Friday, 28 September 2012

Our Recommended Reads September 2012

Check out the reviews section of our website for the latest recommended reads - from children's fiction to poetry and classic reads we're sure there is something for everyone. We also welcome your reviews too - email them to 'Reviews' at info@bookapoet.co.uk and we'll let you know when we use it!

Below are the titles we recommended during September 2012. You can read our reviews and recommendations at:  http://www.bookapoet.co.uk/book_reviews/book_reviews/september_2012/
‘Make Your Own T-Rex’ (Dorling Kindersley Books)
‘Ravenwood’ by Andrew Peters (Chicken House)
‘Feathers in the Wind’ by Sally Grindley (Bloomsbury)
‘Pigeon Poo’ by Elizabeth Baguley and Mark Chambers (Little Tiger Press)
‘Bunny Starts School’ by Mike Byrne (Caterpillar Books)
'Operation Bunny' by Sally Gardner (Orion Books)
‘Fantastic Mr Dahl’ by Michael Rosen (Puffin)
‘The Hex Factor’ by Harriet Goodwin (Stripes Publishing)
‘Nurse Diddy: The Chicken Pox Party’ by Libby Weaver (Bumpkin Books)
‘Pozza and the Wuzativs’ by Julian Kendell and Alistair Hunt (Barny Books)
‘Emily Windsnap and the Land of the Midnight Sun’ by Liz Kessler (Orion Books)
‘My First Wife’ by Jakob Wassermann (Penguin Modern Classics)
‘500 Shakespearean Sonnets’ by Ryan J W Smith (Duckpaddle Publishing)
 












October's recommended reads will start to appear on the website from next week. A selection of reviews will be published here too, as well as on our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/BookaPoet) and links from our Twitter account (@bookapoet).

Thursday, 27 September 2012

What is Literature: Answered the Ambriel Way

What is literature? Many of us never think to answer the question. Literature is the art of language. Words weaved into information, image, emotion, and story. Literature informs every discipline on this planet--from science to business--from art to engineering--there isn’t a human occupation that isn’t given life through literature. “The Ambriel Revolution” is a literary blog dedicated to the creative impetus that drives poets, authors, and journalist.

Many begin writing as a form of personal expression. Until the project takes on a life of its own--then the author is swept away by creative tides--and is compelled to share the story that is moving through his or her body, mind, and soul. “The Ambriel Revolution” provides creative writers with a forum to share these stories.

This blog is providing talented writers a way to share, promote, and improve their work. It’s a place that connects writers and readers; it’s a place writers connect with other literary professionals; it’s a place were careers grow and careers are born.

“The Ambriel Revolution” is a blog for writers of all levels. The site has featured prolific published poets and emerging poets. Our featured work is not limited to poems. Featured work also includes letters, short stories, articles, and reviews.

Now a little about Ambriel, he is the angel of communication--guiding the human race toward a consciousness of inner truth.

Is there a story moving through you--that needs to connect--with the angel of communication? Then join “The Ambriel Revolution.”

http://www.ambrielrev.com/submissions-2/

Author: Jessica Lynn Lang
Date: 9/26/2012



Wednesday, 26 September 2012

The Latest News from Tom Palmer, Children's Author

New Book out now

‘White Fear’ is my new follow up to ‘Black Op’ in the ‘Puffin Squad’ series…  The Squad have been summoned to the deadly and frozen land of the Arctic Circle by the British Prime Minister who has heard of their growing reputation as brilliant young spies. But the beauty of the icy mountains and deep fjords hide some dangerous secrets and someone will do anything to make sure that the Squad don't discover them . . .

You can read my blog on writing about the issues facing the Arctic region here: www.footballdetective.blogspot.co.uk/

You can buy 'White Fear' at www.amazon.co.uk



New Resources

‘White Fear’ focuses on ecological issues including the melting ice in the Arctic and the scramble for the oil and gas underneath the seabed.

