You Are Reading My Reading Review Of If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller by Italo Calvino

You study meta-fiction in the third year of your Creative Writing degree. You learn that meta-fiction, put in simplest terms, is writing about writing that forms narratives. You study two pages of If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller by Italo Calvino. You find the concept funny, a writer interrupting themselves and dictating that the reader or The Reader is the protagonist. It is farcical and tells you that on page 32, you are reading a duplication of page 17 and when you turn back, there is in fact no page 17 and when you turn back to page 32, it’s a different page. You deem the book clever, but don’t take it out of the library because Paul Auster and William Burroughs scare you more right now.

You pick up If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller four years later in a charity shop. You don’t read it for another year or so. When you do read it, you find 256 pages of the above scenario something not worth the time. You contemplate, out loud to friends and a lover who is a better reader than you, that the book is clever to the point of missing the point. The point. The point is never something clear in writing, but you say, I can’t believe this book has carried on like this for this many pages and I’ve got so little from. You address, aloud, that you like the concept of having a book that encompasses extracts and passages from novels that don’t exist but have blended into the narrative because of the author diversions and The Reader’s lust for other books. You say, quietly, that you like the idea of trying to write new genre per chapter and the threading of an array of them into one book is no easy challenge. But the fundamental thing you realise is the pompousness of the book. How it is so aware of itself and forever expanding on what it thinks writing is. You claim, in exclamation marks, that it’s the equivalent of a book-long blow job that the writer is giving to himself. You think it’s kind of sexist too. Experimentation and being unlike any other narrative made the writer sacrifice any connection to character, you say. Insta-forgetable bar cleverness, you say.

You decide the review should end with another short review of a different book, because that’s what Calvino would have done. If you have not read Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine, you could find yourself in a narrative that interrogates the world with a blend of poetry, prose, art and essay forms that divert and explode concepts in breath-sized passages. The book navigates the narrative of race and body in America, simultaneously speaks to its narrative in the world. You pace through it and retain all of it. There is an essay about Serena Williams and the media coverage of her tennis matches that you are certain should be studied by everyone, forever. It makes you a wreck on trains in front of half-sleep tourists and business folk who are screen glazed. It is dangerous, it is crafted beautifully, it takes you into lives and their accounts that expose the struggles of individuals in this world, individuals you will never know or meet, but you glimpse and are thankful for Rankine’s writing. You reaffirm, books like this are what need to be read and written now, should have been always. You are conscious you have not given Citizen: An American Lyric the amount of review space you should have. You are aware you may be part of the problem. You will continue to work to resolve this. You place Calvino in a charity bag that will remain under your bed until you remember to donate it, or there is no bed or book anymore, eaten away by the forget-me ants hidden in the dust.

If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller

Read: if you want to explore alternative narrative devices, farce, writing about writing.
Don’t Read: if you want actual meaning, genre defying, plot, characters.

Citizen: An American Lyric

Read: if you want writing that explores race narratives in America, poetry, prose, modern lyric, alternative narrative structure, cross art books, writing about writing, balanced journalism.
Don’t Read: if you still want to be blind.

Setlist Poem 17/09/2015

Tell a god while you are crouching under 

your half of the bunk bed. Your brother

might not come home. You know

a boy who knows Hesporous is the opposite

of an evening star. It’s cloudy and what he said

means nothing to you. Place a hacksaw

twice under your rib. Watch it in the wing mirror

of a car that hasn’t arrived yet. 

Tell an absent fairy you had a wish about today.

It listens by making aeroplane sounds 

for a thousand miles. You’re just talking 

to half a jaw, hand held,

that knows wood-anatomy,

that can’t answer back. Driveway light

cuts out. Wait for Hesperous.

The cerealbox bland-surprise is a sponge

astronaut toy, never shrinking,

not even in hours underwater. 

Find the puffy faced boy of the first prayer

eating from a bowl. 

Don’t tell him you were scared.

Tour’s Over!

I have come to the end of making poems from tour set lists, gruelling over how to change the use of the word ‘spark’ and all the others. It has been an interesting challenge, one that I will continue whenever I’m on tour again…

The song titles that these prompts come from deal with love and thus bend the poems to that particular theme, not that we ever leave love. I’ll stand by forever saying that everything we write contains or comes from love in some form, even in its absence. But I’ve always struggled writing romantic love and have found myself closer to it in these poems… For good or bad.

Here is the list of prompt words I will be avoiding for a while… Feel free to spot them in the poems like a Where’s Wally for dictionary enthusiasts or to use them in your writing… As if you need my permission to do so…

The words are:
– Spark
– Stays
– Boys
– Silhouettes
– Time
– Roses
– Tear
– Return
– Hey
– Cocaine
– Train
– Houdini
– Magnet
– Heart
– Love
– Good
– BBC
– Pet
– Acoustica
– Cellophane
– Faith
– Fighter
– Rosemary
– Outrageous
– Pray

Venue Names:
– The Art House
– Asylum
– The Steamboat
– RYND
– Shift Radio
– The Thirsty Scholar
– Propaganda
– The Cave
– The Railway Inn
– Proud

The poems don’t really reflect the tour, maybe in very indirect ways but I’ll account my first band tour experience one day in a biography if I live long enough to justify writing something like that…

The band I was touring with was a backing band for singer/songwriter/acoustic madman, Scott Freeman. The songs the poems are derived from belong to him. You can find him and listen online here: http://www.scottfreemanmusic.com/

Tour Venue Poem

The art house is painted in celebrated
madness,
thread dresses no one owns,
scraps of books made into light.
The asylum collects people celibate
from themselves. The advice that occurs
most to me is stop working, leave the house.
The steamboat will carry on its drift
with everyone aboard.
I can eat lime-rind all I want,
it won’t bleach my smile,
it’s something to believe.
Cartoon physics scare some people.
If you can shift radio to mute,
you’re doing more than sleeping.
I met the thirsty scholar as he drank
a city of its propaganda.
He is going to write a cave of thesis
that learns about the railway inside
of us, how we can be proud of always going.

Set List Poem 20/03/2015

Pushing through the family of orphan-spark
coming out of the fire’s head,
I take time finding Dad on the otherside.
Back at camp, I tear a tent in tantrum.
Silhouettes do the sidewinder
in the forest. No train nearby.
I can hear everything. Dad stays
away until morning, tells me
he had to go looking for lost boys,
they could have been eaten by a Kraken
or leaf demon or scout-leader-gone-wrong.
I love how much of him can be fiction
while he makes a magnet of the world
onto himself. It’s something Christ
gave him, he says. His family
is always inside, all that he sees.