Last week I took off on the trail of a verse novel. I caught six trains for fifteen hours, going north to Tokyo, then north to Hachinohe, then north to Hakodate, then north to Sapporo. Hokkaido. 北海道. The north sea road.
There are few things I like more than settling onto a train (or six) and letting them carry me away and away and away, especially when every degree of away means further and further from cities and noise and rush hour subways.
Well, it’s been almost three weeks since I arrived and I am feeling well and truly settled into a happy balance of writing, reading, tramping about and random other stuff. My neighbourhood of Motoyama has turned out to be very congenial indeed – urban and convenient but with regular pockets of green and stillness in the form of local shrines and other ‘time out’ spaces, something I find very necessary living in such close quarters with others. I find myself enjoying the more communal sense of space in Japan, the constant awareness that there is only a thin layer between your own space and that of many, many others, but as it is at such odds with what I’m generally used to I do need regular respite from it as well, and to actively seek out open space around me.
Writing-wise, I’m making good headway on my two projects. My adult novel, The Last Wild Thing, is still in the research and development stage at this point but I figure I have one last major burst of reading to do and can then start to make some real inroads into the writing. My YA project, a verse novel, is steaming ahead in a very satisfactory way and getting my teeth stuck into some poems in a wider narrative context is giving me a lot of pleasure.
I’m deep in writing mode at the moment. I’m also deep in re-writing and proofing and a range of other things. And reading, always reading. I’ve been reading Eireann Corrigan, an author I discovered by accident when I inherited the Writing for Children course at Curtin University from Georgia Richter. Readings from the course’s previous incarnation included a short excerpt from one of Corrigan’s books (a YA poetry memoir titled You Remind Me Of You) – just a few poems but enough for me to immediately see that this was great stuff, and wonder why I hadn’t heard of her before. I haven’t managed to track that book down yet but I did find Splintering – a YA verse novel – and was reassured that Corrigan is as fiercely talented as those first few pages – even the first line, which made me stop in my tracks – had me believe.
Here is that rarest of things – a verse novel which doesn’t sacrifice the focus and richness of language poetry demands in the service of narrative, which achieves, effortlessly it seems, that precarious balancing act or fusion in which both elements pull equally together.
The writers reading this are smiling their wry writerly smiles right now. Because they know exactly how much effort goes into effortlessly.