Life, literature and a little lunacy

I heard someone on the radio the other day say she was dreading retirement because she didn’t know what she’d do with herself all day. Really? It’s never been a problem for me! I have been retired now for thirteen years, I took early retirement from primary school headship in 2003. I love retirement, it’s the best job I’ve ever had. In those thirteen years I’ve been to Australia twice, visited Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo and Cape Town en route; I’ve completed a BA literature with the OU, an MA Creative Writing with MMU; and now this, a critical/creative PhD in poetry. I’ve steeped myself in poetry and still managed to find time to feed the cats. And Bill, obviously. I hate it when I hear people say ‘I’ll be bored with nothing to do’. Use your imagination. Do what you’ve always wanted to do and haven’t had time until now; and if that’s only put your feet up and watch telly, all to the good. Forget your school days, these really are the best years of your life.

So, down off the soap box. Really, I’ve had another fantastic week. I spent bank holiday reading. I finished the Cambridge Companion to Lacan and started another Juliet Mitchell: Psychoanalysis and Feminism. When I’d finished the Lacan, I decided I needed to read him in his own (translated) words, so I went on Amazon and bought three books by the man himself. Just when my two reading piles are equalising, I have added to the ‘to read’ pile by three more books! Is this how it will be? Will there never be an end to the books I need to read? I’ll have to make my own decision on that one, I suspect. I’m enjoying the Mitchell: she’s a readable writer, her chapters are short, her subject fits my research very well. I loved her writing about Freud, it revised my own reading of Freud. I loved her writing about Lacan, I attained a bit more understanding of his work. Her writing on Reich has surprised me: I didn’t know his theories at all, but I love the way she questions his use of Freud and Marx to suit his arguments, cherry-picking (according to her) and adapting the bits to fit. All this reading is a journey and an adventure. If I never get the PhD, at least I’ve had these challenging books.

But, of course, I’m going to get this PhD. The power of positive thought. And this week I had a reminder that my first year review of progress is due. I’m to meet with Michael Symmons Roberts before the end of August to discuss the work I’ve done so far, the meetings I’ve had, the courses I’ve been on. So I need to start thinking about that over the next few weeks, putting together a proper resumée and printing off some poems for him. And, of course, there’s an official form to complete.

I have continued to read Plath at bedtime, getting a long-list of poems I can use for that section of my work. She is a poet who is known for her focus on her dead ‘Daddy’, but the maternal references in her work are more subtle and just as interesting. And in her journals, her private journals that became public after her death, she talks a lot about her relationship with her mother. In her letters home, lots of references to her love for her mother, obviously, but in her journals a slightly darker side to the relationship. This side is reflected in her poetry, I think. Speaking of poetry and speaking of Amazon, on FaceBook this week I read a review of Selima Hill’s latest collection, The Magnitude of my Sublime Existence. Selima Hill is another poet on my PhD focus, and what a fantastic Selima title that is: had to buy it! I’d be rich if it wasn’t for books. Except of course, books make me rich.

On Tuesday I spent the day with two friends getting down and dirty with fleece and soapy water. Hilary invited Penny and me to a day of felting at her house, lunch included. Penny and I had never done felting before, so another new experience to add to the retirement activities! We had a great day. I made a felt picture of a fenland sky using various shades of blue/grey wool tops (the name given to the dyed fleece we used). And I made a greeny/brown felt bracelet in the afternoon. Between those two feltings we ate tartiflette with garlic bread; and more of Hilary’s scrumptious scones with clotted cream. I love that I have friends who are terrific cooks and that they invite me for lunch sometimes. In the evening it was my Poetry Society Stanza for May, so I stayed at Hilary’s for tea as well and we went on together to the Buffet Bar for the evening meeting. It was an anonymous feedback session this week. Seven poems by unnamed poets from the group; seven good poems, lots of interesting discussion. We were joined this week by a woman, Briony, from Aukland NZ. She is on holiday in UK at the moment, spending time in Manchester and she’d looked up poetry events on tinterweb and found us. The community of poets, eh? It spreads its net wide!

Friday should have been Spelks, my favourite event in the monthly calendar. Except this month I had to miss it, yes, I missed Spelks for the first time in its history. I was gutted, as they say. I didn’t think I would ever miss a Spelks. So the reason for my apologies would have to be momentous. And of course it was. My lovely children, grand- and great-grandchildren came to visit, and Friday was the only day that didn’t involve any one of them in work commitments. So Friday it had to be. I spent Thursday getting ready, preparing beds, giving the vac some exercise, stocking up on nibbles and beer. We had a lovely day on Friday: we took my daughter’s dog for a walk along the canal path at Diggle, stopping half way for Grandpa Green’s ice cream. Grandpa Green supplies ice cream to a lot of the local restaurants and if you like ice cream you’ll love this. Check it out, an ice-cream lover’s heaven:

http://www.grandpagreenes.co.uk/flavours/

In the evening we had a Chinese meal and played a board game, Eight Out Of Ten Cats. They all left after breakfast on Saturday, my own cats came out of hiding and the house returned to something like normal. And guess what I did next. Yup, I got down to some more reading.

In other news, I heard I have been long/short listed for the Erbacce Press collection prize. There were 8000 international entries for this competition; yes, eight thousand! And my entry is included in the last one hundred, so that’s an achievement in itself. I haven’t heard anything further yet, but I’d be grateful if you could keep your fingers crossed for my little poems whatever you’re all doing for the next few weeks. It would be good to progress further in this one.

And speaking of my little poems, here’s one I wrote yesterday. One of the anonymous poems on Tuesday was a particular form I hadn’t heard of before, a form invented by the poet Michael Egan, whom I met when we were both doing the MA Creative Writing at MMU. The form is called ‘motivism’, apparently, and it works like this: the one-line first stanza is a statement. The second stanza is a three-line mental wander through something as fantastic as you want it to be. The third stanza is a memory. The last one-line stanza is a return to the first statement in some way, another linked statement. I liked its simplicity combined with its ability to surprise. I have my friend Keith to thank for introducing me to it at Stanza, and I thought I’d give it a go. This is my poem for this week:

Lunacy

She’s wasted years at that window, waiting.

 

I don’t belong to him, I’m certain of it. Some day

the real one will arrive disguised as a moon-man

to claim me back. And I’ll go, I know that much.

 

I saw the photograph once, the victrix ludorum gold

its ribbon round her neck, his moon face smiling,

her personal Caesar dipping his toe in the Rubicon.

 

I can make out the waxing moon through the curtains.

 

 Rachel Davies

June 2016

 

 

 

 

 

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