My name is Jonathan Pinnock and I am a poet. There, I’ve said it. Anyone who has a problem with this can leave the room now (apart from my family, who I’ll make an exception for – even though they do indeed find it acutely embarrassing). I’ve been struggling against this for a while, ever since I stumbled into writing poetry again a couple of years or so ago, partly because it’s not the kind of thing that a grown-up bloke does and partly because my complete lack of training makes me feel like a complete amateur. (If any of this sounds familiar, you’ve obviously been reading Stephen Fry’s “The Ode Less Travelled”, where he makes the exact same points, albeit far more eloquently than me.)
However, I don’t feel that I can keep up the pretence of being a non-poet any longer, now that I have apparently won first prize in the JBWB Spring competition with my piece “Moving On”. I originally wrote this for the final round of last year’s Whittaker competition in a kind of elegaic mood and I think it’s one of my favourite poems – even though the Whittaker judges didn’t care for it that much (along with the judges for a couple of other competitions, in fact). See what you think, anyway. Here it is.
As it happens, I also clocked up a shortlisting in the short story section of the same competition. This was for a piece that used to be called “A New Man”, which I originally wrote for a VWC internal competition and then adapted for one of the rounds of the last Eurofiction but two. Since then I’ve sent it all over the place and hardly got a sniff, apart from a near-miss at Liars’ League. But before I sent it off to JBWB I had an inspiration, and I decided to make the title a bit more interesting. So that’s how it came to be called “How I Became a New Man and What Good It Did Me”. Never underestimate the power of a title, eh? Here it is. (Incidentally, I think that means that I’ve now placed nine out of the ten piece that I did for my first-ever Eurofiction competition.)
One final thought about poetry. One of the many things I saw whilst I was in India that made me fall in love with the place was an advert for the Commonwealth Games to be held there later on this year. What I loved was that one of the celebs who was giving his endorsement was described as a screenwriter, lyricist and poet. Can you imagine that ever happening in the UK? What was it Mahatma Gandhi said when asked what he thought about Western culture? That it would be a good idea?
Here’s another trailer for your viewing pleasure, this time for “The Terror at Miskatonic Falls” (coming soon, featuring my exceptionally dark poem “Cellar Beast”). It’s a little different from the trailer for Mrs Darcy …
Today’s episode is a kind of Mulder/Scully moment between Wickham and Elizabeth and is mainly there to establish what the parties involve think is going on right now. Hope it doesn’t come across as too expository. I have to say that I’m quite miffed that the sedan chair gag doesn’t look quite as fresh as it might after a similar one was used by Sue Perkins on last week’s News Quiz. Although I think the context is more appropriate in mine, so there.
Meanwhile the new publicity push is yielding results, with the very respectable Austenblog featuring the new YouTuberance yesterday and the Facebook fan page gradually picking up members. What I hadn’t expected was that some of the names on Facebook are completely unfamiliar to me – not even from Twitter. Which is very nice, demonstrating as it does that there is more than one way to use social networking to reach an audience.
What I really want to do next is get some more blokes reading the thing, and I have no idea how to do anything about this. Any suggestions would be most welcome
[EDITED TO ADD: Jane Austen Today are also featuring the new YouTuberance!]
[FURTHER EDITED TO ADD: Also featured on Jane Obsessed with Jane!]
Many thanks (and apologies) to Colin Firth, Jennifer Ehle and the Creature from the Black Lagoon.
My concrete poem inspired by the life and work of the great Robert Wyatt is now up at Ink, Sweat and Tears. I’m sure I’ve said this before, but I’ll always have a soft spot for IS&T because they were the first zine ever to publish a poem of mine. Quite apart from that, I like the fact that you can never be quite sure what’s going to turn up there, so it’s well worth adding to your list of RSS feeds.
I’ve taken a leaf out of my mate Toby Frost’s book and started carrying a notebook around with me (moleskine, of course, to prove that I’m a proper writer), in which I jot down gags as they occur to me. However, the main gag in today’s episode dates back to a long way before I thus equipped myself, so I’ve been looking forward to writing this one for a long time.
