Retirement?#999£££%****!!!!

How’s retired life, then?

It’s the question on most folks’ lips by way of a greeting, these days.

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Since I retired from Primary School teaching at the end of the summer term, life has been a rollercoaster ride.  In addition to the highs and lows, steps forward and backward, complications, frustrations and delays of selling and buying property (and sorting, getting rid and packing, packing, packing), my husband’s sudden illness at the end of July was a curveball.

To fast-forward 3 months (and counterbalance a self-indulgent tale of woe) :

  • my husband has defied medical and surgical statistics and has made a remarkable recovery
  • a few days after his hospital discharge, we celebrated our 36th wedding anniversary with afternoon tea at our favourite local cafe
  • we are ever more thankful for the NHS (the expertise and swift action of paramedic, surgeon and radiographer, the nurse who stayed past the end of her shift, meals served and water jugs re-filled with a smile and a first name greeting, to name but a few)
  • my early retirement was timely
  • just when we were ready to throw in the towel, the miracle happened: in the space of two days, we exchanged contracts, completed and moved home
  • an end to a stressful period (and the chaos and hard graft of moving day itself) meant that leaving our family home of 21 years wasn’t the wrench I thought it would be
  • most of the boxes are now unpacked and our bungalow (in a quiet cul-de-sac with friendly neighbours, at the other end of the village we found we didn’t want to leave) already feels like home

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  • after 11 days without, we now have broadband and a functioning land line once more, my husband has a work station in a corner of the lounge and I have a study corner in the bedroom

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I’ve not felt much like reading poetry, lately – and even less like writing any – but poetry happenings have offered occasional respite.  And this is supposed to be a poetry blog, so here’s a chronology of my poetry goings and doings:

  • Sat 8th July: Soundscape cafe at Leicester cathedral – poetry readings and music performances throughout the day on the theme of ‘the tapestry of life.’  i read two city poems from my Bru writing residency.
  • Writers’ Meet-Ups, Tuesday mornings monthly at Bru coffee in Leicester: an opportunity to share writing updates, spread the news of upcoming events and to network with local writers across the genres.
  • Twice-monthly Soundswrite meetings: discussing published poems by others and workshopping poems-in-progress.
  • Wed 20th Sept: Leicester Writers’ Showcase at the central library: as part of this series of monthly events, members of Soundswrite poetry group read poems from their latest anthology together with featured readings by Marilyn Ricci and Maxine Linnell from their newly-launched Soundswrite Press collections Night Rider and This Dust (respectively).

Soundswrite at Leicester Writers' Showcase

 

  • Mon 25th Sept: Leicester Shindig (bi-monthly) – open mic plus featured readings by Romalyn Ante from her V. Press pamphlet, Rice and Rain; Matthew Stewart and Rebecca Bird from their Eyewear collections The Knives of Villalejo and Shrinking Ultraviolet (respectively).
  • Sat 30th Sept: a cancelled ceilidh gig that evening meant I could indulge myself with a day in London for the Free Verse Poetry Book Fair – book browsing and buying, poetry readings through the day and into the evening.  I even managed an hour or so in the British Museum beforehand.

 

  • Wed 4th Oct (the evening before Moving Day!): Soundswrite hosted an informal read-around on the theme of Poems for our Times as part of Leicester’s Everybody’s Reading festival.
  • Sat 7th Oct: networking with readers and fellow writers from the Soundswrite table at Leicester central library’s Local Writers’ Fair (another Everybody’s Reading event).

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I’ve lots more to blog about and that gives me plenty of material for future posts.  After all, I’ll have more time at my disposal now, won’t I?

🙂

 

 

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Catching up on reading

First, the confessional: it’s been over five months since I last clicked ‘Add New’ on the drop-down menu under ‘Posts’ on this site’s Dashboard.

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I’ve either been too busy (Really?  Then how come…):

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Warwick Davis ‘auditions’ for Moggy in the Wood

Or too tired (Ditto).

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Or both.

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Okay, you get the picture(s).

Whatever I’ve not been doing, I have been reading.  Lots. I’ve made real inroads into that To Read jenga tower.  Here’s a just small selection of recent poetry reads:

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I have subscribed to Magma for years; I consider it to be one of the best ‘shop windows’ for the breadth and the best of contemporary poetry.  Warsan Shire’s Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth both shocked and enthralled; compelling reading.  Annette Boehm’s The Knowledge Weapon is Bare Fiction’s newest pamphlet publication.  I bought this online after Boehm’s reading of poems from the pamphlet, with introductions, on Transatlantic Poetry.  You can watch the podcast, including Victoria Kennefick’s fine reading, here.

Add to these several novels and the odd fashion/lifestyle mag (all now shared/re-homed via the staff room coffee table), links to articles and other ‘stuff’ on Twitter and Facebook plus a growing number of blogs I follow and – well, you get the picture.

