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:

 

 

 

everybodys-reading-festival-logo

 

 

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 🙂

 

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A Writing Residency

In my last two blog posts my aim was to bring readers up to date with my reading activity over the last few months.  I do so much poetry reading that, at times, I wonder whether it becomes a displacement activity for writing.

In my work life, I like the challenge of a deadline.  If I have all the time in the world in which to write I’ll take forever to get down to it.  If, however, I have a remit and a due date I work much better.  That’s why I like the challenge of a writing commission.  As winner of the Bru Leicester Writes poetry prize I was granted a writing residency and commissioned to write a sequence of five poems on the theme of Life in the City.

What’s not to like?  A busy, bustling city base from which to soak up the atmosphere/people-watch, a first-floor bird’s-eye view of city-centre street life, a paid commission, space and dedicated time to write – with coffee and cake to hand (those who know me know…) and a gift card to spend on eats and drinks at the till.

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So March 11th saw me meeting up with founder of Leicester Writes and editor of Dahlia Publishing, Farhana Shaikh, at Leicester’s Bru Coffee & Gelato (my place of residency) to discuss the finer details.  Back then, the June deadline seemed a long way off.  I wasn’t necessarily confined to the ideas I’d originally outlined in my proposal, and such a broad theme could be interpreted in many ways.  Just one ‘ask’: with Leicester City Football Club’s track record for the season to date, would I also consider writing a ‘bonus poem’ capturing the spirit of the underdog team and the city’s rising fan fever.  Moi?  With not a sporting gene in my body? [insert, here, any emoticons you know for ‘ brain freeze’]  Okay, I said, I’ll give it a go (eek!)

Bru poet residency1

Although I did a fair amount of online research for my poem sequence, inspiration came mainly from my walks between the rail station on London Road (or, more often, Dover St car park) to the Clock Tower (beating heart of our city) via Granby Street and Gallowtree Gate (with Bru Coffee conveniently situated half-way between these two points).

 

King Richard III

King Richard III, Cathedral Gdns

 

I could have written a poem about any or all of Leicester’s famous names and nameless faces immortalised and memorialised in statuary.  This one, for instance.

 

 

 

photo credit: crosbyheritage.co.uk

photo credit: crosbyheritage.co.uk

 

 

In the end, I chose (or rather the destination chosen by my poem was ) Thomas Cook, whose statue greets rail passengers outside the station on London Road.

 

 

 

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Maria, a The Big Issue vendor no longer occupying her usual Granby Street spot opposite Bru, became the subject of a poem following a conversation I had with a regular customer and one of the baristas on enquiring after her whereabouts.

 

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Leicester’s Clock Tower is a babel of voices clamouring to be heard.

 

And my LCFC poem?  I confess to becoming a Foxes fan at least for the remainder of the season as our team’s path to Premier League King Power & Glory unfolded and I trawled the Twitter feeds around each nail-biting match.  As the saying goes, you couldn’t make it up!

photo credit: leicestermurcury.co.uk

LCFC open top city bus tour                                                           photo credit: leicestermurcury.co.uk

My six poems were duly submitted (ahead of the deadline – yay!), typeset, printed and made available on customers’ tables at Bru for my reading on June 28th as part of the Leicester Writes Festival of New Writing:

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Three of my residency poems –  The Art of Winning, The Big Issue and Time Traveller – will be published in Welcome to Leicester, an anthology of poems (Dahlia Publishing) to be launched on Friday 7th October as part of Leicester’s Everybody’s Reading festival.  It’s free but bookable in advance (click here for details and scroll to page 23 of festival programme).

 

 

 

Catching up on reading #2

In addition to printed material I’ve been reading, lately, the onset of the summer holidays (still wired for work but with no pressing reasons to be) seemed like the ideal time to continue my poetry education via MOOCs I started way back in January and abandoned part-way through as work life, etc took precedence.  So here’s what I’ve been up to, online:

Robert Burns: Poems, Songs and Legacy (Glasgow University via FutureLearn):

‘Pop Art Rabbie’ by Sheilagh Tennant

Format: a three-week course comprising videos, articles, texts/lyrics, memory quizzes(!) and forum discussions

My verdict: a comprehensive introduction to life and works of Scotland’s bard.  Does what it says on the tin but this one failed to engage me in the way that other MOOCs have done (videos were mini lectures rather than debate between academics or tutor-student workshops/tutorials and I felt ‘talked at’).

Literature and Mental Health: Reading for Wellbeing (The University of Warwick via FutureLearn):

futurelearn.com

futurelearn.com

Format: a six-week course comprising video discussions, poem/novel/play texts, articles, surveys (for research purposes) and forum discussions.

My verdict:interesting discussions on the physiology and treatment of stress, heartbreak, bereavement, PTSD and trauma, depression and bipolar, ageing and dementia, and the benefits of reading/sharing literature for therapy and wellbeing.  What niggled me: Stephen Fry’s dismissive remark regarding ‘free form’ poetry during a week 1 video discussion (in fact, the wealth of contemporary poetry was largely ignored throughout the course).

Whitman’s Civil War: Writing and Imaging Loss, Death & Disaster (The University of Iowa via novoed.com):

iwp.uiowa.edu

iwp.uiowa.edu

I’m a late starter to this MOOC (week 3 of which starts tomorrow), but the beauty of this beast (as far as I’m aware) is it’s available year-round and one can begin at any time (provided you don’t wish to join in the discussions on the online forum – which I don’t).  I’m currently engaged in week 1: Circumstance & Documentary.  Each week there’s an introductory video (engaging discussion between academics; approx 40 mins) followed by a series of reading texts including study notes and afterwords, then a question for discussion via the forum.

I’ll let you know how this one goes but, in my experience of MOOCs to date, UK universities have much to learn from those in the USA.

Still on my MOOC To Do list is Hans Christian Anderson’s Fairy Tales (Hans Christian Anderson Centre via FutureLearn).

I’m also looking forward to a return visit to ModPo in September (I intend doing ModPoPlus, this time around).

Which MOOCs are you currently engaged in, have enjoyed to date or are looking forward to this coming autumn?  I’d love to hear your views and choices via the comments box below.