Monthly Archives: October 2012

Travels

So: the world turns. And with it, change is the only consistent thing. Last month, my father suffered a stroke. It shook our foundations as a family. We cried. We wondered. We googled information incessantly. We feared. We have since happily learned that, with determination, my father will make a full recovery. I have never been so appreciative of the NHS – and the fine people who work within the system. They took rapid action to help my father and have turned a crisis around for us. I am so grateful to them.

The heartbreak of this unjust assault on his otherwise stellar health – one that came from nowhere, it seemed – has contributed to a notable positive: a renewed appreciation of our family unit, for all of us. It’s brought us closer together and reminded us that nothing lasts forever. Enjoy and love in the moment. Do the things that make you better. Focus. For my father, it’s been an important reminder of how cherished he is by his family and friends. For me personally, it’s also been a reminder of how great a man my father is. His courage and tenacity in the face of such calamity has been truly inspirational. Should one need reminding of the greatness of the people in our lives? It seems that we do; so much we take for granted. We assume. And we believe that others know. We do not say the things that should be said. It’s been a terrifying lesson for me, but I intend to learn from it.

In the midst of all of this, I made a career decision. There were many aspects to this, but one crucial issue was focus. I decided that I wished to spend my time from now on focused not simply on things I can do or enjoy. But to engage with those things that can actively develop me as a person and make me, forgive the new-age swagger, grow. And part of that entails a movement back to a focus on the art that has always motivated me and connected me best creatively. The art that set everything rolling: poetry. My time for now will be a critical and creative engagement with poetry. I intuit already the great happiness that will come from this focus. And I feel it has a truth to it.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about creative obstacles. Those that are thrown in our path and those that we engineer for ourselves, sometimes without even realising we are doing it. Obstacles can be nuisances; that’s for sure. But you can also enjoy them, even as you may seem to deplore them; you can hide behind them – fearful of the bigger challenges that lie ahead on the path and the demands they may place on you creatively, and as a person.

The tragic lover Abelard once famously wrote that thought is a great magnet. And so I have been offered to travel to Kathmandu, as part of a literary festival. I will be exposed to a culture radically different, and I hope to make new friends from across the world and discover new pathways to creative thinking. I note that Lord Ganesh, the great remover of obstacles, is especially revered in Kathmandu. I must thank him.

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October 22, 2012 · 12:59 pm

Meanwhile…

Over at Devolved Voices, we’ve been exploring the scale of poetic emergence. We’ve had some interesting points to consider, and we’ll publish our discussion document in due course. In the meantime, here’s some information about the document – and some of the thoughts behind it.

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I’m Your Biggest Fan

I left Parthian this month. I want to thank my many wonderful authors. They’ve been a joy and a privilege to commission and develop, and have made me appreciate ever more deeply the value of our national literature and, of course, the process of developing a book together. Perhaps, along the way, I have helped them to allow their books to be all they can be. A lot of writing is a certain kind of ‘giving away’. For, somehow, I’ve always had the conviction that a book knows best what it wants to become. Here is where the editor comes in. And in an age where the perceived democracy of putting a book out there, on your own, through e-book, promises a lot more than I believe it can achieve – well, it’s worth noting. For, after all, why does anybody need an editor? The best editor functions as an adventurer, the outsider who can shine a torch, here and there, into the darker, unexplored corners of a work – and the author’s imagination. The old friend who can speak a bold and uncomfortable truth in kindness. The trusted business partner who can say, we’re in this together, kid. The prosecution. The defence. The believer. But, most of all, the person who encourages a confidence on the part of the author to allow the book. All of the difficulties, doubts, frustrations and revisions of a book result in this allowance, a giving away to its design: a certain fragile and beautiful blooming. Indeed, contrary to a general assumption, here’s the thing: the greater the author, the more they should get out of an editorial process. Once a good writer can make it without a good editor – they are a good writer no more.

Have I fulfilled these roles, as I note them down? I can’t know. But, as an editor, I do know what you learn. You learn to think and read intensively. You learn to open your mind to track another’s vision. I think you become more generous. Less prejudiced. More dedicated. More demanding of possibility. Braver. A little more dangerous. And whenever you pass a billboard you endure ever more helplessly the gradual extinction of the hyphen. All, save for the last, being gifts for which I am so very grateful.

The Parthian list for next year is exceptional. I cherish each book, and salute every one of my authors. I am proud of all we have achieved together, and I will follow their success – and Parthian’s – with my full support and enthusiasm, as always. ‘I’m your biggest fan.’ Congratulations to them all.

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