To accompany the publication of ‘White Fear’, we've produced The Pack full of extra details about the setting, writing, plot and characters with discussion topics and reading comprehensions. 

It is downloadable for FREE with all my newly updated resources from here …

               Read More>> www.tompalmer.co.uk


© Tom Palmer 2012

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Kathleen Jamie and Rachael Boast, Poetry Reading

The Wordsworth Hotel, Grasmere: Tuesday 2nd October, 6.45pm

Kathleen Jamie reads from her collection, The Tree House. Rachael Boast is a Romantic poet for the 21st century, entirely contemporary but picking up the legacy of Coleridge. Tickets: £8 or £7 for advanced booking. For more details, see www.wordsworth.org.uk.

Poetry Event with Carol Ann Duffy at The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

"Thresholds"

Launch Event

Friday 2nd November 2012

6pm – 8pm

A celebration of the launch of this ambitious poetry project at The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. Carol Ann Duffy will curate ten innovative residencies in the eight University Museums, Cambridge University Library and the Cambridge University Botanic Garden. She will select ten outstanding poets to write poetry inspired by the collections and the people who use them or work there. Find out more about the poets at this special reception with a poetry reading by Carol Ann Duffy.

For more details go to
www.cam.ac.uk/festivalofideas/events

Friday, 21 September 2012

The Life and Death of an Unknown Celebrity by Darren Cockle

Emerging from the Shadow of Cancer

I was nervous about attempting to write a poetic post because it’s not my style. How could I tell you about my book and make it rhyme? How could I get such an important message across?
Sarah died of breast cancer in 2009. She was my wife, a mother of two and life was sweet. We had to say goodbye which was tragically wrong. A mutual “I love you” and a big heartfelt thank you for sharing my life.


I was lost in the fog of despair. I had to learn how to cook and tie up my daughter’s hair. I cried every day, the kids cried at night. It was unbearable and depressing with no end in sight.
I had learnt so much about love and myself, to take someone for granted is such a waste. I loved her more during the few years that she was ill than I did when we had a lifetime to kill.


I woke up one day in 2010 with an idea that required a chair and a pen. I sat down each day and poured out my heart and thought that the cancer diagnosis seemed a good place to start. I didn’t want a memorial bench that would rot before I turned to dust. Words were the answer for a tribute I could trust. 


I continued my journey as a single dad. Love has never left me. It lasts longer than death. Moving on has been very hard to do but to stay in the past would cause endless pain. The fog has lifted and I have emerged from the clouds. The sun doesn’t shine on me every day but just like the flowers, we need the rain.


A wonderful lady has entered my life and love blossoms once more. Dating a widower isn’t easy; it requires patience and understanding on both sides. Acceptance of loss is a bit like a war.





The pain of loss brought out a creative side. I have used it to help others affected by cancer and sorrow. Yes! The book could be painful today so leave it for a while or maybe read it tomorrow. Many people have written wonderful reviews about how they cried and laughed and couldn’t put the book down. It’s profoundly moving, honest and brave. The cover may shock you and make you frown. I needed a cover that reflected the book. One that told the truth about a devastating illness that some can’t refer to by name. A drawing of a lady with no hair and one breast, holding some wigs with a smile on her face. She is beautiful and happy and her spirit is strong. It will not be broken whether she lives forever or after she has gone. 

Take a look on Amazon and make up your mind. It doesn’t cost much and it isn’t free. 


"The Life and Death of an Unknown Celebrity" by Darren Cockle.


That’s me!

Thursday, 20 September 2012

'Twelve Months' by Steven Manchester - read an exclusive excerpt here!

