Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Episode 555: Il Papa

Went into the Vatican today to see the Pope speak. Not exactly up-to-date on the latest developments in the Catholic church's sex abuse scandal, but I'm sure if I understood the Pope's speeches, there'd be no mention of that. The crowd was going crazy for him, even though to my mind, he's a lot less charismatic than his predecessor, John Paul II. The museum's huge, and practically labyrinthine in the effort it takes just to reach the exit. The art inside is stunning, but it was pretty funny how the guards inside the Sistine Chapel were stopping people from taking photographs and making everyone shut up, both futile tasks. Spent the afternoon walking through the Colosseum and the surrounding ruins. Pretty damn impressive stuff! I don't know why, but ancient history's just so much more interesting to me. I think it's partly because the line between myth, legend and fact is more blurred, and so part of the appeal's the creation of the most compelling story possible from the fragments available. Was going to see this church decorated with the bones of monks, but was thwarted in this endeavour by a technical fault on the metro. Ended up wandering the streets of Rome with people, in search of food. I had my carbonara, which was a lot drier than the variety that's usually served up back home, but was still tasty. On the whole though, I think I like the slightly more inauthentic Italian food in Singapore, where the portions are heartier and you get more bang for your buck, as it were.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Episode 554: San Crispino, Rome's Best Gelato

We spent the morning doing a walking tour, led by a Florentine guide who spoke possibly the best English I've encountered so far, as well as being pretty wry. Florence is very beautiful with all its marble buildings, but it is kind of weird to think that the foundations for all these are the ruins of Roman Florence. So I wrote today's poem about it. The result is passable I think, and I've also decided, screw it, I'm going to end my poems with little epiphanies if I want to. Elizabeth Bishop does it all the time, and together with Thom Gunn's restraint and Philip Larkin's cynicism, is basically the inspiration for my portfolio. (It's odd in a way, as these three poets frequently write in form and rhyme delicately and brilliantly, whereas my only concession to form is writing strictly in syllabics most of the time and alliteration comes more naturally to me than rhyme.) Rome, I find, is more historically fascinating than beautiful in its own right. I did have what's supposed to be the best gelato in the city. Rum cocoa, which my mum would've loved because it's very strong, and apple sorbet, which was impressive because it was red apple and I swear it had bits of apple flesh in it! (It also turns out that I wasn't being charged for yesterday's WiFi, so I guess I should have made more use of it.)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Episode 553: No, I Didn't Pretend To Hold It Up

Saw the Leaning Tower of Pisa in the afternoon, which like Stonehenge (for me anyway) was a lot less impressive in reality than what I'd been led to believe. There were loads of touts again though, although I got approached less than the other people on my tour. (The touts were probably just being a bit racist and assuming I didn't speak English. Fine by me in this instance.) There's WiFi in this hotel, although I suspect I'm paying a lot for it because I seem able to freely access it without needing to go through any of the activation procedures specified by the front desk. We'll see when it's time to leave the hotel tomorrow. There's even a laptop provided in my room by the way, which is just incredible. I was prepared to pay the highest activation cost because it gives unlimited usage instead of charging per minute, and splitting the payment with Alberto, who seems to be my permanent roommate for the rest of the trip, but at the moment, even if I do end up being charged, we've used nowhere near €15, so it's fine by me. The club in Florence was okay, I guess. Karaoke in a club is a bit of a novelty, but I thought the music on the whole was pretty boring, hardly the kind of stuff I'd dance to, so I left before it was even midnight. I'd had my complimentary drink anyway, and I wasn't looking to get hammered. (Am I ever?)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Episode 552: Riviera Reverie

Wasn't up for another night of drinking yesterday, so I came back to the hotel. Alberto was already asleep, so I just spent a couple of hours writing the day's poem and watching Melrose Place and Gossip Girl. The tone of the former has definitely changed for the better, although I can't see any reason yet why the network felt the replacements for Auggie and Violet were interesting characters. Gossip Girl, on the other hand, may be in danger of overcomplicating its plot intrigues, although I guess it's all building to a climactic (and cathartic) season finale. I think all the romantic attachments in the show are perfectly configured right now though, which sucks because that's not going to last (although One Tree Hill suggests The CW writers aren't completely averse to stable pairings). There wasn't quite enough sunlight in Nice today to justify taking my top off, so I skipped the beach and walked around with some people instead. It's beautiful along the Côte d'Azur though, very beautiful. I can totally see why Peter Blegvad decided to escape here for Easter. (The sun was out in full force after lunch, but by then I was heading back to the hotel.) Before dinner in Monte-Carlo, we visited the Fragonard perfumery in Èze, where I blew £135 on perfume and got complimented on my 'très bon français'. (I feel no shame in admitting that for a non-native francophone, I speak the language rather well and with a fairly pure accent.) It's good perfume though, and costs less per bottle than branded stuff in the stores. This is totally going to be my indulgence if I ever strike the lottery. Didn't actually gamble at the casino tonight though, mostly because I just wasn't feeling lucky and the stakes were pretty high relative to how much cash I've got left. I have the option to draw out more thanks to my mum's generosity in temporarily loaning me some money, but I'm trying as far as possible not to touch it. I'll see how things go as I get through Italy!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Episode 551: Enfin, Je Peux Dire Que J'ai Lu Sarraute

