626 years ago to the day, Chaucer’s pilgrims began their pilgrimage from London to Canterbury. Here’s a video of me peforming the opening to my version of The Canterbury Tales at the English and Media emagazine conference last year. The audience was 700 enthusiastic A ‘Level students!
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 2,600 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 4 years to get that many views.
There’s been so much happening the past few months I’ve put this blog on hold and will restart it in the new year with guest bloggers. In the meantime, just wanted to share this article from the local newspaper, The Reporter. Enjoy!
This is my shortest blog ever because I’ve spent the day working on the last of my versions of the Canterbury Tales. It’s an interpretation of The Man of Law’s Tale, heavily influenced by the BBC adaptation and it’s a 7-sonnet corona. And I’ve written most of it in one sitting so I’m ready to veg out on Spotify…
I’ve been showcasing new work at Lewes Literary Society and Greenwich Poetry Society. You can read about the latter at the wonderful poet, Fiona Moore’s Displacement Blog.
And I’ve sent the manuscript to my publishers, Canongate, so watch this space…
So why the big gap between the last post and this? Well, I set myself the impossible task of at least starting a version of every tale by the end of January. I missed the deadline but now have only one tale I haven’t worked on. Wanted to share some of the new writing.
I’ve just put the finishing touches on this experimental piece made almost entirely from Northern Soul song titles. It’s a version of The Merchant’s Tale. As it’s quite long, here’s the first two paragraphs. Enjoy!
Once Upon a Time, in the Land Of 1000 Dances, January married May. What is This Thing Called Love? Some say, Love Is a Serious Business; some say, Love Is a Trap. He’s The Batchelor, She’s Not the Marrying Kind. He Mr Big Shot Got My Mind Made Up and she a Country Girl Talkin’ ’Bout Poor Folks, Thinkin’ ’Bout My Folks. He said I’ve Struck It Rich but some say she Cashing In. He Too Old for her and yet, they Just Like Romeo and Juliet. Adam and Eve.
And I Damien, Agent 00 Soul from the Backstreet, the Image Of a Man. Saw a Job Opening for a Mr Clean to Lend a Hand to Little Old Man, January. He bought the House For Sale, The House Next Door, huge as a Haunted Castle. I fell The Big Oak Tree to make furniture an’ sing The Work Song as I clearing Bricks, Broken Bottles and Sticks outside. There’s a Storm Warning and I Run for Cover from the Spring Rain, The First Time I see May, the Lady In Green. She a Flower Child, a Wild One. I say Stop Girl, but she Keep On Walking, Surrounded By a Ray Of Sunshine. Am I Cold, Am I Hot. I Got the Fever. I Love Her So Much (It Hurts Me).
I’ve been hibernating from my blog but furiously working behind the scenes to get to the stage of a version of every tale, however raw. Deadline for that, early February. Then another home-based four-day retreat to finish stuff off. Then lots of fine tuning.
Just before Christmas worked on the Friar’s Tale: the combination of suddenly realising that most of my versions are in variations of southern England English and that I only had six more to do, forced me to take on other voices. I wrote The Friar’s Tale (The Devil in Llandudno Junction) in a North Wales English i.e. English influenced by Scouse and Welsh. I spent my entire secondary schooling in North Wales, it was easy. And great fun! All very well having Nigerian English and nonspecific Eastern European but what about the wealth of Englishes in the UK. Note UK and not just England. Found some great websites where you can listen to different accents (people from all over the UK reading Mr Tickle!) and get into grammatical variations, like the Southern English ‘we was’ or the Yorkshire ‘it were’.
Chaucer’s Reeve’s Tale is the only one to use a different dialect, a Northern dialect, and that’s only in the direct speech of the students. Yesterday I had another attempt at the Reeve’s Tale. I can now announce that the speaker will definitely be a dog, a Yorkshire sniffer dog. Suddenly the tale came alive. Also, after doing versions in prose, blank verse, unrhymed and rhymed iambic tetrameter, I think I’ve finally found the verse form: rime royale. Chaucer invented rime royale for Troilus and Criseyde. His is in iambic pentameter and I fully intend to give that a go for either the Man of Law’s or Franklin’s Tale; but mine is in tetrameter.
Some of the voices have come easy, the Knight’s, Reeve’s and Merchants have not. But I learnt my lesson the hard way with the former and I now know very quickly whether the voice is working. If the writing of it’s like walking through concrete, my instinct tells me I’m not excited and something is wrong. Writing doesn’t always flow, but without the passion, the obsession to get it as good as it can possibly be, it’ll be dead words on the page. I have to have a strong sense of the character AND know the form fits their voice. Narrative’s a challenge but Chaucer already did that work for me (as Petrarch and Boccaccio did for him). My next challenge is The Summoner’s Tale and he has to be a geezer from Sarfeast London who happens to be a bailiff. Take a butchers at this in a few weeks time…
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,700 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 28 trips to carry that many people.