Though there were empty tables up front, Vic escorted Bella and me to a darkened back room where no one else was seated. The table sat in the center of the room and was very nicely decorated. I could tell by Bella's face that it seemed peculiar to her. As we took our seats, Vic lit a candle. “I’ll be right back,” he said.
Bella started to question it, but I shrugged it off. “There must have been reservations for the other tables up front?” I suggested.
She nodded, and then noticed a man seated on a stool a few tables over. He was holding a guitar and squinting at some sheet music.
He looked over and smiled. “I hope you guys don’t mind, but I’m trying out tonight for a weekend gig at this place.”
“Oh, that’s great,” Bella said, with no idea Gary had already landed the job.
“Not a problem,” I added, acting as though I’d never spoken to the man. And through an acoustic set of love ballads, Gary was just as convincing.
Bella had no idea but the order had already been carefully spelled out – drinks first, Pinot Grigio for her; beer for me, and the itinerary would begin. Vic approached with both drinks on a small round tray. “Appetizers tonight?” he asked.
I smiled. “Why don’t we start with an order of little necks in garlic and oil?”
Vic nodded once and headed for the kitchen, while Gary swooned, “You say it best when you say nothing at all…”
Bella leaned into my ear and whispered, “How did he know I wanted white wine?”
I was into my second shrug when Vic returned to the table with a gorgeous arrangement of long stem red roses. Without a word, he placed them in front of Bella and rotated the vase until the card faced her. “Your appetizer should be out in a few minutes,” he said and strutted away again.
Gary was already on his second number when Bella plucked the card from the arrangement. It read: “Bella, I love you, forever – Don.” She looked up to find the entire restaurant staring at us.
“And always will,” I whispered when she leaned over and kissed me.
After the steaming appetizer and another round of drinks, Vic placed a silver platter before my glowing wife. It held a scrolled sheet of parchment secured by red ribbon. She looked up at him, but he never let on. She glanced over at me. “What…”
“Open it,” I said, while Gary strummed away in the background.
She did. It was the one thing she'd always wanted from me, but had never gotten – until now.

Moments of Destiny


From the moment I met you,

I knew there was a fire between us

that even hard, driving rain could never put out.


From the moment we spoke,

I knew I’d spent my entire life

in search of your deep and passionate love.


From the moment we kissed,

I knew my heart was no longer mine

and I’d finally found my future.


From the moment we laughed,

I knew there would never be enough time

to share all the things I needed to share with you.


From the moment we danced,

I knew, at last, what the phrase ‘better half’ meant

and surrendered to your gentle touch.


From the moment we walked hand-in-hand,

I knew I’d discovered my partner

and that my dreams were suddenly within reach.


From the moment we lay together,

I knew I’d made it to heaven

and thanked God for blessing me with you.


From the moment you agreed to be my wife,

I knew my journey was now worth taking,

through days of sunshine –

or nights of hard, driving rain.


As her watering eyes read the final verse, the musician stopped playing, the restaurant went silent and I went down to one knee. I opened the ring box. “Isabella,” I said, “I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Will you be my wife…again?”
She never hesitated and dove into my arms. For a while, we just hugged.
“I love you so much,” she cried into my shoulder.
“I know,” I said. “But…”
She pushed away from me and looked into my eyes. “But what?”
“But I need your answer?” I said, grinning.
“Yes…the answer is YES!” she gasped and jumped back into my arms.
The crowd shared a collective sigh, and everyone was clapping when Bella and I returned to reality. It took a few moments before each table returned to its own conversation and half-eaten meals.
Chuckling, I introduced my beautiful wife to Gary, the musician. As they shook hands, Gary admitted, “I was so nervous.”
I bought the man a beer when Vic delivered two previously ordered dinners to our table. Though Bella couldn’t touch hers, I ate and listened to Gary fill the room with a soothing melody. By the time the chocolate covered strawberries arrived for dessert, Bella was emotionally spent. She grabbed me once more for a kiss. “This has been the perfect night,” she whispered.
“And for all these years…you’ve been the perfect wife, my dear.”
As we left the restaurant, another round of applause carried us to the front door. I opened it for my new fiancĂ© – only to discover a white stretch limousine idling at the curb. She quickly turned to me. “It’s not over?”
I shook my head. “It’ll never be over for us.” As we made our way to the limo, waves of nausea threatened to drown me. This is Bella’s perfect night, I told myself, our perfect night. Whatever you do…do not throw up now!


