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Website of poet Elizabeth Rimmer


arvon


  • getting criticism

    Thanks to everyone who posted such interesting comments after my Lumb Bank post. It has made me very much more conscious of the importance of good, informed and constructive criticism, not just in the early stages of beginning to write, but all through your writing life. But you don’t always need the same sort of criticism
    When you start, you really need someone in your life who will tell you your poem is brilliant, whatever it looks like. It doesn’t matter if you know they are probably wrong and in six months time you will look at it and realise how lame it is and wonder what she was thinking. You need someone to tell you how good it is or you wouldn’t write at all. It could be you, of course, so long as you believe yourself!
    Then, when you are strong enough, you need to hear how strangers read it. The workshop experience can be wonderful ,or it can be traumatic.


  • aftermath

    It seems a long time since I put anything up here, and of course it is. Family goings on, etc. have got in the way. In a large family like mine there’s always something going on, but we did have a whole swathe of people getting ill and needing attention, and I got ill myself and so it goes.
    It hasn’t all been family and dull stuff, however. My Zen folk music poem, Sean Nos was accepted by Brittle Star and will appear next week, and I’ve put together two more submissions, which I suppose will take the usual ages to feedback. When I was at Lumb Bank I got some useful background about why magazines sometimes take so long, such that frankly, sometimes you have to be grateful that they get back to you at all. And it makes those editors – Sally Evans, Joy Hendry, Louise Hooper in my experience – you may know more – who take the time to be kind and constructive, so much more to be cherished.
    Come to think of it, good, honest accurate criticism is worth its weight in gold from whatever source. I was going to give a roll of honour, but I bet I’d forget someone. I’ll just take the opportunity to thank you, all of you.


  • poetry course Lumb Bank

    A couple of weeks ago I did an Arvon course at Lumb Bank, which I found a very challenging, but ultimately extremely rewarding experience. It was very odd to be in a house with so many other people – even Nunraw, which isn’t silent or peaceful any more didn’t make the same sort of social demands. It was also odd to be with so many people taking poetry so very seriously. You’d think the Callander poetry Festival would be the same, but it isn’t – there’s a relaxed, festive atmosphere, something to do with so many of us being friends, or with the atmosphere Sally and Ian King create, which was quite different from Lumb Bank.

    I don’t mean that it was competitive or pompous or elitist – on the contrary. Most of those who had been to Arvon weeks before remarked on how well we were getting on, and how nice everyone was. But it was very serious, and this was both strange and liberating compared with more mainstream environments where poetry is at best peripheral, if not downright irrelevant.

    Being in what felt like a very foreign country, poetically speaking, did bring out major differences between the English and the Scottish poetry scene. English poetry seems more high-brow – downright academic, in fact, at its worst, dreary, cold, contrived and cerebral. At its best it’s powerful, elegant and exquisite. It’s a sort of climax culture.From here it looks as if there’s a consensus about what they like and want from poetry, and they have evolved a system to make it more and more like that.

    Scotland, on the other hand feels like second growth scrub. Lots of weeds, lots of vigour, much more diverse and sustainable, original, slightly renegade, very much more experimental. We have much more language to play with, more different kinds of publishers and readers, much more confidence – but we could do with a bit more intellectual rigour. We have stopped looking to England for approval quite so much, and the independent voice is coming through, but our poetry needs the sort of development that traditional music has had – an awareness of the enormous potential within the form, a respect for craftsmanship and technique, and a refusal to settle for less than the best.



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