Thursday, April 22, 2010

Horizon, Sunshine, and the Creative Writing Generation

I've heard that the fourth issue of Horizon Review should be out soon. Can't wait to see it, though the issue is running a little late now. Since I'm hoping to take a short break after this one, I'm not sure when the next Horizon will appear. Or what form it will take. More on that anon.

Meanwhile, it's been a lovely sunny spring day, and despite two fiction manuscripts of mine being rejected on the same day this week, I'm feeling quite up. Still got a partial manuscript being prepared for submission, and this may be The One!

Spotted another interesting review of Identity Parade on the Irish World website. The phrase 'reference book' seems to have come up in several places now in connection with this new poetry anthology. I was also fascinated to see the attendance of Creative Writing classes singled out as a kind of common denominator for many new poets.

When I first started writing, back in the mid-nineties, there were not many poetry-only classes or courses about. Now, they seem to be available everywhere, and I'm one of those dissenters who feel that people have always written well without being 'taught' how to by some well-meaning tutor, so why are these courses now considered essential training for a poet?

Good to see someone else calling this worthless discrimination into question.

It seems British poetry is turning into a 'This person learnt how to write in X's masterclass or Y's BA course' system, with anyone who either failed to get into those classes, couldn't afford them, or doesn't give a toss about formal training ending up in the Ignored and Unpublished box.


Sorlil said...

Since I don't have a spare three-and-a-half grand I've been stalking creative writing students' blogs hoping to pick up tips that way!!

Jane Holland said...

Love it!

Also, of course, women (and men) caring for babies or young children quite naturally find it hard to attend courses, often for a large number of years during their prime as writers. Key factors there being the cost of attendance, the cost of childcare, or just not being able or willing to leave their children on a regular basis for whatever reason. I know from experience, for instance, that it is never a simple matter to leave disabled children with a third party, especially if they are on medication or display challenging behaviours.

It seems massively unfair, given that particular disadvantage, that those who ARE able to attend such courses - often young themselves, or childless or with older children - end up being privileged in this way above writers who can't or don't wish to follow a taught course.

Poetry Pleases! said...

Dear Jane

Erica Wagner of 'The Times' once wrote that the British Poetry Establishment has gone out of its way to 'tame' poetry and has failed dismally. I think that the way certain poets are hyped at the expense of others is utterly arbitrary and has nothing whatsoever to do with native talent. I would go so far as to say that if we'd had a different set of poetry editors, many well-known names would have found themselves languishing at the bottom of the Ignored and Unpublished box.

Best wishes from Simon

Jane Holland said...

I agree.


Poetry Pleases! said...

Dear Jane

Sorry to hear that you and your family have been feeling unwell. I wish you all a speedy and complete recovery.

Love from Simon

Angela France said...

Do you really think people are published because of the degrees? maybe it's a matter of numbers: as more people take CW courses, the proportion would go up anyway.

I'm not sure that anyone 'learnt how to write in X's masterclass'. In my experience, those who are dedicated and/or focussed on writing will get most out of a CW course and may well be published anyway before the course. I can't accept that anyone would be able to get published on the strength of the qualification if they were not already showing some ability and drive. I certainly have met some for whom the qualification won't help at all.

I suspect, in any case, that the CW degree workshops and courses are not so terribly different from what happened in the past: poets would have peer groups and mentors that they worked with to improve their craft, to make connections.

Jane Holland said...

I fear that's an over-optimistic view, Angela. It's clear from the evidence that a disproportionate amount of people being newly published have taken CW classes or degree courses. I cannot believe that everyone who wishes to write is taking a course in the subject, which suggests that you're MORE likely to be successful if you've taken a CW course. And that, inversely, suggests you're LESS likely to be published, overall, if you haven't got some kind of CW history or qualification.

I'm aware that you're on the CW side of this debate, of course, having just taken an MA. But this isn't an attack on those who choose that path. It's an appeal to those who might wrongly believe, in the current CW climate, that only those who have taken such courses can know how to write and therefore deserve publication. Which, as everyone knows who's ever been in a CW class, is utter nonsense.