I had coffee and cake with a poet friend on Tuesday morning. She is also doing a PhD at MMU so it was good to have an intellectual discussion about our projects. She is researching evidence of barrenness and fecundity in 19th Century women’s poetry and in the bible (she is a vicar). Of course Freud featured large in my contribution to the discussion. Although she is not concentrating too much on a psychoanalytic approach in her work she has a back ground in philosophy and is much more ‘academic’ than I am. She made an interesting comment that Freud’s theories were ‘diagnostic of the patriarchal society’ of the time he was writing. I like that, it struck a chord. He was a psychotherapist, so diagnostics were his forte. But surely so was treatment and cure. There isn’t much of that in his work, is there? Diagnostic, yes, but he retains the status quo very nicely with lines like ‘The girl recognises the superiority of the male and her own inferiority in her missing penis…’ He doesn’t challenge this patriarchal view at all. While Freud was developing his theories of sexuality, suffragettes in the UK were demanding equality and willing to die for it. No penis envy there, Sigmund, just envy of the constraints a male-dominated society put on the clitoris and vagina!
One thing I did learn (or rather notice that I had already learned) was that reading doesn’t have to happen at my desk. I have been doing an increasing amount of it in bed at 3.00 a.m., MacBook propped on my knees for note taking. So I am well on target for two hours a day. I have completed ‘The Unconscious’ and have started on ‘The Psychopathology of Everyday Life’ which is altogether an easier and more entertaining read. He describes what have come to be called ‘Freudian Slips’, parapraxes is the name given them in the English translation. Slips of the tongue, of the pen, of memory. Amusing that you can see yourself in these pages; interesting that he analyses where the slips originate and that many have their roots in uncomfortable issues in our lives that we have repressed into the unconscious. Fascinating and thought provoking.
What I now know is, I can’t really write a chapter on Freudian theory alone without it being descriptive and yielding nothing new. I need to take issue with much, though not all, of what he writes but I think I can’t do that without having other authorities to support my arguments. So I need a team meeting soon to set some forward direction. I’ll email Antony and Angelica in the week to set up a discussion.
On the poetry front, planning continues for our Poets and Players events. Check them out here:
In December I went to the Carol Ann Duffy and Friends event at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester. If you haven’t been to one, keep your eye out for the next round, hopefully later in the year. Anyway, at the December event I heard an MMU MA Creative Writing poet, Mark Pajak read. I immediately wanted him for Poets and Players and we found a ‘new voice’ slot for him in March. I am delighted to say that he responded to my e-invitation with a ‘yes’. He will be a voice to listen for in the future. Just remember, you heard it here first.
In other news, in the ‘life’ compartments, much has happened this week. A friend of long-standing became a grandmother for the first time on Thursday. Her son and his wife live in Chicago, so it wasn’t possible for Joan to be on hand in real time for the birth; but thanks to the wonders of modern technology, her son ‘skyped’ within fifteen minutes of the birth and she was able to ‘virtually’ meet her granddaughter soon after her being born. Joan is an avid Manchester United fan and she has decided she wants to be called Nanu! Her son is also a big fan, and that explains the baby’s second name, Alexa. You have to be a football fan to understand.
On Friday it was my partner’s birthday. I won’t say how old, but he is officially an old bugger. I gave him a senior railcard and used it to buy tickets to Harrogate to take him for lunch to Betty’s Tearooms. Not very ambitious, you think? If you knew how many times we have intended to go to Harrogate and our plans have been scuppered you would be more sympathetic. Hopefully next Sunday we will put that particular pilgrimage to bed. He doesn’t know it yet, but there are some brilliant charity shops in Harrogate.
Last week I announced the sad death of my fridge freezer. We had the new one delivered last Sunday and it looked well when we hauled it into the housing vacated by the old, fitted one. Just a minor annoyance: the doors couldn’t open because of the restriction of the housing walls. So on Monday morning we began the epic task of lifting it out of the housing (not as easy as writing about it!) and removing the housing from the line of fitted kitchen cupboards (way harder than writing about it!) We took the housing down to the garage to cut the right hand wall back to allow for door opening. My partner is not good at listening to advice: it is a point of contention between us. All I ask is that my opinions are listened to and respected; they may not always be right, but they are valid. As I say to him regularly, I’ve only been wrong once in my life and that was when I thought I was wrong and it turned out I was right all along! So, after much angst, he listened and we did it my way; and it worked. We refitted the modified housing, lifted the new appliance into place and voila! doors open perfectly. It looks well too; and it keeps the food cold, which is all you can ask of it.
Lastly, pets and how important they are in your life. This week I have been on dog-walking duty for my daughter. Her partner is in Somewhere Snowy in Europe doing snowboarding, so the dog walking has all fallen to her. Of course she has to work, so I’ve stepped in to help her out. She has a lovely puppy, a Cockerpoo. I’d never heard of one until she got Cooper. It is a recognised breed, a cross between a Cocker Spaniel and a Poodle. We walked out together twice this week, both times in the pouring rain and I think I’m falling in love. He really is adorable. No, I won’t be having a puppy any time soon; but perhaps in years to come, when I stop being so damned busy, I might think about it. A passing thought. Hardly a thought at all, really.
So that’s it for another week.
Oh, I nearly forgot. My poem this week is the villanelle I wrote for Spelks. It was inspired by the biography of Plath and her relationship with Richard Sassoon prior to her marriage to Ted Hughes. The epigraph is from a letter he wrote to her during one of their long separations. Enjoy.
I am chained to you as you are to your dreams
(Richard Sassoon to Sylvia Plath)
The nightmares and the tolling bell
are chains that hold your words in check.
The straightjacket, the padded cell
hide secrets you will never tell,
how failure’s the rock around your neck
and the nightmares and the tolling bell
are ties that keep in place the veil
that hides the chaos, the inner wreck.
The straightjacket, the padded cell
all wash you out so what you feel
but a hag-blown speck
in nightmares with the tolling bell
and nothing to break the giddy fall
from manic height to mental deck
but straightjacket and padded cell.
The gentle chains he thinks can sell
his dream of love still leave intact
the straightjacket, the padded cell.
The nightmares. The tolling bell.