So, I’ve been mentioning off and on that a new book of my poems is in the offing. Well, it’s now so close that I can almost touch it… in fact I can touch the final, it-all-looks-right-now proof copies because they arrived today. I’m a bit excited.
It’s a smaller book than last time’s ‘More about the song’ (2008) - this one is more a poetry pamphlet (or booklet or even chapbook if you prefer). I will be posting full details about sales in a week or so. Please contain your excitement.
I don’t post much in the way of long rambles on this blog (that was more the old blog style… back in the noughties…) but I might ramble a bit just now about why I’m publishing again at this particular time. The thoughts might be of interest to someone (and if not click away now).
Firstly, it went OK last time. As I said it’s been nearly ten years since my last publication and in that time I’ve never regretted putting out that first collection. It didn’t exactly knock the world off its axis but that might have been uncomfortable anyway. Overall it felt good, some people liked it and I only ever read one bad review (maybe there were others… best not to know by this point). I flick through it now and I still love the cover, still approve of all my poetic choices (even the questionable ones… maybe especially them…), still feel more proud than embarrassed or horrified. There are poems that I think still have good lives left in them. By now it almost feels like someone else wrote them… and in some ways that is true. I think we are different people at different points in our lives – maybe not everyone feels like that, maybe it’s an instability on my part (or maybe a flexibility…). I’m glad though, either way, as I wouldn’t want to stay the same. I like change. This time I’ve even used punctuation.
Partly I put this new collection together because I have a good number of newer poems that feel like they need a place to be – a place out in the open air, as it were (not just cooped up in computers). The recent poem phase started when my Mum died in 2010, took a bit of a break 2011-2016 (quite a break!) and then started up again (with a vengeance) early last year. For me writing poems does go in phases, I certainly don’t write them every day or all of the time. I write them, I suppose, when feelings run high (and high can be up or down) or when I have time (and nothing else getting in the way) or just when I feel I have to or I will explode. The subject matter for this collection includes life and death (of course… isn’t almost all poetry about those?), political feeling, the outdoors, love/hate, loss, getting older, dealing with change. So same as ever, same as most poetry… so why do it?
I still feel this (poetry) is a thing that I do. It’s not the only thing I do. These days I earn money from student support (proofreading and such like, no sniggering, I get good feedback...) and I potter about with this and that, try to be a good person and don’t have any great ambitions in most directions but, despite a lack of great accolades or publishing advances, I still feel this is something I should/must/will do. I both don’t care what other people think of the poems and, at the same time, care a huge amount. When someone I respect says a poem is good (that does happen) I feel ridiculously happy and proud. It passes of course… stuff needs doing, things go wrong, the news from elsewhere is shocking… but still, it is a high I won’t give up on just yet. And the lows (that often, but not always, are an equal possibility)... well, you can’t spend your whole life worrying about those now can you?
If you read this blog regularly you will have read many of the poems in this book already. I hope some people like them enough to want to own a copy printed out on (recycled) paper or to buy a copy to send to a friend. The cover, once again, is brilliant (clever artist friend…). The title is also the title of the poem I wrote when English MP Jo Cox was killed last year. I once read that you should name your collection after the best poem in it and ‘Turn’ has certainly had some very positive responses when I’ve read it out in public or posted it online. Maybe people need something to respond to as the event of her murder was so awful and it’s that, as much as the poem itself, that is powerful. I have yet to read any other poems about that day or about Jo but maybe they are around (or yet to come). There is a strong campaign group working to keep her memory and political will alive.
I’ve dedicated this new book to my Mum (now almost exactly 7 years gone). She really preferred novels… or biography… or even biographies about novelists… but I haven’t managed any of those yet so this will have to do. She was a very supportive parent and person so I’m sure she’d understand. When I put my first collection out I heard her telling people that I had ‘found my voice in poetry’. That was very sweet, very her. I’ve been a fairly gobby person for much of my life so I’m sure at least some people rolled their eyes at that phrase and thought what a softie she was for putting up with all my (what some Scots would call) pish. And she was maybe… but she knew what she was about. She was a tough softie because single parents can’t really be anything else (and survive, and parent well). She’d had a very challenging life and she chose to be positive about things. Most of my favourite people are like that.
Finally, I am 50 now. It is a milestone kind of an age and I feel I need to mark it, at least a little. I haven’t been on a big fancy holiday or had a raucous party or anything. Instead I’ve chosen to mark it (to myself as much as anything) with words on pages.
There are probably other reasons as well as the above but that is more than enough for now. See you soon with all the details and thanks for reading. x
p.s. the photo was taken at Rackwick Bay, Hoy, Orkney in April this year. I don't know the artist's name... they just left this present on a stone. Thank-you artist.