© Steven Manchester 2012.
Do not use without the author's permission.

Brief Synopsis:
Don DiMarco has a very good life – a family he loves, a comfortable lifestyle, passions and interests that keep him amused. He also thought he had time, but that turned out not to be the case. Faced with news that might have immediately felled most, Don now wonders if he has time enough. Time enough to show his wife the romance he didn’t always lavish on her. Time enough to live out his most ambitious fantasies. Time enough to close the circle on some of his most aching unresolved relationships. Summoning an inner strength he barely realized he possessed, Don sets off to prove that twelve months is time enough to live a life in full. A glorious celebration of each and every moment that we’re given here on Earth, as well as the eternal bonds that we all share, 'Twelve Months' is a stirring testament to the power of the human spirit.





 
Author Bio:  Steven Manchester is the published author of Pressed Pennies, The Unexpected Storm: The Gulf War Legacy and Jacob Evans, as well as several books under the pseudonym, Steven Herberts. His work has appeared on NBC's Today Show, CBS's The Early Show, CNN’s American Morning and BET’s Nightly News. Recently, three of his short stories were selected "101 Best" for Chicken Soup for the Soul series.

steven.h.manchester@sunlife.com
http://www.StevenManchester.com  
http://www.facebook.com/#!/AuthorStevenManchester

Paperback
& Kindle:
http://www.amazon.com/Twelve-Months-Steven-Manchester/dp/161188053X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1343826594&sr=1-1&keywords=twelve+months+manchester
Nook
:
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/twelve-months-steven-manchester/1111526739?ean=9781611880533  
eBook
:
http://www.booku.com/Twelve-Months/Steven-Manchester/ebook_989303.htm  

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

We Love Words Festival, Guest Blog by Pete 'Cardinal' Cox

Peterboroughs First We Leaf Words Festival I read. We Leaf Words? We believe in words? Words are a relief? No, someone said, its a heart, it means we love words. No, its definitely a leaf, theres a stalk and you can see the veins
 
The festival started for me on Friday 7th September when I was invited in (the previous day) to the BBC Radio Cambridgeshire breakfast show to do a poem marking the end of their first week and to tie-in with the festival. That though was one of those evenings when I had just 45 minutes in which to write said poem. Fortunately, I had about twenty minutes before going on air to write another verse to mark the success of a local Paralympics athlete. Seemed to go well

The festival was a mix of big names (Roger McGough, Wendy Cope, Sir Andrew Motion, John Hegley, Attila the Stockbroker and Clive James), up-and-coming names (Helen Mort, Luke Kennard and Dead Poets), local poets (Toby Wood, Keely Mills and Alex Tyler), a play around John Clare, talks, workshops and the final of the Poet Laureate of Peterborough competition.

Favourite bits? Sir Andrew Motion was really good. His new novel is a sequel to Treasure Island, with a big dollop of Conrads Heart of Darkness added to the mix. Clive James was brilliant and a real treat to hear him. The workshops I attended with Helen Mort and John Hegley were both very different, but both productive in their respective ways. Plus I found out one of the poets quiet liked my column Pub Scrawl in the local pubzine Rhythm and Booze.

One poet refused to sign my copies of their books because I hadnt bought the latest one. Fair enough, up to them, I thought. Other people (when I mentioned this) said things along the lines of grumpy old so-and-so. No, Id respond, perhaps they think Ill just eBay them, or maybe (as theyre getting on a bit) they can only sign so much or maybe theres another reason. If they dont want to sign stuff, its up to them. I enjoyed their event and would go to another if they ever came back, just because Id bought the ticket does not automatically entitle me to their autograph. (Youll note Ive not named them).

