Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Book cover! pay attention: a river of stones

the river of stones book

Here it is! The cover design for the book we're creating to remember and celebrate the January 2011 river. (If you are on our mailing list you will have seen this already.) 

Since the beginning of this month, well over a hundred people have submitted ten of their favorite stones for us to consider. It's been really interesting to read through the submissions and see which themes occur over and over again, to see what works well as a small-stone and what doesn't work so well.

Right from the beginning of the project we've been encouraging you to really look, and listen and so on and record what you discover. The best of the stones are ones that put us straight in touch with the world, often in a fresh way. In the best small stones, the writer is almost invisible.

I looked up Vicki Feaver's page on the Poetry Archive after I learnt she was reading at The Shore in Edinburgh, along with small stone writer Alistair Cook (who will be reading some small stones there). At the top of the page is a wonderful quote from Feaver that echoes what I've learnt reading the stones:
In a good poem the poet disappears. That's what the struggle with language is all about. The point is that in the finished poem you don't lay yourself bare. You create a strongbox of words
For me, when a writer lays themselves bare it creates a closed piece of writing without any mystery. I'm reminded of what the Japanese playwright Zeami said: "When you feel ten, express seven." The audience is drawn in by the mystery; into conversation with the performer. In the space between seven and ten there is a question: What is hidden? What is the mystery of human nature? Of the world?

The best small stones leave me with something to think about, rather than telling me how it is. If the question of the stone is answered in the stone - what is there to take away?

We've included something from nearly everyone that has submitted to us. The ones that we're not including fall into two categories, they are either too long and not small stones, or they lay the writer bare, to the exclusion of anything else.

We have had some really lovely submissions. If you have written small stones and haven't submitted, we'd still love to hear from you. I know looking at my own stones I sometimes don't want anyone else to see them at all, but a fresh pair of eyes might see something completely different. Send, send, send!

The submission deadline is the 28th February. Email ten of your favorites to me, Kaspalita. Please write your small stones in the body of the email and include your name.


  1. Thank you so much! That is invaluable information! It is going to help me (and many others)write better!!

  2. I love the cover! Soothing, yet very intriguing! And thank you for the information!

  3. pretty cover! I'd judge a book by it. :-)

  4. I long ago learned not to judge "books" of any sort by their covers but I suspect this one is going to complement the contents almost perfectly!

  5. The cover is wonderful and I learned a lot reading this post by you Kaspa. Thank you so much.

  6. Thanks for the comments everyone :) It will take us a little while to put the book together once we have received everyone's stones. We'll let you know when it's ready.

    Will be available on Amazon etc.

    It's been really lovely to read everyone's subs.

  7. Some great points in this post - neatly reminding me what I like about good writing and therefore what I should aim for in my own. Hopefully it helped me pick the best of my own stones to submit to you.

  8. Thanks Jem, will add your stones to the stack here next to me :)

  9. Yes, the cover's gorgeous.

    'In a good poem the poet disappears.' Where does this leave Plath, Sexton, Lowell and other confessional poets? Surely they demonstrate that it is possible to be present in one's own poetry without jeopardising mystery.

  10. Thanks Rosemary,

    Well I'll let you take that up with Feaver ;)

    I was applying her wisdom to the sheaf of small stones (a sheaf of stones? They were printed on paper...) rather than to the whole world of poetry.

    Which doesn't mean it's a 'rule' (if there is such a thing) that one shouldn't appear in a stone, but part of this practice is about connecting with the world, with others in the world. So I'd certainly encourage one to be looking into the world as the first step, rather than to ones own opinion of the world...

  11. It is an interesting question, Rosemary - how can we write confessional poetry etc without it become self-indulgent... some of my favourite writing has a LOT of the author's self in it. Maybe a question to explore on the forum ;) http://writingourwayhome.ning.com.
    REALLY enjoying reading the submissions. Keep 'em coming, especially if you're still teetering - what's to lose?

  12. Hypnotic book cover, you could lie for hours with a child, counting the dots and dashes and seeing them as fish.

  13. I think also of Yeats, one of the greatest, who is not generally labelled confessional, but who nevertheless appears in many of his own poems. However I take Kaspar's point about looking outward for the small stones.

    Darlings, I am not at this point joining the forum. Although it's enticing, I can hardly keep up wih all my networking as it is. It's a wonderful idea all the same. Congratulations and thanks to you both for all you have done and are doing.

  14. You've made my night by calling us Darlings :)
    We miss you at the forum.... you could always join and just come and say hello once a month.......
    Thank you for your thank you!

  15. I can't seem to send my stones to you through your name link. It doesn't go through to an email. Any ideas?

  16. Hi Christine - Just received you submission, so I guess you worked it out, thanks :)

  17. Ok Christine - my mistake, I just saw the subject 'ten stones' and assumed that was your submission.

    You can either send them as a message on the forum to me, or email gentlespear@gmail.com

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  19. If you have written small stones and haven't submitted, we'd still love to hear from you. I know looking at my own stones I sometimes don't want anyone else to see them at all, but a fresh pair of eyes LOL Account

    LOL Coaching