Forms, form and friends

This has been a week of PhD and Life; poetry took a backseat.

Sunday was spent worshipping the domestic goddess in preparation for friends visiting later in the week. I can bear not to do a job, but I can’t bear to half do one, so when it gets done it gets done properly. I hate housework, but I must say, I like the house a little better when it’s done.

Monday, the PhD had its day. I had my support team meeting at MMU. I had emailed my chapter plan; it was too descriptive. I was advised to write the first chapter as an introduction, think about the analysis of the poems, what psychoanalytic criteria I will use to analyse each poet, which four or five (max) poems I will choose to work with for each poet. Don’t outline psychoanalytic theory as such, just as it affects my project. In other words, write for an academic audience as if I am an expert in the field. Well, this would be a whole lot easier if I felt like an expert. I’m learning that Academia is a sport you have to learn the rules for before you can play. Angelica lent me a PhD thesis to read to get a feel for the language; this PhD isn’t remotely like mine in content so it feels OK to do this; it is the method I’m looking at, not the content. Also, I have useful comments on the plan I sent them: basically, what I saw as a conclusion to the chapter is the chapter I need to write. So, that’s July and August taken care of; I have to have the chapter drafted for a meeting in the autumn term.

I met a poet friend – she is doing the MA creative writing at MMU at the moment – for lunch after my meeting; then on Monday afternoon we went to a meeting at the Martin Harris Centre at Manchester University. This was about poetry in collaboration with other art forms. A composer spoke of her collaboration with the poetry of the recently deceased Geoffrey Hill; an academic gave a talk on the collaboration of Ted Hughes with the artist Leonard Baskin. Lastly a poet gave a talk about his collaboration with the music of Shostakovich, then read several poems from his collection from the collaboration, published by Carcanet. I wasn’t impressed, too many clichés and worn out phrases for my taste. It was a very heady afternoon; I was glad to have a friend in the audience. By the way, the audience out-numbered the speakers by 2:1, so there was nowhere to hide during question time; and since my only question was ‘how did you manage to get Carcanet to publish your collection?’, I kept my mouth shut. I enjoyed the afternoon on the whole though, especially the talk about Ted Hughes.

On Tuesday I went with my lovely daughter to visit my younger son and his family in Telford. We had a lovely day together. On Tuesday afternoon I had a phone call, followed up by an email, about the exciting Sky Arts project which I’m involved in with some poet friends, but more about that next week. When I got home on Tuesday evening, I had an email from Deborah Bown at MMU asking about submission of my RADA form: no, I’m not joining the college of dramatic art, it’s the form to complete for the annual review. It was supposed to be in by the end of June. I had missed reference to that deadline in needing to hear from Michael Symmons Roberts so I had to complete it and submit by the end of Wednesday. I still don’t have a date from Michael; I’ll send a reminder by the end of this week if I haven’t heard. So on Tuesday night I completed RADA, just having the list of courses I’ve attended to fill in on Wednesday afternoon. RADA was in Deborah’s inbox by the end of Wednesday. I also completed RD9, the record of the meeting with the team, and sent that off the Antony and Angelica.

On Wednesday, a little routine. I work at my daughter’s pub/restaurant, doing her books for her every week. I’m not an accountant, but I did manage large budgets in my past life as a primary headteacher, so I keep her finances in order for her. I have a quarterly visit from the accountant to make sure I’m doing it right: the next visit is next week. After the books were up to date for the week I went off to Tesco to shop for my visitors. I hate shopping of any kind: I really hate food shopping. If I didn’t have to eat I’d be rich.

On Thursday my friends Jo and Bernard came to stay. I have known them for thirty years, we all used to teach in the same school in the eighties. We meet up two or three times a year and always have lots to talk about. We went out for an Indian meal on Thursday evening then when we got home we watched the second semi-final, Germany v France in the European Championship, France the surprising winners by 0-2. On Friday, Jo wanted to visit a sick friend in Abergele. However, she woke up with an asthma attack and her inhaler was at home: she hasn’t had an attack for about six years so she didn’t think to bring it with her. She had had an emotional week, which had probably contributed. We had breakfast, but it was obvious the asthma wasn’t going to go away by itself; by ten o’clock she was having real trouble getting her breath so Bill took them all off to Oldham Royal’s A&E department. Our wonderful NHS: she was seen immediately, put on a nebuliser, given steroids and an inhaler on prescription. She was home within three hours, right as rain. They left us for Abergele at about 1.00. We took ourselves out for bank business and lunch then home to watch the men’s semi-finals at Wimbledon. Was Federer waving goodbye to Wimbledon after his defeat by Riaonic? I hope not; I love to watch his elegant play.

At last, on Saturday I had a day I could devote entirely to the PhD work. I read Adam Phillips The Beast in the Nursery, a book recommended by Angelica; I also read Elizabeth Bishop’s poetry with a view to analysing later. I do know that the psychoanalytic criterion of my analysis of her poetry will be based in loss and mourning: her mother was taken away from her when she was two, incarcerated in a mental hospital. Elizabeth never saw her again. My slant on Plath’s poetry will, I think, involve the quest for phallus as power; she was always in competition with Ted, her mother a presence in the background pushing her to succeed. That is where I am in my thinking at the moment; but it might change over the summer. I feel as if I’m swimming in semolina; and will do until I actually start writing to see what I really think.

On Saturday I also wrote my blog poem. It is a short one this week. Last week I organised one of the writing activities at our monthly Stanza. My activity was around the writing of a cinquaine.  A cinquaine is a five-line syllabic poem: the lines are built using the syllable count 2, 4, 6, 8, 2. This is the form I have used for this week’s poem: the cinquaine as a stanza form in a two-stanza poem. I like to use form when I don’t have an idea for a poem; writing to a form often produces a poem when free-verse won’t do it. I had no idea what I would write about this week; this is what I wrote in the constraints of the form. I don’t entirely know what it’s ‘about’; but poetry doesn’t have to be ‘about’ anything; sometimes it is the rhythm and the words that count. I think this is one of those. It’s sort of about my relationship with my mother but it’s also about more than that in a philosophical sense. Anyway, here it is, be kind to it, it’s still finding its feet.

 

If Love…

is what

creates a life

how does it become this

apathy                        how do we sustain

the act

 

this thing

close to the word

for hope when it’s really

another fruitless chore      a slow

bleeding

 

Rachel Davies

July 2016

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