Book Development

Some time ago, I made an announcement about the first Nesbit and Gibley book of poetry being in the works. Shortly afterwards, there was a post regarding a quote that helped develop the book. Since, there’s not been much light shed on it all. So, a quick update…!

The book is reaching the final stages. The themes are down and solidified, the approach, the sequence, too, and the latest draft is out for feedback and review from friends and peers. Whilst some of it has been back and forth, up and down, discarded and retrieved, it really has been a lot of fun writing. The title, at the moment a kept secret, might be posted in the coming weeks, along with some other news. So if you’re interested, stayed tuned!

For some of the poems, I debated their place in the book. Wild Fun was one of them.

It describes a bouncy castle (a bounce house, I’ve heard as the American name for it) escaping a children’s birthday party. It becomes this animal, when free from moorings, that flees in the high winds.

However, it didn’t quite fit in the book, for two reasons. First, because I am lucky enough not to have experienced a fleeting castle (as I’ve heard they can be quite dangerous!) it felt out of place; there may be some elaborate metaphor where this could apply, but the book focuses on the more personal experiences. Second, it was more of a play with language and zoomorphism, something that was a lot of fun to write but never had a home.

Anyway, it’s remained in the early stages, so please forgive the clunkiness I couldn’t rid. It wasn’t doing much sat in the notebook, and while it’s not something at all polished, I hope you enjoy it!

(There’s a few more poems that didn’t make the book, all of which will most likely be shared in the forthcoming weeks.)


Wild Fun

Seven years of a life in safety,
no broken arms, sprained ankles,
allergies, divorcing parents,
nothing to give the boy reason
to notice
that the beast behind,
wobbling and waving,
gurgling his friends,
has begun to crawl.
The moorings wormed
their way out long ago.

The wind accelerates, bucking the children
out the front onto the lawn
and the castle
charges forward.

The women climb to clutch their kin
as the men dive
for the slithering string,
hissing through the grass.
It escapes their fingertips,
the steeple horns flee
their grips, and the creature
wrangles bushes and bramble
in a glorious gallop.

It lands and lunges,
trampling the marquee,
buffeting the buffet,
sandwiching the sandwiches.
In full liberation from the ties, it tumbles
in a showcasing stride, the toothpicks teeth
the coloured hide and fly
as it bounds over the stone wall,
armadillos down the bank,
kicking out the paper plates and plastic cups
in a flurry of festive arcs.

Some count the children
while others take to the coast,
rallying the wind and decline,
watching their rented thing
scuttle and scamper across the sand
before sliding onto the water.

Not much to do now but watch it sail
toward the bobbing buoys
on the aqua green sea.
Free at last.

“Everyone inside,” she says,
as she feeds the children
through the patio doors,
capturing the excited ones by their arms.
They calm and their tears are dried
while she serves them each a cheesy pizza slice.

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Wireless

How refreshing, to know I can
escape my rooted desktop
and the mean glare of a white screen,
fill a suitcase with clothes and books
and fully embrace the magnificence
of being human,
in that
we’re wonderfully wireless.

 

On Cormac McCarthy

 

cormac-mccarthy

Cormac McCarthy’s The Border Trilogy, to put it simply, was absolutely, positively outstanding. I recently finished Cities of the Plain, after having read The Crossing and All The Pretty Horses before that, and I’m still in that state of awe when you depart from a great story, which I’m sure will carry for at least another month. If you’re looking for a new big adventure, I’d highly recommend the trilogy.

Anyone who’s familiar with McCarthy will know his style. He produces these long, epic sentences completely unaided by punctuation and instead weaves clever conjunctions throughout his lexis, and the lines often range to half a page long yet still manage to leave you with a breath. As well, he’s able to give depth and beauty to the simple day-to-day activities in short, punchy prose that flourishes more and more by the word. There was never a dull moment.