I'm now in Nice, right smack in the middle of the Côte d'Azur. With any luck, I'll charm a rich benefactor with my French and never have to work again. Yeah right. I did get along quite well when we made a stop for lunch at Aigues-Mortes though. I carried Nathalie Sarraute's Enfance along with me to subtly advertise to the locals that I'm a fellow francophone, and it totally worked. I actually finished the book on the last leg of our drive to Nice, and I have to say, my opinion of it has completely reversed from when I first cracked it open. I found it rather tiresome initially, but once I really got into it, it was like reading a novel in English. It's partly because Sarraute can be considered a contemporary novelist, I guess, because the vocabulary of Enfance isn't actually that hard. I didn't have to resort to the dictionary at all, even though there were some words whose precise English equivalent escaped me, but on the whole, I caught the sense of the book, which was pretty awesome. To me, anyway. The big test for me when reading something in Chinese or French is whether I would read it if it had been written in/translated into English. In this case, definitely. I think Sarraute's a brilliant writer and would happily read her later stuff when I have the money to buy it, as well as space on my shelves.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Episode 550: Flamenco

Free day in the city again, so just had a bit of a wander along La Rambla and in the Mercat de la Boqueria. Great sunny weather, so hopefully got a bit of a tan out of the day because a couple of us made it down to the beach by taxi, which cost ridiculously little here. (I took my top off there. How adventurous and out of character!) Anyway, I've finished that poem about La Sagrada Família I started yesterday, although I think none of the original lines I jotted down have survived entirely intact. I think it's decent, although I'm still having difficulty with resisting those little epiphanies at the end that we briefly discussed in the last EN238 seminar. I guess I'm a bit mainstream that way. Am aiming for a pair of sonnets for today's poem, although rhyming and still sounding natural is not my strong suit. I know there's always the option of half-rhyme and what-have-you, but for me, it honestly takes more effort to not rhyme exactly, so usually I just go with perfect rhyme. The flamenco dancers were awesome, so I'm going to write about them. Am tempted to draw connections between dancer/dance and writer/writing, but that sounds so pretentious as I think about it, even if there is some truth to it.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Episode 549: ¡Hola!

Another long drive between Lyon and Barcelona today. My Korean roommate is gone, so no more awkward, abortive attempts at communication. It makes me sound like a horrible person, but he would definitely have worn out my patience by the end of the trip if we'd been roommates all the way. Had the room all to myself in Lyon, but it looks like I've got a new roommate now. We stopped at the Pont du Gard along the way, which is a Roman aqueduct, an inspiring sight that I thought was going to inspire today's poem, until I saw La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. The story behind that is worth capturing in a poem, I think. The guy who designed it never got the chance to complete it because he apparently got hit by a tram. As it's never received official endorsement by the Catalonian government, there's no steady funding to finish it, which is a shame because from what can be seen of the original design, it'd have been a pretty damn impressive structure. Another architect is working to complete it now, but it's almost certainly not happening for another couple of decades. I'm not sure what the poem is going to be about though. I've banged out the first couple of lines in my N95 as usual, but I'm going to have to think about it some more before it'll make sense. Not going to happen tonight though because I'm only just back from a pub crawl that ended in a huge club by the seaside, Shôko. We had a queue jump basically, which was pretty awesome. Damn, I need to make more clubbing friends when I get back to Singapore.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Episode 548: Retour À La France

I guess I've never thought seriously about the implications of how Switzerland's society is structured. Imagine the signs completely changing languages when you cross into a different canton. That's what happened when we went from Lucerne to Geneva. German gave way to French. It must be quite strange for people who come from countries where there's only one dominant language. The Swiss have taken the whole multilingual thing further than us in Singapore though, since I think it's safe to say that practically their entire population is at least bilingual, something that remains largely a theoretical outcome in Singapore. (Among my close friends, I'm one of the few people I know who's actually functionally multilingual after all those years of mother tongue classes and hours at the MOELC.) Wandered about the city for a bit with Troy because we decided that a kebab shop wasn't really where we wanted to have lunch in Geneva. I completely forgot that Gaby lives in Geneva, or I'd have contacted her somehow and told her to come find me in the city centre. That'd have been awesome! Drove on to Lyon, which is apparently the gastronomic capital of France. I had a nice onion soup, but was less impressed with my main course of bream. The fish was a bit too tough for my liking. So now here I am, taking advantage of free WiFi, rather than paying through the nose for Internet access. Probably going to head to bed once I finish up the poem, since we have a 7.45 am start tomorrow for the long drive to Barcelona!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Episode 547: The Swiss Experience

