A poet rambles on a bit

It’s Monday and I’m writing this outside in the garden. The weather’s warm. I’m wearing flip-flops and the reddest toenail polish I can find (to nourish my inner vamp—I feel only this far away from being proper burlesque). What could be more perfect? Well, I shouldn’t complain, but this seat’s not very comfortable and my neighbour’s doing something loud with a pressure hose. The children from the school next door are out having their happy noisy (distracting) break and every time the wind blows my note book flaps open or bits of paper take flight. And I’ve forgotten to take my antihistamine, so imagine this being written accompanied by loud sniffs (as well as the neighbour and children—and the RAF, who’ve just arrived in their fighter planes). I’d be better off indoors but now I’ve made the effort I’m bloomin’ well going to stick it out.

I’m very fortunate to have a garden to sit out in. It is full of trees and birds and other wildlife (inc. the neighbour’s cats). But in the twenty four years we’ve lived here we have noticed a decline in the number of birds and animals that visit. Much of this is due to all the building that has gone on around us so that natural habitats have become scarcer. We still have squirrels, pesky and charming by turns, and a family of crows, who nest at the bottom of the garden every year, but not so many bats and hardly any hedgehogs now. We certainly have more pigeons than we used to, who leave their copious guano over the garden furniture (I think they use it for target practise) and I’m pleased to say woodpeckers still come but they’re early morning visitors and I only see them if I can’t sleep (and presently I’m sleeping very well, hurrah).

It is that time of year and I’ve a dead-line to meet. The Mslexia poetry competition looms and I’ve left it as late as I can before the final submission date (18th July). Mslexia, by the way, is a quarterly magazine for women who write and it really is a fount of knowledge and experience (www.mslexia.co.uk). I think most women writers would give body parts to appear in its hallowed pages or win one of its competitions. I don’t have to enter but I always feel compelled to do so. The first year I thought I would win (this was during a delusional phase) but have slowly realised that winning is as likely as finding intelligent life on Mars (or in the government). Of course competition is stiff and is judged by an experienced writer, who will have her own likes and dislikes, so winning will always be a bit of a long shot.  In a way I wish I still had that ‘I might win’ mindset but I don’t. What preparing for the competition gives me is the permission to work on a poem or two without feeling guilty about it. It’s also a chance to re-visit work that has become stuck, which happens all too frequently.

What I would be doing if I wasn’t doing this is working on a stuck poem. I started it awhile ago and it progressed quite well and then dried up. I couldn’t physically or mentally move it on. The best thing I find if this happens is to put it away and forget about it, pretty sure a time will come when it can be approached and re-engaged with. Relationships with poems are very often like relationships we have in life. They can be awkward and uncomfortable; sometimes raw and uncompromising or (not often) accommodating, friendly, even. This particular poem intrigued me because although it is a narrative its motivation wasn’t clear to me. This, I feel, is where the putting it away does its magic. I’m sure that subconsciously the poem is still alive and being worked out, so that when it returns to the conscious mind it can move on. A sort of alchemy (I’d hesitate to call any of my work gold, but a lot of starts out as dross).

The origin of the poem is a dream I had last year. In it I appear to be a teacher leaving a school and the headteacher tells me to ‘take the boy with you when you go’. So the poem is about taking the boy with me. At the start the boy is unwanted and there is a sense of him being foisted on the leaver, whose leaving is urgent. The boy is a burden but becomes a blessing. I think this can have a number of interpretations that I hope are triggered by the poem. It could be a significant female/male relationship restored or re-balanced, or the marriage of the inner female and male parts of the psyche that work best in harmony. It could be a Christian allegory or even related to the work we do at Doorway—working with people who are overlooked or perceived as burdens by many people.

I’ve not finished the poem yet and, at this rate may not in time for the deadline, but I would like to share it with you at sometime. If I do submit it for the competition then I can’t put it on the blog until after the judging as all poems have to be unpublished (and this includes the web). So, one for the future, perhaps.

This is a pity because I have no new creative writing group writing to post. I’ve been on holiday and stuff so we haven’t had a session for awhile and last Thursday’s was spent talking. This happens often, and I’m sure is part of the process. A lot of the talk was about strange experiences, especially those that happen after the death of a relative or close friend. Several of us had had this occur—either a feeling that the person was still close or things happening that might appear random but when seen in conjunction with a bereavement might be thought of as a sign or significant. I am open-minded. I’ve had my fair share of unexplained phenomena. I suppose we were wondering if being close to a death made us more perceptive or just more open to suggestion. I think it’s the latter but would like to believe it is the former.

On a slightly different matter there has been talk of a Doorway panto (oh no there hasn’t), but it’s all rather nebulous, presently. I love panto and would like to a) help with the writing and b) know if anyone else is interested or has put on pantos who could advise, guide and generally support. Don’t all answer at once.

Post script:

Remembering my recent holiday, this is how I summed it up in my note book.

1st week

sunny, cloudy, breezy, windy

very windy (bracing)

cooler, colder, GALES

rain, rain, rain.


2nd week

cloudy, sunny, warmish, damp

very showery (squally)

sticky, muggy, GALES

rain, rain, rain.


Henry on his hols

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