Writing Log #3

Honestly? I didn’t get much writing done this week. I did submit an extract of the novel I’m currently working on for a competition and impulsively submitted one of the short stories I’ve written recently to an online publication.


Wed 28/01 Notes from the Hippodrome Young Poets session with guest poet Shirley May

Shirley May from Young Identity in Manchester was our guest this week to help us (or at least those who are available for the Showcase in March) to explore how HYP can work as a collective and produce a shared stage together. She started with a prompt to get us writing:

“She said she would bequeath me her journal…”

She said the pages held secrets, spells, ink-drawn memories and the things she could never say. Between its bulging pages peeked dried flowers, butterfly wings, train tickets. One time, she opened the journal and the rustle of pages sounded like bells. The pages carried the scent of gumamelas.

She said she would bequeath me her journal.

She left it on the window sill on the day she left.

The pages were empty.

I haven’t written a lot of poetry lately. Whenever we have these sessions I always struggle to write poems and go back to writing prose (that might sound like poetry? I’m not sure.)

An interesting thing that came up in this session was the question: what are the questions you ask yourself before a performance?

  • what’s your next line? and the next line after that?
  • what story are you here to tell?
  • okay, where are the pauses?
  • am I pronouncing this correctly?
  • is your heart racing?
  • are you cold or are you nervous? or both?
  • your hands are shaking – did you notice?

The next question was: how does your body react before performing?

are you nervous or are you cold? or both?

it starts at the tips of your fingertips (like static)

your hands are shaking. (did you notice?)

you’re shivering. (are you cold?)

you can feel it on the roof of your mouth now, then at the bottom of your tongue.

maybe you drank too much coffee. (maybe you didn’t drink enough coffee.)

Sometimes when I have a performance or have to do something that I’m nervous about I listen to music that makes me feel like I can conquer the world…

  • can you say you know me?
  • how much can I show you?
  • where does that line (of poetry) land in your body?
  • what would you like to say to your audience/reader?

Fri 31/01 Notes from the Anthony Anaxagorou Talk @ The Hippodrome

“People will define you the way they want to define you regardless of how you want or try to define yourself. Don’t let others put you in a box.

Anthony Anaxagorou said this with regards to the audiences’ tendency to place him in a box, in a certain poetic style or form.

He recalled how Outspoken Press started – how he started in self-publishing and soon realised he had everything he needed to start a press, so might as well. “Decide what you want to do and then do it rather than waiting on people .”

  • how do you market poetry?
  • how do you market yourself as a poet?
  • how do you present yourself, your branding?

Finding that balance between your personal and professional brand..

“Don’t rush it. You’ve got time. We have capitalist anxiety – we constantly feel pressure to produce otherwise we fell like we’re doing enough.”

The UK poetry landscape is healthier than it was years ago and yes, maybe the publishers are cashing in on the BAME hype but who cares? It gets your work out there. If the door’s open, you might as well have a crack at going inside.”

How you control language on the page vs. the stage…

“Don’t get too attached to your writing. See them as something that can be constantly worked on and improved.”

“What is it that this poem is trying to say, trying to do but not doing effectively? What is it trying to do – and what more can it do?”

A constant reminder:

“I’m here to write. The only thing I can control is the work that I make. What people think of it is out of my control.”

Originality = innovation. The more uncertainty, the more you are experimenting, the more you are trying something new – and the more someone who’s been reading poetry all day might enjoy it.

“Poetry should never sit still.”

Keep shuffling and moving words around.

Keep experimenting – if you think what you’re writing is strange and you don’t really know where you’re going with it, then you’re in the right path.

Poetry that is performative and conversational but also strange, elastic, different.

“You can never write for everyone.”

The mainstream is all about familiarity. People need someone to tell them what to like and not like.

There’s no such thing as universality. You don’t know what your reader is thinking or feeling.

Have one person that you’re trying to impress or win over and direct your writing to them, imagine them in the audience when you’re performing…

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