The work starts here…

When I first started posting here more regularly – roughly three years ago, one of the things I wanted to document was the process of pulling together a pamphlet. I can’t guarantee it will be heavy on the insight. I suspect it will be more a case of following the usual rules (I think Roy Marshall has outlined the main ones here), but I think I’m on the edge of finding out for definite.

When I first got the news from Sheila at Red Squirrel Press that she would like to publish my work I was overjoyed (I still am), but 2023 seemed like light-years away at the time. Now it appears to be hurtling towards us.

With that in mind, I sat down in the garden this afternoon to begin the process.

I have been through the published and unpublished poems I have that I think constitute being “finished”. I’ve separated out the ones that don’t feel strong enough and then made a list of the likely candidates. The act of separating the weaker ones out has been strange as there are several in that pile that at one point felt like they would have been first names on the old metaphorical teamsheet, but now— while I have a fondness for them because of things like first print publication, first major acceptance, etc, they just don’t seem strong enough to warrant inclusion.

I’m working on the premise of circa 25 poems will make it in. The current list is at 27, with four more backups. There is so much to do, each one will need its tyres kicking to make sure it’s as strong as it could be, even the more recent ones where I think my writing has improved.

They’ve all got to earn their place, so after (or is it before) the above there’s the process of seeing how they talk to each other. Do I want sections? It’s sort of loosely fallen into 3 sections so far, but are they something to be called out? It seems like overkill in a pamphlet to me, but who knows if that will change? Do I need a theme? No, I don’t think so as yet. Not least because that probably means more poems need to be written and at the current rate of knots I wouldn’t be ready for 3023, let alone next year. Also, as much as I love a themed collection, it can get a bit samey. I don’t have a theme as yet, so it would be forced.

I’ve just reviewed a debut pamphlet by someone where the work seems to either have been written circa 2008ish (at least when it was first published somewhere) or more recently during lockdown, etc (based on the themes of the poems). I can’t tell which poems fell between those dates, but it feels like an old-fashioned debut of the best poems you have available in the best order and that is just absolutely dandy with me.

There will be loads more prevarications, changes, questions, pacing up and down, heavy drinking (not essential, but I like it) and the like to come, but this feels like day one, a marker in the sand, etc.

A poem

In recent weeks things have started to blur…ok in recent years things have started to blur, but certainly my old more productive routines have fallen away in a rush of work, house stuff and general whatnot-ery, but reading this poem recently, and having attempted to get back into the writing groove this weekend by clearly banning myself from doing any DIY, gardening or chores, means I have started to recover a sense of stopping to smell the roses (my dreadful sense of smell aside) and to take joy in the littler things.

I adore this poem and the first line of the second stanza is worth the entry fee alone.

Against MonotonyVona Groarke, taken from ‘Double Negative’, The Gallery Press

Today, a two-hundred mile drive and nothing
at the end of it but a glass of Merlot
and a radio fugue for voice and clarinet
which is a lot, when you think about it.

Oh, the squirrelling away of a snick of day
to come upon, unwontedly,
when the drive is polished concrete
and the playing fields, pure quartz:

that, right there, is a trick worth playing,
the kind of dark-blue, offhand trick
to be played maybe the once, and gently,
so you get away with it.

THE (LAST TWO) WEEKS IN STATS

c50K running. 31K this week, including 10 miles this morning that were slow, but felt good.
4 trips to central London for work
1 birthday for me
5 Focus groups for work
8 actual Cds burned for a friend. How very old school.
0 massive hangovers, but I did try hard on Thursday evening
1 kitten still awaiting neutering
15ish (at least) journeys to dance lessons and back for Flo
0 rejections:
0 poems finished:
2 poems worked on: Nature Abhors a Vacuum
0 poems published:
3 submissions: Poetry Review, 192, Acumen
1 acceptance: Bad Lillies
25 poems are currently out for submission. No poems left to submit beyond makeweights
75 Published poems
37 Poems* finished by unpublished
25 poems* in various states of undress
554 Rejected poems* Eg I’ve decided they are not good enough
0 reviews finished:
3 reviews to write: How the fuck did that happen…I keep finishing them and then they keep coming.
2 day without cigarettes…I was doing so well, Oh well, back to it. As in giving up, not back to smoking.
0 Days since drinking
0 sleepless nights:
1 more week that I’m not having an affair with Eva Green

* To date, not this week. Christ!!

