Osmosis, Periodic Tables and other science

What a week full of poetry and other stuff this has been.

On Monday I went with some poet friends to see ‘Lady in the Van’, the film of Alan Bennett’s book. I won’t say too much about it as you might not have seen it yet. If you haven’t, do. It was wonderful, deserving of several Oscar nominations. We laughed and cried, but mostly laughed. Being women of a certain age, we all aspire to be like Miss Shepherd.

On Tuesday it was breast screening. Not my favourite event this week, being clamped in a machine by my mammaries, it always reminds me of that scene in ‘Dances With Wolves’ where Costner has his nipples stapled to a tree and has to get himself free. If Thomas Cromwell had thought of breast screening, Tudor women would have told him everything they knew.

Thankfully in the evening it was East Manchester and Tameside Stanza, our monthly meeting at the Staybridge Station Buffet Bar. We were concentrating on writing this month, three of our members brought writing activities and we spent the session writing to those activities. I particularly enjoyed the one based in dramatic monologue, must have been the Bennett influence. Anyway, we always make time to read back and feedback and there were some very healthy embryonic poems produced in those two hours.

On Friday I met up with two friends who did the Creative Writing MA at the same time as me at MMU’s writing school. We started the course together in 2007, members of a very small and select group of poets. We have been in touch ever since. We met at the old Cornerhouse, which is now called Home. Unfortunately I went to the wrong place, thinking we were meeting in the old Cornerhouse on Oxford Road. I spent fifteen minutes looking for them, communicating by text before we all realised I was in the wrong building. Luckily the ‘right’ building was only a five minute walk away. Big sweaty hugs all round when I eventually found them! One of the two is also working on a PhD, she started about three years ago. I mentioned that I was reading about psychoanalysis, joked (sort of joked, not entirely joked) that I even understood 5% of it. In that wonderful way that poets have, she offered to sit down and talk me through it to cement my thoughts. Her background is in philosophy and theology, so she is much more ‘academic’ than I am. We will meet up in the New Year for a chat.

I spent a couple of hours in MMU library after that lovely lunch. I did a bit of reading, returned some books, played a couple of games on my iPad (you’re not really a student if you don’t prevaricate!) At 5.00 I had to be at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation, about a ten minute walk from the library, for the launch of an anthology I have a poem in. The anthology is called ‘My Dear Watson’ on account of it being inspired by the periodic table (think about it: elementary?). The anthology is published by Beautiful Dragons Press and is the brainchild of Rebecca Bilkau, who worked incredibly hard to bring the project together. The poets were sourced entirely from Facebook, so it is refreshing to see social media being used for something so creative. There are 118 poets in the anthology, each writing a poem inspired by one of the 188 elements. My element was phosphorous. Here is my poem, relating to the form of necrosis that many workers with phosphorous suffered before employment legislation made it a less dangerous occupation:

Phossy Jaw

 I read somewhere that alchemist Hennig Brand,

whilst distilling his own urine, found that flashy,

unstable, prima donna of elements, phosphorous,

named it after an ancient love goddess. As a virgin

she’s dull as a dead planet. Mated with oxygen,

she burns bright as the morning star.


But ask the Bryant and May match girls

about her skills as lover. They spent their lives

dipping thin sticks into her lips, tasted her kiss,

shackled themselves to a heartbreaker and they

would have told you, had the phrase been current,

give her an inch and she’ll snog your face off.


It was a lovely event and I met lots of old poet friends. That is to say old friends who are poets, it wasn’t a comment on their ages! The other two poets who also began the MA with me were  at the reading, so it was a lovely meet up; and other members of the Poets and Players committee: it was good to see them as poets, rather than organisers, and to hear them read. It was a lovely evening, about forty poets got to read their work, again thanks to Rebecca’s organisation. After the launch of our anthology there was a performance from ‘Reforging the Sampo’: again, if you get a chance to see it, do. I heard good things about it after it was performed in Huddersfield and I wasn’t disappointed.

The weekend saw me grappling with psychoanalysis again, reading Forrester ‘The Seductions of Psychoanalysis’. I was concentrating on the work of Lacan, which I barely understand at all; and Derrida, who I  begin to feel I am getting to know, so either my brain is soaking it in by a process of osmosis, or I don’t really understand it at all and my unconscious is trying to make me feel better. Time will tell. Anyway, I am in the process of making a spreadsheet with the various aspects of psychoanalytic theory heading the columns and the names of the various psychoanalytic theorists heading the rows. My plan is to see who agrees with or differs from whom. Wish me luck.

By the way, I haven’t heard back from my Director of Studies re RD1, so I’m hoping it is reasonably acceptable and will only need, at best, minor tweeking. I was always a glass half full sort of a girl.



4 thoughts on “Osmosis, Periodic Tables and other science

  1. I enjoyed your poem, Rachel, and have since enjoyed it on the page. A lovely thing to be part of though unfortunately I arrived too late to buy any extra copies, having been bamboozled by the scaffolding at the end of the street and missing the turn, so I empathise with your being lost earlier in the week.

  2. “If Thomas Cromwell had thought of breast screening, Tudor women would have told him everything they knew.” – a great opener for a poem, don’t you think? 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s