Easter weekend and no April Fools

Happy Easter, everyone. Have a lovely weekend.

This week has been all about poetry and PhD. Life has had a big slice of me, but I can’t say too much about that, because it affects other lives as well; so I’ll stick with the poetry and the PhD.

Pascale Petit got back to us with the results of the Poets & Players competition last weekend. Clearly I can’t say too much about that, but our winners have been informed with instructions to say nothing until the celebration event in May: https://poetsandplayers.co/future-events/   So if you heard from us this week, big congratulations. If you didn’t, we’re sorry and sincerely thankful for your support for our competition and the good work that P&P does for poetry. My advice: the poems you sent to us, send them out to some other competition or publication. It’s a thin, thin line between being a winner and not, very often. If you felt your poem was worth entering, it is worth resubmitting to somewhere else. I spent Sunday and Monday mornings sorting through my spreadsheet to find the names of winners; and trawling through emails to copy poems and email addresses to send to Janet, our committee chair. That doesn’t sound much, but it’s a time-consuming job, especially when e-addresses don’t match names. But we really do appreciate everyone who sent work in. Thank you.

Monday I settled to reading again: Robin Nelson’s Practice as Research. This book was recommended by a poet friend, Angi Holden; and it has been useful in seeing research, and research outcomes in a positive light. It is helping me get my thoughts about the thesis in order. I meant to carry on with the reading on Tuesday but life intervened and stole my Tuesday for other stuff. Sometimes life happens and there’s just nothing you can do but muck in.

On Tuesday evening it was the East Manchester and Tameside Stanza meeting at the Stalybridge Buffet Bar. When we got there, our booked room was full of folk drinking ale: the buffet bar is a famous ‘real ale’ watering hole. I announced that we had booked the room for a poetry event. It’s strange how the word ‘poetry’ brings that reaction where eyes blank over, expressions become bored. I told them they were welcome to stay and join in but they all declined. Poetry? I don’t think so. They picked up their glasses as one and left the room. Shame; they don’t know what they missed. Poetry, as all poetry people know, is wonderful. And Tuesday was proof of that. There were only three of us at the meeting, but we had a wonderful time discussing the poetry of Ocean Vuong. Ocean recently won the T S Eliot prize for his wonderful collection, Night Sky With Exit Wounds and this is what we were concentrating on. To make it an even better evening, the buffet bar has wifi, so we hooked up to his YouTube channel and he read for us. We listened and discussed. You can find his YouTube readings, lots of them, here: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=ocean+vuong
Check it out, he has such a soothing reading style. Imagine, Ocean Vuong reading at our Stanza!

Wednesday I went to the Black Ladd as usual and worked until lunchtime. At lunchtime Amie and I went to the Christie for her twice-yearly scan. I’ve posted my poem, ‘The Worst Cocktail Bar in Manchester’ on here before so I won’t do that today. But the drink she has to take prior to a scan doesn’t get any easier to swallow: literally. So it’s done now, and that’s it for another six months. She should have the results in a couple of weeks.

On Thursday my lovely grand-daughter, Corinna, graduated from Wolverhampton University. She did her nursing degree there, and now works on the critical care ward in the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital. She looked gorgeous in her cap and gown. I’m so proud of her, she worked hard to get there.

On Friday I went into Black Ladd again, to get done what couldn’t get done on Wednesday. I meant to stay a couple of hours, but the laptop was using its autonomy to update itself, so I had to wait ages while it did that then wait ages again while I undid the update, because when it updates Windows 10, my Sage software won’t work. This has only been a problem for me for the last couple of weeks. I don’t know how to stop automatic updates: I need to speak to Richard or Michael, who are far more computer savvy than me. I don’t want it to stop all updates, just updates to Windows 10 operating system. So, it was very late afternoon when I got home from there on Friday. Amie, bless her lovely heart, sent me home with two nut roasts, roast potatoes and veg, and a bottle of house white so I didn’t have to do more than put dinner in the oven and wait thirty minutes. It felt good not to have to think about cooking. The nut roast was delicious; the chardonnay wasn’t bad either.

Saturday I settled to work on the thesis again. It seems a long time since I did anything to it, but I’ve been leaving it alone while I did some reading. It was good to come back to it with new eyes. I’ve decided to draft it to my liking—I’ll temper the overtly autobiographical writing in it—and send it to my team for discussion sometime in late June. I enjoyed being back on the case. Starting, and restarting are always difficult times.

So, another week on the long journey to PhD. A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step, Chairman Mao said. PhD is a long series of single steps, a few even go in the right direction. I’m hanging in there, putting one foot in front of the other. And NaPoWriMo starts today: national poem writing month, a commitment to write a poem a day through April. I’m in Carrie Etter’s NaPoWriMo facebook group. She very generously puts thirty prompts on there in April to kick start members fulfilling the ‘poem a day’ commitment. I worked it last year, I managed something every day. It would be over-egging it to call them all poems but I did get about five decent poems out of the month. And I learned an awful lot about forms of poetry I wasn’t familiar with before. My plan is to divert the prompts into portfolio poems as much as possible. I’m looking forward to it: I’ll keep you posted. If you’re interested in being involved, check it out here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/138265096847041/permalink/158254941514723/?comment_id=158575121482705&notif_id=1522531659476671&notif_t=group_comment_reply&ref=notif and ask if you can join the group.

That’s it then; another week worked. And this morning is Easter Sunday. I’m not doing anything special, a day at home with a bag of mini-eggs and a bottle of dry white this evening. It’s my great-grandson’s third birthday today; and tomorrow my lovely grandson Richey isn’t a teenager any more. Oh my, time does flow quickly.

My poem this week is the one I wrote for Hannah Silva’s workshop last week. It’s barely learning to walk it’s so new to the page. But it could well become another ‘alternative mother’ poem when I have time to work on it some more.

The stimulus was to imagine a neighbour watching your life then answer six or seven questions Hannah put to us about that scenario. Here it is:



Every day
she opens the curtains at dawn.
The bedroom lights
don’t go out till midnight
but she’s always up with the sun.
I like to think she sleeps
in winceyette—I heard her say
she’s sick of winter, the long
grey coldness of it, said
she was born to the sun’s heat.
She wears those boots—
all bovver and sparkle
like she’s a glam rock refugee.
She’s a poet though,
they never quite grow up.
I wonder how
she packs in so much life
on five hours sleep max.
I’m sure she’s on steroids.

Rachel Davies
March 2018

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