Posts Tagged ‘resources for writers’

Procrastination Station #129

Friday, July 11th, 2014

Something changed inside me,  you were fading away.

You write because you have an idea in your mind that feels so genuine, so important, so true. And yet, by the time this idea passes through the different filters of your mind, and into your hand, and onto the page or computer screen—it becomes distorted, and it’s been diminished. The writing you end up with is an approximation, if you’re lucky, of whatever it was you really wanted to say.
When this happens, it’s quite a sobering reminder of your limitations as a writer. It can be extremely frustrating. When I’m writing, a thought will occasionally pass unblemished, unperturbed, through my head onto the screen—clearly, like through a glass. It’s an intoxicating, euphoric sensation to feel that I’ve communicated something so real, and so true. But this doesn’t happen often. (I can only think that there are some writers who write that way all the time. I think that’s the difference between greatness and just being good.)
Even my finished books are approximations of what I intended to do. I try to narrow the gap, as much as I possibly can, between what I wanted to say and what’s actually on the page. But there’s still a gap, there always is. It’s very, very difficult. And it’s humbling.

Just one of the brilliant, comforting and very true thoughts from How To Write: A Year In Advice. Read it! Even Jonathan Franzen has something sensible to say!

Scottish poetry books to buy in July — thanks, SPL! (I already have Dat Trickster Sun and it’s great!)

This is a great article by Scottish Book Trust’s Chris, on why Michael Gove’s new “ideas” for the classroom are more harmful than people think.

I don’t even know what to say about this: “I don’t mean that Twitter is stupid but rather that it rewards careful phrasing, careful impersonating, brisk readings of cultural attitudes — in short, rhetoric.” Go ahead and replace “Twitter” with “poetry” in that last sentence and tell me if the meaning changes any for you.

How Not To Review Women’s Writing is just completely sublime.

I just discovered Kim Addonizio’s twitter feed, and it’s full of small poems she’s written specially for Twitter! Brighten up your lunch break!

Reading can ruin your life. Trufax.

Not many writers manage to get sober and those who do often suffer a decline in output: testament not so much to the power of alcohol as a creative stimulant as to its role in destroying brain function, obliterating memory and playing havoc with the ability to formulate and express thought in former alcoholics. But Duras wrote one of her best and certainly most famous novels two years after she stopped drinking. The Lover tells the story of a 15-year-old French girl in Indochina who has an erotic relationship with – yes – a much older Chinese man. Much of the book was drawn from the violence and degradation from which Duras had emerged.

This article about women writers who drank was so good that I went straight out and bought the author’s book.

Where to submit your writing this summer. You’re welcome.

Here is a list of all of the books referenced on Orange Is The New Black in case you wanted to know.

Would it have made Sexton happy to know she won the award by default? She thought she’d won based on the merit of her work. Everyone else (except perhaps those in the know, the literary elite) thought so, too. That’s how awards look—on the outside. In the end, none of the jurors got what they wanted. And the Pulitzer Prize made Anne Sexton a star. She was primed for it: beautiful, sexy, chain-smoking, death-obsessed—“the living Sylvia Plath,” as she came to call herself. The first two books she wrote after winning the Pulitzer, Love Poems and Transformations, were bestsellers. They’re Sexton at her apex. The prize gave her confidence; it loosened her up. In Transformations she even let herself have some good, mordant fun.

How Anne Sexton won the Pulitzer Prize.

I guess I have to stop making snarky comments about James Patterson now.

This is a super positive way to look at rejection!

So what happens to nerdy guys who keep finding out that the princess they were promised is always in another castle? When they “do everything right,” they get good grades, they get a decent job, and that wife they were promised in the package deal doesn’t arrive? When the persistent passive-aggressive Nice Guy act fails, do they step it up to elaborate Steve-Urkel-esque stalking and stunts? Do they try elaborate Revenge of the Nerds-style ruses? Do they tap into their inner John Galt and try blatant, violent rape?
Do they buy into the “pickup artist” snake oil—started by nerdy guys, for nerdy guys—filled with techniques to manipulate, pressure and in some cases outright assault women to get what they want? Or when that doesn’t work, and they spend hours a day on sites bitching about how it doesn’t work, like Elliot Rodger’s hangout “PUAHate.com,” sometimes, do they buy some handguns, leave a manifesto on the Internet and then drive off to a sorority house to murder as many women as they can?

