The Poetry of – Michael Daviot

Michael Daviot is a barely contained explosion of a poet.
He relies heavily on stress and the sometimes pounding rhythm of his poetry drives the meaning forward. He favours strong emotive language and minimal punctuation, allowing the free lines and the consonance to speak for itself. Unusually for a poet versed in performance his work engages shape and contour on the page in a way that supports the intent of his poetry.
The overarching feeling is that of an uneasy intelligence kicking at the bars of conventionality, capable of great frustration as well as great gentleness.
This is well read but not derivative work.
If there is a flaw, and it’s a small one, he can sometimes fall into the feeling of being over studied. But here I am talking about the odd line and the odd occasion.
This is work that shines brighter with performance and if you get the opportunity to hear him read his work I encourage you to do so.
You might want to take body armour.

You can find him on twitter @MDaviot
and he is a regular performer at the Speakeasy in Edinburgh @SpeakeasyEd

Review – The Knowledge – Robert Peake

On the whole, this is a work of descriptive lyric poetry, shining with simile.
Then, in places, we find the curling smoke of narrative, of warfare, of welfare.
It is a collection in three parts, each with a distinctive feel and elegantly placed by the editorial team.
The poet moves from couplet through the numbered stanzas to free verse, and back again, with confidence and grace. The pace is impressive, largely because the poems are a joy of enjambment. We return repeatedly to insect imagery, sometimes in surprising places, and the buzz of the bee intermingles with the call to prayer and the heat of an unholy war.
The impression given is that of a reserved poet, a tightly contained poet.
The work is elegant and strong.
If it is silk then it is silk over steel.
And, I don’t think that I know him yet.
But I would like to.

The Knowledge is poetry by Robert Peake, who you can find here
@PeakePoetics
http://www.robertpeake.com
http://www.transatlanticpoetry.com

and will be released in April 2015 by Nine arches Press

http://www.ninearchespress.com
@NineArchesPress

Review – The Thin Book of Poems – by Lach

I wasn’t expecting this.

Lach can turn a beautiful line of poetry with the same cavalier indifference that he applies to his musical asides. The strange thing is – I don’t think that he knows that.
This is a transitional collection.
You can chart the journey from the conversation of music to the music of language, from song lyric to lyricism.
In places the autobiographical accents of Betjeman meet the curl of TS Eliot, but the driving force is pure Lach. It screams “What the hell are we doing?” and follows that immediately with a “What the hell am I doing?”

It is unsteady in places.

And Lach, like the rest of us, is a much better poet when he isn’t consciously trying to write “A poem”. There are a couple of unfortunate lines but only a couple and that is rare in an initial collection. There is a firm understanding of rhythm and cadence, voice and pause, which you would expect from a musician. There is a great deal of good here with a flourish of the outstandingly beautiful.

I look forward to the next collection.
If this is what maturity does to Anti beat heat,
I’m good with it.

Constant Companions

We all like a bit of company. Yes, we vary in the amount and intensity of the company we enjoy, but, on the whole, we welcome friends and fellow travellers. We are social creatures, it’s one of the things that define us as a species. We like to to get into each other’s heads. We are interested in each other’s thoughts, feelings and experiences. It’s the reason why we love to read and why we love the exploration of writing.

But what about the silent passengers?
We all have silent company.
Inside our heads,
following our every step.

I’m talking about words.

From the moment we begin to piece our thoughts together we hang those thoughts on words.
Whichever language or languages we use, we carry our companions. Some have been with us from our first year of life. Some are new this year and others, if we really love language, are new today. They inform who we are. The shape and sound of our words decide the movements of our face. They influence how we look. They decide when we pause, when we breathe. They gather us into groups by country or class by occupation or interest.

They are wonderful, incredible things.
Take a close look at your companions.
They helped to build you.

Criticism: what it is and why you want it.

Criticism is an inevitable part of the job for a writer and is commonly available in two flavours.

a) Lemon – the expression of disapproval of someone or something on the basis of perceived faults or mistakes.

b) Orange – the analysis and judgement of the merits and faults of a literary or artistic work.

The difference between these two flavours lies largely in the degree of bitterness evident.
Some reviewers will try for an Orange and succeed only in supplying a Lemon. These reviewers lack skill and prefer to avoid thoughtful judgement by jumping straight to the disapproval. It’s a thing that they do.
Do not mind this.

Mind the Oranges.

If anyone who reviews your work can show balance of judgement, if they can show understanding of both fault and merit, if they can demonstrate a knowledge of literary form, function and phrasing, an interest in your genre, and a willingness to be open minded, then, you should listen to these people.
Let me be clear here, Oranges are not always right. Any review is opinion. But, if you have reason to believe that this is a person who knows their bananas, mind the Oranges.

And then your work will never be a complete fruit salad.

