Sunday, 14 December 2008

Bad week badder week. Wednesday 10 December 2008

How to write about this without sounding surly and malevolent? When I told my proper writer friend that what I am aiming for is candid she suggested choosing the most truthful or relevant details and leaving the rest of it out.

Last week of first semester, poetry week; we started with a workshop led by Jeremy Over on compiling poems with words and phases cut out from other pieces of text as in William Burroughs of the Beat Generation. This was fine.

Then on to discussing our poems from last week; I thought I’d heard an Oscar Wilde quotation to the effect that, ‘no friend is as good as a new friend’. The premise being that when you take up with someone at work or a class or wherever - initially you imagine you’ve lots in common. As you get to know each other better, and maybe in different contexts disparities become evident. I wrote a poem called New friends are the best friends, using four examples of this breakdown; it included the person you only meet at the pub so you think you’re both really witty and entertaining until you meet in the sober light of day and realise how dull you both are, and the friend you imagine you’ve everything in common with until you meet her partner (who she is devoted to) and find he’s a vile tyrant and a bit of a racist. In essence friends don’t always travel well; and I’m not even talking about going on holiday with people - that’d be a epic not a poem.

I joked to Jenn last week that I couldn’t comment on Skating to Antarctica having a novel's structure and tricks because I’ve only done life writing and poetry this far.

The way feedback works in the Poet’s class is you listen, everyone says what they like about your poem, and then they say what they might change and then you can respond. Frankie uses a similar system (nice things then a criticism) in her primary school and terms it 3 stars and a wish. I’ve genuinely never known what to expect in terms of feedback but I really didn’t see this one coming. We stood around the poem and stared at it like it’s a huge washed-up jellyfish, mostly dead but still capable of nipping. People poked it with their sticks, listlessly turning over the edges but not saying much. Two people mention they had first though it was about our group; it wasn’t but I understand why they might infer that. Then the itdoesn’tdoitforme person enumerated what didn’t do it for them – Oh, we skipping the 3 stars and capering straight to the wish then? This clears the way; the poem needs structure, imagery and inventive language and it raised issues around Is a poem a poem because the person says it is. I reel, eyes stinging, pride stinging. Really? All of that? Something I’ve thought about and messed with for days has less merit than an arrangement of cuttings compiled in an hour? Except I didn’t say anything because I’m craven. I was obdurate and sullen and as we discussed other peoples work I thought indecorous things, which I’ll not list because I’m only aiming at candid not at confirming how shifty and unpleasant I am. I am leaving the rest out.

I’ve done life writing and and I've done poetry. I’ve been back and poked at me poem with the stick a hundred times and still don’t understand why it wasn’t even worthy of one star. To borrow from Jenny Diski, now wish I hadn’t dicked around during poetry and deprived myself of answers to most of the questions.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Good week bad week. Wednesday 3 December 2008

First you bond then you don’t; seemed to spend a lot of time talking about my life writing Funeral piece (as it were - I suppose death writing funeral piece even). It made me feel guilty and overbearing for monopolising the time and actually just emphasised my deficiencies. Not so much my inability to write, but my incapacity to understand what’s the sod's going on; stylistics I suppose. Anyway I’ve bought the book by Laura Wright and Jonathan Hope; now I just have to osmosis in the understanding. And I was mildly brassed-off that I’d spent loads of, well - minutes, writing feedback to give to the others; and no one had written any feedback to give to me. Don’t think I mean you Joe! And I’m over it, and I know it’s hard – hell, not so over it then.

I was driving home very unsafely on 1 December because I couldn’t stop looking at the moon and Venus and Jupiter; although I didn’t know that was what I was looking at until I got home and looked it up. Well I recognised the moon, obviously.
Gareth Edwards from Cardiff took this picture.

Ali and I went to meet Frankie in Birmingham to shop and eat Bratwurst. We went inside a sports shop which was hard on us all, and then we went with Ali into an out-of-doors shop because Al needed to buy some four seasons socks for John. Transpires it‘s also possible to purchase three seasons socks, which set us wondering, which season aren’t you supposed to wear three seasons socks for? And what’ll happen if you do?

When I had my hair cut, not the last time but the time before, I tuned into a conversation without realising. What caught my attention was, “that milk float’s the ideal cover”. I had to overhear extra hard to get this into context. Transpires some flags have gone missing from the back of premises somewhere at Lostock Hall. Flappy flags or sandstone flags I can only speculate, but I like the idea of the getaway milk float. Ideal wouldn’t be the description that would spring to my mind, overlooking its obvious limitations as a vehicle for hurried departure, the back of a milk float strikes me as a tad exposed for transporting swag.

I've preordered a book written by my friend,
Jenn Ashworth from Amazon; it's called A Kind of Intimacy (that isn't going to be the cover). I can't read Jenn's blog at the moment because I just copy what she writes, word for word. When I did go on to it a few days ago to check out what the real cover will be I was reminded that Jenny Diski has reviewed her book, very positively. (And I did start to copy and I'm not actually having any problems with my internet provider).