Monthly Archives: January 2019

The Fens in Veganuary

People ask me, what will you do when the PhD is over? I’m guessing most people—not everyone, obviously, but most—do a PhD for career purposes: they want to teach in a university or move on to other research projects, change the world in some small but significant way. My motivation for PhD has been entirely selfish: this has been a personal challenge. I wanted to see if I could do it. I don’t need PhD, but I do want it; in the same way I wanted to climb Snowdon by the Pyg Track before I was fifty. I managed that as well, by the way; and Helvelyn before I was sixty. It’s what I do: set a challenge and work towards it. After PhD? I’ve no idea. Perhaps I’ll challenge myself to learn a new language, or learn upholstery, or take up lace-making or tie-dye or batik; perhaps I’ll redraft all these blog posts into a novel, a work of fiction. There will be something; what it is yet I know not, but it feels good to be contemplating life after PhD. I’m still waiting to hear from the support team to discuss the latest draft I sent them, and I’m hoping that no news is good news; at least I’m hoping it means time isn’t pressing. Just a few more months, the hurdles of final edits, binding and submitting the manuscript, the Viva Voce. Then freedom, the summit of the mountain to contemplate my next move. In the meantime I’ve been reading a book that Kim Moore wrote about in her blog last week. It’s Relating Narratives: Storytelling and Selfhood by Adriana Cavarero; translated by Paul A. Kottman (London and New York: Routledge, 2000). Kim made it sound so vital a read that I downloaded it to my Kindle straight away. She wasn’t wrong: it could have me rethinking parts of my thesis. Well, not rethinking exactly, I don’t have time for that; more embellishing. It is indeed a powerful work of feminist writing.

This week has been another little taste of life after PhD. Last weekend I was in Lincolnshire with family and friends. It was cold, but bright and crisp, exhilarating. We came home on Sunday via Lincoln. We searched for a dog-friendly restaurant for lunch; were just considering getting a take-away to eat on the lawns outside the castle when we found a tiny café about half-way up Steep Hill. It served vegan food and welcomed dogs. Lunch sorted. We left Lincoln mid-afternoon to drive home to the frozen north.

Walking on Mablethorpe Beach, 19.01.19

In the week James Draper posted a review in ‘aAh!’ of the Carol Ann Duffy and Friends event that I contributed to on January 14th. ‘aAh!’ is MMU’s official arts and culture student mag. I think its title is probably an acronym for ‘Arts and Humanities’. It was a lovely review—a few spelling mistakes, but hey! Apologies to ‘The Glass Aisle’ and to ‘Riggwelter’ for instance; but the substance of the review is written at the event, based on the journalist listening without chance to clarify. Here is a link to the review:

img_5799-1024x683Carol Ann Duffy and Friends, 14.01.19; photo courtesy of aAh! magazine.

On Tuesday I woke at 3 a.m. There was snow on the roofs of the cottages opposite. Thanks to the polymyalgia medication, I couldn’t get back to sleep: I often lie in bed on a Pred high, wide awake and remembering that line from Macbeth: “Methought I heard a voice cry ‘Sleep no more!Macbeth shall sleep no more.’” Perhaps he was on Prednisolone as well, and Prednisolone hath murdered sleep. So, unfazed, I decided to use the time productively. I sent a selection of my ‘mother’ poems to Cinnamon Press’s pamphlet/collection competition. I sent to Fly on the Wall before Christmas; unfortunately I received a rejection in the New Year, but it was a very positive and uplifting rejection: Isabelle Kenyon, the editor, wrote ‘I very much enjoyed reading your work and it was a tough decision to turn your collection down… I encourage you to submit in future! I wish you all the best finding a suitable home for this great collection.’ I wish all rejections were so positive! So on Tuesday morning, at silly o’clock, I was in bed putting a collection of 25 poems together; I kissed them goodbye and pressed the ‘send’ button on them at 5.30 a.m.

