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Unrequited Poetry

Poetry isn’t just about love, it’s like being in love.

Not just poetry, but plays and stories too. All at one time or another must suffer the pain of rejection.

Do we deserve it for our promiscuity? Our way of putting pain behind us, time after time, poem after poem, as we plead for acceptance by another, no matter who? How else can we live with rejection after rejection, how else can we keep hope alive, if not by hoping against hope that one day, one night, the publisher of our dreams will hear us singing in the street outside their bedroom and open their window to us?

And then, knowing that our case is hopeless, that we will never be heard, to suffer the ignominy of having to ask someone else to plead on our behalf. The object of our love, the unattainable publisher, refusing to hear us, obliges us to gain an introduction by employing another to speak for us.

In other words, we must use the services of a Literary Agent.

Or pimp.

As the years go by, one gets used to it. Poets, playwrights, novelists, all of which I have been, learn the hard way, as lovers do, by experience. Learn, for example, that to be accepted once does not mean that one will be accepted twice. The best we can hope for is a one-night stand. The rest is humiliation.

So we must accept rejection. Get used to it, as they say, because when acceptance comes it is never as sweet as we thought it would be and before long we are back where we started, with another poem, another play, another novel and, as sure as death follows life, another rejection.

At least we can say of our literary rejects, as Gloucester said of his bastard son, there was good sport at their making.

 

 

Previous Posts

Cautionary Tales

There are two things that writers should approach with caution. One is publishing, the other is reading at open-mic sessions. I know this because I have done both in the last few weeks. To extend the road sign metaphor, 'approach with caution' means making sure that...

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Bernard Kops, 1926-2024

The death last month of Bernard Kops took me back sixty years to the era of the so-called Angry Young Men, British playwrights who upset their elders by writing in ways that were new and different and controversial. As far as theatre was concerned, it was out with the...

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I had no idea

To carry on where I left off  ('Addicted to laughter', Jan 24, 2024) and bring readers up-to-date, I am pleased to say that I have now found a cure for my addiction in the form of The Best of Steptoe and Son. Feeding my habit nightly with episodes of the old BBC...

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The best time for writing

I'm writing this on Tuesday afternoon in the knowledge that I might have to write it again on Wednesday morning. Mornings are my best time for writing, when my brain is at its most creative. Why that should be, I don't know, but I know that it's true. Yesterday...

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INSHALLAH

And Mr Netanyahu went up to the mountain To thank God for the land He had given them. The Holy Land. The Promised Land. And God said I created heaven and earth Not just Israel. The land I made is for everyone. For you and everyone else To share. Equally. Do I have to...

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The King and I

Our paths crossed at Cambridge. I was at Jesus College from 1965 to 1968, he was at Trinity from 1967 to 1970. I saw him only once, when I was walking to my college along Jesus Lane and he was walking the other way with his bodyguards behind him. If he had been...

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Addicted to laughter

I have gone for long periods in my life without even owning a television, let alone watching one, but lately I have become something of a television addict. Fortunately, my addiction is not to television itself but only to three particular programmes or, to use the...

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Victims of Taste

Marmite has become the popular term for something which is either loved or hated. Taste is subjective. It isn't the marmite that matters, rather the person tasting it. Marmite is marmite, whether you like it or not, and the same applies to books. I have always been...

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Winter Songs 7

The late rose that burns on a winter’s day Ignites the fuse of spring Mistletoe, cherry and jasmine catch fire Flames dance, flowers sing

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Winter Songs 6

Winter left a note behind A note without words Just an empty page with the Signature of birds

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Winter Songs 5

Winter’s words are cold but clear Their meaning rings true Winter writes on field and sky A page torn in two

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Winter Songs 4

Winter doesn’t waste its breath Or give much away Winter’s world is black and white Nothing more to say

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Winter Songs 3

Winter's world lies underground Winter’s thoughts run deep Thinking but keeping its thoughts to itself In its wintry sleep

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Winter Songs 2

Summer’s truth has been denied Autumn’s mystery laid bare Fire and air no longer feed The furnace of the dying year

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Winter Songs 1

Day dawns like an ebb tide On the horizon’s distant shore Summer’s gone and harvest’s home And all that’s left is winter’s store

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Coming up for air

My wife and I, especially my wife, Jaspreet Mander, have been preoccupied for the last two weeks with Writing On Air, the annual festival of new writing run by Chapel FM, our local community radio station. This year we contributed between us 5% of the entire...

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Jerusalem Street

Down at the end of Jerusalem Street There's a butcher's shop selling cuts of meat Wrapped in cloth so white and neat You'd think it was really a winding sheet. So many parcels! Enough for a feast! Shoulder and loin, belly and feet, Heads to boil, legs to roast, Fresh...

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First Folio Day 

Shakespeare, Shakespeare, nothing but Shakespeare, as we celebrate the four hundredth anniversary of the First Folio. In other words the first complete works, published in 1623 by Blount & Jaggard, prepared for publication by his old friends, John Heminges and...

