Tuesday, 4 August 2009

A year gone by

It's just over a year since I put my first poetry book out. Which book? Why, this one (all please look towards sidebar→).

Some of you own a copy...some of you don't. If you don't have a copy (and want one...) you can still buy it from my website (go to 'book' page) or from Amazon. Also I'm more than happy to do bookswaps...or book/cdswaps...or really any swap that sounds interesting so just email me to discuss (such is the freedom of self-publishing - you get a few morons looking down on you in a snooty fashion but really, small-minded snobs will be small-minded snobs and there's very little I can do about that).

As it has been more or less a year since publication I have been thinking now and again this summer about the decisions I made when putting the book out...about what I might regret or change. I have wondered about stuff like whether I was right to publish what and when I did, about whether it was wise to make it a mix of high and low, of serious and much less so, of short and long and oh, so many other mixtures! What would I do differently now? Would I wait? Would I edit? Would I stuff the whole thing under the mattress?

I'm glad to report that after a bit of wandering about in the recesses of my mind I have come to the conclusion (at least for now) that I wouldn't change a thing a year on. I know that some of the poems in 'More about the song' that seem lighter/easier/slighter will always repulse certain types of poetry folk (in an 'oh my god, is she brainless?' kind of a way) but I still believe strongly that some (if not all) of those poems are of value and all go towards making the book what it is. I know that I could have put out a book containing just poems that might earn earnest headnods and words like 'proper', 'serious' and 'developed' but, for me, that wouldn't have been an honest book, a complete book or anything like the whole story. It wouldn't have been balanced and balance is something I am always striving for (aren't we all?). The world is mixed, varied, faulty, messy and I like to reflect that in my written output. I know that this is always going to affect how I am seen/known/forgotten in terms of poetry but I'm afraid that, in the long run, this is just the way I feel compelled to proceed (I suppose it could be an elaborate campaign of self-sabotage but I really don't think that it is). I know I may have closed certain avenues with some of the choices in the book but it still sells (and the postcards have never really stopped selling) and I still get a wide range of feedback from all sorts of readers so I feel... OK about it all in all (though obviously there's a bit of me that would love prizes and, you know, stature). Sure it would be nice to move on a level, to get the book 'picked up' in some way, to be able to hand over some of the promotional side of the whole affair to someone else...but that either will happen or it won't (and it's still early days really). It is poetry after all...not exactly blockbuster material...but then I am one of those twisted not-very-optimistic optimists and I still believe (on good days) that the book might surprise me and have a longer, more interesting life than some people might imagine. Some of the time it's even kind of fun watching and waiting and seeing what will happen. The big question now though is, what next..where next...how next? There are so many possible ways to go that I'm really not sure what I'm moving towards...in terms of writing, publishing, working. Mostly I'm still thinking about all the options which is quite a luxury I think. No, strike that...it's a huge luxury. And so in turn here is a luxury for you...some best of Pink Panther. My older brother was a big Goon fan and then, loving Peter Sellers, he watched all the Panther films and laughed like a very noisy drain at them. I'm not sure I ever understood them as a child but I did like watching him laugh. And it's still the holiday season (two more weeks of school holidays here) so we should all do as much laughing as possible.



Titus said...

So much to think about. Firstly, suprise - it is really just a year? Somehow you feel so ... established. Weird word, not meant to hint at establishment, but you know what I mean.

As to changing the contents of More about the song - interesting discussion. The book exists now, and has become an artefact, perfect/imperfect is another issue. I think everyone's sick of The Director's Cut and Remastered albums, because we remember a work as we first met it, so changing things does mess with your audience. Let it be.

I know nothing of the literary scene, but we all know this: outsider is never a bad place to be for a poet's writing.

Where next? To write more, and to write better. Surely that's all it ever can be?

I like the book, and will emphasise my recommendation by quoting one I know off by heart, says so much and makes me laugh.

Number 1 Fan

At 6 I loved Donny
Right till death us do part
At 7 I moved on
Oh, the young, cheating heart

Rachel Fox said...

See how lovely you are.

I think maybe I will seem less established after you have done your course at Glasgow and seen who else is much more so! But thanks anyway. I suppose I have been writing and doing other performingy things for a long time even if the being out as a poet business is relatively recent.

And I really did feel passion for Donny O at that ridiculously young age. Weird to think of it now. I suffered the pain that was him as 'Joseph' not long back and all I could think was 'now there's a man who could have done with some trips to the gym before taking on that role...'


Titus said...

Yeah, it's the "Robert Plant on Park Street" moment.
I like the idea of being "out" as a poet.