I read the episode out at this week’s meeting of the VWC just to make sure that it was OK and afterwards Kevin Bennett (see –>) came up to me and said to me, “Has the horse got a name?” and I had to admit that it hadn’t. There then followed a discussion as to what the name should be, and I think it was Ian Cundell (see also –>) who suggested “Harley”. Well, it was either that or Arnold. Such is the value of being a member of a writers’ circle.
Now for some really important news: Mrs Darcy has her own Facebook page at last! So do drop in say you like her. Think of it as being a bit like Rage Against the Machine, only with more bonnets and less intemperate language.
After the excitement of the last few episodes, the pace slows a little as the ghost of Mary Ann Nicholls goes in search of Wickham and finds more than she was bargaining for.
One of the stranger pleasures of running this thing is the daily examination of the site stats and seeing the curious search terms that have directed unsuspecting Googlers there. My favourite one so far appeared the other day: “Lord Byron’s Demented Foot.” Go on, tell me that isn’t the best name for a band ever.
So we’ve reached Round Three and something unexpected just happened – I won the round, with my poem “I Suppose We All Thought That, One Way or Another”. The eagle-eyed amongst you will instantly spot this as part of Robert Oppenheimer’s famous quote about the Trinity nuclear test, and there are other parts of the quote interspersed throughout the poem. It was partly inspired by our recent trip to India, where we actually passed through Pokhran, where the 1974 and 1998 Indian nuclear tests were carried out, although you’d never tell if you didn’t know.
To be honest, I didn’t think the piece would score that well, because I wasn’t really sure if I’d managed to say anything new. But what do I know? Anyway, that means that another of my poems has booked its place in this year’s anthology, which is cool. And I’ve just snuck into third place overall, too. Six more rounds to go, though, and there’s no way that I can keep up this level of consistency.
Oh, and if you’re feeling in need of some amusement, trot over to If Shakespeare …, where I blogged yesterday about some truly extraordinary film criticism.
At the last meeting of the ever-wonderful Verulam Writers’ Circle we had a workshop led by Miles Barden – who, you may recall, was one of the members of Obstacle Productions who did a few staged readings of (amongst others) a story of mine last year. The theme of the workshop was essentially how to read your work in public without making a complete idiot of yourself, and we learnt lot of useful things, including a bizarre range of warm-up exercises and the importance of not doing silly voices.
Reading your work aloud is a skill that writers ignore at their peril, because it’s a massively important weapon in your marketing and promotion armoury. I’ve done maybe half a dozen live readings now and I think it’s fair to say that the quality has been somewhat variable, although I think I’m getting better with practice. I actually quite enjoy it, which helps, and I do intend to do more of it over the rest of the year.
And here are a couple of excellent examples of promotional readings done by a couple of other VWCers. First up is Julie Mayhew reading from “Red Ink” – although she is cheating just a little bit because she is, quite apart from being an immensely talented writer, a professional actress. Secondly, here’s Kevin Bennett reading from “Pike”. Kevin’s not a professional actor but still manages to imbue his reading with bucketloads of character – and he does some great voices towards the end, too. (By the way, both “Red Ink” and “Pike” are fantastic books and deserve to have someone publish them. There, I’ve said it.)
… in which Lord Byron comes to the rescue and Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s true nature is glimpsed, is now published. Sadly, this is the last we shall see of Lord Byron and Charlotte Collins for a while, although they will return later. Following the last episode’s use of “Resistance is useless!”, I felt that it was appropriate to use “You’ll never get away with this!” There are some conventions that a writer should hold to.
We’re now about a third of the way through the serialisation, by the way, but there are plenty more thrills and spills to come. I think. So do keep reading. And if you’re not reading it already, well, frankly, I despair of you. Plenty of time to catch up, though. Which reminds me, I really do need to do another one of those “Previously …” posts. Trouble is, it’s all getting rather complicated.