Things I’m Reading Thursday (Friday!) #12
So I didn’t make it yesterday… don’t judge me!
Firstly some final thoughts on the Sentinel Literary Quarterly poetry contest! The top three winning poems are now up at the Sentinel website, and I’m very pleased to announce that they are: The Real Red Riding Hood by former London Poetry Festival Poet-In-Residence Christian Ward, Acting Blackbird by Roger Elkin and Aquarium by Michael Conley.
Some of the Highly Commended and ‘judge’s choice’ entrants have been in touch to ask why their poems haven’t been posted — never fear, those have been saved for the next print issue of SLQ, which will be available in August. Keep an eye on the SLQ blog for updates!
Finally, you can read my judge’s report, which gives a bit of insight into why I picked out the poems I did, right here. I absolutely loved judging the contest so if anyone wants me to do another one…? I’m also thinking of running a One Night Stanzas poetry contest now I’ve had an insight into how it’s all done. All those in favour, please say ‘aye!’ in the comments box… I’d like to be able to sniff out how much interest it might potentially get!
So what else have I been reading this week?
Curious Pursuits by Margaret Atwood
If you’ve been here before you probably know by now that I’m a massive Atwood fangirl. My first experience of her writing was when I was about fourteen and had to write a book report for my high school English class. My high school library was pretty small and the selection was limited… there was also an age-band system in place (which I just accepted at the time but which now shocks me to the core), so some sections were off-limits to anyone under 16. I wandered aimlessly into the library and picked up the first novel whose cover design appealed to me… and that book was Lady Oracle (this particular edition had a picture of a woman’s long, bright-red hair with sunglasses tangled in it. I’d just dyed my hair red for the first time, so that’s probably what struck me). I utterly loved the book, and moved on almost immediately to The Blind Assassin, which had just won the Booker Prize that year, and I now count it as one of my desert-island, all-time top five novels.
My favourite book of Atwood’s (so far) though is Negotiating with the Dead, a series of lectures on writers and the writing process that later became a printed critical work. It’s the cornerstone of my ongoing PhD thesis and the best book about “being a writer” that I’ve ever read. I’ve been meaning for ages to write a post about it here, and would encourage you all to go out and buy a copy immediately. It was my much-read, much-creased copy of Negotiating with the Dead that Atwood signed for me when I met her (and greatly embarrassed myself) at Edinburgh College of Art a couple of years ago.
So, to cut a long story short, Curious Pursuits has been on my to-read list for a long time. It’s a collection of funny little bits and pieces of writing that Atwood’s collected up and stuck together to make a strange — and of course brilliant — collage of a book. Dating back to early writings, Curious Pursuits includes book reviews, obituaries, critical essays and articles of all shapes and sizes. My copy, which was pristine when I bought it only a few weeks ago, is now a well-used fan of post-it-note page markers. Atwood’s review of The Witches of Eastwick made me want to go out and read some Updike RIGHT THEN; her recollections of travelling in Europe and her relationship with her aunts suddenly made so much stuff from Lady Oracle slot into place, which sent me whirling back to the bookshelf like a dervish, wanting to re-read it. It’s a pretty special book that starts a chain-reaction of MUST READ THAT NEXT AND THEN THAT AND THEN THAT. So er, while you’re out buying Negotiating with the Dead? Better grab yourselves a copy of this, too.
What have you been reading this week?