Tearing the Veil

Auf Deutsch

I DON’T WRITE POETRY. It’s not because I don’t like it. In fact, I love poetry and will stand stock still in awe and admiration at those talented enough to capture a tiny sliver of beauty or truth in a few well chosen words. But I don’t write it.

Okay, so that’s a pretty clear statement. So what’s with the self-penned poetic output popping up all over the last blog post? Well, I pretty much set out my stall in Criminal Poetry: I don’t write poetry now, but I did for short period when I was much younger, until I realised it wasn’t really my forte.

Of course, it can’t have escaped your notice that the original version of Sprachskepsis, is in German. Warum?

Hand on heart, I’d be the first to admit that my previous attempts to get poetic in English were always fairly disastrous. You’ve heard of purple prose? Well, meet the queen of purple verse! Yes, generally the English language poems wot my younger self wrote were textbook examples of style triumphantly crushing poor old substance underfoot and ripping her heart out. To call them mawkish, sentimental and full of teenage angst would be too kind – even for me! Then there were the humorous doggerel spoofs of classic lit filled with dreadful puns and even more dreadful rhymes. Let’s not go there; rest assured, they were truly awful. Although if you are very naughty, I just might inflict on you my tale of Lamblet Elsingnore – failed actor and so-called avenger of his father’s death (or should that be the other way round?) – in an opus cunningly entitled ‘The Great Dane’. Be afraid – be very afraid!

‘More and more my own language appears to me like a veil that must be torn apart in order to get at the things (or the Nothingness) behind it. Grammar and Style. To me they seem to have become as irrelevant as a Victorian bathing suit or the imperturbability of a true Gentleman. A mask.’

Samuel Beckett, letter to Axel Kaun, 1937

 Vorsprung durch Technik

The fact is, I know exactly what Samuel Beckett meant when he said that he started writing in French because he wanted to write ‘without style’.  The long list of problems I encountered in my native tongue magically vanished when I put pen to paper in another language. Writing in German released me. It gave me freedom. I wasn’t familiar enough with the language to burden my verse (or prose) with the surfeit of adjectives, adverbs and clever literary flourishes that plagued me in English. It was new and fresh, and I loved its solidity and technical precision. Okay, so maybe in comparison to English and the romance languages, German is often clunky and literal. But I found comfort in its unadorned functionality and the ability, as I saw it, to simply call a spade a spade. Not to mention the fact that you could make up your own words by stringing two or more smaller ones together – how cool is that??

And the English-language exception? That came from a storytelling workshop exercise. I can’t remember the exact parameters of the exercise, only that it limited the amount of nouns, adjectives, verbs and adverbs to be used. Y’all seeing a pattern here? I considered it a genuinely scientific poetic experiment (I don’t consider that an oxymoron, by the way) with rather pleasing results. Which means it’ll probably show up on a Katie B. blog near you any time soon, as will, from time to time, some of my favourite poems by Shelley, Keats, Dickinson, Eliot and anyone else whose copyright I won’t be infringing! Oooh, can’t wait! Are we there yet? 🙂


Criminal Poetry

Interview with a late Crime Fiction great

I was delighted to catch the re-run of Mark Lawson’s 2006 interview with crime author PD James on BBC4 a few weeks’ ago.  What a wonderful woman! And a wonderful writer! Hard to believe she was 86 at the time of the interview and still had a few novels in her before she died in November last year aged 94. I hope I’m as active as her at that age (wouldn’t mind being that active at my present age!!).

I was particularly interested in her comments about the thorny problem of gruesome murder scenes: yes, they are gruesome, she acknowledged, and they should be realistic, but what was most important was that they conveyed the horror of murder to the reader. Which is why she chose mostly to describe the discovery of a body through the eyes of the person doing the discovering. The example used was from her novel A Taste for Death: a gentile lady arriving to do some church cleaning finds two bodies in the in vestry with their throats cut. Certainly a day less ordinary! And it is this incongruity that PD James found so fascinating: murder as a violent tear in the fabric of our ordered lives and the disorder and chaos it brings with it. A detective’s job therefore is all about bringing or restoring order. Intriguing stuff and Katie B. has to say that she concurs most heartily.

When ‘tecs get poetic

Baroness James also talked about creating her detective character, Adam Dalgleish, and how the downside of making him a published poet was that readers actually wanted to read some of his poetry. For all of you quaking in your boots at the thoughts that this author might be about to follow in her heroine’s footsteps and unleash some investigative verse on an unsuspecting public, you can all rest easy: none of Katie B.’s detectives will be writing poetry any time soon. I learned early on in my writing career that poetry is best left to the professionals, or at least to those with at least a modicum of talent for it.  My gifts – as I like to tell myself – lie elsewhere.

