Eton Mess and a Haunting

I got back to the PhD work with more concentration this week. I intended to start writing again, but found it difficult to sit at my desk; my back is still very painful. So I upped the reading, all the time having in the back of my mind the need to write and what my approach will be. I did plan the format of the chapter, propped up on pillows on the sofa. I read somewhere that August is ‘write a page a day’ month; and if I do manage a page a day, I’ll have a chapter that’s 31 pages long by the end of the month; and although no-one is going to weigh the chapter as a mark of success, 31 pages will be about 6000 words, which is what I’m aiming for. A page a day doesn’t seem so big a task, does it? Not really…

I have been reading Jacqueline Rose The Haunting of Sylvia Plath. It is a difficult and intense read. However, chapter 3, ‘The Archive’, really grabbed my attention. It is about the posthumous editing of Plath’s poems, journals and letters by Ted and Olwyn Hughes (Ted’s sister) and Aurelia Plath (Sylvia’s mother), and how this editing affected the content and ‘message’ of what she wrote. I was, of course, particularly interested in the mother’s role in this. What it did show me, in particular, was how I need to write from the inside of psychoanalysis, not write ‘about’ psychoanalysis. I must learn to assume an in-depth knowledge on the part of my readership and write as if I have an in-depth knowledge myself. And, of course, I sort-of do; except it is still a relatively new subject to me, my cognition hasn’t entirely assimilated it in the sense of knowing it from the inside; so that is going to be a challenge when I next sit at my desk. I’m looking forward to it, I relish a challenge.

I had to hand the reins of my Poetry Society Stanza over to my lovely friend, Keith Lander, on Tuesday of this week. It was a reading session and in honour of the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, we had agreed to read, share and discuss his sonnets. Feedback I received from members was very positive and I was sorry to miss it, but rest and recuperation seemed more important, especially as I had arranged to spend Wednesday with two other friends, Penny and Hilary. Hilary drove us to Ilkley for a day of retail therapy and lunch at Betty’s Tearooms. I rode in the front passenger seat; Hilary has heated seats, and that made for good heat therapy. So my corner of the car was an oven, while the fan was blowing cold air and the windows were open. I managed to walk around Ilkley with them, but I became adept at finding a chair to sit on at all the shops we stopped in. In one shop Hilary found a wonderful advertising slogan, which she handed to me; so the shop assistant, bless her, took our photo with the slogan mid-shot.

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Silly, I know; but these women cheer me up no end, share my sense of humour . Poets, both; I think I have talked several times about the importance of the community of poets and I feel blessed to have these women in my life. Betty’s lunch was wonderful as ever, completed with the necessary comfort of an Eton Mess. At the end of the day my back was very sore from walking around Ilkley, despite topping up the Tramadol; but I came home with a couple of charity shop bargains, applied the heated-seat therapy on the way home and spent Thursday recuperating on the sofa with Jacqueline Rose and Sylvia Plath for company.

The blog is shorter this week; it would be fairly boring to write about sitting on the sofa most days doing very little. So I’ll sign off with the week’s poem. This is the third and last of the Spelk ‘ancestor’ poems I wrote three weeks back. I feel bad that I have not achieved my target of a poem a week for the portfolio since my accident; but my brain is more receptive than productive at the moment. I think I can be excused for that under the circumstances: it’s hard to be creative when your brain is fogged with opioids. I hope next week to be back on track with a new poem: watch this space. In the meantime, a poem about Grandmother. I didn’t know her, but I must have inherited my attitude to life from someone, and I don’t recognise myself at all in my perception of my mother. So I like to think Grandma was a bit on the edge, a bit at kilter with the world. That’s how I tried to envisage her in this poem, another modern sonnet:

 

Grandma was a white one

She flew a turbo charged Fazerblazer:

heated seat and pillion, power assisted

bristles. The family wasn’t impressed though,

snubbed her at the door, turned their backs,

virtually cast her out—let’s face it who would

dare do it really? What did snubs mean to one

who could get what she wanted from life’s

cauldron without so much as a couplet?

 

She didn’t chant the old hubble-bubble, just

threw down a word or two, a wow phrase,

a strong verb, wrote each stanza as if it was

her last. Fly where you’re not welcome, that’s

what she taught me, come down in a mess

of family, write them like you mean it.

 

Rachel Davies

July 2016

4 thoughts on “Eton Mess and a Haunting

  1. So sorry to read about your painful injuries. Be reassured that you can still write up a storm! Definitely your grandma’s girl! Fly!

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