Tag: anthology

Ways in which a writer approaches poetry

Ways in which a writer approaches poetry

Ford Dagenham is one our authors published in I You He She It – a collection of short stories and poems developed out of the Grist project. As part of #OAWeek we asked him to discuss his writing processes and and how he keeps himself on track when writing poetry.

You can read the Grist collection online, open access here.

You can read more around the author on their blog.

The Poetry Process

(readings prose submitting etc are another story)

I write poetry waking up. Not weekends. Days off are ok.

After a day or two off I get the itch. Without being dramatic, who I am unravels.

I post the mornings poem on the blog then I pat myself on the back.

I keep notebooks for poetry and story ideas. I use Notes in my iphone. People assume I am another addict to the glass. I enjoy this misconception.

I look OUT and IN.

I wrote rules down. Its like a blueprint, a distilled list of elements.

I often ignore it.

If I write something that feels dead, it probably is. Its unlikely to merit a funeral.

I resuscitate dead work. Halve its word count. Then its bones show. Then I add flesh and hats.

The delete key is liberation. Often a way out of the swamp.

I repurpose bad work. A bad line ON PURPOSE is ok, even funny.

I delight in accidental rhymes.

Rhyming on purpose is a forced endeavour, lending an expectation that can destroy natural flow.

I find a neighbours minutiae a gift on dead-end mornings.

I stop and start something new. Freshness is spring air and old work can improve like ignored wine.

Distractions can be material. Also they are distractions and inevitable.

Better to not read others work at all, than read it with a mental red pen.

Beware the vacuum, tho it can be informative, like a mirror.

If I write just bare branches, then I add flowers and leaves.

Sometimes a poem is done before you are. Notice this.

I try to be universal and personal. Brand names, song lyrics, ad tags are reality.

I sometimes try for a new language, which sounds poncy.

I enjoy a good typo.

I use no punctuation. When I do use punctuation, its either like a day at the seaside or a horrible school trip.

Writing is a state born of continued trying.

Writing is HEALTHY. That tortured genius lark, I don’t buy it.

My blog says ‘a poem or pic a day until I die or don’t’. This gives me discipline and flexibility.

My blog is the one most important thing that keeps me writing.

I write for me and my dozen regular readers and occasional zines. This is enough.

Moving water is good for inspiration. Like fire. Constant motion. The bath counts and washing the dishes.

Rejection letters/emails are difficult for editors to write. Have empathy. I thank them for a good rejection. I been read. Good.

Rape yourself with kindness.

I dig deep. I skim light.

If I go stale, its often because the music has stopped.

Read poetry. Lots is just guff. Read anyway. Broadly. Dart and prod. Reading poetry on the toilet one morning (counts as running water) I wrote six poems none of which was shit.

I try to be aware of my thoughts. They are journeys.

Songs stuck in my head get new words for the melody.

If I borrow or steal, I credit it in the poem or in the title.

I try not to judge. If I judge I make it clear I’m judging. Then I judge myself.

Have an opinion. Don’t be blind to other opinions.

I have realised I am writing this in the voice of Alan Partridge.

Beware of voices in your head. Or be aware of voices in your head. They are not all for you.

I think in my gut. Head-space is chaotic, don’t spend all day there.

Rarely am I writing the worlds most important poem. But I try to.

There WAS a thousand excuses to not sit down and tap anything out.

There IS a thousand reasons TO sit down and tap something out.

I try not to write about writing. Sometimes I of course do.

I attempt authority. Probably it is fake. We are not all Moses. Its important to believe what you write. Or how will the reader? Don’t be Dan Brown.

I don’t worry about titles. I make it up at the last minute. They can be changed.

If you have a good line that won’t fit, there’s your title.

Use the first line as the title, then the reader hits the ground running.

No title is fine.

A number as a title hints at a secret order.

A title of a COLLECTION is more important. Be understated. The work will fly higher.

Imbibe what you need to. But its YOU that writes, not blended chemicals.

Today I am a sober poet. No one has ever done a harder thing.

I keep calm. Too angry is fine. I wrote one of my best poems when angry with the council housing office.

I read Ferlinghetti’s 2001 inaugural address.

