Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Layering a Poem

I've been working on my crab poem all week, in the morning while the kids are waking up to screens (bad mum, I know). Tinker with a line here, reorder a stanza there. It's amazing how something that happened 30 years ago can inspire some scribbles fifteen years later and can eventually end up as a poem. 

Of course, the poem isn't about crabs. Buying crabs in Norway is just the jumping off point, the 'triggering town' of Richard Hugo's poetry philosphy. Returning to that moment on the beach takes me to another thought about the people I was spending my time with, how we were thrown together as a family, but really weren't one. Because so many years have passed I can look at the moment differently, break it down to see what else was going on.

The imagry I am using takes me to another thought, the artwork of Carolyn Saxby: found images, bits and pieces from beaches, brought together as collages, but also her use of décollage, removing parts of an image or artwork to reveal something new which also lends something to the poem. 

The poem's layers of words, imagry and story are added and taken away to build a remembered moment and the echoes of it across the years. 

If you ignore the 15 years between the first writing practices that gave me the foundation words and images and this week of actually writing it, this was a pretty quick poem for me.

And this will have to be a short blog post from me. My four year old keeps popping her head in to ask if I've finished my writing yet. Spiderman has been off for less than 10 minutes. I've even broken out the chocolate raisins to finish this. 

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Catlapsed and Numbsweet

This is my last week before all the kids are home all the time from school and summer camps for seven weeks. I should be writing and writing and writing, but we all know it doesn't always work that way. There's still the house to maintain, dinner to sort, a phone call from one camp to check on a child's eye problem and tons of other things that pop up. The hours whisk by. 

I'm finishing my latest poem. I took it to my more laid-back summer edition of my writing group and got some good feedback, especially in terms of boat terminology which I know nothing about, but which help improve the feel of the poem immensely. I really have nothing new in mind to write though which feels odd.

So I've gone back to some old notebooks for inspiration and came across this list of compound words I made up for a writing practice. 

numbsweet     stankstone         
catlapse          saltshine
bootslap          bindsweet
rainheal           bloodnumb
rainclasp         smothershine

So much potential there. I used to play a lot more word games and wrote a lot more stream-of-conscious style practices. Something I should try to get back into. 

I've taken some notes from two unrelated writing exercises I did in 2005 about crabs. Why two exercises focussed on crabs? I don't know, but I'm wondering if I can do something with them. Maybe I'll try and use a word or two from the list above. 

I'm still editing both novels, but very little. I've received more rejections and submitted more poems to magazines. I'll need to set a new routine for me and the kids next week, so will take advantage as much as a I can of the extra time now. 

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

What I'm Reading Now - Nordic Noir

Since I don't have as much time for writing, I thought I'd talk about some Scandinavian crime fiction I've read recently.

I don't read tons of crime fiction, but it's easy to find in most libraries, especially in a foreign language section, so I tend to binge from time to time. The sort I like have a strong sense of place and culture, an interesting main character as well as a good crime story. I especially like Donna Leon for her Venice Brunetti series and Ian Rankin for his Edinburgh Rebus series even MC Beaton's Hamish MacBeth's novels set in the Highlands of Scotland are a fun way to spend a few hours. So after reading Stig Larsson's Millenium series shortly after we arrived in Finland, I decided branch out into some other Nordic Noir novels.

I won't do an in-depth review or synopsis for these, just some background info and a quick feeling for each.

Phantom - Jo Nesbø - This is part of a popular series, former policeman Harry Hole comes back to Oslo, Norway to help someone from his past and get embroiled in drugs crime that has its fingers into all levels of the city. The writing is strong and the main character is witty, flawed, likable but also layered. This book is mid-way through the series, but you don't feel like you've missed too much as Harry's relationships with people from his past are built up again for the reader. It uses the dead character speaking, but it's well done, offering red herrings, filling in gaps in Harry's point of view and gives us a sense of the characters away from Harry. It's easy to see why this has such a wide international following. I think there's a Hollywood movie underway as well, unfortunately.

