Monday, 29 September 2008

(By the time I post this it'll be Tuesday morning, but let's pretend Monday stretches until sunrise, like in Somalia where 0:00 is when the sun rises and not the middle of the night. Cool idea, right? O I could just admit that I only had this idea when Monday was mostly over.)

I've decided to try and do a post here every Monday about good things. Monday can seem like an annoying, shitty day; the weekend's gone, and there's another boring week ahead. So I've decided to take a bit of a cue from Gala Darling, who does a list of lovely things every Thursday (TiLT) and instead do a similar sort of list ever Monday, of awesome things that Monday cannot ruin.

I can't think of a snappy name for it. How about just MONDAY as a title? Right. Anyway, on with the list.

MY IPOD. I know, I know. Everyone else either already has one and has had one for ages, or thinks they're lame and not worth getting excited over. I haven't had an mp3 player since May or so, and let me tell you, I much prefer having one. Sure, I could act cool and 1990s carrying my old rubbish CD player on the bus, but every time it moves it stops for a second and there's only so many times you want to listen to the same couple of CDs that you can carry about with you. I like giving my life a lame soundtrack, you know? I also like listening to music on headphones, and I haven't even had headphones for a while, since I tend to buy books instead of other things that I need when I have money (which is not often). I also like watching television shows on my ipod - I know it's weird, since the screen's so small... but it's just nice.

  • THE BELIEVER. I'm not sure if it's cool to like this or not since it probably screams pretentious or lame-hipster, but I love it - it's always so interesting, even when I know nothing about the articles it's got in it, and they're long and detailed and the design of it is so gorgeous. I have four issues, and they're expensive for me to get but I want more. They're my favourite magazines, more like literary journals, and I need more, more more more. I also want to start reading McSweeney's, but jesus is it expensive. If anyone feels like making a stranger a generous gift, I would be yours for a subscription to either of these.
  • BLEAK HOUSE. So I had this on my reading list for university and it seemed too long and too dull and so I moaned about it all the time, barely read any of it, and was generally an annoying idiot. Then it got to about a week ago and I realised I should really finish it. I read the last 600+ pages over the last week, like 200 or so yesterday, and it's just my favourite thing now. Clearly the best novel I've read so far from my Victorian Literature reading list, and it's just brilliant. All (or most of) the characters are fully-rounded, distinct, interesting and either funny, sweet, horrible or sad. Often a mix.
  • PLANNING. I start university in less than a week now, Monday the 6th, and it's all incredibly exciting. I need to tidy my room here and start getting my stuff together. I need to buy things to take with me. My room will be much less cluttered than my room here, it'll be five flights of stairs up and it'll be warm and have a window seat. There are massive pinboards on the walls. I honestly just cannot wait to be in it!
  • AUTUMN. It's here now. It's getting colder so I can wear more layers and huddle up in my duvets (yes, I have two - shut up, okay?!) and it gets dark early which I like and it's just generally great. Soon it'll be time to wear my winter coat, and I love my winter coat so I am generally happy about this. Bonfire night is only a month and a few days away.
Other stuff is awesome too, but I think I'll end the post now. If anyone is reading this then... sorry it's not Monday any more, but feel free to reply to this with stuff that helps take away the midweek blues, if you want? Or with whatever!


Friday, 19 September 2008

I'm writing a post now because I said that I would in my previous post and if I left that as the most recent one then I would just confuse everyone since I make a big deal out of how I don't want people to read just that and then hate me for being inane, self-deprecating in a quite annoying way and ultimately pointless. Since you shouldn't really have a blog just so that you can update it with posts about how rubbish you are at blogging.

I AM DOING IT AGAIN. Wow. Okay, moving on swiftly: yesterday I got my third reading list emailed to me. I think this is my final reading list for Michaelmas (for the unindoctrinated, this is the autumn/winter term at my university) since there are three papers so three reading lists, while terrifying, seems to make sense.

