Friday, November 30, 2018

#44 Backstory of the Poem "This poem Is too neat' By Jonathan P. Taylor

*The images in this specific piece are granted copyright privilege by:  Public Domain, CCSAL, GNU Free Documentation Licenses, Fair Use Under The United States Copyright Law, or given copyright privilege by the copyright holder which is identified beneath the individual photo.
**Some of the links will have to be copied and then posted in your search engine in order to pull up properly
***This is the forty-forth in a never-ending series called BACKSTORY OF THE POEM where the Chris Rice Cooper Blog (CRC) focuses on one specific poem and how the poet wrote that specific poem.  All BACKSTORY OF THE POEM links are at the end of this piece. 
#44 Backstory of the Poem
“This poem is too neat”
by Jonathan P Taylor

Can you go through the step-by-step process of writing this poem from the moment the idea was first conceived in your brain until final form?   Clearly, very earliest memories are a treasure trove for writers, as they are for psychologists – and for similar reasons. I’d been thinking for a long while about a poem about one of my earliest memories – going to the art deco swimming pool in Trentham Gardens (Above Right: Fair Use), near our family home in Stoke-on-Trent, UK, in the hot summer of 1976 and 1977 (see I didn’t realise the memory was so early in my life, until I found out that the pool was closed far sooner than I’d thought. It was closed in 1977 (I think), because of subsidence: Stoke is riddled with coal mines, and the pool was closed because of cracks appearing in it. Afterwards, we used to glimpse the dilapidated, decaying, almost ghostly pool as it was left to rot, gradually reclaimed by nature.
We loved the lido – but I must have been tiny, and can barely remember anything about it, apart from being surrounded by mummies’ legs in the training pool, and not being able to work out which pair of legs belonged to my mummy. Then I remember climbing back into our car, shivering, and my father saying he (and, for that matter, the rest of us too) would get pneumonia if we stayed out any longer. It’s so strange, almost uncanny, that this is among my first memories, given that – as the poem says – it was pneumonia which killed him in the end. (Left - Jonathan's parents in 1968.  Copyright permission granted by Jonathan P Taylor for this CRC Blog Post Only) 
I felt compelled to write about that horrible coincidence – if it is a coincidence, and not some peculiar kind of retrospective revision on the part of my memory, or even (if we’re going to get mystical) some kind of pre-vision or prophecy. But in writing about it, the circularity of it felt forced – one of those moments where reality seems unbelievable, even though it is true. So my initial drafts of the poem just felt forced – ‘too neat.’ I put it to one side, and only returned to the idea a lot later, when I realised that the ‘neatness’ of the memory was precisely the point. The memory really is too (painfully) neat, ‘too pat,’ and that was what the poem should be about – the way that reality, like poetic form, seems to trap us sometimes in these circular histories, recurring images, painful repetition compulsions. I realised that the poem should draw attention to itself, to its own form, precisely because that’s what history often does. It’s a very common aesthetic trick in poems, essays, journalistic articles, stories, memoirs, pieces of music, to circle back to an opening image at the end; but maybe this common cyclical form in art reflects what happens in life, too. (Right:  Jonathan's father in 1969.  Copyright permission granted by Jonathan P. Taylor for this CRC Blog Post Only) 

Where were you when you started to actually write the poem?  And please describe the place in great detail.   I’d tried for a long time to write about this moment in my life before – so some of it was ‘written’ in my head while doing other things (e.g. driving, making tea, having a bath). But primarily I write in a very unglamorous location: the end of the sofa, with a laptop, often with our twins playing round me or watching TV. I’m not precious about writing – I don’t need silence or any particular place – I just write when I get the chance, wherever I get the chance. It doesn’t matter if there are My Little Ponies surrounding me, or a loud cartoon on the TV. You learn to filter certain things out when you’ve got twins, I suppose: I’ve never had a problem concentrating, perhaps because I love writing so much.  (Left:  Jonathan's writing space with his daughter Miranda's turtle on the keyboard.  Copyright permission granted by Jonathan P Taylor for this CRC Blog Post Only)  

What month and year did you start writing this poem?   I feel that most poems are squirreling away in the dark until they emerge into full daylight – that is, the starting-point for most poems is a bit invisible, just as you don’t necessarily remember the beginnings of dreams. So I wanted to write something about this earliest memory for many years, and I know I made notes about the old lido when I was writing my memoir about my father, Take Me Home (Granta, 2007). I don’t have those notes any more, and was thinking (or dreaming) much more in prose back then. But no doubt the ideas fed into the poem. I actually put the words on paper (or, rather, on a laptop) in late 2015, I think, and then messed with them for a few weeks and months (alongside various other pieces I was working on). My father died in 2001, but grief doesn’t end – it just morphs, mutates, assumes new images; and fourteen years after his death, I found myself writing about it again in various forms.

