Monthly Archives: February 2017

Actually, I only met a man with one wife

This week I’ve been on a poetry retreat in St. Ives. The worst bit was the journey here, the best bit was all the rest. Sun, sea, fresh air, pasties, cream teas and poetry: I feel so revived.

I left home at 8.00 a.m. on Sunday last to get the train to St. Ives from Manchester Piccadilly. I met Hilary Robinson in M&S Just Food where we bought a picnic for the long journey. In the event it was a good job we over-purchased: it’ll be a long journey, Caruthers, and we’ll need to use our rations wisely.

We caught the train in plenty of time for ‘take off’; we settled into our seats, reading materials and rations close at hand. The train left on time. I read my Cambridge Companion to the Sonnet en route, and took notes of the journey for the long poem we have start to write for Spelks next week. First stop, Birmingham. We made our connection, settled into our new seats and waited for departure. We waited and waited. At last an announcement: we apologise for the delay, we hope to be able to leave shortly. Thirty minutes passed, by which time we were stressing about connections at Taunton. At last another announcement: we apologise for the delay, one engine is not working, we have only one engine. We will be leaving shortly but will need to travel slowly as we are an engine down. Thank you for your patience. The last sentence was redundant; we didn’t have any patience left, we knew we would definitely be missing our next connection. But the train did leave ‘shortly’ and we settled down, read, took notes and ate our rations sparingly, Caruthers.

The train, rather than getting to Taunton by the shortest route, actually called at Newport, Gwent, so I guess you could say it was international travel. We pulled into Newport and backed out, travelled onto Taunton; except by now we had decided to not get off at Taunton: our connection was well missed by now, so we would go on to Plymouth and get a Penzance train from there. The train attendant agreed that was probably best. Except, approaching Newton Abbot, the announcement came across that this train will terminate at Newton Abbot. Passengers for Plymouth and Penzance should leave here. So we were stuck in Devon, needing to find our own way to St. Ives; thank goodness for We met Helen Kay on the train just before Newton Abbot, so we three musketeers journeyed on together. Hilary had the foresight to ring the hotel to ask them to save us a meal: they said it would probably be a salad, which was most disheartening on a cold February day. I so needed stodge.

We managed to get a train in Newton Abbot which took us all the way to St. Erth and our last connection to St. Ives. Except that train was also running slightly late and it pulled into St. Erth two minutes after the last train for St. Ives had left. So we are stranded on another station, with a young man and his daughter, looking like an Enid Blyton book cover: Five don’t go to St. Ives. Thank fully there was an MPV taxi in the car park. It seemed a tall order, but the lovely taxi driver got us all in, including copious luggage, and eventually we made it to Treloyhan Manor, more than twelve hours after we left home. We were sent straight to the lounge for our meal: huzzah, it wasn’t a salad it was a reheated roast dinner. We made it Caruthers: eat, drink and be merry. We washed it down with a Rattlers Cider. While we were eating, Bernice turned up: she’d also had a train journey from hell. She is not good on her feet and, although she travels alone, she has assistance with her connections. Her first connection, also at Birmingham, had separated her from her luggage, which she didn’t get back until midweek and for which she had to pay the enormous sum of £70.00 for the courier. Outrageous.

Enough! I realise I have ranted on for 700 words and haven’t even got beyond day one! My room has a lovely sea view, so that was restorative:


and I’m pleased to say, the rest of the week has been wonderful. Hilary and I had Monday to ourselves until the course proper began at 4.00 p.m. (actually 3.30 if you count the wonderful cream tea the hotel provided every day)! We walked into St. Ives after breakfast, looked around the shops, planned to go to the museum to see the world’s smallest dog (yes really) and visit the Tate, but both were closed for refurb; so we had to make do with the shops and a beach bar for al fresco Rattlers looking out to sea.

We met the other course participants, and its leaders Kim Moore and David Tait, over said cream tea at 3.30. The course was themed ‘Panorama!  Poems from around the world’. Through the week we read poets from China and the far east, the Americas and Eastern Europe. It was refreshing in this awful age of closing perspectives to raise our eyes above our own horizons to celebrate the power of the human voice to cross continents. We had a couple of hours writing on Monday before dinner, then in the evening we all took a favourite poem by a poet who wasn’t us and had a read around. We had a wonderful evening with a variety of poetic voices. You probably won’t be surprised to hear I took a Selima Hill poem.