We took a cable car to the top of Mount Pilatus, which was an interesting experience. The temperature dipped, naturally, so for a brief period, it was a little like being back in Coventry again, just with far better scenery, so I've got some nice pictures out of that. I'm in Switzerland, so of course I had to buy some chocolate! Got myself a few packs of Lindt, which I'm going to enjoy probably only when I get back to Coventry, just to console myself while I'm writing my non-fiction portfolio that life post-holiday isn't utter crap. (Have decided it's pretty much impossible to get that done during the holiday itself, as managing one poem per day already feels like an enormous mental feat! It's fortunate my non-fiction ideas are stuff I can comfortably dash off a few thousand breezy words about.) Didn't buy stuff like Swiss army knives or watches because the kind I want would basically shoot my bank balance to hell and I have no need for them in the first place anyway. We're in a club called The Loff now, and it looks like the night's going to get pretty messy. Think Ke$ha, but with less of the deliberate posturing. I think it's hilarious that after I tweeted about this night, @jerricklim, @thatessencerare, @wisevice all replied pretty much instantly. Don't worry you lot, I'm still keeping it classy on a night out, just like you'd expect!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Episode 546: From Paris To Lucerne

Most of the day was spent eating up the miles between Paris and Lucerne, demonstrating that it is pretty exhausting to be cooped up in a coach for hours at a time. I did finish up yesterday's poem, which I'd been mulling over and tweaking repeatedly but unable to finish. It's an imitation of James Fenton's 'I'm In Paris With You', which has turned out okay, I think. At the very least, it's now a lot better than my earlier abortive attempts at getting a half-decent poem down. Anyway, just when I'd made up my mind to hate my roommate, he sprang on me the revelation that his mother had died a month ago and so he's sad. How can you in good conscience hate someone who's played such a brilliant sympathy card? Yes, it does seem like he's going to be my roommate for the rest of the trip, which is good in its own way. If I express sufficient incomprehension, he usually gives up, so it's like paying the price of a double room but effectively having the peace of a single. He comes and goes, although I sensibly hold onto the room key at all times. Just had dinner in the Swiss hotel, which was so much better than what we were served in the Parisian hotel, which was surprising given that that was a Holiday Inn! We even got served seconds here, which was fine by me because it was yummy. Am still knackered after last night's partying, so I think I'm going to do some reading and otherwise have an early night.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Episode 545: Moulin Rouge!

I've decided that any sympathy I have for my roommate's communication difficulties has been erased by his inconsiderate behaviour. I know it's awful to resort to stereotypes, but he's so typical of the Asian nouveaux riches. To illustrate: He took a shower and then came back into the room naked, carrying on a conversation like it was entirely normal. He also left the entire bathroom floor wet! The ultimate clincher, although this is a personal bias of mine, is that his luggage is LV, which to me is the ultimate in crass luxury. I really hope I'm not roommates with him when we get to Lucerne. Spent the afternoon exploring central Paris. Didn't actually pay to go inside anything other than the Eiffel Tower, where I climbed up as far as the stairs went and then took the lift to the summit. Tried my French on one of the metro staff and it was understood! So I spent the rest of the afternoon taking the obligatory photographs: the Arc de Triomphe, Notre-Dame, the Louvre. Was too skint to pay to go into any though, so no, I have not seen La Joconde. She's apparently not much to look at anyway. We ended the night with a trip to Moulin Rouge, which was a fantastic cabaret! The food wasn't too bad either, with dessert being particularly delectable. The performances were stunning, especially the interstitial acts. Awesome juggling and ventriloquism! Definitely worth €137. Finished up in O'Sullivan's, a pub just down the road from Moulin Rouge. It's nice to know that cheesy dance music is the same across the world, e.g. Rihanna. Had two Mojitos, which cost me €22, but damn, these were proper ones and delicious. Should wake up fine tomorrow, since it's only just rum!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Episode 544: Et On Commence...

I'm always grateful to hold a Singaporean passport when I travel. It just opens so many doors. Someone on the tour got turned back at Dover because she didn't have the right visa to travel into the EU. (I don't need one, a fact I somewhat foolishly only bothered to confirm after I'd booked the tour.) No idea which country she's from though. So I finally got to see the white cliffs of Dover, although with the border control buildings in place, it really isn't that inspiring a sight. I can imagine it must have been though, back before we dumped all this concrete to block the view. I've actually, surprise surprise, made polite conversation with someone today, a young Australian lady who's travelling overseas for the first time, finally making the trip she chickened out of two years ago. There's a poem in that, I'm sure of it, although I probably won't write it this time. The journey from Calais to Paris was okay, although I did have a headache most of the way because of the ferry. Along the way, also managed to discover that someone else on the tour shares my name! Finally, how's this for a tweet deserving of #FML? My roommate in Paris is a Korean who speaks practically no English. I don't know how to make my English broken enough, so we communicate mostly by him muttering in Korean and occasionally breaking into English, while I look benignly puzzled and patient. In any case, it's inspired me to write the third section of what I think is an interesting three-part poem. To end the day, we did a night tour of Paris in the coach, making a stop where we could get a good view of the Eiffel Tower. It was raining pretty heavily though, which made photography kind of difficult. The umbrella touts were also pretty annoying! I'm so glad that touting isn't really a problem in Singapore, apart from say, the hawker centre at Newton Circus.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Episode 543: It's The Holidays Again...

