On Finding a Place to be Me

This week I have been trying to catch up on mentoring duties, fretting over the creative writing course (not enough people have signed up, yet) trying to sort my enrolment out at Uni, supporting Kate Garret at her book launch in Sheffield, receiving a visit from the in-laws, trying to catch up with four months book work for the business and attempting to get on top of my Northern Soul duties.

I have not written anything, I have not submitted anything, I have received no rejections. I have had an editor change their mind about a previous rejection and am absolutely delighted that one of my Matilda poems is going to feature in the wonderful Butcher’s Dog Magazine. I was also very surprised and happy to see that the very kind and brilliantly talented Josephine Corcoran had reposted two of my poems from January 2014, which had appeared on And Other Poems. It’s a good quality webzine which always has a wealth of beautiful poems on it. I have spent many an idle hour going over and over them. And if you get chance, you should certainly get hold of a copy of Josephine’s own pamphlet, The Misplaced House, which I read recently and thoroughly enjoyed. I might even do a little review on here in the future. Another brilliant thing that happened this week was Deborah Alma, AKA The Emergency Poet alerted me to the fact that her new anthology The Emergency poet: An Anti Stress Anthology is now available to pre order. It has one of my poems in. I am so proud to be part of this anthology, and it looks so pretty too, I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy.

So all in all, a good week for poetry news. The trip to Sheffield was an interesting one. It’s the first time I have driven long distance on my own. I was much more anxious about the trip over than about doing my mini guest slot. I usually have Chris as a support but he’s just started a new job and I don’t like to ask him to finish work early. I fretted all day about driving down there, but broke it down into tiny pieces: 1) get in car 2) put address in sat nav 3) attach sat nav 4) start engine 5) follow instructions…I followed each instruction on its own, without thinking ahead or behind, trying to stay in the present and trying to not worry about what other drivers might think of me.

It’s odd, I try not to, but I really do worry about what other people think of me. Friends and acquaintances more than anything. It’s like a form of imposter syndrome, I feel like I don’t fit in and I am very shy and very keen on getting people to like me. It’s quite desperate and pathetic and it leaves me horribly vulnerable to being hurt. I’m not always like that, I guess, sometimes i’m quite confident, quite happy in my own skin. But I do spend a ridiculous amount of time asking who I am, what I am doing, what’s my purpose, and am I getting it ‘right’?

I should learn to be like the sat nav and just take each tiny bit of my life at a time. I should learn to live my life like I drove to Sheffield: no past, no future,just the present. And if people want to beep their horns and go around me, then let them, I have my own journey, everyone does and anyone who doesn’t like me, well, that’s their decision, I won’t say their loss because it probably isn’t, not if they don’t like me, but I don’t think I am a horrible person. I try very hard to be supportive and kind. I’m probably too over the top sometimes, I try too hard to help and it’s seen as being pushy, steam rolling, or something. I don’t know. I exhaust myself trying to work out what other people want so that I can adapt and make things better for them and I get it wrong sometimes.

This is all coming from a place of self doubt and uncertainty. And I likely won’t feel like this in a couple of days, I’ll go back to being me, whoever that is. I know I put this dizzy, girly, silly front on, especially on Facebook, and I know that is part of who I am, but I’m also, dare I say it, quite bright, can be quite serious, I can be calm, I can be funny, I can be angry and cutting.  I wish I knew what I was in other people’s eyes and what was acceptable.

Anyway, back to poetry. I think most people feel a little fractured. Like me, like the feeling that we are all prisms, all the faceted sides are reflections of different things, different personalities. And perhaps that’s where the strength in poetry lies.  We turn our faces to the poetry, to the experiences that create poems and we absorb them in our many different personalities, we watch from first this point of view, then that, then that. For me, poetry is something quite evasively magical. Not magical in a Harry Potter way, more in an unidentified, human, primal way. Poetry is a ‘seeing between the lines’ it’s like scrying, it’s like searching for something unseeable. It’s a form of communication that isn’t exactly verbal, but the words are the boxes that hold the ideas. I once dropped my house keys whilst I was paddling in a stream and they went down under the silt and I had to search by touch only, feeling the sudden slip of a fish, or the round certainty of a pebble, and eventually finding the teeth, the rounded edge, the YALE impression. That’s what it feels like to write poetry. And yes, there’s a skill, there’s a set of tools and a way of editing, but essentially it is art, it is a literary art form that is far removed from other literary genres. That doesn’t make it better, just different. And at it’s root is a form of empathy, and with that, of course, a connection and a shared idea.

When I turned up, early (surprisingly, I’m rarely early for anything) at Sheffield and eventually found my way to the upstairs and met Kate for the first time, it felt great. I’d chatted to her before, we first ‘met’ online when I had interviewed her for a review I was writing. She was welcoming and sweet and quite child like, in an innocent, but wise way, and very pretty, a lot like the main character in ‘New Girl’. But more alternative and cool. I felt a bit old and solid and frizzy and fat. And as the room filled with a variety of rainbow hair I did feel like I should have gone for the 1950s swing dress i’d originally planned, and perhaps tinted my own boring brown with ‘wisdom streaks’. But at the end of the day, poetry is poetry and it will act as a connection, even if you don’t know anybody else and you feel out of place, all of the poets in the room will know poetry, and they are all there for poetry, and that’s quite unifying. I may not fit in everywhere, but I fit into poetry. And it’s my life.

I’m very shy and was so pleased to see another Facebook friend sitting on her own at Sheffield. And the reading went well, I managed to see Kate beforehand to give her a little gift I’d brought to celebrate her launch and I bought two copies of her book so that I can do a little review and giveaway on here this week. I had to leave early ish and managed to get home before midnight, which was a relief. I hate driving in the dark, I get confused and have actually twice nearly crashed by misreading road markings. My eyes got blurry and I ended up home with a headache and cramp in my hands from gripping the wheel. When I got to my house, the back door was open, and there was my husband, waiting with a cold frosty pint, and a big hug. He’d been tracking me on an app so he knew how far away I was and if I’d managed to take the correct roads etc. That’s another place where I fit in. Chris is my best friend, he is truly my other half and I feel quite lost without him. I fit in with him and I am loved by him. And that’s a lot to be blessed with.

Look out for the second instalment and a chance to win Kate Garret’s Bewitched and Other Stories over the weekend.

What I have been reading: 

I am still snatching bits of Prole, hoping to get a proper hour or so to sit down and savour it his week. I have also been reading The Talented mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith. I needed a break this week and always find reading a novel is like giving my brain a break. It’s a fantastic book, I was physically anxious right through it, waiting for Ripley to get caught. I didn’t realise that there were more Ripley books too, so I shall probably end up checking those out.

Other News

I’ve added a page that has readings and things on, I shall try and keep it up to date. also, we are starting to launch something very special at Northern Soul. the Northern Soul Poetry award. it’s going to be magnificent, with a proper awards ceremony and everything, so keep your eyes peeled for further updates!

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