You are currently browsing the monthly archive for September 2008.

Long ago I promised to keep writing about our Italy adventures. Well, time has marched and I start teaching tomorrow, and I’m up to my proverbial in (lovely! hello John!) Canterbury Festival things, and and….

However. I’m finding that certain things float back nonetheless, even so far away. And they soothe me.

One is the series of Great Rescues carried out every morning, fishing whatever creatures had stumbled into the pool overnight or at dawn. M, as you can imagine, was the dogged proponent of this, and over the days watched butterflies, moths, wasps, bees — and one lizard — grow warm in the sun and return to the wild. 

Here are her hands, and one of the many wet swallowtail butterflies. And the rescued very baby lizard hiding in E’s pool shoe. Ah, the important things in life….

 

*

All of this has reminded me of a poem I wrote for How to Be a Dragonfly (see sidebar!), about a spider falling into a swimming pool. The idea came from another family holiday, long before M was old enough to rescue anything. Now I reckon there are times when she saves us all.

 

Pool Spider

 

One step too far and you’re head over heels.  At first it’s refreshing, this surprise encounter.  You’ve never liked nights alone and lately the heat makes something unsettled in you rise.  All you did was get up and walk out into the cooler air, stretch, and close your eyes for a moment.

It’s a funny kind of death.  You feel your own insignificance.  Everywhere you look is blue, blue water.  You climb back up a step before you can move no further, then roll onto your back and curl your legs up over your body, await rescue.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Well, we had a great time last night — how much fun to get excited about a book in a crowd! If only I had time, I’d belong to a reading group. Really a blast. Nothing like getting all worked up.

Books on the brain at the moment, although I am now officially not reading anything, what with two novels in ten days under my belt. Help! What do I do? (Actually, don’t answer that. I have a stack of ’em. Just don’t know where to start, or when.)

M just finished Northern Lights this evening. Down the stairs she came, rag-a-muffined in her father’s old t-shirt: it’s the best book, ever. The saddest, the most exciting… She was nearly crying. What really got her was Lyra on her own, just left on her own, everything around her not as it seemed, going into another world. And the loss of the loyal Iorek. This would particularly appeal to M, being a particular soft toy fan. And bear-lover. And loyal.

I must say when I read the His Dark Materials trilogy last summer (for the first time, embarrassingly), I was completely blown away. Completely. If I’d read them as a child, they might well have occupied my imagination in the same way as the Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper did. I re-read these every year, from age eleven, waited with intense anticipation for the next and then the next to come out. In fact, I’d go so far as to say they informed my entire creative imagination — and image of England. Parallel worlds, hidden worlds, something just out of sight and out of reach, and the belief in essential wisdom…Variations on these themes have occupied my entire writing life, one way or another. And I wanted to be an Old One. Desperately. Still do, to tell the truth. I want to know what’s Good, and be able to act upon it. Every time.

Literally. I’m doing a lot for the brilliant Canterbury Festival this year, and the first of my ‘engagements’ is tomorrow night at Waterstones, St Margaret’s Street, Canterbury. The idea is this: you know the Man Booker Prize, yes? The shortlist announced two weeks ago, yes? Well, six writers from the area are ‘championing’ one book each from this list, then we are bringing our thoughts to three meetings for local reading groups. That’s two books per meeting, if you’re struggling with the maths… (Other writers include Andrew McGuinness,Tim Binding, Nina Bell, and Tom Boncza-Tomaszewski.

Anyway, I’m holding out for The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry — which I’ve read and very much enjoyed. The voices will stay with me, and the complicated central character Roseanne Clear/McNulty… She too will stay with me, and her oddly beautiful life in the midst of real darkness… Anyway, that’s mine. 

The other writer with me tomorrow is Danny Rhodes. He’s championing The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga, and like a good girl I’m reading that too, in order to have a conversation. Since that’s what the get-together is about: discussion. A completely different book, with perhaps unreliable narrators in common — and perhaps too, this underlying deep violence and darkness. Through very dark comedy in the case of the The White Tiger.

Reading groups have been invited separately, but if you’ve read either of the books and want to join the discussion, do stop in. Admission is free but booking is advised; it’ll last about an hour, from 7.30 pm.

*

The cool thing behind this two week extravaganza of reading is that on 14 October — that’s right, the night the winner of the Booker is actually announced — we will have our own Booker night, a final word about each and a counting of the online vote for Canterbury and environs. A little party. Fabulous idea, and so much fun. 

(Another cool thing is that I did a digital television slot about this series of events. When it comes online week after next, I’ll link it through!) 

 

Someone else f(l)ailing rather is Tom, over on The Weirdie-Beardie Chronicles. Apparently his Master is 42 as of last Sunday, and is feeling his age. I say pah! to that as a hardened 44 year old myself — but it’s true that at certain ages certain things seem to turn and turn again.

In response I thought I’d post a poem from How to Be a Dragonfly, about the 42nd prime number. Writing this one just about killed me, for some reason. Well, I know why: the whole book waited on this poem before going to the final edit — the last poem, the 42nd poem, about the 42nd prime number. The confluence of it all just did my head in.

Reading it now, I try to remember the source of all the fuss. I remember that I wanted it to be about (if there is such a thing) the mystery and impermeability of — well, art. Even though all my poems were going into a book, somehow to be ‘understood’ by a larger audience… I wanted nevertheless to hang onto their essential nature, to remind myself anyway of central things that can’t — refuse to be — captured.

Now I see why it was so rough. Trying to capture something I didn’t think could or should be captured. Threw the whole book into question. Ack! Talk about a rock and a hard place.

Here it is, anyway. I hope your Master takes heart, Tom. If nothing else, maybe it says that we are in this for deeper, underwater things, for glimpses. Life out-manoeuvres us and our logic. Which is probably a good thing too.

 

Prime Number 42


We need to know you’re for real, not just some illusion, but bona fide one of a kind.

After all, almost everything is made up of components, the pieces of our lives:  foundation, construction, selling point.  Everything has angles and fractions.  So it makes sense that we look for second thoughts, for other hands, and even, etc.  First we look for a way to hook you and reel you in.

On screen, your seven point eight million digits snake down in scales, a shimmering skin.  We throw everything at you, all manner of dissection, but the surface holds — it’s not that long before we have to believe what we’ve always known:  that nothing can break you, or make you, for that matter.  Your lowest common denominator is only ever you. 

We get exactly what we came for, and throw the rest back in.  Here, you can pretend:  one swish of your tail, and you’re gone.

I’ve been f(l)ailing in my duty somewhat, in my writerly self/blog, and actually have two new online reviews to point toward, here and here. Both kind and insightful. Heavens! Many thanks. I especially always appreciate it when reviews go onto amazon… those five stars go a long, long way. Says she mother of a twelve year old boy who steers much of his life around music, film, game and book starred reviews.

Might as well say thank you to the muse too, whoever she is for me, was for me in Losing You. She had something to say. Albeit in a quiet, succinct and mysterious kind of way.

I HAVE MOVED

From January 2010, my new blog is Waving and Drowning

COPYRIGHT

All material is copyrighted. Please request permission to use via Contact.

Who am I?


A writer born in Texas, who grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia (yes, like the song), and who's been living in the UK since 1988. I've published two books (see below), and teach creative writing at the University of Kent. I'm married to a composer, and we have two young children. See About for my full profile.