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Finding your voice as a poet

Finding your voice as a poet

Tony Watts is an author published in our Grist collection of poetry and prose: I You He She It. As part of #OAWeek we asked Tony to talk about his writing processes and how other writers have influenced the way he approaches his work.

I tend to describe my creative life as a state of permanent writer’s block occasionally interrupted by a poem.  I normally feel so uninspired that my total output of about six hundred poems is a constant source of amazement to me.  I’ve no idea how I did that: it feels as though they were written by someone else – someone much brighter than me.  On the other hand, I don’t just sit around waiting for inspiration (that way lies madness): I keep my oeuvre in a constant state of revision – that is to say, I keep going methodically through the lot looking for what can be improved or rejected.  And when I get to the end, I go back and start again (Sisyphus comes to mind).

As a young aspirational poet I puzzled about how or where I could “find my voice”.  I was led to believe that “finding your voice” was something important that you had to do before you could be a proper poet.  The trouble was that whatever I wrote tended to look like an exercise in the style of the poet I was currently reading.  “In that case, just stop reading”, you might say.  And how wrong you would be.  The solution is to do the opposite – to read as much and as widely as possible – and your “voice” will gradually emerge all on its own.  Billy Collins hit the nail on the head: “The source for a poet’s voice is external, not internal.  It lies within the poetry section of a library.  It is the voice of all those other poets who influence you and are ideally ‘recombined’ in a way that the reader can’t identify very quickly.”  He might have added that there is a catalytic factor involved in this alchemy – and that is the unique set of memories that constitutes your experience of life on earth.  A.E. Housman, Thomas Hardy, W.B. Yeats, Robert Graves, Ted Hughes, R.S. Thomas… these are just some of the favourite poets who, in my case, were fed into the top end of the funnel.  What comes oozing sluggishly out the bottom end is “my” voice.

When asked why he climbed Everest, George Mallory famously replied, “Because it’s there”.  If you asked me why I’m writing a poem, I might say, “Because it isn’t there”.  As a poem begins to take shape in your head, there comes a moment when you become simultaneously aware that there is a poem-shaped hole in the universe and that it has fallen to you to make good this serious deficiency by filling it.  Philip Larkin thought that the reason we write is that everything that’s been written so far is somehow inadequate.  He was right.  While it may seem the height of hubris to imagine you can fill a gap carelessly left vacant by every great writer of the past, the fact remains that the universe has changed – it now has you in it.  And that makes all the difference.

You can read the Grist collection online, open access here.

John Beresford is one our authors published in I You He She It – a collection of short stories and poems developed out of the Grist project. As part of #OAWeek we asked him to discuss his writing processes and and how he approached the challenge of a short story.

You can read the Grist collection online, open access here.

Dealing with ‘writer’s block’

My Grist anthology piece is part of a “100 Day Writing Challenge” I set myself during a period of writerly inactivity following the publication of my first novel in 2012. I had several ideas for a second novel but while I was trying to decide on a direction, I hadn’t been doing any actual writing. A conversation with my daughter about how important it is to keep your hand in with artistic endeavour, flex the creative muscles, and not worry too much about the quality of the output (at least initially) but instead concentrate on getting it done and trying new things, uncovered obvious parallels between the painting challenge she was working on at the time, and my writing.

Writing as a challenge

Working from a list of 100 themes my challenge was to write for thirty minutes without editing or revision of any kind on whatever the theme suggested to me. There are many examples of such “theme lists” online. The one I used can be found here. Feel free to reuse it if the idea of the challenge piques your interest.

I didn’t intend to restrict myself to narrative fiction. If the theme evoked poetry then I was happy to rhyme for the period instead – I think there’s one example of this; an amusing bit of doggerel (what do you expect in 30 minutes?) entitled Never Again – or if it triggered a personal memory the writing took the form of a blog entry, but the majority of the 100 entries are fictional.

At the outset I expected there to be a large number of unfinished pieces, but it didn’t turn out that way. With some kind of innate writer’s clock I very quickly developed a feel for how much text could be contained in half an hour, and with the exception of three or four early attempts I was able to bring each entry to a satisfactory conclusion in the time allowed. I also hoped to come out of the challenge with a few gems – maybe a scene or two I could use in that novel I was heading towards, or the germ of an idea for a short story. In the end I did use adapted versions of several entries in Gatekeeper, and also began to develop an idea for a collection of short stories with a narrative link.

