Wednesday 27 March 2024

Artists and writers

This is how a now dead artist I knew left his studio. Clean.

This was during our Turkey trip I think. Note that he's making the mosaic with the back uppermost - he can't see what he's making.

How I drafted the graphics for my computer game a long time ago.

If only I could make short stories that look like this - baffling until you look at them the right way.

An extract from my notebook. All my poems and most of my stories begin here.

This is on sale at Science/Medicine museums - it looks like a syringe though it's a pen. I'll leave you to work out the symbolism.

Sitting in Roald Dahl's chair, hoping for inspiration. He used a brush on the felt table-top to start his writing sessions.

Looking through my photo archive for this blog post I found this photo. I think the tookbox is upstairs. Maybe I should open it again.

Thursday 14 March 2024

It's personal

By default in poems, "I" is the poet. In a poetry book with several poems about "mother", it's tempting to assume they're all about the same person. These assumptions aren't always correct. At the very least, names might be changed to protect the innocent. Details might be adjusted to improve a poem - events might be conflated or exaggerated; surplus details and people might be edited out.

Policies vary. In "Material" by Ros Barber (Anvil, 2008) there's little to stop readers identifying the persona with the poet. The Acknowledgements page ends with "Finally, apologies are due to all those individuals who find themselves incorporated as 'material' when they would have chosen otherwise"

Robert Lowell used quotes from letters by (ex) wife Elizabeth Hardwick when writing "The Dolphin". He did so without permission. When he changed details for aesthetic reasons, it sometimes made Hardwick look worse than she was. The book won a Pulitzer.

Perhaps more writers should wear a tee-shirt like I got one Xmas. Don't worry - I don't write novels. Anyway, I'm careful when writing about people living or dead. More than once I've shown someone a poem/story, asking if I could publish it. And the "I" in my poems is often not me even when the details come from my life.

Thursday 7 March 2024

3 events this week

On Sunday I went to CB1 - live, open-mic poetry in Cambridge. Maybe 30 people were there. My favourites were a poem about grief (with mirrors and boxes) and a comic piece that kept coming up with good lines (I wish I'd written some down). I read a 250 word piece of Flash - maybe the shortest piece of the night.

On Monday I Zoomed into a Milton Keynes Lit Fest event - a discussion about Flash with Electra Rhodes and Jupiter Jones. About 70 people attended. Rhodes gave some useful checklists of ways to improve a text. One idea is to use vocabulary from one domain (e.g. knitting) for a piece that has nothing to do with that domain. What most struck me was the number of Flash pieces she's published given that she only started writing Flash during Covid. I manage about 5 published Flashes a year.

Tonight, Thursday, I Zoomed into a Matthew Stewart reading (Fire River Poets) - about 20 people, half of them doing open-mic. There was a short discussion after about Factual Truth vs Poetic Truth, and the influence of Larkin. When Larkin wrote "Every poem starts out as either true or beautiful. Then you try to make the true ones seem beautiful and the beautiful ones true" maybe by beauty he meant poetic truth.

Friday 1 March 2024

Drafts on paper

When I'm at workshops others seem to come up with finished products in minutes. Not me. My first drafts (even of poems) aren't much good. I'm a rewriter.

My first drafts are always hand-written. When I transfer them to a computer I still mostly edit on paper, printing them out so I can scribble on them. I use arrows (or sometimes numbers) to indicate changes in the sentence and clause order - I'm not good at getting the ordering right first time. I usually add more text than I take away. The closer to a final draft I get, the more I take into account the reader viewpoint. Just before I send a piece off I sometimes make changes purely for the editor (paying particular attention to the first paragraph, etc).

Editing on paper is becoming a lost art. Fortunately, Flaubert’s messy drafts have been scanned in – see for example "I, chap 7 : La levrette Djali - définitif, folio 91". My rewriting workshop talk has more examples.