Final seminar of the year was good, despite my oversleeping and nearly missing it altogether. Maureen Freely was very helpful with my non-fiction piece on Singapore, so it looks like I won't have much problems finishing the portfolio for this term. Also told her about the story making it into Foundling Review, and she said to remind her about this next year so that she can call me in when she does that writing exercise with the freshers. Anyway, I wrote most of my second portfolio poem on the way to London. It feels somewhat different from my usual work, so I can't really say if it's any good. I'm staying at the Imperial Hotel instead of sleeping on Eugene's floor because I decided I didn't really fancy lugging a suitcase about the Tube in the early morning. I don't care if it perpetuates the misconception that I'm loaded. There's loads of people on the tour by the way, which is really intimidating. What was I thinking travelling alone? Oh right. It's supposed to be me being bold and independent, as well as providing material for my EN238 portfolio. Thing is, it so totally could. I just need to step out of my comfort zone. Pretend it's first year all over again. Except after one month, I probably won't see any of these people ever again! What could it hurt to try, right?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Episode 542: Dove Release Launch

Isn't it ironic that I fret about not being good enough, and then when an editor finally gives a sign that I am, I worry that they've made a mistake by letting me through the door, even if at least one of the poems they took I definitely regard as being of publishable standard? It seems I am, like so many writers, my own worst critic, impossible to please. I've recently started sending fiction out as well in addition to poetry, and I'm pleased to report that one of my short stories has just been accepted by Foundling Review! Had an assistant editor e-mail back with paperwork that I had to initial and send back, all very official and exciting. It'll probably come out while I'm on holiday, so if I can't get Internet access during my trip, I'll post up a link when I get back in mid-April. Was at the launch of Dove Release earlier, where there were a lot of amazing readings, including a brilliant one by George Ttoouli and Simon Turner, involving homophonic translations of one of Turner's poems that'd been fed through Google Translate. (You had to be there to appreciate the hilarity of it all.) Best moment of the night for me though was when Peter Blegvad played his song about the Côte d'Azur at the end. You know something? I've just realised that I'm actually in Nice and Monaco for a couple of days, so depending on when he's there, there's a very slim chance I might bump into him overseas. That would be pretty surreal.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Episode 541: Liminal Step

After a series of rejections by other markets, escarp has finally accepted another of my haikus. Small triumphs get me through the days. That said, I've sent out stuff to a whole new bunch of magazines, so am basically inviting myself to be slaughtered. Again. The Diesel jeans arrived promptly via UPS, but they didn't fit the way I'd envisioned, so I requested a refund and got UPS to come around to pick up the box to return it. They were so efficient, compared to HDNL, who delivered my pair of G-Star RAW jeans, which thankfully, fit perfectly. I spent the entire afternoon waiting for them, and then when I finally decided to go and take a shower before heading off to see Bella's short film, they showed up while I was in the bathroom. Thank goodness Chloe was in the house! Then again, the HDNL courier would probably just have chucked it in our back garden anyway, which is what the lazy bastards always do with my books from Amazon UK. (It's happened twice already, and I wish Amazon UK would just go back to Royal Mail, strikes or no strikes.) Liminal Step was interesting, but I'm not going to dissect it here because I already did it with Bella over the telephone, and she's the only one who really needs to know what I thought in this case anyway! Am now just trying to finish one more assignment for the Warwick Skills Certificate portfolio. Not the most fun of tasks, as you can imagine...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Episode 540: I'm In Print!

Did okay for my French test. Could've been better for the composition, but that was my fault for losing track of time. Anyway, 'Summer Heat' got rejected again! It's funny how editors seem to like what it's doing with the whole footnotes thing, but that also becomes the reason why they don't want to publish it. (Could George Ttoouli be right about them after all? Cue crisis regarding my artistic choices.) I've sent it off to another magazine, whose manifesto suggests that if anyone would be willing to publish something where the footnotes are as lengthy as the main story, it's them. Fingers crossed. I'm getting used to the rejections now, I think, even if each e-mail is like being slapped in the face gently and told, 'Not good enough to play with the real writers yet.' It's probably the case, and after some rejection e-mails, I've looked at what I sent in and thought to myself, you know what, they're right and this stuff really belongs in the juvenilia that surfaces after I'm dead and buried. I have recently sent out some stuff that I think is really among my best work though, said opinion being affirmed by (relatively) unbiased independent parties, so if even that gets turned down, I won't know what to think anymore. The new issue of The 6S Review did come out today though, so I'm actually in print. Tempted to buy a physical copy, but that would be just succumbing to vanity, since I can read my fellow writers just as well in the PDF file.

