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.

20180610_123151.jpg

 

Advertisements

After NaPoWriMo

April’s gone, and the rigour of National/Global Poetry Writing Month is over for another year.  So how did it benefit me as a writer?

  • The discipline of producing new writing, daily.
  • Motivation to get started and keep going, from a writing community.
  • No shortage of writing prompts to overcome self-imposed barriers/blocks to writing.
  • New and unexpected learning/discoveries from prompt-related web links.
  • Exploring form.
  • Approaching old poem drafts from new perspectives; fresh starts.
  • Unexpected/surprising outcomes.
  • An abundance of material to work on or cherry-pick from.

This week, Carrie Etter invited members of her NaPoWriMo Facebook group to share their ‘best’ poem of the month.  Having nothing I can yet call ‘a poem’ I’m desisting.  I am enjoying reading everyone else’s, though.

Recently, I’ve been dealing with a plethora of subscriber emails ahead of this month’s new data protection laws; necessary, I know, but my inbox is complaining.  I’ve unsubscribed from several, lately, anyway, by way of an inbox trim-and-tidy-up.  I do look forward to reading my chosen e-newsletters and updates of the poetry kind.

Poetry pickings:

Investments:

  • I’ve signed up to Jen Campbell’s summer poetry workshop, The response Poem, as I found her Poetry and Fairy Tale one so useful.  Details here, if you’re interested. (Only 2 places left on group one; assignment sent on Friday 15th June).
  • With a view to growing this teeny tiny blog, I’ve ordered two books on blogging by Robin Houghton, a writer, blogger and poet who knows how: The Golden Rules of Blogging (& When to Break Them) and Blogging for Writers.  I’m hoping they’ll shed light on what might work better for me and my potential readers.

A published poem:

I’m delighted to have a poem in Popshot‘s shiny new ‘Truth’ issue, out to contributors this week. I really like the magazine’s fresh approach to showcasing poetry, flash fiction and short stories on a theme.

20180506_130745.jpg

 

 

An acceptance:

This morning, I had an email acceptance (from Sharon Larkin, who published three of my pamphlet poems on her Good Dadhood project site): a poem for the New Start Cat Rescue anthology.  As a poet and a cat lover, I’m doubly pleased.  A quote from my poem will also appear as a caption for a featured photograph taken by New Start volunteer, Rachel Slatter.

NaPoWriMo day 29: almost there

Tomorrow marks the end of National/Global Poetry Writing Month.  Last week’s blog post turned out to be a note to the self on hanging on in there.  In the process of typing it, I surprised myself in terms of the amount of new writing and new learning this month has generated.  It remains to be seen how many poems I end up with but I’m not too concerned on that score.  My original intention was to writing something new, daily.  I’ve stuck to that.  And I have much to go back to, either as working drafts or gleanings.  I doubt I’d have written any of it without the mutual support of poets, and poem prompts from Carrie Etter, NaPoWriMo.net and The Poetry School.

This week’s ‘pages’ include:

  • writing about a rainy day, without mentioning the R word
  • an elegy for sunshine (not entirely unconnected with the latter)
  • a further re-drafting of my praise poem for my village’s nineteenth century brickmakers (I think I prefer the previous draft…)
  • an ekphrastic poem from a British Library online image, ‘A Breaking Wave’
  • A re-working of a poem about the scar on the Heart Line of my right palm (I’ve been trying to write about this for a long time; I still haven’t found a ‘way in’ that I’m happy with, though)
  • a visceral poem using all five senses
  • hypnogogic writing; a mantra to induce sleep
  • prose poem as ‘postcard’
  • a riff on a phrase: Ask me a question

This week’s gems and nuggets:

  • Daily posts on NaPoWriMo.net include essays on craft.  I found this one, by Hyejung Kook on creating poetry from absence, really inspiring
  • a ‘when…when…then’ poem, ‘When You Have Forgotten Sunday: the love story,’ by Gwendolyn Brooks
  • I’ve learnt that foetal cells pass to the mother where they can linger for years. These micro-chimeric stem cells have been known to migrate to places of injury in the mother’s body (source: Hyejung Kook’s essay linked above)
  • Anglo Saxon kennings (see here, for instance)
  • this Chinese proverb, scribbled in a notebook I keep in my handbag:

Keep a green tree in your heart
and perhaps a singing bird will come.

