Daily Archives: April 9, 2017

NaPoWriMo and a little soul

I’ve had a wizard week when all aspects of poetry, PhD and life came together in a (near) perfect whole.

The timetabling idea is proving a bit of a boon. At the moment I’m only timetabling a week at a time; I may extend that when I get used to working to a fairly rigid plan. But a week is enough at the moment. So far it’s working for me. It does mean that I fit more work into a week than I would have done, because I fill the odd empty hour between other jobs with something productive. So this week I have been working on the revision of the Hill chapter, writing and editing my crown of sonnets and writing a poem a day for NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month). Eight poems written so far this week, some of them, very satisfyingly, to my mother-daughter theme: two birds, one stone.

Sunday it was my grandson’s 19th birthday. Amie and I went to Telford armed with birthday presents for him and for my great-grandson who was two the day before. We went out for a celebration meal: a table for nine. It was a lovely relaxing day of family and happiness. I still managed to write a small poem after I finished my Sunday blog, before I had breakfast. It’s not a particularly good poem, but it might be, one day. And it was a mother talking about a daughter, so it’s in my academic interest to make it good enough, isn’t it?

On Monday I wrote a pantoum. I think it’s the first one I’ve ever written. On Sunday night when I got back from Telford, I googled ‘pantoum’, downloaded an example, made my page double columned and wrote a practice pantoum beside the downloaded one. It was rubbish, but it was just testing out the form.  On Monday morning, in those lovely early hours when I’m the only person in the world who is awake, I wrote my pantoum proper. It is about watching my mother slicing runner beans just after my brother died. I am pleased with it, it is suggestive rather than explicit. It works, I think. Another poem for the portfolio, perhaps?

On Monday morning I visited the Integrated Care Centre in Oldham to visit the rheumatology nurse as part of my treatment for the Ugly Sisters: polymyalgia rheumatica and giant cell arteritis. These are two horrible autoimmune diseases I developed in 2013 and 2015 respectively. They are linked; they are painful; they are treatable with cortico-steroids. Unfortunately the steroids cause all sorts of detrimental side issues for the body, like osteoporosis. Vitamin D and Calcium are essential; and a drug to help the body assimilate the Vit D into the bones. Osteopenia–a kind of osteoporosis light–is the reason I have broken two bones in the last couple of years, so I have to have that ‘assimilation’ drug injected twice a year. Monday morning was that day. In the afternoon I went to my aerobics class: it gets easier every time I go; then into Manchester to meet Hilary and Penny to plan our next Bitches Week in Anglesey in May. We had a meal together in Leaf on Portland St. then, after laying down our plans–which include a day trip to Dublin–we went on to Amy McCauley’s writing workshop. I took the leopard ‘revenge’ poem I wrote at Stanza last week. It was well received and I was given useful feedback on revisiting it.

Tuesday was all about rewriting sections of my Selima Hill chapter. The timetable is about planning short writing tasks: short, that is in content, but taking plenty of time to perfect. I rewrote two pages; I worked on the sonnet section as well. I have loved developing this section: only a couple of pages, but very satisfying. After a brew-break, I went back to work. I rewrote the third sonnet in my corona, in the daughter’s voice. I had made the daughter altogether too acquiescent in the first draft, and that wasn’t a daughter I wanted, so I made her more ambitious, less reliant on love, more reliant on her own mental resources. Not brilliant yet, a bit ‘lifeless’, but better. I kept the original two ‘daughter’ sonnets: they have some lines in that I don’t want to lose. So, altogether, Tuesday was a productive day. The daughter sonnet served as my fourth NaPoWriMo poem.