What I didn’t expect was empirical proof that writing becomes easier the more you engage in it. During the course of the Challenge my average word count for each piece rose from 550 to almost 900. At nine hundred words a day, in only thirty minutes a day, you could have the first draft of a decent length novel in the time I took to complete this challenge.

An absence of editing

I submitted ‘Stirring of the Wind’ to Grist exactly as it stood: still unedited. Looking at it now, to me it’s an object lesson in first drafting. I’d clearly been able to silence my inner editor for those thirty minutes. The piece flows quite well and, if you’ll forgive the self-critique, has some nice descriptive passages. The idea of Neil’s reflection turning into mourning for his lost first love only occurred to me during the writing, and I think brings added poignancy to what was already a subdued piece, with its parallel between the autumn of the year and of Neil’s life. With critical hindsight, it suffers from the lack of editing in what for me is a common slip – the reuse of similar words or phrases in close proximity. ‘Shook – or shaking – loose’ appears twice in the early part of the second (non-dialogue) paragraph. ‘Handfuls’ is not a word you would want to use more than once in a piece of this length, and even ‘leaves’, with some judicious journeying through thesaurus and dictionary, could have been spared its current exhaustion.

But that’s the point of first drafts. As Shannon Hale says: ‘I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.’ And the point of the 100 Day Challenge exercise is to let loose your creativity and try new things, where a degree of discomfort with the theme is probably a Good Thing.

With those few scenes in the bag, I completed Gatekeeper and it was published in 2015. I’m currently working on a sequel, which is proving to be several orders of magnitude more challenging than writing a novel in the first place, but that’s probably a story for another time.

You can read the Grist collection online, open access here.

Happy World Poetry Day – sneak preview

Happy World Poetry Day – sneak preview

As today is #WorldPoetryDay we thought it apt to do a preview of our newest book, I You He She It – Experiments in Viewpoint. This beautiful collection of prose and poetry is compiled by the School of Music, Humanities and Media at the University of Huddersfield and brings together established writers and emerging talent from all over the UK.

You can order the book in print or access the full open access version on our website.

Here is one of the poems from the book, by poet Gaia Holmes.

It

It made her want to drink the last of the Christmas sherry, climb over the park railings after midnight and cry at Adonis’s feet.

It made him want to phone in sick and spend the rest of the day in bed with her eating treacle sponge and custard, playing chess.

It made them want to go to the next alcoholics anonymous meeting.

It made him want to go to the woods with a week’s supply of cream crackers, tinned sardines and his dead grandmother’s fat three-stone bible.

It made him want to pull out his tubes, curse at the nurses and shuffle to the gardens to smoke a cigarette.

It made them want to adopt.

It made her want to touch his wife’s breasts to see if they were real.

It made them want to drive to the seaside on a rainy day, park up on the cliff top, eat egg mayonnaise sandwiches, drink tea from a thermos flask and watch the grey waves curling and rolling through the steamy windows.

It made him want to apologise.

It made her want to murder.

It made her want to wear Doc Martens and a chiffon dress the colour of ostrich steak.

It made him want to go to the library and borrow a book on goat husbandry.

It made her want to paint all the windows with bitumen, burn all his letters and cry for six weeks.

It made him want to eat fried rice with a pair of tweezers.

It made them want to slow-roast the placenta in a casserole dish with Bisto, onions and leeks.

It made him want to pour treacle into the toecaps of all his trainers.

It made him want to teach his Jack Russell how to iron.

It made her want to set fire to her Barbie doll’s hair.

It made her want to move to Russia, gorge on roast turnips and black bread and become comfortably fat.

It made him want to stroke her clavicles.

It made her want to wear a fake moustache at the wedding reception.

It made him want to curl up in a fist at the bottom of her bed.

It made him want to steal a wedge of Brie from Sainsbury’s deli counter.

It made her want to sell her soul on eBay.

It made her want to try it when her parents were out.

It made him want to think about it for a long time in the bath.

It made them want to forget about it and get on with their lives.