true eloquence

26 April, 2010

… is ‘expressing precisely what you have to say and how you feel about it in precisely your own tone of voice, just as you do by inflection and rhythm when you speak.’ – Al Alvarez, The Writer’s Voice

Last week I finally finished reading Al Alvarez’s brilliant book on finding your voice (which I originally mentioned here). Highly recommended. The third chapter is a bit of a departure from the first two, but I’d recommend it on the strength of that alone – he gives a great potted history of poetry’s movement from the Romantics to the Moderns to the Beats via the New Criticism, up to today, and it gave me a lot of insight and ideas into what I’m doing and why. Great stuff. I particularly like his quote above, and I suppose on one level that’s what this year/course has been all about – learning to express precisely what it is I want to say.

(But what is it I want to say? I had an interesting phone call with my dad this morning, who reckons what I’m writing is both deepening and broadening, which is heartening. But then of course he’s biased.)

Next week we have a dissertation meeting with our tutors where we’ll discuss what’s expected of us and how this term is going to work. I’m looking forward to it, especially as last week’s intensity has left me feeling like I’d rather not think about poetry for a little while at least, so I need something to get me going. I have a whole list of ideas and images to write about that at one stage I thought were interesting, but looking at them now I can’t quite be bothered with any of them. I’m sure that’ll change, though. I certainly hope so, otherwise I’m in trouble.

In the mean time though I’m concentrating on two rather pressing matters: firstly the deadline for the anthology submission (here‘s a link to last year’s) is tomorrow, so I need to hurry up and decide which six pieces I’m going to send off. It’s a bit scary, really; I doubt the poetry anthology is paid as much attention as the prose fiction one, but it’s still a chance to be noticed, as it were. And then of course there’s the opportunity to read at one of the launches, either in Norwich or in London. I feel like my writing is constantly changing – will I like what I’ve written in even two months’ time, let alone six? And then there’s the pressure of actually choosing my six ‘best’ pieces. So much of what I’ve written I don’t feel has quite got there. Really I’d like someone else to pick their favourites of my work so far…

(Maybe that’s part of finding your voice, too – having the courage to nail your colours to the mast and decide for yourself what, if any, of your work is most meaningful/successful, by your own terms.)

The other thing I need to be working on is my fiction coursework, which is due in a couple of weeks. It’s around 4–5,000 words of fiction, alongside a critical commentary discussing some element of the theory that we discussed last term, and how it relates to your work. I’m going to use something from my two-thirds-written children’s book – working it up of course, as at the moment it’s just a very crappy first draft – and look at mind style, I think. I won’t go into any more detail just here, but maybe next week. Though I’m not sure I want to give any of my secrets away…

This post brought to you by April showers, the most relaxing weekend in a long while, small children and friendly black cats. Flowers by Julia.

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