At 8.00 I had an appointment for polymyalgia-related blood tests; so it was still dark when I went outside to scrape my car of frozen snow. I had intended to park at the garden centre and take the fifteen minute walk into Uppermill; but I thought perhaps a frozen canal path and my track record for staying upright might clash so I parked behind the museum like the coward I am. Bloods done, haircut done I went home and hunkered down in front of the fire and binge watched ‘The Long Song’. I read Andrea Levy’s wonderful novel some years ago, and the TV drama was a fine representation of the book I remembered. I loved the silent and crafty undermining of the slave owners by the slaves. But the cruelty, OMG; my colonial history makes me ashamed; and this is the history that made Britain ‘great’? This is the ‘control’ we want to ‘take back’? Well not in my name!

Wednesday I went into Uppermill again to meet up with Hilary for coffee and catch-up. I did walk in along the canal on Wednesday; it was freezing cold—minus 3*C, ice on the little brook behind the houses, but no ice on the canal; just lots of mallards with very cold bums. We discussed several readings we have coming up: including a twenty-five minute slot each at Writers in the Bath in Sheffield in June. We decided to split the timings, we’ll take ten minutes each, either side of the break. That way I can have ten minutes of ‘alternative mother’ poems, then ten minutes of other, more mixed work. Twenty-five minutes reading is a lot of voice! Hilary had booked our trains to Birmingham for the Verve Festival in February and for St. Ives for Kim Moore’s poetry week in April. We are two busy poets; long may it continue. Hilary is contemplating starting a PhD: I haven’t put her off then. I’ll be there to hold her hand when she needs it.

On Friday I met another friend, Joan; we ate at a lovely Mediterranean restaurant in Whitefield. The waiters kept us updated on Manchester United’s FA Cup match against Arsenal at the Emirates and we managed to catch the end of the match when we went back to Joan’s house for coffee. United won 1.3, Ole Gunnar’s eight-win run in charge. Go Utd, they look like a proper Reds team again!!

Later today I’m going to Hilary’s sister Cath’s for a late Christmas afternoon tea, a group of friends all bringing contributions. I committed to taking vegan food: I’m not vegan, I’m vegetarian; but someone else there is vegan, so I promised a vegan cheesecake and a vegan quiche. On Saturday I spent the day cooking. The quiche is tofu based and I must say it looks really rather good:

My vegan broccoli and pepper quiche

The cheesecake uses soaked cashew nuts and coconut oil; I’ve made mine lime flavoured. It ‘cooks’ in the freezer, comes out to thaw out a couple of hours before eating. It also looks good, although I have no photos. I did lick the bowl though; and it does taste remarkably like cheesecake. I’ll keep you posted. I also have to take some books for a book swap; and a ‘Secret Santa’ gift. It’s so secret even I don’t know what it is yet!

That’s it then; another week, another new experience. The poem I’m leaving you with this week is a poem I wrote last year about the fens where I grew up. It seems apposite to include it after spending a week in the Lincolnshire fens; although this is about the Cambridgeshire fens, south of the Wash. I wrote it as a place poem about the Fens; but it occurred to me that place could be ‘alternative mother’ as well as folk. So I redrafted it as ‘Alternative Mother #17’. I think it works, and it’s leading me to think I could include other places that have been significant in my life. Always good to have a poem to write!

Alternative Mother #17
The Fens

 If landscape has mountains, forests,
a river forcing its course to the sea
she is no landscape.

If her horizon is fourteen miles away
your eyes will see for fourteen miles
across her sea-drained bed.

If goddesses reach down to touch her soil
there is nothing between their fingers
and her fecundity.

Her sky though, look at her sky,
high and wide as heaven!
She celebrates all the literature of skies,
their cumulonimbus poetry,
their war and peace.

