Friday, 13 April 2012

My Current Occupations

I was in Oxfam books today. The two volunteers running the shop were talking for their lives, like, non-stop hardly pausing for breath and I wanted to turn round and rudely ask them to be quiet. Their noise was incessant. But a) the world does not revolve around me and b) they were obviously volunteering their time and how rewarding and nice for them that they found so much to talk about while doing good for an amazing charity. However, I realised I like a quiet book shop, one where I can browse and enjoy the creases in the spines, the smell of the books, pick them up, read the back covers, flick pages in peace. So I grabbed two books and didn't linger.

My holiday reading. The Accidental by Ali Smith. Walk the Blue Fields by Claire Keegan. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender.

Oh, also Teaching a Stone to Talk by Annie Dillard. It's been on my bookshelf for a few years and I dusted it off the other day and had a dip into the first two chapters/essays. I am so in awe of her writing. It pushes the poetry in prose beyond anything I can imagine being able to write. It's insightful, beautiful, well-researched, moving and I can't wait to read on.

I went to BlankSpace in Manchester yesterday. There's an exhibition called Inside.

A very physical exhibition, with each installation in its own room. It's interesting being able to physically be within an art space and be 'inside' each piece of work. There was one piece of work called Womb by the Drop Collective. I am hesitant to describe it, as I feel that if you are in Manchester you should go along and take a look yourself. It's one of the most disturbing and affecting art installations I've seen. Even the physical act of opening the door and walking into the space was disturbing, as if discovering the most intimate, dirty, painful secret. I felt like a voyeur and witness. It was visually brilliantly done. The whole room was transformed into a scene with video, sound, strange light, and I felt myself shudder as I went in. I've not been able to stop thinking about it.

Inside Collaborations is a free workshop at BlankSpace, run by me (poet) and Gemma Lacey (visual artist). It's on Thursday 26 April from 2-5pm. We will be spending a lovely afternoon, exploring and responding the exhibition, writing and making, lots of creative play with a focus on collaboration. I've been working with Gemma for a number of years, we've collaborated in all kinds of interesting playful ways mixing visual arts with word through making books, photographs and our current project-in-progress keepsafes, which will result in a very limited edition box of words and art pieces. We hope to be able to share some of our own experiences of creatively working together to maybe create some new collaborations. It's for beginners or more experienced writers and artists. And it will be fun, I hope. If you want to book a free place, email Nathalie at

I've been less confident as a writer in recent months. I think I've been taking it too seriously, being too ambitious. I was hung up on the idea of having a short story collection published, as if this would be the only measure of success. I'm trying to reclaim my independence and open up possibilities. I've always written for me, to play, be creative, to explore. I've been involved in all kinds of very tiny creative projects that have grown through love and imagination and I've always felt very much myself as a writer. I lost that path a little, being caught up in wanting to be more successful than this. But, I've realised this is silly. I'm not trying to be a career writer or make money from it. I don't care about prestige or reviews. But I do want to be work with other writers, have some kind of readership however small, and find a way to get my writing out there. And I want to enjoy writing and feel confident about myself.

On that note. I was really pleased to be approached by Back&Beyond to see if they could publish one of my prose poems in a little chapbook. Fast&Loose 2 is a set of chapbooks with work from Ian Seed, me, Jo Gillot and David Hartley, and includes one piece from each of us, prose poetry, flash fiction and lyric. My copies arrived in the post this week, and they are really beautifully designed pamphlets, neatly folded and bound together with a belly band. They are funky little things and I feel so proud to be part of it.

I've been very anxious about everything and anything recently. I'm not quite sure what's been happening. Life sometimes is like this for me. It's been a struggle of a year so far and I'm grateful for friends and small everyday things really. Some days, I want to hide under the duvet. Some days are good. Most days are hard in some ways and it's been months since I truly felt like me. There seem to have been a lot of stresses and barriers and challenges, and to be honest it's hard to rise to them. I know many people struggle with depression and anxieties, and there are tons of people who have much harder lives than me. We all get troubles from time to time. But, it can still be very isolating and lonely to be in the thick of it.

All the more reason to read and play and write, don't you think?


Megan said...

yes, read and play and write, sounds like an excellent plan, Annie. And good things to celebrate, your event, your chapbook contribution, Congratulations!

Megan said...

ps I love, love, love The accidental, am currently reading There but for the