Your Princess Is In Another Castle is one of the best things I’ve seen written about Elliot Rodger and the tragic Isla Vista shootings…

…and another is this poem by Freesia McKee.

I really want to see this movie (named after my favourite song).

Instead of your real phone number, give a guy who’s bothering you the number of the bell hooks hotline! (WE NEED THIS IN THE UK.)

Tattoos on old people.

I like this picture of my cellulite is rather heart-warming. (And possibly, ought to be a body acceptance hashtag.)

OK, everyone go home. This eleven year old wins at everything.

DOG GIFS ALL DAY LONG BECAUSE FRIDAY.


Who needs Westeros?


THANK YOU SO MUCH SARAH for sending this woman into my life. (Don’t ask questions. Just watch this.)


& finally… here is a cat beating a human at Jenga.

Have a great weekend!

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Like shiny things? Check out Edinburgh Vintage, a totally unrelated ’sister site’ full of jewels, treasures and trinkets. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!

(Photo credit)

Procrastination Station #127

Friday, May 23rd, 2014

take it easy

Average earnings in the UK were around £26,500 in 2012. To make this amount on a book contract for a paperback edition selling at £7.99 that pays 10% a writer would need to sell 33,166 copies a year. And that’s if the book isn’t discounted as part of a 3 for 2 promotion, for example. That is a lot of books! To put it in perspective to get to number one in the UK paperback chart last month you’d have needed to sell almost 20,000 copies a week. This means that going to number 1 doesn’t even earn you the national average wage (and that book may have taken the writer months or even years to produce). The odds of making a mint are very long - writing is a risky profession. And like most jobs in the UK there is a glass ceiling. Female writers on average earn only 77.5% as much as their male counterparts. Their books are also less likely to get reviewed in the traditional press or for that matter win awards.

Can’t believe I forgot to link this in my last PS. If you read nothing else from this post, read this: Sara Sheridan being real about what writers earn.

Nic Cage wants you to READ, and other hilarious and shocking moments in literary history.

OMG Julianne Moore has been cast as President Coin in the Mockingjay movies and look, she’s perfect.

[Paterson] is counselling against navel-gazing, against writing for the precious few, but his notion of the poor, undoted-upon general reader is a vision of himself in the throne room of every individual’s brain.

Jon Stone of Sidekick Books called out Don Paterson on what can only be described as some major bullshit. And it’s amazing.

The habits of highly sensitive people. aka, writers.

Muriel Rukeyser had some extremely smart things to say about poetry.

I’m only a year or so into an MFA. I stop by the office of a friend, an older white poet in my department. Publication to me feels impossible then, and the friend means to be encouraging when he says, “With a name like Jaswinder Bolina, you could publish plenty of poems right now if you wrote about the first-generation, minority stuff. What I admire is that you don’t write that kind of poetry.” He’s right. I don’t write “that kind” of poetry. To him, this is upstanding, correct, what a poet ought to do. It’s indicative of a vigor exceeding that of other minority poets come calling. It turns out I’m a hard worker too. I should be offended—if not for myself, then on behalf of writers who do take on the difficult subject of minority experience in their poetry—but I understand that my friend means no ill by it. To his mind, embracing my difference would open editorial inboxes, but knowing that I tend to eschew/exclude/deny “that kind” of subject in my poetry, he adds, “This’ll make it harder for you.”

Freesia sends me all the best links. This essay is called Writing Like A White Guy, and it is brilliant.

Here’s a big list of feminist literary resources. You’re welcome.

And here’s a nice poem I liked.

THAT THIS IS WHAT BEING A TEENAGE GIRL IS MEANT TO FEEL LIKE. I wanted to make them write out those words a hundred times each day. Embroider them on cushions. Have them printed on a t-shirt. Instead I started writing YA novels.

YA author Sarra Manning, defending “difficult” teenage girls in fiction.

Ever been ’splained at? 10 simple words all girls (& if you ask me, women) should learn.

Terrible real estate photos: one of the most fun parts of house hunting, I thought.

