Monday, May 2, 2011

Reading For Writing

I am no poet, and likely never will be. Still, yesterday I went along to the second of the workshops offered this year; this one was with Joanna Preston. I'd been a bit dubious about going right from the beginning because...well, I'm no poet. Teen Angst Drivel is still about my limit, and I haven't been able to use that excuse for nigh on ten years now. But on Friday night I went to the poetry reading and...I thought I'd made a good call. And after spending four or so hours in her company on Sunday along with a few hardy souls, I thought the whole experience well worth it.

Of course, I did come a bit unstuck when we actually got around to writing poetry. Another reason I went is because I thought it would mainly be close reading, which we did for the first half; I still rather treasure the moment I realised just what the first poem we read was about. That experience summed up rather neatly my problem with poetry, actually; I tend to read literary poems, find they sail over my head, and get frustrated and give up. For some reason T.S. Eliot got under my skin and wouldn't let me give up, but generally speaking...yeah. But this poem? Imperial, Don Paterson. Didn't want a bar of it the first read-through. Or the second. Or the third. In fact, I lost count of how many times I wrote that bastard off. Then...well, Joanna pointed us in a direction AND LO THERE WAS LIGHT AND IT WAS GOOD IN MY EYES. That's exactly what I wanted to happen when I went to the workshop -- to take pleasure in poetry. So, even though writing some later was like wringing blood from a stone, it was well worth the price of admission.

I also acquired Joanna's book The Summer King, although I'd decided I was going to buy it about ten seconds after she started reading her first poem on Friday night. I haven't started reading any more of them yet, partially because I am still reading those Jacqueline Carey novels, but it's also because Joanna pointed out to us that reading poetry fast and furious? Is like bolting a Michelin star meal. It's a waste, and you miss the craftsmanship that makes it so special. So, yeah, I'm saving it. I might actually take it with me on my little soujourn to the Millbrook later in the month. Reading poetry after a massage amongst the's got to be relaxing, yeah?

Still, speaking of bolting food and Jacqueline Carey, I continue to stuff my face while reading and therefore have a bit of a sour taste in my mouth when it comes to Carey. It's not her fault, of course, but still. I should stop reading and start writing. I did find it amusing to discuss with Morag after the workshop, though, one thing I found very curious about Kushiel's Dart and my reading of it. I actually got into Carey through a short story in an anthology I'd bought specifically for a Diana Gabaldon short. I wasn't particularly enamoured of the latter and went sifting through the book for another story, and vaguely recalled having heard Carey's name somewhere down the fantasy line. The story in question -- You, and You Alone -- is bittersweet and lovely, told from the POV of Anafiel Delaunay. I fell in love with him then and there, let me tell you.

Anafiel is a poet. You'd think this would have been an impediment, but...I still loved him anyway. But the Anafiel in Kushiel's Dart doesn't write poetry -- that we know of. This is because his poetry was declared anaethema, but still...I ended up thinking "He's a poet with no poetry!" and I wanted to see it as it was such a fundamental part of his character. Which brings up the interesting question of how a novelist imbues a character with talents that they themselves do not have. Perhaps it's a mercy that Carey didn't attempt to give us much of Anafiel's poetry beyond a few couplets -- certainly I personally wish Anne Rice hadn't tried to go all Guns n' Roses in The Vampire Lestat as even my angsty teen ear smacked that shite down -- but...I don't know. I suppose I can but hope that I stick to my mathematicians and musicians, and pray that I never have to write a poet of my own.

...of course, saying that only encourages them. And Joanna didn't help; she was talking about how poetry is a powerful cultural force. It's the poems that we turn to in times of happiness or grief, and it's one of our oldest art forms. They still use poetic forms in Wales that began there three thousand years ago. Even I have the urge to read epic Norse poetry because something about it just sings to my mind. So, naturally, my personal insane "bard" archetype, one Aidan Jannock, is sneakily suggesting he tip his hand to poetry. He's usually more into talkative prose, if his entries in the Menhir journal throughout the latter third of The Juniper Bones are anything to go by, but Aidan's Aidan.

I'm in trouble.

It doesn't even help, when I try to tell him about something else Joanna said that stuck in my head -- apparently, when the revolutions come? The first artists they shoot are the poets.

In retrospect, I should probably just stick to being a novelist.



  1. I was talking to a poet I know recently and she had something of the opposite lament--rather than being a novelist who wanted to write poetry, she was a poet wanting to work on a novel. But she told me she was addicted to that quick hit, that lovely sense of completion and beauty that comes like instant gratification with the completion of every poem. Whereas a novel is a long hard slog over months or years, and it's hard for her to sustain her industriousness in the face of that.

    Re, this: "pray that I never have to write a poet of my own."

    I can relate. I don't know WHY I made Seth (Merryweather's beau) a poet, but I have since tried to write poetry for him and... Oh, at least I had the sense to describe him as a "bad" poet. But still... it rather pains me. I keep thinking I'm going to have to contract out his sections (or at least, his poems) to poet friends of mine, otherwise all the poets who read my work will laugh....

  2. I think the closest I come to "instant gratification" is through my short stories...and even then I usually lose interest long before the end. -__-;;

    But yeah, I am generally pretty glad that my musicians and mathematicians don't require me to do a lot more than scratch the surface of their obsessions in order to get them across on the page. Because much as I admire the beauty of both, I am a wordsmith in the novelist's guild. Quantum mechanics and music...aren't quite my forte. XD