Wednesday, 28 November 2012

The Next Big Thing

I was recently asked, by Maya Chowdhry, to take part in a blogging project call The Next Big Thing.

It entails a whole bunch of writers answering a set of questions about a book they've either recently published or one they're working on. And then asking more writers to answer the same questions. I decided to write about the teeny tiny pamphlet I made recently called Lune, which proved very popular at a reading I gave last week. 

Where did the idea come from for the book? 
It's an A4 length pamphlet of a long poem about the Lune estuary. I live at its mouth and so watch it most days. I say a long poem, but it's not that long... long for me. I've been writing tons about the sea, sailing on it, living by it, the industries and buildings arising from it and I wanted to explore the seaness of the sea itself, how we (or more realistically I) relate to it emotionally, what we (I) miss or imagine from it, how intertwined we all are with it - it produces half the oxygen we breathe for example... It feels an important subject to get to grips with given what is happening to our ocean, its creatures and therefore us.

What genre does your book fall under?

Free verse poetry with an obvious emphasis on it being set inside a folding pamphlet, a concertina kind of production, in and out... get the drift? (groan)

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Well, I'm not into plankton exploitation, but if we could get a brilliant macroscopic camera I'd love to have some great shots of microbes, phosporescence... There are some bit parts for people too, so I'd go for Ron Perlman, Anne Marie Duff and Lucy Hymas (my ten year old neice who loves the stage).
What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
Look at the sea, girls! (courtesy of LM Montgomery)

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I've made it, with inspiration from Hugh Bryden whose pamphlet-making workshop I went to about two years ago. Although I've had good feedback on it so might see if there's any specialist makers out there interested in making it super beautiful.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
For the first draft, not including previous research time, I sat down and laid it all out in one leg, maybe an hour or so. But most of that was rubbish and had to be rewritten. At least then I knew more what I was wanting from it, what was missing and had a loose shape. Then from there to here, six months.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

The sea, my being on it, and looking at it every day.

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?
It's printed on glittery green paper.

If you're that 'piqued' let me know and for a few pennies* I can send you a copy

Writers I've asked to take part in the Next Big Thing are Kim Moore, Andrew McMillan, Naomi Foyle and Jane Eagland


Friday, 9 November 2012

Entertainer? Poet?

Burmese poet Thitsar Ni at the Scottish Poetry Library
The second and third weeks of the Arc Ventuers Tour overtook me in terms of neat bullet points on what I enjoyed and so have decided to share a few stories from my time with the various poets... Or in this case what information (once here) they shone on one of the more particular stressful logistics of the tour: getting a visa -

The highly regarded 66 year old Burmese (Buddhist) poet Thitsar Ni (one of the proponents of modernist poetry in Burma), applying for a visa to come to the UK, was asked if he had a bank account as proof of his address/identity/status ....
No, no bank account.
Did he own a house?
No, no house, he lived with his mother.
What about a car?
No, no car. I have nothing, he told the visa woman. Nothing. And it dawned on him for the first time in his life, he really did have nothing. Nothing at all.

The woman suggested he applied for a business visa instead.
He did not want to apply for a business visa. He had no bank account.

Off he went. Emailed me to say he had been refused his visa.
Try again! I say, and luckily having the email address for a former British Ambassador for Burma, I could ask her for help.
He gets himself a bank account and returns to the Visa Office for a visitor's visa.
What is the reason for his visit to the UK? asks the visa woman.
I am going for a week long poetry tour.
Are you a poet?
Can you prove it? Do you have a membership card?
No, I don't have a membership card.
How can you prove to me you are a poet?
I can write you a poem.

She does not want a poem, thank you. And she will give him an entertainer visitor's visa
But he is a poet. Not an entertainer. He does not want an entertainer visitors visa...

Fortunately the British Ambassador's husband made him accept an entertainer visitor's visa and he got his visa a week before the first reading on a week-long tour of UK. His first trip outside of Burma.

This story came via Ko Htike's interpretation, as did the photo. With thanks.