Six of the emerging poets who entered the Emerging Writers program are showcased in this anthology Becoming Known. Josephine Clarke, Fable Goldsmith. Ruari Jack Hughes, Taonga Sendama, Sunny Wignall and Colin Young are each incredibly gifted poets.
There hasn’t been much activity here for a few weeks. For very good reason. The writing effort has been directed full-time to finishing the novel. A few days ago the last chapter was written. Not actually the last chapter of the novel but the final one created. Yesterday , after a few formatting issues, the manuscript went off to reviewers. Now I sit and wait for their raves or their condemnations. Seriously hoping for the former.
Because when I say ‘Finished!’, it doesn’t really mean finished, does it? What writer, what artist in any field, ever truly feels that the work is finished, that it cannot be made better, that they have achieved perfection, a final statement that cannot in any way be added to or improved?
We’re accustomed to the idea that new editions of non-fictional writing will most likely have revisions and updates, but I wonder how many readers are aware that fictional works are also frequently revised in new editions? Some writers can’t resist tinkering with their work. Joseph Conrad was notorious for making changes in every new printing of his novels. We have multiple versions of Shakespeare’s plays. Hollywood is forever remaking successful movies. Was there really a need to redo “The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo”?
Beyond the realm of writing and other artistic endeavour there are perhaps more profound indications that no creative artist is ever finally satisfied with their work. We’ve all heard the joke about how God made Eve because he wasn’t quite happy with the first model, Adam. More significantly, He must have felt something was wrong with His creation that it needed Him to send Jesus to fix it up.
Finished? No, I don’t think so. Only for certain values of the word. But not ultimately. There must come a point where we arrive and say enough is enough, already. Some moment when we stop and decide that this is as good as it gets — in my world at least.
Let’s see about writing a poem. What first? An idea, something to write about. I’ll check my list of possible titles/themes/ideas. OK, here’s one that looks likely, ‘specially since this posting is about making a poem.
Huge ball of poetry.
There’s my title; by implication it’s also my subject. So far, so good. What next? Something about a huge ball of poetry. Well, yes, but what? What is a huge ball of poetry? The answer probably lies inside. Inside the writing, I mean. Usually a piece of writing gradually says what it’s about as the words appear on the page, stretching out in a long string. I’m intrigued to see where the words are going and what will lie at the end of the string. That looks like a good image for a huge ball of poetry; a coiled up string, rolled around this way and that, over and over, strands crisscrossing, words touching each other which weren’t together in the sequence of the writing but are now tangled and twined so that coming on one, we’re falling over another which wasn’t originally tied to it at all. A bit like that last sentence which managed to go on for almost four lines, one thought leading to the next, then snaking back, a serpent trying to swallow its tail (or should that be tale?)
Have I got enough to make a poem? Well, I’ll start and see where we go.
… and this word
will be followed by that one and
then the next after it will be the one that’s meant
to follow it in some sort of agreement to keep sense and not
muck up the meaning of what the words together are supposed to be saying
so long as they’re in an order that is familiar but of course it doesn’t matter too much
since poetry can break the rules of grammar and even syntax in order to create a sense of
a feeling or the flight of the air through the winding paths of the forest or over the jumping
waves of the sea or maybe around the flittering tails of a herd of wild horses galloping across
the steppe which stretches all the way from the coldness of the Arctic shore to the warm
lapping edge of the great Caspian Sea where lived the ancestors of people
who some day would travel to that sunny sanctuary lying in the vast
southern ocean which somehow balances the continental
land masses sitting on the top of the world instead of
being spread more evenly across
Is this a poem? Let’s review what we’ve got. A huge ball of words all caught up together. Yet not too hard to follow those words along the line one after another. You may not be able to see at the beginning where those words are going be at the end, but that’s what good writing does, keeps you in suspense, at the same time gradually revealing more and more of what the writer wants to say — or at least what the writer finds himself saying (not quite the same thing when you think about it).
