Right Now

This week, I acted on instinct for the first time in a while.

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There are a PHENOMENAL number of online portals, websites and magazines that take submissions. A magazine such as Mslexia will give a vital insight into such places, but it is only the tip of a considerable iceberg. Countless places exist to send work to, but perilously few will pay you for the effort. It is, in certain lights, a poisoned chalice of effort versus reward.

Occasionally however I’m not here for the cash. There are moments when you just want to write summat for the sake of writing: this week, the day after my first successful counselling session, I needed to believe that writing remains enjoyable for the hell of it. So, I sat down and wrote three poems. Just like that. BOOM. Then, I stared at them for a bit and was really very happy with what had resulted.

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One of them, it must be said, had been written in a rough form whilst waiting in the counselling office. I feel this is a theme going forward, that it might be nice to do one a week for the next three months because if all else fails, that’s a collection right there. Then, they sat around for a day, as is the idea, before coming back for polish. After that, they were printed out, put in an envelope with a stamped-addressed return one for acknowledgement, and then posted.

That was an odd feeling: walking to the letterbox, sending my work away, not knowing when I’d hear a reply. Having to watch for my own letter’s return, I have to say, is considerably more exciting than anticipating failure via an e-mail. I’m far less likely to get upset too, amazingly, because this just feels like a better way to fail. If my poem from the waiting room makes it, of course, I’m one short for the collection…

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Should that actually come to pass, I reckon I’d cope.

There’s No Other Way

Following the weekend’s revelation that my mental issues are scuppering progress on editing old work, we’ve made solid progress on a new approach to writing long-form fiction. In fact, as it transpires, this approach is a bit of a revelation:

I speak a bit about the process on the Other Blog: it was meant as a means to release mental pressure, and give me something to aim towards going forward. Buoyed by this, tomorrow is the day when I work on the short story I’ve written and not yet completed that I’d like to enter for the formal contest that began all this trauma in the first place.

If this works to my satisfaction, there’s a second short story to follow.

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However, right now I’m trying my best not to be obsessed with doing just one thing if something else pops up, comes along and demands attention. In practical terms that’s trying a new submission avenue this week, that doesn’t have a deadline and demands what I consider to be my best work. I have no idea if it will work or not but what is apparent is how much the process is being enjoyed. That’s what’s been missing for the last few months.

If I can find the things that truly spark joy when creating, there’s a far better chance of something finally being considered as good enough.

Poetry Archive :: Laurel

We’re having fun over the next four weeks by doing quite literal interpretations of our subject matters. In this case, it was incredibly easy to throw together five verses on the literal essence of laurel, both historically and medicinally. This worked far better than I’d initially expected it to, so much so it’ll be fun to do the same with three other shades of green, or green-related words going forward.

Amazing sometimes how an idea spins you out to a completely different direction than first anticipated.


Laurel

Aromatic tree,
evergreen shrub: mountain nymph,
priestess of Gaia.

Victory’s symbol,
poet laureate: favoured
by the Gods themselves.

Immortality,
emperor’s regalia:
Roman reverence.

Vital astringent
wound’s salve: that Bloody Mary’s
green ingredient.

Humble, verdant growth
vitally symbolic; plant
new futures within.

Poetry Archive :: Jungle

April for poetry isn’t just themed, it is the beginning of an intentional process of detachment. My brain, built as it is, has an almost obsessive need sometimes for order and control. However, increasing amounts of current poetry is anything but: free-form verse, little or no controlled structure, simply feelings falling from brain to page. What matters far more than a framework is the emergence of a unique poetic ‘tone’, rhythm of vocal presentation that only really manifests when the works are read aloud.

Therefore, I’m working hard on the process of attempting to decouple brain from structure. This week’s the foundation point, and Twitter’s restrictions make this a lot more conventional than I’d like, which we will address with next week’s subject matter. For now, however, it works as a means of environmental protest.


Jungle

Chlorophyll canopy, dancing
sunlight, humid motes
thousand-hued boughs:
welcome to the jungle.

Insect population, living
ecosystem, multicoloured
sensational overload:
moment in crisis.

Over-zealous farmers, stripping
green’s worth, bulldozing
entire species, extinction:
all for profit.

Planetary meltdown, stripping
colour, diversity’s
green turns to dust:
variety extinction.

Joint responsibility, changing
money-driven attitudes
preserve the jungle:
secure Earth’s future.

Alone Again Or

Yesterday, I filled in a survey for a large organisation who, if I’m honest, was never set up to deal with the likes of me. The girl with anxiety issues, constant bouts of Impostor Syndrome, fear of failure and inability to understand what other people are talking about, on her worst days, puts the cause back months. Today however that girl’s still in bed, not wanting to push forward or achieve greatness. In her place this doppelganger is at the PC, putting in the hours, covering for inadequacy.

