Jeanette Winterson, Joe Harvard, A Ladybird Book, Kahil Gibran

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This Week’s Books:

The Story of Theatre by Ladybird Books

The Velvet Underground and Nico by Joe Harvard

The Madman: His Parables and Poems by Kahil Gibran

Sexing the Cherry by Jeanette Winterson

Today I have been getting ready to go away. Tomorrow I leave for an Arvon course on writing for TV. I will let you know how it goes. I’m intending on writing an entire script whilst I am there- based on Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queen but seen through the eyes of a professor of cognitive poetics. I’ve also got a big rucksack full of books to read on the train and because I can barely sleep whilst I’m away.

Other than that this week has been busy and full of highs and lows. I met my poetry mentor Helen Mort (read Division Street! Her work is awesome) on Monday and got some really good advice on some of the poems from my upcoming collection.

I also started a project at Northern Stage which is run through Curious Monkey and is linked to their play “Beats North”. For the project I have to write a ten-minute piece based on music so I’ve been jotting down notes. Obviously its going to have mental health themes (though I am gradually trying to write about other things I swear!) I’m thinking maybe representing the multiple personalities I have who listen to different music depending on my mood. They recommended that it should be a personal play at the first workshop.

The best book I have read today is Sexing the Cherry. I read Jeanette Winterson’s Oranges are Not the Only Fruit in high-school when I was first exploring my bi-sexuality. However I enjoyed the surrealism of Sexing the Cherry even more. It reminds me of Slaughterhouse Five because of its themes of the timelessness of existence, but this book is far more sensual.

Meggie Royer, Penelope Mortimer, Sydney Padua, Van Gogh Museum/Munch Museum

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This week’s books:

The No You Never Listened To by Meggie Royer

The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage by Sydney Padua

The Pumpkin Eater by Penelope Mortimer

Van Gogh: Munch by Mercatofonds; Van Gogh Museum, Munch Museum

I have anticipated Meggie Royer’s book for a long time now. I wanted to buy her previous collection but unfortunately it quickly went out of print. This one was a difficult read as I know a little about the grief and anger of trauma myself. Some of the pieces are obviously poems; whilst others are closer to the form of prose. However there is a pattern of rhythm and interruption of rhythm (mimicking their subject matter) repeatedly found throughout the poems.

The Pumpkin Eater is a short but potent novel. I hadn’t heard of Penelope Mortimer before reading it, but I told my grandmother what I was reading and she immediately recognized the name. Penguin Modern Classics seem to be publishing a lot of 60s/70s suburban women’s fiction at the moment, I suspect it has something to do with the popularity of Mad Men as well as the power that many of the novels contain in themselves.

I was interested in Lovelace and Babbage because of my obsession with Lord Byron (Ada Lovelace was his estranged daughter). She apparently had the Bipolar Disorder that her father probably shared with her. The jokes in this graphic novel were thick and fast, making it an enjoyable read. I also love the drawings of the machine and the cats inside it- it is very much a living monster.

I was really dissapointed that I didn’t catch the Van Gogh: Munch exhibition when I was in Amsterdam, as they are two of my favourite artists. Both are rumored to have had Bipolar Disorder (There is a pattern forming here. But I never claimed I wasn’t obsessed with my illness!). The book compares the two of them very well. I was especially interested in the chapter that elaborates how both were obsessive writers as well as painters.

Maree Cowan, Tove Jansson, Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam, Francis King

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This week’s books:

Magic Mushrooms by Maree Cowan

Vincent Van Gogh by Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam

The True Deceiver by Tove Jansson

Magic by Francis King

I’ve just got back from Amsterdam (where I read a lot in the evenings- way too many books to put up here!) so I’m still working my way through the books I bought at the Van Gogh museum. I have an obsession with him due to his probable Bipolar Disorder (something I experience myself) and the way he expresses his symptoms in his paintings. I am especially obsessed with the paintings he produced of the scenes outside of his asylum window at Saint-Remy. Most of these were in the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (apart from the Starry Night which is my favorite- it depicts a symbolic boundary between mania and depression and is in New York).

When I got home there was a parcel waiting for me containing a book from my aunt who lives in Australia and knows the author of Magic Mushrooms (Maree Cowan). The book is an autobiographical account of Cowan’s sudden onset Bipolar Disorder, after she takes magic mushrooms in Thailand. It is an informative as well as highly emotional read. Cowan’s writing is also often poetic, something that many people experience whilst manic- ending up talking in rhyme.