How many drafts of this poem did you write before going to the final? (And can you share a photograph of your rough drafts with pen markings on it?)   I have no idea! I don’t suppose I really do separate drafts: I just keep editing a poem, reshaping it, experimenting with it over time, in a fluid way. Perhaps part of the reason for this is that I write a lot on screen these days – so editing can be continual. I’d love to be able to share a photo of a rough draft with pen markings – but I’ve lost my notebook. Perhaps the twins have stolen my notebook to draw bunnies and ponies on. (Jonathan with his twin daughters in February 2017.  Copyright permission granted by Jonathan P Taylor for this CRC Blog Post Only)

Were there any lines in any of your rough drafts of this poem that were not in the final version?  And can you share them with us?   I remember trying to describe the beautiful art deco lido more in earlier drafts. But then I realised that, really, I was just working from photos of it – my own memory was much more fragmentary, much more pointillistic. I wanted to reflect this in the poem. After all, the poem is partly about the structure of memory, so it needs to be true to how I remembered things – not to external photos, or nostalgic websites. (Right: 1960s photo of children at Trentham Gardens art deco lido.  Fair Use) 

What do you want readers of this poem to take from this poem?   That’s a difficult question: a poem should, by definition, be open-ended, allow a reader to inhabit it, find themselves in it, find their own resonances and echoes within it. Clearly, the poem is very personal to me – but, as I realised when I was writing the memoir many years ago, there has to be something underlying the personal which connects with readers. This can be obvious, on the surface (as in “ooh, that very same thing happened to me”), or it can be on a much more profound, emotional, psychological or even unconscious level. No-one’s presumably going to recognise what happens in the poem on the obvious level of “ooh, that very same thing happened to me”; but perhaps there’s something here about family, loss, grief, memory, a terrible (and retrospective) illusion of predestination or determinism, which might, on some level, chime with others. It wouldn’t be for me to pre-empt that as a writer, though – it’s no doubt up to the reader. (Left:  Jonathan in April of 2017.  Copyright permission granted by Jonathan P Taylor for this CRC Blog Post Only) 
The point is, I think, that all writing – and particularly memoiristic writing – is structured around both sameness and difference, convergence and divergence, recognition and defamiliarisation. In other words, all writing – and, as I say, particularly autobiographical and biographical writing – moves about on a spectrum between readerly identification and its opposite. If a poem or work of autobiography entirely mirrored the reader’s experiences or emotions, the reader would become bored; if the work had no point of contact at any level with the reader’s experiences or emotions, it would seem alien, bewildering. So a piece of writing needs both.  

Which part of the poem was the most emotional of you to write and why?    All of it – but I wanted it to be very direct and harsh when it comes to my father’s death (‘many years later he did get it and died’), to communicate some idea of the shocking finality of that moment. And after all, the poem is about destiny or fate (or at least, the retrospective illusion of these things), and how harsh and painful that sense of circularity can feel. (Left:  Jonathan's father in the 1990s.  Copyright permission granted by Jonathan P Taylor for this CRC Blog Post Only) 
Has this poem been published before?  And if so where?   It’s been published in my new collection, Cassandra Complex (Shoestring, 2018), and also in Clear Poetry in 2016:

This poem is too neat

The end of this poem will be too neat, too pat.
It will do that circular thing of coming back
to an image or memory at the start, of connecting
something very early with something sad
years later.

The start of the poem will describe
my very first memory of leaving the outdoor
Art Deco lido in Trentham Gardens
which was full of dozens of mummies’ bare legs
and was apparently closed when I was four.
I recall all of us shivering in towels in the car
and asking my father what pneumonia was
because he’d told us he’d get it if we didn’t
leave right away. He explained what it was
and many years later he did get it and died.

I told you the end of this poem would be too neat,
too pat, as if a poem can lock you into a pattern
and there’s no getting out of it.

Jonathan Taylor is an author, editor, lecturer and critic. His books include the poetry collection Cassandra Complex (Shoestring, 2018), the memoir Take Me Home (Granta, 2007), and the novel Melissa (Salt, 2015). He directs the MA in Creative Writing at the University of Leicester in the UK. (Left: Copyright permission granted by Jonathan P Taylor for this CRC Blog Post Only)
Originally from Stoke-on-Trent, he now lives in Leicestershire with his wife, the poet Maria Taylor, and their twin daughters, Miranda and Rosalind.
Contact info?   His website is or  (Right:  Jonathan and wife Maria in July of 2018.  Copyright permission granted by Jonathan P Taylor for this CRC Blog Post Only)


