Yes, a ton of events have gone online and I’m sure the workshops by Zoom are perfectly adequate for these times. However, I don’t have unlimited data here, so I couldn’t join in with any of the readings or projects once the whole of British poetry had vanished into the e-space over the rainbow. I saw a constant stream of Twitter bulletins telling me about the next great reading I could join, and there I was with not enough GB to last the month. In the end I felt defeated by the sheer number of not-opportunities which I couldn’t access during deep lockdown time. So I eagerly await the re-opening of the library wifi network then I can log on and enjoy some of what my colleagues have been putting out there.
I’ve typed as far as I can with the novella; now I have to work out what the inclusions should be. Either my handwriting is bigger than I thought, or I’ve been working much slower than expected – because when I checked the number of pages, it totals only half of what should be there. Meanwhile I have all the usual plot problems like: how far to stretch the reader’s credulity and engagement levels, bearing in mind I am writing a modern magical fable in a storyteller’s manner and not everybody likes that sort of thing. Clearly, I have a lot more work to do; and there is a whole new sub-plot which needs bringing out if I don’t want a plainer, linear narrative. While creating the right kind of atmosphere, two tracks came up on the radio which suited the inner lives of the characters so exactly that I immediately put them on my playlist for inspiration. In case of future difficulty when I can’t re-enter the text, I’ll listen to these until I have the right image for where the next character should be going. So far, I’ve got one person matched up with ‘Very Good with His Hands’ from Diversions by Barry Booth; and another is matched with ‘These Days’ in a haunting version by Nico. Some of my other characters could do with a signature tune as well, but I think these two will get me to the end of the second draft. Both songs are available on YouTube, in case you’re interested in the way music and writing support each other.
There was a whole pile of rejections in late May/early June, which did nothing to alleviate the feeling of lockout as well as lockdown. Once again I had wasted money on entry fees believing I had done the right thing, and I had tied up my ‘best’ poems for an unreasonable length of time in the mistaken belief that one of them would land somewhere. In addition, I couldn’t send the same poems to a different outlet because that’s what the submission rules said. I wonder why so many places still make this request when a poem can be blogged, video’d, or performed all within the same period with no-one any the wiser. Isn’t it symptomatic of old-fashioned editorial godhead, imagining that ‘they’ are in the driving seat? But now there are plural seats, my friends, and we are all the drivers. I wish more of you forward-thinking journals would state on your submission details that parallel subs are fine, as long as poets contact you when a poem goes elsewhere. Your journal won’t suffer, not with all the writers out here and the size of that in-tray you’ve got. It might speed up some of these waiting periods and your contributors will be happier. However, there is better news: I am taking part in release 4 of iamb – poetry seen and heard, the new online library directed by Mark Anthony Owen. Details of the project can be followed on Twitter @iambapoet. The third installment is due for release on 1st August, with 20 more poets; I will be in the November installment. One of the nice things about this site is the clean, minimalist interface and its classic, monochrome scheme. Lots of poets already on there, including the engaging Geraldine Clarkson, whose Monica’s Overcoat of Flesh (Nine Arches, 2020) is collecting good reviews this season. Enjoy!