Rachel Davies

A foretaste of life after PhD

On Monday I read with ‘Carol Ann Duffy and Friends’ at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester. I arrived at the Stage Door as requested at 6.00 p.m. and, as Bill opened the door into some dark cellar, might have become Manchester’s own phantom of the opera, forever roaming the bowels of the theatre, if the security man upstairs on CCTV vigilance hadn’t noticed and called us up the windy stairs to the first floor. We met up with Mark Pajak and John Fennelly,  the house poets. Cue the first glass of wine. I also met Daisy and Lauren, the two other MMU poets who were reading in the first half of the evening. We had sound checks, then a full run-through, in which my voice sounded, to me, weak and nervous. Thankfully, a second sauvignon blanc helped calm me down. The audience began to fill up. Hilary Robinson, my dragon sister, arrived. It was Hilary’s birthday, and I gave her my birthday present, which included Jackie Kay’s collection, Bantam (Picador 2017). I took my seat on the sofa on stage while jazz musicians played the audience in. Imagine my surprise when Jackie Kay herself walked in and sat full centre in the front row, directly in front of the lectern. And imagine the nerves, knowing the Makar, the Poet Laureate of Scotland, would be among the few audience members with whom I could make eye contact during the reading, because the theatre lights almost completely blind you to the entire audience apart from a section of the front row. Anyway, Daisy and Lauren read beautifully, confidently, hardly a sign of the nerves I know they were both feeling. Then it was my turn. I walked to the lectern. The nerves were somewhat dissipated by the wine and I felt good. I think it helped not to be able see the audience really. I read a couple of poems, the audience laughed in the right places, I relaxed, read some more; I read the last one, ‘Rhona the Rat Girl’. Applause. End of first half. I joined Hilary and Bill. I told Hilary that Jackie Kay was in the audience and could sign her copy of Bantam,so we went off in search. I know Jackie from having the pleasure, twice, of introducing her to our Poets&Players audiences, and she remembered. She hugged Hilary happy birthday and signed her book. She said how much she had enjoyed my work, especially my ‘alternative mother’ poems, and would like to buy Some Mothers Do…She asked us both to sign a copy while she went to get her purse. Oh Yes. Jackie Kay has a signed copy of our book. Let me tell you, it feels pretty damn good when one of your poetry heroes appreciates your work. I received positive comments from other audience members too.

The second half of the event was given over to a performance of ‘The Glass Aisle’, a collaboration between the Welsh poet, Paul Henry and singer-songwriter Brian Briggs. I loved the mix of poetry reading, then hearing the poetry set to music, sung to guitars. The poetry was lilting, nostalgic; and doubly beautiful when it was sung, what a lovely way to present poetry. After the event Hilary, her husband David, Bill and I went to the bar to meet up with MMU Writing School friends for a wind down. It was nearly 11.00 p.m. when we got up to leave. Brian Briggs saw us leaving and ran over to say how much he’d enjoyed my poems too, and did we have a book he could buy? How nice is that? Well, we did, so, with the door to the bar held open for our exit we waited for him to find the £8.99 in his pocket. In the end we said ‘just give us what you have.’ I actually have no idea how much he paid: it included a fiver, a one pound coin and a lot of small change, bless him. A perfect ending to the evening.

Hilary had brought Fiona Benson’s collection Vertigo and Ghost (Jonathan Cape 2019) to the Exchange. She’d been bowled over by this Forward Prize shortlisted collection and brought it to lend to me. So, being too high on poetry and Prednisolone to sleep after the Exchange, I was reading it in bed at 3.00 a.m. on Tuesday. It is indeed a fantastic collection. Buy it. Read it. I couldn’t put it down, read it through in one go; and will re-read it before I give it back to its rightful owner. I’ll probably buy a copy too. Trust me, it takes poetry to a whole new plane: startling and brilliant.

