‘Another bloody Sunday and sweet FA’ was a play I remember watching on telly when I was younger. It was about a footie fanatic who refereed in a Sunday league. The ref was so bored he ended up scoring the winning goal. The title is how I feel about this week: how Sundays roll round so fast I think there must be two in a week; and this week has involved a lot of football. Not to mention cricket.
The purpose of this blog was to see how I am fitting PhD work into my ‘real’ life. This week has been exemplary: lots of PhD, lots of ‘real life’ and a fair bit of poetry. Ideal. First the ‘real life’ bits. On Sunday I went to Telford to visit family. It was my great-granddaughter’s fifth birthday. How quickly they grow up; and she is growing into a beautiful girl, confident, self-assured, knowing her worth and her place in the world. Her grand-parents (my youngest son!) had given her a lovely new bike. How, I ask myself, did my baby get to be a granddad? How did I get to be a great-grandma? I’ve not finished being a teenager yet; but there you have it. ‘Tempus just keeps on fuging’, as Reggie Perrin used to say. On Monday I took someone I love very much to the Christie Hospital for a three monthly check to make sure the devastating melanoma has not returned in some sinister disguise. She was treated eighteen months ago, and if you ever thought, as I confess I did, that it was the ‘best’ cancer to get because they remove the mole and it’s done with, forget that. It is a malicious and malignant enemy. It has left a frightening legacy and every three months she is checked by an oncologist or the plastic surgeons who undertook the removal of the melanoma. On top of these checks she has six monthly scans to ensure it isn’t reappearing internally: yes that is a constant threat. The next scan is in June. So if you are worried about symptoms, see a doctor soon as…details here, if you are interested:
Next, football. On Sunday, Manchester United’s last premiership match of the season, against Bournemouth, was abandoned when a ‘suspect device’ was found in one of the toilets. This has been well reported on the news so I won’t go into it here. Suffice to say we were planning to listen to the match commentary on the radio on our way home from Telford. Instead we watched the rearranged match on TV on Tuesday. Hurrah! On the last league match of the season, Utd remembered how to play. A wonderful and much needed win which came too late to get them into European Champions League football next year. But a reassuring win none-the-less. I spent the rest of the week hoping they hadn’t peaked too early for the FA cup final against Crystal Palace on Saturday. I rushed home from Poets and Players (about which more in a mo) to watch the match; thanks to a slight delay in kick-off time, I only missed a couple of minutes at the start. Way-hey! another Utd win: first silverware since Sir Alex left the club; and the first FA Cup win for Utd for twelve years. I know, remarkable. But they did deserve the win, dominated the match from the start. So I’m a happy red this morning. And to add the cherry, as cricket commentators call the ball, England won the first test match of the season after forcing Sri Lanka to follow on at Headingley. Cricket and football: what I would spend my time doing if I wasn’t doing other stuff.
I can’t leave ‘real life’ without mentioning the Whit Friday Band Contests. I live on Saddleworth, where the contests happen. Every Whit Friday, Saddleworth is on lock-down with road closures from late afternoon to after midnight and the wonderful sound of brass bands floating through the villages as depicted in the film ‘Brassed Off’. On Fridays, being awful creatures of habit, we go into the biggest Saddleworth village, Uppermill, to visit the bank, do other business and have an al fresco coffee in Java. This Friday, Uppermill was a mass of humanity to rival Hong Kong or Tokyo (the impression I have of visiting both cities). People everywhere, even at 11.00 a.m., some of them with little camping stools set on the pavements to claim their spots for the evening entertainment. We did what sane people do: finished our business, drank our coffee (indoors as all the al fresco tables were taken) and went home to hunker down in annual siege conditions. A great day was had by all.
Next the poetry bit of my life: this has taken a fairly forward back seat this week after my week away in Bowland last week. But poetry is never far from the fore and this week is no exception. I finished the Adam Phillips essays, Promises Promises, as my bedtime read this week. It will get a proper reading in PhD time in the future, but as a first read I am done with it. I replaced it with Sylvia Plath’s poetry: still very much to do with the PhD, but again, this is an exploratory reading to find poems I want to concentrate on later. I have been reading Ariel, her last collection, published posthumously. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the community of poets, and here is another example. When I was first accepted by MMU to do my PhD, I did what all tinterweb-savvy folk do and announced it on FaceBook, saying it would involve, among other stuff, a reading of Plath’s poetry. A friend, whom I met through the Creative Writing MA at MMU, congratulated me on my insanity and sent me said copy of Ariel through the post. How kind was that? It is the ‘Restored Edition’, with a foreword by her daughter, Frieda Hughes and facsimiles of Plath’s original manuscript in the back. A wonderful gift to receive, a wonderful reminder of the community of poets.