The company of poets:

  • Carrie’s Day 27 enquiry to her NaPoWriMo Facebook group as to how we were all getting on elicited many responses which are testament to the benefits of belonging to a writing community. Huge thanks to Carrie and everyone in the group.
  • I spent Thursday evening with seven other members of Soundswrite women’s poetry group.  We read and discussed seven poems by other poets and workshopped five of our own poem drafts.  Four of us met afterwards to discuss the submission guidelines for an exciting new publication from Soundswrite Press.  I’ll keep you posted on this!
  • Yesterday marked the tenth anniversary of the Leicester & South Leicestershire Poetry Stanza.  To mark the occasion, eleven of us shared a convivial afternoon of poetry, food and conversation.

Food for the soul:

  • a walk in the Leicestershire Outwoods followed by lunch out with my friend Maria: bluebells and Spring greenery, stimulating company and conversation:

20180423_124926.jpg

 

NaPoWriMo: day 22

This far into National Poetry Writing Month, I confess that I’m flagging.

I didn’t set out to write a poem a day anyway, but rather to write ‘something’ daily in response to a NaPoWriMo prompt. Some of these may end up as poem drafts, the bulk resigned to bones for future picking over.  Most days I’ve chosen a prompt from Carrie Etter’s list to her Facebook group (whichever as the fancy takes me rather than in running order) and the occasional one from The Poetry School’s daily prompts.

Increasingly, my efforts are late night notebook ramblings, inadequately illuminated by the bedside table lamp.  I tend towards the write what surprises you school of thought but I doubt much of this month’s new writing will elicite a response of ‘Did I write that?!’ when I revisit those pages, months on.  But, hey, writing’s like running: starting never gets any easier.  And so I’ll continue to muddle along in my own haphazard fashion.

Some drafts with ‘legs’:

  • a series of cinquains on the common house sparrow
  • a wobbly first draft on all the pairs of Doc Marten boots I’ve never owned but lusted after
  • a praise poem for the brickfield workers from my village who made some of the decorative bricks for the Barlow Shed at St Pancras station (who knew?!)
  • an unsatisfactory poem re-worked as a prose poem
  • settling on a ‘form’ for a promise I’ve made to myself
  • a few haiku on Spring/bird activity/the weather
  • an elegy from photographs
  • settling on a ‘form’ to write about the most emotive and time-consuming item on our Annual Parish Council meeting agenda
  • a riff on a question from ‘Atlas,’ a Terisa Siagatonu poem
  • a childhood memory from the point of view of one of my younger sisters

 

New discoveries and revisited learning so far:

So all is not lost.

 

Quotes added to my notebook, to reflect on:

To live is the rarest thing in the world.
Most people exist, that is all.

and

We are all in the gutter
but some of us are looking at the stars.

Oscar Wilde

Love makes a mess of dying,
rarifies what you’ve got left and
draws close those for whom you’ve
been essential architecture, each seeking
a totem.

and

…I’m afraid, not of dying,
but of leaving a mess for love.

lines from a Gary Gilbert poem

And one for the wall on a subject close to my heart:

20180422_115630.jpg

 

In other news:

  • 3 poems submitted to The Lampeter Review on the theme of ‘Staying’
  • 1 poem submitted to the Eibonvale Press Humanagerie anthology (submission window open until 31st May: see here for guidelines)
  • I’m considering applying for Halsway Manor’s poet residency (poetry and folk music: my kind of heaven) *self-talking*

 

 

#NaPoWriMo day 8

How soon the year comes around!  We’re already eight days into National Poetry Writing Month (adopted from the USA, so it’s global, really).

20180408_114433.jpg

I’ve joined Carrie Etter’s NaPoWriMo Facebook group for the second year running. Last April proved fruitful in terms of new writing and workable poem drafts.  This year, I’m managing to write SOMETHING; although my current notebook’s filling up nicely, I don’t think its contents amount to much more than material for gleaning at the moment (there’s too much annoying life stuff encroaching on my time and sanity).  I like Carrie’s group: mutual encouragement (and commiseration) but no posting of poems (which, from past experience, makes me want to chuck notebook and pen in the nearest wastepaper bin).  And we get all 30 poem prompts in advance, so there are plenty of alternatives if one fails to inspire.  They often spark something surprising that I wouldn’t otherwise have written – which, for me, is the main benefit of taking part – that, and the fact that this ill-disciplined writer actually puts in the time on a daily basis.