Rachel Fox said...

There are certain similarities with the closet I think. Certainly when I told some people at first (about writing poetry) there were lots of awkward silences, bemused faces and gaps in communication!

In the past couple of years poetry has been kind of 'in'/fashionable/talked about again (it's in and out on a regular basis I think...) and so talk of 'being a poet' has seemed less freaky for now (in some circles at least). Still, it will be 'out' again before you know it. Probably. There are always pros and cons to both situations!


Dave King said...

Congratulations on your first year. It is a good time for reflections such as you have adumbrated. I have no doubt at all that you are absolutely right to dismiss the snooty critics and to follow your own instincts implicitly. Particularly you should not concern yourself that some of your poems are light. All art forms benefit from a light touch, at least occasionally. Someone said that a poetry book is no more a book of poems than a body is a bag of bones. That's a pretty light statement, but it's pretty deep too. All the very best for the next great project - and I do mean Great!

Rachel Fox said...

Thanks Dave...and thanks for adumbrate too! What a marvellous word for today.

Deborah Godin said...

Intriguing thoughts on the content of your book - and some good points to think about on subsequent books, too. Anyway, it all sounds very wise and self-aware. Congratulations!

Rachel Fox said...

Thanks Deborah. It's either that or I'm completely full of...a rude word that starts with s. Sometimes I'm not sure which it is...fingers crossed for the former.


Jim Murdoch said...

It looks like, as far as the book goes, you're at that "difficult" second album stage. You've used up all your best material, the stuff you've been working on for years and now what? I suppose you should be grateful that you don't have a traditional publisher / record label phoning you up every ten minutes looking for the follow-up. Perhaps a chapbook next?

As for the Pink Panther films, my one anecdote concerns going to watch one of the later ones one afternoon in Glasgow. It was on at the Odeon, on one of the main screens, so I was in this huge theatre and there was one other guy in there with me. That was us. We were it. He had one side of the place, the left as I recall, and I had the right.

I watched all of them. Did you ever see The Life and Death of Peter Sellers? I felt a bit sad for him getting dragged back into them over and over again. I felt the same for Kenneth Williams and the Carry Ons.

Hugh McMillan said...

You've just got to keep going Rachel, now you've started, and in your own style. There's no shame in being accessible and/or funny and knowing which poems move or entertain an audience.
More of the same please.

Rachel Fox said...

Used up all my best material, Jim? God, that would be depressing, wouldn't it! No, my current thoughts are not really to do with that, I don't think. It's more about what kind of way to get poetry out and about next as I move along...more postcards, another book/chapbook, something completely different like a cd or mp3 or video compilation...? And then now and again I think of doing other writing altogether...TV screenplay or something completely different.

Speaking of chapbooks, maybe one of the reasons Titus thought me more established (than I perhaps am) is because I jumped straight to book (missing out the chap). It just felt like the right thing to do at the time and again I don't regret the decision.

And yes, the Pink Panther films always struck me as quite sad. Could never quite pinpoint why but maybe it was that look on Sellers' face for most of them (pain).

Shug, thanks for the encouragement. We can be comrades in the shameless school of poetry. Or something.


swiss said...

i'm guessing i would fall right into that 'poetry folk' categorisation but i liked it (and t, obviously adored it, so will probably argue over the number 1 fan spot). and if i didn't, or they don't, so what!?

i look forward the second bit of output no matter what form it might take. i may like it, i may not.

i have a fair wee collection of things people i know have made or written. i rather like them on my shelves. all the rest is noise!

Rachel Fox said...

More often than not I agree with things you write and say about poetry and associated matters, Swiss, so if you are 'poetry folk' you are my kind of poetry folk.


The Weaver of Grass said...

I must say Rachel, that I have your book and I get great pleasure from reading it now and again. I have a whole row of poetry books on my shelf - you come between Carol Ann Duffy and Oliver Goldsmith you will be interested to hear - not a bad place to be, I would have said. Hope to see you in the Autumn.

Rachel Fox said...

Thanks, Weaver, many heartfelt thanks.

And yes, now our pup Zoe has met Titus (the real dog) all that remains is for her to make friends with your Tess. That will complete the Terrier triangle!


Colin Will said...

Ah, the Terrier Triangle. That's near Barking, isn't it?

Eryl said...

That you are still happy with the book a year on is great, and, to me, shows you did the right thing. That must be a nice feeling too.

