I dream of London’s buried waterways,
how the Tyburn crashes through Westminster
trammelled by culverts, a ghost of a ghost.
Bury me somewhere nameless. Let the days
settle underneath leaves. Open the ground,
bury me deeper this time. Let me fall
down where the rivers meet so I can feel
the current without knowing. There’s no sound,
no marble echoes to remember me,
no evidence of parting nor that place
where we are told the waters surface.
I’ll be there when the stream becomes a sea
composed of driftwood, pauses and intent:
beyond the shore, where the waves are silent.
‘Poets’ Corner’ was shortlisted in the 2013 Live Canon International Poetry competition.
The safety notice
bleaches in sunlight. Hours
smoke in a secret fire.
Alysoun’s talk focused on the changing landscape of publishing, self-publishing strategies and what publishers have to offer. I was particularly interested in ‘how to hook an agent’. What she had to say was pragmatic and at times sobering. Suffice to say a lot of people write but not many make much money at it. Fine if you’re writing because you have something to say or a particular way to say it.
- there are more opportunities than ever to have your work read
- you can help your chances by knowing how it all works and being canny
- have a clear conception of your work, the genre and who will read it
- social media and blogs give you the opportunity to build an audience
- be patient AND ambitious.
Alysoun mentioned the vibrancy of the poetry scene when asked, and the many readings and events happening across the country.
My friend Paul has remixed this lovely minimalist take on ‘The Axe’.
Of the two stories mentioned in my last update, I’ve been drawn to writing the folk tale. The quest narrative and father/son theme is especially relevant right now. Next step: summarise all of my notes into a one or two page overview.
However, I’m already getting sidetracked by the temptation of new musical projects. One idea is a kind of ambient & field recording affair. The other would be single instrument compositions and improvisations. I want to travel in more minimalistic, spontaneous directions and this would have the added appeal of cutting down on the labour-intensive processes of programming and mixing. Having said that, I should probably eliminate the labour of mixing entirely by focusing solely on writing.
Andy of Grande Valise asked if Uffmoor Woods Music Club would be on hold while I work on the novel. The answer is yes but there is another Uffmoor EP in the pipeline. Romances of the Djinn will be available as soon as the cover art and some final mixing is done. Then I’ll take a break until the time is right to record a new album.
I’m taking redundancy from my role as digital editor at Macmillan Publishers after nearly seven years. This summer will see some big changes but one of them will be the chance to write full time, at least for a while. As well as writing poetry over the past few years, I’ve been working on some longer stories I want to tell. So, here I go.
But how is it financially possible to quit your job and write a novel?
It probably isn’t. There’s been saving, scrimping, budgeting and now the temporary breathing room granted by a redundancy payment. Outgoings will be screwed down for the foreseeable. I’ll also engage in freelance work to maintain some income, specialising in online content.
What will I get out of reading this blog?
I’ll update regularly with musings on my progress and the craft, as well as excerpts from the story. This is a big change. All being well, I’ll move to the coast with wife, young ‘un and a grumpy black cat. There’ll be lots to talk about besides the novel. Don’t worry, it won’t be about the word count.
What’s your novel about?
Well, there are two stories I want to tell. One is about an author having a midlife crisis in Paris. I’m some way into the first draft of this and it’d be a good excuse for my brother and me to visit some Parisian bars on a ‘research’ jaunt. So much for screwing down costs. The other story is a folk tale: a lumberjack’s son embarks on a quest to free his father from an evil king. This one draws on the writings of Joseph Campbell, whose ‘follow your bliss’ motto could be to blame for my decision to throw financial prudence to the wind. The next step is to decide which story to focus on for now.
I hope you’ll join me for the journey. I’ll need all of your advice and encouragement along the way.
When you pause to think about it, time is obviously a measure of change and not a cause of change. Holding my infant son and pacing the bedroom to keep him from screaming, I looked at my wife’s bedside clock and tried to guess when I could reasonably expect to get some shuteye. Maybe it was the cumulative sleep deprivation of the last few weeks but it seemed that the hands were turning around the clockface… and that was all. There was nothing additional going on, no invisible wind blowing between the past and future: only the room, the hectic floral wallpaper, the houseplant sitting in front of the lamp I bought my wife for Christmas a few years ago and the clock hands moving. This was ‘now’ just as it had ever been.
You see the difficulties we have with time in the way we talk about it. When asked where the time goes we can never say. It’s deeply mysterious to us. Perhaps it was never here to begin with. When I talk about a date in the past or future, I’m referring to a configuration of objects and states distant from us by a certain amount of change… most obviously the number of times the Earth has spun on its axis and how far it has rotated around the sun. Maybe all this is trivial but we seem to think of time as though it’s a thing in itself: a location, somewhere we travel to or from. Maybe it is… maybe I should get to bed an hour early tonight.
We caught on memories, each one a wrecked canoe
painted with forest-darkened light from a world
gone to the shadows where they were silted.
My parents are leaving Halesowen, the town I did most of my growing up in. Recently, I found myself thinking about the stream that runs through Earl’s Wood and alongside the Dudley Road, behind what used to be Comet (now defunct) and other retail outlets. Don’t ask me why.
As schoolboys, my friends and I were in the habit of building dams. Our method was simple and cheap if not effective. We threw branches and stones and shopping trolleys into the neck of water and watched eagerly to see how it changed. We were captains of industry diverting the flow in tiny unforeseen ways. The after school light punctured the canopy and gilded the swirling currents as they flowed on through hidden parts of the town.
One of the brooks we tried to dam was behind the Dudley Road. It makes me smile to think of our Lord of the Flies sub-society constructing its primitive infrastructure on the other side of the stream while people parked their cars and shopped for electronic goods.
I’ve had no reason to think of this until now. It’s a place you’ll never know unless you live in that town, and even if you do know of it, you’d never visit it on a busy weekend when you’re back to visit friends. Similarly, there are people I recognise in Halesowen whose names I’ve never known. That makes a place feel like home. I suppose we go on a night out sometimes to bump into acquaintances as much as to be with our friends.
Those were the days. The irony is that these are the days, too. If I remember today at all, it’s likely that I’ll look back on it with warm feelings. I might say ‘I wouldn’t go through that again’ when thinking of an ordeal but when it comes to memories of being in a certain place, with certain people, at a certain time of year, I’m nostalgic. It isn’t that I look back favourably on the past. It’s that I can better appreciate what I had. There is one regret: to not know what we have when we have it.
Nameless places. Unlocalities. It’s the way we live now that many places are intended only to perform a function. By comparison, even Victorian sewers were more built with more love than many of our public buildings. Despite this, it’s usually possible to find something around you to appreciate. There’s a strange beauty in the unloved: the weeds and dry grass bordering the truck depot; the shabby post office and its decades-old fittings. Places like these have an unassuming charm. They don’t ask to be appreciated. They are what they are. Nobody charges you to see these things. No one expects to miss them.
What could be more rockin’ than a cover from My Fair Lady…?