Aaron wrote me a very lovely email saying that Toby is one of his favorite characters he’s ever written, and he talked about our relationship building that character. He said, “I’ve heard what’s happening to your character [Toby was fired and faced years in prison during season seven but ultimately was pardoned] and I’m so sorry.” And that’s how I felt: very sorry that they had chose to do what they did. They didn’t tell me in advance like Aaron and Tommy would have. Clearly they didn’t want to tell me because they were scared of my reaction to it. I would have talked them out of it because it was not in line with the six years of work that I built with that character. I was very, very hurt by it.

^ That’s Richard Schiff talking about his role as Toby in The West Wing (my all-time fav TV show). It comes from this amazing TWW retrospective which only makes me love the show (& oddly, hate Aaron Sorkin) all the more.

The 100 Most Important Dog Pictures of All Time is a Friday must-see.

So is the brilliant Saving Room For Cats.

Calling Beyoncé a terrorist in a moment when 300 Black girls from Nigeria are being raped and otherwise terrorized daily and can’t nobody seem to come up with a strategy to get them back is not only intellectually and politically irresponsible – it’s ill. bell hooks knows Beyoncé isn’t a terrorist.

bell hooks is a heroine of mine, so I was pretty disappointed by her recent comments on Beyoncé. Thankfully, Dr Brittney Cooper created this brilliant response.

Here are some photos taken by daredevil Russian dudes who climb skyscrapers for fun. Beautiful and terrifying.

Last week I went to visit the lovely Jill Calder at her studio, and she made me these. AS AMAZING AS THEY SOUND, folks.

I find women fascinating. I adore men, however, I really sometimes try to observe particularly how, when women talk to me about something, we both begin to hear the whole story. There are layers and levels operating in any conversation: protection mechanisms, what she does say, what she doesn’t say, to a lover, friend or boss. All these things become part of the story. How she responds and doesn’t respond. How she tells me. She might have started talking about one song, but now she’s part of an emotional relay, a baton-passing. It’s a circular giving. There’s the woman in a song, which tells a story, which touches someone, which becomes another song. It’s so powerful—a woman finding the strength to confront her situation because of another woman’s story.

Tori Amos? Total badass.

& finally, here are three amazing animations of Charles Bukowski poems:

Have a great weekend!

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Like shiny things? Check out Edinburgh Vintage, a totally unrelated ’sister site’ full of jewels, treasures and trinkets. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!

(Photo credit)

Procrastination Station #126

Friday, May 9th, 2014

scrap vomit, close up of quilting

In my workshop the default subject position of reading and writing—of Literature with a capital L—was white, straight and male. This white straight male default was of course not biased in any way by its white straight maleness—no way! Race was the unfortunate condition of nonwhite people that had nothing to do with white people and as such was not a natural part of the Universal of Literature, and anyone that tried to introduce racial consciousness to the Great (White) Universal of Literature would be seen as politicizing the Pure Art and betraying the (White) Universal (no race) ideal of True Literature.

Junot Diaz on the race problem in creative writing M[F]As, in The New Yorker. (Thanks, Freesia.)

This poem by a small child is amazing. What a last line!

Brand new zine! Seeking submissions! Get on it!

I remember one situation, when we lived in a village, when a woman asked me what I did in the prison and when I said I was a teacher she patronisingly asked what was the purpose if they were criminals. This view holds in general, sadly.

Prisoners — and those who work with prisoners — respond to Chris Grayling’s disgusting and utterly absurd ban on books behind bars.

Here’s Marina Warner being super smart and fascinating. You know, as always.

My book was the No. 6 bestselling title in America for a while, right behind all the different “50 Shades of Grey” and “Gone Girl.” It was selling more copies than “Hunger Games” and “Bossypants.” So, I can sort of see why people thought I was going to start wearing monogrammed silk pajamas and smoking a pipe.
But the truth is, there’s a reason most well-known writers still teach English. There’s a reason most authors drive dented cars. There’s a reason most writers have bad teeth. It’s not because we’ve chosen a life of poverty. It’s that poverty has chosen our profession.
Even when there’s money in writing, there’s not much money.

How much money an Amazon bestseller really makes. (Spoiler: not a lot.)

