Triple Tracking and Surrealism

The Millennium reached the age of maturity on Monday. It seems like only last week that I saw in the year 2000 in Germany, where my youngest son, Michael, was stationed with the army. I have a lovely photo of me, taken at midnight on 31.12.1999, holding my grandson, Richey, who was 20 months old at the time. He is 20 years old in April. On Monday the millennium had its 18th birthday celebrations.

The first week of 2018 done, and my New Year resolutions are still on track. They have been the focus of the week; they’ve contributed to the creative aspect of the PhD as well, which is a bonus.

2018 New Year Resolutions:

  • to complete the PhD
  • to do the ‘Couch to 5k’ challenge
  • to be more organised in sending my poetry out for recognition

The first one goes without saying. Never a day goes by when I don’t contribute to that one. With only nine months left to get it done, it is on every breath I take at the moment. Which brings me to the third resolution. This week I have been working toward a system for keeping track of submissions. I’ve not been very organised in that task in the past. The joy of poetry to me is in the writing of it. Of course I love to see my work in print: it means someone valued it. But I haven’t been systematic in sending stuff ‘out there’. I’ve entered the occasional competition, submitted to some anthologies. I even kept a spreadsheet at one stage, but couldn’t really see how it was helping me. So this week I did some research. I wanted to know how other poets keep track of their own work. Good old Google. I found various spreadsheets very similar to the one I had devised myself, which hadn’t been a help to me. Then I found this: It is not only a spreadsheet for submissions, it doesn’t just allow you to keep track of acceptances; it allows you to track how many times a single poem has been rejected and resubmitted. And it includes tables (I made mine in Word) for individual poems and individual publishers/competition, so you can see at a glance where your work has been and you can avoid resubmitting a poem to a publisher who has sent it back in the past. You have to open up all three trackers and make entries every time you submit to make sure the system it doesn’t have holes in it. It all seemed like a good idea, so I spent a day setting it up. I think I’ll like it as a system; but it’s still too early to tell. However, I’ve tracked my recent submissions on this system and I’ll learn in time if it works. I’ll return to this. It’s helping the creative aspect of the PhD as well; because one of my targets this year is to submit to ‘quality’ publications. I’ve been doing this. I have sent out some of my PhD portfolio poems this week. It was very satisfying to enter them into the triple tracking system. I hope it works as well as it promises.

I also heard from a poet friend that she uses a calendar to track deadlines, so she’ll never inadvertently miss a publishing opportunity. I tend to keep those ‘opportunities’ as open tabs on my computer, and then the deadline passes and I haven’t submitted, because I didn’t check the tab again—I told you I wasn’t systematic. Keeping a calendar seems such a simple idea, I can’t think why I didn’t think of it myself. So this week I bought a desk-pad calendar to do that very thing: to write in all the deadlines I find out about, so they are a constant visual reminder to me while I’m working. This is the calendar I bought on Friday, waiting for me to fill in the deadlines I know about for the next couple of months:



So there has been progress in that particular resolution. Which leaves the second resolution: how have I done in the ‘Couch to 5k’ challenge? Well, I’ve done the first week. I downloaded an app to my iPhone and Apple watch and on New Year’s Day I drove myself to a local footpath, the track of a disused railway line known locally as the Delph Donkey, which has the advantage, in the foothills of the Pennines, of being a flat path. I followed the instructions on the app. Unfortunately on Day 1, I started at the very beginning of the track, which was well and truly waterlogged. I tried to skirt round the huge puddles but the ground around was sodden too, so I faced the challenge with thoroughly soaking feet. I wondered if I’d end up with trench foot in my bid to be fit—I’m nothing if not a drama queen. Anyway, I did it: 6 x 1.5 minute walks plus 6 x 1 minute runs with a five minute warm up and cool down. The voice on the app is of an American woman—‘yer doin’ grreat’, she says. ‘Eff off’, I respond, ‘I’m dying here’. Yup, it was hard for someone who has let her levels of fitness drop below critical. Day two I did on Thursday as I had an appointment with my rheumatologist on Wednesday. Two extra running sessions in Day 2; I actually ‘brisk walked’ the last 1 minute run, completely empty of fuel. Day 3, a repeat of Day 2, and I managed it all; so already I’m improving. It’s still torture; but I will do it because that’s who I am. I don’t give up easily. Even if it kills me.

Other aspect of my week revolved around personal stuff. On Wednesday, the rheumatologist was pleased with the progress of the ugly sisters, Polymyalgia Rheumatica and Giant Cell Arteritis. These are twin auto-immune diseases I was diagnosed with in 2014 and 2016 respectively. Coritco-steroid treatment brings its own issues, but I’m gradually coming off the drugs. I’m hoping to be Prednisolone-free by the summer. Bring it on.

Yesterday I met up with some of the staff of the primary school where I was headteacher for eleven years. I’ve been FaceBook friends with them for some time, so it was good to meet and have a good old chinwag and a laugh about those lovely days at work. It was a good school, a pleasant learning environment for the children. I believed in children and not curricula as the driving force behind school and we provided learning experiences, not targets. I’m so glad I don’t have to run a school in today’s target-driven climate. I think I would antagonise ‘the powers that be’ even more than I did in those days when the achievement of unrealistic targets was becoming what schools were supposed to be about. I’m a believer in the pendulum swing, and I look forward to the day when the child regains his/her position ‘at the centre of the education system’, as Baroness Plowden advocated in the late sixties. Unfortunately, we have a generation of children oppressed by the recognition of ‘fronted adverbials’. Whatever they are.

So, this week’s poem. I went to Kim Moore’s Poetry Carousel in December. This poem is a product of Hilda Sheehan’s workshop about surrealism. We had to jot down some dream memories. Then we found random sentences, phrases, words that attracted us, from a selection of books Hilda had brought along. At the end of the workshop we put together a poem built from these various jottings. This is my poem. I recognise the dream memories; I recognise the bits I took from books. They hang together in a ‘surreal’ poem that has no meaning whatsoever, but I like it. It has a sort of mystery, as if something is happening at the edge of the Unconscious; which of course is what dreams are; and what our random jottings from  books are. Take it for what it is.


Being dead and not having done it

and let her write her essays on Defoe,
how he was whisked into hospital,
for showing his other hand trapped
in the Grand Guinol.

Hyacinth: a body carnal. Shoes with golden heels.
The girl plays with you, runs away
to Goose Green to evade a drugs charge, pulls
chewing gum like magic porridge from her mouth.

I know what it feels like to drown. Death
is a long, lit ginnel where rutting stags cluster
around the ends of ancient languages.

As you are my judge, Pauline,
in the year of my conception my parents
were model citizens.


Rachel Davies
December 2017

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