It’s been 30+ degrees C today and the writing retreat courtyard has felt like an oven and even the house was warm inside, which is unusual as it has an ambient temperature that is pretty constant. I have spent most of the day hiding in my study, with the fan on full, writing.

Sir Terry Pratchett was on the radio today talking about how useful the ear is when proof reading. He said, you can read something over and over again and miss a subtlety whereas the ear doesn’t ever miss a thing when you read aloud.

I thought it was interesting as I wholly agree with this perspective. I have developed a system of writing poetry and when I feel it is ready dictating the work onto a Dictaphone. Over a period of time I will listen to the piece over and over again and decide what I really think about it. All kinds of discoveries turn up, for example, even in the act of reading I can find a phrase or sentence is difficult to read and I often unpack the reason for it and changes have almost always been beneficial. It seems to lead an element of objectivity which is missing when you read from the page.

Sometimes I am even slightly bored with what I have written – what an admission- and think, well, if I am, then the reader will be too. It points up so many things regarding scansion, punctuation and overall rhythm of  a piece which can only come through the human voice.

Sir Terry has, in fact, just published a new book in which he has collaborated with the ‘hard science’ fiction writer Stephen Baxter, entitled ‘The Long Earth’ It’s always fascinating to collaborate on a writing project and both wirters said that reading the completed manuscript aloud ironed out all the niggles towards the end of the process and they discussed the manuscript line by line.

Terry Pratchett once came for breakfast to my house but that was a very long time ago, in another dimension!

Meanwhile it has to be said, new Dictaphones are extraordinarily effective and easy to use; in fact the quality is so good the results can be uploaded onto a website ( which I am guessing I will need to do) as they have a usb connection and are saved as wav files. A good make is I recommend it purely as it is the one I use!

My next foray into technology, which I have been resisting for years, will be voice recognition software. I used it ages ago but was so disappointed, gave up but with Dragon Talk being pretty reliable I may well try again. It has always been hard as if you are writing creatively and the software fails to pick up your speech I have usually forgotten what I had wanted to say! Sad but true,so hopefully things are much improved and typing does seem extraordinarily labour intensive. Dictations may help various repetitive strain injuries I seem to be carrying rhese days.

Dragon NaturallySpeaking Premium 11.5 (PC) by Nuance Communications, Inc.

Platform: Windows Vista / 7 / Server 2008 / XP / 2003 Server

If anyone has used this, would they leave a comment would be interesting to know how good it is.

Here is Fleur Adcock’s Poem from here collection entiteld Dragon Talk – Enjoy!

Dragon Talk

How many years ago now
did we first walk hand in hand –
or hand in claw –
through Alice’s Wonderland,

your favourite training ground,
peopled with a crew
of phantasms – Mock Turtle, Gryphon –
as verbal as you?

Your microphone, kissing my lips,
inhaled my words; the machine
displayed them, printed out
in sentences on a screen.


My codependant,
my precious parasite,
my echo, my parrot,
my tolerant slave:

I do the talking;
you do the typing.
Just try a bit harder
to hear what I say!

I wait for you to lash your tail
each time I swear at you.
But no: you listen meekly,
and print ‘fucking moron’.


All the come-ons
you transcribed as commas –
how can we conduct a flirtation
in punctuation? –

Particularly when,
money-mad creature,
you spell doom to romance
by writing ‘flotation’.


I can’t blame you for homonyms,
but surely after a decade
you could manage the last word
of Cherry Tree ‘Would’?

Context, after all,
is supposed to be your engine.
Or are you being driven
by Humpty Dumpty?


I take it amiss
when you mis-hear the names
of my nearest and dearest;
in particular, Beth.

Safer, perhaps, if I say Bethany.
Keep your scary talons
off my great-granddaughter:
don’t call her ‘death’.


You know all the diseases
and the pharmaceuticals:

are no trouble to you,
compulsive speller,
virtual dealer.


You’re hopeless at birds:
can’t get wren into your head –
too tiny, you try to tell me:
it comes out as rain or ring.

Let’s try again: blackbird, osprey,
hen, (much better), kingfisher, hawk,
duckling. But I have to give up
and type Jemima Puddleduck.


What am I thinking of,
dragon bird?
How could I forget
that you too have wings?

Fly to me;
let me nuzzle your snout,
whisper orders, trust you
to carry them out.


Do I think of you as “he”? –
Beyond male or female;
utterly alien,
yet as close as my breath –

invisible, intangible,
you hover at my lips –
am I going too far?
Are we into theology?


Animal, vegetable or mineral?
Who’s playing these games? –
Abstract, with mineral connections
and a snazzy coat of scales.

Gentle dragon, stupid beast,
why do I tease you?
Laughter’s not in your vocabulary:
all you understand are words.


Today I saw you cresting the gable
of someone’s roof: a curly monster
smaller than me, but far too large
to hide yourself inside a computer.

They’d painted you red – was that your choice?
But this was only your graven image.
Your private self was at home, waiting
for reincarnation through my voice.

here is my review of this collection

and here is Carol Rumen talking baout the same collection in The Guardian

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