Snow Blind - Ragnar Jónasson - His debut novel is set in a remote town in Northern Iceland that gets snowed in by avalanches regularly. This plays on that overwhelming sense of remoteness, darkness of the mid-winter that is typical of Nordic Noir. I get a similar feeling every winter here in Southern Scandinavia to a much lesser extreme, without the murders, of course. There was lots of background information on the characters, maybe too much, but I didn't really gel with the lead at all, a just-graduated police recruit with a theology background. There are at least four other books in The Dark Iceland Series.

Until Thy Rath Be Past Åsa Larsson - Set in Northern Sweden where many of the characters still speak a form of Finnish this was a part of Scandinavia I wasn't familiar with and the book delves into the impact of WWII on this isolated area  which again I didn't know much about. Another series with at least 5 books now. The main characters didn't have enough depth for me. There were two strong women leads which was nice to see but they were a bit stereotyped, an overworked mother/ police inspector and a work-aholic single prosecutor Rebecka Martinson who the series is based around who seems to get to do lots of investigating. A knowledge of Finnish gives part of the game away towards the end, but most will miss it.

Hypothermia - Arnaladur Indridason - An Inspector Erlendur novel, so again part of a series set in Iceland. As with many of these novels, the case was secondary here to the main character's angst and history, but I felt I had missed a lot of previous information from earlier in the series, so I couldn't connect with  Erlendur. Family members and old familiars pop up laden with emotional history and Erlendur's own brother's disappearance in his childhood hangs heavily over the novel, so much that I wished they would focus on that. the book was well written and I was getting a feeling for Erlendur, so I might try the series from the beginning.

The Sheriff - Reijo Mäki - Jussi Vares is a private detective in Turku, Finland and takes the hard-boiled, hard-drinking private eye to the limits of its definition. He seems to spend most of his time totally wasted with his layabout mates and occasionally goes out to solve the crime which I just couldn't get into though it had an interesting set-up. Nine of the 26 Vares books have been turned into movies, Google tells me, but I'm assuming that's in Finnish only. The novel explores sides of Finland I've not come across before, definitely its less attractive sides, but the main character and his too-merry band just weren't likable to me.

Copper Heart - Leena Lehtolainen - third book in the Maria Kallio series. I enjoyed this book, a good view of small town Finland, lots of interesting charachters with backgrounds that weren't too complicated or heavy. Some of the series is set in Helsinki and Espoo, so I'm interested in reading those as this is the Finland I know.  In this title, Maria Kallio goes back to the small town she grew up in to fill in for the current sheriff, so her past relationships come into play while she tries to figure out whodunnit. 

Of these titles, I'd probably read more of Jo Nesbo's and Leena Lehtolainen's books, but who are we kidding, I will read almost anything I can get my hand on here. Helsinki has great libraries, but their English language choices are limited, so I am reading what I can find at any branch I happen to drop into if I've forgotten to reserve titles. It's definitely widened my reading circle.


Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Summer Slow Down

Not sure how many of these weekly posts I'll be able to keep up with now that the schools are out. This week is hectic, but the next two they have a few days of summer camp, so I hope to get some time for writing.

Poetry submissions are like buses, after waiting for over a month 3 rejections came in at once. All the poems went back out. I finished the poem I've been working on. Nothing new waiting in the wings, I'll need to have some adventures to build fodder material. 

Speaking of, I saw a call for submissions on Trish Hopkinson's website for writing that was about writing which intruiged me. I have a subject in mind for that, so need to scribble down some notes. I doubt I'll get it done for the deadline of mid-June, but it's enough to get me started and sometimes you need that deadline hanging over you to take the leap.

I caught up my rewriting on my first novel to the point where the story started previously. 12,000 new words. I still need to go through and edit and rewrite the rest with some of the editor's comments in mind, but I'm in no rush. I need to let it sit for a while to see if I like this version.

My writing group has been hit or miss the past few weeks as so many people are away, so I'm not sure how much feedback I'll get from them over the summer. I still want to prep my next section of the second novel this week, just in case it runs. We had just a social session last week which was nice, if a bit odd as I'm not quite the college graduate anymore. 

A slower patch isn't a bad thing, I'm just worried with 11 weeks of summer holidays I'll find it hard to get back into routine when August rolls around. I'll try to do more reading, writing in my journal to keep my mind ticking over. And I'm planning to spend a little time in the morning keeping on top of submissions and this blog. 

Enjoy the summer.