I’ve read The Road and No Country for Old Men before and whilst those both were unforgettable and very much emotional journeys, the weight of these three books hits you hard; relentless and devastating, like a speed-of-light locomotive.

Speaking of trains, here’s an extract from the final book. This isn’t an example of his long, signature sentences (‘polysyndeton’ if you want to be technical) but instead how well he is able to paint a picture and create an atmosphere –  something else he’s rather good at doing. There are far better examples of his near perfect writing but this really hit the spot for me. Don’t worry, no spoilers ahead.

I’ll add, for anyone else who has read The Crossing, the final page completely tore me to pieces.


Cities of the Plain – page 116

It was quiet in the house and it was quiet in the country about. He sat smoking. The cooling stove ticked. Far away in the hills behind the house a coyote called. When they had used to spend winters at the old house on the southeasternmost section of the ranch the last thing he would hear before he fell asleep at night was the bawl of the train eastbound out of El Paso. Sierra Blanca, Van Horn, Marfa, Alpine, Marathon. Rolling across the blue prairie through the night and on toward Langtry and Del Rio. The white bore of the headlamp lighting up the desert scrub and the eyes of trackside cattle floating in the dark like coals. The herders in the hills standing with their serapes about their shoulders watching the train pass below and the little desert foxes stepping into the darkened roadbed to sniff after it where the warm steel rails lay humming in the night.

The Razor Blade in the Peach

On the cover of Fleur Adcock’s Poems 1960 – 2000, there’s a brilliant quote from Carol Ann Duffy on Adcock:

“Adcock has a deceptively laid-back tone, through which the sharper edge of her talent is encountered like a razor blade in a peach.”

This quote has really lingered. When it comes to expressing thoughts or feelings, it’s emphasised the need for delivering a punch in writing. It doesn’t have to be an emotional punch, it doesn’t have to be a ‘twist’, but it does have to deliver some form of substance, and this quote summarises it perfectly. Of course, the roles can be reversed. There’s poetry riddled with sharp blades upon reading but underneath it all lies a soft, sweet kiwi (the fruit – not the bird!). Ultimately, poetry has to give you something new, something you’ve not read before, for it to stick. It must surprise in some way.

This might just be me – there’s this feeling you get when a poem clicks with you. I’m not sure it’s entirely describable but it makes you feel like this: ‘Woah.’ For some it might be different. It might leave you in silence, it might leave your mouth hanging, it might leave you screaming and jumping up and down. Nonetheless, if you know what I mean, it’s amazing how poetry can do that. Here are some examples of where this happened, for me anyway: Mid-Term Break by Seamus Heaney, On A Wedding Anniversary by Dylan Thomas and, appropriately, For Meg by Fleur Adock.

(If you’re interested in the reverse, the kiwi in the ball of blades idea, I’d recommend Vultures by Chinua Achebe, even though it’s quite morbid!).

The first Nesbit and Gibley book of poetry (the title still being kept a secret – for now!) is currently in the beta-reading stage. Quite a few people have their hands on copies and (hopefully!) enjoying them as we speak. This is very much necessary, as anyone who has written in silence for so long will know what it’s like to have ‘blinker vision’ – writing breathes with the fresh perspective. So, if you’re still interested, the book is very much on its way!

I think Duffy describes how exciting poetry can be in such a simple manner, and that aspect of writing has really stuck with me when putting the book together. There’s a lot of great advice out there but this has definitely stuck with me the longest – like a razor-blade, it’s left my gums still sore and scarred months after eating.

Nesbit Likes: The Eagle by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

alfred

Some of the best poetry came from the Romantics. Keats, Wordsworth, Blake, all made their efforts to explore the beauty of nature, real and raw, away from control and formality. They sought to pan out the brilliance of the world from the suds of the ‘normal’ views and exemplify it all in poetry. And Tennyson’s The Eagle might (might) be one of the best examples of this.

