Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Cape Town Review

A review of my latest book from the lovely Fuselit is here. Mostly complementary. Important to remember that there's only one thing worse than being talked about and that is not being talked about!

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Amsterdam in the Snow

Work takes me to Amsterdam for a couple of days, so I decide to make a weekend of it as I haven't been for over a decade. I first visited in the '80s when I was a photography nazi - I only shot in black and white which I developed and printed myself.

My how times and technology have changed. I can upload things to share in minutes, no sweating over a hot developer in the dark room for hours, luckily. Life moves on a pace and I have no time for that kind of malarkey any more.

Other things have changed too like the coffee shops. There were a hand full in those days - furtive places, where you were never quite sure if it really was OK or not (it was,but... paranoia). Now there's one or more on every street and frankly there's no need to go in, the whole of central Amsterdam wafts with weed. I'm pretty sure if you stood in the right door ways for long enough, you'd save yourself a bundle. Less fun, clearly, but cheaper. Unfortunately this means the city is full of British tourists. I do try to avoid my countrymen and women as much as possible these days. Curmudgeon is my middle name.

The Van Gogh Museum is closed for refurbishment just now, but the entire collection is on display at the Hermitage Museum, which my new local poet friend and guide for the weekend told me was until recently the world's oldest old people's home. Don't let that put you off, it's lovely and the Van Gogh's are a joy. Here you will find The Potato Eaters, his bedroom, one of the Sunflowers, some Irises, lots of blossom, and portraits and on and on. Brilliant in all their jewels colours.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Poetry News

Three new poems of mine appeared today on this lovely quality blog. Do visit and enjoy!

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Into the Light with Sylvia Plath

To shed some light on another of Sylvia Plath's poems in advance of my next Paris Lit Up Writing Workshop on 3 March in the library at Shakespeare and Company and set you a writing challenge, I'm going to take a close look at Sylvia Plath's 1962 poem By Candlelight. Ostensively a poem about waking in the night to tend to and feed a crying baby: 'Balled hedgehog./Small and cross', the poem has various points of light, to adopt a painterly term, before settling in praise of the particular candlestick as totem/guardian of the child. Let me elaborate.

Addressing the child ('small love'), the poem starts in a country night with a delightful image of it 'steeled with the sheen/Of what green stars can make it to our gate.' The stars are the first point of light and they are strange, being green. The next point of light is the mirror (a constant Plath object, as noted in my first two posts - scroll down for more), which floats mother and child 'at one candle power'. A mirror is the place where they meet each other. A candle third point) has a quasi-religious significance as a 'haloey radiance' and blows their shadows on the wall of the room making them 'violent giants'. Yet its light is barely there at all to start with as it is almost snuffed out.

The third and final stanza of the poem focuses on the candle : 'the light/ that keeps the sky at bay' and the bent man candlestick 'the little brassy Atlas' and its 'five brass cannonballs', which for the child represent protection, solidity and certainty in an insecure world :'to juggle with, my love, when the sky falls.' In this way, light banishes darkness in the poem, literally and metaphorically.

And now for the writing challenge: something wakes you in the night, what? focus on sounds in the dark inside and outside the house; then introduce one light source, then another, focus on how they effect you and what they do to the room; what happens next?; use the present tense and choose a title that doesn't have the words light or night in it. Enjoy and good luck!

The poem can be found on pg. 236 of the Faber Collected Plath (1981).

Monday, 11 February 2013

River Run at the Irish Cultural Centre

Olwen Fouréré
 brought her one woman show to the Centre Culturel Irlandais last weekend for a two night run. In the presence of the Irish Ambassador on Saturday evening, we were treated to an hour’s virtuoso performance from Finnegans Wake. Fouréré had perfect control, craft and timing. Now that Joyce’s work can be performed freely, lookout for much more of this from many artists in the coming years.
Once I’d stopped trying to make sense of the confusing word madness and immersed myself in the language, its playfulness and music, I was transported. It was very much an other world experiment and I naturally closed my eyes to focus on the sensation of words. It’s been a long time since I’ve read any of Joyce’s novel, but I really should get back to it and see if can’t make something of what the man himself wrote as a puzzle which he apparently suggested the professors would spend the next hundred years or more trying to figure out what he meant.
If you ever hear of this on anywhere else, don’t hesitate to get a ticket. Just FYI the theatre prices at the Irish, as I am now affectionately calling the place, are very reasonable. For this show 5 euros and that included a glass of wine.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Trevor Byrne at the Irish Cultural Centre

If you're Irish, have a well received and selling first novel (Ghosts and Lightning) under your belt and want three months' as writer in residence in Paris, then this is the place for you.

This week at the Centre Culture Irlandais hosted a reading by Trevor Byrne, a fellow MPhiler of mine from Glamorgan (although we were in different years and only met in the flesh on Thursday), who Roddy Doyle has called ' very powerful writer'.

Trevor read in his quiet brogue a slightly ominous scene from his difficult second novel, involving at one point, for light relief, a game of dinosaur alphabet, and, to audience demand, a piece of flash fiction.

He talked about writing and passed on the following tips and hints: turn off the spell-check, it makes you edit and stops you writing; and keep on the novel everyday or it loses its urgency.

Good plan. Thanks for those Trevor, and the story of your interesting tattoo.