Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Inspired by Philip Gross

Last night we met Philip Gross, the poet/novelist. He read from his books, all of which were wonderful poems in their own right, but I mostly enjoyed his comments on how he came to write them, what context they came out of. Having been moved to tears by his sequence 'The Wasting Game' (I really recommend the book they are reprinted in, Change of Address) I was then amazed by his poems from a collaboration with a photographer called I Spy Pinhole Eye.

Philip's poems started out more solid, with less white space on the page, less indentations and much longer stanzas. Now, his poems are more spaced out, more considered, and he uses punctuation like musical notation for the spacing in time of the words. His book The Water Table won the T.S.Eliot prize for 2009, an honour he described as a year long distraction from actually writing.

One of the provocative questions he posed was taken up by a fellow student on our course blog, Writers Ink. What, at the core of us, makes us write? That was the question that seemed to keep a fellow student and I standing in the gloom on a street corner discussing big questions like: 'why write' and 'why do an MA?' That's a hard one. I'm not desperate to have a book published, I primarily wanted to do an MA because I love teaching and would love to move into teaching creative writing - not especially for people with masses of talent but people who want to explore 'self' through writing. I suppose I'm still thinking in terms of mental health and therapy. What I do know is, I would still write even if I had no interest in publication, but I do want to get published, I just don't have a burning need to do so. Philip Gross struck me as a man who writes what he wants, what he loves, and ignores the savvy, business side of writing. He's found a lifestyle that suits him, is paid to write and talk about writing, and has an expressive outlet. That sounds perfect.

A363 also had an assignment, an outline of the EMA we have to write for May (which is going to be a very busy month). I sent in my ideas for the first chapters of a book, and one question my tutor asked was - what is the big idea at the heart of the book? What question are you trying to answer? That flummoxed me (fabulous word, flummoxed) as I really couldn't tell you. Having thought about it overnight, I've decided it's a book about second chances. Now I have to concentrate on poetry and get that out of the way before I can go back to novelling, as the two parts of my brain don't work well together.

7 comments:

  1. Wasn't he great? Congratulations on the distinction!

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  2. I'm sure I'll evenutally find the password for my other google account! In the meantime, congrats on your assignment! Showing off among friends is entirely permissible in my opinion.

    I thought he was quite compelling - modest, open, wry - and I loved the way he read his poems. I can feel a short story coming on...

    Boz

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  3. Well done you. So proud. have you ordered the Pinhole Eye book?
    Love Bear. x x

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  4. Thank you, all. He was great, wasn't he? Looking forward to Myra Schneider next week, now!

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  5. Did you see Beth's piece on why women are or are not published? I think what you say is interesting because, like you, I don't have the burning desire to be published. If it happened almost by accident, that, I think, would be OK. But, listening to Philip Gross and Carole also reminded me it brings responsibility - not too keen on that aspect at all!

    Boz

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  6. Hi Boz, that's a good point. Maybe women just aren't as often single minded or driven as men? I don't mind pursuing publication for a while, but I wouldn't want to make it my reason for living! I just want to write better, because I'm going to be writing anyway.

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  7. Hi,

    Sorry to have missed it, it sounds like it was very inspirational.

    Love your blog background by the way, very steampunk!

    Rosie

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