On Wednesday morning I wrote my fifth poem in bed before the world was awake. It is a poem that tells of the experience of appendicitis when I was a child, but told from a third person viewpoint. It’s amazing how much you remember of something when you write a poem about it! After breakfast, I took Rosie Parker for her dental check up. Worried about getting her into the cat carrier, we allowed plenty of time for the fight. But she was gentle as a lamb, went in with no fuss; so we were at the vet’s earlier than expected. Her teeth are fine following the dental treatment she had earlier in the year; so that’s good. No more cat carriers until her annual boosters in July. I went from the vet’s to the Black Ladd to work on the accounts for the morning. Bill came for lunch as usual, then after lunch we went into Manchester to the Palace Theatre to see The Commitments: Amie had enjoyed it so much when she went, she had bought us tickets as soon as she got home. Oh, my! It was wonderful: all the soul days of my youth compressed into two hours of fantastic entertainment. I’ve read the book–I love Roddy Doyle’s books; I’ve seen the film; the stage version was the icing on the cake.  We went for a meal in Don Giovanni’s after the performance. A lovely day altogether, thank you Amie. When I got home I researched my sixth NaPoWriMo poem, a ‘found’ poem based in the lyrics of some of the songs. I wrote it in bed early on Thursday morning. I’ll post this poem at the end of the blog: it was fun to write but I don’t think it is for publication anywhere else! In the evening on Wednesday, I received news of the winning entries in our Poets&Players competition from Michael Symmons Roberts. I can’t tell you, or I’d have to kill you; but you can come along to our celebration event at the Whitworth Art Gallery on April 22nd, details here:

Coming Events

Thursday I went to the Black Ladd again to finish off what I didn’t get done on Wednesday. All up to date again. In the afternoon I worked at polishing the sonnets in my sonnet crown. I’ve cut out a lot of the words from the third sonnet, the daughter one. And I’ve adapted her ‘voice’ to make it distinct from the mother’s voice, by taking out the rhymes at the end of lines. There are still rhymes but they’re embedded in the lines, less obtrusive. I’m much more pleased with it now.

On Friday, the usual chores in the morning. In the afternoon I went to a pilates class at my gym. I talked to the rheumatology nurse on Tuesday about exercise. When she measured me, I appeared to have shrunk about an inch since I damaged the fourth thoracic vertebra last July. This is because it was a compressed fracture: the bone was crushed in the fall. She thought the pilates was a good idea to improve posture: the injury has left me with a very slight stoop. So, on Thursday, pilates. T4 still objected when I lay on the floor but I told it to shut up and get on with it. There were some moves I definitely couldn’t do, like making a shoulder bridge and taking my legs over my head, feet all the way down to the floor. I didn’t want to go home with more compressed fractures, so Julie gave me alternative exercises at those times and I did the full hour. I have felt every muscle in my body ever since, so it must be doing me good. I’ll go again, but not next week. Julie is ‘old school’ (her words) she ‘doesn’t work bank holidays’. Easter next week. When I got home I wrote my daily poem. When we drove into Uppermill this morning the moors looked as if they had dressed themselves in flak jackets, those brown/green/khaki colours the moors have at this time of year. Trump had ordered the bombing sortie into Syria in the night and it seemed as if even Nature was at war. So that was the inspiration for my Friday poem

Saturday, more timetabled PhD work. I was at my desk by 8.00 a.m. and worked well all morning, about five hours altogether, putting all aspects of the Hill chapter together in a readable whole. I also wrote a fourth sonnet for the corona, in the mother’s voice, a response to the third sonnet, the daughter’s sonnet. After lunch, Hilary, Penny and Polly came with their partners to watch the Denshaw premiere of the Sky Arts programme we were involved with in the summer, about spotting the fake painting among the Pre-Raphaelite exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery. I had recorded it on Sky+ so we could watch together. Yes, we were in the programme: only as supporting extras mostly, but Penny got a speaking part near the end.

So that’s it for another very busy week–are there any other kinds? Here’s the poem I drafted following The Commitments. Nostalgia is good for the soul; soul is good for nostalgia.

The Commitments

 all the best days of my youth


I bet you’re wondering how I knew

they call you Mr Pitiful?

I laughed when you left, but now

I’m added to your chain of fools

and I can’t stand the rain against my window,

it makes it easier to bear.

I’ll wait till the stars come out

because it gets bigger baby, and I try

and I try and I try and I try, I can’t get no—

all you wanna do is ride around Sally.

I wish I knew you before you met her—

get out my life why don’t you babe

be a do-right-all-night man—

bye bye baby, baby goodbye.


rolled into two and a half hours of soul

Rachel Davies

April 2017