The True Deceiver is one of Tove Jansson’s novels for adults (she is most famous for writing the Moomins). It is a story that seems to have an autobiographical slant as it looks at an illustrator of children’s books- Anne. Anne is a woman who wants to isolate herself but is instead surrounded by people who want her to communicate with the real world.

Magic is one of the Thames and Hudson’s Art and Imagination series. It explores the subject through annotated images. I enjoyed it especially the colorful images related to the (admittedly highly corrupt) Golden Dawn group.

Walt Whitman, David Edgar, Georg Wilhelm Freidrich Hegel, John Cooper Clarke

This week’s books have been:

Ten Years in an Open Necked Shirt by John Cooper Clarke

Introductory Lectures on Aesthetics by Georg Wilhelm Freidrich Hegel

How Plays Work by David Edgar

On the Beach at Night Alone by Walt Whitman

I’ve been editing plays this week and did a major type up of all edits yesterday so today I am knackered. I also feel as if I’ve written three full-length plays in a week (even though I’ve just finished them really- but it’s still a buzz).

One of these plays is Compulsion and you can read my discussion of it in this interview: http://alliteratimagazine.com/2015/…/sarah-gonnet-interview/. The other was one on the archaeologist and artist Henri Breuil. I’ve also recently written a short play looking at archaeology- Neil which will be put on at First in Three at Northern Stage on Thursday see here for tickets (https://www.northernstage.co.uk/whats-on/first-in-3).

You can see my poems and short essay on Voices in The Recusant:  http://www.therecusant.org.uk/#/sarah-gonnet-introduction/4588750537  and  here: http://www.therecusant.org.uk/#/sarah-gonnet-poems/4588772245 .

David Edgar’s book on playwriting was very interesting- it systematically looks at each area of playwriting without being prescriptive. It also draws on historical texts all the way back to Aristotle’s Poetics.

Hegel’s lectures were dense, but also had layers of explanation of each point so they are all heavily elaborated on enough to be understood fully. I like his way of looking at form- that all art is art but the form chosen is something to funnel the creative spirit into.

John Cooper Clarke’s poems were a revelation to me. I have been looking for a poet like him for years and all the time he was right under my nose.

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Craig Higginson, James F. Masterson M.D., Philip Ralph, John Yorke

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Sorry I haven’t been around for a couple of months; I’ve still been reading but my weekends have been filled (with exciting writing projects so I can’t complain!). I’ve attended weekend long workshops with The Writing Squad, and you can see my back and hands in this short film we produced in one of the weekends: https://vimeo.com/122920986 . This week I have been on set of another film made with director Robyn Myerscough from my script about compulsive hoarding our facebook group for the production can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/SarahGonnetRobynMyerscough.

At the end of February I had a play on at Northern Stage’s Stage Three (called: Is this What the End Looks Like?) , which was exciting; and at the end of March I had a second play on at the newly set up Alphabetti Theatre http://www.alphabettitheatre.co.uk/ (Aftermath). Both looked at mental health themes. However I am now moving on from writing about mental health and am currently working on two plays which combine archaeology and creativity. Recently my fascination with Archaeology has grown and I have been consequently reading a lot about it- textbooks in the evenings as well as part of my usual four books a week rule.

In other news my bipolar disorder has entered a rapid cycling phase which has made it both easier and harder to work (I have ENERGYYYYYY but zero concentration). I’m working on a long play to enter into this years Bruntwood Prize and other playwriting competitions (one of the archaeology ones- a bio-play about Henri Breuil and his art); a further short play and the idea for a verbatim play; but I’m also watching a lot of boxsets and films. As I am naturally drawn to shows and movies about mental health I’ve began to keep notes on this massive part of my life and imagination- I intend to write a book of reviews on how mental health is presented in film, literature and art; and a collection of poetry about film and how it has become a modern pantheon of mythology.

Anyway back to the point:

This week’s books have been:

Deep Cut by Philip Ralph

The Search for the Real Self by James F. Masterson M.D.