The title of Poet Laureate of Peterborough (PLoP) was won by an old friend, Simon Stabler, and I hope he gets to do some interesting things in his year. Ten years ago I won the same title and it got me to read at a poetry festival in Oxford and write for an event in Ireland.

So now were just waiting for next years festival, fingers-crossed.

© Pete 'Cardinal' Cox 

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

'From Poet to Novelist', Guest Blog by Sue Hubbard

Sue Hubbard

There’s a popular assumption that when poets ‘grow up’ they’ll become novelists. It’s as if all ‘real’ writers are expected to produce a best seller. Yet for many poets, even if they do decide to launch into writing prose, finding a publisher for literary fiction is almost as hard as it is for poetry. Major houses want to sell, sell, sell. Feel the size, feel the weight. Never mind the quality. If you’re under 30, look like Keira Knightly and are a literary cross between Caitlin Moran and Brett Easton Ellis, you’ll probably find a publisher; but for others of a more meditative tone it might be a longer haul. Agents and publishers tend to be suspicious of poets. Recently an agent at a literary lunch at Black’s in Soho said to me “your publisher was brave to take on a poet”. Poets may like to believe that poetry is the new rock 'n’ roll, but in the commercial market it still smacks of something elitist and arcane; after all Harry Potter outsells Seamus Heaney.

So why should a poet bother with prose when writing poetry is already hard enough?  For at least if a poem fails you haven’t invested three years of your life on it. But such pragmatism belies the complex process of writing and the different impulses that lead on that forked path, through the wood of words, to the less travelled poetic road on the one hand, and to long winding road of literary fiction on the other. These processes, I’d suggest, are analogous to the differences between the sprinter and the long-distant runner (to use a current Olympian metaphor.) The focused concentration, the burst of intense emotion that is the initial catalyst to the honed poem is similar to the compressed energy required of the sprinter. Whereas the long distant runner is able to take an overview, has time to consider the landscape, to contemplate different views and unexpected perspectives along the way. What the novelist needs is not so much the short sharp surge of the sprinter, but the stamina, endurance and ability to keep the final goal in sight, even when initially it is not always clear what that goal may be.

Since I was a child, I’ve always written poetry. Somewhere I’ve still got my first poem; a piece written as homework when I was about eleven. Two melancholy four line stanzas on trees in winter. I remember being startled by what I had done, surprised that I had made such a thing. Poetry became a retreat, a safe and utterly private place in which to withdrew in order to make sense of and name an often complex, painful and baffling world. It was as if, as a child, all my pent up emotion could only be expressed through the medium of a poem. As the poet, novelist and critic John Berger has written: “Poems are born of a sense of helplessness – hence their force.”  The impetus, I believe, to write a poem is primal. But for it to be any good it not only must contain the exact and only words that could have been chosen for that particular poem, but its spaces must resonate with all that cannot be overtly expressed. The poet may not even have understood what has been written. For writing a poem, as for the visual artist drawing from life, is a ‘process’, a ‘reaching towards’ something that is largely unknown. It’s an almost contemplative act, a state rather than a statement. What John Burnside once described in a letter to me “as a process of self-forgetting.”

For John Berger: “poems are helpless before the facts. Helpless but not without endurance, for everything resists them. They find names for the consequences, not for the decisions. Writing a poem you listen to everything save what is happening now.” A poem then, (a poem of integrity and not simply a piece of linguistic choreography) is an echo chamber. What happens in the interstices is as important as the actual choice of words. It is when we listen to the silences, the places in between, that meaning begins to reveal itself. It is hard, as the late critic Peter Levi wrote in The Noise Made by Poems, to ask what a poem is for:

“you can only ask what it does, what it is. Form is always particular….by the form of poems we mean the profoundest structural element.”

