The collection of Troubadour versions went off to the publishers at last – the title is Jongleur, and I’ll post details on here when there is some solid news on its appearance. At the moment, it’s gone into what the film-makers call ‘Development Hell’, or in medieval terms, a non-specific period of wandering around an unfamiliar landscape, expecting something to happen at any moment, but with no idea when. Meanwhile, several of the poems are available on The High Window’s website edited by David Cooke, who linked it back to an earlier set of translations/versions by Peter Sirr (from Sway). There are also, I believe, soundclips: but not by me, as I was busy finalising the pamphlet text at the same time as the website was being devised. And I pronounce Occitan like someone from the north with a grade 1 CSE in French and a failed German O level (yes, those were my real results). As you can tell, the teachers didn’t put me off Europe; and I’ll be doing some rehearsal effort then I can deliver a stanza in the original once the work is in print. So, if you’d like to read about Na Castelloza’s problems with her boyfriend, or Giraut de Bornelh’s lament for his best mate Raimbaut d’Aurenga (d.1173) head across to The High Window, where the poems will be listed under the Supplementary Posts tab now, after being frontpage news during February.
I did indeed qualify for a TLC Free Read – hooray! Any day now (‘development hell’, remember?) I will receive a report back from their august mandarins, who will be able to advise me on the best way forward with the script. It is no good being under a misapprehension that the novella is publishable or funny or atmospheric, or any of those other desirable things, if it is predictable and cliched and unlikely to go anywhere. I know that writing tutors often say ‘write for the love of it’, and this might be the case with poetry, where you don’t expect to sell hundreds of copies. But I have always believed in taking a more robust attitude to other forms of writing, and if you are spending years on a project that might end up in the bin, I would bin it sooner rather than later. My characters usually feel ‘real’ in that I can imagine their lives beyond the page and the conversations they’re having – I know what their homes and workplaces look like even though I haven’t been there myself. But no matter how real the people might seem, they will just have to sit it out in the world of Otherwhere if no publishers are willing to take a chance on them.
Meanwhile we are all still living in lockdown with nowhere to go and nobody to see it with. I can’t wait to restart the things I was aiming to do last year, and I regularly check the re-opening dates for the YHA network. But I hope they’re not charging £60 for a bunkbed, which is what they attempted last year in the brief period between the covid waves. In these arrested times, it helps to do any kind of creativity no matter how modest – sewing brighter buttons onto an old tunic, turning a collection of beads into a wearable necklace, doing yet another exercise in de-cluttering. I’ve never made so many carry bags out of recycled fabrics. Ironically, this is what people were doing in the evenings before TV and the internet. Quite likely we are all travelling backwards to the time of the Troubadours again, where a metal-plated poet might ride out of the forest on his battle-horse, asking if anyone has seen his manuscript. Stay well and safe, everyone – let’s all be there at the poetry parties and the packed festivals in future, sharing the food and talking across tables without a care in the world. Until then, make every day count.