I got my first of the three just over a month ago now, on about the 17th or 18th of August (I think). The three papers I'm doing are Victorian Literature, An Introduction To Literary Studies (or something, it's got a name like that and it's about theory and criticism I think) and Medieval Literature, where we get to choose between Middle and Old English. I'm going with Old English, I think, but I don't decide until I've done a couple of classes in each.

There's little point in keeping it massively secret so I might as well say where I'm going, which is Oxford. The reading lists, together and separately, are all rather formidable; if I was going to read all the primary Victorian texts alone, disregarding all the other stuff, then we'd be looking at a book every two days or something from this point on. I have not read as many so far as I would have liked. I am currently working through Bleak House... I kind of like it, actually, but it is not going to be finished in two days.

I'm liking the look of the lit theory, although I haven't really done much reading for that yet (since the Victorian list goes on about everything being vital and the theory list being recommended for dipping into I think I've decided to prioritise) and I'm also really, sadly excited about the medieval stuff, possibly largely because the other day I remembered studying Chaucer's The Miller's Tale and decided to send friends who aren't Middle English-nerds some funny bits of the tale, such as when Absolon works out that he didn't kiss Alison's face because women don't have beards and when he keeps bringing her all the food and money in a really hilarious, yet stupid, way. My friends were bemused, I was laughing. I want to do Old English because I hear all the cool kids know dead languages, and also it may be my only chance to lean about the hronrad or the other cultural references that other friends of mine sometimes make to anglo-saxon while I desperately try to look like I'm totally up on my medieval knowledge. Anon, anon, anon. See what I did there? I'll be writing blog posts in runes in no time, just you wait.

Know what else I've discovered? I do not get on with most of the Victorians. My Mum (who I promised I'd be in bed hours ago - sorry, Mum! I just wasn't tired!) lovea the Victorians for some weird reasons of her own and I know a lot of people actually like the Bronte sisters three (top points if you can spot the cultural reference there, I'm on fire tonight with my indie cred) and all the other people who wrote about governesses trapped in their own biblical, fiery nightmare but I don't want to sleep with Heathcliff or Mr Rochester (which a disturbing amount of people do, if the number of facebook groups devoted to them is any indication) and would rather not read anything where every page has to contain at least three references to hell or fire (or preferably both, which a healthy amount of good piety thrown in) for the author to be able to move on. OKAY, YOU GOT ME. Jane Eyre isn't quite that bad. I was exaggerating for comic effect. I don't think it worked though, sorry.

I do like what I've read of Hopkins, largely because he was really weird and doesn't read like yr typical Victorian - there's all that sprung rhythm (which I still don't really understand, although I also don't really get how people spot whether something's iambic or trochaic etc., so really, I'm a bit fucked when it comes to analysing the metrical aspect of poetry) and wanting to have sex with Jesus and all that other stuff. I prefer him to the other Victoriana that I have read, although, as I said, I am enjoying Bleak House. I'm not sure if I'd be able to analyse Dickens though, there's too much there! In this way maybe i'll be better at the Brontes. I guess I will find out with time.

My problem is that I finish a book by one of the Victorians and then want to read something different - I generally have quite a short attention span and so I don't want to just read the same sort of stuff over and over. I got a Glyn Maxwell book that I ordered second-hand in the post today, his debut collection, Tales of the Mayor's Son. It's incredible, he's got to be one of my favourite poets ever.

I start university in 16 days, or something. It now seems quite close, although loads of my friends go tomorrow (/today, since it's half two in the morning now) and so by comparison it is an age. I am going to bed now. Whine at me in the comments about how pointless I am, you kno you want to.


I just looked at my little list of blogs that I have on blogger. This one has not been updated since March. That's so stupid and pathetic and I'm a bit sad about it. Sorry if my sentences are basic, it is almost 2am and I am typing in the semi-dark.