Hey, are you a teacher of literature, at any level? Scottish Book Trust has made you some reading resources that fit with almost any book imaginable! You’re welcome.

Edinburgh realised you can never have too many libraries: it now has a Library of Mistakes.

The literary novel as an art work and a narrative art form central to our culture is indeed dying before our eyes. Let me refine my terms: I do not mean narrative prose fiction tout court is dying – the kidult boywizardsroman and the soft sadomasochistic porn fantasy are clearly in rude good health. And nor do I mean that serious novels will either cease to be written or read. But what is already no longer the case is the situation that obtained when I was a young man.

Will Self: the novel isn’t dead, but it might be undead.

Yes & Yes is looking for travel writers!

I’m speaking at this event (& billed as “Scottish Book Trust’s Claire Askew”!) next week, and all are welcome. It’s free, too!

My writing devices are a laptop and a green Princess Standard typewriter and a variety of notebooks, each filled less than a third and then jettisoned in favour of new notebooks that will be The Perfect Notebook—the one that will inspire all the words to come.

Jane Flett feels the same way about notebooks that I do.

I just completed a day-long public speaking training with these folks, and I love this advice from them on fielding hostile questions.

Haven’t found yourself a typewriter yet? You can use this typewriter text editor in the meantime!

“How are you so confident?” “I’m an asshole!” Okay? It’s my good time, and my good life, despite what you think of me. I live my life, because I dare. I dare to show up when everyone else might hide their faces and hide their bodies in shame. I show up because I’m an asshole, and I want to have a good time.

Gabourey Sidibe is so freaking great. So great.

I loved these photos of Whitby Goth Fest 2014. Going there is definitely on my bucket list.

I’m obsessed with peeking inside these tiny apartments.

Universal veganism would reduce agriculture-related carbon emissions by 17 percent, methane emissions by 24 percent, and nitrous oxide emissions by 21 percent by 2050. Universal vegetarianism would result in similarly impressive reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. What’s more, the Dutch researchers found that worldwide vegetarianism or veganism would achieve these gains at a much lower cost than a purely energy-focused intervention involving carbon taxes and renewable energy technology. The upshot: Universal eschewal of meat wouldn’t single-handedly stave off global warming, but it would go a long way toward mitigating climate change.

So screw you, carcass-eaters.

Destroyed UKIP billboards… is what UKIP billboards were made for.

DID YOU SEE WHAT JANELLE MONAE WORE TO THE MET GALA?? So going to my high school reunion in this outfit.

& finally…

I hadn’t watched this for years, and I thought that was a damn shame:

(Photo credit)

I never really paid much attention to Adele… not because I didn’t like her or anything, I just sort of never got round to it. Then Sonia shared this with me the other day and wow, Adele is awesome!

Have a great weekend!

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Like shiny things? Check out Edinburgh Vintage, a totally unrelated ’sister site’ full of jewels, treasures and trinkets. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!

Dear Poetry Newbies: read more poetry.

Monday, July 1st, 2013

A previous version of this post first appeared at One Night Stanzas in September 2008.

“People who never read poetry don’t write poems that are worth reading,” says Wendy Cope in this article about the importance of reading. I daresay that a lot of you will resent this statement, but I’m afraid it’s absolutely 100% true.

In 2007 I set up a teeny tiny little DIY literature zine called Read This Magazine. Although our print run was only 150 copies per month, as ed-in-chief of RT, I saw thousands and thousands of poems by young and emerging writers. When it came to picking out the best work for publication, about 80% of everything went immediately onto what the industry calls “the slush pile” - in other words, the “definitely no” pile.

This may seem incredibly harsh - particularly as so many of these submissions were accompanied by cover letters which stated “I’ve never had my poems accepted and I don’t know why” or “I want to know how to make my poems better.” Was I just rejecting them out of hand? Did my editorial team and I not read them with as much care as the other 20%? Basically, the truth is painful: you can tell immediately, sometimes from the very first line of the very first poem in a submission, whether or not the poet in question reads poetry. And if it’s clear that they don’t, you can basically guarantee that none of their poems will be good enough for publication.

