Monday, August 06, 2012

In Search of Coherence

Here's my dilemma, poetry-wise. I'd like to publish a fourth collection, but I'm not sure who with. I have ideas about that, but am not ready to act on them at the moment.
That's problem number one.

Problem number two is that I don't actually have a book of poems to show to anyone right now. My last full-length book was Camper Van Blues (Salt Publishing 2008). That's four years ago, and I really ought to have another book's worth of poems ready to publish. But I don't, because I've been mostly writing prose fiction since then. And the rest of the time I've been working on various short translations - mainly Anglo-Saxon poetry - and of course my biggest project since CVB, which has been my version of the Middle English poem Gawain and the Green Knight.

I now have about 15 pages of Gawain, cobbled together in a vaguely finished state, and think another hundred and fifty lines should bring it to a close. But finding the time to write those lines isn't as easy as it sounds. You don't just write something like that in your lunch break. It's about finding a rhythm and a feel for the original that can be translated into the version I'm writing, to make a coherent and powerful whole, and that takes time. Well, it takes me time.

So Gawain has to sit on the back boiler until I can find time to re-read the original and get back into the rhythm and mood that inspired me in the first place.

Beside Gawain on that back boiler sit various translations from the AS, plus a gaggle of self-conscious stand-alone lyrics that might or might not be publishable on their own merits, and some rough ideas on how to fit them all together, none of which have any coherence right now.

I also have my long poem On Warwick, which was published by the lovely Nine Arches Press in pamphlet form in 2008, but which I'd like to see as part of a collection.

Basically I can't decide if Gawain should be published alone - it's very short though, even for a chapbook - or in book form.

If it goes into a book, along with On Warwick, then I have a full collection ready to show. But if it doesn't, then I don't have enough for a book.

What needs to happen now is for me to finish Gawain, write more stand-alone lyric poems, polish up my Anglo-Saxon translations, and get the shape of this fourth book right. I have a list of possible victims publishers, places which might take my career further forward and help me with poetic direction. But will any of them have me?

I suppose that question is academic until I've done the actual work. Perhaps I need a poetry retreat?


myraduffy said...

I love Gawain -one of my favourite poems of all time,though The Seafarer runs it close! Could you not publish Gawain with some background info re the age it's set in etc. I'd certainly buy it!


You'll find the right press for your work, Jane. I'm sure of it. Maybe a retreat is in order to immerse yourself. Immersion is the only cure for us multi-genre writers.
Good luck!

Jane Holland said...

Sorry I missed your comment, Myra - I was away on a retreat (but a retreat for prose fiction, alas, Nuala).

Not sure I like the idea of other material with the poetry. There are much better introductions to the poem out there already than I could write. I did something similar with my pamphlet of The Wanderer (available on Kindle, lol) but that was Anglo-Saxon, which far fewer people have been exposed to than Middle English.

Well, nothing has moved on since writing this entry. One day I'll find time to do some more work on my translations ...