2016 and all that

In the time honoured way of bloggers, I’ll do a short review of 2015. When I thought about it, it took a while to come up with positives: this has been a year of ongoing family illnesses which I don’t want to dwell on. But of course, there are always positives, and most of mine are to do with poetry and poet friends.
There was the Kim Moore and Carola Luther poetry course in Grange-over-Sands, for instance. I didn’t know Carola before this course, so it was a huge surprise when my car-sharing friends and I bumped into her en route in the motorway services outside Lancaster and she recognised us as members of the course. Do poets have a scent or a second sight or something? This was such a good course, with people I only meet on courses, but whom I consider friends. And Carola used Selima Hill’s sequence ‘Portrait of my lover as a horse’: anything Selima is OK by me.
In August I heard I was third placed in Manchester Cathedral’s poetry competition with an ekphrastic poem inspired by a Leonora Carrington painting, The Magical World of the Mayas. The readings for the prize winners was held in the Cathedral in October; a lovely day, I met up with some old poetry friends and made some new ones. You can find details of the winning entries here:
In October I went with friends to Ilkley Litfest for Jackie Kay’s masterclass. I wrote a short poem called Bridge, six lines which I have submitted to the Magma short poem competition. It’s still open if you’re interested, details here:
We stayed for the Jackie Kay/Zafar Kunial reading in the evening too. Ask Jackie Kay about being Poet Laminate when you see her!
Early November, I fetched up in Aldeburgh for the poetry festival. This was my second year there, house sharing with friends. What a fantastic festival this is, and how sad to think this one might have been the last. Like most arts events, the Poetry Trust is finding funding a challenge so the festival is in doubt next year. What a sad world in which art is relegated to a charity, forced to busk with its begging bowl instead of being given the spiritual space it deserves. Anyway, this festival involved Kim Addonizio, John Burnside, Tony Hoagland and many other splendid poets. And more friends. And wine. It was a wonderful weekend, I hope the Poetry Trust resolves its funding crisis in time for next November.
In December I went to the poetry carousel in Grange, which I have written about in other blog posts so I won’t go over old ground here. Suffice to say it was a lovely way to round off a good poetry year.
In October two lovely friends of mine held their hand-fasting in Arnside, south Cumbria. A hand-fasting is a pagan wedding.  What a lovely weekend that was: celebration, love, friendship, food and wine. And the pop-up Karma Sutra. And poetry, obviously.
And throughout the year there was my Poetry Society Stanza meeting monthly at the buffet bar, Staybridge Station; and Spelks. I love Spelks: this is a group of seven poetry friends who meet monthly at each other’s houses to set poetry challenges, share and feedback on the poems resulting from those challenges; and to eat food, drink wine. This is a closed group. I always think of that wonderful line by Audrey Hepburn in ‘Charade’ when she says ‘I have so many friends I can’t possibly know anyone else until someone dies.’ Spelks is a bit like that. We are planning several readings in the coming year. Watch this space.
The lowlight of the year was damaging my foot in Zakinthos in September, spending the second week of my holiday in a wheelchair and on crutches with my right leg in plaster. Slipped on the bathroom floor. And, no, I wasn’t drunk at the time! I was in a ‘Beckham Boot’ for eight weeks after I got home. I can truly say, all my holiday snaps this year were X-rays. On a lighter note, a taxi drove us to the hospital for the X-rays and follow up treatment. He parked outside a veterinary surgery. I said to Bill ‘Oh my, they’re going to  have me put down!’ The taxi driver spoke good English and he laughed. He assured me the X-ray department was next door!
So, what has all this to do with my PhD? Well, this is the life I lead and I am determined to carry on and not lose any of it along the way. What would be the point in that? But that is a challenge in itself, because somehow, the PhD has to be made room for. I think I’ll drop the ironing and hoovering if anything has to go.
2016: new year resolutions. Obviously they involve diets and gyms as ever. I had a brilliant idea the other day though. I could make resolutions to put on a stone and become a couch potato. That way, when the resolutions fail in the first week, I might actually achieve something healthy! Oh, the power of positive thought.
I have taken a few days off from study over the Christmas and New Year break. Family, festivity, feasting and fun. Now I’m back on it with a vengeance. I haven’t heard back from my team re the re-drafted RD1, I expect to hear any day now. So I’m ploughing on regardless. My objective for this spring term is to complete a critical reading of the relevant Freud works and to first-draft a chapter on his contribution to female sexuality and female child development. More about that next week, I expect.
Meanwhile, here is a poem I wrote in Amanda Dalton’s workshop at the carousel in December:

 

St Francis and the Birds

       Sir Stanley Spencer

Where did he come from, the fat friar,

his hands huge with prayer, his eyes

fixed on heaven and my fowl, my fowl,

lost to me? And why me? Why would he

do that? Where was he at daybreak

when I was collecting the eggs, shovelling

the shit? Just when the hard work’s done

he comes to claim the glory. I can’t bear

this cacophony, the hissing, honking, quacking,

clucking, cooing as if all the birds of the farm

have formed a choir singing their fowl version

of All Things Bright. These flowers were

for my man’s grave till the fat friar came,

walked past me as if I wasn’t there, almost

trampled the boy with his size sixteen velvet

boots, not looking where he’s going, all the while

chanting come follow or some such nonsense.

Now my grave posy’s a cosh, flagellation’s all

they understand. But the fat friar feels nothing,

and then I see God’s in his corner and I realise

I can’t win and I think if The Big Man sends

a flood or a plague of frogs it’s the family Bible

I’ll snatch up, convince Him we’re also believers.

Sing, boy, sing, I yell, Onward Christian Soldiers.

If you can’t beat ’em, cover your arse, I say.

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