Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Gawain sequence & an angry squeak

My exams are finally over and I can return to writing the historical novel that I was entangled with before revision began in earnest. This summer will be given over, by and large, to writing prose. The thought gives me pause, and no little emotional anguish. I'm beginning to realise that I simply can't afford to write poetry. It doesn't pay well enough - if anything at all, in the majority of cases - and with the economic downturn, I don't have the luxury of being able to work without at least the potential prospect of payment.

I've spent the past two decades without a regular income: first, as a semi-pro snooker player, then as a full-time poet. The handful of novels I've published in the past ten years have been genre, written under a pen-name, low-paid, as my numerous attempts at mainstream fiction since Kissing the Pink (Sceptre, 1999) have proved impossible to place. Yet I seem reasonably talented at writing the shorter, genre novel. Which is just as well, frankly. Since my Gregory Award in 1996, I've published five collections of poetry - three long, two short; the money I've received from sales of all five poetry collections would not even amount to the money garnered from one genre novel.

I enjoy writing prose. It can be a rich and highly entertaining canvas to work on, even in the relatively narrow field of genre fiction. But poetry is - and always has been, since I was a young child - my vocation. I had hoped that the next few years would see me working more fruitfully in poetry. But a recent application for a poetry 'job' for which I was more than qualified, and which would have secured me enough money over the next two years to continue writing without fear of eviction, was turned down out of hand. In the meantime, like many people at the moment, I've reached a critical point cash-wise and can't ignore my financial problems any longer.

So, as I mentioned earlier, I'm going to post up the unpublished Gawain sequence poems I've written so far - removing a few of them later, as I may yet send some of them out to magazines - and then make a stab at actually writing some new ones, which I will then post up as drafts whenever they appear in my notebook. Two of the early Gawain poems have already been posted here, and a few have been accepted for publication elsewhere, but the rest are fair game.

I'll start either tomorrow at at the weekend, then post up one Gawain poem every other day, until I run out of poems. And what will happen then?


Bo said...

Sorry to hear that things are in crisis. But it wd also be grand to have more of your prose to read!!

'genre'?! ;) I'm not sure what you did once in a novel with - pesto, was it? - cd go in any Waterstones cooking section.....

Jane Holland said...

You bad person!

I just read your comment to Steve, who snorted with appreciative evil humour: 'I can just see THAT on Gordon Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares!'

A girl's gotta pay the bills. ;)

Titus said...

I am sorry and saddened to read some of the above. But looking forward to the Gawain stuff; it has been one of my favourite poems for nearly thirty years now (eek).

Jane Holland said...

Thanks, Titus. I'm sorry and saddened too, quite frankly. I was discussing all this with a poet-friend recently; I said that I felt I'd given my 'come-back' a serious shot for the past few years, and achieved a certain amount within that time frame, but that in financial terms at least, I had failed to establish myself in poetry. My friend then put forward the suggestion that poetry consistently fails to reward poets and I shouldn't get too depressed about it. He's probably right. But I'm still depressed.

I hope the Gawain poems don't disappoint. They're not translations!!


Titus said...

Your friend probably is right, but that doesn't make the fact that things are thus right.

Re the non-translations: thank goodness for that!

Jane Holland said...

Okay, I'm going to pull my finger out and post up the first poem. Just been unsure which one to choose, since they're not written in order ... and some are not even obviously 'Gawain'-poems .... which may seem odd, I guess.

Decisions, decisions!