Adventures in

Poemland, by Chelsey Minnis, is book length, sparse, musing on what poetry is at all. You can see the declarative style that developed into last year’s Baby I Don’t Care — but this earlier work has a grappling feeling of trying to define something elusive (rather than flipping spotlights onto the space between two people).

So what we get is someone having repeated stabs at what poetry/being a poet, is. Like:

“This is supposed to be an independent thought..
But it is just a strained leash..
This is a poem!”

the double-dot, un-ellipsis, is a mark throughout the work — as is the exclamation. It’s like sitting with someone having a bit of a breakdown or breakthrough, almost trailed-off ideas that are really statements, twinned with a slightly more vague statement that is said with excitement.

There’s some odder parts too, like this ode-ish thing:

Which feels like an attempt to say nothing. These bump up against the more aspirational lines filled with additional colour, flavour, fat, like:

“If you are a person you can also be someone’s goat . . 
I can tell you about it for free . .”

These lines do some work to grip on to something ungraspable. There’s a strain in the attempt to not say something and leaving the concrete images of What It Is all over the place. This is a kind of discomfort, or:

“This is like looking too sexy in an uncomfortable chair…”

Here’s the centre of it I think, the obvious observation that we don’t want anyone else to be telling our stories:

In writing world controversy news, this tweet upset a few people. An unfair comment for the most part, although of course there is a lot of junk sent out. The part which gets to me is the “writer’s instinct” part — which seems like a nonsense idea. Or maybe I just don’t have it. There’s also the implication that there’s no point anyone without experience trying anything — i.e. you should obviously try and be part of a writing community but definitely don’t try and start one through publishing. The thread itself is surprisingly full of people agreeing with it — which I didn’t expect, although there are a few interesting thoughts amongst it.


I thought I could try adding a new section, where I read a classic piece of poetry to siri, and show you what it writes down. This week, W B Yeats:

Song of the week is this set from Fleet Foxes:

Thanks for reading Etch To Their Own. What a life eh? Mary Oliver died this week. I shamefully admit I am not deeply familiar with her work — here’s a few things I have seen in the wake of this news that I really loved. Someone called Paul has a book out — I hope to be sent a review copy. Tim Clare talks to authors about whether they are in their own books, my feeling: everyone overanalyses these things in their own work and fears that everything will be attributed to them, because they are awful humans. I have never been in a book, or even seen on, thankfully. This is a tweet about all my publicly published work — you could read it all for free, on a screen, doing your part for independent authors/poets and saving a tree. But then, you know what they say about trees, as soon as you’re asleep they try and drown you in carbon dioxide.

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