Tuesday, Wednesday: full-on days of workshop. We wrote poems responding to the poems we read, and I have to say the standard of response was amazing. Most of the poets on the course were experienced, published poets so the work produced was impressive. I loved the poems David brought from China, his adopted home. No, they weren’t comfortable poems, they were often disturbingly troubled; but they often gave a voice to the voiceless, the anonymous worker. Wonderful and disturbing in equal measure. I feel I got some poems worth the effort, and worth working on when I get home.

On Tuesday after dinner, Kim and David gave us a reading of their own poems, which was really enjoyable; and on Wednesday the wonderful Penelope Shuttle was the guest poet. She read two fifteen minute slots. I decided she was a Time Lord: she read for fifteen minutes that passed like fifteen seconds and she managed to pack in fifteen hours worth of words. The time passed so quickly: she was so entertaining to listen to; and I have two more signed collections to add to my poetry library at home.

On Monday the headcold I brought with me to Cornwall was in full swing, so Hilary and I walked to a near-by Tesco for Hall’s soothers and Vicks Vapour-rub (the old remedies are the best!). While we were there we found Rattlers cider on offer, three bottle for £5, compared with the £4.50 each in the bars, so we availed ourselves of the offer, chilled it by hanging it out of the window in a carrier bag, and drank chilled cider in Hilary’s room, like the two devoted students we are.

On Thursday, after a very short workshop indoors, Kim sent us out into St. Ives to find a poem among the speech we heard, so Hilary and I set off together through the hotel grounds down to Porthminster Beach, not really knowing where a poem was going to come from. Imagine our delight when, as we were walking down The Warren, we bumped into Simon Armitage walking up–of all the streets in all the world…! We stopped for a chat–I know Simon from when he was a tutor on my MA Creative Writing course at Manchester Met. Here was the first stanza of my poem arriving fully formed, then. The rest took care of itself as I relied on conversations I had in charity shops, and even with a fledgling seagull over the pasty I had for lunch. Back in the classroom, the consensus was that we had made it up, the bit about Simon, but it was absolutely true and a highlight of the week for me.

On Friday we had a critiquing workshop; we all took along twelve copies of a poem we had written in the week, or one we had brought from home for feedback from the group. I took a poem I wrote during the week, about a spider who used to live in my house and whom I called Harold Abrahams on account of the rapid circuit of the lounge he made every evening. I might post it here one day, but not yet; it still has places to go. Friday night was the chance for course participants to read their work to an audience, which included other participants and a group of serious walkers who were also on holiday in the hotel and had asked if they could come along. It was a lovely night; and the walkers mostly managed to stay until the end despite most of the poetry not being rhymed. We had very positive feedback from them.

Saturday most of the group left for home; Hilary and I had one more day to enjoy so we took ourselves off on a jaunt to the Eden Project near St. Austell. I’m happy to report the connections we planned for public transport worked like a well-oiled machine; and we got our student concession on the price of entry plus an extra discount for proving we arrived by public transport. Oh my, what a wonderful day that was. We only got to see about half of it, due to the shortish time we were there, but we visited the Mediterranean and the Rain Forest biomes. Oh, the plants, the blossoms and the gorgeous little Rourou birds in the Rain Forest. I fell in love.

On top of all this, I have kept up the reading on the sonnet and maintained the processing of the P&P competition entries. I’ll have a lot of printing to do when I get home, but at least all the entries are on my spreadsheet.

It’s been a busy but wonderful week. We’ve booked for Kim’s next carousel at Grange-over-Sands in December; and will almost certainly come back to St. Ives for her next course in Feb 2018. I think I might drive down next year though. Or fly. Trains? I’ve yet to be convinced I’d do that again.

I met a man with 7 wives…

It’ll be a quick one this week. I’m off to Piccadilly Station early tomorrow morning so I’m writing this in bed on Saturday night for a change. I’m going to a week-long poetry retreat with Hilary Robinson. Kim Moore and David Tait are running the course and Penelope Shuttle is coming to read to us on one evening. There’ll be lots of poetry friends there and I’m a little bit excited about all this!