001  December 29, 2017
Margo Berdeshevksy’s “12-24”

002  January 08, 2018
Alexis Rhone Fancher’s “82 Miles From the Beach, We Order The Lobster At Clear Lake Café”

003 January 12, 2018
Barbara Crooker’s “Orange”

004 January 22, 2018
Sonia Saikaley’s “Modern Matsushima”

005 January 29, 2018
Ellen Foos’s “Side Yard”

006 February 03, 2018
Susan Sundwall’s “The Ringmaster”

007 February 09, 2018
Leslea Newman’s “That Night”

008 February 17, 2018
Alexis Rhone Fancher “June Fairchild Isn’t Dead”

009 February 24, 2018
Charles Clifford Brooks III “The Gift of the Year With Granny”

010 March 03, 2018
Scott Thomas Outlar’s “The Natural Reflection of Your Palms”

011 March 10, 2018
Anya Francesca Jenkins’s “After Diane Beatty’s Photograph “History Abandoned”

012  March 17, 2018
Angela Narciso Torres’s “What I Learned This Week”

013 March 24, 2018
Jan Steckel’s “Holiday On ICE”

014 March 31, 2018
Ibrahim Honjo’s “Colors”

015 April 14, 2018
Marilyn Kallett’s “Ode to Disappointment”

016  April 27, 2018
Beth Copeland’s “Reliquary”

017  May 12, 2018
Marlon L Fick’s “The Swallows of Barcelona”

018  May 25, 2018

019  June 09, 2018
Alexis Rhone Fancher’s “Stiletto Killer. . . A Surmise”

020 June 16, 2018
Charles Rammelkamp’s “At Last I Can Start Suffering”

021  July 05, 2018
Marla Shaw O’Neill’s “Wind Chimes”

022 July 13, 2018
Julia Gordon-Bramer’s “Studying Ariel”

023 July 20, 2018
Bill Yarrow’s “Jesus Zombie”

024  July 27, 2018
Telaina Eriksen’s “Brag 2016”

025  August 01, 2018
Seth Berg’s “It is only Yourself that Bends – so Wake up!”

026  August 07, 2018
David Herrle’s “Devil In the Details”

027  August 13, 2018
Gloria Mindock’s “Carmen Polo, Lady Necklaces, 2017”

028  August 21, 2018
Connie Post’s “Two Deaths”

029  August 30, 2018
Mary Harwell Sayler’s “Faces in a Crowd”

030 September 16, 2018
Larry Jaffe’s “The Risking Point”

031  September 24, 2018
Mark Lee Webb’s “After We Drove”

032  October 04, 2018
Melissa Studdard’s “Astral”

033 October 13, 2018
Robert Craven’s “I Have A Bass Guitar Called Vanessa”

034  October 17, 2018
David Sullivan’s “Paper Mache Peaches of Heaven”

035 October 23, 2018
Timothy Gager’s “Sobriety”

036  October 30, 2018
Gary Glauber’s “The Second Breakfast”

037  November 04, 2018
Heather Forbes-McKeon’s “Melania’s Deaf Tone Jacket”

038 November 11, 2018
Andrena Zawinski’s “Women of the Fields”

039  November 00, 2018
Gordon Hilger’s “Poe”

040 November 16, 2018
Rita Quillen’s “My Children Question Me About Poetry” and “Deathbed Dreams”

041 November 20, 2018
Jonathan Kevin Rice’s “Dog Sitting”

042 November 22, 2018
Haroldo Barbosa Filho’s “Mountain”

043  November 27, 2018
Megan Merchant’s “Grief Flowers”

044 November 30, 2018

Thursday, November 29, 2018

#004 Inside The Emotion of Fiction Christian Fennell's "The Fiddler in the Night"

*The images in this specific piece are granted copyright privilege by:  Public Domain, CCSAL, GNU Free Documentation Licenses, Fair Use Under The United States Copyright Law, or given copyright privilege by the copyright holder which is identified beneath the individual photo.

**Some of the links will have to be copied and then posted in your search engine in order to pull up properly

***Christian Fennell’s The Fiddler In The Night is the fourth in a never-ending series called INSIDE THE EMOTION OF FICTION where the Chris Rice Cooper Blog (CRC) focuses on one specific excerpt from a fiction genre and how that fiction writer wrote that specific excerpt.  All INSIDE THE EMOTION OF FICTION links are at the end of this piece. 

The CRC Blog welcomes submissions from published and unpublished fiction genre writers for INSIDE THE EMOTION OF FICTION.  Contact CRC Blog via email at or personal Facebook messaging at

Name of fiction work? And were there other names you considered that you would like to share with us?  I have just recently, this past week finished a novel The Fiddler in the Night.

