Friday, 11 October 2013

The Pink Sofa welcomes Paul Tobin, poet.


It's not often The PINK SOFA has a chance host such a talented and versatile writer, poet and photographer as Paul Tobin. He grew up in Widnes, but has lived in Somerset for 30 years. Paul has written poetry since he was 12, and thinks he's getting the hang of it now. He has published two volumes of poetry.
Paul has been Festival Poet at Purbeck Folk Festival (2011), the Accoustic Festival of Great Britain (2012) and Lechlade Festival (2013). He has also appeared at Wychwood, Bristol Folk Festival (2012) and Cock& Bull (2011). His blog, Magpie Bridge is always worth dropping in to. As The Pink Sofa is currently revising its first book of poetry: Upholstery Thoughts, it is agog to see how a professional does it.

''Every poem benefits from being revised and every poet worth their salt revises their work.  This is where the hard work comes in and where you develop your skill.
A little while ago, after I suspect a surfeit of apocalyptic reggae, I got to comparing the end of the academic year with the extinction of species - as you do. This is the poem I came up with:

 END of SPECIES EXAM
Now the jig is up, the experiment nearly over, it’s time for the exam. Please answer the following questions as completely as you can. Your answers may be of interest to some future species or some extra-terrestrial life form, if they can be bothered to come so far to see the pig’s ear we’ve made of this place.

Was the trek out of Africa worth it?
Agriculture, what was that all about then, especially when the big supermarkets started stuffing both the farmers and the shoppers?
As a species why were we so good at murdering one another?
What was so brilliant about privatisation anyway?
If “war is the locomotive of history” how much of a twat was Trotsky, Mao or Stalin discuss? (NB if these names do not appal then insert one that does, there are enough of them to choose from).
Why did we let some of the world starve when the rest of us grew fat?
How does David Cameron sleep at night?
Why did we spend billions of pounds on Trident and why is it still pointed at Russia?
How much blood to the nearest pint is on Tony Blair’s hands?
What was the point of Boris Johnson?
As a species why do we believe in ideologies over common sense?
How hard did the present cabinet have to work to look so bloody smug?
Why was the Daily Express not sold as a comic?
Did you really believe the Tories when they said the NHS was safe in their hands?
Why are no city bankers in goal or at least destitute?
How could anyone have believed all that other shit the Tories told us?
Why did we go into Afghanistan without an exit strategy?
Nuclear power, who did you really expect to clean up all the crap?

As you can appreciate, in this draft it is rather a formless diatribe, not that this stopped me from reading it out at an awards evening for a local poetry competition when it was barely a day old (mind the gap between what I say and my own actions…). Even as I stood there full of righteous ire proclaiming for all I was worth. I realised that it was far to hectoring.
So what is wrong with this draft? It’s too long, it pounds the listener into submission (or boredom which is worse). It repeats itself- which is something to be avoided. In short it is far too pointy finger.
On the plus side I liked the rambling introduction to the questions. I wanted my northern voice to set the scene and so used one of my mother’s expressions.
Several months later it had slimmed down and I think is a better poem.

END of SPECIES EXAM
Now the jig is up, the experiment nearly over, it’s time for the exam. Please answer the following questions as completely as you can. Your answers may be of interest to some future species or some extra-terrestrial life form, if they can be bothered to come so far to see the pig’s ear we’ve made of this place.

The big trek out of Africa- was it worth the effort? Discuss.
Agriculture-what was all that about then? Pay particular attention to the supermarkets and how they set about stuffing both the consumer and the producer. Illustrate your answer with drawings of supermarkets burning.
Did you really believe the Tories when they said the NHS was safe in their hands? Answer yes or no.
To the nearest pint estimate how much blood is on Tony Blair’s hands.
State, to the nearest year, when you came to believe that we should pay for our own education, then comment on the fact that the people who told us we had to pay benefitted from free education themselves. Pay particular attention to their moral bankruptcy.
How long, in weeks, did it take the Tory government to look so bloody smug?
And finally, why did we allow them to get away with it for so long?

I think this version works better. What do you think?

I’d like to leave you with a couple of writing tips:

Always revise. Evaluate every word-does the poem still work if you remove it? If it does-leave it out.
Join a writing group, develop analytical skills.
Read you work aloud, it will sound different. Better still get someone else to read it then you can really hear how it sounds.
Read as much poetry as you can. Look at the structure of the poems you like, what makes them work?
Leave your poem alone for a couple of weeks-time will grant you a more critical eye.
Never be too in love with a specific line-remove it if it stops the poem working. You can always use it again somewhere else.
Lastly keep on writing.

Thank you.''

