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Winter Word Clearance

January 22, 2013

An alternative title to Winter Word Clearance would be ‘how many words can you fit into a Daewoo Kalos three times over?’ The answer is countless millions. Yes, I too am surprised by how many words I have written over the years.
My process is to start by hand, reworking this initial draft until I have tweaked it as much as possible. I then word process it, put it aside for a while before rereading and redrafting. Unfortunately for the trees I print and amend each draft on paper before making changes to the word doc. versions. I have also fallen into the habit of hoarding each draft. So, this year I decided to have a clear out.
When I started clearing through files,drawers,cupboards etc. I began to realise how many words I had gathered over the years. Over the past two weeks I have been to the tip three times between bouts of winter weather. Just in case you are worried I am giving up writing, I would like to confirm that I am not. On the contrary, I am creating space for new writing – and my study is twice the size already.
I remember reading recently that Simon Armitage has undertaken a similar clearance, except that his drafts, half-finished poems, notes and ideas are now being held in an archive in Leeds. I have hung on to drafts of work yet to be published but decided that I did not need to keep different versions of writing that has reached an audience or online platform.
This feng shui style Winter Word Clearance has already inspired a new poem. At the same time as I have been clearing out I have been reading the autumn edition of NAWE’s Writing in Education magazine. The magazine contains an article by Robert Vas Dias about Writing the Prose Poem (available online from http://www.nawe.co.uk)
In the article he mentions a translation by John Ashbery of Rimbaud’s Solde (Clearance) and suggests that writers interpret this concept to produce a prose poem of their own such as Elke de Wit’s Gone. This gave me the idea to try my hand at a prose poem entitled Winter Clearance that encapsulates the type of words I have been shredding – not all of them my own as I have also cleared out school reports, appraisals, and old love letters! I leave you with that thought.

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