So, another week of poetry, life and PhD; not necessarily in that order. On Monday I went to the Royal Exchange Theatre for the latest Carol Ann Duffy and Friends event. Carol Ann wasn’t there this week; she is suffering from the awful microbes that seem to be bowling over all my friends at the moment. Instead, we had a variety of ‘Carol Anns’: Michael Symmons Roberts stepped in at the last minute to introduce the event and read a poem from his forthcoming collection. It was a longish poem about Manchester and her history; fantastic and original and creative: it will make the centre-fold of the collection, and will span a double page spread. Keith Hutson was CAD for the second half introductions. Elaine Feinstein was the headline act this time. She got off to a slow start, but when she warmed up she was amazing. Eighty six years old and still doing entertaining readings. She talked of her time at Cambridge in the late fifties, mentioned a Fulbright scholar who was there at the same time, and in my mind I imagined her being on first name terms with Sylvia Plath, who I am guessing was the Fulbright scholar in question; there’s a good chance anyway. Feinstein talked a lot about her conversations with Ted Hughes during her reading. For me, though, the highlight was MMU MA Creative Writing student Paul Stephenson and his reading of the sequence of poems he wrote following the 2016 Paris bombings, which he experienced personally as a resident in Paris at the time. The poems form his Happenstance pamphlet, The Days that Followed Paris; more details here:

Poetry and Preservation

Tuesday was my PhD supervisory meeting. I was a bit nervous about this one; but I received some positives on my writing and really helpful and constructive feedback from Antony and Angelica. I still have a long way to go; I asked them both if they thought I could do it; both said yes they thought I could, but it will be hard work and a huge time commitment. We discussed the possibility of transferring to the MFA, which is a doctoral level degree but doesn’t include the critical element. The MFA is about preparing a full length poetry collection for publication. I reflected on this when I got home but I have decided to stick with the PhD: ultimately, I might not be successful and that would be painful; but it would be more painful to give up now. So I recommitted all over again. I had put something in my writing about Selima Hill subverting the form of the sonnet and Angelica thought that would be an interesting idea to unpack; so I loaded the Cambridge Companion to the Sonnet onto my Kindle on the way home, and that will be the mainstay of my reading while I’m away in St Ives.

I did a lot of reflection prior to writing the RD9 record of the meeting and I realised I have been a bit scared of the PhD until now. I need to relax a bit and enjoy it more. I felt I needed to revise my plan, I feel a bit as if I’m floundering without a clear plan of action since the critical element was renegotiated; but A & A said not to worry about that. So I’ll do the reading, write when I’m ready and let it ‘grow organically’, in Angelica’s words. After all, cut and paste is a wonderful facility. If I achieve this, there will be the biggest party ever thrown on Saddleworth. I sent the RD9 off on Thursday.

On Friday I had a little light relief when I went for dinner with my friend Joan. I promised her I would mention her in the blog this week. She passed the first anniversary of being a grandmother last week, so there were lovely photos of Madeleine, who we call ‘Busby Babe’ in honour of Joan’s lifelong love of Manchester United, playing in the snow near their home in Chicago.

And all week I have been keeping on top of the competition entries for Poets&Players. They are coming in steadily now; but this ten days–the closing date is Feb 28th–they will be coming in thick and fast. And I’ll be away in St Ives, so I think I’ll have a huge job when I get home. I should be able to process the entries into my spreadsheet while I’m away; but they will all need printing out when I get home next weekend. Details of the competition are here:

Competition 2017

Please enter: as the old Lotto motto goes, you gotta be in it to win it. And Michael Symmons Roberts reading your poems is a prize in itself, isn’t it?

Saturday I spent reading the sonnets book; and packing my suitcase. I keep a packing list on my iPad. I am a last minute packer and it doesn’t seem quite so tedious if you have a list to remind you what to pack. So now I’m all ready and fired up for the week. I’m hoping to  manage three or four hours of PhD work a day: some reading at bedtime and a couple of hours before breakfast: as you perhaps know by now, I’m a very early riser.

