Thursday, 21 January 2016

January 2016 - The Drawing Board and the Monkey

 Image result for chinese new year 2016 animal

Is it to late to say happy new year? Well, happy new year anyway.It's almost Chinese New Year, which Google tells me is the Year of the Monkey (featured above). I had a spare morning, so I've been at my desk trying to write. Trying being the key word, because I'm trying to take stock of which poems are 'done' (very few), which poems could be revived and which ones will stay in the folder (going very yellow). A monkey at a typewriter might make more sense of the pile! Firstly, some good news. I have two poems in the Manchester Review, which you can read here. Secondly, Matthew Stewart has been saying some incredibly nice things about what I do on his blog.

Back to today. I don't know about you, but I seem to have an avalanche of drafts to sort through. It makes sense that January should be a time to sort things out, but I'm not sure where to start. The other week I read a blogpost by Helena Nelson on editing and the writing process. Here's a snippet:

Careful writing clarifies. Helps you see things. It’s a beautiful thing.

In Stephen King’s book On Writing, he says ‘Do not come lightly to the blank page’. Another way, I think, of remarking on the holiness of the act. And though I agree that the writer should not come lightly to the task, writing imparts lightness to the writer and, when the clarification process works, light to the reader.

This is chiming with something I'm experiencing at the moment. When I was starting out I used to write every single day. Now I've slowed down. I still enjoy noting down fresh ideas, but when I have a rough draft in front of me I know it's going to be a while before I feel I can share it with anyone. When the process is going well, however, it's still a lot of fun and the sense of 'lightness' is there. In the autumn I did something a bit odd, I sent out poems which were pretty much early drafts and they all came back pretty sharpish. It's taught me that the whole process, for me at any rate, is about slowing down. There's one poem I'm working on which I started almost two years ago and it's not even near finished. Also, in the last year or so I've found that life, news, etc. have pulled me away a bit, but taking time out allows for ideas to refresh themselves. I'm starting to wonder how some of these poems can fit together in a book. At Aldeburgh Kei Miller said he had an idea then set to work on a book. In my experience ideas come together in retrospect. I'm not sure if there's a right way round or not...but you have to do what you do to do anything. I think that makes sense.

Now I'm off to hunt for a particular half-finished poem on a scrappy piece of A4. If the monkey hasn't got it, it's around somewhere...