The Death of Poetry

I’m poet-ed out.

 

My words, once so deft

at finding me,

now stand chastened

like moon-faced schoolboys

caught truant once again.

They’ve let me down,

skived off when most needed.

They’ve left in a scramble of deafening noise.

 

I tripple, weary, through mock-landscapes of meaning,

I gush and jargon with the best,

as, achingly, I long for sparseness,

hard-won meander, richness to digress.

Ideal conduct of desire,

harbinger of eloquence,

I snatch at shadows

flitting just outside my vision.

 

There is no rhyme

there is just reason

in my life and on my page.

 

 

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Does Your Message Get Across?

No, don’t worry, I am not going to go all day-job on you and subject you to one of my training courses.  But, while I was doing a lot of training and no writing last week, one thing struck me quite forcibly.

How many times I explained an exercise or a concept with what seemed to me limpid clarity… only to have the participants ask questions which made it equally clear that my message had been misunderstood.  At least in a training room, you usually get immediate feedback and can rephrase, reformulate, explain.  Even mime your message, if all else fails.

What can you do in writing, however?  It got me thinking about all the times I had written a story or a poem, and it became obvious from people’s reactions to it that I had not managed to convey what was in my head and heart. Luckily, when you post a poem online, you get a few valuable comments from readers, which show you what has been understood, how things are perceived, what bits are most impactful.  The Like button is sweet stroking for the ego, but not quite as helpful in this regard (and yes, I admit, I use it myself when I am pressed for time, but want to show that I have read the poem or story).

Perhaps that doesn’t matter in a poem, which is the original onion amongst the writing genres anyway.

Most of the time, however, in traditional publishing, you do not get an immediate reaction.  You hear from an agent or an editor or a critic – from the professionals, very seldom from the readers who are neither friends nor family. Does this have an impact on your writing?  Should it have an impact? Should you test out your ‘new material’ in a writing group, for instance?  Or should you just ignore what people say and go ahead and write regardless?

I am not quite sure I have cracked the answer to this one for myself.  I would love to hear your thoughts on it.  What I do know is that famous George Bernard Shaw quote: ‘The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.’

And, in case you are wondering what my message is in all of this, it’s that I love, love, love your comments and that I welcome your criticism, because it helps me to improve my writing.

Top Reads for October

 

 

It’s been a slow month in reading terms for me (we won’t even discuss how slow it has been in writing terms…). And a few of the books have been rather a let-down. So here is my meagre collection of books (there are links to ones I have reviewed on the Crime Fiction Lover website):

 

1) Adrian Magson: Death on the Pont Noir

 

 

 

2) Amélie Nothomb: Ni d’Eve, ni d’Adam – the Japanese setting intrigued me, but I found the book self-indulgent and the love story a little trite

 

3) S.J. Watson: Before I Go to Sleep – I had such high expectations of this one (there had been such a buzz around it and even the shop assistant wrapping it up for me said she had found it creepy and exciting).  So, perhaps it was inevitable that I should be disappointed.  The memory-loss premise is an interesting one, but I guessed the set-up quite early on, which rather spoilt the rest of the story for me.

 

4) Amanda Egan: Diary of a Mummy Misfit – bubbly fun – handbags at dawn at the schoolgates!  But also a spot-on critique of the snobbery and competitiveness of private schools.

 

5) Sarah Dobbs: Killing Daniel

 

6) Alan Bennett: The Uncommon Reader – a delightful romp about the Queen descending into a mad passion for reading (actually, it does have the occasional ring of truth to it!). My favourite quote from that is when the Queen buttonholes the French president to ask him about Jean Genet:

 

‘Homosexual and jailbird, was he nevertheless as bad as he was painted? Or, more to the point, […] was he as good?’

Unbriefed on the subject of the glabrous playwright and novelist, the president looked wildly about for his minister of culture. But she was being addressed by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

[…] The president put down his spoon.  It was going to be a long evening.

 

7) Véronique Olmi: Un si bel avenir – not at all on a par with the riveting (if emotionally scarring) ‘Bord de mer’. This story of an ageing actress and anxious wife and mother, or even of female friendship, has been done so much better elsewhere.

 

8) Agence Hardy Bandes dessinées – I love the fact that there are so many graphic novels for grown-ups in France. This series is crime fiction, about a private detective agency set up by a glamorous widow, Edith Hardy, in Paris in the 1950s.  Beautiful recreation of very precise locations and period detail – a joy to read!

 

And my Top Pick of the month? Death on the Pont Noir – I adore the setting in a village in the Picardie region of France in the 1960s and am a little in love with Inspector Lucas Rocco.

 

 

 

Dreaming of Bookshelves and Writing Desks

 

 

Where has all my text gone to?  I posted this yesterday with a little blurb about how I cannot resist a good bookshelf, wherever it might be in the house.  And how my husband keeps sighing and pointing out the progress of technology in the form of e-readers.  But this morning the text disappeared! Ah well, what use are words when the images speak for themselves?

http://www.thekitchn.com/in-good-company-dining-among-books-170014
http://www.houzz.com

Working lavishly:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/series/writersrooms – Marina Warner
http://www.Decoist.com
http://www.home-designing.com

In the in-between spaces:

http://www.apartmenttherapy.com

But where do we get most of the reading done? In the bedroom!

http://www.home-designing.com

Political? Again!

We flush, wipe clean, repeat again.

Good worthy citizens, our voices boom with cheer.

Sweet righteousness,

Ensemble cast, assembled voices.

We order nicely yet succinct,

No extra words surge past our lips.

Incurious, you let drop wrong name.

But no apologies are necessary.

In an avalanche no single snowflake bears the burden

Of responsibility.

No Reflection

She had a way with mirrors

She tamed them with one look.

No periwinkled gape emerging, unplanned, confusing,

No fairytale abasement of princess lost and found.

She knew the score, the path, and scaling

Was her day job, to step on meek cadavers, to pursue, victorious.

Each face thought out,

Lip drawn in cupid perfection

With dervish undertones.

Eyes framed with agate offerings,

The brow? A work of art, unfurrowed and unhurried.

Regrets are someone else’s,

A sleight of mind, eclipse of hands,

And back we are, unwrinkled,

To smooth-held opinions and shifting granular sands.

Meanwhile, the portrait in the attic

Waxed crueller by the year.

Corporate Speak

Have you ever played Corporate Bingo?  In my cubicle days, we used to play it at meetings or on training courses: we’d choose some typical corporate buzzwords, write them down on a piece of paper, and try to see how many of them would be uttered within a designated timeframe.  The one with the most correct ‘hits’ would mutter ‘Bingo’ sotto voce and be declared the winner.  This was the period when I could not write anything outside of work, because I felt weighed down by the jargon.

The poem below might make it clear why I prefer to use a pseudonym in my creative writing, for fear that my corporate clients may recognise themselves and me in this. It’s all a bit of good fun bingo – play along!

Worldwide employees

Corporate-ly

 

Blue sky thinking got us far, but leadership is now about

moving cheese, being humble, fearless, SMART,

all that resilient bouncing about of yellow balls

and off-site team building.

 

We action our deliverables,

bid stakeholders sit and learn.

We share and lip-synch when above-board,

while under the iceberg we hoard and fester.

 

No band-width for emotions unadorned,

no availability for unmediated connection.

We bang for the buck with coerced abandon,

munching our carrots, testing our sticks.

 

All I know is: the feedback sandwich is getting stale,

so last year, as is the corner office with parkside view.

Don’t pause to gaze, don’t ponder the disconnect!

You know the urge to disimpress.