This Is What A Poet Looks Like … Or so read the sign above my head for most of yesterday as I sat perched at an old school desk in the bay window of an independent book shop in Norwich. I was taking part in a project cooked up by the proprietor of The Book Hive, Henry Layte, and me, which invites by sixteen poets to create a new poetry anthology in under 3 weeks. Over sixteen days the sixteen poets take it in turns to take the hot seat and try to write something new for the book. More details here.
Last year I took part in Hack in a Box, which is attempted a similar thing with prose. Except then we were able to hide in a curtained cubicle as we added 250+ words to a story. This year we’re not collaborating – we’re each writing our own poems – but we are in full view of Norwich’s happy shoppers as they go about their daily business.
Yesterday I had a group of private school girls pointing, giggling and waving at me while I, appropriately I think, tried to write a poem about getting old and fat; I watched a woman in cream heels and white polka-dots with Marylin-esque hair stand wistfully while her stocky looking husband popped into the bank; and I was the recipient of a hundred bewildered stares and wry smiles as I gazed up from my laptop or counted syllables on my hand.
Regular readers of my blog will know that I’m not exactly a wilting wall-flower. But this is the kind of attention I don’t relish. I’m not really sure if anyone does. Sitting in a window and carrying out a personal task (as writing is) was a bit weird, to say the least. But once I learned to ignore the winks and glances I found it a pretty good place to work. It’s quiet without being silent and something about the hustle and bustle of town is good for energy levels I find. It’s also light and I think that suits. You don’t want to be bathed in sunlight (and I wasn’t yesterday) but natural light (and I had loads, being in full length window) helps keep me focused.
I finished editing my long poem – The Vile Ascent of Lucien Gore and What The People Did and then started work on a piece about my new fuller figure. It’s called The Paunch! I had finished it by 3pm and it’ll be going into the anthology, entitled: This Is What A Poet Looks Like, and out on Nasty Little Press next month – watch this space.
If you’re in the Norwich area and you want to see what a poet looks like then head along to The Book Hive on London Street. The poets are generally there in the middle of the day, some, like me, may well be there until closing time. Today is the turn of Nasty Little Press author Molly Naylor. Tomorrow it’s Laura Elliot. The last day is 21st May.