I had an oops moment on Monday. I took the pile of coins from the restaurant to the bank. NatWest have one of those coin counting machines that sorts the coins, tells you how much you have deposited and issues a deposit slip to take to the counter. It saves a lot of time at the counter; tip the money in, wait for the slip. Except when I tried to tip the money into the maw of the machine, I missed and tipped it all over the floor. Coins everywhere! Thankfully one of the bank’s staff came to help me scoop it all up, a dirty business. Note to self: next time you take coinage to the bank, take it in more than one bag.
In the afternoon I went into Manchester to meet Hilary, Penny and Keith for a meal in Leaf before Amy McCauley’s writing workshop there in the evening. Always lovely to see them; Penny and Keith went to Simon Armitage’s reading at the Dancehouse on Oxford Road; but Hilary and I stayed for the workshop. I took a political poem I wrote in St. Ives, a bit of a rant against the class system in this country. It was a good session, some interesting writing, a mix of poetry and prose, so that’s refreshing. We stayed for a drink after the workshop: several poet friends there, as well as Amy. I was telling her about my PhD, how it is the hardest thing I’ve ever done: she completed hers last year, so she was very understanding.
Tuesday I dedicated the whole day to PhD work. I googled all the female sonneteers I read about in the Cambridge Companion. I have been inspired by the idea of a crown of sonnets, also called a sonnet corona. I hadn’t heard of it until I read this book. If you don’t know, it’s a sonnet cycle of seven or fourteen sonnets; each new sonnet begins with the last line of the last sonnet and the last line of the sonnet cycle is the first line of the first sonnet. It has a circularity, then, a relentless concentration on the central idea. I found a crown, ‘Belongings’ by Sandra Gilbert, which I really enjoyed reading. You can find it here:
I read about Rita Dove’s ‘Mother Love’, which is a modern retelling of the Persephone and Demeter myth. I ordered it second hand from Amazon. It is amazing; Dove was the Poet Laureate of the USA and I’m ashamed to say I didn’t know her work until I bought this collection. Why have I never come across her work before? ‘Mother Love’ is a wonderful collection, and it ends with a sonnet crown, ‘Her Island’. I love this new-to-me form.
On Tuesday afternoon I caught the tram into Manchester to meet Peter, a colleague on the Poets&Players committee. He brought the postal entries for me to put with the online entries to take to Michael Symmons Roberts on Tuesday this week. I met Peter and his wife in the Rylands Library cafe for the hand-over. So that’s it, when I hand over to Michael, my part in the competition is over for another year; apart from, hopefully, introducing Michael at our winners’ celebration event in April, details here, along with other forthcoming P&P events:
On Wednesday I had a virtual PhD support meeting with Jean Sprackland. Jean is on Sabbatical this term but had agreed to ‘meet’ via an Adobe chatroom. I had sent her four poems in February, and it was these we discussed. Jean really liked ‘Code’ and ‘Exposed’, both of which I posted on here in early drafts. She liked the new creative voice in them and advised me to try to develop this; they are different from my normal poetic voice and quite exciting for that. She liked ‘Weaving’ least of all: less exciting than the others, and I would agree with that. She advised me to go to an art gallery for inspiration that isn’t autobiographical, which is where ‘Code’ and ‘Exposed’ took me and that’s why I like them both. I like an outward looking challenge. She gave me good ideas on minimal revisions, and a long look at the other two. We also discussed the sonnet, and particularly the crown. I said I could see how it could be adapted to suit dialogue between a mother and daughter in that circular way these conversations sometimes go, and the sonnet is always an exciting form to subvert by meter and rhyme scheme. So, I am committed to giving it a go before our next face-to-face meeting toward the end of May. Ooh, watch this space.
On Thursday I sent off a couple of poems to the ‘And Other Poems’ call for submissions for St. Patrick’s Day. The poems are both loosely Irish, one probably more than the other; but I sent them anyway. I’m waiting to hear. I did hear from the Yorkmix competition: I wasn’t on their shortlist, ho hum. It’s a poet’s life: submission and rejection with the occasional ray of light from an acceptance or a competition success. Pick up that rejected poem, dust it off and send it somewhere else. My friends Keith Lander and Bernie Cullen were both on the shortlist, so that’s good news for them: I wish them both luck with the final decision.
Saturday was absolutely dedicated to work. I wrote my RD9 of the ‘meeting’ with Jean and sent it off to her and to my Director of Studies, Antony. I spent a couple of hours writing a poem for the ‘Noble Dissent’ anthology from Beautiful Dragons. It’s an anthology inspired by our favourite dissenters. I wrote a poem in the style of Jamaica Kincaid’s ‘Girl’, a prose poem I have loved for a long time. It is a dissent against the roles and behaviours ascribed to girls in a patriarchal society. As a piece of writing, it’s perhaps not to everyone’s taste, but I love its pace and the relentless nag of it. I adapted it for my own poem about modern politicians, also a bit of a rant. I can’t post it here because it is for publication in the anthology; but I can post a link to ‘Girl’ so you can read it if you want to. I read my poem to Bill in the afternoon. I got really constructive feedback: ‘I don’t like it at all, the repetition’s boring’. Come on Bill, don’t hold back, say it as you mean it!
In other news, my son Michael came to stay yesterday for a few days, until Wednesday next week, so that’s a bit of a treat. Last evening we went out for a meal with Amie and her partner. It’s always good to have the offspring together; just a shame Richard couldn’t be there as well. He’s a secondary school teacher, so too busy getting ready for the big offensive of summer exams.
That’s it then; another week under my belt. I downloaded another book onto my Kindle this week: The Clockwork Muse by Eviatar Zerubavel, an Ivy League professor. It’s a practical guide to organising your writing tasks: lots of good advice about timetabling your writing into your lifestyle, actually planning writing times in. I like this idea. The book also gives good advice on how to see your writing as bite size pieces, not as an unmanageable whole. It advises writing in manageable pieces, say two or three pages a day, and being prepared for the first draft to be totally unsatisfying but to do it anyway and revisit it later when the whole thing is in first draft. Well, I know all about that!
Here’s a link to Jamaica Kincaid’s ‘Girl’; I hope you like it as much as I do.