Angela Carter – Three Things I Learned

BBC_iPlayer_-_Angela_Carter__Of_Wolves___Women
Not actually Angela Carter

So. The BBC have just shown a cracking documentary about Angela Carter (available on iPlayer until early September 2018). There’s a lot of interesting stuff in there, but three things stood out for me.

1. She wrote a lot, consistently, over a twenty-five year writing career. That may seem a strange thing to take away from her life, but I am impressed that she discovered what it was she ought to be doing and got on with it, despite (possibly because of) the crap that was happening in her life. ‘Getting on with it’ or ‘turning up’ at the desk to write books, stories and articles, without worrying that many people don’t appreciate them, is an emblem of a real writer.

2. She didn’t have much time for the constipated middle-class novels of the 1960s and 1970s. There’s a lovely clip of her dissing the Booker Prize winning Hotel du Lac. I know the feeling. Here’s a little doggerel fragment I jotted down a few years ago under the title ‘why I have given up reading modern novels’:

… with kind and beastly people
having largely beastly lives;
and all the beastly people
are cheating on their wives
(or husbands …)

Carter wrote the novels she wanted to write which, for all their ‘fantasy’ were still deeply political. Sometimes, the best way to write about something is to write about something else.

3. She held the view that the writer and reader create a contract, and so long as what happens within the writing sticks to that contract the reader is content to read. That is a very different test from ‘could that happen’ or ‘is it real’, and should be liberating for both the writer and the reader. If I apply that test to my current work in progress (Fortune’s Favourite – a story set in the eighteenth century english theatre world) it tells me to turn the volume up, not down.

Thank you, Angela. 

I Bet I Can Make You Laugh

IMG_3675

So. This turned up in the post yesterday: I Bet I Can Make You Laugh, poems by Joshua Seigal and friends. Turns out I must be one of Joshua’s friends, as my poem Things Could Be Worse is in there (page 103, in case your looking). The book is available from 9th August from all good bookshops (as they used to say), and on-line from Bloomsbury.

I’m grateful to Joshua Seigal for including the poem in the anthology and I am, inevitably, slightly smug. (Just for today though: don’t worry, I’ll be back to normal writer’s despair tomorrow.)

Things Could Be Worse is part of a growing collection of (mainly) animal poems which needs to see the light of day at some point soon. But I have another children’s poetry book finished, ready and needing a publisher: The Night Elephant, a story told through poems.

Sophie is an eight-year old girl with a knack for mending things and a backpack full of tools. She is taken by her friend the Night Elephant to a jungle, where the animals are in trouble because the Old Thing has stolen the water from their drinking fountain. Sophie, together with the Night Elephant and seven enthusiastic monkeys, sets off to bring the water back. But the Old Thing is just as determined to keep the water.

The poems in ‘The Night Elephant’ use a range of forms: yes, there are rhyming couplets, but there are also haiku, shape poems, free verse and alliterative verse, as well as traditional forms such as sonnets, triolets and villanelles.

In my wonderful wife’s unbiased opinion The Night Elephant is ‘perfect’. Here’s the first poem. If you want to read more, get in touch, or petition your local publisher.

Here’s Sophie – Our Hero

Here’s Sophie. What is there to say?
She’s eight years old and loves to play
with boxes, bottles, tins and jars,
with bolts and bits from bikes and cars.
There’s nothing makes her quite as glad
as when she gets a box from dad
containing nameless bits of junk
which had been rusting in a trunk
discarded in a basement store
with ‘Danger’ written on the door.
She takes the box into the shed
then tips it up so she can spread
her metal treasures on the bench.
She works at them with brush and wrench
and scrubs off rust and oil and slime
until each piece is free from grime.
And when a bolt or bracket’s bright
she studies it with touch and sight
until she thinks she knows its name
or character (that’s much the same).
So then she knows the part it plays
within the metal art displays
that line all four walls of the shed
and even hang above her bed.

On weekdays, when she goes to school,
her backpack’s stuffed with every tool
she thinks she’ll need while she’s away:
two screw-drivers, one red, one grey,
a hammer, torch, a pair of pliers
(which has a notch for cutting wires),
a drill, a set of allen keys,
a brush, a special spray that frees
up rusting hinges, bolts and locks,
a little key for winding clocks.
The bag’s so full it cannot take
her school things, so she has to make
her mother carry them, while she
clanks with her tools, triumphantly.

(© Huw Evans 2018. No reproduction without permission – but you are free to link to this page.)