New poetry, old clothes, work, more work

SO MUCH to say. I’ve been working a flat-out day-job contract for the past four weeks – scriptwriting for a series of 24 three-minute videos, which take the form of a little mini-soap, for an English for Integration project. It’s one of those jobs you say yes, four days a week, and instantly it swallows your life whole, so if you are waiting for an email from me, that’ll be why. (Also, the internet connection at Baroque Mansions failed last week and it took a comedy of phone calls, technicians, errors, and more technicians to sort it out.) At the moment I’m pretty much working two jobs, and we’re shooting the videos and I’m still writing the scripts, so it’s been a bit manic.*

bookmarkI’ve been to several poetry things, but can no longer remember what they were. I know I was part of a panel at the Inpress Festival of Publishing the other week, addressing a packed room of small presses and their representatives about social media. I was talking about blogging for small presses, but the main points held up across the platforms. It doesn’t cost much money, but you do have to enjoy doing it or get someone who does, and it does cost time (which is money). I went a little bit fangirl being on the same panel as Jonathan who runs the Twitter feed for Waterstones (note no apostrophe thanks) Oxford Street. He had a great PowerPoint presentation, including his clever Christmas video, which of course I didn’t, having been manically working on this scriptwriting project… I found the whole event  really interesting – not least because of the table on the side of the hall, on which were arrayed books from all the Inpress publishers. Once you see them all laid out you realise what reach Inpress has.

You can’t do EVERYTHING. As my friend Jan says, I’ve been trying to bilocate for years, and I still haven’t figured out how to do it.

I missed the Poetry London launch, which featured Stephen Donnelly over from the US, and then after my workshop the following night (having missed the reading of Bristol-based poets that was happening two floors below it) I caught up with Patrick Brandon and David Briggs in the pub. It was a pub Timothy Donnelly** was supposed to be in, but the Bigwig poets had taken him off for some dinner. I loved his book The Cloud Corporation (Picador in this country, but in its intensely beautiful US layout).

On which note, it should be noted that David Briggs has a new collection out, one of the final final Salt collections. Rain Rider. And so has Rachael Boast, who was meant to be reading that night but was unwell – and I was very sorry to miss her. Her new book, Pilgrim’s Flower, has come out to a rather quiet fanfare, but has an intensely beautiful cover. I have a copy here but as with everything else in recent weeks have not yet had a chance to read it. I loved her first one, Sidereal.

I know, I know. When there’s more time I’ll have more interesting things to say.

Another one on the pile is Jen Hadfield’s new collection, Byssus. Another great-looking book – in a squarish format, which I like a lot, but once again, it looks fab but not had a chance to read. Useless I tell you. Soon, soon.

Yet more. Sarah Lindsay, an American poet, just discovered by me but she has been around a while. I’ve ordered her previous collection, Twigs & Knucklebones, and am waiting for the new one to arrive from Copper Canyon Press in the USA. I shall refer you in the meantime to her amazing poem, ‘Elegy for the Quagga‘:

Krakatau split with a blinding noise
and raised from gutted, steaming rock
a pulverized black sky, over water walls
that swiftly fell on Java and Sumatra.
Fifteen days before, in its cage in Amsterdam,
the last known member of Equus quagga,
the southernmost subspecies of zebra, died…

There’s more, there’s more… But for right now, the thing that propelled me to open this window and write this post instead of the feverish script amendment I have to do to accommodate the worrying sudden departure of one of our main actresses to her father’s hospital bedside in Istanbul – the thing that even through my exhaustion and splintered concentration made me go – YESSS!! – was the arrival through the letterbox of THIS:


It is the very long-awaited first collection of Roísín Tierney, whom I first met all those many years ago sitting in Michael Donaghy’s workshop. The final poem in the book, ‘Dream endings’, was also the title poem in her pamphlet (Rack, 1012), which won the Michael Marks pamphlet award. I have just tried to look through my emails to remember, but can’t find it (though I did find that, in fact, my father died on the third anniversary of Michael’s memorial service) – but I have a feeling that that title poem is part of the general aftermath of Donaghy’s death, it feels personal to me. I can definitely remember the first time I read it, in an email.

But here’s an even more personal one, which is the main one of Roisin’s poems I can remember workshopping in that classroom, ‘Feet’ – which was then ‘Paws’:

The day we found paws in the kittens’ nest in the garden
was the day we set about revenge. But first the funeral –
our childish prayers lethal with intent, Amen.
We heaped dandelions on the tiny mound of earth,
May they rest in peace, and vowed to kill the tom.
JJ Hays had a hurley, and said he’d beat the devil
to within an inch of his striped life. And then we’d find
some rope and hang him in the woods until he swung
without resistance int he breeze. And perhaps cut off his tail.
For murder is a capital offence. We knew the difference
between right and wrong. Yet no cat hung from a tree that summer…

Buy the book – from Inpress! – and read the rest. So happy here. And I’ll point out that there is a certain sympatico between Roisin’s poems about animals and people, and nature, and death and time, and Sarah Lindsay’s.

And now I must do this thing I have to do, asap. I’m actually feeling a bit dizzy as I sit here typing this. And I also have to send a list of my recommended books to read by women, with a few lines, to the LRB Bookshop for their International Women’s Day feature. I might have to do that one on the bus.

* But triumph! Having got down to only one pair of jeans I could actually wear (and them a bit slobby), and getting sick of my only other kind of outfit (black tights, stretchy tube skirt – the final straw being yesterday, when the tights kept slipping downwards, taking the skirt with them) – this is what happens when you have to be where people can see what you look like every single day – and the same people at that –  I did manage one of my supermarket-sweep dashes into Gap  last night, on my way to my Advanced Workshop. PHEW. Three pairs. (& 30% off.) The nicest of which I can only do up if I lie down. But still.I know it’s not exciting stuff, I have really got my entire approach to clothing down to a sort of capsule thing, uniform, so nothing to write home about. And then H&M for some of their cheap-as-chips basics which I always get the same,  thank you Longacre for putting them next door, and then into class, via M&S, and this is what having a few weeks of work does for you. That and the filthy flat. But I’m not complaining!

** N.b., editing in to say that it has just been brought to my attention by a VERY kind friend that I originally, for some reason I wot not what, wrote ‘Stephen’ Donnelly. Dear Timothy Donnelly, if you are reading this: I do, really really, know your name. I am that tired. Perhaps your name somehow got mixed up in my mind with Stephen Dedalus; could you live with that?

And so to bed.

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