Today was spent getting ready to travel, involving changing currency, buying a few of my favourite cheap baseball t-shirts from Topman (although I still refuse to venture into orange or yellow despite now owning pale pink, red and deep purple), and picking up suede cleaner for my Diesel shoes. Am in two minds about whether to wear them on holiday, for like nights out and stuff. They're pretty sweet, but I'm not sure I want to risk them getting too dirty in clubs and such. (Yes, I've pretty much reconciled myself to clubbing with a bunch of people I've only known for a couple of days. At least once in the 24-day tour anyway.) Ate dinner by myself at NoodleBar because I had a sudden craving for something Chinese and artery-clogging. Oh yeah, I also got a haircut. The thing about me and haircuts, is that I always try to convince myself that I'm going to go without one for ages to grow my hair out really long, but then I get annoyed within three weeks and head back for a trim. On the whole though, I do think I look better with short hair, if only because my hair's naturally very dry and stiff, so growing it out just looks awful.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Episode 539: Last Week Of Term!

Spontaneously decided to join people in Leamington for drinks, but I was wise enough to leave myself plenty of time to catch the last 12. I'm going to try to type out a bit of the first assignment for the portfolio, in which I'm supposed to imagine, present and comment on a scenario that demonstrates, among other things, the three behavioural models: passive, aggressive, assertive. Very mechanical, but it has to be finished. Found some Diesel jeans online that I like, and now the question I'm asking myself is whether I like them enough to fork out money. If I pay £15 for express shipping, I can even wear them on holiday! I'm trying to decide whether to buy two or three pairs, bearing in mind I would like to spend a bit at the G-Star RAW outlet in Birmingham if I make it there on Wednesday. Would have bought them by now if I hadn't made my spontaneous decision to leave the house 10 minutes before the 12 to Leamington was due. Also need to decide how much additional cash to bring for my holiday. The problem's that I literally have absolutely no idea how much I'm going to spend! A good number of meals are covered, but I don't know if my tour groups is going to be full of skint or extravagant people. To be fair though, this tour isn't cheap, so I probably should err on the side of caution and bring more money...

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Episode 538: 3704

That's the word count for the EN227 essay that I've just finished, having missed both morning and evening services, and it isn't even midnight yet. Yay! I'm becoming better at this getting work done business. At this rate, by next year, I'll be finishing stuff weeks before it's even due! Imagine that if you will. I'm pretty impressed with myself right now, although if I do horribly on this essay, you can be sure I'll never finish early ever again. I think it'll be fine. Probably not a First because I think there are some gaps that inevitably crept in because I'm not that brilliant, I'm lazy, and both poems were pretty damn long. I think it's safe to assume a mid 2:1 though, since nothing I've written is flat-out wrong, so the only thing a marker could object to is the structure of the argument and the things that I've left out in the argument, whether these be sins of commission or omission. I personally think my train of thought reflects the shifts that occur in the two poems, which have turned out to be far more intriguing than I ever thought when I first decided to write on them. Hopefully, I've done them justice. Anyway, I've just e-submitted, so my fate, whatever it may be, is sealed. Now to turn my thoughts to finish up that last portfolio for the Warwick Skills Certificate by Thursday...

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Episode 537: R.I.P. Freddie

Was supposed to go see The Taming Of The Shrew on campus in the afternoon, but I gave it a miss to continue writing my essay instead. The ticket was free anyway! Best moment of the evening was definitely re-reading what someone had scribbled on the first page of an introduction by Germaine Greer to 'Goblin Market': 'Someone ought to tell Germaine Greer to actually read Goblin Market, maybe then she'd know her Lizzie from her Laura.' It's absolutely true. I don't care how famous that woman is, she definitely got them mixed up in her introduction. It wasn't just a one-off transposition; she was wrong throughout the entire thing. Her editor should've been fired. (Maybe she didn't have one?) Okay, I lied. Best moment was really eating Ben & Jerry's with Royce's banana loaf while pretending to think about my essay. What a pig! Worst moment of the evening was watching one of the few likeable characters in the second generation of Skins die a gratuitous and pointless death. This show has really gone downhill! It's already been recommissioned for two new series though, with an all-new cast to feature in it. Hopefully, the writers will remember what made the show interesting in the first place. It just feels like with the second generation, they had to resort to more outrageous characters because all the relatively normal archetypes had been used up in the first generation.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Episode 536: Francisco Goldman & Jon Lee Anderson

