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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2016 retrospective

I love reading my favourite bloggers’ year-end blog posts – all very different, all inspiring and thought-provoking:

Hilaire’s analysis of her reading year got me thinking: when did I last borrow a book from the public library instead of buying one?  Is a growing TBR pile evidence of my own consumerism?  How many books by BAME writers have I read this year?

Kim Moore’s colour-coded year-to-view serves not as a reminder of the energy levels of my younger years but as an exemplar of a life being lived to the full.  Attending  funerals of friends and ex colleagues barely older than me were this year’s stark reminders that life is short – and sometimes far shorter than we think.  Am I being too lenient with myself as regards putting things (ie writing) on the back burner this year?

Josephine Corcoran’s penultimate blog post about the creative buzz of Trowbridge Arts led me to reflect on all that’s happening in my neck of the woods and how much I’m looking forward to being part of it all again after being a back bencher these past few pre-op and post-op months.

Robin Houghton’s end of year post is rich in reasons to be thankful as well as in resolutions, and not all of them writing/poetry-based.  I share a wish to spend more time in the garden, now that hip health has been restored.  And what’s become of my daily walks since I returned to work, I ask myself!  And surely it’s the everyday stuff and being physically ‘out there’ that is the richest writing fuel of all?

Robin’s post on giving up Facebook (temporarily) makes interesting reading, too.  It’s a growing concern among increasing numbers of us on social media.  I want to limit time spent scrolling through my newsfeed, liking, commenting, sharing and posting.    I don’t want any part of political argy-bargy and the vitriol that manifests itself in ‘Not Dead Yet’ lists and the like.  I’m not going to quit Facebook, though (not even temporarily), for reasons which include remaining in touch with my lovely Burwell music family and keeping up-to-date and informed on poetry happenings and successes of others, competitions and magazine deadlines I don’t get to hear about via e-newsletters and Twitter.  And some days a cute kitten video is just the ticket!   Ooh! – and thanks to this morning’s Facebook response from a friend I see face-to-face from time to time, I’m reminded of a promise I made: to take her to see a local bluebell wood this coming spring.  Yes, getting out and about is always more joyful when you’re sharing it with someone.

I’m not too downhearted by a lack of poem output/successes or falling blog stats.  Instead, I’m growing A WISH LIST – more of that in future blog posts.  The list does include plans to grow my blog readership, starting with more regular blogging – possibly a weekly post on a regular day – maybe.  And I’d like to work in a more disciplined/dedicated way on a sequence or short collection of poems around a theme – concentrating on one theme in particular rather than my default butterfly approach.

Having being less physically active than normal this year (if that’s possible!), one thing I’ve done LOTS of is reading.  Here’s a sample:

Novels with poetry in their prose: The Gap of Time, Jeanette Winterson’s 21st century ‘cover version’ of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale; Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane; Max Porter’s debut Grief is the Thing With Feathers.

A novel that drew me out of my genre comfort zone a second time: Rod Duncan’s Unseemly Science (steampunk with a twist, a hint of the local).

Reading poetry:

A collection that made me feel uncomfortable enough to redefine (once more) what makes a poem a poem, and the power of quiet poems amongst the more shouty ones: Michael Rosen’s Don’t Mention the Children.

Craft envy: Helen Mort’s Big Lil sequence in issue 56 of The North.

Little gems: Kate Dempsey’s Highly Commended poem ‘While it Lasted’ (*fist pumps*) in the 2017 Forward Prize collection; Mary O’Malley’s ‘Uillean’ from her latest collection, Playing the Octopus (engaged me as poet and musician)

Some of the poetry events that fed my hungry heart: Literary Leicester readings by Sarah Howe and Tom Pickard (what a pairing! – such a contrast in many ways); reading at one of the launch events for the Welcome To Leicester anthology; Shindig! – my abiding favourite amongst regular poetry nights.

The odd success: my first writing residency as winner of the Bru Leicesterwrites prize; three residency poems published in the Welcome to Leicester anthology (Dahlia Publishing); one poem (from my pamphlet, Beyond the Tune) published in OWF’s Half Moon: poems about pubs anthology.

A high point (yesss!!!!): being selected by judge Luke Kennard for Eyewear’s Best New British & Irish Poets 2017.  If there’s a (London?) launch, try keeping me away!

Remaining hopeful: 8 poems currently ‘out there’ with magazines/in competitions, 7 of which are maximising their chances as simultaneous submissions (legit ones).

Critiquing thanks go to fellow Soundswriters and members of South Leics poetry stanza. And, not least, to Helena Nelson for her excellent feedback on my first Open Window submission – in particular her remarks on one particular poem that kept on bouncing back: I sent it out again.  It’s my winning Eyewear poem!

Thanks go to you as my blog readers, for reading, comments and likes.

Whatever 2017 holds, I wish you happiness and good health, time to spend with loved ones and those who love you for who you are, and time to indulge in whatever it is that makes you feel truly whole.

Jayne 🙂

 

 

 

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 🙂

 

Only Write What Only You Can Write

With National Poetry Day falling slap-bang in the middle of Leicester’s Everybody’s Reading festival, I wish I could send out little pieces of me to all the concurrent events I’m missing, in order to attend/participate in others.  Buy, hey, what a social whirl it makes for (and, for those who know me well, my poetry social life is a standing joke – in a nice way, of course)!

Last night, nine women attended Cathy Grindrod’s workshop, Only Write What Only You Can Write, hosted by Soundswrite women’s poetry group as part of Everybody’s Reading festival – one of two free and open-to-all events we received funding for, this year.  (2013’s ER workshop with Kim Moore was packed to the rafters).

Cathy Grindrod is a widely-published poet and former Derbyshire Poet Laureate.  She also writes plays, scripts and literary fiction and works as a literature consultant, poetry tutor and mentor.  I met her a couple of years ago when she ran a workshop for shortlisted candidates for a mentorship programme.  (Under her guidance, I was able to hone my rather vague aspirations as an ’emerging poet’ into a finite list of achievable short-term aims).

photo credit: writingeastmidlands.co.uk

                                                  photo credit: writingeastmidlands.co.uk

 

By way of introduction, we shared ways in which we, as writers, ‘keep the faith.’ These included attending writing groups to give and receive honest feedback, co-mentoring, and reading/sharing published work by others.  During the course of the two and a half hour workshop, we explored ten ways that Cathy has found useful in her writing life.

We spent some time reflecting on our personal beliefs and whether we felt these were evident in our writing.  We were also invited to consider who we write for, and writing with the reader in mind.  For me, this was a reminder of how easy it is too become too inwardly focused, to say nothing of the lure of publication in highly-regarded poetry magazines.

And we discussed the importance of being ‘in the world’ and learning from others.  I know I’ve benefitted most from writing groups that are outward-looking and have a keen interest in all that is current in the world of poetry, as well as the wealth of its past.

At number four on the list was ‘recognising poetic snobbery’ – how refreshing!  We each had our own view of what this constitutes.  If we recognise it for what it is, we can set it aside.

We also engaged in some short writing exercises.  As well as coming away with a nugget or two, I’ve discovered new ways into a poem that I’m keen to use again.  For now, will I be able to leave those nuggets alone for long enough to come back to them with a reader’s objectivity?