Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Blogging Tour

Roy Marshall has kindly asked me to take part in a 'blogging tour' - basically a chain of blog posts by poets on a series of shared questions. I'm a little bit behind with getting my post done, and haven't yet found enough people to add to the chain myself, so I'm already feeling a little inadequate. Hopefully there isn't a curse for messing it up, like with those chain letters people used to send through the post! Anyway, to get an idea of what others have been writing, you can follow the chain back to Roy's post here.

The four questions I have to answer are as follows:

1) What am I working on?

At the moment, nothing. I haven't written anything in weeks, but that's not unusual. I have to write for my work (certainly not poetry) and I also write reviews, as well as posting stuff on this blog, so I never feel I'm not writing something. Nevertheless, sometimes the poetry part of my brain just switches off for a while. I suppose if I was a full-time poet, I'd develop some tricks for getting myself out of the rut, but as I have other things going on too, I just devote my attention to those until I come across something I have to write about. This may be why I have never entirely gotten on with workshops, although they can be great fun. Writing to a prompt or in response to an exercise makes me feel like I'm writing something that doesn't really need to be written, or that I don't need to write, to be more precise.

In the broader scheme of things, I'm secretly working on first collection of poetry. Well, not so secretly now. I haven't secured a publisher as yet (I'm sure the phone will start ringing at any moment), but I've suddenly arrived in a place where, when I finish a poem, I think is that going in the collection? Not that I feel like any cohesion is beginning to emerge as yet, but the thought of a first collection is making me want to write bigger, more ambitious pieces.
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
As I've said elsewhere, what really intrigues me about the process of putting my poetry out there into the world is that other people have a much better sense of what it is that I do, and what distinguishes what I do from other people's work, than I could ever have. A lot of the time, I'm actually trying to be like other poets whose work I think is much better, and failing.

3) Why do I write what I do?
I think poetry can say anything. I'm always a bit surprised when people think that I've touched on a difficult subject, because it never occurs to me that anything should be off limits. Poetry is a realm of absolute freedom. Having said that, most of my poems are fairly harmless, but I do like that feeling that poetry can go anywhere. I am braver in poetry than in my 'real' life.

4) How does your writing process work?
I don't compose in my head, but I do carry poems around with me, something like the shape of them or the sound, for quite a while before I start writing. There are some poems I know I am going to write that I've been trying to commit to paper for a long time, but which haven't quite found their voice and their form. When I know I can write them, I can often imagine them, see them even, but with only certain details clear. Then they sort of come into focus while I write them. Establishing a rhythm, if not a strict meter, is the first part of the writing process, finding the sounds that work, then writing, re-writing, hearing the advice of friends I trust. Some poems take years to settle down into the shape and sound they need, with others it can happen very quickly.

Well, that's all of the questions answered.

I haven't yet got the requisite three bloggers to add to the chain, but I do have one very interesting one so far: poet and novelist Deborah Harvey. You can find her blog here.

With luck, I'll be able to add some links to other blogs in the coming days. I'm very much open to suggestions if someone wants to be added to the chain. Just post a comment below!

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