You can leap down my throat if you like - because yes, sometimes, rarely, a poet who doesn’t read anything does get lucky, and writes something insightful or interesting which deserves a closer look. However, bear this in mind: Read This was a lot more accomodating than most magazines… we did read everything through at least once before consigning it to the slush pile (just in case), and we responded personally to everyone - particularly those people who’ve asked for help and advice in their cover letters. Furthermore, giving 80% of submissions an “immediate rejection” is nowhere near the 95%-97% mark of most major magazines and publishing houses - you think we were harsh? Try Poetry Review!

You can dress it up any way you like, but as Wendy Cope says: if you don’t read, you are not going to be a successful poet, and the earlier you allow yourself to accept that fact, the better! Defiantly refusing to read other poets’ works will not endear you to the poetry community (as Kenneth Patchen said, “people who say they love poetry but then never buy any are cheap sons-of-bitches”), and chances are your work will remain stagnant and always sound, look and read in the same old way (so if it aint getting published now, the future doesnt look good). However, if you open your eyes to the great wealth of poetic material around you, and start taking it in, then you’ll soon begin to see and feel the benefits. It’s like the old adage ‘you are what you eat’ - you are also what you read.

But I hate reading!
OK, that’s fine. Some people will say “well, why are you a poet?”, but I understand. My sister is an artist, but finds many art shows and galleries a total snooze-fest. Forget what you learned in school - poetry is doesn’t have to be boring, and it does’t have to be difficult. I genuinely believe there’s a poem out there for absolutely everyone.

Read as much or as little as you want. Break yourself in gently. If you’re really struggling, try to read just one poem per day (there are heaps of resources out there to help you with this). Buy yourself a book of haikus and absorb one or two in a spare five minutes. Check out Poetry Archive and listen to a poem. Ask other people what their favourite poem is, and start a to-read list. Soon enough, you’ll find that you feel inspired; you might notice that you’re writing more, or that your writing looks and sounds different. This is poetic influence at work - embrace it!

What should I read?
Read what you enjoy. If you check Paradise Lost out of the library, get three lines in and want to kill yourself, stop reading. Read something that excites you, that inspires you, that makes you think “I want to write like this.” It doesn’t matter whether that’s The Waste Land or Tom Leonard’s This Is The Six O Clock News. There is poetry out there that you’ll love - but it might not be what you think. Keep reading until you find it.

What shouldn’t I read?
Basically, any reading is good reading - if you prefer novels to poetry, read novels: they can help you to write better poetry, too. Read anything; stage plays, memoirs, the phone book. Immerse yourself in words and look at how they’re put together. Absorb ideas.

(The only thing I would advise against is reading the poetry of other poets who don’t read. This will get you nowhere. It may be cheap and convenient, but avoid reading amateur poetry and try to read people who are published in some form or another. This may sound like snobbery, but it isn’t: if you want to get published, reading published poetry is the best way to understand what “makes it”, and the best way to turn your own poetry into something publishable.)

But if I read other people’s work and then start writing like them, isn’t that copying?
This is a tricky issue, and one that comes up a lot. As Wendy Cope says, a lot of non-reading poets claim that they don’t read “because they don’t want to be influenced.” However, these people are missing a massive trick: all poetry is, at least in part, stolen. Frank Zappa once said, “Adam and Eve made all the great records: everyone else just copied,” and that really applies to poetry. Every successful poet is influenced by someone - usually by a huge variety of other poets who came before him or her. Being influenced is a good thing… and it is totally possible to read and still be original. Try reading a few poems. Read until you come to a line, a stanza or a whole poem that makes you think “I could have done that better,” or “I’d have examined that idea differently” (it’s OK, you’re allowed to think this, even if the poet you’re reading is Whitman or someone equally famous and revered). When that thought arises, act on it: go away and write that line, stanza or poem the way you’d like to see it written. I bet it comes out looking nothing like the original.
You’re not copying, you’re borrowing; you’re sharing. Try it: it’s what poets do.

