NaPoWriMo

Day 19 of the ‘write a poem a day’ challenge, and so far I have kept up, despite a four-day road trip to three destinations over the Easter weekend.

The best part is giving myself permission to write absolute rubbish. The first few days I wrote immediately on waking, before the first cup of tea, to loosen up and use dream imagery in a sort of surrealism exercise. By day 6 I started trying to write a particular poem I need for my pamphlet. I tried it as a Pantoum one day, a Villanelle the next, but neither were worth developing.

By the start of the second week I was back to playing, with a shape poem based on a walk to an old oak tree with a dear friend, followed by a poem using six words chosen at random from a tree magazine, in the order in which I picked them. It’s good to impose artificial restraints sometimes. A ‘Golden Shovel’ poem followed (take the first line of a favourite poem and use each word as the end of your own lines) using a line taken from Alice Oswald’s Falling Awake collection. And then I struck gold – a prose poem on waking that resolves an issue I had with another poem for the pamphlet. After another variant of the Golden Shovel (sadly I didn’t record where the original quote came from) the second week ended with a successful draft of the poem that didn’t work a week ago.

Two days later, while visiting my brother’s house, I found another poem for the pamphlet. I rolled up the treasure map made by my father and brought it home with me. It may even provide a front cover image.

And so I continue, sometimes writing complete drivel about where I am and what I’m thinking, sometimes producing a few lines or an idea that can be worked with, and occasionally producing a poem I really needed but couldn’t force.

Along with this, I’ve been editing for the pamphlet. Slowly, reluctantly, but getting there. It forms the final submission for my third year poetry course, and is due to be handed in mid-May. I have four weeks from today. Counting down…

 

Back to the fray

How do I explain the long absence? Six months since my last, isolated, post.

It may be more worthwhile to ask what brought me back?

That itch. The discomfort I recognise because I’ve been here before. The point at which it’s more uncomfortable not to write, not to reach out and return to the world, than it is to stay in a state of isolation where all the painful things are a distant rumble that I can safely ignore.

This means I have to face stuff. Stuff I don’t want to look at. And I’ve found a reasonably obtuse and gentle way to do that. I’ve started doing NaPoWriMo, otherwise known as National Poetry Writing Month, at the suggestion (or command) of our third year poetry tutor. I gave myself permission to write utter junk until something better came through, which may take two or three weeks, and I’ve started writing my ‘poetic’ contribution first thing every morning before I get out of bed. Great access to the subconscious…

I do have good reason to force myself back into the fray. I have about five weeks before the last, and major, deadline for my degree. The degree I’ve been doing part-time for too many years now. And I want to go out with a bang, with a major triumph. I know I can, but only if I stop coasting and really put some effort in. So part of my discomfort comes from knowing that I haven’t given this my best shot yet (despite some very good marks), nor have I had a personal breakthrough into my ‘discomfort zone’ where the best work lies.

My topic is islands in the West, mythical and remembered. The theme encompasses grief, nostalgia, fantasy, play and self-revelation so far. I need to add a poem I’ve been failing to write on friendship, and find an organising principle and a cover image, as well as do some serious editing on the material I already have. We have to produce a finished and (self)published pamphlet by mid-May.

I’ll keep you posted.

And to prove that I’m serious about returning to the world, I will now send off two poems to the editor of our next Wells Poetry group anthology, which has a theme of Food and is to be launched at the Wells Food Festival in October. I have not submitted anything anywhere for months, so this small step should break the logjam. And I can smile impishly in this bright Spring sunshine, because both the poems are really about sex.

Over and out.

Apologies etc – but hey…

Apologies

I knew it had been a long time with no posts, but hadn’t realised it’s actually been seven months. I could give you all sorts of reasons and/or excuses (including this year’s highlight, the birth of my first grandchild in July) but it really boils down to the fact that the longer the delay, the harder it gets to resume an activity. (There must be a better grammatical form for that phrase). I thought about posting many times. It was on my To Do list frequently. It never happened. That’s what I’m like.

But hey…

That doesn’t mean I didn’t do any writing or submitting, as I’ll itemise further down.

So last night I went to a poetry reading at Toppings in Bath, the fabulous Luke Kennard. Why had I never heard of him before? I’ve started my final course for the BA Creative Arts at Bath Spa Uni, and this is really a case of saving the best for last: Carrie Etter’s 3rd year poetry module. She is an excellent tutor as well as a great poet, encouraging to her students not only during the course but for years after, as I noticed last night. Carrie knew everyone. She had recommended this reading to our group, and I set out on a rainy windy autumnal evening to drive an hour to get there, with no idea of what was to come.

Luke was a revelation. Highly personable and entertaining, his poetry is wildly creative and sparked a number of ideas for how to approach our aim this year, the creation of our own pamphlets. Watch this space!

During the last few months I’ve been to three poetry workshops. The two at Bath Poetry cafe, run by Sue Boyle, resulted in one piece that was published yesterday by Gnarled Oak, several pieces to be worked on further, and the discovery of Alice Oswald’s work. I’m pleased to say I have a ticket to her forthcoming reading in Bath, too. And the Tears in the Fence day at Stourpaine in September combined a useful workshop with an afternoon reading. I finally got to join my friends from Wells Fountain poets in reading our linked performance Second Skin, which was well-received. It has its next, and last, outing in December at the Wells group meeting where we are the ‘featured poet’. And talking of readings, I was the ‘featured poet’ at Glastonbury’s poetry meeting in Tea and Chi cafe at the end of September, where I conducted a trawl through my earlier work – I’ve been living and writing here for thirty years now.

