A WRITING LIFE FOR ME – BLOG TOUR
I’ve been nominated by Renita Boyle.
What are you currently working on?
My new book, which is my 8th poetry collection, is an assemblage of over 100 haibun, a Japanese form consisting of poetic prose, ‘written in the spirit of haiku’, accompanied by one or more examples of haiku. I wrote it when I was in receipt of a Hawthornden Fellowship towards the end of 2013. The Fellowship was wonderful; four weeks in a castle, cut off from friends, family, internet and mobile phone signal, in the company of four other writers, and with food, accommodation and laundry provided. Peace and quiet is something rare in my normal writing life, and I relished it. I was completely focussed on the writing, managing to write 55,000 words in the time.
Since then I’ve edited and polished it, and The Book of Ways is going to be launched by Red Squirrel Press in early October.
As I write this now, I’ve just finished proof reading the book, and it’s back with the editor. Here’s the cover, designed by Gerry Cambridge:
How does your work differ from others in your genre?
I write poetry on a wide variety of subjects, in many different styles, but mainly free verse. The haibun form is something I’ve taken up relatively recently, and fairly successfully, with several published in print and online magazines.
I’ve never before tried to write any collection in a single poetic form, and I doubt if I could do it. This is a very new departure for me.
Why do you write what you do?
I write because I have to. Once I’ve written something, I start to think what to do with it – chuck out, save as a draft, edit, send to a magazine or whatever. I regard the writing of poetry as an act of communication, between myself and a reader. I have no idea who that reader might be, but I want to engage that person with my thoughts, let them share my ideas and visions.
How does your writing process work?
Often, I’ll get a phrase or a line in my head, and then I just see where it might lead me. This year I joined a private online writing group, which supplies a prompt each week, and I’ll maybe write two or three poems to that prompt. But this has been a new experience for me; mostly I just sit down and write. I write my first drafts in longhand, and then I transfer it to computer, making the first edit as I go. Then I leave it for a week or so, and I come back to it. I read it aloud, because if I stumble on a line, it’s a fair bet there’s something wrong with that line. My subconscious is a pretty good judge of a poem. I do whatever editing needs doing, then I put it away again. Every once in a while I’ll send poems out to magazines, and that gives me the opportunity for further editing if required. If a poem is rejected, that’s another clue that further revision may be needed.
What’s new for you?
I’ve gone back to something I used to do 50 years ago; improvising music to poets reading their work. I now play clarinet, and soprano, alto and tenor saxophones.
I’m also beginning to think about a collection of ‘conventional’ poems, aiming for publication in 2016. At some point soon I’ll start to assemble it.