I’m posting a poem I wrote on Kim’s last St Ives workshop in October 2014 this week, in anticipation of another lovely week away. I can’t believe that was more than two years ago! I wrote this when my daughter, Amie, was having treatment for malignant melanoma. It was a worrying time and my head was in a bad place. It was a particularly drizzly morning in an otherwise week of lovely weather when Kim sent us all out to write about the town. This is the poem I wrote on that  drizzly morning.

Love Letter To St Ives 


Even though the future sits at your feet like a black dog

and your beaches lay crushed under the weight of mist

and your shoreline roars at the passing of summer

and your white horses rise on their hind legs

till your fishing boats get seasick; even though your trees

shed tears like baubles and your shops drip gifts like rain

and your cobbled streets and narrow alleys wind

around me like a clock and your posters announce

Fair Wednesday as if all the other days are cheats

and your bistros display fish with eyes wide as heaven,

scared as hell and your railway bridge yells

do what makes you happy and it feels like a tall order;

even though your choughs are impatient for pilchard

your huers won’t see today from the Baulking House,

still, you open your arms and kiss my cheeks in welcome.

Rachel Davies

October 2014

The kiss of life for my writing

I’m going to begin this blog post with PhD stuff because I’m feeling energised about it at the moment. I have been reading Helen Sword’s Stylish Academic Writing. It validates what I feel about Academese: that it doesn’t have to be dull and predictable, it can be accessible, entertaining, even contain an element of humour and anecdote. Anecdote? Really? I love this book! Anyway, at the end of each chapter there is a list of ‘things to try’; at the end of chapter 5 I came across a link to this website:

It actually diagnoses your writing style to tell you if your text is ‘flabby or fit’. You paste between 100 and 1000 words into the tester and it analyses your writing for things like strong nouns, active verbs (as opposed to passive constructions using the verb ‘to be’) and the number of prepositions used. Then it tells you if your text is ‘lean and trim’, ‘needs toning’, ‘flabby’ or on the verge of ‘heart attack’! It shows how you could redraft to achieve lean and healthy writing. I put a sample of my Selima Hill chapter in the tester. Remember, I was quite pleased with this chapter, but it came out on the verge of heart attack! Too many weak verbs using ‘to be’ in various constructions, too many prepositions, to many abstract nouns. I was shocked, but not entirely surprised. I have been taught to use passive academic language for writing assignments: ‘I’ should never appear in a piece of academic writing, I was told in the annals of history when I was writing my first undergraduate essays. Well, all that has changed: first person pronoun is acceptable, anecdote is acceptable, agency is necessary to bring your writing to life. All in moderation, of course. But the analyses of my text sent me back to the piece to redraft with strong, active verbs and less abstraction. I re-tested my writing to see if the kiss of life had worked: fit and trim in all areas. And I love how it reads now. Give it a go, would be my advice; but then, I don’t need a job in academe, so you’ll have to make up your own mind. It is a worthwhile exercise though. Just think of the assessors who have to read several theses at a time. Why shouldn’t they be entertaining as well as informative?

I’ve also got a date for meeting the supervisory team, to talk about the original draft of the Hill chapter. This Tuesday lunchtime. I’m a little trepidatious, but I need to fight my corner because I’m half way through now, and I’ve got to start to achieve some concrete success. Fingers crossed my analyses of Hill’s poetry is well accepted. I also heard back from Jean Sprackland. She is on sabbatical so won’t be in Manchester this term and as she’s based in London, we are going to have a virtual meeting via an adobe chat room on March 8th to discuss the poems I have written so far around the verse drama story. Lots happening on the PhD front, then. I’m excited and enthusiastic again, for a while.

Poetry has also loomed large in my life this week. I’m administering the online entries for the Poets&Players competition, judged by wonderful Michael Symmons Roberts, details here:

Competition 2017

Please send in your entries, the competition helps us mount our quality (free) poetry and music events. But please, READ THE RULES!! I’ve received poems of more than 40 lines, poems emblazoned with photographs and illustrations, poems containing the name of the poet, poems that bear no relation to the poems mentioned in the application form. Yesterday I came to process some entries and instead of sending the P&P entry application, the poet had sent a job application for Bolton Council. For goodness sake, read the submission guidelines; and take more care with your entries. I don’t like to disqualify anyone’s work and I try to contact miscreants and ask them to put right their faulty submission. But it’s time consuming and I’m not sure I would be so lenient if I were dealing with snail mail entries. OK, end of grousing. We have had some stunning entries and I can’t wait to get them to Michael early in March and then wait in eager anticipation for the celebration event in May.

