Happy Anniversary or Product versus Process

It’s gone 11 AM.
I’m still in my PJs after a late breakfast.
Web browsing from email notifications, I’m distracted –
by the arrival of the post (it keeps later mornings than I do, these days…):
a jiffy envelope containing a poetry pamphlet;
there’s a poem on its front cover…

And so my (relatively) work-free days speed by!

This morning, WordPress.com wishes me a  Happy Anniversary.  Apparently, it’s exactly 6 years since I registered and moved here from another popular free site.  I’m not sure it’s cause for celebration – after all, my infrequent blog posts mean it’s been a rather on-off relationship.  147 posts over 6 years (you can do the maths – it’s not my forte).

Lately I’ve been thinking – this:
– about a lack of poem output – finished poems, that is (except they hardly ever are – even the published ones – right?).
– except I have been writing (yes?):

  • interesting words gleaned/heard
  • quotes from other writers/from poems, novels, short stories and articles I’ve read
  • anything from a few lines to a few pages of free writing
  • responses to writing prompts
  • writing for the sake of writing something (anything) new
  • writing out of fear – that I’ll never again write anything worth reading…

– and I’m continually re-drafting poems in that sub folder ‘Work in Progress’
– and when I’m not writing, I’m reading (which is most of the time)
– and I’m reading so that I can write (right?)

And my latest realisations are:
– that I’ve allowed myself to become preoccupied with Product rather than Process
– that I probably ‘produce’ more new writing now than I ever have
– that writing, like any art, requires many hours of practice – and practice is Process
– that the art of writing is probably 99% Process and 1% Product

Anthony Wilson articulated exactly this in his latest #NaBloPoMo post:

A new feeling…not about [books and fame] but about the very opposite of those things, the actual process of writing.

and how this has changed his feelings about his writing:

Now I had let go of my grand designs I began to see my writing differently…a thing of joy…to be relished and played with…that sense of amazing possibility, that sense of ‘Why not…?’ and ‘What if…?’

And what of all my new writing that exists across several notebooks?  Each time I look back at what I’ve written (much of it done in that magical time between semi-wakefulness and sleep – I’m not a morning person) I’m surprised into ‘Did I really write this?’ and  ‘Where did it come from?’

Anthony also writes about discovering some scraps of his writing after a tidy up:

I had no memory of writing the words I was reading.  They felt foreign, as though another writer with my handwriting had entered the house at night and forged my hand.  I read the words but did not understand them.  Something in me began to stir…

I read this and said ‘Yes! That’s it!’  The distance put between Writer and Writing becomes the catalyst; across the gap, a spark.

 

Room to breathe

In the seven years since our daughter left for university, my husband and I have managed to fill the extra space in our empty nest.  Empty, that is, except when the grandchildren stay overnight.  Empty, that is, until a few weeks ago when daughter, partner and cat moved in temporarily to facilitate their relocation from Aberdeen to the East Midlands.

We are, for now, a household of four adults and three cats.  The garage is cram-jam full of boxes.  Cat Senior (retired hunter and 24/7 radiator hugger) now spends his time controlling use of the cat flap, yowling/growling and scoffing the interloper’s fish selection pouches (stolen food always tastes better).  Cat Junior and husband alike seek refuge in the home office.

Hey ho, it’s a temporary arrangement.  But it’s made me ever more mindful of the sheer volume of ‘stuff’ we’ve accumulated over the years (19, since we last moved house).  And continue to amass.  With a view to possible down-sizing in the near future I’m already taking small steps in de-cluttering.  Bedroom 1 is almost done.  I’ve left my poetry book shelves till last.

A couple of years ago I ran out of shelf space and purchased another book case from our local charity furniture shop.  So why the growing pile of read-once poetry magazines, pamphlets, collections and anthologies on the bedroom carpet?

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I can no longer find the book I’m looking for because I haven’t stuck to my A-Z by author arrangement.  I’d like my poetry book collection to have room to breathe (and growing space).

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Yesterday I said good-bye to a stack of writing magazines (I no longer subscribe; it’s poetry-light; it’s become too ditsy IMO).  And a few poetry books I’ve no wish to return to (sorry, but they’re not for me).  For now, I’m keeping back copies of my favourite poetry magazines (will I ever revisit them?).  Single author pamphlets and collections are in updated A-Z order.  They’re all in book case 1 and not so tightly packed as before (and there’s room for a few more – I think).

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The neat pile on top is ready for the charity book shop.

