NaPoWriMo in a Day

colin

For a few years I committed to writing and publishing a poem a day for the month of April as part of National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo). Thankfully, none of my friends have blackmailed or shamed me into doing it this year, though I think I will try to put maybe a poem a week up on this blog during April.

My Belfast based poet friend Colin Dardis has completed his thirty poems already. If that impresses you, then know that he wrote all thirty poems in a single day. Colin’s father is seriously ill, so he felt he couldn’t justify putting time aside every day to write a poem. His solution was to get it out of the way in one 24 hour period. Astonishing.

This is what he says:

“I’ve done NaPoWriMo before, but with my dad being very ill at the moment, I’ve passed on it this year. However, a thought came to mind: might it be possible to take one free day and write thirty poems? ….. I was keen to see just how many poems I might be able to manage in the space of only twenty-four hours.”

To read the poems, have a look at Colin’s blog, and I think you will be impressed with the quality, consistency and originality of thirty first drafts.

 

 

Simon Armitage: ‘Language is my enemy – I spend my life battling with it’

images

 

The poet on creative chaos, the cathartic effect of table tennis and writing on the undersole of a slipper.
=========
Simon Armitage in The  Guardian
Published: 20:29 ACDT Sat 25 March 2017 : The Guardian article
=========

“I have a love-hate relationship with writing. First the hate. It’s difficult. Finding language for ideas, then finding better language. During my years as a probation officer I occasionally heard colleagues joke (sort of) that the job would be great if it weren’t for the clients. I sometimes feel the same way about writing and language. Some writers swoon over language: “It’s my muse, my lover”, and so on. Well, it’s my enemy, and I seem to spend all my life arguing and battling with it. Also, sitting down at a desk aggravates my sacroiliac joint, so by the end of a week of solid writing I’m pretty much bed-bound or crawling around on all fours.

What else? Writing is static, unsocial, and restricts opportunities for the uptake of vitamin D via dermal synthesis. I know what you’re thinking: “Poor thing, must be awful.” As for the love, nothing absorbs or engages me more than composing a poem, trying to cajole it into shape, trying to get the sound of it and the sense of it operating in concert, trying to get to that place where the writing transcends by every measure its original intention and ambition, the feeling of having created something inconceivable.

In terms of the average day, if I’m at home I’m attempting to outstare and outsmart the computer, which means I’m writing prose or drama or a lecture or something that isn’t poetry. I switch on about nine and go until I can’t stand my proximity to myself any longer. And I build in displacement activities: I need to go to the post office (I don’t) or there’s no milk in the fridge (there is).

Getting out of bed of a morning has never been a problem, but I’ve noticed of late that my writing is better in the afternoon. The mornings are methodical, when all the blockwork and first-fix stuff takes place. The ornamentation or even de-ornamentation – the things that separate writing from writing – don’t seem possible until later in the day, when I’ve established some perspective.

I like the notion that I’m a spy – poetry as espionage, doing something I shouldn’t.  To that end, there’s a table tennis table in the basement, and if there isn’t time for a walk or the weather is a bit clumsy I’ll go and hit a ball for half an hour to defrag my brain. This is achievable by raising the further half of the foldable table into the vertical plane to form an unbeatable opponent. There is something very cathartic about the sound of the highly strung plastic ball meeting the implacably hard playing surface or the cushioned rind of the bat. Also, certain other sports or leisure activities are difficult to play on your own in your lunch hour – rugby union, for example.

If I’m away then I’m working in a small hardback notebook with graph‑paper pages, so I’m writing poems. I used to write poems on anything that came to hand – court reports, chocolate wrappers, the undersole of a slipper – and had a filing system that made Emily Dickinson’s scraps of scavenged paper look more orderly than a spreadsheet. But everything happens in the notebooks now, and they have come to represent a kind of companionship. I also sketch in them (badly) and keep a journal. I like the physicality of shaping letters and words, and the materiality of pen against paper, and the archaeological record of trial and error that builds up across the pages, and the notion that I’m a spy – poetry as espionage, doing something I shouldn’t. The graph paper helps me plot the length of lines against each other and gauge the size of the poem as it might appear in printed form.

I’m naive or obstinate enough to still believe in the line as poetry’s fundamental unit of expression and in line- and stanza-breaks (as applied by the poet, not the typesetter) as the device that ultimately differentiates poetry from prose. I’m happy writing poetry in a cafe or a public space. In some ways I prefer it, though it’s pointless if music is playing, because the rhythms and cadences start to clash.

As a rule (ie not always) I don’t drink during the week. Once the cork comes out of the bottle it’s curtains, so for that reason and others I tend to down tools at weekends. And I’ve always resented writing on Sunday evenings, the theme tune to Antiques Roadshow or Songs of Praise reminding me that I haven’t done my homework.”

• Simon Armitage’s new book, The Unaccompanied, is published by Faber.

Free the Garron Five: Brock, Dally, Flett, Hopkins, McKenna – Saturday 25th March 2017 7 p.m., Blackwood.

2016-10-07-09-03-12

 

Well, not quite free, but only $5 on the door. A reprise of the launch of the 2016 Garron chapbooks at The Artisan Cafe, 252 Main Road, Blackwood, South Australia.

Probably advisable to book a table in advance.