So this morning, in lieu of our usual EN232 seminar, we had Francisco Goldman and Jon Lee Anderson in to speak to us. I want to rave about how inspiring it has been to be in the same room three days in a row with two journalists/writers, hearing them talk about their work and experiences, but I won't. It was a good three days and really made me value being on my course. Can you imagine getting this kind of exposure studying a similar course at NUS or NTU? (Readers studying at these universities, feel free to correct me.) Anyway, I did get a good mark for 'The Triptych Papers' after all, although George Ttoouli had some suggestions for improvement. I can see where he's coming from, and the ideas I dealt with in the story are definitely worth exploring in a longer work, but I think I'd have to write something completely new that's set in the same mythos, rather than trying to extend what I handed in for the portfolio. I entered the whole four-part story in a competition, which I'll know the results off by the end of May, thus breaking my own rule of not sending work off if I have to pay to do it. Honestly, I was just tempted by the mere possibility that my story could win between USD 600-2000, and since now I know it's definitely not a crappy story, I figured, why not take the chance? Didn't really manage to get a lot done for the essay in the end, but I did attend a Moroccan-themed dinner fundraiser in Leamington. Dan and I missed the last 12 home by mere seconds, a truly epic fail. Took the U1 instead and walked home from campus. We had a good conversation going about money, the future, class envy, and lots of loosely interconnected stuff. I still wish I'd written more of the essay though...

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Episode 535: I've Manned Up

I think I'm now truly out of my essay funk. In a fraction of the time it took me to eke out about 250 words that I wanted to keep (after all the tweaking of my thesis statement and introductory paragraph), I've managed to nearly double that amount. This is all part of my resolution to man up and just get on with the close reading part of the essay, in the assumption that as that gets put down on the page, the broader argument that I want to pursue will fall naturally into place, and this actually seems to be the case, as I'm already foreseeing that two paragraphs from where I've got to so far, I'm going to throw in something nuanced that just yesterday I was agonising over how to slip into the essay without throwing everything out of whack. Anyway, I voluntarily skipped a lecture today to attend another session with Francisco Goldman. Honestly, I adore Oscar Wilde, but his poetry doesn't do anything for me the way his plays do, and as for Michael Field, never heard of the pseudonym or the two women behind it before I came to university, so I don't think I've missed out terribly by missing the lecture. Also finished another poem, based on the Little Mermaid this time, and was tempted to call it 'Sashimi Love', but I don't want to make Michael Hulse cringe, even if I'm not going to be there to see it, so I've changed the title to something less tongue-in-cheek. ('Market Day'. Makes sense for the poem, but isn't it so unamusing compared to 'Sashimi Love'?)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Episode 534: Minor Roadblock, Now Resolved

Realised that the thesis statement in my introduction wasn't forceful enough. Or to be more precise, the thesis of my essay was defused across so many sentences that I wasn't sure it would be at all clear to anyone reading the introduction what exactly the rest of the essay was going to be about. Have now restructured it, so that the thesis is clearly the final (long) sentence of my opening paragraph. What the essay is about hasn't changed at all, merely that this long sentence now actually touches on all the things I want to deal with. I'll leave it overnight, and if I still like what I read in the morning, I can run with it. Did a bit of secondary reading for 'The Eve Of St. Agnes' before the Francisco Goldman event in the Arts Centre, and I must say, it's gratifying to know that there are plenty of critics out there providing me with quotes that confirm my suspicions about the complexity of this poem's structuring, something which I'd heretofore taken completely for granted on the assumption that anything this long surely must have more to it than meets the eye. Then I found the time to complete a poem inspired by the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale, which I thought turned out to be a nifty piece of work. Have perhaps gone a bit heavy with the alliteration, for no reason other than that I could, but I like the twist in my version. The Francisco Goldman event was great by the way. He talked about the experience of writing The Art Of Political Murder, which is really an intriguing book that I'm so tempted to buy, but won't because I have neither cash nor space to spare right now. He also read out an excerpt from his new novel, Say Her Name, inspired by his relationship with his late wife. I thought it was beautiful, kind of reminded me of Kundera in parts.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Episode 533: Racking Them Up...

