Monday, 4 June 2012
Thousands Pass Here Every Day
The non-fiction book will actually be published the month before the poetry collection but – so far – has not caused the same level of anxiety. It was arranging the poems in the order in which they should appear in the collection which threw me into a spin. At first, I found myself subconsciously arranging them in the order in which I write them, regardless of content or theme or links to poems before and after.
I explained my difficulty to editor, Dawn Bauling who was reassuring about it, telling me she once had a poet who arranged the poems in alphabetical order: something the librarian in Dawn cheered but at which the poet in her screamed, ‘No!’ With the dining table awash in poems I tried again, shuffling and rearranging, making lists and shuffling and rearranging until I had my collection organised to my satisfaction. Well, almost. There was one poem which no longer seemed to fit anywhere. I put it at the front and sent them off to Indigo Dreams.
I also sent a set to poet Tom Pow – the person who got me into this poetry writing malarkey in the first place when I took his creative writing course at Glasgow University – who had kindly agreed to provide a testimonial for the back of the book. He emailed to say the poems needed to be rearranged as they “could be more sensitively presented for the reader to show the strengths of their themes” and he didn’t see where the first poem could fit in with any of the others. He suggested a way of arranging the poems in three named divisions.
The editor agreed and I had another go. This time I ended up with three poems which seemed not to fit anywhere. I’ll keep them for another time I think. Finally, I sent them all off to the publisher. The next step will be when she sends me a proof copy of Thousands Pass Here Every Day. The title comes from one of the poems in the collection, written for a project in Glasgow called Hidden City, in which a group of poets were taken to a venue in the centre of Glasgow which people rushed by without noticing.
The anxiety-provoking thing I had to do was have a photo taken for publicity material. I detest having my picture taken. Every muscle in my face goes rigid as soon as a camera appears. I have never, ever been happy with a photograph of me. Fortunately, a writer friend, Sara Bain who is also a photographer, said she’d do it for me. Somehow she made it all quite painless – I suspect because she never once instructed me to smile.
On a different topic, I was out recently with some writer friends to see a play by another friend, Anne Stenhouse, called M’Connachie and J.M.B. It was a fascinating account of Barrie’s alter ego in the form of the imaginary M’Connachie and demonstrated what an incredibly complex character the author of Peter Pan was. I think we will all be looking at Barrie’s writing from a different perspective than before.
Looking at my friends during the interval I suddenly realised the astonishing variety of genres which were represented: three professional journalists; novelists who write YA books; family sagas; novellas; contemporary women’s fiction; two poets, short story writers and a playwright who also writes articles. Sounds like I have dozens of friends – but in fact there were only seven of us.