I’ve also been busy writing my responses to questions for a Poet Interview series on Bekah Steimel’s blog.  Bekah made contact via the 2018 Poet Bloggers’ Revival Tour and asked if I’d take part.  I’ve enjoyed following the series so far, reading other poets’ featured poems and their responses to questions on themes, the writing process, resources, writing highs and lows, etc.  I’ve particularly enjoyed ‘the one piece of advice you want to share.’  I’ve almost finished writing mine so, if you’re reading this, Bekah, mine will be with you any day now.

This week’s poetry high point was Wednesday evening’s Boating Bards and Buffet, at Every House coffee shop in Burton on Trent.  This one-off event was organised by Gary Carr, who MCs the monthly Spoken Worlds open mic nights I so enjoy.  The format: two featured ‘boating bards,’ Mark Goodwin and Emma Purshouse, and ten open mic ‘support’ poets reading poems on themes of Place, Transport and Navigation; a delicious buffet during the interval.  Unfortunately, Mark had to cancel at short notice due to illness, consequently Paul Francis and I each did fifteen minutes instead of our originally allotted six.  So, for the second time in as many weeks, I was afforded the opportunity to read a selection of poems from my pamphlet, Beyond the Tune, as well as more recent poems.  I ended my spot with ‘Towards a Safe Return,’  shortlisted for the Wolverhampton Literature Festival poetry competition, which was judged the featured poet herself.  Emma Purshouse finished the evening on a high, performing poems from The Nailmakers’ Daughters: poems from the Black Country (Offa’s Press) and other poems about life on the canals.  I really enjoyed her ‘Things I Learned from my Maternal Grandfather’ (and its tongue-in-cheek ‘partner’ poem, ‘…from my Maternal Grandmother’) and ‘Flamingos in Dudley Zoo.’   I was pleased that she also read her ‘Specular on the Wolverhampton 21,’ commissioned for the DIVERSIFLY anthology, which I blogged about here.

If you’re likewise engaged in the madness and mayhem of NaPoWriMo, I hope the writing’s happening for you!

 

Growing as a writer

If you’re celebrating all things egg-related this weekend, Happy Easter!  To fellow poetry hedonists, Happy NaPoWriMo (more on this, next week)!

Last Sunday, I granted myself a day off from writing and blog-posting.  We had visitors we haven’t seen for years.  We spent the day catching up.  It was food for the soul.

I’ve not done too shabbily in growing my habit of blog-posting weekly (on Sundays) since last New Year’s Eve.  In terms of growing this teeny tiny blogsite, viewing numbers are increasing but, in the grand scheme of the blogosphere, it’s infinitesimal.  The Insights tool on WordPress informs me that my biggest referrer is Facebook (set to Friends only) so I’ve a lot to learn.  I need a reference guide such as Robin Houghton’s Blogging for Writers, obvs.  However, I don’t want to become a slave to the cause; I’ve already acquired more displacement activities than I care to mention (but they’d make for an interesting blog post, maybe…).

In terms of growing my poetry-writing skills, I mentioned here that I’ve recently invested in two poetry workshops:

Jen Campbell’s online workshop, Poetry and Fairy Tale, was very reasonably priced at £30.  The workshop materials were informative and included several sources of inspiration in terms of poems and links.  There were given two tasks: dissect and comment on one of three given poems (I chose Jaimes Alsop’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’); write a poem based on either a specific fairy tale or using markers from several; one week to complete the tasks.  Jen’s workshop achieved more than I’d hoped for: I wrote two poems utilising Jen’s material and some unsatisfactory drafts from That Unfinished Folder; I was happy enough with one fledgling to submit it for workshop feedback; the other has legs but is still too wobbly on its feet.  Participants received all responses to tasks one and two by email a few days prior to the two-hour (text-only) Skype chat.  Sadly, only three participants were available; nevertheless, the ensuing discussion and comments proved worthwhile.  Jen’s extensive knowledge of fairy tales across many cultures, her insights, rigorous comments and suggested edits on our poems (which she attached for reference) were invaluable.  Details of all Jen Campbell’s writing workshops are available on her website, here (she also does one-to-one workshops by arrangement).