On Monday, I heard I had been long-listed in the 2016 Cinnamon Press pamphlet competition. Unfortunately, I learned in the same email that I hadn’t got beyond the long-list. Ho hum, back to the drawing board! On Friday I heard from my composer, Laura, at RNCM about the first draft poem I sent for our aria. The good news is, she liked it very much and thinks she can work with it. We have our next consultation meeting with staff from RNCM and Music Theatre Wales on Thursday, so we will at least have something to talk about. I was talking to another poet who is involved in the project on Saturday and he asked me how many pages I had written for my aria. It hadn’t occurred to me in terms of pages! I wrote a poem that said what we had discussed and passed it to my composer. I’ll find out on Thursday if it’s enough, no doubt.
On Saturday, yesterday, I wrote my blog poem before going out with friends to the Whitworth Art Gallery for the May Poets and Players event involving Moniza Alvi as the headline poet, supported by Jonathan Edwards and Cath Nichols and our ‘players’, Glenn and Chico, a flamenco duet. Oh my, another wonderful event by P&P; and despite Bradford Lit Fest happening a few miles to the east and Chorlton Arts Fest happening a mile or two to the west; and despite the Manchester Games happening just about on our doorstep, still our audience was impressive. These are free events with access to some of the top poets in the UK and beyond, reliant on Arts Council England as a major funding stream. And that is getting harder and harder to access. Our bid for next year’s programme is in the process of being prepared as I write. Hopefully we will be able to continue to mount these wonderful and well-appreciated events for several years to come. Anyway, yesterday I got the job of introducing Jonathan Edwards, bless him. Lovely poet, lovely man. Our next (free) event is in September and includes Pascale Petit, details here:
Pascale is also running a writing workshop for us on the morning of the event. The workshop costs just £20.00 if you are interested. Let me know, or go to our FaceBook page to get yourself signed up:
So all this just leaves the PhD work. This has been intensive this week to make up for the back burners it simmered on last week. I have given the best part of four full days to PhD reading. I have nearly finished Klein’s Love, Guilt and Reparation, only half a chapter to complete later today before I get onto the next big thing, Lacan. I feel as if I ought to give you some kind of break-down of my understanding of her work, but I don’t want to lose my readership, so suffice to say I am learning so much; I even understand some of it! I feel like a weighing balance: in one pan is my reading, in the other is writing. The reading pan is heavily weighted and almost touching the ground at the moment, the writing pan is way too high. I must get some more writing done soon to get some balance into this and I am beginning to think about writing again. I think my writing ideas have changed and developed a lot and my approach will be much more integrated than my last attempt at a start. I’ll keep you posted, when I have the confidence to start again. Later today I’ll be reading again. Lots.
So that brings me to my portfolio poem. I have fulfilled my commitment to write a poem a week for the project. This poem is a knock-on from reading Plath. I found her poem ‘You’re’, describing her son in utero, I think, very moving but also very exciting as a form. I haven’t reproduced the form, or the excitement probably, but it is what inspired me to write this poem before setting off for Poets and Players yesterday. Be kind to it, it has barely got its eyes open yet.
is a spider whose sac is tight packed with minute
spiderlings like streptococci dispersed by rough wind
then who stands by to watch their scurried panic
is a towering cumulus threatening rain
putting out the sun in watery hisses sometimes
an elusive hint of thin light penetrating
is a banker who deposits the currency of smiles
in inaccessible long-term accounts then becomes Fagin
whose waifs must pick pockets for the interest
is a history book, no plot, no character, no chronology
no words but an index not alphabetically arranged
confusing, unmemorable, unknowable
is a thick oak door, locked from the inside
behind the door a lead-lined box its lock unpickable
in the box the keys to the box and the door