Thursday, August 02, 2007

A day of two halves

What a strange day today has been. The early part of it was rather enjoyable. I had a nice and measured review of A Stranger's Table on the Writewords site which said the following:

"This slim volume is thoroughly worth the £5.50 it costs if you don't get it for free as a reviewer. It provides plenty of poems, a range of themes and forms, and above all, the interest of reading a collection that grows and gains confidence as the reader progresses through it. In the first few pages, poems felt a little static, the repetiton of lines, which she uses powerfully elsewhere, sometimes felt awkward. But a haiku stands out for its pleasant, almost cosy image of boats at rest - "shoes expecting feet". Its calm understatement, with the backdrop of nature just outside the frame of the poem, is true to the mood and root of haiku. Very quickly, the collection gets into its stride. Images are powerful, unique and clear; form is free but there are certain turns or sleights of hand which she favours: repetition of a first and last line, a final couplet. Throughout, there are images, moments, that hit the eye like the sun hits a mirror: "skin stammering" with cold, "small, hot cries of children" watching fireworks. What pulls the collection together is emotion: love, despair, passion as destructive as desirable, fear and need, anguish. Even when observing the way rain "decomposes" a window - an image which is precise, unique and powerful - the rain is also "flinging its whole soul, brave wet heart out", and that is perhaps a fair description of what this poetry does too. There are volcanoes and stars and sex. The bulk of the poetry spares nothing and bares everything, going for the heart with a scalpel, as indeed poets should, seeking for truth. And yet my favourites, (which probably betray my own taste more than anything) were the cooler ones: Almost A Cyclist, Moon Landing, Preparing to Paint, The Cat's Response to Yellow. All these are in the second half of the collection, and they are all as good as anything I have read recently. If it needed to, the collection could stand on these four excellent poems alone - but happily, it has much more to recommend it."

Thanks, Leila (who wrote the review) - I really appreciate it.

A very good counselling session with Kunu this morning also. We discussed the fact that I feel able at the moment to make one or two social arrangements for the coming few weeks - an improvement over the last year or so certainly - just as long as I can keep them under control and in my general location. I think it feels okay for now as sometimes August seems such a flat month. A non-month really. Something between the end of the academic year, in July, and the beginning of the next, in September. God alone knows what August is actually for. It's funny too how the points that matter in counselling always seem to come up near the end of the appointment. This time it was to do with me and friendships - I think I'm beginning to realise that I can't actually cope with seeing my friends all the time. To be honest, I've never actually been one of those who pines to meet up with them, even though it's nice when I do. I could probably happily go for quite a while without seeing anyone. Apart from Lord H. And I think this is to do with marriage - I can only really cope with one strong rope of friendship, and Lord H is most certainly that. The others are still there and I'm very fond of them, but if I see them lots, then I find it totally overwhelming and way too demanding. Which probably means I'm either (a) a would-be hermit, or (b) a sociopath. Take your pick. Anyway, it was food for thought.

Post-counselling, I stayed in town, did a spot of shopping and then sat upstairs in Waterstones in the peace and quiet and wrote three poems and two A4 sides of The Bones of Summer. It was bliss. Real bliss. I'll definitely do it again - it was quite inspirational. Here's one of the poems:


It’s easier to write
in bookshops;

words hum
on shelves,

drawing out
my heart’s strange ink.

Early afternoon, I had my Clarins facial with Sarah - a new girl (at least for me) as Emma has left now. (Was it something I said?...) Anyway, it was lovely - very relaxing and really chilled. Sarah seems quieter on the whole, but actually it was great not to have to talk and, instead, just to sit back and let it all happen. I've booked another appointment with her for September. Something to look forward to for sure.

Back at home, I've finished off my read-through and suggested edit of Martin Burke's Jerusalem for Mighty Erudite Publishers. Fantastic - I really loved it. It swept me away and took me to places poetry hasn't taken me to for a while. Something like Blake and Browning and Eliot all mixed up, but with a unique modern spin that completely seduced me and left me wanting more. In the best sense. I definitely think Jools should go with both poets - Noakes and Burke - they're shit-hot. And for very different reasons.