TITLE GIVEAWAY
The Home for Retired Running Shoes
Not My Pablum
The Office of Official Fish Fingers


READ/SEEN/HEARD/ETC

Read
Stand: 19.3
Eavan Boland: The Historians


Zooms:
None

Music
One Dove: Morning One Dove
Typhoon: Hunger & Thirst
Hatchie: Giving The World Away
Daniel Rossen: You Belong There
Thom Yorke: 4.17/That’s Just How Horses Are
The Appleseed Cast: Two Conversations
Agitation Free: Last
Sea Power: Everything Is Forever
The Brian Jonestown Massacre: Don’t Get Lost
Creedence Clearwater Revival: Green River, Pendulum, Wily and the Poor Boys
The Sundowners: Pulling Back The Night
Oren Ambachi: Ghosted
Matthew Halsall: Salute To The Sun Live
Elbow: Flying Dream 1
Guided By Voices: It’s Not them. It Couldn’t Be Them. It Is Them.
Symposium: One Day At A Time
Superchunk: Majesty Shredding
Melody’s Echo Chamber: Emotional Eternal
Charles Watson: Yes
The Cure: Concert
Mogwai: Come On Die Young
Keith Jarrett: Eyes of the Heart
HTRK: Over The Rainbow
Ben Ottewell: Shapes & Shadows
Ian McCulloch; Mysterio, Candleland, Slideling
Portron Portron Lopez: De Coléré Et D’Envie
Cranes: Loved
Margo Price: That’s How Rumours get Started
Sharon Van Etten: We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong
Albaster Deplume: Gold
Charlotte Cornfield: Highs In The Minuses
The Archers
Five Live: Arsenal Vs Leeds


Watched
Grace S2
Inside No.9 S6.E1 and 2
Slow Horses
Severance
Derry Girls

Ordered
New running trainers
Sarah Mnatzaganian: Lemonade In The Armenian Quarter

Arrived
New running trainers
Sarah Mnatzaganian: Lemonade In The Armenian Quarter

Inspiral Carpets – Dragging Me Down

Cats and Shoplifters

After some good acceptance news in the middle of the week—I know you’re all desperately hanging in there and waiting for my annual “stat attack”; it’s coming, I promise—the week has drawn to a close on a sad note.

We had to say good bye to our beloved cat, Wilbur, on Friday. The poor lad has been poorly for a while. We thought we’d lost him in the summer, but he seemed to rally. However, the last few days saw him take a downward turn, and after a trip to the V.E.T’s on Wednesday it was decided there was nothing could be done for him. My wife and I took him on on Friday and let’s just say that there were tears…

While I think he left us with some lives in the bank – he was more of a lover than a fighter, he certainly had more than his share of names. Florence had named him Wilbur after the cat from Winnie The Witch. She adored those books when we got him about 9 years ago, so Wilbur it was to be. My choice of Alan was rejected, but one day I will prevail.

However, on top of Wilbur there was also: Prince Fur I, Captai, El Capitano, Prince Floof, Prince Wilbur of Catland, The Floof, Floofy Bollocks, Old Floofy Bollocks, The Bollock, Little Twat, His Nibs, Mr Wilb, Mr Wilbs, Knobhead, Knobbo, El Knobbo, Knobbolino The Riches Cat, El Knobbolino, Lad, The Lad, Laddo, The Wanker, Little Man, Prince Fluffy Trousers, Shithead, Best Boy, Handsome Prince, Sausage Chops, Wilbo Baggins and almost certainly many other names that I’ve forgotten.

Fare thee well, Knobbo.

There are always articles floating round that try and define the poetry experience, or what is poetry, etc. I can’t think of any that have ever precisely nailed it. I’m not sure there ever will be, or even needs to be, but I quite enjoyed this quote from Roy Marshall this week.

While it’s not a definition of what poetry is, I think this as close to a definition of writing a poem as I’ve seen for a while. NB other definitions are available and your statutory definition rights remain unaffected. I liked this particular note as it reminded me of two moments from across the years.

The first being the young me shoplifting some ink cartridges from Roys of Wroxham‘s stationery department. I must have been no more than 10, but needed them for the fountain pen I was already using because I thought I was a poet then. Arguably I was more of one then than I am now, but let’s gloss over that. Oh, the giddy rush of stuffing them up my jumper sleeve and meeting my parents in the car park…I’d attempt some sort of reference to Shoplifters of the World Unite, but Morrissey is a twat, so I won’t.

The other moment was having thought about the above story, I bumped into a colleague of mine for the first time in about a year. We met in the office at work. We are having to clear our desks while we move offices. It turned out that it would be the last day we spend in that office after the work from home rules came in this weeks, so it might be the last time I see him for a while.

The connection, and there is one, honest, is that he gave me a lovely bottle of ink, Diamine Presidential Blue, to take home. It’s not the strongest link, I grant you, but there’s been enough happening this week, so take it or leave it.

Given everything that has happened this week, the despicable changes in the Citizenship laws, the lying and cheating that’s been uncovered (that doesn’t seem the right word, given all that we know about our “leaders”), I was grateful for this poem landing in my inbox.

I noted a few weeks ago how much I’d quickly fallen in love with Vona Groake’s work after finding it in a magazine. I’ve bought one of her collections, but have yet start it. However, this poem arriving means I am going to be pulling her book to the top of the TBR pile.

