Thursday, 24 April 2008

Warts, warts and more warts

As I may have mentioned (a few hundred times) I am getting ready to put out a book of poems. It should be out early summer. I haven't had an editor as such but I have been sending out drafts here and there and tweaking bits and all that kind of stuff. I've quite enjoyed it all so far. Some advice I have taken, some advice I may well yet take, some advice I know I should take but I haven't...I know an editor (proper) would take a lot more out, make me be harsher...maybe make it a better book...but I am happy with what I've got just now. You take out all the warts what does that leave you - Paris Hilton or something? Or the strange vision that is Joan Rivers' plastic face - anyone watch her on the voyeurs-r-us show this week?

Anyway, back to poems...I have shown the book-to-be to some poets and people in some way involved with poetry (are there any of the latter who aren't poets themselves? Not many) but I've also shown it to people I know from different walks of life. I am quite unashamed about the fact that I write more for what you might call non-poetry people than for poets, poetry magazine editors and so on. I have nothing against the latter it just seems to me that there are already a huge number of poets writing for that kind of reader - plus I can't help myself I just do like a direct, bullet-to-the-heart-no-frigging-subtlety-at-all poem every now and then and that can put a certain type of reader off, stop them taking you seriously. Personally, I just can't worry about that kind of stuff though- too much else to think about. I do write (and live) on instinct to a large extent and as I must have said (another few hundred times) it would be very dull if we were all just the same.

It's interesting how often the poems non-poetry people like most are the ones poetry people like least (and vice versa). For example this poem has been pretty much disliked by the pp and yet has been commented on much more favourably by other people who like its directness:

Significant other deceased

I wasn't ready
You're gone too soon
The kitchen's quiet
Lost its tune

I'm not prepared
No good alone
Why is it you
Who won't be home?

You're ripped to shreds
I'm picked apart
My love is gone
My love, my heart

RF about 2005

It has been one of my poetry postcards and it has sold well - I have met many a widow/widower who has it stuck up on their kitchen cupboards, fridges etc. They like the fact that it is about how bad you feel, how lost you are - no dressing up a terrible situation with prettiness or intricate images but instead talking about how it really is. Generally speaking older people like it (one of my Mum's friends bought a stash - 'oh my friends are being widowed all the time, I'll take ten'!). One of my friends loves it and sees it as the words of a woman who has been left by a man and who feels bereaved (but isn't really). All these reactions I find fascinating as I wrote it, in fact, after reading about a man bereaved by the London tube bombs in 2005 (hence the 'ripped to shreds' - some criticism has been levelled at this as a corny, exaggerated phrase but I meant it completely literally). The piece I read was one of those articles that you read, put down and then the poem just falls out. I come from a family of much bereavement so it's a subject I have thought about and expected a lot. I am still amazed every day when my beloved makes it home from work in one piece (wish I was joking but I'm really not).

So there you are. What would Dr Pamela Connelly MD make of me? (Answer - hopeless case?)


Marion McCready said...

congrats on the book! the poem definitely has a Larkin feel about it!

Rachel Fox said...

Thanks Sorlil.
I am publishing the book myself so it's not Faber & Faber or anything - it just felt like the right time to get on with it. Up to now I've tended to think the world is drowning in books as it is but then this last Hogmanay I just thought...what the hell, let's all drown together..I wasn't even that drunk when I thought it.
As for're very kind. A couple of posts ago a comment mentioned his 'tender and mundane desperation'...I guess this little poem has something of that, if nothing else. I like the idea of someone being the tune of a house or a kitchen...but then there is nearly always music being played in our place so I would like that. CD of the day today - Steve Tilston...amazing..
(ps hope boy is better - Joan Rivers on TV said something I'd never heard before - 'you're only ever as happy as your unhappiest child'...sounds about right)

Marion McCready said...

aye that does sound about right! I'm pretty relieved he's back to his usual happy smiley self instead of the screaming monster who would only settle down when the telly tubbies were on of all horrors!

Hugh McMillan said...

There shouldn't be a disctinction between poetry people and the rest of the population. Who thinks poetry should be rarified, self-consciously clever and written by and for an elite?

I know where you're coming from, though. I occasionally think I get invited to readings as the comic turn , light relief after the real poet has exercised everybody's neurons.

Be happy with your own voice, I would say. If your voice is accessible and direct all the better.

I wish you well with your first collection. Don't rush it, though. You don't want to look back (I do) and wonder "what the ****'s that doing in there?

Hugh McMillan said...

woops, sorry for spelling mistake.

Rachel Fox said...

Hello again Shug
Your name always makes me think of 'The Color Purple'...
I don't think I am rushing with this's been a good couple of years since someone said I should do a book (and I'm not talking about my mother...she would much rather I wrote a serious literary biography of somebody dead and Larkins please!). I'm sure there will be poems I'll like less as time goes by...but they won't be my most embarrassing blasts from the past by a long way (I used to work in nightclubs and have worn some startlingly unsuitable outfits, behaved very badly and told far too much to far too many).

By the way if you ever want to be the 'real poet' you just need to make sure you choose the rest of the bill. Choose some really light, fluffy, shallow poets to make you look more...academic. And wear black polo neck jumpers...well, maybe just one jumper at a time.

Hugh McMillan said...

There should be more fluffy poets in Scotland.

Rachel Fox said...

Is that the title of your next book?

Hugh McMillan said...

na, but it would be good series of films, wouldn't it?

Dawn of the Fluffy Poets
Revenge of the Fluffy Poets
Fluffy Poets: The Final Apocalypse

Colin Will said...

Well, my two sons used to sometimes call me Fluff, a reference to my 'singing'.

I know from your MS that you write several different kinds of poems, Rachel - I think we all do. It's nice when different kinds of folk get different things out of them. Be grateful you're polymorphous.

Hugh McMillan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hugh McMillan said...

The Return of the Polymorphous Fluffy Poets

Rachel Fox said...

I'm liking polymorphous and may put it in my press for the fluffy poets...I can see some great merchandising opportunities (models of Larkin in baby dolls and fluffy mules, Carol Ann Duffy in a cat suit (as in a suit like a cat...nothing Avengers)...

Jim Murdoch said...

The thing about readers is that there are so many of them. They all bring their own baggage with them and some of them are just waiting for your poem to come along and put into words what they may have been feeling for years. Personally I think the idea behind your poem is better than its execution though your use of rhyme is not bad; some poems of this ilk can be cloying. Every poem everyone writes is incomplete. Maybe in twenty-odd years when I've lost my wife, if I don't get lost in the meantime (you never know) I'll stumble across your poem and it will make perfect sense to me. Good title. I'd be tempted to put the 'deceased' in brackets but that's neither here nor there.

As for your collection..? How do you pick? To my mind every poem I've written is a stand-alone piece. My gut feeling, if you feel your work fits into two camps either release two books or split the book into two sections. Just a thought.

As for who is publishing the book that's neither here nor there. Self-publishing is nothing to apologise to anyone about. A lot of great poets have self-published, Larkin included – he published his XX Poems privately.

Rachel Fox said...

The book is in sections - 7 of them! I have made the decisions now re what poems are in. I'm just waiting for my ISBN and then it's off to the printer!

Rachel Fox said...

And on 'cloying'...I sometimes think people are so worried about being cloying that they lose emotional connection altogether.
Which reminds me, I asked my Mum (twice bereaved in pretty terrible circumstances..and yes I know any bereavement can be terrible but these were real corkers) if she thought it rang true with her experience. 'I don't know, dear, you can't think about things like that, you just have to get on with it'.
I have another poem about that.