The rest of the week passed in refreshing mundane ordinariness. The thesis is with my DoS and support team, so I can’t do anything more to it until I’ve met with them. On Wednesday my daughter rang. She’s had an ear infection this week, so she was feeling ropey. She asked if we’d go into Oldham to collect her contact lenses: she’d just had an email to say they were in. So off we went to Specsavers to collect said lenses. Having searched through four drawers and the entire Specsavers online catalogue, the assistant couldn’t find a record anywhere. So I rang Amie—thank goodness for the mobile phone—and we were in the wrong shop! Her contact lenses were in Vision Express! So we went for a coffee before going to the right store to collect them. I took them to her house in the afternoon. She had that glassy look that she used to have when she had tonsillitis as a child. We had a brew together then I left and she went back to bed. When I rang the next day she was feeling better, still with earache, but her temperature was coming down. She took the rest of the week off work.

On Friday we came away to the Lincolnshire fens. Amie had hired a wooden cabin in the woods near Woodall Spa. I always thought Woodall Spa was somewhere in the west midlands, but no, it’s just a mile up the road from where we’re staying in Lincs. Amie is feeling much better, still dosing regularly on antibiotics and paracetemol, but improving every day. Yesterday we went to Mablethorpe to give the Cockerpoos a run on the long, sandy beach there. The wind was cold, but it was bright and dry. Apparently there has been some significant snow in the North West, so we’ve dodged that. It’s been lovely in Lincs. Later today we are going to visit Lincoln on our way home. Lincoln is one of my favourite cities: I did my first degree, BEd (Hons), from Bishop Grossteste College there in the eighties. I wanted to include a couple of photos of me relaxing on our weekend away, but the wifi here is almost non-existent; I don’t think it’ll cope with photos. Next week, perhaps?

So, I know now what life will be like post-PhD. I feel relaxed and happy. The stress for now is on the back burner, until I hear from the team with a meeting date. I’m beginning to look into book binding, preparing for the hard copy that must be submitted alongside the electronic submission, with a copy for myself, obviously. I can’t do anything about it until the team agrees that the work is done; and that might not be yet. But I’m preparing. The end is nigh, as the famous evangelical sandwich board says.

A poem: I’m going to give you a poem I read on Monday, an alternative mother poem from the book, one that was popular on the night. I first-drafted this at a Mark Pajak workshop in Nantwich a couple of years ago, and it’s one of my personal favourites. I love a three toed sloth, that total disregard for action. A bit like me post-PhD; perhaps I inherited the attitude after all.


Alternative Mother #7
A three-toed sloth

 see yourself as someone who relinquishes
digits to evolution then patents
what you save in your own slow show

see yourself as acrobat
so your ceiling rose is hearth rug
the laminate floor your roof

see yourself as worshipper of inertia
so downtime is your vocation
daydreaming your life’s career

see yourself as passive philosopher
examining the energy of predator
and arriving at the ergo of leaves

see yourself as someone who could be
a human sin but can’t even be arsed
to crack a smile at the irony of it.


Rachel Davies

Poetry as public health hazard

Monday was a big day in my week this week. It started with a visit to Doc to check out the blood results. Inflammation markers were raised – about three times normal, but given that they have been ten times normal in the past, this hasn’t been a trigger for concern. However, coupled with the huge beneficial effect of the Prednisolone, we agreed on a diagnosis of ‘return of the Polymyalgia’ – even Doc was surprised by the positive change in my mobility. So I’m now on a reduction plan for the steroids with more blood tests next week to measure the effect. Monday ended with an open mic session at Puzzle Poets in Sowerby Bridge. I went with Hilary – it took us 20 minutes to get to Sowerby Bridge and another 40 minutes to find the Navigation pub, where the event was held, so we were a few minutes late arriving, which was bad form; but Tom Weir, the headline reader, said he’d had problems finding the venue too so we felt a bit better then. I enjoyed Tom’s poetry very much, based in autobiography but very creative, sensitive, full of surprising images. I’ve put his name forward as a reader for Poets&Players. Hilary and I read a couple of poems each in the first half open mic session. After I read, I returned to my seat. The young man beside me said, ‘I’m going to tell you something about your poetry that I bet you’ve never heard before.’ ‘OK,’ I said. ‘I applauded so hard, I dislocated my shoulder,’ he said. I thought he was joking, but the left hand holding the right shoulder and the look of pain in his eye said otherwise. He’d been out into the car park to ‘pop it back in’! I asked if it happened often; he said it had never happened before. I offered him cocodamol, but he’d had beer, so he declined. So there you have it, my poetry carries a health warning. By the way, he was right, I had never heard that one before; but it’s now integral to my author biography. If you ever hear me read, you know what you have to do…

