Everyday I Promise Myself

By far the best thing to happen to me this week: I heard on Monday that 4word Publishing have chosen my pamphlet Everyday I Promise Myself from their shortlist as one of the four they will publish next year. My lovely book will be published on 1st December 2020. It seems a long time to wait, but the pamphlets are beautiful and take time to put together. I have to write a preface for the book to give a context for the poems. I have to prepare an acknowledgements page to highlight any previous publication history for the poems. I have to prepare a dedication page: I will be dedicating my pamphlet to my poetry twin, Hilary Robinson, who has given me valuable feedback on the poems when they were included in my PhD thesis, when they were first drafts in the various writing workshops we’ve attended together. I have to get two or three endorsements for the poems from professional poets for the back cover of the book. I have to write an author biography with photograph. I’ll leave the photo until after I collect my lovely new specs on Tuesday this week. Alongside all this is the process of working with the editors, Stella Wulf and Lesley Quayle to finalise the manuscript and cover. I’m learning that the publication of a book is a long-term project, and 4word’s pamphlets are works of art. You can see for yourself here: http://www.4word.org/titles/

I had to reregister at MMU this week. I’d assumed registration was a thing of the past now the PhD is finally submitted, but no, I need to register so they can keep me informed of graduation ceremonies etc. The good news is, my tuition is free for this year, as it should be every year in my opinion. The fact I won’t be receiving any tuition is almost irrelevant, I’m registered for free university education. I paid a bill of £0.00. I am having free-to-me university education for the first time since my employers, Tameside, paid for my MSc in Education Management in the 1990s.

This has been a week of Poets&Players activity. On Sunday we had a committee meeting at the Whitworth Art Gallery to discuss planning for next year, roles and responsibilities within the group and other organisational issues. We met over lunch in the Whitworth café. Janet, out group co-ordinator, is in the process of putting together the Arts Council bid again for next year’s funding: this is always a tense time of year. We rely on the funding to make our high-quality events at the Whitworth free to our audiences. We supplement our income by organising morning workshops on the day of our events, usually led by our headline poets. You can see our upcoming events here: https://poetsandplayers.co where you’ll also find details of our next competition, which opened this week. Our judge this time is Sinead Morrisey, so what are you waiting for? Get your pens and notebooks out, get writing!

Yesterday was our last Poets & Players event of 2019, in the wonderful Whitworth South Gallery, overlooking Whitworth Park, where green parakeets skitter among the trees and squirrels were busy squirreling food for the winter. Music was provided by Ask My Bull, an ‘instrumental flamboyant jazz punk band’, as they describe themselves. They are not wrong. Our poets yesterday were Lauren Garland, an MMU Creative Writing MA student who won second place in last year’s P&P competition; Joe Dunthorne, who was absolutely wonderful and exciting; so exciting that I bought his latest collection, O Positive, even though I promised myself I wouldn’t buy any more poetry books until I’d cleared the reading pile on my desk. Mimi Kalvati was our headline poet at this event. She read from her new collection Afterwardness,which addresses her leaving her native Iran for the UK at the age of six. This is a collection of Petrarchan sonnets, with hauntingly subtle rhymes. It was a good reading; and a wonderful event. It was a collaboration with Manchester based publishers Carcanet Press, to celebrate their 50th birthday. The workshop in the morning was run by Michael Schmidt, founder-editor of Carcanet. I wasn’t lucky enough to get a place on the workshop this time, but Hilary did and I expect to hear all about it from her in due course. Feedback about the workshop from poets at lunch in the Whitworth café was all very positive. Our next workshop is with Jo Shapcott on January 25th, Burns Night; details on our website, https://poetsandplayers.co

I’m going to leave you with my poem ‘Rhona the Ratgirl’ this week. I wrote it on Kim Moore’s carousel last December, and I’ll be going to this year’s carousel in a couple of weeks. I can’t remember the prompt for the poem, but I remember reading it to the group. I explained that Rhona was side-show at the fair. I went with my children. We wandered into the tent where Rhona sat stirring up some half dazed rats with a long bone. Kim and other course members said I was making it up, so I asked on Facebook if anyone had heard of Rhona the Ratgirl. I had one response, from my daughter Amie. It seemed we were the only people in the world who remember Rhona; except for one other Facebook friend who said ‘I think I dated her once’, but I assumed he was joking. However, when I googled ‘Rhona the Ratgirl’ I found reference to her in this link, proof that she was real:https://www.edp24.co.uk/news/what-are-your-memories-of-norwich-s-easter-fair-1-4475476


my surprise at finding definitive proof of Rhona!

So, here’s Rhona. I wanted to name my pamphlet after Rhona but Hilary said the advice from her MA tutor had been to be wary of naming a collection after one poem, because that poem has a huge weight of responsibility. She suggested taking one line from the poem as my title, and suggested the last line ‘Everyday I promise myself’ as a possibility. So that’s where my pamphlet title comes from; and it recognises the historic and cultural importance of Rhona, who may well have been forgotten forever if it wasn’t for this memorial poem. She deserves to be remembered, she is one of my personal favourite ‘alternative mothers’. ‘That kid…’ in the poem is Amie: how we learn stuff about our children only after they’re grown ups!


Alternative Mother #10
Rhona the Ratgirl

and is your entire world
this pen in this tent
this animal skin
this thigh bone
these rats?
So where do I fit in?

You recline on a bale of straw
draped in that mangy leopard skin
in a distant approximation to sexy,
while the public comes in to oggle.

You stir the somnambulant rats
with a Brontosaurus thigh bone—
like everything about you, it’s fake.

Of course the rats are too
out of it on benzodiazepines
to move around much.

When that kid tittered at your tits
all you said was You’re supposed to be
looking at me rats.
Well, what did you expect—an Oscar?

The ambition it must have taken for you
to become the Ratgirl, Rhona.

Every day I promise myself…

Rachel Davies
December 2018


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