Into the Woods by John Yorke

Little Foot by Craig Higginson

Obviously the two plays I have read this week directly link into the plays I am writing- Little Foot is about prehistory and Deep Cut is a hard-hitting verbatim piece. I’m finding the more I look into verbatim pieces the more fascinated I am by them. The National Theatre has some interesting online workshops on them if you’re interested (http://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/video/an-introduction-to-verbatim-theatre  ;  http://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/video/a-guide-to-making-verbatim-theatre ). It will mark a return to mental health themes for me- I want to use verbatim techniques to follow the speech patterns found in people with mental health issues; their carers and care professionals. Little Foot was suggested to me by Amy Golding of Curious Monkey during a workshop where I told her (probably too much in a undecipherable hyper way) about my fascination with archaeology. It is an interesting script which eerily picks up on many of the themes I have already been considering for my own piece.

The Search for the Real Self is a textbook on personality disorders which I mostly read because I have one! It was interesting to find out more about myself, even through clinical jargon.  I find identifying a sense of self for myself incredibly difficult- my moods swing massively, I have BPD and I am fucking useless in social situations. All of these issues were explored in the book.

Into the Woods is an intelligent script writing manual. It doesn’t only look at script-writing techniques Syd Field style; it also looks at the reasons behind these techniques. The book’s main focus is structure.

Stephen Hawking, Robert Burns, Alexa Chung, Neil Gaiman, Dave Mckean

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This week’s books:

Selected Poems by Robert Burns

A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking

it by Alexa Chung

Signal to Noise by Neil Gaiman and Dave Mckean

This week has been tough- my illness has been gradually getting worse over the last few weeks and I am finding higher levels of memory and concentration hard to achieve. It feels like I’m always working through a fog. It’s been affecting my grades on my Open University course which has only made me more depressed (I have dropped to 46 marks from 72 at the start of the year). I have made the decision to drop the Open University course at the end of this year to lower the pressure on myself (stopping once I have the credits for a DipHE instead of a BA). I’ve decided to study Creative Writing BA instead- again a distance learning course, but as the OU’s is apparently wank I will be studying at the Open Study College of the Arts, which looks like an interesting (and importantly cheap) course. One thing this rapid cycling phase of bipolar that I seem to be in is good for is planning. Over the last week I have decided on a life aim- to run a therapeutic housing project for artists and writers (or people who would like to become artists or writers) with mental health problems. To get there I will need to study creative subjects (on the way), develop my own creative practise (going fairly well) and study counselling, art psychotherapy and psychology (I’m already doing this on my own + I’ve started studying Open Study College Level 3/4 Psychology courses. I’ve also found an accredited Counselling course at the Institution of Counselling that is very affordable and a Art Psychotherapy MA that is only part time so could be studied at a distance). I think it’s partly all the R.D.Laing and Mary Barnes books I’ve been reading but it seems like a good aim. I would want to do that and write/ teach creative writing part time also. I NEED TO BE BUSY OR I END UP IN HOSPITAL!!

I also planned out a TV series based on Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene and a novel about two versions of the same women- where one is fertile and the other isn’t (playing on my paranoia about being infertile due to medication etc).

In terms of books this week I have also read and reviewed a couple for my other blog: https://imaseriousjournalistyouknow.wordpress.com/2015/01/30/keen/ and have been working on research for all the biography scripts I seem to be working on right now- a TV film on Nellie Bly and a playscript about Henri Breuil.

it was an odd one for me- a kind of hybrid autobiography (so I can count it as research) but mostly I read it because Alexa Chung is very attractive and I like pseudo-80s photography. Its exploration of identity through fashion was interesting though. When I was skinny I used to do the same, but now I’m kind of a lump in a cardigan who writes and reads in a shed all day.

I read A Brief History of Time as I have been meaning to read it for years and that film reminded me. Not sure I want to see the film though, it looks like a rom-com/ vanity project and both of those bore me like fuck. The book made my brain all whizzy though and a bit of mind bending is always good if you want to try and be creative.

I didn’t manage to get through all of Robert Burn’s poems. I knew by page three that they unfortunately were not my bag. I slaved on through most of the rest, but I have to admit I didn’t finish it. I liked one of them : A Bard’s Epitaph.

Signal to Noise sees my obsession with Neil Gaiman and Dave Mckean continue. This one seems particularly thick with found-object sculptures- the best bit of Dave McKean’s amazing artwork.

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