On Monday evening Hilary, Penny and I went to Manchester for a writing workshop organised by Amy McCauley. I first met Amy when we were both doing the MA in Creative Writing from MMU, so it was good to see her again. On Sunday night, in preparation for the event I redrafted a poem I wrote at a Hilda Sheehan workshop at Kendal Poetry Festival last summer. It was an ekphrastic poem based on the Laura Ford art exhibition ‘Seen and Unseen’, a fantastic collection of soft sculptures: surreal, funny and not a little unsettling. My poem was inspired by a piece with a bride and groom; she was fully gowned up, he was in swimming trunks and beanie hat. Both of them were carrying ducks, or probably more correctly, black swans hanging limply by the neck, one in each hand.

We met at Leaf on Portland Street in Manchester. Hilary, Penny and I got the tram in together and felt like Ena Sharples, Minnie Caldwell and Martha Longhurst, all togged up against the weather. I suspect younger readers won’t have a clue who I’m talking about, so for my younger audience, if you’re out there, these three were mainstays of Coronation Street when it first aired in the early sixties. We had a lovely meal at Leaf before the workshop.

The workshop itself was interesting because it didn’t just involve poetry, there was good prose presented too. And sensitive, positive feedback. I enjoyed it, and appreciate the feedback I received on my embryonic poem. I will revisit it sometime, probably make it relevant to my PhD portfolio. I’ll post the poem at the end of the blog, but I haven’t had time to work on it from advice received at the workshop, and it doesn’t really stand alone without it’s piece of art inspiration. Perhaps I’ll post a photo of that too.

Sunday was Bill’s birthday. I won’t tell you how old, but he makes Methuselah look youthful. Anyway, I gave him two tickets to Educating Rita at Bolton Octagon. In his past life as an architect, he did some work on the Octagon, designing one of their rehearsal spaces, so we have talked about going for ages and never got round to it. On Tuesday we did. We had a meal in the little restaurant there and saw the production. Fantastic. I love the story of Educating Rita, because, really, it tells my own story of pursuing higher education without the necessary support from home. Rita juggled education and work, and had to write her essays between clients in her hairdressing salon because her husband didn’t agree with her doing it. During my first degree, I juggled education, home and children and had to write my assignments at 2.00 in the morning while husband Number 1 was on nights: trying to write them with him in the house and silently (and sometimes vociferously) objecting was too stressful. So it was strange and not a little disturbing to see my own story played out on stage and I felt quite emotional. But, of course, it is a comedy and it was a brilliant production. Jessica Baglow made the iconic Rita role her own.

Wednesday was work at the pub; Thursday I took my car back to the garage because the warning light telling me when to change gear was only working intermittently since the new coil was fitted last week. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t need a warning light to tell me when to change gear; but I was concerned that if that one wasn’t operating, other, more important ones might not be working either. So I took it in for a check; they couldn’t find a problem, but I’ll be keeping my eye on that one. At least they didn’t charge me. Friday we dog-sat Cooper again: a lovely walk into Uppermill along the canal path, this time no duckings for oncoming bitches. We went to the bank and sat under the outdoor heaters in Java for an al fresco coffee while the snow flurried around us, then walked back to the car along a lane parallel with the canal. I think, when I’ve done with study and with foreign holidays, I might get myself a dog; I like dog walking.

Anyway, another full and satisfying week. I love my life. Here’s the photo of the soft sculpture, followed by the first draft poem it inspired.




Laura Ford (Abbot Hall Gallery; July 2016)


Marry me, you said.

Share your life with me, you said.

Want for nothing ever again, you said.


Well here I am, all gowned up. I’m like

old, new, borrowed, blue but where’s the vicar?

Where’s the church, for fuck’s sake?


I didn’t think this was what you had in mind

when you said nothing big, we’ll just grab a quick

wedding breakfast. I wasn’t thinking literally

grabbed, unplucked, still swimming.

I wanted my duck à l’orange.


If we look like getting caught I’ll just lift my skirts,

expose my blue-gartered thighs and leg it.

