The 3 Pees: PhD, Poetry and Parking Fine

Hard to believe, but this is the first time since I left school that I’ve been registered as a full-time student. I decided on full-time because six years seemed like forever when I started this PhD: I knew I would be 71 when I finished, even if I registered full-time, and that seemed old enough for anyone to be studying in this depth. So I registered for the three year, full-time option; and even then, three years seemed like a long time. Now, I’m well into the third year, the sand is running out. I recently paid my first of the final year instalments; only two more to pay!

But I keep chipping away at it like a word sculptor, making it take shape. I’m beginning to see the finished piece. Sunday last saw me at my desk after breakfast. I decided to make a start on putting my theoretical reading into something. I had thought not to write anything until after my meeting with my supervisory team: we’re meeting on Tuesday this coming week to discuss my ideas about masks and mirrors in self development. But it seemed like a good idea to have something to show them where I intend to go with it, so I started writing my piece on Sunday. I realised in writing it that it was heavy on mirrors with less on masks, so another library search found a good academic article on multiple identities in adolescents: multiple identities is an aspect of masking, so that was really useful.

So Sunday was a good day’s work. I picked it up again on Tuesday. More library searching and I found another article on Winnicott’s theory of the True and False self. I have read Winnicott, but this was a useful article, and it put me in the direction of a Winnicott book I haven’t found yet. They have a copy in MMU library, so I’ll be seeking it out on Tuesday. I drafted my own writing onto the recent review I wrote on Pascale Petit’s poetry: it’s that I’m going to develop for the Petit chapter of the thesis. I ‘red-penned’ places to be developed and notes to self on where to go next; and it was at this stage when I sent it off to Antony and Angelica as a discussion document, with the proviso that it is a very early draft discussion document, not an academic piece needing assessment.

I also heard from Jean Sprackland on Tuesday. She reminded me we haven’t met for ages and perhaps we should set up a meeting soon. It is indeed some time since we met: it must be last May when we last had a discussion around the creative aspect of the PhD. We talked then about concentrating on form and syllabics. Although I have new poems for the portfolio since then, I’ve written very little within those form perameters. So I got back to her asking if we could meet in December: I’ve been concentrating too much on the critical side—as usual—and the creative has been back-burnered somewhat. December would give me time to compose some poems for discussion. Her reply was we could leave it till January if that helps; so agreed on January as a deadline and I wished her Merry Christmas, despite it being early November. I’m a ‘keep Christmas for December’ person: as a recent FaceBook meme said, ‘There are twelve days of Christmas and none of them are in November’. So it seemed strange giving out Christmas wishes in November; but not as strange as the house I saw the other day, all decorated up for the season. Please!

As a result of that email from Jean, and in light of the critical piece having gone off for discussion, I did concentrate on the creative aspect on Saturday. I spent the day in my cat’s favourite chair—he wasn’t impressed—in the study, notebook and pencil in hand and worked on a new poem in a syllabic format. I’ll include the early draft at the end of this blog. It’s only a short poem, a nonet; but it took a big bite out of the morning. I think I’m pleased with it, but I need to put it away for a week or two and come back to it with fresh eyes to know for sure if it’s repaying the time and effort. I also wrote a second poem based in the ‘timeline’ idea from Mark Pajak’s workshop in Nantwich last month. I chose the wrong poem for my starting pistol, I think, and my own poem doesn’t work. It’ll be deleted from my MacBook later today. Sometimes you know immediately they don’t work; not even worth working on. It happens. I’ve learned that to write that kind of poem, you need a starter with a distinct story, an ‘event’ poem. I tried to work from one of Pascale Petit’s Mama Amazonica poems, to tie it in with the critical aspect. It didn’t work, not enough happening as a story. I decided I need more direction in my creative work so I devised a plan for a series of poems to follow a story, multiple characters and voices all focussed on the same event. I’ll be working on that later today.

In other news: Poetry and Life. In ‘Poetry’, my copies of Magma: The Deaf Issue and PN Review dropped on my mat this week. Good to see poets I know personally and some who are only known to me through their words in there along with poets who are new to me. I’ll enjoy reading these two lovely magazines in my tea-breaks this week. I also paid the balance on the Poetry Carousel that Kim Moore is running in Grange-over-Sands in December. I’m really looking forward to that one: a round of poetry workshops with David Morley, Hilda Sheehan and Steve Ely as well as Kim. It’s been an expensive couple of weeks; but worth every penny.

In ‘Life’, Bill had an appointment at the hospital on Thursday. It took ages to find a parking space: all the hospital car parks were full with several cars looking for spaces. I tried the local streets but they all have ‘Permit Only’ signs, so no joy there. After about fifteen minutes of driving around looking, I came across a car park at the back of the hospital I didn’t even know existed until Thursday. I found a space and was so excited to have parked the car and be just about in time for his appointment—if we could find the location of the clinic—that I forgot to pay. Yup, I had a little packet behind the windscreen wiper when we returned to the car later. I handed it to Bill to take care of. Two parking tickets in one month? Seemed fair to share this one! Then on Friday, I met my friend Joan for dinner. We meet once a month. Joan has recently joined a reading group and they have been reading the poetry of Ruth Padel, which reminded me of her Radio 4 programme ‘Poetry Workshop’ that my Poetry Society Stanza was involved in in 2012. We had a lovely afternoon working with her; she is a gracious and generous woman. Joan was pleased to know I had met her.

So, to my latest poem: so new the ink’s barely dry. I was thinking how it’s easy to hold grudges against the ones who reared us. My own children have this on-going banter about how hard-done-to they were as children. But when I reflected on my relationship with my own mother, which wasn’t an easy one, I realised that life was hard for her, that she had to give up so many of her own aspirations in being a wife and mother. She was born too soon, should have had a career as well as a domestic role. She was too intelligent, gave too much to being a wife and mother. I think it hurt her in ways we weren’t aware of as children, but which I appreciate now, as an adult looking back. That is what this is about, if it’s about anything.


Molly 2

Why did we expect her to give like
some dumb altruistic martyr
beguiled by an after-life?
We were the stakes of her
endless slow-burning
woodpile, turned our
deaf ears to
her mute


Rachel Davies







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