The sheer 30,000 feet drop from the sublime to the ridiculous…

And just to conclusively prove why there is definitely no place for one’s poetic output in one’s crime fiction , here’s a  short ditty I threw together earlier:

 There’s a green-eyed yellow idol to the North of Kathmandu; /He was on his way to Birmingham, but forgot to change at Crewe. /And so he sat on Platform Four, dejected and forlorn, /With misty eyes and deep regret that ever he was born./ ‘Alas, says he, I am a-Freud, oh, woe is me, oh woe! /No longer Jung, my id I see subsumed by my e-go!’

Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Probably The Best Flash Fiction In The World

KBP’s 2014 moment of triumph re-lived!

Tara Sparling writes

Because….. we have a WINNER!

Amid much anguish, hand-wringing, and a few stomach ulcers, the results are in.

The winner sprang straight out of the Literary Fiction Title Generator. There were more than several reasons for the entry published below being the winner, but fewer reasons separating it from the very close runners-up, making it a very tough decision indeed.

Nevertheless, the Estimable, Impartial and Utterly Respectable Guest Judge  had to finally settle on this winner because:

  1. It’s bloody brilliant.
  2. It is also very funny.
  3. The flash fiction was supposed to be in the style of the title generator from which it took inspiration, and you don’t get more literary than James Joyce, now do you?
  4. It was assigned 54,879 points for the last line alone.

So without further ado, congratulations and a €50 Amazon voucher are winging their way to Katie Purcell, for the rather marvellous:

Old Glassworks

The Dominant Glassworks in Donnybrook

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2014: A tale of Donnybrook glassworks and leafy bottoms!

2014: Katie B. sits on her laurels!

the-dominant-glassworks-of-donnybrookOf course, there are some authors who wouldn’t be seen dead resting on their laurels! Not so, Katie B.! Why else would she be so well-padded in the posterior department, if not to be able to repose on a few crispy Laurus nobilis leaves for half a year or longer? Oh, well, at least the yearly review’ll be short and sweet! Don’t say I don’t spoil you!

So, here it is: Katie B.’s attempt to channel James Joyce won her the Tara Sparling Writes’ Flash Fiction Book Title Generator Competition in 2014. Whooop, whoop, yippee!  I’ve reblogged it again, in case any of you missed it earlier (hey, I told you these laurels were well-sat on!).

And congrats to Tara Sparling for garnering some serious laurels for herself with a Best Newcomer Blog win at the 2014 Blog Awards Ireland. No better woman and a well-deserved win. Noch einmal: whooop, whoop, yippee!

2015: Katie B. gets off her laurel-resting ass and writes stuff!

As to what’s on the agenda for 2015? Now that’s a different matter! I have whole heap of New Year Writing Resolutions jostling for pole position at the moment, but which to choose? Preferably one that will have more staying power than a single snowflake floating above the volcanic core of Mount Doom!autumn leaves 001

Actually, come to think of it, given my track record with New Year Resolutions of any description so far, I think’ll I’ll forget them and go for a 2015 mantra instead. And lo, here’s one I prepared earlier: ‘NO EXCUSES’. That’s right! No more ‘I’m too tired‘, ‘I’ve too much to do‘, ‘I don’t have enough time to write‘, ‘I can’t write when it’s snowing, raining, the sun is shining [please delete as appropriate],  ‘I have to wash my hair‘, ‘I have to wash the cat‘, ‘I have to watch my nails grow‘, and all the other paltry excuses I’ve used in the past years to stop myself writing.

Time to kick-ass! Katie B. Purcell’s ass to be precise! So in 2015 get off those bloody laurels before they turn to dust, girl, and get that novel finished! G’wan, you will, you will, you WILL!


It’s not every day a girl gets to inaugurate her new author website with a win, but thanks to Tara Sparling at Tara Sparling writes and her Estimable, Impartial and Utterly Respectable Guest Judge, Katie Purcell (with or without the B) has done just that!

Yes, I am chuffed and honoured that  my modest attempt to channel James Joyce was announced as the winner of the Flash Fiction Book Generator Title Competition, particularly I am sure it had to scramble over a heap of other fantastic entries to get to the top.

And don’t worry, I have it from a number of reliable sources that violent spinning in his grave can’t actually harm a dead Irish literary giant – well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

Tara and Estimable Guest Judge  – I thank you again – along with my mother, bless her souls (both of them), my father, 265 of my nearest relatives, my cat, my dog, my dead cat, my dead dog, my other dead dog, my sister’s dead cat(s), etc, etc… [bursts into tears and blows nose loudly].

Yipee, I’m a winner!!