Seems only fair that I walk into my own trap.
On Mon, 15 Jun 1998, R I Caddel wrote:
> So tell me ...
> 1. Do you write daily? etc
- as close to daily as other pressures allow. If the writing looks
pressured, it's probably because of those pressures. If it looks
fragmented, it's probably etc... I don't believe those stories of
WCWilliams writing Paterson on prescription pads...
> 2. the same place ? Is the workplace in any sense a protected space?
Kitchen table, mostly, late at night, but other places/times figure
subject to availability... No space is protected, it's all shared with
other domestic happenings, that's how I've come to want it. I used to
write on the train to work - the rhythms of a short coach local service
can still be detected in work of this period. I always think a long
journey's going to be great, get so much done etc, but end up looking out
of the window, staring at fellow-travellers etc...
> 3. notebooks, scraps of paper, word processor or what?
A6 lined notebooks, little groups of words, cross out the slack, combine
and split apart, cross out the slack, build up into bigger groups, cross
out etc, then swap to pc and do it all over again
> 3a. How are drafts organised?
sequentially in notebooks (obviously) for ease of re-cycling bits which
fall off, get crossed out. Once onto the pc, only one version is kept as a
rule, the main work area. So deciding when to move from nb to pc is quite
important. Generally that happens when a form, a shape has been
negotiated and survived a couple of re-drafts.
> 3b-e. Why etc?
- certainly it's evolved, is still evolving. I used to think - despite Mr.
Bunting's advice - that I could write straight-off, maybe a couple of
tweaks etc, another original masterpiece knocked out... but, it ain't so.
Increasingly the whole task swings on such small phrases or connections
that it's important for me to build from little bits - and be prepared to
deconstruct to that stage again if it ain't working. When I was starting
to write (on slate, of course, in those days...) it seemed everyone was
doing it in notebooks, so I just copied. But I hadn't the least idea WHAT
people were doing in notebooks - had to work that out all on my own, which
is probably as well. As changes come in my life/circumstances etc, an area
of notes might simply get sealed off - to return to much later, maybe -
but the terms and conditions of the return will be different to first time
> 4. draft and completion? 4a. motivation/intent?
- Very seldom is there a direct link between opening notes and
end-product. That's one reason why it'd be close to impossible for me to
do "occasional" poetry - I'd start out with the required object in view
and end up somewhere different. "Rigmarole : Block Quilt" started as a
long, serious, worthy place/historical thing, but got topheavy - so I
broke it for spares, made the quilt out of the offcuts.
> 4b. What do you mean by "completion"?
the point when the sound works best, when there's nothing else I could
take away from it and still have it stand, when it works ok as a form in
> 5. Input: is there a way of generalising your raw materials?
- it's hard. Thos Browne and Welsh poetry and early naturalists amongst
printed words sources; family and friends for vital other words;
indirectly a range of musics for shape. But there's lots of other things
> 5a. What conditions input? Weather...?
- yes, weather, yes light - but time, beyond all else, what with the
working day. Increasingly I'm stuck for lack of time/energy to think
through. Oh, and I'd like a small house next to a piece of early woodland,
> 6. How open to mistakes are you &c
- bad handwriting leads to so many happy mistranscriptions, as does the
old "And Moses was sick // and the lot fell upon Aaron" routine (turning
over 2 or more pp in drafts). Recent excercises in modified translation or
phonic translation are other kinds of controlled mistake. I've done
spellcheck editing, but never found the suggestions of my spellcheck
dictionary really enticing. I have done complete spellcheck translations,
but to really mess things up you can't beat the good old manual
> 7. Roadtesting your writing:
(1) read aloud to self in otherwise-empty upper room while family cower
below; (2) revise; (3) read aloud to family cowering in same room; (4)
revise; (5) send tss to select list of tweedcovered pals, but by this time
it's pretty well fixed, barring complete plonkers. NB: steps 1-5 can be
altered or repeated in some circumstances
> 7a. Does this process transform the work? If so how?
- yes; it still locates airbubbles in the tubes which need to be flicked
out for health and safety reasons.
> 8. Do you have lots of pieces of work on the go at the same time etc?
- probably. The note-taking process means that you can't always tell where
bits are headed. There are longer term projects too, like the Rigmaroles
as a "set" (which they'll never be), the "Charms & Curses" (which seem to
grow 1-2 extra each year) and the extended "borders" project which was
partly fulfilled in _Larksong Signal_ and which seems to be cranking up
again these days.
> 9. performance?
- not surprisingly, performance is a big part of my intent. Yes, I prepare
in quite great detail, "practice" as I used to with a viola years ago. But
not in order to get the piece "the same" each time - quite the reverse -
to respond to the dictates of a particular situation. You can only respond
if you've done your homework - or so I find.
> 10. Are you obsessive about the practices you've described? Or could
> you stop and do something else?
I've certainly been obsessive about the notebook bit, the cut-it-out and
let-it-grow routines. Recently I lost a current notebook while travelling,
and it's certainly mucked up a whole range of activity, giving rise to a
whole lot of false-drops where my lousy memory takes me so far and leaves
me stranded. In some respects, I'll have to find some new strategies to
get myself beyond this point. There've been other occasions too when a
change in circumstance has forced a change in ongoing practice. It's good
for me, I'm told.