Daily Archives: April 16, 2017

Golden Shovels and the community of poets

I’m a bit late with the blog this week. It’s been a bad week for sleep but even by my standards, the early hours of Saturday were just weird. At 1.30 a.m. we were woken by a woman outside our bedroom window, wailing into her phone. ‘But I love you so so much, I just want you back. My family says I should tell you to f*** off, but I just want you, please, come back…‘ etc etc. I have no idea who she was: we live on a fairly quiet country lane and you would only want to be out there if you were meaning to be there. After a five-minute wail, her heels clicked off down the lane and she was gone. My initial response was anger at being woken up. I wanted to shout down to her to stop being so needy and kick him into touch; but when she’d left I kept wondering who she was, why she was there and if she got home alright. And then I was angry all over again that she’d put that concern on me. In the history of insomnia, that is a pretty unique wake-up, I think; but it might be the subject of a poem some day.

So, the week in brief. PhD, poetry and life have all made their demands this week. Timetabling is working well for me. I have spent a lot of time putting the Hill chapter back together in order to send off to Angelica and Antony later in the month. Angelica has been putting lovely pictures of her working week in Mainz in Germany this week so I don’t think she needs it just yet: a good thing; it still needs some work. I’ll be back at it later today. I have been working on my sonnet corona this week as well: I promised Jean she would have a sight of it before the end of May, so still a month to work on that. Four of the seven sonnets complete and fairly polished. It’s hard to get two distinct voices into a dialogue; but vital to get that right.

Poetry has had a big space in the week, it being National Poetry Month. I’ve continued to write a poem a day: some of them have been rubbish, but there are some little gems in there too, worth keeping to work on in more leisurely times. One or two have been mother-daughter themed poems, which might be incorporated into the portfolio when I put the PhD work together next year. The real joy of NaPoWriMo is that, under its pressure, I am managing to write a poem every day. I always thought I could only write in my study–my ‘room of one’s own‘. But I have learned that I can even write poems while I’m watching telly in the evening; or when I stop work for a cuppa. They fit themselves into my spare moments, I don’t have to make huge spaces and times for them. True, they are not all worthy, but they are ‘poems’ and I am managing at least one a day.  Will I keep up this pressure after May 1st? Who knows; but I might.

I joined Carrie Etter’s NaPoWriMo FaceBook page at the end of March. She posted thirty prompts for poets to use if they needed a kick start with their poems. I have used some of the prompts; they’re good starters. But through that page, I have learned new forms I didn’t know about and that has helped me to write poems when ideas were lacking. I think I wrote about the pantoum last week: a form I vaguely knew about but hadn’t used before. This week I learned about a nonet and a Golden Shovel. Yes, really. Had you heard of them? I hadn’t; but I have now, and I have them in my NaPoWriMo repertoire. I wrote a nonet about a birthday gift my dad asked me to wrap up for my mum when I was a teenager. The nonet is a nine-lined poem (no surprise there then); but the first line must have nine syllables, the second eight and so on down to one syllable for the last line. I quite like the poem: I might post it at the end of this blog. But its shape offends my OCD: it all comes down to the point of that final syllable and it looks unstable, top heavy. So now I’m thinking I could write a reverse nonet, that stands on its nine syllable last line; or a specular nonet, that writes down to one syllable and back up to nine, like a mirror. See? There’s no end to poetry once it gets into your system.

Oh, and the Golden Shovel, you ask. No I’d never heard of one of them either. Now I’ve written two. You take a line of poetry you really like and use the words of the line as the last word of each line of your own poem; so if the line you start with has six or ten words in you write a six or a ten line poem. I took that wonderful line from Plath’s ‘Morning Song’: ‘Love set you going like a fat gold watch‘ so my own poem became a nine-liner about watching my mother make a Victoria sponge. Your own poem doesn’t have to be along the same content as the original; your poem can be about something completely other. I guess the words in the line you choose might influence the content of your poem to some extent, but not necessarily so. Form can be very liberating when you are stuck for a beginning. Yesterday morning on Breakfast I saw a report about an elephant hospital in Thailand: they make prosthetic limbs for elephants traumatised by land mines. How sad is it that that should even be a thing? I thought of humankind having dominion over the animals and this seemed the worst possible example of how we abuse that trust. I tried to write that poem, but it wasn’t until I was in bed last night, approaching midnight, that I found a line by Pascale Petit that gave me my ‘in’: ‘that tight smile as if you’re tunnelling into the sun’ and the Golden Shovel gave me my poem. It needs some work, but it’s there in the shadows. The Golden Shovel is another example of the community of poets; or of what Carol Ann Duffy describes as poets all dipping into the same ancient stream. I love poetry; did you know?

Life has had its fair share of me this week too. On Tuesday I went to look at cars. I have had my eye on a Vauxhall Mokka for some time, decided I would buy one as a birthday present to myself later in the year. I asked Bill to come with me to the dealership just to look, just to work out my options. Yup, I bought one. Yup it’s brown–I can hear you shouting You bought a brown car? What were you thinking? I would have been shouting that before I saw the macadamia brown of the Mokka: I thought it was black when I saw it on the forecourt, until the sunshine showed the red glitter in its paintwork and I was hooked. My new-to-me Mokka 4×4 is brown and I’ll be collecting it before the weekend, hopefully. Lovely number plate too: VO16UUZ. Can’t wait.

On Wednesday I went to a meeting of the PMR-GCA north west branch. This is a support group for sufferers of Polymyalgia Rheumatica and Giant Cell Arteritis, the auto-immune conditions that I have dubbed the ‘ugly sisters.’ This was the first I heard of this group and I’ve been being treated since December 2013! I didn’t hold out much hope of it as a support group: I joined a FB support page at the beginning of my encounter with the ugly sisters and it seems to me it’s just a forum for proving you are suffering worse than anyone else; and I can’t be doing with that, being terminally optimistic. So I went to the meeting at the Victoria Hotel in Hollinwood expecting the worse and thinking I’d sit at the back and make good my escape if I couldn’t bear it. But actually it was quite helpful. A rheumatologist from Oldham Royal was there to answer questions from the floor and it was interesting overall. I’ll give it another chance to disappoint me in June!

Saturday my son Richard and his friend Ray came to visit. Amie, I and they went into Manchester for lunch at San Carlo in King St West. It was a lovely meal and I’m guessing I had a month’s supply of Slimming World syns in the dessert alone: a mile-high strawberry pavlova. I love spending time with my wonderful children; a shame Mike couldn’t be there: he had to work. He was missed.

So; if you have chocolate today, enjoy it. If you are a Christian, have a peaceful and life-affirming Easter. If, like me, you don’t subscribe to the religious meaning of Easter, have a lovely weekend anyway, and a perfect and productive week next week. Here’s my nonet ‘Painted Lady’. I discovered that by centre justifying it I’m happier with it standing so precariously on that one syllable. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to reduce the spacing on WordPress so it’s a bit longer and thinner than it is in Word, but here it is anyway:

Painted Lady

That face powder and blood-red lipstick

you gave her for her birthday said

more about you than it did

about her. Did you want

your Bull and Butcher

tart for a wife?

She was worth

so much



Rachel Davies

April 2017