This year is already more than slightly used. In the way of all procrastinators, I had intended to write a post at the beginning of the year but let it slip… So here I am, more than a month in, having been through the secular New Year and just passed the Celtic festival Imbolc, with the Chinese New Year tomorrow. I’m not very savvy about Celtic festivals, but last year I went to an Imbolc ceremony where we reviewed the year just gone and contemplated the next one, so I assume that is what’s done then. In December I celebrated the Winter Solstice with a friend, and that too was a time for acknowledging the year’s achievements and setting down what we might be able to let go of. And around my birthday, in mid-January, I indulged in the usual reflections on ‘one year older and what have I got to show for it?’
All of which makes me wonder if another review, here in public on this blog, is perhaps somewhat redundant. Isn’t it time now to be getting on with things and never mind the past, especially now that today the sun is shining and the gulls who have found their way inland are letting us know they’re there? It’s good to see the hills unwrapped from the mist that has enveloped them, and in the garden there are primroses, crocuses and even the odd daffodil. Life continues to move forward, as it does, and I need to move with it, even if – as at my age I’m increasingly reminded – moving forward means moving nearer to the end.
My feeling is that right now I’ve got to a point where moving forward, however it happens, won’t be linear – supposing it ever is. Which way do I go from here? (I found this apt image on the BigBible Project website and mean no disrespect by using it out of context.)
With my writing, as well as in other ways, I seem to be at a threshold – a place where things could be about to change. At the end of February I’m submitting the manuscript of a poetry collection to a publisher. There’s no guarantee of publication, but the possibility is there: the possibility that, like a number of my friends, I could become a published poet. Properly published, I mean, not just having had poems in magazines and anthologies. Of course this isn’t the first time I’ve submitted a manuscript – goodness knows I’ve sent my novel off to plenty of agents – but in this case the odds are a great deal shorter. The editorial board will be considering a certain number of manuscripts – selected after an initial submission – and from those will choose a few to publish. It’s like being shortlisted in a competition, but of course that doesn’t mean you’re going to win. This isn’t the first pamphlet or collection I’ve put together – I’ve entered several for competitions and a couple of times I have been shortlisted – but somehow this feels more actual, which suggest that the disappointment, if and when it comes, will be all the sharper. A dear friend of mine is submitting a manuscript at the same time and at least I know that each of us will be glad for the other, even if we ourselves aren’t successful.
And not getting published by this publisher wouldn’t necessarily be the end. I could submit the manuscript, or part of it, to other publishers and, having got this far, would stand a chance of being taken seriously. Many of the poets I know from the wonderful 52 project are now having pamphlets and collections published and it isn’t inconceivable that I could become one of them. Which would be amazing. And… But… that wouldn’t do away with the part of me that has always wanted to be a novelist. It’s ironic that at one time I thought I would have to be a fiction writer because I couldn’t write poetry. One result of that was that I came to love poetic writing in fiction and tried to emulate it – as I still do. What drew me to the novel, though, was much more than despair at my lack of poetic ability. It was and is a fascination with people and the way they (I should say we) think and feel, a fascination that, among other things, has also led me to become a psychotherapist. And it’s a love of stories, whether fictional or not, and a love for the way that novelists can create, or recreate, the world their characters live in. I was pleased when a poet friend, who is generously helping me put together my collection, said that my poems portrayed people vividly through the detail of their lives – something a novelist would do. According to Stephen Spender, Auden once said rather dismissively of Hardy that his poems were those of a novelist, but I don’t see what’s wrong with that. So long as the poems also work as poems, why shouldn’t the novelist contribute to them? Nobody thinks there’s anything wrong with poets who ‘bring poetry to the novel’, in Virginia Woolf’s phrase.
So here I am: a poet seeking publication and a novelist trying to resurrect my novel-writing from the ashes of previous failures. Whether I resurrect those novels or go on to write something completely new – and if so what – remains to be seen, just as I don’t yet know what kind of poetry, or how much poetry, I’ll be writing in the coming year. My sense is that in my writing, and in my life generally, new possibilities may be opening up, but I’ll be watching this space and finding out if they do.