I did vaguely plan to do my usual signing off for the year post at the end of December, but then it turned out it was actually January. Not sure how that happened, but there you go. Which does at least spare me the embarrassment of doing a post summing up all the things that I managed to not do from my list of Things To Definitely Do This Year. (The brilliant Australian comedian Alice Fraser has a handy New Year’s Resolution – to not make any New Years’ resolutions. Which means that you start the year with success and failure simultaneously, regardless. Sorted!)
Ahem. So I didn’t manage to get my book put together last year. BUT in my defence, I was responsible for two other books happening – Helen Bascand’s time to sing before the dark you already know about, but I also worked with Jane Simpson on her second collection, Tuning Wordsworth‘s Piano, which Interactive Publications (are? is?) will be bringing out this year (2019). So making books happen has been part of last year’s efforts. Just not my own book …
However: last week I was reminded that the magnificent Rattle Chapbook Contest (which essentially works as a Free Entry With Subscription Renewal) still had a couple of days to run, so I burned a few candles bilaterally and put together a submission. And then submitted it. It would be wonderful if I did manage to win it, or even get placed – you get money, quite a few copies to sell, but best of all you get your chapbook distributed to each of the magazine’s 7000 odd subscribers. Which is the sort of distribution most of us can only dream of. So: fantastic if (and I am fully aware of how gargantuan an if it is) I won it, or got placed. But that’s almost beside the point. The principal benefit was in the doing itself – printing out thirty of the poems I think of as my best, and then seeing which ones wanted to play with each other, and how that all shaped up. And – can I tell you a secret? There are some damn fine poems. Which is a very pleasing and reassuring and hopeful and relieving and generally good thing to feel. A publishable book should be possible. And the poems that didn’t make the chapbook were also really good, far too good to not do something with, and are nagging me, so that will definitely be something on the front burner. (As long as I don‘t let myself think about what it will feel like when the eventual manuscript starts collecting its little sticker-book of rejections … argh, bad thoughts, bad thoughts go away, go away, go away go away run away run awayyyyyyyyy …)
Other than getting the book done, my plan is to do a lot more writing this year – I actually have the third collection starting to take shape in my head, although I haven’t written the poems for it yet. (Cue Mallarmé . Sigh!)
There are quite a few classes in the pipeline (see for yourself on the Workshops for 2019 page), and I want to make a point of writing up my close readings properly and actually putting them up here in the Commentaries section. I always tell my students that they should try to do this sort of thing on their own as well as in class: about time I made a point of doing so myself. And I’ll try to remember to post when I do, so those of you who are interested in such things can check them out.
I’m hoping to hold the 24 Hour Poem competition again for Poetry Day, although that will depend on whether the publishers felt happy with the exposure they got last year … (You did click on the links, didn’t you?)
Shortly I’ll be posting about another competition – as part of my role in pimping time to sing, I’m going to run a couple of competitions. Maybe one every couple of months, with books as prizes. They’ll be based on time to sing, or poems from time to sing or some of Helen’s earlier books. Yes, completely shameless promotions. But that’s what I’ve come to. It’s my official job. (Note to self: next time someone asks you to be a literary executor, run away. Disconnect the phone. Enter Witness Protection. Tell them you’ve got the plague and have been sent to live on a remote island with no access to the outside world. Just Say No.)
So that’s me. I’m currently playing with a poem about my builder based on Christopher Smart‘s Jubilate Agno, which I’ll post when and if I get it written. But I also have eight new poetry books on my bedside table to devour, a brand new workbook to start writing in, and that wonderful feeling of poems just underneath the skin of the day to get me out of bed in the morning.
Welcome to 2019.