In the spirit of catching up, I’ve just unearthed four unread copies of NAWE Writing in Education periodicals from my Writing-Stuff-(Not)-On-The-Go bag after the latest issue landing on the hall floor with this morning’s post:

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The focus of the current issue is Teaching Creativity, a subject close to my heart, both as a writer and as a Primary Teacher.  In fact, it is Robert Hull’s article, Testing Times for Schoolchildren, that has prompted this post.  From a Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem, ‘Where go the boats?’ being washed up on the barren shores of comprehension testing in a KS1 Reading test to test rehearsal and time devoted to wrestling with grammatical concepts like ‘cohesion’ and ‘fronted adverbial’ in primary classrooms across the land at the expense of a creative, integrated narrative of reading and writing.  Hell, yes, I’m right with you, Mr Hull.

I must add, at this point, that the ‘Poetry By Numbers’ and end-of-year league-table-posted-on-the-form-room-wall of exam results approach of my 1970’s ‘Girls’ High Schooling’ was not dissimilar to the current regime.

Nevertheless, teachers then, as now, did/do succeed in fostering a love of words/books/reading and in enriching children’s lives in spite of national legislation by politicians in ivory towers and ‘education professionals’ with vested interests (oh, yes, ye pedlars of products).  I don’t remember her name but I do remember the A’level English teacher who brought to life Cantos I to IV of Byron’s Don Juan as if it was a  pop-up book.  And there were other inspiring teachers, too.

And poetry worked its own magic:  the vivid, shocking imagery of Wilfred Owen’s Dulce et Decorum est and Mental Cases brought home the horrors of trench warfare better than any History lesson ever could; the sound echoes of W H Auden’s On This Island led me to rediscover the poem forty-odd years after studying it, when I could only remember the pluck/and knock of the tide and the shingle scrambles after the suck/-ing surf.

There are many talented writers and artists in education who inspire creativity.  Last October, poet David Harmer got ‘down with the kids’ from Nursery to our uber-cool Year 6s for Whole School Reading Day during Leicester’s Everybody’s Reading week.  (He came highly recommended by Year 5 pupils and their previous teachers who’d attended his workshop session funded by Whatever it Takes during Author Week).  He engaged and involved every pupil with his lively and comical performance of poems about space aliens, pirates, parents and teachers.  In writer-led creative writing workshops, Years 2 and 6 wrote their own class poems which they performed to the rest of the school before our visiting poet presented each class with a set of signed copies of his poetry books.

And the legacy, minister? Since then, poetry has appeared regularly throughout the school in displays of pupils’ creative writing; a Year 5 pupil gave me a personal performance of her ‘latest poem’; an increasing number of poetry book loans from our KS1 and KS2 libraries appear as ‘table top’ reads or go home in book bags.  And, in a post-SATs teacher swap, our Literacy Coordinator was treated to an impromptu rendition of Harmer’s ‘Mr Moore’ poem as their own Mr W retreated down the corridor.

As More Able, Gifted & Talented coordinator, I’ve another To Read pile:

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Whatever you’re reading this summer, may the power of words continue to delight/surprise/shock/educate/inspire/transport/transform.

One for left-handed readers.

For left-handed readers.

Looking back, looking forward

Almost four months after my last blog post, the WordPress stats helper monkeys (and the excellent posts I’ve enjoyed reading on my favourite poetry sites, lately) have shamed me into rousing my little blog from hibernation.  Suffice it to say I won’t be making public my 2013 ‘year in blogging’ stats!  I could offer all sorts of reasons for my lack of (blog) activity – the day job, my ageing hip, an addiction to social networking and coffee shops (I know, I know)… Let’s face it, stuff happens, life gets in the way, etc, etc.

Looking Back:

I do read a lot of poetry – an increasing amount online, some e-reads (on my iphone – I’ll probably get around to buying a Kindle in about 10 years time when I’ll no doubt be able to pick one up for a fiver along with the rest of the supermarket shopping)but I’m a tactile creature and there’s nowt quite like the sensory experience of a paper book. I’m loving everyone’s ‘shelfie’ pics posted online.  My shelves are far too rammed to be deemed at all photogenic, but here’s a selection of my 2013 book reading:

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and my favourite magazines/journals:

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Successes: In October, my poem, You Do Not Have To Say, was published in the Wild issue of Popshot magazine (above).  Here’s a photo of it, alongside Jessica Durden’s illustration, inspired by the poem:

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You can view all the Popshot illustrations on Pinterest, here.

Outlook was accepted by Hinterland, a new journal co-edited by talented poets Ian Parks and Rebecca Bird.  Lovely to see mine sharing cyber space with work by poets I really admire. You can read all the poems inspired by the spur colour, red, here.  And a first print issue is planned, too, I believe.

Tasseography was longlisted for the Desmond O’Grady competition.  Sadly, it didn’t make the shortlist, but it was rather exciting to read my poem to a live audience at The White House, Limerick via Skype link. In a way, this was a return visit, having guested there alongside fellow O’Bheal poet Janet Smith in August 2012.  Encouraged by this result, I’ve submitted it to another competition across the water.  We’ll see.  In fact I’ve got rather a lot of poems ‘out there’ at the moment – a flurry of submissions to magazines and anthologies.  Again, we’ll see.