The poem also has an atavistic relationship to music. Poems grew from the Greek chorus, the songs of troubadours and minstrels, lullabies crooned to a fretful child. These metrical and syllabic rhythms lie, I believe, deep in the depths of our unconscious, and are akin to the sound of our blood pumping, to our beating hearts. But what of prose? E.M.Foster wrote in his introduction to Aspects of the Novel:

“…the novel is a formidable mass, and it is so amorphous – no mountain in it to climb, no Parnassus or Helicon…It is most distinctly one of the moister areas of literature…a swamp. I do not wonder that poets despise it, though they sometimes find themselves in it by accident.

And Virginia Woolf noted on Tuesday, May 11th 1920:

“It is worth mentioning, for future reference, that the creative power which bubbles so pleasantly in beginning a new book quiets down after a time, and one goes on more steadily. Doubts creep in. Then one becomes resigned. Determination not to give in and the sense of an impending shape keeps one at it more than anything”.

When I once asked the poet and novelist Helen Dunmore what motivated her to choose either poetry or prose, she answered:

“It’s not entirely a matter of choice, perhaps. The novel chooses you, because it is the right container for what you want to write, just as the poem chooses to be written as a poem and nothing else. In the same way some stories can only be short stories, while others expand and become complex in a way which soon reveals that they are really novels. But the more I write, the less I believe in the writer as ringmaster, exercising and marshalling forces.”

For me, the desire to write a novel has been a long-standing obsession. As a child I dreamt of being Emily Bronte, (but that might have had something more to do with my fantasy of running off with Heathcliff than any literary ambition). Though as an adult I began to see that Virginia Woolf’s stoicism would probably prove to be nearer the point. I had over, a number of years gathered, a mass of material. (Some turned out to be useful, much more to be useless). Starting my first novel, Depth of Field, I felt like the puppy in the Andrex loo-paper ad, unable to extract myself from the sheer mass of words and find a form. It became a private wager to see if I had the stamina to shape it all into something, the strength of mind to keep on going. I dreaded being one of those people who claimed that one day I’d ‘like to write a novel’. It was not quite do or die, but it was do or shut up. But to write a novel is not only an enormous undertaking in terms of time and commitment but also an embarkation on a journey, particularly for a poet, into another country. I found there different customs, flavours, traditions. I wanted to write about how we construct memory and notions of the self. History and the past are subjects that seem to lend themselves to the discursive linear text of prose. Ruptures and hiatus can be created. Counterpointed voices and points of view juxtaposed one against the other. For as Walter Benjamin wrote in Illuminations: “History is the object of a construct whose site is not homogenous.”

I began to walk around the streets of Whitechapel where part of Depth of Field is set. I had become preoccupied with searching out my lost Jewish roots. For mine was a Home Counties childhood of pony club gymkhanas rather than Saturday schul in Golder’s Green. I went to the British Library to do research. This was to be the long haul. But I also had to find a form. Having read my Barthes during my MA at the University of East Anglia, I knew that to begin a novel unaware of post-structural trends would simply be naive. But in that case, where to start? I finally alighted, well into the book, on a structure that moved backwards and forwards between past and present. The protagonist, Hannah, is a photographer. It was she who gave me the idea. Instead of chapters the book is arranged under the headings of the photographic process from Setting the Focus though Exposure and Changing the Aperture. Slowly these phrases took on a metaphorical quality, illuminating the central character’s struggle for autonomy. The ‘eye’ of the camera and the ‘I’ of the central character began to merge, to become both the aperture and the vehicle through which I could describe this particular world.  It seemed as though I, too, was following a similar process – from the murk, as it were, of the developing tray, to the crisp focus of The Final Print. It felt as though I had set out on a long voyage with neither compass nor map. Slowly I began to integrate something of a poetic sensibility into a linear prose narrative. It was a lengthy process of self-discovery.

