The Book of Godless Verse – What is it?

A place where I gather the stories of ordinary life and make them into those little spaces of shelter known as poems.

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Well it’s not a book… yet. I’m right in the middle of the act of booking.

As a lapsed Catholic I grew up with a perfect, unchangeable book that had an answer for everything except the ordinary every day messiness of life.

So I set out to make a book, a collection of poems, memories, broken things – imperfect things that captured life as we live it. But a book is a self-contained thing. I didn’t want that, I wanted a conversation between me and the people who would want to read it. So that’s what I did and that’s what’s happening now.

If you’re reading this you’re helping to make the book.

Why mess with the way a book is made?

Let me start with the idea back in 2015…
Imagine you are driving on a wet moorland road at dusk in that bruised light the northern sky throws down. Your eye is caught by a red flicker at the side of the road, a young fox only a few hours dead. The passenger next to you begins a hushed and embarrassed ‘Hail Mary’ because

there is a vacuum of grief here, which demands a prayer, but has no requirement for god and so an ill-fitting well worn prayer must do.

There are moments, minute and huge, from roadkill to hate killings, which require a moment of contemplation and understanding – they require the prayer but not as we know it.

This is what the Book of Godless Verse is for –

it is a place where I gather the stories of ordinary life and make them into those little spaces of shelter known as poems.

Every day we experience a tumult of hopes, fears, desires:

a first kiss,
a last kiss,
a job rejection,
wanting a child,
being a child,
failing an exam,
passing a stranger,
wanting to be young,
too much too soon,
running away,
coming home.

We deal with these daily deeds of our small stage within the world stage, our lives colliding with the global wrecking ball of climate change or terror attack. We deal… We make our own rituals to get by. These rituals are not written or prescribed, they’re as many as folk. Here are some I’ve heard of:
• Running fingers through the button tin.
• Looking for a white feather on the ground.
• Pebble hunting, head down, crunching sand, looking for the right one.
• Putting my good suit on and heading down town, head held high.
• Close the curtains, lay on the floor, put on a TUNE!

The Book of Godless Verse is a place to record and celebrate these rituals that we’ve handmade to get by.

So far to do this the Book has been a BBC Radio 3 Commission supported by The Verb New Voices 2015 Scheme called Breaking Up with Jesus.

The Book has been a solo poetry performance supported by Durham Book Festival and Arts Council England. With a poem I made with a whole bunch of folk called A Stranger’s Case (whilst eight months pregnant).

And now finally the Book is becoming a book with the support of Arts Council England for phase 3. You can get involved by messaging me Carmen Marcus with the subject heading BOGV.

Author: Carmen Marcus

As the daughter of a Yorkshire Fisherman and Irish Mother, my writing brings together the visceral and the magical. My debut novel #How Saints Die was published with Harvill Secker in 2017. It won New Writing North's Northern Promise Award as a work in progress and was longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize in 2018. My poetry has been commissioned by BBC Radio, The Royal Festival Hall and Durham Book Festival. As a child of an 80s council estate I am an advocate for working class writers and stories. I’m currently working on my first poetry collection The Book of Godless Verse and my next novel. I try to live up to the words of my first critic and primary school teacher ‘weird minus one house point.’

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