Sunday, 31 August 2008

Listless for a minute

This reading list business is all very well but now we've all got lists of must-reads and maybe-reads that are several miles long (and mine were already fairly long..I may never sleep again). The only way I'll ever get through all these books is if I can get put back in time to, say, 17 years of age. That would give me some extra reading hours though of course it might confuse Small Girl (“Mummy, you look different...your hair...you're so much thinner...and where's Dad...and what are all those beer cans doing there...and get out of bed!”).

Anyway, before we move on to a reading list for poetry (can we take it...will there be fighting?) I was having a few thoughts on...well...poetry. I'm not one for spouting off theories about poetry very often but you know what rules were made for! So, here goes...I was reading Hugh McMillan's new 'Postcards from the Hedge' and absolutely LOVING some of it and wondering why I like it so much more than lots of other poetry being written and published around now (especially his sick suicide poem which is fantastic, brave, hilarious, true and cruel... in a loving way). Then I realised that what I like about, say, McMillan's 'Notice by Highland Regional Council' is (suitably enough) something really simple - he isn't trying too hard. He is trying (for sure) but his writing doesn't feel laboured or forced or showy or like it's written to impress editors or to win poetry competitions (and on that subject I think the current plague of competitions is bad for poetry in a way...and not just because I've never won one...more on that another time...). I think it's what feels to me like over-trying that puts me off a lot of the poetry I see in magazines and websites and smart thin volumes. Maybe it's always been that way but it seems to me that right now a lot of people writing poetry are so desperate to be... poetic that they somehow miss the point...well any points that interest me anyway. Does that sound harsh? Truth hurts and all that...or maybe I'm way off whatever the mark might be...

On a related subject there was an interesting interview with actress (and now small film festival organiser) Tilda Swinton in The Independent on Friday. In it she said 'people get so caught up in thinking that they need their lives or career to go a certain way. I don't get it.' And that's kind of how I feel about poetry. I have no big plans for the career. I don't want to win the competitions (though of course winning is always nice but it really isn't the point, it's a distraction). I don't want to teach Creative Writing or be Poet frigging Laureate. I don't want to know what's going to happen. I want it to be unexpected and exciting, where possible, and I certainly don't want to spend all my time at literary festivals with other poets (bitching about who won this and who didn't get a deal from that). I want to stay out in the world and think and write and just get on with it all. In some ways all I want is people to read my poems when possible and for them to get as much out of them as I sometimes get out of poems written by others. Hell, I'm succinct. Such a way with words...

Which reminds me...I got my first customer review on 'More about the song's Amazon page. Alden Roach lives in Pennsylvania and read my poems via MySpace first. I've never met him, I've never bought anything of his, he bought his own copy of my book...and he has written the most lovely review. I was quite overwhelmed with the generosity of it (though I know North Americans can be much more pleasant than us bitter old Europeans - still his words were very welcome). Roach writes songs and generally speaking it's people outside of poetry who like my poems most. There are different ways of looking at that I suppose. You could call me 'easy' or 'accessible' or 'not real poetry' or you could say people outside of poetry just have great taste. Personally, I couldn't possibly comment...

Back to the lists soon...get your notes ready!

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11 comments:

BarbaraS said...

Congrats on the review! It's a nice buzz to get a totally independent review from someone simply looking at your poetry, so yay!

Rachel Fox said...

It's funny isn't it...I try not to be too needy and just get on with it but at the same time positive feedback is fantastic...it quite lifts the spirits!

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Sorlil said...

A pure delight eh? Hard to beat that!

Rachel Fox said...

Am I not Mary bloody Poppins or what?
x

Rob said...

Funny - on my blog, I just used the phrase "trying too hard" and now I come and read this! Yes, it's the reason many poems fail, I think.

I've no problem with poems being "poetic". They are poems after all. But yes, when they seems laboured or fake or pointless, I lose interest.

Rachel Fox said...

Yes, as I said it's not being poetic that's a problem...it's when the poet comes over as desperate to impress that I switch off. Be desperate to say something, be desperate to get through to people (or even to yourself!)...but desperate to impress...that seems to be heading up the wrong tree to me!

hope said...

You made me think of a quote from actor George Clooney when they asked him if he preferred acting or directing. His answer was, "I'd rather be the painter than the paint."

Kinda sums up how I feel about words. I love reading what others think/feel but I'm probably happiest when utilizing them myself. We write because we need to...and if we didn't, what would the rest of the world read? :)

Glad you're getting good reviews. I truly enjoyed your book but didn't feel qualified to play literary critic. We all like to hear we did something well...if your creative ego needs it, I'll be glad to go back and point out what I liked the most. :)

Rachel Fox said...

Only if you want to Hope...I don't want to be press-ganging anyone into it!
I think the 'customer reviews' do help on Amazon though. I know I look through a couple if I'm considering a book I don't know a great deal about and so I think they can make the difference between someone taking a chance on a book or not.

Fiendish said...

I do think this raises the question of why people write poems. I often think, oh this person only writes poetry because they want to win prizes or be a wise-poet-type (*retching noises*) - but if those are fake motivations, what are the real motivations? If I can condemn people (and believe me, I do! it's fun!) for writing poetry for the wrong reasons, how do I know I'm writing it for the right ones? I don't know why I write it at all.

Anyway, your lovely Amazon review was so deserved.

And you'd be surprised how few sleep-ins this seventeen-year-old gets, sadly enough.

Rachel Fox said...

Interesting...the right reasons for writing poems...

I suppose everyone has slightly different reasons. A lot of people would say they do it because they just can't NOT do it. Some people do it to communicate...in the best possible way (or one of them). Some people just love language and find poetry the art of using language in so many different ways (neverending really).

I think I suffer all those reasons...and some others I can't think of right now because it's not even 8 am and I'm only up because I have a child now and don't have any choice. At 17 or 70 my natural way was, is and probably always will be stay up late, get up late...this early morning business...ouch! Bright and sunny here this morning though...that helps. See..and now there's a poem coming on.
x

Rachel Fox said...

Oh and don't forget the poetry fairies! I do it just to keep them quiet! Noisy little beasts...
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