Sunday, 21 February 2010

Not Yet Dead

Readers of this blog may remember that I put together a submission for this year's Grievous Prize. Well, I didn't win. This actually wasn't much of a surprise for me: looking over the collection I submitted after emailing it off, I found that there were numerous flaws obvious to me. Also, I wrote not more than a few very good poems which fitted more strongly with the themes of that collection after I'd submitted it. So the past few days have been spent trimming the fat, rewriting the existing poems where rewriting was needed, and rotating more recently-written pieces into the front line. What I now have is a selection of 24 poems which would probably be best published in chapbook form, so the task now is to shop this potential artefact around smaller publishers, or indeed self-publish if I can be arsed with it, though I'm not really confident that my design skills can produce an object which looks sufficiently sexy to sell. The web may have made self-publishing easier, but one advantage of working with a separate publisher is they have people who can help with the design aspect. I've never been a tremendously visual person; that's why, whatever incarnation this blog has been in, it's usually been structured using an off-the-peg blogger template.

So I have a potential chapbook; but what I also have, I feel, looking at this selection, is, in a sense, the book I will be writing and rewriting for the rest of my writing life. Not literally, but in the sense that the themes in this selection are the themes to which I keep returning and to which I feel drawn to return. Peter Straub, in his introduction to Poppy Z Brite's Self-Made Man, says that most writers have certain topics they circle again and again, like vultures. Not just themes,  but obsessions.Now, with all the work I've been doing over the last year, I can see what my obsessions are (and I can also see why All Haste is from the Devil had to be abandoned in the end: it was too scattershot, too all over the place. Most of the poems were good individually, but the thing never truly cohered.).

Another opportunity to indulge these obsessions has been provided by Kevin Cadwallender, who's working on a project to produce a book in which thirty poets write a poem in response to a line from Elizabeth Smart's By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept. Every poet taking part gets a choice of two lines to riff on: my choice being between 'proof against that future ghost' and 'the smiling animal at his appointed hour.' That last sentence in particular really resonates with me: something about it reminds me of Bacon's paintings, all teeth and meat and hair, congealing flesh and shadow; and there's also a sense of a kind of masculine menace in there, the sort of horrible little wannabe thug with a company credit card and a bad scotch habit you see leering through his beer goggles and thrusting his hand in the pocket of his cheap suit in a seedy lapdancing bar at the end of another pointless day servicing his clients' accounts. Or something along those lines, anyway.

I bet I wind up writing something about the 'future ghost' line instead.

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