What else is there? Check for the usual criteria. It’s one continuous run-on line; it doesn’t have end rhyme; it’s without regular metre — though there are internal rhymes and a feeling of rhythm is present. Some may dismiss any claim that it’s verse. Others will insist this piece of writing — this huge ball of words — is emphatically a poem.
Enough! Let it be a poem or let it be just a jumble of words. For me, however, the words go somewhere, say something, and from the beginning of writing, the beginning of poetry, its entire history, that’s been enough.
I don’t really believe it’s as hard to get published as a lot of people claim. But it’s for sure you’re very unlikely to ever make any money out of writing. There are probably no more than a couple of dozen novelists and playwrights who make a full-time living in this country. If you write short stories or poetry, give up now if you’re doing it for the money.
So let’s assume you write because you’re driven. I attended the Writers Festival within the Perth International Arts Festival this year as I have in most previous years of its existence. It was a bit re-jigged this year in terms of the spaces employed within the University of Western Australia, but the format was essentially as it’s been for a long time. Mostly panels where a selection of writers who’ve had recent publication are interviewed by someone with a few clues about them and their books. Oh, and there is also a series of workshops which you can attend to learn various skills and techniques in order to publish your own best-selling blockbuster.
For the most part it’s all very enjoyable and there are hundreds of people attending, many industriously making notes in response to what’s being said in the panels. Not many of these people will ever see their writing published. It’s not a cynical comment, merely support for that assumption that people who write are driven to the activity. I do think it’s highly unlikely that anything you hear in a Writers Festival will be the key to finding the way into successful and profitable writing, but there’s no doubt the observation of those who have found that success is an encouraging motivation to keep going.
Even so, at the end of the day, it’s that old formula of talent + sweat that’s the only real road to becoming a successful writer ( and it still doesn’t mean you’ll make any money!)
I think I’ve got some talent. I probably need to sweat some more. And I’m going to keep writing because really,what else is there to do?
This morning brought a rather traumatic discovery. The word I thought I had coined late last year — telemorphosis — turns out to have been in use for over 100 years and refers to nothing at all related to my intent that it would define my theory about how memory is crucial in the process of adaptation in writing. A big disappointment! And a big nuisance, as I will now have to devise another word/term to try and express what I’m on about in this exploration which is central to my PhD project.
The first thing I immediately did was the elimination of the blog which I began only two days ago (under the name of Telemorphosis) and set up a new blog — this one, titled Memories 2 Go. Fortunately it was possible to export everything from the original site to this new one, so not too much damage.
Once again the fact of the Web has proven itself. It’s highly unlikely I would otherwise have learnt of this duplication of terms. Might have become a big problem when I submit my thesis next year. A good lesson in never taking anything for granted. But really, who knew? Who would have thought? Did you ever hear the word before?
Let me tell you a little about this PhD I’ve been working on for the last 7 years. Actually I made the decision to have a go at getting a doctorate over 9 years ago. First hurdle was to gain entry. Didn’t have an Honours degree so (despite holding a degree in English Lit and a post-grad degree in Education) I needed to get a Masters as a first step. This wasn’t a hardship, quite the contrary. For two years I just wrote heaps of stuff — short stories, poetry, a play, a novella and 35K words of a still unfinished novel. Got several of the stories and poems published and finished up with a M.Litt degree awarded cum laude.
Then I was ready to start on the PhD. Right from the beginning my interest has been in adaptation; how do stories get changed from one form into another? What is the process in the writing which allows that to happen?I had a notion to try and develop a model, for want of a better word, which could be used to guide a writer who decided to adapt a story into some different form from what it was currently. Well, that didn’t work out too well. Seems every adaptation is essentially unique. I was back to square one. After sitting in my chair and cogitating for some months I came up with the opinion that memory has got something to do with what goes on when an adaptation is being undertaken. So that’s what I’m now puzzling out.