Includes book reviews and bits from writer's journal. For the professional stuff, see website link below left.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Upliftment, or ... ?

Australian artist Ken Done makes art, he says, to lift the spirits of those who see it — so reports The Sydney Morning Herald today, featuring some of his (and others') paintings for Australia Day. The article goes on:
'"I think in the time we live when you can see suicide bombers on the TV at night or on the front-page of the paper, art has a different role to play," says Done. "I hope that these kinds of pictures give people pleasure over a long period of time. For me, art should be more like poetry and give you pleasure."'
Gee thanks, Ken. Yes, I hope a lot of my poetry gives a lot of people pleasure, in various ways. Yes, I have derived intense pleasure from many poems I have read. But, such a sweeping statement! 

I dislike pronouncements as to what poetry (or any other art form) should be doing. OK, he qualifies it by saying, 'For me ...' And so he should.
Let's stick to poetry, since that is what I do, and make some claim to know. My point is that some poetry may disturb, irritate, shock, outrage ... and that it's perfectly legitimate — even at times essential — that it should do so.
I like escapist reading, and often prefer it these days — but that's prose. In poetry I have broad, eclectic tastes (though within that context I'm very fussy, with extremely high, if idiosyncratic, standards). I can certainly confront the shocking, appalling, horrifying or merely annoying in verse. 

If it's wonderfully written, it may indeed give me pleasure in that aspect, but I don't demand that it uplift my spirit. Sometimes it may be more appropriate to leave a reader cast down, and/or to set them thinking.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

What I Learned from Week 2 of 'Finding Your Way Home'

We were invited to 'write as someone else'.

What I learned is that I have great difficulty doing that.

A couple of times I wrote as an aspect of myself instead. The rest of the time I managed it, but struggled. This may be a clue as to why I am no good at writing fiction! I have occasionally written passable short stories, but I'm hopeless at novels, where character is more important.

I habitually write either poetry or nonfiction — essays and articles and things.

I can and do get fictional in the poetry. Never assume they are all autobiographical! Sometimes they are even 'first person' fictions. So I don't know why it didn't work in prose.

Perhaps it was a temporary thing. All I know is, I was too much present in myself and couldn't easily get out of that state.  I didn't yet learn why.

But maybe this is a clue:

I was still writing 'small stones': looking out at the world, not inward. But looking out through someone else's imagined eyes, that was the difficulty. Not so hard to be introspective as a fictional someone else, but hard to have any view of the outside world other than my own!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

What I Learned from Week One

... of the Finding Your Way Home course.

We are asked to journal about this.

One thing I have learned is that having a special spot for writing, as we are invited to find, doesn't work for me. Writing happens wherever I am. Often that is at the computer. Often it is somewhere else with iPad — anywhere else, from bedroom to dining-room to park to chiropractor's waiting room.

I have also learned that I am definitely now one who writes on to a screen instead of with paper and pen. Who woulda thought it, a few years ago? It's just a preference, but a surprising one. I can't bring myself to go back to a paper notebook, even for the sake of this course, even as an exercise. Not that we have been asked to; it's not a requirement. But it seems kinda assumed, probably unconsciously. I'm sure I am still in the minority among 'creative' writers.

And I have not so much learned as confirmed that working on poetry takes precedence over pretty much anything else, including 'mindful writing'. Sometimes — often — I write my 'small stones' in verse, but I still give precedence to other poems which are not doing double duty as exercises in mindfulness.

Though, I suppose, all poems require a degree of mindfulness....

 

‘Six Word Saturday’ emanates from Call Me Cate’s blog, Show My Face. To read her and other people’s ‘Six Word Saturday’ posts, click the icon.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Rethinking my Poetry

Oh dear — just read through the last few months' verses (on The Passionate Crone) and was struck by how banal and prosey most of them are!

I have often noted that my poetry blog gets far more viewers than any Australian lit. mag. Maybe this is not such a great idea, when what viewers are seeing consists largely of first drafts!

This happens from time to time — looking at one's poems and suddenly perceiving them, en masse, as simply awful.  Or perhaps on this occasion it is because I have just been reading the beautiful words of Patti Smith in Just Kids. Not only does she write like a dream; much of the story is about the making of art — innovative art.

For so long, influenced by my love of haiku, I've tried to make poems that are very plain and clear. I think I've gone too far! At any rate, the only ones that look good to me now are where I've explored form — particularly lesser-known forms such as the bref doublé, the sijo, even the paradelle.

I don't make New Year resolutions as a rule, but this year I seem to be making a few. A new one is to refrain (at least most of the time) from writing poems to prompts — because usually one has only a few days at most to complete the poem. Instead I am really going to do what I promised myself last year but didn't: go through all these drafts and either turn them into poetry that sings (or makes some other artistic impact) or else discard them.

I'll very likely make an exception for form prompts, especially if I get an opportunity to explore forms new to me. And I might be turning some of the lack-lustre free verse into form.

I expect I'll still share poems with the Poets United and dVerse communities, but in their weekly general poemfests rather than responding to specific prompts. And I'll certainly share rewrites with my facebook poetry communities ... except, I suppose, the Free Verse one.

There are also two books to produce — collaborations — of poems that ARE working. Keeps me off the streets!


Sunday, January 04, 2015

THE CIORAL SEA by Patti Smith

My Goodreads review –

The Coral SeaThe Coral Sea by Patti Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


The title piece, a long prose poem, was written in 1996 after the death of Patti Smith's dear friend, the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. This 2012 reissue includes some other poems for him, and a preface he asked her to write for his book, Flowers.

It's the most exquisite and moving work. The use of language is extraordinary — heightened and unusual, yet at the same time clear and straightforward. A paradox!

There is nothing self-consciously writerly about it; rather she is making art, and does so by finding the perfect words to convey her friend's last journey, and something of his soul.

A slim volume, beautifully produced, it includes some of his photos and some of her own.

It's unique. It's a treasure; a work of great beauty.

I can see myself returning to it often.

She recounts that he asked her, when he was dying, to write their story. She eventually did: the acclaimed memoir, Just Kids — but it took her a long time to be able to do it. Meanwhile she wrote The Coral Sea.




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THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE by Neil Gaiman

My Goodreads review – 


















The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When someone asked for my favourite three fiction books I'd read in 2014, I cast my mind over the possibilities, but only for a few seconds. This was clearly my equal first with The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.

Yes, you will gather that I love fantasy. I also love beautiful writing. And I particularly love a book that surprises me (so few do — I am unfortunately good at seeing where something is going, one reason I don't often read mysteries). This book is unpredictable in the way real life can be, as well as in the ways chaos and impossibility can be.

Yet despite some events which are extremely creepy and scary, the feeling of the narrative is gentle and loving.

I'm sure there are moral lessons in there too, as in all the best fairy-tales, but they will be absorbed on a subliminal level. It's plot and character which seize our attention.

A book for all ages, it's just a lovely read!



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