Monthly Archives: November 2015

Keeping the Darkness at Bay

My writing life

This blog is going to be posted a bit late as I have been very busy over the last 10 days. I have done two readings, one at Lancaster Library and one at Ambleside Library and sold about 10 copies of my book, so I am pleased with that. The readings went well with small, but very attentive, audiences.

I have also been working on the poems I started at the workshop in Barrow a couple of weeks ago. (See previous blog, on a winter’s day). At the workshop Kim Moore, who was leading it, mentioned the idea that a poem needs a ‘turn’ a change of idea or level of meaning. Two of the three poems I came away with have worked in this way but this week I have been struggling with the third, the final version of which I read at Writing Group last night. I had shared the idea of the ‘turn’ with the group the week before and it was pleasing to be able to bring a poem, worked on, and now including, the idea of a turn. The group met way out in the country last night beyond Bentham and the poem was very appropriately called Dark. So thanks Kim: once more for a great idea to work on.

I’m an inveterate planner. This week one of my blog readers emailed to exclaim ‘you’re so ORGANISED’, (her capitals not mine). So I’m already thinking about my writing life for the New Year. I have a few projects in mind and a new group, the Brewery Poets in Kendal to go to. My poem Dark is really about SAD which I suffer from at this time of year and nothing cheers me up like a bit of forward planning!

Reading Week

I have just finished Anne Tyler’s A Spool of Blue Thread, shortlisted for the Mann Booker prize 2015. I loved every page. This is Anne Tyler at her best. If you would like to know more there is a good review in the Guardian.

I have always been a fan of hers since reading her Dinner in the Homesick Restaurant in the 1980’s. This new  book brings her writing right up to the present and then takes us back into a family’s past. I found the section about the depression in the 1930’s in the USA particularly moving.

Hare in the Headlights

I’ve survived two lots of HIH moments this week as I always get stage fright before a reading. (Who doesn’t?) However I also love reading my poetry and sharing it with others, so it’s worth it.

On a Winter’s Day

My writing Life

This week started well as I was able to finish off my poem Waiting and take it to the writing group on Wednesday. On Thursday there was a meeting of our local Stanza group and we had been asked to bring a newly discovered, or long remembered, favourite poem to discuss. Although there were only three members present, we had a lively discussion. One person had brought an extract from Shelley’s The Mask of Anarchy which led to many political parallels with our contemporary experience. I took Hannah Lowe’s Self Portrait, Before Me, as she is a new, and wonderful, discovery for me.

Yesterday, Saturday, I went to Barrow- in- Furness, on a cold train, with a sore leg, on a filthy wet day, to a workshop led by Kim Moore. After waiting for a taxi for 20 minutes at Barrow station, the taxi driver got lost and I nearly gave up. I’m glad I didn’t, as the workshop was very worthwhile, introducing me to new work and new poets and I got three poems to work on out of it. The journey back was equally miserable as the weather, was, if anything, worse, and by then it was dark, and the train was again cold, and full of people getting steadily very drunk before a night out in the clubs in Lancaster. Don’t tell me I don’t suffer for my art!

Looking forward this week to my reading at the library in Lancaster on Thursday 19th at 6 pm. Hope to see you there!

Reading Week

At Kim’s workshop we looked at a poem by Choman Hardi a Kurdish poet, who has written about women in the conflicted areas of Kurdish Iraq and Syria and whose website is worth a visit. Kim brought one of her poems to the workshop on Saturday.

Hare in the Headlights

Preparing for my reading this week, hare in the headlights questions arise as follows: Will anyone come? Will the library be quiet enough for me to be heard? If anyone does come, will they like my poetry?

Anyway, I say to myself it’s worth a go.



What happens when you don’t write for a week or two?

My Writing Life

I haven’t written anything for a couple of weeks; this could just be a fallow period, frustrating but not fatal. It has been very interesting to observe myself in this ‘writing inactive’ state.

After a day or two of not being able to think of anything to write, and time therefore filled with displacement activity, little bits of poems started rumbling about in my head.

I have had to do a lot of waiting recently, mostly in N.H.S. waiting rooms. They are full of bored people, waiting, and exhausted staff, run off their feet. Rather than write a rant about the inadequacies of funding the N.H.S. I let a poem about the whole experience of waiting  form itself slowly as I sat on a series of plastic chairs in grey rooms plastered with leaflets ranging from the mildly admonishing to the truly terrifying. All my hours of waiting have resulted in a poem written today which I think will work. It seems that the creative juices having been swirling around somewhere in my subconscious.

Reading Week

This week, stuck in waiting rooms, and at home with my leg up, has given me lots of time to read. Like you do when you’re not well, I have been reading thrillers, namely Denise Mina’s trilogy Garnethill. It’s a real page-turner, a fabulous read for when you are not feeling great and a fabulous read anyway.

However, I have also been reading the poetry of Hannah Lowe, whose work I have not encountered until recently. Her book Chick was recommended by a friend from the North of Ireland who had heard her read over there. Lowe’s poems paint a rich picture of her childhood and particularly her relationship with her father. They are deceptively simple, and they touch deep feelings.

Hare in the Headlights

Thank goodness, nothing to report this week! I’ve had enough to deal with!

A poet could not but be gay

My Writing Life

I use to think, and still do, partly, that the reason that the Lake District has always attracted  poets was because there are so many good tea shops and lovely cakes to be had there. In our house the Lake District is sometimes called the Cake District for that reason!  a regional supermarket has cottoned on to this and I am now the proud owner of a shopping bag that says ‘Cake District’. However, I shall leave my discussion of the connection between poetry and cake for another time…

Last Tuesday the drive up to Ambleside offered me a different answer. Each week since early September, as I have driven up to teach my workshop, I have noticed the trees on the roadside all along the journey and on the hills as you approach the Lake District itself, slowly changing colour.

Tuesday was a perfect and glorious autumn morning and just before reaching Ambleside where the traffic builds up outside Waterhead, driving slowly, waiting in a queue, I got a chance to see a great stretch of Windermere off to my left. The traffic paused and I looked out across the lake. It was absolutely still mirror reflecting the blue sky, a little paler than summer blue, with somehow a hint of the changing season. Across the hills in the distance, hanging above the lake, was a thin line of mist and in the lake the reflection of the shoreline of trees and hills glowed in every shade of red and green and gold and brown. As the sun was, at that time of day, still low in the morning sky to our east and so the whole picture was lit with an intense light. I have to resort to cliché and say it took my breath away, because it did.

I have actually seen Windermere in the autumn many times and it’s never been the same twice, and I’ve never written a poem about it. When something happens like last Tuesday morning I understand why people come here to write, how can you not when you are surrounded by the kind of beauty that makes you weep?

I am so lucky to live nearby.

Reading Week

It’s been a very busy week at home so most of my reading has been in preparation for my workshop on Tuesday which is to explore the theme of the sea. So I turned to a lovely anthology of women’s poetry about the sea published a couple of years ago by Grey Hen Press called Running before the Wind, (edited Joy Howard 2013). It is a richly varied collection and has provided good resources for workshop discussion.

Hare in the Headlights

No particular writing scares this week, but no doubt they are saving themselves up!