No-one’ll recognise me in this veil.


Oh, you’re a liar.

You’re a bare faced liar. You lying bastard,

you couldn’t even wait till we’re wed

to let me down, could you?. Well, if they catch me

I’ll hand you over.

They’ll mince you and feed you to the ducks.


It’s just,

I didn’t think we’d be doing this, not today of all days.


Rachel Davies

February 2017


Make the days count…

My latest journal has a legend on the cover: ‘Don’t count the days, make the days count’. I hate February, all that residue from winter, all those grey skies and cloud blankets, all that unhappy weather. I normally count down the days to March and spring; but I’m listening to my journal this year. I’m not doing a countdown. Instead, I’m making the days count. And so far, the weather has been decent, some sunshine to convince us spring is round the corner. This week I saw a honeysuckle coming into leaf; and found snowdrops breaking their buds; and heard the garden birds practicing their dawn chorus. Life isn’t so bad, is it?

Once again, the community of poets has come to my rescue. I’ve been reading Helen Sword’s Stylish Academic Writing. It was recommended to me by poet friend, Janet Rogerson, who has just successfully completed a PhD from Manchester University.  As you know if you visit this site regularly, I am having trouble coming to terms with Acadamese, that formal language that theses must be written in. Except Helen Sword says that’s not the case. Sword recognises my problem with “a deeper, duller kind of disciplinary monotony, a compulsive proclivity for discursive obscurantism and circumambulatory diction (translation: an addiction to big words and soggy syntax).” Exactly so: the accessible phrase in parentheses makes much better reading to me. And to Sword. She talks of academic journals written in a style she finds “almost unreadable”, built on “gratuitous educational jargon” and “intellectually pretentious writing”. She, and many of her fellow academics, want to see “originality, imagination and creative flair”. Such a breath of air for someone coming to terms with the slings and arrows of thesis writing. I’m on a high reading it. It reminds me of Katrina Naomi’s thesis; it reminds me how I will progress.

So, I’m feeling very positive again; I sent off almost 5000 words last week to my ‘critical’ supervisors. I have had an acknowledgment but no dates for a meeting yet. I’ve got the intellectual gloves on to fight my corner for accessible text. I have also sent off four new poems to Jean Sprackland who is supervising the creative element of the work. The four poems are contributions to the collection I am putting together in place of the verse drama which didn’t manage to fly. I am telling the story in poems now instead; and these were the first four of those poems. I’m waiting for dates from Jean too: she’s taking a sabbatical this term so I feel really privileged that she has agreed to eat into her own time with a meeting, bless her. The community of poets: what wonderful, supportive people they are, for sure.

So, I have eased off on the pressure of PhD work this week while I wait for meetings. It has been a week of life and poetry instead. On Monday, I went on my first ever protest march. I joined the thousands in Albert Square–and the tens of thousands around the country–protesting at President Trump’s ban on entry to USA from seven mainly Muslim countries; and protesting at Theresa May’s complicity-through-acceptance in that. Surely governments of right-thinking nations should stand up to fascism in whatever guise it presents itself? The mid-twentieth century shows what can happen if we accept, appease and comply. I felt it was time to ‘stand up and be counted’ against this pernicious, not to say arbitrary, Trump regime, and the general and worrying right-leaning tendencies of many western democracies. So, on Monday evening Bill and I met up with Kim Moore (also on her first protest, although she’s half my age), Clare Shaw and her lovely daughter, and we protested. We tried to listen to the incoherent speeches–the mic wasn’t working well–so we just cheered as the crowd’s cheer rolled back to us, and booed in the same vein. But oh my, the energy of that crowd, and the positivity toward a multi-cultural community. It was fantastic. We marched through the streets of Manchester and met only positive response, even from passengers on buses that our march was holding up. Really, you know, people are fantastic; and if we stand together and uphold what we believe in, we can return the world to a place we can be proud of.