Book case 2 will be for anthologies, books on writing poetry and lit crit.  Meanwhile, there’s a new pile of TBR novels (no space in fiction/non-fiction book case in spare room – er, recently re-occupied bedroom) invading poetry territory…

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Welcome to Leicester poems on air

Three of my poems about life in Leicester city, written during my writing residency, have been published in Welcome to Leicester, an anthology of 90 poems about what this diverse city means to those live here (Dahlia Publishing), edited by Emma Lee and Ambrose Musiyiwa.

Unfortunately, I was unable to make the launch held at Leicester’s African Caribbean Centre as part of Leicester’s Everybody’s Reading festival, so my contributor’s copy was doubly welcome when it arrived by post.

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Emma Lee has written about editing the anthology on her blog here.

Emma and Ambrose have been busy promoting the anthology since the launch.  Here’s a link to a conversation about the anthology on Leicester Community Radio with an airing of some of the poems, including Ambrose’s spirited reading of my celebratory LCFC poem, ‘The Art of Winning’ at approx 30 minutes in.

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‘The Art of Winning,’ published in ‘Welcome to Leicester, poems about the city’ (Dahlia Publishing 2016)

 

In this morning’s post

On my hallway doormat this morning:

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This poetry collection is the second publication by University of Leicester’s Centre for New Writing in connection with the AHRC-funded project, Women’s Writing in the Midlands, 1750-1850.  

Most of the poems in the collection arose out of a series of workshops run by Deborah Tyler-Bennett as part of the project.  Also included are Deborah’s poem ‘A Walk With Susanna Watts…’, and my poem ‘Singing Bird Box,’ two of several poems commissioned in 2015 and previously published in a pamphlet, Friendship’s Scrapbook – poems written in response to Leics, Leicester & Rutland Records Office archive materials on the lives and work of two Leicester women, Susanna Watts and Elizabeth Heyrick.  Both women held passionate views on the abolition of slavery and animal rights, and were actively involved in women’s anti-slavery societies, publishing their own periodical, The Hummingbird.

A PDF version of the poetry collection, including notes on the archive material which inspired each poem, is available to read here.

The journeys poems make

The back story:

2014 was a fruitful year.  My best since I’d started writing poetry in 2008(ish).  And my best to date.  Whilst on sick leave following my first hip replacement, I made myself a spreadsheet to better keep track of poem submissions and consequent rejections/acceptances.  I’m pretty sure it’s not as fool-proof as the Jo Bell method or as eye-catching as Kim Moore’s colour-coded one described here but it’s certainly a vast improvement on previous tabular efforts at keeping tabs on my poems’ venturing forth to speak for themselves.  Between March and November that year, 15 poems were accepted for magazine publication, either in print or online.  8 of these, also published in my pamphlet, Beyond the Tune, made it under the wire to magazines before BTT‘s September publication date.

2015 successes were much thinner on the ground: 1 poem was published in issue 11 of The Lampeter Review;  4 of my pamphlet poems also appeared in the Soundswrite Press anthology; 1 poem was commissioned by University of Leicester’s Centre for New Writing: a total of 2 new and 4 previously-published poems accepted.

A bit of a sob story:

2016 saw me in The Slough of Despond, at times.  I wrote less; I had far fewer poems worth submitting.  Life (and joint pain) took over and the only thing that kept me writing (and believing in myself as a poet) was my Bru Leicester Writes residency and commissioned sequence of poems (and Leicester City’s footfall fairy tale, of course).

Some good:

3 of the 6 poems are published in Welcome to Leicester, an anthology of poems about the city (Dahlia Publishing) being launched as I type (sadly I’m unable to make it).  And 1 pamphlet poem has been published in Half Moon: poems about pubs (OWF Press).

What’s the point?

Like all writers, I sometimes get to thinking that I’ll never again write anything worth publishing.   Or anything at all, apart from a few lines of barely-legible scribble (drivel) in a notebook that’s been on-the-go forever.  I congratulate others on their successes while suffering Imposter Syndrome (and maybe I read other writers’ blogs to know I’m not alone in this).  And what of that spreadsheet begun with such purpose a couple of years ago?  Many/most of those rejected poems aren’t currently being re-submitted.  I’ve decided they need further work, or they’ll never be the Real Deal and have been consigned to a sub folder (‘Dubious’) of a sub folder (‘Unfinished’).  Currently, I’ve more time to write but have written very little.  My only fledgling is back in the WIP nest recovering from a first flight to a workshop group.

The suspension of disbelief:

Recently, only 4 poems have remained ‘out there.’  Of these 4 poems, the same 2 have received encouraging comments from 2 different editors:

  • both made it to the final round of selections for the current issue of a magazine I rate highly
  • both were deemed ‘strong’ (with reasons given) from a batch of poems submitted for feedback during a certain widely-respected ‘open window.’

