Silent upon a peak in Darien?

Or perhaps that should read silent beside a little canal on the Guidecca?

Brick wall on Guidecca.

The garden of no return

 

How could I have thought, when I embarked on the mad enterprise of writing  a novel for the first time, that today I would be printing up the first 42,000 words – half the drafted book – in a form I am happy to share with any good friend patient enough to take it on?  This will  be the twelfth draft, of which the remaining 40,000 words are waiting for just one more edit before they come on stream.

In other words, The Venice Book exists.

I shall be talking about the journey, briefly, as my contribution to the morning workshop at the June 1st meeting of the Bath Writers & Artists group.  Specifically, the problems for a novice of coming to grips with the question of Point of View.  An ‘angels fear to tread’ issue, this one, and only someone as ignorant as me would have let a story evolve over places and generations without realising what an issue Point of View was going to be.  ( I didn’t at all feel like pretending to be an Omniscient Narrator, unsurprisingly for someone so new to this hard game!)

Dorsoduro puppets

The origin of every puppet in my book

I am also doing a short slide presentation in the June 1st afternoon session showing how some of the camera images I brought home from Venice evolved/dissolved into key content in my book.  Evolved/dissolved so much that I now see the original pictures as if they were taken by another person and came from another place – at the same time  knowing that collectively ( I took 1,500 over three years ) they were indeed the inspiration for almost everything in The Venice Book.

Calle Amor dei Amici

How could I not have been inspired by this street name?

 

This seems a good time to begin thanking the people who have supported me on this journey.  I have three ‘readers’ who have kindly borne with me almost from the start – they came on board the early chapters of the fourth draft, and two of them were brave enough to come back with the questions and comments which made it possible for me to carry on doggedly to reach the twelfth.  ( The friend who never raised an eyebrow, the wonderful illustrator of my Letters from Mexico, Jude Wisdom,  just made me glow with hopefulness every time she ‘liked’ the latest section of the book.)

Poet Antony Mair has been one of my readers, poet Ann Preston another, and I am hugely grateful to them both.  Audiences at Bath Writers & Artists have listened kindly to a few short readings at different times and this sense of having a supportive constituency has meant more than I can ever say. I am also very grateful to Dawn Gorman for having bent the rules at one of her marvellous Words and Ears events in Bradford on Avon and let me stand up as the prose writer I was trying to become, rather than as the poet I had been.

When I began The Venice Book, it saw itself as a fairly conventional love story which happened to locate itself behind a particular red brick wall on the island of Guidecca. (See my photograph above.) The tragedy of the surrounding city was not my subject and I would not have felt competent or confident to take it on.  But as I started following blogs by some Venice residents, it became less and less possible to keep the encroaching darkness off the pages of my book.  It insisted on seeping in.  It became the story which refused not to be told. I am still not competent to tell it well, but I am trying.  And in the end, I hope that the Venetian writers I follow so respectfully might  be able read The Venice Book as a small contribution, by an outsider,  to their testaments.

Writer Erla Zwingle is one of the people I need to thank, for her excellent blog I am not making this up and the Campaign for a Living Venice site for reminding me all the time that a true city is not a tourists’ comfort zone. I try very hard not to ‘borrow’ (aka ‘plagiarise’)  from these posts, but I hope they are keeping my head open to the things which I used to be too raptured by the dazzling surface of their city to understand.

Guiseppe's point of view

Guiseppe’s point of view

 

 

 

 

 

 

Update on The Venice Book

PROGRESS REPORT 6 NOVEMBER 2018

THE VENICE BOOK is in complete draft now  ( fourth draft complete and fifth draft on its way out chapter by chapter to the wonderful friends who have offered to read for me.) Huge thanks to ANN PRESTON, JUDE WISDOM and SARAH GREGORY for being willing to do this.)  It actually has a bit of structure now.   The index page looks like this.

PART ONE : THE CENTRE OF THE WORLD
Chapter One: Photographs in the Snow
Chapter Two: A Trip to the Puppet Barge
Chapter Three: The Costume Seller’s Child
Chapter Four: To Live  in Readiness
Chapter Five : The Underbelly of Masquerade

Here is a paragraph from Chapter Two that Sarah Gregory has liked. Angus is not a lover, but a dog.

If anyone else likes Mrs Maybury, I would be delighted to have more critical readers to help me improve my book.

Mrs Maybury’s  living room was packed with salvage from productions in which visitors were encouraged to believe she had taken part, the walls festooned so thickly with her scraps and trophies that they closed in like a womb. An ancient sofa had pride of the living space, its missing leg replaced by a pile of tattered encyclopaedias. Visitors assumed that the flat must have a bedroom, but the ancient sofa was, in fact,  also the bed on which she and Angus curled up companionably at the end of their busy days. Many years later, when Frederick Westwood offered Mrs Maybury a set of rooms in his house in Sussex, she declined.  I do not feel the call of the wild, Mr Frederick.  Even when Angus was with me, I can truly confess we never felt that call.

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The Letters from Mexico

Coming up to the Queen Square launch and I am really delighted that marvellous SARAH ACTON of Black Ven Press is allowing me to use what she wrote about my book.

