Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Poetry submissions - why bother?

In the summer, when Paris is quieter than usual (see earlier post), I try to concentrate on getting my poetry work out there, by which I mean sending it off to reputable magazines.

I do this so that the acknowledgements page in my next book looks good: it adds credence to my work if more than one publisher thinks its worth putting into print, a peer review thing, and I enjoy reading my contributor's copy of everyone else's work, seeing what others are doing and reading reviews for books I might otherwise miss.

But this is not easy. It's a time consuming business. Each magazine has its own rules and requirements for submission that one must abide by, or receive a summary rejection. You must to read and obey.

In the past magazines required paper submissions by post with SAEs for their reply. Some still do. It is astonishing given the paper wastage involved, let alone the cost in stamps and the complexities if you are not in the UK.

Even if they reply by email, I have largely given up sending to such magazines. It is a pity because some of them are the most prestigious in the country. Why do they persist with outmoded forms of communication? I can only imagine it is to stop the deluge of work that would otherwise come their way, but that's their loss, as many of my fellow poets simply can't be arsed, to use the vernacular, to send them our good stuff. It's just too much hassle.

Sticking to magazines that accept by direct email or Submittable, is simpler, but one still has to keep  to the correct number of poems, in the correct format, a bio of the correct length, write a pleasant cover note, etc. etc. But it is so much easier to hit send.

This year I have been struck by one trend that seems to have snuck over to the UK from the US and I'm not sure I like it that much. That is the use of submission windows, namely periods of time when a magazine is open to submissions, at the price of unread rejection if one has the temerity to try to get around the system or is too useless to comply.

I understand why magazines do this, of course. Again it's to avoid constant deluge and give the hard working, usually unpaid, editors, who after all are a poet's best friend, well earned breaks and stress relief.

However for the incompetent poet, I speak of myself here, it requires the kind of organisation that involves Excel spreadsheets. Yes, really. I have a file for these where I note all the ones I come across.

I just have to work out some kind of alarm system now to link to my calendar and send me a message to remind me when the submission window for magazine X is open, notification from collegiate poets on FB notwithstanding. Any brilliant ideas for an App, peeps? Sharp intake of breath. Onwards, if I want to be published.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Paris in August

What? You are not going on holiday?

I have been working in Paris for five years, but still the French habit of taking most, if not all, of August as holiday eludes me. Why would you want to vacation at the most expensive time of the year if you didn't have to? Parents with school age children, of course, are excepted as they have no choice. I am no longer in this group and neither are many French people, and yet, they still disappear from Paris to, mostly, the south of France, all at the same time.

Why? Do they like each other that much that they want to go away together? Isn't the point of a holiday to get away from it all, not take it all with you? I must be missing something in my strange 'so British' ways.

The Paris that is left behind by this exodus is a quiet place, tranquil, and actually quite pleasant, even if the boulangerie is closed and the pavements a hazard of lost tourists one can easily trip over. There is little competition for the terrace and the streets are calm. You can find somewhere pleasant to sit in the park, even a free bench, which is something of a joy compared to the rest of the year.

The only price to pay is being treated as a tour guide by random visitors who try out their two words of French before sighing with relief that they fortuitously picked a local who can speak English so well. Ha. I seldom bother to enlighten them, and sometimes, if I am feeling especially wicked, I am not that helpful. My Gallic shrug is coming along nicely, thanks.

I intend to enjoy this circus paradiso for a few more weeks yet. Salut!

Sunday, 7 August 2016

The war against graffiti

Graffiti as art, protest. The tag. The meaningless scrawl. Banners, flags, candles.

Since the Charlie Hebdo attack the Place de la Republique has seen it all, for reasons that sadly repeat themselves. Every now and then Paris has a fit of civil pride and decides to clean the whole lot way. La Liberte is a beautiful statue. She looks good when pristine. It won't last long, I know that, but today, her toilette was in full swing. I imagine things will get back to normal fairly soon. This photo was taken ten days ago. It seems an age.

Hidden Paris - a three church walk

Not exactly hidden,  more hiding in plain sight. Here's a suggested walk to three of Paris' outstanding churches.

Start a Saint Chapelle, the private chapel for the French royal family, located in the confusing complex of court buildings that is the Palais de Justice. Astonishingly beautiful stained glass awaits you in the King's chapel. The peasants worshipped in the lower chapel. Two tier church building at it's Gothic finest. I challenge you to find the carving of Eve being born from Adam's rib.

It will be crowded with tourists and is steep at 10 Euros for a look see. There is even known to be quite a queue on the street and you have to submit to X-raying your bags and walking through a metal detector, but that's a small price to pay for all this sumptuousness.

Next, make you way back to the river via Saint Severin. A huge church often overlooked, but don't miss it. The stained glass at the back of the church is well worth your while.

Finally cross the road to Saint Julien le Pauvre, one of Paris' oldest places of worship,complete with an icon screen. It's small and you might be lucky enough to avoid a tour group with no manners. Take a break in the adjacent park and then go book browsing at Shakespeare and Company.

Allow about two to three hours and enjoy things many people miss. Religious affiliation not required.