My debut pamphlet – the story so far: Following many sessions spent at the dining room table sifting, sorting, rejecting, substituting and re-arranging paper copies of my (hopefully, best) poems, I’ve sent my proposed selection, a contents list in (proposed) order and a (working) title to my editor.  A big step, not taken lightly.  And her initial response is encouraging, positive – I’m thrilled that I seem to be on the right track, anyway.  I may be asking a few willing volunteers (with no existing knowledge of my poems) to play a little Word Association game, soon…

Workshops: I co-ran a rebellious writing workshop, Make Love Not War, with Leicester’s very own Tim ‘Bombdog’ Sayers as part of the city’s Everybody’s Reading festival in October.  The workshop was attended by both experienced and beginner writers who produced some amazing poems inspired by images, artefacts and writing about conflict.  I’m hopeful of applying for funding to run my own workshop next (ok, this) year.  I’m currently thinking of a suitable premise/my own slant…

I’ve also attended poetry workshops.  Highlights include my first Poetry Business writing day (a little scary, totally worthwhile) and a women’s poetry workshop entitled ‘Put your Hand in a Poet’s Pocket’ run by Kim Moore, (am biased) also as part of Everybody’s Reading.  I came away with several starters for poems, some of which are current WIPs.

Events: a  Poetry Tea, a first, hosted by Nine Arches press with readings by Mario Petrucci, Matt Merritt, Clare Trevien and Alistair Noon.  One of the cherries on my October half term, I hope Jane Commane has plans for more of these!

Kate Tempest at The Cube, Corby.  A Lyric Lounge event and an opportunity I couldn’t resist.  I even took my son (to show him what a night out on the town really should be, IMHO).  Not a poetry lover, he probably came along to humour his ageing mother – but thoroughly enjoyed both the open mic and Tempest’s stunning performance.  So self-effacing, such rapport with the audience!  And wonderful to see the audience really did represent all age-groups, including lots of local secondary school pupils who’d been lucky enough to participate in her workshop.

Jo Shapcott’s reading at Leicester University as part of the Literary Leicester festival.  If numbers are anything to go by, their publicity machine seems to be more efficient than in previous years.  Having heard her read at Lichfield cathedral last year, I was prepared for another hour of being drawn into this quiet poet’s created world.  And I wasn’t disappointed!  I can never understand why free events such as these don’t seem to have the punters queuing down the street…

Exhibition: I was delighted to have the opportunity to exhibit two of my poems alongside four other Leicester poets as part of Drawing on Words, an exhibition by Leicester Society of Artists.  We all read our work as part of the launch night at New Walk Museum & Art Gallery on December 12th.  Although I did get to view our poems and the art work it inspired in LSA members, I enjoyed going back for a more detailed look during the run-up to Christmas .  I’m always fascinated by collaborations between artists, both as exhibitor and visitor.  The exhibition runs until 11th January if you’re interested and fairly local.  If not, you can hear recordings of all the poems and view photos of the launch/some exhibits, here.

Looking forward:

Tomorrow kickstarts my poetry year with a second poetry workshop I’m running for the same group that kindly invited this novice facilitator in September.  Following on from Telling Lies, my chosen theme for the first one, tomorrow’s theme (after much deliberation into New Year’s Eve) is Tell the Truth, but Tell it Slant (thank you, Ms Dickinson).  A mixture of several poems to discuss and inspire, and a couple of writing exercises.

I’m contemplating a ‘last poetry fling’ by booking a place on The Poetry Business Reading Day on 11th Jan.  ‘Twill be an excellent day, I’ve no doubt, an opportunity to catch up with friends in poetry I met last year and, hopefully, will preoccupy my mind with matters other than my hip replacement surgery the following Monday (currently, my main worry is missing breakfast and that first cuppa of the day, being last on the operating list (oh, please, not), feeling sick with hunger and panicky with thirst…).

I’m hopeful that, after the initial post-op pain, I’ll have a new lease of life.  In the meantime I shall console myself (for the lack of a poetry social life and my daily caffeine fix – not the same at home or even in a takeout cup) with daytime TV, a backlog of films on my Sky planner, spoiling our six-month-old kitten even more and working my way through that To Read Jenga tower.  Below is just a selection:

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And, if I’m feeling up to it, writing poems.

Easter treat to self: a five-day residential poetry course in Cumbria, entitled Encounters and Collisions, run by Kim Moore and Jennifer Copley.  I enjoyed last Feb’s three-day course a lot.  I came away with several fledgling poems, lots of ideas, a raft of poems by others and having met a thoroughly great bunch of fellow poets, several of whom I hope to catch up with this time around.  And Janet Lancaster from South Leics poetry stanza is going, too.  Lovely 🙂

If you’re in need of a poetry wake-up this New Year, why not subscribe to Jo Bell’s new write-a-poem-a-week initiative, 52? Check it out, here

And here’s wishing you all that’s wonderful in the way of poetry happenings and personal writing successes in 2014.

Enjoy it all!

Jayne