Butterflies/left luggage

A lot of people say they dislike practical criticism: the poem is a butterfly and practical criticism is trapping and killing the butterfly and then pinning its dead body to a board. You may have found a beautiful specimen and mounted it with exquisite professionalism but in so doing, you killed the thing that made the thing beautiful. The examination of the poem leaves the poem lifeless.

For me, the opposite is true. I enjoy unpacking poems. I can read something and not really understand it, but by exploring how it works, what its words are doing, how they talk to each other and to other words in other poems or books or ideas – these things help me understand better what is happening. Unpacking is not an entirely unhelpful way of thinking about it. If the poem is a beautiful piece of luggage that I admire, practical criticism gives me the opportunity to open it up and see what’s inside. Nothing is dead, rather, I have had the opportunity to touch and feel and handle things, and see how they fit together. Does my initial attraction follow through? Is the poem full of beautiful things? Or can I find nothing to interest me inside? And in fact, even something which appears at first glance unpromising can be full of unexpected treats.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to choose some different poems and have a look at them. I haven’t done this properly for a long time but am nonetheless hoping you won’t come back and find me surrounded by a small stack of dead butterflies.


First garden poem

This poem is composed from different things people said about Fenton House garden last Saturday. There will be more coming soon as lots of the garden’s visitors stopped and talked to me. It was wonderful to be able to meet and speak to so many interesting people. I’ll be back as the poet in residence for Apple Day (which is actually the weekend of October 3/4th).

Resulting angles and perspectives

The colours are bright and amazing. The roses
parfume remind me of my childhood.
Particularly the orchard which seems very magical.
Even granny

wanted to hide. The levels are brilliant.
You turn – and every place is picture.
Excellent planting and amazing echiums,
many thanks.

It is a quintessential ‘English
Garden’. Echium pininana
was so interesting and fun to look at.
We garden in Worcs.

It’s very good for hide and seek,
A lovely sense of peace, escape.
I would let the grass grow long,
and hide.

Fenton House Open Garden Weekend

Hurrah! Tomorrow I get to be poet in residence at Fenton House garden. Despite having lived in NW3 for almost ever, I never knew about Fenton House until quite recently (given that ten years ago seems quite recent), and the first time I walked into the garden I fell completely in love. So I am over the moon to be there this weekend.

I’m hoping to create a poem from snippets given to me by people visiting the garden over the weekend – we shall see…

On being rejected

I started submitting stuff to poetry magazines this April. I started getting rejections about two weeks later. Coincidence? I think not.

The first time was grim and terrible. It didn’t say anything mean – in fact, it was thoughtful and kind. Nonetheless, I immediately realised everything I had ever produced was awful and that I must stop writing instantly.

The time after that, I only cried a little bit.

The sixth time I thought ‘meh.’

I have also discovered that there are good rejections and bad rejections. Handily, this rejection wiki gives examples of first tier rejections (no to this but we’d be interested in seeing other things by you) and second tier ones (just nooooooo). And it turns out I’ve had some really good – non-form – rejections. I’ve also had some acceptances, which will never become meh (most recently here, for Kevin Reid’s new blog of teeny tiny poems – submit, submit!)

My formula so far: response to rejection=n(rejection)/x, where x=the realisation that an editor is actually another human being who may or may not happen to like something. It could probably be more elegant.

A fake poem

Exciting times! In the last two weeks, I’ve had my first ever poem published here, heard that I have two more poems coming out in a journal this Autumn and had two poems commended by Roddy Lumsden in a poetry competition. I also have something appearing on Niall O’Sullivan’s fab blog, Fake Poems.

At this rate I expect my first collection will be appearing in about a week or so.