Saturday, 22 December 2012

The Next Big Thing

A few weeks ago, wonderful poet, prose-writer and publisher Adele Ward kindly ‘tagged’ me as part of The Next Big Thing. What is supposed to happen is this: each Wednesday, invited writers answer a set of questions about the project(s) they are currently engaged in. They then invite five more writers to continue the discussion the following week, providing a short biography by way of introduction.

Being the slacker I am, I didn't quite get it together to answer the questions the week after Adele had handed the baton on. Despite my best efforts, I also didn't manage to get five writers to whom I could hand the baton. If anyone reading this has a writing blog and would like me to pass the Next Big Thing baton on to them, please send me an email.

Meanwhile, here’s my answers to the 10 questions.

1. What is the working title of your next book?

There are two: The Lammas Lands, which is the title of my next haiku collection; and Ex, my ever-evolving first collection of (non-haiku) poetry.

2. Where did the idea for the book come from?

The Lammas Lands is pretty much all the best – in my and my publisher John Barlow’s opinion – haiku that I had published in mags, online journals and other places between 2005 and 2011 or so. It’s arranged by seasons, starting at the beginning of spring and ending at winter’s end. I think it’s a more layered collection than my first collection, The Regulars, and has a higher proportion of haiku that tend to be slow-burners rather than being in-yer-face. Like The Regulars, though, it’s a very English book.

I’ve been trying to amass a decent body of ‘mainstream’ poems for a few years now. Although I’ve written a good number that I like, I suspect some may be an acquired taste. Many of them are memory poems from the ’70s and ’80s, and as such the cultural references, especially the football and cricket related ones, may be too obscure for some readers. It’s tricky to find a balance between making the poems as open as possible and not throwing out too much in the way of detail that I (but maybe not everyone) would enjoy. With luck, though, some folk will like them. You never know. I didn't hold out much hope of finding a home for the three poems I recently had published in Nth Position, but lo and behold…

3. What genre does your book fall under?

Re The Lammas Lands: there has been a long and wearisome debate in the English-language haiku world as to whether haiku is a genre, a sub-genre or a completely different entity from poetry. Personally, I incline to the view that if you have a reasonably extensive knowledge of where haiku came from, its original sensibility and spirit, and how it has developed within the West, then the debate is immaterial: you instinctively know what haiku is and how rewarding it can be.

Re Ex: it’s simply a collection of poems with a common thread of a consistent, wryly objective viewpoint, much like that of my haiku but with, of course, much more in the way of story-telling and detail.

4. What actors would you chose to play the part of your characters in a movie version?

Since neither of my books are prose books, I probably shouldn’t answer this. That said, Stan Laurel would no doubt feature in my answer if I did.

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

The Lammas Lands: a collection of haiku featuring close engagement with the byways of England, urban, suburban and sometimes rural. (Blimey, that makes it sound dull. Note to self: better get someone else to write my blurb…)

Ex: I’d like to think that it’s a collection of poems that often appear fairly light-hearted at first glance but have an underlying seriousness to which folk can relate. (Lordy, my blurb isn't getting any better.)

6. Will your book be published or represented by an agent?

The Lammas Lands will be published by John Barlow’s Snapshot Press some time, hopefully, but not necessarily, in 2013.

As for Ex, who knows? I need to get more poems published in mags first. Onward and upward!

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft?

The Lammas Lands: three or four years. It then went through a good few versions before John and I called a halt to any additions/omissions, etc.

Ex: If I said “a lifetime” I’d sound like a right pompous wassock, but it’s pretty much true, in that I’ve been writing poems on and off since I was about 16, but with systematic dedication only in the last five years or so.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Neither of my books has a model – although there are, of course, many collections of haiku and poetry that I love. Reading a collection, and savouring the poems both individually and collectively, is one of my greatest delights. We’ve run out of shelf-space though.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

The Lammas Lands: first and foremost, the wonderful variety of sensory experiences available in England in the 21st century (there I go again on the pomposity front, but it’s true).

Ex: more than anything, growing up in the ’70s and ’80s and how that’s reflected in subsequent experience; but that only tells half the story really. It’s an amalgam of many years’ experiences, some of which are more fictionalised than others.

10. What else about the book might pique the reader´s interest?

The Lammas Lands: the title, I hope. It may be fairly obscure unless you live in Walthamstow or in the English countryside, but it’s symptomatic of the book’s concerns.

Ex: again, the title; which has lots of meanings within the context of the collection. There is a poem of that name, but I also realised that there were more than a handful of poems relating to death or demise. The rest of the book is cheery though. Honest.


mattm said...

Interesting stuff Matthew and a suitably inspiring reminder that I need to stop faffing about on twitter and sort out my Best of MH collection for 2013.

Good to see you in Stamford and hope to meet up again next year. Merry Christmas to you and yours, Matt

Matthew Paul said...

Thanks, Matt. Yes, it's all too easy to get distracted!

Good to see you too, and have a good one,