…my week in three words. I meant to work on Sunday last, redrafting the poems I first-drafted on the poetry carousel a couple of weeks ago. But I was invited to a family party for my son-in-law Angus: Sunday was his birthday, so work of any kind was put on hold; and put on hold again on two of my regular working days, Tuesday and Wednesday, when I drove south to Lincolnshire to visit sister and friends. I stayed over at my friend Jo’s house, drove home on Wednesday. All this was lovely, to spend time with family and friends, relax for Christmas and just enjoy doing nothing much.
But doing nothing much won’t get me the PhD. So I rearranged what I normally do on Thursday: food shopping, mostly, and did some work then to make up for slacking. I did the redrafting I meant to do on Sunday, so I was kind of back on track, despite taking three days out of schedule. I redrafted ‘Rhona the Ratgirl’ as an alternative mother, and I think it works. I am pleased to say that four of the carousel poems have fitted well into the collection. That’s the nature of writing poetry: you go to a workshop and the prompt is to write about x; but your mind is all on the theme of your PhD: daughterhood in my case. So you mould that prompt to fit what you need to write. The best writing prompts allow you that much room. As a writer you can make any prompt fit that need. So, I have four new poems added to my collection. I’m already pleased with them, but they are marked red on my collection contents page so that I am reminded that I may need to revisit them. I meant to work for longer, give some attention to the one remaining poem Jean Sprackland gave me some feedback on; but driving to Lincs and back this week took its toll on my gammy shoulders, and my arms were hurting on Thursday. So I did what I needed to do and took time out to give them some rest on Thursday afternoon. But at least PhD had its small ounce of flesh in the morning.
Friday I spent doing what I should have been doing on Thursday: boring supermarket shopping. I hate it at any time of the year, but at Christmas? Ugh, all those enormous chocolate bars, yards of curly-wurlies, BOGOF offers on biscuits, mince pies, booze, turkeys the size of ostriches, leg-of-lamb joints the size of brontosaurus thighs. Gluttony on a grand scale, and people with trollies piled high with stuff their bodies can well do without. I feel I should add a ‘bah humbug’ here because I’m sounding like Scrooge. I’m not a bit like Scrooge: I love Christmas, I just hate the vile over-indulgence it has come to represent. I’m not religious, but where in the New Testament does it say we should binge like pigs while people are dying of hunger on our streets? Christmas, surely, is the one time of the year we should make sure we think of others less fortunate than ourselves? I have taken to making up a rucksack for the homeless in lieu of giving Christmas presents: I give a packed rucksack to the Welllspring Project at Stockport instead:
A deal of my packed shopping trolley went into the food bank collection box. I’m not saying I won’t be having treats in the house this Christmas week, of course I will; but I hope I’ll have it in proportion. There, I’ve said my piece. Have a very Merry Christmas; but please remember there are people out there who deserve a kind thought too.
On Saturday I was back at my desk. I worked on the collection, refining the order, revisiting poems that I feel still need some work. I also put together a collection of poems for Fly on the Wall Poetry’s chapbook submission window: https://www.flyonthewallpoetry.co.uk/manuscript-submissions
I included some of my mother-daughter poems, interspersed with ‘Alternative Mother’ poems. I sent them off, thirty-three of them, to see if they are grown up enough to go out into the world and earn their living. Fly On The Wall Poetry’s editor, Isabelle Kenyon, likes to publish poems ‘with a sprinkle of social consciousness’; last year a poem of mine found its way into one of her anthologies, Please Hear What I’m Not Saying, which addressed mental health issues. I think some of my alternative mother poems are sprinkled with social consciousness, with a dash of humour and a shake of serious intent. So I sent them to her, and I wish them well.
This week I’ll give you a poem from the carousel, which I’ve included in the PhD collection. It’s a modern sonnet. It tells the story of me breaking my arm as a six-year-old: I still remember thinking my arm had come off completely because I couldn’t feel it at all: my doll’s arms fell off all the time, after all! I broke my arm four or five years ago, and that same feeling of disconnection. That’s how I knew it was broken, because it didn’t particularly hurt at first; the pain came later. So, a poem written to one of Kim Moore’s prompts about something that happened that didn’t seem significant at the time, but came to have meaning later. I broke my arm and I blamed the new sister; and I blamed my mother; and I blamed my older siblings for being more gymnastic than me. Really, I should have blamed myself for being so bloody clumsy!
Still life with a broken arm.
I didn’t think about my foot
catching in the gate
throwing me to the flagstones
snapping my arm.
I just wanted to be in their gang,
it’s tedious still being kid sister,
the hanger-on even
when another one arrives.
I rushed at that gate to grow up
I blamed you and I blamed her—
that bawling baby. You only put
the gate there to keep her safe.
But what about me?