For Now

Vona Groarke


Call it quits on a night of rain,
excitable rain that fizzes and simmers
as though it’s been waiting years to declare
what it has to declare, and gives the world
an imperative and an urgency. All we can do
is marshal attention, allow the day to dissolve,
as it does, in the nothing of our doing
and the nothing we have done.

That this rain hammers itself home
barely needs to be said. In between,
in the half-held breath, listen for
a sideways shift from Chains to Change,
Wrong to Rung, Seethe to Seed
and, eventually, No to Now.

Day will happen, will break, they say
and when it’s done, they’ll say it has broken
and we (by ‘we’, I mean, of course, You and I)
will spend it fitting edge to edge, hour to hour
to convince ourselves a pattern is discernible
for betterment, for focus, for the best.

Whether we are there to divine it
or whether we are not.

Shared by Poetry Daily

There’s an optimism about this that I like, and for that alone, I think I will love this forever.


THE WEEK IN STATS
22K running.
0 hangovers
1 car breakdown- but not mine. Although it was in the same spot on the same night a week later. Weird.
1 car battery bought and fitted
1 precious cat lost, 1 cat still left
1 house decorated for Xmas
1 pint of blood given
0 rejection: this week
0 poems finished:
1 poems worked on: Nature Abhors a Vacuum but I bloody love it
2 submissions: Mary Evans Picture Library, The High Window
1 acceptance: Mary Evans Picture Library
32 poems currently out for submission.
72 Published poems*: Was 69, but one was not used in the end, having been accepted.
40 Poems* finished by unpublished
25 poems* in various states of undress
554 Rejected poems* Eg I’ve decided they are not good enough
3 reviews to write: How did that happen, I’ve gone from 1 to do to having more…Hmmm
1 day without cigarettes…I was doing well…
0 Days since drinking
1 sleepless nights: This is not a development I approve of
1 more week that I’m not having an affair with Eva Green

* To date, not this week. Christ!!

TITLE GIVEAWAY
Uh Huh, etc
The Sectors

READ/SEEN/HEARD/ETC

Read
Alice Oswald:Nobody
Naomi Foyle: Importents
Poetry London 100


Music
Olafur Arnalds: Eulogy for Evolution, Dyad 1909, And They Have Escaped The Weight of Darkness
Octopus Project: Hello Avalanche
Demon Fuzz: Afreaka
Matthew Halsall: Salute To The Sun (Live)
Arooj Aftab: Vulture Prince
Deep Throat Choir: In Order To Know You
Massacre Massacre: Bunkaa 1
Fleet Foxes : A Very Lonely Solstice
Don Cherry: Live At Cafe Monmartre
Old Canes: Early Morning Hymns
Andrew Scott/Ryan Jewell/Ryley Walker: Post Wook
Explosions In The Sky: Those Who Tell The Truth, The Wilderness, Take Care Take Care Take Care
Caspian: The Four Trees
Bardo Pond: Amanita, Vol. 1, Dilate, LapsedBalmorhea: The Wind
Pearl Jam: Vitalogy, Riot Act
Dropsonde Playlist
Michael Nesmith: Texas Fighter, Pretty Much your Standard Ranch Stash, Magnetic South, Tropical Campfires
Endless Boogie: Admonition
Unwed Sailor: Heavy Age, Look Alive
The Archers
The Verb: Repair Episode
The Foxhole Companion


Watched
Strictly
Little Women
Succession
New Girl
Friday Night Lights
Broadchurch
Criminal Minds
The Green Knight
The Nine Pens Poetry Evening via Zoom

Ordered
Nothing

Arrived
Crannog
Stand
Stuart Carswell: Earthworks

A song about shoplifting at Tescos. It took me interviewing the now sadly departed Mark Keds to find out while I was at university. There’s probably a post in that.

Michael Nyman, Trees and Isabel Galleymore

This week has been a whirlwind. Monday feels like it was a century ago. I’m still not 100% convinced yesterday happened yesterday. What I am sure of is that R and I went to get our infusion the old Komorebis earlier today. Definitely today. We had a lovely walk at Nymans and saw this beautiful thing as we wandered round.

An awful photo of a beautiful tree

Once upon a time I’d have tried to stretch this into a post about how hard it is to capture nature well, but I’m wise enough now not to do that. I could also try and work out what eco-poetics is?

(NB: It’s “Similar to ethnopoetics in its emphasis on drawing connections between human activity—specifically the making of poems—and the environment that produces it, ecopoetics rose out of the late 20th-century awareness of ecology and concerns over environmental disaster. A multidisciplinary approach that includes thinking and writing on poetics, science, and theory as well as emphasizing innovative approaches common to conceptual poetry, ecopoetics is not quite nature poetry.” according to this glossary from Poetry Foundation.)

