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get into those classes, couldn't afford them, or doesn't give a toss about formal training ending up in the Ignored and Unpublished box.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

How old is Jane Holland?

This is genuinely disturbing. Found it today whilst trawling the net in search of insults. Who asked this question ... and why?

Identity fraud, here we go ...

Still, this 'True Knowledge' site was completely stumped when I asked it, 'how green is a frog?'  Ha!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

I Won't Let You Down

One of my favourite songs from the eighties, Ph.D's I Won't Let You Down was a Top 10 UK hit in April 1982, when I was a highly suggestible fifteen year old.

Thankfully, I'm still pretty suggestible. Just not fifteen anymore.

By the way, if you can't remove the ad strip when watching this, click the arrows (bottom right) to watch it on full screen.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Polesworth Poetry Trail, Warwickshire

Off to the pretty town of Polesworth in North Warwickshire tomorrow, to read some of my poetry and celebrate the opening of the Poetry Trail there, with which I was involved as Warwick Poet Laureate two years ago. Fellow poet John Siddique will also be there, as guest poet, and probably some of the other poets involved in the project. There may be music, dancing, a knees-up, perhaps even booze. Well, music anyway.

My commissioned poem on the River Anker has been set into several matching blocks of granite positioned beside the river itself. So human civilisations may rise and fall, an ice age may cover the earth and then thaw away, but Jane Holland's poem will remain etched in granite beside the River Anker in Warwickshire - no doubt much to the bemusement of future inhabitants.

"The Poets Trail, which was funded through the Advantage West Midlands Better Welcome programme, provides a series of poems showcased on small-scale sculptures.  The ten bespoke sculptures are dotted around Polesworth and up onto the canal towpath.  The poems were sought through a competition which saw entries come in from around the world.  The poems were decided by a panel of judges including the then Warwick Poet Laureate, Jane Holland."

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Bad Dates and Toothache

Sounds like a comic novel, or perhaps a cautionary tale told by a dentist, but my day has been all about bad dates and toothache. Last November, my dentist extracted several teeth. One root refused to budge and was left, with the proviso that if it started to 'bother' me, I would have to go to hospital to have it removed. I had some nasty pains for a few months, but slowly, things got better. Until yesterday, when the kraken finally awoke ...

My toothache increased over the course of the morning. We had a session with a consultant for our twin sons, who are being investigated for a whole range of behavioural problems, and emerged with a diagnosis of ADHD for both, and a formal diagnosis of autism for one, whose previous unsatisfactory diagnosis had been of 'autistic tendencies'. It has taken us five long years to get him that full diagnosis, so that was the big plus of the day, and means he will now be entitled to specialist help at school.

They will now be able to start medication for ADHD. However, there's more to come for the other son, whose diagnosis will take more time, and may be more complicated, as he has a range of other symptoms.

So that was my morning. Toothache cranking up gradually. I acquired some ibuprofen and some paracetamol with caffeine, and started alternating them for maximum pain relief.

I got on a train and headed off to London for my poetry gig at the Poetry Cafe.

My first stop was the National Portrait Gallery, as I wanted to see the original Elizabethan portraits I'd only seen in books so far, in connection with the Tudor historical I'm writing.

Next I went to Foyles, flicked through Robin Robertson's new book, The Wrecking Light - and felt a little disappointed, because it read too similarly to his previous book, Swithering (which I very much admired), and if you ain't pushing ahead with every new book, you're just treading water, and we've surely got too many poets doing that at the moment - and then I spent some time over a coffee there, doing some revisions to my current ms.

Naturally, once I've forked out for RR's new book and had a chance to read through it at leisure, I may feel differently. Don't forget the nagging toothache.

After a quick meal in Chinatown, I trolled off to the Poetry Cafe for my gig, and was somewhat taken aback to find a small group of enthusiasts playing what appeared to be Israeli folk music in the basement there. 'No poetry tonight,' said the cheery lady behind the counter. 'You must have got the wrong date.'

My toothache now throbbing like the devil, I sloped back to Euston for the long train journey home, unable to believe how stupid I had been. Bemused and not a little annoyed, I paid up for the WiFi Hotspot internet service so I could check which date I had been given. But no, there in my Inbox was an email from the organiser, sent only this morning, apologising for the lateness of her warning and letting me know that she'd got the date wrong. The correct day is NEXT Wednesday.

I think this must be an abscess that's developed under the root left in by the dentist last November. The pain is now simply excruciating. I can barely think of anything else, it's so bad. I'm maxed-out on painkillers, and am dreaming of large whiskies, and maybe a mallet with which to knock myself out. Under such circumstances, not feeling in a very forgiving mood is perhaps understandable.

Monday, April 05, 2010

New poem in Ink, Sweat & Tears ezine

A new poem of mine is now live at Ink, Sweat & Tears, which is a literary ezine currently edited by poet and all-round groovy person Helen Ivory. (And Charles Christian, she adds hastily, having looked at the site and thoroughly confused herself over who the editor actually is.)

The poem is called 'Collision', and accordingly involves a head-on collision with a coach.

It was a collision which I survived, obviously, but not unscathed. Ten years on, my wrist, thanks to my impatience with my cast, is still broken. Though I only notice it when asked to carry heavy shopping, or in damp weather.

Of course, when I say 'new poem', I mean never before published. It's been lurking in a To Be Revised file for more than five years.

I always intended to expand it. But I never did.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Could this be the kind of Face-Off we need in poetry?

Tricky Fourth

I can't put it off much longer. Camper Van Blues, my third poetry collection, came out in late 2008, in an absolutely gorgeous hardback edition, but alas, it's now spring 2010 and I really ought to be putting some new poems together and considering how my fourth collection will shape up.

I doubt that it will be ready to publish within twelve months. I've been working almost exclusively on prose for the past six months, and new poems have been a little thin on the ground. But mid-late 2011 or sometime during 2012 would suit me fine as a publication date. That would give me a good year to build up a core of individual poems for my fourth, without putting undue pressure on me to spin them out too rapidly, but equally it won't be so long since my last collection that people have entirely forgotten who I am.

Besides, I'm sure poetry books must sell better if the poet isn't constantly chucking new collections out to a less than enthused readership.