I don't know why I stopped updating this. Actually, that's a lie; I do know why I stopped - I never really thought I had enough to say about books or education and thought that if I did write anything then it'd just be stupid and no one would want to read it anyway. Which is a STUPID reason for not updating a blog - I'm not writing this for money, am I? I'm hardly writing it to try and reach loads of people at once or anything. I mean, let's face it, how many people want to read what I write? I'm 18, socially awkward, am listening to REM on my macbook at almost 2am on a Friday night and idly wondering about starting a poem. I mean, I don't think I'm a terrible person or anything, I just don't think I'm going to be massively interesting.


RIGHT. Anyway I'm going to finish this post here because I do actually have something to write about and if I do it in the same post as all my "lol i'm just boring aren't i" whining then people are probably already annoyed at me or whatever and if I update immediately after this post with a nice post that has some actual content then by the time they get to this they might not care so much. WOW MY LOGIC IS EXCELLENT TONIGHT. WELL DONE CHARLOTTE.


Saturday, 8 March 2008

Some of you (okay, okay, let's face it, only people I know read this, so, all of you) know that I am the webmistress (is there a gender-neutral term I can use? WEBMONARCH, maybe? No?) of the poetry ezine, In case anyone I don't know has stumbled upon this blog (hi!) then I'll give a brief run-down: it's an online poetry journal for writers under 30, published quarterly. It's been running since last autumn.

Last night and this morning, I finished coding and uploading issue 3: time. The next issue's (optional, always stress the optional) theme is "Suck", which is a bit different and quite fun, I think. Anyway, the coding is... I'm not going to lie and say enjoyable or anything, but it wasn't hard - just a bit mundane, because I'm a bit obsessive and code by hand, which means a lot of manual tags for linebreaks. This issue is great, though - 20 poems, 5 articles, an interview and a great cover photo. It's always really exciting getting an issue up, and I'm still on a bit of a high from uploading this one - it's out there for people to see! Yes!

For some reason before I started this blog post I thought that talking about coding Pom would make a satisfying post on its ow. I WAS WRONG. Obviously I forgot that no one actually wants to hear me rambling on about tags and so on. Be glad that I have remembered.

In a way, though, I think the internet's quite bad for me. I always end up spending my evenings refreshing facebook and on the forums - I mean, I'll read as well, but I won't get as much done as I would if the internet wasn't an option. But then, the stuff I do isn't quite as useless as it was a few years ago, when I was just keen on doing rubbish pixel art - I do read a lot of poetry on the internet, and without it I'd never even have really got involved in poetry at all. So it's a bit of a double-edged sword. Hopefully I'll get better at juggling my time - I've been reading a lot recently (largely Neil Gaiman and China Mieville) and I'm hoping to read a lot of Auden over the next few weeks, because I'm sort of on the cusp of realising why people like him so much and I'd like to properly understand.

Mmm, anyway this is becoming one of those posts where I just sort of talk about poetry in general without actually really saying much of consequence. I'm going to read some more of this 1973 edition of The Penguin Book of Love Poetry and enjoy having a lazy Saturday night.


Tuesday, 26 February 2008

On Saturday I spent more than 9 hours travelling from the depths of Shropshire back to Ipswich. I got stuck with Richard in Birmingham New Street for like, two hours, my phone ran out of battery, I ended up at Ely station, realising only after about twenty minutes that there wasn't another train to Ipswich for more than an hour and a half. I stumbled into the phone booth, called home and got my Dad to pick me up by sobbing (I totally hadn't meant to cry, I'm such a loser). The journey was hell, and once I was by myself it was just boring boring boring. But you know what? It was worth every second, and would have been worth many more.

I was travelling back from an Arvon course, which had been incredible. Somehow, it was my third - I've been on two others, all three through (somehow) winning fyp a number of times. I don't know if I'll ever get to go on any more - I mean, hopefully I will, but I can't really afford any and it wouldn't be the same anyway. The fyp ones are always so incredible because everyone's about your age and you're thrown together and they turn out to be awesome so you end up with great friends that happen to be into poetry. Sigh. Obviously I was incredibly lucky to win as many times as I did - 3 - so I've had way more than my fair share of being an idiot at the Hurst, but still, I'm sad that that was my last time.

