Wednesday, 6 April 2016

A Pause...

Image result for The hanged man

Hi again, I'm challenging my one post a month target this April. I'm often a diarist when it comes to blogging, but I thought this was a good time to write more generally about things. I might write another 'diary' post this month too.

The young man featured above is 'The Hanged Man.'  You may remember him from T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land, where he's mentioned but doesn't actually turn up to the Tarot party. He's not as unhappy as you might think. Yes, he's upside down hanging from his left ankle, but here he's actually giving up control, taking time out. He's happy to watch the world go by, albeit from a strange angle.

What has this to do with a poetry blog, apart from the tenuous reference to Eliot? In my experience poets can be very impatient. I am no exception. I had about 4-5 months off sending out recently. This has been an interesting time. I've not heard anything as yet and am about to start work in earnest on a manuscript very soon. A return to the world of acceptance/rejection and being active is imminent. No news is possibly good news at this stage. In the last few days of 'hanging out' and mulling over things, it's worth reflecting on this. Many poets, and I do this as well, judge what they do on 'acceptance.' This time last year I was very busy sending off and getting published. This went on till about October and I needed a breather. By Christmas, I'd had a couple of' 'no thank yous' and then the holidays came and went. January is usually a non-starter and February's only marginally better etc and then I realised I was out of the game! I'd not sent out for ages - well relatively, it was only 4 months, but things move fast. I was missing all sorts of deadlines. I'd spent more time off-line and felt a bit overwhelmed when I realised how much was going on. So, I made myself  send out again and am waiting for responses! I've had 6 months off now, even though there's been the odd publication from that earlier period of busily sending out.

Why is sending out so important? Well, apart from the glow of acceptance, even rejection is important. It sends signals out to both poet and editor that you're out there doing your thing. Some rejections are 'nice' ones, even though they don't feel like it. Some poets choose only to send to people they know, some aerially bombard everywhere. When I first started sending out over 6 years ago I kept a notebook and had an X for reject and tick for acceptance. There were a lot of Xs. The majority in fact were Xs. But I kept going.  I look back at that time and realise how important it was, like cutting teeth. You don't need a complicated system of recording your submissions, unless you have lots of them. A simple notebook will do. There will always be Xs of course. I also think it's natural to go through quieter periods as it's hard to maintain that busy momentum.

Here are two things David Morley taught me that seem relevant here:

1. Don't write for magazines - i.e. write what you need to write, not what you think you should.

Added to this is the not-beating-yourself-up-over-not-writing-much:

2. 'The Silence Reservoir'. I'm quoting here from David: 'You will find you fluency naturally slowing in order to allow the reservoir of language and ideas within your unconscious mind to replenish. Leave the field. Stop writing. Finish for the day and go for a walk...Silence is itself a type of eloquence...'*

David should know. David was my tutor at Warwick many years ago and I remember one seminar in 1998 where he came in distraught at the start. He'd just heard that Ted Hughes had died. Hughes was a massive influence on David and he referred to him that day as 'a poetic father.' He felt an undeniable loss, which makes this news not only gratifying, but also very moving as it was won in Ted's name.

See you later on in April!

* From The Cambridge Introduction to Creative Writing, David Morley, Cambridge University Press, 2007.