That was when the day changed. And over such a stupid, small thing too. Sean from Flame Books emailed me to say that Gay's the Word bookshop have decided not to stock A Dangerous Man. No reasons given, and his email itself was unusually short. I don't know, but usually I can take this kind of setback, shed a tear, grit my teeth, put two fingers up at the buggers and carry on. Today, for whatever reason, I can't, and it's getting to me again even while I'm typing this. Damn it. Damn them really. It feels like a kick in the teeth - I was just so sure that ADM would find a home there, where he's found one in no other bookshop. At the moment I'm swinging between rage and depression - believe me, it's not a pleasant experience. Though I've taken a De-Stress pill and hope it kicks in sometime. God knows why this is really getting to me - maybe because I don't feel accepted by the mainstream guys and now the gay contingent (at least in the bookshop sense) have kicked me - and Michael - into touch also. For God's sake, what the fuck do the mean-minded bastards actually want?? It's a bloody mystery for sure. Either way, the end result is that I feel I belong in no camp and am not likely to any day soon. I do wonder, however, in true cynical fashion, if the response would have been different if I'd been a man. Hey bloody ho.

Thank God for Lord H though - he came back from work in the middle of all this and has dealt admirably with a shaky, tearful, pissed off, stressed out wife. Though, ye gods, maybe he's just used to that by now. Anyway, the upshot is I think I'm just going to sit in front of the TV all evening. Maybe watch some of the comedies on later. And take another De-Stress pill before I go to sleep. It might help.

Today's nice things:

1. Leila's review of A Stranger's Table
2. Counselling
3. A Clarins facial
4. Sitting in Waterstones and simply writing
5. Reading Jerusalem.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Pink Champagne and Apple Juice
Goldenford Publishers


Anonymous said...

Oh dear Anne.

What was that tune on 'Ten Things' - always look on the bright side?

The book shop is obviously not worthy of your literary work. So scrap them out of your mind. Probably someone was having a 'hissy fit' that day.

But a good and descriptive review of A Stranger's Table - hurray!

In terms of the solitary, no pun intended here but you're not on your own.

I bet there are plenty of people who have times when they don't want to associate with the world, but they don't like to admit it.

I have two very good friends, but I've found I don't want to go out with them sometimes and occasionally when I have and I'm in that 'don't want to be there zone', they've picked up on it.

I always stand back in the playground too.

You're right about the marriage aspect as well. My hubby (who I let out occasionally :-)) is more than enough for me. Because I don't have to explain myself to him!

And maybe as women this is one of our little quirks. We feel the need to have to explain ourselves and when we don't want to, we back off from people, because then (explaining myself here :-)) we don't have to!

Sending big, big hugs to you.

Sue xx

Anne Brooke said...

Thanks, Sue - that's incredibly helpful. Good to know I'm not alone in the solitary/friendship thing! And I think you're right about the women thing too - food for thought there indeed.

Huge hugs to you - and the Other Half, hurrah!


Cathy said...

Anne, you know how much I enjoyed ADM. It certainly can't have been rejected for the writing quality.

But I can sense a little of the problem. The gay scene can be very insular I think, as a result of the historic struggles gay people have had to overcome for recognition. It is not just that you are a woman writing about a strictly male scenario, but that you are a straight woman writing about something you cannot have experienced in real life. That is possibly hard for publishers/booksellers to understand.

Yes, I know there are other women writing gay fiction and I'm looking forward to reading your article on this one day, do they meet the same prejudice?
Have you ever thought about submitting one of your gay novels under just your initials ( a la JK Rowling) or a male pseudonym and see if the publishing world reactions change?

Oh and congratulations on the review of A Strangers Table. Concentrate on that and don't let the other b*ggers get you down!


Anne Brooke said...

Yes, you're probably right, Cathy - and sorry re last night's tirade. I've calmed down now and unchanged myself from the railings - slightly!! Yes, it is interesting - I long for the days when anyone can write anything without the expectations that it will be same as their own life indeed! Perhaps under my cynical, embittered exterior does really lie the heart of an idealist, eh?!

Thanks also for the kind comments - hugs galore


Anne Brooke said...

PS That should be unchained - I did know that!!



Cathy said...

Ha! I agree that everyone should be able to write about what they want and get it published. But...I recently read a book, which shall remain nameless. It was well written but contained a mother/child relationship which, for me, just did not ring true. It really distracted me from the story. I've googled the author and happen to know she does not have children. Perhaps if she did, she might have portrayed that relationship a little differently and I would have been more convinced by it.

Sorry, just waffling here, I know what I mean!


Anne Brooke said...

Or maybe they just had a different relationship from those you're used to! If some of my friends (or indeed I) wrote about their relationship with their mothers in fictional terms, no-one would believe them ...