Saturday, April 28, 2007

thinking about poetry

Remember how as well as writing three novels, looking after my children and doing editing work I'm also doing a Masters (I can feel my shoulders siezing up with tension as I write)? Anyway, as part of that Masters I am writing a thesis. I've written about 300 words. Only 14700 to go. Woohoo. I'm also doing a subject called Research for the Creative Writer, taught by Steven Conte (that's an odd photo of him), whose novel, The Zookeeper's War comes out in August. There are many interesting smart people in my class, including the dazzling Miriam Zolin, the divine Ms Niaz (I am in love with her name, Nadia Niaz, it's one of the best names ever) and the delicious Jennifer Cook (yay, another YA writer). Everyone else is smart and interesting too, but as far as I know they don't have their own websites to link to. They are welcome to come here, boot me around and tell me otherwise.

Research for the Creative Writer is theory. Ha ha. But seriously. It's a good concept, encouraging writers to research, but it really seems quite artificial and back to front to research first and write later. We also have a lot of theory to work through and discuss and yet they don't directly interact with our work. It's a problem with the way the subject is designed I think rather than the way it is taught, but my biggest issue is I don't actually feel at all prepared to write a thesis proposal which is, as far as I can tell, the main objective of the course.

For the creative component I was thinking about writing poetry. Partly because if you're going to research first the best thing research brings up is lots of interesting words and what better way to stick words on a page than through poetry. I thought poetry was more about ideas than prose, remembering back nearly ten years to when I used to think I was a poet who would never write a novel (now I seem to be a novelist who can't write poetry). But poetry isn't really about ideas, it's really just the whole world seen through your poetic filter. Part of it is about ideas, but the rendering is really a step away from ideas and back into your self. Or for me anyway. I think to write poetry I have to think in poetry, and I seem to have lost this skill. I am suddenly in great awe of writers like Margaret Atwood who can write poetry, novels, short stories and essays. How does she turn her hand to so many different ways of thinking? (Ooh, what a weird sentence, yet oddly apt, so I'm leaving it).

I did write one poem, and it did emerge from research, not from the research that I was doing to write poems about though, but from the research I was already doing to write my pink book (chick lit). Because of course I already do research. Heaps of it. I just don't call it research. I think of it as looking stuff up. Write first, research later. That's my motto, which I stole from Rodney Hall, and he's like, fully smart.


The girls are everywhere.

They’re on the street

They’re in stairwells hallways buses shopwindows.

They linger in doorways. They languor.

They’re all pelvis and sculpted bone.

They live inside their own hollow dimensions,

They occupy interiors: phones ipods televisions

They take photos with their eyes.

They’re wireless the girls.

They can break themselves up into particles smaller than dust

They can send themselves travelling across light.

They want to be pure. They want to be information.

They’re hard. Their eyes are hard. Their eyes say,

There is nothing you can do to us

That we would not do to ourselves.


  1. Oooh - terrific. Hope there will be more poetry for the Master's, and for us :)
    Lovely news about Drift - I must check your books out.

  2. From back in the day I remember Poetry being more a mood thing than anything else. There has to be certain triggers before the words come.These days I find I'm much to distracted to write and seem to have other things to do with that

  3. I think what the course misses or at least doesn't address clearly enough, is that, for the writer, everything is research. Be it fiction or theory or history or science or just life in general, it all goes into what writers write. It's just that if we're to write in an academic setting, we need to be more aware of the process and even direct it more actively. And I hear you on the thesis proposal too.

    The poem gave me chills.