Category: salt publishing

How to stop being a poet.

poetry


For my creative writing course I have to produce an ‘Influence’ essay by next Monday and it proving to be a really hard call for me. Not because the essay in itself difficult (see previous post) but because it like a blood-letting leach to a sick patient in terms of the whys and wherefores of why I stopped reading and writing poetry.

I stopped reading poetry in 2002 when I moved to Nottingham. I was concentrating on writing song lyrics from then until the release of the Moon Over the Downs in 2003 which based on the relaunched Americana fanzine Flyinshoes which I launched and edited from 1999 until 2004.

I also did not have my poetry collection with me until 2004 as it was stored at my parents because of a lack of room in my seedy one bed flat. I had written a few ‘post-break-up’ poems in 2002 following the end of a 7 year relationship with a Spanish woman and a couple of poems which simple therapy when I found myself in a dark place like ‘Greyhound in frost’ (Full original title “On Regarding a Distant Prospect of Oxford with Greyhound in Foreground on a Frosty Morning” )which I submitted in annoyance to The Guardian in 2004 just to show certain people that I could actually write. That Ruth Fainlight chose it (Alan Sillitoe’s wife) lent the whole thing a certain irony.

The complete lack of help at that time from the ‘great and the good’here in Nottingham was a major factor with various local writer attitudes being along the lines of ‘you’re from Oxford therefore posh’ typical and similar to some attitudes I encountered in Scotland too.I was told by a local poet that the only way I would ‘get on’ was to kow-tow and help at events by moving chairs…I said fuck off. A lot of these provincial attitudes have disappeared in last ten years thank god and the Nottingham Writer’s Studio is a far more open organisation than it was to start with. I helped the then fledgling Writer’s Studio get off the ground by setting up a WordPress…which surprise surprise brought in enough initial members to keep it going ( I knew this the rest of the founders seemed oblivious to the web and were too focused on their own careers).

I gave up on writing in 2004 and trained as a teacher ironically specialising at first in ‘Basic Skills’ i.e. maths and english. Then freelanced web work, then in 2007 started as a web lecturer at NTU School of Art and Design. That was good for art but my poetry was irrelevant to most there and still is. The Head of Art research stood up and managed to forget exactly what subject it was I had been published for in 2010 which about sums it up…announcing this to the entire School was a bonus. Thanks.

The only support I ever received from Nottingham from 2001-2011 was in 2007 when Wayne Burrows asked for some poems for an East Midlands edition of Staple.

I also joined the ‘Inside Out’ group of poets working in prisons which was fabulous but didn’t help me write at all. I was just surviving on ‘drip-down’ from various arts council funded initiatives and a little freelance work. This lack of interest in my writing came after a miserable few years being a minion employed by Oxford University where the lack of interest from the ‘literati’ was deafening and this fateful combination almost finished off all ideas of me being a poet. Through the Oxford years ( Full story HERE) I kept going as a writer through the support of Richard Price and Southfields alone nobody in Oxford cared less frankly .The divide between ‘Town and Gown’ was and is healthy.

I eventually stopped writing poetry altogether with just an occasional poem leaking out haphazardly. I also stopped reading poetry completely. Job done…or so I thought….again ironically the rest of my life finally got on track. I met (Gun Chimes) then married Emma in 2010 and finally had a mortgage after a lifetime of poverty and substandard poor accommodation. So life was better and no poems to worry about.

Then in 2010 I asked Chris Emery at Salt about P.O.D. (print on demand) as I knew he was interested in the subject as I tried to pull an art project together for my then just starting M.A. in Fine Art at NTU SAD. To my surprise Chris Emery said send me some poems and this resulted in the publication of the’Last Farmer’ pamphlet. A pamphlet consisting mostly of published works and the majority of those from the period 1992-2000. Poems I had written almost 20 years before! I must have been the only poet doing a tour to support a book who no longer read or wrote poetry…..it was strange. An experience made doubly strange by the fact I was also dealing with my mother’s final phase cancer treatment. Another overwhelming reason for moving away from poetry that based in my case very closely on my family and local Oxfordshire history was the death of my father from pancreatic cancer in 2004 and my mother in 2010. I had other more important things to deal with.

