Friday, January 13, 2017

Tania Reads

I just sent out the first of my monthly 'Tania Reads' audio recordings of me reading poems and stories from my two collections, coming out later this year. Here's this month's, do sign up here to get it straight to your Inbox!

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Alice Oswald on Writing, Rhythm, Unlabels

It's been a very long time since I've been moved to post about an interview with a writer or poet, but this video interview (and reading) by poet Alice Oswald - whose new collection, Falling Awake, just won the Costa Prize for Poetry - is utterly wonderful and inspiring, I think, to those who write prose as well as poetry, especially her thoughts on rhythm and on length. Here are a few quotes I posted on Twitter:

As soon as you say that you do one thing, you end up wanting to do something else
A poem could be a..sonnet until the last minute when I just find it's too polite & suddenly I'll smash it
A short poem has to last as long as a long poem. That's what I love. It has to be infinite in the same way

If you haven't ever seen her read, the first 30 minutes are a joy, less of a reading than, as the interviewer says, some sort of invocation. And then there's a Q&A. I went out after watching this and have been thinking about what she said about her own poems and her writing - and rhythms. She says: "The stronger your rhythms, the more disturbing things you see...You can navigate around your own brain by means of rhythm". This speaks to me because I have tended to write my own poems aloud - they are both a bit song-like, to me, and also a completely physical experience. I always read my short stories aloud too, but getting them on the page happens first. Rhythm is always important to me, and I will be thinking for a while about what Oswald has said about rhythm and my brain - and perhaps rhythm and the reader/listener's brain!

I feel she has also has given me a shot of permission - something I will always need as a writer but especially as a quite new poet - in terms of the legitimacy of the short poem. I love short poems, but wondered (perhaps an echo of the battle I had to fight over flash fiction and its place in the world) that they seem unsubstantial. Yet look at this short poem I just read in the New Yorker, which is sublime, and would you want more? It's about allowing me - and perhaps you? - to say what I need to say in as many words as I feel I need to say it.

I also like what Oswald says about not wanting to be called a "nature poet", which she very very often is.
"I think it's important not to sit too comfortably in a category, and that's why I get annoyed when people call me a nature poet. I mean, it's so tempting to be a nature poet. Then you know what you are writing about, you know what you think, you just do it and roll it out. For me, it's important not to know what kind of a poet I am, and each time I write... could be a science fiction poem. It hasn't yet been, but it could be!" 

This gives me another shot of permission on the road I have been travelling for a while now, of not labelling anything I am writing - poem, flash fiction, prose, story, non-fiction... I like her twist about how tempting it would be to feel comfortable under one label! But do we want to be comfortable? I don't think that's where the real work gets done. What do you think?

Here's the full video - enjoy!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Monthly audio poem or short story - or both!

In the run-up to the publication in mid-2017 of my new short story and poetry collections (oh my!), I'm going to be making a new recording every month of me reading one of my poems or short stories (sometimes both!). If you'd like to receive these directly into your Inbox, sign up here, and I will be reading to you from January...!

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Arvon Starting To Write Course Aug 2017

I am really excited about co-tutoring on an Arvon 'Starting to Write' course for the first time, in August 2017! The three 5-day residential Arvon writing courses I went on over 10 years were quite literally life-changing, and it is a privilege to now be able to, I hope, pass some of that on. I had a great time tutoring Arvon's first flash fiction course this year, with the inimitable Dave Swann.

Next year, why not come and join me and my amazing co-tutor, Jo Bell, a great friend of mine, fantastic poet and teacher, at the wonderful Totleigh Barton in Devon - with our special guest, Inua Ellams, who is hard to describe because what doesn't he do? It doesn't matter what you write or want to write, it's about words in whatever shape they come! We will work hard, but we will also laugh, a lot. And eat clotted cream. It's Devon.

Here's a little more about the course, and we will have some news soon about funding we are organising to assist those who wouldn't normally be able to come on one of these courses...

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Jump-start your word-machine

GENRE: Starting to Write
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Totleigh Barton
Starting to write fiction, poetry or other forms raises questions: Write what? How to write? Why write at all? There are no rules, no simple answers, but during our week together we will write, read, talk and imagine, leaving you with tools to discover how your own peculiar and unique word-machine works, as well as new pieces and ideas to propel you forward.

More details on how to apply here >>

Sunday, November 20, 2016


If you're looking for a seasonal gift for the writer - or would-be writer - in your life, you might like a copy of Writing Short Stories: A Writers and Artists Companion (Bloomsbury, 2014), which I co-authored with the excellent Courttia Newland, and which includes short pieces from a number of fantastic short story writers in the middle, ideas for how to get your writing going and lists of our favourite short stories for more inspiration! You can get a signed copy from me here if you'd like (please do let me know in the message to the seller who to sign it to), with free postage in the UK. I am happy to post abroad too!