Despite being officially my day off music teaching, today is the only day I can fit in an hour lesson with an adult who comes for an hour lesson on the tuba. I really enjoy teaching this lesson because this pupil always practices – so I can actually see if the things I’ve set for her to work on actually work and do the job they are supposed to do.
Then had a couple of hours to plan the afternoon workshop I’m running in Kendal with the Young Writers Group. I spent a lot of time changing my mind about which poets I should take along to the session which is going to be focusing on ‘Feminist Poetry’ – Esther from the Wordsworth Trust was there so a DW poem and a few extracts from her journal. Esther talked to the group about Dorothy’s role in Wordsworth household – and how she has become a figurehead for major women’s poetry festival in Grasmere held bi-annually. We also looked at a poem from Carol Ann Duffy’s The World’s Wife (‘Little Red-Cap’), ‘Language of the Brag’ by Sharon Olds and a few poems from ‘Portrait of My Lover as a Horse’ by Selima Hill.
Poem for Brewery Poets critiquing group – draft 2
Now that the moon is no longer mine,
now that the sky, dark-blue at ten o clock at night
is no longer mine, now that the clouds
which draw together like the slowest-witted sheep
and pass away are no longer mine,
now I know that none of it was mine,
not the lake or the five-barred gate,
not the sign slowly swinging to comfort itself,
not the in/out/in of the car park, now I know
that the puddle which holds the sky
was never mine, now I know it can’t be mine,
now I know I can no more keep it all
than I could follow the bats which flicker
between the roofs or the duck which startles
from the trees and curses me as it flies,
now I know I can leave and leave
now I know the lighted windows are not mine,
the mountain was never mine, I fall
back into my body, as if from a great height…
On the way to Kendal had a call from the estate agent to say that our offer had been accepted on house! I was so excited I missed the turning for Kendal and ended up somehow on the way to Windermere. I’m excited and nervous as well. It means that I will probably need to keep teaching four days a week because of the size of the mortgage I think and it means a summer of decorating but I think it will be worth it. This house has always felt temporary in a way – it was the house I bought on my own, on a whim and we didn’t decorate or do anything to it for eight years until we wanted to sell it. Although I don’t hate the house – I don’t really love it either.
Brewery Poets was good fun – about seven of us there tonight – everybody brings a poem and we all critique each other’s work. There was a discussion about my three dots at the end of the poem. I quite like them but they seemed to irritate some people – I don’t know if I can justify leaving them…maybe they are too indulgent? The other thing I need to sort out is the in/out/in bit – some people were confused about what this referred to – what I want it to refer to is the writing on the pavement outside a car park – so I need to make that clearer somehow in the next draft.
I went to do the park run today – national event which takes place every Saturday – a timed 5k run around the local park – or more accurately, 2 and a half times round the local park. I got up late because I was tired and didn’t have much breakfast – and decided to take Lola with me for company and just take it easy – but then my competitive side got the better of me and I wanted to beat my PB. After the first lap Lola started pulling behind – halfway round the second lap I stopped for her to have a wee – but she is very particular about where she goes and was just sniffing around so I set off again. The last half lap I had stomach ache and Lola was in full revolt – I stopped again, but she still wouldn’t go! l still managed to knock 13 seconds off my PB so am now on 27.33. I can’t do the park run for a while now – next weekend I’m reading and running a poetry workshop in Scotland and the weekend after that I’ll be reading and running poetry workshops in Ireland.
I spent the afternoon walking the dogs and the evening sending emails out for some more pictures of poets’ rooms for the next blog I’m working on. I’m trying to get an even spread of poets from different publishers and at different stages of their writing careers. I also started learning the three poems which I’ll be performing – no reciting, on Friday. I learnt ‘And the Soul’ really easy – I almost knew it anyway, I’ve read it so many times and ‘When the Stones Fell’ didn’t take much longer – this one was interesting because I actually edited it a little bit after trying to remember it . They were simple edits too – things I should have spotted so am determined to practice reading aloud whole collection when I start editing and use this to help me get the poems stronger. Am already nervous about reciting in front of people.
Today I went for my first seven mile run with Walney Wind Cheetahs. Runners were all talking about having a ‘funky monkey’ at the end. I was getting quite nervous wondering what it was – some elaborate cocktail or the runners equivalent of a Chinese burn? It turned out to be a juice drink – the sort you used to be able to buy for 10 pence from the tuck shop at school.
I’ve drafted the first version of the workshop for the poetry school and drafted the first version of my introduction to ‘A Room of One’s Own’. I’m not sure about the introduction – I have a feeling I may have to do it again.
Another twenty minutes at midnight trying to learn ‘How Wolves Change Rivers’. Pesky list poem – keeps slipping from my mind. ‘And the Soul’ and ‘How the Stones Fell’ still lodged in.
A long day – full day of teaching then band practice then private teaching at home and then an evening of typing at the computer.
Tonight is last chance to work on ‘A Room of One’s Own’ – I’m really pleased with it – have a good range of poets from different publishers and at different stages of their career. Am in process of completely rewriting first draft of essay – have decided I need to bring in the essay much more – make it a central part of the post – which it should be …
‘How Wolves Change Rivers’ is still eluding me. Am starting to panic.
When everyone else had gone to bed, I stood in the dark with you. We were two lighthouses facing each other. This is the last time I’ll say your name, the first syllable at the tip of my tongue, the next at the back of my throat, the last like the beginning of a song, this is the last time I’ll say your name and you will turn to look at me, like some kind of owl that is hunting in daylight, because it has done nothing but rain, rain, rain and this Is the first time the rain has stopped. This is the last time I’ll sit on a train in the morning, moving further away from you, tea steaming in a paper cup.
