Summer Reading

The letterbox has been busy over the past few weeks, so I thought I’d share what’s currently on my bedside table.

Whenever I have a few pennies spare, I try to pick up a subscription to a poetry journal. These journals hold all the hopes of writers and poets in their ink-smudged hands and it’s only right to show them some consideration in return. The Rialto has long been on my list and I’m delighted to finally be able to savour it. Reading contemporary work is so important to those of us who write poetry, for the joy of witnessing something beautifully captured and of hearing voices that resonate with our own.

Sinead Morrissey’s Parallax and Michael Symmons Roberts’ Drysalter are both award-winning collections and I’ve already begun to dip into their treasures. I try to read at least a poem a day, at night or first thing when I wake. Sometimes, I get caught up in them and read on until either sleep or the duties of the day claim me.

I often wonder if I’m losing out on connections between the poems in a collection, tackled in this stop-start manner; I rarely have the luxury of being able to sit and read a collection all at once, and found Don Paterson‘s thoughts on arranging a poetry manuscript, in a recent interview, interesting reading:

“Architecture generally just isn’t one of the main pleasures of a book of poems, in the way it might be with a novel. A few good ones at the start, few good ones at the end, stick that boring long thing about 2/3rds of the way through, and avoid poems which are either too similar or violently different in tone following each other – and Bob’s your uncle. Unless it’s a sequence, of course, in which case it’s a sequence. But there’s no point in designing a brilliant arc for your book if the poems weren’t written to that structure in the first place. Take as much trouble as you would arranging fruit in a bowl. No more.”

Editing poems: John Glenday and Don Paterson

There’s something of a Nordic flavour to my non-poetry selections. A friend recommended Finnish writer (and creator of The Moomins), Tove Jansson, to me a few years back, as I was preparing for a trip to Sweden, so I’m finally making good on that promise. I was reminded of it again recently when Elizabeth Gilbert posted about ‘The Summer Book‘, on her Facebook page – a tale of an elderly artist and her six-year-old granddaughter sharing a summer on a tiny island – surely a perfect antidote to the frisky Irish summer?

In addition to writing new poetry, I’m also working on a memoir, and fixed on Karl Ove Knausgaard‘s autobiographies about life in Norway, as an introduction to a genre which can often be mawkish and sentimental. Knausgaard’s books have taken the memoir into new territory, attracting fierce criticism for their unflinching honesty but also fierce praise, particularly from writers, including Zadie Smith. The first volume, A Death in the Family, draws on his childhood and teenage years and the difficult relationship with his father, ‘a suburban monster’, who terrorised his sons.

Finally, Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit has also been on my radar for about 5 years – so many catch-ups on my list! Drawing on her 35 year career as a choreographer, Tharp talks about her own creative process and sets out 35 lessons for anyone who want creativity to be a central part of their life.

In addition to this little lot, I also picked up the first volume of the Game of Thrones series and an Agatha Christie Omnibus at a local charity shop yesterday. *sigh*

I’m already blazing through but I can’t help wondering why I have to have umpteen books on the go at any one time? Last week, I fished no less than 18 books from around the foot of the bedside table, where I ‘file’ those I’ve already finished.

Does anyone else do this? What’s in your reading pile, at the mo?


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