On windows and stacking

Yes, it’s a new year but I’m still reading poems from the old window.

If you happen to be wondering why you sent yours in early December and haven’t had a reply (I am usually pretty quick) it’s because it all went wrong. I did manage the first few as usual, day by day, but quickly I gave up. The pressure of work, as they say, pressed in a pressurised fashion, and I had to start stacking. 

Poem stacking is not difficult. Much easier than logs. So the stack didn’t actually topple for a while, at which point I carried it upstairs. Then all that seasonal stuff got in the way. (Try reading poems and wrapping parcels at the same time).

The people I returned poems to in early December returned emails to me. The emails were already out of control so I started a second stack: the poems that had been replied to. But I didn’t post them, and I still haven’t posted them so as not to attract more emails, until I have time to read emails again.

The ‘replied to’ stack is now slightly higher than the ‘waiting to be read stack’.

Soon they will all go into the post at the same time, but not for at least another week because you can’t rush this stuff. Peoples’ lives are in those envelopes. Lives on hold.

So the reading continues. If yours was one of the under-stamped envelopes, it will come back to you, because I haven’t been to the sorting office and offered to pay for them. It does cost a ridiculous amount to send a large letter envelope these days and many of us have still not caught up with that.

If yours was one of the special delivery envelopes for which the postie hammered at the door and woke me up, I forgive you. But please don’t do that again. An ordinary delivery works perfectly fine, and if you choose ‘signed for’ the postie just ignores it anyway.

So here’s a brief review of the preoccupations this time round — half way through the stack.

♦ Most frequently occurring animal: the horse. 

♦ Most frequent grammatical things that bug me: ‘lay’ instead of ‘lie’ (I blame Bob Dylan) and ‘were stood’ instead of ‘were standing’ or ‘was sat’ instead of ‘was sitting’ (probably his fault too).

♦ Most frequent poem type: the journey, punctuated by imperatives (turn right, go past the post office).

♦ Most frequent poem structure: the Now and two stanzas later Then poem. Or vice versa.

♦ So many leaning verbs I begin to worry that I’ve made the phenomenon worse. And I’m noticing another thing: the two leaning nouns in the last line, something like this:

We have no other way of attracting
the horses and so we arrive with
our hands full of marshmallows, buttercups.

♦ Using line breaks to substitute for commas (I wrote about this not that long ago and now I can’t find which blog it’s in) while having other line breaks across an enjambed phrase, so the reader starts not to know quite how to read safely without falling off the edge. 

I feel unreasonable a lot of the time, and when it comes to punctuation, I get what my mother used to call ‘fratchetty’. Why on earth should semi-colons affect me like the rhinoceros and his skin. Give me simple punctuation and I’ll rest easy. 

But really I’m living the life of Riley. There are numerous delights, but each is individual. It’s like the Tolstoy thing about all happy families being alike but unhappy ones being unhappy in their own way; except not. A good poem is uniquely happy, but lots of poems are made unhappy in exactly the same way.

(Riley is living my life, but he’s not very keen on it and wants to go home. And yes, I know I used a semi-colon. Grrrr.)




2 thoughts on “On windows and stacking”

  1. Dear Nell:
    I really think it’s time you had a good rest. Preferably with lots of cake. I’ve stopped sending you poems because I just can’t bear the thought of adding to your misery.

    Much love,

    Steve Parr

  2. You’re quite right to pull me up for moaning, Stephen. I really didn’t mean to. It’s just guilt about all the people to whom I haven’t sent a reply yet. But I[i] enjoy[/i] reading all the poems: otherwise I wouldn’t do it. It’s one of the most interesting aspects of my life. So it’s nice of you to spare me but Riley’s life suits me fine.

    Even the recurrent details in each set of submissions (including flaws) strike me as fascinating. The opportunity to observe what’s going on in poetry at this particular point in the story of literature — that’s quite something.

    And of course I do hope to be of some use to the poets, or at least some of them. Judging by the number who come back again and again, it seems to be worthwhile.

    Back to the reading now…. and of course taking notes on everybody as I go. I’ll need to check back and see what I wrote about you last time round, Stephen… :p

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.