4 minutes reading time (885 words)

The Island

It's very interesting flying between international cities, becoming aware how simple these things are -- if you have time and money. I love the bits of time that isolate themselves like islands -- the bits when no-one except yourself quite knows where you are or what you're doing.

 

Old town, Geneva

On these peaceful islands drinking coffee and waiting for planes I read Eckhart Tolle's The Power of Now, Tove Jansson's The True Deceiver and RJ Price (who is also Richard Price, the poet) The Island. And then I read The Island again (it is very good -- a very beautiful little novelle from Two Ravens Press) and most of Tove Jansson again and part of Eckhart Tolle again.

And I spent a whole afternoon walking across Geneva in sunshine, stopping here and there. I read several chapters sitting beside a fountain.

Funny how things connect too (although everything connects): The True Deceiver has a foreword by Ali Smith, who was one of the judges for the Michael Marks award that so benefitted HappenStance. And Richard Price was another. Eckhart Tolle wasn't but he knows something about peace, knows something about those islands.

Ordinarily, I read so much poetry that it's a joy to read good prose -- a kind of holiday to a different kind of consciousness. Back home now, I'm reading James Robertson's The Land Lay Still (the title is drawn from a poem by Edwin Morgan, who died this week. Another connection.) This is a big book and complicated. I have to take it slowly. It's my current bedside treat.

But what about the HappenStance stuff? I am a little behind my schedule, though I may yet catch up. The Crowes story is done. I made an elementary error with page layout which is annoying but probably most readers won't notice it. The Hardy and Dorset poets anthology is done except for the cover:  Alan Dixon and I are still exchanging woodcuts by snail mail. This remarkable artist-poet has no telephone and no computer. I imagine him on his own quiet island.

Two new PoemCards are with Dolphin Press. There are others but Gillian is still working on illustration. A great deal of time has been spent replying to late submissions, considering books for review, commissioning Sphinx reviews, sending out orders, or giving feedback on poems for next year's publications: hard to get this balance right. The website is also being worked on in the background and soon it will all look completely different. Sphinx will have a space for online interviews and features, several of which are in process. One with Leona Carpenter of Mulfran Press is finished.

In between all this, there's chocolate. I eat Hotel Chocolat Tasting Club chocolate. I don't eat a lot: it is expensive and rich -- maybe one a day, though sometimes I miss a day and sometimes I have two . . . It seems to me not unlike reading poetry. My preferred reading method is really one a day and sometimes two (poems) but I have to read much more than that. Sometimes it does get overwhelming and then it's hard to give the right quality of response.  A little is marvellous. A lot is too much.

Meanwhile, here I am busily publishing a few hundred poems a year in some shape or form, while the rest of the publishing world is printing thousands more. I can't read them all. Nobody can read them all. Nobody will even want to read them all because you can't read that much and respond. Out of all the poems, you just want the few that stop time for you, the ones that create an island where you sit and read. Nobody knows where you are. The island stays inside you and you carry it around for a while, go back there when you need to. It becomes part of your necessary geography.

Jon Stone wrote a blog entry recently about the problem of too much good poetry, the risk (or advantage) of the poetry superhero getting lost, with the attendant danger of  poetry itself becoming secondary in an age compulsively driven to create superheroes. Somewhere, Peter Sansom says he's interested in the poems, rather than the poets. As a reader, I agree. As a person, I can't help being curious about the poets as individuals: what makes them tick, why they do it -- even what they think poems are.

But if there are too many poets (Stone talks about the 147 entries for the Forward prize, for example), it is even more true that there are too many poems. How shall we find the half dozen that really matter to us? Some poets write so many! Each magazine editor is busy doing her or his bit to select and present and enthuse.

In 1852 , 370,000 immigrants arrived in Australia.  That was largely as a result of the Victorian gold rush. I have no idea how many of them found sufficient gold to sustain their expectations. Not many, I shouldn't think, though it's quite possible they found other things, including friends, lovers, jobs, lives, homes, children. Perhaps it's the hunt that sustains us -- the idea that anybody can find gold, anybody can find the true poem.

Because they are out there. I came across two yesterday.

It's here
Great-great-great-granddaughter gets cake
 

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Friday, 18 September 2020

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