Appointment with the mortgage advisor today straight after school. It went on for two hours so I missed going for a run with the club. I have two workshops to plan for this weekend so have had to cancel quintet rehearsal tonight – can’t physically fit everything in. Gave myself an hour and a half to plan young writers workshop – letter poems this week and then went for a 45 minute run with the dogs – ran from the house down to Channelside then up along both slag banks and all the way back along Red Man’s Way and out at the Dock museum and then gave myself another hour and a half to plan the workshop that I’m running at the weekend for the ‘Carrying the Fire’ festival. Have realised over the last couple of weeks that I have to set myself a time limit for planning workshops otherwise I spend all night procrastinating and messing about with it and changing my mind about poems… am having a crisis of confidence over learning poems…
I am writing this in my tent with my head torch on. I say my tent – the organisers, Dougie and Em kindly put a tent up for me to stay in when I confessed I didn’t know how to put the tent up – normally when I go camping with the husband he puts the tent up and I waft about with a couple of tent pegs and poke them ineffectually into random places in the ground. I’m only slightly exaggerating.
Tonight our performance involved me, Rachel and Em and Simon (violin). About halfway through ‘How Wolves Change Rivers’ I forgot what to say. Or more accurately, my brain knew the line – but my mouth wouldn’t speak it. It was really bizarre – it was like I could feel the disconnect between my body and my brain – I think it only lasted for a couple of seconds but obviously felt much longer. Anyway, I kept going and got through it and the other two poems smoothly. There is something liberating about reading to an audience without looking down. You can’t apologise for a poem reading this way – and I was more ‘present’ in the room. Have decided I’ll also use it as a tool for editing in the future.
So am now in a sleeping bag and I can still hear everybody still up at the bonfire banging drums and singing. I can’t make out the words but every now and then there is a round of applause. When I left a woman was tuning up her cello. The bonfire is inside a kind of floating pavilion with a hole in the middle for the smoke to leave – but it was so still tonight the smoke was hanging in the air.
Waking up on a campsite is always a strange experience. This is the first time I’ve ever slept in a tent on my own. When I wake up I can hear voices, people laughing. I lay there for a while – make mental note to get some more photocopies of the poems I want to use in the workshop I’m running this afternoon which is about Animal Encounters in poetry – I feel that I still don’t have an answer to the question I’m supposed to be answering which is what does it do to a poem when a poet brings an animal into it? Why do wolves come in and out of my poems whenever they feel like it? I have a theory, backed by no tangible evidence apart from my own reading that maybe when we are writing about animals, what we are really trying to write about is the soul – I keep going back to that C.S Lewis quote ‘You do not have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body’. Are animals the physical representation of the soul – are they the way we have found to write about something which can end up sounding cheesy and sentimental if we are not careful?
I went and ran my workshop – rather brilliantly a little black dog followed one of the workshop participants in and proceeded to play with a pine cone, rolling it across the floor with its nose and growling if nobody kicked the pine cone for her so we had our own live animal in the workshop. It was only an hour so – there are certain poems you have to do if you’re doing a workshop about animal poems – Elizabeth Bishop’s ‘The Fish’ for one. One of the participants pointed out that a lot of her imagery for the fish is very domestic – she compares its colour to wallpaper for example – so we have the domestic and the wild contrasted in the poem. I hadn’t thought about it this way before. This is why I like workshops – I always learn something from doing them.
Planning for Poetry Residential, Grange over Sands
I went round to Jenny’s house today (Jennifer Copley) to plan for our 2015 poetry residential. The hotel wants some information to put in their brochure already. J suggests ‘Through the Looking Glass’ or ‘Curiouser and Curiouser’. I think this is too narrow a title for the whole residency although it might work well as the title of one of the workshops. I do like the idea of focusing on how we can use stories in poetry though. We decide to google quotes about stories – Jenny reads them out and I
‘After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world’ – Philip Pullman
‘If the stories come for you, care for them’ – Barry Lopez
‘Don’t say the old lady screamed. Bring her on and let her scream.” Mark Twain
‘When stories nestle in the body, soul comes forth’ – Deena Metzger
‘We are lonesome animals’ – John Steinbeck
‘There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside of you’ – Maya Angelou
quotes come from www.storyteller.net
Ideas for titles – The stories we tell ourselves/The Naming of Stories/Untold Stories
Final Ideas for Workshop
“The Stories We Tell Ourselves” – workshops using fairy tales, biblical stories, family stories, greek and other mythology – a wide enough theme to keep us going for the whole week.
Blurb for hotel
The Stories We Tell Ourselves
(Philip Pullman quote here)
“What are the stories we tell to ourselves and each other? During this week we will explore how to create a narrative in our own poetry. Using fairytales, myths and your own family history we will start to create our own untold stories”
(Mark Twain quote here)
Really want to be able to write a specular…
When everyone else had gone to bed
I stood in the dark with you.
We were two lighthouses
facing each other. This is the last time
I’ll say your name, the first syllable
on the tip of my tongue, the second
at the back of my throat, the third
like the beginning of a song. This is
the last time you’ll turn your head
when I say your name, like an owl
waiting for the rain to stop.
Waiting for the rain to stop
when I say your name like an owl.
The last time you’ll turn your head
like the beginning of a song. This is
at the back of my throat, the last
at the tip of my tongue, the second
I will say your name, the first syllable
facing each other. This is the last time
we were two lighthouses
I stood in the dark with you
when everyone else had gone to bed.
For more information about the Logbook, please read our interview with Kim.