Back to Poetry

It’s been a hectic and often stressful month, which I’ve felt in my liver mainly as, naturally, celebrating Chris’s fiftieth birthday with two sets of parents and various friendship groups has been something of a boozy affair. I’ve seen alcohol in all it’s forms over the month and people really struggling with addiction to it, and people really struggling with mood changes caused by it and the other side of the coin which was people enjoying alcohol and having a giddy, silly time slightly squiffy and knowing that it’s not an everyday occurrence. I’d like to place myself in that group, but I suspect everyone places themselves in that group whether they are or not. Anyway, we’ve been all over and met up with lots of folk and now I’m back and trying to catch up on a tonne of work.

The good news is that the Wild Within online course is now up and running and so far, so good. I had some concerns about managing it all, but so far people seem to be enjoying it, so I’m starting to plan my next one, which I hope to launch in September and it will be called ‘Season of Mists’ and will be about ageing and the different perspectives and stories our life journeys give us. I’m hoping to use solely older poets (I haven’t defined what ‘older’ might mean, yet) as examples and I’ll be on the lookout for poems which deal with the challenges and the celebrations of ageing. The poetry community and the world in general tends to be skewed towards the younger generation, and it’s always assumed that ’emerging’ poets will be younger, below thirty, but many, many emerging poets are older and they miss out on awards and prizes aimed directly at a younger generation. In fact I believe that there is a bias towards younger people. Art has no age constraints, one of the brilliant things about being a writer is that you never retire, until you can’t write or paint or draw, you work. You can’t not, how can you stop being the thing that you are. I think examining our relationship with age, time, life and yes, death (a reviewer once said my great theme was death- he’s not far wrong) is important because we don’t talk about death in our society. I strongly believe that the way we die should be as important as the way we are born, with as much care and compassion. I hope that when I die it is in a place of compassion.

Poetry is an incredible force. There’s a misunderstanding about what poetry is, to non poets, sometimes. It’s often seen as just a form of entertainment. But poetry is one of the oldest forms of communication, the rhythms and rhymes of poetry have been used to pass on information for thousands of years, before a written language existed. Tools such as imagery, simile, metaphor are used to make an emotional connection, a bridge between the reader and the writer in a way which strips away all the clutter that prose can come with. Poetry is the condensed emotional language of our ancestors and I believe it can be used as a bridge for understanding, not just as a form of self expression. We grow as a society through the art that we produce, it kills me to see art in this country so undervalued and underfunded.

I’m big on poetry this week because I’ve been reading a lot of workshop poems and a lot of poems around the themes for the workshop and I’ve been working on the new manuscript.

I polished and finished two poems this week and entered them into a competition. They’re both from the new collection, so this feels like a big step forward. My new collection is coming along well, it’s so close to being finished now, I can almost taste the champagne I’ll be drinking when I hand it over.  At the same time that I feel the collection is nearly done, it appears I have managed to circle around the hardest poems and they are being written last, ironic, because these are the poems about the start of a particular period in time. These are poems that are possibly the hardest to write. I’ve talked a lot lately, or I feel I have, about the need for there to be more poetry that deals with still birth and child death as experiences of motherhood, and not just as experiences of grief, it’s a very specific form of grief. I’ve been watching the news about the Orca that’s been carrying her dead baby with her for the last seven days, and is now dropping behind her group because of it. That’s an animal giving itself over to instinct and it is exactly the same animal instinct as human animals have. I don’t know any other grief situation that does that to a person.  Still birth and baby loss is usually treated as a disease that one must get over, or a terrible accident that one must get past to get back to normal life. But the beginning part of any baby loss journey is one of pregnancy, one of motherhood. It’s no wonder people don’t know how to talk about baby loss when it seems so complex, having the conversation involves a degree of emotional awareness of which side of the coin the bereaved parent is looking at, but there is no bereaved parent who doesn’t, didn’t love their child. This sounds really simple, but is a good way in to the conversation. We lose people we love, when our children die. The collection covers lots of different body owner ship themes and themes relating to fertility and at it’s core is the experience of stillbirth. I’ve not dressed anything up this time, this is a book about these complex life changing situations that women all over the world go through. I wanted, want the collection, rather than being solely about my daughter’s death, I want it to be about my experience of all the (I hate to use the word) ‘normal’ parts of being her mother too, I want to write about my pregnancy, her conception etc etc.

My head’s all over the place with it all and it feels like I’m entering this other place of understanding or acceptance or examination…not sure. But that’s poetry for you, it’s more than just words on a page, it’s more than entertainment, but it’s that as well. It creates something in the writer and (I hope) the reader. The collection has turned into something quite primal and visceral and I feel I have gone back to writing in a way that I am good at. Yes, I said it, I believe I can sometimes be a really good writer and I feel I am writing my best poems right now. Why does it feel so utterly wrong to say that you think you’re good at something. Sheesh.

I would like to think the collection, the nameless collection, will be under consideration at the publishers by mid August, but in order to get to that glorious place of having submitted it, I have to shuffle a shed load of paid work away. And that means I am worrying a lot about everything, to the point of my really good sleep pattern sliding away from me like a beautiful, beautiful pillow laden ship. Bye bye sleep, hello insomnia.

I still seem to have lots of energy though, which is good and I’ve increased my gym time to twice a day most days, increased my running time too and I feel quite fit. I AM RUNNING THE GREAT NORTH RUN in a few weeks and have not yet secured enough donations to ensure I’ll be able to run on the day, I’m about half way there. I’m trying to get people to sponsor me just a pound, so if you fancy it:


And finally to my other news: We have a new addition to our animal family. Pyewacket the kitten has come to live with us and he is adorable. He’s currently stretched out on my knee purring away like a tiny generator. 90% of the time he’s just a streak of ginger blonde racing over the furniture, and he is already much loved. Toby the dog has not eaten him, which we’re both surprised about, and he’s being incredibly patient, especially as Pye chews his tail and tries to climb on his face to lick his eyes. I’d forgotten the capacity to love that cats have. Yes, they are independent and self reliant, but they’re also very loving, Pye is very loving and I hope he continues to be. He’s already bigger and longer of limb in just one week, so I can see his kitten years won’t last long. We loves him, we do.


Until next time


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