Semester Two Week One: MA Creative Writing

This blog has become something I intend to write and never actually got round to typing words on to the screen; I have tried all sorts of things to cure my procrastination, herbal teas, creams which had some rather unfortunate consequences (read amazon reviews on hair loss remover to find out more) and a large stint in a convent in the north west of Ireland. In the end I came to the conclusion that I was one of the three, busy, tired, lazy or all the above at the same time. My new tactic to combat procrastination, laziness, and tiredness which could be seen as a 2014 Beveridge Report for me, is to not care anymore and also cut down on TV.

This was the first week of the second semester at Birmingham, with the first week in both lectures focusing on a introduction to two modules which are shaping up to be interesting in different ways. Research skills Two, (one of the most uninspiring names of modules that I have seen) the question that is being asked throughout this module is ‘What Writer are You?’ and how this can been seen in your process, and your output as a writer. I have always been interested in writing processes, from how they write, when, with which Beveridge and where they produce the best texts of the current generation. Recently the guardian did a poll of polls, to find out if there was a blueprint for being a writer; something that is impossible and undesirable. They found that writers get up early, drink copious amounts of coffee and generally have an alcohol problem.  fulfilling the stereotype of all writers across the western world. I think I would add to that, the compulsion to write. All writers, from various interviews that I have read or listened to have a need to write, and wouldn’t know what else to do with their time. Writing is largely solitary, frustrating and emotionally draining, not three things that sound like a fun three hours typing out 1000 words each morning. This is why, similarly to a pro-marathon runners 5am start, why writers write, through compulsion and a lack of imagination to do things in reality rather than on the page (definitely true in my case). One thing that I would highlight however with regards to compulsion, is to differentiate Writers with writing for therapy. Therapy writing, works as therapy, its a proven and highly effective treatment for a range of mental illnesses and can help lots of people around the world. However it usually isn’t good writing. Good Writing comes from editing and process not from writing down all of your deepest and darkest emotions on the paper at the same time. your deepest demons can often enhance your writing, and be part of the process, even the most important aspect to your work but it can never be it all, otherwise it fails as good writing. Sylvia Plath, often seen as a writer exorcising demons in her writing, goes beyond therapy in her writing. He poems are full of interesting imagery, and a directness and sparseness that could have been achieved through editing and process. Emotions are part of the writing process they can never consume it.

My other module for this year, is entitled Story as Poem, Poem as Story, and focuses on narrative in poetry and the grey areas which exist between the two genres, through Prose Poetry. This module focused on three writers who each full fill narratives in their prose poetry in different ways. Each offer us a different unique writing exercise which I found incredibly useful to start work. All three poets were contemporary, alive today publishing post 2000 which I find ever more important in my writing is to read others around me. Over this module, my aim is to write a lot, a full collection i need be in preperation for my dissertation. Something that crosses narrative and poetry, that can be read in train station if needed. Others argue that you should not read poets around you, which is a pretty certain way of writing poetry that will be shit, devoid of contemporary culture and something that will only ever exist in the writers ‘My Documents’.

This semester especially I feel more comfortable in talking about my writing, and sending my writing to others, using this blog as a reflective tool, I am going to post items about the books I’m reading, my writing process, and how the module is going.

 

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Decisions Are The Price You Pay For Surviving Elected Office

Death is an all year round vocation. It isn’t seasonal, it isn’t nocturnal, it certainly isn’t optional. This year though death and dying has been in the air, personally in my own family with three close relatives dying earlier on this year within six weeks of each other, but also more widely in the arts and politics. Seamus Heaney died this year, maybe the last ‘great’ poet, JFK’s assassination anniversary is referenced by numerous TV and radio programmes presented by James Naughtie, as well as the more recent death of Doris Lessing. It came back again, reading Roberto Bolano’s The Savage Detectives, as part of my MA, a colossus of a novel, over 500 pages long. Reading it with the knowledge that Bolano died in 2003 at the age of 51, gives the prose an intensity it wouldn’t otherwise have, going through a young poets college life, trying to find a place in the world, setting him self up with the ‘Visceral realists. ‘

How we remember people in death is important, its vital, we only respect death, with our countless rituals from poems to pennies on your eyelids, because we value life. However remembrance is a difficult thing. Idealisation often comes in death purely because of the fact that they have died. JFK’s short record in government achieved little to deserve the level of adoration he now receives. Kennedy would have taken the USA into the ill judged war in Vietnam just as Johnson ended up doing, the scale and veracity however may have been different. The social changes were all brought in by Johnson later on in his term as President. Where Kennedy excelled was on the campaign trail, the first modern campaign trail, the first election where TV played an important role. His policies varied only slightly from his opponent Richard Nixon, but his communication, big money and marketing slickness, made the difference in the end. His style of delivery, his ability to be cool, and the common man appealed to votes more than the sweaty Richard Nixon, elections haven’t been fought the same since. As a society we adore blank slates, something we can’t pin down, Kennedy has become a figure that the public can place their own values on to because of the sad tragedy of his death. An idol that never was. Compare that to Tony Blair, who on his landslide election in 1997 was received with widespread adoration, a new dawn of politics was about to begin and now over ten years later he could not walk down the street without been called a war criminal or have eggs pelted at him. Time can be a great healer but often, in politics anyway, time can exhaust, tire and focus attention on your mistakes, ask Barack Obama. When you aren’t able to make decisions you will be loved. Decisions are the price you pay for surviving elected office.

