The past few weeks have been very busy. But, in my spare moments, I have been thinking a lot about my readers, and my characters.

For me, book character is more than just the letters/typed symbols and the people portrayed inside. It is also about the character of each book as a whole, and I love it when I hear from readers which poems they like best, what spoke to them most. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that part of this is the writer’s fragile ego’s insecurity and need for reassurance. But also this helps me to discover my books’ characters from the outside looking in.

Why do I need readers to tell me this? Well, at the level of themes and common subject matter, I don’t. But in terms of the most likeable traits, I do. Also, many of my poems are not necessarily clear-cut and straight-forward/one-interpretation-only in meaning. I love ambiguity (not obscurity!) as a writer and a reader, because leaving space for readers to interpret means that every readers gets their own individual poem(s), rather than a mass-produced product (even if books themselves are mass-produced).

Interestingly, with Into the Yell and Be[yond], some clear favourites have kept coming up on most people’s lists, often those of very exotic places, or familiar scenes like poems of parenthood or Alzheimer’s.

The Magnetic Diaries seems to have a much less easily definable character, with readers’ favourite poems proving quite varied. Some prefer the quirky humorous poems, others the poems of secrets, others the running poem, or the love poems. I’m not yet quite sure exactly what to make of that. Multi-facetted perhaps? As a narrative in poems featuring a depressed main character with a fragmented mind and lifestyle, it is perhaps to be expected and a good thing that favourites should span that fragmentation. Certainly, the difference seems important to me, even if I don’t fully understand why it should be so. Perhaps it also explains why of all my collections, it is the one that has most easily adapted to other forms, such as an audio narrative and the poetry-play, by picking out particular character traits.

Anyway, for a taster of the book (and poetry-play’s) possible character for those who haven’t read it:

“clouds loose | their bones”
“We swallow whole each brush of skin”
“this love is a frying | of my insides”
“Then a car door slams – | in a stifled metal kiss.”
“in the moon’s mortar, | thoughts ground to fine powder”
“Everyone knows I die therefore I am”
“pain’s tidal pull away from this | wracked skeleton of known walls”
“Life itself diced: a giant Rubik’s cube, | impossible to twist right.”
“my body a zoetrope that won’t stop spinning”
“mist dreams skimmed | from my waking skin”

The Magnetic Diaries poetry-play is staged at The Courtyard in Hereford, on Saturday, July 4, as part of the Write On Festival and stars Vey Straker, directed by Tiffany Hosking. It will be followed by a short Q & A session when the audience can pose their questions about the play and writing process. A blog post about this is also now up on The Courtyard blog.

In my other recent books, the pamphlet Hearth, by myself and Angela Topping, has a character mostly determined by the commission brief from the publisher: poems about family taking objects in the home as a starting point. And favourite poems would seem to be those that strike a similar memory or reaction in readers.

Plenty-fish? Well, proofing this with Nine Arches Press editor Jane Commane this week, I’d say myself that it’s quirky and holds lots of water! I suspect it’s more confident than earlier collections, so in places brighter and more daring. Within this though, I have also come to appreciate moments of stillness and landscape (more sure-footed, perhaps) than in previous collections. Endorsements so far have all been encouraging, though the real test, of course, is the readers.

More on plenty-fish, and the still unfinished but not forgotten micro-reviews, soon.

Meanwhile, I’ve not had much time for my own submissions, as I’ve also been busy with the next two V. Press pamphlets: art brut from David O’Hanlon and The Girl Who Grew Into a Crocodile by Claire Walker. I’m excited that V. Press will be having a stand at this year’s Poetry Book Fair in London on Saturday, September 26, and I am also hoping to re-open V. Press submissions in August (yeah, you heard it here first!).

Other snippets of news for me personally though include another small poem in the F.T. on June 11, and a coast-set poem with a modern fairytale twist accepted for three drops from a cauldron. (Beware where you venture while on holiday!)

PS I do worry sometimes that even though this is my website blog, some posts may seem me, me, me (particularly now that running V. Press means I have less time for micro-reviews of other poets’ work)! If so, that’s not the intention. The posts are also very much too about my readers (why else write?!) who make the books what they are. Also, the publishers, who put a lot of effort in behind the scenes, and other poets, who may be interested in the writing and publishing process, as well as publication outlets. If you have any thoughts on any of these, but feel exposed sharing them in public, please do email me lifeislikeacherrytreeATyahooDOTcom ; I’d love to hear.