Paul's steampunk novel, The Jowler is available at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Jowler-Adventures-Captain-James-ebook/dp/B00AP5CSZK/ref=la_B00AKYRL7Q_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1381560777&sr=1-2
His blog is at: http://magpiebridge.blogspot.co.uk/
His Amazon Author page is at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Paul-Tobin/e/B00AKYRL7Q/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0 



29 comments:

  1. Thank you Carol, you are too kind. I await your poetry book with interest.

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  2. Brilliant! Except my favorite line was removed from the finished product. Oh well, the poet be the boss! :) Thanks Paul, and thank you Ms Carol for offering him up! Oh yeah, my fav....
    "Why did we let some of the world starve when the rest of us grew fat?"
    A beautiful indictment of the wonder that is free enterprise

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  3. I shall pass this on to The SOFA - don't hold your breath, it is also writing a sofalit novel and a travel book: Four Legs in Florence..it hasn't been to Florence but when has that every stopped anybody!

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    1. I thought the sofa was sailing the channel in my direction? You know - getting its sea legs before settling four of them in Florence.

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  4. I so agree that the real work with a poem lies in the revision - it's hard, but worth all the sweat and tears that goes into it.

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    1. I agree Jo. We have to revise our work-then like bread leave it to rise.

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  5. The improvement was significant. I am at the every word stage in revising a novel and imagine how hard this is. Every word must count. The cadence matters and so reading aloud is my method but it is slow. You make me enthused about poetry again. I used to write it. Great sofa guest Carol.

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    1. Thanks Carol. I agree that it is difficult but it makes for a better poem/novel. I am pleased that you feel motivated to write again.

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  6. Oh I lost a long comment but every word does count and reading aloud even with a long novel so important and I am at this stage with mine and it is hard. Great sofa guest , Carol with superb down to earth advice.

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    1. Carol-thank you again. I have to read out my work-poem or novel. in fact I can only write reasonable dialogue if I say it as I write it.

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  7. I cannot imagine anything more difficult than writing a poem. It's hard enough making prose work well. Thanks for this, Paul! I really appreciated seeing how you fined this down! Hats off!

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    1. Horses for course really Val. I think that they require you to think in different ways. But both require rewrites. Nothing, of worth, springs fully formed. Thanks Val :)

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  8. Sorry Carol, I'm not a fan of poems that don't rhyme, and any mention of politics leaves me cold. But whatever rocks your boat!
    I did love the way Paul speaks about his work (and writing in general!) and his comment on revision was inspiring!

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    1. Haha,,honest as usual. I'm not a fan of chicklit but I read it if someone I know has written it...

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    2. Anita, I would not disagree with you. I think we all have our own constructs as to what constitutes poetry. For me the main thing is that people read poetry. Poetry I have been told as an art form has more people who write it than read it and if you want to improve as a writer then you must read. Thanks for your kind comments.

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  9. I love reading poetry. I'm not very good at writing it though. I seem to end up with light-hearted doggerel when inside me there's a heart-rending sonnet waiting to emerge. Some good advice from Paul and fascinating to read how his wip develops.

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    1. Rosalind, as long as you are expressing what you want to express then I think its ok. As to different forms-look up the rules for the form you want to try out-you can do that easily on line. then try to fit your idea into the form. It matters not that you are dissatisfied with the result. Go and read some more good examples of the form and have another go. You could also join a group to get some constructive feedback on your work and tips of how to develop it.

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  10. Paul is currently in Delhi...so he isn't replying..yet...

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  11. Fascinating to read about Paul's process. We read so often that it's the REwriting that counts but it's really good to see this so clearly.
    Inspirational.

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    1. MrsT I agree the rewriting is where the craft comes in. Thank you for your kind words.

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  12. I haven't written poetry in years. It's tough. Kudos to Paul. I enjoyed learning about his process and getting to sample some of his work.

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    1. Thank you Kelly. I suspect I write poetry to keep sane. I never reflect on where it comes from. I just give thanks that it arrives when it does.

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  13. Really interesting post from Paul.The sofa has done well yet again.

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  14. I've been to a poetry workshop...

    Pounds were green and crinkly
    Many years ago.
    Now I’m old and wrinkly,
    That’s no longer so.

    Many years ago,
    I ached with lust.
    That’s no longer so.
    My boom is bust.

    I ached with lust.
    Now pounds are gold and clattery,
    My boom is bust,
    Just like my battery.

    Now pounds are gold and clattery
    I recall the past.
    Just like my battery,
    I try to make it last.

    I recall the past,
    Bathed in golden haze.
    I try to make it last,
    Spending borrowed days.

    Bathed in golden haze,
    Now I’m old and wrinkly,
    Spending borrowed days.
    Pounds were green and crinkly.

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    1. Francis, an interesting poem-is it a pantoum? It made me laugh whatever form it is. I loved the "gold and clattery". you have a very light touch :)

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  15. What an interesting post! Paul's writing tips are excellent! I love poetry and wish him the best of luck. :)
    ~Jess

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