This has been one of my favourite kinds of weeks, when poetry takes the driving seat.
On Sunday I was at my desk straight after breakfast, revisiting the review of Pascale Petit’s Mama Amazonica and The Huntress. I took out the more academic passages, included a couple of the (shorter) poems and précis-ed other passages to keep within the advised word-count. I sent it off just before a late lunch, advising the editor, Suzannah, that I haven’t sought permissions from the publisher, Bloodaxe, to use the poems. I haven’t heard anything since, so I’m hoping no news is good news and they are seeking said permissions prior to publication; although I’m a terminal optimist, so what do I know? Anyway, fingers crossed.
On Tuesday, I was at my desk early again. I decided to work on the review to turn it into a PhD thesis chapter. I spent most of the morning doing lots of reading about mirrors, how we learn who we are in the mirror of others’ reactions to us. Obviously lots of stuff in Lacan—which I can almost understand—and in Bowlby, which is much more reader friendly. But in other theorists too; so I got carried away with the index searches and reading—that’s so easy—and didn’t get any writing done all morning. In the week I came across this blog-spot that outlines the difficulty of actually starting academic writing, a difficulty I can relate too: it spoke to me entirely:
I had a break for lunch then back to my desk for the afternoon.I decided to grasp the nettle and start writing. By the end of the day I had a page and a half re-written with academic references. I think I’m pleased with it; but then it occurred to me that it’s a minor change of direction and may need to involve the Hill chapter as well so I sent an email to The Team to set up a meeting to discuss it. I won’t be sending them anything, because I don’t think I’ve done enough to warrant them reading it yet, but I do feel I need to talk to them. I’m waiting to hear.
On Thursday Bill slipped on some wet leaves on the steps outside our front door and twisted his knee. He didn’t seem in too much pain, thankfully. In the afternoon I sent off five of my ‘mother’ poems to an online journal, Riggwelter. This is a journal with editorial links to Three Drops in a Couldron, so I was hoping I would be successful. I’d heard they have a fast turn-around but even so I was pleasantly surprised to hear within two hours that they had taken ‘Her Hands’ for publication in the December edition.
When I came home from Slimming World in the evening, it was raining for Noah in the wake of ex-hurricane Ophelia. I opened the front door and a big fat frog flopped into the foyer out of the rain, then realising it had got itself into an alien situation it didn’t like much, it flopped out of sight under a chest I keep by the front door. I called Bill to help; his knee was beginning to stiffen up and it was ‘clunking’ when he walked. He limped downstairs but managed to get down on his hands and knees to coax the frog out from its hiding place so I could coax it into the wet outdoors again. Bill said he thought he should take himself to A&E. I wasn’t so sure. I hate giving four or five hours of my life to waiting in A&E unless I’m certain we have an emergency on our hands and I didn’t feel he had done sufficient damage to call on the time of the already overstretched resources of the NHS. But I’m notoriously unsympathetic of illness and injury so what do I know? We agreed that mid-evening probably isn’t the best time to go—waiting times are ridiculous— and decided to get up early and go in the morning if it wasn’t any better. So, Friday saw us getting up at 6.00 a.m. and heading off to Oldham Royal for a check up. Really, our NHS is wonderful and I’ll fight anyone who says otherwise. We were seen very quickly by the triage nurse, and quite quickly by a doctor who didn’t think any huge damage had been done but would order an x-ray just in case. It transpires there is no fracture but a good deal of arthritis, which we knew already as Bill is currently on a physio course for that very thing. However, he was referred to the acute orthopaedic clinic in a week to get a final check. We were two hours there altogether; two hours I couldn’t really afford, if I’m selfishly honest. So when he asked me to drive him to Werneth so he could call into said physio clinic to explain why he wouldn’t be there today I gave him a firm ‘no’: the telephone has been invented for just such a conversation and I had places to be.