For bookings/info call Rebecca Edwards on 8278 2473

On Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/events/1857556531173873/

 

artisan

 

 

Erin Thornback Reviews “Selfish Bastards”

cordite-new

To be precise, Cordite Poetry Review’s Erin Thornback reviews “Selfish Bastards and Other Poems” by Mike Hopkins and “Jardin du Luxembourg and Other Poems” by Steve Brock (both Garron Publishing, 2016).

The full review is here.

It can be intimidating to have your work reviewed, especially by someone  you’ve never met who writes for a prestigious publication like Cordite. It’s interesting that people often pick out lines that you regarded as ordinary, and (presumably) regard as ordinary, lines that you felt a bit smug about. That happens at readings too – the biggest reaction can sometimes be to lines that you underestimated, and, by turns, lines that you thought were belters produce little reaction. As they say, once you put a poem out there, it’s out of your control.

Here are a few snippets from Erin’s review from 13th December 2016 :

“Displaying an impulse that is communitarian and geographic by turns, Mike Hopkins’s Selfish Bastards and Other Poems, and Steve Brock’s Jardin du Luxembourg and Other Poems address the quotidian of the present under the notion that place-based does not necessarily mean place-bound. ….. Hopkins’ collection … unfolds in a specific place, articulating a contemporary critique of the Australian present. The poems are inflected with the volatility of political lyricism in ‘Selfish Bastards’ and ‘Anzacery’, and Hopkins’ ‘In the Beginning was the Cliché’ terrifically probes and parodies popular culture.

… Mike Hopkins’s Selfish Bastards places his truth within the perception of Australia’s political stage. This truth can compete in the public arena with the ‘truth’ that is portrayed by politicians, such as:

Politicians who tell us we need to tighten our belt, and then
use a helicopter to go to a cocktail party — Selfish Bastards

…. Being free from the same existential competition that obligates politicians to indulge their constituent public, Hopkin’s doesn’t flatter and indulge his audience in the eponymous slam poem:

People in the audience who don’t shout out “SELFISH 
BASTARDS” when politely asked to do so — Selfish Bastards! 

Rather, the poem performs in front of the reader’s eyes, the musicality of the concluding refrains unpacking the realities of our monotone and formulaic reality:

People who like their own posts on Facebook — Selfish Bastards!

Indeed, Selfish Bastards signals a condemnation of contemporary society. Reinforced in ‘The Template’ and ‘In the Beginning was the Cliché’, we are confronted with thick hectic prose, sentence fragments and the hackneyed that has taken ‘the world by storm, though it was a small world, when all is said and done’. These clichés humorously gain momentum in ‘In the Beginning was the Cliché’, as the people ‘did not stay glued / to the one true cliché’ but ‘ took to false clichés like ducks to water’. In ‘The Template’ Hopkins satirises the public treatment of our magazine society and paper-politicians:

Another soldier dead. Pull
out the template and we’ll 
knock off the news story in 
a flash. First the headline: 
“Digger” and “fallen” are
mandatory words. “Brave”
and salute are excellent 
accompaniments.

Structured like a traditional newspaper spread in two columns side by side, such portrayals are confrontational to the say the least, but there is also a sense of warning that is conspicuous here. Hopkins, in similar tonality to Brock’s ‘Hollywood Hotel’, takes an itinerary of the cookie-cutter Australian media and divisive political scene:

Get a shot or two of 
the politicians in the pews, 
and the comforting the next 
of kin outside the church. 
After all they’ve sacrificed 
their precious time to
attend the service, and 
they like to see that we’ve 
stuck to the template.

The words ‘cliché’ and ‘template’ are key here. The tired terminology is fixed in repetition, an endless ventriloquy hovering over texts, criticising and energising in turn. The geographic impulses that these texts address is one of renewal, the language resonating with a precise duplicity that recognises regardless of the place, we encounter distance, we are always a tourist on the outskirts of a template, political, humorous or based in the explorative:

This rule is our rule: 
THIS DAY IS NOT FOR YOU

(‘Anzacery’, by Hopkins).

---------------

Copyright Mike Hopkins 2017 except content from Cordite Poetry Review 2016

 

Titles (probably a bad title for a blog post)

1860_leavesofgrass_thayer_eldridge_nypl

Interesting judge’s comments from the 2016 “Over the Edge” literary competition in Galway. Niamh Boyce writes:

A word on titles, in general they were awful. Weak, with a last minute feel about them. The title allows you to direct a reader through your work. In a poem in particular, it allows you to say something that you have not said ‘in’ the poem. This does not apply to some of the winning and commended – but in general the titles were horrific. With such a high quality of writing, and such strong various voices in the entries, weak titles were a constant. They should not be an afterthought, the work deserves better, have fun, work on them. It didn’t affect my judging I might add, it’s just a general observation. “

I feel a New Year’s resolution coming on: take more time thinking about titles.

 

Copyright Mike Hopkins 2016

 

 

December 3rd at SPIN in McLaren Vale

Along with a number of talented performers, I am guest poet at the SPIN gig in McLaren Vale on December 3rd 2016. I’ll be reading from my recent chapbook, “Selfish Bastards”, plus other work. Thanks to Julia Wakefield-Houghton for inviting me. She’s given me a 20 minute slot, which is long by poetry reading standards. Perhaps an opportunity to respond to world events of 2016!

spin47-poster_2