Began the day with an acceptance from Six Sentences. I'm appearing in the next issue of The 6S Review, which means you're actually going to have to buy something to see my work in print. I think that's pretty damn exciting, even if it's just a flash fiction that's six sentences long. (It was actually something from one of Maureen Freely's class exercises last year. I just tweaked the punctuation to string the last couple of one-word sentences together.) This is after I was recently informed that Seedpod Publishing has accepted my tweet-length tale, which I just wrote on the spur of the moment a while ago and sent in. That's the thing with Twitter-based journals, I think. They force you to be interesting in very few words. Anyway, I'm ending of the night with a rejection from kill author. 'We enjoyed reading "Summer Heat" - particularly admiring the inventive approach to the story's structure - but ultimately didn't feel that the piece's themes or language quite suited it to our journal, so are passing on it.' At least they liked the structure, which was inspired by Mark Z. Danielewski's use of footnotes in House Of Leaves. (George Ttoouli didn't like that stylistic influence actually, although he liked the piece and saw further possibilities for it if I freed it of the 1234.5-word limit, which I might explore next term after portfolio deadlines and before the end-of-term examinations, or maybe even over summer break.) Have submitted it to another journal instead, as I am now firmly convinced that the story is good enough to be published, so I'm going to make it happen somehow. The trouble, of course, is that I'm not willing to pay for postage to submit work, so that shuts me out of the more 'established' names in the business. For this piece, formatting is somewhat important, so I needed to find a place that accepts electronic submissions via attachment. Not an easy task, I can assure you, but I've managed it, so I can go to bed now.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Episode 532: (My Equivalent Of) Major Progress

I've finished my introduction, having rewritten what was there to begin with and more than doubling its length. I think it's pretty clear now what my essay is meant to be about, so I just need to write it all out. (I know the module page says that my final thesis should come about after I've written the rest of the essay, but I don't buy that. My mind refuses to work that way.) I've actually found a book tying together sexuality and spirituality in the context of the Judaeo-Christian tradition, which maps back nicely onto ideas of sensuality versus religion and body versus mind, that sort of thing. Am tempted to stay up to write the next paragraph, which will then lead nicely into how sensuality and religion in 'The Eve Of St. Agnes' are portrayed as worlds that are incomplete when kept separate, but with a French test tomorrow, I think I'll just go to bed early instead. After all, it's not like the idea's going to fly away from me, now that I've got it mapped out in my head. Feels like things are really falling into place for this essay, and as long as I can be disciplined and find a pocket of time, I could really finish this in good time and not need to pull anything remotely resembling an all-nighter. Of course, given my track record, that's probably not going to happen, but it's a good feeling to have, all the same.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Episode 531: Double Duty

It was my first time attending the evening celebration because I was singing today, so I was out for 12 hours. Brought my laptop because I'd planned on doing work between services, but ended up playing The Settlers Of Catan in the Union. (That place is chilly on a weekend!) So not a terribly productive afternoon, but it was good fun. Can't decide if I'm so tired because being involved in worship for two services is very draining or because I haven't been getting enough sleep over the past couple of nights. Had thought of going to Topman tomorrow to see if I can get a few more lightweight t-shirts to pack for my upcoming vacation, for which I received the travel documents a couple of days ago, but I suspect I'll be too tired, and I'm going to a reading in the Chaplaincy anyway, so no point rushing to the city centre and back. Really do need to get a move on with the essay though, even if it's just browsing through my research so that I can pull an all-nighter on Sunday. I've got a good idea of how to phrase in the introduction what I want to say about 'The Eve Of St. Agnes', but I need to find some article that gives me a way to structure my thoughts on 'Goblin Market'. I vaguely remember coming across one, but need to flip through my research to be sure.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Episode 530: Post-production Party!

Missed the afternoon TEDx session despite having bought a ticket because I was in a Warwick Skills Certificate session. So that's £3 wasted. At least this module was the most interesting out of the three that I've attended, so that makes up for it, just a little. The assignments are really easy, and we completed one of them during the session itself, so if I wanted, I could probably finish it all by Monday. I think it's really time to devote some myself to the essay on Keats and Rossetti though, now that I've got an introductory sentence or two in place. It's always the beginning that's hard for me. However convoluted the subsequent argument, as long as it's been set up properly by the end of the first paragraph, it always goes fine in the end. Or so says previous experience up to this point. Anyway, since I wasn't at TEDx, I made it to the post-production party on time. We scribbled on each other's t-shirts (I'm quite horrified that I failed to get the dialect pun that Huabin wrote on mine until someone said it out loud) and screened a recording of the musical (twice), which I've actually got on DVD now, so if anyone wants to relive one of my rare moments of artistic triumph, you know how to get hold of me. escarp also published my haiku today, and I like the concept of a Twitter-based journal, if only because it means there's somewhere I can send off haikus to. Haha!

Friday, March 05, 2010

Episode 529: Breakthrough

Finally penned down the first two sentences of my essay! 88 words in total. I think this could be the start of something beautiful! If you think about it, I just need to write about three to four paragraphs each day over the next week, and the essay will actually get itself down. (When you break the work down like that, it's truly shocking how long it takes me to get it done. It's only 3500 words!) Awesome EN273 seminar today, discovering the gruesome origins of Sleeping Beauty. I really do like fairy tales and how there are so many variations on a single plot. It's one of the things I remember best from primary school, how there was one series of lessons that was all about reading different versions of fairy tales. Come to think of it, we were reading some pretty violent versions of Cinderella that I'm sure wouldn't be allowed in primary schools in Singapore these days. (Must ask Shirley about this.) Had a minor debate with myself when I got home as to whether I should attend Jemma's house party. Was having a headache and probably need the sleep that I won't be getting over the weekend. Ended up going, although while walking to her place from the bottom of the Parade, I did wonder for a while if I was lost. (I wasn't.) Took a taxi back and arrived home around 1.30 am, much earlier than I'd expected. Looks like I'll be getting some sleep after all...

