Sunday, 14 January 2007

At the writers' group the other week, one poet suggested to another that they could chop a problematic line from a poem without too much angst, because the line might still come in handy for a poem in the future.

I've heard quite a few writers recommend this tactic. I've tried it myself and – living as I do amongst several kilos of thwarted drafts – I can see how attractive it is. You can get ridiculously emotionally attached to a metaphor/word picture, considering it won't cuddle up to you in the morning.

And it's hard for folk to clip something so dear to them, that perhaps is dragging the rhythm down, or is just too brand-spanking clever to slip into the tone of this/that poem. So it's nice to think your brilliant image might have its fifteen minutes' fame in the future.

The other extreme is the scorched earth policy where folk rigorously chop out particular types of word – all the adjectives have to go, any phrase or image that seems "lazy"... Often folk give the haiku as an example of the ideal – a couple molecules of distilled image and meaning.

But not all poems are haiku. Nor are images and phrases bits of Lego to click into any poem.

So this leaves the poet in an uncomfortable place where a poem "working" is a rare event to which thought and experience and rhythm and personal idiom and image are bespoke.

And in this arid place, sometimes a line starts in your head and your experience crowds up to meet it. At which times a line you saved specially from a previous poem is usually far inferior to the wealth of perfect accidents you are about to be able to select among.

Tuesday, 2 January 2007

The Printer's Devil & The Little Bear

In July and August I stayed with Ursula Freeman at the Redlake Press in Shropshire, where she guided me through a two-month apprenticeship in traditional printing methods, collaborating on a limited-edition letterpress book of poetry and photography.

Our hard-won 30 pages made use of a brand-new Epson R800 with which we could print to archival quality, a Vandercook Proofing Press, my own linocuts, photographs and rigorously-edited tiny poems.

The Printer's Devil & The Little Bear is presented in a choice of two formats – the Solander box as shown, by Salisbury Bookbinders (£50.00), or a lined folder (£30.00)

This project was realised with the assistance of Arts Council England.

To buy a copy of The Printer's Devil & The Little Bear, contact The Redlake Press at the following address: –

Brook House, Clun, Shropshire SY7 8LY U.K.
Tel: +44 (0)1588 640 524

Sophie and A Wowl

I've just acquired a brace of household gods; named after the wizard and old lady in Miyazaki's animated film Howl's Moving Castle. Sophie is an elegant and indigo cat, skilled in ju-jitsu. Owl is a couch potato.

First poem for Owl and Sophie

The sure-to-god hoax of his footfall
as he burgles his house for the very first time,
his audible paws squishing the carpet,
smacking his lips and sampling
the apprehension around things
that should be doling out light and heat –
cadaverous boiler,
dark grey light-bulb.

And she packs into the crook of my knees
a drift of scalloped, chilly fur.

And the gale tries to thresh the boons
from the house – the onions poked down
in their fishbox of earth,
the broken gate braced and percolated by darkness,
the small folk milling round the sofa, perplexed –
what's wrong? what's wrong? what's wrong?
From 9/06 to 12/06 Lucky-Minney has been a guest of the Peedie Gallery in Orkney; and Rik Hammond and Claire Gee escorted her to the Highlands and Islands Visual Arts Gathering in Ullapool.

She's made from a broom-handle and named for one of the "Guidfick" (Good Folks – mischievous fairies) referred to in John Graham's Shetland Dictionary.