The Book of Ways will be launched at the Scottish Poetry Library on Saturday, 4th October (1pm, for those who missed my invitation). As the date gets nearer my excitement level is increasing, as is my apprehension. Will readers like it? I hope they do. I know the form will be unfamiliar to many readers, but I’ve tried to ensure that the actual writing is as clear as I can make it, and I hope the form it’s cast in doesn’t get in the way of communicating the content. I happen to think that haibun is the ideal form for poetic narrative, and it’s not too far from more conventional prose poems.
It’s not a linear narrative either. I deliberately broke the text up into separate journeys, and dispersed them in different sections of the book. There are, I hope, threads which connect the different pieces, but the connections are usually subtle. Basho talked about this subtlety, calling it ‘fragrance’, and I’ve built on my knowledge and experience of renga to make these connections.
Some of the ways I describe are records of physical journeys, others are deeply personal inner narratives. I’ve never been attracted to the idea of writing a conventional autobiography, and this is as close as I want to go in this direction.
Cover design and typesetting have been done by the wonderful Gerry Cambridge. The font he’s used for the text is Minion. I have to admit I hadn’t come across it before, but I like it very much. It’s clear, light, and very easy on the eye.
Before the launch, I’m reading at Newcastle’s ‘Lit & Phil’ on the 2nd of October – National Poetry Day. ‘Remembering’ is the theme this year, and most of the poems in my set are poems about memory from The propriety of weeding, But I want to try out three of the shorter haibun, as a taster for the new book.
It’s coming home to me again how much I owe to my Hawthornden Fellowship, which gave me the uncluttered and supportive time and space to write the book. Previous alumni, as we discovered on reading the guestbooks, include Ian Rankin, Zadie Smith, Alasdair Gray and many others. It’s humbling to count myself in their company.
And I’m deeply grateful to my dear friend Sheila Wakefield of Red Squirrel Press for publishing it. It should be available from the website very shortly.