But there’s so much poetry out there. Where do I start?
Wherever you like. If you’re totally clueless, go to a bookshop or library, find the poetry section, and pick out a book with a cover that catches your eye. Go for a cool title, or a poet with an unusual name. Search the net for poems in a style you like or on a subject that interests you - science fiction, for example - and take note of the published authors who write in that style or genre… then hunt them down in a bookstore.
Just read any poetry you can get your hands on: if you like it, find out what’s similar to it, and read that too. If you hate it, find out what the opposite is, and try that. Dabble, mess around, feel free to loathe some poets and love others. Just read as much as you can, as often as you can. Then write.

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Budding writer? Creative person in need of a fun job? Check out the various resources and services at Bookworm Tutors. Alternatively, check out Edinburgh Vintage, our sister site. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!

(Photo by Emchy)

Procrastination Station #120

Friday, April 19th, 2013

u.f.o.

A poem! By Kevin Cadwallender! At Bolts of Silk! A hat-trick of awesome!

I love Kim Addonizio, and this is SO the perfect book cover for her work!

I am so happy to see some of Stephen Nelson’s work over at Fit for Work — an anti-ATOS anthology you should, by the way, really check out.

Have you guys seen the Books and Nerds tumblr? Wall to wall bookish escapism!

The lovely, lovely Chris Scott (who once told me he’d “be the Testino to [my] Diana” if ever I become super famous, and I plan to hold him to it) recently took this brilliant, smiley photo of great poet and great bloke Andrew Philip. I really like it! Chris’ work is generally great. Check out his Author Portraits and his Flickr for more!

Life in Authoring, you totally get me through the day, SRSLY. I also just discovered Life in Publishing and Life in Small Press Publishing and now have so much less free time.

I’m always fascinated when Caustic Cover Critic points out how often the same images are recycled for book covers. Here’s a sad and elegant lady who seems to crop up awfully often…

…and speaking of covers, I just discovered Lousy Book Covers. Part of me feels super sad for the poor authors, but some of these really are lousy.

Is anyone else as into typewriters as me? If so, you should check out clickthing. It is basically typewriter p0rn.

I believe I have mentioned before that I LOVE DAVE COATES’ REVIEWS OF POETRY BOOKS. LOVE them. His review of The Great Billy Letford (as he should always be known) is an absolute cracker. But he’s at his best when bitchy: “poems to be printed on Cath Kidston merchandise.” DOES CRITICISM GET ANY HARSHER? A review to cackle gleefully at.

Apparently, “dear blank” is something EVERYONE has seen now, but it was new to me, and I loved it!

Two Beat Generation tattoos! Ginsberg and Kerouac! I approve! Also, I have been crushing on thigh tattoos lately and love these.

To be serious for a moment: you should probably read more bell hooks.

How much do you wish you’d been at this party?

Adverts are often better “edited” — some great examples here!

I can has one of these?

It wouldn’t be Friday without CAT GIFS!

Have a great weekend!

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You can also visit Read This Press for more poetry (and typewriter paraphernalia!). Alternatively, check out Edinburgh Vintage, our sister site. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!

(Photo credit)

Things I’m Reading Thursday #33

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

Remembering What Is Found There

(This post should perhaps be called, ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL READING FOR ALL POETS, GO AND BUY THIS BOOK NOW.)

.

As you probably know, I am a huge fan of the great Adrienne Rich, and was truly saddened to hear of her death a few weeks ago. Last Wednesday would have been her 83rd birthday.

I’ve been writing about Rich’s ideas — specifically, her ideas about the lack of a literary tradition for female writers — in my PhD thesis, and so when I was given book vouchers for my recent birthday I decided to spend them, partly, on a Rich-penned collection of essays I’ve been wanting to read for ages:

What Is Found There: Notebooks on Poetry and Politics.

Thanks to my other reading of books by and about Rich, I already knew that she has the uncanny ability to take something you’ve never really thought about — because you thought you understood it — and to make you see it in such a new and different light that you feel your head might turn inside out. That happened so many times for me, with this book. Rich’s writing on the process of creating poetry is also among the best and truest I’ve ever seen from anyone — only Margaret Atwood’s Negotiating With The Dead can beat this book for sheer, “yes! That’s exactly what it’s like!” value. Rich is great at taking what you or I might see as guilty little writer’s habits — procrastination, self-doubt, unwillingness to start on a project if we’ve got other things on our minds — and legitimising them, saying “this thing is a necessary part of the writing process and we must embrace it.” From start to finish I was edified — this book made me so happy. It all felt so utterly relevant me, as a poet, as a teacher, as a politicised person. I found myself repeatedly folding over pages to return to later, grabbing my neon-pink highlighter to block-mark huge passages that just made so much sense.