I think I was going to regail stories about the course here, actually, but I don't really know what to say. I don't think it'd be all that interesting to people that weren't there, although I do urge all of you to play Adverbs the next time you're at a party. It's magic. Try 'sadistically' or 'morbidly' if you really want to have a good time...

Anyway this blog post is a bit nothing but I largely wanted to let you all know that I am alive, if not well then passable and that last week was one of the best weeks of my life (along with the other two courses, naturally). A proper, thoughtful blog post coming soon - promise!


Wednesday, 6 February 2008

I haven't been writing much recently. At first I thought it was because of exams, but then my exams finished and... I still haven't been writing much. And I don't just mean poetry - I mean blog posts, as well, although I managed to write a list for Sugar & Noise. Lists aren't really all that inspiring, though (I do like them).

I don't know if I really agree with the concept of writers' block or whatever, it seems such a pretentious thing, claimed by people that like posing more than actually writing. In a way I think it must exist, though, although with me it's not so much that I couldn't write as that I just had no ideas at all. At all. The only thing I've sort of wondered about writing about is weather and the environment, which is nice but not something that can be handled lightly or too heavily. I wrote a slightly flippant poem that's sort of about it (but not really) and I'm hoping to do something else... but it's just so vast!

I'm really currently trying to write something for Christopher Tower. Why? Well, partly because I quite like working from prompts sometimes, and also because the prize is massive and something that I could really do with for university. This prompt is infuriating me, though; it's Change. What can you do for that? Surely it covers everything?! It's as if it's too broad. I had the same problem with Flight last year, although at least I managed something for it in the end, something that managed to be one of the final 40 according to a letter I got from the people afterwards. In 2006 I was one of the three runners up, though, and I got a prize and I got to go to the awards and everything. The theme was A Building, which I remember a lot of people moaning about or saying was too narrow. I thought it was pretty good, though, as there's less to do, less choice. I guess it's just now I'm faced with an almost blank template I just have no idea where to even start. But after posting this I'm going to watch Torchwood for 50 minutes, then hammer away at wordpad until I have at least the start of something. I've been languishing in a slightly pathetic way for a bit too long.


Friday, 4 January 2008

Earlier today I was reading an old Guardian blog about Amazon's bookreader toy, the Kindle. There seem to be mixed feelings about it - some people say that there's no way it will ever replace paper books, what nonsense, blah blah blah. Some people say that it's inevitable and no matter how long we hold out it will eventually take over, just like the iPod has sort of taken over from CDs and CDs took over from records and tapes and so on, and that basically once they get a reader on the market that's actually really usable and affordable (the Kindle is not that reader) then books will become obsolete.

I can sort of see both sides. On the one hand, I fucking love books and don't know how I'd do without them. I have so many books in my room that without them it'd just be weird. I work in a bookshop. I think that it's a great idea to reserve books on my library's website at 2AM in the morning so that I get a nice surprise when it becomes available in a few day's time. I have stacks of books on my bedside table and I like flicking through them and deciding what to read before bed.

Essentially, that's all bullshit and shouldn't really affect how I view this whole reader thing. It's sentimental and based on history and me looking backwards. I have all of these books so I can't imagine a future without books. But while the more sentimental parts should be ignored (and the fact that I work in a bookshop shouldn't really have been mentioned) it doesn't change the fact that I'm not the only person that has this sort of weird thing about books. There are people that collect records and are still devoted to mixtapes, CDs, mix CDs. There are people that still pine after the long-gone flexidisc format (I have a flexidisc somewhere. They're weird) and there are people that like 78s (gramophone records) even though as far as I'm aware 78s haven't been in use for quite a long time. What I'm trying to say is, if these formats, none of which were around for that long before they became outmoded (the gramophone record seems to have originated in the 1890s, the rest came after) still have their loyalists, then what about the book?