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The antidote to Cities of Culture

The city of Leeds lost out in its bid to be European Capital of Culture 2023, disqualified by Britain's decision to leave the EU. Meanwhile, its neighbour, Bradford, has been chosen to be UK City of Culture 2025. Licking its wounds, Leeds (or rather Leeds City Council...

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The charm of folly

Most people who consider themselves to be well-read have read Thomas More's Utopia, but few have read his friend Erasmus's book, Praise of Folly. Until a fortnight ago, I belonged to the Utopian majority, familiar with his friend's name only because it has been in the...

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Infantilising the nation

I have begun to wonder whether the government has conspired with the BBC to infantilise the nation. Participants in television programmes are encouraged to behave like children, jumping up and down, waving their arms about, hugging each other. Men, even very old men,...

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No clapping please, we’re mindful

Last week's 'Mindfulness Prom' was a quiet affair. The music was all lento and pianissimo. Just when clapping between movements has begun to be permitted, if only at the Proms, the audience for this concert listened in total silence. There were times when I had to...

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They did it my way

It was July 1971. The 1967 'summer of love' was a fading memory. I had been at Cambridge then, where male students out-numbered females by at least ten to one and a summer of love was something that few of us could aspire to. Instead, studying for a degree in English...

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There’s something about a pub

There's something about a pub that loosens the tongue, sloughs off inhibition, turns the tide of imagination. How many novels, plays and poems have been conceived in a pub? How many ideas hastily scribbled down? How many hitherto unnoticed faults revealed when a draft...

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A poem

THE WRECK OF THE PIGEON days and nights of high wind driven at high tide across the garden strait into the brick walls of ancient privies the land-locked bird drops stunned breathless sinks lifeless lies washed up on dry land early in the morning through the bedroom...

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AI or AI?

Striking Hollywood writers fear AI will write them out of the script. Hollywood writers say they are fighting to keep their work in human hands, fearing that artificial intelligence could eventually take their jobs. (CBC News, May 5, 2023) These machines superseded...

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A Lick of Paint

A visit to Bradford a few days ago, with a friend who lived and worked there for many years, showed how things have changed for better and worse, for richer and poorer, since it lost the wealth and confidence that wool once gave it. The city centre has changed very...

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Amazing! Incredible!

'Glorious... extraordinary' 'Dazzling. Devastating' 'Miraculous... beautiful' 'Bursts with life'  It could be the back cover of any new novel. They are all stunning. We are all stunned. Understatement is a thing of the past.  The same is true of comedy. Comedians...

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Grow Up!

British television and I are coterminous, at least as far as our beginnings are concerned. Which of us dies first remains to be seen. I fear it will be me, though that is not as certain as it once seemed. I watched children's television quite a lot when I was a boy....

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Dorothy

Tender and insightful, harrowing and uplifting, Dorothy is a stunning act of empathy from a son towards his mother.  Her story, told through the author’s assured, unpretentious verse, is both specific and universal enough to resonate with all who encounter it; to...

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Dorothy by Neil Rathmell

Tender and insightful, harrowing and uplifting, Dorothy is a stunning act of empathy from a son towards his mother.  Her story, told through the author’s assured, unpretentious verse, is both specific and universal enough to resonate with all who encounter it; to...

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Oh what a lovely war!

The BBC has a mission to inform, educate and entertain, but not all at once. The news from Ukraine on BBC1 sometimes looks like the Clive Myrie Show. War reporting that aims to educate as well as inform is patronising. When it seeks to entertain as well it...

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Another evening at the theatre

Another evening at the theatre, another travesty. Henry V this time, at Leeds Playhouse. No chorus to welcome the audience with ‘O for a muse of fire’, instead a scene of the director’s own devising. What makes directors think they can do better than Shakespeare? What...

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Winter afternoon

Cold and damp and foggy. The ground is too hard to dig. No gardening is possible, only watching and waiting. Late afternoon. The fog lifts a little. The sun, low in the sky, looks like the moon, until the fog covers it again.

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That time of year…

That time of yeeare thou maist in me behold, When yellow leaves, or none, or few doe hang Upon those boughes which shake against the could, Bare, ruin’d quiers, where late the sweet birds sang. Shakespeare’s Sonnet no. 73

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Children’s voices

When I was a boy in the 1950s, children’s voices were part of Christmas. We heard them every year on Christmas Eve as they struck up Once In Royal David’s City or Silent Night outside the front door and dad went out to give them sixpence. But those days are gone. Now...

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Writing On Air

Tomorrow is the opening night of a four-day festival of writing by (mainly) Yorkshire based writers. All four days are broadcast on FM and online from Chapel FM, an independent radio station in East Leeds. I have one piece in it and my wife, Jaspreet Mander, has two....

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A fox in the garden

The first time I saw a fox in the garden of our new house, I was thrilled. I looked out for it every evening and was equally thrilled each time I caught a glimpse of its eyes, nose and, best of all, its brush. But the thrill began to fade as the fox holes began to...

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The ghost of novelists past

Mrs Mander (my wife, Jaspreet Mander, keeping her own name instead of taking mine, adhering to Indian traditions instead of British) went with me last night to The Leeds Library to a reading of ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Gerald Dickens, great-great grandson of the author....

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