George Szirtes’ face-to-face masterclass, Liberation by Constraint, was facilitated by Writing East Midlands.  At £70, I eventually booked a place after a not insignificant amount of self-talk on the subject of investing in my own writing.  I rarely (if ever) write to form.  If anything, I incline towards Mimi Khalvati’s view (A day to write the poem; a week to find the form, I think) that form emerges in the crafting.  However, I’m interesting in exploring form as a way of overcoming the (self-imposed) barriers to new writing.  With thirteen pages of notes (emailed in advance) as a guide to the structure of the day, Szirtes steered over twenty course participants through his ten-point perspective on structuring poems, arguments for constrained form, breaking rules, and an exploration (with examples) of several set forms: the haiku, cinquain, clerihew, sonnet, sestina and canzone.  A big Ask in just over five hours; nevertheless there was time allocated for several writing tasks and some read-arounds between the teacher talk (which I could have listened to more of, especially Szirtes’ ad lib recitation of lines of poetry as far back as the Ancients).  Will I adopt any of this into my daily writing practice?  Do any of my responses to the writing task have legs?  Do those three-liners I’ve taken to writing in my notebook count?  Maybe.  I do think this masterclass was value for money, though.

In submission news, I’ve sent off a poem for Mslexia’s Themed Writing call-out for issue 79: cooking.  And I think I’m going to submit my poem from Jen Campbell’s workshop here (I’m letting it settle till nearer the deadline date, though).  I also like The Lampeter Review‘s theme of Staying but don’t think I’ve anything suitable (or good enough) at the moment.

Here’s what I’ve been/am reading this week; all are rich nourishment for the writer:

20180401_143112.jpg

New on my (rapidly diminishing) TBR pile is Marion McReady’s Melita Hume Poetry Prize-winning collection, Tree Language (Eyewear).  Josephine Corcoran very kindly offered a book swap in response (the only response, would you credit it??!!) to my offer of a (duplicate) copy of Helen Dunmore’s Inside the Wave (Bloodaxe).  Good things come in book-shaped packages:

20180401_121605.jpg

 Thanks, Josephine! 🙂 x

 

Life after NaPoWriMo

Life (and work) demands have come crashing in, this week.  The house is now ready (or as ready as it’ll ever be) to put on the property market (see previous blog post).  Thursday at midnight saw me stuffing ‘stuff’ into cupboards, clearing surfaces and dusting.  I barely recognise my study!  (See photo below for its usual state of organised chaos).

image

NaPoWriMo: the aftermath

I can only hope that the estate agent’s photos do justice to all this hard graft.  Now to keep on top of things, with prospective viewings in mind.  May is my favourite month in the garden.  Everything looks lush and new but brambles, field avens, willow herb and bittercress pop up again as soon as my back’s turned.

Can it really be only one week since the end of NaPoWriMo?  I did manage to stick to writing summat new, daily – usually from a prompt (thanks to Carrie Etter and The Poetry School).  My nightly editing sessions fell by the wayside, though, and I strongly suspect that my best and most fruitful work was produced early on in April.  And I still have pages and notebook pages to go through, at some point.  However, I’m quite pleased with the progress of the 17 poem drafts that did make it onto the PC.

I’ll definitely look to join a NaPoWriMo group next year.  Carrie’s group was an invaluable source of mutual support, inspiration and new-to-me forms and constraints.  I’ll certainly make use of these in future when I’m struggling to get started.

What I’m listening to: ‘Poetry, Pop and Rock ‘n’ Roll’, a two-hour programme recorded for Word Waves on 95.1 FM: three Leicestershire poets – Andrew Button, Maria Taylor and me – reading poems and discussing songs with lyrics that resonate; a kind of Desert Island Discs for poets, you might say.  The links are here and here, if you fancy a listen on Soundcloud (without the song tracks, though, due to copyright).

image

Finding poetry in the prose: I’m still reading the Sara Baume novel I mentioned in my last post (I’m either too busy or too tired to do much in the way of reading, at the moment).

Lines I wish I’d written: from Marie Howe’s ‘The Moment’:

Oh, the coming-out-of-nowhere moment

when, nothing

happens

no what-have-I-to-do-today list…

🙂

Out & About: in the garden, today (bramble-wrangling, mainly):

image