August - writing in the shade

It's August, my birthday month, school and uni holidays and - in the Lake District - often one of the wettest months of the year.  This year the summer so far has been hotter than a witch's cauldron and tinder dry. My office is too hot to work in, so I've migrated down to my bedroom (it's an upside down house!) which has a big window opening onto the river bank and a nice breeze blowing through.

John Updike being facetious
I'm not doing much blogging or Facebooking this month - it's time for reading, relaxing (alcohol is involved here) and enjoying the smallest members of my family who come to stay. The Girl is working at a local hotel, making beds and cleaning up after tourists. Neil is in Italy (hotter than a pizza oven) house-sitting for a friend and trying to get some sculpture done. I'm copy-editing a book for the autumn, in fits and starts (mostly stops), and working on some new poems.  I found the above poem by John Updike online and it immediately reminded me of Fleur Adcock's poem 'Future Work', where the poet is optimistically thinking about the summer ahead.

It is going to be a splendid summer.
The apple tree will be thick with golden russets
expanding weightily in the soft air.
I shall finish the brick wall beside the terrace
and plant out all the geranium cuttings.
Pinks and carnations will be everywhere.

The poet is male - there's a 'she' who tiptoes out with strawberries and jasmine tea - and there's a big ego at work.  The arrogance of this assertion: -

I shall be correcting the proofs of my novel
(third in a trilogy–simultaneous publication
in four continents); and my latest play

will be in production at the Aldwych
starring Glenda Jackson and Paul Scofield
with Olivier brilliant in a minor part.
I shall probably have finished my translations
of Persian creation myths and the Pre-Socratics
(drawing new parallels) and be ready to start

on Lucretius.

But, like all of us lazing in the August sun, will anything actually happen?  There's a hint of procrastination in the last lines:-

And poems? Yes, there will certainly be poems:
they sing in my head, they tingle along my nerves.
It is all magnificently about to begin.

So if you don't see much of me here for the rest of the month, think of me sipping a glass of prosecco in the garden, thinking about writing. It is all, magnificently, about to begin!  Here's the reading list I'm planning to enjoy in the weeks ahead:-

It's a  blend of mainstream publishing, small press and indie, as well as a mixture of poetry and fiction - three of each, though there is some cheating involved there, which I will explain later. Mary Sate: Imbecile, by Alice Jolly,  Kierkegaard's Cupboard, (poetry) by Marianne Burton, Smash all the Windows, by Jane Davis, The Interpreter's House mag, Dear Body, (poetry) by Hannah Hodgson, the XYZ of Happiness  (poetry) by Mary McCallum, and Caroline's Bikini by Kirsty Gunn.   Can't wait!


  1. Thank you for both poems., I will print them off and think about them in the sunshine. It's still just as hot here further north. (I am a cold soul - I love the heat...) I have just saved my lawns from drying off and am relishing the shade of the big trees while I think about Alice and work on the next one. Enjoy your reading. A wide range there...WX

    1. Thank you Wendy! The Kirsty Gunn novel (Faber) is interesting because it's all about writing a novel and it totally subverts the process and also all the things we're told - don't include all the backstory, etc etc. Kirsty is Professor of Creative Writing Practice at Dundee uni and she has a unique take on it. I enjoy having my ideas shaken up now and again! Enjoy the summer. xx


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