Thursday, 11 September 2014

see the whole thing as a small cog

Feels silly having an announcement that I’m taking a long-term break from poetry as the last thing on this blog, so although there are lots of other things I could be doing (I could get on with some admin, I could borrow my Nintendo DS back from my little brother and play Chocobo Tales for a few hours, I could file my tax return, a sensible thing to do before the birth of my next child which is in about five days, probably) I am writing a blog entry about the Poetry Book Society's Next Generation Poets List which I'm childishly excited to be a part of.

And now that I come to check, the entry saying I was taking a break from poetry was almost exactly a year ago. So, what, a YEAR isn’t long enough for you? I hope I never have to go for lunch at YOUR house and wait a month and a half for you to make some cheese on toast, that’s all. It’s not like I’m Billy Corgan. And yeah, I know I said “perhaps forever”: I was tired and sad about my publisher announcing it was no longer going to publish any single-author poetry collections and just generally in a bad mood and I had to get on with finishing my novel which I still haven’t finished. And don’t you know what the word “perhaps” means? Right. So nyeh. 

I think anyone would have lots of conflicting feelings about something like this, even in terms of how your own friends react to it because you’ll have friends who are simply innocently happy for you and friends who see the whole thing as a small cog in the neo-liberal conspiracy and, like most of us who took it up around 2007 and hard-wired it into our psyches, I now basically use Facebook as a baby scrapbook anyway. I remember after the Times did a The Facebook Poets feature a few years ago (the title wasn’t run by any of us), a friend of mine was all, “Why the hell would you agree to that? What were you thinking?” And I was like, “Why not, homes?” (his surname was Homes) “I like being in magazines!” And he was all, “Yeah, well, you look like a tit in that cardigan.” And I was all, “You’re just angry because you feel attracted to me and you don’t know how to process that.” And he was like, “Shows what you know.” I blew him a kiss, he tore it up, we haven’t spoken since.

So yeah, naturally, none of us has any business entering a debate part of which may circle around whether you’re any good or not. I keep coming up with my list of, say, Deep Space Nine Poets or Voyager Poets, but even casually making a list of poets whose work I really like feels kind of divisive. I had some practice in the whole area of not entering debates (or 'eBates' as I call them) when I was shortlisted for the Forward Prize which maybe I never told you about apart from saying, “I’ll stake my Forward Prize for Best Collection shortlisting on it!” every time I’m fairly certain about something. This was early 2007 and only really, really cool people had even heard of Facebook and there was no Twitter and we had to make our own fun by rubbing two sticks together and MySpace and Bebo. Really the only means people had of lashing out was in the comments fields under newspaper articles. So after the initial glee at being shortlisted for something I went into a genuine “slough of despond” (a/c my GP) because under every article about the shortlisting there would be upwards of 450 comments of bilious rage. I know, I know, “pathologically oversensitive”, but still: imagine – you work at something for several years because you love it, you’re extremely lucky that someone else sees something worthwhile in it and then you get a big break and you have a few days feeling so overjoyed at your work potentially reaching a larger audience and then you realise that 1. It is and 2. They want to kill you. All of them. Without exception.

Anyway, this time it’s different. Not because I’m older and wiser, but because I got a posse. And maybe it’s marginally more likely that I’ll end up editing a respected journal so you’d better not say anything to offend me because so help me God, I will find out who you are behind your hilarious made up name and I will black-ball you, sir, I will black-ball you and everyone you care about.

And, as the irreplacable Groucho Marx once said, “I wouldn’t want to be part of any list that didn’t have me on it and also it’s too dark to read.”

Love love love love love,