For the longest time the working title of the novel was Urram Hill.  Urram being a Gaelic word meaning dignity.  It’s the name of the farm where the main character is from. (Right:  On the Pain Beyond The Trees attributed and copyright permission granted by Christian Fennell for this CRC Blog Post Only) 

Fiction genre?  Ex science fiction, short story, fantasy novella, romance, drama, crime, plays, flash fiction, historical, comedy,  etc.  And how many pages long?   Literary Fiction, but not by choice, it just comes out that way.  Although, I’m not a big subscriber to the genre definitions.

Has this been published? And it is totally fine if the answer is no.   If yes, what publisher and what publication date?   The book has not been published, as I have only just finished.  Let’s hope. (Winter Writing attributed and copyright permission granted by Christian Fennell for this CRC Blog Post Only) 

What is the date you began writing this piece of fiction and the date when you completely finished the piece of fiction?   Six years, but, also working on my second novel, which I’m half done, entitled The Monkey King.  So I'm a little neurotic that way, I like the variety of changing it up.  I'd work on the novel for two or three moths, then leave it and write a short story or two or three, then go back to the novel.  In that time, I was also contributing a monthly column to the Prague Review, which was nice to be able to leave fiction and write some nonfiction.   

Where did you do most of your writing for this fiction work?  And please describe in detail.  And can you please include a photo?  I had been a writer of screenplays in my early days of working in film and television, and having had to pack that world in, I needed something I could do on my own, and writing fiction was it.  It was like coming back full circle.  I moved us to our cabin in rural Ontario and I went at it – the novel and writing short stories.  We were there for a year.  The fact that it is now five years beyond that is somewhat astonishing to me, in a wtf kinda way. (Right:  Christian writing at his desk.  Copyright permission granted by Christian Fennell for this CRC Blog Post Only) 

What were your writing habits while writing this work- did you drink something as you wrote, listen to music, write in pen and paper, directly on laptop; specific time of day?   I like to write in the mornings.  For the longest time, 4-7 a.m., which was the only tie I had for writing.  With fiction, I like to let my fingers do the thinking, and so I type.  With nonfiction, I start with a pad and pen, as much of nonfiction is research and thinking, both of which I try and avoid when writing fiction.  (Left:  Christian Fennell in August of 2018.  Copyright permission granted by Christian Fennell for this CRC Blog Post Only)

What is the summary of your fiction work The Fiddler in the Night?  Cody McLean’s mother disappears the night of her husband’s wake.  The orphaned teen sets out to pursue a suspicious stranger.  On the road he meets a variety of people, all with advice for the young boy, all a potential thread.  He continues to track the stranger and soon there is a trail of dead bodies.  He meets Holly Morningstar, a girl his own age, held captive, prostituted and beaten by her guardian.  Cody frees Holly and she joins him on his hunt for the stranger.   They fall in love and soon they are the ones being hunted.  In the name love, does Cody abandon is pursuit of the stranger, the man he is convinced murdered his mother, or does he keep going, to satisfy revenge.          

Please include excerpt and include page numbers as reference.  The excerpt can be as short or as long as you prefer.  On either side of the road appeared large outcroppings of shield rock streaked with black and pink and where alder bushes, raspberry bushes and trees grew from crevices.  He saw ancient trees grown too tall and heavy for their rocky moorings, having fallen onto their sides, great circular walls of exposed roots and dirt pointing to the sky.  He rode past dark and vacant lakes and he rode past narrow long stretches of washed-out lowlands, sun-bleached trees still standing, dead and broken.   

Why is this excerpt so emotional for you?  And can you describe your own emotional experience of writing this specific excerpt?   It’s simple descriptive passage (where) the setting gives birth to the characters, and through them, the story itself.  It is my hope, that the setting can, in some ways, highlight, or accentuate, the theme of the story.      
Other works you have published?   I have published multiple short stories and essays in various literary journals.  They have appeared in a number of literary magazines and collected works, including:  Wilderness House Literary Review, Spark:  A Creative Anthology, Carnival Magazine, Tincture, Liars’ League London, Liquid Imagination, and Kingston University of London: Words, Pauses, Noises, among others.  My short story “Under the Midnight Sun” was an Eric Hoffer Award, 2015 Best new Writing finalist. (Right Eric Hoffer)

Anything you would like to add?  Writing is faith and way down in the dark hole of that, the light of trust and hope.  Find those things.
Contact link for you?  If the weather is nice, hopefully, I’m out on the water fishing. Try me there. (Left:  Christian Fennell Blog Logo Page Photo)


001   11 15 2018 Nathaniel Kaine’s
Thriller Novel
John Hunter – The Veteran

002   11 18 2018 Ed Protzzel’s
The Antiquities Dealer 

003   11 23 2018 Janice Seagraves’s
Science Fiction Romance
Exodus Arcon

004   11 29 2018 Christian Fennell’s
Literary Fiction Novel
The Fiddler in the Night