Instead, I’m just going to post two poems from Isabel Galleymore‘s ‘Significant Other’. I picked this off the shelf fairly randomly, but there’s two poems in there that have caught my eye. The first for the trees and because R had mentioned a pair of Blue Tits in our holly tree this morning, the second because this week has also seen us popping into our elderly neighbour’s house (with the key she gave us) four times a day to help her with eyedrops after a recent cataract op. Her TV has been up LOUD!!!!!!


Harvest

After stripping the branches of berries
the robin held a handful of seeds
in her stomach: the robin carried a tree
— in fact she secretly sowed a whole forest —
a store of bows and arrows and shields.
Years found the bird had planted a battle,
her tiny body had borne the new king.

Men looked up to the skies and blessed
or blamed the planets moving overhead.
A blackbird, meanwhile, started to pick
at fruit both armies had left.


Into The Woods

For those who want to invest in disasters,
the INCH pack includes a sling-shot,
fishing rod and tarp. It stands for
I’m Never Coming Home.
Walk into the woods and don’t look back.
I learn this from my neighbour’s watching
of Doomsday Preppers at full volume —
her October general ears believe
everyone is mumbling. On the street
she leans in uncomfortably close. Hey say
such impairments come by degrees.
We’ll be right back with Brian’s missile silo.
I give up my book, fill the kettle.
sunlight floods the living room;
the birds and branches of the papered walls
fade Ana rate not considered change.

Both poems taken from Significant Other, Carcanet. Arguably both could be considered eco-poetic, but honestly, who cares if they do or don’t. They are great.

I see she has a new pamphlet out, this has been added to the to purchase list.

This also reminds me about Isabel’s excellent poems in a recent issue of Poetry Review.

In other news, I must point you to a couple of things.

1. I think the full videos will be up on YouTube soon, but for now here’s two videos from the recent reading night

Jack Emsden at Resonance Poetry Night 1
Some idiot reading at Resonance Poetry Night 1

2. The latest batch of OPOI reviews are up at Sphinx, featuring my review of Kathrin Schmidt’s Twenty Poems

3. I do remember reading this article by Grayson Perry at the start of the week and thinking there’s a blog post in some of these responses, particularly his points about abandoning work and creative visions. I also remember thinking Bastard!! when I saw Roy Marshall had already had a similar idea about a post here. Roy’s posts are always excellent and useful, so read them. Read them all. His recent post (via The Friday Poem) about putting a pamphlet together is one that is starting to feel relevant to me.




THE WEEK IN STATS

1 walk in a woodland area
21K running. First longer run in ages this week (11K)
1 50th birthday party
0 hangovers
0 x acceptances
2 rejections: Definitive no from New Welsh Review and Frogmore Press
0 poem finished:
1 poem worked on: Bedside Manner
0 new submissions:
26 poems currently out for submission.
68 Published poems*: Was 69, but one was not used in the end, having been accepted.
43 Poems* finished by unpublished
26 poems* in various states of undress
554 Rejected poems* Eg I’ve decided they are not good enough
1 review to write (I’ve read the book)
3 days without cigarettes…I was doing well…
0 Days since drinking
1 more week that I’m not having an affair with Eva Green

* To date, not this week. Christ!!


TITLE GIVEAWAY
Deus ex macchiato
It is now appropriate to clap


READ/SEEN/HEARD/ETC

Read
Mona Arshi: Dear Big Gods
Victoria Kennefick: Eat Or We All Starve
Stephen Payne: Windmill Proof, Patterns of Chance


Music
808 State: ex:el, Gorgeous, Transmission Suite
Kate; British Road Movies
The Long Blondes: Someone To Drive You Home
Nicole Atkins: Italian Ice, Mondo Amore
Mountain Man: made The Harbor
Fur: When You Walk Away
Admiral Fallow: The Idea of YouPele: Teaching The History of Teaching Geography, Elephant, A Scuttled Bender In A Watery Closet
Caspian: Live At The Larcom
Chapterhouse: Whirlpool
Pedro The Lion: Achilles Heel, Phoenix
Glenn Jones: Bob, Fleeting, This is the wind that blows it out
Pip Boom: Welcome Break, Boat
Explosions In The Sky: Live, Earth is Not A Cold Dead Place
LYR: Cascade Theory
Gracie Abrams: This Is What It Feels Like
Corrina Repp: How A Fantasy Will Kill Us All
The Archers
The Verb:


Watched
Only Murders In The Building
New Girl S3
The Walking Dead
Succession
Shetland
Taskmaster



Ordered
Balloons

Arrived
Balloons

Mickey Nyman and a Trees reference..Ace!!

Sadly, Bubonique’s excellent tribute to Michael Nyman isn’t on any streaming or video services, but if you email me I will send you a copy.