With both of my children now at university and not that many freelance projects on the go (but probably enough, for now) I have a lot more hours to myself these days. So far in October there have been some decent blocks of time available for me to write. Of course, that doesn’t mean I’ve actually written. I’m never as productive as I’d like to be but my output hasn’t been too shabby. I have at least shown up to the page, on more than a few occasions. A lot of my writing is more accurately re-writing, beavering away at poems until I feel they’re about right, so my tally of finished poems hasn’t increased dramatically – but my store is growing.
I’m not sure why but I’m currently in competition-entering mode. I go through long periods ignoring competitions, and submitting to magazines instead, but recently I’ve immersed myself in a few comps. Perhaps I’ve become attracted to the concept of deadlines which help me to keep working on poems that I might otherwise have put to one side. Sometimes, competition results appear reasonably quickly, compared to the response times of most magazines, and that’s appealing. Inevitably, not all of my poems are suitable for competitions. I know it’s not considered a good tactic to try to second-guess what judges want but I can’t help doing that! It is probably a dopey habit – especially for larger competitions where filter judges are involved. There’s no guarantee the judges will even see my poems. Perhaps I like the sense of risk and a little bit of danger involved in sending poems into competition – I can afford to gamble a few entry fees just now (within reason) whereas I used to be too broke to even try. Dare I say it, entering competitions is also fun (don’t we all need a bit of fun??).
In addition to tinkering with various poems, I enjoyed being at The Big Poetry Weekend in Swindon a few weeks ago, meeting up with several poetry friends I’ve made over the years. In particular, I liked hearing the poems and ideas of poet Nuar Alsadir in conversation with Hilda Sheehan. I’ve been dipping in and out of NA’s book Fourth Person Singular ever since it was first published in 2017. Sometimes, I feel I’m not clever enough for the book, other times I experience the thrill of being in the company of someone who is alive with clever ideas and thoughts – you know that experience of spending time with someone brainy, communicative and interesting? NA’s work plays and interacts with ideas about the lyrical I in poetry, about who is speaking and who the reader assumes is speaking. This is fascinating even at moments when I’m not sure I’ve grasped what is being said (and by whom!). Some notes I made from Nuar’s talk include:
originality is a narcissistic delusion
and, on editing:
leave it alone
I love both of these quotes. If you’d like to read about Nuar Alsadir’s work in more detail, Dave Coates has written a more in-depth blog here.
People say that Autumn is a photogenic season and I’ve spent a couple of days doing not much more than than daydreaming, drinking tea and taking photos of fallen foliage. Here are a few of my October notes:
And a few things I’m looking forward to:
- hearing Birdspeed read at Drawing Projects UK, Trowbridge, for Trowbridge Stanza on November 2;
- Poetry in Aldeburgh, November 8 – 11;
- Alice Oswald’s Inaugural Lecture as Professor of Poetry at Oxford University on November 13;
- Daljit Nagra reading in Bristol (free event but you need to book) – details here.
- Finding the Edge: The Writing of Anne Carson. November 21 at Spike Island, Bristol.
- Rogue Strands: An Evening of Poetry on November 28 at The King & Queen Pub, 1 Foley Street, London W1W 6DL – featuring readings by Ramona Herdman, Katy Evans-Bush, Rory Waterman, Rishi Dastidar, Matthew Stewart, Mat Riches, Clarissa Ackroyd, Robin Houghton and Neil Elder. All monies raised will go to The Trussell Trust in aid of local foodbanks.
Hope you’re all well.