On Tuesday I was wide awake from 3.00 a.m. I’m not big on sleep at the best of times, but a Pred high is definitely not helping. So I did some last minute work on the thesis. Yes, I know I said last week that I would be sending it off on Sunday; but circumstances that I won’t go into scuppered that plan. So, at silly o’clock on Tuesday I went to my study, brought the MHRA style guide back to bed and did some last minute checks on style protocols. I particularly wanted to check where, in the format of the thesis, an appendix fits in. I’d prepared a spreadsheet of my quantitative analysis of women’s inclusion in poetry anthologies since the sixteenth century and I realised I didn’t actually know where it fitted – before the bibliography or after. I found the information in the style guide: it comes before the bibliography, so I placed it and made reference to it in the relevant footnote. Then I sent it off to my DoS. Oh yes I did. I screwed my courage to the sticking place and I pressed send. I’m waiting to hear from them about a meeting. It isn’t all done: I know there are still issues for instance around the spelling of ‘…ise/…ize’ words: familiarise, feminize etc; but I can manage them. It’s the big meaty stuff that’s the challenge. Is that all done? We’ll see.

On Tuesday morning I went to the Whitworth Art Gallery to meet up with the Poets&Players committee. We were planning the year’s events based in the knowledge that we have funding for another twelve months. We have an exciting year coming up: you can find details on the P&P website: It all kicks off this Saturday, with Collette Bryce, Kit Fan and Martin Kratz, the poets, and The Kell Wind Trio, the ‘players’. It’ll be a wonderful, uplifting afternoon. This is just the aperitif for a wonderful year’s programme of events. We are fully planned until October now. The meeting ended with a bowl of the Whitworth’s spicy dahl soup: lovely!

On Wednesday I met up with Hilary again to plan some poetry events for the year. We’re off to a small cottage in Coniston for our Line Break week in May. We go every year, a week of immersing ourselves in poetry: workshops, readings, finding time and stimuli to write. So that’s planned– we’ll be leaving Manchester after the P&P Competition Celebration event on Saturday 18th. The competition is open now, I’ve already received a few entries; so if you write poetry, why not give it a go. The closing date is 13thMarch, midnight. You’ll find all the information you need here:  Kei Miller and the competition winners will be reading at the event on the 18th. and that’s definitely one not to miss. Hilary and I have also applied to the Didsbury Arts Festival for a slot for an afternoon workshop and an evening reading from our joint collection, Some Mothers Do…I think I may have mentioned our book before?

On Saturday I put together my set of poems for the reading at Carol Ann Duffy and Friends at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester on Monday evening this coming week. I have a ten minute slot, which is about five poems, depending on how much introduction I plan to give for each. I think I’ll keep intros to a minimum as I’m reading mostly from my ‘alternative mother’ sequence, so a blanket intro at the beginning might suffice. I’m breaking with tradition a bit too, in that I’ll be reading from Some Mothers Do…obviously, and I’m planning to start with a poem each from Hilary and Tonia Bevins, my dragon triplets. Sadly, Tonia died before she saw her poems published in the book, so we’re pledged to read for her in her absence whenever we can; and I couldn’t read one of Tonia’s without reading one of Hilary’s; and anyway, it’s Hilary’s birthday on Monday so it’ll be a small gift from me. Later today I’ll be making my final selection from the ‘alternative mother’ sequence. I’m pretty sure I know which ones I want to read, but I need to time them exactly to ten minutes: it’s not professional to over-run on timings. I’m looking forward to it; I’ll be nervous, I’m always nervous when I read. But as long as shoulders are disjointed in the spontaneous bursts of applause, I’ll be happy.

