At the end of the school year which sets the timeframe for my working year, there are always occasions – leaving dos and retirements – which are simultaneously joyous and sad, like a prefiguring of funerals that celebrate lives well lived. The last two weeks have seen more than the usual number of them, and with each one I’ve become more and more philosophical about how long I should carry on with the old toad work. Lyn keeps telling me, “It’s later than you think” and I know she’s right. It’s time to start living life more fully and that most surely includes giving more time to writing.
I usually find the summer to be a fairly barren time for writing. Thankfully, though, my recent reading has sparked three new poems which I’m pleased with. It felt for a while that it would be months before inspiration would strike again – irrespective of productivity, the dog days of summer do of course provide an ideal time to get one’s head stuck in books, books and more books. Of late, I’ve enjoyed, among other things, the following: the collected poems of Charles Hawtrey lookalike C.K. Williams and the marvellous Welsh Modernist Lynette Roberts; Rory Waterman’s two collections Tonight the Summer is Over and Sarajevo Roses; AK Blakemore’s Fondue; Michael Laskey’s The Tightrope Wedding, which includes the genius simplicity of ‘The Last Swim’; and, above all, a re-reading of Julia Copus’s utterly brilliant and beautiful The World’s Two Smallest Humans in preparation for reading her new collection. That’s a rather disparate assortment of poetry, but each book made me reflect on subject-matter, form, clarity of syntax, etc., and how those elements, and others, cohere. Next, I’m very much looking forward to reading a very rare treat, a new collection by one of my favourite poets, Roger Garfitt.
For the Poetry Biz course, one of my summer tasks, or challenges as I like to think of them, is to undertake a translation – last time I did this, I tackled an André Breton poem, which was jolly hard work given that I’ve barely read any French since my ‘A’ level 30-odd years ago, and this time I’m set for some more Surréalisme and tricky wordplay in the shape of a Robert Desnos poem. Even if the end-result is rubbish, the exercise is refreshing in that the choices I have to make as transliterator and then as translator are ones which refract on how I construct my own poems.
I’ve also enjoyed a few films lately: the madcap, wonderful filmmaking of Peter Strickland’s In Fabric; the Wicker Man inspired horrorfest that is Midsommar; and the truth and beauty of The Chambermaid. Incidentally, a good few of my favourite films are set wholly or mainly in hotels: The Grand Budapest Hotel, Some Like it Hot, The Consequences of Love (so much better than Sorrentino’s other hotel-set film, Youth), Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday, etc.
For now, I will sign off with the most blissfully summery tune I can think of, as an attempt at distraction from the horrendous far-right coup which took place this week.