Instead of gushing further, I’ll share just a few of those block-marked passages with you now, and you can see what you think…

On the invisibility of poetry
“Poetry itself, in our national life, is under house arrest, is officially “disappeared.” Like our past, our collective memory, it remains an unfathomed, a devalued, resource. The establishment of a national ‘Poet Laureateship’ notwithstanding, poetry has been set apart from the practical arts, from civic meaning. It is irrelevant to mass ‘entertainment’ and the accumulation of wealth — thus, out of sight, out of mind.” (p. 20)

On why poetry being invisible is a good thing
“And perhaps this is the hope: that poetry can keep its mechanical needs simple, its head clear of the fumes of how ’success’ is concocted in the capitals of promotion, marketing, consumerism, and in particular of the competition — taught in schools, abetted at home — that pushes the ’star’ at the expense of the culture as a whole, that makes people want stardom rather than participation, association, exchange and improvisation with others. Perhaps this is the hope: that poetry, by its nature, will never become leashed to profit, marketing, consumerism.” (p. 40)

On free time as a necessary ingredient in the making of great poetry
“Most of the poets I know, hearing of a sum of money, translate it not into possessions, but into time — that precious immaterial necessity of our lives. It’s true that a poem can be attempted in brief interstitial moments, pulled out of the pocket and worked on while waiting for a bus or riding a train or while children nap or while waiting for a new batch of clerical work or blood samples to come in. But only certain kinds of poems are amenable to these conditions. Sometimes the very knowledge of coming interruption dampens the flicker. [...] Most, if not all, of the names we know in North American poetry are the names of people who have had some access to freedom in time.” (p. 43)

On why the idea of poetry as ‘academic’ is a lie
“It’s a lie that poetry is only read by or ’speaks’ to people in the universities or elite intellectual circles; in many such places, poetry barely speaks at all. Poems are written and absorbed, silently and aloud, in prisons, prairie kitchens, urban basement workshops, branch libraries, battered women’s shelters, homeless shelters, offices, a public hospital for disabled people, an HIV support group. A poet can be born in a house with empty bookshelves. Sooner or later, s/he will need books. But books are not genes.” (p. 206-7)

On good poetry as a rejection of hatred and competitiveness
“To celebrate, to drive off evil, to nourish memory, to conjure the desired visitation. The revolutionary artist, the relayer of possibility, draws on such powers, in opposition to a technocratic society’s hatred of multiformity, hatred of the natural world, hatred of the body, hatred of women and darkness, hatred of disobedience. The revolutionary poet loves people, rivers, other creatures, stones, trees, inseparably from art, is not ashamed of these loves, and for them conjures a language that is public, intimate, inviting, terrifying, and beloved.” (p. 249-50)

Go buy this book.

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You can also visit Read This Press for more poetry (and typewriter paraphernalia!). Alternatively, check out Edinburgh Vintage, our sister site. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!

(Photo credit)

Eavan Boland on inspiration, the writing process, and failure

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

Cathedral Quarry, Langdale

“I have never been sympathetic to the idea of inspiration. [...] I always think of myself as working at a rock face. Ninety days out of ninety five, it’s just a rock face. The other five days, there’s a bit of silver, a bit of base metal in it. I’m reasonably consistent and the consistency is a help to me. It helps me stay in contact with my failure rate, and unless you have a failure rate that vastly exceeds your success rate, you’re not really in touch with what you are doing as a poet. The danger of inspiration is that it is a theory that redirects itself towards the idea of success rather than to the idea of consistent failure. And all poets need to have a sane and normalised relationship with their failure rate.”

– Eavan Boland, from Sleeping with Monsters: Conversations with Scottish and Irish women poets, Polygon, 1990.

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You can also visit Read This Press for more poetry (and typewriter paraphernalia!). Alternatively, check out Edinburgh Vintage, our sister site. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!

(Photo credit)