I went to the Black Ladd to do the tills after I dropped him off at home. Then I wrapped the Apple watch 18th birthday present we (Amie, Richard, Michael and I) had bought for her stepson, Ben. I left it on the desk for Amie. Our cars crossed at the gates as I was leaving and she was arriving for work. I went home to drop the car off, and realised I hadn’t had breakfast yet, so I made some quick toast before leaving the house and the Walking Wounded and catching the bus to Oldham Mumps to pick up the tram to Manchester. I left the car at home, because Hilary and I have devised a new ‘thing’: a cider, cake and Paperchase day. We met up at about mid-day. We had a lovely day starting with coffee and cake to warm us up; then Paperchase: one of our favourite shops. There are three floors of Paperchase in Manchester. We started at the top and worked our way down methodically. We saw everything: beautiful stuff, quirky stuff, stuff I want to own whether I need it or not. But we didn’t buy much in the end, we just looked. We didn’t want too much shopping to carry around with us. We each came out with a notebook and that’s it; but we’ll be going back soon for more, I don’t doubt. We moved onto the cider part of the day: into the Slug and Lettuce on Deansgate for a pint, then to afternoon tea in Patisserie Valerie. We called into the other Slug and Lettuce on Albert Square for another cider. Despite the wintry weather we sat outside. It was here we met up with David and Bill—yes he’d limped his way into Manchester on bus and tram to meet up with us for the evening event. We had tickets for the Michael Symmons Roberts reading at the Central Library. This was a Manchester LItfest event—more good stuff here: http://www.manchesterliteraturefestival.co.uk
Michael was reading from his latest collection, Mancunia. If you haven’t read it yet, you really should. The day before the reading, it was announced that it’s on the shortlist for the T S Eliot prize: I’m guessing that won’t be its only accolade this year. The reading was wonderful, only minimally interrupted by a crying infant and much worse, her mother constantly rummaging loudly in a paper carrier bag to find something to placate the child. As well as Michael reading, there was input from Cesare Taurasi, a cast member from the recent TV screening of Michael’s Men Who Sleep In Cars. He read one of the poems; and another was incorporated into a film of old Manchester, with Michael’s voiceover. It was a wonderful night, and a perfect finish to a (mostly) good day. Of course, I bought Mancunia and got Michael to sign it.
Saturday I gave over almost entirely to the creative element of the PhD: as I’m waiting to discuss the critical side with my Director of Studies it didn’t seem a good idea to work any more on that. I spent the whole day revisiting my portfolio of poems to polish some of them for a pamphlet. By the end of the day I had sent off 30 pages of poems to the Indigo Dreams pamphlet competition. I’m quite pleased with them; but when I hit the ‘send’ button, I can always think of something I should have done differently to improve at least one the poems; but that’s just submission for you. There, they’ve gone and there’s nothing more I can do for them until the results are announced. Fingers crossed for them then.
Saturday evening it was Ben’s 18th birthday meal at Fresca in Delph. Oh, my! 18! How quickly time flies. I have known him since he was two: a lovely, kind, shy boy and here he is learning to be a man. Amie had organised a birthday cake in the shape of a VW camper van: Angus and Ben often go away in their own camper van, so it was a lovely cake to choose. After the candles had been blown out Ben, this lovely shy young man, got up to make a speech to say how happy he was that his family had come along to make his birthday special. We were all so proud of him. Happy birthday Ben.
Here’s a poem about a sloth that I wrote at the Mark Pajak workshop in Nantwich last week. We had to write down everything we knew about a sloth, a kind of brainstorm. And then write the poem without using any of the things we had written down, which liberates (or forces?) you to invent new ways to say what you want to say. Anyway, here it is, my poem ‘Sloth’.
I could love one who lost
two toes in evolution,
couldn’t see the point of a full set.
I could love one who views the world
hanging from the branch of a tall tree,
the undershrub his ceiling
the sky his forest floor.
I could love one who is a philosopher,
ponders the energy of predator and prey
and arrives at the ergo of leaves.
I could love one who is no couch potato:
downtime is a vocation, sleep
a full-time job.
I could love one who is named
for a human failing
yet smiles at the irony of it.