Friday, 27 February 2009

They're giving my book away

If last Friday was an exciting day for me with my first full collection being printed and stacked up somewhere all nice and new and making me want to get my hands on it, then today was also a bit of a surprise. The book hasn't yet arrived in my eager hands, but I logged on to check the publisher's website and found he's giving it away! Well, only two copies to people who email quickly and you can have a go on You might get a book before me, but I think my author's copies are going in the post as I blog.

'How thrilling this must be for you,' my friends who don't write poetry are saying, and even some who do. It's only when that book is out there that it suddenly hits you that people will be reading it, which is fine, but also all those people you've mentioned in it. And, as poetry is often truthful and mentions real people, then the time of publication feels more like a good time to hide away. As Stevie Smith says at the start of her Novel on Yellow Notepaper, 'Oh my friends, my beautiful friends, who will never speak to me again.' I'm sure some of you will be able to find the correct wording for that! Goodbye friends, not to mention family. Still, a bit of solitude is nice at this time of the year. Or for the rest of my life!

I wrote this book after four years living in Italy where I got married, had two sons, and never spoke English. The over stimulation of living in another culture and losing touch with my mother tongue meant that I didn't write in those years, so when I came back to London I wrote with a focus I had never experienced before. An author I read about years ago said that becoming a mother made her take a step forward in her writing, and that happened for me too. As if all my physical deadlines had been met, as if becoming a mother made me somehow complete, I felt free to be alone and to write.

My husband left and I wrote with a passion, going back over the years in Italy first, and then jumping backwards and forwards in time, getting out all those poems that were inside me somewhere waiting to be formed. Until, with the poem 'Never-Never Land', I caught up with the present and had come full circle, so it became the title poem. I'm working on a new collection now which is mainly set in the present, and just finishing a novel.

If it all loses me friends I suppose I'll make new ones - the kind of people daring enough to hang around with poets who say 'publish and be damned'. At last I understand why some poets like to be cryptic, and why ambiguity might be our best friend. Why some people would rather write fiction not drawn from life. I think I'll carry on with a plain spoken style though. You have to write what comes and I'm incredibly outspoken and open.

Monday, 23 February 2009

Why I'm at the bus stop

I love that quote in the novel The Information by Martin Amis, where he says the more you have to work at your writing the less you earn - 'Ask the poet at the bus stop.' Yes, that's me ok. Broke at best and a lot worse in times of recession. Cheery though, as I'm a Londoner after all, so I'll just do a dance, flap my elbows, and sing like Tommy Steele.

Ah well. My first full collection Never-Never Land was printed last Friday and has arrived with the publisher, bluechrome, today. So I'm very excited. No, it won't make me enough to do my weekly shop unless something very extraordinary happens to the poetry market in times of recession. Perhaps people might turn to it as they do at other extreme moments of emotion, like funerals and weddings.

It's so strange to think of my book all stacked up somewhere and to imagine holding it someday soon in my hand. It's enough to inspire me to work even harder at the next one to make sure it earns even less. Amis wrote a funny short story too, where everything is reversed and poets are the ones who earn loads while agents get very little and sit in a pub bemoaning their fate.

Well, I've tried to say two main things about me in this first post: I'm a poet and I like Martin Amis. I have just one question to which there is no easy answer. Amis makes a load of money. Does that mean, according to his own philosophy, that he doesn't work at his own writing? Something is going on and I'll be discussing more about writing in future posts.
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