So, a poem; well, actually I’m going to give you two linked poems that I wrote on the poetry carousel in December. They are inspired by two things that happened at my grammar school. The reference to Shirley Valentine? That school scene in the play/film where the head-teacher asks what is mankind’s greatest invention and girls are saying things like ‘the television’ or ‘the washing machine’ and Shirley is pushing her hand in the air, desperate to be noticed – ‘ooh, miss, please miss…’ At last, when all other options are used up, the head-teacher reluctantly asks Shirley and Shirley says, ‘the wheel, Miss’ and the head-teacher says ‘How did you know that? Someone must have told you,’ and Shirley says ‘of course somebody told me else how would I have known it?’ The disparate logic of head-teachers and their least favourite students. This was my experience of grammar school. However hard I tried, I couldn’t get it right, because the Demon Headmaster had already determined I’d be wrong. So these two poems try to address that negative attitude. I hated grammar school; I hated the Demon Headmaster; I’ve spent my life proving him wrong. By the way, I have no evidence that Gillian Hopper, the favourite of my poems – her name is changed – went on to become a high-class call-girl like her counterpart in Shirley Valentine. But I kind of hope she did.

Shirley Valentine Bakes For The Queen Mum.

Cakes, crustless sandwiches, scones.
Entourage at window
him obsequious, her grin glued on.

Door. First table. Me.
My iced fairies.
His scowl. Mrs Wilby’s apologetic shrug.

Gillian Hopper spitting venom,
her eyes
painting my back green.

HRH drooling.
Me blushing, she
just having time to say

they look… him passing her on
to Gillian Hopper, being the safer bet.


Shirley Valentine leaves school at last.

His secretary-wife sits at her desk, smiling.
You walk past her, stand in front of his door,

You raise a fist, knock the door. No response.
You rap again, harder. Louder.
You know he’s in there,

doing that throat clearing thing he does.
You knock again. Come he spits
and as usual he is god and you

are an unholy sinner.
You play his game, turn the knob slowly,
wait for the click of the latch, push the door.

After five years of put downs
you feel on the front foot, come to tell him
about your nursing placement,

say a last goodbye.

Your mouth wants to speak
but he steals your thunder.
You hear secondary modern, you hear boy,

you hear gutter, the whiplash word
he’s directing at you.
You see his hand raised, a barrier

to whatever foul air you’re carrying.
You hear that’s all, send Gillian Hopper in
on your way out.

You leave, wondering how in hell
that just happened.


Rachel Davies
December 2018


Coddiwompling towards PhD

Happy New Year. May 2019 bring you everything you wish for yourself, but particularly peace, health and happiness. And success.
Oh yes, please may it bring success.

I learned two new things this week. The first is a new word: coddiwomple.


It’s a verb. My nephew Gareth posted this photo on Facebook early in the week. I recognised coddiwompling as the thing I’m doing with PhD: I’m coddiwompling towards my PhD’s ‘as-yet-unkown destination’. I’ve been coddiwompling for about four years now. The route is becoming clearer, but the destination remains a mystery until after the final assessment.

I’ve been coddiwompling like mad this week. Hilary Robinson, bless her cotton socks, sent me annotated feedback on the thesis she’s been reading. It was good, positive feedback; but the other new thing I learned came in her feedback. Am I the only one who didn’t know that the em dash has its own protocol in the MHRA style guide? I’d used the em dash as parentheses in several places—without a gap either side, like this. Hilary pointed out that MHRA insists on a gap either side of the em dash — like this. I’ve been using the style guide for referencing; but I didn’t check my em dashes. Now I suppose I ought to go through the style guide to see if there are any more hidden gems. It’s sad to think you can write a fantastic thesis but fail your final assessment because you miss a comma from a footnote; or get one book out of alphabetical order in your bibliography; or deny your em dashes their rightful space. This is how you need friends, to point you in the right direction. Thank you Hilary, my lovely friend.