Books are different. They are not as easily replaced or changed as audio formats, and the improvements made to them tend not to really affect the literature contained within. Sure, they have to be readable and it's nice if they don't fall apart after one read, but they're not like records or CDs because the format there is more crucial, as the texture and speed and overall sound of the end product will be different depending on which physical or even digital format you are dealing with. Sure, yeah, there was the mass-market paperback revolution of the 1930s, but it's not really the same. The rise of the paperback may have changed the publishing industry forever, allowing books to become a more affordable commodity, but what difference did it make to the consumer once they'd paid for their books and had taken them home to read? They were more convenient and portable, like the iPod, but the art was not changed or made any more accessible. Digital formats have been promised to give us clearer sound quality, and while it might be nice to be able to listen to that Joy Division song fifty times in a row without surface noise (although, as John Peel famously said, "Listen, mate, life has surface noise"), that difference is simply not there with books and digital readers.

Because, you see, sound is ultimately affected by very tiny things. I don't know about you, but then I read it isn't really. I may be a bit of a loser and prefer certain types of paper or certain types of book to others, but I don't think that it makes any difference in the long run to whether I find myself enjoying the finer points of Lyrical Ballads or not.

I mean, I'm sure this is a pretty obvious point, but it's not one I've often seen being made. Digital audio has the potential to actually change how people enjoy an art form, to make it clearer and more portable at the same time. Books are already portable and not as delicate as CDs and minidiscs, immediate predecessors of the iPod. The kindle does not, as far as I'm aware, suddenly make Ulysses a lot clearer, and nor is the crisp white screen going to suddenly make me understand what the hell that whole Shantih thing was about.

Digital readers may offer accessibility to numerous books at any time, but I'm not sure I necessarily want or need to be able to access every book that I own when I'm on the train or catching a bus into school, which is generally when I take one or two books with me. I don't have the longest attention span anyway, and so leaving me with no choice is a good way to get me to finish something. Digital readers can probably crash and lose data; they are too fragile for my purposes. What about books with illustrations? What about books such as Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close that use typographical effects and colour illustrations (the Kindle, for example, boasts a monochrome screen)? What about children's books, pop-up books, concertina books, books in non-standard binding and books that have sections for you to write in, such as 1000 Places to See Before You Die and its checklist that you're supposed to tick off?

Books have been around for millenna. I'm not saying that digital readers don't have a future, because that would be stupid and if anyone read this then I'd be embarrassed. Obviously I don't know what the future holds for the book, and in fifty years I could have burnt all of mine and be a delighted advocate of Ebooks and portable readers. It's just, I can't see it happening; you can write notes in books, fold corners, lend them to friends and sit on them. You can browse them in bookshops and ask the friendly booksellers' advice. Sure, it sucks when you can't get hold of something - and I suppose digital readers are attempting to make a wider range of publications available to those that own them - but how amazing does it feel when you finally track down that out-of-print poetry volume that you had to buy from a second hand bookshop all the way over in deepest Connecticut?

I don't think that books are going to be obsolete any time soon. They're too versatile and sturdy for that, too convenient, and we're too used to them. But digital readers are going to have their place, and once they become a) affordable, b)not fugly, c)more convenient (so they'll need very little charging and better network coverage, etc.) then it'll be interesting to see where they go. The fact is, though, there will not be a digital book revolution. It's going to be slower than that. Don't forget that the iPod is essentially a youth thing (I'm sure you can't forget, what with it being the number one item to namecheck if you want to seem like you have your fingers vaguely near the pulse, never mind that all the coolest young things abandoned Apple for some obscure brand ages ago) and popular music has always been so; literature is not, and never will be, predominantly youth-dominated. Poets and novelists can be called young in their thirties and forties, by which age you're practically dead if you want to make popular music.

What I'm trying to say (in the longest and most boring way possible) is that due to demographics, history and the very nature of the art forms concerned, it's not wise to compare the digital music revolution to a theoretical revolution in the publishing industry. Publishers need to look to the internet more, I'm not disputing that, but they need to explore different methods and not use iTunes and Apple as a model for what they need to do to adapt to this strange new digital world.