Thursday, 26 March 2009

Unsaid Undone, Flax's new anthology

One of the things I have loved about editing Flax is working with Martin Chester. He's the designer. As part of the process of putting the anthology together graphically (which is our indulgence because they're online), we chat. I tell him about the content of the anthology, and what I see as connections and he asks questions like, how long are the stories? And what's the title of the anthology.

Then he comes up with a design (or two) and we discuss that, what we like, what is legible, what we don't like. Or more likely what I don't like, for which then he explains his rationale and I, after a night's sleep, generally come round to his way of thinking. What a push over. Although for this latest one I did hold my ground on swapping the image.

And then he shows me the second draft.

And each time I say I LOVE IT. IT'S THE BEST YET.

And it always is!

How good it that?

What I also marvel at, is how I always manage to come up with a really fitting title for them. Unlike for my own collection.

Maybe I should run them by Martin

Sunday, 22 March 2009

How kids see their world

Typing up some more gems from Pennington Primary School:

Under the soil
there are seeds
that don't grow

Buds smashing like glass

Woodlice at night
creeping like fingers

Twisting woodlice
fluttering like a butterfly
with a broken wing

Friday, 20 March 2009

budding poets

What I didn't mention in my whingeing the other day is that I've been working in a lovely primary school up in South Lakeland with Years 1 and 2 for the past few weeks. And while I've been quite upset at how many of them seem unused to mucking about in their imaginations in class (already! They're only 5 and 6!) they do, with some encouragement come out with some great ideas and phrases:

Molehills rise like moons

A caterpillar dreams of being a rock star

The sky begins in my mouth

You cut the air by saying hello

White daffodils wiggling in the grass like maggots in the compost heap

Great stuff!

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

time management

March is galloping towards its end - and snarling with it, a bunch of deadlines that make me question my time management skills. I decided a few years ago that the less I did the more time I seemed to have, but then didn't want. Right now, the converse is true.

Unfortunately I seem to be inclined towards gathering jobs, projects and activities around me like some people do ornaments. I don't think my enthusiasms gather too much dust. Some take longer than others to reach fruition, but I do see things through. What's different this time is that the three jobs I'm currently working on - the Edith and Marlene piece, editing my poetry collection and writing a prose piece about the sea - all have externally imposed timelines. It's that rule of three.

Like filing, I've come to time management in an organic manner, and often wonder why it isn't taught at school as a part of maths. I'm sure I'm not alone. A friend recently told me of a day he spent planning out his PhD thesis with a whole bunch of colour coded post-it notes rather than the writing of it. But I think it is like decorating - the success lies in the planning. I'm not brilliant at that either.

But I do like lists. Pen and paper lists that I can cross out, write again and gain a sense of being in control by. Very very lovely. And if they have arrows connecting things, so much the better. Arrows give the sense of things actually happening, movement, accomplishment.

> > > > > > > > > > > > > >

wow, I feel better already, a few more and I'm outta here > > >

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Massive and Teeny

I've just learnt that the largest animal on the planet, the blue whale, eats one of the smallest, krill. Seems a bit odd to my mind. Like us living off dust?

Monday, 9 March 2009

Oilskins and Sequins

Just when I thought I was an expert in winch parts and was confidently lifting the sleeve off my third winch yesterday afternoon to degrease and regrease it, out boinged a teeny spring that looked like the thing that holds clothes pegs together. But smaller. It had to happen. And possibly no surprise that it popped out to show who was boss in my boat relationship the day after I'd been on a sea survival course and splashing about in Heysham swimming pool in full wetweather gear, inflated lifejacket and huge liferaft.

I'd taken my eye off the detail. After Saturday afternoon I was feeling I'd be able to instruct my capsized crew in the art of chain swimming across a hurling sea, just about heave myself into a liferaft and tidy everyone in place inside it, and then reheat a hyperthermic casualty. Essential stuff if the boat goes down, yes, but perhaps more essential is keeping the boat sailing in the first place. We were given the comforting statistic of 99.5% of sailors never use their liferaft. However, if they've got an unsprung winch, that drops to 0.5%. (I'm making that up). Like clothes pegs in a force 4, winch springs are handy. They mean the pawls lock into the cogs, which means the winches winch, which means we can trim the sails as we need, since the winches take the weight of the wind. And wind can be heavier than water.

After twenty minutes of fiddling and a plate of chips I worked out how the spring slotted into the pawl (which is a three dimensional steel comma) so it provided a tension against the cog. I know I've gone on before about the sheer beauty of simplicity in these mechanisms, but they truly are an invention that should be ranked with the the paper clip.

Which I could have done with on Saturday evening when I discovered I'd lost my set list for the performance I was due to give at the Vivid Arts event. It acts like a comfort blanket. I probably know which poems I'm going to deliver, and in which order, but it's one less thing to have to remember. But I'm a strong believer that giving poetry performances is all about relaxing - not just of me, but for the audience too. Hard enough to concentrate, even harder to keep following all the words, especially if you're not a regular to poetry. As the audience weren't on Saturday.

I know it's not a good start to tell people not to worry about understanding what they're about to hear. And I didn't. But, when many of the poems were about sailing, sea and stars, my idea of success - as in audience enjoyment would be for them to get a 'feel' of things, rather than trying to comprehend exactly. People don't expect to 'understand' music, it asks for a more holistic, sensory reponse. I guess I want to deintellectualise poetry performances - that's not to say simpify the poetry, but offer a route into it that might by-pass the processing brain.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

World Book Day of Decision

So, today's world book day. What does this mean? There'll be a few articles about favourite books, some banners appearing in the library (if you still have a local library), a swash of writers appearing in schools to promote reading and writing, some bright discounts in bookshops, but probably nothing in Thorntons. Don't get me wrong. I think anything that raises the profile of reading is a Good Thing. But I guess I'm wondering if it does. The Guardian raised the issue of lying about books today, which I thoroughly enjoyed. It reminded me of the theory of reading by osmosis. You know, keep buying books, even though you have a tower to read, in the hope that somehow their contents will seep into your knowledge banks whether or not you read them.

So what could we individually do for WBD? Something that doesn't have to be big, public and involve lots of logos. It's perhaps no coincidence thatthe day falls in lent. Why not make a personal commitment to ourselves? Not to give up something, but to actually start reading that book we've always said we would read, or even said we have read ... Mine would be Derek Walcott's Collected. I'm off to Amazon ...

Monday, 2 March 2009

Help on Edith Piaf?

I mentioned a wee while ago I was writing a short piece about Edith Piaf and Marlene Dietrich. Well, now I'm up to the 'researching Edith' phase and am wondering if anyone out there who'd googled Edith Piaf and stumbled upon this blog might be able to help out ... Do you have any interesting facts or fictions about Edith, Marlene or their friendship I might be able to use?

There'll be small prizes ...