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Episode 528: Ecopoetry

After writing that poem George gave us as homework after today's seminar, I've decided that ecopoetry isn't really my thing. I applaud its aims, but I just can't write it myself. I've given it a go, and I think the end result is fairly musical, but I can't see myself doing it regularly. The irony, of course, is that this attempt is comparatively closer to the style of poetry I would like to write. Or one of them anyway. I just don't want to write about ecological themes! Sent four different edits to escarp because the original change I made was passable, but they wanted to explore better alternatives if at all possible. Who'd have thought trying to get a haiku published would be so nerve-wracking? I was also going to write a poem about Sleeping Beauty in advance for next week's EN273 seminar, but I can't decide on the beginning for it. I'm trying to go for something slightly voyeuristic, as the conventionally 'suppressed' element of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale is that she gets raped by the prince and gives birth to two children that her mother-in-law wants to feast upon. You've got to love unsanitised fairy tales! Who needs the Disney versions?

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Episode 527: A Single Man

Spent the first part of the afternoon working on a poem for tomorrow, and because I got lazy and couldn't figure out what story to tell using it, I decided to parody Frost's 'Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening'. Again. Also banged out the first couple of paragraphs of the non-fiction piece for Maureen Freely on my N95, which I'll probably need to rewrite when it comes to turning it into a full-length piece, just because the opening sounds a bit too caustic right now. Spent the rest of the time before band practice watching A Single Man with Dan. I loved it! Colin Firth was simply brilliant, as was Julianne Moore. Nicholas Hoult was a bit creepy at first, but it's nice to see him moving on from Skins to other things. (His American accent actually managed to surprise me.) I was less impressed by Jon Kortajarena. Striking, as you would expect for one of the top international male models of the moment, but he's going to have to lose that Spanish accent to avoid being typecast. The cinematography was excellent, making brilliant use of palette variations in a way that is sorely lacking in most films today. I was actually really impressed by Tom Ford's direction and the sheer aesthetic gorgeousness of the film, although I completely didn't see the ending coming and it was literally heartbreaking. Dan thinks that Colin Firth's character didn't deserve it, but I thought it was kind of poetic. Make that really poetic.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Episode 526: Rejection!

Got a rejection e-mail today, which I know shouldn't be taken personally, but nonetheless created feelings of inadequacy that led to my spending the entire night sifting through work to send off to yet more editors to invite yet more (potential) rejection. I can't decide if this reaction was rational or otherwise. I've decided, at the very least, that I don't need to be overly discriminate at this stage of my literary career in whom I submit to, so at least one of choices has been quite outré, with the poems sent in being correspondingly edgier. Would've gone out, and I'd meant to, but would've been the only non-Leamington person and didn't fancy going home alone. (If I'd stayed late, I'd have to have taken a taxi, and I'm trying to avoid that as far as possible in my bid to reduce discretionary expenditure.) Instead, I stayed in the Library, although I didn't actually get any work done. I just sat there, reading Martin McDonagh's The Leenane Trilogy (The Beauty Queen Of Leenane, A Skull In Connemara, The Lonesome West). Pretty disturbing stuff, although I personally think The Pillowman still trumps them all. This whole plan to start work early on my essay is basically going down the drain really...

Monday, March 01, 2010

Episode 525: Has Spring Finally Arrived?

It was gloriously warm while the sun was still out in full force this afternoon. Can't say the same about right now. Anyway, have just finished the portfolio of assignments. So that's at least one item of my to-do list for today that I can cross out. To be honest, there wasn't a lot after it. I had meant to write a poem about Nick Chen at the zoo, but that hasn't happened yet. (No, I'm not even kidding! There was going to be a xylophone in it too, until I realised that you can't spell 'xylophone' without 'n'. Foiled!) In other news, I'm in the latest issue of Angelic Dynamo, so many thanks to everyone who helped me get there by voting! So now even if every single other place that I sent poems off to rejects me, I've got a tiny bit of validation to keep me going. (I exaggerate. Only a little bit.) I have now begun writing a zombie apocalypse story on my Facebook status with Lizzie. It's the most amusing thing I've done all day, which is both strange and sad. Bizarrely, the reason we started doing this was because we were discussing British TV shows, and I was complaining about how Being Human is a bit rubbish in this second series and Skins has jumped the shark with Effy's going off the rails. To end off randomly, let me just say that wasabi-flavoured Pringles do not pack a punch at all. I had to eat the whole tube before I even felt it sting.