Saturday, October 31, 2009

Women and beasts

The generous and wonderful Australian poet Les Murray once famously said that he'd written a long poem because he didn't have time for a short one. I find it hard to convince myself sometimes that a day spent on a couple of lines is well spent. On one of the first Arvon courses I went on as a student, when I was starting to write poetry seriously, the tutor told me how delighted he was that he'd found a final line for a poem that he'd been working on for a couple of years. It sounds so ludicrous, doesn't it?

I've since found myself saying that sort of thing - maybe an idea keeps coming back but never quite works, maybe a few lines won't go away and I want to fit them in somewhere. Perhaps it's like moving the furniture around, or refusing to throw out an old pair of shoes, knowing they'll go with something. Jane and I were talking about our books and recycling. The idea's embedded in how we're working, as is throwing an idea, an image, some words back and forth until they settle.

Women and beasts seem to be emerging as themes as our books begin to take shape. There's a way to go yet, though, we're aiming for a lot more than we'd initially planned and the exhibition at Chesworth is unlikely to happen now before Christmas. But we'll be showing some finished books in an open house outside Lewes in December, along with some cards that kicked the process off....

Working with another person helps keep self-doubt in its proper place. We focus only on what we want to do and what works - wonderful, practical, absorbing time, almost sacred in its effects. We can trust the imaginative process, it runs like a river in the background.

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