So that’s how you do it..stop writing poetry.

Move to another city…live in poverty…lose both parents to cancer…
stop writing..stop reading….

then give up entirely ….simples..

 I covered all of this in a post in 2012 after a serious illness.

CODA

Ten years later try and get back to where you should have been all along by enrolling on a Creative Writing Course.

Starting  again ……painful but the only way.

Influences……fucking hell do you think a writer has any influence compared to the above ….NO or MAYBE YES but again it ain’t the story anybody expecting.

Watch this space….

 

Crawling from the wreckage…

 

I have just re-read the post below which was written the week before my mother’s funeral. She had Carcinoid Cancer which was diagnosed in 2005 the year after my father died of Pancreatic Cancer which he was diagnosed with in 2002. My sister and I therefore have been dealing with cancer and its personal affects for over ten years. My mother was brave to the end but in both instances the physical deterioration and pain is almost too much to bear. It was with a sad heart and a sense of relief that my family finally said goodbye to her in June.

In the post below I am pretty clear about the reasons why I had slowly slipped away from poetry. Looking back now, having crawled away from the wreckage of the last ten years it a wonder I wrote anything let alone managed to publish the Last Farmer book. The promotion tour for that was heavily influenced by my mother’s sudden deterioration so I couldn’t say my heart was really in it although I enjoyed reading with other Salt poets.

I cannot say where I will go in the future with writing. I am concentrating on my M.A. by registered project and building up a ‘Graphic Research’ profile which involves a lot of academic research, reading and writing. However the enforced lay-off due to illness has meant that I at least get to look at my poetry shelves now:-).

It may be that the poetry does come back as the shock of the last ten years wears off. I think now that the circumstances of my parent’s death was hugely significant in making me turn away from the family and place-related subject matter that once fueled my muse so to speak.

Whatever happens I would like to thank  Salt for letting the Last Farmer out for a while but I cannot say I would ever work with them again. Hopefully it wasn’t really a poetic last gasp after all….

Salt Modern Voices Tour Autumn 2011

http://saltmodernvoices.wordpress.com/readings/

Readings

  • Salt Modern Voices: Oxford. Shaun Belcher,  Mark Burnhope, Emily Hasler and Claire Trevien read at the Albion Beatnik Bookshop on 24 October 2011.
  • Salt Modern Voices: London. A two-part event on 14 and 28 November 2011 at The Compass:
  • 14th November: Shaun Belcher, Adrian Slatcher, Lee Smith,  and JT Welsch
  • 28th November:  Mark Burnhope, Emily Hasler, and Claire Trevien
  • Salt Modern Voices: Manchester. Shaun Belcher, Angela Topping, Claire Trévien, and JT Welsch read at The International Anthony Burgess Foundation, Manchester on 30 November 2011 from 18h30.

Salt Modern Voices readings and website

As one of the current crop of Salt Modern Voices pamphleteers I am engaged in helping to organise a series of UK wide readings this autumn and on into next year.

So far there are definite dates in London ( Compass Islington ) Warwick,  Manchester and hopefully more to follow in Nottingham , Brighton and Southampton.

The series includes poets and so far one short story writer.

Here a blog set up to promote the tour

http://saltmodernvoices.wordpress.com/

also all information on SMV publications and purchase are on Salt main website here:

http://www.saltpublishing.com/pamphlets/smv/

If anybody has a spare reading venue and or suggestions please contact us we more than willing to try and accommodate. Maybe this time next year we could do Edinburgh book festival :-)

shaun belcher (SMV6)

Last Farmer: Salt Modern Voices No.6

Yes I finally have a solo publication as a poet. Not bad after 25 years of writing.

It is due to be released soon and you can pre-order from Amazon and Asda (links below).

My thanks to Chris Hamilton Emery and Salt for picking up on the poems. I am really chuffed that I am on Salt as it has a vast array of top writers on its catalogue (check it out on link below and purchase some – every little helps).

As for the title well you will have to wait until publication to find out who the Last Farmer really is…

The Pamphlet is now out of print and I am no longer represented in any way by SALT

 

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