“entering the dark theatre of the wood…”

I have been reading Letters from Mexico and feel very moved. The blend of extracts, beautiful illustrations and sonnets brings a dream-like quality of film scenes wrapped in a ghostly voice-over, and in my head, the tragedy of the ending is present in every line. Since very young, too young really for Pope, I have loved Eloise and Abelard. It is a joy to have this book, fresh and exciting to read, with a hint of the danger of the lovers.  I bet it is quite an experience with music too. Congratulations, a fine book, and great collaborations.

Sarah Acton is the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site poet-in-residence, working with local organisations and museums along the 95 miles of Jurassic coast and 185 million years, to produce site-responsive work inspired by the living coastal landscape and earth history. Sarah also runs poetry workshops, walks and an open mic night in East Devon and West Dorset under the name Black Ven Poetry, connecting creativity with the local natural environment. Black Ven is Europe’s largest mudslide, and sits between Lyme Regis and Charmouth beach. It’s famous for its rich ammonite and other fossil deposits as the cliff naturally erodes and slips into the sea.
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A Reading Party at the Troubadour

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So when you have thanked Anne-Marie, how do you say ‘thank you’  and who else do you thank for such an amazing night of poetry, music and good company?

Magical from the start because wonderful CLAIRE DYER ( new collection Interference Effects from Two Rivers launched five days ago ) came early, and brought me up to date over supper with her ongoing career as a multi-tasking writer.

 

mood-indigoWENDY KLEIN was there celebrating her birthday and I was able to thank her for reviewing Safe Passage so thoughtfully in online journal ‘High Window’ earlier in the year.  Wendy’s new collection came out from Oversteps this year and I had the great pleasure of sharing the Oversteps line-up with her at Dartington in July.  Wendy will be reading at the Troubadour in January, on yet another of Anne-Marie Fyfe’s must-be-there Monday nights.

Next delight, downstairs, to find that DOM BURY – whose poems I had admired so much at The Hurst on an Arvon course with Michael Longley and Sinead Morrissey – O LUCKY LUCKY US!!! – was running the book table. Thanks to Dom, Safe Passage sold out which, of course, sends any poet out into the Earls Court rain on a very special  end-of-evening high.

Finding a seat for the evening,  there were JOHN and SUE GODFREY from Ware Poets, long-standing Torbay friends.  By now it cannot be a secret that John has a poem on this year’s brilliant Torbay Competition Shortlist, which launches this Saturday afternoon at the Torbay Festival. I spent many admiring hours this August with the shortlist submissions and had several uncomfortable times feeling that I was about to promote a friend.  (There was a very delightful poem about a bat which I suspected had the familiarly vivid, quirky, articulate Godfrey touch. But it had been written by someone else – I remained in the dark about John’s poem until very much later on.) Ware Poets are a marvellously receptive and enquiring audience and it is a joy to read with them.  I have just been invited back in on February 3rd next year, largely as a result of having Monday night’s opportunity to promote Safe Passage at the Troubadour. Another ‘thank you’ – but still this is not the end…..

lesley-saunders

wendy-frenchWENDY FRENCH was in the audience.  So was LESLEY SAUNDERS whose intricate, intriguing, erudite and rigorously lateral poems hold her many Bath admirers in total thrall. And after many years, I had the huge pleasure of meeting MARIANNE BURTON again, another rediscovered friend from an Arvon Course at The Hurst.marianne-burton-a4barney-jones-photos-001-e1376350748811-2

And, as RS Thomas said, in a very much bleaker mood: that was only on one island….

So what did I choose to read at the Troubadour, and why? Here is the little list….

A LEISURE CENTRE IS ALSO A TEMPLE OF LEARNING for the 7,500 A level students and teachers who have visited the honey-coloured girl on other pages of this blog in a quest for answers the poem cannot give… and to thank Forward for deciding it was one of their Poems of the Decade.

PAVAROTTI AT THE GROSVENOR HOUSE HOTEL for anyone who has ever fallen under a musician’s spell….

VIEWS FROM THE BRIDGE for anyone who has ever known that they were loved….

imgresTOGETHER WE GET THE NEWS FROM ONCOLOGY for REBECCA GETHIN who mentions it, and writes so generously about Safe Passage on her wonderful blog…

THINKING ABOUT THE SWANS for Wendy French, who gave it a place on her shortlist when she was Judge for the Torbay Festival…

THE VISITOR because it is Devon poet LUCINDA CAREY’S favourite poem in Safe Passage and also for the ghost who inspired those few lines and returns to hear them whenever and wherever they are read…

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1916: A Requiem for the World

PLEASE JOIN US ON THURSDAY 10TH NOVEMBER

Exactly a month now to the powerful and moving evening of songs, readings and archival photographs compiled over the past year by members of the Bath Poetry Cafe and the Walcot State Choir to commemorate the third year of the First World War – the war to end all wars. This is a FREE EVENT in aid of The Royal British Legion.

with 

Cambridge singer/musician/ songwriter JONATHAN STEFFEN  singing Parry’s setting of Jerusalem and Bath composer Frederick Weatherby’s Roses of Picardy.

BELLA ELIOT from the Walcot State Choir singing George Butterworth’s setting of AE Housman’s The Lads in their Hundreds  and John Macrae’s In Flanders Fields.

Narrated by Bath City Councillor PETER TURNER

and Bath Poetry Cafe Organiser SUE BOYLE

FULL DETAILS ON THE POSTER1916-for-wordpress