Sunday, 24 July 2011

Walking (parts of) The Tyne

On Friday I joined Port of Tyne writer-in-residence, Michael Chaplin, for day seven of his walk along the tidal reach of the river Tyne. I’d previously joined him on day two, walking from St. Paul’s church in Jarrow to the A&P marine engineering facility at Hebburn. Michael is writing a book based on a walk of both sides of the tidal reach of the Tyne, taking, what he calls ‘the river’s pulse’. It’s a fascinating idea and one that links directly into my book so I’ve been thrilled to take part in some small sections with him.

The stretch from Newburn/Lemington to Newcastle Quayside, following as close to the river as possible, was particularly interesting from the point of view of someone who lives on the south side of the Tyne, near its mouth. Being this far up, I got to experience the bigger picture; the river as one massive entity, of which South Shields is merely a small part.

Similarly, taking part in an immensely fun river cruise yesterday, as well as getting the train over to Wylam to have a pint in The Boathouse, I experienced Andrew Motion’s cleansing of the eyeballs before beginning to look at a familiar place. Book-wise, I’m not sure how much of the western Newcastle sections will make it in, but it has made me reconsider the walking element, or its importance, at least. I think I filled four pages of my notebook during the days’ walking: if I actually get out and do the full walk for my book, I know I’ll end up adding quite a bit more. So with that in mind, watch this space for news of more poetic walks and hopefully, eventually, a book...

Monday, 18 July 2011

The craziness begins...

This rather spooky looking house is where I'll be spending a week in August reading, writing and, well, working on my own writing! The Hurst is Arvon's Shropshire centre and I've been selected to take part in an advanced poetry course there. I am, it is safe to say, nervously looking forward to it. Looks like the type of place where ghosts of poems past lurk in the shadows (presumably ready for workshopping?)

I've only heard great things about Arvon courses, so foreboding looking buildings aside, it should be a very productive week!

Saturday, 16 July 2011


On Tuesday evening I was given the Andrew Waterhouse award from New Writing North as part of this year’s Northern Writers’ Awards. I’m chuffed and more than a little overwhelmed by it all. I won’t give a full caption of all of the winners above, but it’s fair to say that I feel honoured to be recognised amongst some amazing writing talent!

I now have to take this seriously; with many things in the pipeline and thanks to what I can perhaps best describe as validation, I feel galvanised to get on with the book and start calling myself a writer. The whole thing is a bit of a whirlwind so I will blog more thoroughly later, but I feel suitably justified in directing you to some head-exapnding linkage.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Ditto below...

Rejection part two: a batch of my poems have been deemed ‘not suitable for’ the literary journal, Orbis.

Okay, I’ll admit it upfront: I’d never read a copy of Orbis before I submitted to it two months ago. The ‘Poets’ (read: professionals) will tell you that this is a silly practice, and I suppose when I detach myself from my initial disappointment and think a bit more logically, it probably is.

We all know there are many styles of poetry; for each one, there is probably a magazine or publishing company which champions its bizarre forms and metres. There is, invariably, a house preference for each magazine, in itself made up of that magazine’s editor(s) and their own literary likes and dislikes. It’s all routine stuff, this, I’m not making claims to discovering anything particularly insightful about the submissions/editorial process other than the age old one – that it’s a pain in the arse.

One thing I can tell you, though, is that editorial feedback (promised by writers more au fait with the magazine, as well as its own correspondence) on my work was non-existent. This is not a retrospective dig at the editor; I co-edited a literary magazine through two issues and we would never have dreamed of giving people suggestions, I’m just stating that in my case, the poems arrived back as I sent them, buried under reams of promotional material and affiliated prizes and courses. Make no mistake about it, the world of poetry involves photocopiers up and down the land churning out fuck loads of A5 sheets advertising this competition or that course, most of which, I’m now certain, ends up in the bin.

What about the poems, though? I hear you, I’ll try and be rational about it. They weren’t great. One of them has been doing the rounds since at least my second year as an undergrad (getting on for four years now) and I would guess it’s been rejected, in one guise or another, by at least three journals. My last post would dictate I might deem it fair to give it one last airing, so I don’t think I’ll totally write it off till then. The others were new-ish; one of them I’d struggled with since writing it for early MA coursework – I suspect it might become one of those poems that I have to accept as being defective, unusable, binnable. Of the remaining two, one is definitely rather twee, though I can perhaps cannibalise a few decent lines. The last one, the newest, suffers from the classic great start, week end, so I might tinker around and see what I can do to smooth that out.

My overall point? I have several: rejections from magazines and journals still feels like a personal insult, even though it isn’t. The process of submitting to journals, assuming one is kosher and doesn’t send simultaneously, is a lengthy one with few incentives to carry on: my current publication/rejection ratio, submitting to journals, online and printed, is about 4:9, with one outfit never getting back to me. A mathematician would probably deem that to be pretty good going, but I still feel a bit miffed, having done well on a postgraduate Creative Writing course to be being flunked by the bigger journals. I suppose this is inevitable, mind, and can only be overcome by not pondering on it too much; by not blogging in a strop about it and getting on with editing and writing new stuff.

I will, of course, be submitting to at least two new magazines by the end of the month...I’m a sucker for punishement.