I think I’ve finished the latest redraft and edit of the thesis. I promised my Director of Studies he’d have it in the New Year; and he will. But I need to big up my courage to press ‘send’. I always want one more check. I think I’ll be sending it off later today; after a final check of the MHRA style guide to make sure there are no more surprises. I have to say, I’m quietly pleased with the piece of work now. I’ve rearranged it, tidied it up, given it an introduction and a conclusion, put the poems together with it at the end of the critical work. It’s the closest it’s been to ready. I read it in bed last night and I think…yup, it’s going off later today. I still have four months before deadline, four months until I have to submit, so there’s still time to do some last minute edits after I’ve met with DoS.

I made a major change to my life on New Year’s Eve. The pain and stiffness that has been plaguing me since the summer was unbearable when I got out of bed on Monday; I walked downstairs like a ninety-three-year-old. Fed up, I made an emergency appointment to see my GP. He ordered blood tests for evidence of a return of the Polymyalgia Rheumatica that I thought I’d beaten when I took my last cortico-steroid in April, after taking them for four and a half years. He prescribed Prednisolone in the interim, pending results of the bloods. Prednisolone isn’t just the treatment for PMR, it’s the most reliable diagnositic. Independent of the results of the blood tests, if Prednisolone works, the problem is PMR; if it doesn’t, it’s something else. I took the first dose when I got home, and I can report that after just one dose, the next day, the first of 2019, I was feeling unbelievably improved. I felt as if I’d been oiled. Yup, Polly is back. This is a strange disease. It affects about 20% of the population. The cause is unknown. It usually clears up after eighteen months to two years. Of the 20% of people — mainly elder women — who suffer, 20% will also get Giant Cell Arteritis, characterised by pain in the temple region of the head. Untreated, GCA can lead to permanent loss of sight. I was one of the lucky 4% who get GCA. And now it seems I’m possibly one of the very small percentage who have to live with PMR for life. I had a message from my GP to make an appointment following the results of my blood tests, so I’m seeing Doc again tomorrow. I hate Prednisolone; but I love Prednisolone. We have an ambivalent relationship. I think I need to get used to the fact that I could be on low dose Pred for the rest of my life. I must learn to live in harmony with it. BTW, being such a lucky girl, do you suppose I should buy a lottery ticket?

I haven’t made any New Year resolutions this year. My thoughts are all on finishing coddiwompling and attaining a positive destination: PhD. 2019 is starting well, though. Poets&Players has a funding stream, so I’ll be meeting with the team on Tuesday of this week to plan our full programme for 2019-20. And I heard from Mark Pajak who, with John Fennelly, organises the Carol Ann Duffy and Friends events at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester. I’m reading at the event on 14thJanuary, so later today, I’ll be preparing my ten minute set of poems. I’m planning to read some of my ‘alternative mother’ poems: some that are included in Some Mothers Do…;and I’ll try some new ones on the audience. Nothing says Happy New Year like a shot of poetry.

That’s it then, I’m starting 2019 on a high despite having to be best friends with Prednisolone. I hope you all have the best year possible.

A poem: this one came from the Carousel in December: Greta Stoddart’s workshop about line breaks. She gave us the task of writing a nine line poem, gave us the nine words that should form the end word of each line. This is the poem I came up with within those pararmeters. I can’t testify to the fact that the end words are all exactly the same as the ones she gave us, but mostly they really are. I may have changed one or two in the best interests of the poem. It’s earning its place within one sequence in the PhD collection, so rules, like lines, must be broken.


Breaking the Line

The blood red sky
sheds tears. Fresh milk
curdles. Now I know

my heartbroken father
left the house with
chisel, mallet—after dark

he’s out there hammering
like a minor god. Grief begins
to surface from the cold stone.


Rachel Davies
December 2018