Pancakes, catnaps and other prevarications

Sunday again! This might be a bit shorter than usual-I’m going to Harrogate later today with Bill. I bought him a senior rail card for his birthday and train tickets for the trip and later today I will be buying lunch at Betty’s Tearooms. So, this is just another instance of how life can get in the way of research, the story of my week really. But I said when I started out on this epic journey that the PhD would have to fit in and find its own space because if I had to give up important aspects of my life to accommodate it my life wouldn’t be enriched by it. This week my car has been serviced and I have made pancakes, obviously.

Prevarication is another story. Yesterday was the worst kind of prevarication. I settled to a morning’s reading. I’m very near the end of ‘The Psychopathology of Everyday Life’: Freudian slips and all that. Well, I got off to a good start, but about half an hour in I fell asleep over my book. Fell asleep? I’m an insomniac, what’s that all about? I tried again and fell asleep again. And again. So, I decided in the spirit of the book’s message that my dozing was trying to tell me something. Clearly, I wasn’t committed to reading this morning. I think I just wanted a day off; I tried to force my body and my psyche into a reading frame of mind but they knew better. After a couple of hours of stop-start reading-dozing, I gave up and made myself a cup of tea. I put on an old episode of Lewis and that was me done for the day. I won’t get a PhD like this, I need to discipline myself more stringently; but I think just sometimes we need a day off, relax a bit, do something other to give us space to process the stuff we’ve done already. I did buy a couple more Freud books to my Kindle, so I’ve got plenty of bedtime reading for the coming days.

My head’s been all over the place this week because of poetry stuff. I submitted to the MMU magazine, Avis, in December; poems on the theme of ‘migration’, variously interpreted. Earlier this week my friend Hilary heard she had had a poem accepted for the magazine; I hadn’t heard anything. So I don’t know if I’ve been rejected (which we poets know all about and is not the disaster it used to be when I first started submitting) or if my poems are still under consideration. I waited a few days and when I still hadn’t heard I emailed the address for submissions to ask. I’ve heard nothing back from them, but perhaps it is just an e-address for submissions and won’t be opened until the next submissions window. So, knowing one of the editors on cheek-kissing terms, and having him as a FaceBook friend, I sent him a FB message to ask him about my submission. I’ve heard nothing back from him either. So I begin to feel a bit invisible.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not paranoid, I don’t normally stalk poetry editors and give them a hard time. But I made another submission in December, to Obsessed With Pipework. I heard back from the editor, Charles Johnson, this week to say he didn’t feel my poems were right for the magazine this time but he “would very much like to represent your work in the magazine” and asked me to submit half a dozen unpublished poems for him to consider. I can’t send out poems that are lodged in the arteries of other magazines and might be still being considered, or conversely might be going nowhere. A poet’s lot…

I’ve been invited to do two readings this week (invited this week; the readings are in April and May). The April reading is for Quiet Quiet Loud, organised by Sarah Dixon, a woman very committed to bringing poetry to audiences  in Manchester and other towns throughout the UK. I’ll be reading with my friend Hilary, a six minute slot. As it involves Hilary, it will probably involve eating out and a lot of laughs. The May event is a marathon rather than  the sprint of QQL. The Seven Spelks have been invited to read for Oldham’s Bookmark Festival. We have been given our own slot and also asked to contribute to the open mic of the Write Out Loud event. Monday May 16th. I’ll advertise closer to the event but it would be good to see some of you there? The invitation also included a submission opportunity to a new publication whose first magazine is published mid-March. I know nothing more about it than you do, but if you’re tempted you can check it out here:

Unfortunately, I can’t find 2016 versions of the other events yet. I’ll post them on here when I locate them.

On the PhD front, I have two meetings booked with my team. I meet with Antony and Angelica on February 25th to get some forward momentum in the Freud section of my work. I said last week that I didn’t think the dedicated Freud chapter I planned in RD1 was going to work; it will be just a descriptive retelling and offer nothing new or surprising to the discourse. So, that will be the focus of that meeting for me: do I combine Freud and other psychoanalytic theories to make a ‘psychoanalytic’ section? I feel I can put up a stronger argument if I include other theorists in the one chapter. On March 15th I am meeting with Jean Sprackland to discuss the creative aspect of the project. I have to email a few ‘mother-daughter’ poems to her before then and meet to discuss their suitability for the portfolio. I look forward to that meeting in particular, the poetry being the most important aspect of the project for me.

So, I’d better sign off, I’ve a train to catch! This doesn’t seem to be any shorter than normal despite my first line! My poem this week is nothing to do with my project, but a poem that won the Wells Poetry competition in 2014, judged by Sir Andrew Motion. I wrote it for an online poetry course with the Poetry School, led by Kim Moore. The course was entitled ‘Put a Poem in Your Pocket’ and the poem in my pocket was David Constantine’s ‘Bad Dream’. There was a line in it ‘A sheer/fall right, a sheer wall left’ and that line reminded me of a holiday I took on my own at Lake Como shortly after my marriage broke down. And that tells you where my poem comes from. I have incorporated the Constantine line into my own poem.


San Martino di Griante

 Imagine seeing that chapel from the Lake, clinging to the edge

of the mountain like a goat, how precarious it looks but it’s held

its nerve for centuries, since the Virgin ordained that this would be

the site of Her chapel, how the ancients were confident in the soul-kiss

of faith to take on that job, how all those centuries ago builders sang

as they hauled stones up that track on the backs of mules, laid them

one by one to build the chapel, how they made the mule-track into

a Via Crucis lined with shrines to the life of Christ, how one August day

I’ll decide to walk that track, visit San Martino of the Dizzying Heights,

how I’ll climb the steep path through olive grove and deer sanctuary,

past chapels, sun-bleached icons, the drying hay of wreaths until I reach

the last hundred yards, how the chapel will beckon me across a ledge

as narrow as a woman, a sheer fall right, a sheer wall left, how I’ll sit

trying to nail my courage, in the end turning my cowardice back

down the Via Crucis, where each of its shrines is an admonition,

how I’ll hear the derision of builders echoing down the centuries,

how your voice will be in their laughter, how I’ll come back tomorrow

determined to do it, how I’ll buy a peach as big as Venus as a reward

for touching the stones of San Martino of the Derisive Sneer, how I’ll sit

for aeons at the start of that ledge, talking myself into taking those steps,

how the chapel will tell me I can do it, how I’ll want to believe it, how

that peach will call out to me but I won’t break my promise not to taste

until I reach San Martino of the Forbidden Fruit, how relieved I’ll be

when two strangers will climb that mule-track, see me there dejected,

how they won’t mock but they’ll help me cross the ledge, take my hand,

stand one in front, one behind, walk me one step at a time till I reach

San Martino of the Blessed Achievement, how elated I’ll feel as I touch

its walls, admire its frescos, gaze at the lake below, how I’ll pick out

the trattoria in Bellagio where last night I dined at a table for one,

how Bellagio will shimmer in the midday heat, how at last I’ll answer

that peach, its juice sweeter than the fruit of Paradise, how one day

you’ll just be a sentence in my story, a peach stone I’ll throw away.


Rachel Davies

May 2014


1 thought on “Pancakes, catnaps and other prevarications

  1. Can’t believe I got to invite you, my poetry mentor, along to the Chorlton reading as my ‘plus one’ and yes–there will definitely be food and laughter involved. It’s my deadline day for a shedload of MA essays etc. so I’ve decided to set myself an earlier deadline (no pressure!) all the better to enjoy the readings.

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