The poem, written during his time spent in the Pyrenees, simply put, is about the eagle. To start, the poem isn’t exactly an easy read, despite being in solid iambic tetrameter. It opens with a harsh string of alliteration (clasp, crag and crooked all aren’t easy to say quickly), the phrase ‘azure world’ completely staggers the following rhyme and it’s all a bit clunky. Nonetheless, this is intentional, and emphasises the need to consider the eagle. Tennyson doesn’t want you to rush through it; he doesn’t want you to run around the art gallery, he wants you to sit and admire.

The rest follows quite peacefully, how the eagle watches from his viewpoint, higher than any other, with the sea far below, furthering the boldness (no pun intended!) and majesty of the bird, and then the dive.

Tennyson details almost everything the Romantics aimed to do. The wonder of nature, the resemblance of humanity (in the ‘hands’ and wrinkles’), and the simplicity of it all. No tricks here, just extraordinary word economics. Two short stanzas say it all.

The final line is the ultimate finish; the shift in fluidity, from slow to fast flowing, perfectly depicts the fall of the eagle and the gracefulness in the motion. I’d argue it’s one of the most brilliant lines from the Romantics – it’s so satisfying to read!


The Eagle

He clasps the crag with crooked hands;
Close to the sun in lonely lands,
Ringed with the azure world, he stands. 

The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;
He watches from his mountain walls, 
And like a thunderbolt he falls.

In Our Measure

We used to measure ourselves by the day,
In our sibling scraps, in our homework,
Our jokes, and in the speed we ran.

On birthdays, the lines marked our height,
Creeping up the inside door frame
In pencil rungs of dates and names.

Those marks are still there, under that thick
Flashy beige we picked to sell
The house before we moved out.

But there’s no door frame here, nowhere
To brace your back, firm and secure,

No mother to lean over and draw the line
Above your head, for you to turn and check.

So we shout, as loud as we can,
In the writing and poetry we pen.

To embrace the light against the dark,
To measure ourselves again.

Nesbit Likes: The Sightseers by Paul Muldoon

Writing, when it comes down to it, is only a matter of walking. Like placing one foot in front of the other, you select a word and place, select and place. Of course, it becomes far more fluid; in fluency, this happens quickly, as any runner would know. In poetry, it’s perhaps of equal importance in how you arrange these words on the page. The attention to stanzas, in particular, is important in creating atmosphere and story telling.

The Sightseers is a great example of how a poem can shift in tone through the use of stanza length, and how it’s used to aid the climax. The first two quatrains detail how the narrator and his family drive to see the first round-a-bout in mid-Ulster, Ireland. It’s a light adventure. We’re introduced to details of three deaths in a relatively neutral light as he mentions the graveyard; this foreshadows the dark ahead.

The poem shifts to tercets and with it, the tone and feel. The uncle describes his experience with the B-specials (a special constable police force) and the violence and oppression that came with it. The full rhyme at the end assists in delivering the impact and, to be honest, it’s terrifying. The way it is told, as if in an equally neutral light, implies this wouldn’t have been out of the ordinary, furthering the horror and magnitude of the event. To add, the poem is the perfect length. Long enough to carry the information and create the build to the end, and short enough, that when we’re finished we’re left alone with a potent, unforgettable image.

I’m quite new to reading Muldoon’s poetry, having only just got down to the few collections of his poetry I have on the shelf. This was one of the first I read and god did it hit hard. This has been bookmarked for a long time and I hope you enjoy it!


The Sightseers

My father and mother, my brother and sister
and I, with uncle Pat, our dour best-loved uncle,
had set out that Sunday afternoon in July
in his broken-down Ford

not to visit some graveyard—one died of shingles,
one of fever, another’s knees turned to jelly—
but the brand-new roundabout at Ballygawley,
the first in mid-Ulster.

Uncle Pat was telling us how the B-Specials
had stopped him one night somewhere near Ballygawley
and smashed his bicycle

and made him sing the Sash and curse the Pope of Rome.
They held a pistol so hard against his forehead
there was still the mark of an O when he got home.