The world’s a tough place to negotiate at the best of times, especially in these fraught days of political and social uncertainty. The survey asked me a simple question: what do I miss in my life, now that there’s so much dedication to the writing cause? The answer is simple: friends. People who understand what this is like: the constant rejections, the uncertainty, doubting yourself and the output you produce. When I look at the successful people in my timeline, perilously few show the weaknesses I deal with.

Maybe that’s part of the problem.

Twitter presents the world with a platform to be whatever they wish, yet so many believe that’s the kind of person who never shows vulnerability or shortcomings. Undoubtedly the people I now gain the most from in terms of interactivity and support are those who show this more vulnerable side, not afraid to be honest with their failings. It is also becoming increasingly apparent that anyone who arrogantly believes their opinion is the only right answer will never be worth listening to or indeed debating with.

When I’m writing poetry, or fiction, or whatever else might be needed of me in terms of words, success is what is aimed for. However, less and less that success equates to being able to put well known organisations next to my work. Validation in a capitalist society inevitably is being able to earn a wage from your efforts. It doesn’t help that ‘best-selling’ ‘successful’ writers are all over my social media: many act like they’re some kind of literary evangelist, offering answers and succour in exchange for your fealty.

Except reality is a long way from that truth.

A lot of individuals consider any public admission of failure as unacceptable. It is understandable, especially as such concepts are often grouped with social constructs or lifestyle choices that directly fly in the face of continued success. The pressure to achieve, present the ‘right’ impression or outlook, places incredible amounts of stress on the most hardened of individuals… and yet, showing this is inevitably negative. That’s not true. To err is human. It is the most basic part of ourselves, and should be embraced.

Today, sitting here, I know there’s a rejection waiting to drop in my Inbox. I could probably write the generic message that will accompany it. It will include phrases such as:

‘hugely high standard of entries’
‘incredibly difficult decision’
‘so difficult to choose a winner’
‘because of the high volume of entries, no individual criticism of individual work can be provided…’

and there’s the killer. Nobody’s willingly prepared to offer free criticism, or comment. If you want to learn how to do this, you’ll more than likely have to pay someone for the privilege. Take a course, hire an editor, and even then nobody may care one jot about what makes you passionate because, in the current market, nobody wants poetry that rhymes. Your narrative is unsaleable, according to people who claim to share your passion, but only if it will make them money.

This is a tough world, and it is not getting any easier.

Not gonna lie here, I have JK muted on Twitter. Her ideas and mine are quite a long way apart, but if personal proof were needed that the unknown can become successful overnight, this is it. It would be a foolish person who did not respect the achievement of others: it is also a foolish person who will believe that only one route to success exists, and that is to exactly emulate the actions of others, without being true to yourself first. You are what you are, good and bad: I believe that you need to embrace both to be truly comfortable with your work.

One day, my work will get noticed. There’s a fair chance that won’t happen until long after I’m dead, part of why the notion of ‘success’ needs to change in the here and now. As it is just as likely I’ll not be around to enjoy that definition, maybe this is the moment to find the joy elsewhere, and stop worrying about the idea that you’re only good when people you don’t know read your work and enjoy it. I’m already at that stage, or else you wouldn’t be here now. So, in that regard, this is progress.

What matters most, right now, is honesty and not publicity.

Poetry Archive :: Nobody but You [Redux]

Love is still horrible, unsurprisingly.

The original version of this poem can be found here.


Nobody But You

Now, departed: mind
desolate: understanding,
our love is over.

All passion desires
out of reach: estranged moments,
cold, empty feelings.

Every day, torture
realisation; final
line drawn, completed.

Point of no return,
old path blocked: accept failure
future, crumbling.

Nobody but you
at this instant: matters more,
loss too much to bear.

Poetry Archive :: My One and Only Love [Parisian Remix]

We’ll be going back to writing new verse next week, having learnt a significant amount not only about myself, but how this entire process works best. A lot has been taken from not just my original working practices, but also how words are changing over time. Needless to say, there’s plenty of stuff left to go back and alter, if and when the mood strikes (or I’m in the position where reality does not allow me the ability to be so free with my time.)

I’ll see you bright and early on Monday for the new gubbins, for now take a look at this poem’s evolution from the original published last February.


My One and Only Love

Will never fail to understand
always willing, just take their hand:
my one and only soothes dark soul
returning peace, beating heart whole.

Her arrondissements surround
life weary girl, effect profound;
agreement between life and death
remain strong even when bereft.

The Seine will calm inherent fear,
bathes understanding strong and clear:
snug cafe warmth to Tour Eiffel,
sing Notre Dame’s distinctive bells.

Strong sounds now heal all broken parts
both mind and body, hope restarts;
life’s reconstruction through belief
toxic elimination, brief.

This city never cheats nor lies;
brings joy, both greeting then goodbyes,
my one and only, staunch best friend:
Paris, beginning without end.