Breaking news:

It’s official!!!  ‘Unreserved Coach B’ is one of 50 winning poems chosen by competition judge Luke Kennard for The Best New British and Irish Poets 2017 (Eyewear Publishing) due for publication next March.

And the other ‘hopeful’? I’m keeping the faith🙂

Post-hip op post: discoveries to date

that anaesthetists deliver on promises
that heavy sedation is a blissful state of unawareness
that I’m a lesser wimp than I thought

that the state of my affected joint was worse than any of us knew
that my pain threshold must be higher than I knew
that my surgeon is a wizard at carpentry

that post-op pain relief is a heady cocktail
that codeine is the very devil
that it is never a good idea to ditch the drugs too soon

that home is a house with a far-from-ideal floor plan
that the downstairs bathroom is never further away than in the wee small hours
that essential item is upstairs and you’re downstairs – and vice versa

that physio exercises serve to remind one’s muscles what slackers they’ve become
that counting to 10 is far quicker than 10 seconds
that it’s far easier to fall asleep mid-afternoon than at bedtime

that short walks are, at first, longer than one remembers
that a human on crutches is just another four-legged creature to a young puppy on a lead
that two legs of the same length are a joy

that increasing frustration with these wretched crutches is an indicator of progress
that, although my body’s ageing faster than my head, we both feel younger than of late
that there is a fine line between increasing mobility and overdoing things

that, when I have all the time in the world in which to write, there is all the time in the world for displacement activity – or inactivity
that watching the first two minutes of the Jeremy Kyle Show means you’re hooked and waiting for those lie detector results…
that there is always tomorrow – even if today’s a Sunday

that, four weeks in, cabin fever hasn’t set in
that the world doesn’t stop turning when I can’t get to a coffee shop/a poetry event
that next week’s diary is blank space and I don’t care

On everything, very little and nothing at all

In a way, this post is not about poetry at all.  And then, in some ways, it is.

Those who know me in the physical world or follow/happen upon my infrequent blog posts at this site or read my all-too-frequent social network status updates may remember that , in January 2014, I had hip replacement surgery.  Now, in a bid for equality, my left hip is demanding the same rights as (erm) the right (and, after a life-time of differing leg length, I’m hopeful that surgical wizardry will bring about equality that respect, too).

So, on 3rd Sept (yes, on a Saturday), we (my wretched joint and I) are (jointly) going under the knife (sorry folks – am giddy with excitement).  It’s an understatement to say – we can’t wait!  We’ve had our hopes raised (an end-of-May op date) only to be dashed (said op deferred – nothing to do with an NHS in crisis and everything to do with a low blood count) but we’re nearly there, now: fourteen days and counting down.  Bring it on!

Increasing pain levels and decreasing mobility pretty much put paid to my original plans for the summer holidays:

Sunday sundowner session with Blanche and Thelma

 

 

My annual fiddle ‘fix’ that is five days of music-making, merriment and mayhem with friends at Burwell Bash traditional music summer school (my second enforced ‘gap year’ out of fifteen).

 

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A day trip to London, its endless possibilities – the Royal Academy’s summer exhibition, for instance.

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Keeping the garden in check.

 

 

 

Suffice to say it’s been a restful few weeks:

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I will, sadly, be missing out on a few events on my poetry social calendar as late summer moves into autumn:

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The Free Verse Poetry Book Fair at Conway Hall in London.

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Last year’s swag:

 

 

 

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Leicester’s Everybody’s Reading festival (nine days jammed-packed with events, many of them free, lots of them poetry/writing related)

 

…and, not least, sharing/discussing/workshopping poetry at my regular groups: Soundswrite women’s poetry group and South Leics stanza.

I’m hoping that cabin fever doesn’t hit me too hard (my husband and I will be effectively housebound for six weeks while I’m unable to drive).  I’m hosting a MacMillan Coffee Morning for a group of ex-colleagues (oh, how I’ll miss my coffee shop caffeine-&-cake) and I’ve already had one or two very kind other offers from friends. I’ll be doing the household shopping online for the first time (I actually like doing the supermarket shopping).

When the general anaesthetic and other prescribed drugs are out of my system I plan on doing more reading – a novel or two (Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, for one), the odd poetry magazine (having renewed my subscription to Magma) and several hitherto unread anthologies are waiting in the wings.

Then there are the MOOCs I mentioned in a previous post.

And my physio exercises will take priority, of course – the key to regaining full range of movement and muscle strength.  And life as I knew it.

See you on the other side🙂