Writer’s Reflections : Lucie Brownlee

Me After You is a memoir about my first two years as a young widow. It charts life from the moment my husband collapsed and died as we made love one idle February evening, through chaos and despair to madness and euphoria, with a generous slug of red wine thrown in. It is a story of grief and rage and hope and the indomitable nature of the human spirit, but at its core, it is a story of true love. Why I was halfway through the second draft of a novel when my husband, Mark, died, aged just 37. Work on the novel ground to a halt overnight. I told my agent I was physically incapable of writing another word and that I would be in touch when, and if, I ever felt like returning to it. But it seemed unlikely to me that I would ever muster the will to write again. A year later I started a blog entitled Wife after Death – a roar-howl into the ether about the injustice of it all. I pounded my heart and soul into the keyboard, spilling my darkest and most desperate thoughts out into the void. I wrote because I simply didn’t know what else to do. And people began replying. Widows, widowers, women who’d lost children. But other’s too – those who wanted to show their support or simply to say ‘Hi’. I wrote almost every day for over a year, and the blog became a raw and intimately documented journal of grief. The blog went on to win an award, and I caught the attention of a national newspaper editor. My agent asked me if I felt up to writing a book based on the blog, about the first two years of my widowhood. I wrote my memoir, Me after You, in about three months, in between school pick-ups and in moments of sleeplessness. Writing it was time spent with Mark, and it helped me to try and make sense of the senseless nature of his death. What I learned. Me after You is my first full-length book to be published – prior to that it was short stories and articles. My publisher – Virgin Books – handled me and the book with skill and sensitivity, but I have learned that once your material is out there it becomes fair game. That is to say ownership of it almost ceases to be yours and anyone is able to comment on it. With memoir, especially one as emotionally charged as Me after You, this can be hard. Whilst most of the reviews have been positive (including a glowing cover quote from Andrew Marr) I have been criticised for being so candid. As a result at times I have questioned myself and the entire project, but I am fortunate in that I have a strong and supportive network around me. The best piece of advice I received was from my brother, who is also a writer and far more prolific than me: “In this business you need to develop a rhino hide,” he told me, “and never lose sight of what you set out to do, and what you have now achieved.” I am now working on my next book – a biography about an American sculptor. That, and my rhino hide. http://www.wifeafterdeath.com http://www.luciebrownlee.com Me after You is published by Virgin books priced £11.99

Writer’s Reflections – Sandra Danby

Many thanks this week to Sandra Danby for telling us a bit about her writing journey

 

My new book : Ignoring Gravity is the story of Rose Haldane’s own “Who do you think you are?” television programme. Rose is confident about her identity. She pulls the same face as her grandfather when she has to do something she doesn’t want to do, she knows her DNA is the sam as his. Except it isn’t: because Rose is adopted and doesn’t know it. Ignoring Gravity connects two pairs of sisters separated by a generation of secrets. Finding her mother’s lost diaries, Rose begins to understand why she has always seemed the outsider in her family, why she feel so different from her sister Lily. Then just when she thinks there can’t be any more secrets…

The publishing world is changing rapidly now, as indie publishing becomes established alongside the traditional business. Ignoring Gravity is a part of this, published by a new crowd-funded publishing imprint by BNBS books, called Britain’s Next Bestseller. This is a hybrid indie/traditional publishing deal in which the author has control in the early stages (cover design, PR, Book trailer, social media promotion). Once an agreed pre-order target is hit, BNBS takes over as a traditional publisher, publishing the book in traditional and e-book formats. My provisional publication date is September 2014 when the book will be available from Amazon.

Why I wrote Ignoring Gravity: I was an imaginative child. I would lie awake in bed at night and wonder what it would be like to live in another country, with a different family…what if…I was a boy, or lived in a busy city, or was good at arithmetic? If I had grown up in France not England, with a father who was a businessman not a farmer, would I be a different person now? Or have I, through my personality and life experiences, essentially made me, me?

This idea stayed with me. It wasn’t something I actively thought about but it stayed in the back of my mind. I’m not adopted and had a happy rural childhood in Yorkshire. When I turned from journalism to fiction 15 years ago, I started to think about my identity again. One day, when I was at my creative writing class,  a sentence came to me fully-formed. Rose Haldane thinks children should be served lightly grilled with a green salad. Rose has a very clear idea of who she is until the day she discovers she is adopted. Her family history is a blank page, but Rose is still Rose.

My tutor Nina said,”That’s it, that’s the first line of your novel, now go away and write the rest of it.” And that was the beginning of ignoring gravity. It changed along the way; the biggest alterations were a switch from first person to third, and the introduction at an agent’s recommendation of a storyline for Rose’s sister Lily.

The first draft was a whopping 140,000 words. The thought of cutting it was frightening, but I was ruthless and cut it to 99,000. Anything less, and the story would be lost. “Rose”, as the manuscript was (and still is!) known in our house, spent various periods sitting in a box while I wrote other things. It is 13 years since that first writing exercise, and the story has changed out of all recognition. I learned to let the characters do the things they wanted to. I learned a lot about story planning, character arcs and sowing clues and red herrings to keep the mystery alive.

Watch the book trailer http://youtu.be/dGjnw-7qaa4

Watch my author interview here http://youtu.be/VOnFDPr90y0