Amoxicillin, aliens and an anthology

This week I’ve been in that default ‘I can’t do this’ state of self-doubt. The advised redirection of the thesis by the team at last week’s meeting had me thinking ‘what does this mean for me; how can I approach this?’ And then, the community of poets; where would I be without them? A poet friend sent me a thesis she had been recommended to read. It is exactly what I needed: a reflection on the writer’s own poetry backed by theoretical research. I only meant to skim-read it for a taste of what it offered, but it was so good I couldn’t put it down. The first half of the week was fogged by amoxicillin and paracetemol as my body fought a root canal infection, so it was good to be able to read, tucked up in front of the fire. I’m happy to report the amoxicillin has gone and with it, the toothache; for now at least.

I began pondering how this revised approach to the thesis might work for me. If I can come up with something similar I will be a very satisfied woman. I spent the week thinking and rethinking. I always do a lot of thinking before I commit anything to paper; even my poems are half constructed in my head before I write them down. I developed some ideas based on a thematic approach to the work. By the end of the week I had started to act on those ideas, even though they aren’t fully formed yet. At the beginning of the week I revisited some of the early portfolio poems. I edited, even redrafted, some of them and made some notes in red on the process involved in writing/redrafting them. But as I thought more about the thesis I realised I needed to do more than redraft, I needed to sort them into ‘sorts’ of poems: poems about things as aide memoirs, poems about masks, mirrors, roles and relationships, poems about death. It took me a whole day to do that sorting out, re-filing them on the computer. Of course some poems fit more than one category and it’ll be up to me how I use them when the time comes to start writing. But I’m on my way, I think. I need to revisit the theory now, to see how that will back up what I’m reflecting on.

I also sent some of my poems out to earn their space in the world. I’ve sent individual poems to be considered for publication; and I sent a pamphlet-sized collection to the Iota Shots competition. I always take the view that I’m financing the competitions rather than hoping to win: I’m not someone whose default position is confident of positive outcomes; then if I do win, and I have on a few occasions, it is a surprise and a bonus. So fingers crossed. Of course, I filled in my triple-tracking submissions system. So far, so good.

On Friday I had a lunch-time Poets & Players meeting at the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester. It was a lovely, positive meeting because we just heard recently that we have been awarded Arts Council funding for another year. So we met to begin planning in earnest our events for 2018-19. We have some exciting plans in place if all the poets we invite return acceptances. Keep an eye on the P&P website for updates: https://poetsandplayers.co The next event is on February 17th at the Whitworth, details are on the website, just follow the link. Details of the P&P annual competition are also on the website, so check it out and get your entries in. You have until the end of February to enter. Pascale Petit is our judge this year so it will be good to meet her at the celebration event in May. I’ve enjoyed reading her poetry so much for the PhD, it’ll be good to get my copies of her books signed. My son Michael’s friend has been reading Mama Amazonica as a result of reading my blog, so I’ve promised to get an extra copy signed too. It would be lovely if they could come to Manchester for the event, to meet Pascale in person.

In other poetry news, the anthology Please Hear What I’m Not Saying, supporting the mental health charity ‘Mind’, is due for publication in February: details here: www.flyonthewallpoetry.co.uk   A poet friend is putting together a podcast https://spokenlabel.bandcamp.com/ and he has asked me to read my anthology poem, ‘Meg’, for the podcast. We’ll be working on that this coming week. And lastly, our next Stanza meeting is on January 30th. We are going back to the Stalybridge Station Buffet Bar for this one. If you fancy it, check out our FaceBook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/264023166946510/

My other resolution, to complete the ‘Couch to 5K’ challenge, has continued. Despite toothache and foul weather, I went to run on Monday. It Was Raining!!! It poured, so I think that was really above and beyond—and showed real commitment. On Wednesday the rain had turned to snow and I reached the limits of my commitment. I turned to the gym and ran on the treadmill for Wednesday’s and Friday’s sortie. But I did it and I’m still on track. I’m hoping the weather might have improved for tomorrow’s run: I much prefer running outdoors. Treadmill running can be quite boring to be honest; and you don’t get a nice little map of your run. Mike rang me last night. I told him about the challenge and that I was running three minute spurts now. He joked they wouldn’t have me in the army on that level of fitness: but I don’t suppose they want a seventy-year old grandmother in the army; and I don’t want to be a soldier anyway, so that’s OK!

I’m including a poem I came across when I reorganised my computer files yesterday. It says a lot about the mother-daughter relationship, I think, that mix of wonder and strangeness. We expect our daughters to be known to us, but they are their own people, and that makes them strangers sometimes. This is an extreme example and not written about any daughter of mine, Amie; but I can relate to it. I wrote it as part of the mother-daughter drama-in-verse I experimented with twelve months ago. It’s good to find a surprise in your writing. As Robert Frost said, ‘No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader’. He meant, I think, that if the writer isn’t surprised by what she writes, the writing won’t surprise the reader either. So, here it is. Prepare to be surprised:

 

Alien

I’m looking at her but I don’t know who she is.

My real daughter was stolen from the maternity ward
I’m telling you. Aliens lifted her from her crib,
left this mysterious doppelganger that I can’t know.

Remember that school photo, the one
where she’s sitting bolt upright, smiling at the camera
but her eyes are staring at the lens like lasers?

I tell people she’s my love child with Ming the Merciless.

 

Rachel Davies
2017

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