I soon realised that prose requires not only a different form to poetry but also a different aesthetic and philosophical perspective. I found the reliance on the image didn’t work the same way in prose. Closer to actual speech, phrases that appear to strive too officiously for originality seemed to be in danger of looking as purple as Barbara Cartland’s favourite hat. Yet I did not want to jettison all that I valued about the language of poetry. This meant attuning my ear to new rhythms. Without a blueprint it was simply a question of trial and error. Perhaps being a journalist helped. For like good poetry there is something about the exactness of good prose that, for the reader, is like falling in love at first sight. The opening lines of a book such as Anne Michaels Fugitive Pieces, Cormac McCarthey’s All the Pretty Horses, or Margaret Atwood’s Cats Eye grab the reader by the throat. Within a few words one is drawn in and it is clear that here is a writer in control of tone, line, voice, point of view as well as the power of visual imagery. To quote Woolf again:

“The test of a book (to a writer) is if it makes a space in which quite naturally, you can say what you want to say. As this morning I could say what Rhoda said. This proves that the book itself is alive: because it has not crushed the thing I wanted to say, but allowed me to slip it in, without any compression or alteration.”

And my new novel, Girl in White? Well the genesis for that was a trip many years ago to do a reading of my first poetry collection, Everything Begins with the Skin, in Bremen. There I discovered the work of the painter Paula Modersohn-Becker. I knew of her vaguely in my role as an art critic. There is a wonderful self-portrait in the Courtauld Institute and, although rather forgotten in this country, she made a number of appearances in seminal feminist texts on art in the 70s such as Griselda Pollock’s Old Mistresses. Although I wrote a book of short stories, Rothko’s Red (Salt) before I got round to Girl in White, the idea for the novel slowly insinuated its way into my brain. What appealed was that the events of Paula’s life provided a narrative arc (something that is often hard for the poet who prefers minutiae and the moment) and a story that echoed many of my own concerns.

As I don’t read German it took a long time to do the research and track down the necessary material. But I was not writing a biography but a novel and, again, needed to find a form. In the end I framed Paula’s story with that of her daughter’s. In my novel Mathilde is purely fictitious, a voice to investigate her mother’s life, as well as a presence who attempts to make sense of the fatal shift that took place within German culture. When the book begins it is 1933. Mathilde, a young musician, finding herself pregnant by her Jewish violinist lover, flees the disruptions in Berlin to return to the remote village where her mother died only days after her birth. It is here that she begins to unravel the story of her mother’s life in Worpswede among a community of artists living on the wild north German moors. There, Paula witnessed the downtrodden lives of peasants, married the older painter Otto Modersohn - a marriage that soon became an emotional and creative prison - and met the young poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, with whom she had a complex and intense relationship. Caught between a desire to embrace the new movements in art and the obligations of marriage, she left Otto to pursue her career in Paris with no means of obvious support. Through Mathilde we see Paula's struggle to achieve independence and recognition as an artist, as well as fulfilment as a woman.

Paula Modersohn Becker was a painter ahead of her time, deserving of a place alongside the likes of Gwen John and Frida Kahlo. In writing her story I hope that I’ve managed to show her vibrant personality and bring attention to the legacy of the powerful paintings she left behind after her early death at 32.  But most of all this book is a meditation on loss and love, ambition and compromise, longing and desire; one that I hope will touch people and resonate with their own with lives and struggles.

Writing a novel is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It’s not that it is better or worse than writing poetry, but different and often despairingly painful. And just because I’ve managed to do it a couple of times doesn’t make the next time any less daunting. Yet the continuing challenge beckons both terrifying and seductive. For as Walter Benjamin sagely wrote in his essay The Storyteller: “In the midst of life’s fullness, and through the representation of this fullness, the novel gives evidence of the profound perplexity of living.” Perhaps in this age of ‘the expert’ it would be more judicious to try and master only one form rather than attempt to be poet, fiction writer and art critic. But, like John Berger, I also believe that poems are ‘born out of a sense of helplessness’ and that prose allows for different explorations, while like Helen Dunmore, I’m not sure anyway, that it is really a matter of choice. So I expect I shall go on attempting to do it all.


