two, I guess. Maybe he said it was a favourite to please his granddaughters.

Monday, 2 January 2023

How many poems does a story cost?

Looking at my yearly stats, I can see that I write more poems when I write fewer flash pieces. And my stories often involve episodes (epiphany moments in particular) that might otherwise have become flash pieces.

Sometimes I look through my journals/notebooks to find fragments that will inspire me to write. More often I wait until 2 fragments link up. This inspires me to write a first draft. I then sweep through the fragments again, to find ways to bulk up the piece. Once I'm writing a short story it sucks in many little details and observations.

So I reckon that a flash piece costs a poem. A story costs at least 3 flashes or poems.