Saturday, February 24, 2007

A Cyber-Offering to Albion

I was trawling various sites tonight, researching some ideas I have on writing a sequence of British mythology-inspired poems, and found this on the site of a dear friend of mine:

"The bard mediates the past to the present, certainly; but her role is also fundamentally to praise. Though she mediates the past, she lives in the present, and her role is to use metaphor to unconceal the being of things. Using her language, by likening unlike things, she is able to cleanse our vision and let us see the world afresh, letting us feel our way into a new connection with reality. The bard is one who renders-strange; she uses language to defamiliarise the world, only to hand it back to us a second later, made new, so that we can experience its wonder afresh.

This is why cliché is not just bad poetry – it’s the opposite of poetry, because it deadens our experience of the world. This is also why writing bardic poetry isn’t just an attempt to write down your feelings as a kind of therapy; it must break new ground. The bard’s consciousness must revolve and rhapsodise around another being, to reveal its nature, its inner being. It is from metaphor that we can lay hold of something fresh. The bard should lay the world before us in its prismatic brilliance."

Mark Williams: Grove of the Stars

On reading these words, I felt strangely moved to steal them (with permission) and post them up here alongside this photo, taken last week on the edges of the ancient forest of Thetford, and the following poem, written in about 1998-9.

This is by way of a cyber-offering to Albion/Alba towards the successful completion of my new project. Perhaps also for a shift from praising to prophecy, as Mark might put it, which feels like frightening territory to enter, though as I wrote once: "Nothing to be done but the crossing:/a still moon drifting dark water ... '.

Birth of the Medicine Man

Nobody knows how, but I sprang
fully-formed from a hole
in the ground: steam accompanied me
and earth shook
with its legs drawn up
as I was squeezed like toothpaste
out of that great darkness.

Once I started to live
it was seen I had an extra rib
the width of a finger.
But this is not all.
My heart, stomach and liver
were found to be crystal.

When I was old enough to dream
I began to remember
how they took me
away from my family,
told me to run
and shot bullets of quartz crystal
after me. One entered
the white space of my head
and spoke to me. It said

'Fall to the ground, fall down
and let the river run over you.'

So I fell and the fathomless river
ran over and around me. Fish
drummed their heels
on the thin skin of my ankles
and when I emerged
I could breathe fire and see
inside solid objects.
I saw a spirit trapped
in the mountain rocks.
I heard its voice
in the mouth of a cave. It said
'All things have their story.'

Listen to the four winds.
All things have their story.

Friday, February 23, 2007

'Be Mine' anthology of love poems

Just a quickie to let you know that I've got a poem in a brand-new anthology called Be Mine, an anthology of love poems edited by Sally Emerson (Little Brown, 2007). It's the same poem, THEY ARE A TABLEAU AT THE KISSING-GATE, which appeared in Picador's anthology All the Poems you Need to Say I Do.

Sorry not to have been posting here much recently, but if you take a quick peek at one of my other sites, POETS ON FIRE you will immediately see why! I've been very busy changing the look of the site and posting far more photographs (mostly taken by me at poetry gigs across the UK) and little snippets of news and tips about live poetry and spoken word.It's taken some time to change the look of the site, but now things should settle down a bit and maybe I'll actually be able to post here instead!

Let me know if you think the red font on POF is too much. I like it myself but my husband made odd faces ...

Jane x

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Poetry readings, chocolate muffins and rhinos.

I was due to travel down to London this weekend for the Penned in the Margins radio show, but recently found out that it's 'resting' for a few months, so I'll have to content myself with the local action, plus an eagerly-awaited Cambridge reading in April and a trip to Whitechapel on May 3rd to read at the Whitechapel Gallery there. I have to admit to keenly looking forward to the Cambridge trip in particular because it will give me an excuse to use my membership cards for Mickey Flynns, the Cambridge-based independent 9-ball pool club!

This may seem a trivial thing to a non-player, but the Uk pool market is more or less dominated by a series of large chains, mostly Rileys - even some of the smaller chains appear to be owned by Rileys, simply operating under another name, so there's not much to choose between any of these UK chain-owned clubs in terms of variety and a different approach to marketing cue sports. In other words, independent clubs are few and far between, and it's always a pleasure to visit one whenever I can. Which isn't very often, as the Midlands - where I currently live - is dominated by Rileys clubs.

But I digress.

So I'm off to do those poetry readings later this spring, and there are a few other interesting gigs lined up too, notably a Reading-based monthly poetry night run by AF Harrold, which I'll be 'doing' in June. I'm also hoping to organise a bookshop reading in a few months' time, but I was ill last week, which kept me away from such business matters due to a loss of voice, and now I keep forgetting to ring the bookshop owner to thrash out the details.

Such organisational skills! Tomorrow, Peter, honestly.

I've also forced myself to seriously re-write - ahem, this is now about my fifth serious re-write on this - the first few chapters of my children's fantasy novel, basically with an eye to sending it off in the next few days to another prospective agent. I've actually only sent this manuscript out three times so far, which means it could still be early days!

But I do get dreadfully knocked back when agents show absolutely no interest in my work and so assume that the book - or whatever - must be dire and only worthy of being binned. But, of course, it may not be. I have to clng to that hope, gird my loins, do some re-writes where I feel necessary, and send the blessed thing out again to another victim. I mean, agent.

The rejection knock takes a few months out of me, in terms of being able to work with confidence, while I recover. Such a long time! Then I tell myself nice things and start the horrible process again.

But at this rate it could take years to place this novel. Maybe decades. And with the amount of doughnuts and double chocolate muffins I'm eating to cope with the stress of it all, I may not have decades! So I have to be strong and make sure that, when/if I get another rejection at this attempt, I will dust myself off more rapidly and get the sample chapters and synopsis out again to another agent within days rather than months.

I'm beginning to think successful writers need to have hides like rhinos. Either that or be completely naive. Now which would I prefer?

Head down, horn up.