© Sue Hubbard 2012


***

"Girl in White is a triumph of literary and artistic understanding, a tour du force: Masterly, moving and beautifully written. Hubbard goes where few dare go, and succeeds. You are the less for not reading it."
-- Fay Weldon

"Imagine a chest of drawers - unopened for a hundred years... A woman opens the drawers, unfolds what she finds and, as she does so, the garments become stories... of some exceptional, lonely paintings, which had a considerable influence on “modern” German art... those intimate folds become interstices of History... I recommend this haunting book..."
-- John Berger

Sue Hubbard is an award-winning poet, novelist and freelance art critic. She has published three books of poetry, a collection of short stories, Rothko’s Red, (Salt), a novel, Depth of Field, (Dewi Lewis) and a book of art essays, Adventures in Art (Other Criteria). Sue has written regularly for The Independent,The New Statesman and many of art magazines. She was awarded a major Arts Council Award to support the writing of Girl in White. Her new poetry collection: 'the remembering and forgetting of air' is due from Salt next year. You can find out more about Sue and her work at www.suehubbard.com.

(An abbreviated version of this essay was originally published in Poetry London.)

'Girl In White' can be ordered from: www.inpressbooks.co.uk/girl-in-white/

'Depth of Field' can be ordered from: Amazon and www.dewilewispublishing.com/

'Rothko’s Red' (short stories) and 'Ghost Station' (poetry) are available from: www.saltpublishing.com.

For review copies of 'Girl in White' and high resolution images contact jan@cinnamonpress.com; to arrange interviews author contact parker@zenoagency.com. Sue Hubbard is represented by The Zeno Agency.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Recommended Read: Girl in White by Sue Hubbard


'The Girl in White'
By Sue Hubbard 
Published by Cinnamon Press
RRP £8.99 (paperback)
ISBN 9781907090684
 

Germany, 1933. A young musician, Mathilde, finds herself pregnant by her lover, a Jew, forced to flee Berlin. She returns to the remote village where her mother died days after her birth and begins to unravel the life of Paula Modersohn Becker.

Leaving her family, Paula lived in a community of artists at Worpswede. There, she witnessed the lives of peasants, married the older painter Otto Modersohn, a marriage that soon became an emotional and creative prison, and met the young poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, with whom she had a complex and intense relationship. Caught between a desire to embrace the new art and the obligations of marriage, Paula left Otto to to live and work in Paris with no means of support, Through the eyes of Mathilde, we see Paula's struggle to achieve independence and recognition as an artist.

Paula Modersohn-Becker was a painter ahead of her time, who deserves a place alongside Gwen John and Frida Kahlo. Sue Hubbard’s narrative not only reveals Paula’s vibrant personality and a legacy of Expressionist paintings but also gives insight into the corrupted thinking behind the Third Reich. It is a meditation on love, loss, memory and hope,

"Girl in White is a triumph of literary and artistic understanding, a tour du force: Masterly, moving and beautifully written. Hubbard goes where few dare go, and succeeds. You are the less for not reading it." -- Fay Weldon

"Imagine a chest of drawers - unopened for a hundred years... A woman opens the drawers, unfolds what she finds and, as she does so, the garments become stories... of some exceptional, lonely paintings, which had a considerable influence on “modern” German art... those intimate folds become interstices of History... I recommend this haunting book..."
-- John Berger

Sue Hubbard is an award-winning poet, novelist and freelance art critic. She has published three poetry collections, a collection of short stories, Rothko’s Red, (Salt)l a novel, Depth of Field, (Dewi Lewis) and a book of art essays, Adventures in Art (Other Criteria). Sue has written regularly for The Independent, The New Statesman and many of art magazines.. She was awarded a major Arts Council Award to support the writing of this book. Her next poetry collection will be published by Salt next year: 'The Forgetting and Remembering of Air'. You can find out more about Sue and her work at www.suehubbard.com.