Sunday, 27 August 2017

August Blues / Wheel of Books

Every year I get the August blues. August is the time when I have most freedom, and I always hope to use that to get some writing done. Instead, a state of lethargy sets in, which gradually begins to dissolve as autumn approaches, with dark evenings, a bit of chill in the air and the prospect of another university term. That hasn't quite happened yet. It's plum season; the sweet-sharp taste of plums is something I associate with guilty and melancholy feelings at the thought of another summer I haven't done quite enough with.

As a matter of fact I finished a new collection of poems at the beginning of the month, so things haven't been as bad as all that - it's just that I haven't been able to get going properly on the projects that ought to come next. To cheer myself up, I am posting this wheel of books: the ten I have published in the course of my life, together with the manuscript of what I hope will be number eleven. The ten are as follows:

   WHOM, novel, published by Bloomsbury in 1989.

   Blizzard, poems, Faber and Faber, 1996.

   Dragons, poems, Faber, 2001.

   Where the People Are: Language and Community in the Poetry of W.S. Graham, critical book, Salt, 2004.

   Whereabouts, poems, rufus books, 2005.

   Mandeville, poems, Faber, 2008.

   Singing a Man to Death, short stories, Cinnamon, 2012.

   Muscovy, poems, Faber, 2013.

   The Book of the Needle, novel, Cinnamon, 2014.

   The Mabinogi, poems, Faber, 2017.

The eleventh book is called Wing (I have a fondness for one-word titles, as the above suggests), and I plan to send it to my editor at Faber on 1 September, after which I will have an anxious wait to see if it's accepted.

Meanwhile, I have reopened this blog, White Threshold. This has its origins in another idle spell, in late 2011, when I was just coming to the end of a period of research leave and wanted something to do to fill up the remaining time. I started a blovel or blog novel, called Starling City, with no great hope that it would come to anything, as indeed it didn't. The blog remains online in its unfinished state, and I doubt if it will ever be reopened as a blovel, though the novel idea may be worth returning to. (My struggles with the novel form are a topic for another post, as is my tendency to return to old ideas years later.) White Threshold, the companion blog of Starling City, named after a collection of poems by W.S. Graham, was planned as a series of reviews of fiction I considered to be underrated. You can still find those reviews here; I am pleased with them and would like to think they may attract some new readers to extraordinary writers like H.F.M. Prescott, Jerome Charyn and Richard Beard. But that project, too, fizzled out. The reviews were hard work, since I usually had to reread the books before writing about them, and I just didn't have the time to keep the blog going.

Now, though, I have become aware that my online presence is a bit patchy. I have a website, which I update very occasionally, and am on Facebook and Twitter. Sometimes I want to share things that are too lengthy and detailed for the social media sites and too ephemeral for my own site. And writers nowadays are expected to blog. In fact, for the last few years, I have taught a seminar on blogging to new doctoral students at Aberystwyth University, where I work, and have had to explain to people who usually know more about the subject than I do that I don't blog myself. Hence my belated reopening of White Threshold as a blog for anything I feel like writing about. Possible subjects are:

   My own writing;

   The contemporary literary scene, especially poetry and especially in Wales;

   Creative writing and the problems of teaching it

   Chess (I am the chair of Aberystwyth Chess Club);

   The ukulele, which I took up a couple of years ago, having been abnormally ungifted at music all my life, and which now gives me immense pleasure;

   Walking, and the beautiful Welsh countryside;



... and so on. I have come late to this kind of thing, because I have had a lifelong aversion to keeping a diary. (I am particularly indignant about the creative writing manuals which insist on it as prerequisite for other kinds of writing.) My attitude has always been that of T.S. Eliot, who described poetry as "not the expression of personality but an escape from personality". But most of the literary world is against me here, as is most of the online world. And the fact is that I have a lot of things I want to write about that I am not getting the chance to communicate. At any rate, it may help to keep the August blues at bay.

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