Saturday 23 October 2010

Almost at an end.

But hopefully this doesn't mean the end of productivity!

It's been brilliant having some dedicated time to think about my writing - and also having the space to spread 45 poems all out over the floor without having to move them to go to sleep or let other people use the space. I've been wandering over them clutching a cup of fresh coffee and speaking them outloud to the pond. It feels very indulgent to walk about in socks in my warm little cube, pondering the best order for my poems to go in, and editing ones that aren't quite working, and taking some time just to look and watch through the two sets of french windows. I saw a woodpecker yesterday, a great spotted woodpecker I think, and some sort of bird of prey swooping very low over the site today, flustering the resident crows and jays into an awful lot of noise.

It's going to be hard getting home and having to go back to work - though talking to the other writers here makes me realise how lucky I am to work where I do. It's amazing what people have to put up with in order to make space for time to write, and I feel disproportionately privileged to be where I am, so at least that's nice. There are so many hours in the day that could be spent writing, though, and that's a difficult thing to lose now I've realised I am actually capable of sustaining creativity for a prolonged amount of time.

Saying that, when left to my own devices in the evening the other day, I did go to bed at 10.30pm. 10.30! Ha... that's very early indeed. I think it's got something to do with the lack of noise and telly, how I haven't missed telly! (Though I am looking forward to catching up with tonight's Strictly, Casualty, and Merlin. And this week's Holby City. Oh dear. I shouldn't have started thinking about it.) Radio 4, however, I have missed. The radio I brought with me doesn't like to find radio stations, so to stop myself having to listen to white noise, I've been downloading Radio 4 podcasts... and not enough programmes have podcasts!

Anyway, yes. Going on a retreat is a marvellous thing to be able to do, and I would recommend it to anyone who writes/paints/sculpts/draws but who doesn't normally have the time at home to pursue it for a number of days. Even staying this one week has improved my poems no end - especially with Polly's guidance and encouragement - and made me much more confident in what it is I'm trying to say. And much  enthused about the possibilities for saying it. And, perhaps most importantly, almost convinced that other people might be interested in hearing it.

So, I'm going to go back to it for the rest of the day, and try to write a poem on the theme of 'naked' for a zine I'd like to be involved in. There's been a lot of editing and reading aloud, but not that much writing this week. This is good, as it's what I was aiming for, but it would be nice to have a couple of new poems to take away with me too. Wish me luck!

Wednesday 20 October 2010

I am here. I am writing. I have run.

So things are going pretty well, really. I've had my first meeting with Polly and it seems like my work has enough going for it to carry on... and that I've already been doing all of the usefully organised things like entering competitions (Picador Poetry Prize... fingers crossed) and sending work to magazines and collating work into pamphlet as well as collection form. I'm still not sure how to progress in approaching publishers, but I think it means being very selective and reading their back catalogues (more than I already do) in order to find a place where I think I might fit in, should they choose to take me on (fingers crossed). This is opposed to the scattergun approach to submissions, which I think can work against you.

There are just so many other super-dooper poets out there. It is a little alarming to think of all the other people doing scarily similar things to me and keeping their fingers similarly crossed for exactly the same things. It's a wonder any of us gets anywhere, really.

The cube is a super place to sit and work, anyway, and highland cows keep wandering past my window, drinking at the pond or ripping up great mouthfuls of grass with their surprisingly powerful tongues. A duck had a little fishing expedition on the water this morning, too, and I'm sure I can see frog noses or something popping out every now and then. There are a couple of beautiful jays flying about as well. Just enough excitement to keep me from going mad with isolation, but not enough to distract me from the creative pursuits which brought me here in the first place. Excellent.

My first frost of the year was experienced this morning, and I made myself run out in it in order to get the full experience of being present in my surroundings. I think it worked. Today has been my most productive so far, though I have a niggling feeling that I'm coming down with some sort of chesty cough. More fingers crossed for that one, though they're crossed for the negative rather than the positive this time.

Wednesday 13 October 2010

Oh questions. Poemy questions.

Okay, so when I decided to go on a Fielding Programme retreat, I thought great. Some time away to work on my collection. I'll have all my poems, and I'll edit all the ones I don't hate, and something will emerge. I do still think this, but it's dawning on me how much work editing actually is - and why I go to such seemingly great lengths to avoid doing it, without even realising until hindsight kicks in. I am more than a little daunted about sitting in a room with Bookbook and 'putting a collection together'. I actually have no idea what this actually, minute-to-minute, involves.

Also, I have questions. Questions that I know don't really have definitive answers. Like, what's the deal with adding new poems? When is it too late to add new ones, which haven't had as much time as the others to settle and mature? Does it run the risk of becoming disjointed, if you keep old ones as well as adding new? Does anyone's voice really change enough for anyone but the author themselves to notice? Should I just save new ones for the next collection? What if I want some of the poems to be gathered together in subject-matter in a pamphlet-length collection? Should I try and get something like this published before a collection? Is it okay to have poems in both?

I'm sure Polly will be able to help with these questions, but for now I feel like I'm about to leap into some sort of poemy abyss of indecision. I guess I'll have to have a good go at discovering my own answers to these questions next week, even if it's just for the sake of getting my money's worth. I am taking my running shoes, and my swimming costume (in case there are any tempting-looking lochs and half-decent weather) for physical, worthwhile thinking-time distraction. And my camera, for non-related creative distraction.

And Teach Yourself Writing Poetry - just in case.

Friday 8 October 2010



Here I am again, full of apologies again, but this time for a much bigger gap. I have been contemplating what to do with this blog, as it has recently come to my attention that some competitions and publications see previous publication of poems on a personal blog as disqualifying them from consideration. This is a problem, as I'm sure you can imagine, as there's no point in writing a load of poems and then not being able to send them anywhere (not that success and acceptance is usual, but you can't live your life so pessimistically that you don't take these things into consideration!)

So. What to do with a creative blog that I can't really post poems on any more? Yes. Well. This is the question. As you can probably tell, I haven't actually come up with an answer to this dilemma, so here the blog remains.

I am going on a retreat at The Fielding Programme in a week or so, so perhaps I could blog about the process of trying to put a collection together whilst staying in the beautiful surroundings of Cove Park?

Perhaps you would be interested in hearing of my new barefoot running addiction? No? Can't say I blame you. (My new shoes are the coolest though. Really.)

How about I ditch it all and you follow me on Twitter? (@sophiefbaker). Hm, I don't like that idea. 

I think the creative process could be interesting for me to write about - mostly because I struggle with it a lot - and really, that's what this is about, isn't it. Self indulgence. So that's what I'm probably going to descend into, with the occasional poem or notes. I hope that's okay.