Monthly Archives: November 2014

Edna St Vincent Millay, poet (1892-1950)

Isn’t it interesting how we sometimes stumble across a poem which speaks to us. A few years back, I was lucky enough to have one of my poems What Saves Us chosen in a competition and printed onto posters which were displayed around hospitals in Leeds. A woman who had been visiting a sick relative in one of those hospitals contacted me via email to say how much reading that poem had helped her. It was wonderful to receive such a message. She even promised she would contact Radio Four’s Poetry Please and request it be read. Bless her, as if that request would ever be acquiesced to.

I remember when I first came across an Edna St Vincent Millay poem. I had turned up on a cold, dark winter evening at an out-of-the-way community hall to teach adult literacy. It was my first time there, I was anxious, flustered, and unsure anyone would turn up. There, on a poster on the wall, was one of Millay’s sonnets about the moon. I paused, I read it, I felt comforted.

It was one of her more caustic poems which slipped into my consciousness this weekend. It is simply called Sonnet and I think it beautiful. Here are some of its lines:

Time does not bring relief, you all have lied
who told me time would ease my pain!
I miss him in the weeping of the rain;
I want him at the shrinking of the tide;

And entering with quiet relief some quiet place
Where never fell his boot or shone his face
I say, “There is no memory of him here!”
And so stand stricken, so remembering him.

I felt immediately moved to write my own response:

They lie, they lie, they lie,
those who say: ‘Time heals.’
For each moment is barbed
with your last words;
each moment is edged
by the loss of you.

Millay was dead before I was born and yet through the medium of poetry she communicates to me. Never let it be said that poetry is some kind of elite flummery. At it’s best, it can bind a stranger’s heart to another’s creating a sense of kinship and common humanity. And looking out into the world, it seems we need that more than ever.

 

 

 

On being a writer (part two)

I love the writing process (whether it be non-fiction, fiction or poetry): the unfolding story; the bits which take me by surprise; the characters which suddenly become very real indeed; the playing with words; and the crafting. And yet, as I and some writer friends discussed on Monday, the process is not complete without finding an audience. Is it even complete then, I wonder?

So I continue my tasks of formatting and readying ‘The Art of the Imperfect’ (the first of my crime series set in Scarborough) for release. Slowly, slowly, with an aching shoulder (with apologies to my friend who is an Alexander Technique teacher who told me how to avoid that: http://www.lesley-glover.co.uk/ ).

Meanwhile, ‘A Pocket Full of Windows’, the anthology with two of my poems in it has been published by The Valley Press (http://www.valleypressuk.com/books/pocketfulofwindows/). It will have two launches, both of which I hope to attend. The first is at 7.30pm on the 27th of November 2014, at North Bridlington Library (YO16 6YD). Readings from the anthology will be followed by a performance of the ‘The Remarkable Mr Rutherford’ (Brid’s own unofficial poet laureate) by the duo ‘The Hull to Scarborough Line’.

On Friday, the 5th of December 2014, at 7.30pm, the launch will be at http://www.woodendcreative.co.uk/ and will be accompanied by an Open Mic (entry to the event, £2). So if you’ve got the urge to perform a song, a short piece of prose or a poem, book your space and come along.

I am finding publishing – putting my work before an audience – is a compulsion even though it evokes feelings of vulnerability and crises of confidence. What I know I have to do is listen for the positives, so that it can be nourishing as well as revealing of the soul. Then maybe I will find it is a satisfying conclusion to the creative process.

 

 

What We Make of It

Each time we love, we die a little,
each time we die, we love a little
more, but too late. 

The first time
I careered through
with the naivety of a clam,
hardly noticed
the breath as it was given to me
and then withdrawn,
all in a rush.
I took and was taken
with something like desire,
but we had to hunt then,
even songsters like me
had blood and raw flesh under our nails
and between our teeth.

The second and third
were short,
poisoned by diseased milk,
by bad water. 

But I remember, ah I remember
the fourth time,
for then I learnt to love.
To give that part of myself that matters,
to be warmed, consoled
in arms that only cared.
I would have stayed there for ever,
but eternity lasts neither in love nor hate,
and you passed from me.
So I learnt to live without life,
perishing before dying. 

The fifth and sixth were ended
by something like fear.
I was sacrificed
on a stake,
to the sword.
Yet despite this, there have been epochs
when I myself have been misguided
by anger or self-adoration
into breaking another
in two
for no more than the pleasure.
For it is easy to forget
the circumstances of one’s own death
when the birth pangs come anew.
Life seems whole, untarnished
and many an era I bit it
with a salivating jaw. 

Love never came again as it had once.
The ardour that had given me youth
had left me older
than glacier scarred rock.
Still on occasion love would blossom
unexpectedly
like some Alpine sedge
and melt through my aching bones. 

And yet, and yet
the breath comes back
and though I am ancient,
mouldered to my marrow,
there is a chance that I might recall
some instance of wisdom
and I will not hold it in my muffler,
as a goitre in my throat,
but speak it, yes speak it out.
In that moment
I am uplifted.

So it was this morning,
as I stood ironing.
Which means I know how good it feels. 

And that is also something like 

hope.

 

Why writers need proofreaders

I am a great believer in using people with skills and paying them for their work. However, as a first-time indie publisher, I could not afford to bring in an editor (I used writer-friends as peer reviewers instead) or a designer, as I would have wished to. But I wasn’t going to stint on a proofreader.

I can proofread my own work if it’s a short article (or blog post), but not for a 60,000 word novel. So I brought on board Jenny Drewery (jdrewery.thewriterthebetter@gmail.com) who had done my book published last year by Sense Publishers (http://goo.gl/k360PX).

And she’s done an excellent job. She is also a font of publishing knowledge, telling me that song lyrics are not covered by the usual ‘fair use’ rules. Who knew? Apparently you can use a song title without fear, so you can have your characters humming the reprise which is the song title and you won’t get yourself into trouble.

Now all I have to do is her corrections on my manuscript, without falling into the temptation of recommencing a complete re-write. It’s a tedious job which needs concentration, and, therefore, only possible in short stints. Hopefully, by the end of the week I will have a novel I can begin to formatting for Kindle.