Oscar, if I’ve told you once…

I’m not sure if you’ll all get to read this this week. My laptop isn’t recognising the IonianWifi I paid 25Euros for earlier in the week! I’m writing it on Word, hoping I might be able to post it on the hotel Wi-Fi later. Yes, I’m in glorious Zakinthos, soaking up some rays, eating ridiculously unhealthily and drinking too much Mythos and local wine. I’m having weird, dystopic dreams about punishments for unhealthy eating that may indeed become a poem one day soon.

We travelled on Thursday. All experience is grist to the mill of the poet, and our travel companions were no exception. Indulgent parents, aggressive parents, parents with no sense of their own irony when they fed nasty tasting Kwells to their children, ordered them to ‘chew and swallow, chew and swallow’ then plied them with fizzy pop and chocolate to take the taste away. Beware! All these things have been recorded in a poem, an extract of which I’ll include at the end of this blog post.

It seems a long time ago, and the whole distance of Europe, but other poetry events figured in the week since my last blog post. On Monday it was the writing workshop at Leaf on Portland Street in Manchester. I met Hilary Robinson for an early evening meal before the workshop because I have been reading her MA portfolio prior to submission later this month and we met up so that I could feedback my reflections on a good collection. There were only five poets at the workshop this time, but oh my, there was some lovely work presented for discussion/feedback. I took a poem about my mother’s hands that I wrote from a prompt in the Behn/Twichell book (see below). I’m really pleased with it and it received some useful and positive feedback.

On Tuesday it was our East Manchester and Tameside Stanza meeting. We meet at the Britannia Inn in Mossley. Again, there were five poets there, a different set from Monday’s. We were reading and discussing the work of Gwen Harwood, an Australian poet writing from mid-twentieth century. I don’t know if you know her work, but she’s worth checking out. I can’t give a web link to any of her poetry right now, but if you do seek her out, avoid the Poem Hunter website because it has messed with the formatting of the work, sometimes even displacing stanzas into the wrong poems. Thankfully a couple of the poets present had her collected works and we were able to rectify the errors; although they made good stimulus for discussion. My favourite quote from the poetry we read on Tuesday: ‘Poets are lovers. Critics are/mean, solitary masturbators.’ (From her poem “The Critic’s Nightwatch”).

On the Wednesday before we travelled I had a surprise in the post: a birthday parcel of books from a friend I haven’t heard from for some time. There was a lovely photographic book of cats; and two more poetry prompt books. One was by Peter Sansom, an extension of his Poetry Business writing days. I can’t remember the author/poet of the second prompt book as I didn’t bring them away with me; but I’m thinking I’ve probably got more than enough writing stimuli to complete the creative side of the thesis now. That will be a huge aspect of my work this year, so all assistance is gratefully received.

Being on holiday doesn’t exclude work: I’ve brought work with me. I’ve promised myself a poem a day while I’m our here, and so far so good. The prompt books I added to my Kindle before I came have proved worthwhile. There are some particularly good prompts in The Daily Poet by Kelli Russell Agodon and Martha Silano. They offer a prompt for every day of the year; some are related to the day, anniversaries of events (mostly American), but some are random and can be used in any order. Another good prompt book is Robin Behn’s and Chase Twichell’s The Practice of Poetry. I think I mentioned this one before. It has writing activities by practicing poets who also teach creative writing. One of the activities is to keep a dream journal: no embellishments, just write down what you can actually remember and see where your unconscious takes you. That’s why I was up at 3.00 a.m. this morning writing down my weird unhealthy-eating dream.

I also brought Pascale Petit’s Mama Amazonica away with me. I’ve been spending two hours a day before breakfast analysing these poems for the mother-daughter theme. They are different from The Huntress: less anger and fear, more sympathetic. Interesting comparisons, though. I’m finding some inter-textual writing too, notably a perceived (by me) link to Tennyson’s ‘The Lady of Shallott’ in the image of the shattering mirror. I’m loving this analysis. It hardly feels like work at all.

So, my poem this week. I’m just giving you an extract. It’s a rant at the not-very-nice people who shared space in the aeroplane. I’ve called it ‘For I don’t deserve to die with these people’ for fairly obvious reasons. I’m giving you the last of four stanzas. It was a constant commentary on the flight: three and a half hours of Oscar being told. I didn’t see Oscar or his mother; but I built up my own mental pictures! I apologise in advance if you know Oscar and his mum. You’ll have to imagine more of similar in the other stanzas. The poem is so new, the ink hasn’t dried on it yet.

 

For I don’t deserve to die with these people

 this mum says Oscar I’ve told you
says Oscar I’ve told you once
says Oscar if I’ve told you once I’ve told you a million
says Oscar I won’t tell you again
says Oscar if I have to tell you again I’m taking you home.
How? How is she taking him home?
We’re cruising, as the pilot has just assured us,
at thirty-five-thousand-feet.
Oscar, I’m sick of telling you
Oscar don’t make me tell you again
Oscar for the love of God

 I utter my own prayer: Dear Lord, keep this aeroplane safe
for I do not deserve to die with these people.

Rachel Davies
September 2017

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