Had you been writing poetry for a long time before you published? I'm interested because I've been dabbling for about four years in both prose and poetry; I'm a much better prose writer than poet but am definitely going the way of the poem now (not quite by choice!), yet I can't imagine sending any of my poems out into the world. But, I'm just finishing up a masters degree in writing and people now keep asking me, 'what next?' and I'm beginning to feel I need to be able to give some sort of answer. So, to get to the point, I'm wondering how long it took for you to feel confident enough in your poetry to publish, so that I might begin to get some idea of how long it might take for me?

hope said...

First, congratulations! As one of the proud who have a copy of your most excellent work, I can't believe that Titus picked out my favorite poem! Why? Because it made me want to laugh and cry simultaneously.

Your talent lies in the fact you really don't care what academia thinks...and contrary to their beliefs, humor is allowed in life. One of the first poems I had to memorize almost completely turned me off poetry for life. "Oh Capt....in which "on the deck my Captain lies, fallen cold and dead." Not exactly encourating reading material when you're 13. {Which is why I love Ogden Nash}.

I often wonder if poetry is more revered in your part of the world simply because you DO get together to share it. Americans spend more time in front of a t.v. than out in artistic venues, I fear.

I'm sure your next project will come to you when it is ready to be born.

[The American raises her hand and quietly inquires, "Um, what exactly is a chapbook?"]

Rachel Fox said...

Very good, Mr Will, very good!

Eryl - I wrote from whenever....school I suppose...wrote articles and scraps of this and that. Worked as a researcher and journalist (amongst other things) but then started calling scraps poems in about 1997. Had a burst of writing poems around then and sat on them for a bit...then when we moved to Scotland in 2002 I pretty much wrote poems solidly and started seeing it as my main writing activity. Little by little I got things accepted for publication here and there (lots of 'no's too) and then I started reading poems out to audiences regularly (mainly at the local folk club) in 2006...which led to other readings, appearances etc. I started publishing with postcards (10 designs now but did them 3 at a time from some point in 2006 - all recycled card and what-not) but then felt it was time for a book. There are quite a few posts about it in June last year (reviews etc.) because that's when I got it back from the printers. Most people would have done a chapbook (pamphlet Hope...that's all it is...a wee, thin book usually with a softer, thinner cover...cheaper to make...usually a small print-run) but I'm...a lunatic so I went for a book straightaway. There have been advantages (you can get it sold in big shops like Borders, for example...which I did... in the local Dundee one anyway...sold a whole batch).

Phew! Long type first thing in the morning...

Oh and you're right about the next project, Hope...it will come when it's ready. I'm just thinking aloud on here, as ever. And picking up more scraps.


Marion McCready said...

Congrats on your first year of, from what I can see, very successful book publication!!

Rachel Fox said...

I am a bit guilty of concentrating on the negative at times, Sorlil, and you're right - there have been a lot of good things about the publication and following year. I should think about them more and the less good less!

I look forward to your good news (soon?) and your book (when it comes...one day...it'll be a thing of beauty!).


Marion McCready said...

The baby's due on 26th Sep, but feels like it could be anytime now she dropped into position. Unable to think about poetry in any meaningful sense at the moment, be glad to get back to normal after the birth (I hope!)

Eryl said...

Thanks for that very detailed answer, Rachel! Amongst other things it's made me realise that my 'dabbling' started much longer ago than I thought (30years ago, maybe), and it's been four years since I've been doing it seriously, though not enough.

If I ever have money again I'll treat myself to a copy of your book: it's on the list.

Rachel Fox said...

Well Eryl if you think of anything you might swap a copy for I'm open to offers. I was always a Swap Shop fan (and could never get through on the phone).


Niamh B said...

A very thought provoking one alright, will be in touch once I've anything worth swapping!

Rachel Fox said...

As I say Niamh...open to offers, open to offers...

Totalfeckineejit said...

Hey Rachel, the postcards are a great idea and it's great that after a year you wouldn't change the contents of your book.Thanks for all the well wishes.TFE

Ken Armstrong said...

Your book is lovely and is a fairly constant source of delight to me.

If you're gonna change it, I'm not giving my copy back... but you're not so that's okay. :)

Rachel Fox said...

I think maybe I'll move to Ireland. Thanks men.


Regina said...

I am sorry I missed reading this the first time around but I found the comments quite interesting as well. :)
I always think about the things I have written or done in terms of how I could have or should have done things differently, but like everything now, it was a moment in time and perfect for that reason. So, I can probably say along with you, Rachel, I wouldn't change a thing either.
You always write such thought provoking posts- I hope to be back to "normal" blogging soon...

Rachel Fox said...

Thanks, RB.

deemikay said...

" out as a poet " :)