Despite not managing to submit anything for two months now, I’m reaping the rewards of previous subs, with online publications to come in Strange Poet and Amaryllis, yesterday’s Gnarled Oak one, and the most prestigious so far, I’m in this year’s The Broadsheet along with two friends Rachael and Jinny from the Wells group – and a lot of well-known, big-name poets, too many to list in case it sounds like name-dropping.

Onwards and upwards, as they say.

And on another note, I have my first teaching session for a long time next week. A couple of therapeutic creative writing sessions for a mental health charity in Bristol. I’m supposed to be doing the lessons plans now. This blog post is, of course, a distraction activity. Always do the second most important thing on the To Do list seems to be my motto…

 

Anchored Tercets in the doorhouse

That title will make sense to you soon.

Last Friday five of us from our poetry editing group had a working day out, at the Dove Studios near Butleigh, Somerset. We had hired ‘the doorhouse’ for six hours, which came with a woodburner, logs, kettle and kitchen equipment, and a glorious Spring day. Chilly, but once the sun came out and the fire was established we warmed up. The doorhouse is made of – well, old doors, mainly. I counted over twelve. It stands in a meadow with views over a tree circle and towards a permaculture project. Gorgeous.

We started by supplying each other with prompts or exercises for new writing. Our initial warm-up was to produce a series of anchored tercets using the initials w,f,p, for Wells Fountain Poets. An anchored tercet is an exercise in brevity – how few words are needed in a poem? The form contains three words, one on each line, with a fullstop (the anchor) on a fourth line. If the end-punctuation is something other than a fullstop it becomes a ‘half-anchored tercet’. We had fun. My contributions ranged from the whimsical:

will                              will

fairies                        farmers

play                            pee

?                                  ?

to the pointed:

whinge                      wisdom

fest                            faces

poems                       pain

.                                  .

Our other exercises were a prompt (write about something stolen); ekphrastic (from a series of postcards bought at the British Museum’s Celtic exhibition); and filling in missing words from a Ted Hughes poem, to study word choice.

After lunch of hot soup, salads, hummus and cheeses we settled down to read and comment on the clothes poems we’d brought, towards a new performance set called Second Skin. It will have an initial try-out at East Coker at the end of this month, although sadly I can’t be at that one. I’ll be on my way to Mull…

And in further news, I have another couple of online publications to celebrate: on 9th March in I Am Not a Silent Poet link here ; and yesterday I came home to an email from Sue Sims saying that I’m in the Poetry Space Spring showcase find it here – one of my lighter poems. And yes, reader, it worked for the original recipient… 😉

 

Commitment

I am now officially fed up with myself and my lack of useful creative activity. I am bored with reading and watching series catch-ups on iplayer. I had reached the point where I finished a novel, read the author’s biog, and immediately thought of myself as a failure because I had not achieved novel publication.
There’s only one thing stopping me, and it’s me. So from today, I will be more committed to my writing. I made a good start earlier, searching through my poems file to find any on the general theme of clothes, for a group project. I replied to emails from the group, that I’ve been ignoring through no fault of theirs, and wrote a response to a poem. I also posted a really old one up as a facebook Note and have had some instant reactions, including a recommendation of where to send it to… which I’ve done. And now I’m off to my fortnightly writing practice, armed with a couple of books of prompts. No more staring at the birds through the window.
Meanwhile, I’m not such an obvious failure as I’ve had another couple accepted for ‘Hedgerow’, online mag. Find them here in issues 67 and 66.

Onwards and upwards…

 

Gaining Momentum

I have been making an effort. On Sunday I woke up thinking about running a group called Poetry for Depression, maybe at the GP surgery, maybe I could access funding? Then I made myself write something – it was a bad first draft of a short poem, but it was something.  Yesterday I managed a haiku. Not much, but again, something rather than nothing.

And then the breakthrough – I worked on the first poem, put it together with the haiku, added a couple of old prose poems, and submitted it to Caroline Skanne at Hedgerow online magazine (weekly blog, every Friday). My first submission since last October.

Today I have been working on some Minutes from a meeting last week, just checked my inbox, and I have a reply already from Caroline. She’s accepting 2 pieces, for issues 66 and 67. Now that’s encouragement!

I will post links as they’re published. Meanwhile the sun is shining on this frosty morning and I have Things to Do – art stuff at Uni. Sadly I can’t make the next poetry editing meeting this Friday as I’ll be at a(nother) funeral, but the year is starting to look promising, at last.

And good luck with all your writing too.

Back to the fray

I knew it had been a while since I posted – two months, apparently. Two months of not writing, until the last couple of weeks when I managed to drag myself out of the January depression (just too many friends dying this last year or so) and go along to our poetry editing group. I had nothing to offer, but just getting out of the house and socialising was a necessary part of my struggle not to sink further. And I did do some new writing.

Which led to some more new writing when I finally met with my two writing friends last Monday. Which then prompted me to make the effort to attend this month’s Words & Ears at Bradford on Avon, run by the fabulous Dawn Gorman click here and featuring my favourite poetry tutor Carrie Etter. So I read what I considered to be an un-worked first draft, and it received positive comments.

Tonight is the Wells Poets meeting at the Sherston – the theme is Our Home In Somerset but I will be reading from this recent work instead.

I’m not one of those writers who can beaver away on their own. I need writing friends, groups, designated times and places. People to spark off, and with.

Here is the one I read at Bradford, still untitled. It may change.

 

It reminds me of coming downstairs on Christmas Day

to find our stockings stuffed with sweets,

a tangerine in the toe, a banana at the top.

 

It was too good to throw away, not good enough for a charity shop.

Maroon, paisley patterned, getting threadbare –

I daren’t wash it.

 

So I wear my father’s dressing gown.

It hangs on the back of my bedroom door,

keeps me safe all night.