 

jfk

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Seamus Heaney

I was eighteen, studying English at my local High School when I first came across Seamus Heaney’s poetry. ‘Casualty’ from Field Work has been on my bedroom ever since, the room has moved from village to city and back again but the now yellowed paper as stayed the same.

Casualty, is one of the first poems I read not being forced to at school and really started my love for poetry that has survived an English degree, if not sustained by it. A poem that links the narrative of the death of an old friend, with an unique lyrical phrasing that includes lines, which seal themselves in the memory such as:

‘Coffin after coffin
seemed to float from the door
of the packed cathedral 
like blossoms on slow water.’

Listen

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Fittingly, I believe I have attached a image I took in Dublin, at Trinity College, for which I will always associate Heaney, reading him throughout that journey, associating him with history, language and Education in Dublin.

In my naive eighteen year old head a sudden thought popped into my head, ‘This is how I want to write.’ After reading Heaney, and especially casualty, I saw that narrative and language are not mutually exclusive which seemed to my impression of poetry from school. Narrative, narrative voice is novels, seemed to be the proclamation. Heaney challenged this and yet at the same time kept is linguistic distinctiveness and fluidity that can be seen right back to Yeats.

Heaney made me want to write poetry. He made me want to research and question my own history, back in Ireland and look at the troubles, Irish Civil War and further back with a new perspective. No other poet has made me want to all this at the same time.

He is a towering figure and will be missed greatly.

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How I spent my day….

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So I watched the whole of the first season of the comedy series Community today. I can only say that it is funny, not quite on the same level as Arrested Development, which is also partly directed by the Russo Brothers but its very good. The meta humour and endless T.V references satisfy the major part of me that is essentially Geek/T.V addict. I love getting reference within shows or shows within shows, especially when others don’t. My brother got one more Star Wars reference in the Sean Pegg film Paul yesterday, I couldn’t speak to him for at least 24 hours. I have now re-watched the original Stars Wars clip forty times on youtube and I realise I never would have got the reference in the first place. On the geek scale he is by the far the winner. In some ways I guess the loser as well, but only in the English, fake version of what we think American high school is like, with its groups and categories all with that overpowering smell of teen angst. Some thing like a cross between Malcolm in the Middle and Brick. Coming back to my geek, which has exponentially increased since I am now unemployed, broke and minus a girlfriend. On the plus side I have started running though. Community is a very good show and I have come to it late as its been around since 2009 but its well worth a watch. My favourite scenes are with Troy and Abed, who have a slightly homoerotic and do ending sequences together which includes a funny spanish rap. As several job descriptions recently have needed me to have seeking of master status as a social media presence, I need now to do three years worth of tweets within an evening. I hop they are not dated. Maybe tumblr is the way forward….

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A lot has happened in the last few days…..

A lot has happened in the last few days, Murray lost the final of Wimbledon, some guy named Marry won it though and I Murphy have finally graduated. There is very little reason why I have linked all three of these names together like this, as the only similarities between all three is the first letter ‘M’. I think the baseline in tennis has more sporting prowess that I do in comparison to the previous named sportsmen. Yes, I graduated. Very happy as I should be I suppose. Having thought for about six months of this year that I had pissed away, 25,000 grands worth of education but no I made it stumbling, unshaved, bleary eyed and hungover but I made it. There is a lot to be said for just finishing ask the Tour de France guys, an underestimated achievement in my opinion. All this is very good and I am relieved that I have finished and come out with a half decent degree but what the fuck now…………

This is the immortal question which I will leave for another blog because I don’t have the answer and I don’t think that anyone does really even that wise guy I saw in the pub the other day who could hold a cigarette like he was the reincarnation of Socrates. It might not be the next blog, can’t promise, might leave the suspense for a little longer. Maybe forever, and come back to this blog in fifty years time and tell you all what the fuck I did. That assuming i’m not in a gutter somewhere vomiting over several unpublished manuscripts and a good stock of unsold Big Issues.

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In Defence of Jex Moxey

Here is an article I have written for Wolvesnews.co.uk

Its about my beloved Wolverhampton Wanderers and their chief executive, a marmite figure amongst the supporters.

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The Romantic Alcoholic

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I recently had a Hunter S Thompson omnibus which lasted till about three in the morning. I watched The Rum Diaries and Fear and Loathing in Vegas, just before I went to sleep in that order meaning my mind was in completely the wrong state to even say the word sleep let alone actually do the thing. Both these films along with Withnail and I, which is by far the best film out of these three, in some respects romanticise the artistic drunk, the creative alcoholic, the melancholic piss-head. Its a certain archetype we have now in modern cultural discourse, that our creative thinkers, our writers, our actors even to a certain extent our academics have to have some deep, underlying emotional and mental pain that manifests itself through alcohol and drug abuse. As with all stereotypes and archetypes there is a small slither of truth in it. Anyone of us can list plenty of writers etc which fulfil this role. However this, like all stereotypes, is limiting to the whole race that call themselves writers. Now I like the odd drink, hence the image earlier, and it can certainly help me write sometimes, but destroying my life for a drink really doesn’t appeal to me, and I hope I will never do it. Saying this however there is a strange part of my brain down in the depths of my brain which sees it as an important part of writing. There is something romantic about it seeing writing as the only way of dealing with your life. This however would be very self indulgent, pretentious of me to describe my life as shit, having to take to drink to cope with it. I’m not going to stop drinking but on the same level I not going to become Withnail where you are drunk all the time, wasting your talent because you spend too much time drinking as opposed to working. This is epitomised by Withnail at 8 in the morning ‘We have ran out of wine, What are we going to do about it?’

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