Saturday, March 24, 2007

Spring, having sprung, sprang abruptly backwards. Undeterred - well, deterred but fleecily-wrapped - Hazel and I set off on a Sunday visit to Stourton Garden (not recommended; as Hazel put it:" There's something about struggling beauty choked by wildness which is profoundly poignant, but charging £3.50 for the privilege of walking round this site of devastation is bare-faced cheek") and a plod around Alfreds Tower in between bursts of sleet. The week stayed icy cold for our Equinox celebrations - burning detritus of the past as well as invoking new beginnings.

And this is where Peter and I are headed now... I kept going to Do-I-Need-A-Jacket-dotcom to check that No, I don't - because in Crete the air really is 10 degrees warmer than here...
I don't plan to blog much while in transit; this is essentially a notebooks-and-pen trip, as we're backbacking along coastal paths with minimum rucksack load.
So, updates will be sparse and - until I get back - imageless. Normal service will resume in May. (Just keep telling funky-poetry-fans about onomatopoeia, now at 343 views.) Last word to Mike - with thanks for the lend of a picturecard so's I can store cerulean images by the score: "Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away."
Enjoy April! Peter & I will.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

It may be because it's so close to our trip to Crete and it feels like I'll be away such a long time, but this last week seems to have been end-to-end catch-ups with friends; a fair amount of Pinot Grigio sunk but sometimes simply enjoying walks in spring sunshine, now it's finally here. Through Vallis woodland valley with Emily, at Heaven's Gate above Longleat with Niamh, along the river bank at Nunney with Rosie - all talented writers, incidentally - and on Thursday through the estate of Kings Weston House near Bristol with Steve Hennessy. Steve is a playwright; his themes are difficult subjects: damage and madness, usually - the stuff of ordinary life in fact. He's a fantastic wordsmith and above all a trader in integrity. And he's a brilliant friend - one of the hardest-working people I know, yet he's always got time to listen gently and give good counsel. We walked, as we talked, in the woodlands of the estate around Kings Weston; the socialist in me struggling as ever with the realist to acknowledge that without the arrogant vision of these 18th century grandees, without their ludicrous investment in sequoia and redwood from the other side of the known world, we would not have the landscapes that make England so beautiful today.
We linger in the gargoyled - and graffited - folly and Steve tells me of the neighbouring estate, Blaise Castle, which boasted among its many follies a Hermit Grotto, complete with loinclothed hermit who, for the entertainment of passing gentry, had to lurk in the cave for 7 years before getting any of his wages... no wonder so many went mad.
Also this week:
two excellent Writers Circle meetings, a Frome Writers Self-Help Group discussion, writers' supper with Alison, and on Friday it was Little Miss Sunshine dvd night. I often find it difficult to make distinctions between personal events and 'a writer's life', my self-set blog-brief - what's differently nourishing for a writer than for a person? I've had wonderful moments with friends and family but as Luke Wright says, a blog is not a private journal. So even though I don't spend much time shaping or filing these thumbnail experiences, they're all rooted somehow in the process of writing. A lot that I've enjoyed gets sifted out, but Little Miss Sunshine can stay. My favourite films all seem to be about dysfunctional outsiders, or else road movies; here's both rolled into one with humour, charm, and an enfant-sauvage indictment of US cultural values.
And apropos writing, thanks Luke for the pro-Frome puff - and thanks to the 312 viewers of onomatopoeia!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

There's something about Bath, especially on a sunny day, that sublimely overrides its bourgeois complacency and makes it all sparkly and delightful, and during Lit Fest week there's the added lure of writers swarming around the Guildhall conversing avidly about writing. Localness was the theme at the Morning Coffee events: Debby Holt explaining why Bath is more like a character than a setting in her latest book and Jane Bailey urging a generous pinch of imagination. 'It's liberating to make things up."
Thursday was Brian Patten's reading. I've been a Liverpool Poets groupie since the '60s, and Patten was always my best of band. The waif-like angelswithdirtyfaces beauty has solidified somewhat but the voice has the same sandy softness, almost too tactile for everyday use. And the poems are still wonderful. That dress won't stop you growing older... written five months ago, has the same gentle erotic sadness as 'Into my mirror has walked' from 40 years ago. And the same honesty.
Honesty is a good link to Luke Wright, who brought his brilliant POET LAUREATE tour to Frome on Saturday night, and ran a fantastic workshop during the day too. The performance is a high-tech, high-energy, laugh-till-you-wee(p) romp through the history of poetry and all who sail in it, studded at intervals with Luke's own poems. At first hearing these seem as irreverant and anarchic as the links, but something about each one of them stays, and I think that's the honesty. Performance can improve the show, but the words are more important, Luke told the post-show talk audience; to me his passion was the most important thing. Luke began his workshop by saying "Art should entertain, but have a serious point too" and that's the aspect that makes this man's work so much more than clever stand-up comedy. To use his own 'only marginally self-satirising' terminology, Luke Wright touched me with his words.

And from the baby-faced poet who calls his work 'trying metaphorically to shit on the ceiling' to the farthest end of the line: "Tell me the truth about love", last week's BBC2 tribute to Auden. Sombre to see old chewing-gum-face senile and stammering at the end of his life, but his sense of the vocation of poetry, like his undaunted love, is inspiring. Like Patten says, Nothing is ever as perfect as you want it to be. Even Luke can't dance. Or so he says. And like Debby recalled on Wednesday, Emily Dickinson ('not a ball of fun') did give us one jolly quote: "All but Death can be adjusted."

Monday, March 05, 2007

You don't always tell the truth to tell a truth, says James Nash at the start of his brilliant session on Sunday. He puts careful emphasis on the 5th and 9th words in a way my browser doesn't allow me to do, and we all nod sagely. There are 12 of us, gathered on the big sofas in Christies, discovering how to use personal secrets in our writing. 'You can't write honestly if you're not being honest with yourself' James says, and after the workshop he shares some of his own lucid & lucent integrity. A great ending to an inspirational day.
Checking my onomatopoeia clip, I'm pleased to see it's clocked up 199 hits now - and Howard has put 3 more DVD tracks on Youtube: Local Honey, Hot Night, and What's it like for you? They're all short, and need some more hits so do take a quick look.
And it's March at last! Only a couple of weeks before Peter & I heave on our rucksacks and set off for Crete, to spend 5 weeks walking and writing... The horizon dream-image that sustained us through a dismal February is wading through the shallows towards us; time to start thinking seriously about euros and socks.
Workshop at Centerparcs last week gave me a chance to defy the drizzle in the wild water rapids but I'm hoping we'll see a bit more sun in Chania (puerile link I know but I wanted to use the pic).