Monday 21 December 2015

The Cultural Resolutions by Imogen Robertson

I know, I know we haven’t got through Christmas yet, but I think it’s a good idea to consider some New Year’s resolutions a bit ahead of time. Once I’ve decided on them I can plunge into the festive season with my usual hedonistic flair, knowing they are waiting for me when the hangover clears.

I’ll make health resolutions of course, continuing the battle to keep mobile and sane despite having chosen a career that means spending the majority of my time at a desk talking to imaginary people. I’m keeping my coffee, but there will be more running and fewer cigarettes in 2016. That’s the plan, anyway. The rest of my resolutions are more fun.

There is a tendency to narrow our horizons as we age, to stick with what we find comfortable and comforting. Added to that, working in a challenging professional landscape (yes, that was a wry drawl you heard in my voice there), can make one cautious with one’s mental resources. My reading has become focussed on research, books by people I know and the the acclaimed successes of the season, and has, as a result, rather narrowed. That’s not good. Most of my energy goes into my work, I'm pretty drained at the end of most days, so it feels like there isn’t much left of me for a social life. By that I mean I don’t like leaving the house much. Not good either. I have a nasty feeling I've started relying on my husband to go out into the world for me. So, having acknowledged there’s a problem, the cultural resolutions are designed to get me out of my head and my house in 2016. 

Out of my own head first:
1 - Poetry. I’m going to read a new book of poetry every month. And I mean read - not just buy, browse and stick on the bookshelf. Poets are the shock-troops of language and we need to keep an eye on what they are doing. This is an amazingly rich period in British and American poetry we’re living through, and I want to savour it. I’m going to subscribe to Poetry Magazine again and use that as a way to find my monthly choices. Anytime I have to take the tube into town, that’s what I’ll be reading and the free papers can keep their celebrity baking / dancing / eating things in the jungle revelations to themselves.

2 - Short Stories. I have a beautiful Everyman edition of Rudyard Kipling’s short stories on the shelves. I would like to read it rather than just admire the cover. There are some great new writers experimenting with short form fiction too. An hour or so of that a week, carved out from my wandering round listlessly on the internet schedule, should be doable.

3 - Music. Time to find some new stuff and maybe, a crazy idea I know, not just listen to baroque all the time. If that feels too wild, at least some new baroque. Again, at least an album a month and I will listen properly while I’m doing the housework. (This has the added benefit of meaning the flat will be cleaner). 

4 - Novels from new (to me) writers. This year I’m going to stop trying to keep up with the Booker short list or the Costas and look for new voices outside the mainstream. Again, once a month shouldn’t be a strain, and I can start with a subscription to Peirene Press.

And out of the house:
1 - Time to start going to the theatre again. I miss it and the husband is keen. This might mean facing the tube during rush hour and some cash outlay, but I’ll have Poetry Magazine to get me through the traffic, and there is, I am told, quite a lot of theatre going on in smaller venues. Once a month for that too.  

2 - Concerts and gigs. Same as above. 
3 - People. I’ve heard some of them can be quite nice so perhaps instead of relying on book launches and events to get me out, I might actually start making arrangements with my non-writer friends. At the moment I tend rather to greet any suggestion they make with ‘You want me to leave the house and pay for my own drinks?’ Well, I shall try and manage it at least once a month in 2016.

4 - Get out of London. Just, you know, occasionally, for some free and easy wandering. 

It’s strange, even though I know everything above will be both fun and good for me and my writing, it looks a bit frightening written down. That almost certainly means I should actually do it. Every human imagination needs to be fed and watered with new sights and sounds, and we all need to lift our eyes to the horizon from time to time before looking down becomes a habit, then a comfort, then a cage. 

Wish me luck out there, and all recommendations gratefully received!


Sue Purkiss said...

Good luck, Imogen - so much lovely reading to look forward to!

Imogen said...

Thanks, Sue!

Lydia Syson said...

I think you'll like Natalie Léger's 'Suite for Barbara Loden'.

I thought it was quite extraordinary. Now I must get hold of the film 'Wanda', which I've still not seen.

Tell us your poetry recommendations through the year. I told myself I'd learn a poem a month by heart last year, and failed dismally. This year I'm going to write more letters to and in support of PEN International prisoners.