My week started with family and ended with toothache.
On Sunday Amie and I travelled to Peterborough through rime-covered scenery to have lunch with Richard—he was down with the flu over Christmas, high temperature, days in bed. Part of the down-side of being a teacher is you always get ill in the holidays; you hang on and hang on in term-time and crash when you break up. That’s what happened to Richard in December, so we all went out for lunch on Sunday. While we were in Peterborough, Amie bought me a pair of blue-tooth headphones in the January sales to take my mind off running; I set them up when I got home and downloaded Stevie Wonder as a run-buddy.
So. Running. I’ve been at it two weeks now, and it’s going well; better with an up-beat running partner in my headphones. When I say ‘well’, I mean I’m completing the challenge and not needing breathers; and ‘run’ is more ‘jog’ really. I should be starting Week 3 tomorrow morning, but I inadvertently repeated one of the days this week, didn’t realise till I got back to my car; so tomorrow I finish week 2 of the plan. I dread going every time, but love it when I’ve done it.
When I got home from my run on Monday I got down to some work. I filled in all the deadlines I know about on my new calendar: there are too many for January 31st, they hardly all fit in the space. I printed off documents I needed for my team meeting on Tuesday. I also printed off a poem, one of my ‘alternative mother’ poems for The Group on Monday evening. We used to meet at Leaf on Portland Street, but Leaf is closing at 6.00 in the evening from now on so we had to find alternative accommodation. We met at Porter & Cole, a bar in the Northern Quarter. It’s a lovely space, a bit of a barn, but they sell artisan items for the home as well as serving drinks. Seven of us met on Monday. I took my ‘Pope Joan’ poem: they thought it really needed her name in the title; either that or some more backstory, which would make it a different poem. I’ve just been giving these ‘alternative mother’ poems a number. Thing is, I think The Group was right, some of them do need a named title really. I have written one about Boudicca too, I think that needs a name. But I don’t want to name the women I’ve known that I’ve written about. Perhaps I should just make up names for them?
On Tuesday I caught Metrolink to Manchester for my meeting with my Director of Studies. It was an interesting meeting, didn’t go at all as I expected. Firstly, we discussed the creative work I’ve been doing, which is unusual as I don’t normally discuss the creative side in any depth with the supervisors of the critical aspect. But Antony had a suggestion to make. He wants to see me take a more integrated approach to the critical side, focussed on a ‘poetics’ approach to my creative work and the theory and analyses I’ve been doing. They were reasonably happy with the critical writing I’ve been doing so far but suggested I see that as ‘building blocks’ to this integrated piece. I won’t be putting aside what I’ve done so far, just using it differently. Angelica thought I didn’t seem to be enjoying the critical writing, it felt like a chore; and she’s not wrong. I’m much happier doing the creative aspect of the work: I’m a poet, not an academic. So she also felt the integrated approach, based in a reflection on my own poetry, might be more enjoyable for me. September loomed up before me like a beast as they were talking and Antony asked how I would feel about doing my remaining time as part-time study; effectively that will stretch the deadline to next April/May with the understanding that I can submit whenever I’m ready in that time. That sounded attractive, pushing the deadline back by a few months so I’ve applied to do that: extended the deadline without asking for extra time. Breathing space. After our meeting, I spent a couple of hours in the library checking out a Pascale Petit article that Rachel Mann recommended I read.
In other PhD related work this week, I heard from Jean Sprackland: we agreed a meeting for January 22nd to discuss the poems I sent her. These were some of my ‘alternative mother’ poems, so it’ll be interesting to get her feedback. I also started to revisit some of my earlier portfolio poems this week to edit or redraft them; and to make some ‘poetics’ notes on the process.
In the ‘life’ section of the blog, this week I’ve had a sore tooth. It started off bearable but became more insistent as the week went on. It’s a tooth I had crowned about twenty years ago and it was particularly painful when I bite on it. I thought I’d probably cracked the tooth under the crown or something. Anyway, I rang my dentist for an emergency appointment on Friday and he fitted me in mid-morning. An x-ray of the tooth revealed an infection in the root canal, so he prescribed antibiotics; but he said the antibiotics only have a restricted chance of working. I have to go back to see him in a fortnight to discuss further treatment options, the best of which is work on the root canal in his surgery, the worst of which will involve surgery at the dental hospital. I look forward to meeting him again in a fortnight then, as you can imagine. Bloody teeth. As my Aunt Mary used to say, they’re a trouble coming, a trouble while you’ve got ‘em and a trouble going. I hate teeth. When I was a junior nurse on a women’s geriatric ward, one of the patients thought she would help the staff by collecting up all the sets of dentures and putting them in the sink to clean them. Guess who had to reunite them all with their owners! So I’ve had a cringe-worthy relationship with teeth most of my life. But it would be good if the antibiotics would at least give some temporary relief to the toothache: it’s not happening for me yet.
So there you have it; another week in the pursuit of a PhD: Antony has given me something to get my teeth into; trouble is, it hurts to bite!
This poem is one of the ones I revisited this week. Years ago, when my sister found her first boyfriend, our mum said to her ‘boys only want you for one thing’, and she said ‘well tell me what it is and I’ll give it to them’. That’s how naïve we were. So this poem remembers that conversation. The story of the poem never happened, it’s just that wonderfully dismissive, old-school first line I love. Lessons we learn from our mothers, eh?
So What Is It?
Boys only want you for one thing, you said,
but you never told me what that is
so now I’m climbing the steps to the bumpy slide
at Wicksteed Park, the ladder confusing
my sense of being right side up in the world
and he’s behind me so there’s no going back
and when I get to the top, I’ll have to sit
in that little house, with my feet overhanging
the chute and a hundred miles of metal
humping between us and solid ground.
Now he’s pushing me
and I’m learning about exhilaration.