While I was on Albert Square, doing my protest for a decent world, Amie rang to invite me to go to Peterborough with her the next day to visit son Richard. Of course, I said yes immediately without access to my iPad diary,which was at home. It was only on Tuesday morning at 5.00 a.m. when I was sitting up in bed planning my day that I remembered it was my Stanza meeting on Tuesday evening. So I was torn between cancelling Peterborough and abandoning Stanza. Again, the community of poets came to the rescue and my lovely friend Hilary agreed to step into the breach and chair the Stanza for me. I have some fantastic friends: I am blessed. So, family day on Tuesday and it was wonderful. It was a day I normally give to PhD work, but Richard is a teacher in Peterborough and I normally only get to see him in school holidays. The next holiday, the February half term, I will be in St Ives on a poetry writing week, so it was good to have this chance to see him. Always good to see family; thank you to Amie for taking me.

Thursday was one of those ‘life’ days I’d rather forget. It cost me mega-bucks. I took my car in for an annual service. I pay monthly on a service plan so it doesn’t come as so much of a shock; imagine then how much of a shock it was when Pentagon got in touch to say I needed work doing to the sum of £500! Apparently the ‘coil’ had corroded. I didn’t even know it was on a birth control programme, but there you go! So, I had to pay up and look big. It’s been an expensive month: I had to pay the latest instalment on my PhD fees this month too; and pay the balance on the St Ives week. So I’m a bit strapped for cash now. But it’s February and I remain positive. And I’m on dog-sitting duties this week for my daughter; her partner is in France on a snowboarding break. Her lovely cockerpoo Cooper: here’s a random picture to cheer you up:


I took him for a walk along the canal at Uppermill yesterday and he sniffed all his messages en route, and sniffed every dog we passed; one poor dog, a female cockerpoo, got more than she bargained for when she came up to sniff noses: she backed off and ended up slipping into the canal! Thankfully her owner was there to help her out, and we all got a good soaking as she shook herself dry. Must be a poem in that one, I thought.

On the poetry front, lots happening at the moment. The Poets & Players annual competition, judged by the wonderful Michael Symmons Roberts,  is open for entries at the moment, details here:

Competition 2017

I am processing the online entries, which are beginning to arrive in the in-box. I have promised myself I will keep the processing up to date as they come in, to ease the heaviest workload towards closing date, the last day of February. So I have found several spare hours to print off and log the entries. Mostly this is a fairly straight forward job; but why oh why can’t people read the rules of entry? I have had to disqualify entries of poems more than forty lines; I have had to disqualify entries that came emblazoned with photographs and illustrations. READ THE RULES is the first rule of entering poetry competitions; comply with submission guidelines. And thank you for entering our competition. We appreciate it, we really do: it helps us mount our fantastic P&P free poetry and music events.

I have also been working on the next Spelk poem. Yes, it is early for me, Spelk poems are usually last minute, beat the deadline pieces; but this time Penny has asked us to write a ‘long’ poem and it requires some research. So I made a start on the research. Also, on Monday evening we, Hilary, Penny and I, are going to a poetry workshop in Manchester, led by Amy McCauley. We have to write an ekphrastic poem before the workshop so I have been doing some thinking around that, seeing if I can bend that to my will and write a poem that will also fit my PhD portfolio–two birds with one stone. So guess what I’ll be doing later today? Yup!

And so to the poem: I’m posting a poem I wrote very quickly last Sunday morning for the Stanza I didn’t manage to attend. I haven’t had my feedback on it yet, so you are getting it very first draft.


You know what, life is hard,

how, in a flash it takes away everything

a person was, sucks out the kernel of them

and throws the empty shell on the ground.


In a past life he built houses.

In a past life he built cities full of houses.

In a past life he walked miles for the fun of it,

ran marathons for charity

climbed mountains because they were there.

In a past life, he gave her everything she asked for

at the downturn of her mouth.

She enjoyed that, being his raison.


Now he can’t speak, can’t tell her he’s sorry,

can’t tell her he misses her.

He’s the shell of the nut, empty, discarded.

I do what I can for him but its like dressing

a dummy, no interaction, not even the nouse

to be embarrassed that his daughter

wipes his arse, holds the bottle while he pees.


She should be doing it really as some sort

of payback. But she says she’s too ill,

too weak, too busy caring for herself to care for him.

She won’t say what’s wrong with her.

So I keep wiping his arse, holding his bottle,

then I put them to bed in separate rooms.

I’m weaving a threadbare fabric.


Rachel Davies

January 2017