Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Current work in progress

Part of the trouble at the moment is that I have about a dozen poems that I'm semi-writing. Which sounds good, but isn't. They start to interfere with each other – ideas jumping poem mid-stanza, emotional tone blurring across, etc etc. I have no known upper limit for self-sabotage. My writing friends are very kind about it all, but still make the odd "well there's an idea for a poem!" comment.

Enough complaining. On with it.

There's a poem I've been working on for a while now, loosely in response to Ted Hughes's October Salmon. The seed comes from a night when I was on my own at home. It was when we were living in The Parlour, high up Curly Hill, across from Ilkley Moor. Sometimes cloud would fill the valley (Wharfedale) and hide the town from us completely. Just the lights from the Cow and Calf pub, opposite.
A couple of times the clouds seemed to swirl down the valley as though it was under water. Very strange. 

I was in bed, reading the anthology Wild Reckoning (Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, 2004), and I'd just started the Hughes poem when a plane passed overhead. 
It was so loud, I genuinely thought it must be crashing. I was out of the bed and across the room without even thinking. Waiting for it to tear into the roof – I could actually hear the air screaming through the landing gear.

And it really was close. Close enough that I could see individual faces in the porthole windows. The pilot must have been coming in to land at LBA, and somehow started his descent too soon. They didn't crash, but it looked (and sounded and felt) for one of those endless moments like they must do.

I kept watching from the doorway, until it rose over the edge of the valley and dropped down the other side. It looked for all the world like a huge fish, launching itself out of the water. I made a note of it in my journal, meaning to come back to it later. 
Which ended up being two years later, when we'd returned to NZ.

The date in my journal was September 11th, 2004.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Procrastination as an artform

Another year, another set of excuses. (And yes, I know it's the end of February – you did read the title of this post, didn't you?)

Every year I try to start out with a new workbook. Which is pretty discouraging if the old workbook isn't even half filled. But that's the way it seems to work (when it works). If I'm being honest, I've managed to develop a set of odd superstitions about my workbooks:
  • The first poem written in there is going to be crap.
  • The number of pages in the book is greater than the number of pages I will write during the course of the next (calender) year.
  • Adding a picture or any sort of adornment to the book cover before the year is over will suck creativity out of me as I (try to) write, and doom that year's efforts.
  • Some biros are better than others; my best poetry is written with a pivot pen.
I've given up trying to fight my way free of them. They just sit there, dangling over me as I write. Or try to write. Or come up with excuses for not writing. It's taken me a couple of years to understand that I don't get any extra points for being sensible. So I just try to work around my superstitions – it's not that hard to leave the workbook plain. And the "first poem is crap" one means that I can write the first poem of each year in complete freedom, and not even feel it necessary to pretend I'm going to edit it.

Trouble is, my pivot pens (samples from my dad's work a couple of years ago) are a limited supply. And are running out ...

What are your writing superstitions?