On displacement

One of the prospects I most looked forward to, on retiring from teaching, was having more time for writing.  During my years of envy, I lost count of the number of times retirees would gleefully tell me they had less free time than ever and how did they ever manage to fit in a work life.  I was warned.

I’ve always liked a deadline (well, maybe not all those May half terms spent report-writing…). For this reason, I enjoy writing commissions.  If I have all the time in the world in which to write, it takes me that long to get around to doing any.  Over the years I wished away my life in half term blocks, I did most of my writing in what Anthony Wilson calls the cracks.  My cracks tended to be late at night/in the early hours.  Almost a year into retirement, its scary how a day whizzes by, and how days morph into weeks.  If time had a shirt tail, there’s not a chance I’d manage to hold onto it for long!

Life’s full of Doing and Not Doing (the latter, when I’m having a break from doing too much).  Then there are the Goings. Over the past eleven months, many Goings have been health-related: the Necessaries.  Thankfully, the Goings will very soon be much more pleasure-focused.  I’m really looking forward to more of the Pleasures (including a couple of up-coming poetry plans I mentioned in last week’s post).

As an ill-disciplined writer, I have made efforts to grow good habits. In April, NaPoWriMo saw me writing something daily.  I’ve also kept to my promise of writing weekly posts for my teeny, tiny blogsite. And I’m enjoying doing so, even if my poetry head sometimes tells me it’s displacement when there are notebook scribblings waiting to be crafted into poems.

Displacement activities: my Top 5 current favourites (in no particular order):

  • Watching Youtube channels (on books, poetry, the minimalist lifestyle, sustainable fashion)
  • Reading (Yes, it’s vital for a writer to read, but there comes a point…)
  • Getting lost in a social media labyrinth of amusing video clips/cute cats/interesting articles that might spark a po/other folks’ Goings and Doings/Must Buys (books)…
  • drinking coffee; drinking tea; browsing supermarket shelves for a new favourite/limited edition beverage; discovering a newly-opened coffee/tea shop
  • Gardening: anything from hard labour to pottering (a patio weed hand tool is my latest toy)

What are yours?

In other news:

I’ve had a poem acceptance, on the theme of Staying, for issue 16 of The Lampeter Review.

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Instead of a poetry social life

This week, I’m suffering from a bout of cabin fever (life stuff, eh).  Just about everyone in the poetry world is sharing the love at Verve Poetry Festival (or so it seems, as social media serves to fuel my envy).  I’ve also missed two Midlands poetry open mic nights and Saturday’s South Leics stanza meeting.

I’ve not been totally bereft of a poetry social life, though.  Thanks to the kindness of a fellow Soundswriter who gave me a lift, I attended our poetry reading/discussion/workshopping meeting on Tuesday.  And there have been ‘injections’ of poetry to sustain:

A Valentine’s Day gift from my husband (okay, I did drop a very specific hint about this one):

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I was pleased to find this sassy little number includes Jo Bell’s ‘The Shipwright’s Love Song,’ which I think I first experienced as a film poem, a few years ago.  (It might have been this one).

The latest e-newsletter from the Academy of American Poets comprised a themed selection of love poems; among them, Wislawa Szymborska’s ‘Love at First Sight.’  I love the narrative that belies the title of this poem – the premise that Chance has been toying with them/now for years. I’ve copied the last four lines into my notebook, to savour:

Every beginning
is only a sequel, after all,
and the book of events
is always open halfway through.

I always get a poetry kick out of coming across another unfamiliar/new poem by one of my favourite poets.  Liz Berry’s poem, ‘The Republic of Motherhood’ is the subject of writer and book vlogger Jen Campbell’s latest (Dissect a Poem) video.  Berry’s poem is a journey through the unmapped territory of new motherhood; there’s a pervading sense of detachment and isolation right up to the last line’s turning point of this rite of passage.

Current reading also includes issue 58 of The North (I know, I’m really behind with my reading of poetry mags).  I nearly punched the air on reading Anthony Wilson’s ‘I Come to Your Shit’  Hell, yes! (If nowt else, I hope I’ll be remembered as a supporter).

Whatever you’re reading, I hope it nourishes the parts etc 🙂 x

 

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.

 

Gratitude

It’s just over two months since my last ‘proper’ blog post.  I often ask myself, “Why bother?”  My stats make pretty poor reading and, with so many other poetry bloggers out there doing it far better/offering readers something a little different – well, why bother?

I don’t think this blog post is about poetry.

I’m tired.  Bone-weary and brain-fogged.  I don’t sleep as well as I used to.  I get too many headaches (like the one I have now).  It’s the end of the teaching year but not the end of my To Do list.  I frequently drive to work wondering if mind and body will allow me to carry on till Teachers’ Pension-able age.  I find it much harder to multi-task these days.  I make mistakes; stupid mistakes.  Even the much-put-upon staff room photocopier does it better.

This isn’t about poetry.

What happened to the last twenty-odd years?  I woke up last January and found myself in my fifties – well into my fifties.  My hip said, “Wake up and smell the coffee,” or summat like that.

This isn’t about poetry.
It’s the chinks of light:
-a Thank You message in a card from my Reading Recovery Lead Teacher (few words, much praise and encouragement – it made me cry)
-the SMT member who said the children’s Summer Read books I’d displayed on tables in the hall looked “really good” (There were lots. There was me)
-the teacher and her class who chorused “thank you” as they left, clutching their choices
-the boy whose eyes lit up as he pounced on a Science Q & A book
-this afternoon’s early (below-target) reader who ‘made it sound like a story,’ grinned at me as she turned each page and volunteered her first full-sentence comments about the story (phonics ain’t the only tool, Minister)
this poem, on Anthony Wilson’s blog – on why we do it – the because-ofs and the in-spite-ofs (oh, yes, there are lots of the latter, Minister)

And, on gratitude, here’s Josephine Corcoran’s Seven/Seven thoughts.